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


FROM MALAYA

EDITORIAL: FORGOTTEN VICTIMS OF MAMASAPANO
[The daily dose of statements from Malacañan Palace tend to signal some sort of nervousness about the coming probe, especially when Aquino spokesmen say there is nothing more to say about Mamasapano and the senators only issue speculative statements at this time.]


JANUARY 25 -AS the Senate prepares for the reopening of the public hearing on the Mamasapano encounter, now one year ago, old wounds are made fresh and victims of this military debacle come out of the woodwork to say that they have received nothing much by way of compensation or justice. Metro Manila residents and the media are most concerned about the 44 men of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) who perished as heroes in the village of Tukanalipao, Mamasapano town and their surviving relatives who are actively pursuing their cause, trying to get justice for what had happened. Little is mentioned about the other victims of that encounter, all of them Muslims. A total of 17 elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also died there, along with some village folk. The poor peasants and residents of the village, even the owner of the two-hectare corn farm where the infamous fighting took place, was not reimbursed for the P40,000 crop loss he suffered. Corn farmer Abdul Wahab now even wonders who among the two sides in that encounter would pay for his losses. Meanwhile, politicians in Manila are busy throwing brickbats at each other, laying the predicate, as the saying goes, on the forthcoming conduct of the Senate investigation Part 2. Liberal Party’s Rep. Edgar Erice, as expected, imputed political motive on Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s determined call for a reopening of the probe, saying “this is a payback for what happened to him and his chief of staff.” Erice added that for all his experience, the senator still lacks wisdom. The same message was aired, although using more subtle words and arguments, by Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III and Rep. Miro Quimbo, all apologists of the increasing rutted Daang Matuwid. It looks like when the need for talking heads to defend President Noynoy’s policies and actuations arises, you can count on many mouths in the administration to do the talking. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - THREATS OF ZIKA VIRUS


FEBRUARY 1 -THE world has never been given a respite from serious public health problems, specially in the area of viruses. Ebola has just been contained in West Africa with a vaccine being developed to fight the disease when news of Zika virus spreading in Latin America hit the media. Zika virus is not new. The mosquito-borne illness was first discovered in 1947 when it was isolated from a monkey found in Uganda’s Zika forest. The virus has been reported in humans in Asia and Africa since the 1950s. Zika made some significant appearance in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean in 2007, and from there, spread to Easter Island off the coast of Chile in 2014, and on to Brazil the succeeding year. Just like dengue, Zika is transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, and has common symptoms such as fever, rash, headache, muscle and joint pain and sore eyes or sometimes, with no symptoms at all. What makes this disease unique is its concomitant serious complications, including microcephaly, with the greatest risk appearing to be associated with the first trimester of pregnancy. In simple terms, when the Zika virus attacks a pregnant woman, there is great risk that the baby’s brain would remain undeveloped. It is well for President Aquino to realize the problem as urgent, and to act accordingly, beginning with an order to the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure the safety of the public from the disease. Geographical distance has shielded the country from an outbreak Zika, which only manifested here in two instances -- a boy in Cebu City reportedly was infected in 2012 but he recovered, and a Filipino woman now being observed in a hospital in an unspecified Latin American country for suspected Zika infection. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - LOSING GROUND TO CORRUPTION


FEBRUARY 1 -TRANSPARENCY International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index released yesterday showed the Philippines sliding 10 levels from its previous rank in 2014 to land at 95th among 168 countries surveyed last year. In terms of CPI score, the country shed three points garnering only 35 compared to 38 a year ago. But most significantly, the drop snapped a three-year streak of improving outlook on curbing public sector corruption dating back to 2012 when we scored 34 on the same gradient. If one is at optimist, the tabulated CPI scores showed 73 countries are in worse straits.On the other hand, we barely managed a third of Denmark’s 91-point mark that gave it the top spot for the fourth straight year. The Philippines’ decline in 2015 is hardly a surprise. Two agencies at the forefront of the government’s campaign against corruption in public offices, the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman, both posted five-year lows in each of their most significant performance indicators – number of cases disposed and number of cases filed. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Benjamin Diokno - NEGLECTING AGRICULTURE
[GDP growth averaged 3.5 percent during Mrs. Aquino’ term (1986-1992), 3.8 percent during Ramos’ term (1992-1998), 3.8 percent under Estrada’s truncated term (1999-2000), and 4.8 percent under Arroyo’s watch (2001-2010). This does not necessarily mean that Mr. Aquino III is a better economic manager than his predecessors. In fact, the incumbent President is expected to do better than his predecessor, building on whatever reforms put in place by those who preceded him.]


