EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by full commentary of the news below)

FROM PHILSTAR

MARICHU VILLANUEVA: CONTINUITY
[“This is only the beginning.” He repeated it seven times.
Citing the country is “only in the first chapter of the great story of the Filipino people,” the outgoing President vowed to see through the continuity of the Aquino administration whoever succeeds him in office at Malacañang. Just how he would do it, P-Noy did not say in his ultimate SONA.]


JULY 29 --P-NOY's SONA 2015 It took two hours and 12 minutes for President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III to say his goodbye and thank you. Yet at the start of his valedictory state of the nation address (SONA) last Monday, President Aquino told his audience he was not feeling well. For such efforts, President Aquino did well notwithstanding hecklers outside and inside the halls of the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City. Interspersed by more than ten video presentations, interrupted by 146 rounds of applause and at least five coughing fits, the President’s final SONA ended way past six o clock in the evening. The Makabayan bloc of party-list representatives made last-ditch efforts to steal the thunder from the President’s SONA. But their antics backfired. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. kept cool despite being visibly piqued at how their guest was treated at their very own House. Senate president Franklin Drilon reportedly booed the antics of the Makabayan bloc who included his arch critic, Kabataan party-list Terry Ridon. Even before the SONA ended, the usual militant protest rallies were dissipated by rains and water cannons when some troublemakers started violence earlier in the day. What was more disturbing was the mauling done by militant protesters at Commonwealth Avenue after they noticed two plainclothes policemen taking photos of the rally. There is simply no justification for such violent attacks on persons of authority merely doing their jobs, though surreptitiously. Our policemen should brush up on how to avoid detection while doing intelligence work. It is to the credit of newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general Ricardo Marquez that nothing more serious marred the President’s SONA the other day. Incidentally, the PNP chief is our featured guest in today’s Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Luneta Hotel. Also invited is Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza for his “contra-SONA.” The Senate and the House minority leaders do the “contra-SONA” as a tradition in Congress to counter the President’s SONA. For the past five years, we have not seen the kind of fiscalizing on President Aquino’s SONA. Practically letting the cat out of the bag, the testimonial in President Aquino’s SONA for Department of the Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas II was a giveaway. READ MORE...

ALSO by Jarius Bondoc: SONAngaling: P-Noy lied about MRT-3
[Falsity in one, falsity in all? Experts are sure to see lies in P-Noy’s other SONA items. Like, in praising Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala, he glossed over many fiascos. That Cabinet man whom he calls “problem solver” failed in his promise to make the country self-sufficient in rice by 2013. Instead, rice retail prices surged in June of 2013 and 2014, ironically right after the dry-season harvests. Onion, garlic, ginger, and vegetable prices soared too, as Alcala’s men colluded with smugglers and cartelists. P-Noy covered up for that LP officer too.]


JULY 29 ---The 540,000 daily riders and his own family know. Barefaced lies were all that P-Noy said about the MRT-3 in his last State of the Nation. He was covering up for his corrupt Liberal Party mates who are milking the commuter railway dry. “Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw,” the Tagalogs say, “The liar is brother to the thief.” Fibbed P-Noy: “We have partners from the private sector in (MRT-3)... This partner is supposed to be in charge of maintenance. In 2008 there should have been a general overhaul, but on DOTC inspection, only token cosmetic changes were undertaken. This guaranteed the breakdown of trains... They allowed the situation to deteriorate to the point where, at very short notice, they just passed the job of improving MRT-3 onto us. “When we moved to undertake improvements, suddenly they wanted to take back the maintenance. However, their proposal was more expensive. This would add expenses and aggravation for our people... “Sec. Joseph Abaya: you, I, and the population of Metro Manila are not pleased with what is happening. We are taking steps to buy out the MRTC. Once this is fixed, the state will be the sole decision maker. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Curbing dynasties


He’s had bills pending for decades passed by Congress, so President Aquino is reportedly confident that he can get lawmakers to approve one of the priority measures he mentioned in his final State of the Nation Address: the Anti-Dynasty Law. Among the biggest beneficiaries of the absence of the law are members of Congress, so the President’s push for the measure is being met with skepticism. Lawmakers have shown impressive resistance to any measure that will disrupt the way they do business, such as proposals to strengthen regulation of campaign finance. Posing the same level of threat to the political status quo is the passage of the enabling law that is needed to implement the spirit of the constitutional provision against political dynasties. The administration that espouses the straight path or tuwid na daan, however, must at least try to shepherd the anti-dynasty proposal through a resistant Congress. Dynasty building has made a mockery of term limits set by the Constitution. Spouses, siblings and children simply take turns occupying the same position. Those who have created dynasties argue that they cannot be sustained if voters are unhappy with their performance. But incumbent officials have a significant edge over challengers, and those belonging to a dynasty benefit from the so-called equity of the incumbent. For a number of clans, politics has become a family business from which their fortunes are built and nourished. READ MORE...

ALSO by Ana Marie Pamintuan: Not yet time for goodbye
[Today, with P-Noy using his final SONA to fire a preliminary salvo for the 2016 elections, he should make an honest assessment of his weaknesses for an indication of what voters might look for in picking his successor. Of course everyone wants his anti-corruption reforms to continue. Anyone aspiring for the presidency must convince the electorate that this will be high in the candidate’s agenda. P-Noy’s weakness is similar to his late mother’s: when it comes to friends, he is trusting to a fault.]


