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

FROM MANILA STANDARD TODAY

EDITORIAL: (THE MILF) DANGEROUS LIAISONS
[It is a facile argument that assumes that the MILF is a trustworthy partner, and that the BBL, with all its constitutional infirmities, is the only way forward. Both assumptions, we now know, are fraught with danger—and we would be foolhardy to pretend otherwise.]


THERE was no surprise in the declaration by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that it would not surrender its fighters who took part in the Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos in Maguindanao on Jan. 25. From the day the news first broke, the rebel group has been consistent in its stance. The rebels insisted that the fighters who took part in the massacre were merely defending themselves, and that it was the police commandos who violated the ceasefire agreement and triggered the “unfortunate mis-encounter” by trying to serve arrest warrants on terrorists in the MILF’s bailiwick. This view was reinforced by the MILF’s own investigation that, to nobody’s surprise, cleared its members of any wrongdoing and again blamed the police for not “coordinating” with the rebels before seeking to enforce the law. Reacting last week to a Justice Department recommendation that the MILF commanders and fighters involved be criminally charged for the deaths of the police commandos, MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar insisted the rebels committed no crime, and that they would not turn over any of them to face trial. READ MORE...

ALSO: My 65 years as a journalist (1 & 2)
[WOW! BIG CONGRATULATIONS, PO!]


I WOKE up the other day realizing that I had spent 65 years as a journalist. I have gone full circle in print, radio and television. Those long years, more than half a century in fact, were broken only briefly when I taught at Ateneo de Manila for four years, completed my law studies and took the Bar. I also got married to the woman of my dreams. I met her when she was only 18 years old, on vacation in Cotabato – then the capital of an undivided Cotabato province – from her studies at Philippine Women’s University. She later on went to the University of the Philippines. I got my feet wet in journalism in 1950. With my former classmate and best friend, the late Rudy Tupas (who later on became Manila Times magazine editor and then ambassador to Libya), I volunteered to help the Oblates of Many Immaculate in their provincial weekly “The Mindanao Cross,” which is still going strong up to this day. Those were still the days of the Moro “juramentados.”  After two years living among Moros in Cotabato, I came back to Manila. But I never forgot my experience as a provincial editor of a weekly even as my original dream was to become a lawyer—perhaps a judge and later on a justice of the Supreme Court, the culmination of every lawyer’s career. I was actually a working law student, having taught at the Ateneo High School and Philippine Law School law subjects like Introduction to Law, Insurance and Agency and Corporation Law. Still, I felt unfulfilled. The printer’s ink, as they say, was already in my blood. I applied at the now-defunct Philippines Herald, which was owned at that time by Don Vicente Madrigal. And with the help of my elder brother, Willie (now deceased) and of people around Don Vicente, I got a job at that publication. READ MORE...

ALSO ON MARY JANE VELOSO: Out of our hands


The Indonesian government on Friday issued the order for execution of 10 of its prisoners on death row. One of the convicts is 30-year-old Filipino domestic Mary Jane Veloso, found guilty of drug smuggling. Veloso has been transferred from Wirogunan Prison in East Java to Nusakambangan, more popularly known as execution island. Death, by firing squad, is imminent. In recent days, the Indonesian government has been flooded with appeals, official or otherwise, in last-minute efforts to save the life of the migrant worker who claims she was duped into carrying the drugs by no less than her godsister. This is her story: In 2010, the godsister told Veloso about a job opportunity in Malaysia. In need of a bigger income to support her two children, she agreed. When she arrived in Malaysia, she was told that the job was in Indonesia, after all. Some 2.6 kg of heroin was put in her suitcase without her knowledge, and she was arrested at the Yogyakarta airport for possessing the drugs. She was sentenced to death last year. The Indonesian Supreme Court rejected her appeal, which she made by alleging that her translator during the trial did not accurately convey what she said. READ MORE...

