PHNO EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK: FROM MANILA STANDARD

EDITORIAL: LEGACY OF FAILURE


IN just a few months, President Benigno Aquino III will be delivering his last State-of-the-Nation Address.  The yearly speech, mandated by the Constitution, is an opportunity for the chief executive to report the nation’s progress and to inspire the people toward greater achievement through a shared vision.  Being short of tangible results, however, President Aquino has used the yearly address as a way to boast about plans that are passed off as achievements, to play up economic    developments not entirely of his doing, to blame somebody else—usually his predecessor—for all that ails the country, and to tar and feather his political opponents. This President has returned time and again to this well, but this year he may find that it has all but dried up.  After five years in office, it is a pathetic leader indeed who continues to blame his predecessor for his problems, particularly since he has kept her detained since 2011 on charges he still cannot prove in court. READ MORE...

ALSO by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy: What happens in Davao

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The story is that on the few times the presidential convoy had gone to Davao City, it had to obey the local speed limit rules which range, depending on the location, from 30 kilometers per hour to 60 kph, tops. His guards can whisk the President off in breakneck speed in other parts of the country—except of course In Manila where his procession of muscle SUVs is no match to the immovable traffic—but in Davao, the car with the No. 1 license plate had to follow speed limits. Some may not believe this story as true but the next one is challenge-proof: The smoker-in-chief can’t just light up anywhere in the country’s third biggest city. READ MORE....

ALSO by Jojo Robles: Sorry – or not


.....Of course, there is a huge basis for cursing out Aquino and his government, which cannot even anticipate and provide counter-measures for traffic jams that would be caused by an event planned by Malacanang way in advance. And, especially online, that is exactly what a lot of people did. If I may humbly suggest, Aquino really should focus on the small, manageable stuff that he can actually do as President, like fixing a traffic jam, before he ventures into high-tech goals like securing peace in Mindanao. Then I remember that Aquino never really worried about traffic, which he said is a sure sign of economic progress. READ FULL COLUMN FROM BEGINNING...

ALSO by Emil Jurado: MILF’s blackmail


The Palace and its yellow propagandists are saying that President Aquino will be remembered in history as the “most honest president the Philippines ever had.” This is supposedly because he has never been accused of stealing from government. If we believe that baloney, other presidents before Mr. Aquino who have at one time or another been accused of some kind of misdemeanor is dishonest. Webster’s Dictionary describes being honest as “free from fraud or deception.” It can be equated with good, worthy or praiseworthy, marked with integrity, frank, sincere and upright among other things. Honesty, on the other hand means adherence to the facts, integrity and probity, which means uprightness of character. Honesty means refusal to lie. In short, being honest doesn’t mean not stealing. It is adherence to facts and refusal to deceive in any way. Integrity implies truthworthiness and incorruptibility. Honor suggests high regard for the standards of one’s profession or calling. Thus, can we now say that President Aquino is truly honest?  READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Power outages

Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will not likely be spared by power outages starting this month, given the limited electricity supply available in the grid.  Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla is praying no more power plants will bog down during the duration of the dry season, when most hydro-electric power plants cannot be relied on. Scheduled maintenance works and inefficient aging plants have reduced the power generating capacity of Luzon by 631 megawatts, or roughly the same output of one major station.  Petilla fears that an unexpected shutdown of just one power plant will result in brownouts in Luzon due to the thin reserves of the grid. Luzon will actually face a 200-MW shortage starting March 15, when the Malampaya natural gas facility in northwest Palawan goes on a 30-day maintenance shutdown. The Malampaya gas field supplies about 2,700 MW of power to three major plants in Batangas province. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: While the sun is out