P-NOY's LAST SONA  Except for the excruciating length, it was a predictable final State of the Nation Address (SONA) for President Aquino: he had already given a glimpse of it in his speech last month assessing his first five years in office. It would have been rude for guests to stand up to even take a bathroom break in the middle of a presidential speech. You have to wonder about the state of mind of anyone who makes guests sit through two hours and 12 minutes of self-praising monologue. But then you can’t really expect public officials to pan their own performance. P-Noy’s glowing assessment of his five years will just have to be balanced with those of his critics. I have written that he has earned bragging rights to several solid achievements, and the main theme of his sixth and final SONA was to ask the nation to sustain the path that made those achievements possible. He became emotional as he thanked his supporters, but all swan songs are emotional. It’s always touching to watch the nation’s highest official preparing to hand over power and actually leaving office. Such was the case with Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos and even Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (Joseph Estrada didn’t relinquish power.) It’s still 11 months too early for P-Noy to say goodbye and thank all his supporters (some names were conspicuously missing). But I guess he wanted to give everyone his or her 15 minutes of TV fame while the networks are still interested in recording his every utterance. Since P-Noy believes all is well in his kingdom and some of his officials are merely being unjustly pilloried, we shouldn’t expect drastic changes in the way daang matuwid is doing business. This is fine for the good performers, among them Kim Henares, Mon Jimenez, Armin Luistro, Albert del Rosario, Rogelio Singson, Amando Tetangco Jr. (originally a GMA appointee) and PEZA’s Lilia de Lima (an FVR appointee). READ MORE...

ALSO by Tony Katigbak: Thoughts on the state of the nation
[In many ways, the Philippines has indeed improved over the last five years. I can’t say it was very successful, but I also can’t say it was not successful. I didn’t expect the president to be able to turn it all around in such a short amount of time and as far as expectations go, it’s important to remain realistic.]


#SimulaPalangIto Last Monday, the eyes of the country were trained on President Noynoy Aquino as he took to the podium for his sixth and last State of the Nation address. It’s not only a sentimental one for the president as he makes his exit from the highest office of the land, but a poignant one for the country as the past five years come to a culmination and we were able to take a look back at what has been accomplished and what work still needs to be done. When it comes to P-Noy’s presidency, I was optimistic for the most part. I felt disappointed in some areas and I appreciated the hard work he did in others. It’s unfair to assume that any president, after all, will be perfect, however I know that we all had high hopes when former President Cory Aquino’s son became our leader. After all, we were just coming from the mess that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had left the country in and we were all desperate for a change. I remember back when we were electing a new president, a lot of voters’ sentiment was “I’ll take anyone as long as he is not corrupt.” We had reached a point that we were tired of corruption allegations and leadership that seemed more focused on themselves rather than on the country. We were appalled by the ZTE scandal and the Maguindanao massacre (among others) and we wanted change. We needed it. That was the state of the country when P-Noy took over in 2010. We were poised for change and we all desperately hungered for it. I know I was one of those that were feeling optimistic about “daang matuwid” and President Aquino’s stand on anti-corruption and cleaning up the government. It was something that had been sorely lacking in previous administrations that were beleaguered with corruption allegations and even impeachment woes. We wanted our leaders to be held accountable for their actions. So now that five years have gone by, where do we find ourselves? The President’s State of the Nation Address for 2015 took a look back at the Administration’s achievements over the past five years and the president shared the growth that he was most proud of — rise in public-private partnerships, increase in revenue of government controlled corporations, improved global competitiveness, a happier labor force, higher tax collections, new infrastructure projects, education reform, and many more. He painted a picture of the growth and progress the country has seen during his term and reminded the president and administration that would come after him that it was very important to keep the projects going and build on what the Aquino administration has started, in essence to keep on the “straight path” and continue the country’s growth. READ MORE...

ALSO by Bobit Avila: President Aquino still in denial on Mamasapano
[I just cannot believe that P-Noy’s two-hour SONA, complete with video presentation of his past and present glories did not mention an incident that permeated the hearts and minds of all Filipinos for at least four solid months, hugging the headlines and nationwide TV news. Yes, I’m referring to the infamous Mamasapano massacre. P-Noy is still in denial when it comes to this gory incident that will haunt him even after his Presidency is over.]


Unblogged--MARCH 17, 2015 Aquino Responsible for Mamasapano Massacre — SENATE The Senate has spoken: President Benigno Aquino III is responsible for the Mamasapano incident that led to the deaths of the Fallen 44. Sen. Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, presented the findings of the committee report to the media this afternoon. The Senate probe on the Mamasapano incident began on Feb. 9. Aquino was found to have assented to the participation of then-suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director-General Alan Purisima in overseeing Oplan Exodus on January 25. FROM MANILASPEAK It was the longest State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Pres. Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III and perhaps the most dramatic and he was applauded a hundred times… after all he was among his peers and people who benefited from the last five years of their lives while the rest of the Filipino people continue to suffer from the student government of this President who never learned from his five years in Malacañang. After listening to the President on nationwide television… I came to the conclusion that the legacy of P-Noy is a case of missed opportunities because he could never stop looking backward. He started his speech, taking potshots at his predecessor where he used the immense power of the President and kept former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in hospital arrest, despite the fact that his prosecutors could not pin her on the alleged corruption charges that the Aquino regime slapped against her. Under the Aquino regime, he embarked on the impeachment and eventual conviction of sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona for a mere offense that he could still have corrected in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SALNs), but his allies like Budget Secretary Florencio Abad who too had errors in his SALNs was allowed to correct them and I’m sure that after the Corona conviction… many politicians looked into their SALNs and corrected them. Now was that fair? Now you may ask…was it fair to convict CJ Corona and let the equally guilty ones with erroneous SALNs get away with their errors? I’m sorry Pres. Aquino, but this is not the straight path that we would like the next President who will take your place to continue. Again we point to the statue of Lady Justice who carries a scale and is blindfolded. Alas, the Lady Justice depicted by the promoters of I has a “loaded” scale and a blindfold that covers only one eye! When it comes to Pres. Aquino… my thoughts immediately bring me to comment and sigh, “If only!” Pres. Aquino had that uncanny ability to ram home his programs regardless of what the people around him think. READ MORE...

