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

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

7 DAYS BEFORE ELECTIONS 2016

EDITORIAL: A POX UPON OUR HOUSE


APRIL 27 -DESPITE renewed efforts by security forces to rescue three foreigners abducted by Abu Sayyaf bandits, police in Jolo reported Monday that they recovered the decapitated head of Canadian John Ridsdel, 68, one of the three hostages.
Ridsdel, fellow Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and a Filipina, Marites Flor, were taken from an upscale resort on Samal Island in September 2015. The bandits demanded a ransom of P300 million for each of the foreign hostages, and threatened to behead them if they did not receive the payments by April 25. The expiration of the deadline brought grim news Monday. Two men on a motorcycle left Ridsdel’s head, inside a plastic bag, along a street in the town of Jolo in Sulu province, police said. The bandits had made good on their threat. The fate of the other three hostages was as yet unknown. Just 10 days before, Ridsdel and Hall were shown on a video asking the Canadian government to pay their ransom. Ridsdel and his companions were believed to be on Jolo Island, where the Abu Sayyaf was said to be holding other hostages, including 14 Indonesian and four Malaysian sailors, who were taken at gunpoint from their tugboats in March.  Halfway across the world, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the execution of Ridsdel and said Canada would work with the Philippines and other allies “to pursue those responsible for this heinous act.”  READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Ending ‘Endo’
[Only in the Philippines would the term “endo”—short for “end of contract”—be understood and appreciated by millions. The term found its way into the national consciousness the painful way—through the actual experience of millions of workers who are employed just a little under six months under a contract.]


APRIL 26 -Only in the Philippines would the term “endo”—short for “end of contract”—be understood and appreciated by millions. The term found its way into the national consciousness the painful way—through the actual experience of millions of workers who are employed just a little under six months under a contract. During this period, the workers get salaries but no benefits, and no certainty whether they would get hired again. This has been a convenient scheme for employers who need the manpower but do not want to provide security of tenure —and all the costs that come with it—to their people.At the presidential debate last Sunday, the five candidates were asked what they intended to do to address the injustice, long acknowledged but persistent, nonetheless. The rivals agreed the labor practice had to end and offered various plans for it. One said she would lower corporate taxes to offset the additional operational costs to be incurred by employers, stressing that secure employees are more productive. READ MORE...

ALSO: Blood on his hands


APRIL 25 -LIKE Pontius Pilate, President Aquino last week tried to wash his hands of the killing of two farmers in Kidapawan City by police who fired M-16 rifles into the protesters’ ranks, and the wounding of more than 100 others in a violent dispersal on April 1. The farmers, suffering from five months of drought, had blocked the highway from Cotabato to Davao, demanding food aid in the form of sacks of rice to feed their hungry families. Aquino did not use the words, but we can almost hear him say them: “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” Speaking to reporters in Lipa City, Batangas, Aquino said he was still awaiting the results of an investigation into the incident, but said it appeared that an organized group had duped people from different places into believing that they would receive rice from the government by joining the mass action.
“It seems that somebody organized this to a create violence. That is what we need to investigate,” President Aquino said. “They did this to exploit the people.” He said the Justice department would set free those who were duped into joining the rally, but said he felt it was not justified for the hungry farmers to block the main highway or to attack the police when they tried to disperse them. The President also insisted that the actions of the authorities to disperse the protesters were lawful, since the activists did not secure permits for the rally.It was clear, however, that the President was cherry-picking the facts and highlighting only what he wanted us to see. Any reasonable person, for example, would conclude that the lack of a permit paled in comparison to the shooting deaths of two civilians exercising their right to free assembly. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Tony Lopez - A one-dimensional president
[Why have illegal drugs become such a monster? Why has crime become rampant? Two answers—poverty and massive unemployment. Yet, if the government had just invested substantially in infrastructure—to build schools, to build farm-to-market roads to improve food production and farmers’ income, to build power plants; to build major roads, highways and bridges; and to install the necessary information and communication technology to modernize the economy, the Philippines could have jumpstarted its growth and in the process substantially reduced poverty and unemployment.]


