© Copyright, 2015 (PHNO) http://newsflash.org  | NOVEMBER 18 -19, 2015


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

FROM PHILSTAR

2015 YOLANDA COMMEMORATION: AQUINO, HIS MINIONS ABSENT
[As the day of remembering run its course, angry voices were heard. The anger was over this administration’s handling of the calamity. By every measure, government response was slow, chaotic and unduly politicized. There was no one to listen to the angry voices, however. President Aquino and his most senior officials chose to snub the commemoration. It was as if the calamity was a nuisance and the rehab a chore. That absence only reinforces perception that like Aquino, he is distant, insensitive and disconnected.]


BY ALEX MAGNO -When the brave people of the Yolanda-devastated areas gathered last Sunday, it was to draw strength from each other. These are people with true grit, daring the odds and doing their best to rebuild their communities. As the day of remembering run its course, angry voices were heard. The anger was over this administration’s handling of the calamity. By every measure, government response was slow, chaotic and unduly politicized. There was no one to listen to the angry voices, however. President Aquino and his most senior officials chose to snub the commemoration. It was as if the calamity was a nuisance and the rehab a chore. By their glaring absence, representatives of the national government merely reinforced the perception Samar and Leyte were far from the top of their minds. The area of devastation was far from the core of national concern. There is a warped attitude at the top. It is a petty attitude that allows minor irritants to overcome strategic response.It is a defensive attitude that meets criticism with sandbagging, failure with denial. When President Aquino issued that obligatory statement on the second anniversary of the deluge, he thanked the foreign donors who responded generously to the calamity. The actual victims, those whose grit allowed them to survive and whose courage makes rehabilitation a possibility, seem on the margins of his mind. Even in that unread statement, Aquino could not bring himself to address the victims directly. That is exactly how he has behaved on the matter of the SAF 44. It is consistent with how he has avoided direct contact with the grieving relatives of victims of the Luneta hostage fiasco. It is as if Aquino fears that by facing the victims squarely, he will have to take direct responsibility for all the failure that has happened. His character could not take that. Aquino’s alter ego on the ground when Yolanda struck was Mar Roxas. He, too, would not dare make an appearance in Tacloban on the day of remembering and face the angry survivors. It a sense, it was he who set the tone of government response to the calamity: bureaucratic, indecisive and undirected. That absence only reinforces perception that like Aquino, he is distant, insensitive and disconnected. THE FULL COLUMN.

ALSO EDITORIAL: The streetdwellers – Long-term help


As in the visit in January of Pope Francis, the homeless have disappeared from Roxas Boulevard and neighboring streets. Both the national and local governments cannot conceal the fact that the street dwellers were rounded up and taken to shelters, although officials would not directly say that this was done as part of preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila next week. The government would not be getting flak for this if care for the homeless is a sustained program. Given the limited resources for welfare services, however, sustained assistance for street dwellers is an ambitious goal, and it looks like the occasional roundups will be around for many more major events to be held in Metro Manila. With an estimated 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line and a significant percentage classified as extremely poor, street dwellers are ubiquitous in many parts of Metro Manila. Many come from the countryside in search of employment. There was a spike in their numbers shortly after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated Eastern Visayas in 2013. Unable to earn a living, they cannot afford to pay for decent shelter so they end up living with their families in the streets or even under bridges. Without the preparations for APEC, they can be seen along stretches of Roxas Boulevard at night, sleeping on the seawall or behind bushes. The children sell small items or rap on car windows for alms even late in the night. Social welfare offices do not have the resources to provide anything more than brief care for the homeless. The country has no decent state facilities for abandoned children or the elderly or even for the rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents. In considering what to do with the street dwellers around the APEC routes and venues, policy makers should consider long-term approaches so that people are not forced by circumstances to live in the streets. THE FULL EDITORIAL

ALSO MAR ROXAS: Charm campaign
[As he goes around the country, Mar Roxas has been on a charm offensive to win over more believers to his cause and who will ultimately vote for him come election day next year.]