ALSO by Alex Magno: Discourteous
[Instead, he asks Congress to pass his bizarre pet project, the BBL, which will deeply divide the nation. He took an about-face on the anti-dynasty bill, asking Congress to quickly pass what is really the LP’s Plan B to stop Jejomar Binay. He did not ask the nation to rise above itself and conquer new heights. The perversely partisan subtext in his speech asks voters to support his designated successor. First he violated all the rules about what makes for a good speech. Then he proceeds to violate good taste, praising his incompetent cabal to high heavens while designating himself the font of the nation’s salvation.]


SONA 2015: SLEEP OF THE NATION ADDRESS...PHILSTAR FILE The most polite description made of President Aquino’s final State of the Nation Address was that the speech was “long.” As soon as the speech ended, many in the audience rushed to the comfort rooms for relief. In being “long,” it was also discourteous. Only tyrants like Cuba’s Fidel Castro and North Korea’s Kim Il Sung delivered marathon speeches. Such speeches took no account of the convenience of the audience. They were exercises in political narcissism. Those making long speeches derive joy from holding their audiences captive, enduring their meandering verbiage. The norm for such addresses is 45 minutes, with 15 minutes allowed for applause. By 5 o’clock, the ceremony was done. Someone forgot to remind Aquino about the protocol regarding this. He probably would not listen anyway. There is nothing impressive about long speeches. They can only indicate indiscipline in preparation. The challenge in preparing important addresses is how to condense so much substance in a reasonable economy of words. As a rule, every important address must revolve around a clear theme, a single message. The shorter the speech, the better the impact. The model here is always Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. In its brevity, it communicated a timeless message — one that continues to guide the ethics of modern politics. READ MORE...


Marichu Villanueva: CONTINUITY

MANILA, JULY 30, 2015 (PHILSTAR) Posted on Wednesday Jul 29th at 12:00am
COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva - It took two hours and 12 minutes for President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III to say his goodbye and thank you.

Yet at the start of his valedictory state of the nation address (SONA) last Monday, President Aquino told his audience he was not feeling well.

For such efforts, President Aquino did well notwithstanding hecklers outside and inside the halls of the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City.

Interspersed by more than ten video presentations, interrupted by 146 rounds of applause and at least five coughing fits, the President’s final SONA ended way past six o clock in the evening. The Makabayan bloc of party-list representatives made last-ditch efforts to steal the thunder from the President’s SONA. But their antics backfired.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. kept cool despite being visibly piqued at how their guest was treated at their very own House. Senate president Franklin Drilon reportedly booed the antics of the Makabayan bloc who included his arch critic, Kabataan party-list Terry Ridon.



Even before the SONA ended, the usual militant protest rallies were dissipated by rains and water cannons when some troublemakers started violence earlier in the day. What was more disturbing was the mauling done by militant protesters at Commonwealth Avenue after they noticed two plainclothes policemen taking photos of the rally.

There is simply no justification for such violent attacks on persons of authority merely doing their jobs, though surreptitiously. Our policemen should brush up on how to avoid detection while doing intelligence work.

It is to the credit of newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general Ricardo Marquez that nothing more serious marred the President’s SONA the other day. Incidentally, the PNP chief is our featured guest in today’s Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Luneta Hotel. Also invited is Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza for his “contra-SONA.”

The Senate and the House minority leaders do the “contra-SONA” as a tradition in Congress to counter the President’s SONA. For the past five years, we have not seen the kind of fiscalizing on President Aquino’s SONA.

Practically letting the cat out of the bag, the testimonial in President Aquino’s SONA for Department of the Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas II was a giveaway.

READ MORE...

It, however, became anti-climax of the expected anointment of the presumptive presidential candidate of the Liberal Party (LP) holding their convention any day this week.

“You cannot put a good man down,” P-Noy said of Roxas. The President specifically referred to the attacks on the leadership style of Roxas dished out by the latter’s rivals and detractors.

But P-Noy was less than candid. It is the survey ratings that have been putting down LP’s presumptive standard-bearer. Pre-polls done by both the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia showed Roxas has been trailing behind other presidential wannabes.

Sen. Grace Poe came out as top choice in the second quarter pre-polls survey of voters’ most preferred presidential candidate. She dislodged Vice President Jejomar Binay. Roxas improved though his rating in the latest surveys with 21% and ranked third in SWS. Roxas got 10% in Pulse Asia, tied at fourth place with former President Joseph Estrada.

President Aquino started reaching out to Poe for obvious reasons. She ran and won as Aquino-backed senatorial candidate during the May 2013 elections. After several meetings at the Palace, Poe, an independent senator, disclosed the President appealed to her that the Aquino administration could not afford to split ranks at this stage.

From all indications, the administration wants a strong candidate like Poe to run with Roxas. But Poe comes with a baggage named Sen. Francis Escudero, a fellow independent. Also his ally, President Aquino invited Escudero to a meeting with Poe together, and later all three of them with Roxas.

As to why he conducted these meetings, P-Noy gave us the reason in his SONA that served as the perfect venue for him to impress this upon his close allies and supporters.

“From this perspective, the next election will be a referendum for the Straight and Righteous Path. You will decide whether the transformation we are experiencing today will be permanent, or simply a brief and lucky deviation from a long history of failure,” the President pointed out.

President Aquino personally renewed this appeal to his allies and LP partymates.

He told them: “There is a sentiment that I want to share with you; it is best captured in the question: Will we lose all that we have built — all that we have worked hard for — in one election?”