More than one fifth of the 100 cities most at risk from natural hazards are located in the Philippines. In fact, five of the six most at-risk cities globally are in the country: Tuguegarao (2nd) Lucena (3rd), Manila (4th), San Fernando, Pampanga (5th) and Cabanatuan (6th). Port Vila in Vanuatu is first on the list. This is according to Verisk Maplecroft, a UK-based risk analysis organization, which studied more than 1,300 cities worldwide and the risks posed on them by hazards like storms and cyclones, wildfires, storm surges, volcanoes and landslides. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Scare tactics



WITH its peace plan fraying at the edges in the wake of the massacre of 44 police commandos at the hands of Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the Aquino administration is trying desperately to rescue its agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by ramming through the constitutionally flawed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) through Congress. The effort includes private meetings with lawmakers to impress upon them the urgency of passing the draft law by the administration’s timetable, emphasizing speed over careful deliberation. The overriding concern seems to be to pass the law, hold a plebiscite and create a new Bangsamoro autonomous region before President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office. The rush suggests a lack of confidence in the administration that will follow in 2016—or an overriding desire on the part of Mr. Aquino to leave behind a legacy as a peacemaker at any cost. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

EDITORIAL: Legacy of failure

MANILA, MARCH 9, 2015 (MANILA STANDARD) IN just a few months, President Benigno Aquino III will be delivering his last State-of-the-Nation Address.

The yearly speech, mandated by the Constitution, is an opportunity for the chief executive to report the nation’s progress and to inspire the people toward greater achievement through a shared vision.

Being short of tangible results, however, President Aquino has used the yearly address as a way to boast about plans that are passed off as achievements, to play up economic developments not entirely of his doing, to blame somebody else—usually his predecessor—for all that ails the country, and to tar and feather his political opponents.

This President has returned time and again to this well, but this year he may find that it has all but dried up.

After five years in office, it is a pathetic leader indeed who continues to blame his predecessor for his problems, particularly since he has kept her detained since 2011 on charges he still cannot prove in court.

The centerpiece of Mr. Aquino’s envisioned legacy, an agreement to bring peace to Mindanao, lies in tatters as a result of his own mismanagement and incompetence in launching a covert operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that led to the deaths of 44 police commandos at the hands of the same rebel group with which his administration is talking peace.

As a result of the Mamasapano fiasco, both the Senate and the House had suspended hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a lynchpin of the government’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Perhaps eager for something to crow about in his last SONA, the President is now asking Congress to set aside questions about Mamasapano and to resume its hearings and approve the BBL without significant changes by June—one month before his last yearly report.

In his mad rush to have something to show, the President would have Congress shirk its responsibility to thoroughly debate the BBL and to repair any unconstitutional provisions that his negotiators were only too eager to give away at the table.

Even if the President gets his way and his lackeys in Congress railroad the passage of the BBL by June, the move would fool nobody—and the law would certainly be challenged before the Supreme Court, and very likely be overturned.

Nor can the President crow about the infrastructure buildup during his term. To date, only seven of the 93 big-ticket Public-Private Partnership projects have been completed, giving this administration a miserable 7.5 percent completion rate after five years in office. Another 58 of the projects are described as “ongoing” – which, in the parlance of this administration, means they have yet to actually break ground and are still undergoing feasibility and other studies.

In the end, this President will have no great achievements to adorn his final report to the nation, save the ouster and jailing of his political rivals, a vindictive pursuit that so consumed his time and energy in the early years of his term that he had none left for real governance.


What happens in Davao By Pastor Apollo Quiboloy | Mar. 02, 2015 at 12:01am

The story is that on the few times the presidential convoy had gone to Davao City, it had to obey the local speed limit rules which range, depending on the location, from 30 kilometers per hour to 60 kph, tops.

His guards can whisk the President off in breakneck speed in other parts of the country—except of course In Manila where his procession of muscle SUVs is no match to the immovable traffic—but in Davao, the car with the No. 1 license plate had to follow speed limits.

Some may not believe this story as true but the next one is challenge-proof: The smoker-in-chief can’t just light up anywhere in the country’s third biggest city.