By Marichu A. Villanueva
We had Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer, former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel Araneta Roxas II, or Mar for short, last Monday at The STAR roundtable forum with presidential candidates running in the May 2016 elections. Roxas arrived on time and his staff immediately alerted us he had to leave after two hours for his next schedule, another forum with “Go Negosyo” program at TV5. Apparently, however, Roxas has enough lead time to go to his next appointment as he lingered for almost another hour going to each office at The STAR, shaking hands with employees, and obliging the customary picture-taking. At times, he would be the one asking people to pose with him for photo. Thus, it is still a mystery where the supposed criticisms against Roxas as a “snob” come from. To say Roxas is a snob is rather a misnomer. He is an Ilonggo who to us Filipinos are known for being “malambing,” or roughly translated as sweet or amiable person. On the way to the conference room at the fourth floor, Roxas saw the canteen at the third floor and right away engaged the cooks and servers waiting at the table. When the cooks told him they are also Ilonggos like him, Roxas got into groove and talked with them in their local dialect about the menu that day. As a reporter who pounded the beat in the past, I have crossed paths with Roxas when he was still a congressman from Capiz. Roxas was at first a reluctant politician when he ran and won in the congressional district left behind by his late brother, Rep. Dinggoy Roxas who died of cancer in 1993. But now he is the leader of LP, albeit president-on-leave of the ruling administration party. But politics is in his genes handed down from his late father, ex-Sen. Gerry Roxas and his namesake grandfather, the late President Manuel Roxas. So being a “snob” could not possibly fit such description of Roxas. We covered Roxas when he subsequently became Secretary of Trade and Industry, first during the shortened Estrada administration, and then with the Arroyo administration. A Wharton-educated professional, Roxas best applied his training as a technocrat when he served as Trade and Industry Secretary for almost five years combined from the Estrada to Arroyo administrations. As a technocrat, Roxas is frank and a straight shooter not only in numbers but also in his words. For many Filipinos, they frown upon persons who are frank and candid. That I think is where such “snob” criticisms against him may be rooted. During our STAR roundtable, Roxas himself told us such perception that he is a snob or unapproachable is a misimpression. He, however, conceded this mis-impression may have unnecessarily been fueled by his being serious and passionate in his work as a public servant. That is why, Roxas candidly revealed a cue card he was shuffling while interacting with STAR editors, columnists and reporters. “By the way, I even made a reminder for myself: smile, smile, smile,” and showed to us the cue card with the exact handwritten words. “You had two hours with me. Am I not charming or amiable?” he wisecracked. I don’t know whether Roxas heard my retort or just ignored it. But I teased him having showed his fangs at one point when he jumped at the premises of the question saying: ”It seemed to me those are phoned-in-questions from my rivals from the other camp!” Roxas did not mention what rival camp he was referring to. But we had Vice President Jejomar Binay – who by the way is turning 73 years old this week – was the first to confirm and attend the STAR roundtable forum held last October 5. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Inclusive economies


As the name of the forum implies, economic concerns are at the forefront of the discussions during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Building inclusive economies is a theme of the APEC meetings in Manila. Along this line, one promising development is the launch the other day of the Financial Infrastructure Development Network. In establishing the FIDN, the Philippines is collaborating with the World Bank Group, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the business sector to make financial services more accessible particularly to low-income households and micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs. Philippine officials estimate that MSMEs account for over 40 percent of GDP in the APEC economies, 15 percent of exports and 60 percent of employment, but about 40 percent of MSME financing requirements are not served. FIDN is preparing measures, including proposed laws and regulations, to encourage bank lending to MSMEs. This laudable project must be complemented by measures to make it easier for MSMEs to do business. Red tape and numerous and often unnecessary and redundant fees are problems that beset all types of businesses in this country regardless of size. From barangay offices to city hall to national government agencies, the red tape can be daunting. In certain communities, homeowners’ associations add to the layers of red tape and fees that entrepreneurs must hurdle before they can do business. Big companies have people to deal with the hassle and can afford the mountain of fees. But the red tape and fees are a heavy burden on MSMEs, even if the amounts involved are much smaller. By the time all the fees are paid, the bank loan facilitated through FIDN would have been depleted. It’s not unusual for prospective micro or small entrepreneurs to just give up and look for a job overseas. Access to credit is welcome news for any entrepreneur. The financing initiative can be accompanied by measures to clear the many roadblocks that deter inclusive economic growth.THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO By Satur Ocampo: Will EDCA lead to war?