FEBRUARY 1 -By BENJAMIN DIOKNO The Philippine economy’s growth decelerated to 5.8 percent in 2015, the slowest economic expansion in the last four years. The 2015 actual growth was way below the administration’s rosy target of 7.0 to 8.0% growth in 2015, and it even missed the revised and ‘realistic’ target of 6%. Growth in the last three years suggests, though statistically not conclusive, a downward trend: it was 7.1% in 2013, 6.1% in 2014, and 5.8% in 2015. Expectedly, President Aquino’s men desperately put a positive spin to this negative development. They boasted that the economy registered an average GDP growth of 6.2 percent from 2010 to 2015, the highest in the last four decades. Seriously? They forgot to acknowledge (hopefully, not deliberately) that the economy’s performance in 2010 was not due to Mr. Aquino. Since public policy works with a lag, Mr. Aquino can claim credit for the economy’s performance from 2011 to 2016, but not for 2010. Incidentally, in 2010, the economy registered the highest growth rate of 7.6 percent in recent history. Put plainly, it is reasonable to assume that what Mr. Aquino did or didn’t do from July 1, 2010 to the end of 2010, has no immediate impact on the last half of 2010. Since public policy works with a lag, I have computed the average GDP growth for each of the post-EDSA presidents. The results are shown Table 1. Indeed, the economic performance of President Aquino, in terms of average GDP is better than his predecessors. From 2011 to 2015, Mr. Aquino’s first five years, GDP growth averaged 5.9 percent, not 6.2 percent as claimed by administration officials. GDP growth averaged 3.5 percent during Mrs. Aquino’ term (1986-1992), 3.8 percent during Ramos’ term (1992-1998), 3.8 percent under Estrada’s truncated term (1999-2000), and 4.8 percent under Arroyo’s watch (2001-2010) This does not necessarily mean that Mr. Aquino III is a better economic manager than his predecessors. In fact, the incumbent President is expected to do better than his predecessor, building on whatever reforms put in place by those who preceded him. READ MORE...READ MORE...

ALSO: By Ellen Tordesillas - MARCELINO OPEN TO AMLAC LOOKING INTO HIS BANK ACCOUNTS


FEBRUARY 1 -By Ellen Tordesillas
LT. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino, through a classmate at the Philippine Military Academy, said he is willing to sign a waiver for the Anti-Money Laundering Council to look into his bank deposits, after the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group – told media that they found among his things deposit slips amounting to P2.2 million. At the same time, Marcelino said he is praying that his accusers will also open their bank accounts to AMLC scrutiny. This is a dramatic move by Marcelino, who is desperately fighting, not only for his dignity, but also for his life. Marcelino’s explanation was made through a statement by Maj. Vonne Villanueva. Villanueva, who is now into private practice, said in a text message to media: “My mistah, Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino, categorically denies the insinuations by PNP-AIDG that he is profiting from illegal drugs trade. “The bank transactions that PNP-AIDG presented were meant to discredit Ltcol Marcelino. The bank receipt and AFP passbooks were kept as part of his personal financial records and his confidential operational fund records when he was still with ISAFP. I would not discuss the details in public due to its sensitive nature and the fact that they have not filed another case against him related to these bank deposits.” Villanueva further said, “Lt Col Marcelino is willing to sign a waiver for AMLC for the sake of transparency and in compliance with the law praying that his accusers will do the same. “ Marcelino’s accusers are PDEA and the PNP-AIDG. His lawyer, Dennis Manalo, said the arrest of the officer, much–admired for his anti-drug crusade, was the handiwork of PDEA head Arturo G. Cacdac. Let’s see what Cacdac is going to say in his press conference today. Marcelino was nabbed, together with A Chinese national, Yan Yi Shuo alias Randy, who is also a PDEA agent and translator, in a raid of a shabu lab in Sta. Cruz last Jan. 21. PDEA said the haul was all of 76,697.7 grams, with an estimated street value of P383 million. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

FORGOTTEN VICTIMS OF MAMASAPANO

MANILA, FEBRUARY 1, 2016 (MALAYA) January 25, 2016 -  AS the Senate prepares for the reopening of the public hearing on the Mamasapano encounter, now one year ago, old wounds are made fresh and victims of this military debacle come out of the woodwork to say that they have received nothing much by way of compensation or justice.

