Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010

Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010
Finalist for society, politics, history blogs



Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening Fellows! I’m gladdened by the petering in of thunderstorm rains in mega-Manila. The coming end to the hot dry spell spawned by El Niño is in sight, bringing with it a celebratory mood of sorts. Let me cap today’s mood with the peace bonds story.

The ‘peace bonds’ in the Philippines have got nothing to do with peace initiatives to end the decades-old insurgencies. They are financial instruments initiated by a coterie of NGO racketeering ‘intellectual prostitutes’ in the mid-90s, during the term of Fidel Ramos as president (‘92-‘98). The top honcho of those racketeers is former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman, now among Noynoy Aquino’s avid supporters.

That decade began with fragmentations of civil society’s major political blocs, from the center Right/Center Left social democrats to the far Left Marxist groups. The insurgent groups weren’t spared of the fragmentations themselves, from north to south of the archipelago we experienced political quakes that tore solid movements asunder.

Being among the far Left groups then, though a moderate among hardliners, I recall well that our coalitions were in the process of brainstorming creative approaches to financing our NGOs’ operations. Europe’s donor streams were drying up as the traditional sources re-channeled a humungous lot of their grant funds to Eastern European countries (for recovery after the collapse of Stalinist states).

The fragmentations caught some of us quite off-guard. Those finance-savvy colleagues of mine joined splinter groups in the progressive forces, with moderate Marxist groups going to the extent of coalitioning with moderate anti-Marxist social democrats or ‘socdems’.

Among those finance-savvy groups were development workers represented by the likes of Dinky Soliman, then among the leading cadres in the ‘socdem’ blocs. News reached my ears that the NGO financier racketeers hatched new instruments such as debt swaps and alternative bonds to finance their groups’ operations.

The peace bonds were hatched from the side of the bloc/coalition represented by Soliman then. Luck of all luck, her brother Isidro Camacho, a financial wiz kid from the banking sector, was appointed as Secretary of Finance by the incumbent chief exec Fidel Ramos.

Around the years 96-98, series of experimentations on the use of debt swaps began to take off. The peace bonds came at the tail end of the Ramos regime and overflowed through Pres. Erap Estrada’s era. To recall, there was the coalition gravitating around the A.R.E. (as the achronym went) mandated to handle the peace bonds.

The scheme called for government to consider funneling funds to civil society groups whose programs would parallel state efforts at economic reforms. The agrarian/food production sector was eyed as the entry point for peace bonds operations, with the funds guaranteed by government itself.

Peace bonds were supposedly initiated to benefit the broadest of marginal sectors and diverse groups that represented them. But as we know it in practice, it was largesse meant only for a certain coalition of political blocs and NGO cronies. It was as huge as a couple of billions at its inception, with nary a public monitoring of where it went thereafter.

Groups representing competing political blocs were a no! no! among the beneficiaries (read: no matter how sincere is your group, you’re disqualified). Experts (professionals, consultants) who were outside the ambit of the controlling group (Soliman & coy) were blocked from participating in the projects (read: no matter how good is the curriculum vitae you submitted, which they will accept, you’re an outsider).

The likes of Dinky Soliman not only benefited from the huge financial largesse, they also landed in the Gloria Arroyo government as top officials. Soliman herself got the plum post of social welfare secretary, an exposure that will endear her to more funding agencies including sources of Official Development Funds or ODA.

Soliman & coy were among the ‘cry wolf’ termites inside the Arroyo government. Dark opportunists all, they bolted the Arroyo government, joined the likes of Drilon & Purissima in drumbeating their ‘cry wolf’ moralizing pretensions. They bolted for no other reason than that, should Arroyo be overthrown, they can regain their former posts in the new administration. (They formed a curiously named Black & White Movement.)

The same financial racketeers were among those who drafted the ‘social reform’ aspect of the agenda of governance of the Liberal Party (the same being mouthed by the mediocre Noynoy Aquino). Needless to say, the same opportunists have released salvos of anti-corruption campaign mottos and calls on Noynoy Aquino’s opponents.

For people who knew where the likes of Soliman are coming from, they’re surely puking at hearing financial mercenaries and crocodiles bandying ‘anti-corruption’ or ‘good governance’ mottos. The mottos are mere clichés, and don’t speak of the true inner states of the crocodiles flaunting them.

Well, the least we can say is that “birds of a feather come together.” Crocodiles bond with fellow crocodiles, and they’ve flocked en masse inside the Noynoy Aquino & Liberal Party camp.

[Philippines, 03 May 2010.]


Felisa Quadra said...

What an expose this piece is. Kudos for the research Prof. Erle!

Zeny Balquin said...

Wonderful expose! Keep it up!