EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full Commentary below)

FROM PHILSTAR

EDITORIAL: SLIPPING IN SOCIAL PROGRESS


Ranking 64th among 133 countries isn’t too bad. But dipping from the previous year’s ranking of 56th in the Social Progress Index indicates that more effort is needed to improve the overall quality of life for the average Filipino.
The Washington-based Social Progress Imperative measures a society’s wellbeing based on the provision of basic human needs and opportunity to progress. The 52 indicators include health and wellness, sanitation, personal safety, sustainability of ecosystems, and personal freedoms. While economic indicators take a backseat in the index, it is no coincidence that advanced economies rank high, with this year’s top three being Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Economic prosperity allows states to provide better services to citizens, from health care and education to public safety. READ MORE...

ALSO: China strengthened our relationship with Japan and US
[A June 2013 article published in The Diplomat by Zachary Keck said that the response of other Asian nations relative to China’s recent actions is purely a balancing act. “As China’s power grows it will be held to a higher standard than some of its weaker neighbors, if only because these neighbors will see their futures as increasingly dependent on maintaining unity in the face of the Chinese leviathan… [and] it will never be powerful enough to defeat large coalitions of its numerous neighbors.”

By Babe Romualdez
No one can argue that all administrations from Marcos down to Arroyo have tried their best to initiate good relations with China especially when it comes to economic ties. US bases were even removed during the Cory administration. But everything went literally south (South China Sea) in the past two years. The fact is, early in the term of President Noynoy Aquino, our relationship with China was still promising. When the president embarked on a five-day state visit to China in 2011 that we joined along with a high-level business delegation, there were a lot of potential opportunities. We all know the major role that the Filipino-Chinese business sector plays in the country’s economy. They have major investments in various industries such as banking, real estate, food, manufacturing and transportation.
Aerial surveillance photos by the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative revealed the extensive reclamation activities being conducted in the last two years by China at Mischief Reef which is clearly located right within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone. One major environmental concern is the serious ecological destruction to the coral reefs (with some 300 acres damaged), rendering the livelihood of Filipino fishermen in the area almost completely destroyed. Other claimant nations also stand to lose up to $100 million annually since the reefs are important breeding grounds for valuable fish species. While Secretary Albert del Rosario is going through diplomatic channels to resolve the dispute – having elevated our complaint against China’s activities before an international arbitration court because “we still want to preserve our friendship with China” — we have no choice but to turn to our ally — the United States. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Rebuilding trust
[People continue to support the peace process as a matter of principle, but the support does not necessarily mean blind trust in the MILF. There is due process and some of the 90 named in the DOJ report may be cleared in the preliminary investigation. But first they must face a formal probe. Turning over the gunmen suspected of killing the SAF 44 can go a long way in rebuilding public trust in the MILF]

.
The Department of Justice has completed its probe on the Jan. 25 raid that led to the brutal killing of 44 Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. According to reports, about 90 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and a private armed group will face preliminary investigation for what the Senate has described as a “massacre.”  Details of the 224-page report have not been released to the public, but sources said the 90 include at least eight MILF commanders identified by witnesses. This has raised questions on whether the MILF will present its key members for investigation. The word yesterday from MILF vice chairman Gadzali Jaafar was no. So far the MILF has ignored demands aired by President Aquino shortly after the raid, starting with the surrender of the SAF killers and the return of weapons, equipment and personal belongings taken from the police commandos. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - A new system


