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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM PHILSTAR

ANA MARIE PAMINTUAN:  VIP INMATES
[Anyone convicted of an offense related to betrayal of public trust must be permanently barred from holding public office, with no presidential clemency allowed to overturn the prohibition. But all the crooks in Congress will probably refuse to put this into law. There oughta be a law against VIP justice… but unfortunately, it’s the SC that will interpret that law.]


AUGUST 24 -ENRILE IN 2012, AS PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE (APPENDED TO COLUMN BY PHNO) PHOTO FROM BUSINESS INQUIRER FILE -It’s amazing how people who claim to be too sick to be detained without bail in a regular jail, necessitating “hospital arrest,” suddenly bounce back to health and eagerly return to work once they are set free. This we are seeing in the case of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who will soon resume his work as Senate minority leader. For the blowback, expect him to add to the administration’s woes in the congressional deliberations on the Bangsamoro law. As we are seeing, daang matuwid’s bigger worry is that the principle behind the unprecedented Supreme Court (SC) ruling favoring bail for Enrile will also be applied in the case of an even bigger fish – the nation’s top VIP jailbird, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. President Aquino, in his final year in office, has not stopped blaming his predecessor for all of the nation’s problems and his administration’s failures. It’s bordering on the obsessive-compulsive, but more than simply engaging in a blame game, P-Noy reportedly wants to see GMA convicted of plunder before he bows out of office. This could be set back by her release on bail. Even if the reason is mainly humanitarian, as in Enrile’s case, many will still perceive it to be due to weak evidence. After all, GMA’s co-accused in the case that earned her “hospital arrest” for plunder have all been allowed to post bail. * * * One difference between GMA and Enrile is that the nonagenarian senator can validly claim that he’s no flight risk and that he’s truly raring to return to the Senate session hall. GMA, on the other hand, has that memorable incident in which the SC under Renato Corona nearly managed to allow her to leave the country in November 2011. After depositing a cash bond of P2 million at the SC docket shortly after the ruling was issued and before the close of office hours, GMA was at the NAIA with her husband, with plane tickets for Hong Kong. Their departure was barred by the Bureau of Immigration, which is under the Department of Justice. That incident was reportedly the last straw for P-Noy, who began working with his allies for Corona’s impeachment as chief justice. At the time, P-Noy still had tremendous persuasive power over Congress, with his high ratings combined with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the pork barrel. READ MORE...

ALSO: Is Mar trying to lose the election?
[Why is it so difficult to acknowledge very obvious shortcomings? Indeed, following the explanation of the 8th commandment, Thou shall not steal, by CCF senior pastor Peter Tanchi last Sunday, our officials are guilty of violating this commandment with impunity daily.]


AUGUST 19 -By Boo Chanco 
Maybe it is battle fatigue but the real battle is yet to take place. There is no sane way I can explain why Mar Roxas would say the traffic problems and air traffic congestion are signs the country’s economy is booming. “This is a problem in a sense that arises from prosperity. Because there is money. Because there is economic activity,” he said at the annual national convention of sugar technologists in Cebu last week. Mar’s measure of prosperity is the number of new cars because it shows people have money to buy those cars. He recalled that when he was DTI Secretary, only 60,000 new cars were introduced into our road system. Now, 260,000 new vehicles were added last year and for this year, 300,000 new vehicles are expected. Of course, all those new cars will compete for space on streets and highways with all the existing cars. As for air traffic congestion, it’s a problem Roxas attributed to a boom in domestic tourism. “Equivalent to half our population flew on a flight within the Philippines,” he said. I guess this lame attempt to put a positive spin on traffic jams on land and on air is their official storyline. P-Noy used that same explanation. I first heard that from Secretary Mon Jimenez. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Honoring heroes


AUGUST 31 -It’s a fitting coincidence that this year’s celebration of National Heroes’ Day falls on the birth anniversary of a man in whose honor an award was created to recognize unsung heroes. Ramon Magsaysay, though not recognized as a national hero, is regarded as one of the nation’s best presidents. Respected for both his competence and integrity, Magsaysay rose from humble beginnings to become a national leader in every sense of the word.
His exemplary life, tragically cut short in a plane crash, inspired the creation of what has been dubbed as Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, honoring selfless service and transformative influence. This year’s batch of Ramon Magsaysay awardees will be honored today: two from India, and one each from Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines. Sanjiv Chaturvedi is the recipient of the award for emergent leadership. The forest service officer blew the whistle on cases of corruption in public office. Beyond exposing graft, he has worked to craft measures to promote good government in India. His compatriot Anshu Gupta left a high-paying job in public relations to start a non-government organization that addressed a basic lack among India’s poorest: decent clothing. The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation is honoring Gupta for his social innovation in addressing a need that has been largely ignored in his country. READ MORE...

