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.


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


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
Thursday, 09 March 2017 06:49

What happened to EDSA?

Part 3

FOR each of the groups that participated in EDSA, the expectations, hopes and aspirations which motivated them were diverse. Thirty-one years, the survivors may now have a better grasp of the event and a better appreciation of whether these have been fulfilled in the light of current developments.

The Yellows- 2017

Some of us are no longer Yellows in 2017. Our perception of EDSA and our role in it runs counter to what is now being peddled, mostly by those of the recent past administration. For us, EDSA is not an Aquino family franchise, nor just a mere booting out of the Marcos family. And it is not a narrative of entitlements of two families.

For many of us, EDSA was a decades-long seething anger against poverty, injustice and the emerging rule of the oligarchy not only in the economy but throughout the political structures. These were long exemplified by the pre-martial law Liberal and Nacionalista political parties; same faces of a political coin that held sway over the lives of the masses of Filipinos through their brand of traditional politics.

The final capture of the color Yellow was consummated upon the serendipitous exquisitely timed demise of the EDSA icon when an opportunistic son rode on the people’s residual love and nostalgia to win power. Yellow from then on came to symbolize his own vengeful and exclusive “Daang Matuwid” regime. PNoy, in his brimming arrogance, tried to exact from the people who once took part in the EDSA revolution, a certain sense of loyalty and adulation similar to that shown his mother. He failed.

His double standards overshadowed his advocacy of transparent governance, and what we all witnessed was a man who used his power to inflict his wrath upon his political enemies. The economic policies that put the country in the international map, which in essence were inter-generational and a carryover from past administrations, were never properly attributed; in fact, his predecessor was incarcerated for the duration of his term in office.

But the last straw that broke the people’s trust was his refusal to apologize and take responsibility for the Mamasapano massacre that claimed the lives of 44 police commandos.

Some of these Yellows who perceived EDSA to be merely a victory over martial law forces were left disenchanted when the expected change in the status quo and the restructuring of the old order did not occur. And this too is the perception of mostly the millennials with their harsh judgment of EDSA as they have no personal connection to or collective memory of it. The disgruntled former Yellows and the millennials found a common cause in bringing about this elusive change – Ang Pagbabago! – exemplified by a maverick whose language resonated. They found their voice and a champion in DU30, our Davao mayor, whom they catapulted to the presidency running under two main campaign promises of drastic change: the elimination of the illegal drug menace and the restructuring of the government into a parliamentary-federal form.

The Marcos Loyalist Reds- 2017

The hundred yellow ribbons “round the old oak tree” may soon be covered by red ones as Marcos supporters have slowly inched their way to political consciousness in the past few years from their solid base in the Marcos homeland in the north. This resurgence can be attributed to the tolerance and naivete of President Fidel Ramos, a cousin, who allowed the return of the dictator’s remains under strict conditions agreed to by the Marcos family, but which they have reneged on, perhaps with the quiet acquiescence of the FVR administration. This paved the way for the complete rehabilitation of the family by PRRD who has admitted to his own father’s debt of gratitude to the father, Ferdinand, and his own fondness for the son, Bongbong. The son also did his part by demonstrating filial love, a trait much valued by Filipinos. On his run for the vice presidency, the Filipino millennial responded in kind. They are a powerful and versatile force that has clearly distorted the equation—partially alienating the Yellows.

The Military- 2017

Many of the major players have long been put to pasture and some tucked into the recesses of the bureaucracy. But the institution has a long collective memory and it has left behind what could be a dangerous legacy; they were made the protector of a dictatorship and have tasted the license of shared power. And they applied that newfound prerogative a decade and a half later in a caricature of EDSA II, that small original faction of 1986 who once broke away from the traditional mainstream culture with convoluted motivations to fight a common nemesis. EDSA will be a reminder of how their force can either be a tool for hegemony or freedom. And that the military has to be guided by strong moral principles and must equip themselves with a discerning mind to only use their force to serve the people.