Computerization generally leads to quicker and more efficient service. In government, this in turn promotes transparency and cuts opportunities for corruption. So the requirement for everyone to file and pay taxes online should be a step forward in good governance.
The manual system took an average of 193 hours or eight days to complete, according to a study reportedly conducted by the World Bank and professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers. This is better than the Asia-Pacific average of 229 hours, but more than twice longer than the 82 hours in highly efficient Singapore, and longer than even the 155 hours in Myanmar and 173 in Cambodia. The same report showed that Filipinos need to make 36 payments for full tax compliance, compared to 32 in Vietnam, 31 in Myanmar, 27 in Brunei, 22 in Thailand, 13 in Malaysia and five in Singapore. As in other well-meaning programs, however, the devil is in the details. Online tax payment for everyone presumes that there is widespread access to computers and the average taxpayer is computer literate. This is the situation in tech-savvy advanced economies, but not in a developing country with a small middle class and 40 percent of the population classified as poor, and where taxpayers include owners of the smallest sari-sari or convenience store, who can be penalized for failure to comply with revenue requirements. The Philippines does not even have sufficient infrastructure to support widespread Internet penetration. Yet the same requirements cover both micro storeowners and large corporations with their own IT and finance staff to handle e-payments. READ MORE...

ALSO 2016: The battle lines are being drawn


By Carmen N. Pedrosa
It does not come as a surprise that Jejomar Binay and Joseph Estrada should come together. They are two birds of a kind. What is surprising is their apparent lack of awareness or recognition that they belong to traditional politics known as trapos to intelligent Filipinos. Still they persist in pursuing a system that has been responsible for corruption and bad governance. In a telephone interview with the Philippine STAR, Erap said, “As of now, Vice President Binay is our only candidate for President.” He added his party, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), and Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) will choose their senatorial candidates for 2016. Earlier, Danding Cojuangco’s NPC also endorsed Binay as its presidential candidate, as did Peping and Tingting Cojuangco. President Aquino’s sisters have also indicated their preference for Binay. Erap’s endorsement of Binay confirms what Bayanko had predicted several weeks back, that the Cojuangco-Aquino family and Erap will eventually come together. The only holdout at the moment is President Aquino who is believed to favor Mar Roxas whom Binay asked to be his vice presidential candidate. Mar, however, has rejected Binay’s overture. The president will reportedly announce his choice in June 2015. READ MORE...

ALSO: Datucan Abas --Iqbal?


By Ernesto M. Maceda
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta have revealed that the real name of Mohagner Igbal is Datucan Abas. Eid Kabalu, the former spokesman for the MILF, confirmed Abas and Iqbal are one and the same person. Prior to this revelation, some sources said Igbal’s real name is Hassan Abdullah Muhammad or Lubis Abas, which he neither confirmed nor denied. Igbal said he has no ill intention in using an alias but only for security reasons, saying that it was standard operating procedure for rebels for their safety as well that of their family. He also said the members of the government peace panel who negotiated the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Federation Front (MILF) were aware of his real name. Igbal has not confirmed Datucan Abas as his real name. Seeking to downplay his use of an alias, Igbal said even Philippine heroes, including the late Benigno Aquino Jr. and Marcelo Del Pilar, were using aliases. Cayetano said the issue here is trust. READ MORE...

ALSO: Justice, Pinoy style
[Depending on circumstances, even felons who have been convicted with finality can seek public office. Even Janet Lim-Napoles can run.Considering all the patronage she has cultivated, Napoles might even win. She will get “honorable” appended to her title.]


 By Ana Marie Pamintuan 
Some people think the life term imposed on Janet Lim Napoles is too heavy for serious illegal detention. Considering the slew of charges she is facing for plunder, however, it looks like she’s going to spend the rest of her life behind bars anyway. Apart from the penalty, which includes a total of P100,000 in damages, the other remarkable thing about the case is the relative speed by which it was resolved: two years from the day the victim, Napoles’ cousin Benhur Luy, was released from detention. It’s not South Korean justice, wherein a case can be resolved with finality within two months from the commission of the crime. But two years is record speed for the notoriously snail-paced Philippine justice system. Napoles can appeal all the way to the Supreme Court – a process that can take another two years, or even 10 – before a final ruling is handed down. By that time, she could be serving a separate life sentence for plunder in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam. Napoles and her brother Reynald reportedly had Luy detained after learning that he was starting to conduct his own PDAF deals. In her defense, Napoles claimed Luy merely went on a three-month spiritual retreat. For sure, the PDAF scandal helped speed up the resolution of the serious illegal detention case by the Makati Regional Trial Court. Luy blew the whistle on the pork barrel scam when he regained his freedom after being detained from Dec. 19, 2012 to March 22, 2013. Now the question is whether the plunder cases directly connected to PDAF misuse – with influential politicians indicted together with Napoles – will be resolved just as quickly. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

