Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: May 2021

YES! Covid-19 will end sometime, but not until Covid has exterminated hundreds of millions, maybe one-third to a half of the world's population - short of near-total annihilation of the human race. I hope this will not come to pass. But it could. This figure is borne out by mathematical extrapolation - not by a simple conjectural erudition or a stab into the unknown. It is based on the history of pandemic occurrences on the planet. From the earliest one recorded in 430 BC in Athens, killing a quarter of its inhabitants; through the Black Death in Europe from 1347 to 1453 that claimed one third of the Earth's population, then estimated at somewhere between 443 to 478 million. The 1918 Spanish Flu alone took 50 million lives (3 percent) out of an estimated 1.8 billion souls. Today, the world population is nearing 7.5 billion. Just imagine a 3-percent morbidity rate before the virus disappears - a mind-boggling 208 million people.

Death tolls continue with the appearances of the contagion, from the Asian flu during 1957 to 1958 (2 million), Hong Kong flu during 1968 to 1970 (1 million) to the lesser pandemics, SARS, MERS-CoV and the Ebola virus; and even the ongoing HIV/AIDS that started in 1981, claiming 35 million lives. Outbreaks appear intermittently despite advances in disease prevention technologies. Also, empirical data suggests that they ravage a particular segment of society. The poor, the destitute and the helpless - the dregs of society.

Population growth

Anthropologists debate how long-ago humanoids walked the Earth - somewhere from 6 million to 200,000 years - marking the emergence of homo sapiens, our direct ancestors; from whence human population reached 1 billion for the first time in 1804. Then, it would take only a little over a century to hit 2 billion - in 1927; another half a century to double that to 4 billion in 1974; and just 13 years to reach 5 billion in 1987. We are now approximately 7.8 billion. Earth's population is dangerously exploding by any measure.

The impact of population growth on the Earth's resources could be dramatic. While the former grows exponentially, production of food and resources does so in a linear progression - with population eventually outstripping Earth's carrying capabilities to sustain life. Thomas Malthus, the 18th century philosopher, declared succinctly, "The power of population is so superior to the power of the Earth to produce subsistence for man that premature death must, in some shape or other, visit the human race." By 2050, at current growth rates, the United Nations predicts the world population could reach 9.6 billion. Demographic experts argue 10 billion is Earth's maximum population carrying capacity.

A tangential issue is the stress impacting nature itself. Climate change, energy shortages, pollution of air and water resulting in environmental degradation and the extinction of many species of flora and fauna.

Man vs nature

The deadly family of the Ebola virus may have originated from African fruit bats transmitted to man - and eventually from human to human. Ebola has appeared from time to time in the African continent, particularly Zaire, and has mutated into several forms. Similarly, the Covid-19 virus that was first detected in Wuhan, China, reportedly jumped from another species of bat, which was a local delicacy. It is not so much that they add variety to Chinese cuisine, but the issue is even deeper than that. This goes to the core of the loss of habitat - precipitated by man's encroachment into nature's domain. Even the ordinary domesticated animals used for food have wreaked havoc on the human population over time. The intermittent appearances of the contagion, from the Asian and Hong Kong flu to the SARS, MERS-CoV, have been traced to viruses from fowls and four-footed animals - chicken, pigs and cattle.

Vaccines

Man is not totally helpless in the face of the onslaught of virus outbreaks as shown by his ingenuity in centuries past. We have had several types of virus, germs or biological anomalies attacking man, but we always managed to vanquish them. And we survive - but at a deadly cost.

For one, the smallpox virus that reportedly killed 3 out of every 10 people over the millennia from the 3rd century BC was only cured after a breakthrough in vaccine development at the end of the 18th century in England. It will be noted too that inoculations are a relatively old remedy against this virus dating back as early as 1000 BC in China, parts of Africa and Turkey. A breakthrough by pioneering work in vaccination and technological advancements eventually eradicated smallpox within 200 years.

But scientists also submit that these viruses have been mutating faster than man's advancement in new technologies. This was the scientists' conjecture on the Spanish flu. The main cause of death was "bacterial pneumonia secondary to influenza," which could have been alleviated by antibiotics which had not yet been discovered at that time.

Another school of thought proposes that a virus eventually loses its virulence once it has replicated and mutated decimating a substantial portion of its host - a large segment of Earth's population. But it will not totally kill its host. After a time, it remains in our body in a benign state or just lurking around. Outbreaks of the virus derivatives may occur from time to time - nature's way perhaps of warning man of his transgressions and impending doom.