SATUR OCAMPO
Soon after the Supreme Court began en-banc deliberations on two petitions urging it to declare as unconstitutional the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (signed between the Philippine and United States governments last year), two interesting actions – both supporting the petitions – came up. First, the Senate voted 14-1 (with 2 abstentions) on a resolution declaring the EDCA as a treaty that requires Senate concurrence to become valid. Second, a former US senator, through Filipino lawyers, filed a petition in intervention with the Court, warning that the EDCA could lead to war. To recall: Through the Agreement, the US gains greater access to Philippine military camps, and can construct more facilities including for war-materiel storage; in fact, they can choose any location in the country for their purposes. Such facilities will be for the exclusive use by Americans – off-limits to Filipinos – for as long as they wish, without paying any compensation/rent to the government. But under the 1987 Constitution “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate… and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.” To circumvent this, both the Aquino and Obama governments insist that the EDCA is a mere “executive agreement” purportedly implementing the 1951 RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty. Another provision of the Constitution states: “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.” Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, author-sponsor of the resolution, is hoping the Supreme Court ruling would coincide with the Senate position. Otherwise, she said, two co-equal branches of the government would stand opposite each other on the issue. She’s made it clear she opposes the EDCA. Pitching in, petitioner-intervener Maurice “Mike” Gravel (Democratic senator from Alaska, 1969-1981) dwells mainly on EDCA’s geopolitical implications: that it could aggravate tensions in Asia-Pacific, specifically by bringing into reality the growing fears of war over the South China Sea. . Gravel adverts to the “Thucydides trap,” which refers to the attendant danger of war when a rising power (China in this case) rivals a ruling power (the US, the lone superpower). It pertains to what happened in Greece 2,400 years ago when Athens challenged Sparta, and in 1914 when Germany did the same to Britain, resulting in the First World War. “It was the rise of Athens, and the fear that this inspired in Sparta, that made war inevitable,” asserted the Greek historian Thucydides in analyzing what set off the 30-year Peloponnesian War. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Absent


ALEX MAGNO

MANILA, NOVEMBER 16, 2015 (PHILSTAR) FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 10, 2015 - When the brave people of the Yolanda-devastated areas gathered last Sunday, it was to draw strength from each other. These are people with true grit, daring the odds and doing their best to rebuild their communities.

As the day of remembering run its course, angry voices were heard. The anger was over this administration’s handling of the calamity. By every measure, government response was slow, chaotic and unduly politicized.

There was no one to listen to the angry voices, however. President Aquino and his most senior officials chose to snub the commemoration. It was as if the calamity was a nuisance and the rehab a chore.

By their glaring absence, representatives of the national government merely reinforced the perception Samar and Leyte were far from the top of their minds. The area of devastation was far from the core of national concern.

There is a warped attitude at the top. It is a petty attitude that allows minor irritants to overcome strategic response. It is a defensive attitude that meets criticism with sandbagging, failure with denial.

When President Aquino issued that obligatory statement on the second anniversary of the deluge, he thanked the foreign donors who responded generously to the calamity. The actual victims, those whose grit allowed them to survive and whose courage makes rehabilitation a possibility, seem on the margins of his mind.

Even in that unread statement, Aquino could not bring himself to address the victims directly. That is exactly how he has behaved on the matter of the SAF 44. It is consistent with how he has avoided direct contact with the grieving relatives of victims of the Luneta hostage fiasco.