ALSO BOC Chief exit: Straight-path roadkill


The resignation of Customs Commissioner John Philip “Sunny” Sevilla came as no surprise to insiders at the bureau, who had been talking about it for at least weeks now. But unlike his predecessor, former Rep. Ruffino Biazon, Sevila did not quit amid allegations of corruption – it actually appears that Sevilla stepped down because he was fighting corruption in the notoriously corrupt agency that he headed. Sevilla, a former investment banker before he joined the Department of Finance, said anyone doing the right thing at Customs exposed himself to risk. While he did not go into further detail, Sevilla is widely believed to have resigned because he could no longer stomach the pressure being exerted on him to raise funds for powerful politicians and to look the other way when favored importers were smuggling goods into the country. I’m glad Sevilla didn’t cite “personal reasons” for leaving Customs or clam up altogether about his decision to go. Far too many former officials of this supposedly blameless administration have refused to reveal the true reason for leaving, ever since Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus resigned just months after President Noynoy Aquino assumed office in 2010. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Explaining Sevilla


It’s unfortunate that a government official like Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla, who was doing his job and doing it well, is forced to resign because he can no longer accommodate the demands of politicians. It’s even more unfortunate that this sort of problem exists under an administration that is supposedly following the straight path of good governance. The resignation of Sevilla should remind Filipinos that their politicians, despite their patriotic blather, often do not work in the best interests of their own country. Why would politicians be pressuring the Customs commissioner to look favorably on certain businessmen at all, as if they did not know that what they are doing is sabotaging the economy by allowing the collection of less taxes and duties? It stands to reason that by allowing Sevilla to resign, Malacañang has decided to take the side of the people who he said made his life difficult when he was still head of Customs. And it’s also logical that the politicians that Sevilla railed against see, in his replacement, someone who will be more willing to do what they want done. Sevilla’s resignation doesn’t jibe with President Noynoy Aquino’s oft-declared commitment to the daang matuwid, that much is plain. In particular, Aquino’s decision to let go of Sevilla doesn’t go well with his condemnation of the corruption in the bureau, which he made in a State of the Nation Address. READ MORE...

ALSO by Rudy Romero: The sad history of Makati’s mayorship
[Makati City, which might as well be renamed because its phenomenal rise has almost entirely due to the Ayala conglomerate’s development work, has had four mayors in the last half-century. The past mayors were Maximo Estrella, Jose Luciano and Nemesio Yabut Jr]

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The allegations of corrupt official activity that have been made against the mayor of Makati City is not the first such allegations that have been made against that Makati official. In point of fact, the corruption allegations that have been leveled at Jejomar Binay Jr. is by no means the first time that the chief executive of the Philippines’ leading financial center has been indicted for corruption or placed under a cloud of suspicion for allegedly having stolen public funds. Makati City, which might as well be renamed because its phenomenal rise has almost entirely due to the Ayala conglomerate’s development work, has had four mayors in the last half-century. The past mayors were Maximo Estrella, Jose Luciano and Nemesio Yabut Jr. Max Estrella, a portly man of less than fair complexion, was mayor of Makati during most of the 1960s. Estrella ran Makati – then a municipality – like a private fiefdom. He dispensed goodies right and left and was the original KBL (the first letters of the Filipino words for wedding, baptism and funeral) man. Like mayor Binay’s father, Vice-President Binay, Estrella tried to attend every K, B and L in the wealthy municipality. Given his immense popularity among Makati’s low-income population, Estrella handily won re-election in 1963 and 1967. Estrella’s political opponents, particularly the Makati Citizens’ League for Good Government, sought ways to remove him from office, but without success. READ MORE...

ALSO FILIPINO SCIENTIST: Life work


A Filipino scientist this week received top distinction from Europe’s premier geosciences bureau. Dr. Alfredo Mahar Lagmay, who heads the government’s Project NOAH -- Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards -- was given the Plinius Medal by the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria for his “outstanding interdisciplinary natural-hazard research and natural-disaster engagement in the Philippines, particularly with respect to volcanic hazards, earthquakes, typhoons, landslides and floods.”  Lagmay holds a doctorate in geology and has devoted his career to the study of how science can help communities build resilience in the face of natural disasters. He has published his work on various disasters hitting the Philippines from landslides, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and storm surges. The latest such study delved on how Daram, a small town in Samar, was able to survive deadly storm surges brought by typhoon Ruby last year. Like any scientist, though, who prefers to work without the glare, Lagmay is quick to deflect the attention to the worthy projects he helped put together. For example, he said that the award was a testament that Project Noah is considered an example of best practice in disaster risk reduction and management. In fact, during his trip to Vienna, he delivered a lecture on Project NOAH’s high-resolution hazards mapping feature. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

EDITORIAL: Dangerous liaisons

MANILA, APRIL 27, 2015 (MANILA STANDARD) Apr. 20, 2015 at 12:01am - THERE was no surprise in the declaration by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that it would not surrender its fighters who took part in the Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

From the day the news first broke, the rebel group has been consistent in its stance.

