Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Avoid Land Bank

If any of you are planning to open a bank account, I deeply encourage you to avoid opening one at the Land Bank of the Philippines. Specially if you expect to be getting checks.

We (by we I mean my employer) has a project that made it necessary we hire some people from Mindanao. When we were about to deposit their checks in their Land Bank accounts, we were informed that the Land Bank of the Philippines does not allow checks deposits.

So I called the Land Bank office 551-2200 and asked them if this was true and what is behind this bizarre policy. It turned out, it was only partially true, the Land Bank accepts check deposits within a regional network, so If I am in Manila, I can deposit a check to a Land Bank account in Manila. They do not allow check deposits outside of a regional network, so since we were in Manila (well Makati), we are barred by this policy from depositing checks in an account in Malaybalay.

And why do they have this policy? The person I talked to said that they are only protecting themselves, in other words, they do not trust other banks to honor checks they isssued. But that is not all, they also do not trust their own banks' checks because they will also not allow checks issued by their own banks from being deposited outside of the regional network.

So a Land Bank check issued in Manila still cannot be deposited to a Land Bank account based in Malaybalay. How stupid is this policy? In an age of nearly instantaneous communication, you will think that it will be easy to ascertain whether a given check is good. Even if the process may be hard to do in Mindanao, it is easy in Manila.

It seems to me that who the Land Bank does not actually trust is their own employees. They do not trust them not to defraud their own employer. And rather than fixing this problem, they create a policy that actually makes life harder for their customers.

The thing is, they can get away with it because they are the governments bank. National government agencies and local government agencies are required to deposit their funds at the Land Bank. The government's payroll also required to be coursed through them. They know they do not need to compete with other banks to earn profit. This makes them complacent.

Monday, November 28, 2005

New Blogs

I started a new blog last week with the title kuro-kuro, which is viewpoint or opinion in english. This is an experiment in Filipino language blogging. I have occasionally used Filipino in this blog and I was contemplating of using it more frequently.

Circumstances intervened however when I learned that wordpress has also established a free blogging site. I heard a lot of good things with wordpress and I thought this would be a good time to try it out. So I did. I plan to write mostly about Philippine matters in this new blog and my other interest in this one.

This new blog is part of my advocacy. I have advocated that our government should use Filipino in official transactions specially in the formulation of laws and the proceeding in civil and criminal courts. This action will empower more Filipinos and hopefully encourage a more dynamic and informed civil society. I hope this new blog can contribute to this end.

Another new blog is greenjournal started by my friend from the redplanet. He asked me to be a part of the blog because as a socialist, I should also be an environmentalist. Which is of course false logic because socialist/communist parties all over the world supported the establishment of industries that cause pollution and environmental degradation.

But then we are friends he knows me. He and I grew up on a particular social milleau that questioned traditional socialist dogma including the the seeming unending quest for industrialization without regard for its consequences.

This is then the framework of my "environmentalism", an environmentalism that places the needs of humanity as pre-eminent. The reason we should preserve the environment is because if we don't, we will be the loser in the end.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The False Objectivity of “Balance”

RealClimate - The False Objectivity of “Balance”
"We here at RC continue to be disappointed with the tendency for some journalistic outlets to favor so-called "balance" over accuracy in their treatment of politically-controversial scientific issues such as global climate change. While giving equal coverage to two opposing sides may seem appropriate in political discourse, it is manifestly inappropriate in discussions of science, where objective truths exist. In the case of climate change, a clear consensus exists among mainstream researchers that human influences on climate are already detectable, and that potentially far more substantial changes are likely to take place in the future if we continue to burn fossil fuels at current rates. There are only a handful of "contrarian" climate scientists who continue to dispute that consensus. To give these contrarians equal time or space in public discourse on climate change out of a sense of need for journalistic "balance" is as indefensible as, say, granting the Flat Earth Society an equal say with NASA in the design of a new space satellite. It's plainly inappropriate. But it stubbornly persists nonetheless."
Read more

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Use Firefox

From through

"Exploit code for a critical flaw in fully patched versions of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer browser has been released on the Internet, putting millions of Web surfers at risk of computer hijack attacks.

The zero-day exploit, posted by a U.K.-based group called "Computer Terrorism," could allow a remote hacker to take complete control of a Windows system if the victim simply browses to a malicious Web site.

Ziff Davis Internet News have verified that the exploit works on fully patched Windows XP systems with default IE installations."

