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

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD TODAY

BY FR. RANHILIO AQUINO: THE GENTLE POWER OF INCLUSION


SEPTEMBER 28 -he Supreme Pontiff hardly ever pontificated, and that is why he came across and was warmly received, his message paid heed to respectfully if not devoutly. He was giving the United States and the world sage advice, much of it coming from his pastoral experience, all of it firmly anchored in the integrity of his person and the humility with which he witnesses to what he holds is true. In stark contrast to self-righteous national leaders, dear Pope Francis has never held out his way as the “right way,” and much less did he condemn those who do not follow in his steps as back-sliders and moral retardates. Both before the US Congress —and in the presence of some Supreme Court justices, the very same Court that effectively approved of abortion by holding it to be within the ambit of a woman’s right to privacy—and before the assembled leaders of the powers of the world at the UN General Assembly, he reiterated traditional Catholic teaching on life: from the moment of fertilization to natural death. There was no doctrinal departure in respect to marriage: the indissoluble union of one man and one woman, open to new life. But the overarching rubric was “inclusion”, “inclusiveness.” And this has been his resolute pastoral disposition: reaching out to those who have been consigned to the peripheries. Quite clearly, these are the regions of the impoverished and the dispossessed. It is the netherworld of the refugees who flee their war-torn lands only to be met with threatening fences of barbed wire and snarling patrol dogs. But it is also where we will find those whom our standards of decency and respectability, our collective hypocrisy, have left to a shadowy existence because of failed marriages, re-marriages, sexual orientation and non-traditional unions. CNN told us that the Madison Square Garden Mass had for, the first reading, openly gay lector. Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Vatican liturgists must have a hint that this was going to be so. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Refusing to open up
[The only way Mr. Aquino can show good faith and claim to champion the good of all Filipinos is to allow the investigation of the violence inflicted on an indigenous group who cannot defend themselves. That it has slammed the door on any international probe leads us to think there is something to hide, something Mr. Aquino does not want us to know.]


SEPTEMBER 29 -On the surface, it is confounding why this government, which claims to champion transparency and accountability, would deny the request of United Nations representatives to look into killings and other human rights abuses committed against tribal communities—lumad—in Mindanao.
Two lumad leaders and a teacher were killed recently, and in a fashion indicative of hatred and intolerance. A human rights group has decried the killings, claiming they were carried out by paramilitary groups created by the military to help it in its anti-insurgency drive. The lumad are suspected of sympathizing with the New People’s Army. As a result of the killings, thousands of lumad people have fled their homes in Surigao del Sur for fear of their lives. They are cramped in a sports complex; children are not going to school. In the meantime, leaders in imperial Metro Manila are preoccupied with something more immediate to their interests: the elections. Meetings were initially set as if to humor the human rights advocates and the families of the victims. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was supposed to meet with them last week, but cancelled at the last minute because of a supposed meeting with the President. READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Resounding silence
[Silence is as powerful as noise in pointing to wrongdoing. Let’s slam that boisterous party in Laguna, yes. But let’s not give some people the satisfaction of our silence on the issues they must be held accountable for.]


OCTOBER 4 -100M Smuggled Thai sugars
We know the President has bigger fires to put out these days. That dance number at a congressman’s birthday celebration has given Filipinos more reason to doubt the credibility of the daang-matuwid mantra of the Liberal Party. We can imagine the public relations nightmare the President’s allies must be facing now, especially since said event took place in official oath taking ceremonies for new members of the party and attended by no less than their standard bearer for the 2016 elections and his friends. But if that was some noisy party, here is one issue that has been conveniently dying down —being killed or dying a natural death, we have no way of knowing. In late August, the former chief of the Land Transportation Office was reported to have visited the office of the Bureau of Customs and negotiated the release of 64 shipping containers of smuggled Thai sugar worth more than P100 million. A Customs employee, Jerry Ponce, has issued an affidavit narrating how Virginia Torres had called him and sought his help to release the shipments which had been misdeclared. He did meet with her, a fellow member of the powerful religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo, and brought her to the office of the Intelligence Group of the bureau. Ponce issued his affidavit for fear of being accused of negotiating, on Torres’ behalf, to release the shipment. Torres, for her part, seemed to have no fear. In fact, she was reported to have dropped names of her friends in high places just to get what she wanted. But she denied being involved in any smugging activity; she said she was merely helping a friend become a Customs player. Deputy Commissioner Jessie Dellosa was also evasive during the investigation conducted by the House committee on ways and means. The Palace, however, was quick to jump to conclusions and congratulated the Customs bureau for its handling of the issue, and for making sure we do not condone smuggling in our shores and ports. READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: A disgraceful performance[While the lewd dance last week may have offended many sensibilities, it is the President’s refusal to take responsibility and apologize for this and many other mistakes that truly represents a disgraceful performance.]


