TWO agreements will be signed between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia as President Rodrigo Duterte embarks on the first leg of his three-country swing to Middle East countries this week.

Duterte met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and other high-ranking Saudi officials Tuesday to discuss the plight of Filipino workers there and to strengthen the cooperation between Manila and Riyadh to combat the drug scourge.

Among the agreements signed are a memorandum of agreement on labor cooperation on general workers and employment between Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Development and the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment; and a memorandum of understanding regarding political consultations between Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

Saudi Arabia is the first leg of President Duterte’s first foreign trip to the Middle East and is the home and destination of work of the largest number of overseas Filipinos in the region.

In an interview at Riyadh, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella clarified that Duterte cannot bring home Filipinos on the death row, but he can bring those who sought amnesty before the Saudi government.

“He was asked about the death row matter. We need to clarify that first the process has not yet reached the level of the king, in which case there is no place for us asking for clemency at this stage so let us wait for the process regarding the death row issues,” Abella said.

He said the President could bring with him those who had taken advantage of an immigration amnesty by Saudi Arabia.

Philippine Consul-General to Saudi Arabia Iric C. Arribas urged Filipinos to avail of the amnesty for undocumented foreign workers declared by the Saudi government last March 29 to resolve problems in their papers to come clean with their government work permits.

Philippine Embassy officials said they were expecting around 5,000 undocumented Filipinos here to avail of the amnesty the Saudi government announced for illegal migrants.

“For this amnesty 2017 we are hoping that all of them will avail but we expect around 5,000 to avail, more or less. We are urging undocumented Filipinos here to avail of the amnesty,” Abella said.

The President is also expected to meet members of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry where Filipino business leaders would meet their Arab counterparts to explore trade and investment opportunities.

Duterte supporter and starlet Margaux “Mocha” Uson is part of Duterte’s entourage as a “morale booster” for Filipinos abroad, the Palace said Tuesday.

Also joining Duterte’s trip abroad is Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and former Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino, two of Duterte’s closest allies despite having no connection at all to the President’s trips.

Defending Uson’s inclusion in the official delegation abroad, Abella said that Uson will serve as the Philippine delegation’s “morale-booster.”

“The appointed official of The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board is part of the Philippine delegation. She has a large following among the overseas Filipino communities, especially in the Middle East, and it is in their interest that she has come to help boost morale and well-being,” Abella said.

In an interview at Davao City before leaving for Middle East, the Ilocos Norte governor said she asked the Palace to join Duterte’s trips to check on the condition of Filipino workers in the Middle East.

“I really requested to join because among the overseas migrant laborers in the Middle East, many are Ilocanos and women, so it’s important for me to know if their situation is improving because as far as I know, many of them were left behind, so we have to work on it,” Marcos said.

Marcos joined the President’s trips to China and Singapore last year.

Another official spotted joining the President’s trip was Tolentino, whose sister Analyn is currently the President’s Social Secretary.

In a press briefing at Riyadh, Abella admitted that the government is paying for the accommodation of all officials included in the President’s trip to the Middle East.

He said he could not explain how Tolentino was able to join the official delegation, even though he holds no government position.
Published in News
Saturday, 01 April 2017 09:36

Duterte is not Trump

The liberal world order, inaugurated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his dying days and ended with the sublime leadership of Barack Obama, has given way to a new era of disorder. No one is responsible, but Vladimir Putin’s gaining full dictatorial powers in Russia in 2012 is an easy starting date. Rightwing dictatorships have spread across East and Central Europe, stopping only at—ironically—the well-ruled Germany of Angela Merkel sticking tightly to democratic governance.

It was in this atmosphere that Rodrigo Duterte came to power, just nine months ago. Then, four months ago, and possibly with the help of Russian hackers, Donald Trump managed a near-landslide in what is clearly now ex-America; there is certainly nothing united about the United States anymore.

Given both men’s penchant for foul language, many commentators saw Trump as part of this trend and Mr. Duterte’s election as presaging Trump’s. Mr. Duterte’s awful start, with his seeming encouragement of the extrajudicial killing of thousands of druggies, and Trump’s appalling language with reference to women, not to mention his disdain for any democratic rule that stands in his way, underlined the comparisons.

True, they are both septuagenarians, but I make the case that the two men have nothing relevant in common, and that whereas the Philippines may emerge a far better ruled country and a more coherent one after Mr. Duterte’s six years, ex-America is heading to disaster.

