MANILA STANDARD COLUMNS

F.S. TATAD: WHY AQUINO WILL NOT BUDGE

JULY 2 This has been a season of discord. The government that was supposed to unite the nation has in fact divided it; the president who claims to be fighting corruption has, in fact, become the chief corruptor of Congress and the principal protector of his corrupt lackeys in the Executive Department. After former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was charged with plunder and jailed on the non-bailable charge, three “opposition” senators have now been similarly charged---and two quickly jailed on the same. None of Aquino’s clearly culpable colleagues have been named in any charge sheet. And except for us poor Filipinos, no one else in the world seems to notice that a tyrant has risen in our midst. Aquino’s critics pounce on him daily, hoping or expecting the angry hordes to rise. But they have not risen as others have in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, or Bangkok, and there is no sign the usual powers who make it their business to weigh in on every political crisis in the world will weigh in just because our democracy has been hijacked. Some observers attribute this to Aquino’s alleged “popularity”, but this seems an inept way of looking at it. Aquino’s popularity is at best questionable, and at worst non-existent, as will be shown by any random conversation with people on the street. But Aquino has become a valuable pawn in the power play being waged in our part of the world, and that allows him to commit every political excess which the great powers will not allow other despots anywhere else to commit. His de facto control of the three branches of government has reduced the country into an ailing non-democracy, but this is not likely to draw any attention or comment from Washington, London, or the Western press until there is probably blood on the streets. Many look forward to seeing Aquino permanently out by or before 2016. They are hoping for a “tipping point” to usher in the needed change. It is a legitimate hope. But it could remain wishful for so long as Aquino’s foreign patrons remain happy and content with their protégé. Aquino knows this well, and is doing everything to earn it. That is why he cannot give a hoot about the tons and tons of adverse columns and editorials written about his growing despotism and incompetence for as long as he is able to please his patrons. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) Last week from F.S. Tatad: Aquino puts his foot in his mouth

JUNE 30 --In Tokyo last week, President B. S. Aquino III called attention to himself and to his unusual understanding of international affairs when he openly endorsed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s move to revisit Japan’s 67-year-old pacifist Constitution, in order to “reinterpret” its anti-war provision and adopt the “right to collective self-defense.” Some of us thought he was intruding into a sovereign exercise that is completely internal to the Japanese people and outside the competence of visiting heads of state. Aquino had flown to the Japanese capital, after having been “missing in action” for days at his day job, for a one-day meeting with Abe, which has yet to be explained. Talking to the press after the meeting, he welcomed the latter’s bid to rework Article 9 of Japan’s May 3, 1947 “Peace Constitution,” which “forever renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes,” and provides that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.” Japan had formally renounced war at the end of World War II after the Potsdam Declaration, issued by Allied leaders Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek on July 26, 1945, declared: “The Japanese government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.” Prior to its defeat in the Second World War, Japan used to be one of the world’s great military powers. In 1895, it invaded and annexed Formosa. In 1899-1901, it joined the eight-nation alliance that crushed the Boxer Rebellion against Christians and foreigners in China. In 1904-05, it fought and defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese war. In World War I (1914-18), it fought with France, Britain, Russia, Italy, the United States, Serbia, China, Belgium, Greece, Romania, Portugal and Brazil against the German empire, Austro-Hungarian empire and the Ottoman empire. In 1937-41, it fought and lost the second Sino-Japanese war, which merged into the Second World War, where it fought with Germany, Italy, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovak Republic and Iarq against China, the US, Britain, the USSR, France, Viet Minh, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czechoslovakaia, Brazil, Mexico and Ethopia. In 2003, it joined the US-led coalition of the willing in Iraq. Japan has since joined the ranks of peaceful nations in international peacekeeping operations, humanitarian work wherever disaster strikes. It has given the biggest official development assistance to the Philippines for years, and was one of the biggest donors to the relief and rehabilitation program for the victims of Yolanda/Haiyan super storm in eastern Visayas. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) Alejandro del Rosario: The sorry State of the Nation

