MANILA STANDARD EDITORIAL/OPINION

EDITORIAL: SELF-CONGRATULATION 

SEPT 16 --Before he left the country for his European and US tour on Saturday, the President sounded confident that stories of the Philippines’ successes have reached the places he would be visiting. He surmised that they knew about the “transformation” the Philippines has undergone, and that he intended to strengthen our relations with these places. Said gains, according to Mr. Aquino, are a direct result of his good stewardship of the government. This, in turn, should increase other countries’ confidence in our country and cause them to pour in funds in investments and tourism. We expected these, of course.

The President’s self-congratulatory tendencies are well known within our shores. At every speaking engagement, he takes the opportunity to tell his audience that the country is now in a good place and this is because his administration has done a good job at bringing the light back after a period of darkness. But telling is one thing; showing is quite another.

For instance, we wonder how Mr. Aquino can show his foreign hosts that the Philippines is indeed a good investment and tourism destination when he himself is asking Congress to grant him emergency powers to address the power crisis?

Where is the fun in the Philippines when airport conditions are detestable and the traffic and public transport situation are nightmarish? How can businessmen and tourists feel secure when the police is not able to enforce the law and protect the people against criminals? In some cases, it is the policemen themselves who commit these crimes. How can Mr. Aquino have the temerity to thank the donors who provided help for Yolanda victims and survivors when no less than the Commission on Audit found that millions worth of aid did not go to the intended beneficiaries? *READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Interim emergency powers 

The logic for giving President Benigno Aquino III emergency powers to avert a looming energy crisis is not clear at the moment, at least in the eyes of Congress. Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla failed so far to define the scope of the emergency powers he is seeking for the President. Nor was he convincing in his request to grant the powers to President Aquino for one year. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago warned that President Aquino could become dictatorial if Congress gave him emergency powers for more than half a year to address the impending power crisis. The senator argued that a six-month period was enough, citing the time limit allowed by the Constitution on emergency powers.

Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, meanwhile, said the House could hardly commit to any timeline on a joint resolution until it knew what the President was seeking. Gonzales also wants an assurance that the emergency powers to be given to President would not translate into higher electricity rates for consumers. Malacañang essentially wants emergency powers to contract additional power capacity from the private sector because the Electric Power Industrial Reform Act forbids the government from generally intervening in the sector again. The Epira imposed the limit after the previous state intervention resulted in a mismanaged power industry and put the fiscal house in disarray.

The re-entry of the government in the power sector could also cost the government and worsen the finances of Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., which has been managing the remaining power assets of the state. Malacañang and Petilla, thus, must provide the details of their request to grant emergency powers to President Aquino. Such powers must also be limited because the power crisis is only confined to the dry months of next year. New power plants are about to be finished starting next year to alleviate the situation. The government, in the meantime, should clear the bottlenecks in building power plants in the Philippines—from the intrusive judicial system and overeager environment advocates to the parochial local government unit hosts. The looming energy crisis could have been averted had the government been more proactive in the power industry.THIS IS THE FULL EDITORIAL.

ALSO by By Atty. Harry Roque Jr: Binay and the Senate inquisition 

The Senate investigation of the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall 2 building is obviously in aid of the senators’ own election bids. Vice President Jejomar Binay’s inquisitors, Senators Alan Cayetano and Antonio Trillianes, are both great young leaders and are also my closest friends. But friendships aside, the reality is that the two of them have also publicly admitted that they’re after higher office: Alan for President and Sonny for Vice possibly under the banner of the Nacionalista Party. This does not per se make the Senate investigation on Binay spurious.

It however, casts a doubt that the investigation is being conducted precisely for partisan purposes: to bring down the presidential front-runner in 2016. The on-going Senate smear against Binay though is not new. This is why despite the fact that the Senate’s power to conduct investigations in aid of legislation is plenary in nature, meaning that only the Senate itself can say if when its investigations are indeed pursuant to law making, the Supreme Court has recently ruled that these investigations, bereft of genuine legislative basis, is prone to abuse. This is why plenary or not, the Court has ruled that the Senate cannot investigate without a legislative purpose. The starting point in this long line of Jurisprudence is Arnault vs Nazareno. In this case, the Supreme Court first ruled that Senate inquiries are plenary in nature and that witnesses may be cited in contempt of the Senate where they fail to appear before the investigation and when they are found to be lying before the body. Said the Court: “The power of inquiry – with process to enforce it – is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function.

A legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information—which is not infrequently true—recourse must be had to others who possess it.” Much later, during the administration of President Corazon Aquino, the Court ruled in the case of Bengzon vs. Blue Ribbon Committee that despite the plenary nature of legislative inquiries, the Senate could no longer pursue an investigation on a matter which was already pending in Court.