EDITORIAL - Slipping in social progress (Human Needs Issues)

MANILA, APRIL 20, 2015 (PHILSTAR) Ranking 64th among 133 countries isn’t too bad. But dipping from the previous year’s ranking of 56th in the Social Progress Index indicates that more effort is needed to improve the overall quality of life for the average Filipino.

The Washington-based Social Progress Imperative measures a society’s wellbeing based on the provision of basic human needs and opportunity to progress. The 52 indicators include health and wellness, sanitation, personal safety, sustainability of ecosystems, and personal freedoms.

While economic indicators take a backseat in the index, it is no coincidence that advanced economies rank high, with this year’s top three being Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Economic prosperity allows states to provide better services to citizens, from health care and education to public safety.

READ MORE...
The Philippines’ ranking is just the latest reminder that the country needs to work harder to recover its place of eminence half a century ago in Asia. In the past decades, the country has progressively fallen behind its better performing neighbors in almost all human development indicators. Even in personal freedoms where a democratic society should rate high, the Philippines obtained poor ratings in press freedom in the Social Progress Index. The country also scored low in violent crime and political terror, with weak prospects for improvement in the coming year as the general elections approach.

Sustained economic growth has allowed the Philippines to invest more in human development. This month, commencement exercises are being held for the first batch of beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer who are graduating from high school. The Department of Social Welfare and Development reported that 333,673 student beneficiaries of the 4Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program would be assisted in pursuing vocational courses or seeking college scholarships.

The 4Ps is for the extremely poor. For millions of other Filipinos, more investments are needed in human development and other measures that will open opportunities for progress.


China strengthened our relationship with Japan and US BABE’S EYE VIEW By Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 19, 2015 - 12:00am


By Babe Romualdez

No one can argue that all administrations from Marcos down to Arroyo have tried their best to initiate good relations with China especially when it comes to economic ties. US bases were even removed during the Cory administration. But everything went literally south (South China Sea) in the past two years.

The fact is, early in the term of President Noynoy Aquino, our relationship with China was still promising. When the president embarked on a five-day state visit to China in 2011 that we joined along with a high-level business delegation, there were a lot of potential opportunities.

We all know the major role that the Filipino-Chinese business sector plays in the country’s economy. They have major investments in various industries such as banking, real estate, food, manufacturing and transportation.

Aerial surveillance photos by the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative revealed the extensive reclamation activities being conducted in the last two years by China at Mischief Reef which is clearly located right within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone.

One major environmental concern is the serious ecological destruction to the coral reefs (with some 300 acres damaged), rendering the livelihood of Filipino fishermen in the area almost completely destroyed.

Other claimant nations also stand to lose up to $100 million annually since the reefs are important breeding grounds for valuable fish species. While Secretary Albert del Rosario is going through diplomatic channels to resolve the dispute – having elevated our complaint against China’s activities before an international arbitration court because “we still want to preserve our friendship with China” — we have no choice but to turn to our ally — the United States.

READ MORE...
While the Chinese keep insisting that the problem should be solved bilaterally, the fact is, Secretary del Rosario explained, every time Filipino diplomats engage in a one-on-one with their Beijing counterparts – as has been done over 50 times in the past involving the case of Scarborough Shoal – the Chinese would start the dialogue with “this is ours” – leaving no room for discussion. Obviously, a monologue, not a dialogue.

There is no question that the situation with China is not just the problem of the Philippines but other nations as well considering the implications on maritime security in the region, not to mention the political and economic ramifications with over $5 trillion worth of trade passing through the South China Sea every year.