JULY 2 --The Palace speechwriters at this time must be busy working on the President’s State of the Nation Address to be delivered before a joint session of Congress on July 28. Past the halfway point of his Presidency, Benigno Simeon Aquino III will be hard pressed to present a credible and noteworthy list of accomplishments after four years of steering the ship of state. Aquino has only a little more than 700 days before he exits Malacanang. He completed his fourth year in office on June 30, the same day the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) ended. CARP, as every farmer knows, was an empty promise of agrarian reform highlighted by the dispute at Hacienda Luisita owned by the Aquino-Cojuangco family. For sure, BSA III’s speechwriters will skip this issue and instead dwell on the bright side and (from their perspective) on the positives of the PNoy presidency. These are the framework agreement the government forged with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the case Manila filed with the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea contesting China’s sweeping claim of the South China Sea. Taking the peaceful path of international arbitration on the South China Sea territorial row has won the Aquino administration praises, as it should. The MILF-GRP accord, however, raises constitutional questions and the hackles of other stakeholders in the areas covered by the agreement. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) found the framework accord flawed since it excluded Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front during the negotiations. Nur was the original and principal figure in the Tripoli talks that came up with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. How the speechwriters will be able to craft a SONA to highlight Aquino’s four years is going to be a Herculean task. How they will fudge the figures to show the 7-plus percent GDP economic growth has been inclusive for the 2 million Filipinos out of work will take some creative writing. The rising cost of living that saw a spike in the prices of rice, garlic, sugar, flour, milk and gasoline would dispute any rosy picture that will be painted by the wordsmiths. The runaway crime, the recurring electricity problem in Mindanao, the killing of media persons which earned the Philippines the ignominy of being the most dangerous place for journalists will probably be ignored by the speechwriters. The relief and rehabilitation in Leyte and Samar in the wake of super typhoon Yolanda will probably be included in PNoy’s report to the nation. Figures on the number of temporary shelters built, relief goods delivered to typhoon victims and electricity restored will be rattled off. But there will be no mention of the government’s slow response and the rotting relief goods found buried on the ground by local residents. United Nations agencies involved in the relief operations want an accounting of where their relief goods and funds went. * READ MORE...

ALSO: The bully blinks

JUNE 26 --The bully-boy President, who has never hesitated to use his vast powers and infinite resources to strike the fear of God in the hearts of his easily threatened political rivals and enemies, seems to have met his match. For those who just tuned in, the score currently stands at Erap 1, Noynoy 0. Yes, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has given fair warning to President Noynoy Aquino to stop persecuting him and his family or be prepared for retaliation. And the usually combative Aquino, who apparently didn’t expect Estrada to notice that the administration was going after the mayor and relatives of his who are holding elective office, blinked—and may have backed off for good. Chief Malacañang flack Edwin Lacierda was forced yesterday to declare that Aquino and Estrada have been best buddies for the longest time. “There have been no instances of acrimony between the two families or between the two Presidents,” Lacierda said. Of course, Lacierda is lying through his teeth again. He conveniently forgets that Cory Aquino was one of the leaders of the 2001 campaign hatched by what Estrada still calls “evil society” to oust him as President and to replace him with his vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. As late as 2004, in fact, Cory, Noynoy and even Kris were campaigning for Arroyo against Erap’s best buddy, Fernando Poe Jr., who was convinced by Estrada to lead his bid to retake Malacañang by proxy. It was only after Cory and her brood turned her back on Arroyo—when Ninoy’s widow decided that Gloria was refusing to prevent the distribution of Hacienda Luisita—that the Aquino family became friends with Erap, then Arroyo’s nemesis. (Whatever people say about Erap, he has always forgiven his enemies. Estrada welcomed Cory and her family in the fight against Arroyo despite the Aquino clan’s previous support of Gloria and, much later, even forgave Arroyo herself for her own role in ousting him from the palace.) * READ MORE...

ALSO: Nobel Prize Lobby? A joke and an insult

JULY 1 --President Aquino for the Nobel Peace Prize? This is a cruel joke on us Filipinos and an insult to Mr. Aquino himself. Certainly, the President knows that with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro still to be enacted by Congress (which would need some amendments to the 1987 Constitution that in turn can be contested at the Supreme Court), and with no less than the Organization of Islamic Conference raising questions about it, the possibility is remote. Santa Banana, how in the world could the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front be the basis for giving Mr. Aquino the Nobel Peace Prize? Are the people behind the award that stupid? Let us not forget, too, that the human rights record of the Aquino administration remains poor. No less than the European Union noted last week that torture in the country persists and is going unpunished in our “culture of impunity.” “The President certainly is aware that in the four years he has been in power, there has been at least 192 cases of summary executions with high-profile victims and 21 cases of enforced disappearances not counting the endless extra-judicial killings of journalists. Certainly, the people behind the Nobel Peace Awards are aware of these. Was Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles in Norway to lobby for the award? My gulay, the Philippines has been insulted enough. We have the worst airport in the world. We lag behind in foreign investments. We are the least competitive when it comes to business. The incidence of poverty and joblessness is rising. And now our President gets the Peace award? ***READ MORE...


