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

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

EDITORIAL: THE COMELEC INSPIRES


MARCH 17 -On May 9, more than 54 million Filipinos are expected to troop to voting stations to elect national and local leaders. Every candidate has his or her own packaging, campaign style, advocacy, and if we are lucky, a semblance of a platform of government. How do we separate the promises from the plans when we have been burned so many times? Is it even worth our while to try to go beyond name recall? For voters, making a choice is indeed a daunting task. Today, however, let us step back and forget the names and faces now vying for our attention. We will arrive at a decision sooner or later, anyway. The tougher, trickier question is whomever we vote for, would our will be reflected accurately?  We certainly do not get much inspiration from the Commission on Elections, the constitutional body tasked to ensure the conduct of honest, orderly and peaceful polls. Instead of reminding the people to get out and vote, and select their leaders wisely, the Comelec presents us various scenarios that dampen our faith in the electoral system. Given the recent ruling of the Supreme Court that it must provide voter receipts on election day, the Comelec is now rushing to comply with the law—as if the provision had not been there to begin with. After that came the imprudent announcement of Chairman Andres Bautista that a no-election scenario may ensue. He also raised the specter of a postponement, or a reversal to the manual system, if the poll body runs out of time to cover these requirements. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Emil Jurado - Self-destructing beyond repair
[The Constitution has been reduced to a mere scrap of paper. With the Sereno court having fallen beyond repair, my gulay, what is there to hope for? As for Sereno and her cabal, my gulay, history will judge them harshly. And that’s for sure.]


MARCH 17 -MOST of the taipans and heads of business conglomerates I know have left or are preparing to leave the country this week. As one of them intimated to me: “It will be very expensive for me to wait for Election Day.”  The reason is obvious. As Election Day approaches, whether the May 9 polls will be postponed or not, those vying for president, vice president, senators or local offices will surely be lining up for the usual financial assistance. And Santa Banana, it could cost them millions of pesos.  * * * The worst result of BS Aquino’s efforts to avoid landing in jail the moment he steps down from Malacañang is the fall of the Supreme Court. The high court is that institution mandated to interpret the Constitution. Actually, most of the gods of Mount Olympus on Padre Faura do not need Aquino to make the Supreme Court fall from its pedestal. With Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, and her cabal of six other justices, most of the justices did it by themselves. They did so when they ruled that Mr. Aquino’s Manchurian Candidate was indeed qualified to run for president. Santa Banana, I have never seen a bunch of justices interpreting the Constitution, not according to its letter and intent, but according to their whims and caprices. Mrs. Mary Grace Natividad Kelly Poe Llamanzares is neither a natural-born Filipino nor has been a resident of the country for at least 10 years. As a journalist, I have had my own battles with the Supreme Court. I have been cited twice for contempt, perhaps a record for any journalist. The Supreme Court, through its decision in the Poe case, was obviously trying to please BS Aquino.  The Sereno court not only amended the Constitution but rendered another constitutional body like the Comelec useless in its role to qualify or disqualify candidates for election. It was truly a sad day for us who believe in democracy and the rule of law. The Constitution has been reduced to a mere scrap of paper. With the Sereno court having fallen beyond repair, my gulay, what is there to hope for?As for Sereno and her cabal, my gulay, history will judge them harshly. And that’s for sure. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Record tourist numbers
[The government’s record in repairing and establishing world-class airports is poor. The country’s premier airport—Ninoy Aquino International Airport—for one, is not at par with its counterparts in Asia. Secondary roads leading to pristine beaches and other major tourist destinations are poorly maintained and do not provide comfort to foreign visitors. Security is also a problem. The government still cannot ensure the safety of tourists in some secluded getaways. The Philippines will take several years yet to match the tourism strides of Thailand and Malaysia, until the government has the resolve to prioritize airport expansion and make the stay of tourists safer and more comfortable.]


MARCH 18 -Foreign tourist arrivals topped the 500,000 mark in January, the first time it breached the level in a single month. The record number suggests that airports in the Philippines will be hard put to accommodate the influx, given the poor state of infrastructure in the country. The Department of Tourism early this week reported that foreign tourist arrivals rose 13 percent to a record 542,258 in January this year from 479,149 year-on-year. The figure put the government on track of meeting the six million goal this year.Rising tourist numbers are a boon to the Philippine economy. Foreign visitors instantly boost the local economy by creating jobs. They move hotels, restaurants and related facilities to expand their offerings to meet increased demand. The expansion of these establishments, in turn, will create additional job opportunities and boost the overall economy. Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. was upbeat on the January tourism figure. “This rapid growth is allowing creation of decent jobs and livelihood for many Filipinos,” he says. “For 2015, tourism employment was estimated at 4.99 million with a share of 12.7 percent to national employment, already representing 4.8 percent growth from 2014.” READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - A measure of happiness
[Filipinos are the 82nd happiest lot among 156 countries.]