ALSO by Ana Marie Pamintuan: You reap what you sow


AUGUST 31 -By Ana Marie Pamintuan 
Self-serving politicians turned the Iglesia ni Cristo into the force that it is today, and politicians’ responses to the ongoing developments will shape the future of the INC. For too long, politicians pandering to the group that is widely known to vote as a bloc have placed selfish interests above the public good in dealing with the INC. Appointments, promotions and government deals pushed by the INC and granted by administration after administration have doomed any effort to create a merit-based society. The INC has developed such clout that cops, soldiers, prosecutors and judges join the group to get an edge in promotions and assignments. Several of these individuals don’t leave their original Roman Catholic faith, pandering to both groups depending on what is convenient for career advancement. INC leaders can correctly point out that they don’t force public officials to grant the group’s wishes. Public officials are the ones who have turned the group into a formidable, untouchable force, making pilgrimages to INC leaders especially when elections approach. This is again evident today, as politicians with an eye to the 2016 elections ignore the millions who are suffering from the horrid traffic jams to win brownie points with the group. Several thousand protesters are blocking some of the busiest streets in Metro Manila? Mayors roll out the red carpet and tell INC members to go ahead, block all the streets they want, as long as they want. Never mind if people in Metro Manila were already in a “fatal mood” from the traffic gridlocks that seemed to get worse daily even before the INC decided to occupy crowded Padre Faura in Manila and then EDSA. In the land of people power, there is deep tolerance for freedom of expression and assembly and the free exercise of religious beliefs. But one person’s rights must be balanced with that of another and managed like traffic flow, which is why laws are passed. Every right carries with it certain responsibilities. This social contract must be honored if freedoms are to endure. Absolute freedom is anarchy. READ MORE...

ALSO: Banana Republic; This country is going bananas!


AUGUST 31 -By Sara Soliven de Guzman
This country is going bananas! What’s worse is that we have way too many minions just following powerful leaders blindly. Sanamagan! The members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo rallying in the streets remind me of minions. Many of them do not know why they are there just like some of Mayor Binay’s supporters in Makati a few months ago. Anyway, the INC issue also shows us the by-product of what our politicians have created. They have made INC council of elders big-headed, proud and arrogant. Aren’t they spiritual leaders? By asking for their help during election period the INC leadership seems to have developed a feeling of superiority over our race and worst above the law. After DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima started investigations on the alleged forced detention of expelled church members, INC followers rallied to protect their “king.” Why don’t they just submit to the law of the land? Doesn’t this show a character unbecoming of a religious group, cult or sect? And why is the government particularly the PNP allowing this group to rally in EDSA when they very well know that we have a big traffic problem right now. Why is the President keeping mum about this? * * * Pardon me for borrowing American writer, O. Henry’s coined term, “banana republic.” Yes, many people have used this in the past but I just find it fitting and timely to use again. Bananas are yellow and they look funny. Bananas remind me of this Administration and the people running it. They are a bunch of bananas so to speak. Imagine coming up with such large budgets to run the country and to this day we continue to suffer. Did they take care of spending our tax-money wisely? It turns out they allowed more corruption to take place. The proposed budget for 2016 is P3.002 trillion. This has already been submitted to the House of Representatives and the Senate. In 2015, the budget was P2.606 trillion. In 2009, GMA had a budget of P1.415 trillion. So where did all the money go? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m actually petrified with the allotment of P54.5 billion budget for ARMM. What is this money for? We haven’t even passed the BBL yet. What about the other regions that also need help in development? The president remains steadfast in his view that the BBL is the only solution to a lasting peace in Mindanao, although many think otherwise. The ARMM budget was crafted based on the belief that prosperity gravitates to areas where peace and the rule of law reign. Do you really think this money will achieve lasting peace? Wouldn’t it even aggravate the problem with the different tribal or sub-groups fighting over the leadership? READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