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Why Aquino will not budge

MANILA, JULY 6, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Francisco S. Tatad - This has been a season of discord. The government that was supposed to unite the nation has in fact divided it; the president who claims to be fighting corruption has, in fact, become the chief corruptor of Congress and the principal protector of his corrupt lackeys in the Executive Department.

After former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was charged with plunder and jailed on the non-bailable charge, three “opposition” senators have now been similarly charged---and two quickly jailed on the same. None of Aquino’s clearly culpable colleagues have been named in any charge sheet. And except for us poor Filipinos, no one else in the world seems to notice that a tyrant has risen in our midst.

Aquino’s critics pounce on him daily, hoping or expecting the angry hordes to rise. But they have not risen as others have in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, or Bangkok, and there is no sign the usual powers who make it their business to weigh in on every political crisis in the world will weigh in just because our democracy has been hijacked.

Some observers attribute this to Aquino’s alleged “popularity”, but this seems an inept way of looking at it. Aquino’s popularity is at best questionable, and at worst non-existent, as will be shown by any random conversation with people on the street.

But Aquino has become a valuable pawn in the power play being waged in our part of the world, and that allows him to commit every political excess which the great powers will not allow other despots anywhere else to commit.

His de facto control of the three branches of government has reduced the country into an ailing non-democracy, but this is not likely to draw any attention or comment from Washington, London, or the Western press until there is probably blood on the streets.

Many look forward to seeing Aquino permanently out by or before 2016. They are hoping for a “tipping point” to usher in the needed change. It is a legitimate hope. But it could remain wishful for so long as Aquino’s foreign patrons remain happy and content with their protégé.

Aquino knows this well, and is doing everything to earn it. That is why he cannot give a hoot about the tons and tons of adverse columns and editorials written about his growing despotism and incompetence for as long as he is able to please his patrons.

Since his disastrous public speaking appearance in Naga City on Independence Day last June 12, where he was heckled by the 19-year-old Ateneo de Naga student Pio Emmanuel Mijares, who succeeded in grabbing the day’s headlines away from him, Aquino had managed to stay out of camera sight for days, prompting speculations about his real state of health.

This recalled to mind one critical period in the Marcos presidency, when his prolonged absence from public view triggered speculations about his failing health. None in the Cabinet seemed to know about the President’s whereabouts, and none seemed willing to reveal what they knew. In one of my columns for Business Day at the time, I revealed the details about the President’s secret kidney transplant, which Malacanang tried but failed to refute.

Such was the impact of that incident upon the presidency that when Cory Aquino’s constitutional commission drafted the 1987 Constitution, they included in Article VII, Section 12, which provides: “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shall not be denied access to the President during such illness.”

No evidence has surfaced to show that Aquino is suffering from any serious illness, but his unexplained absence for days caused some real worries about it. Whether he was sick or not he had a duty to inform the nation about his whereabouts, but he did not. And no one in the “opposition”----wherever that entity is nominally located---officially raised the point.

Aquino finally resurfaced yesterday in Tokyo where he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, ostensibly to discuss issues of mutual interest. At the same time US sources in Washington DC told me the day before that the White House is preparing to receive Aquino in October---presumably to reward him for signing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US, which effectively turns the entire country into a single foreign base, even without the required constitutional concurrence of the Senate.

What I am trying to say here, with all due respect to all my colleagues who have done everything to show the nakedness of the Emperor, is that Aquino has found a new constituency to replace that which had, theoretically, brought him into office and which, on one misguided occasion, he had called his “bosses”. And for as long as he remains useful to his new bosses, he would remain in office, no matter what.

This is also why, despite the fevered effort to make Mar Roxas a viable presidential candidate for the Liberal Party by 2016, there remains the persistent talk that if everything else fails, PNoy would work for an extension of term, or a chance to run again and, of course, win, with the full support of his patrons and the hocus-PCOS!

This partly explains the rush to jail the two actor-senators (Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada) whose real crime is not their alleged plunder of the pork barrel but their declared ambition to run for higher office in 2016.