APRIL 27 -At the third and final presidential debates on April 24 sanctioned by the Commission on Elections, the candidates tackled seven major questions: 1) Where the Philippines will be in 2022, the end of the six-year term of the next president; 2) the inability of fishermen to fish into West Philippine Sea waters being usurped by China; 3) traffic; 4) jobs, including the plight of overseas Filipino workers; 5) health; 6) peace in Mindanao; and 7) why each of the five aspirants deserves to be elected president. Considering the above issues, one issue kept rearing its head: infrastructure—how it could make a success of one’s presidency, provide jobs and assistance to fishermen displaced in the WPS, solve Metro Manila’s horrendous traffic, meet the health needs of nearly everyone, bring peace to Mindanao, and how one’s track record on infra enhances a candidate’s attractiveness as president-to-be. Sadly, none of the five candidates focused on infra as the underlying problem in solving the major issues raised. Infrastructure was the huge elephant at the Phinma University auditorium that nobody took notice of seriously. No infra can be built without construction and construction feeds into 17 other industries—all labor-intensive. Building farm-to-market roads will triple farmers’ income, compared with double, with irrigation. This may negate the need for Filipino fishermen to wander into West Philippine Sea waters to fish. Infra will boost agricultural production which will make a dent on poverty since food is 55 percent of consumer spending. Sadly, fishermen and farmers are the poorest of Filipinos. Infrastructure will modernize the economy. More power plants will reduce the cost of power, now the second most expensive in Asia, and accounting for as much as 20 percent of cost of production of goods, more than the cost of labor, whose contribution is only 10 (percent to 15 percent). Lower power cost, along with greater efficiency through modern infrastructure, should attract foreign investments which in turn will create jobs. Since foreign investors have global standards they will pay global-standard salaries that should induce many of the 12 million overseas Filipino workers to return home and grab those jobs. Unknown to many, lack of money is not the cause of lack of infra. The Aquino administration has plenty of money. It has refused to spend it. Underspending from 2011 to 2014 alone was a mind-boggling P529 billion or $11.5 billion—or about seven percent of the $163.3 billion entire infrastructure package of government —$69.8 billion in transportation, $32.20 billion in social (education) this century; $29.85 billion in energy, $2 in ICT, and $6.11 billion others. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Economic uncertainty


APRIL 29 -The business community is anxious over the possible victory of presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. His lead in the latest surveys has ruffled the nerves of traders, while his inflammatory comments about rape and extra-judicial killings have gone beyond the bounds of decency. Members of the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines on Wednesday finally had the chance to take a look at and weigh Duterte. The controversial mayor, apparently aware that his antics and the use of gutter language do not sit well with businessmen, sought to calm the nerves of his well-heeled audience. Duterte did provide some of his economic insights if elected to the highest position of the land. He promised to spend P18 billion annually to support start-ups made up mostly by micro, small and medium enterprises, with each region getting P1 billion. The leading presidential candidate vowed to stop corrupt officials, correct the ineffective Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, speed up the construction of infrastructure projects and allocate as much as P30 billion as health assistance to poor families living in the poorest provinces. True to form, Duterte unveiled a plan to hire 3,000 more policemen and double the salary of security forces to start “a bloody war against crime.” His spokesman also attempted to calm market jitters, assuring the businessmen that it will be “business as usual” should the mayor be elected president. The front-runner will provide businesses the “right and proper atmosphere” to prosper without sacrificing the welfare of the people, spokesman Peter Laviña said in a statement. But Duterte, like the other presidential candidates, failed to present a clear-cut economic agenda—the one that will significantly reduce poverty incidence, attract foreign investors and respect their contracts, liberalize certain sectors of the economy, improve the lot of farmers and fishermen and close the gap between the rich and the poor. Duterte has not identified his economic team to allay the fears of businessmen. He has so far overlooked the gains of the economy and failed to identify the reforms needed to boost it further. The stock and currency markets will reflect the political and economic uncertainty he has created.FULL EDITORIAL.


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

A pox upon our house

MANILA, MAY 2, 2016 (MANILA STANDARD) posted April 27, 2016 at 12:01 am - DESPITE renewed efforts by security forces to rescue three foreigners abducted by Abu Sayyaf bandits, police in Jolo reported Monday that they recovered the decapitated head of Canadian John Ridsdel, 68, one of the three hostages.

Ridsdel, fellow Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and a Filipina, Marites Flor, were taken from an upscale resort on Samal Island in September 2015. The bandits demanded a ransom of P300 million for each of the foreign hostages, and threatened to behead them if they did not receive the payments by April 25.