Davao is one big no-smoking zone and anyone, ruler or pauper, who breaks the rule will be reproached, vocally if not by disdainful stares by citizens.

Even senators, generals, taipans who smoke know the rule when they go to Davao: before you enter, deposit your habit at the door.

They have, however, all the freedom to publicly rattle their smoker’s cough, even in the middle of a speech, but stealing just one quick puff in a public place is a no-no.

And the police have been known to issue tickets to those who violate the law without fear or favor.

The ex-mayor of Davao, daughter of the incumbent, had to pay a fine when the car she was driving was clocked at 50 kph in a 40 kph zone.

The mayor’s personal lawyer, late for an appointment in which he was to represent the mayor himself, had to pay the fine after he was caught overspeeding.

Out-of-towners on government cars, thinking that they are exempt from traffic laws, learned too late that the red plates of their cars do not make them invisible to speed radars.

One general was reportedly given a no-smoking ticket by a PO1 when he smoked in a sidewalk in front of a hotel.

Though the ones related to smoking and speeding get to be retold , there are many stories on how ordinances on other matters are strictly implemented in Davao City.

The ones on taxi drivers, for example. They have to flag down the meter, which in Metro Manila is become more of an option than a rule. They can’t be choosy with passengers or they get the boot.

In Manila , when a taxi driver returns a cellphone a passenger has left behind , he is feted for doing a rare act, short of pinning a Medal of Valor on him, when the same is a ho-hum, no-big-deal thing in Davao, where taxi drivers are expected not only to return but deliver left items to their owners.

While in many parts of the world, a taxi ride begins with the locking down of the fare and the doors, in Davao no such precautionary ritual is needed.

The mayor is even known to drive a taxi at night ( though he rarely does it these days, I am told) as his way of patrolling the streets, and get citizen feedback.

While he may be coy about sharing his nocturnal excursions, many of his passengers, however, have bragged about their nighttime chat with His Honor behind the wheel.

His detractors have tried to portray these as publicity stunts. This accusation however falls on the face for the simple reason that he is no publicity hound, a trait that is counter-intuitive among politicos.

Davao is no epal country. No giant tarpaulins bearing his image cast a large shadow on the city.

The norm it seems these days is for a local government executive to hang a giant streamer announcing the installation of the water faucet below, but that disease has not infected the Davao executive.

In his city, the mayor does not contribute to the visual pollution. There are no “thru the efforts” billboard beside city projects. No outdoor, oversized greeting cards, the ones which say ‘Happy Graduation’ , blot the landscape.

City programs are not branded according to his initials, which is de rigueur in other places

There were attempts to name public infrastructure after his late parents , both eminent public servants in their own right, and he all shot them down.

In many cities, business permits come with tin plates, the same size as a car license plate, which are changed every year, clearly a money-making venture.

In his city, a sticker is just stamped on old plates as proof that the permit has been renewed which speaks volume on how ease in doing business is being pursued.

And speaking of permits, the mayor has been known to dress down city hall bureaucrats who do not issue them on time.

He says businessmen who create jobs and pay taxes should be treated as heroes. There is this story of an emissary of a taipan who wanted to gift him with a gigantic ang pao of sorts , in appreciation for welcoming a big project to the city.

The mayor, barely controlling his anger, did not accept it and politely told the emissary that it should be the city which should be thankful for the investments it had received .

Some would dismiss the above as personalistic, paternalistic management styles which are of no use when one becomes the CEO of the country, where everything is macro and there’s no time for retail politics.

The other criticism is that street level problems should not bother the occupant of Malacanang.

On the contrary, I believe that so-called national problems today are municipal in nature, like traffic, street crimes, poor schools, garbage, flooding which one who had the experience in grappling with is in the best position to tackle on a national scale.

We need leaders who have encountered these in real life and not just in Powerpoint slides.

We have to search for leaders who have done things and not just take crash courses and memorize buzzwords the World Bank, the chamber of commerce, the NGO types love to hear and then package themselves as presidentiables.