So long as the Western powers, whose consent, if not participation, figures in every change of government in the world today, fail to see that their virtual recolonization of the Philippines, through Aquino’s eager participation and support, will hurt more than help their own interests, we would be waging an empty editorial campaign against this poor excuse of a president. Our duty now is to show the great powers that they are better off working with the democratic forces in our country than with this embarrassment of a president.

MORE FROM FRANCISCO S. TATAD - MANILA STANDARD

Aquino puts his foot in his mouth By Francisco S. Tatad | Jun. 30, 2014 at 12:01am


PHOTO COURTESY OF KYODO NEWS

In Tokyo last week, President B. S. Aquino III called attention to himself and to his unusual understanding of international affairs when he openly endorsed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s move to revisit Japan’s 67-year-old pacifist Constitution, in order to “reinterpret” its anti-war provision and adopt the “right to collective self-defense.” Some of us thought he was intruding into a sovereign exercise that is completely internal to the Japanese people and outside the competence of visiting heads of state.

Aquino had flown to the Japanese capital, after having been “missing in action” for days at his day job, for a one-day meeting with Abe, which has yet to be explained. Talking to the press after the meeting, he welcomed the latter’s bid to rework Article 9 of Japan’s May 3, 1947 “Peace Constitution,” which “forever renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes,” and provides that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

Japan had formally renounced war at the end of World War II after the Potsdam Declaration, issued by Allied leaders Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek on July 26, 1945, declared: “The Japanese government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.”

Prior to its defeat in the Second World War, Japan used to be one of the world’s great military powers. In 1895, it invaded and annexed Formosa. In 1899-1901, it joined the eight-nation alliance that crushed the Boxer Rebellion against Christians and foreigners in China. In 1904-05, it fought and defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese war.

In World War I (1914-18), it fought with France, Britain, Russia, Italy, the United States, Serbia, China, Belgium, Greece, Romania, Portugal and Brazil against the German empire, Austro-Hungarian empire and the Ottoman empire.

In 1937-41, it fought and lost the second Sino-Japanese war, which merged into the Second World War, where it fought with Germany, Italy, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovak Republic and Iarq against China, the US, Britain, the USSR, France, Viet Minh, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czechoslovakaia, Brazil, Mexico and Ethopia.

In 2003, it joined the US-led coalition of the willing in Iraq.

Japan has since joined the ranks of peaceful nations in international peacekeeping operations, humanitarian work wherever disaster strikes. It has given the biggest official development assistance to the Philippines for years, and was one of the biggest donors to the relief and rehabilitation program for the victims of Yolanda/Haiyan super storm in eastern Visayas.

* Urban legend has attributed the authorship of Article 9 to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in the Far East, under whose guidance the postwar Constitution was written. But MacArthur himself conceded the honor to Prime Minister Kijurio Shidehara, who had been reluctant at first to disturb the 1889 Meji Constitution, named after the Emperor who ruled Japan from 1868 to 1912. Shidehara confirmed this in his memoirs, published in 1951.

Shidehara believed that retention of arms would only result in a substandard military for postwar Japan, which would not inspire respect, but ultimately prompt calls for a more serious rearmament. He thus insisted that Japan should have no military structure of any kind whatsoever. With Japan disarmed, the United States had to provide it with full security cover. This explains the extensive US military and naval presence in Japan until now.

In 1950, at the outbreak of the Korean war, MacArthur was forced to pull out the US 24th Infantry Division from Japan in order to fight in the Korean front. This left Japan without any armed cover. Wikepedia records that MacArthur ordered the creation of a 75,000-strong National Police Reserve to maintain domestic order and repel any possible external invasion.

To avoid any possible breach of the Constitution, military items were given civilian names: tanks, for instance, were named “special vehicles.” Nonetheless, Socialist Party leader Shigesaburo Suzuki questioned the constitutionality of the NPR, but the Supreme Court threw out the petition for “lack of relevance.”

The Japan Self-Defense Forces evolved from the NPR. On Aug. 1, 1952, the National Safety Agency was formed, directly under the Prime Minister, to supervise the NPR and its maritime component. In 1954, the NSA became the Japan Defense Agency and the National Police Reserve became the JSDF.

