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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
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FROM ABS-CBN (unBLOGGED)

BY TOMAS GOMEZ III: AH, BEAUTY! 'ID QUOD VISUM PLACET'
('That which pleases merely by being seen' -St Thomas Aquinas)


JANUARY 20 -Imelda Marcos: Before reigning as First Lady of the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Romualdez reigned and Miss Manilla 1953 -As we await the triumphal homecoming of our latest beauty queen, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, let us talk beauty, beauty contests and pageants. For starters, a shared iota of acquired erudition for the week. “Id quod visum placet.” The classic definition of beauty. That which pleases when seen. Visual. Optic. “It’s really a big deal at home.” “We take pageants very seriously.” Remarks by Pia during TV interviews in the US as she began her reign. Indeed, “very seriously” because nobody else among the contestants would have been more serious than this winner as she proudly chimed that her Ms. Universe Crown is the fruit of a third attempt contesting a Miss Philippines/Universe title back home. And she made it. Consistent determination and dedicated preparation do have rewarding consequences. Pia’s “really a big deal” likewise unmistakably echoed national sentiment when she further likened beauty contests to boxing and basketball as capturing faithful public allure in her country. She also expressed another prevailing national sentiment when she responded to the ritual question posed by the Pageant’s Master of Ceremonies that is asked of finalists. The question for Miss Philippines was specially crafted to address a current social issue that is drawing the usual displays of annoyance from American-hating militants. It was the matter of the return and renewed presence of the US military forces in the islands. “I see nothing wrong with that...I think the Philippines and the US have a good relationship with each other,” Pia answered. Not forgetting that her country was once an American colony, Pia added that the Philippines is “very welcoming to Americans.” And all these raised the incorrigibly leftist shackles of the usual coterie of whining “self-declared patriots.” Yes, those ones that brandish placards and hurl invectives along Roxas Boulevard at every mention of Uncle Sam’s name! And as if to accentuate their nationalist superiority, they lectured Pia. She ought to “learn the history of our nation under US colonial rule.” This brings about another glass half-full/half-empty-glass moment. You know, pluses and minuses. Pleasant/unpleasant. Sadness and glee. Pain and pleasure. Enrichment/robbery. Progress and disappointments. It has never been a perfect world. And nothing but nothing can ever alter the past! Look, we are talking of beauty contests along with the nationwide elation and goodwill such events generate. And speaking of learning our nation’s history, it appears that our local communist peanut gallery are the ones who need to revisit the subject. The undeniable antecedents of beauty contests, basketball and boxing in the Philippines are all elements of countrywide adulation brought over by our colonial legacy. We are obviously stuck. And ecstatic with every triumphant event! READ MORE...

ALSO: By Inday Espina-Varona - The SSS #Spinungaling  


JANUARY 18 -Michael Victor Alimurong, SSS Commissioner Whoever thought of sending that pouting pretty boy to defend President Benigno Aquino’s veto of the P2000-SSS premium hike bill just increased Filipino’s anger over this administration’s perceived insensitivity to the needs of the nation’s working class. SSS Commissioner Michael Victor Alimurung officially became the crown prince of TralalaLand when he announced at the start of a press conference that most executives of the agency are “pro-poor.” He followed that up with a hearty endorsement of Mr. Aquino’s veto: “We support President Aquino's veto. Giving an across the board P2,000 pension hike will lead to SSS bankruptcy in 2027… "Para sa akin, I would want a president who would do the right thing given the information he knows, no matter how unpopular that decision may be. I have full admiration that that is in fact what the President did." WATCH: Head over heart: 'Pro-poor' SSS justifies veto on pension hike He’s probably Mr. Aquino’s next-door neighbor in that parallel universe where words have different meanings. (Remember “suspension” and Alan Purisima and Mamasapano?) The Aquino administration has just given pro-poor – and “moral” -- a whole new spin. Pro-poor now means holding on to those bloated bonuses on the ground that these are “moral” despite Commission on Audit's (COA) repeated recommendations of disallowance. Moral means rewarding yourself for a performance that includes a very poor collection rate of 38% and a high operating ratio. The COA 2013 audit report, which came out in November 2014, notes that delinguent employers account for uncollected contributions and fines worth P13 billion. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Ellen Tordesillas - PH should re-assess relations with Iran