This is because parties to the Senate investigation, when they are already charged in Court for the same subject matter being inquired upon, have the right against self-incrimination. In other words, the rationale behind the prohibition is because persons appearing in the legislative hearings may be held criminally responsible for matters, which they may state before Congress. But more importantly, the Court in Bengzon highlighted that legislative inquiries must be for legislative purposes. Said the Court: The power of both houses of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is not, therefore, absolute or unlimited. x x x Thus, as provided therein, the investigation must be “in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure” and that “the rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.”

The Court then enjoined the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee from further proceeding with the inquiry in the absence of a legislative purpose: “Verily, the speech of Senator Enrile contained no suggestion of contemplated legislation; he merely called upon the Senate to look into a possible violation of Sec. 5 of RA No. 3019, otherwise known as “The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.” I other words, the purpose of the inquiry to be conducted by respondent Blue Ribbon committee was to find out whether or not the relatives of President Aquino, particularly Mr. Ricardo Lopa, had violated the law in connection with the alleged sale of the 36 or 39 corporations belonging to Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez to the Lopa Group. There appears to be, therefore, no intended legislation involved”. *READ MORE...

ALSO by Alejandro Del Rosario: EU endorsement, investment   

SEPT 20 --Let us not kid ourselves about the European Union’s backing of our South China Sea claim against Beijing. President Benigno S. Aquino III is beating his breast as if EU endorsement of Manila’s arbitration case before the world court is such a big thing. It’s nice to hear the platitudes of peaceful settlement and adherence to democratic principles from Aquino’s European hosts but it actually does not mean much.

China itself has made known it will not comply with an unfavorable ruling by the world court. The EU and the US cannot even fully back prospective member Ukraine against Russia’s aggression in its eastern border despite economic sanctions. Why? Most EU countries need Russian oil and gas to sustain their economies. The 28-member EU has a wide- ranging trade with China totaling 326-billion euros and will continue doing brisk business with Beijing.

For sure, when he returns from his four-nation European swing, BSA III will tout the prospective investments he secured during talks with businessmen of Spain, Belgium, France and Germany. Hopefully, these FDIs would bear fruit since Aquino’s trip cost Filipino taxpayers P31.9 million. By now, most if not all EU countries have heard of the extortion attempt on the Czech company Inekon which made a bid to supply additional trains and upgrade equipment for the ailing Manila Rail Transit.

MRT manager Al Vitangcol, who was accused by Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar of trying to extort $30 million to win the contract, has been fired but has not been made fully accountable.. The Europeans are still waiting how an EU member will get full satisfaction from this shameless SOP kickback system of doing business in the Philippines. In the meantime, Beijing’s official newspaper People’s Daily wants an apology from President Aquino for attacks on Chinese citizens and accuses the Philippines of stoking “nationalist and anti-China sentiment among the population.” When it comes to gall, no one can beat Beijing for its effrontery.

Except for the recent kidnapping of a Chinese national by two Bulacan policemen who were arrested and charged, local Chinese businessmen are doing well in this country. They are listed in Forbes magazine among the top five richest men in the country.

It is the Chinese from Mainland China who are undermining the country’s national security with their bullying in the West Philippine Sea and drug trafficking in Metro Manila. China continues to dump cheap toxic products that endanger our health.

The Chinese also steal our natural resources by quarrying black sand from our beaches to turn into steel and weapons to be used against us. Before they started encroaching on our territorial waters, Filipinos have co-existed peacefully with the Chinese, sharing the wealth of our vast fishing ground even with their poachers

China should borrow a page from history when half a million Chinese were killed by Indonesians in the l965-1966 purge against communists in the world’s most populous Islamic nation. *READ MORE...

ALSO by By Dean Tony La Viña : Red flags up on emergency powers  

SEPT 20 --Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is all for its immediate grant while Senators Franklin Drilon and
Serge Osmeña are counseling for a more cautious approach.

These are two different approaches to the request by President Aquino for emergency powers to avert a looming power crisis which is set to erupt in the summer of 2015. We all know what a power crisis entails because we have been there before. In the early years of the Ramos presidency, the country was gripped by recurring power outages of up to eight hours a day.

President Ramos invoked Section 23, Article VI of the Constitution for Congress to grant him emergency powers in order to address the crisis. Coming close to the heels of the Marcos dictatorship, there was much opposition and fears of abuse coming from different quarters. In the end, emergency powers were granted to President Ramos but on a limited scale, that is, from his initial request of eleven (11) powers to four (4) in the signed act, with a limited duration of one year. Since then succeeding presidents – from Estrada to Arroyo - had occasions to exercise extraordinary powers.