VIP inmates


ENRILE IN 2012: PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE (APPENDED TO COLUMN BY PHNO) PHOTO FROM BUSINESS INQUIRER FILE

MANILA, AUGUST 31, 2015 (PHILSTAR) SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 24, 2015 - 12:00am - It’s amazing how people who claim to be too sick to be detained without bail in a regular jail, necessitating “hospital arrest,” suddenly bounce back to health and eagerly return to work once they are set free.

This we are seeing in the case of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who will soon resume his work as Senate minority leader. For the blowback, expect him to add to the administration’s woes in the congressional deliberations on the Bangsamoro law.

As we are seeing, daang matuwid’s bigger worry is that the principle behind the unprecedented Supreme Court (SC) ruling favoring bail for Enrile will also be applied in the case of an even bigger fish – the nation’s top VIP jailbird, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

President Aquino, in his final year in office, has not stopped blaming his predecessor for all of the nation’s problems and his administration’s failures. It’s bordering on the obsessive-compulsive, but more than simply engaging in a blame game, P-Noy reportedly wants to see GMA convicted of plunder before he bows out of office.

This could be set back by her release on bail. Even if the reason is mainly humanitarian, as in Enrile’s case, many will still perceive it to be due to weak evidence. After all, GMA’s co-accused in the case that earned her “hospital arrest” for plunder have all been allowed to post bail.

* * *

One difference between GMA and Enrile is that the nonagenarian senator can validly claim that he’s no flight risk and that he’s truly raring to return to the Senate session hall.

GMA, on the other hand, has that memorable incident in which the SC under Renato Corona nearly managed to allow her to leave the country in November 2011. After depositing a cash bond of P2 million at the SC docket shortly after the ruling was issued and before the close of office hours, GMA was at the NAIA with her husband, with plane tickets for Hong Kong. Their departure was barred by the Bureau of Immigration, which is under the Department of Justice.

That incident was reportedly the last straw for P-Noy, who began working with his allies for Corona’s impeachment as chief justice. At the time, P-Noy still had tremendous persuasive power over Congress, with his high ratings combined with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the pork barrel.

READ MORE...

Six months later, Corona was ousted after being found guilty by the Senate impeachment court of lying about his assets.

The SC, however, remains packed with GMA appointees, and P-Noy has never been on good terms with the high tribunal. His own appointees have voted against him in several controversial issues, notably the DAP. His original Bangsamoro law, as crafted by his peace negotiating team, may never pass SC muster.

The administration reportedly fears that once freed on bail, GMA may also invoke humanitarian grounds to be able to go abroad for treatment of her debilitating illnesses – and never return.

There’s a United Nations Convention Against Corruption that binds signatory states to extradite persons wanted for graft-related offenses. During GMA’s presidency, the Philippines signed the UNCAC on Dec. 9, 2003 and ratified it on Nov. 8, 2006. Of the 176 parties to the convention, however, only 140 have ratified or accepted it so far, so there’s still sanctuary in the world for fugitives.

GMA’s camp insists she’s no flight risk and, if freed, she intends to just focus on her work as a lawmaker. They’ve been working for her house arrest even before Enrile was granted bail.

What’s common between the cases of Enrile and GMA is the criticism about two types of justice in this country: one for VIPs and the other for the hoi polloi.

Critics and the dissenters in the SC ruling on Enrile’s bail argue that there is no legal basis for it and he simply enjoyed political accommodation. But the law, as many quarters have often ruefully pointed out, is what the SC majority says it is.

From non-lawyers’ point of view, the SC ruling is just the latest in a long string of decisions, from the lower courts to the court of last resort, favoring moneyed or influential parties.

Arrest and incarceration (with the heat, dirt and vermin in an ordinary detention cell) are guaranteed to raise blood pressure from anxiety. But how many inmates get the privilege of “hospital arrest”?