Sorry – or not By Jojo Robles | Feb. 27, 2015 at 12:01am

I guess we should be thankful that some people in the Aquino administration can still muster up the courage to apologize to the public. But as apologies go, the statements of Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino and presidential spokesman Secretary Herminio Coloma about last Wednesday’s “Carmageddon,” as some online denizens have started to call it, were terribly non-specific and woefully inadequate.

Let’s start with Tolentino. The metropolitan “traffic czar” – whose most unforgettable action with respect to unclogging the already-monstrous vehicular situation on Edsa was (and I wish I was just making this up) to have a priest bless the thoroughfare – said basically that he’s sorry for the inconvenience but it was not his decision to close the road for the 29th People Power anniversary last Wednesday.

According to Tolentino, it was the recommendation of the National Capital Region Police Office to shut down the section of Edsa from Santolan to Shaw Boulevard on a working day, from early in the morning to late afternoon. In a bid to show how hard he fought for the motorists and commuters, Tolentino said that the police actually wanted a 24-hour closure of the highway, something that the MMDA chairman was able to haggle down to about 12 hours like a housewife in the fish market.

Tolentino also implied that the people and even the media were to blame for the fiasco, because his office had been sending out rerouting advisories since Sunday. (When gridlock set in by midmorning, all the alternate routes provided by Tolentino were also already converted into very long parking lots due the sheer volume of vehicles using them; so much for his early advisories.)

As for the reason for the police’s recommendation, Tolentino revealed that there had been reports of security threats to the celebrations that he was, unfortunately, unable to disclose. Perhaps Tolentino needed an executive session of the Senate or direct permission from President Noynoy Aquino himself before he could talk about a security threat to a ceremony that took the President all of 15 minutes to attend but which required the closure of the main highway from the pre-dawn hours to late in the afternoon.

As for the decision to declare the day a regular holiday, to make it optional for the millions of Filipinos who use Edsa to go to work, Tolentino said that wasn’t his call, either. All he really was left to do, he said, was to implement a traffic rerouting scheme that really proved to be unnecessary and ineffectual, since all of the roads that fed into and led out of Edsa were hopelessly clogged with vehicles of all sorts from early in the morning to late Wednesday night.

On the question of what authority gave the approval for the closure of Edsa, Tolentino could only say, again without being specific, that it was the people who organized the event. For all I know, perhaps the horrendous traffic jams were again the handiwork of General Alan Purisima, who must have advised Aquino to close the road.

•••

Also yesterday, Coloma apologized for the traffic jams, as well. The palace spokesman did not really say that Aquino was doing the apologizing himself, so I guess the President can still brag that his perfect record of never having to say sorry for anything remains as pristine as Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s.

“We apologize for the delays and ask for the people’s understanding,” Coloma said. “Perhaps we have also learned valuable lessons that could be used next year.”

Next year, of course, is the 30th anniversary of the People Power revolt that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos and swept Aquino’s mother Corazon to power. It will also be the last time that the current Aquino will be leading the anniversary ceremony as President, so I guess they must really be planning something big – like a nationwide traffic jam.

Coloma, in typical Aquino blame-tossing fashion, said that the declaration of a non-working holiday could have been made by the local governments that were affected by the highway’s closure. As if any local government in Metro Manila still had the time to send people home – especially with practically the entire government and private work force already hoofing it to their places of work or stranded in vehicles of all sorts in gridlocked roads.

The palace spokesman also railed against those who suggested that the President did not declare a holiday because he was afraid that workers would join anti-government protests also scheduled for that day. “There is no basis for saying that,” Coloma said.

Of course, there is a huge basis for cursing out Aquino and his government, which cannot even anticipate and provide counter-measures for traffic jams that would be caused by an event planned by Malacanang way in advance. And, especially online, that is exactly what a lot of people did.