Let’s start with what they say. Mr. Duterte is coherent; no one doubts he is also very smart. One may not like what he has to say but it is clear. He states an objective, then step by step, he lays the groundwork for carrying it out. If he is to be compared with any leader, it would be the late Singapore leader Lee Kwan Yew, who in a generation of tough leadership made his country the richest city in the world.

Now read any pronouncement by Trump that isn’t scripted, and what do you have? You cannot even parse it. It is composed of ramblings on whatever in the immediate context will bring attention or, better yet, adoration. This is narcissism, in pure form.

It gets worse. If you extract what message, if any, is consistent, it is that he has no interest in democratic values. More basically, he has no values. He has no agenda other than enjoying the attention that the presidency is bringing. He enjoys Republican majorities in the House and Senate, so there are no checks on him from the so-called division of powers. It is a psychosis. Not to put too fine a point on it, Trump is a narcissistic psychotic.

Now if by a fluke he was elected 20 years ago, the liberal world order would have checked him. The United Nations is not as such powerful, but it’s important in consolidating a rules-based system; an American president who wished to knock it down would have drawn amused yawns and curiosity on how he ever got elected.

Compare the Duterte agenda: Basically, it’s to make the Philippines a nation, a coherent and at least slightly disciplined state where citizens think of the national interest before their own personal agenda. I’m highly optimistic that the Duterte presidency will get better and better, that the virtuous reforms will cumulate and compound. He cannot do it in six years, but he can put the Philippines on a road that cannot be altered.

On the other hand, I fear the Trump presidency will just get worse and worse. Trump plays with fire. Many national security experts have laid out their fears that a psycho simply can’t be allowed to have his fingers on the nuclear trigger; he might be a Nero enjoying a burning Rome—because it was all about him.

But as for the Philippines itself, I think six years of tough rule will be a good thing, because Mr. Duterte is disciplined but coherent, and genuinely wants a better country, not his own glorification. That is not a small thing to be grateful for.
Published in Commentaries
I NEARLY fell out of my seat when I read Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ Lenten message. Villegas is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) which posted his message in its website – dramatically titled “Meditation”.

What kind of Church leaders do we have now in someone like Villegas? Political partisans exploiting the name of God, and lusting to be the country’s second Cardinal Sin, who had a glorious crucial role in the EDSA revolt that toppled a dictator?

The title of Villegas’ meditation is shocking enough: “Edgar and Art and God’s Mercy.”

Who is Edgar? He’s Edgar Matobato, an admitted hit man, whom the Yellow Cult or probably just Senator Antonio Trillanes IV got to testify in the Senate last October not really to seek justice, but to portray in the most vivid way that President Duterte was a ruthless killer who organized the Davao Death Squad (DDS) that murdered innocent people in that city in the 1980s.

Who is Art? He is Arthur Lascañas, worse than Matobato as he was an officer of the law, a police sergeant. “Just our low-level killer we contracted at times,” Lascañas even denigrated Matobato. Lascañas in contrast was a middle-level DDS leader, who ordered men under him to kill, and who by his own admission, himself killed some 300 human beings.

That puts him in that very small group of serial killers in the modern world with that many people murdered. Matobato obviously is the Phase 2 of the Yellow Cult’s program to demonize Duterte.

How can Villegas be so naïve or gullible as to assume that these two killers repented for killing so many people? I watched so many of the TV interviews of these two killers, and endured so many hours of their testimony: Did they ever shed a tear, or become misty-eyed over their victims? Absolutely not.

Lascañas testified that he stopped killing people, not because he sympathized with his victims or their relatives, but because the Devil visited him in his dreams – which means he was simply afraid of some killer more powerful than he. (Villegas claims though that the Devil actually appeared to him.)

Killed two brothers


Why, even Lascañas had some respect for the truth that he didn’t even attempt to narrate that such a dramatic conversion happened to him: He simply said he had a “spiritual renewal,” a term that had obviously been fed to him to say.

Like a telenovela writer, Villegas wrote of Lascañas: “He did not give up. He returned to his knees and sobbed tears of shame and guilt. He heard a voice again ‘Do you love me? Feed my people. Feed them the food of truth. Set my people free. I will wait,’ the Lord assured Art.”

Villegas didn’t even consider the possibility, given the apparently good financial situation of the two killers, that the Liberal Party or just Trillanes may have paid them a fortune to blacken Duterte’s image, probably explaining to them that they could trigger an EDSA kind of revolution?

Villegas didn’t even consider that the institution with more expertise on worldly affairs—the Senate committee that heard the testimony of the two killers—concluded that they were liars.