The live telecast of the SONA on television turned split screen while the President echoed these sentiments and zoomed in on the three presidential wannabes also listening to him among the audience: Binay, Roxas, and Poe.

Noticeably, Escudero was nowhere in the TV network’s screen.

However, after those meetings, Escudero made a surprise move a day after the President’s SONA.

Escudero yesterday resigned as chairman of two powerful Senate panels: finance committee and the joint congressional oversight committee on public expenditures. His resignation was seen as a notice that a tandem of Poe and Escudero is a go.

Vice President Binay resigned last month from the Aquino Cabinet to pursue full steam ahead his presidential bid. Binay ran as vice presidential candidate of the opposition in May 2010 elections and won against Roxas. Binay is back again as opposition candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance as its standard bearer in 2016.

The 55-year old bachelor P-Noy presumably plans to stay active in politics even after the presidency. Better yet, he could play the role of elder statesman like what former President Fidel Ramos has been doing since he stepped down from office in 1998.

Even as his administration is in its last eleven months, President Aquino repeatedly declared toward the end of his valedictory SONA:

“This is only the beginning.” He repeated it seven times.

Citing the country is “only in the first chapter of the great story of the Filipino people,” the outgoing President vowed to see through the continuity of the Aquino administration whoever succeeds him in office at Malacañang.

Just how he would do it, P-Noy did not say in his ultimate SONA.


THE COLUMNIST: MARICHU VILLANUEVA


SONAngaling: P-Noy lied about MRT-3 GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 29, 2015 - 12:00am 15 817 googleplus1 13

The 540,000 daily riders and his own family know.

Barefaced lies were all that P-Noy said about the MRT-3 in his last State of the Nation. He was covering up for his corrupt Liberal Party mates who are milking the commuter railway dry.

“Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw,” the Tagalogs say, “The liar is brother to the thief.”

Fibbed P-Noy: “We have partners from the private sector in (MRT-3)... This partner is supposed to be in charge of maintenance. In 2008 there should have been a general overhaul, but on DOTC inspection, only token cosmetic changes were undertaken. This guaranteed the breakdown of trains... They allowed the situation to deteriorate to the point where, at very short notice, they just passed the job of improving MRT-3 onto us.

“When we moved to undertake improvements, suddenly they wanted to take back the maintenance. However, their proposal was more expensive. This would add expenses and aggravation for our people...

“Sec. Joseph Abaya: you, I, and the population of Metro Manila are not pleased with what is happening. We are taking steps to buy out the MRTC. Once this is fixed, the state will be the sole decision maker.

READ MORE...

“We are already implementing immediate maintenance. Next month we can expect the delivery of the prototype for new coaches. The process to obtain new rails is underway, together with upgrading of the signaling and automatic fare collecting systems. The power supply will be upgraded before end-2016. Twelve escalators will be fixed before yearend, while procurement for 34 more escalators and 32 elevators is ongoing.”

* * *

Now the facts, from official records of DOTC, SEC, and Ombudsman:

• Presidential appointees to the DBP and LBP control ten of 15 board seats in MRTC, MRT-3’s private owner-builder. That’s been so since 2009, when the state banks bought MRTC’s economic rights — a deal the Senate probed but the Sandiganbayan cleared in 2014. MRTC used to hire the maintenance firm, with DOTC assent. P-Noy’s men in DBP-LBP took over MRTC in July 2010. There was no maintenance problem by Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. then, they stated in several letters to him in 2012. On file is the yearlong overhaul in 2008, no bogus works.

• Sumitomo’s ten-year upkeep expired July 2010. DOTC extended it four times, till Oct. 2012. Suddenly then-MRT-3 chief Al S. Vitangcol, quoting then-DOTC Sec. and LP president Mar Roxas, said they wanted Sumitomo out. DBP-LBP reps in MRTC protested, but Vitangcol gave them no choice, for DOTC wouldn’t pay the Japanese anymore.

• With Sumitomo leaving in one week, Vitangcol et al declared an emergency, to justify a negotiated substitute. From behind closed doors he and other Roxas men – Usecs. Ildefonso Patdu, Rene Limcaoco and Jose Lotilla, and LRTA head Honorito Chaneco — hired PH Trams. The firm was only two months old, undercapitalized at P625,000, with no experience in railways. Yet they paid it $1.15 million a month for ten months, totaling P535.5 million – 857 times its meager capital. Signing the Oct. 20, 2012 contract were Vitangcol, Lotilla, and new DOTC Sec. Abaya, soon to become LP acting president.

• PH Trams’ chairman is Marlo dela Cruz. Other incorporator-directors are Wilson de Vera, Federico Remo, Manolo Maralit, and Arturo Soriano. All were in conflict of interest. Dela Cruz, whom Roxas admits is a friend, was the top LP fundraiser in Pangasinan; de Vera had run but lost in 2010 for LP mayor of Calasiao, Pangasinan. Remo was a high exec of an agency under the finance department, to which the DBP-LBP report. Maralit is related by affinity to MRTC’s DBP-appointed chair. Soriano is Vitangcol’s uncle-in-law.

• Dela Cruz, de Vera, Maralit, and Vitangcol were linked to the July 2012 attempted extortion of $30 million from Inekon Corp., the Czech supplier of MRT-3 coaches in 2000. The Czech ambassador swore in April 2013 that Vitangcol and de Vera demanded the amount if Inekon was to resupply 54 new coaches. Allegedly Vitangcol also wanted Inekon to buy into a company of his uncle, for it to bag the maintenance. P-Noy’s family knows this. For, when the story broke, PR operators tried to divert the flak to them, so they had to get to the bottom of the issue; P-Noy can ask them.