The rebels insisted that the fighters who took part in the massacre were merely defending themselves, and that it was the police commandos who violated the ceasefire agreement and triggered the “unfortunate mis-encounter” by trying to serve arrest warrants on terrorists in the

MILF’s bailiwick.

This view was reinforced by the MILF’s own investigation that, to nobody’s surprise, cleared its members of any wrongdoing and again blamed the police for not “coordinating” with the rebels before seeking to enforce the law.

Reacting last week to a Justice Department recommendation that the MILF commanders and fighters involved be criminally charged for the deaths of the police commandos, MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar insisted the rebels committed no crime, and that they would not turn over any of them to face trial.

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The refusal sets the stage for a potentially dangerous confrontation between government forces who will seek to enforce the Justice Department recommendation and the MILF, which may choose once again use the self defense card to resist a law enforcement operation.

The refusal also calls into question the wisdom of dealing with the MILF as a partner for peace and throws a wrench in the Aquino administration’s hopes to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), draft legislation that it hammered out with the MILF to create a new autonomous entity in the south led in large part by the MILF.

“Vice Chairman Jaafar’s statement clearly shows no respect for the rule of law and a blatant disregard to the feeling of the people crying out for justice for the SAF killed by the MILF fighters in Mamasapano. This will not help in regaining the people’s trust in them,” said Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who leads a Senate committee studying the BBL.

This trust had already been eroded by the confirmation that MILF officials, including chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, had used pseudonyms to sign several peace agreements with the government and even used them to open bank accounts in violation of the law.

The administration’s clumsy attempts to defend the MILF in this regard only made matters worse.

The mantra that the government’s peace negotiators and the MILF have been chanting these days is that the BBL is much more than the Mamasapano incident, and that the killing of the 44 police commandos, while tragic, pales in comparison to the thousands who have already died and the thousands more that may perish in the conflict in Mindanao.

It is a facile argument that assumes that the MILF is a trustworthy partner, and that the BBL, with all its constitutional infirmities, is the only way forward. Both assumptions, we now know, are fraught with danger—and we would be foolhardy to pretend otherwise.


My 65 years as a journalist (1 AND 2) By Emil Jurado | Apr. 21, 2015 at 12:01am


Big congratukations po! Cool journalistic milestone.

I WOKE up the other day realizing that I had spent 65 years as a journalist.

I have gone full circle in print, radio and television. Those long years, more than half a century in fact, were broken only briefly when I taught at Ateneo de Manila for four years, completed my law studies and took the Bar.

I also got married to the woman of my dreams. I met her when she was only 18 years old, on vacation in Cotabato – then the capital of an undivided Cotabato province – from her studies at Philippine Women’s University. She later on went to the University of the Philippines.

I got my feet wet in journalism in 1950. With my former classmate and best friend, the late Rudy Tupas (who later on became Manila Times magazine editor and then ambassador to Libya), I volunteered to help the Oblates of Many Immaculate in their provincial weekly “The Mindanao Cross,” which is still going strong up to this day. Those were still the days of the Moro “juramentados.”

After two years living among Moros in Cotabato, I came back to Manila. But I never forgot my experience as a provincial editor of a weekly even as my original dream was to become a lawyer—perhaps a judge and later on a justice of the Supreme Court, the culmination of every lawyer’s career.

I was actually a working law student, having taught at the Ateneo High School and Philippine Law School law subjects like Introduction to Law, Insurance and Agency and Corporation Law.

Still, I felt unfulfilled. The printer’s ink, as they say, was already in my blood.

I applied at the now-defunct Philippines Herald, which was owned at that time by Don Vicente Madrigal. And with the help of my elder brother, Willie (now deceased) and of people around Don Vicente, I got a job at that publication.

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I was fortunate because when I first presented myself to the late editor-in-chief Felix Gonzales, who was called “judge,” the business editor was taking his leave of absence to study for the Bar exams.

Thus, I became a business editor of a newspaper which was at that time in the same league as the Manila Times of the Prietos and Roceses, and the Manila Chronicle of the Lopezes.