The Lenten season commemorates Catholicism’s core teaching of Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, an event really more mind-boggling than the Big Bang, when God entered Human History. Therefore, Lenten messages are supposed to be about transcendental ideas—who we are, our mortality, our relationship with the Infinite.

Degrades the Infinite

Yet Villegas degrades this commemoration of the Infinite to the mud of politics, about how bad this very temporary President is. He thinks he is being cute, or hoped his message would land in the newspapers’ front pages by referring to the two killers’ boss as “Superman,” which they had said in the Senate hearings was their code for Duterte.

In the Lenten messages this year of Pope Francis, and those of other Church heads around the world such as the Singapore Archbishop Goh, Brisbane Archbishop Coleridge, Melbourne Archbishop Hart, and Glasgow Archbishop Tartaglia, there is not a single word referring to a current event.

Which is as it should be, as an event as transcendental and cosmic as Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, cannot be dragged down to the mud of ephemeral politics. Doesn’t Villegas know that clerics get involved in politics only in a few Islamic countries, with the term Ayatollah even now connoting something fearful?

Why, for God’s sake, did Villegas do this?

Villegas’ motive is not really to inspire the faithful to have faith in God, to believe that their sins will be forgiven, whatever they are. That is certainly not a problem for most Catholics: it is in fact what makes this religion attractive for them.

Villegas’ motive is to revive in the public mind the testimonies of the two killers and to believe their allegations against Duterte, which have all been dismissed and forgotten, with the prevailing view being that these two are merely Trillanes’ paid minions.

Jesus Christ himself, Villegas claims, have forgiven them: “On the charge sheet for the sins of Edgar and Art, Jesus had stamped in clear words “PAID”. Therefore, believe their testimonies.

To heaven

He even implies that these two murderers will go to heaven: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” So, Villegas thinks that Matobato and Lascañas are better human beings than us who have never snuffed out a human life? Bullshit.

Why is Villegas doing this? The only reason I can think of: For vainglory. In his mind, he is the political heir of Jaime Cardinal Sin, since nobody was as close to the Hero of EDSA as he.

Villegas was for 25 years the personal secretary of Sin, who intervened actively in politics in the 1980s for the emergence and victory of the EDSA revolt that overthrew the dictator Marcos. Villegas was disheartened when instead of the prime post of Manila, Pope Francis assigned him instead in 2009 to the provinces, as Archbishop of Dagupan-Pangasinan, far from the center of politics in the country. His hopes of being the new Cardinal Sin were, however, revived when he was elected CBCP president in 2013, a post his mentor had occupied in the years leading up to the EDSA uprising.

In his egotism, Villegas believes he is the Sin of this period, which requires him though to lead such a glorious event similar to EDSA that his idol did—like the overthrow of Duterte through some People Power kind of revolt. Like the Liberal Party, Leni Robredo, and Trillanes, Villegas thinks that the controversy over extra-judicial killings and the supposedly explosive revelations of the two killers would trigger such an EDSA.

Truth—and Lenten messages—are the casualties in such ambition and in such plots.
Published in Commentaries
AS an adult in the news business, the Manila Times as a matter of policy does not dignify a piece of fake news or fake story, by commenting on it as if it should be seriously considered by our readers and the Filipino nation.

But there are times when we make an exception because the fake story is deceiving too many; and it has the potential to shape international perception of our country and our people in a highly negative way.

This is the situation we face with the unsubstantiated story authored by Mr. Richard C. Paddock. which the New York Times published in the World section of its edition of March 21, 2017.

The story is grandly titled “Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman.” It is illustrated with full-color photos of various incidents in Duterte’s life.

It relates multiple stories about Duterte, and summarizes many of his outrageous statements and claims. It purports to quote some of DU30’s relatives and his acquaintances who agreed to be interviewed.

It levels at Duterte the charge that he sees himself as a killer-savior of the Philippines. Killing for him is the solution to key problems of the country.

Paddock writes of various killings in the country, some of which he says involved Duterte at the trigger. Yet whenever he has to substantiate an allegation he retreats by claiming that it is hard to prove. He cannot cite specific cases.

Typical is how he cites a sadistic story where Duterte allegedly throws a criminal suspect out of a helicopter, Paddock did not even supply his name.

Overall, it is hard not to agree with the charge of Duterte’s spokesman and press secretary Ernesto Fabella that the NYT story is just a clever hack job.

Mr. Paddock is unbelievably lazy as a journalist. He will not validate any of his allegations with serious fact-checking. No one corroborates his grisly tales.