If a suspected pickpocket who stole P100 complained of dizziness, nausea and chest pains after being tossed into a crowded, grimy cell, the jail custodian would probably slug him and tell him to stop aiming for an acting award.

Among recidivists and those arrested for graver offenses, there’s actually a third type of justice, reserved for the Pinoy hampaslupa: they just disappear from the face of the Earth, usually after “trying to escape.”

* * *

The biggest injustice is the glacial pace of litigation. In this at least the courts are relatively equal-opportunity tormentors. Joseph Estrada was held for six years, although much of it under “resthouse arrest” while waiting for the final resolution of his plunder case.

But six years is still top speed compared to the 10 to 20 years that other cases take to hurdle the judicial process.

Also, Erap is hardly a poster boy for blind justice. A pickpocket can languish in prison for years for stealing P545. A former president who is convicted of receiving P545 million in jueteng payola plus P189.7 million from an insider trading scheme gets full pardon and does not get to spend a single second behind bars. Erap has never apologized and continues to maintain his innocence. And the SC was either too lazy, gutless or both to rule on a petition disqualifying him from running again for president in 2010.

Anyone convicted of an offense related to betrayal of public trust must be permanently barred from holding public office, with no presidential clemency allowed to overturn the prohibition. But all the crooks in Congress will probably refuse to put this into law.

There oughta be a law against VIP justice… but unfortunately, it’s the SC that will interpret that law.


Is Mar trying to lose the election? DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 19, 2015 - 12:00am 124 554 googleplus0 5


By Boo Chanco

Maybe it is battle fatigue but the real battle is yet to take place. There is no sane way I can explain why Mar Roxas would say the traffic problems and air traffic congestion are signs the country’s economy is booming.

“This is a problem in a sense that arises from prosperity. Because there is money. Because there is economic activity,” he said at the annual national convention of sugar technologists in Cebu last week.

Mar’s measure of prosperity is the number of new cars because it shows people have money to buy those cars. He recalled that when he was DTI Secretary, only 60,000 new cars were introduced into our road system.

Now, 260,000 new vehicles were added last year and for this year, 300,000 new vehicles are expected. Of course, all those new cars will compete for space on streets and highways with all the existing cars.

As for air traffic congestion, it’s a problem Roxas attributed to a boom in domestic tourism. “Equivalent to half our population flew on a flight within the Philippines,” he said.

I guess this lame attempt to put a positive spin on traffic jams on land and on air is their official storyline. P-Noy used that same explanation. I first heard that from Secretary Mon Jimenez.

READ MORE...

There are however, a number of things wrong with Mar using that explanation at a time when he is trying to gain credibility he badly needs as a presidential candidate.

Firstly, Mar is effectively throwing vinegar to an open wound. People are suffering from the ill effects of infrastructure lack and are in no mood to be patronized. They are unlikely to buy a very obvious spin that’s far removed from reality.

Secondly, all the congestion we are seeing shows how economic growth in this country had been non-inclusive. That is nothing to be proud of… meaningless to most people.

It shows most of the money from the so called economic growth is flowing to a few on top of our social pyramid. They buy another car or two with different plate ending numbers to go around the car coding scheme meant to reduce congestion. This means, the poor bear the brunt of suffering the punishment in their daily commute to work or school.

Thirdly, the congestion problems dramatically show the failure of government to anticipate the need for basic infrastructure to address the needs of growth. Anticipating public needs is a principal function of government.

I will grant that past administrations have a lot of blame to bear but unfortunately, the P-Noy administration did almost nothing. They failed to add more mass transport capacity… indeed as in the case of the MRT, drastically reduced the number of functioning trains. They also failed to implement schemes that would alleviate the negative impact of our snail paced traffic flow.

My friend Robin Tong e-mailed me that “travel time for me this morning (ex-ofc.) was two hrs. Based on my car’s onboard computer, my average speed for the 1st hour was 3kph; for the 2nd hour, 2kph (or an average of 2.5kph for two hours).” Funeral processions go faster than that.

The prosperity Mar is claiming is negated by the large amount of lost man hours and wasted fuel, lost business opportunities due to delays and missed deadlines.