JANUARY 22 -Ellen T. Tordesillas
After more than two-and-half decades of suffering and enduring United States-led sanctions, Iran, one of the world’s top oil producers, is poised to rejuvenate its economy now that they can access an estimated 100 billion dollars of assets frozen since 1979 when students stormed and occupied the American Embassy in Teheran and held hostage American diplomats for 444 days following the fall of the U.S. supported Shah of Iran. In a visit to Iran in 1989 to attend a conference on the Persian Gulf, I attended a press event where an American delegate asked an Iranian official if he could go inside the former U.S. Embassy compound which was already occupied by the Revolutionary Guards. The Iranian official offered a deal: “We will let you visit the former U.S. Embassy compound if your government allowed us to have access to our assets in the United States.” Come to think of it, now that Iran can have access to their assets in the U.S., will the Americans later be able recover their embassy in Teheran? The 36-year sanctions, which started as an oil embargo, was expanded in 2006 with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1696 imposing wide-ranging prohibitions that included banking and insurance transactions and shipping after Iran refused to suspend its uranium enrichment program. The sanctions took a severe toll on Iran’s economy. In my 1989 visit, I observed no ongoing constructions. Cranes on top of buildings stayed idle. I went back to Tehran in 1995 and the construction equipment were still there, idle. Last Saturday, the sanctions were lifted. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani hailed it as “historic” and a “great victory."  It is expected that the lifting of the sanctions would pave the way for Iran to rejoin the global market. With oil revenues, Iran could then rehabilitate its economy. The lifting of the sanctions which was the result of a nuclear deal forged last year had a side drama: a prisoner swap. Last week President Barack Obama granted clemency to seven men described as “of Iranian origins” facing criminal charges in U.S. courts. In exchange, Iran released four Americans being held in Iran, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and student Matthew Trevithick.
Shades of “Bridge of Spies.”  The lifting of sanctions came two weeks after Iran and Saudi Arabia broke relations following an attack by Iranian protesters of the Saudi Embassy in Teheran in protest of Saudi’s execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr last January 2. The rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia runs deep, intersecting religious and political differences. Iran is predominantly Shiite, one of the two major Islam denominations, while Saudi Arabia is Sunni territory. What is happening between Iran and Saudi Arabia is important to the Philippines because there are over two million Filipino working in the Middle East where the two rival countries are major players in the region. Official figures, which are much lower than the actual numbers, put OFWs in Saudi Arabia at 800,000 and only 4,000 in Iran. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Ellen Tordesillas - Binay biggest gainer in ‘destroy Grace Poe’ crusade


JANUARY 18 -The “Eliminate Grace Poe” from the presidential race crusade has benefited Vice President Jejomar Binay, who has regained the lead in the latest survey of candidates for president in the 2016 elections by the Social Weather Stations (SWS). Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas, whose allies in the Commission on Election (Comelec) delivered the strongest blow against Poe, has gained from it a little because he is now in a statistical tie with Poe and another candidate, Rodrigo Duterte. But it doesn’t bring him closer to the presidency because Binay is pulling away. By helping destroy Poe, Roxas is delivering the presidency to Binay. Binay’s comeback has been noticeable since December when Comelec’s first and second divisions disqualified Poe. In the SWS survey second week of December, Binay tied with Poe in first place with 26 percent of the respondents’ nod, followed by Roxas, a distant second at 22 percent, followed closely by Duterte with 20 per cent who, at that time, started unraveling with his cursing of Pope Francis. In the latest poll by SWS conducted last Jan. 8 to 10, Binay scored 31 percent among 1,200 respondents nationwide who were asked the standard election survey question who they would vote if elections were held today. The respondents were given eight names. Binay’s score was a 5-percentage point increase from the 26 per cent he got in the December 2015 survey. Poe’s score decreased 2-percentage points--from 26 per cent to 24 per cent. Roxas didn’t gain and, in fact, went down but only by 1-percentage point. Duterte remained at 20 per cent. It is still four months to go before Election Day. Poe has brought the case to the Supreme Court, which will have the final say. It is expected that she will recover if the Supreme Court decides to dismiss the disqualification cases against her. Meanwhile, she has come out with TV ads telling the people, especially her confused supporters, that the disqualification cases are attempts by people who want her out of the competition, just like what they did to her father, Fernando Poe Jr., and that she is still very much in the race. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Teddy Locsin Jr - What a sheet of paper