For instance, he claims that in nine months. President Duterte has exceeded the number of killings during the 20-year rule of President Ferdinand Marcos — by claiming that there are now over 7,000 killings under Duterte, while there were 3,600 under Marcos.

The numbers are wrong with both Presidents. Both statistics are false and have not been validated by fact-checking.

No serious work of journalism has made the claim that 3,600 were killed under Marcos. It was Amnesty International which first made the claim. But when challenged, AI admitted that it could not validate its figures.

The problem is the same with the contemporary figures regarding killings under Duterte. Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao has exposed the 7,000 figure as a concoction of a Philippine website, rappler.com, whose numbers were used by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations and Western governments to criticize Duterte and make him call off his drug war.

This is not a defense of President Duterte and his war on drugs (which the Manila Times has squarely criticized on several occasions). This is rather a call for better and fact-checked journalism.

It would have been different if the paddock story was published as an op-ed article. But NYT ran it as a news story and analysis in its world section.

We criticize the New York Times in its handling of the Paddock story, because by reason of its prestige and influence, we did not expect to see it purveying a false story. We expected it to be more factual and reliable, by demanding fact-checking from its reporters or contributors.

The net result of the Paddock story is that it contributes no new facts about President Duterte, other than some hitherto unknown personal family anecdotes. It has no facts to report.

Far truer, is that NYT and Mr. Paddock have added to the growing urban legend of Duterte and made it global.

According to the Oxford dictionaries and other respected dictionaries, an urban legend is “a humorous or horrific story or piece of information circulated as though true, especially one purporting to involve someone vaguely related or known to the teller.”

Fake news, by definition, resembles an urban legend. According to Politifact,

“Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports.”

That unfortunately is what Paddock’s story on Duterte amounts to.
Published in Commentaries
AMID reports of Chinese construction in the disputed areas in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), President Rodrigo Duterte said China had assured him it would honor its word not to build structures on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Speaking to reporters upon his arrival from an official trip to Thailand on Thursday, the President said China won’t do anything that would jeopardize its relations with the Philippines.“I was informed that they are not going to build anything at Panatag. Out of respect for our friendship they will stop it. Hindi nila gagalawin ‘yan sabi ng China. ‘Huwag kayong mag-alaala, magkaibigan tayo’ [They won’t touch it, China said. ‘Don’t worry, we’re friends],” Duterte said during a news conference.

“That was the assurance given by the Chinese government. They are not going to build anything on Panatag because they want our friendship. They [won’t] do anything to place it in jeopardy…China has a word of honor,” he added.

China is reportedly preparing to build monitoring stations on the islands situated in the disputed waters, including Panatag Shoal, a traditional fishing ground off Zambales province.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has said the Philippine government should file a “strong protest” against China’s building activity, which could lead to militarization in the disputed waters.

Carpio urged Duterte to send the Philippine Navy to patrol at Panatag Shoal and invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty if China attacks the Philippine Navy.

‘Why pick a fight?’

But Duterte reiterated that his administration wants to avoid a rift with the Chinese government because it is not ready to wage war.

“This is what I said in China and it was bilateral… I said I come here in peace… I said I just want to trade with you and I want business because my country needs the money. But certainly, during my term, before it ends or in the middle of my administration, there has got to be a time when I will confront you with the arbitral judgment,” Duterte said.

“In the meantime, I set it aside. But I said remember my caveat that I will bring it up…When? When they shall have dug the minerals and the riches of the bowels of the sea. Bakit ako makipag-away ngayon [Why will I pick a fight today]?” he added.

Duterte is referring to the July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that favored the Philippines over China. The tribunal ruled that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights over areas within its so-called nine-dash line, which covers practically the entire South China Sea.

China has refused to recognize the ruling, calling it “a mere piece of paper.”

‘Free to enter’

The President also said that he had allowed the Chinese “innocent passage” in the disputed territories.

“You are free to enter, just inform the Navy, inform the Foreign Affairs secretary,” Duterte told the Chinese.

The Defense department earlier this month bared that Chinese survey ships were seen last year at Benham Rise, an undersea region that forms part of the Philippines’ extended continental shelf east of Luzon, and is not a disputed area.

The President backtracked on his campaign statement that he would go to the disputed islands on a jet ski and wave the Philippine flag to dramatize the country’s claim to the islands.

During the 2016 presidential debates, Duterte said he would ask the Philippine Navy to bring him to the boundary of the Kalayaan (Spratly) Islands so he could “ride a jet ski while bringing the Philippine flag.”