PH situation

To date, we are 110 million Filipinos. We were 1.89 million in 1880. In a hundred years we hit 6.5 million. By the turn of the 20th century, we reached 76.5 million. In 2018, before Covid-19 distorted the figures, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) studies showed 16.7 percent of the population live below the poverty line - a monthly income of less than P10,000, barely enough to meet the basic food and nonfood needs of a family of five. With Covid, the Philippines by any measure is in dire straits. With the continued lockdown, the economy is in tatters, unemployment is soaring, and hunger stalks the land. The pantry feeding programs of the private sector and the government subsidy are just palliatives. Government policies on population growth are distorted by the powerful Roman Catholic Church hierarchy. This may be debatable and a good topic for another column. But in relation to the pandemic and the population impact, I refer to a fictionalized version, very descriptive of what's happening today. In the movie "Inferno," based on a Dan Brown book, Bertrand Zobrist, the fanatic-environmentalist-billionaire, holds a device that will unleash a plague upon the Earth, declared:

"We are destroying the very means by which life is sustained...every single global ill that plagues the Earth can be traced to human overpopulation...We clear-cut. We dump. We consume. We destroy. Half the animal species on Earth have vanished in the last 40 years. But still, we keep attacking our own environment. Does it take a catastrophe to learn our lesson? To get our attention. Nothing changes behavior like pain. Maybe pain can save us."

Now we are undergoing this pain - this pandemic. I find the theme compelling and very descriptive of what could happen next.

Published in LML Polettiques
THIS article is a response to the feedback on my May 5 column from various social media platforms. I’ve chosen to highlight the retort of a friend, Jose “Boyet” Lim 3rd, a confidant to both President Duterte and Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go (SBG), for his articulate defense of the latter. This exchange, lifted verbatim from my Facebook account, provides a certain flavor to these political sideshows.

Boyet Lim 3rd
“Piercing article, Lito. But the naïveté must be yours for failing to understand how Bong became SBG. It was the stupidity of Trillanes et al. that catapulted him to public notice and fame when the latter was hauled to that Senate investigation of the bribed and fabricated confessions of [retired PCMS Arturo ‘Arthur’] Lascañas and [Edgar] Matobato. From thereon, the ‘nobato’ that you think of SBG — the caregiver or photobomber or pushover in your mind — transformed into the man he really is, yes, loyal to a genuinely pro-people President and by extension, himself loyal to the Filipino people.

“There’s been a number of presidents with assistants larger in portrait than SBG, but none I can recall matching the teamwork between the President and now SBG that for so long has served the interest of the public, from the modest Office of the Mayor in the City Hall of Davao to the hallowed halls of the Palace. I probably can write an article longer than yours enumerating the anomalies of past presidents and their cohorts, but regardless of the circumstances, every citizen of this country, I believe, owes some reserved respect for these leaders who were chosen by the people, be they right or wrong.

“The statement you are quoting as having been said by SBG — ‘magbabago lang siguro ang isip ko kung tatakbong vice president si President Duterte’ — is a conjecture loaded with possibilities in all directions that you have singled out to mean SBG will then gun for the presidency. Yes, it was a leading statement but taking it to a singular conclusion is perhaps the likes of simpleton thinking that plunged the opposition to abysmal defeat in the last elections.

“SBG is not a caregiver to the President. He is a member of the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines serving the interests of the Filipino people miles better than the stupid senators you adore. I’m guessing you too salivate to become a senator or something yourself if your Centrist Democratic Movement can swing you a miracle. But that can only happen in your perspective, dreams rather. Nevertheless, if that miracle indeed happens to the true benefit of the nation, let it be.

“By the way, a belated happy birthday to you, Lito. My warmest regards to the family.”

My response
Hi, Boyet. I thought you deserve a much longer response than the terse ones I texted you, although I really appreciate your birthday greetings and, of course, your comments on my column. And I mean it.

I am familiar with the Trillanes, Lascañas and Matobato fiasco. It was unfair to Bong Go then, even as his performance at the Senate hearing as a public figure was less than stellar — almost pathetic. But I never had any sympathy for Trillanes. But to use this incident as the transformation of Bong Go — “…into the man he really is, yes, loyal to a genuinely pro-people President and by extension himself loyal to the Filipino people” — is a little bit over the top and melodramatic even for you, don’t you think?

I appreciate your passionate defense of SBG, an admirable trait, loyally papering over his deficiencies — something that I really don’t blame him for, only when his pretensions threaten to go beyond his capabilities, that could later prove to be dangerous to the country. But if I didn’t know you better, such praises could be attributed to a Palace sycophant — and I’m certain you are not.