If I may humbly suggest, Aquino really should focus on the small, manageable stuff that he can actually do as President, like fixing a traffic jam, before he ventures into high-tech goals like securing peace in Mindanao. Then I remember that Aquino never really worried about traffic, which he said is a sure sign of economic progress.


MILF’s blackmail By Emil Jurado | Mar. 05, 2015 at 12:01am

The Palace and its yellow propagandists are saying that President Aquino will be remembered in history as the “most honest president the Philippines ever had.” This is supposedly because he has never been accused of stealing from government.

If we believe that baloney, other presidents before Mr. Aquino who have at one time or another been accused of some kind of misdemeanor is dishonest.

Webster’s Dictionary describes being honest as “free from fraud or deception.” It can be equated with good, worthy or praiseworthy, marked with integrity, frank, sincere and upright among other things. Honesty, on the other hand means adherence to the facts, integrity and probity, which means uprightness of character. Honesty means refusal to lie.

In short, being honest doesn’t mean not stealing. It is adherence to facts and refusal to deceive in any way. Integrity implies truthworthiness and incorruptibility. Honor suggests high regard for the standards of one’s profession or calling.

Thus, can we now say that President Aquino is truly honest?

* * *

We see over media images of thousands of displaced Muslim families in evacuation centers in Maguindanao. They are caught in the crossfire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the terror group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter.

But, Santa Banana, we have not seen nor heard of any agency of government -- like the Department of Social Welfare and Development or the Department of the Interior and Local Government -- sending help to these displaced families. And yet we stumble over one another to provide assistance, monetary and otherwise, for the families of the Fallen 44.

Moros or not, the displaced and innocent families caught in the crossfire in the all-out offensive of the AFP against the BIFF are still Filipinos, aren’t they? It would seem that the Aquino administration is discriminating against the Moros. This can explain why there are so many factions in Moroland seeking independence or forming “revolutionary organizations” like the MILF.

In fact, during my stint, in the early ‘50s, as an editor of The Mindanao Cross, my Muslim friends said that root cause of all the problems in Central Mindanao is not only extreme poverty, but discrimination by a Christian government.

* * *

It is now becoming clear that the reason President Aquino wants the Bangsamoro Basic Law rushed for approval by June 11, before the adjournment of Congress, is that he wants to include the BBL’s enactment among his so-called accomplishments in his last State of the Nation Address.

This, or he wants to get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Aquino’s lackeys and lapdogs in Congress like Senate President Frank Drilon and Speaker Sonny Belmonte are just too willing to accommodate the President by also rushing the BBL enactment with all its legal and constitutional warts and infirmities.

I wonder though if the majority of congressmen and senators would accommodate the President’s wish. Are they that stupid and malleable?

In any case, the MILF has already made it very clear that they will not accept a diluted BBL, much less a mangled law. In other words, to the MILF, pass the BBL as is, or we go back to war. It’s pure and simple blackmail.

These are the Moro rebels that government peace negotiators Miriam Ferrer and peace adviser Teresita Deles are lawyering for and compromising with. That’s why the sincerity of Deles and Ferrer are now being doubted. And I though the Makapilis existed only during the Japanese occupation.

* * *

I read about the 11 Filipinos in Forbes Magazine’s list of multi-billionaires. I am fortunate to know how these billionaires began.

I first met Henry Sy Sr. when he was selling export surplus and factory rejects shoes he imported from Boston, USA in 1946 along Carriedo Street, Quiapo.

I also knew John Gokongwei as a trader from Cebu.

Ricky Razon, now no. 3, was my former boss at the Manila Standard Today. He is the son of my late good friend, Enrique “Pocholo” Razon who started the ICTSI.

Lucio Tan started as a chemist in the tobacco company of the late Henry S. Stonehill.

I also know David Consunji, a UP graduate in engineering, also made his fortune in property development and infrastructure. And of course, I know Lucio and Susan Co, when they first started their Puregold. Lucio Co has also gone into banking.

