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

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

EDITORIAL: EL NIÑO VIOLENCE


APRIL 9 -El Niño has brought out the worst in the government. Two farmers died in Kidapawan City, Cotabato province on April 1 after police violently dispersed a demonstration to protest government’s inaction on the dry spell. The farmers’ demand was basic—they need rice to feed their family after El Niño parched the lands they were tilling. The National Anti-Poverty Commission summed it up: the demonstrations only reflect the magnitude of the El Niño crisis and the government’s lack of commitment to agriculture. The agency added that provoked or not, the demonstration was a legitimate form of action. Regardless of the rallyists’ affiliations, the use of firearms by the local police was unnecessary. It is very clear that Agriculture Secretary Prospero Alcala and the rest of President Benigno Aquino’s administration failed to comprehend the severity of the drought, especially in Mindanao, where thousands of hectares of farm lands were rendered unproductive. The farmers’s protest in Kidapawan City to demand the release of 15,000 sacks of rice and food subsidies to alleviate their plight can happen again in other areas similarly suffering from the effects of El Niño. The protest actions could also turn bloody if the government continues with its apathetic behavior. The government must take the blame for the violent results of the demonstration and for being passive in containing the effects of El Niño. For one, the government should have dispersed drought-resistant rice and other crops to farmers to prepare them for the weather phenomenon. The worsening drought that prompted Cotabato farmers to take extra-legal measures also showed that the government still lacks long-term solutions to address El Niño. Mindanao, with its vast water resources, could have shielded itself from the dry spell. The National Irrigation Administration could have taken the intiative to build more mini-dams and irrigation canals to water rice fields and other farm lands. Rice is a vital commodity that the government should not have taken lightly.READ MORE...

ALSO: By Victor Avecilla - Unanswered questions in the Poe decision


APRIL 11 -Although the Supreme Court has ruled with finality that Senator Grace Poe may run for president in the May 2016 elections, its pronouncement left several unanswered questions. The Constitution provides that no person may be elected president of unless he is a natural-born citizen, and a resident of the country for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election; that the Commission on Elections has the power to decide all questions affecting elections (except those involving the right to vote); and that the decisions of the Comelec may be reversed by the Supreme Court if the same was attended with grave abuse of discretion. According to the Supreme Court, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, which is composed of all of the justices of the Court, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election and qualifications of the president, after he is proclaimed president by Congress. It is also provided in the Constitution that no decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based, and that no motion for reconsideration may be denied without stating the legal basis therefor. There other legal considerations as well. The decision of the Comelec is presumed to be regular, that is, valid and correct, until overturned by a doctrinal decision of the Supreme Court. A doctrinal decision is one that is supported by a majority of the justices who participated in the deliberations. If there is no doctrinal decision to overturn it, the decision of the Comelec must be upheld pursuant to that presumption of regularity. The decision of the Supreme Court favoring Poe should be evaluated against the foregoing legal considerations. After Poe filed her certificate of candidacy for president last year, four disqualification cases were filed against her before the Comelec on the grounds that Poe did not comply with the citizenship and residency requirements for the presidency. The Comelec eventually ruled against Poe—she is not a natural-born citizen, and that she failed to satisfy the residency requirement. The Comelec acted well within its jurisdiction when it rendered judgment against Poe because, as stated earlier, the Constitution vests in the Comelec the power to decide all questions affecting elections, and the PET can act only after a candidate has been proclaimed president by Congress. Poe elevated the case to the Supreme Court. According to a long line of jurisprudence, the only ground by which the Court may overturn the decision of the Comelec is a doctrinal finding that the Comelec committed a grave abuse of discretion when it ruled against Poe. If no such doctrinal finding is made, then the Comelec decision must be upheld pursuant to the presumption of regularity mentioned earlier. READ MORE...