DU30’s Red, White & Blue

This clinched-fist symbol of defiance and rejection of the status quo is the emblem of those who populate this group who are mostly the vocal millennials – those who have barely a memory of EDSA 1986 and no experience of the circumstances, events and upheavals that led to it. Most were not even born yet at the onset of the Marcos regime and therefore have no awareness of the piquancy of the period. They were among the first to march the streets of EDSA during the 2017 commemoration. They could have been properly schooled on the history of the EDSA revolution, what dictatorship feels like and how their forefathers fought it. However, the passion and flavor of conflict cannot be imparted. They may have understood the dangers of an iron-fisted leader such as Duterte, but on the other hand, the man speaks their language of defiance of the old order. And his is the only game in town!

The millennials are a force to reckon with and they could be the gamechanger. They have the vigor, the ideas and technology to rally behind a certain political ideology, an advocacy or a cause. But only when properly motivated can they begin to fulfill the promise of their generation which is congruent to the hopes of the majority of the EDSA participants – to free the Filipino from the shackles of poverty, injustice and the grasp of the oligarchy and the traditional practices of politics.

Perhaps it needed the passing of a generation—31years from EDSA—for a new set of players to emerge to fulfill the important aspirations, expectations and hopes of EDSA, without being burdened by the conflicts and biases that brought about that same EDSA.

Perhaps the colors, Yellow and Red, will lose their significance and everything negative attached to them. Perhaps, the rise of a leader who was himself a product of EDSA but tried to heal its wounds is what is needed in this time and age.


Published in LML Polettiques
Tuesday, 07 March 2017 10:05

Multiplier effect

DAVAO is “three times bigger than Metro Manila, six times the size of Cebu, one of the largest metropolitan areas not just in Asia but in the world.” Today, it is the unofficial capital of the country. The Davao formula was for the mayor to handle peace and order, use political will to build the city, and the local bureaucracy to attend to the rest. Can this formula be scaled up to the whole of the country?

To a certain degree, yes, in terms of peace and order and infrastructure development. The other side of which is, no, because you have an unwieldy legislature trying to curry favor with PRRD (death penalty for illegal drugs?) or launch diatribes against him (EJK, Matobato, undeclared wealth, Lascañas and every anomalous act is labeled as done by Duterte). The 17th Congress in fact has just enacted two bills into law: the General Appropriations Act, or the national budget, and the postponement of the barangay elections. There are no super majorities because if there were, the legislative agenda of the President would have been on track.

PRRD has convened the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) and the chambers have crafted their own agenda. A common legislative agenda is said to be in the final drafting. Though we can do without more laws considering there are laws that have not been implemented fully and there are unfunded mandates, we need more and more for Congress to exercise its oversight function over the Executive and Judicial branches if it is to help PRRD in his effort to pursue reforms.

In a study done by the Congressional Policy and Budget Reform Department of the House of Representatives, there are “62 laws [that]remained partially funded while 75 laws were not funded at all as of 15 October 2015. Unfunded laws grew by 127.3 percent from 33 in 2007 to 75 in 2015, while partially funded laws grew even higher by 376.9 percent from 13 to 62 in the same period.” These laws amounted to “P367.3 billion. Of this amount, only P242.1 billion was allocated, leaving a funding deficiency of P125.2 billion.” Unbelievably, “the House committee on oversight (13th Congress) which made an inventory of unfunded laws even indicated that two laws enacted by the First Philippine Republic—the Friars Lands Act (1904) and Cadastral Survey Act (1913)—were not implemented because they required a huge funding of P1.5 billion.”

So if Congress can’t act as a direct partner to PRRD on infrastructure development and decides to use their pork for the innocuous projects that do not build a nation, then PRRD and his political will should push the envelope daily until such becomes the bureaucratic discipline. Why? Because doing infrastructure development is the way to respond to some promises of the President: inclusive growth, lowering poverty by the end of his term, providing jobs and bringing sunshine (economic activities) to the poorest provinces.