OCTOBER 5 -TRUE to form, President Aquino said over the weekend there was no need for him to apologize for the lewd performance that followed a Liberal Party oathtaking ceremony in Laguna Thursday last week. The statement was an indictment of the poor leadership that Mr. Aquino has displayed over the last five years, during which he has steadfastly refused to accept responsibility for the misdeeds of his allies and subordinates. The gyrating “dancers,” who simulated sex acts on stage, were supposed to be “a gift” from Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino to Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao, who celebrated his 58th birthday at the same venue that day. Both Tolentino and Agarao are members of the Liberal Party, which the President heads. A video of the performance posted online provoked widespread disgust and anger from women’s groups and ordinary citizens. Tolentino, who is running for senator under the Liberal Party banner, denied the emcee’s announcements that he had brought the girls as a gift to Agarao. Agarao was quick to back Tolentino’s story, but refused to say who had invited the dancers, then defiantly added that “as a real man,” he saw nothing wrong with the lewd dance. Agarao has since issued a half-hearted apology; Tolentino has maintained his innocence. The Palace said Friday the President did not condone the lewd dance. “Women are not objects to be given away as gifts during celebrations. The President has always stood firm against the exploitation of women and will not condone such displays of disrespect,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, in a text message to the press. But Valte insisted over the weekend that there was no need for the President, as head of the Liberal Party, to apologize for the incident. “The President had nothing to do with it. The President had no idea that it was happening,” she said. The statement had a familiar ring to it, because an intransigent refusal to accept responsibility and to apologize for wrongdoing—by himself or his subordinates—has been the hallmark of Mr. Aquino’s five years as President. We saw this even in his early months on the job, when he triggered a diplomatic crisis with China by refusing to apologize for the death of eight Chinese tourists in a hostage crisis in August 2010 as a result of police incompetence. Mr. Aquino exhibited the same refusal to admit fault and apologize, even when it became apparent that his administration had been woefully inadequate in responding to the devastation wrought by Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ in 2013. In fact, Mr. Aquino still points to his “achievements” in this regard, while neglecting to acknowledge how more than 130,000 storm survivors still lived in tents two years after the disaster, or that funds contributed for their rehabilitation sit idle in government bank accounts. READ MORE...