Understandably any request for emergency powers – I prefer to use extraordinary powers to highlight their exceptional nature - by any president evokes no small amount of trepidation because of the martial law experience during the time of the Marcos dictatorship.

In fact tomorrow, September 21, we remember how on this same and month in 1972, 42 years ago, President Marcos issued Proclamation 1081 declaring the entire archipelago under martial law. Giving an imagined conspiracy of the left and the right as an excuse, he had thousands arrested – his political enemies like Ninoy Aquino and Jose W. Diokno, labor leaders, student activists, and other he saw as obstacles to his plans.

Many others would be killed in the next 14 years of dictatorship, including some of the best and brightest young Filipinos like Ateneo de Manila martial law martyrs, recently featured in Interaskyon,com, such as Edgar Jopson, Emmanuel Lacaba, Abraham Sarmiento J.,, Ferdinand Arceo, Artemio Celestial Jr, Manuel Hizon Jr., William Vincent Begg. For me, this was the most hurtful thing that the dictatorship did to our country – we were deprived of some of our future leaders.
The Marcos experience is a constant reminder of an emergency regime run amok. As the framers of the new Constitution began the enormous task of drawing up a new fundamental document, “never again” rang every so often in everyone’s ears. *READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Typhoon Dinky   

HER job was to bring relief to the victims of typhoon Yolanda, but she brought them misery instead. In any other administration, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman would have been fired for gross incompetence and prosecuted for criminal neglect. But today, 10 months after Yolanda ravaged the Visayas, Soliman remains at her post while thousands of victims remain hungry and homeless.

This week, not even Soliman’s most supercilious denials can counter the damning evidence uncovered by the Commission on Audit (COA). While the delivery of government relief and private donations continues to be delayed, the COA found almost P800 million in relief funds sitting idle in the bank accounts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

This, plus other accounts in the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Health and the Department of Interior and Local Government brought to P1.58 billion the local and foreign cash donations stashed away in banks instead of being distributed to the very people for whom the funds were donated. In the case of Soliman’s DSWD, said Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, the donated funds even became “cash on hand” that the department could use for other purposes. Government auditors also found that some 7,527 family food packs, worth P2.7 million; 95,472 assorted canned goods; 81 packs of noodles; and, 21 sacks of rice intended Yolanda victims in the Visayas had gone bad in DSWD warehouses.

“We hold DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman accountable for this criminal neglect,” Hicap said—a voice in the wilderness in an administration that turns a blind eye to dereliction of duty and corruption within its own ranks while paying lip service to good governance by persecuting its political enemies. *READ MORE...

ALSO By Jojo Robles: Breaking down   

It’s still nearly two years before the Aquino administration bows out. But why does it appear as if it’s already gone, leaving no one to do the job of actually running the country? In the most basic of ways, the spectacle of government falling apart is clear for all to see. From the breakdown of the most ordinary of services like traffic management and keeping the commuter trains running, to the scarier stuff like making a dent on crimes like assassinations, kidnapping and rape, to the seemingly intractable problems like the increase in the prices of basic commodities, when they haven’t disappeared from market shelves, people are witnessing the direct result of government-in-absentia.

What we are seeing is a near-total disappearance of government services. There is a growing sense that it is now every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. President Noynoy Aquino was roused from his long, deep slumber yesterday when he acknowledged at least two problems: last Friday’s unmitigated disaster along the North Luzon Expressway, where commuters from the north started walking into the city, forming kilometer-long lines amidst the vehicular gridlock; and the continuous breakdowns of the trains of the Metro Rail Transit, which, when they run at all are endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of daily riders who have no choice but to brave the rickety, unreliable service.

But Aquino could only ask the people for forgiveness in the NLEX mess, saying in effect that it would get worse before it gets better as government tries to ease the congestion in Manila’s port, where hundreds of thousands of container vans have been parked for months. As for the MRT, Aquino could only do what comes naturally to him, which is to blame his predecessor —more than four years after he assumed office—for supposedly allowing the problem to fester and haunt him during his own term.

It is a small blessing that Aquino no longer talks these days about his lofty ideals of good governance and eliminating corruption, since the people would probably take to the streets if he did. What they need from their government, after all, is entry-level governing, the sort that keeps cheap rice and garlic abundant in the markets, hard-nosed policing that will keep them from becoming victims of robbery gangs and killers riding tandem on motorcycles; they needs trains that run and traffic that is a little bearable. They don’t need Aquino telling them, as he once did, that we should embrace traffic congestion because it is a sign of economic progress.