Aside from being business editor, I covered Malacanang, the Foreign Affairs Office and the justice department whenever the reporters on the beat were off.

Santa Banana, our editor-in-chief really made me earn my pay of P250 a month.

Those were trying years because my wife and I could afford to only rent an apartment. We had a newborn baby at that time.

Soon enough, I was made an editorial director, writing editorials for the newspaper, and got a P1,500 pay check a month.

At that time, P1,500 a month was a fortune, and my wife and I could afford to buy a house at Philamlife Homes, Quezon City. I acquired the house at P1,800 when the former houseowner could not pay the monthly installment of P350.

As business editor, I met the many taipans and tycoons of today when they were still struggling businessmen. I got to know Henry Sy Sr., now the richest Filipino, and John Gokongwei. The later was a trader from Cebu and soon made good in Manila. Now he is the second-richest Filipino.

I also knew Lucio Tan, the Ayalas headed by Don Jaime Ayala and his sons Jaime Augusto and Fernando, Andrew Gotianun of Filinvest, the Del Rosarios, the Elizaldes, the Aguinaldos of old, and the father of billionaire Ricky Razon, Pocholo Razon, and many others. Al Yuchengco of RCBC and Malayan Insurance was my good friend. I know the Sycips-Don Albino and Alfonso, the Puyats and the Jacintos of Security bank. In fact, I knew all the bank presidents and chairmen.

I was twice the president of the Business Writers Association of the Philippines.

* * *

As a business editor of the Philippines, my main beat at that time was the Central Bank, with the late Miguel Cuaderno as governor. Those were memorable years because of dollar allocations given to importers by import and export directors.

The main focus of the economy then was on import quotas. As usual, the president and administrators, especially members of Congress, took advantage of their powers to enrich themselves through quota allocations, which they peddled.

I consider those days memorable because I exposed the devaluation of the peso during the Macapagal administration by the Central Bank at an initial rate of P4 to P1. Soon, in order to avoid speculations, the Central Bank adopted the so-called “floating rate” of the currency.

Another memorable moment I had while covering the Central Bank was my exposé of three members of the Monetary Board then committing anomalies by playing the stock market, and getting import quota allocations for their favored companies or their own companies. The exposé I wrote started a congressional investigation, but got me in trouble. I was kidnapped!

During those days, I never told my wife that I had been getting death threats. I just dismissed them. I believe then as I do now that if there are those would like to terminate journalists or others, they do not write nor call you to warn you that your life is in danger. They just do it, as is being done in the many instances when journalists, especially provincial commentators and opinion writers are killed.

One evening, as I was going down the stairs of the Philippines Herald, two men poked guns on my side and almost immediately I saw a black car waiting outside. I was told to get inside the car, and the car sped off.

The security guard obviously did not notice what happened since it happened so fast, gangster-style.


People Asia Magazine Dec-Jan 2010: Veteran journalist & lawyer Emil Jurado

My 65 years as a journalist (2)  By Emil Jurado | Apr. 23, 2015 at 12:01am

Conclusion

But, KBS, the foremost radio-television at that time, had a problem. Initially, voting at KBP was one vote per station.

Naturally, since KBS had some 46 stations at that time, we controlled the voting. I had pushed for each station have one vote, not by network. Benedicto opposed my plan, so I had no recourse but to resign. Teodoro Valencia, then the foremost newspaper columnist and a Marcos supporter, succeeded me. That’s what made me think that KBS was actually owned by the Marcoses. I knew this since Benedicto and Buddy Tan had to report to Malacañang every now and then.

Anyway, I became general manager of the government station GTV-4 since KBS was running not only the government station, but Channels 2, 9 and 13 as well.

I became disillusioned and I soon submitted my resignation to Benedicto who tried to persuade me to stay on at a higher pay. I told him that money was not the issue; it was my belief in press freedom.

Thus, for about three years after the assassination of the late Ninoy Aquino I tried to practice my profession when I joined the partnership of Dizon, Paculdo, Jurado, Jurado (that was me) and Vitug Law offices. But the partnership broke up when my late brother Desiderio P. Jurado was appointed to the Court of Appeals and Joe Vitug became associate justice of the Supreme Court.