JANUARY 23 -Teddy Locsin Jr.
All this time, we thought that the Commission on Audit investigates the propriety of public money that is spent -- and possibly misspent, but never of money that is not spent because money that is not spent cannot be misspent. The non-expenditure of money lies entirely within the unquestionable discretion of the executive that proposed it, the legislature that appropriated it, and again of the executive that spends it -- or does not. But a COA audit report chastises Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya for not spending money at all on a toilet upgrading program for train stations, ports and airports to the terrible tune of P351 million which was not spent -- and therefore not misspent. This is ridiculous. The body to complain should be the crapping public, which must sit on toilet seats -- if any -- that the rest of the public drenched with their piss. It is the public that should complain but only to Congress, and it is the Congress, not COA, that should complain of this failure to spend but only to the Department of Budget and Management which may not have released the sum, and last to Abaya who may have had good reason not to spend it. One, is that no amount of expenditure will toilet train the public -- be it American, Filipino, Chinese, British, Mexican or Stanford University where I encountered a toilet so stuffed to the brim with crap so it couldn't be flushed down at all. Only the Japanese are neat in discharging their waste in public toilets. If the COA will chastise for money that was not misspent because it wasn't spent, then it must praise money that is spent, unless the money was misspent or worse yet overspent on a world class parking building. It is as simple as that. But being an election year, everybody is running for something, especially for a share of media attention kasi kulang sila sa pansin. What a sheet -- of paper, of course.
THE FULL COLUMN.


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Ah, beauty! Id quod visum placet

MANILA, JANUARY 18, 2016 (ABS-CBN) Buddy Gomez Posted at 01/20/2016 10:30 PM - As we await the triumphal homecoming of our latest beauty queen, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, let us talk beauty, beauty contests and pageants.

For starters, a shared iota of acquired erudition for the week. “Id quod visum placet.” The classic definition of beauty. That which pleases when seen. Visual. Optic.

“It’s really a big deal at home.” “We take pageants very seriously.” Remarks by Pia during TV interviews in the US as she began her reign.

Indeed, “very seriously” because nobody else among the contestants would have been more serious than this winner as she proudly chimed that her Ms. Universe Crown is the fruit of a third attempt contesting a Miss Philippines/Universe title back home. And she made it. Consistent determination and dedicated preparation do have rewarding consequences.

Pia’s “really a big deal” likewise unmistakably echoed national sentiment when she further likened beauty contests to boxing and basketball as capturing faithful public allure in her country.

She also expressed another prevailing national sentiment when she responded to the ritual question posed by the Pageant’s Master of Ceremonies that is asked of finalists. The question for Miss Philippines was specially crafted to address a current social issue that is drawing the usual displays of annoyance from American-hating militants. It was the matter of the return and renewed presence of the US military forces in the islands.

“I see nothing wrong with that...I think the Philippines and the US have a good relationship with each other,” Pia answered. Not forgetting that her country was once an American colony, Pia added that the Philippines is “very welcoming to Americans.” And all these raised the incorrigibly leftist shackles of the usual coterie of whining “self-declared patriots.” Yes, those ones that brandish placards and hurl invectives along Roxas Boulevard at every mention of Uncle Sam’s name! And as if to accentuate their nationalist superiority, they lectured Pia. She ought to “learn the history of our nation under US colonial rule.”