Although the self-defense forces are not supposed to maintain a “war potential,” their maritime forces are said to be stronger than the navies of many countries. This is obviously absolutely true in the case of the Philippine Navy, which has recently acquired two coast guard cutters from the US and some small vessels from Japan.

The exact wording of the change/s Abe wants introduced into Article 9 is not yet well known. Upon his call, the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security had convened on Feb. 6, 2013 to provide the parameters within which the government will reinterpret the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense under certain circumstances, and to come to the aid of another nation under attack.

But the proposal is not unopposed. The Communist Party, for one, considers the JSDF unconstitutional, and has called for an overhaul of Japanese defense policy to authorize an armed militia. Opinion polls have shown significant opposition to dropping the anti-war provision of the Constitution. In fact, Abe tried to push the same idea unsuccessfully in 2007, during his first term as prime minister.

As in any democracy, the writing or amending of the Constitution is ultimately a people’s sovereign act. It should be free from any outside interference. Thus, although the Japanese Constitution was written under MacArthur’s guidance, it had to conform to the procedure dictated by the Meji Constitution.

The draft Constitution was submitted to the Imperial Diet by the Emperor through an imperial rescript, and deliberated upon by the two houses as a Bill for the Revision of the Imperial Constitution. After both chambers had proposed their amendments, the House of Peers approved the document. Then the two Chambers approved the same by more than the required two-thirds majority vote of each. It then became law upon the Emperor’s assent.

The present move will obviously have to follow the same procedure.

Now, although a revision of Article 9 would most certainly impact Japan’s security ties with its neighbors, there is no room at this time for a foreign head of state to comment publicly on the ongoing process. The situation would be no different if Abe had come to Manila and endorsed Speaker Sonny Belmonte’s move to amend the Constitution, through an utterly opaque constituent assembly, in order to grant all foreigners “parity rights” to own land, operate public utilities and exploit natural resources in the Philippines.

Despite this obvious red line, Aquino gleefully declaimed on the virtues of the Japanese exercise, with no inhibitions.

“We believe that nations of goodwill can benefit only if the Japanese government is empowered to assist others and is allowed to come to the aid of those in need, especially in the area of collective self-defense,” he said.

“We…do not view with alarm any proposal to revisit the Japanese constitution if the Japanese people so desire, especially if this enhances Japan’s ability to address its international obligations and brings us closer to our shared goals of peace, stability and mutual prosperity,” he added.

It is so far the only such statement from a foreign head of state on this internal Japanese exercise. The Japanese opposition parties failed to catch Aquino’s misbegotten intervention, but the Chinese government slammed it as an attempt to create unrest in the region. Malacañang seemed to gloat at this reaction, apparently convinced it had scored a point just by attracting Beijing’s attention.

Although Japan has every right to defend itself—and threats to its security that were originally limited to those coming from North Korea have since increased because of its territorial and maritime dispute with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands—memories of its recent militarist past have not entirely dimmed in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. Japan has tried to pursue a sustained effort to heal the wounds of the past, and this has met with considerable success in the Philippines, though perhaps not everywhere else.

All this had to be factored in.

Certain historical incidents, which have been preserved in the nation’s memory, should have cautioned Aquino against stepping into that delicate domestic situation. He should have reminded himself that because of his distinct family background, he needed to tread very gently in dealing with Japan. The sins of the parents are usually visited upon the children: during the war, Aquino’s late paternal grandfather famously collaborated with the Japanese when they occupied the Philippines. After the war, he was arrested in Tokyo by the Americans and taken to Sugamo prison as a Japanese collaborator. He was repatriated to Manila to be tried for treason, but unhappily died while watching a boxing match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium before trial could begin.

This detail might yet be used against Aquino in trying to figure out why he was so quick to endorse Abe’s plan to drop the anti-war provision in Article 9. He has already been called an American lackey, he does not deserve to be called a Japanese puppet too. Beyond that, some basic questions must be asked and answered.

First of all, how will a rearmed Japan affect the current arms race, the competition for marine and energy resources at the seabed, the real balance of power in Asia and the Pacific? Amid the threat of war in various parts of the world, how will it enhance the brave efforts of so many men and nations to create what the German-born Helga Zepp-La Rouche called “a world without war”, during a recent Schiller Institute forum in New York? How will the rest of East Asia, not just China and North Korea, receive Japan as a “comebacking” military power?