ALSO: ELECTIOIN 2016 -Feeling the heat


APRIL 11 -It is the second week of April and among the headlines daily are the high temperatures felt in many places. On social media, users rant about the heat and how it makes the simplest of routines, especially those done outdoors and without the benefit of air conditioning, unbearable. The heat approximates the pinch being felt by presidential and vice presidential candidates in these last few weeks before the elections. They no longer make any pretensions to courtesy or decency. Instead they openly mock each other, jumping on their rivals at the slightest provocation. They know that the stakes are high and that anything can still happen. So, the gloves are off. The vice presidential debates last Sunday was proof that desperate candidates will throw anything at their opponents even as these do not have basis in fact or logic. It was entertaining to watch, actually—if only governance were a matter of pure entertainment. Unfortunately, it is not. What it takes to move this nation forward is not an assortment of sound bytes and clever, if not malicious, swipes at one’s rival. It is, instead, a boring, sober and steady stream of decisions and actions based on hard evidence. This of course will not appeal to Filipino voters, who eagerly consume the supply of trashy politics that our candidates provide and fuel the cycle by demanding it. Rabid supporters of one candidate for instance are unforgiving about negative comments about their idol, even as they themselves hardly give substantive talking points outside of their controversial statements. Elevating the level of discourse and talking constructively and calmly about how to solve this nation’s ills beyond one’s term appears impossible . In the end it’s about winning, not by being the best candidate, but by being the best at pulling the others down. So much for inspirational leadership. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Reasons to grieve


APRIL 14 -Eighteen soldiers died in Basilan Saturday night, killed by Abu Sayyaf bandits who had set a ransom for foreign hostages and had threatened to behead some of them if demands were not met by Friday, April 8. The bandits beheaded four of the 18 soldiers in the 10-hour fight. Five died from the Abu front, including a Moroccan working to affiliate all kidnap-for-ransom groups with an international terrorist organization. The bandits were led by Isnilon Hapilon, who is included in the list of terrorists in Asia most wanted by the United States government. Hapilon has a $5-million bounty on his head and has recently pledged allegiance to Islamic terrorists in Iraq and Syria. An Italian priest had been freed on Friday, but there is no word on the condition of the 18 remaining hostages. The slaughter of our soldiers occasions only rage and indignation, happening during the last few weeks of this callous administration and just when the people are being wooed to vote for their next leaders. How the sitting party—as if there were clear delineations among political organizations outside of convenience—could tell us we need to have more of this same indifference and self-righteousness in the face of utter inability to protect those who risk their lives for us is beyond our comprehension. Recall that in January 2015, it took President Aquino several days to make a statement on the murder of 44 members of the Special Action Force directed to the enemy lair to arrest a terrorist, as if terrorists would raise their arms in surrender when shown a warrant. READ MORE...

ALSO: by Jenny Ortuoste - In this country
[In this country, justice is a long time coming.]


APRIL 13 -by Jenny Ortuoste In this country, a 78-year-old widow is charged with assaulting armed law enforcement officers when all she wanted was rice. Valentina Berlin’s drought-stricken farm in North Cotabato could no longer afford her enough to live on, so when she heard that she could obtain rice assistance from Kidapawan City, she and her neighbors traveled there. Instead of food, they received bullets. The gathering in Kidapawan last April 1 resulted in three deaths. Dozens were injured. Three elderly persons including Berlin and three minors were arrested with 70 others for directly assaulting policemen. Thirty-eight of them are in jail, while 41 others are still detained for being unable to put up P12,000 in bail. Elsewhere in this country, the accused mastermind of a grand plunder operation that siphoned off billions of government funds into the pockets of politicians is granted bail. It boggles the mind that in this country this is the kind of justice we have, and this is the treatment that poor people can expect from the authorities sworn to serve them. Wealthier people are treated better, that’s a fact. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was granted bail “for humanitarian reasons;” but what about Berlin and others caught in a fray not of their making? For them, P12,000 might as well be 12 billion —it’s a sum they don’t have, when they don’t even have enough to eat. It defies logic how in this country, we should believe that a weak, famished, near-octogenarian could have “assaulted” officers with guns and truncheons? As she said, “At our age, do you think we still have enough strength to put up a fight against policemen?”  There is one rule for the rich and another for the poor, and for the former, it’s the golden rule—he who has the gold makes the rules. In this country, elite politics rule and the elite make the rules. Ancient Chinese thought pondered on who should best govern, and while there were philosophers who advocated hereditary rule, another branch—Mohism—favored meritocracy, where the best and fittest persons rule. Writings along the latter line were suppressed by the first Qin emperor—in other words, the ruling class—thus cementing the former as tradition. The Philippines, too, has a form of hereditary rulers—the political dynasties—and a ruling class—the elite, now interpreted as anyone with money. They have been in charge of the country since the Philippine Revolution, but over the past hundred years have done more to sustain their class and way of life than to improve the lives of the 99 percent of the people —folk like Valentina Berlin. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL: El Niño violence

MANILA, APRIL 18, 2016 (MANILA STANDARD) posted April 08, 2016 at 12:01 am - El Niño has brought out the worst in the government. Two farmers died in Kidapawan City, Cotabato province on April 1 after police violently dispersed a demonstration to protest government’s inaction on the dry spell.