Metro Manila residents and the media are most concerned about the 44 men of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) who perished as heroes in the village of Tukanalipao, Mamasapano town and their surviving relatives who are actively pursuing their cause, trying to get justice for what had happened.

Little is mentioned about the other victims of that encounter, all of them Muslims. A total of 17 elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also died there, along with some village folk. The poor peasants and residents of the village, even the owner of the two-hectare corn farm where the infamous fighting took place, was not reimbursed for the P40,000 crop loss he suffered. Corn farmer Abdul Wahab now even wonders who among the two sides in that encounter would pay for his losses.

Meanwhile, politicians in Manila are busy throwing brickbats at each other, laying the predicate, as the saying goes, on the forthcoming conduct of the Senate investigation Part 2.

Liberal Party’s Rep. Edgar Erice, as expected, imputed political motive on Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s determined call for a reopening of the probe, saying “this is a payback for what happened to him and his chief of staff.” Erice added that for all his experience, the senator still lacks wisdom.

The same message was aired, although using more subtle words and arguments, by Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III and Rep. Miro Quimbo, all apologists of the increasing rutted Daang Matuwid. It looks like when the need for talking heads to defend President Noynoy’s policies and actuations arises, you can count on many mouths in the administration to do the talking.

READ MORE...

The daily dose of statements from Malacañan Palace tend to signal some sort of nervousness about the coming probe, especially when Aquino spokesmen say there is nothing more to say about Mamasapano and the senators only issue speculative statements at this time.

Enrile has promised to introduce or dig up new evidence about the firefight, bringing the blame right at the doorsteps of Malacañang. Let us hear him do just that, the better to uncover the truth about Mamasapano and help the nation move forward from here.

Today, the President will confer the Medal of Valor on two of the slain SAF commandos, Senior Inspector Gednat Tabdi and Police Office 2 Romeo Cempron. He will also confer the PNP Distinguished Conduct Medal on the rest of the SAF 44.

This recognition may be late in coming but the recipients surely deserve the honor. In their memory, however, their families should be assured that justice is served and those truly responsible for the tragedy be made to account for their misdeeds, whoever they may be.


EDITORIAL: THREATS OF ZIKA VIRUS February 01, 2016

THE world has never been given a respite from serious public health problems, specially in the area of viruses. Ebola has just been contained in West Africa with a vaccine being developed to fight the disease when news of Zika virus spreading in Latin America hit the media.

Zika virus is not new. The mosquito-borne illness was first discovered in 1947 when it was isolated from a monkey found in Uganda’s Zika forest. The virus has been reported in humans in Asia and Africa since the 1950s.

Zika made some significant appearance in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean in 2007, and from there, spread to Easter Island off the coast of Chile in 2014, and on to Brazil the succeeding year.

Just like dengue, Zika is transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, and has common symptoms such as fever, rash, headache, muscle and joint pain and sore eyes or sometimes, with no symptoms at all.

What makes this disease unique is its concomitant serious complications, including microcephaly, with the greatest risk appearing to be associated with the first trimester of pregnancy.

In simple terms, when the Zika virus attacks a pregnant woman, there is great risk that the baby’s brain would remain undeveloped.

It is well for President Aquino to realize the problem as urgent, and to act accordingly, beginning with an order to the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure the safety of the public from the disease.

Geographical distance has shielded the country from an outbreak Zika, which only manifested here in two instances -- a boy in Cebu City reportedly was infected in 2012 but he recovered, and a Filipino woman now being observed in a hospital in an unspecified Latin American country for suspected Zika infection.

READ MORE...

Complacency however should not be allowed to creep in the fight against Zika, dengue or any public health problem for that matter. The speed and convenience of air travel in the modern world has made all nations and peoples practically neighbors, with miles of distances no longer a factor in politics, trade, business and sadly, in the spread of diseases.

As in other airport facilities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the thermal scanners are unreliable and may not be enough to isolate passengers with fever or other symptoms, transport observers and health authorities alike point out.

The call of Malacañang is for vigilance, maintenance of general cleanliness of surroundings, and personal health and safety.

Aside from this, the government should also be ready to come to the aid of overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) who may be infected in any part of the world.


LOSING GROUND TO CORRUPTION January 28, 2016

TRANSPARENCY International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index released yesterday showed the Philippines sliding 10 levels from its previous rank in 2014 to land at 95th among 168 countries surveyed last year.

In terms of CPI score, the country shed three points garnering only 35 compared to 38 a year ago.