A June 2013 article published in The Diplomat by Zachary Keck said that the response of other Asian nations relative to China’s recent actions is purely a balancing act.

Internal balance can be achieved by strengthening one’s own capabilities, which is the ideal and preferred mechanism as the state would not be forced to rely on the goodwill of its allies in meeting commitments and will not place it in any risk in being dragged into others’ fights, Keck asserted.

“However, oftentimes the power disparity between a rising state and its adversaries means that internal balancing alone will not suffice in countering it. In these instances, realists contend, states will seek to align with third parties who also view the powerful state as a threat,” the article went. In which case, a three-way alliance between the US, Philippines, Japan is now the only option since the latter also has maritime disputes with China.

The Chinese have just brought us even closer to the United States and now even Japan, as we all want to preserve the balance of power in the region. Secretary del Rosario will be leaving for Washington in May to meet with several important officials to discuss strategic initiatives. I have no doubt about the United States’ “ironclad” commitment with its Asian allies.

Both US Ambassador Philip Goldberg and US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy have echoed President Obama’s line on various occasions.

The US Pacific command has confirmed sending some of its best weapons to Asia and the Philippines. In fact, the upcoming joint military exercises will be the biggest ever in 15 years with the number of participating troops doubled.

While China has been building up its military might via increased defense spending in the last five years, the red dragon is also exploring “soft power,” or what others have described as “checkbook diplomacy” as seen in its overtures for other countries to become founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, driving concern that China would use some of the capital to increase its influence in the region.

As the dean of a Beijing university bluntly admitted, Chinese president Xi Jinping’s policy is to “allow smaller countries to benefit economically from their relationships with China… and in return we get good political relationships. We should ‘purchase’ the relationships.”

We all know we don’t have the wherewithal to go against China in terms of economic or military firepower, but we agree with President Aquino’s summation when the problem about the Spratlys surfaced — we may not have the firepower, but when push comes to shove, Filipinos will rise up to the cause.

China may not recognize the complaint we filed before the UN arbitration court which I believe will rule in our favor, but for us it will be a major moral victory.

The article by Keck puts it succinctly: “As China’s power grows it will be held to a higher standard than some of its weaker neighbors, if only because these neighbors will see their futures as increasingly dependent on maintaining unity in the face of the Chinese leviathan… [and] it will never be powerful enough to defeat large coalitions of its numerous neighbors.”


Editorial:

EDITORIAL - Rebuilding trust (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 18, 2015 - 12:00am

The Department of Justice has completed its probe on the Jan. 25 raid that led to the brutal killing of 44 Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. According to reports, about 90 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and a private armed group will face preliminary investigation for what the Senate has described as a “massacre.”

Details of the 224-page report have not been released to the public, but sources said the 90 include at least eight MILF commanders identified by witnesses. This has raised questions on whether the MILF will present its key members for investigation. The word yesterday from MILF vice chairman Gadzali Jaafar was no.

So far the MILF has ignored demands aired by President Aquino shortly after the raid, starting with the surrender of the SAF killers and the return of weapons, equipment and personal belongings taken from the police commandos.

READ MORE...
The MILF has also failed to adequately explain its real ties to the BIFF, which the rebel group claims to be its breakaway faction. Amid the public outcry, the MILF turned over several SAF guns, but the weapons reportedly had missing parts. BIFF commanders, meanwhile, scoffed that they had no intention of turning over anything they had looted from the dead.

Such actions have contributed to public distrust of the MILF and erosion of support for negotiating peace with the rebel group. The other day, distrust deepened further with the report that MILF peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, who has refused to reveal his true name, is Datucan Abas, a suspect in the deadly bomb attacks on the Davao International Airport and Sasa Wharf.

Justice is needed for peace to endure. A peace process does not preclude a system of restitution for victims of armed conflict. The SAF went to Mamasapano to get top Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman. By the looks of it, the two were given sanctuary by the MILF and its cousins in the BIFF.