With political will, PRRD can connect the 7,641 islands by a system of airports, ports, bridges and rails. The bridges can be tourist attractions just like the bridges in Porto, Portugal. Porto is the second largest city after Lisbon and it has a mixed transport system of bus, rails, trams and subways. One can do a tour of the Duoro river and see the different designs of the bridges; some are modern while others are historical in make and design. If PRRD can implement Build.Build.Build and other infrastructure plans every year in the three islands of the country then we would have done much, much more than any administration has.

The nautical highway of then PGMA must be continued and further developed. Just look at the development it brought to Roxas, Oriental Mindoro. Roxas, the smallest municipality of the province, was a sleepy, fourth-class municipality. Today, it is a place of heightened economic activities because of the nautical highway, connecting its port to the famous destination, Boracay. Today, it is a second-class municipality from being a pass-through from Batangas to the Calapan piers and to Caticlan, Aklan.

The underlying reason for pushing for Build.Build.Build is that of the so-called multiplier effect. We can be competitive at the end of PRRD’s term if we are able to launch and implement the infrastructure plan. The multiplier effect is “an increase in income generated by an increase in spending,” which should be part of our national conversation. Such conversation should not settle for mere infra for infra sake but “wise” infra investment. The qualifier “wise” refers to projects that fill a need of the community they serve and which are economically viable. A key lesson is that “projects that have a lot of private capital behind them would have the biggest impact because more often than not they won’t be a road to nowhere.”

Further, it has been a settled model that “an additional 1 percent of GDP invested in transport and communications on a sustained basis increases the GDP per capita growth rate by 0.6 percent. “Productivity growth— and therefore competitiveness—is higher in countries with an adequate supply of infrastructure services.” So, we can even pursue a smart infrastructure development of a mix of hard and soft infra with ICT merged to it to create a resilient Philippines.

Clark should therefore be made as the main gateway, with Subic and Batangas designated as alternative, complementary ports to Manila. Clark and Subic should serve the northern part of Luzon while the south (CALABARZON) can be served by Sangley airport and port system. NAIA can be dedicated to the 12 million residents of Metro Manila. A tri-airport system in Luzon unclogs the bottlenecks of Metro Manila and spurs development from center to the peripheries.

Our unique geography, between East and West, allows us to be a competitive logistics hub. In a Transport Intelligence Report (TIR) in 2015 estimated “Philippine logistics to triple to P326 billion by 2020 from the present P100 billion.” TIR said that by 2020, based on low 11 percent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) and high of 18 percent CAGR growth scenarios, the logistics market is forecasted to reach P204 billion (low) to P326 billion (high).

The forward linkage index of the Philippine logistics industry as of 2011 was placed at 1.4, the lowest in Southeast Asia, compared to Indonesia, 2.1; Thailand, 2.73; Cambodia, 2.48; Vietnam, 2.64; Thailand, 2.73 and Malaysia, 4.03. Based on the study, logistics’ multiplier effect is such that “every P1 investment has a multiplier of 2.81 investments in other industries such as services.”

There are 109 local and foreign logistics service providers in the country with aggregate revenue of P60 billion. They are very much concerned over the provision of efficient transport infrastructure, conducive policy environment, and regulations that will foster the logistics sectors’ competitiveness in terms of cost, service quality and reliability.

Based on a 2010 traffic study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in Metro Manila and its environs, truck trips (per day) is expected to increase from 694,271 in 2010 to 872,329 in 2020 and 1 million by 2030. The share of trucks going to and from Manila is 60 percent. That means, we need to increase our road networks.

The Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) budget has increased dramatically over the last four years. In 2015, almost half (49 percent) of the government’s outlay infrastructure went to DPWH. The big challenge is improving the paved ratio of local roads that comprise 84.5 percent of the country’s total road network. Provincial and municipal roads have a low paved ratio of 35 percent, while city roads have a paved ratio of 62 percent.

Trains and trams are something we need to seriously pursue. Trains can be transshipment mode for raw and finished products, from Mindanao to the Visayas or Mindanao to Luzon. Trams can be an efficient mass transit in urban centers to the peripheries. But Congress will have to contend with the problematic Philippine National Railways (PNR) mandate, which has been pending in Congress despite the extension of its corporate life.