The congestion problems are stunting economic growth. As I reported last week, the inability of BPO workers to get to work on time is starting to crimp an otherwise still rising industry.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) estimates that Metro Manila’s traffic jams are costing the Philippine economy P2.4 billion pesos a day in potential income. At P45 to the dollar, that’s over P2.5 billion already.

JICA warns the cost of congestion could balloon to P6 billion a day by 2030. Imagine if all that money we are losing were used to build infrastructure. We could have been an economic powerhouse in the region.

Then, there are the increased carbon emissions or greenhouse gases as vehicles idle. The threat to our health is even now being felt by many of us who are suffering more cases of sinusitis, asthma and other respiratory diseases. Such health problems impact negatively on our productivity too.

Building needed infrastructure takes time. And the P-Noy administration failed to improve on the dismal record of past administrations. Worse, there was no political will to do even palliative measures that would alleviate the people’s sufferings. The inability to deal with the buses on EDSA is prime example.

Traffic expert Rene Santiago told CNN Philippines there are now 3,500 buses on EDSA. Rene thinks that number can be reduced by a thousand and 2,500 will be adequate. But, Rene calculates, having 1,000 buses there would be more efficient. And if we can put the buses in a dedicated lane and function like a train or a BRT, 500 will be enough.

But P-Noy’s DOTC and its attached agencies, LTFRB and LTO are too politicized to address the problem. I long for the days when then MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando just took the extra buses (mostly so called colorum) out of the system. Today, the current MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino only whines he has no power to do anything without the cooperation of LTFRB.

Indeed, they could not even make the bus operators start paying the drivers a salary instead of demanding a boundary payment from them. The current system is illegal but both the LTFRB and the Labor department can’t seem to enforce the law requiring a salary system.

That move is crucial if we are to stop the inhuman boundary system that forces the bus drivers to act like road maniacs. Just last week, we saw how such a driver, who supposedly drugged himself to keep driving long hours, could cause such a painful tragedy.

It isn’t as if our officials do not know what ought to be done. For example, the horrible conditions in the NAIA terminals are totally inexcusable. That’s because we do not have competent airport managers and P-Noy tolerates the mess.

If there is one thing NAIA should learn from Changi, DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said “it should be run like a hotel. There should be an attention to detail, and the importance of customer service and efficiency should be a main priority.”

I couldn’t believe Abaya said all those things in an interview with Rappler. Yun naman pala… alam niya pero palpak pa rin ang ating mga airports!

The size of an airport is not a limitation to achieve smooth and efficient operations, says a Filipino Changi Airport official. Yet, DOTC and NAIA officials justify their inefficiency by claiming NAIA is now running at an over capacity.

“If service levels are improved and people get a lot more comfortable when they go through an airport, they tend to stay a bit longer, shop more, thus enhance the airport’s revenue-generating capacity, and generally say nice things about the airport when they get home,” Changi Airport vice president Jose Pantangco said during his visit to the Philippines in 2011 according to Rappler.

It is unfortunate that Mar tried to put an ill-advised positive spin on a nagging and irritating problem that we all experience daily. It is either Mar is more stupid than we suspect for claiming congestion is a sign of progress or Mar thinks the people are stupid enough to believe that spin. This lack of respect is just how a haciendero would think of anyone outside his social class.

Mar could have been humble enough to acknowledge the obvious shortcoming of government. He could then move on to say that he has learned the lessons of the last five years and now knows what not to do and what to do if he is elected.

Why is it so difficult to acknowledge very obvious shortcomings? Indeed, following the explanation of the 8th commandment, Thou shall not steal, by CCF senior pastor Peter Tanchi last Sunday, our officials are guilty of violating this commandment with impunity daily.

How so? As Pastor Peter pointed out, stealing includes stealing time. Heaven knows how much time has been stolen from us… time we could have spent in our business… being with our families creating memories with our children and otherwise living fruitful lives instead of being stuck 4 hours or more in daily traffic on the ground and in the air.

No one can deny that everything deteriorated in transportation and communication under P-Noy’s watch… road, rail, sea and air transport, pier congestion and yes, broadband speed as well.

Acknowledge and Repent, guys and do not try to wiggle out of something so obviously your shortcomings. Otherwise, retribution will come in terms of a lost election... unless it is Mar’s hidden objective to lose.