This brings about another glass half-full/half-empty-glass moment. You know, pluses and minuses. Pleasant/unpleasant. Sadness and glee. Pain and pleasure. Enrichment/robbery. Progress and disappointments. It has never been a perfect world. And nothing but nothing can ever alter the past! Look, we are talking of beauty contests along with the nationwide elation and goodwill such events generate.

And speaking of learning our nation’s history, it appears that our local communist peanut gallery are the ones who need to revisit the subject. The undeniable antecedents of beauty contests, basketball and boxing in the Philippines are all elements of countrywide adulation brought over by our colonial legacy. We are obviously stuck. And ecstatic with every triumphant event!

READ MORE...

Of all annual national events, nothing quite like a beauty contest has embraced popular rapture. In fact, its prominence in the life of the nation has been around much longer than our fervid passion for basketball and boxing. Pia’s answer was evidently a plus in the judges’ assessment. The panel unanimously gave her the nod for the Miss Universe title.

But let us not ignore the belly-achers.

MANILA CARNIVALS


AMPARO REYES KARAGDAG, Miss Luzon 1936 FROM MANILACARNIVAL BLOGSPOT

To pursue the thread initiated by that snide “learn the history of our nation” commentary vis-a-vis beauty pageants, we must begin with the Manila Carnivals.

Nothing quite like such an event has ever stirred the nation’s imagination and attention. From 1908, just a year after our country’s journey towards self-government under colonial tutelage had began, Carnivals-cum-beauty queens carried on until just before World War II. These goodwill affairs lasted a couple of weeks and I imagine was always preceded by a year’s preparation. Truly, although socio-civic in character, government encouragement and cooperation was always a given.

The Manila Carnival was intended to be a celebration of “harmonious U.S.-Philippine relations,” showcasing our commercial, industrial and agricultural progress. Parades, fireworks, lavish shows and displays, costume parties marked the annual event culminating in the crowning of the Carnival Queen. (I vaguely remember but as a child, I was brought to the Carnival grounds donning a costume with a hood and a mask, called “domino.” The gown sewn of ‘crystal silk’ in shimmering maroon. “Granate,” my lola called it. I think I wore sandals instead of locally made “Olympic” rubber shoes.)

There is so much to remember and to tell. Some enterprising folks among our imaginative and talented writers and publishers ought to come up with a historical coffee table book--it will weigh a couple of kilos, for sure. We have absolutely no space in a blog to house all these beautiful memories.

'QUEENLY AFFAIRS'

Let me instead attempt to recall, what I can recall, of some newsy-juicy items, to mention a scant few. Evidently, politicians had already taken some participation in these “queenly” affairs of society.

There was a beauty queen in the 1930s. Manila Carnival, of course. She was Amparo Karagdag. She was also, briefly, a movie star after reigning as Miss Luzon. Her name connotes “kayumanggi,” a brown-skinned lass, not quite a mestiza. I cannot quite explain it but somehow, when I recall her, she is always in a polka-dotted dress. Don’t ask me why. But I also heard from my teen-age aunties that Amparo Karagdag was a favorite ballroom dancing partner of President Manuel L. Quezon. Manila society’s busybodies and chatterboxes gossiped that something was going on!

And a future President, Manuel A. Roxas (guess who’s grandfather?), while he was governor of Capiz province in the early 1920s married a former Carnival beauty, dubbed Queen of the Orient. She was an heiress from Bulacan, Trinidad R. de Leon, a Spanish mestiza. The scuttlebutt was that President Quezon played a role in this romance. He avidly promoted the match. He was already eyeing Roxas as his political fair-haired acolyte and a good attractive marriage would be an asset.

'THE FIRST' AND SECOND MRS. MARCOS


Imelda Marcos: Before reigning as First Lady of the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Romualdez reigned and Miss Manilla 1953

Speaking of Presidents and beauty-contest winners, the first “Mrs.” Ferdinand Marcos was also a beauty queen. He was then a Congressman from Ilocos Norte while Carmen Ortega was Miss Press Photography 1949.