It is as if Aquino fears that by facing the victims squarely, he will have to take direct responsibility for all the failure that has happened. His character could not take that.

Aquino’s alter ego on the ground when Yolanda struck was Mar Roxas. He, too, would not dare make an appearance in Tacloban on the day of remembering and face the angry survivors. It a sense, it was he who set the tone of government response to the calamity: bureaucratic, indecisive and undirected.

That absence only reinforces perception that like Aquino, he is distant, insensitive and disconnected.

READ MORE...

While Aquino and his minions were absent from the scene, Vice-President Jejomar Binay toured the devastated zone on the second anniversary of Yolanda. He touched base with the survivors, spoke of the failure of the DBM to release NHA funds for emergency housing programs and listen to what the people had to say. By his presence on a day that mattered, Binay conveys his campaign pitch that his would be a feeling, healing presidency.

Also on the ground was the indefatigable Dick Gordon. As chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, Gordon strengthened the capacities of that relief organization. Where before, the Red Cross was content collecting blood donations, Gordon moved to strengthen its rescue and relief capabilities.

The Red Cross recently acquired a ro-ro vessel capable of delivering relief even to areas with devastated ports. That is the only item so far added to the national arsenal for disaster response.

Quite characteristically, national government has yet to cull the lessons from Yolanda and evolve new capacities for disaster response such a forward deployment of supplies and equipment to shorten the time between calamity striking and rescue coming to the scene.

Judicial dynasty We all know what political dynasties are. When families enjoy a political stranglehold over certain localities, they virtually appoint relatives to elective positions and hold power across generations.

In Pampanga, people now talk about a “judicial dynasty.” Pampanga congressmen are now asking the House committee on justice to probe the phenomenon.

There is no law against it. Perhaps there ought to be.

The courts in the province of Pampanga are under the direction of Executive Judge Divina Luz Simbulan. As executive judge, she wields some clout over the appointment of court personnel and the work of other judges. She is, among the judges in the province, first among equals.

It turns out, Judge Simbulan is married to Atty. Jesus Simbulan. The husband, for his part, holds the rank of regional state prosecutor for Region III. As such, he directs the work of all prosecutors under his jurisdiction.

Judge Simbulan belongs to the judiciary and is accountable to the Supreme Court by way of the court administrator. Regional Prosecutor Jesus Simbulan, for his part, reports to the Department of Justice.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of discomfort about this situation. The husband and wife are, no doubt, highly accomplished professionals, each rising in their separate careers.

But still, there is a sense that some conflict of interest might pertain if the executive judge of a province is married to the regional prosecutor whose domain encompasses that province. The position of one could serve to magnify the power of the other.

For better or for worse, we live in a culture where informal influence is often more telling than the letter of the law. Although the couple may do their work completely independent of the other, the situation causes much unease and opens much room for malicious speculation. The judge, after all married to the prosecutor.

Again, the situation is not illegal. It is just uncomfortable – and probably unhealthy.

It will help relieve a lot of the discomfort if either husband or wife ask to be transferred to another jurisdiction. Either the regional prosecutor ask to be transferred to another region or the judge ask to be moved somewhere else.


EDITORIAL – Long-term help (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 11, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

As in the visit in January of Pope Francis, the homeless have disappeared from Roxas Boulevard and neighboring streets. Both the national and local governments cannot conceal the fact that the street dwellers were rounded up and taken to shelters, although officials would not directly say that this was done as part of preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila next week.

The government would not be getting flak for this if care for the homeless is a sustained program. Given the limited resources for welfare services, however, sustained assistance for street dwellers is an ambitious goal, and it looks like the occasional roundups will be around for many more major events to be held in Metro Manila.

With an estimated 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line and a significant percentage classified as extremely poor, street dwellers are ubiquitous in many parts of Metro Manila. Many come from the countryside in search of employment. There was a spike in their numbers shortly after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated Eastern Visayas in 2013.