ALSO By Jojo Robles: He’s going to run


SEPTEMBER 29 -DUTERTE
I’ve been around for some time and I’ve never seen anything like it. Twenty thousand people asking a reluctant candidate to run —and not one of them paid to do so by the candidate himself, who didn’t even put in an appearance. I guess it’s safe now to say that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is going to seek the presidency. That’s what friends of mine in his camp tell me, especially after last Saturday’s pro-Duterte rally at the Rizal Park. I’ve always hesitated to predict what Duterte will or will not do in the elections in May, given the feisty mayor’s record of declaring and then denying his intentions for the presidency. But according to former North Cotabato Gov. Manny Piñol, one of Duterte’s closest friends and biggest boosters, last Saturday was the game changer. The gathering was, after all, the same one that Duterte pleaded with his backers not to attend last week. Piñol relates that the mayor personally asked him not to go, but that he turned Duterte down. “I said, look, we’re friends,” Piñol said. “But you’re not about to tell me what I can and cannot do, and you’re not going to stop me from going.” Duterte did allow another friend of his, former armed forces chief of staff retired Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., to read a statement he had prepared for the rally. In it, the mayor thanked his supporters for keeping the faith, but he once again declared that he was just not going to run, citing his health, his age and his family. So what has changed for the Candidate Who Is So Close To Crying Wolf? Piñol thinks the rally convinced Duterte that he may just have what it takes to win it all. “There are three scenarios in play here,” Piñol explained. “Duterte may not run, and he will go down in history as the provincial politician who could have been the best President we never had. He may run and lose, in which case he becomes the provincial politician who ran for President and lost. “Or he may run and win, for which history will judge him as the provincial politician who could just be the best President we ever had,” Piñol continued. “I think he’s now ready to go for the third and last scenario.” READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

THE POPE: The gentle power of inclusion


MANILA, OCTOBER 5, 2015 (MANILA STANDARD) By Fr. Ranhilio Aquino | Sep. 28, 2015 at 12:01am - The Supreme Pontiff hardly ever pontificated, and that is why he came across and was warmly received, his message paid heed to respectfully if not devoutly.

He was giving the United States and the world sage advice, much of it coming from his pastoral experience, all of it firmly anchored in the integrity of his person and the humility with which he witnesses to what he holds is true.

In stark contrast to self-righteous national leaders, dear Pope Francis has never held out his way as the “right way,” and much less did he condemn those who do not follow in his steps as back-sliders and moral retardates.

Both before the US Congress —and in the presence of some Supreme Court justices, the very same Court that effectively approved of abortion by holding it to be within the ambit of a woman’s right to privacy—and before the assembled leaders of the powers of the world at the UN General Assembly, he reiterated traditional Catholic teaching on life: from the moment of fertilization to natural death.

There was no doctrinal departure in respect to marriage: the indissoluble union of one man and one woman, open to new life. But the overarching rubric was “inclusion”, “inclusiveness.” And this has been his resolute pastoral disposition: reaching out to those who have been consigned to the peripheries. Quite clearly, these are the regions of the impoverished and the dispossessed.

It is the netherworld of the refugees who flee their war-torn lands only to be met with threatening fences of barbed wire and snarling patrol dogs. But it is also where we will find those whom our standards of decency and respectability, our collective hypocrisy, have left to a shadowy existence because of failed marriages, re-marriages, sexual orientation and non-traditional unions.

CNN told us that the Madison Square Garden Mass had for, the first reading, openly gay lector. Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Vatican liturgists must have a hint that this was going to be so.

READ MORE...

Knowing first hand how fastidious Vatican bureaucrats and liturgists are, nothing is left to chance. They could have made a big fuss about it; they did not. And even if it is improbable that Pope Francis knew of the lector’s personal preferences, it is clear that the Church and its hierarchy is slowly catching on.

As in the case of John XXIII and John Paul II, now both saints, we can almost hear the lumbering footfalls of a Church trying so hard to keep pace with its shepherd.

It was not any different when Francis led an ecumenical prayer service at Ground Zero.

Representatives of other faiths and denominations awaited him, but he respectfully went to each, shaking hands and greeting them cordially before starting the service.

If there is anything that will bring us closest to the vision of unity that seems to elude us continually —for how many decades now have we talked “ecumenism”—it will not be because of doctrinal unanimity but because of what St. Francis, the Pope’s namesake, prayed: Fatti me uno strumento della vostra pace... make me an instrument of your peace.

One does not have to give up on principle and truth (as one holds it and receives it) to be kind and understanding and welcoming, commodities of the heart of which our world is presently in very short supply.

Is he conservative then or liberal? Perhaps a socialist or a communist? Under the canons of Francis’ logic, it is precisely categories that keep us from reaching and touching persons.

Just as he would not allow barricades or security escorts to keep him away from teaching, hugging and kissing the people who came in unprecedented droves, he will not have us cling to our constructs and miss the persons of flesh and blood behind them.