The farmers’ demand was basic—they need rice to feed their family after El Niño parched the lands they were tilling. The National Anti-Poverty Commission summed it up: the demonstrations only reflect the magnitude of the El Niño crisis and the government’s lack of commitment to agriculture.

The agency added that provoked or not, the demonstration was a legitimate form of action. Regardless of the rallyists’ affiliations, the use of firearms by the local police was unnecessary.

It is very clear that Agriculture Secretary Prospero Alcala and the rest of President Benigno Aquino’s administration failed to comprehend the severity of the drought, especially in Mindanao, where thousands of hectares of farm lands were rendered unproductive.

The farmers’s protest in Kidapawan City to demand the release of 15,000 sacks of rice and food subsidies to alleviate their plight can happen again in other areas similarly suffering from the effects of El Niño. The protest actions could also turn bloody if the government continues with its apathetic behavior.

The government must take the blame for the violent results of the demonstration and for being passive in containing the effects of El Niño. For one, the government should have dispersed drought-resistant rice and other crops to farmers to prepare them for the weather phenomenon.

The worsening drought that prompted Cotabato farmers to take extra-legal measures also showed that the government still lacks long-term solutions to address El Niño. Mindanao, with its vast water resources, could have shielded itself from the dry spell.

The National Irrigation Administration could have taken the intiative to build more mini-dams and irrigation canals to water rice fields and other farm lands. Rice is a vital commodity that the government should not have taken lightly.


Unanswered questions in the Poe decision posted April 12, 2016 at 12:01 am by Victor Avecilla
(Part 1)

Although the Supreme Court has ruled with finality that Senator Grace Poe may run for president in the May 2016 elections, its pronouncement left several unanswered questions.

The Constitution provides that no person may be elected president of unless he is a natural-born citizen, and a resident of the country for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election; that the Commission on Elections has the power to decide all questions affecting elections (except those involving the right to vote); and that the decisions of the Comelec may be reversed by the Supreme Court if the same was attended with grave abuse of discretion.

According to the Supreme Court, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, which is composed of all of the justices of the Court, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election and qualifications of the president, after he is proclaimed president by Congress.

It is also provided in the Constitution that no decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based, and that no motion for reconsideration may be denied without stating the legal basis therefor.

There other legal considerations as well. The decision of the Comelec is presumed to be regular, that is, valid and correct, until overturned by a doctrinal decision of the Supreme Court. A doctrinal decision is one that is supported by a majority of the justices who participated in the deliberations. If there is no doctrinal decision to overturn it, the decision of the Comelec must be upheld pursuant to that presumption of regularity.

The decision of the Supreme Court favoring Poe should be evaluated against the foregoing legal considerations.

After Poe filed her certificate of candidacy for president last year, four disqualification cases were filed against her before the Comelec on the grounds that Poe did not comply with the citizenship and residency requirements for the presidency. The Comelec eventually ruled against Poe—she is not a natural-born citizen, and that she failed to satisfy the residency requirement.

The Comelec acted well within its jurisdiction when it rendered judgment against Poe because, as stated earlier, the Constitution vests in the Comelec the power to decide all questions affecting elections, and the PET can act only after a candidate has been proclaimed president by Congress.

Poe elevated the case to the Supreme Court. According to a long line of jurisprudence, the only ground by which the Court may overturn the decision of the Comelec is a doctrinal finding that the Comelec committed a grave abuse of discretion when it ruled against Poe. If no such doctrinal finding is made, then the Comelec decision must be upheld pursuant to the presumption of regularity mentioned earlier.

READ MORE...

Since all 15 justices of the Supreme Court participated in the deliberations of the disqualification cases against Poe, the concurrence of at least eight justices is necessary to constitute a doctrinal decision.

Only seven justices led by Justice Jose Portugal Perez opined that Poe is presumed to be a natural-born citizen, and that she met the residency requirement for a valid run for the presidency. Five disagreed, and three believed that the issue concerning her citizenship need not be passed upon.

A total of nine justices ultimately said that the Comelec acted with grave abuse of discretion when it disqualified Poe.

In fine, a plurality of the Supreme Court said that Poe is presumed to be a natural-born citizen based on the statistical inference of the Solicitor General that foundlings born in the Philippines between 1965 and 1975, which ostensibly includes Poe, were born to Filipino parents, and based likewise on the physical features of Poe.