They don’t care if he cries about his lost parents anymore, or worries if his so-called legacy will be continued by whoever replaces him in office. The people need infrastructure that will bring down the cost of goods and that of getting from home to work and back again. They need roads and bridges and airports and ports that could have all been built, had the government actually attempted to build them in the time that it has irretrievably wasted. The people need a government that works for them, even as it taxes them with the highest rates in the region. They needs hospitals that will attend to them when they get sick and not turn them away because they don’t have oodles of cash with them at any given time. *READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

Self-congratulation

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 22, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) EDITORIAL - By Manila Standard Today | Sep. 16, 2014 at 12:01am

Before he left the country for his European and US tour on Saturday, the President sounded confident that stories of the Philippines’ successes have reached the places he would be visiting.

He surmised that they knew about the “transformation” the Philippines has undergone, and that he intended to strengthen our relations with these places.

Said gains, according to Mr. Aquino, are a direct result of his good stewardship of the government. This, in turn, should increase other countries’ confidence in our country and cause them to pour in funds in investments and tourism.

We expected these, of course. The President’s self-congratulatory tendencies are well known within our shores. At every speaking engagement, he takes the opportunity to tell his audience that the country is now in a good place and this is because his administration has done a good job at bringing the light back after a period of darkness.

But telling is one thing; showing is quite another.

For instance, we wonder how Mr. Aquino can show his foreign hosts that the Philippines is indeed a good investment and tourism destination when he himself is asking Congress to grant him emergency powers to address the power crisis?

Where is the fun in the Philippines when airport conditions are detestable and the traffic and public transport situation are nightmarish?

How can businessmen and tourists feel secure when the police is not able to enforce the law and protect the people against criminals? In some cases, it is the policemen themselves who commit these crimes.

How can Mr. Aquino have the temerity to thank the donors who provided help for Yolanda victims and survivors when no less than the Commission on Audit found that millions worth of aid did not go to the intended beneficiaries?

* How can there be transparency on the straight and narrow path when issues on the Disbursement Acceleration Program have not yet been resolved and the President himself assails the reach of the Judiciary, calling it, instead, an overreach?

Sure, foreign trips are an occasion to build the country up before the eyes of foreigners and tell them how far we have come. It is one thing to state facts and quite another to embellish them with rhetoric and exaggeration.

Sooner or later, they will come, not because we tell them to, but because they see that all our claims are backed by actual situation on the ground. So instead of working hard on flowery speeches to make before foreigners, the President should realize he should work on backing up his claims and making sure he has his eye on governing—and not on talking about governing.

Interim emergency powers By Manila Standard Today | Sep. 19, 2014 at 12:01am

The logic for giving President Benigno Aquino III emergency powers to avert a looming energy crisis is not clear at the moment, at least in the eyes of Congress.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla failed so far to define the scope of the emergency powers he is seeking for the President. Nor was he convincing in his request to grant the powers to President Aquino for one year.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago warned that President Aquino could become dictatorial if Congress gave him emergency powers for more than half a year to address the impending power crisis. The senator argued that a six-month period was enough, citing the time limit allowed by the Constitution on emergency powers.

Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, meanwhile, said the House could hardly commit to any timeline on a joint resolution until it knew what the President was seeking. Gonzales also wants an assurance that the emergency powers to be given to President would not translate into higher electricity rates for consumers.

Malacañang essentially wants emergency powers to contract additional power capacity from the private sector because the Electric Power Industrial Reform Act forbids the government from generally intervening in the sector again. The Epira imposed the limit after the previous state intervention resulted in a mismanaged power industry and put the fiscal house in disarray.

The re-entry of the government in the power sector could also cost the government and worsen the finances of Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., which has been managing the remaining power assets of the state.

Malacañang and Petilla, thus, must provide the details of their request to grant emergency powers to President Aquino. Such powers must also be limited because the power crisis is only confined to the dry months of next year. New power plants are about to be finished starting next year to alleviate the situation.

The government, in the meantime, should clear the bottlenecks in building power plants in the Philippines—from the intrusive judicial system and overeager environment advocates to the parochial local government unit hosts. The looming energy crisis could have been averted had the government been more proactive in the power industry.

Binay and the Senate inquisition By Atty. Harry Roque Jr. | Sep. 18, 2014 at 12:01am

The Senate investigation of the alleged overpriced Makati City Hall 2 building is obviously in aid of the senators’ own election bids. Vice President Jejomar Binay’s inquisitors, Senators Alan Cayetano and Antonio Trillianes, are both great young leaders and are also my closest friends.

But friendships aside, the reality is that the two of them have also publicly admitted that they’re after higher office: Alan for President and Sonny for Vice possibly under the banner of the Nacionalista Party. This does not per se make the Senate investigation on Binay spurious. It however, casts a doubt that the investigation is being conducted precisely for partisan purposes: to bring down the presidential front-runner in 2016.