The good news is that under PRRD, the infra spending has been placed at 7 percent, an increase of 2 percent from BSA3’s 5 percent. The other good news is he is hands-on on infra coupled with the political will to push the projects fast. When we see projects launched and a building spree all over, then we test the government’s effort on corruption. If the infra projects are corruption-free, then we see why a Duterte is better than the rest. The surest way to defeat destabilization efforts is to perform well and accomplish more. Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) are laggards instead of being shining stars. The social welfare clusters are moving. The economic clusters have rolled up their sleeves and the DPWH is getting things done. Agriculture is moving to remove bottlenecks one by one. The uni-dimensional focus must end.

The Duterte administration needs at least P8 trillion to close the infrastructure gap over the next six years. An initial list of 18 big-ticket items worth a total of P427.5 billion has already been approved by the National Economic and Development Authority. Clearly, accelerating infrastructure spending to help pull down the poverty rate to below 15 percent by the time he steps aside in 2022 is vital.

The reality is that the total resources of the Philippine financial system is P16.2 trillion and the Duterte administration would have to invest about Php8 trillion over the next six years on infra to be on a par with Asean. So, the more Congress spends time on this problem area, the better for the whole infra plan to be a reality.

Getting your act together has a multiplier effect, too. It quiets the shrillness in politics. Getting your act together is getting all hands deck, no lone stars. Getting your act together is no public meltdown; the only meltdown should be on tasks not done. From June 2016 to March 2017, or eight months hence, hold the reins tight and get things done. Don’t be derailed by the political noise.

As Socrates said, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Published in Commentaries
Monday, 27 February 2017 09:43

Resume drug war

SENATOR Alan Peter Cayetano has called on President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to relaunch the war on illegal drugs, warning that drug traders have gone back to the streets since the suspension of the campaign in January.

Speaking before the crowd that attended the pro-Duterte vigil-rally at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila last Saturday night, Cayetano said he had received complaints of drug pushers resuming their business.

Cayatano, a staunch supporter of Duterte, said the resurfacing of drug pushers poses a serious threat because illegal drugs come with murder, rape and other crimes.

“Kaya ngayong gabi ako’y nakikisauap sa ating pangulo at PNP i-re-launch ninyo ang ating anti-drug drive (So tonight I’m appealing to our President and the PNP to re-launch our anti-drug drive),” Cayetano said before the cheering Duterte supporters.

Saturday’s pro-Duterte rally drew an estimated 215,000 at its peak at 9 p.m., the PNP said. The rally ended before noon on Sunday, still with a large crowd of 3,000 to 4,000 according to the police.

In contrast, the rally at the EDSA People Power Monument commemorating the 31st anniversary of the 1986 popular revolt that toppled the Marcos regime, drew an estimated 1,200 at 8 p.m. on Saturday, the government-run Philippine News Agency reported.

‘People’s war’

Cayetano said the drug campaign would no longer be called Duterte’s war on drugs, but “the people’s war on drugs.”

“Because we are part of the campaign against drugs and not only drugs but also corruption,” the senator said.

Duterte last month ordered the suspension of the anti-drug campaign nationwide following the kidnap-slay case of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, who was killed last October inside the PNP national headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Members of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and other individuals were among those charged.

The President ordered the PNP and the NBI to stop all anti-drug operations and directed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead while national police undergoes internal cleansing.

Cayetano also defended the President against those who have been criticizing his administration over the spate of alleged extrajudicial killings of suspected drug pushers and criminals, insisting that such killings were more rampant in the previous administration.

The senator claimed that during the time of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, summary killings ranged from 10,000 to 14,000 yearly or an average of 1,000 per month.

To hide the alarming situation, Aquino issued an executive order prepared by then Justice secretary Leila de Lima, stating that killings that do not involve labor leaders, priests, nuns and activists won’t be considered extrajudicial.