People continue to support the peace process as a matter of principle, but the support does not necessarily mean blind trust in the MILF. There is due process and some of the 90 named in the DOJ report may be cleared in the preliminary investigation. But first they must face a formal probe. Turning over the gunmen suspected of killing the SAF 44 can go a long way in rebuilding public trust in the MILF.


EDITORIAL - A new system (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 19, 2015 - 12:00am

Computerization generally leads to quicker and more efficient service. In government, this in turn promotes transparency and cuts opportunities for corruption. So the requirement for everyone to file and pay taxes online should be a step forward in good governance.

The manual system took an average of 193 hours or eight days to complete, according to a study reportedly conducted by the World Bank and professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers. This is better than the Asia-Pacific average of 229 hours, but more than twice longer than the 82 hours in highly efficient Singapore, and longer than even the 155 hours in Myanmar and 173 in Cambodia. The same report showed that Filipinos need to make 36 payments for full tax compliance, compared to 32 in Vietnam, 31 in Myanmar, 27 in Brunei, 22 in Thailand, 13 in Malaysia and five in Singapore.

As in other well-meaning programs, however, the devil is in the details. Online tax payment for everyone presumes that there is widespread access to computers and the average taxpayer is computer literate. This is the situation in tech-savvy advanced economies, but not in a developing country with a small middle class and 40 percent of the population classified as poor, and where taxpayers include owners of the smallest sari-sari or convenience store, who can be penalized for failure to comply with revenue requirements. The Philippines does not even have sufficient infrastructure to support widespread Internet penetration. Yet the same requirements cover both micro storeowners and large corporations with their own IT and finance staff to handle e-payments.

READ MORE...
So the implementation of the electronic filing and tax payment system has been met by a chorus of complaints from law-abiding taxpayers. Even computer-literate people are complaining that the system needs to be fine-tuned. Revenue personnel also need more training in shepherding taxpayers through the new system.

In this tax-filing season, there are people who now long for the old system wherein all they needed to do was manually fill out a Bureau of Internal Revenue form and make their tax payment in a bank. There are also valid concerns about the security of taxpayers’ personal details floating around in cyberspace.

Any effort to promote efficiency, transparency and good governance is laudable. But if the government wants compliance, there should be sufficient preparation for the new system. This can include an intensive information campaign and a period for phasing in for both taxpayers and revenue personnel. Rather than improve revenue collection, all the hassle could encourage tax evasion.


The battle lines are being drawn FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 19, 2015 - 12:00am


By Carmen N. Pedrosa

It does not come as a surprise that Jejomar Binay and Joseph Estrada should come together. They are two birds of a kind. What is surprising is their apparent lack of awareness or recognition that they belong to traditional politics known as trapos to intelligent Filipinos. Still they persist in pursuing a system that has been responsible for corruption and bad governance.

In a telephone interview with the Philippine STAR, Erap said, “As of now, Vice President Binay is our only candidate for President.” He added his party, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), and Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) will choose their senatorial candidates for 2016.

Earlier, Danding Cojuangco’s NPC also endorsed Binay as its presidential candidate, as did Peping and Tingting Cojuangco. President Aquino’s sisters have also indicated their preference for Binay.

Erap’s endorsement of Binay confirms what Bayanko had predicted several weeks back, that the Cojuangco-Aquino family and Erap will eventually come together.

The only holdout at the moment is President Aquino who is believed to favor Mar Roxas whom Binay asked to be his vice presidential candidate. Mar, however, has rejected Binay’s overture.

The president will reportedly announce his choice in June 2015.

READ MORE...
President Aquino is under pressure from his family to endorse Binay. They believe Binay is the only winnable candidate who can offer protection to Noynoy after his term ends against the flood of cases expected to be filed against the president. They do not believe Mar is winnable.

To make Mar winnable, it may require a Grace Poe teaming up with him. But will Grace accept the number two slot? She may be ahead of Mar in the survey polls, but she does not have a party organization. On the other hand, Grace could win easily as vice president but may not carry Mar to the presidency.