Three justices were of the view that only the PET, and not the Supreme Court, may pass upon the qualifications of a president, and that it will be premature for either the Supreme Court or the Comelec to entertain the disqualification cases against Poe. In effect, the Court said that the Comelec cannot prematurely prohibit whoever it considers disqualified under the Constitution from running for the presidency, because that function exclusively belongs to the PET, but only after the candidate concerned is proclaimed the winner.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Philippine Bar Association criticized the supposed majority ruling, particularly its reliance on statistical inference and physical features.

Sadly, however, the motions for reconsideration were denied with finality last week. One party intends to file a second motion for reconsideration, citing a past occasions when the Supreme Court reversed itself several times on separate motions for reconsiderations.

Even so, there are still unanswered questions.

To repeat, nine justices declared that the Comelec committed a grave abuse of discretion when it disqualified Poe. According to them, Poe committed “honest mistakes” when she declared under oath, or made it appear in her certificate of candidacy for president, that she was born to Fernando Poe Jr. and his wife, even if she knew she is a foundling, and also when she stated in her certificate of candidacy for senator in 2013 that she was a resident of the Philippines only for six years and six months, which means that by May 2016, she will be six months short of the required residency of 10 years.

Good grief! At 48 years old, Poe is unable to tell the difference between being born to specific parents and being a foundling? At 48 years old, Poe is unable to count until 10? If incompetence were a ground for disqualification in the presidential derby, Poe will be in serious trouble.

This “honest mistake” precedent created by the Poe decision is fraught with troublesome consequences. Persons charged with perjury for making false statements under oath in official documents can simply claim that they made an “honest mistake” in accomplishing the document, and thus escape prosecution. Oaths and affidavits will be rendered meaningless. (To be continued on Saturday)


Feeling the heat posted April 14, 2016 at 12:01 am



It is the second week of April and among the headlines daily are the high temperatures felt in many places. On social media, users rant about the heat and how it makes the simplest of routines, especially those done outdoors and without the benefit of air conditioning, unbearable.

The heat approximates the pinch being felt by presidential and vice presidential candidates in these last few weeks before the elections. They no longer make any pretensions to courtesy or decency. Instead they openly mock each other, jumping on their rivals at the slightest provocation. They know that the stakes are high and that anything can still happen. So, the gloves are off.

The vice presidential debates last Sunday was proof that desperate candidates will throw anything at their opponents even as these do not have basis in fact or logic. It was entertaining to watch, actually—if only governance were a matter of pure entertainment.

Unfortunately, it is not. What it takes to move this nation forward is not an assortment of sound bytes and clever, if not malicious, swipes at one’s rival. It is, instead, a boring, sober and steady stream of decisions and actions based on hard evidence.

This of course will not appeal to Filipino voters, who eagerly consume the supply of trashy politics that our candidates provide and fuel the cycle by demanding it. Rabid supporters of one candidate for instance are unforgiving about negative comments about their idol, even as they themselves hardly give substantive talking points outside of their controversial statements.

Elevating the level of discourse and talking constructively and calmly about how to solve this nation’s ills beyond one’s term appears impossible . In the end it’s about winning, not by being the best candidate, but by being the best at pulling the others down. So much for inspirational leadership.


Reasons to grieve posted April 12, 2016 at 12:01 am

Eighteen soldiers died in Basilan Saturday night, killed by Abu Sayyaf bandits who had set a ransom for foreign hostages and had threatened to behead some of them if demands were not met by Friday, April 8.

The bandits beheaded four of the 18 soldiers in the 10-hour fight.

Five died from the Abu front, including a Moroccan working to affiliate all kidnap-for-ransom groups with an international terrorist organization.

The bandits were led by Isnilon Hapilon, who is included in the list of terrorists in Asia most wanted by the United States government. Hapilon has a $5-million bounty on his head and has recently pledged allegiance to Islamic terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

An Italian priest had been freed on Friday, but there is no word on the condition of the 18 remaining hostages.

The slaughter of our soldiers occasions only rage and indignation, happening during the last few weeks of this callous administration and just when the people are being wooed to vote for their next leaders. How the sitting party—as if there were clear delineations among political organizations outside of convenience—could tell us we need to have more of this same indifference and self-righteousness in the face of utter inability to protect those who risk their lives for us is beyond our comprehension.

Recall that in January 2015, it took President Aquino several days to make a statement on the murder of 44 members of the Special Action Force directed to the enemy lair to arrest a terrorist, as if terrorists would raise their arms in surrender when shown a warrant.

READ MORE...