We are talking of fully patched Windows XP installations. Furthermore

"We have also been made aware of proof of concept code that could seek to exploit the reported vulnerability but are not aware of any customer impact at this time but Microsoft will continue to investigating these public reports," the spokeswoman added.

The proof-of-concept exploit, which is available from the FrSirt site, currently launched the Windows Calculator (calc.exe) but can be easily modified by malicious hackers.

So dump IE and download Firefox.


The proof of concept example is at the Computer Terrorism site.

Monday, November 21, 2005


I have been using Furl for the past month now. Furl is an online bookmark service.
"Furl is a free service that saves a personal copy of any page you find on the Web, and lets you find it again instantly by searching your archive of pages. It's your Personal Web."
"Furl anything you want with a single click. Each member gets a 5-gigabyte personal archive, large enough to store tens of thousands of pages."
Its been a great help, specially when archiving Philippines news articles. I now have the leisure to bookmark the articles I want to read without fearing it will disappear in a week or so.

Of course, if the company that owns Furl folds, all the saved bookmarks will disappear so one should back-up the important links you really want to preserve.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Yesterday, 17 November 2005, The Philippine Star reported that former Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman apologized to the Filipino people for "betraying the public trust". According to the Star,
"Soliman, who took the witness stand in the fourth session of the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA) at the University of Makati, made the disclosure as she also publicly apologized for 'betraying public trust' during her stint in government service under the Arroyo administration."
And how did she betray the public trust?
"Soliman revealed that the DSWD generated the names of indigent families who should become recipients of the PhilHealth cards, which were distributed in areas where support for Mrs. Arroyo was perceived as "weak" and the rival candidate was considered "strong."
She did this because of he fear that "another actor would become president".

Now, I would not want to argue with Ms. Juliano-Soliman's feelings. This is how she feels, and she has a right to it. But I would argue that she need not apologize for her actions. She did nothing wrong. If she really wants to apologize, then she should apologize for her "lapse in judgement" in supporting President Arroyo. She should not apologize for helping her chosen candidate to win.

A friend and I had this conversation a few weeks after the elections. The opposition then were already trumpeting Mrs. Arroyo's strategy of distributing PhilHealth cards, and other goodies to people, basically using her office to enhance her chances of being elected. I argued that she did not do anything illegal, she was doing her functions as President, and distributing PhilHealth cards so some of our countrymen will have the benefit of health insurance is part of her job as President. It just so happened that it was done close to the time of elections. :)

She was the incumbent President, all incumbents use their offices to help their re-election. The opposition knew what they were up against and they still concluded that they could win against her, they had no cause to complain. Unless thay can garner more votes by complaining. :)

My friend countered that she may not have done anything illegal, but it was certainly unethical. I disagree, using your assets to win elections is part of the game of democracy. Actors, like Senator Lito Lapid, use their popularity to win, some people, like Senators Pangilinan and Recto won partially because of their wives, Senator Madrigal won partly because of Judy Ann Santos. You use your strengths, that's the way to win elections.

And that is how we support our candidates. We do what we can so they can win because we believe that they are the best person to lead our country, and we should not apologize for doing that.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Civ Players of the World Unite

You have nothing to lose but your chains. Take control of your life, re-learn to breath fresh air again, go see the sunset. Throw off the chains that Civilization had shackled you.

Join the Civilization Anonymous , a group of people who are bonded together in order to help each other in the difficult journey of weaning themselves from Civilization.

If you are still unsure of yourself, read how the members of the group have been helped:
"It was the Industrial Age that finally did me in. I was into the hard stuff, man: electronics, combustion, motorized transportation. I'd play for days at a time without ever getting up. I looked bad. Smelled bad. After one 3-day bender I was so rank that my ferrets suddenly passed out in their cage. Seriously, by the time my friends dragged me to a CivAnon meeting, I could have knocked a buzzard off a crap-wagon. Thank you, CivAnon...I finally have my life back-and my ferrets have made a recovery that was nothing short of miraculous."
"I've been attending CivAnon meetings for approximately 18 months now. Partly because I began to get a perverse thrill out of wiping out entire civilizations with atomic intercontinental ballistic weaponry, and partly because they serve cake at the meetings. I like to kill, that's true. But I like cake even more."
I will let Dr. Pullman have the final word.
"Fellow civilization addicts, you are not alone. And thankfully, there is help. Once you have admitted your addiction to yourself, enroll in CivAnon ASAP. You won't stop playing until you want to stop playing."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Secondhand Lions (Impressions)

Warning: This is not a review

We watched the movie "Secondhand Lions" on HBO last weekend. The movie starred, Michael Caine, Robert Duvall and Haley Joel Osment. It was not a movie that I would normally choose to watch, but there was nothing on and I do like Michael Caine.