And the chances of Bongbong Marcos being president? Only in his wildest dreams. He may still side with the established order.

What is evident is the mood in the country has changed. The people are looking for new faces to carry out a new system. The problem is there are presently none. But who knows? Even that can change overnight. As an old saying goes, “the fight ain’t over till it’s all over.” An editor of one of the largest newspapers when asked about 2016 and the alliances being formed among these old name candidates said the trapos could be in for a surprise. He believes the people will fight back.

* * *

Bayanko has been monitoring the pre-election surveys and predictions on winnable candidates. The battle lines being drawn is as what Bayanko has predicted — it will be between the oligarchs and family dynasties represented by the likes of the Cojuangco-Aquino-Erap-Binay families on one side, and, on the other, the marginalized sectors of society like labor, farmers, youth, women, teachers, urban poor who have been shut out of the political system. Whoever will prevail will determine whether real change is possible in the country.

This is the battle that has to be fought sooner or later given the continuously widening gap between rich and poor, between haves and have-nots.

It will also determine whether the Philippines is capable of making a peaceful transition to a new constitutional order where the marginalized sectors are given greater representation in the national decision-making process or whether the continuous dominance by the old established order will not eventually lead to a violent upheaval driven by the politics of despair.

Bayanko has proposed a constructive way out of the impasse. Whether its proposal will be accepted by the president and Congress remains to be seen.

* * *

In the last presidential elections in 2010, mainstream oligarchic media played a major role in thwarting any change of the system through constitutional reform by its choice of candidate and the still unresolved issue of how Smartmatic-PCOS was used to ensure the victory of certain candidates.

The same can happen again where election results will be bought and sold with the cooperation of sections of oligarchic media. We must find ways to strengthen social media.

“A great weight of responsibility lies with those who form the driving force behind the media. All those among us who are the direct beneficiaries of culture and liberty and who, thanks to that liberty, are able to free express their opinions in the newspapers, on radio and television, as well as those who are in a position to make decision about telecommunication, must become fully aware of what a great privilege freedom is — economic freedom, political freedom and freedom of the press,” wrote Mario Vargas in an article.

“This is vital battle that we must not lose. If we lose it, we shall also have lost a future of civilization and freedom. If we emerge victorious, we shall have turned our backs on a past of decadence, impoverishment, social injustice and violence, none of which, objectively speaking, has any reason to exist in Latin America.”

What Vargas wrote is also true of the Philippines. We cannot afford to lose this battle.

* * *

In a previous column, I wrote about the big collection of miniature toy soldiers of Jose Alejandrino. A friend told me, after reading the column, that the late Max Soliven, who was the publisher of the Philippine Star, also had a large collection. This was confirmed by his daughter Sara Soliven de Guzman who invited me to view it.

* * *

Two nights ago I was invited by STAR columnist Wilson Flores to join him for dinner at the Kamuning Café adjacent to the famous Kamuning Bakery. It seems that the bakery has become a meeting place of media people who live in the area. He is adding a number of dishes aside from the famous bread baked in its stone ovens. The bakery has been there for years and some remembered that President Cory Aquino used to buy its pan de suelo there. I wonder if little Noynoy accompanied her?


Datucan Abas --Iqbal?

SEARCH FOR TRUTH By Ernesto M. Maceda (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 18, 2015 - 12:00am


By Ernesto M. Maceda

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta have revealed that the real name of Mohagner Igbal is Datucan Abas.

Eid Kabalu, the former spokesman for the MILF, confirmed Abas and Iqbal are one and the same person.

Prior to this revelation, some sources said Igbal’s real name is Hassan Abdullah Muhammad or Lubis Abas, which he neither confirmed nor denied.

Igbal said he has no ill intention in using an alias but only for security reasons, saying that it was standard operating procedure for rebels for their safety as well that of their family.

He also said the members of the government peace panel who negotiated the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Federation Front (MILF) were aware of his real name.