READ: A romance that began with deception

As mentioned earlier, a magnum opus on Philippine Carnival Queens and Pageant Beauties has to be produced. It may not be as academically essential as the annals of the Katipunan, the birth of the Malolos Republic or the origins of nationalism under American colonialism, but the volume will evoke more pleasant memories and genuine fun!

And such compendium will be incomplete if it did not carry a chapter on how a Waray-waray “probinsiyana” lass, with good looks to be sure, almost literally clawed her way into garnering but ultimately settling for an artificially created beauty title.

With a lot of spunk and chutzpah, after losing the contest for Miss Manila in order to vie for Miss Philippines, Imelda Remedios Visitacion Romualdez, then 23 years old, badgered and pestered Manila Mayor Arsenio H. Lacson until the Mayor relented (some wags claim--to be rid of her entreaties) and gave her the title “Muse of Manila.”

It was the first and only time in the history of beauty contests that such a title existed and was ever used. It is a very fascinating episode in the life of Imelda R. Marcos.

That beauty contest may just have been the launching pad for the “Steel Butterfly” of Philippine politics. How odd a formula can “ad astra per aspera,” be! (To the stars, through adversity!)

“If eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its excuse for being.” As an old adage puts it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Is it therefore a matter of taste?

De gustibus non est disputandum. (In matters of taste, there is no dispute.)


The SSS #Spinungaling Inday Espina-Varona Posted at 01/18/16 8:49 PM


Michael Victor Alimurong, SSS Commissioner

Whoever thought of sending that pouting pretty boy to defend President Benigno Aquino’s veto of the P2000-SSS premium hike bill just increased Filipino’s anger over this administration’s perceived insensitivity to the needs of the nation’s working class.

SSS Commissioner Michael Victor Alimurung officially became the crown prince of TralalaLand when he announced at the start of a press conference that most executives of the agency are “pro-poor.” He followed that up with a hearty endorsement of Mr. Aquino’s veto:

“We support President Aquino's veto. Giving an across the board P2,000 pension hike will lead to SSS bankruptcy in 2027…

"Para sa akin, I would want a president who would do the right thing given the information he knows, no matter how unpopular that decision may be. I have full admiration that that is in fact what the President did."

WATCH: Head over heart: 'Pro-poor' SSS justifies veto on pension hike

He’s probably Mr. Aquino’s next-door neighbor in that parallel universe where words have different meanings. (Remember “suspension” and Alan Purisima and Mamasapano?)

The Aquino administration has just given pro-poor – and “moral” -- a whole new spin.

Pro-poor now means holding on to those bloated bonuses on the ground that these are “moral” despite Commission on Audit's (COA) repeated recommendations of disallowance. Moral means rewarding yourself for a performance that includes a very poor collection rate of 38% and a high operating ratio.

The COA 2013 audit report, which came out in November 2014, notes that delinguent employers account for uncollected contributions and fines worth P13 billion.

READ MORE...

Aging Member Loans, meanwhile, amount to P64.01 billion, of which P19.407 billion represents loans outstanding for more than 5 years.

The SSS’s operating ratio – 11% of contributions – is way above Malaysia’s 2% and Singapore’s 0.5% (year 2007).

EASY FIX

The President vetoed a bill ratified by the House of Representatives and the Senate (which unanimously adopted Bayan Muna Neri Colmenares’ original bill) on grounds that a P2000 across-the-board pension hike would bankrupt the SSS fast.

The same line is peddled by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, who says have a heart for the agency’s fiscal health.

What would it cost to fund the SSS pension hike?

Four billion pesos this year, or less than a third for those delinquencies chalked up by an agency that rewards its top officials with million-peso bonuses.

Four billion pesos is 6.4% of P64 billion; 20% of the more than five-year-old aging loans. It is but a fraction of an estimated almost half-a-billion pesos in disallowed bonuses that COA maintains must be returned.

And our moral and pro-poor SSS executives say improved collection is no answer to their fiscal woes.