The on-going Senate smear against Binay though is not new. This is why despite the fact that the Senate’s power to conduct investigations in aid of legislation is plenary in nature, meaning that only the Senate itself can say if when its investigations are indeed pursuant to law making, the Supreme Court has recently ruled that these investigations, bereft of genuine legislative basis, is prone to abuse. This is why plenary or not, the Court has ruled that the Senate cannot investigate without a legislative purpose.

The starting point in this long line of Jurisprudence is Arnault vs Nazareno. In this case, the Supreme Court first ruled that Senate inquiries are plenary in nature and that witnesses may be cited in contempt of the Senate where they fail to appear before the investigation and when they are found to be lying before the body. Said the Court: “The power of inquiry – with process to enforce it – is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function.

A legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information—which is not infrequently true—recourse must be had to others who possess it.”

Much later, during the administration of President Corazon Aquino, the Court ruled in the case of Bengzon vs. Blue Ribbon Committee that despite the plenary nature of legislative inquiries, the Senate could no longer pursue an investigation on a matter which was already pending in Court.

This is because parties to the Senate investigation, when they are already charged in Court for the same subject matter being inquired upon, have the right against self-incrimination. In other words, the rationale behind the prohibition is because persons appearing in the legislative hearings may be held criminally responsible for matters, which they may state before Congress.

But more importantly, the Court in Bengzon highlighted that legislative inquiries must be for legislative purposes. Said the Court: The power of both houses of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is not, therefore, absolute or unlimited. x x x Thus, as provided therein, the investigation must be “in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure” and that “the rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.”

The Court then enjoined the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee from further proceeding with the inquiry in the absence of a legislative purpose:

“Verily, the speech of Senator Enrile contained no suggestion of contemplated legislation; he merely called upon the Senate to look into a possible violation of Sec. 5 of RA No. 3019, otherwise known as “The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.” I other words, the purpose of the inquiry to be conducted by respondent Blue Ribbon committee was to find out whether or not the relatives of President Aquino, particularly Mr. Ricardo Lopa, had violated the law in connection with the alleged sale of the 36 or 39 corporations belonging to Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez to the Lopa Group. There appears to be, therefore, no intended legislation involved”.

* The words used by the Court in Bengzon could very well be applied to the ongoing smear against VP Binay. What is the legislative purpose of the investigation? What possible amendments to the plunder law and/or the anti-graft and corrupt practices acts could be introduced as a result of the investigation against Binay? Could not its investigations already conducted against the PDAF and Janet Lim Napoles already facilitate these amendments? Why investigate Binay and not the DAP?

The senators, even with their plenary powers, are still public officials. While they may engage in inquiries for legislative purposes, they should not waste the public coffers in investigations in aid of their own elections. Lest we are misunderstood, we already have the Ombudsman as the Constitutional body tasked with the investigation of public misfeasance of public officers. Let the very able and independent Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales do her job. Meanwhile, we expect our senators to do theirs as well: craft policies through laws.

A further word of advice to my good friends: Philippine history has shown that while smears have sometimes worked, it has not always resulted in poll victories. Jamby Madrigal spearheaded the smear against Manny Villar that proved to be somehow effective. Her smear though was not enough to win her a second term in the Senate. This shows that our electorate people do not appreciate individuals behind smear campaigns. They will still vote for people with positive achievements.

Beware, my friends!

EU endorsement, investment By Alejandro Del Rosario | Sep. 20, 2014 at 12:01am

Let us not kid ourselves about the European Union’s backing of our South China Sea claim against Beijing.

President Benigno S. Aquino III is beating his breast as if EU endorsement of Manila’s arbitration case before the world court is such a big thing. It’s nice to hear the platitudes of peaceful settlement and adherence to democratic principles from Aquino’s European hosts but it actually does not mean much.

China itself has made known it will not comply with an unfavorable ruling by the world court.

The EU and the US cannot even fully back prospective member Ukraine against Russia’s aggression in its eastern border despite economic sanctions. Why? Most EU countries need Russian oil and gas to sustain their economies.

The 28-member EU has a wide- ranging trade with China totaling 326-billion euros and will continue doing brisk business with Beijing.

For sure, when he returns from his four-nation European swing, BSA III will tout the prospective investments he secured during talks with businessmen of Spain, Belgium, France and Germany. Hopefully, these FDIs would bear fruit since Aquino’s trip cost Filipino taxpayers P31.9 million.

By now, most if not all EU countries have heard of the extortion attempt on the Czech company Inekon which made a bid to supply additional trains and upgrade equipment for the ailing Manila Rail Transit. MRT manager Al Vitangcol, who was accused by Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar of trying to extort $30 million to win the contract, has been fired but has not been made fully accountable.. The Europeans are still waiting how an EU member will get full satisfaction from this shameless SOP kickback system of doing business in the Philippines.