“Why do you have to go there and look for a friction? A friction could cause explosion?… There is always the unchanging rule for that. I’m not bright but I’m a lawyer, the reality is miscalculation,” he said.
Published in News
Thursday, 23 March 2017 10:10

A grand game of chess

CHESS is a mind game of strategy between protagonists that involves tactical moves and counter-moves. And the winner purportedly is the one who thinks ahead by several moves.

The Duterte presidency has been involved in an exciting game of chess of late pitted against several players – akin to an exhibition tournament where the grandmaster simultaneously clashes against several amateurs. But in this political chess, it is not simply an exhibition; and the adversaries are not of lesser caliber; and the spectators are left guessing as to the next moves of the combatants.

Several recent moves may be part of a larger scheme to throw him off balance and could be a concerted effort towards an eventual checkmate. Ponder upon the following: the re-emergence of Arthur Lascañas as a perjured prime witness against the Deegong accusing him as the patron of the Davao Death Squad (DDS); the recent video clips released by VP Leni Robredo in the international media on the DU30-authored extra-judicial killings (EJK); and now the first impeachment complaint against Duterte by the Magdalo party-list representative Gary Alejano, all within the space of one month. One can’t help but conclude that this could be part of the “destabilization” directed against the DU30 administration.

As a flashback, the Magdalo group, led by an active Navy officer mutinied against the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in that infamous Oakwood episode of 2003; the same officer Antonio Trillanes is now a senator of the land and the bete noire of the Deegong. And they are at it again, throwing rocks at the DU30’s ship of state, hoping and waiting for it to sink.

And now the minority partisans of this deadly political chess game are drawn into the fray once again taking sides; the fanatical Red and Blues defending the status quo and the Yellows relishing the role of the opposition. The moves and counter moves are currently fought in social media and in the halls of Congress – deflecting attention from the all-important task of good governance. The greater segment of the citizenry, we, mere onlookers, no doubt could be the biggest losers.

PRRD could be his own worst enemy here if he continues to be waylaid by these irritants – for indeed, they are. I have no doubt in the President’s sincerity to do good for the national constituency as he did well with the local community as a city mayor. In fact, Gina Lopez, the beleaguered environment secretary has described Duterte as “the real thing”. His economic programs as enunciated by his economic team are laudable, but it needs his personal attention. His election promise to usher in a new governance paradigm, rejecting the defective unitary form of government through a shift to a parliamentary-federal form will need the revision of the 1987 Constitution. This is his other priority and he needs to stay in focus.

But let us examine closely his current predicament and see if these are really worth his being derailed from his chosen path. First, he has barely warmed his seat in office and an impeachment complaint has been filed. But what will it take for this to prosper in the lower house; just another numbers game and the endorsement of the leadership. He has the backing of his super-majority – and its leadership in his pocket. There is no way impeachment will succeed.

Second, the noisy opposition is mulling over the possibility of filing cases in the International Criminal Court for crimes committed during his stint as a city mayor and on human rights violations. PRRD need not concern himself with his own defense. He has a thousand lawyers who can carry the burden of litigation if ever it will come to that; not to mention that the Lascañas and Matobato confessions, perjured witnesses all, are being used to make these cases against him. Legal luminaries doubt these will prosper at all.

Third, VP Robredo’s rant at a United Nations commission may bring her sympathy internationally and girl scout points but bluster does not get an international criminal trial going. PRRD need not concern himself with the fall-out if any, and social media is heavily on his side.

Clearly, Trillanes, a major instigator along with the Magdalo group and the disgruntled LP congressmen and senators who lost juicy committee chairmanships are doing everything to “destabilize” this administration. Even then, this is expected and par for the course. The Deegong from the very start of his regime has attracted controversy and in fact has in some bizarre way, sought it. These are merely bumps on the road and he will survive them. As the saying goes, “…what doesn’t kill him can only make him stronger”.

The Deegong—with 80 percent of the people’s approval; the political support of his elected super-majority; and the near-subservience of a bureaucracy long inured to patronage—has the singular ability to lead this country where he said he would: out of the clutches of corruption and poverty towards the promise of real “pagbabago”. He simply needs to keep his eyes “on the ball” as it were.

To paraphrase Michelle Obama: “If they take the low road, we go high”. It is high time for the President to do the same. Though somewhat aberrant, we are still living under the precepts of democracy, where criticisms and controversies may arise at any time.