The SSS airily dismisses the anti-poor charges hurled by disappointed netizens. Not all pensioners are poor, say its executives. Almost 16% of senior citizens are poor. It is true majority of the poor come from the informal sector and probably not covered by social security.

But think about this. Only a small fraction of the elderly are rich and not dependent on pensions to make their twilight years comfortable. Most are from the lower middle classes. They have medical costs to defray monthly. Philhealth benefits only cover hospitalization.

Even with the discounts for senior citizens, the cost of inflation over the past decade has outpaced the purchasing power of stagnant pensions. These SSS pensioners, by the way, also spent their productive years paying taxes to the government.

Mr. Aquino jeers that the SSS pension hike bill is nothing but a “papogi” stunt – a trick to make politicians more attractive to voters.

That’s rich, given the way this administration is throwing discretionary funds left and right to prop the chances of Mr. Continuity.

Once again, the President's below-zero emotional quotient is on display. He tries to to pit 2.3 million pensioners vs 31 million active members -- as if the pensioners do not have children who care for them among the active SSS members. As if active members do not appreciate the harsh realities faced by senior citizens. They do, because they live that same reality.

Here’s what Mr. Aquino conveniently left out: This bill was four years in the making. He should ask his allies in Congress about how the elderly patiently, persistently and noisily lobbied them for years. They swarmed Congress offices weekly. They would stop representatives on the corridors in their district rounds, anywhere they saw them.

He should ask Cerilo Araneta of Negros Occidental who went around Western Visayas collecting signatures from fellow senior citizens and regularly went to Congress to help with the national lobby.

Colmenares and other legislators from both chambers have long called for improvement in collections and the elimination of unnecessary expenses. And since that is not going to be enough – that much is true – then government should provide a subsidy coupled with stringent efficiency measures.

Mr. Aquino says he fears the wrath of SSS active members. But the still-working members resent not the pensioners but the agency's shameful inefficiency and its refusal to reform its clunky management of members' monies.

It is ironic when we hear SSS executives refer to this as an “easy fix”. In the first place, it’s the agency that has a penchant for the easy fix. The law calls on it to submit a study every four years to find ways to increase members’ pension. They’ve been delinquent on this, too.

The rare times people actually move to meet pensioners’ needs, government’s main response is to increase SSS premiums – and ignore the reforms it needs to install. And then it cites actuarial figures that, according to Colmenares, “are mathematical calculation of bankruptcy that presumes no subsidy or reform is undertaken."

Aquino apologists say the SSS is a government financial corporation and should not receive monies from the treasury, unlike, say the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.

That’s hogwash. Republic Act 8282 or the SSS Act of 1997, Section 20 and 21 mandates the government that it is its duty to fill up SSS shortfalls vis-a-vis the needs of pensioners.

If that is their version of “moral” and “pro-poor” – they’ve just given Filipinos a clear vision of what “continuity” means.


PH should re-assess relations with Iran Ellen T. Tordesillas Posted at 01/22/2016 3:43 PM
 


Ellen T. Tordesillas

After more than two-and-half decades of suffering and enduring United States-led sanctions, Iran, one of the world’s top oil producers, is poised to rejuvenate its economy now that they can access an estimated 100 billion dollars of assets frozen since 1979 when students stormed and occupied the American Embassy in Teheran and held hostage American diplomats for 444 days following the fall of the U.S. supported Shah of Iran.

In a visit to Iran in 1989 to attend a conference on the Persian Gulf, I attended a press event where an American delegate asked an Iranian official if he could go inside the former U.S. Embassy compound which was already occupied by the Revolutionary Guards.

The Iranian official offered a deal: “We will let you visit the former U.S. Embassy compound if your government allowed us to have access to our assets in the United States.”

Come to think of it, now that Iran can have access to their assets in the U.S., will the Americans later be able recover their embassy in Teheran?

The 36-year sanctions, which started as an oil embargo, was expanded in 2006 with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1696 imposing wide-ranging prohibitions that included banking and insurance transactions and shipping after Iran refused to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

The sanctions took a severe toll on Iran’s economy.