I’m sure you can write articles longer than mine “enumerating the anomalies of past presidents and their cohorts.” But we need not go into a childish pissing contest. My article on Bong Go and Duterte was not about anomalies but principally about a powerful person who may run for president — clearly hanging on to the coattails of one who has built a tremendously massive reputation as mayor over a period of several decades, and much worthy than him, President Duterte, suggesting coyly that the latter could be his vice president.

His explicit desire opens him up to public scrutiny. I can’t see how his statements can be conjectured any other way. He needs to run on his own merits and must display his own beliefs and acumen, particularly when challenged by his peers in the Senate, prepared to meet the clash of ideas — and not cower and hide behind his patron’s apron.

“SBG is not a caregiver to the President.” Observations of countless TV audiences of his public conduct may contradict your statement. And this is not to disparage caregivers. Theirs is a noble profession. Indeed, he is a member of the Senate, one of the three constitutionally separate branches of government. Then what is he doing at the executive department, groveling about, a permanent fixture around the President. His old title of Special Assistant to the President (SAP) cannot just be converted and mocked as Senatorial Assistant to the President. The office of senator of the land demands more respect.

And your phrase “…stupid senators you adore. I’m guessing you too salivate to become a senator or something yourself…” is an ad hominem statement that is beneath you — not worthy of comment.

Since this exchange is already public and on Facebook, I intend to reprint this in my Manila Times column, verbatim, to allow our readers to comment — perhaps we both can shape the debate for a better Philippines we both love. Personally, I know and truly like Bong Go as a decent, God-fearing and good person. But public good trumps personal considerations. The stake for the country is simply too high for one obviously ill-equipped. In our vernacular “pahinugon una nato.” And when the right time comes, I and many from Davao might even be persuaded to campaign for him — if he so desires to make himself first worthy of the Philippine presidency.

Please be assured too that this lively public exchange would only reinforce yours and my family’s long and warm relationship.

Lito Monico C. Lorenzana,
your neighbor

Addendum: 2021 presidential elections
Despite the raging pandemic, citizens are lured to the coming presidential sweepstakes eager to watch clowns, weirdos and charlatans perform, transforming Philippine elections into a freak show. This sexennial charade of unqualified “presidentiables,” vying to be anointed as the most qualified to screw the country for the next six years has assumed pornographic dimensions.

These wannabes not known for their ideological moorings nor acumen in good governance but mainly trusting on popularity and electability substitute gimmickry for political platforms bordering on the salacious, attracting the gullible public that opinion writers like us unfortunately must document. We justify our mandatory roles in this sordid display of political erotica as interpreters of the changing values of our community. By doing so, we help shape the debate.
Published in LML Polettiques
MANILA, Philippines — Despite the recent violence in Maguindanao, President Duterte remains supportive of a bid to extend the transition period for the Bangsamoro government, Malacañang said yesterday.

His spokesman Harry Roque, however, noted that the extension of the transition period requires the support of Congress.

“While he (Duterte) can certify anything as urgent, if Congress is not convinced, there would be difficulties,” the Palace spokesman said. “Although of course a certification itself will be a signal that it is important to this administration. But from the start, the President said he would respect the right to self-determination of all people in that area. There is a need to coordinate with senators and representatives of affected provinces.”

Earlier this month, members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), occupied a town market in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao, triggering clashes with the military.

The MILF, which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014, leads the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), interim government of the newly formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The Bangsamoro Organic Law states that the BTA will function as the interim government of BARMM until officials who win in the 2022 polls assume their posts.

The Duterte administration, however, has expressed support for bills seeking to extend the transition phase for three years to give the Bangsamoro more time to lay the foundations of their government.

Duterte has urged local officials to help him address the threats posed by the BIFF but Roque clarified that the President is not blaming the BTA for the recent violent incident.

“We all know that BIFF are the ones who sowed the violence in BARMM,” Roque said at a press briefing.

“So it’s an expression of exasperation at the same time a warning that the state will not tolerate acts of violence. Second, he continues to be supportive of the initiative for the transition,” he added.
Published in News

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte may have used “inaccurate” language in discussing the country’s maritime row with China, but his views on the issue have been consistent, his spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday.

Roque said when the President pointed out that China was in possession of the “West Philippine Sea,” he was referring to Panatag Shoal.

And when the President called the 2016 arbitral ruling a “piece of paper,” he was referring to the fact that under international law, there is no way to enforce the decision unless there is a collective security measure, Roque added.

“You know, my role as spokesperson is to clarify what the President is saying,” the Palace spokesman said.

“Let us put everything in context. Perhaps when it comes to the language of the President, he may not be as accurate, but he was consistent in what he was saying. So the ‘China in control of West Philippine Sea’ – that refers to Scarborough; the ‘It is a piece of paper’ – it’s because under international law, there is no established enforcement mechanism,” he added.