Unable to earn a living, they cannot afford to pay for decent shelter so they end up living with their families in the streets or even under bridges. Without the preparations for APEC, they can be seen along stretches of Roxas Boulevard at night, sleeping on the seawall or behind bushes. The children sell small items or rap on car windows for alms even late in the night.

Social welfare offices do not have the resources to provide anything more than brief care for the homeless. The country has no decent state facilities for abandoned children or the elderly or even for the rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents.

In considering what to do with the street dwellers around the APEC routes and venues, policy makers should consider long-term approaches so that people are not forced by circumstances to live in the streets.


Charm campaign COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 11, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


By Marichu A. Villanueva

We had Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer, former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel Araneta Roxas II, or Mar for short, last Monday at The STAR roundtable forum with presidential candidates running in the May 2016 elections.

Roxas arrived on time and his staff immediately alerted us he had to leave after two hours for his next schedule, another forum with “Go Negosyo” program at TV5.

Apparently, however, Roxas has enough lead time to go to his next appointment as he lingered for almost another hour going to each office at The STAR, shaking hands with employees, and obliging the customary picture-taking. At times, he would be the one asking people to pose with him for photo.

Thus, it is still a mystery where the supposed criticisms against Roxas as a “snob” come from.

To say Roxas is a snob is rather a misnomer. He is an Ilonggo who to us Filipinos are known for being “malambing,” or roughly translated as sweet or amiable person.

On the way to the conference room at the fourth floor, Roxas saw the canteen at the third floor and right away engaged the cooks and servers waiting at the table. When the cooks told him they are also Ilonggos like him, Roxas got into groove and talked with them in their local dialect about the menu that day.

As a reporter who pounded the beat in the past, I have crossed paths with Roxas when he was still a congressman from Capiz. Roxas was at first a reluctant politician when he ran and won in the congressional district left behind by his late brother, Rep. Dinggoy Roxas who died of cancer in 1993. But now he is the leader of LP, albeit president-on-leave of the ruling administration party.

But politics is in his genes handed down from his late father, ex-Sen. Gerry Roxas and his namesake grandfather, the late President Manuel Roxas. So being a “snob” could not possibly fit such description of Roxas.

We covered Roxas when he subsequently became Secretary of Trade and Industry, first during the shortened Estrada administration, and then with the Arroyo administration.

A Wharton-educated professional, Roxas best applied his training as a technocrat when he served as Trade and Industry Secretary for almost five years combined from the Estrada to Arroyo administrations.

As a technocrat, Roxas is frank and a straight shooter not only in numbers but also in his words. For many Filipinos, they frown upon persons who are frank and candid. That I think is where such “snob” criticisms against him may be rooted.

During our STAR roundtable, Roxas himself told us such perception that he is a snob or unapproachable is a misimpression. He, however, conceded this mis-impression may have unnecessarily been fueled by his being serious and passionate in his work as a public servant.

That is why, Roxas candidly revealed a cue card he was shuffling while interacting with STAR editors, columnists and reporters. “By the way, I even made a reminder for myself: smile, smile, smile,” and showed to us the cue card with the exact handwritten words. “You had two hours with me. Am I not charming or amiable?” he wisecracked.

I don’t know whether Roxas heard my retort or just ignored it. But I teased him having showed his fangs at one point when he jumped at the premises of the question saying: ”It seemed to me those are phoned-in-questions from my rivals from the other camp!”

Roxas did not mention what rival camp he was referring to. But we had Vice President Jejomar Binay – who by the way is turning 73 years old this week – was the first to confirm and attend the STAR roundtable forum held last October 5.

READ MORE...

At this stage, Roxas is still not giving up on his pending protest against Vice President Binay before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. Roxas cited he could not just ignore the two million “null” votes that were not counted in his favor when he ran but lost to Binay in the vice presidential race. That was during the May 2010 elections when we had our country’s first-ever automated elections using the controversial Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

Both Roxas and Binay are running anew against each other in yet another automated elections. This will be our third time using the same machines now called by its generic name, Optical Machine Reader (OMR).