Igbal has not confirmed Datucan Abas as his real name.

Seeking to downplay his use of an alias, Igbal said even Philippine heroes, including the late Benigno Aquino Jr. and Marcelo Del Pilar, were using aliases.

Cayetano said the issue here is trust.

READ MORE...
Senate President Franklin Drilon said Igbal should reveal his real name as a confidence-building measure to ease doubts on the MILF’s sincerity and commitment to peace.

However, Senators Drilon and Marcos Jr. said there is nothing anomalous with Igbal’s practice, but it would have manifested more sincerity if Igbal discloses his true name in public in order to help address misconceptions about the MILF commitment to peace.

Also for Malacañang, the peace agreement between the MILF and the government remains valid despite Igbal's use of an alias.

But several legal experts and lawmakers questioned Igbal’s legality and motive for using an alias, saying it might have implications on the validity of the peace agreement between the MILF and the government.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) should now study the filing of appropriate charges against Mohagher Igbal for violating the Revised Penal Code and the Anti-Alias law, which prohibit the use of pseudonyms in public documents.

NDF wants peace talks

National Democratic Front (NDF) chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said the NDF and New People’s Army (NPA) should get the same peace deal with the government. But earlier, they broke up negotiations even saying that they will not deal with the Aquino administration but will wait for the new president in 2016.

In the meantime, the NPA is conducting attacks on several fronts nationwide. They should agree to a ceasefire before peace negotiations can start.

Binay tops SWS Poll

Vice President Jejomar Binay has maintained his lead in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) Survey conducted from March 20-23, getting 36 percent of the vote.

Senator Grace Poe was second with 31 percent. Tied for third place are Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, both of whom got 15 percent.

Binay is still 21 percent ahead of Roxas, however.

President/Mayor Erap Estrada was fourth with 11 percent, together with Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Next came Senator Francis Escudero with 8 percent and Senator Bongbong Marcos with 7 percent.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano got only 4 percent.

Batangas reporter shot dead

Melinda Magsino, a former correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and who had reported on corruption and “jueteng” in Batangas province, was shot dead in front of her rented apartment in Batangas City.

She is the 32nd journalist killed under the Aquino administration.

Senator Ralph Recto and Rep. Mark LLandro Mendoza have offered P100,000 each for information leading to the arrest of the killer.

Killings are happening all over the country. The Philippine National Police (PNP) has not conducted an honest to goodness campaign against illegal firearms.

Cancer test

Doctors say that cancer if detected early can be cured. But one asks how do you detect it early?

There is an answer now. Have a Quantum 3D CT Scan.

A CT scan of the entire body can detect if you have tumors or cancer in any part of your body.

There is only one such Quantum 3D Scan Machine in the country which just arrived a few months ago,

It is located at E. Quantum Clinic at the BTTC Center, 288 Ortigas Avenue, Greenhills, San Juan.

Telephone numbers are 4708203 and 4708852.

Tidbits

The death of BIFF founder Ameril Umbra Kato has been confirmed by Mohagher Igbal. His successor is Esmael Abubakar alias Commander Bongos. A warrant of arrest has been issued against Umbra Kato but it was never served.

The Aquino administration has not released funds for the repair of the Banaue Rice Terraces. The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) is also asking P17 million to repair the existing irrigation system.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has joined the contest for the Republican presidential nomination.

The presidential elections in the United States will be held in November 2016.

Happy birthday greetings to President/Mayor Erap Estrada who is celebrating his 78th birthday tomorrow.April 19.


Justice, Pinoy style SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 17, 2015 - 12:00am


 By Ana Marie Pamintuan

Some people think the life term imposed on Janet Lim Napoles is too heavy for serious illegal detention. Considering the slew of charges she is facing for plunder, however, it looks like she’s going to spend the rest of her life behind bars anyway.

Apart from the penalty, which includes a total of P100,000 in damages, the other remarkable thing about the case is the relative speed by which it was resolved: two years from the day the victim, Napoles’ cousin Benhur Luy, was released from detention.