Roque was asked to react to the call of San Beda alumni for Duterte to retract his public statement on the West Philippine Sea and to uphold, defend and protect the integrity of the Philippines’ national territory. Duterte obtained his law degree from San Beda in 1972.

Roque also said former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile has accepted Duterte’s invitation to join him in his public address to discuss the West Philippine Sea row.

Roque said Enrile was expected to meet with the President yesterday to talk about how the Philippines lost Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to China and why the United States brokered a deal between the two countries during the 2012 standoff between the Philippine Navy and Chinese maritime surveillance ships.

“Tonight, former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile will be the guest in the talk to the people. The President said former senator Enrile was there right at the beginning,” Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

“We have to listen to what he will say as a former senator because it would be good to know the roles of former senator Antonio Trillanes and former (foreign) secretary Albert del Rosario in the loss of Panatag Shoal,” he added.

Duterte has been discussing the West Philippine Sea issue in his recent public addresses to rebut claims that he is not doing enough to assert the Philippine position.

Last week, the President revealed that he had invited the 97-year-old former lawmaker to discuss the dispute because he admires his “understanding” of the problem.

“It’s for Philippines history. Until now, we do not know the role of (former) senator Trillanes, what are the contents of what is called the ‘Brady notes’ that was given to him when he (Enrile) was Senate president,” Roque said.

He was referring to the notes of former Philippine ambassador to China Sonia Brady about her meeting with Trillanes, who had held backdoor negotiations with Chinese officials on the maritime row.

“We need also his (Enrile) insights because he was the longest serving secretary of national defense in our country and during the Marcos administration, PD (Presidential Decree) 1596, which declared Kalayaan Island Group as part of our territory, started,” Roque added.

Roque claimed that China started building military bases on artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea in response to the arbitral case filed by the Philippines during the previous administration. The case, which challenged China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea, was filed partly because of the 2012 Panatag standoff.

An arbitral court based in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016 and voided China’s claims.

“That means the Scarborough Shoal incident is the reason why China has military bases on the artificial islands, most of which are part of our exclusive economic zone,” Roque said.

Duterte has accused Del Rosario of ordering the pullout of Philippine ships from Panatag Shoal in 2012.

Del Rosario, however, insisted that China was to blame for the crisis because it breached an agreement with the Philippines to withdraw ships from the shoal.

Exaggerated assistance
Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros has questioned the Duterte administration’s persistent exaggeration of Chinese aid and development assistance to the Philippines.

The senator also disputed Malacañang’s statements that the country owes a huge “debt of gratitude” to China.

“We don’t owe anything to China. Perhaps Palace officials are still indebted to Beijing. It is surprising that those in power in Malacañang are protecting the name of China, even though the stench of their abuse of Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea is overpowering,” she said. “What is the root of the special friendship they are talking about?”

The senator issued the statement as the government’s Investor Relations Office recently shared that China ranks only fifth among the Philippines’ sources of official development assistance. Japan remains the country’s top provider of ODA and infrastructure development partners.

The others are Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and South Korea. Japan’s total ODA to the Philippines hit $11.2 billion.

Despite the Palace’s much-vaunted pivot to China, Beijing’s ODA amounted to only $600 million.

“Malacañang should stop misleading the public. They should not pretend that China is the leading country in providing aid and loans to the Philippines. At first, it said Build, Build, Build. Why did it become Bow, Bow, Bow I guess? China is already seizing our territory in the WPS, then, are we still indebted? We, here in the Philippines, are the losers because of Malacañang’s behavior,” Hontiveros said.

In 2018, President Duterte said that China is an “important ingredient” in the Build, Build, Build program.

However, in November 2019, it was revealed that out of the 75 planned projects under the program, only nine had started construction. The poor completion rate was brought up in plenary deliberations on the proposed 2020 budget.

“Poor in a business sense, poor in foreign relations, poor in standing ground against bullies. That is what this administration is showing. More than 200 Chinese ships are still inside the country. Various sectors have protested, pleaded and stood up several times. It’s just the Palace that doesn’t go with the wind when she takes sides with the best friend,” Hontiveros added.

Published in News
Wednesday, 12 May 2021 09:08

Labor’s lament — ‘ENDOterte’

FOR more than a century, May 1 has been celebrated as “Araw ng mga Manggagawa.” The first Philippine Labor Day celebration was in 1903, when Filipino workers protested against “American capitalism and imperialism” — a recurring theme that underpinned countless labor marches since then. These occurrences, peaceful or otherwise, produced results: enactment of the 8-hour day work, weekly days off, safe working environment and the right to collective bargaining agreements.