While admitting he is “no techie,” Roxas said he could only “trust” in the present Commission on Elections (Comelec) to make sure the results of next year’s presidential polls would truly reflect the will of the voters.

Pressed on his stand about proposed Charter change, Roxas expressed in so many words he is against it but is willing to listen to all views. During a Makati rally in 2008, Roxas used an expletive to express his opposition to the attempts of the previous Arroyo administration to amend the 1987 Constitution.

As far as Roxas is concerned, the country’s Constitution is not the weakest link but corruption in government is. That is why, he pointed out, the Roxas presidency if elected into office in 2016 would continue with President Aquino’s “Daang Matuwid” in various reforms in governance they introduced five years ago.

Roxas conceded there will always be resistance and there will be people who don’t want change.

As he goes around the country, Roxas has been on a charm offensive to win over more believers to his cause and who will ultimately vote for him come election day next year.

* * *

Department of Tourism (DOT) Sec. Ramon Jimenez is our featured guest of Kapihan sa Manila Bay breakfast forum today at the Luneta Hotel in T.M .Kalaw St., Manila. Sec.Jimenez is expected to talk about DOT’s preparations for the holding of the 27th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ summit meeting taking place here next week. He will be joined by the representatives of stakeholders on Philippine tourism industry led by Aileen Clemente of Rajah Tours and Jett Villegas, executive director of the Ermita-Malate Business Owners Association.

We expect to hear from the DOT Secretary how the charm campaign of the Aquino administration dubbed “More Fun in the Philippines” has indeed enticed more foreign visitors to come to our country.


EDITORIAL - Inclusive economies (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 14, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

As the name of the forum implies, economic concerns are at the forefront of the discussions during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Building inclusive economies is a theme of the APEC meetings in Manila.

Along this line, one promising development is the launch the other day of the Financial Infrastructure Development Network. In establishing the FIDN, the Philippines is collaborating with the World Bank Group, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the business sector to make financial services more accessible particularly to low-income households and micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs.

Philippine officials estimate that MSMEs account for over 40 percent of GDP in the APEC economies, 15 percent of exports and 60 percent of employment, but about 40 percent of MSME financing requirements are not served. FIDN is preparing measures, including proposed laws and regulations, to encourage bank lending to MSMEs.

This laudable project must be complemented by measures to make it easier for MSMEs to do business. Red tape and numerous and often unnecessary and redundant fees are problems that beset all types of businesses in this country regardless of size. From barangay offices to city hall to national government agencies, the red tape can be daunting. In certain communities, homeowners’ associations add to the layers of red tape and fees that entrepreneurs must hurdle before they can do business.

Big companies have people to deal with the hassle and can afford the mountain of fees. But the red tape and fees are a heavy burden on MSMEs, even if the amounts involved are much smaller. By the time all the fees are paid, the bank loan facilitated through FIDN would have been depleted. It’s not unusual for prospective micro or small entrepreneurs to just give up and look for a job overseas.

Access to credit is welcome news for any entrepreneur. The financing initiative can be accompanied by measures to clear the many roadblocks that deter inclusive economic growth.


Will EDCA lead to war? AT GROUND LEVEL By Satur C. Ocampo (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 14, 2015 - 12:00am 0 5 googleplus0 0


SATUR OCAMPO

Soon after the Supreme Court began en-banc deliberations on two petitions urging it to declare as unconstitutional the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (signed between the Philippine and United States governments last year), two interesting actions – both supporting the petitions – came up.

First, the Senate voted 14-1 (with 2 abstentions) on a resolution declaring the EDCA as a treaty that requires Senate concurrence to become valid. Second, a former US senator, through Filipino lawyers, filed a petition in intervention with the Court, warning that the EDCA could lead to war.

To recall: Through the Agreement, the US gains greater access to Philippine military camps, and can construct more facilities including for war-materiel storage; in fact, they can choose any location in the country for their purposes. Such facilities will be for the exclusive use by Americans – off-limits to Filipinos – for as long as they wish, without paying any compensation/rent to the government.