EDITORIAL - Honoring heroes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 31, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

It’s a fitting coincidence that this year’s celebration of National Heroes’ Day falls on the birth anniversary of a man in whose honor an award was created to recognize unsung heroes. Ramon Magsaysay, though not recognized as a national hero, is regarded as one of the nation’s best presidents. Respected for both his competence and integrity, Magsaysay rose from humble beginnings to become a national leader in every sense of the word.

His exemplary life, tragically cut short in a plane crash, inspired the creation of what has been dubbed as Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, honoring selfless service and transformative influence. This year’s batch of Ramon Magsaysay awardees will be honored today: two from India, and one each from Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines.

Sanjiv Chaturvedi is the recipient of the award for emergent leadership. The forest service officer blew the whistle on cases of corruption in public office. Beyond exposing graft, he has worked to craft measures to promote good government in India.

His compatriot Anshu Gupta left a high-paying job in public relations to start a non-government organization that addressed a basic lack among India’s poorest: decent clothing. The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation is honoring Gupta for his social innovation in addressing a need that has been largely ignored in his country.

READ MORE...

The awardee from Laos, Kommaly Chanthavong lived through poverty and hardships brought by more than half a century of war and authoritarian rule. Undaunted, she worked to revive the nearly lost Lao art of silk-making, employing impoverished village women for the work. The enterprise has since expanded to include other native handicraft, providing employment to thousands of Laotians and helping preserve their culture.

Myanmar’s Kyaw Thu became famous in his country as a movie star, but he is the recipient of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award for public service for his social work. His Free Funeral Service Society has provided free funerals to more than 120,000 families in Myanmar since it opened in Yangon in 2001. He also runs a free healthcare clinic.

The awardee from the Philippines, Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa, is being recognized for a unique contribution: preserving a pre-Islamic dance tradition in Mindanao called pangalay. The temple dance of the Badjao, Jama Mapun and Tausug tribes of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi has become an endangered artistic heritage.

Each of the Ramon Magsaysay awardees deserves commendation and applause. Each is a hero in his or her own right.


You reap what you sow SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 31, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


By Ana Marie Pamintuan

Self-serving politicians turned the Iglesia ni Cristo into the force that it is today, and politicians’ responses to the ongoing developments will shape the future of the INC.

For too long, politicians pandering to the group that is widely known to vote as a bloc have placed selfish interests above the public good in dealing with the INC. Appointments, promotions and government deals pushed by the INC and granted by administration after administration have doomed any effort to create a merit-based society.

The INC has developed such clout that cops, soldiers, prosecutors and judges join the group to get an edge in promotions and assignments. Several of these individuals don’t leave their original Roman Catholic faith, pandering to both groups depending on what is convenient for career advancement.

INC leaders can correctly point out that they don’t force public officials to grant the group’s wishes. Public officials are the ones who have turned the group into a formidable, untouchable force, making pilgrimages to INC leaders especially when elections approach.

This is again evident today, as politicians with an eye to the 2016 elections ignore the millions who are suffering from the horrid traffic jams to win brownie points with the group. Several thousand protesters are blocking some of the busiest streets in Metro Manila? Mayors roll out the red carpet and tell INC members to go ahead, block all the streets they want, as long as they want. Never mind if people in Metro Manila were already in a “fatal mood” from the traffic gridlocks that seemed to get worse daily even before the INC decided to occupy crowded Padre Faura in Manila and then EDSA.

In the land of people power, there is deep tolerance for freedom of expression and assembly and the free exercise of religious beliefs. But one person’s rights must be balanced with that of another and managed like traffic flow, which is why laws are passed. Every right carries with it certain responsibilities. This social contract must be honored if freedoms are to endure. Absolute freedom is anarchy.

READ MORE...

The INC members at least moved away from the EDSA Shrine at the corner of Ortigas and the historic avenue (some returned last night, disrupting an ongoing mass at the shrine), and transferred to the equally traffic-choked EDSA-Shaw Boulevard junction. There was some confusion last week when INC members began gathering near the Catholic shrine dedicated to a saint and a popular revolt that the Iglesia did not support. As anti-INC social media rants made clear, everyone knows the group is not Catholic and does not recognize saints.