The origin of Labor Day is undetermined, but certain dates have been commemorated. May 4, 1886 was one such in Haymarket Square in Chicago where a peaceful protest in support of workers’ demand for an 8-hour workday turned violent, resulting in the deaths of police officers and injury to dozens of civilians. It will be recalled that the industrial revolution that started in Great Britain had the workingmen and even children working from 12 hours or more a day.

Since then, Labor Day in America is celebrated on the first Monday in September with the workers’ ideological anthem reverberating over the years — “8 hours for work. 8 hours for rest. 8 hours for what we will.”

PH labor scene
Laborers and peasant street protests in the Philippines historically echo the ideological divide in Europe brought about by the logical transition from the decay of feudalism towards capitalism, the core of the industrial revolution, where the confrontation of labor and capital has become rampant.

As a method of collective expression of dissatisfaction against government and authority, grievances against landlords and the upper-class — justified or not — protest and marches have become the primary tools with sharpened technology by the extreme left and right of the political spectrum.

‘Endo’
A multitude of issues confront labor, but the most irritating and contemporary is the endo. Short for end-of-contract employment of a worker’s fixed short-term work, where employees are hired for a specific number of months (six months) and automatically terminated — skirting the “regularization of employment” when other benefits like PhilHealth, SSS benefits, Medicare, vacation leaves, etc. kick in. This notorious practice has been prevalent in the country for decades and labor and capital are conflicted on the issue.

In the presidential campaign of 2015-2016, the candidate most vocal against contractualization was the Deegong. His stand that endo is not for the country endeared him to labor and the masses. “I will end it. It will not be my policy when elected,” he said. He punctuated it with a bluster that has become his signature gambit, “I challenge those who disagreed with me to make sure I lose the presidential race.” And he got the nod of the guileless labor sector.

But this year’s May 1 (Labor Day) manifesto and declaration morphed into a more drastic play on endo — giving it a much more lethal meaning. As translated from Filipino: “A ruined economy, massive destruction of jobs, rising prices of goods and services, inadequate aid, poor health response, intensified repression of trade union and human rights, endless disrespect of women, and the surrender of the West Philippine Sea to China, the point of view of workers, sum up and represent Duterte’s failed leadership, thus the Labor Day call for “ENDOterte, or an end to the Duterte administration.” To understand this menu of complaints toward a rising frustration, a cursory review from the start of PRRD’s regime to the present could be a guide.

Devil’s timeline (courtesy of TUCP)
It all started on March 16, 2017 when the Department of Labor (DoLE) released Department Order 174, setting strict guidelines on contractualization. But one clause labor considers obnoxious was inserted: “under this order, manpower agencies that hire these employees — not the main employers — are ordered to regularize their workers.” Labor was up in arms on this “betrayal of DU30’s campaign promise.” Adding salt to the wound was a subsequent declaration: “Prohibition of all forms of contractualization is beyond the powers of the secretary of labor. DoLE can only regulate contracting and subcontracting.”

Labor Day 2017
In April 2017, PRRD allowed the drafting of a substitute executive order (EO), with labor’s input and subsequently a bold declaration on May 1, 2017, Labor Day: “I stand firm in my conviction to stop ‘endo.’ Workers have a right to security of tenure. To this end, I will create an executive order directing strict provisions against ‘endo.’” This turned out to be a “forked-tongue” statement by the President in an obvious pattern of guile. By November 2017, after months of dillydallying, DoLE and labor agreed to a draft EO prohibiting labor-only contracting with certain exemptions instead of just regulating the practice.

By Jan. 17, 2018, after months of stalling, Duterte vowed to sign an EO against contractualization “anytime soon.” On March 15, 2018. Duterte misses his own “anytime soon” deadline. Pissed off, labor groups decided to bare its fangs and marched to Mendiola to denounce the delay.

Then a bombshell from senior deputy executive secretary Menardo Guevarra: “The total ban itself is something we cannot do by EO…substantial provisions can only be achieved by amending the country’s Labor Code — an act the legislative branch can do, but not the executive branch.”

This game of “moro-moro” continued until the fifth version of the draft EO was scheduled to be signed by PRRD on April 16. Two days prior, Malacañang announced the signing had been postponed for the next Labor Day on May 1, 2018.

Labor Day 2018
Then, a cop-out! “Much as I would like to do the impossible, that power is not vested upon me by the Constitution. And neither will I make both ends meet even if I violate the laws to achieve that purpose. Simply, it is not part of my territory,” the President said. After washing his hands of signing an EO, Duterte sent to Congress an urgent security of tenure (SoT) bill — this time against the vehement objections of the business community.