After the 1986 People Power revolution, my good friend Rod Reyes, a former Manila Times newspaperman, who succeeded in infiltrating a drug cartel and exposing it, planned to put up a newspaper. He approached me to become part of the newspaper to be publicized by Manuel “Manda” Elizalde, who was then on self-exile in Costa Rica. When he returned, we made the Elizalde & Co. and Tanduay Rum building along Ayala Avenue the Standard’s first office. That was in Feburary 1987.

In spite of offers to join other publications, I stayed on with the Manila Standard. This makes me perhaps the oldest opinion writer now. As I said, I believe in the Standard’s vision and goals, and I like working for every management that has ever taken over the newspaper.

When I exposed the non-promulgation of the case against Juan Ponce Enrile who was charged of rebellion with murder by the Cory Aquino government, a non-existent case because rebellion already included murder. I was cited for contempt by the Supreme Court – not as a journalist but as a lawyer, who is supposed to be an officer of the court? The reason I had to expose the non-promulgation of the High Court’s decision was my discovery that I found out that a Supreme Court associate justice was holding the case since it would mean the dismissal of the Enrile case.

I never revealed by source, a Supreme Court associate justice. The case was supposed to have been a landmark decision so much so that it was one of the questions in Bar examination on Legal Ethics, title In Re Jurado.

My sources at the Supreme Court were many. When I exposed a senior justice whose trip to Hong Kong with his entire family of 27 was funded by a known Binondo drug dealer, I was against cited for contempt until I revealed by source. I never did. I’m perhaps the only journalist who was cited for contempt twice by the Supreme Court.

In my battle with the Supreme Court, the Manila Standard stood by me all along. That is one of the reasons I never left the publication.

I have been charged with 17 libel cases and had to apologize four times upon request of my publisher. In fact, when I was named Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Manila Standard, I was also subpoenaed simply because my name was in the masthead. I had to quit my position since I was subpoened for something I was never a part of.

They say it’s a badge of honor, but I never felt comfortable with those cases against me. The venue at times of the court were in the provinces.

When Martial Law was lifted and freedom of the press was restored, being the only living member of the 365 Club at Hotel Intercontinental, I became active at its chairman. I envisioned the 365 Club to be a freewheeling venue for those who would like to say their piece on the economic and political issues of the day.

And I succeeded when the 365 Club was featured by no less than The Wall Street Journal as the only one of its kind in Asia where people of all political persuasions could take coffee and express their opinions freely without fear.

In my sunset years, I have passed on the torch to businessman Boy Reyno, who is a regular. I became its chairman emeritus. Chairman emeritus is also my position at the Manila Overseas Press Club having been its president and the oldest MOPC member.

I love doing what I’m doing. And I will be 88 this year. If I had retired early, I would have been sick or dead by now.


EDITORIAL: Out of our hands Apr. 26, 2015 at 12:01am

The Indonesian government on Friday issued the order for execution of 10 of its prisoners on death row. One of the convicts is 30-year-old Filipino domestic Mary Jane Veloso, found guilty of drug smuggling.

Veloso has been transferred from Wirogunan Prison in East Java to Nusakambangan, more popularly known as execution island. Death, by firing squad, is imminent.

In recent days, the Indonesian government has been flooded with appeals, official or otherwise, in last-minute efforts to save the life of the migrant worker who claims she was duped into carrying the drugs by no less than her godsister.

This is her story: In 2010, the godsister told Veloso about a job opportunity in Malaysia. In need of a bigger income to support her two children, she agreed. When she arrived in Malaysia, she was told that the job was in Indonesia, after all. Some 2.6 kg of heroin was put in her suitcase without her knowledge, and she was arrested at the Yogyakarta airport for possessing the drugs.

She was sentenced to death last year. The Indonesian Supreme Court rejected her appeal, which she made by alleging that her translator during the trial did not accurately convey what she said.

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The Philippine government filed another appeal Friday. Earlier, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also Presidential Assistant for OFW Concerns, met with his Indonesian counterpart to beg for Veloso’s life on humanitarian considerations.

If we go by Indonesia’s record in clamping down on drug convicts, however, the prospects appear bleak. In January, six drug convicts—five of them foreigners—were executed despite appeals from their respective governments. Indonesian leaders say they are serious about fighting the drug menace.