What would really take PRRD to face these head-on? Perhaps it is time for a game changer. Buckle down and work diligently towards the fulfillment of his electoral promises; become less ambiguous on his responses to questions given by the media; and simply stay on message.

Simply put, still be the Deegong without the expletives!
Published in LML Polettiques
NAYPYITAW, Burma (Myanmar)—President Duterte has dismissed talk of destabilization as nothing but “politics.”

In an interview with reporters after his meeting with the Filipino community here on Sunday night, Mr. Duterte was dismissive when asked if he would prosecute those who were supposedly “destabilizing” his administration.

‘All politics’

“It’s all politics actually. In the matter of going after them, it has not reached that level of violence—destabilization. It’s more of publicity … . The talk about destabilization I think is a bit too, well, it is just an exponential word, actually. It has no limit,” he said.

The President clarified that for “destabilization” to occur, “you have to have the kind of situation where there is already violence committed and imposed on the population whether they are with you or against you.”

“If they create problems, just like what is happening in Mindanao, if it goes out of hand and children are already targeted for killings, that’s a different story,” he said.

Warning

Malacañang officials and allies in Congress have warned against destabilization threats against the President, pointing to, among other things, an impeachment complaint against him filed in Congress last week.

“For as long as it is really a peaceful exercise of the freedom of speech and freedom of the press, there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s guaranteed under the Constitution,” Mr. Duterte said.
Published in News
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 10:08

Start

IN his presentation before multi stakeholders, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez said, “in this administration, start means groundbreaking and actual construction.” With a ticket price of P326 billion, covering railways, bridges and dams, Dominguez pointed out that under the Duterte administration, “when we say start, we do not mean just bidding out projects, signing contracts or attending opening ceremonies.” He added, “we will no longer tolerate the wishy-washy promises that implementing agencies have been accustomed to making in the past.”

The three railway projects outside Metro Manila, new public transport lines along the main Metro Manila artery, Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), will begin construction this year. The three railways are Clark-Subic, Tutuban-Clark and the 581-kilometer South Line of the North-South Railway Project connecting Tutuban, Calamba, Batangas and Bicol. The Department of Transportation (DoTr) will be the implementing agency of the rail projects, with funding to be a combination of official development a ssistance, public-private partnership concessions, and government funds.

The construction of the Kaliwa and Chico River dams will also start this year together with projects at Clark International Airport, the Metro Manila Bus Rapid Transit traversing EDSA, and three bridges across the Pasig river. The dams will be funded by China

By 2018, construction of long-span bridges between Bicol and Samar,and between Leyte and Surigao, will finally make land travel between Luzon,Visayas and Mindanao possible. The 2000-kilometer Mindanao railway—which will connect its large cities—may start construction next year, as well as more bridges crossing the Pasig river, and the development of Clark Green City.

The planned infrastructure buildup will attract more foreign investments, as well as boost productivity. Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno earlier said that geo-tagging will be used to closely monitor the infrastructure projects to be rolled out this year in order to fast-track implementation. Diokno stated that “part of the plan to make the six years of the Duterte administration a so-called ‘golden age of infrastructure’ was spending P846.3 billion, or 5.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), on infrastructure this year alone. The budget for infrastructure expenditures in 2017 accounted for a fourth of the total and was 13.7-percent bigger than last year’s program.

Hybrid financing “would enable the government to profitably manage the leveraging” of close to P1 trillion in official development assistance (ODA) and loans that it had secured from Japan and China alone in just six months of the Duterte presidency.” Hybrid financing would bring down borrowing costs. Dominguez explained leveraging on hybrid financing by using part-ODA and part-multilateral agency loans actually increases the number of projects that can be done. “Hybrid financing would involve, for instance, a mix of ODA, which provides concessional interest rates of 0.2-0.5 percent, with development funds from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank to execute an infrastructure project. Combining both types of financing sources would thus enable the government to build more big-ticket infrastructure projects.”

These statements, coming from the top finance and budget managers of the country, are more important than any “palitulo” video statement by a reckless Vice President or an impeachment complaint that is a time-honored practice of a party list that has always been in the forefront of destroying buildings and institutions. For them, start means destroy the presidency. It is no longer destabilizing but ousting a duly elected President because they just don’t like him.