Congress did its part to enact Senate Bill 1826 and the End of Endo Act of 2018. The Lower House subsequently adopted a watered-down version of the bill. It has probably never occurred to the ingenuous labor sector that both houses of Congress are bastions of the oligarchy. This naiveté verging on labor stupidity was pervasive — with their position of “better than nothing.” The Federation of Free Workers, Partido Manggagawa and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines argue that while the bill has its weaknesses, it can still be used to improve the situation of millions who suffer from contractualization schemes.

In a final insult to labor, after months of being screwed, on July 26, 2019, Duterte officially vetoed the SoT that he himself had sent to Congress as urgent.

2019, 2020 Labor Day
The saga continues with Congress stringing along labor with a passage of another bill — House Bill 7036 with all sorts of convoluted definitions of illegal contractualization. At this juncture, one can hardly sympathize with labor’s plight. “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me thrice – shame on both of us.” Five labor days, they have been screwed. Next is election week 2022 — another traditional Labor Day castration. Today’s call for ENDOterte is a sad testament to the dominance of the man with the balls doing labor’s emasculation. Sad!

Published in LML Polettiques

PRESIDENTS are bestowed political powers by virtue of the legitimacy of their election. This makes President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) the most powerful person in government. Those wrapped with the penumbra of power are suffused by it not so much by proximity, but by people’s perception thereof. Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go (SBG), the most loyal of the presidential coterie and erstwhile photo-bomber, has complete insider privileged access, making him the most influential functionary. Since his Davao salad days, he was Duterte’s executive assistant, a faithful friend, one who will do the President’s bidding without question and will take a bullet for him. As SBG himself admitted, he owes everything to the President and in return Duterte has reciprocated by showering him with pelf and prestige, causing his elevation to senator of the Republic — the ultimate in presidential “bayad sa utang na loob.”

The President’s singular act simply mirrors the peculiar state of our governance — the preponderance of patronage over meritocracy. PRRD demonstrated his dominance over the Filipino voter’s psyche, particularly of his fist-pumping DDS — Diehard Duterte Supporters — base. The 2018 to 2019 electoral campaign was a bizarre tutorial on the regime’s wanton use of government machinery in combination with social media trolls to select unqualified nonentities as candidates, trusting only the say-so of the patron.

A creature of circumstance, SBG’s politics and accomplishment are not his, even those crafted motherhood statements labeling broadsheet pictorials depicting his preferential treatment for the poor victims of countless fires and calamities; distributing food, goodies and running shoes; all of these dreadfully orchestrated undoubtedly by an expensive team of media handlers.

But the ascendant quality which is exclusively SBG’s is a canine devotion to the patron — the senator cum glorified executive assistant — making a mockery of the constitutional separation of the independent branches of government. Nevertheless, such devotion is endearing to countless Filipino parents as the ultimate in filial piety — one Duterte reciprocates with warmth toward SBG. Such display transcends blood — save for daughter Sara’s — causing perhaps a veiled animosity toward each other, analogous to sibling rivalry. Cynics may look at Bong Go as the son the Deegong never had.

Little presidents
Never has there been such an intimate bonding phenomenon in Philippine politics as far as anyone can remember. There are equivalent relationships particularly with executive secretaries nicknamed “Little Presidents,” the most senior ranking official of the Office of the President — but never approaching filial intimacy. Current Executive Secretary Salvador “Bingbong” Medialdea, Duterte’s childhood friend and former personal lawyer, has a self-effacing personality, a gentle giant who likewise has the total trust and confidence of the President, projecting a low profile from the start of this regime. He speaks for and on behalf of the President and technically, in terms of formal functions should be the most powerful man next to the President — but is not. He is never seen as a permanent fixture around the presidential presence akin to a caregiver hovering over a patient. But he strikes one as a person who plays safe, keeps his nose clean and avoids controversies, yet holds influence and exercises authority discreetly.

In the past, notable personages served the country in other capacities after their stint as “little presidents”: Fred Ruiz Castro, President Ramon Magsaysay’s executive secretary, appointed later as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; probably the trajectory of Bingbong Medialdea, whose father was himself a Supreme Court Associate Justice during Cory Aquino’s administration.

Others parlayed their Malacañang stint into electoral prominence. Among them are Ernesto Maceda, 1996-1998, Ferdinand Marcos’ executive secretary; Joker Arroyo, 1986-1987 and Franklin Drilon, 1991-1992, Cory Aquino’s; Teofisto Guingona, 1993-1995 Fidel V. Ramos’; Edgardo Angara, 2002, Joseph Estrada’s; and Alberto Romulo, 2002-2004, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s. These executive secretaries, powerful men, served their president’s well before moving on; attaining greater heights; giants of their time serving the country with distinction – elected senators of the Republic — having proven themselves first as professional bureaucrats.