That is why Pope Francis makes a difference. That is why his brand of Christianity can still make a difference.


EDITORIAL: Refusing to open up Sep. 29, 2015 at 12:01am

On the surface, it is confounding why this government, which claims to champion transparency and accountability, would deny the request of United Nations representatives to look into killings and other human rights abuses committed against tribal communities—lumad—in Mindanao.

Two lumad leaders and a teacher were killed recently, and in a fashion indicative of hatred and intolerance.

A human rights group has decried the killings, claiming they were carried out by paramilitary groups created by the military to help it in its anti-insurgency drive. The lumad are suspected of sympathizing with the New People’s Army.

As a result of the killings, thousands of lumad people have fled their homes in Surigao del Sur for fear of their lives. They are cramped in a sports complex; children are not going to school.

In the meantime, leaders in imperial Metro Manila are preoccupied with something more immediate to their interests: the elections.

Meetings were initially set as if to humor the human rights advocates and the families of the victims. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was supposed to meet with them last week, but cancelled at the last minute because of a supposed meeting with the President.

READ MORE...

The administration believes that “internal processes” can get to the bottom of the issue. The victims and the rights advocates do not buy this, though, since De Lima herself is on her way out of the Justice Department —to appease the Iglesia, to run for the Senate, or conveniently both.

The spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs also expressed confidence that any investigation is best conducted by relevant authorities.

We deplore this refusal to shed light on what really happened—what continues to happen—to the lumad down South. We have had our share of internal investigations conducted by this administration—in the 2010 hostage crisis in Luneta, and the Mamasapano killings in January this year. Both do not inspire confidence.

The only way Mr. Aquino can show good faith and claim to champion the good of all Filipinos is to allow the investigation of the violence inflicted on an indigenous group who cannot defend themselves. That it has slammed the door on any international probe leads us to think there is something to hide, something Mr. Aquino does not want us to know.


Resounding silence Oct. 04, 2015 at 12:01am

We know the President has bigger fires to put out these days. That dance number at a congressman’s birthday celebration has given Filipinos more reason to doubt the credibility of the daang-matuwid mantra of the Liberal Party. We can imagine the public relations nightmare the President’s allies must be facing now, especially since said event took place in official oath taking ceremonies for new members of the party and attended by no less than their standard bearer for the 2016 elections and his friends.

But if that was some noisy party, here is one issue that has been conveniently dying down —being killed or dying a natural death, we have no way of knowing. In late August, the former chief of the Land Transportation Office was reported to have visited the office of the Bureau of Customs and negotiated the release of 64 shipping containers of smuggled Thai sugar worth more than P100 million.

A Customs employee, Jerry Ponce, has issued an affidavit narrating how Virginia Torres had called him and sought his help to release the shipments which had been misdeclared. He did meet with her, a fellow member of the powerful religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo, and brought her to the office of the Intelligence Group of the bureau.

Ponce issued his affidavit for fear of being accused of negotiating, on Torres’ behalf, to release the shipment.

Torres, for her part, seemed to have no fear. In fact, she was reported to have dropped names of her friends in high places just to get what she wanted. But she denied being involved in any smugging activity; she said she was merely helping a friend become a Customs player.

Deputy Commissioner Jessie Dellosa was also evasive during the investigation conducted by the House committee on ways and means. The Palace, however, was quick to jump to conclusions and congratulated the Customs bureau for its handling of the issue, and for making sure we do not condone smuggling in our shores and ports.

READ MORE...

But do we not, really? Nothing more was heard of this matter, overtaken by events such as the release of survey results, the guessing game provided by putative candidates, and lately, this party scandal. Smuggling has always been a bane to the economy, with the people paying a dear price. Of course, smuggling has been lucrative for a few, especially those who can use campaign funds for the next elections.

Torres, for her part, has been notorious for flaunting her tires with her shooting buddy, President Aquino. She was once caught on camera in a casino where government officials are banned, and has been blamed for the inordinate delay in the release of license plates for new vehicles.