MARCH 19 -The World Happiness Report, released this week, saw Denmark reclaim its earlier distinction as the world’s happiest country. Close behind are Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. More than the ranking of the various countries of the world, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network-prepared report provides useful insight into what people of different cultures see as indicators of their well-being. The researchers, for instance, found that most of the happiest countries were fairly homogenous nations with strong social safety nets, that inequality was strongly associated with unhappiness, and that those on the bottom of the list suffer poverty and destabilization caused by war, disease or both. Unemployment and major disabilities have a lasting influence on people’s sense of well-being and that migrants’ happiness approximates their new country, not their country of origin. The scholars also found that three-quarters of the variation could be explained by six variables: per-capita gross domestic product, healthy years of life expectancy, social support, trust in government and business, perceived freedom to make life choices, and generosity. Filipinos are the 82nd happiest lot among 156 countries. READ MORE...

ALSO: Pre-empting the people’s will
[PHILSTAR HEADLIBNE NEWS:  – Sixty-six percent of Filipinos are in favor of the Supreme Court (SC) decision allowing Sen. Grace Poe to run in the May 9 presidential polls, according to the first Social Weather Stations (SWS)-TV5 Bilang Pilipino Mobile Survey.]


MARCH 18 -It is anomalous, irregular, if not downright criminal, for a privately funded poll survey like the Social Weather Stations to make public that 66 percent of the Filipino voters agree to that highly questionable ruling of the Supreme Court. First, the operators of SWS should bear in mind that the issue now centers on whether the majority of the justices who voted to allow Poe to run was valid. Second, that the poll survey, as a matter of decency, ethics and respect to our judicial institution, should have refrained from conducting that kind of mockery as if to put pressure on those justices who voted to disqualify Poe by alleging that the so-called majority of the Filipino voters favor that she run for the office. While ordinary Filipinos are not in a position to analyze why a person who renounced her citizenship and returned to claim allegiance because she is interested in becoming president, the fact is clear that the SWS is putting pressure on those justices to change their mind because public clamor demand that she be allowed to run as if the office is waiting for her. There is in this sinister move by SWS to pull the issue out of the legal parameter which is fraudulent because it supplants the legal issue with irrational and emotional process which they purport as a “democratic choice,” and that our laws including the Constitution must bend according to the wishes of the people. While SWS can claim that its survey speaks of the truth, there is no such thing as truth until the happening of that event occurs. The truth must be made as a fact, and there are moral and legal limitations like the premature announcement of a decision in a litigated case or in conditioning the minds of the people in the name of freedom and democracy that one candidate is likely to win. Any attempt to pre-empt the truth is to create a mental conditioning. There is deceit because it renders their hooted democratic process a sham. It is like telling those justices to vote for Poe’s qualification; otherwise, they would be disobeying the will of the alleged 66 percent Filipino voters who want her to run. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL -The Comelec inspires

MANILA, MARCH 21, 2016 (MANILA STANDARD) posted March 17, 2016 - On May 9, more than 54 million Filipinos are expected to troop to voting stations to elect national and local leaders. Every candidate has his or her own packaging, campaign style, advocacy, and if we are lucky, a semblance of a platform of government. How do we separate the promises from the plans when we have been burned so many times? Is it even worth our while to try to go beyond name recall? For voters, making a choice is indeed a daunting task.

Today, however, let us step back and forget the names and faces now vying for our attention. We will arrive at a decision sooner or later, anyway. The tougher, trickier question is whomever we vote for, would our will be reflected accurately?

We certainly do not get much inspiration from the Commission on Elections, the constitutional body tasked to ensure the conduct of honest, orderly and peaceful polls. Instead of reminding the people to get out and vote, and select their leaders wisely, the Comelec presents us various scenarios that dampen our faith in the electoral system.

Given the recent ruling of the Supreme Court that it must provide voter receipts on election day, the Comelec is now rushing to comply with the law—as if the provision had not been there to begin with. After that came the imprudent announcement of Chairman Andres Bautista that a no-election scenario may ensue. He also raised the specter of a postponement, or a reversal to the manual system, if the poll body runs out of time to cover these requirements.

READ MORE...

Perhaps the commission is under a great deal of pressure to catch up on things it should have addressed months, even years, ago. It is a mystery though why it still has not gotten the hang of its job when elections regularly happen every three years, and it could accomplish the not-so-urgent but still important things during the intervals.