Aquino may or may not have a decent answer to these questions. But at the highest level of public discourse, knowing what to say and what not to say is next only to knowing when to speak and when not to speak. One shouldn’t speak out of turn even if one could avoid speaking nonsense. This is an irreducible minimum requirement for heads of state. With a small pinch of knowledge of international relations and statecraft, Aquino could have avoided making that completely avoidable statement in Japan, if only in deference to his hosts.

But perhaps the fault is ours----we tend to expect too much. Next time, if there is a next time, we shouldn’t expect anything. We should expect to be embarrassed.

The sorry State of the Nation By Alejandro Del Rosario | Jul. 02, 2014 at 12:01am

The Palace speechwriters at this time must be busy working on the President’s State of the Nation Address to be delivered before a joint session of Congress on July 28.

Past the halfway point of his Presidency, Benigno Simeon Aquino III will be hard pressed to present a credible and noteworthy list of accomplishments after four years of steering the ship of state.

Aquino has only a little more than 700 days before he exits Malacanang. He completed his fourth year in office on June 30, the same day the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) ended. CARP, as every farmer knows, was an empty promise of agrarian reform highlighted by the dispute at Hacienda Luisita owned by the Aquino-Cojuangco family.

For sure, BSA III’s speechwriters will skip this issue and instead dwell on the bright side and (from their perspective) on the positives of the PNoy presidency. These are the framework agreement the government forged with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the case Manila filed with the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea contesting China’s sweeping claim of the South China Sea.

Taking the peaceful path of international arbitration on the South China Sea territorial row has won the Aquino administration praises, as it should.

The MILF-GRP accord, however, raises constitutional questions and the hackles of other stakeholders in the areas covered by the agreement. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) found the framework accord flawed since it excluded Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front during the negotiations. Nur was the original and principal figure in the Tripoli talks that came up with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

How the speechwriters will be able to craft a SONA to highlight Aquino’s four years is going to be a Herculean task. How they will fudge the figures to show the 7-plus percent GDP economic growth has been inclusive for the 2 million Filipinos out of work will take some creative writing.

The rising cost of living that saw a spike in the prices of rice, garlic, sugar, flour, milk and gasoline would dispute any rosy picture that will be painted by the wordsmiths.

The runaway crime, the recurring electricity problem in Mindanao, the killing of media persons which earned the Philippines the ignominy of being the most dangerous place for journalists will probably be ignored by the speechwriters.

The relief and rehabilitation in Leyte and Samar in the wake of super typhoon Yolanda will probably be included in PNoy’s report to the nation. Figures on the number of temporary shelters built, relief goods delivered to typhoon victims and electricity restored will be rattled off. But there will be no mention of the government’s slow response and the rotting relief goods found buried on the ground by local residents. United Nations agencies involved in the relief operations want an accounting of where their relief goods and funds went.

* For sure, the President will crow about how his “Tuwid na Daan” or straight path jailed former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, two senators (Ramon Revilla, Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada) and Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile who’s still to be served an arrest warrant at this writing. The alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles et al have been arraigned.

Aquino, however, would have earned the public’s praise if he had included his allies and two Cabinet members, Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who are widely seen as having played a role in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

The two are presumed innocent until the evidence says they are culpable. But has the President given the order to the Department of Justice to proceed? Or to stonewall?

Another hazing casualty

What is it that draws young men to join fraternities? Peer pressure and the desire to gain acceptance in a group that bandies itself as elite?

Guillio Servando is the latest casualty in a list of 22 victims of fraternity hazing. The 18-year old De La Salle – College of St. Benilde student succumbed to brutal hazing inflicted by his “masters” following the usual initiation rites.

Servando’s death came after the fatal hazing of San Beda student Marc Andrei Marcos, a case that has gathered dust. The toothless anti-hazing law metes out a maximum four-year sentence and so far, colleges and universities which are supposed to monitor and supervise fraternity activities have been inept in doing so.

Meanwhile, the secret society of sadists in the student population thrives.

The bully blinks By Jojo Robles | Jun. 26, 2014 at 12:01am

The bully-boy President, who has never hesitated to use his vast powers and infinite resources to strike the fear of God in the hearts of his easily threatened political rivals and enemies, seems to have met his match. For those who just tuned in, the score currently stands at Erap 1, Noynoy 0.

Yes, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has given fair warning to President Noynoy Aquino to stop persecuting him and his family or be prepared for retaliation. And the usually combative Aquino, who apparently didn’t expect Estrada to notice that the administration was going after the mayor and relatives of his who are holding elective office, blinked—and may have backed off for good.