In the meantime, Beijing’s official newspaper People’s Daily wants an apology from President Aquino for attacks on Chinese citizens and accuses the Philippines of stoking “nationalist and anti-China sentiment among the population.”

When it comes to gall, no one can beat Beijing for its effrontery. Except for the recent kidnapping of a Chinese national by two Bulacan policemen who were arrested and charged, local Chinese businessmen are doing well in this country. They are listed in Forbes magazine among the top five richest men in the country.

It is the Chinese from Mainland China who are undermining the country’s national security with their bullying in the West Philippine Sea and drug trafficking in Metro Manila. China continues to dump cheap toxic products that endanger our health. The Chinese also steal our natural resources by quarrying black sand from our beaches to turn into steel and weapons to be used against us.

Before they started encroaching on our territorial waters, Filipinos have co-existed peacefully with the Chinese, sharing the wealth of our vast fishing ground even with their poachers

China should borrow a page from history when half a million Chinese were killed by Indonesians in the l965-1966 purge against communists in the world’s most populous Islamic nation.

* That’s what could happened here when greed, as in extending your maritime borders to fully control the riches of the sea, consumes China in its ambition for hegemony in the region.

‘Tactical withdrawal’

The retreat of the Philippine troops assigned as UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights should have been called a “tactical withdrawal to avoid bloodshed on both sides,’ according to veteran DND and PNP reporter Roy Sinfuego. Good point.

Hailing it “the greatest escape,” AFP chief Gen.Gregorio Pio Catapang gave reason to UNDOF’s Indian commander Gen. Iqbal Singh to call it instead as an act of cowardice. But then, who’s Singh to say who’s a coward and who’s not? He was giving commands from the safety and comfort of UNDOF headquarters while the Filipino troops were facing a superior number of Syrian rebels.

Defying Singh’s order to surrender their firearms, the Filipinos made a stand and even exchanged fire with the rebels. It was only under cover of darkness and help from Irish troops that the Philippine troops withdrew.

In a sense, the Filipinos saved the captured Fijian troops who laid down their weapons.. By expressing they could be beheaded and massacred if they surrendered, the rebels finally released the Fijians to prove the Filipinos wrong.

Removing Anda not a solution

Removing the historical Anda monument on Bonifacio drive is not a solution to easing traffic caused by containers vans coming from the piers.

It will only fast-track funneling these cargo trucks coming from the North and South Harbors into a gridlock at the intersections of P. Burgos, Kalaw, UN Avenue, Quirino Highway and Roxas boulevard

I’m familiar with the flow of traffic in this area having work at the old Manila Chronicle on Aduana and also at Manila Standard when it was located on Railroad Street. Manila’s ports can no longer handle the increasing volume of cargo.

Much earlier before the authorities announced the use of Batangas and Subic as extension ports, I had suggested the idea. I even mentioned the old US Navy base at Sangley Point in Cavite as another alternate port. Sangley is nearer Manila and it faces the sea which is ideal for international shipping vessels.

Businessman William Tieng last year proposed Sangley as site for a new international airport but nothing came of his plan. Perhaps Tieng and other stakeholders could form a consortium to put up a new port in Sangley and help ease cargo congestion in Manila’s docks.

Red flags up on emergency powers By Dean Tony La Viña | Sep. 20, 2014 at 12:01am

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is all for its immediate grant while Senators Franklin Drilon and Serge Osmeña are counseling for a more cautious approach.

These are two different approaches to the request by President Aquino for emergency powers to avert a looming power crisis which is set to erupt in the summer of 2015.

We all know what a power crisis entails because we have been there before. In the early years of the Ramos presidency, the country was gripped by recurring power outages of up to eight hours a day. President Ramos invoked Section 23, Article VI of the Constitution for Congress to grant him emergency powers in order to address the crisis. Coming close to the heels of the Marcos dictatorship, there was much opposition and fears of abuse coming from different quarters.

In the end, emergency powers were granted to President Ramos but on a limited scale, that is, from his initial request of eleven (11) powers to four (4) in the signed act, with a limited duration of one year. Since then succeeding presidents – from Estrada to Arroyo - had occasions to exercise extraordinary powers.

Understandably any request for emergency powers – I prefer to use extraordinary powers to highlight their exceptional nature - by any president evokes no small amount of trepidation because of the martial law experience during the time of the Marcos dictatorship. In fact tomorrow, September 21, we remember how on this same and month in 1972, 42 years ago, President Marcos issued Proclamation 1081 declaring the entire archipelago under martial law.

Giving an imagined conspiracy of the left and the right as an excuse, he had thousands arrested – his political enemies like Ninoy Aquino and Jose W. Diokno, labor leaders, student activists, and other he saw as obstacles to his plans.