Until now, for instance, many are still convinced that widespread cheating may still occur in the context of automation, and would even be more difficult to detect or prove given that only a few “experts” are familiar with the technology. Has the Comelec done anything to assuage the people’s fears? Has it told us convincingly that the sanctity of the ballot will be upheld at all times and before anybody?

Unfortunately, the Comelec is the first one to make us doubt whether our choice would even be counted. It brings up the possibility of these chaotic scenarios that would frustrate democracy, leading us to wonder whether there is any hope for this country at all.

That the Comelec appears to take the matter lightly shakes the foundations on which our democracy stands.


Self-destructing beyond repair posted March 17, 2016 at 12:01 am by Emil Jurado



MOST of the taipans and heads of business conglomerates I know have left or are preparing to leave the country this week. As one of them intimated to me: “It will be very expensive for me to wait for Election Day.”

The reason is obvious. As Election Day approaches, whether the May 9 polls will be postponed or not, those vying for president, vice president, senators or local offices will surely be lining up for the usual financial assistance. And Santa Banana, it could cost them millions of pesos.

* * *

The worst result of BS Aquino’s efforts to avoid landing in jail the moment he steps down from Malacañang is the fall of the Supreme Court. The high court is that institution mandated to interpret the Constitution.

Actually, most of the gods of Mount Olympus on Padre Faura do not need Aquino to make the Supreme Court fall from its pedestal. With Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, and her cabal of six other justices, most of the justices did it by themselves. They did so when they ruled that Mr. Aquino’s Manchurian Candidate was indeed qualified to run for president.

Santa Banana, I have never seen a bunch of justices interpreting the Constitution, not according to its letter and intent, but according to their whims and caprices.

Mrs. Mary Grace Natividad Kelly Poe Llamanzares is neither a natural-born Filipino nor has been a resident of the country for at least 10 years.

As a journalist, I have had my own battles with the Supreme Court. I have been cited twice for contempt, perhaps a record for any journalist.

The Supreme Court, through its decision in the Poe case, was obviously trying to please BS Aquino.

The Sereno court not only amended the Constitution but rendered another constitutional body like the Comelec useless in its role to qualify or disqualify candidates for election.

It was truly a sad day for us who believe in democracy and the rule of law. The Constitution has been reduced to a mere scrap of paper.

With the Sereno court having fallen beyond repair, my gulay, what is there to hope for?As for Sereno and her cabal, my gulay, history will judge them harshly. And that’s for sure.

* * *

READ MORE...

I listened to the Senate inquiry into the suspected money laundering of $81 million from the Bangladesh Bank to the Jupiter branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

I had hoped some questions would be answered, but they were not. The RCBC bank manager refused to answer them lest she incriminate herself because she was already charged by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

Why didn’t the branch manager issue an alert order when such a mind-boggling amount was remitted to her bank branch? Did she also alert the bank management? I ask these questions since I know that a big amount of foreign exchange or even pesos should be referred to the management. If the remittance came from Henry Sy Sr. or Bill Gates there would be no problem. But, Santa Banana, from Bangladesh?

The other big question is why the manager wants to answer questions only in an executive session. My gulay, Senate investigations or inquiries are supposed to be in aid of legislation. Thus, to have a Senate executive session would be useless. It would deprive the people of knowing the truth. As Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile told the Senate, people might think “we are hiding the truth.”

Didn’t the management know about the remittance, and why not? There’s a caveat imposed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on management and the board of directors of a bank that in cases of anomalies committed by bank branches, the management and members of the board are jointly and severally responsible, unless they can show that they had no part in it.

The biggest question in this kind of anomaly is: Since there was already a stop payment from the Bangladesh Central Bank, why didn’t branch manager Maia Deguito comply? To me, that is the most damaging aspect of this case. The manager could not have acted alone, and since other names have cropped up, there’s no question about an act of conspiracy.

* * *

I had been wondering how a P350-million Wellness Center would look like. Thus, I went to the City Club at Makati Place where international businessman Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin put up the world-class “Aegle Wellness Center,” the first of its kind in the country.

Many wellness centers claim to be the best. They boast they can make you look younger and even prevent you from ageing. Others like Vicky Belo’s wellness center can make an ugly woman beautiful, and not-so-handsome men look like George Clooney or even look like Superman.

Thus, with no less than Dr. Ben Valdecanas as my tour guide, I went to both City Club and Balesin Island Club. I was convinced that this was really a magnum opus by my former student Bobby Ongpin.

Aegle Wellness Center is a cut above the rest. It has a complete medical diagnostic room with the latest in diagnostic facilities.