In my 1989 visit, I observed no ongoing constructions. Cranes on top of buildings stayed idle. I went back to Tehran in 1995 and the construction equipment were still there, idle.

Last Saturday, the sanctions were lifted. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani hailed it as “historic” and a “great victory."

It is expected that the lifting of the sanctions would pave the way for Iran to rejoin the global market. With oil revenues, Iran could then rehabilitate its economy.

The lifting of the sanctions which was the result of a nuclear deal forged last year had a side drama: a prisoner swap. Last week President Barack Obama granted clemency to seven men described as “of Iranian origins” facing criminal charges in U.S. courts. In exchange, Iran released four Americans being held in Iran, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and student Matthew Trevithick.

Shades of “Bridge of Spies.”

The lifting of sanctions came two weeks after Iran and Saudi Arabia broke relations following an attack by Iranian protesters of the Saudi Embassy in Teheran in protest of Saudi’s execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr last January 2.

The rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia runs deep, intersecting religious and political differences. Iran is predominantly Shiite, one of the two major Islam denominations, while Saudi Arabia is Sunni territory.

What is happening between Iran and Saudi Arabia is important to the Philippines because there are over two million Filipino working in the Middle East where the two rival countries are major players in the region. Official figures, which are much lower than the actual numbers, put OFWs in Saudi Arabia at 800,000 and only 4,000 in Iran.

READ MORE...

Following the break of diplomatic relations between Saudi and Iran, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, proposed the appointment of a Cabinet-level crisis manager for the Middle East “to make sure that somebody is on top of the situation on both strategic and operational level.”

The government should do more than appoint a Middle East crisis manager. It should overhaul its attitude towards the region especially Iran.

Except for Pres. Fidel Ramos, who went on an official visit to Iran in 1995 against U.S. advice, post-Marcos Philippine presidents have failed to appreciate the important role that Iran plays in geopolitics especially in the Middle East. Iran’s support of the Hezbollah is crucial in the situation in Lebanon. Also, its support of the embattled Syrian leader Bashar Hafez al-Assad.


DFA Undersecretary for International Economic Relations Laura Q. Del Rosario. Photo from http://www.philippineembassy-usa.org

At last year’s National Day celebration of Iran, the Department of Foreign Affairs sent a middle-ranking officer, not even an assistant secretary, as its representative.

The situation was redeemed by Undersecretary Lula del Rosario, who made an effort to come to the reception in Makati despite the traffic. “I’m sensitive about these things. When I was on a foreign posting, I valued how the host government honored our invitation, “she said.

The government should be. 

Blog:www.ellentordesillas.com 
E-mail:ellentordesillas@gmail.com


Binay biggest gainer in ‘destroy Grace Poe’ crusade Ellen T. Tordesillas Posted at 01/18/16 1:06 AM

The “Eliminate Grace Poe” from the presidential race crusade has benefited Vice President Jejomar Binay, who has regained the lead in the latest survey of candidates for president in the 2016 elections by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas, whose allies in the Commission on Election (Comelec) delivered the strongest blow against Poe, has gained from it a little because he is now in a statistical tie with Poe and another candidate, Rodrigo Duterte. But it doesn’t bring him closer to the presidency because Binay is pulling away.

By helping destroy Poe, Roxas is delivering the presidency to Binay.

Binay’s comeback has been noticeable since December when Comelec’s first and second divisions disqualified Poe. In the SWS survey second week of December, Binay tied with Poe in first place with 26 percent of the respondents’ nod, followed by Roxas, a distant second at 22 percent, followed closely by Duterte with 20 per cent who, at that time, started unraveling with his cursing of Pope Francis.

In the latest poll by SWS conducted last Jan. 8 to 10, Binay scored 31 percent among 1,200 respondents nationwide who were asked the standard election survey question who they would vote if elections were held today. The respondents were given eight names.

Binay’s score was a 5-percentage point increase from the 26 per cent he got in the December 2015 survey.