Some people, like these from the Rotten Tomatoes, would dismiss this movie as sentimental. But I liked it. I specially liked Robert Duvall's speech on what makes a man. I got the text of the speech here:
"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honour, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this... that love... true love never dies! Remember that boy, remember that. Doesn't matter if it is true or not, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in. Got that?"
Got that? Go live your life now. :)

Maybe I'm just a sentimental relatively old fool.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Malaria Vaccine Proves Effective in Clinical Trial

Science & Technology at Scientific Malaria Vaccine Proves Effective in Clinical Trial:
"A new vaccine stimulated human immune cells to recognize and kill malaria parasites in a recent clinical trial. The vaccine proved effective in both infected human blood samples and mice whose immune systems had been modified to mimic that of humans."
Good news for the Philippines and other tropical countries, hope this pans out.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Home Improvement

Those who own their own house and lot are more likely to want to make improvements to them.

This observation, which seems self evident to me, is the conclusion of a 2 research studies* (not formally published yet) made by two Argentine universities and the Harvard Business School as reported by the Asian Wall Street Journal. (Free browsing for this week only)

According to the AWSJ:
"international development experts say it (the study) is shedding light on a key question for developing economies: Does land "titling" help lift people from poverty?"
And their answer is yes, not so much because the 'landowners' are able to monetize their property, as theorized by Economist Hernando de Soto, but because the people who were able to own their land experience a change in attitude that enable them to enjoy a better quality of life.
"The investigators concluded that titles improved access to credit only slightly. Banks appeared to have a deeply ingrained reluctance to lend to the poor, in part because of the cost and difficulty of foreclosing in Argentina's legal system. But even without bank loans, they said, landowning families improved their homes substantially by squirreling away cash and doing the work themselves. Architects affiliated with the study concluded that homes on titled lots had sturdier walls and sounder roofs, were more spacious and had better sidewalks.

An accompanying study, co-authored by Mr. Di Tella, detected a difference in the attitude of landowners. They were more materialistic and individualistic, and more inclined to say that money was important to happiness, and that individual initiative leads to success.

The researchers found that landownership status seemed to make no difference in employment or income. But it did seem to affect the way residents spent their money, and their aspirations and expectations. The researchers figure that the children of the landowners could eventually earn significantly more than the children of the untitled."

I wish the powers that be reads these studies. It may give new momentum to the Urban Development and Housing Act, a law passed in 1991
The act declared it the policy of the state to
"Uplift the conditions of the underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban areas and in resettlement areas by making available to them decent housing at affordable cost, basic services, and employment opportunities"
At that time, the Philippine government jump started this program through the Community Mortgage Program, funded through the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation and other government agencies like the Pag-Ibig Fund.

The last major initiative of the Philippine government on this front was made during the time of then chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development and Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Secretary Karina Constantino-David. The initiative was cut short when she resigned because then President Estrada appointed his drinking buddy (forgot his name) to a position that effectively disempowered Secretary David.

Today, Gawad Kalinga (GK), a private organization runs the most prominent initiative for housing the poor. The GK envisions to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in 7 years.

Perhaps if the Philippine government can get its act together and help private initiatives like the GK we can provide housing for those who need it, the Philippines and the Filipinos can rise up from the depths of poverty that grips us.


*Did a google search and the studies can be downloaded in pdf format here and here


You can now buy Stored Value Tickets for the MRT.

Browsing the Wall Street Journal is FREE for this week only.

Please visit my friend's blog, I really think it is interesting.

I am No. 1 in my Yahoo Fantasy basketball league. (Yehey)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Queuing at the MRT

I lined up today to buy an MRT ticket, it took me 20 minutes and almost made me late for work. Must wake up earlier.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Giving the President Her Due

Yesterday, new provisions on the Value Added Tax (VAT) Law of the Philippines took effect. The new provisions took away from gasoline, electricity, and the doctors and lawyers the exemptions they had from paying the VAT. The immediate effect of this is the increase in gasoline prices, electricity rates and doctors and lawyer's fees.

This is a very unpopular law, nobody likes paying higher prices, yet the President fought to have this law passed and implemented even with her advisors calling for her to defer its implementation.

The President has done a lot of things to promote her popularity, especially during these times when her leadership is in question, but her commitment to righting the government's financial position has been steadfast. Whatever we may think of her and her administration, we should give her credit for this act.