Chief Malacañang flack Edwin Lacierda was forced yesterday to declare that Aquino and Estrada have been best buddies for the longest time. “There have been no instances of acrimony between the two families or between the two Presidents,” Lacierda said.

Of course, Lacierda is lying through his teeth again. He conveniently forgets that Cory Aquino was one of the leaders of the 2001 campaign hatched by what Estrada still calls “evil society” to oust him as President and to replace him with his vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

As late as 2004, in fact, Cory, Noynoy and even Kris were campaigning for Arroyo against Erap’s best buddy, Fernando Poe Jr., who was convinced by Estrada to lead his bid to retake Malacañang by proxy. It was only after Cory and her brood turned her back on Arroyo—when Ninoy’s widow decided that Gloria was refusing to prevent the distribution of Hacienda Luisita—that the Aquino family became friends with Erap, then Arroyo’s nemesis.

(Whatever people say about Erap, he has always forgiven his enemies. Estrada welcomed Cory and her family in the fight against Arroyo despite the Aquino clan’s previous support of Gloria and, much later, even forgave Arroyo herself for her own role in ousting him from the palace.)

* But Aquino, since his election to the presidency in 2010, has apparently forgotten his best buddy Erap. Estrada’s senator-sons, Jinggoy and JV, have complained of being singled out by the administration for political persecution while Erap’s nephew, Gov. ER Ejercito of Laguna, has been unseated by the Commission on Elections; Estrada himself has a disqualification case hanging over his head, filed before the Supreme Court by a lawyer of the man he defeated in the last mayoralty race, known Aquino sycophant Alfredo Lim.

For Erap, who has by and large kept up his end of the friendship Lacierda is talking about by not saying anything derogatory about Aquino, enough is enough. Malacañang, he said, seemed to have “a systematic plan” to unseat him and his relatives, but he promised to fight back.

Suddenly, Lacierda remembered that Aquino and Estrada have been best friends for the longest time. And Kris Aquino, acting as usual as her own best press agent, pleaded with Jinggoy that they remain good buddies, as well.

* * *

The obvious lesson here is that Aquino is like all bullies—tough-talking, but quick to back down and appease anyone who actually fights back, like Erap. And Erap has associated with far too many real tough guys in the past not to realize that the current occupant of Malacañang is just a fake toughie who merely likes to use the language of the streets to sound like a true “siga.”

Why, I ask, would Malacañang insist that the Estradas and Aquinos are the best of friends if the palace had the goods on Erap and his relatives? I bet that if it were any other politician and his family who complained about persecution by the palace, Lacierda—or maybe even Aquino himself—would immediate declare that such is the straight path of governance; those who refuse to tread the road to righteousness will get run over by the Great Avenging Steamroller of Justice, driven by Noynoy himself.

Perhaps Aquino realizes that he cannot pick a fight with Erap himself at this point in his beleaguered presidency, when he himself is being accused of being the most guilty in the pork barrel scandal as its chief enabler and head disburser of the purloined taxpayers’ money that ended up in the pockets of Janet Lim Napoles and all her Congress clients. Perhaps Aquino understands that he can never win a fight with the still-hugely popular Erap, whatever the conditions.

Of course, even someone like Lacierda who has absolutely no sense of history before the installation of the current government must instinctively realize that a sitting President cannot fight the mayor of Manila, especially a popular hizzoner like Erap. This is why many people once believed that the late Mayor Arsenio “Arsenic” Lacson would have become President, if he hadn’t died suddenly.

Then again, what’s clear is that the tough-talking fake siga hacendero from suburban Times Street has just backed away from a showdown with a mere mayor. And maybe others similarly situated should be inspired to follow suit and expose Aquino for the bully that he really is.

A joke and an insult By Emil Jurado | Jul. 01, 2014 at 12:01am

President Aquino for the Nobel Peace Prize?

This is a cruel joke on us Filipinos and an insult to Mr. Aquino himself.

Certainly, the President knows that with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro still to be enacted by Congress (which would need some amendments to the 1987 Constitution that in turn can be contested at the Supreme Court), and with no less than the Organization of Islamic Conference raising questions about it, the possibility is remote.

Santa Banana, how in the world could the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front be the basis for giving Mr. Aquino the Nobel Peace Prize? Are the people behind the award that stupid?