We commiserate with Veloso’s plight, especially if she is indeed a hapless, unsuspecting victim who only wanted to earn a living. We hope we will no longer hear about similar heartbreaking stories—and that hinges on how well and how effectively our labor officials warn our outbound migrants that they should be doubly careful whom they trust once they leave our shores.

Then again, even governments cannot guarantee the conduct of their citizens abroad, even those who become desperate enough and take great risks, perhaps believing that law enforcement abroad is as erratic and inconsistent as what we have here.

Finally, we can only wish our government were as serious about fighting the drug menace in this country as Indonesia is. Alas, drugs are freely bought and sold even in the most unlikely places, such as prisons. Convicted dealers get away with plying their trade from behind bars, and most often with the help of those who are supposed to fight it.

Mary Jane’s fate may be out of our hands now; the drug scenario in our country isn’t.


Straight-path roadkill By Jojo Robles | Apr. 24, 2015 at 12:01am



The resignation of Customs Commissioner John Philip “Sunny” Sevilla came as no surprise to insiders at the bureau, who had been talking about it for at least weeks now. But unlike his predecessor, former Rep. Ruffino Biazon, Sevila did not quit amid allegations of corruption – it actually appears that Sevilla stepped down because he was fighting corruption in the notoriously corrupt agency that he headed.

Sevilla, a former investment banker before he joined the Department of Finance, said anyone doing the right thing at Customs exposed himself to risk. While he did not go into further detail, Sevilla is widely believed to have resigned because he could no longer stomach the pressure being exerted on him to raise funds for powerful politicians and to look the other way when favored importers were smuggling goods into the country.

I’m glad Sevilla didn’t cite “personal reasons” for leaving Customs or clam up altogether about his decision to go. Far too many former officials of this supposedly blameless administration have refused to reveal the true reason for leaving, ever since Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus resigned just months after President Noynoy Aquino assumed office in 2010.

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And Sevilla left the door just open enough to arouse interest in his case by hinting at the real reason for his resignation. Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was only one of those intrigued enough to demand that Sevilla explain himself further, especially because he has already resigned.

Malacañang has declared that it was accepting Sevilla’s resignation and that a former commissioner, logistics magnate Alberto “Bert” Lina, was taking Sevilla’s place. Lina, owner of the high-profile courier service Air21, was Customs chief for several months during the Arroyo administration, but resigned together with the so-called “Hyatt 10,” the group of top government officials who quit simultaneously in protest of alleged corruption committed by then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Lina’s right-hand man, Angelito Alvarez, was Aquino’s first Customs commissioner, but he resigned like Biazon in a welter of corruption charges, including the still-unsolved case of 2,000 cargo-laden container vans that disappeared from the bureau in 2011. Alvarez was replaced by Biazon, but the former congressman and Liberal Party stalwart also resigned after Aquino himself made special mention of corruption in the bureau in a State of the Nation Address.

All of which makes the choice of Lina to reassume the Customs post just 14 months before Aquino steps down highly unusual, to say the least. And the true story of Sevilla’s resignation from the bureau and the daang matuwid very compelling, indeed.

* * *

I’ve been informed that Sevilla resigned because of delays in the implementation of his proposal to institute a “pre-shipment inspection” scheme for imported goods that he wanted in place since June of last year. The proposed system is meant to make Customs more “business-friendly” and was, to be fair, suggested by Biazon in a Customs Administrative Order.

Sevilla’s own draft order on the matter proposed “trade facilitation for cargoes with Load Port Survey by providing an advance clearance system.” The proposed program exempts cargoes covered by a LPS from physical and x-ray examination, allows for advance cargo clearance and immediate release of the cargo from Customs custody upon arrival.

The proposal is intended to contribute to the faster movement of goods, deter the entry of smuggled items and contribute to decongestion of Manila’s ports. At the same time, the program is meant to bring down the cost of doing business and contribute to the growth of legitimate businesses.

Implementation of the scheme was initially put off, one source says, because of port congestion that the Aquino administration blamed on a truck ban imposed by the Manila city government led by Mayor Joseph Estrada. But this source said that Sevilla wasn’t given clearance to go ahead even after the government said it had eliminated congestion in Manila’s ports soon after the lifting of the truck ban.

Sevilla’s proposal to implement pre-shipment inspection of containerized cargo is a simple expansion of the current Bulk/Break Bulk Inspection Program in effect at Customs since 2010. The program for pre-shipment inspection of containerized cargos has, in fact, been awaiting implementation since July 2013.