• On record, Sumitomo turned over to PH Trams all 73 original Inekon coaches: 72 operational and one busted. Contract partner CB&T would later accuse PH Trams of not stockpiling on necessary spare parts, but only collecting its share of the monthly $1.15 million. MRT-3’s five components – trains, tracks, signaling system, power supply, and stations – began to deteriorate. Major breakdowns occurred, from three per year under Sumitomo to three per week under PH Trams. Serious accidents began.

• When the extortion made PH Trams hot potato, DOTC dropped it in August 2013 for newly revived Global Epcom. In conflict of interest the new principal is a high official of Philippine National Railways. Marlo dela Cruz is still in, as “authorized representative.” More accidents and breakdowns occurred, to the injury and inconvenience of passengers.

• Based on the construction and supply specs, there should be a total overhaul of MRT-3 in 2014-2015. No such thing is happening. This is despite DOTC getting P5.2-billion budget for it for the two years, and hiking fares by 70 percent. Of the 72 running coaches turned over by Sumitomo, only 42 are usable for 14 trains, at three coaches per train. Since six to eight coaches are under repair everyday, only 11 three-coach trains are on track. The trains have to slow down along many stretches of rails that have crumbled from disrepair.

• Last June DOTC broke up the MRT-3 maintenance into seven contractors. Instead of being blacklisted for poor service, Global Epcom, with Marlo dela Cruz as rep, bagged the easiest job of all, cleaning up the stations, but for the highest contract, P23.35 million a month.

• In his first SONA in 2010 P-Noy denounced the past admin’s sleazy plan to buy out MRTC from the minority original owners. But he is now to waste P54 billion for the very same buyout. For what, more commissions for his LP?

* * *

Falsity in one, falsity in all?

Experts are sure to see lies in P-Noy’s other SONA items. Like, in praising Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala, he glossed over many fiascos. That Cabinet man whom he calls “problem solver” failed in his promise to make the country self-sufficient in rice by 2013. Instead, rice retail prices surged in June of 2013 and 2014, ironically right after the dry-season harvests. Onion, garlic, ginger, and vegetable prices soared too, as Alcala’s men colluded with smugglers and cartelists. P-Noy covered up for that LP officer too.

“There are some who say I wear blinders, when it comes to those who have long been my companions on the Straight Path,” P-Noy said in the last SONA. “Am I the one with blinders? Or is it those who see only the bad things?”

P-Noy is an apt case study for Philip Zimbardo’s “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding Why Good People Turn Bad.” From his earlier controversial Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo already saw persons turning into any of three types when put in a bad setting: the one who becomes bad, the one who abets bad by passivity, and the one who fights the bad. P-Noy clearly is one of the first two. One need not be superhuman or a mighty President to be the third. He must have conscience and courage.


COLUMNIST JARIUS BONDOC


EDITORIAL - Curbing dynasties (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 29, 2015 - 12:00am 3 229 googleplus0 0

He’s had bills pending for decades passed by Congress, so President Aquino is reportedly confident that he can get lawmakers to approve one of the priority measures he mentioned in his final State of the Nation Address: the Anti-Dynasty Law.

Among the biggest beneficiaries of the absence of the law are members of Congress, so the President’s push for the measure is being met with skepticism.

Lawmakers have shown impressive resistance to any measure that will disrupt the way they do business, such as proposals to strengthen regulation of campaign finance.

Posing the same level of threat to the political status quo is the passage of the enabling law that is needed to implement the spirit of the constitutional provision against political dynasties.

The administration that espouses the straight path or tuwid na daan, however, must at least try to shepherd the anti-dynasty proposal through a resistant Congress.

Dynasty building has made a mockery of term limits set by the Constitution. Spouses, siblings and children simply take turns occupying the same position.

Those who have created dynasties argue that they cannot be sustained if voters are unhappy with their performance. But incumbent officials have a significant edge over challengers, and those belonging to a dynasty benefit from the so-called equity of the incumbent.

For a number of clans, politics has become a family business from which their fortunes are built and nourished.

READ MORE...

In recent years, dynasty building has reached atrociously shameless proportions, with family members wanting to occupy every possible elective position in their turf.


COURTESY OF CNN PHILIPPINES

There are close relatives in the 24-member Senate. When they run out of positions, they branch out to other voting areas or, if they have the clout, resort to gerrymandering to create more positions for relatives.

This can undermine the system of checks and balances, such as when the mayor is a close relative of the vice mayor. The vice mayor presides over the city or municipal council, whose tasks include checking abuses of the mayor.

Such incestuous linkages must be discouraged. Spouses may want to fill each other’s shoes and many children want to follow in the footsteps of their parents.

But it is possible to rationalize this desire and set limits in political succession by relatives. The greed for public office is unhealthy for a democracy and must be curbed.


Not yet time for goodbye SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 29, 2015 - 12:00am 1 6 googleplus0 2

Except for the excruciating length, it was a predictable final State of the Nation Address (SONA) for President Aquino: he had already given a glimpse of it in his speech last month assessing his first five years in office.

It would have been rude for guests to stand up to even take a bathroom break in the middle of a presidential speech. You have to wonder about the state of mind of anyone who makes guests sit through two hours and 12 minutes of self-praising monologue.

But then you can’t really expect public officials to pan their own performance. P-Noy’s glowing assessment of his five years will just have to be balanced with those of his critics. I have written that he has earned bragging rights to several solid achievements, and the main theme of his sixth and final SONA was to ask the nation to sustain the path that made those achievements possible.

He became emotional as he thanked his supporters, but all swan songs are emotional. It’s always touching to watch the nation’s highest official preparing to hand over power and actually leaving office. Such was the case with Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos and even Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (Joseph Estrada didn’t relinquish power.)

It’s still 11 months too early for P-Noy to say goodbye and thank all his supporters (some names were conspicuously missing). But I guess he wanted to give everyone his or her 15 minutes of TV fame while the networks are still interested in recording his every utterance.