The bureau must also not be content with the silence if it were truly serious about cleaning up its image before the public. Customs has always been seen as a hotbed of corruption. What is the commissioner, Alberto Lina, doing about this, not just with regard to Torres but to the allegations of sugar smuggling? What about the other products? Where is the cleanup of the people and the rumored powerful blocs within in—forces that forced its former head to resign?

Silence is as powerful as noise in pointing to wrongdoing. Let’s slam that boisterous party in Laguna, yes. But let’s not give some people the satisfaction of our silence on the issues they must be held accountable for.


A disgraceful performance Oct. 05, 2015 at 12:01am

TRUE to form, President Aquino said over the weekend there was no need for him to apologize for the lewd performance that followed a Liberal Party oathtaking ceremony in Laguna Thursday last week. The statement was an indictment of the poor leadership that Mr. Aquino has displayed over the last five years, during which he has steadfastly refused to accept responsibility for the misdeeds of his allies and subordinates.

The gyrating “dancers,” who simulated sex acts on stage, were supposed to be “a gift” from Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino to Laguna Rep. Benjamin Agarao, who celebrated his 58th birthday at the same venue that day. Both Tolentino and Agarao are members of the Liberal Party, which the President heads.

A video of the performance posted online provoked widespread disgust and anger from women’s groups and ordinary citizens.

Tolentino, who is running for senator under the Liberal Party banner, denied the emcee’s announcements that he had brought the girls as a gift to Agarao. Agarao was quick to back Tolentino’s story, but refused to say who had invited the dancers, then defiantly added that “as a real man,” he saw nothing wrong with the lewd dance.

Agarao has since issued a half-hearted apology; Tolentino has maintained his innocence.

The Palace said Friday the President did not condone the lewd dance.

“Women are not objects to be given away as gifts during celebrations. The President has always stood firm against the exploitation of women and will not condone such displays of disrespect,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, in a text message to the press.

But Valte insisted over the weekend that there was no need for the President, as head of the Liberal Party, to apologize for the incident.

“The President had nothing to do with it. The President had no idea that it was happening,” she said.

The statement had a familiar ring to it, because an intransigent refusal to accept responsibility and to apologize for wrongdoing—by himself or his subordinates—has been the hallmark of Mr. Aquino’s five years as President.

We saw this even in his early months on the job, when he triggered a diplomatic crisis with China by refusing to apologize for the death of eight Chinese tourists in a hostage crisis in August 2010 as a result of police incompetence.

Mr. Aquino exhibited the same refusal to admit fault and apologize, even when it became apparent that his administration had been woefully inadequate in responding to the devastation wrought by Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ in 2013. In fact, Mr. Aquino still points to his “achievements” in this regard, while neglecting to acknowledge how more than 130,000 storm survivors still lived in tents two years after the disaster, or that funds contributed for their rehabilitation sit idle in government bank accounts.

READ MORE...

We saw the same pattern of behavior in the aftermath of the Mamasapano massacre early this year, in which 44 police commandos were killed in a covert operation that Mr. Aquino had authorized and had assigned to his friend, the police chief, who had already been suspended on corruption charges.

Despite his boasts about good governance, the President has consistently set the wrong leadership example, suggesting to his allies and subordinates that they can simply brazen their way out of problems of their own making simply by refusing to accept responsibility.

Perhaps Mr. Aquino is responding to some macho notion that one must never admit fault. But if he were a real man, he would have accepted ultimate responsibility for putting his trust in people who proved unworthy of it. Then he could make amends by publicly castigating, then firing Tolentino and expelling him—and the errant Laguna congressman—from the ruling Liberal Party.

That he has not done so is not a sign of strength but of weak leadership.

While the lewd dance last week may have offended many sensibilities, it is the President’s refusal to take responsibility and apologize for this and many other mistakes that truly represents a disgraceful performance.