The expiration of the deadline brought grim news Monday. Two men on a motorcycle left Ridsdel’s head, inside a plastic bag, along a street in the town of Jolo in Sulu province, police said. The bandits had made good on their threat. The fate of the other three hostages was as yet unknown.

Just 10 days before, Ridsdel and Hall were shown on a video asking the Canadian government to pay their ransom.

Ridsdel and his companions were believed to be on Jolo Island, where the Abu Sayyaf was said to be holding other hostages, including 14 Indonesian and four Malaysian sailors, who were taken at gunpoint from their tugboats in March.

Halfway across the world, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the execution of Ridsdel and said Canada would work with the Philippines and other allies “to pursue those responsible for this heinous act.”

“This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests solely with the terrorist group that took him hostage,” the prime minister said.

The prime minister was only partly correct.

Since the Abu Sayyaf was formed in 1991, five successive administrations have failed to eradicate the group, which was responsible for the infamous Dos Palmas kidnappings in 2001, and the worst terrorist attack in the Philippines in 2004, when they bombed the Superferry, killing 116 people.

Since then, the group has hopped from one atrocity to the next, eventually degenerating into a vicious bandit group that became infamous for kidnapping foreigners for money, and beheading them if their ransom went unpaid.

The group has no doubt been financed by the huge ransoms it receives, notwithstanding the Philippines’ official policy not to negotiate with terrorists.

It is arguable that the police and military campaign waged against the Abu Sayyaf has done little to impair the bandits’ ability to operate their criminal enterprise with impunity. Over the years, the group has survived the loss of several of its top leaders and struck back with a vengeance.

Perhaps it is a failure of intelligence, or the lack of political will. Or simply the wrong approach.

Our inability to eradicate this threat over five successive administrations is our national failure and our shame. The Abu Sayyaf is a pox upon our house that must not survive the incoming administration.


Ending ‘Endo’ posted April 26, 2016 at 12:01 am



Only in the Philippines would the term “endo”—short for “end of contract”—be understood and appreciated by millions. The term found its way into the national consciousness the painful way—through the actual experience of millions of workers who are employed just a little under six months under a contract.

During this period, the workers get salaries but no benefits, and no certainty whether they would get hired again.

This has been a convenient scheme for employers who need the manpower but do not want to provide security of tenure —and all the costs that come with it—to their people.

At the presidential debate last Sunday, the five candidates were asked what they intended to do to address the injustice, long acknowledged but persistent, nonetheless.

The rivals agreed the labor practice had to end and offered various plans for it. One said she would lower corporate taxes to offset the additional operational costs to be incurred by employers, stressing that secure employees are more productive.

READ MORE...

Another, as always given to exaggeration, said contractualization would stop the moment he assumes the presidency.

One candidate said the law protecting workers against this practice was simply not being implemented; yet another said he would fix the loopholes in that law.

We have every reason to take the candidates’ pronouncements with a grain of salt; after all, how many promises have been made in the name of the pursuit of victory only to be abandoned later?

Workers put up with the injustice because they have no other option—it is either job insecurity or no job at all.

Whoever wins, we will hold the new president accountable for his or her pronouncement if only because the issue has long festered: distorting the job market, creating illusions of productivity, denying workers the opportunity to grow and to plan, and most especially keeping them powerless against “market forces.”


Blood on his hands posted April 25, 2016 at 12:01 am



LIKE Pontius Pilate, President Aquino last week tried to wash his hands of the killing of two farmers in Kidapawan City by police who fired M-16 rifles into the protesters’ ranks, and the wounding of more than 100 others in a violent dispersal on April 1.

The farmers, suffering from five months of drought, had blocked the highway from Cotabato to Davao, demanding food aid in the form of sacks of rice to feed their hungry families.

Aquino did not use the words, but we can almost hear him say them: “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

Speaking to reporters in Lipa City, Batangas, Aquino said he was still awaiting the results of an investigation into the incident, but said it appeared that an organized group had duped people from different places into believing that they would receive rice from the government by joining the mass action.

“It seems that somebody organized this to a create violence. That is what we need to investigate,” President Aquino said. “They did this to exploit the people.”

He said the Justice department would set free those who were duped into joining the rally, but said he felt it was not justified for the hungry farmers to block the main highway or to attack the police when they tried to disperse them.

The President also insisted that the actions of the authorities to disperse the protesters were lawful, since the activists did not secure permits for the rally.

It was clear, however, that the President was cherry-picking the facts and highlighting only what he wanted us to see.

