Fallacies Galore

LOCAL JOURNALISTS swear they have not seen debates as highly charged as the spectacle they witnessed at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) recently.

Our provincial dads were arguing on the release of the province’s P254-million share in the P5.81-billlion tobacco excise tax due to tobacco-producing provinces.

This has been highly discussed in the news, so I will no longer delve into painstaking details, but allow me, dear karikna, to present the primary issue, which is: should Ilocos Norte participate in the Tobacco Excise Tax Monetization Program (TEMP) which would allow the province to get its share in lump sum, or should it subscribe to long-term installments, sans deductions? Under TEMP, we will be able to get our piece of the pie, but less 31.5% in bank interests and consultancy fees. Under the second option, we get almost the full amount.

Should the province participate in the TEMP, an SP resolution had to be passed to that effect. This is where the debates transpired. I know you understand why I am interested on this. I am a Philosophy teacher, and coach, too, of university debate teams. Add to that the fact that I am also a dutiful taxpayer.

One thing to be watchful for in debates are fallacies, which, as we have learned in our Logic classes, are products of convoluted reason. Here, I listed down some fallacies which were committed both by the SP members, and those who have spoken about the issue in media.

First in my list is False Dilemma. Also called Black and White Fallacy, this operates by effacing the various alternatives in between two extreme choices in a particular issue. Thus, the various gradation of gray in between black and white are concealed giving us only two alternatives, black and white.

Such is committed when one says, “either you approve the TEMP resolution or you deprive farmers their rightful share.” But, of course, there are alternatives.

I do not believe that any SP member is really against the welfare of farmers, and nobody is saying that we should not get the money. The questions are: in what manner?, and how much?

If the SP avails of TEMP in toto and as is, farmers will lose around one third of the total amount due them. They will be charged exorbitant fees for money they have already earned. Any self-respecting banker will say that the bank interest of 26 percent and the consultancy fee of 5.5 percent are just too high.

With TEMP approved as it is, farmers stand to lose around P80-million. That’s a big loss, very big loss. That means P80-million less government support to agricultural infrastructure and equipment, and to human resource development.

If paying interest is inevitable, can we not, at least, bring it down? Fifteen percent, the opposition says, would have been tolerable.

“But all others have agreed to it, why shouldn’t we?,” ask people who commit the Bandwagon Fallacy. Reportedly, Ilocos Sur, Abra, and La Union have already approved the TEMP, so proponents at the Ilocos Norte SP say we have to follow their lead, less we be left out. But, if we adopt this line, should we even need our own SP, why don’t we just wait for other LGUs to decide and just adopt whatever is the consensus?

Closely related to the Bandwagon Fallacy is Tu Quoque, two wrongs make a right. Because others committed a purported mistake does not give you license to commit the same. Steve Barreiro, my good friend and mentor, in his column last week, lamented that 2nd District Rep. Bongbong Marcos (BBM) has already availed of TEMP, but that SP Member Nonong Marcos, and others who blocked the resolution at the provincial board, have not spoken against it. Steve takes issue with this double standard.

Granting, for the sake of argument, that BBM was wrong in his decision, and that Nonong et al. are wrong, too, for being silent about it, these supposed errors do not necessarily justify as right the approval of the TEMP resolution at the SP. In short, what is wrong remains wrong no matter how many have committed it.

“Kaasi met dagiti mannalon,” thus goes the choral lyrics of the TEMP proponents’ song. We see this as Argumentum ad Misericordiam, or appeal to pity, a fallacy committed when emotions take primacy over reason. This srategy is oversimplifying the issue because the opponents can also say, “poor farmers, ginigisa sila sa sarili nilang mantika, they are charged interest so they can get their own money.”

Manang Gloria, our househelp, not the president, gives me a view of the difficult life of common Tobacco farmers. Whenever planting season comes, her family would borrow money so they can operate. They used to resort to lenders who charge high interests, but since she began to work with us, we in the family try our best to lend them a hand, sans any charges, of course.

I agree that people in need would usually do a “kapit sa patalim,” and it is because they feel utterly helpless. But is our provincial government in the same predicament? Are we that helpless, and powerless, and pitifully resigned to fate?

We should ask, what put us in this scenario that disadvantages farmers and favors financial institutions and consultants? Who benefits in this set-up? Why are we beholden to their dictates? And who, in the first place, are the ‘they’?

From what I surmised from the interviews I made with both camps, there is really some sort of mafia (the term is mine), surely larger than the provincial government, which orchestrates all of these. This is led by someone so powerful, let’s just call him, in reference to the Harry Potter series, “he who should not be named.” Overall, “he who should not be named” and his cohorts stand to benefit the most from all of these, and they are lucky. Kaasi met dagiti mannalon.