Many others would be killed in the next 14 years of dictatorship, including some of the best and brightest young Filipinos like Ateneo de Manila martial law martyrs, recently featured in Interaskyon,com, such as Edgar Jopson, Emmanuel Lacaba, Abraham Sarmiento J.,, Ferdinand Arceo, Artemio Celestial Jr, Manuel Hizon Jr., William Vincent Begg. For me, this was the most hurtful thing that the dictatorship did to our country – we were deprived of some of our future leaders.

The Marcos experience is a constant reminder of an emergency regime run amok. As the framers of the new Constitution began the enormous task of drawing up a new fundamental document, “never again” rang every so often in everyone’s ears.

* As a result, the 1987 Constitution puts in numerous safeguards to check the exercise by the executive of his commander-in-chief powers. In this regard, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, pre-eminent constitutionalist and one of the commissioners who drafted the present Constitution observed:

 “The Commander-in-Chief provisions of the 1935 Constitution had enabled President Ferdinand Marcos to impose authoritarian rule on the Philippines from 1972 to 1986. Supreme Court decisions during that period upholding the actions taken by Mr. Marcos made authoritarian rule part of Philippine constitutional jurisprudence.

The members of the Constitutional Commission, very much aware of these facts, went about reformulating the Commander-in-Chief powers with a view to dismantling what had been constructed during the authoritarian years. The new formula included revised grounds for the activation of emergency powers, the manner of activating them, the scope of the powers, and review of Presidential action.”

Strictly speaking, there are three (3) kinds of emergency powers provided under the 1987 Constitution.

The first, is found in Article XII, Section 17 which states: In times of national emergency when the public interest so requires the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest.

This power was invoked by President Cory Aquino when she issued Proclamation No. 503, declaring a state of emergency after the December 1989 coup attempt.

The second provision refers to the commander-in-chief powers of the President under Article VIII, section 18 which authorizes the President to call on the Armed Forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, impose martial law, or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in case of invasion or rebellion.

The provision presupposes that there is an imminent or ongoing threat to public order or national security.

To address the threat, the President is provided “a platter of graduated powers” to deal with the situation in accordance to its severity.

The power to call on the Armed Forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence which may well be considered as the most benign of these powers while the most serious and carries the most impact on the social and political life of the nations is the martial law powers.

The truth is that constitutions are primarily designed, not to achieve efficiency, but to create an intricate system of checks and balances among the branches of government.

By and large, it reflects a great distrust on the part of government to exercise powers entrusted to it in a responsible manner, most notably the Executive branch.

Nowhere is it truer than in the present 1987 Constitution, the pervading theme of which is to do away with all possibilities of strongman rule, no doubt a painful lesson of the Marcos dictatorship.

The problem arises then when an emergency occurs and the government is inevitably hampered with the deliberate pace of constitutional rule.

Certainly, the President cannot be expected to wait for congressional deliberation before he can declare a state of war when it is staring at him in the face.

This is the dilemma many constitutional governments face. As a result, most constitutions incorporate provisions and unique power arrangements to deal with emergencies.

These extraordinary powers however, can be considered, at best, a necessary evil.

It should never be considered normal, must never be lightly granted by Congress, and if the right case or controversy comes, the Supreme Court has to scrutinize this.

Typhoon Dinky By Manila Standard Today | Sep. 10, 2014 at 12:01am

HER job was to bring relief to the victims of typhoon Yolanda, but she brought them misery instead.

In any other administration, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman would have been fired for gross incompetence and prosecuted for criminal neglect. But today, 10 months after Yolanda ravaged the Visayas, Soliman remains at her post while thousands of victims remain hungry and homeless.

This week, not even Soliman’s most supercilious denials can counter the damning evidence uncovered by the Commission on Audit (COA).

While the delivery of government relief and private donations continues to be delayed, the COA found almost P800 million in relief funds sitting idle in the bank accounts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

This, plus other accounts in the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Health and the Department of Interior and Local Government brought to P1.58 billion the local and foreign cash donations stashed away in banks instead of being distributed to the very people for whom the funds were donated.

In the case of Soliman’s DSWD, said Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, the donated funds even became “cash on hand” that the department could use for other purposes.

Government auditors also found that some 7,527 family food packs, worth P2.7 million; 95,472 assorted canned goods; 81 packs of noodles; and, 21 sacks of rice intended Yolanda victims in the Visayas had gone bad in DSWD warehouses.

“We hold DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman accountable for this criminal neglect,” Hicap said—a voice in the wilderness in an administration that turns a blind eye to dereliction of duty and corruption within its own ranks while paying lip service to good governance by persecuting its political enemies.