But most significantly, the drop snapped a three-year streak of improving outlook on curbing public sector corruption dating back to 2012 when we scored 34 on the same gradient.

If one is at optimist, the tabulated CPI scores showed 73 countries are in worse straits.

On the other hand, we barely managed a third of Denmark’s 91-point mark that gave it the top spot for the fourth straight year.

The Philippines’ decline in 2015 is hardly a surprise.

Two agencies at the forefront of the government’s campaign against corruption in public offices, the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman, both posted five-year lows in each of their most significant performance indicators – number of cases disposed and number of cases filed.

READ MORE...

But beyond sterile numbers and statistics, the signs are visible in all points of the compass: vehicle registration fees are paid in full but the backlog in the issuance of license plates and stickers stretch months, if not years; the application process for a business license is still a gamut of bribes and extortion; tourists and overseas workers returning home are still fair game for sticky hands at any of our points of entry; and public works projects are still reliable gold mines for unscrupulous contractors and approving authorities.

Transparency International puts it very plainly. Corruption is far more than money going missing. It is about people’s lives.

In Congress, the proposal to extend the life of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) has met stiff opposition from the very people it was supposed to be helping.

After almost two decades and P13 billion of supposed assistance gone nowhere, the farming and fisheries sectors have simply refused to continue being used as a convenient excuse.

No wonder people are willing to bet the next six years on the presidential candidate who promises to feed grafters to the fishes even on the scantiest of proof to back it up.


NEGLECTING AGRICULTURE By BENJAMIN DIOKNO February 01, 2016


 By BENJAMIN DIOKNO

The Philippine economy’s growth decelerated to 5.8 percent in 2015, the slowest economic expansion in the last four years. The 2015 actual growth was way below the administration’s rosy target of 7.0 to 8.0% growth in 2015, and it even missed the revised and ‘realistic’ target of 6%.

Growth in the last three years suggests, though statistically not conclusive, a downward trend: it was 7.1% in 2013, 6.1% in 2014, and 5.8% in 2015.

Expectedly, President Aquino’s men desperately put a positive spin to this negative development. They boasted that the economy registered an average GDP growth of 6.2 percent from 2010 to 2015, the highest in the last four decades. Seriously?

They forgot to acknowledge (hopefully, not deliberately) that the economy’s performance in 2010 was not due to Mr. Aquino. Since public policy works with a lag, Mr. Aquino can claim credit for the economy’s performance from 2011 to 2016, but not for 2010. Incidentally, in 2010, the economy registered the highest growth rate of 7.6 percent in recent history.

Put plainly, it is reasonable to assume that what Mr. Aquino did or didn’t do from July 1, 2010 to the end of 2010, has no immediate impact on the last half of 2010. Since public policy works with a lag, I have computed the average GDP growth for each of the post-EDSA presidents. The results are shown Table 1.

Indeed, the economic performance of President Aquino, in terms of average GDP is better than his predecessors. From 2011 to 2015, Mr. Aquino’s first five years, GDP growth averaged 5.9 percent, not 6.2 percent as claimed by administration officials.

GDP growth averaged 3.5 percent during Mrs. Aquino’ term (1986-1992), 3.8 percent during Ramos’ term (1992-1998), 3.8 percent under Estrada’s truncated term (1999-2000), and 4.8 percent under Arroyo’s watch (2001-2010).

This does not necessarily mean that Mr. Aquino III is a better economic manager than his predecessors. In fact, the incumbent President is expected to do better than his predecessor, building on whatever reforms put in place by those who preceded him.

READ MORE...

ACTUAL VS. TARGET: BETTER MEASURE OF PERFORMANCE

A reasonable way to judge performance is by comparing actual to planned targets. Targets are set by any administration. These targets should be taken seriously because those in power, more than the outsiders, know the initial conditions, the resource endowments, the available technology, the capability of its people, and they have the best information on the short-term, medium-term, and long-term challenges.

In its original plan, the Aquino administration promised a GDP growth of 7 to 8 percent in 2015 and 7.5 to 8.5 percent in 2016. The 2015 target was missed and there is a strong likelihood that the 2016 target would me missed too.

By the way, this is not to say that GDP is the best measure of the health of economies. In a recent meeting at Davos, three leading economists and academics agreed that GDP is a poor way of measuring the health of economies and they urgently urge the need to find a new measure.

Speaking on separate occasions, IMF head Christine Lagarde, Nobel Prize Winner in Economic Science Joseph Stiglitz, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Erik Brynjolfsson argued that as the world changes, so too should the way we measure progress.