Furthermore, the yardstick used to measure a leader has changed. Apparently, the yardstick for Aquino cannot be applied for Duterte because Aquino, in their eyes, is the epitome of what is just and good. And you can run down the issues against Aquino from the Luneta hostage crisis, Yolanda, Mamasapano, KKK, Zamboanga siege, missing in action days, Napoles, DAP-PDAF, rigged impeachment of Chief Justice Corona, missing Malampaya, intel fund on crimes, unliquidated advances of his core Cabinet officials, and a lot more but his six years appear to be the model of governance and the nine months of Duterte is so appalling that he needs to be removed.

And as start is being invoked in building the nation, start is also the flag waved to destroy it politically. We have never had our politics serving what is best for our nation, save probably the time of FVR. Post-EDSA, our politics have been a drag. We removed President Estrada for his way of governing and his midnight Cabinet. We installed PGMA but needed to hold her captive because of alleged cheating putting her legitimacy at issue. We elected an Aquino again because he was an Aquino. And now we have the first mayor and the first Mindanaoan, we want to oust him because he is reportedly a killer. We never seem able to respect mandates of our leaders. Oust we must and that can be either removing the elected leader or weakening the foundations of the nation, causing it to spiral away.

In the old days, when before foreigners, we speak with one voice. Today, using seal and flag, we have a Vice President who, for her own convenience, spins things to put down an elected President. When a video is made in February and aired in March, saying “palitulo” is by design, you had all the time in the world to reframe. But with malice, the Vice President shot down the presidency and the PNP.

And then an impeachment complaint which is a rehash of all the accusations thrown PRRD’s way since the campaign, covering hearings in the Senate, scripted, staged and handled by Senator Antonio Trillanes and Senator Leila de Lima and supported by other Liberal Party senators. A cursory review of the complaint shows that securing a conviction is not what they have in mind. It’s destroying the economy; making investors leave are the two goals of those who lost in the 2016 elections.

There are two drivers of the economy: OFW remittances and BPO. Tinker with one, we implode. There are also investors waiting in the sidelines but the shaking that Robredo, Trillanes and the Liberal Party are doing of a man who won an election are becoming more and more strident. Should we worry? Nope, but let us start. Let the crybabies do their thing and let us all pull in one direction with Duterte, and row in unison across the rough seas. About time we let the vultures eat the dried carcass fed by soiled yellow hands and the living start rowing towards our promised land. We are captains of our fate and “every nation determines its own destiny; the cleverer the nation, the better the fate!”
Published in Commentaries
Tuesday, 14 March 2017 07:51

Duterte: No reason to 'drop' Gina

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday again stressed his support for Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, as he slammed mining firms that are destroying the environment.

Reciting a list of firms which he said were engaged in destructive mining, Duterte said he sees no reason to withdraw support for Lopez, whose appointment has faced strong opposition from mining groups.

The president said, there is no compelling reason to drop Lopez, adding that mining firms would find it hard to justify the environmental destruction they have caused.

“Give me a redeeming factor. Give me a redeeming -- something which I can hang on to to drop Gina. Walang redeeming factor,” he said.

Duterte also said he is mulling on imposing a total ban on mining.

Lopez has ordered the closure of 23 mining companies and the suspension of 5 others, but her decision is being reviewed by an inter-agency council.

Duterte also accused some mining firms of funding the opposition to undermine his government.

“Kayong mga mining, I know you are funding the opposite side. Alam ko na ngayon kung sinong gumgastos sa kanila. I know that some of you are giving funding to the other side to destabilize me. If the police and military will allow it, it’s their problem,” Duterte said.

The Commission on Appointments is scheduled to take up her appointment this week. An executive caucus is set to be held tomorrow and a plenary session on Wednesday.

In case she is bypassed, the president would need to issue another ad interim appointment for Lopez.
Published in News
Tuesday, 14 March 2017 09:32

A campaign to unseat

THE key words of the campaign are: culture of impunity, hate and anger. Platforms used are local and international media as well as the drilling effect of social media. That a culture was built overnight (because it has been 10 months only) was surprising, but that is what one gets when the oppositors (they put opposition in a bad light) are loaded, well-connected and consistent. And yes, despite elections being over and a winner declared by Congress, a campaign rages to unseat a duly elected President because of alleged sins of the past, constituting 22 years of being mayor.

The presidential campaign of 2016 came as a realization and a shock to the country’s ruling economic and political elites. Economic, because Duterte can’t be controlled, and political, because he will change the status quo. The BSA3 and Liberal Party formula was to jail, impeach and file cases against those who would not go with them at the start. In the vernacular, sampolan nyo. Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested for so many cases that came late in the day. The mantra was arrest her and jail her and we think of 8 to 9 cases from PCSO to electoral fraud, etc. Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached. Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was threatened with impeachment and resigned. When the operation to secure impeachment was uncovered, Napoles came in to save the day for the Aquino administration. And names included in the Napoles list were controlled.