Since P-Noy believes all is well in his kingdom and some of his officials are merely being unjustly pilloried, we shouldn’t expect drastic changes in the way daang matuwid is doing business.

This is fine for the good performers, among them Kim Henares, Mon Jimenez, Armin Luistro, Albert del Rosario, Rogelio Singson, Amando Tetangco Jr. (originally a GMA appointee) and PEZA’s Lilia de Lima (an FVR appointee).

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Several officials get fair grades and changing them will simply be disruptive to public services with just 11 months left. But Cabinet members who have shaken public confidence in the straight path, or whose incompetence is costing daang matuwid a lot of public goodwill, are home free. P-Noy made it clear in his SONA that he’s not in a firing mood. The public will be rid of these non-performers only if they resign to run in 2016.

For P-Noy, it’s always been iba ang may pinagsamahan. He has shown again and again – the latest being the case of Alan Purisima – that loyalty and friendship trump public interest and his avowed straight path, until he is left with no choice but to let go of his bosom buddies.

* * *

In a two-hour speech, there was no mention of Purisima and the scandals under P-Noy’s watch involving his own trusted aides and political allies.

He was not done with GMA-bashing. People do appreciate the changes since the days of the NBN-ZTE, Jose Pidal and Hello, Garci. This was expressed in the 2010 elections, when association with GMA became the kiss of death.

But P-Noy has had five years to correct the ills of the previous administration. At a certain point the blame game starts wearing thin. Especially when he also takes credit for programs started by his predecessor, such as the conditional cash transfer.

Filipinos tend to vote for (or support, in the two cases of people power) leaders perceived to be the antithesis of the incumbent. Cory Aquino the sincere and honest housewife replaced Ferdinand Marcos. Soldier-cop Fidel Ramos was seen to have the firm hand and unifying team-building ethic to end ruinous divisiveness, restore the lights and strengthen the economy.

After six years of Team Philippines, Pinoys were bored and voted for excitement. But Erap gave the nation too much excitement and proved his worst critics right. He goes down in history as the first president to be kicked out after less than three years in office, and then to be arrested, detained and convicted of plunder.

Erap was readily given the boot because his constitutional successor was perceived to be his opposite: an academic overachiever with an impressive work ethic, an unexciting personality and a prayerful life untainted by scandal. Years later, Erap would have the pleasure of reminding the nation to be careful what you wish for.

* * *

Today, with P-Noy using his final SONA to fire a preliminary salvo for the 2016 elections, he should make an honest assessment of his weaknesses for an indication of what voters might look for in picking his successor.

Of course everyone wants his anti-corruption reforms to continue. Anyone aspiring for the presidency must convince the electorate that this will be high in the candidate’s agenda.

P-Noy’s weakness is similar to his late mother’s: when it comes to friends, he is trusting to a fault.

A number of the officials whom he lavished with thanks in his SONA for being with him through good times and bad are widely perceived to have enriched themselves in the past five years while hiding under his skirt, undermining daang matuwid. They might stick with him in sickness or in health, but for richer or poorer is another story.

P-Noy is seen to be lacking in vision and management skills. Under his watch, Filipinos fight with each other rather than compete as a team with the world.

He could have used his enormous popularity when he assumed office to resist pressure from the .001 percent so that he could level the playing field to make the nation more investment-friendly, create jobs and promote inclusive growth. This did not happen, as Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio will attest. The passage just last week of the Anti-Trust Law is encouraging, but its test will be its proper enforcement.

Finally, P-Noy lacks empathy. He showed it in dealing with the deaths of the 44 Special Action Force commandos, in his initial response to Super Typhoon Yolanda (remember “you’re still alive, aren’t you?”), and now in his response to the mess in the Metro Rail Transit.

P-Noy was summarizing his five years in office so it was inevitable that he would compare the state of the nation when he took over to where it is now. But Pinoys tend to remember presidents only for their acts in their final years in office. We saw this in all the presidents since Marcos.

If P-Noy wants Filipinos to vote for continuity, he must dazzle us in his final year.

It’s not yet time to say goodbye.


COLUMNIST ANA MARIE PAMINTUAN


Thoughts on the state of the nation INTROSPECTIVE By Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 29, 2015 - 12:00am 1 13 googleplus0 0

Last Monday, the eyes of the country were trained on President Noynoy Aquino as he took to the podium for his sixth and last State of the Nation address.

It’s not only a sentimental one for the president as he makes his exit from the highest office of the land, but a poignant one for the country as the past five years come to a culmination and we were able to take a look back at what has been accomplished and what work still needs to be done.

When it comes to P-Noy’s presidency, I was optimistic for the most part. I felt disappointed in some areas and I appreciated the hard work he did in others. It’s unfair to assume that any president, after all, will be perfect, however I know that we all had high hopes when former President Cory Aquino’s son became our leader. After all, we were just coming from the mess that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had left the country in and we were all desperate for a change.

I remember back when we were electing a new president, a lot of voters’ sentiment was “I’ll take anyone as long as he is not corrupt.”

We had reached a point that we were tired of corruption allegations and leadership that seemed more focused on themselves rather than on the country. We were appalled by the ZTE scandal and the Maguindanao massacre (among others) and we wanted change. We needed it.

That was the state of the country when P-Noy took over in 2010.

We were poised for change and we all desperately hungered for it. I know I was one of those that were feeling optimistic about “daang matuwid” and President Aquino’s stand on anti-corruption and cleaning up the government. It was something that had been sorely lacking in previous administrations that were beleaguered with corruption allegations and even impeachment woes. We wanted our leaders to be held accountable for their actions.

So now that five years have gone by, where do we find ourselves?