When he did open his mouth, it was to both confound and astound us with his insensitivity and lame excuses, most unpresidentially blaming others at a time he should be showing leadership and compassion.

The same tendencies surfaced when he waited a full week to say something­—anything—about the killing of farmers who were only asking for rice, bludgeoned as they were by hunger and poverty made worse by El Niño.

This joke of a leader announced that it took him a while to respond to what happened because he had been sick—the difficult job of the presidency was taking its toll on his health, he said.

He also said nothing about the bizarre awarding of medals to the men who dispersed the desperate farmers and local leaders—his political allies, by the way—blaming the farmers and the communists for what had happened.

Given this track record, it would be too much to expect a swift, decisive action, compassion or even good sense from Mr. Aquino. As the families of the fallen men grieve for them, killed in action on Day of Valor, we grieve too for what the Aquino leadership has brought us, only finding consolation in the fact it is bound to end soon.


In this country posted April 14, 2016 at 12:01 am by Jenny Ortuoste


by Jenny Ortuoste

In this country, a 78-year-old widow is charged with assaulting armed law enforcement officers when all she wanted was rice.

Valentina Berlin’s drought-stricken farm in North Cotabato could no longer afford her enough to live on, so when she heard that she could obtain rice assistance from Kidapawan City, she and her neighbors traveled there.

Instead of food, they received bullets.

The gathering in Kidapawan last April 1 resulted in three deaths. Dozens were injured. Three elderly persons including Berlin and three minors were arrested with 70 others for directly assaulting policemen. Thirty-eight of them are in jail, while 41 others are still detained for being unable to put up P12,000 in bail.

Elsewhere in this country, the accused mastermind of a grand plunder operation that siphoned off billions of government funds into the pockets of politicians is granted bail.

It boggles the mind that in this country this is the kind of justice we have, and this is the treatment that poor people can expect from the authorities sworn to serve them. Wealthier people are treated better, that’s a fact. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was granted bail “for humanitarian reasons;” but what about Berlin and others caught in a fray not of their making? For them, P12,000 might as well be 12 billion —it’s a sum they don’t have, when they don’t even have enough to eat.

It defies logic how in this country, we should believe that a weak, famished, near-octogenarian could have “assaulted” officers with guns and truncheons? As she said, “At our age, do you think we still have enough strength to put up a fight against policemen?”

There is one rule for the rich and another for the poor, and for the former, it’s the golden rule—he who has the gold makes the rules. In this country, elite politics rule and the elite make the rules.

Ancient Chinese thought pondered on who should best govern, and while there were philosophers who advocated hereditary rule, another branch—Mohism—favored meritocracy, where the best and fittest persons rule. Writings along the latter line were suppressed by the first Qin emperor—in other words, the ruling class—thus cementing the former as tradition.

The Philippines, too, has a form of hereditary rulers—the political dynasties—and a ruling class—the elite, now interpreted as anyone with money. They have been in charge of the country since the Philippine Revolution, but over the past hundred years have done more to sustain their class and way of life than to improve the lives of the 99 percent of the people —folk like Valentina Berlin.

READ MORE...

In connection with the Kidapawan issue, words like “propaganda” and “disinformation” are surfacing. There might be so, but since we regular folk farm from the area are not all in a position to know the truth, we can discern it by sifting carefully through news reports and triangulating the data to come up with a reasonable model of what actually happened.

But in the end, what is the core concept? People died. People died because they were not given support for their farms in the face of a massive drought that was forecasted and that therefore authorities knew about in advance. People died because they did not receive their rice subsidies. People died because some armed folks were trigger-happy. People died because those who should have and could have helped didn’t care.

Kidapawan was nothing less than the slaughter of innocents, and so far, no one is being held accountable. Perhaps North Cotabato Gov. Emmy Mendoza is the only person who has taken responsibility for the bloodbath that was Kidapawan. This is the same person who refused donations of rice saying the donors were doing it for political reasons. For this reason, she should also be held responsible for any subsequent deaths from hunger and cases of malnutrition stemming from her intransigence.

In this country, over a quarter of the population —25.8 percent—remained mired below the poverty line. This figure is as of the first semester of 2014 and is a four-percent increase since 2013. This happened despite the vaunted economic vibrance of the past several years. The truth is that in this country, economic gains did not trickle down to the masses like Valentina Berlin.

Kidapawan is a story of climate change, hunger, and help denied. It is a story of deaf ears, hard hearts, selfish natures. It is a story of the elite treating the poor with disdain.

In this country, justice is a long time coming.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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