Meanwhile, Malacanang will reportedly ask Congress for approval of a P3 trillion national budget for 2015. But Customs, the biggest-earning agency of government after the Bureau of Internal Revenue, is being prevented from taking the necessary steps to implement reform programs meant to increase its revenue collection efficiency.

And yes, the Customs bureau continues to miss its collection targets even under this supposedly clean government. More on this in later columns.


EDITORIAL: Explaining Sevilla Apr. 25, 2015 at 12:01am

It’s unfortunate that a government official like Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla, who was doing his job and doing it well, is forced to resign because he can no longer accommodate the demands of politicians. It’s even more unfortunate that this sort of problem exists under an administration that is supposedly following the straight path of good governance.

The resignation of Sevilla should remind Filipinos that their politicians, despite their patriotic blather, often do not work in the best interests of their own country. Why would politicians be pressuring the Customs commissioner to look favorably on certain businessmen at all, as if they did not know that what they are doing is sabotaging the economy by allowing the collection of less taxes and duties?

It stands to reason that by allowing Sevilla to resign, Malacañang has decided to take the side of the people who he said made his life difficult when he was still head of Customs. And it’s also logical that the politicians that Sevilla railed against see, in his replacement, someone who will be more willing to do what they want done.

Sevilla’s resignation doesn’t jibe with President Noynoy Aquino’s oft-declared commitment to the daang matuwid, that much is plain. In particular, Aquino’s decision to let go of Sevilla doesn’t go well with his condemnation of the corruption in the bureau, which he made in a State of the Nation Address.

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In fact, Sevilla was appointed by Aquino soon after he accused Customs officials of having “thick faces” that were immune to attempts to reform the corruption-riddled bureau. And under Sevilla’s watch, Customs collections actually improved, a clear indication that he was doing his job.

But alas, Sevilla must have quickly realized that the anti-corruption rhetoric of the Aquino administration does not apply to Customs, which is traditionally a source of funding for political campaigns by elected officials with ties to the government in power. Sevilla said he noticed that he had been receiving more and more calls and text messages from powerful politicians seeking favors for their importer-friends – and dropping the name of Aquino when they do the favor-seeking, no doubt – as the elections approach.

That Sevilla quit is an indication that Aquino overruled his own Customs commissioner and sided with the politicians. After all, if the President had sided with Sevilla, then there would be no reason for him to leave or to even complain about being harassed by powerful politicians.

When the desires of politicians take precedence over good governance, you know that Aquino has gotten off the tuwid na daan. It’s that simple.


The sad history of Makati’s mayorship By Rudy Romero | Apr. 21, 2015 at 12:01am

The allegations of corrupt official activity that have been made against the mayor of Makati City is not the first such allegations that have been made against that Makati official. In point of fact, the corruption allegations that have been leveled at Jejomar Binay Jr. is by no means the first time that the chief executive of the Philippines’ leading financial center has been indicted for corruption or placed under a cloud of suspicion for allegedly having stolen public funds.

Makati City, which might as well be renamed because its phenomenal rise has almost entirely due to the Ayala conglomerate’s development work, has had four mayors in the last half-century.

The past mayors were Maximo Estrella, Jose Luciano and Nemesio Yabut Jr.

Max Estrella, a portly man of less than fair complexion, was mayor of Makati during most of the 1960s.

Estrella ran Makati – then a municipality – like a private fiefdom. He dispensed goodies right and left and was the original KBL (the first letters of the Filipino words for wedding, baptism and funeral) man.

Like mayor Binay’s father, Vice-President Binay, Estrella tried to attend every K, B and L in the wealthy municipality. Given his immense popularity among Makati’s low-income population, Estrella handily won re-election in 1963 and 1967.

Estrella’s political opponents, particularly the Makati Citizens’ League for Good Government, sought ways to remove him from office, but without success.

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Without success, that is, until the government of Makati entered into a contract for the installation of mirrors at all major Makati street intersections.

Suspicions of overpricing were investigated and subsequently criminal charges were filed against Estrella and the members of the municipal council. Found guilty by the court, Estrella was removed from office and went to jail.

Vice-mayor Jose Luciano succeeded to the mayor’s chair.