The President’s State of the Nation Address for 2015 took a look back at the Administration’s achievements over the past five years and the president shared the growth that he was most proud of — rise in public-private partnerships, increase in revenue of government controlled corporations, improved global competitiveness, a happier labor force, higher tax collections, new infrastructure projects, education reform, and many more.

He painted a picture of the growth and progress the country has seen during his term and reminded the president and administration that would come after him that it was very important to keep the projects going and build on what the Aquino administration has started, in essence to keep on the “straight path” and continue the country’s growth.

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The SONA 2015 received mixed reviews from the officials in attendance and I find myself agreeing with them in several aspects.

While there has been undeniable growth in some areas, some still remain staggeringly the same.

Plus I find it difficult to truly gauge success just by the rise in numbers when it comes to the country’s income or foreign investment.

After all, while the Philippines is experiencing economic growth, this growth has not trickled down to the masses and that is where the change is most important. How can we claim success and growth when so many in the country still can’t afford basic necessities?

This has always been a problem we have had to face. There is such a big gap between the wealthy and poor with the middle class being barely existent. Growth should be felt by everyone to truly be considered a success.

Another aspect I found lacking in the SONA was to address the problems with public transportation and the MRT issues. The president mentioned in passing that these problems were being addressed and new trains and upgrades were in progress. However, these mentions were not expounded.

I feel that fixing the MRT, road infrastructure, and traffic are a very important part in improving the country and helping everyone be more productive. So many of our countrymen waste hours and hours of their day in transit just trying to get to their destination. Helping fix the roads and the MRT and LRT systems will go a long way in improving many lives.

And speaking of improving lives, the president mentioned that PhilHealth now covers even more people, which is definitely a good thing. However, despite more coverage, healthcare as well as treatment and medicine access still has a long way to go.

More coverage, especially the coverage for senior citizens, is a good start but now it’s time to look at the quality of coverage and the ease with which it can be utilized. It’s pointless to be covered if coverage is disease limited or there aren’t easy guidelines on reimbursement. Healthcare reform is important and something the incoming administration really needs to address.

I don’t deny that the President has made some important achievements in many aspects of the country and government. I feel he has truly pursued his anti-corruption stand and has done what he can to prosecute those he felt were guilty of corruption, like – as he mentioned – the former senators who remain in prison. But there is so much more that needs to be done to fully eradicate corruption in the government. One can even look at it as the mythical Hydra beast. If you cut off one head, five more can easily grow back.

To help against corruption, I feel that the Freedom of Information Bill can be instrumental in helping with transparency. If information was fully available to the public then government officials and those in powerful positions would be forced to be more careful in their appropriations, in their budgets, and in their dealings. This was not addressed in this SONA though, so only time will tell if this will come to pass.

In many ways, the Philippines has indeed improved over the last five years. I can’t say it was very successful, but I also can’t say it was not successful. I didn’t expect the president to be able to turn it all around in such a short amount of time and as far as expectations go, it’s important to remain realistic. My reaction to the SONA is pragmatic at best. I recognize and give credit to the improvements that have been made, but I also understand that it is only the beginning. There is still much to be done.


COLUMNIST TONY KATIGBAK


President Aquino still in denial on Mamasapano SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 30, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Unblogged--MARCH 17, 2015 Aquino Responsible for Mamasapano Massacre — SENATE The Senate has spoken: President Benigno Aquino III is responsible for the Mamasapano incident that led to the deaths of the Fallen 44. Sen. Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, presented the findings of the committee report to the media this afternoon. The Senate probe on the Mamasapano incident began on Feb. 9. Aquino was found to have assented to the participation of then-suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director-General Alan Purisima in overseeing Oplan Exodus on January 25. FROM MANILASPEAK

It was the longest State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Pres. Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III and perhaps the most dramatic and he was applauded a hundred times… after all he was among his peers and people who benefited from the last five years of their lives while the rest of the Filipino people continue to suffer from the student government of this President who never learned from his five years in Malacañang.

After listening to the President on nationwide television… I came to the conclusion that the legacy of P-Noy is a case of missed opportunities because he could never stop looking backward. He started his speech, taking potshots at his predecessor where he used the immense power of the President and kept former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in hospital arrest, despite the fact that his prosecutors could not pin her on the alleged corruption charges that the Aquino regime slapped against her.

Under the Aquino regime, he embarked on the impeachment and eventual conviction of sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona for a mere offense that he could still have corrected in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SALNs), but his allies like Budget Secretary Florencio Abad who too had errors in his SALNs was allowed to correct them and I’m sure that after the Corona conviction… many politicians looked into their SALNs and corrected them. Now was that fair?

Now you may ask…was it fair to convict CJ Corona and let the equally guilty ones with erroneous SALNs get away with their errors? I’m sorry Pres. Aquino, but this is not the straight path that we would like the next President who will take your place to continue. Again we point to the statue of Lady Justice who carries a scale and is blindfolded. Alas, the Lady Justice depicted by the promoters of I has a “loaded” scale and a blindfold that covers only one eye!

When it comes to Pres. Aquino… my thoughts immediately bring me to comment and sigh, “If only!” Pres. Aquino had that uncanny ability to ram home his programs regardless of what the people around him think.

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This attitude reminds me of what the late Steve Jobs said before he died, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.”

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” This would have been the perfect description for PNoy. But unfortunately, he loves the status quo! This is why we do not see the political reforms that this nation badly needs.

I just cannot believe that P-Noy’s two-hour SONA, complete with video presentation of his past and present glories did not mention an incident that permeated the hearts and minds of all Filipinos for at least four solid months, hugging the headlines and nationwide TV news. Yes, I’m referring to the infamous Mamasapano massacre. P-Noy is still in denial when it comes to this gory incident that will haunt him even after his Presidency is over.