* Ten months after Yolanda, thousands of families in coastal areas of Eastern Visayas have yet to recover, held back by government neglect exemplified by Secretary Soliman.

“They are surviving on their own, barely making both ends meet without any means of livelihood,” Hicap said. “This is outright neglect and injustice to disaster victims. While victims are already begging, a large amount of donated funds have become ‘cash on hand’ for Secretary Dinky Soliman.”

In the aftermath of Yolanda, President Aquino acknowledged the outpouring of international support and paid tribute to the resilience of the Filipino spirit.

“The well of strength and compassion that characterizes us as a nation has time and again proven to be bottomless,” he said. “Solidarity born of faith and prayer, combined with a steadfast resolve, is showing the world that nothing can make the Filipino spirit yield.”

Today, that resolve is being tested by Typhoon Dinky and the feckless leadership that allows such man-made calamities to be visited upon us.

Breaking down By Jojo Robles | Sep. 09, 2014 at 12:01am

It’s still nearly two years before the Aquino administration bows out. But why does it appear as if it’s already gone, leaving no one to do the job of actually running the country?

In the most basic of ways, the spectacle of government falling apart is clear for all to see. From the breakdown of the most ordinary of services like traffic management and keeping the commuter trains running, to the scarier stuff like making a dent on crimes like assassinations, kidnapping and rape, to the seemingly intractable problems like the increase in the prices of basic commodities, when they haven’t disappeared from market shelves, people are witnessing the direct result of government-in-absentia.

What we are seeing is a near-total disappearance of government services. There is a growing sense that it is now every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.

President Noynoy Aquino was roused from his long, deep slumber yesterday when he acknowledged at least two problems: last Friday’s unmitigated disaster along the North Luzon Expressway, where commuters from the north started walking into the city, forming kilometer-long lines amidst the vehicular gridlock; and the continuous breakdowns of the trains of the Metro Rail Transit, which, when they run at all are endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of daily riders who have no choice but to brave the rickety, unreliable service.

But Aquino could only ask the people for forgiveness in the NLEX mess, saying in effect that it would get worse before it gets better as government tries to ease the congestion in Manila’s port, where hundreds of thousands of container vans have been parked for months.

As for the MRT, Aquino could only do what comes naturally to him, which is to blame his predecessor —more than four years after he assumed office—for supposedly allowing the problem to fester and haunt him during his own term.

It is a small blessing that Aquino no longer talks these days about his lofty ideals of good governance and eliminating corruption, since the people would probably take to the streets if he did. What they need from their government, after all, is entry-level governing, the sort that keeps cheap rice and garlic abundant in the markets, hard-nosed policing that will keep them from becoming victims of robbery gangs and killers riding tandem on motorcycles; they needs trains that run and traffic that is a little bearable.

They don’t need Aquino telling them, as he once did, that we should embrace traffic congestion because it is a sign of economic progress. They don’t care if he cries about his lost parents anymore, or worries if his so-called legacy will be continued by whoever replaces him in office.

The people need infrastructure that will bring down the cost of goods and that of getting from home to work and back again. They need roads and bridges and airports and ports that could have all been built, had the government actually attempted to build them in the time that it has irretrievably wasted.

The people need a government that works for them, even as it taxes them with the highest rates in the region. They needs hospitals that will attend to them when they get sick and not turn them away because they don’t have oodles of cash with them at any given time.

* The people need good, uncrowded schools where their children will actually learn something and give them a chance to improve their lives when they grow up. They want a chance to own their own homes, to protect them from the elements even if they have not been ravaged by calamities; and if they have, they need government to help them get their lives back, instead of mere promises and plans.

* * *

Sadly, the people have gotten none of these from Aquino in the first two thirds of his term. And now that less than a third of his time is left, they seem to have lost hope that they will get them at all.

Instead of providing even the most basic services, Aquino and his government have virtually disappeared from view, becoming inutile and irrelevant even as they stumble toward the end of their appointed time. Instead of helping the citizens who installed them in high office, our rulers have largely forgotten that they have a sworn duty to serve.

There seems to be no one in charge anymore. And the people are afraid and angry, sick and tired of being told that nothing can be done, that it will actually get worse before it gets better.

It now sounds like a bad joke when we hear that the government will take us on the straight path where all our problems will be solved. This government cannot even be expected to remedy even the most basic of ills of this poor country; how can it eliminate, as it once promised, both poverty and corruption simultaneously?

As government grinds to a halt on the weight of its inefficiency, corruption and incompetence, the people have no one to turn to but themselves. In the face of the unmitigated cluelessness of our so-called leaders, we are all that we have left.

This is what we get for believing that all we really need is a government that spouts feel-good slogans. We get chaos and anarchy —and the lingering feeling that the entire country has been cast adrift.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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