“And when the Duterte administration came in, all killings were considered [extrajudicial killings]and Duterte is the one to blame,” Cayetano added.

PDEA vows ‘relentless’ campaign

PDEA on Sunday said its campaign against illegal drugs would be “relentless” and “sustained.”

Derrick Arnold Carreon, PDEA public information office director, however, told The Manila Times the campaign won’t be bloody.

Carreon said PDEA’s campaign would also lead to killing suspected drug personalities if they attempt to put up a fight against the agency’s operatives.

He said PDEA is “guided by the president’s marching order…‘that the drug problem must be stopped by all means that the law allows. The fight will be relentless and it will be sustained.’ Thus, we follow the legal bounds governing the ‘use of force continuum and lawful self-defense.’”
Published in News
Thursday, 26 January 2017 09:40

Digong’s controversial alter egos

Part One

IN the light of recent events in the country that have merited glaring headlines, this column, A View from the Center, will attempt at elucidation using as a backdrop the author’s paper on political management while working on a postgraduate course at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the 1980s (access

This will draw heavily too from personal experience as both an observer and a participant in political dynamics in the two decades serving under four administrations in various capacities from Presidents Cory, to FVR to Erap and with GMA. I was not in any way involved with PNoy’s regime. I too am not currently involved with the Dee-gong administration in any capacity. My observations on his presidency however will form a substantial part of this three-part article.

I don’t claim any intimacy with these past Presidents as most people privileged to work along the periphery of the high and mighty are wont to insinuate. I will not fall into the temptation of bloating my minor role, but will present my views as a student and practitioner of “political technocracy”.

The past few weeks’ headlines screamed for the heads of Trade Secretary Art Tugade and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre. Both Cabinet members are victims of expectations—very high expectations—mainly the public’s. We are not privy to the presidential expectations but can only assume that their appointments were for the most part the result of PRRD’s assessment of their capabilities, experiences and competencies; and as classmates or alumni from the President’s university–-a not-so-light qualification given the Filipino culture of patronage.

The latter is critical as they have been designated as the President’s alter egos, and as such have the complete trust of the President and are expected to speak for and in his behalf in their areas of expertise. Such responsibility is a privileged one and both must understand the nature of the relationship.

For one, this bond is no longer a personal one, as in classmates, schoolmates or “tsokaran”. It has transcended the familiar and morphed into one containing the majesty of the office of the presidency. By this precept, both are custodians of presidential prerogatives, prestige and power; and adding their own to it to enable the President and them to do their task well. The sum of all these is the vaunted fragile political capital of the President with a sustainability dependent largely on a fickle citizenry.

All Cabinet members are by inference the President’s alter egos and must understand their roles perfectly well.

Cabinet members are heat shields and political lightning rods of the presidency. As such, part of their job is to deflect serious criticism from their respective publics and clientele of the presidency as a result of their official functions. As an efficient conductor of political heat, these honorable secretaries must prevent damage or serious erosion to the political capital of the presidency.

The high expectations of the riding public to solve the oppressive traffic situation in Metro Manila, which includes the unsafe and unreliable train system, has eaten into the perception of incompetence of the department head, hence the call for his dismissal.

Paradoxically by the above measures, the good Secretary Tugade has done well deflecting the harm to his principal, considering the enormity of the problems inherited from the immediate past regime and having occupied his office for only half a year.

The same is true with the Justice Secretary who acted to deflect from the presidency the failings of the justice system (the drug proliferation in the prisons); and more particularly the perceived anomalies perpetrated by the two alumni of their law school who very early in this administration had begun to put their dirty little fingers in the Office of Immigration.

Both Cabinet members did their job as political heat shield, but still have to prove their mettle by serving the public by doing the job they were meant to do; but the long-suffering public has understandably short patience.

The third case is the curious actuations of the head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the alleged murder of a Korean national within the confines of his office. He claimed that a massive manhunt had been ordered personally by him to apprehend the perpetrators, only to find out from the media that the main suspect has been assigned all along at an office a stone’s throw from his. His claim once that a police rub-out suspect was freed upon the instructions of someone “higher in authority” was so inane and tragically comical as, in his job description, there is no person higher in authority than the President himself.