Any reasonable person, for example, would conclude that the lack of a permit paled in comparison to the shooting deaths of two civilians exercising their right to free assembly.

READ MORE...

But nowhere in his remarks did the President say why police were armed with M-16 rifles and used them against civilians in violation of all rules governing crowd dispersal operations.

It is not enough to say the farmers had rocks; or that they had started the melee. The police should not have had guns; they should not have used them. The President did not just gloss over this reality; he ignored it altogether.

The President also said nothing of the other human rights abuses that agents of his government committed against the farmers that day, and the months leading to the tragic Kidapawan incident.

The President blames organizers of the protest for duping the farmers with the promise of free rice, but wasn’t that exactly what they needed and hoped to get in the first place?

When has it been a crime to organize a protest? To give voice to the grievances of the oppressed?

Despite the billions of pesos allocated to dealing with the El Niño and the drought, the protesting farmers and their families were hungry. That fact alone trumps all government claims that they had poured the funds into cloud seeding and other drought alleviation measures. If they had indeed spent that money, it clearly had no impact on the protesting farmers—or they would not have been there on the fateful Cotabato-Davao highway.

Again, any reasonable person would conclude that the government agencies tasked with giving them relief had not done their jobs in the last five months. But the President’s knee-jerk reaction was to blame the organizers, not his own people who by dint of corruption, ineptitude or both, failed—and continue to fail—the farmers of North Cotabato.

Mr. Aquino, who waited an entire week before talking about the bloody dispersal then explained his delayed reaction by saying he had the flu, expects us to believe him now when he says that national, provincial and city government officials and the police were not to blame for the Kidapawan bloodshed. But history will judge him otherwise. Like Pontius Pilate, Mr. Aquino has innocent blood on his hands, and no amount of washing will clear away the stain.


A one-dimensional president posted April 27, 2016 at 12:01 am by Tony Lopez



At the third and final presidential debates on April 24 sanctioned by the Commission on Elections, the candidates tackled seven major questions:

1) Where the Philippines will be in 2022, the end of the six-year term of the next president; 2) the inability of fishermen to fish into West Philippine Sea waters being usurped by China; 3) traffic; 4) jobs, including the plight of overseas Filipino workers; 5) health; 6) peace in Mindanao; and 7) why each of the five aspirants deserves to be elected president.

Considering the above issues, one issue kept rearing its head: infrastructure—how it could make a success of one’s presidency, provide jobs and assistance to fishermen displaced in the WPS, solve Metro Manila’s horrendous traffic, meet the health needs of nearly everyone, bring peace to Mindanao, and how one’s track record on infra enhances a candidate’s attractiveness as president-to-be.

Sadly, none of the five candidates focused on infra as the underlying problem in solving the major issues raised. Infrastructure was the huge elephant at the Phinma University auditorium that nobody took notice of seriously.

No infra can be built without construction and construction feeds into 17 other industries—all labor-intensive.

Building farm-to-market roads will triple farmers’ income, compared with double, with irrigation. This may negate the need for Filipino fishermen to wander into West Philippine Sea waters to fish. Infra will boost agricultural production which will make a dent on poverty since food is 55 percent of consumer spending. Sadly, fishermen and farmers are the poorest of Filipinos.

Infrastructure will modernize the economy. More power plants will reduce the cost of power, now the second most expensive in Asia, and accounting for as much as 20 percent of cost of production of goods, more than the cost of labor, whose contribution is only 10 (percent to 15 percent).

Lower power cost, along with greater efficiency through modern infrastructure, should attract foreign investments which in turn will create jobs. Since foreign investors have global standards they will pay global-standard salaries that should induce many of the 12 million overseas Filipino workers to return home and grab those jobs.

Unknown to many, lack of money is not the cause of lack of infra.

The Aquino administration has plenty of money.

It has refused to spend it.

Underspending from 2011 to 2014 alone was a mind-boggling P529 billion or $11.5 billion—or about seven percent of the $163.3 billion entire infrastructure package of government —$69.8 billion in transportation, $32.20 billion in social (education) this century; $29.85 billion in energy, $2 in ICT, and $6.11 billion others.

READ MORE...

In other words, the $11.5 billion would have been more than enough to double the speed of our internet (one of the slowest in the world), build one-third of classrooms needs, or meet 16 percent of the country’s transportation modernization.