And I know former Senator Manny Villar, who through “Sipag at Tiyaga” with his wife, now Senator Cynthia Villar, made their fortune. Villar is now the 11th richest Filipino.

* * *

My wife and I are saddened at the demise of our good friend, Patricio Luis Lim, known to everybody else as PL Lim. He was generous to a fault to all his friends and ever loyal. He knew almost everybody in the higher echelons of government, being a businessman of repute and integrity.

I first met PL at his small office in the Trade and Commerce Building along Juan Luna Street in Binondo. He was a trader then. Subsequently, PL and some Chinese businessmen put up the Universal Textile Mills and became a leader of the Textile Association of the Philippines. He was also a good friend of media icons like the late Doroy Valencia and Joe Guevarra.


EDITORIAL: Power outages By Manila Standard Today | Mar. 06, 2015 at 12:01am

Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will not likely be spared by power outages starting this month, given the limited electricity supply available in the grid.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla is praying no more power plants will bog down during the duration of the dry season, when most hydro-electric power plants cannot be relied on. Scheduled maintenance works and inefficient aging plants have reduced the power generating capacity of Luzon by 631 megawatts, or roughly the same output of one major station.

Petilla fears that an unexpected shutdown of just one power plant will result in brownouts in Luzon due to the thin reserves of the grid. Luzon will actually face a 200-MW shortage starting March 15, when the Malampaya natural gas facility in northwest Palawan goes on a 30-day maintenance shutdown. The Malampaya gas field supplies about 2,700 MW of power to three major plants in Batangas province.

The private sector, through the so-called interruptible load program, is expected to fill in the supply gap of 200 MW this month. The program calls on major industrial and commercial consumers of electricity to de-load from the grid and use their own power generating sets to avoid blackouts.

But blackouts, Petilla conceded, are still possible if more plants go on unexpected forced outages.

Manila Electric Co. this early warned that increased demand, coupled with plant shutdowns, might translate into higher electricity rates in March.

More expensive and less dependable power plants are taking the place of those cut off from the grid as a result of their scheduled repairs. Meralco noted that with some baseload plants like the coal stations in Masinloc, Zambales and Quezon unable to contribute to the grid, generations rates were starting to increase at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.

Electricity rates are bound to increase in the face of tight supply and increased demand in hot weather. Authorities must ensure rates will not spike because of the thin power reserves. The government, too, should be a better energy manager the next time around to avoid a critical situation in which blackouts are likely to occur.


EDITORIAL: While the sun is out By Manila Standard Today | Mar. 08, 2015 at 12:01am

More than one fifth of the 100 cities most at risk from natural hazards are located in the Philippines.

In fact, five of the six most at-risk cities globally are in the country: Tuguegarao (2nd) Lucena (3rd), Manila (4th), San Fernando, Pampanga (5th) and Cabanatuan (6th).

Port Vila in Vanuatu is first on the list.

This is according to Verisk Maplecroft, a UK-based risk analysis organization, which studied more than 1,300 cities worldwide and the risks posed on them by hazards like storms and cyclones, wildfires, storm surges, volcanoes and landslides.

An environmental analyst characterized the Philippines’ exposure to natural hazards as extreme, which poses challenges to foreign businesses, supply chains and output despite our robust economic growth.

The effects are far-reaching and long-lasting, added analyst Richard Hewston.

But we know how debilitating the effects of disasters are in a country’s, or a locality’s, long-term prospects.

We see this too well and too often. How many local governments, for instance -- cities, municipalities, entire provinces -- have been brought down to their knees by a natural disaster that wiped out all previous gains and development: Agricultural products, bridges, roads and buildings?

How many families have been forced to start over with nothing after losing their possessions and modest investments, even if they have not been so unfortunate as to lose family members as well?

And how many businesses have folded up because disaster has led them to unprecedented losses, rendering them unable to continue operating as they also recover from their personal devastation?