If higher premium is placed on the inclusivity of the growth process, it may be more relevant for the poor on how agriculture performs relative to the overall economic growth. Here, the Aquino III administration did badly. It has the second poorest record in agriculture out, next only to Ramos.

Agriculture growth for the entire year was flat (0.2%) which cast doubts on the inclusiveness of the economic expansion. Among the three sectors, agriculture has the biggest impact on the poor: more than one-third of the labor force come from agriculture, and more than half of the poor reside in rural, agricultural communities.

Likewise, the industrial sector growth which provides a meaningful share of decent jobs in the economy is on a slide: from a peak of 9.2% in 2013, it decelerated to 7.9% in 2014, then slowed further to 5.9% in 2015. This should be a concern for policymakers – for the incumbent but mostly for the incoming President and his men.

The Aquino III administration’s neglect of agriculture is indisputable: from 2011 to 2015, agriculture grew by 1.6%, way below population growth rate. This is second to the last ranking among past 5 presidents. Agriculture grew, on average, by 6.5 % during Estrada’s truncated term, 2.9% under Arroyo’s, 2.1% under Corazon Aquino’s and 0.8% in Ramos’.

This neglect of agriculture has been a major drag on the government’s war against poverty. Growth cannot be truly inclusive for as long as agriculture and the rural sector are left behind.

***

Benjamin E. Diokno is a former secretary of budget and management.


By Ellen Tordesillas - MARCELINO OPEN TO AMLAC LOOKING INTO HIS BANK ACCOUNTS By Ellen Tordesillas February 01, 2016


By Ellen Tordesillas

LT. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino, through a classmate at the Philippine Military Academy, said he is willing to sign a waiver for the Anti-Money Laundering Council to look into his bank deposits, after the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group – told media that they found among his things deposit slips amounting to P2.2 million.

At the same time, Marcelino said he is praying that his accusers will also open their bank accounts to AMLC scrutiny.

This is a dramatic move by Marcelino, who is desperately fighting, not only for his dignity, but also for his life.

Marcelino’s explanation was made through a statement by Maj. Vonne Villanueva.

Villanueva, who is now into private practice, said in a text message to media: “My mistah, Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino, categorically denies the insinuations by PNP-AIDG that he is profiting from illegal drugs trade.

“The bank transactions that PNP-AIDG presented were meant to discredit Ltcol Marcelino. The bank receipt and AFP passbooks were kept as part of his personal financial records and his confidential operational fund records when he was still with ISAFP. I would not discuss the details in public due to its sensitive nature and the fact that they have not filed another case against him related to these bank deposits.”

Villanueva further said, “Lt Col Marcelino is willing to sign a waiver for AMLC for the sake of transparency and in compliance with the law praying that his accusers will do the same. “

Marcelino’s accusers are PDEA and the PNP-AIDG. His lawyer, Dennis Manalo, said the arrest of the officer, much–admired for his anti-drug crusade, was the handiwork of PDEA head Arturo G. Cacdac.

Let’s see what Cacdac is going to say in his press conference today.

Marcelino was nabbed, together with A Chinese national, Yan Yi Shuo alias Randy, who is also a PDEA agent and translator, in a raid of a shabu lab in Sta. Cruz last Jan. 21. PDEA said the haul was all of 76,697.7 grams, with an estimated street value of P383 million.

READ MORE...

Marcelino insisted on his innocence saying he was doing intelligence work on a tip provided by Randy. He claimed it was a mis-encounter. He, however, couldn’t produce a mission order for his clandestine operation.

Marcelino’s lawyer, Dennis Manalo, in a TV interview cried “frame up” by Cacdac.

Last week the PNP-AIDG said they are coordinating with the AMLC on Marcelino’s bank deposits after they found deposit slips among his confiscated things.

A Philippine Star report, quoting AIDG spokesman Chief Inspector Roque Merdegia, said the deposit slips were for P500,000 on May 26, 2014 followed by P200,000 on June 25, 2014 and P300,000 on July 31, 2014. There’s a deposit slip for P30,000 made on March 4, 2015.

Merdegia said they also found P86, 000 cash in his bag, along with a handgun.

Other items they seized from Marcelino included $210, P2,510, 15 Australian dollars, 20 Hong Kong dollars and a SIM card for satellite phone, the Philstar report said.

Marcelino’s willingness to have the AMLC look into his bank records should unveil the truth about this disturbing incident.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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