The Liberal Party and some Cabinet members forming the inner core, learned a thing or two from Marcos and Arroyo. They dished out the dossiers of legislators and controlled them to the end. Those who did not want to be included in the public shame campaign, towed the line. Others had to clench their fists, muttering, may araw rin kayo.

Two years near 2016, the directive was launched to hit, damage and weaken the leading declared candidate for 2016 so that their presumptive candidate can be strong and competitive in the 90-day campaign. Doing the task for them were Pimentel (now Senate President), Cayetano (the other half of the Duterte ticket) and Trillanes (the designated Pambansang Handler who continues to tax the patience of the public). Control at the start and control at the end. In fact, the campaign of the Liberal Party in 2016 was tied with the legacy of BSA3, Tuwid na Daan. The political marketing plan was simple. Attach “Tuwid na Daan” and the candidates will win hands down because of the “accomplishments of the Aquino II administration.” Besides, oodles and oodles of money had been used to prop it up. The LP presidential and vice-presidential candidates had the same political nicknames, which COMELEC allowed. You guessed it right, Tuwid na Daan. And all monies and machinery of government were used to ensure victory, only to be defeated by a Duterte, a mayor, from Mindanao and without the huge war chest of the candidate of Aquino. It was shocking to say the least, when they controlled all the levers for victory but forgot the electorate.

When they realized the overwhelming wind that was coming, they again dispatched Trillanes in the last week of the campaign period, to hit, without let-up, candidate Duterte. Trillanes did not use the killings in Davao narrative, he chose the hidden wealth (taking a leaf from the destroy-Corona plan) card and went to town. He was not able to deliver, and therefore promised to get Duterte, win or lose. With money, media and legislative glare, Trillanes launched his termite-like offensive. Gnawing at the base, he tries to weaken the foundations, aiming for a legislative coup, impeaching the duly elected President. The timelines were laid out clearly. Everything uniting to that one single moment of our Camelot, EDSA. If things do not work out, there is a year in office (May), second SONA (July) and the politically charged months of August and September.

The other cards are De Lima (not political but violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The HRW and ICC have their own processes that no Trillanes can mess around with. But it completes the narrative of having a “killer, lunatic and corrupt President.” Indeed, the coup provocateur has shifted to a most rewarding profession: handler of termites who will weaken the base, provider of protective cover to the termites (praetorian guard par excellence), media operator and paid political assassin. The hope of everyone is for Mr. Trillanes to inform the public about his 16 trips to China (no paper trail and no immigration stamps). That is being transparent and accountable. Interestingly, what led to the change in Trillanes’ position since March 9, 2009 to September 2012? Was Trillanes the back door of BSA3 to China? Was it his “Russian roulette” equivalent to a good retirement befitting a career of destroying buildings and institutions?

Yes, it is true that doing 100 percent in the fight against illegal drugs is crucial. It highlights what has not been done for the past six years; it contrasts PRRD from BSA3, especially on narco politics and fundraising for political ends. But these contrasts are marginalized since PRRD, day in and day out, speaks of only a single issue with passion and resolve: battling the drug menace. The more he talks of Tokhang and Double Barrel, the more impunity, hate and anger are lighted up, just like a Pavlov experiment. The more he calls himself a mayor, the more the stature issue is highlighted. Think big, be President!

No, there is no destabilization in the traditional sense. But there is definitely a campaign to weaken and pounce on the presidency. The line, “culture of impunity, hate and anger” has been echoed by De Lima, Trillanes, the Liberal Party and the Vice President. It has been echoed in social media conversations. Those who propagate the line are said to be warriors of truth and those who do not are dream weavers.

And then there is that single star in the dark horizon, Cadet First Class Rovi Mairel V. Martinez of Cabanatuan City, valedictorian of PMA Class 2017, who reminded all of what service is: “To the Filipino people, whom we have pledged to serve with honor and integrity, utang naming ang lahat ng ito sa inyo. We will strive to become officers who are worthy of your respect and trust. We vow as young leaders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to always serve you and our country with vigor and unwavering commitment. Sa buong sambayan ang Pilipino, handa na po kaming magsilbi sa inyo!”

A very simple message that reverberates. You serve the country you love. You do not destroy it just because your kind did not make it. You do not spend a minute scheming. You roll up your sleeves and help. That is being Filipino today!
Published in Commentaries
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