This series of incidents reflect his mis-appreciation of a job that catapulted him from a local provincial sinecure to the head of a critical agency in the national government. The general was utterly clueless reinforcing an elementary rule in political management that is the first duty of a presidential appointee: discovering what one’s job is. Job description at most higher levels, and in this case the top police general, is neither defined for you exactly nor “announced in the newspapers”. It is more or less the ability to “grab” authority and responsibility and incorporating the same into your own little rectangle (in the organization chart).

Calls for the resignation of these three presidential subalterns could be premature considering the short time spent at their jobs; they simply need to be on top of the learning curve. But along with the perks accorded top presidential appointees should be their readiness to prevent damage to the presidency and the country even at the risk of their own.

Such is the essence of their function as presidential alter ego; a duty to give all in the service of the President and the Filipino—and to discern well the sequence of that duty.

The phrase that they hold office upon the “pleasure of the President” is an absurd one reflecting indecisiveness. This puts the onus on the President and a wasteful withdrawal from his political capital.

(Part 2 next Thursday)

* * *

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 25 January 2017 09:51

Mamasapano raid a ‘CIA operation’

THE botched Mamasapano raid that killed 44 police commandos in January 2015 was an operation of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that was covered up by the previous Aquino administration, President Rodrigo Duterte bared on Thursday.

Duterte met the families of the slain members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) in Malacañang and announced that he will form a seven-member commission to reopen the investigation into the incident, as well as declare a day of remembrance.

“Why did you hide the fact that it was an operation of the CIA?” he said, addressing himself to former President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

“Let it be brought out in the open. It was an American adventure with the cooperation of some, and apparently with your blessing,” he said.

The Manila Times was the first to report extensively on the US involvement in the operation in February 2015, citing a reliable source who said the SAF men went to Mamasapano, Maguindanao only to act as security escorts for American agents tasked to capture or pick up international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan who had a $6-million bounty from the United States government, and the Filipino terrorist Usman who carried a $1-million reward on his head.

The Times also reported that an American was among those found dead and apparently left behind in the evacuation.

‘Deles stopped rescue’

Duterte also accused former presidential peace adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles of stopping Aquino from sending Army men to rescue the SAF commandos who were attacked by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and allied groups, so as not to jeopardize peace talks with the rebels.

Analysis of the events surrounding the Mamasapano operation point to Aquino as the one who eventually made the “stand down” order, The Manila Times’ Chairman Emeritus Dante A. Ang reported in February 2015.

“Deles, I do not want to, you know, belabor. You were the peace negotiator. And for me, you were the one who told [Aquino] not to send reinforcements because war will break out, because then you have violated the agreement that you should not enter MILF territory,” Duterte said.

“So why did you enter into an operation which was really placing in jeopardy the lives [of the SAF members]?” Deles however said the issue raised by Duterte was not new.

“Thank God I’m in Kathmandu and Mt Everest stands by the truth! I hope media will remind him that I already went through the grill on that,” she said when informed of the President’s statement.

Like Agrava commission

Duterte said the Mamasapano fact-finding commission will be “independent,” composed of former Supreme Court justices, lawyers and civilians.

“I will create a commission, and appoint men of integrity and honor to investigate,” the President said.

“You can summon and even ask the United States government of their participation and where did the reward money went,” he added.

“We will bestow to the commission the powers exactly given to the Agrava Commission,” the President said, referring to the body that probed the 1983 assassination of Aquino’s father, Benigno Aquino Jr.
Published in News



THIS recent audience with the President is discussed in a three-part series in this column that started on December 15 and continuing on for the two succeeding Thursdays. This last encounter, the evening of December 5, was considerably different from the ones in the past. PRRD was more subdued and perhaps more reflective. I would venture to describe the engagement almost with panache on his part even with a modicum of elegance, except for a few expletives interspersed here and there that perhaps added emphasis and color to the conversation.

Published in LML Polettiques
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