One notable name could be that of Manuel Roxas who went on to become the fifth President of the Philippines. Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon designated him executive secretary and successor to the presidency in case Quezon or Vice President Sergio Osmena was captured or killed by the Japanese.

Many Filipinos now speculate that this could be the path that the Deegong has laid out for Sen. Bong Go as the next president; jokingly as it turned out, as he also mentioned — not endorsed — Pacquaio, Bongbong Marcos and other personalities.

The realities
This is not to disparage the man. But Sen. Bong Go will not be president. “…alam naman po ng Pangulo na hindi talaga ako interesado. Biro lang ng Pangulo iyon” (Duterte’s just joking). SBG was astute and humble enough to see through the President. And he could have just ended there. But he ventured on, “…magbabago lang siguro ang isip ko kung tatakbong Vice President si Pangulong Duterte.” This statement defines Bong Go — a pregnant declaration that can give birth to a trove of arguments and ridicule pointing toward why he does not deserve the presidency.

The “presidency is destiny” that one must salivate for, according to a tired old cliché. The Deegong as a vice president cannot be a sine qua non for another man’s presidency. Even PRRD sees this as a shamefully idiotic arrangement – that only the ignorant zealotry adheres to. And Duterte is not an idiot!

SBG’s assertion reveals a naiveté, unable to grasp the majesty of the office. The president is not a collective. He is on top of the totem pole where the fates of men and mice are decided.

The Philippine president must have a vision to where he leads his people, embodying qualities of greatness even a pretense thereof to inspire his people to follow. “I will run for president only if Duterte is my vice-president,” does not inspire. The role of caregiver for one man ends when one is caregiver for all Filipinos!

A danger to SBG winning the presidency by proxy is that inevitably he will be co-opted by sycophants much brighter than he. What an irony for this reversal of roles reducing Bong Go’s presidency into a grand sycophancy while VP Duterte continues to rule. The tragedy is this parody escapes the good senator.

Learning process
The Deegong, steeped in the arcana of traditional politics understand this only too well. True, he needs to finish what he set out to do and mindful of his mortality, must frantically pass on his political legacy to someone who embodies his illusions of greatness; yet he cannot do it with his progeny — nor with a doppelgänger. This is too divisive for the Filipino to tolerate. His legacy will be defined by his choices beyond his kin.

SBG is doing passably well as a senator. But he has yet to cut his teeth as a neophyte in the art of lawmaking — a necessary consequence of intellectual confrontation, debate and negotiations with his peers in the halls of the Senate. His refusal to be interpellated after his speeches either reflects his fear of a clash of ideas, the currency of lawmaking; or his inadequacies are simply overwhelming. He has to be his own man shedding his patron and perhaps, someday, he can be president. But not in 2022!

Published in LML Polettiques

PRESIDENTS are bestowed political powers by virtue of the legitimacy of their election. This makes President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) the most powerful person in government. Those wrapped with the penumbra of power are suffused by it not so much by proximity, but by people’s perception thereof. Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go (SBG), the most loyal of the presidential coterie and erstwhile photo-bomber, has complete insider privileged access, making him the most influential functionary. Since his Davao salad days, he was Duterte’s executive assistant, a faithful friend, one who will do the President’s bidding without question and will take a bullet for him. As SBG himself admitted, he owes everything to the President and in return Duterte has reciprocated by showering him with pelf and prestige, causing his elevation to senator of the Republic — the ultimate in presidential “bayad sa utang na loob.”

The President’s singular act simply mirrors the peculiar state of our governance — the preponderance of patronage over meritocracy. PRRD demonstrated his dominance over the Filipino voter’s psyche, particularly of his fist-pumping DDS — Diehard Duterte Supporters — base. The 2018 to 2019 electoral campaign was a bizarre tutorial on the regime’s wanton use of government machinery in combination with social media trolls to select unqualified nonentities as candidates, trusting only the say-so of the patron.

A creature of circumstance, SBG’s politics and accomplishment are not his, even those crafted motherhood statements labeling broadsheet pictorials depicting his preferential treatment for the poor victims of countless fires and calamities; distributing food, goodies and running shoes; all of these dreadfully orchestrated undoubtedly by an expensive team of media handlers.

But the ascendant quality which is exclusively SBG’s is a canine devotion to the patron — the senator cum glorified executive assistant — making a mockery of the constitutional separation of the independent branches of government. Nevertheless, such devotion is endearing to countless Filipino parents as the ultimate in filial piety — one Duterte reciprocates with warmth toward SBG. Such display transcends blood — save for daughter Sara’s — causing perhaps a veiled animosity toward each other, analogous to sibling rivalry. Cynics may look at Bong Go as the son the Deegong never had.