Let us not forget, too, that the human rights record of the Aquino administration remains poor. No less than the European Union noted last week that torture in the country persists and is going unpunished in our “culture of impunity.”

“The President certainly is aware that in the four years he has been in power, there has been at least 192 cases of summary executions with high-profile victims and 21 cases of enforced disappearances not counting the endless extra-judicial killings of journalists. Certainly, the people behind the Nobel Peace Awards are aware of these.

Was Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles in Norway to lobby for the award?

My gulay, the Philippines has been insulted enough. We have the worst airport in the world. We lag behind in foreign investments. We are the least competitive when it comes to business. The incidence of poverty and joblessness is rising. And now our President gets the Peace award?

* * * The paper trail in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, supposedly masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles, leads us to the Department of Budget and Management. Secretary Florencio Abad cannot escape accountability and responsibility.

The non-existent non-government organizations’ activities could not have been possible without the DBM issuing Special Allotment Release Orders.

It was also the obligation of implementing agencies like the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Department of Social Welfare and Development —through which PDAF funds were funneled for those bogus foundations —to see to it that the beneficiaries would get the funds.

Now it’s coming out that the abuse and misuse of the PDAF could not have been possible if the DBM and implementing agencies did their jobs well.

This aspect of the pork barrel scam is now surfacing with the Ombudsman’s prosecutors trying to pull one over all of us with their amended information. They want to make the three senators—Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada—the real masterminds of the scam. They allege that the senators collected percentages and “kickbacks”, directly or indirectly, and that they exerted undue influence on the implementing agencies.

Santa Banana, that’s a new charge altogether not contained in the original information. This could be the basis for withdrawing the arrest warrants of Bong and Jinggoy.

By law, a prosecutor cannot change the substance of the information before arraignment. The form, yes.

The actions of the prosecutors, which were struck down by the First and Fifth Divisions, showed that the Ombudsman hurried the submission of the informations to enable President Aquino to boast that he had caused the arrest and detention of senators in line with his “Daang matuwid” mantra.

Straight path, my foot! But, is Mr. Aquino doing anything about the involvement of Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Technical Education & Skills Development Authority Director General Joel Villanueva and Energy Regulatory Board Chairman Zenaida Ducut who are also implicated in the pork barrel scam? Of course not. My gulay, he even defends them.

Observers and analysts keenly watching the cases thrown against Enrile, Revilla and Estrada say that with two strikes against the government prosecutors, the final resolution of the cases will be delayed and that the cases will be weakened.

It is obvious that the Ombudsman is taking its cue from Malacanang.

* * *

Vice President Jojo Binay, in a speech last week during the Joint Convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines -Western and Eastern Visayas, and then the Rotary Governors in Manila, warned against possible electronic cheating in the 2016 presidential elections.

The Vice President surely was aware of the cheating in 2013 with the “60-30-10” pattern favoring the candidates of the administration in the senatorial polls.

That’s what I have been writing about. With less than two years before the 2016 polls, concerns have been raised on which automated election system (AES) Comelec intends to use.

This question becomes worrisome with Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes saying that he needs more funds to procure more precinct count optical scan machines.

My gulay, does this mean that the Comelec under Brillantes will again use the PCOS to ensure the victory of President Aquino’s candidate? Oh no, not again!

If the Comelec opts to use another AES, it must decide now. There must be public hearings, biddings and consultations. There will be need for investments and manpower to train people and enable political parties to know the source code.

The credibility of the 2016 presidential elections is at stake.

* * *

I cannot end this column without congratulating my friends at Sika Philippines, who recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. For those unfamiliar with the Swiss company, Sika has become the world leader in specialty construction chemicals with a century worth of experience from all over the globe.

Locally, their products have literally helped build notable construction materials, such as the roofing of Solaire Resorts and Casino. And they provide top-to-bottom solutions for their clients, ranging from concrete and refurbishment to flooring and roofing.

Time and again, I have personally seen the ability of Sika Philippines to create lasting bonds with clients that goes beyond their trademark construction and industrial adhesive sealant.

I believe the foundation of unshakable trust that Sika builds is formed by the strength of its products, and is supported by reliable technical support to meet its customers’ needs.

Unassuming and unheralded companies like Sika Philippines form the foundation of our economy, and other Filipino companies can learn a lot from them about how to do business with integrity.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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