It has been almost a year and a half since typhoon Yolanda, for claimed the lives of thousands, displaced millions, and laid to waste billions of pesos in the central Philippines. And up to now, rehabilitation has been slow due to limitations posed by inefficiency and disharmony at the top.

Then again, perhaps we really need an outsider to tell us that while other countries, like Japan, are equally vulnerable to natural hazards as we are, what spells the difference is resilience -- not resilience in spirit, for we have plenty of that, but resilience in terms of, in Hewston’s words, “institutional and societal capacity to manage, respond and recover from incidents.”

Natural risks in the Philippines are magnified by entrenched corruption and high levels of poverty, he said.

These days, it may be difficult to contemplate extreme scenarios brought about by, for instance, storms.

After all, summer -- a time for vacation and fun -- is beginning. Let us not delude ourselves, however. There is a new level of normal, and it is upon us. Local and national leaders should go beyond their respective fiesta preparations and evaluate whether they have tooled, or retooled themselves enough for the next big test.

It is better to think about all these now, when the sun is out, than scramble when strong rains pound our roofs a few months hence.


EDITORIAL: Scare tactics By Manila Standard Today | Mar. 02, 2015 at 12:01am

WITH its peace plan fraying at the edges in the wake of the massacre of 44 police commandos at the hands of Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the Aquino administration is trying desperately to rescue its agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by ramming through the constitutionally flawed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) through Congress.

The effort includes private meetings with lawmakers to impress upon them the urgency of passing the draft law by the administration’s timetable, emphasizing speed over careful deliberation. The overriding concern seems to be to pass the law, hold a plebiscite and create a new Bangsamoro autonomous region before President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office.

The rush suggests a lack of confidence in the administration that will follow in 2016—or an overriding desire on the part of Mr. Aquino to leave behind a legacy as a peacemaker at any cost.

The BBL that the MILF wants and that the administration’s feckless negotiators were so eager to support will give the new region unprecedented autonomy, including its own police force, its own commissions on elections, audit and human rights that will operate independently of existing national agencies; a wealth-sharing scheme that will put the country’s other regions at a huge disadvantage, and a P70 billion budget allocation that will not have to pass congressional scrutiny.

The law also seeks to create a parliamentary government in the new region, inconsistent with the constitutional provisions specifying a presidential system.

Before the meeting at the Palace last week, congressional allies such as Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who heads the ad hoc committee on the BBL, vowed to water down the draft law to correct these constitutional infirmities. After the meeting, they changed their tune. Suddenly, Rodriguez and other lawmakers began talking of a new timetable for passing the draft law, and how there was no alternative to the BBL outside of the unthinkable—a return to war.

That argument comes straight out of the play book of the MILF and its the same line that this administration is peddling. Both the MILF and the administration are also adamant that the bill should not be watered down or altered in any significant way. The position undermines the independence of Congress, but this has not stopped Palace lackeys such as Senate President Franklin Drilon from insisting that the law will not be diluted.

The President has gone one step further, labeling all those who oppose the BBL as political opportunists who are taking advantage of the public outrage over Mamasapano.

“I can’t help but think that they do not want peace because they stand to benefit from chaos and violence,” the President said of those who oppose the BBL, or who to debate its provisions with greater care. “What they want is for Filipinos to become divided, for us to lose trust in each other to further their own personal agenda.”

“If we lose to those who are opposed to peace, it is as if we have allowed the violence in Mindanao to deteriorate further. If we give up on our efforts to push for the creation of the Bangsamoro, it is as if we have allowed that guns will again be inherited by the next generation of Filipinos,” he added.

This was standard rhetoric for the President, who likes to paint with a broad brush, dividing the country into two camps, those that support him and those that are against him, with no possible middle ground.

But Mr. Aquino’s credibility has been severely damaged by unanswered questions about his role in the ill-fated covert operation in Mamasapano. Amid mounting calls for his resignation, the President’s scare tactics ring hollow. Peace, after all, is possible—with or without this President.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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