It did not make sense that a world-class center should not have a real wellness treatment done on patients without a thorough diagnosis of one’s body.

The second element of a world-class wellness center is that it should be staffed with the best medical doctors, nutritionists, and physical therapists.

Bobby really would not settle for second best. He brought Dr. Claude Chauchard, known worldwide as a truly outstanding wellness professional, on board.

Ongpin also took in Valdecanas, who is undoubtedly of the best and most highly acclaimed Filipino medical wellness doctors.

He even assured me that I could live to a hundred years if I undergo the treatment of the Aegle Wellness Center. Live to a hundred years? And burden my family with that possibility?


Record tourist numbers posted March 18, 2016 at 12:01 am



Foreign tourist arrivals topped the 500,000 mark in January, the first time it breached the level in a single month. The record number suggests that airports in the Philippines will be hard put to accommodate the influx, given the poor state of infrastructure in the country.

The Department of Tourism early this week reported that foreign tourist arrivals rose 13 percent to a record 542,258 in January this year from 479,149 year-on-year. The figure put the government on track of meeting the six million goal this year.

Rising tourist numbers are a boon to the Philippine economy. Foreign visitors instantly boost the local economy by creating jobs. They move hotels, restaurants and related facilities to expand their offerings to meet increased demand. The expansion of these establishments, in turn, will create additional job opportunities and boost the overall economy.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. was upbeat on the January tourism figure. “This rapid growth is allowing creation of decent jobs and livelihood for many Filipinos,” he says. “For 2015, tourism employment was estimated at 4.99 million with a share of 12.7 percent to national employment, already representing 4.8 percent growth from 2014.”

READ MORE...

The tourism sector is already one of the major dollar earners in the country, along with exports, migrant Filipino workers and revenues from business process outsourcing companies. But its sustainability as a major contributor to the economy is suspect because of inadequate support facilities.

The government’s record in repairing and establishing world-class airports is poor. The country’s premier airport—Ninoy Aquino International Airport—for one, is not at par with its counterparts in Asia.

Secondary roads leading to pristine beaches and other major tourist destinations are poorly maintained and do not provide comfort to foreign visitors.

Security is also a problem. The government still cannot ensure the safety of tourists in some secluded getaways.

The Philippines will take several years yet to match the tourism strides of Thailand and Malaysia, until the government has the resolve to prioritize airport expansion and make the stay of tourists safer and more comfortable.


A measure of happiness posted March 19, 2016 at 12:01 am



The World Happiness Report, released this week, saw Denmark reclaim its earlier distinction as the world’s happiest country. Close behind are Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

More than the ranking of the various countries of the world, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network-prepared report provides useful insight into what people of different cultures see as indicators of their well-being.

The researchers, for instance, found that most of the happiest countries were fairly homogenous nations with strong social safety nets, that inequality was strongly associated with unhappiness, and that those on the bottom of the list suffer poverty and destabilization caused by war, disease or both. Unemployment and major disabilities have a lasting influence on people’s sense of well-being and that migrants’ happiness approximates their new country, not their country of origin.

The scholars also found that three-quarters of the variation could be explained by six variables: per-capita gross domestic product, healthy years of life expectancy, social support, trust in government and business, perceived freedom to make life choices, and generosity.

Filipinos are the 82nd happiest lot among 156 countries.

READ MORE...

This, despite the fact that we like to say we can find happiness in the direst of situations and generate jokes from the most oppressive of circumstances.

What does this tell us? Being able to make fun of adversity and refusing to take ourselves too seriously is hardly the definition of happiness.

Happiness is being able to thrive on one’s situation. Certainly, most Filipinos do not feel as though they were thriving where they are. Millions are not able to attend to their basic needs—how much more pursue the higher items in the hierarchy?

The measure, despite the method that goes with it, remains subjective. Nonetheless it provides us—and our leaders—clues. Ultimately, all the programs will be evaluated on how they made people feel.

Happiness is fleeting, it is said, and may depend on an individual’s capacity for happiness. A general feeling of well-being however is not something one can imagine if the conditions are not there.


Pre-empting the people’s will posted March 19, 2016 at 12:01 am by Rod Kapunan


It is anomalous, irregular, if not downright criminal, for a privately funded poll survey like the Social Weather Stations to make public that 66 percent of the Filipino voters agree to that highly questionable ruling of the Supreme Court. First, the operators of SWS should bear in mind that the issue now centers on whether the majority of the justices who voted to allow Poe to run was valid. Second, that the poll survey, as a matter of decency, ethics and respect to our judicial institution, should have refrained from conducting that kind of mockery as if to put pressure on those justices who voted to disqualify Poe by alleging that the so-called majority of the Filipino voters favor that she run for the office.