Poe’s score decreased 2-percentage points--from 26 per cent to 24 per cent. Roxas didn’t gain and, in fact, went down but only by 1-percentage point. Duterte remained at 20 per cent.

It is still four months to go before Election Day. Poe has brought the case to the Supreme Court, which will have the final say.

It is expected that she will recover if the Supreme Court decides to dismiss the disqualification cases against her.

Meanwhile, she has come out with TV ads telling the people, especially her confused supporters, that the disqualification cases are attempts by people who want her out of the competition, just like what they did to her father, Fernando Poe Jr., and that she is still very much in the race.

READ MORE...

Speaking of TV ads, isn’t it amazing that Binay tops in the TV ads spending despite the fact that his bank accounts are frozen? Malalim ang balon.

***


SEVILLA

Here’s a Facebook post by former Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner John Sevilla on the removal of retired generals serving as port collectors last week before the election-related ban on the transfer of government officials and employees took effect on Sunday.

"I read this news with a heavy heart. Irresponsible reporting at its best. These retired generals made huge sacrifices and took great personal risks to reform a corrupt institution. They stepped on plenty of toes. Their work yielded solid results--unprecedented revenue growth, and reductions in smuggling which was recognized by the parties most affected by smuggling--rice, steel, and petrochemical producers. Congress--that great institution of vested interests in Customs--finally figured out a way to get them fired. They deserve thanks and praise, not a stab in the back. How will you get people with the courage you need to reform a corrupt institution when no one has their back?"

“One of my first realizations with barely over a month working in government was that we have the BEST (Yes, they exist and have been fighting the good fight even before I was born) and the WORST Filipinos in government, yet in many instances and I am inclined to believe that this case is one such example, the latter are able to find ways to prevail over the former and that is indeed devastating."

Sevilla, who was Customs commissioner for over a year, resigned last April, citing helplessness against influence peddlers and his admission that he failed to totally eliminate corruption in the bureau.

He also cited politics as reason for his resignation: “Since I started, I did everything I could to make sure that politics would not be a factor in the Customs operations. But it has been more difficult during the last few months. In the coming months, this might already be impossible,” Sevilla said.

Alberto Lina, a customs broker, succeeded Sevilla.

Lina has been sued for plunder before the Ombudsman by Omni Prime Marketing Inc.-Intrasoft Joint Venture for cancelling the P650-million contract it had with BOC and awarded it to his company, E-Konek.


By Teddy Locsin Jr - What a sheet of paper Teddy Locsin Jr. Posted at 01/23/2016 12:46 PM


Teddy Locsin Jr.

All this time, we thought that the Commission on Audit investigates the propriety of public money that is spent -- and possibly misspent, but never of money that is not spent because money that is not spent cannot be misspent.

The non-expenditure of money lies entirely within the unquestionable discretion of the executive that proposed it, the legislature that appropriated it, and again of the executive that spends it -- or does not.

But a COA audit report chastises Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya for not spending money at all on a toilet upgrading program for train stations, ports and airports to the terrible tune of P351 million which was not spent -- and therefore not misspent.


Joseph Emilio "Jun" Aguinaldo Abaya

This is ridiculous. The body to complain should be the crapping public, which must sit on toilet seats -- if any -- that the rest of the public drenched with their piss. It is the public that should complain but only to Congress, and it is the Congress, not COA, that should complain of this failure to spend but only to the Department of Budget and Management which may not have released the sum, and last to Abaya who may have had good reason not to spend it.

One, is that no amount of expenditure will toilet train the public -- be it American, Filipino, Chinese, British, Mexican or Stanford University where I encountered a toilet so stuffed to the brim with crap so it couldn't be flushed down at all. Only the Japanese are neat in discharging their waste in public toilets.

If the COA will chastise for money that was not misspent because it wasn't spent, then it must praise money that is spent, unless the money was misspent or worse yet overspent on a world class parking building. It is as simple as that.

But being an election year, everybody is running for something, especially for a share of media attention kasi kulang sila sa pansin. What a sheet -- of paper, of course.


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