But under the 1987 Constitution “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate… and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.” To circumvent this, both the Aquino and Obama governments insist that the EDCA is a mere “executive agreement” purportedly implementing the 1951 RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty. Another provision of the Constitution states: “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.”

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, author-sponsor of the resolution, is hoping the Supreme Court ruling would coincide with the Senate position. Otherwise, she said, two co-equal branches of the government would stand opposite each other on the issue. She’s made it clear she opposes the EDCA.

Pitching in, petitioner-intervener Maurice “Mike” Gravel (Democratic senator from Alaska, 1969-1981) dwells mainly on EDCA’s geopolitical implications: that it could aggravate tensions in Asia-Pacific, specifically by bringing into reality the growing fears of war over the South China Sea. .

Gravel adverts to the “Thucydides trap,” which refers to the attendant danger of war when a rising power (China in this case) rivals a ruling power (the US, the lone superpower). It pertains to what happened in Greece 2,400 years ago when Athens challenged Sparta, and in 1914 when Germany did the same to Britain, resulting in the First World War. “It was the rise of Athens, and the fear that this inspired in Sparta, that made war inevitable,” asserted the Greek historian Thucydides in analyzing what set off the 30-year Peloponnesian War.

READ MORE...

A study conducted by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfor Center for Science and International Affairs appears to validate the so-called Thucydides trap. In 16 cases of rising-power-ruling-power rivalries over the past 500 years, the study shows, 12 resulted in war.

“Judging from this historical record, war is more likely than not between China and the United States in the decades ahead,” concludes Graham Allison, director of the Belfor Center. “The defining question about the global order for this generation is whether China and the (US) can escape the Thucydides trap,” he adds.

The key impulses in the rivalry dynamic, said Thucydides, were, for the rising power, “(its) growing entitlement, sense of its importance, and demand for greater say and sway”; and for the ruling power, “the fear, insecurity, and the determination to defend the status quo...”

Drawing a parallel with China and America today, Allison cites Thucydides’ observation that as Athens’ clout grew “so did its self-confidence, its consciousness of past injustices, its sensitivity to instances of disrespect, and its insistence that previous arrangements be revised to reflect the new realities of power.” Thucydides also deemed it natural that “Sparta interpreted Athens’ posture as unreasonable, ungrateful, and threatening to the system it had established.”

Sparta and Athens subsequently took steps to strengthen their respective alliances with other states (as the US has been doing in Asia-Pacific), hoping to counterbalance each other. That led to war. Sparta prevailed but at what cost? Both states were devastated..

In his Supreme Court petition. Gravel argues that, whether intentionally or by accident, the US is “skirting ever so close to the ‘Thucydides trap,’ ”with the political leadership unable to reverse that trajectory. A foreign national interest must step forward, he urges, “to protect Americans from their own government’s military foreign policies.”

To backstop his argument, Gravel cites the history of his country’s imperialist dealings with ours: the US conquered the Philippines with “cruelty and atrocity equal to the worst in the annals of conquest and war”; then, with “criminal complicity” it foisted on our country’s leaders “the prosecution of wars against fellow Southeast Asians [such as Vietnam].”

Gravel, who opposed the US war inx Vietnam (it was he who put into the US congressional records the Pentagon Papers that exposed the war’s dark aspects), thinks the EDCA is “only meant to provide (America) a strategic launching pad… in its supposed campaign to contain rising China.” He emphasizes:

“(This) should drive home the fact that US militarization of the Philippines is not really designed to protect Philippine interests but rather to afford the US a geographic advantage to confront China over its ascendant superpower status, which the US finds offensive to its global hegemonic status.”

Ergo, Gravel justifies his petition-intervention by averring that EDCA “is neither in the best interest of the Philippine people nor in the best interest of the American people.” Declaring his love for America, he quickly adds that he cannot abide the concept “my country right or wrong.” “When it is wrong,” he stresses, “I hope to propound an effective critique to negate that wrong.”

* * *


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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