While ordinary Filipinos are not in a position to analyze why a person who renounced her citizenship and returned to claim allegiance because she is interested in becoming president, the fact is clear that the SWS is putting pressure on those justices to change their mind because public clamor demand that she be allowed to run as if the office is waiting for her. There is in this sinister move by SWS to pull the issue out of the legal parameter which is fraudulent because it supplants the legal issue with irrational and emotional process which they purport as a “democratic choice,” and that our laws including the Constitution must bend according to the wishes of the people.

While SWS can claim that its survey speaks of the truth, there is no such thing as truth until the happening of that event occurs. The truth must be made as a fact, and there are moral and legal limitations like the premature announcement of a decision in a litigated case or in conditioning the minds of the people in the name of freedom and democracy that one candidate is likely to win. Any attempt to pre-empt the truth is to create a mental conditioning. There is deceit because it renders their hooted democratic process a sham. It is like telling those justices to vote for Poe’s qualification; otherwise, they would be disobeying the will of the alleged 66 percent Filipino voters who want her to run.

READ MORE...

In fact, SWS is lying between its teeth much that there is a whale of difference between not being allowed to run and from being disqualified to run. Poe is not being prohibited from running, but is disqualified to run, which means that it is the law that is prohibiting her, not those justices or the people. In fact, SWS went beyond by conditioning the minds of the people that Poe is going to win, and are holding to their propaganda they call “survey” as their evidence to dupe the people. In which case, SWS is maliciously changing the issue from a purely legal to one of alleged public clamor which is fraudulent.

By relying on its self-serving claim that 66 percent of the Filipino voters favor the candidacy of Poe, SWS has now placed the sword of Damocles above the head of those justices whose duty is simply to uphold the law no matter how unpopular the result may be. In fact, discussing a pending case publicly case amounts to blackmail because it prevents those justices from deciding the case, which could be the subject of contempt of court. There is no reason why this self-styled survey outlet had to bring the matter to the people much that we have an institution where legal issues are supposed to be ventilated.

In fact, when the shoddy survey was announced, it came out on the same day when the legal experts, made up of the law deans from the various law schools, denounced the mysterious ruling of the alleged majority of the justices. The so-called 66 percent touted by SWS cannot be more knowledgeable than the legal luminaries. The survey is laden with malice for obviously, it was meant to throw a monkey wrench at those justices who voted to disqualify Poe, as if the vote of the seven justices is valid and binding.

In countries that know the mechanics of a real democracy, the practice of SWS or as some cynics would call it, Survey na Walang Saysay, constitutes a criminal act because the survey is irrelevant to people who have been entrusted to interpret the law. We would not even venture out to question the veracity of that survey but of the unethical and disrespectful manner they plug in their candidate. People who have less interest in politics and likely to be persuaded by the claim of SWS that one candidate is popular or is likely to win would now be tempted to follow the fraudulent bandwagon laid down by SWS.

That trending, which in fact is a form of cheating, makes a mockery of our democratic institution by depriving the ordinary voters of their independent and intelligent judgment. In fact, it is a form of electioneering because the claim that 66 percent of the Filipino voters agreed to the decision of the Supreme Court is a judgment that Poe is just about to be declared the winner. There is no reason nor logic for SWS why more than 50 percent of the voters have already decided for Poe, and that the court should allow her to run, for otherwise, it would be depriving the majority of our people of their choice, which is wrong.

In other words, we have gotten for ourselves a fraudulent manipulator of our fate who has assumed the role of a molder of public opinion, who discredits the law, and makes a mockery of our democratic choice to select candidates under the mischievous pretext that they are likely to win. The is no reason why the SWS and other poll surveys would come out every now and then with a preposterous survey indicating that this presidential and vice presidential candidate are topping the survey, and surprisingly many are amazed, for often they defy logic.

This column hastens to say this because this good-for-nothing administration that hypocritically calls itself tuwid na daan is so unpopular, yet illogically, the survey reveals that their candidates or at least candidates suspected to be supported and funded by them are the ones who are leading.

The people need not even verify their claim. All they need is to examine the logic behind the result. This is the same pattern that has evolved from the old and discredited CIA-funded front that style itself as the National Movement for Free Election or Namfrel.

The difference is while the old election watchdog purports to safeguard and count the votes in the name of democracy, poll survey tells the people to vote for candidates likely to win to avoid wasting their ballots, and somebody would do the rest to make good their prediction.

The mere fact that they accept jobs from candidates to conduct survey on how they are faring in their campaign sortie is an indication they have never been independent as they claim to be.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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