Finally in his valedictory address…P-Noy totally ignored a political promise that he made before the elections… that if elected, he would prioritize a Freedom of Information Bill (FOI). Honestly speaking, we completely forgot about the FOI Bill…but right after the President’s SONA, no less than Sen. Grace Poe lamented that P-Noy failed to prioritize the FOI Bill… after all it was his campaign promise. On this basis alone, no matter how flowery and dramatic was the President’s SONA this failed election promise is the legacy of his Presidency.

While the President still has less than a year to go in office, P-Noy can still salvage what’s left of his legacy by agreeing to the proposal, enunciated by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno who suggested that Congress should call for constitutional changes and elect the delegates of the constitutional convention (con-con) together with the May 2016 Presidential elections. This way, whoever will be the President after Pres. PNoy exits from the Office of the President, he cannot be accused of using the con-con to perpetrate himself in power.

I suggest that the members of the con-con should not include politicians whose terms are ending in the 2016 elections. This way, we would be able to craft a constitution where we can already put political reforms such as the Anti-Dynasty Law in the new constitution, then shift to a Federal/Parliamentary elections where finally, there will be no more need for a national elections as all elections would now be local.


COLUMNIST BOBIT AVILA


Discourteous FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 30, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


SONA 2015: SLEEP OF THE NATION ADDRESS...PHILSTAR FILE

The most polite description made of President Aquino’s final State of the Nation Address was that the speech was “long.” As soon as the speech ended, many in the audience rushed to the comfort rooms for relief.

In being “long,” it was also discourteous. Only tyrants like Cuba’s Fidel Castro and North Korea’s Kim Il Sung delivered marathon speeches.

Such speeches took no account of the convenience of the audience. They were exercises in political narcissism. Those making long speeches derive joy from holding their audiences captive, enduring their meandering verbiage.

The norm for such addresses is 45 minutes, with 15 minutes allowed for applause. By 5 o’clock, the ceremony was done. Someone forgot to remind Aquino about the protocol regarding this. He probably would not listen anyway.

There is nothing impressive about long speeches. They can only indicate indiscipline in preparation. The challenge in preparing important addresses is how to condense so much substance in a reasonable economy of words.

As a rule, every important address must revolve around a clear theme, a single message. The shorter the speech, the better the impact. The model here is always Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. In its brevity, it communicated a timeless message — one that continues to guide the ethics of modern politics.

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A good speech is pretty much like a good essay. It starts with a strong lead. It is tightly structured to support its conclusions.

A good speech can never be drawn from aimless banter. It must be worked and reworked, preferably with a test audience to judge impact.

A good speech must have integrity. It must internally cohere. The facts ought to be rigorously checked. Like a good dress shirt, the composition must be creaseless and, if possible, seamless.

Presidential speeches, especially the major national addresses, should be able to rally the nation, heal divisions, raise public morale. When possible, they must also be edifying so that every citizen feels benefitted by having spent time listening to their leader.

The rhetoric must be compelling but not verbose. The text must be concise but clear. Not a single word is excessive.

Presidential speeches are never about the presidents. They are always about the nation. The best such speeches allow the leader to soar above the rest, convey a superior vantage point.

State of the Nation Addresses are, ultimately, budget speeches. The reason the President goes to Congress (with its power over the purse) is to ask for a budget. He explains how the previous budget was spent.

He is there to make a report and ask for money. He is not there to overpower the legislature, impose his petty concerns on them or insult them with falsehood. The State of the Nation Address must have grandeur but also humility, respecting the Congress’ power over the purse.

Imagine the president of a corporation appearing before his board of directors to report on the company’s performance. He is not there to talk about himself, which does not interest the board. If he is boastful, the board will be offended. If he is petty, the board fires him. If his report is inaccurate, it is the duty of the board to call him out on the inaccuracies.

It is a wonder, then, that the legislators applauded last Monday’s SONA. It insulted them. It insulted all citizens.

Never mind that this address, like the five previous ones, was badly composed, disjointed and riddled with inaccuracies. No one ever accused Noynoy Aquino of eloquence.

The SONA did not accomplish what it should have. It did not properly report government’s performance the past year. It did not justify why the administration is asking for a humungous budget for next year.

This last SONA was self-indulgent.

While the President consumed much time thanking his underlings – including his hairdresser, his tailor and his housekeeper – he did not touch on the things foremost in the minds of our citizens. It was not a speech sensitive to the real audience out there.

He made no mention of the heroes martyred in Mamasapano even as this was an event that wounded the nation deeply. The families of the troopers continue to cry out for justice — and for the undelivered benefits government promised them.

He made no mention of the painfully slow recovery effort at the Yolanda-affected areas. For that matter, he did not mention why, two years after Aquino and Roxas played generals with disastrous results, people still live in tents.

He did not lay out a plan to relieve the horrendous traffic situation that makes, for most of us, life in the metropolis seem nasty, brutish and short. He unveiled no plan to rapidly improve our decrepit mass transit systems that take so much out of our economic dynamism and quality of life.

He made no mention of tax reform. Our wage-earners are the most taxed in the region, a fact that brings down real purchasing power for the struggling middle classes.

Instead, he asks Congress to pass his bizarre pet project, the BBL, which will deeply divide the nation. He took an about-face on the anti-dynasty bill, asking Congress to quickly pass what is really the LP’s Plan B to stop Jejomar Binay.

He did not ask the nation to rise above itself and conquer new heights. The perversely partisan subtext in his speech asks voters to support his designated successor.

First he violated all the rules about what makes for a good speech. Then he proceeds to violate good taste, praising his incompetent cabal to high heavens while designating himself the font of the nation’s salvation.


COLUMNIST ALEX MAGNO


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