There are two options, dear karikna. One is, to take the easy path, the quick fix—to go with the flow. The other is to traverse the difficult-but-noble path that only the courageous dare take—the fight for justice, for what is really due the tobacco farmer.

Pardon my idealism, but I go for the second option. The farmer should be considered not only as beneficiaries, but, and more importantly, as comrades in the struggle for agricultural reforms, in particular, and good governance, at large.

We cannot, however, wage the battle if the farmers themselves are not ready and willing, that is why it is important to involve them in the decision making process. We need to consult them. In the same breath, we should not let them lose P80-million pesos without their consent. And so I suggest that the provincial government should go down to the sanjeras, the farmers associations, not only to deliver programs and services, but to listen to and heed their will. After all, that is the sworn duty of any legislator, er, any public official, regardless of political affiliation.

I believe that some proponents of the TEMP resolution are really well-meaning. For example, Kris Ablan, a young politico I have so much respect and admiration for, is for it. We talked about the issue at length, and his arguments are not without merits.

“If the circumstances were different, I would have voted otherwise,” says Kris, who, together with Toto Lazo, ardently supports the resolution. He explained that, given the massive agricultural damage caused by Pepeng and Ondoy, Tobacco farmers need immediate help. Kris, obviously, is learning the art of political compromise. He has decided to be pragmatic, and I expected otherwise, but I respect his position nonetheless.

It does not help that election time has come, and we cannot blame people who think that politicians need the money more. What is funny and disappointing, however, is when politicians themselves blame “politics” when their pet measures do not get through.

The proponents are said to be allies of Governor Michael Marcos Keon (MMK) while the oppositionists are reportedly aligned with former Rep. Imee Marcos, who is running as governor against the former. “Politics!,” cry the proponents, is the reason while the approval of TEMP is being derailed. But, in governance, aren’t politics and public service really intertwined? How can you separate politics from the politician? We are, at this point, now begging in circles, and we call this fallacy, Petitio Principii.

Also, to assert that getting the money immediately would benefit the farmers is non sequitur, it does not follow. First, it has to be made very clear and transparent how the province intends to spend the money, who to distribute the funds to, and what programs and projects to pursue. Only then can fears of the money being used for the campaign be dispelled.

MMK reportedly said that the opposition committed “the most violent act in the history of the SP” for killing a resolution that would benefit farmers. A statement like this, which employs strong language in the aim of gaining popular support without really delving into the salient issues, smacks of Argumentum ad Populum, appeal to the people.

Governor Keon is right to push for programs which, to his judgment, will benefit his constituency. But the provincial board, both a legislative and fiscalizing body, is equally right not to be a rubber stamp of the executive. The power of checks and balances, whenever used reasonably, always leads to a government less abusive, less corrupt, less fallacious. The burden is on Vice Governor and SP presiding officer Windell Chua to continue to lead the body towards this direction. I pray, dear karikna, that the TEMP issue be resolved with dispatch, but not blindly.

And so, in my objective assessment, Nonong Marcos, Yvonne Ranada, Albert Chua, Rudys Farinas, Robert Castro, and Jessie Galano—SP members against the controversial resolution—won, not just in the numbers game, but also in the realm of reason.

Some say this issue marks the dawn of a bitter MMK-Imee fight.

I say these are exciting times for debaters and logicians.


26 Comments

Filed under Government/Politics, Ilocos, Rural

26 responses to “Fallacies Galore

  1. In democracy, the people’s voices are important. The Sanggunian and LGUs must consult the people who shall benefit from the project – the farmers. If ever this is just a political thing wherein a resolution was “killed” because of political affiliations, I don’t know what is.

  2. May the case rest… or else, the politicians would wrestle the case further, je,je… let them be!
    Money is the root of all evil. Here in Ilocos Norte, even brothers would quarrel over it, how much more to mere cousins?

  3. May the case rest… or else, the politicians would wrestle the case further, je,je… let them be!
    Money is the root of all evil. Here in Ilocos Norte, even brothers would quarrel over money and power, how much more to mere cousins?

  4. Del

    I think, your position on the issue is debatable.

    You computed 80 million as a cut, but if you consider cost and benefits, 80 million may be minimal.

    In accounting and economics, we always look at the benefits less the cost. If the farmers would benefit more than the cost of the consultancy, why can’t we have the money now and forego the 80M.

    Both parties should look into it, how much will be the benefit if the money is withdrawn in lumpsum method, or how much will the farmers will lost if they will get the money in installment. Ask your accounting students on how to assess cost and benefits and you will be enlightened.

    Don’t look at how much you will save but how much you will be benefited.

  5. tita lita

    yes money is the root of all evil and greed is the fertilizer.

  6. Del

    I disagree that money is the root of all evil.

    Lets take it from the Root Cause.