* * *

When presidents pay regular visits to the head of the INC rather than the other way around, you can understand why the group will have its own unique interpretation of freedom of religion and separation of church and state.

As the placards are showing, the group thinks the constitutional principle of separation of church and state means it is outside the jurisdiction of the state. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front would love to have this interpretation applied to the Bangsamoro entity if it is ever created.

The principle is in fact the best argument for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s investigation of a complaint for serious illegal detention filed by several members expelled recently by the INC.

It is a serious offense so the INC concern is understandable. Businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles is serving a life term not for plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam but for serious illegal detention of her cousin Benhur Luy for three months.

The INC, however, also has a point in accusing the Aquino administration of selective justice. For this, daang matuwid has only itself to blame. There are people who agree with the INC when it asks if the Department of Justice doesn’t have many other matters to attend to.

Still, INC leaders will have to devise other means of registering their protest, and show that they respect the law. Any mass action needs mass support, and the INC won’t get it by making millions stew in the polluted streets of Metro Manila for five to six hours, which was how long people got stuck along EDSA last Friday night, with the gridlocks continuing over the weekend. Irate motorists and commuters might have ranted against the incompetent government and its traffic managers, but they also ranted against the Iglesia ni Cristo. The INC needs a media-savvy public relations crisis manager.

Because the INC mass action has become a horrendous public nuisance, De Lima is actually enjoying a burst of popularity even among some of her detractors.

If she stands her ground, De Lima might even make it to the Senate in 2016, where she can sponsor legislation lifting tax exemptions and other perks for religious groups, and tightening laws against influence peddling.

* * *

P-Noy is not known to be enamored with the INC. The group was loyal to the end to dictator Ferdinand Marcos when Corazon Aquino was leading the opposition.

While the INC is believed to have gone for P-Noy in the 2010 elections, the hiss from the Palace is that he felt the support was belated and split (some went to closest challenger Joseph Estrada), coming when surveys showed an Aquino victory to be certain, and that his lead indicated he would have won anyway even without the INC vote.

In the early days of his presidency, P-Noy reportedly tossed out many INC recommendations for appointments to the thousands of vacancies in his administration.

The tension continues, as the Department of Transportation and Communications scrapped decades-old supply contracts granted over and over to the same company that is reportedly backed by the INC. But the Iglesia appears to have also won some battles under daang matuwid, as in the Bureau of Customs where, if John Sevilla is correct, an INC-backed appointment compelled him to quit as commissioner.

A president limited to one term should not be worried about antagonizing one group in the interest of the majority. A president is also enforcer-in-chief and should lead in upholding the rule of law.

But in his final year, P-Noy must also worry about his BFF and anointed successor, whose poor ratings can get a massive boost from INC support. Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas has supervision over the Philippine National Police and, nominally, over the mayors of Metro Manila, and this is a chance for him – as Sen. Grace Poe has openly asked him – to show some leadership. But you can see Roxas walking on eggshells on this one.

P-Noy, who can’t seek re-election, surely understands that he’s President of the nation and not just one group. In dealing with this latest crisis to hit his administration, precedents are being set. The nation will reap what is sown.


Banana Republic AS A MATTER OF FACT By Sara Soliven de Guzman (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 31, 2015 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus1 0


By Sara Soliven de Guzman

This country is going bananas! What’s worse is that we have way too many minions just following powerful leaders blindly. Sanamagan!

The members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo rallying in the streets remind me of minions. Many of them do not know why they are there just like some of Mayor Binay’s supporters in Makati a few months ago. Anyway, the INC issue also shows us the by-product of what our politicians have created. They have made INC council of elders big-headed, proud and arrogant. Aren’t they spiritual leaders? By asking for their help during election period the INC leadership seems to have developed a feeling of superiority over our race and worst above the law.

After DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima started investigations on the alleged forced detention of expelled church members, INC followers rallied to protect their “king.” Why don’t they just submit to the law of the land? Doesn’t this show a character unbecoming of a religious group, cult or sect? And why is the government particularly the PNP allowing this group to rally in EDSA when they very well know that we have a big traffic problem right now. Why is the President keeping mum about this?