He’s going to run By Jojo Robles | Sep. 29, 2015 at 12:01am

I’ve been around for some time and I’ve never seen anything like it. Twenty thousand people asking a reluctant candidate to run —and not one of them paid to do so by the candidate himself, who didn’t even put in an appearance.

I guess it’s safe now to say that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is going to seek the presidency. That’s what friends of mine in his camp tell me, especially after last Saturday’s pro-Duterte rally at the Rizal Park.

I’ve always hesitated to predict what Duterte will or will not do in the elections in May, given the feisty mayor’s record of declaring and then denying his intentions for the presidency. But according to former North Cotabato Gov. Manny Piñol, one of Duterte’s closest friends and biggest boosters, last Saturday was the game changer.

The gathering was, after all, the same one that Duterte pleaded with his backers not to attend last week. Piñol relates that the mayor personally asked him not to go, but that he turned Duterte down.

“I said, look, we’re friends,” Piñol said. “But you’re not about to tell me what I can and cannot do, and you’re not going to stop me from going.”

Duterte did allow another friend of his, former armed forces chief of staff retired Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., to read a statement he had prepared for the rally. In it, the mayor thanked his supporters for keeping the faith, but he once again declared that he was just not going to run, citing his health, his age and his family.

So what has changed for the Candidate Who Is So Close To Crying Wolf? Piñol thinks the rally convinced Duterte that he may just have what it takes to win it all.

“There are three scenarios in play here,” Piñol explained. “Duterte may not run, and he will go down in history as the provincial politician who could have been the best President we never had. He may run and lose, in which case he becomes the provincial politician who ran for President and lost.

“Or he may run and win, for which history will judge him as the provincial politician who could just be the best President we ever had,” Piñol continued. “I think he’s now ready to go for the third and last scenario.”

READ MORE...

* * *

The latest Pulse Asia “Ulat sa Bayan” survey may have also convinced Duterte to throw his mayor’s hat into the presidential ring. The newest poll, after all, continues the trend of Duterte’s strong showing—including his runaway leadership in the whole of Mindanao (where Piñol says there are 15 million votes) with 29 percent and his strong third-place showing in vote-rich Metro Manila, where the mayor’s 21 percent is good enough for a statistical tie with the two others ahead of him (Senator Grace Poe, 29 percent, and Vice President Jejomar Binay, 22).

And Duterte is also a strong third in the economically significant A, B and C classes. Not bad, overall, for a candidate who’s not even declared that he’s running yet.

Indeed, because Duterte is so easily differentiated from the other three major candidates with his attractively tough law-and-order platform and his strong, steady provincial (meaning non-Manila) base, he may well morph into the real alternative candidate in the coming elections.

Even politically, Duterte has no history of being aligned with the current Aquino administration, which is sure to attract the protest vote that is tired of the incumbent’s unrelenting incompetence and compulsive lying.

If Duterte declares for the presidency, the predicted tight, three-way race for the highest post in the land can be expected to get even tighter. And Duterte’s outlier status will certainly give the others a run for their money, popularity and organization.

I certainly wouldn’t be surprised, for instance, if the dirty tricks department of Mar Roxas decides to train its well-paid guns on Duterte sometime soon. After all, if he has learned anything from his 2010 vice presidential debacle, Roxas must now be wary of losing in Mindanao (which he basically abandoned to Binay) and of focusing on the wrong target (Loren Legarda).

Of course, Duterte has repeatedly declared that he has no money to spend in a presidential election and that he will not accept campaign funds from anyone simply because he is not going to run. But when he decides to finally join the race, I am sure there will be no lack of funding for his drive, simply because the usual bankrollers cannot ignore the fact that he just might win.

I told Piñol that Duterte reminds me of the character of General Antonio Luna in the current hit movie: a brash, self-possessed and no-nonsense leader who stands out among the compromisers and political operators of his time. And that I hope Duterte runs, if only because he will provide a real alternative to Manila-based politics-as-usual.

So give ‘em hell, Mister Mayor. Your country needs you to leave Davao for the biggest stage of all— the entire country.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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