    Money has been there for a long time. Money is necessary for a state, religion and individual to function with their day to day life. Money is a legal tender, we can never change that, unless thee’s somebody who will invent a replacement. And if money is removed, do you think evil will be gone? I don’t think so.

    I think, the real root of all evil is the LOVE OF MONEY. If you love money so much, then the risk of doing evil is high.

  7. Del

    Brod,

    Uray ta adda access mo dita ilocos times, pakicheck man bassit daytoy.

    Diay online content ti January 11-17 nga editorial nga kinopya da ken ni Professionalheckler ket sinukatanda sabalin, nga dida man lang dimmawat ti dispensar kanyana. Nakababain man daytoy, aglalo ket pagsasaritaanda idiay site nan. Ken kadagitay agbasbasa ti IT iti online, awan man lang ka-idea-idea da.

    http://professionalheckler.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/the-ilocos-times-bow/)

    I know you have high regard to those who write original articles, and I know you don’t tolerate this.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      Helo, del. The Ilocos Times editor have known about this weeks ago when the issue erupted, and they have taken appropriate action. All is well. Juan Mercado, an icon in Philippine journalism, received the piece in an email, and sent it to the Ilocos Times as a contribution. Truth to tell, the article in question was published in good faith.

      This is really one limitation of materials from the Internet, it is very difficult to acknowledge sources, especially if it has been circulated sans the author’s name.

      Thank you for raising this concern.

  8. Hi Del,
    You’re quite too simplistically specific! The quote “Money is the root of all evil” truly meant on the lust for money, gaining more of it even on indecent manner.
    No politician could really abide to truly earn only his salary on his position without the SOP supposed to be “Standard Operating Procedure”, but now demeaned as 10% or more for the purse of the powers-that-be, on the cost of a project. Let’s check on their ITR for their declared income and how much do they really have on their pockets. There’s a BIG difference!!! That’s why they spend so much money during election, to get much more while in power.
    Tobacco fund for farmers, you’re kidding! They only provide the coins, politicians get the bulk of it…

  9. Bongbong’s administration availed the TEMP. Wherever or whatever projects have been expended on the monies, I cannot find one too good to be of major impact to tobacco farmers. Money-lust, or wealth-lust is truly a TEMPtress, even to those who already have plenty of it, or maybe the alalays were the beneficiaries…?

  10. Daniel

    kaasi dagiti mannalon!
    aglalo no awan dagiti nangkontra iti daytoy kontrobersial a resolusion.
    saludoankayo amin a rimmupir!

    kaasi dagiti mannalon iti maikadua a distrito.
    mano nga arubos ti ling-et ken pigket ken pait dagiti binulong ti tabako ti agsubli kadagiti kataltalonan– wenno agsubli kadagiti sulsulinek ti away– a mangited kadakuada iti ad-adu a parabur iti nagan ti panagrang-ay– dagiti umili ken ti ili?

  11. Del

    Hi Asiong,

    We have to be specific in order to pinpoint the real root cause. In a risk based analysis, you may think that you already found the rootcause but when you simply digest further the perceived root, you will still find one. A general statement has a different meaning against a specific one. If we say money is the root of all evil, then we can conclude that money is evil.

    And besides, you already seconded me on my view, it is the lust of money, and not just the money itself.

  12. Del

    Further on Tobaco Excise Tax, as I’ve said, there should be a study on Cost and Benefits and let it be known to the public.

    If we always think of that money going to the power that be, or to the pockets of politicians, then it will likely be pocketed. But if we think that it will be managed by a good hand, then all farmers will benefit from it. What is bad with us, is Filipinos always delve on negative side but not into the benefit. We should also look at the positive side, my friends. If we are optimistic, we move forward, if we are pessimistic, we are moving otherwise.

    Brod Herdy for bringing the Professionalheckler issue to Ilocos times. I hope the publication and Mr. Mercado will issue apology to the blogger. I am concerned because one of his followers is issuing racist comments on ilocanos likening us to the late president marcos. He generalize ilocanos as thieves.

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      Juan Mercado already talked to the blogger and explained why what happened happened. The Ilocos Times editors are not apologizing and I understand why. Professionalheckler might also want to issue an apology for casting doubt on the paper’s integrity, and the competence of its staff, thus generating malicous comments from readers. The Ilocos Times is a legitimate media institution in these parts, and Juan Mercado himself is an icon. I have no reason to think that either of the two tried to “steal” or plagiarize” the blogger’s work. They acted in good faith. Everyone is just a victim of the follies of the Internet, and there are lessons to be learned.

      As a blogger, my compositions have been occassionaly copied, too, without giving me credit. But I am circumspect in handling those issues. I have never waged a hate campaign against any writer or media institution.