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Pardon me for borrowing American writer, O. Henry’s coined term, “banana republic.” Yes, many people have used this in the past but I just find it fitting and timely to use again. Bananas are yellow and they look funny. Bananas remind me of this Administration and the people running it. They are a bunch of bananas so to speak. Imagine coming up with such large budgets to run the country and to this day we continue to suffer. Did they take care of spending our tax-money wisely? It turns out they allowed more corruption to take place.

The proposed budget for 2016 is P3.002 trillion. This has already been submitted to the House of Representatives and the Senate. In 2015, the budget was P2.606 trillion. In 2009, GMA had a budget of P1.415 trillion. So where did all the money go? Your guess is as good as mine.

I’m actually petrified with the allotment of P54.5 billion budget for ARMM. What is this money for? We haven’t even passed the BBL yet. What about the other regions that also need help in development?

The president remains steadfast in his view that the BBL is the only solution to a lasting peace in Mindanao, although many think otherwise. The ARMM budget was crafted based on the belief that prosperity gravitates to areas where peace and the rule of law reign. Do you really think this money will achieve lasting peace? Wouldn’t it even aggravate the problem with the different tribal or sub-groups fighting over the leadership?

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Many people including our soldiers continue to die every day in this part of the archipelago. Fear still clouds the daily lives of ordinary people. I heard of stories showing the power that the gun-wielding MILF group have over our own men in uniform. Why is the government turning a blind eye to this reality? What is in it for the government? Why is the President so fixated?

The way P-Noy is pushing the BBL, giving a P54.5 billion budget for the ARMM with an additional P25.1 billion for government agencies to create socio-economic programs and projects is questionable. How will the government raise so much money from tax collection when not even half of the country’s citizens are paying tax? Susmariosep!

P-Noy has a few months left in office. Granting that this amount will be approved, I doubt that anything can be completed before his term ends. I’m pretty sure this money will be a source of more corruption in the region especially since the presidential election is just around the corner.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, who is quite close to the president acknowledged the huge budgetary increase the region will receive and in one breath promised that in gratitude, he and other local government officials vow support for the president’s preferred successor, outgoing DILG Sec. Mar Roxas. By the way, Hataman is a very strong force of the President in the south. The President listens to him. Don’t underestimate his power. Read more about this man.

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On Senator Enrile’s Case: We all know that Enrile was granted bail on humanitarian grounds by the Supreme Court. The fact is that “granting bail on humanitarian grounds to a person accused of an offence or offenses where bail is not available is not in the Constitution, but the high tribunal has the discretion to do it.” This means that there is no such provision in the fundamental law of the land, thus, giving more power to the SC to make decisions in cases of this nature.

I understand that other than humanitarian reasons, bail was granted to Enrile because the evidences on the plunder case filed against him are not strong enough. Many if not all are still allegations and of course he is not a flight risk.

What I find disturbing though is the fact that Enrile immediately went back to work the following day. Isn’t this a deliberate show of disrespect for the senate? Why was he allowed to do so knowing that he still has a plunder case against him? Remember that Enrile is just out on bail. He is not a free man yet. But then again that is how the legal system works in this country. It’s very confusing.

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Are we a banana republic? In some ways yes! We are a small nation with political instability, whose economy is largely dependent on exporting limited-resource products. We are poor, corruption is prevalent and the country is badly managed. Beyond this gloom, however, is a ray of hope from our people.

Today is National Heroes Day. We can create a hero in ourselves by doing good and loving our country. More importantly, we must protect this beautiful land from those who want to exploit, abuse and destroy it.

In our daily commute we find ourselves pointing fingers to others but never looking at ourselves. Again, it is time to take hid of The 12 Little Things We Can Do For Our Country which Alex Lacson wrote several years ago:

1) Follow traffic rules. Follow the law;

2)Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask for an official receipt;

3) Don’t buy smuggled goods. Buy local. Buy Filipino or 50-50;

4) When you talk to others, especially foreigners, speak positively about us and our country;

5) Respect your traffic officer, policeman and soldier;

6) Do not litter. Dispose your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve;

7) Support your church;

8) During elections, do your solemn duty;

9) Pay your employees well;

10) Pay your taxes.

11) Adopt a scholar or a poor child;

12) Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow the law and love our country.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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