Little presidents
Never has there been such an intimate bonding phenomenon in Philippine politics as far as anyone can remember. There are equivalent relationships particularly with executive secretaries nicknamed “Little Presidents,” the most senior ranking official of the Office of the President — but never approaching filial intimacy. Current Executive Secretary Salvador “Bingbong” Medialdea, Duterte’s childhood friend and former personal lawyer, has a self-effacing personality, a gentle giant who likewise has the total trust and confidence of the President, projecting a low profile from the start of this regime. He speaks for and on behalf of the President and technically, in terms of formal functions should be the most powerful man next to the President — but is not. He is never seen as a permanent fixture around the presidential presence akin to a caregiver hovering over a patient. But he strikes one as a person who plays safe, keeps his nose clean and avoids controversies, yet holds influence and exercises authority discreetly.

In the past, notable personages served the country in other capacities after their stint as “little presidents”: Fred Ruiz Castro, President Ramon Magsaysay’s executive secretary, appointed later as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; probably the trajectory of Bingbong Medialdea, whose father was himself a Supreme Court Associate Justice during Cory Aquino’s administration.

Others parlayed their Malacañang stint into electoral prominence. Among them are Ernesto Maceda, 1996-1998, Ferdinand Marcos’ executive secretary; Joker Arroyo, 1986-1987 and Franklin Drilon, 1991-1992, Cory Aquino’s; Teofisto Guingona, 1993-1995 Fidel V. Ramos’; Edgardo Angara, 2002, Joseph Estrada’s; and Alberto Romulo, 2002-2004, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s. These executive secretaries, powerful men, served their president’s well before moving on; attaining greater heights; giants of their time serving the country with distinction – elected senators of the Republic — having proven themselves first as professional bureaucrats.

One notable name could be that of Manuel Roxas who went on to become the fifth President of the Philippines. Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon designated him executive secretary and successor to the presidency in case Quezon or Vice President Sergio Osmena was captured or killed by the Japanese.

Many Filipinos now speculate that this could be the path that the Deegong has laid out for Sen. Bong Go as the next president; jokingly as it turned out, as he also mentioned — not endorsed — Pacquaio, Bongbong Marcos and other personalities.

The realities
This is not to disparage the man. But Sen. Bong Go will not be president. “…alam naman po ng Pangulo na hindi talaga ako interesado. Biro lang ng Pangulo iyon” (Duterte’s just joking). SBG was astute and humble enough to see through the President. And he could have just ended there. But he ventured on, “…magbabago lang siguro ang isip ko kung tatakbong Vice President si Pangulong Duterte.” This statement defines Bong Go — a pregnant declaration that can give birth to a trove of arguments and ridicule pointing toward why he does not deserve the presidency.

The “presidency is destiny” that one must salivate for, according to a tired old cliché. The Deegong as a vice president cannot be a sine qua non for another man’s presidency. Even PRRD sees this as a shamefully idiotic arrangement – that only the ignorant zealotry adheres to. And Duterte is not an idiot!

SBG’s assertion reveals a naiveté, unable to grasp the majesty of the office. The president is not a collective. He is on top of the totem pole where the fates of men and mice are decided.

The Philippine president must have a vision to where he leads his people, embodying qualities of greatness even a pretense thereof to inspire his people to follow. “I will run for president only if Duterte is my vice-president,” does not inspire. The role of caregiver for one man ends when one is caregiver for all Filipinos!

A danger to SBG winning the presidency by proxy is that inevitably he will be co-opted by sycophants much brighter than he. What an irony for this reversal of roles reducing Bong Go’s presidency into a grand sycophancy while VP Duterte continues to rule. The tragedy is this parody escapes the good senator.

Learning process
The Deegong, steeped in the arcana of traditional politics understand this only too well. True, he needs to finish what he set out to do and mindful of his mortality, must frantically pass on his political legacy to someone who embodies his illusions of greatness; yet he cannot do it with his progeny — nor with a doppelgänger. This is too divisive for the Filipino to tolerate. His legacy will be defined by his choices beyond his kin.

SBG is doing passably well as a senator. But he has yet to cut his teeth as a neophyte in the art of lawmaking — a necessary consequence of intellectual confrontation, debate and negotiations with his peers in the halls of the Senate. His refusal to be interpellated after his speeches either reflects his fear of a clash of ideas, the currency of lawmaking; or his inadequacies are simply overwhelming. He has to be his own man shedding his patron and perhaps, someday, he can be president. But not in 2022!

Published in LML Polettiques