      By the way, Juan Mercado also published the contentious article in other newspapers in the country all over. So it’s not really about the Ilocano being a thief. Juan Mercado is Visayan!

      Never mind those harsh comments, Ilocanos are extra resilient, we’ll get by as we always have before.

  13. There should really be transparency on the use of the Tobacco Excise Tax, or any other taxes for that matter, being used on some projects. Before, there used to be amount indicated into some projects, like Bannawag project, Convention Center Project, river dam project and road projects. At least we have known and could even calculate whether such project was well within the projected price. (Sadly, anyone who knows how to compute in construction, especially engineers, could see the big discrepancies on actual cost of project!) Now, the asphalt overlay projects were undertaken w/o cost written on placards, but you see pictures of politicians!

  14. The big rush for TEMP is to have the money for political grandstanding this coming election by the incumbents. After election, the elected official if he/she will be the new one will have no more funds left to use for the government’s programs. The projects undertaken before election may get hung-up due to reallocated/hold-up budget, or the project was grossly overpriced. Litigation against corrupt officials, former or incumbents, were never filed due to limited evidences, but even if filed, our courts are not fast enough to render justice, nor could the government recover the lost fund! So, what else is really new on our politicians’ lust for money and power…? They spend so much for so little salaries, how could they recoup their expenses?

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      Let us chip in to fund the campaign of worthy politicians, instead of just complaining. They do not have to recoup their expenses via corruption should they win.

  15. If the government has the will to make a fair play or equal grounds on political elections, the government itself would provide equal opportunities, same expenses and same airtime on TV/radio broadcasts to all candidates. Comelec should monitor closely regarding this. As such, rich or lesser-moneyed politicians are in equal footing. The rich should NOT spend over the allotted ceiling for campaigning. Comelec is inutile on checking this out! But even prior to actual campaign period, marami nang infomercials ang ibang mga kandidato! These should NEVER have been allowed! These are quasi-campaigning already…
    Chipping in by friends and relatives could be done, BUT still should be within the ceiling limited by Comelec. Actually, some businessmen who are rooting a candidate will recoup their “donations” through some “other business opportunities” which are not unlike of the notorious kind.

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      COMELEC is inutile, I fully agree.

      Yes, candidates must not overspend, and political ads must be regulated.

      Quasi-campaigning, as Asiong calls it, is tricky, especially now that the Supreme Court has effectively declared that premature campaigning is legal.

  16. The billionaire candidate has spent over the alloted airtimes on TV and Radio broadcast, yet Comelec is just mouthing the supposed threat to disqualify candidates who busted the ceilings on campaign spendings allotted by Comelec. Political minions also are putting up posters and buntings to illegal places, not just on common poster areas as mandated, yet nothing has been done by Comelec and other authorities to deter or punish them for these actions.

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      The COMELEC is really inutile, and our election laws are lamely implemented, if at all. Would you believe Villar has only spent 90 minutes of TV airtime as they claim? Impossible.

      And there are ways to circumvent the airtime cap, like group ads, Villar with each of the senatoriables, etc.

  17. asiong

    Candidates have come from different places, maybe different surnames but of the same origins, and have not really met the required time span of residency in the province of Ilocos Norte. We could question also if they have renounced their foreign nationality status. Board member candidate Calope is of Farinas clan origin, have long resided in USA and may have acquired US citizenship, and also other personalities who are newly seen in our province. The matriarch and her daughter have not stayed longer than a week visit for the past years, how could you say that they are Ilocos residents?

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      The grand dame and her kids maintain a house here and they come every now and then. Also, they are registered voters here. These are enough to meet the requirements of law.

      Aris Calope was a school mate at Divine Word Laoag, and his father is my mentor in birdwatching. The young candidate has been living in the Philippines for over a decade since he finished his studies in the states. He speaks fluent Iluko.

      In this age of rapid advancements in ICT, being an active Ilocano defies boundaries and geography. My uncle Gerry has been living in Hawaii for a decade, but he closely monitors local events, and is even more knowledgeable than I who am here.

  18. Thanks, sir Herdy, for the enlightening facts. I knew just as little for me to suspect a possible hoodwinking in such minor yet relevant residency requirements. I only took the example of Richard Gomez’ bid for Leyte congressional seat being disqualified due to this aspect. Still, disqualification cases to well-entrenched personalities could not truly prosper. The Arroyo son is unfazed with a disqualification case for his bid as Party list representative, which he is not truly a bonafide member. Same with Angelo Reyes’ bid being questioned by pundits.

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      The party list mechanism is really vague in many ways, and it needs some rethinking. The framers of our constitution wanted representation for the underrepresented, marginalized groups, but did not foresee the abuses that the party list system is being subjected to now. Groups are sprouting like wild mushrooms, and they made the ballot very long. Let’s continue to be watchful.

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