It’s not South Korean justice, wherein a case can be resolved with finality within two months from the commission of the crime. But two years is record speed for the notoriously snail-paced Philippine justice system.

Napoles can appeal all the way to the Supreme Court – a process that can take another two years, or even 10 – before a final ruling is handed down. By that time, she could be serving a separate life sentence for plunder in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.

Napoles and her brother Reynald reportedly had Luy detained after learning that he was starting to conduct his own PDAF deals. In her defense, Napoles claimed Luy merely went on a three-month spiritual retreat.

For sure, the PDAF scandal helped speed up the resolution of the serious illegal detention case by the Makati Regional Trial Court. Luy blew the whistle on the pork barrel scam when he regained his freedom after being detained from Dec. 19, 2012 to March 22, 2013.

Now the question is whether the plunder cases directly connected to PDAF misuse – with influential politicians indicted together with Napoles – will be resolved just as quickly.

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Aside from Luy’s testimony, the Commission on Audit (COA) presented a “truckload” of documents gathered in its special probe to indict nearly 200 former and incumbent members of the Senate and House of Representatives, many of them administration allies, in connection with PDAF misuse.

Those named in the COA report allegedly funneled their PDAF through bogus non-government organizations apart from those operated by Napoles.

After the admirable zeal displayed by the government in indicting opposition figures and holding them without bail for the scam, however, the energy to prosecute seems to have bogged down, like the Metro Rail Transit service and the investigation of corruption in the MRT under daang matuwid. (Is Al Vitangcol still in town?)

President Aquino has openly expressed hope that he would see at least one big fish convicted and behind bars for plunder before he steps down. It would be a good measure of the success of his anti-corruption program, he said.

If the PDAF cases move as quickly as Napoles’ serious illegal detention case, P-Noy might get his wish. Considering the status of the cases involving top politicians, however, the pork barrel cases look more like the Maguindanao massacre trial, which is crawling along at glacial pace, or worse, like the ill-gotten wealth cases against the Marcoses, which look dead in the water after three decades.

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The treatment of the accused in the PDAF scam also reinforces public perception formed since 1986: if you’re going to steal, steal big, or at least big enough so you can afford the best justice that money can buy.

A hungry, impoverished person accused of stealing a few bucks lands in a vermin-infested, grimy, crowded, poorly ventilated local jail with a stinking communal toilet, and often without food. If he complains of dizziness, hypertension or chest pains, he might be advised by jail guards to go ahead and die.

A wealthy politician accused of stealing hundreds of millions in public funds gets to stay in his own spacious cell, with a private toilet and even mini kitchen. Every minor ache or pain becomes a valid reason to rush to a hospital for an extended confinement in an air-conditioned private room. They are always healthy enough for politics but too ill for jail.

To be fair, one reason for the VIP treatment is that we lack decent detention facilities for ordinary and white-collar crimes alike. Detention in a typical Philippine jail can constitute a human rights violation, especially for the innocent and wrongly accused.

But because of the slow administration of justice and perceptions that justice can be bought, there are people who believe detention without bail for many years while VIP defendants are on trial may be the only punishment they will ever get. This – combined with the perception that VIP inmates need hospitalization only when they land in jail – explains the general lack of public sympathy for VIP detainees.

The special treatment will probably not be needed if VIP defendants are assured of a speedy trial. A few months in detention, if it leads to an acquittal, can even be used by a politician for campaign purposes, to cry persecution and get sympathy votes.

But if a VIP detainee is looking at six to 10 years of trial, he’ll concoct every excuse to get out of jail even for a few hours, or enjoy special privileges. He’ll also have a lot of time to seek vindication in typical Pinoy style: by running for public office, even while behind bars.

Depending on circumstances, even felons who have been convicted with finality can seek public office. Even Janet Lim-Napoles can run.

Considering all the patronage she has cultivated, Napoles might even win. She will get “honorable” appended to her title.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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