With the end of the Estrella era, Makati’s citizens thought that a better, brighter day had begun to dawn on their municipality. They expected that there would now be less talk about – and a reduced incidence of – corruption within the municipal government.

Their expectations proved to be forlorn, for before very long rumors began to circulate about hanky-panky in the Luciano administration. The rumors, though strong, were never validated, and Luciano went on to finish his term.

In the succeeding election, Luciano was defeated by Nemesio Yabut Jr., who owned the successful customs brokerage firm Guacodo. Mesio Yabut was not a KBL type of local executive; on the contrary, he projected a tough-guy, no-nonsense kind of image.

This meshed with the authoritarian regime that President Ferdinand Marcos imposed on the nation less than a year after the start of Yabut’s term.

Yabut was in office for a long time because no local-level elections were held during the remainder of the Marcos era, which ended in February 1986.

Yabut ingratiated himself with Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, and he came to be regarded as the Marcoses’ man in Makati.

There was a lot of talk about corruption in the mayor’s office, but, because of the widespread impression that Nemesio Yabut was close to Malacanang, the prevailing general atmosphere of media repression and Yabut’s tough-hombre reputation, no investigation were ever conducted and no charges were ever filed.

When the Edsa Revolution came, all of the nation’s local officials were removed from office and replaced by officers in charge by President Corazon Aquino by virtue of the powers bestowed upon her by Revolutionary Constitution.

Yabut was replaced by Jejomar Binay, a human rights lawyer who had actively participated in the EDSA Revolution.

The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

The Binay family has been in power in Makati – now a city – ever since, with Jejomar Sr. being succeeded, first by his wife and later by Jejomar Jr. A Binay daughter represents one of Makati’s congressional districts.

As the above account shows, today’s corruption allegations against Jejomar Binay, pere et fils, are nothing new.

The reputation of the mayorship of this country’s leading financial center has been tainted by corruption – one conviction and an endless stream of allegations – during the last 50 years.

Will vice mayor Romulo Pena, if he manages to dislodge the Binays, change the manner and direction of the administration of Makati’s affairs?

Let me answer the question by saying, simply, that there is a lot of honey in this country’s second richest city hall.


EDITORIAL: Life work Apr. 19, 2015 at 12:01am

A Filipino scientist this week received top distinction from Europe’s premier geosciences bureau.

Dr. Alfredo Mahar Lagmay, who heads the government’s Project NOAH -- Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards -- was given the Plinius Medal by the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria for his “outstanding interdisciplinary natural-hazard research and natural-disaster engagement in the Philippines, particularly with respect to volcanic hazards, earthquakes, typhoons, landslides and floods.”

Lagmay holds a doctorate in geology and has devoted his career to the study of how science can help communities build resilience in the face of natural disasters.

He has published his work on various disasters hitting the Philippines from landslides, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and storm surges. The latest such study delved on how Daram, a small town in Samar, was able to survive deadly storm surges brought by typhoon Ruby last year.

Like any scientist, though, who prefers to work without the glare, Lagmay is quick to deflect the attention to the worthy projects he helped put together. For example, he said that the award was a testament that Project Noah is considered an example of best practice in disaster risk reduction and management.

In fact, during his trip to Vienna, he delivered a lecture on Project NOAH’s high-resolution hazards mapping feature.

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The science, however, is but a part of the overall scheme to empower Filipinos, especially those living in vulnerable areas or belong to vulnerable sectors. Lagmay himself has been quoted as saying “no amount of science will work in disaster risk reduction if people to not embrace it.”

DRR is a mindset that prompts us to find out where we are most vulnerable and do things in a consistent and sustained manner to mitigate risks that have been identified. And when disasters do hit, a good plan will enable a community to rise better, faster. There would be little floundering and running around -- no surprises.

Lagmay says the mindset will lead people to take seriously the advisories and other information made available to them.

DRR is scientific, yes, but it as also administrative. There are things that have to be set up and done, not by scientists but by executives -- national and local. These include planning, organizing, and activating emergency systems in one cue, and after the disaster, responding to immediate effects as well as rebuilding and rehabilitating to a state better than the one prior to the tragedy.

Lagmay has certainly done much and helped many with his life work. Let’s hope that those in other aspects of DRR, specifically officials who claim they are in public service to, precisely, serve, take their roles as seriously and do as much with their own life work.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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