In fact, the 12 projects awarded by the Aquino administration under its Public-Private Partnership Program (PPP) would cost only $4.37 billion. Most of that $4.37 billion is borne by the private sector.

The 12 projects are: Daang Hari-SLEX Link Road (Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway) Project, P2.23 billion; PPP for School Infrastructure Project (PSIP) Phase I, P16.43 billion; Naia Expressway (Phase II) Project, P17.93 billion; PPP for School Infrastructure Project (PSIP) Phase II, P3.86 billion; Modernization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center, P5.61 billion; Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS), P1.72 billion; Mactan-Cebu International Airport Passenger Terminal Building, P17.52 billion; LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension and O&M, P64.9 billion; Southwest Integrated Transport System (ITS) Project, P2.50 billion; Cavite-Laguna (CALA) Expressway, P35.43 billion; South Integrated Transport System Project, P5.20 billion; and Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project, P24.41 billion.

One reason why these infra services will cost much to the consuming public is that they are being undertaken by the private sector which paid premium money to grab them. Under the present PPP system, the company that offers the highest premium for a project wins it.

The proponent, of course, will try to cover its cost through higher user fees. This is a complete reversal of the concept that has been in effect since 1935—that is, the company that offers the lowest price to the public for the infra gets to build it.

San Miguel Corp. president Ramon S. Ang suggests a return to this old system. After all, companies like SMC are into infra not because profits are huge, but to help in the country’s development. Still, infra is reckoned to provide a return of 12 percent, double lending rates.

Present at Sunday’s three-hour debate managed by ABS-CBN from start to finish were: Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of PDP-Laban, Senator Grace Poe of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Manuel Araneta Roxas of Daang Matuwid coalition, Vice President Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance, and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

As of April 20 survey by the Social Weather Stations, Duterte leads the pack with a 33-percent share of the vote—equivalent to 14.351-million votes assuming a voter turnout of 43.49-million voters.

He is nine percentage points (3.91 million votes) ahead of Poe, the distant second, with 24 percent (10.43 million votes). Roxas is third with 19 percent (8.26 million votes).

In the Pulse Asia survey of April 12-17, 2016, Duterte again leads with 34 percent or 14.78 million votes. He is 12 percentage points or a seemingly insurmountable 5.22 million votes ahead of Poe, who got only 22 percent or 9.56 million votes; 15 percentage points (6.52 million votes) ahead of Binay’s 19 percent (8.26 million votes), 16 percentage points or 6.958 million votes ahead of Roxas’ 18 percent (7.828 million votes). Miriam again got only two percent or 869,800 votes.

Unfortunately, Duterte, as possibly, the winner, will be a one-dimensional president. His favorite word is “kill.” The drug menace is growing? Kill the drug lords and the drug pushers. Crime is rising? Kill the criminals.

Why have illegal drugs become such a monster? Why has crime become rampant?

Two answers—poverty and massive unemployment.

In the last 30 years, poverty has hovered at 26 percent -27 percent, equivalent today to 27 million Filipinos earning as little as $1.25 a day, the universal measure of poverty. Unemployment still is 7 percent, equivalent to two million jobless workers. Another 12 million are employed only half of the time.

Yet, if the government had just invested substantially in infrastructure—to build schools, to build farm-to-market roads to improve food production and farmers’ income, to build power plants; to build major roads, highways and bridges; and to install the necessary information and communication technology to modernize the economy, the Philippines could have jumpstarted its growth and in the process substantially reduced poverty and unemployment.

And the country would have had prosperous and healthy Filipinos. In the process, insurgency—by the communist New People’s Army and the Muslim separatists—would have had less reason for existence. The Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao is the Philippines’ poorest, thanks to severe lack of infrastructure in the region.


EDITORIAL: Economic uncertainty posted April 29, 2016 at 12:01 am



The business community is anxious over the possible victory of presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. His lead in the latest surveys has ruffled the nerves of traders, while his inflammatory comments about rape and extra-judicial killings have gone beyond the bounds of decency.

Members of the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines on Wednesday finally had the chance to take a look at and weigh Duterte. The controversial mayor, apparently aware that his antics and the use of gutter language do not sit well with businessmen, sought to calm the nerves of his well-heeled audience.

Duterte did provide some of his economic insights if elected to the highest position of the land. He promised to spend P18 billion annually to support start-ups made up mostly by micro, small and medium enterprises, with each region getting P1 billion.

The leading presidential candidate vowed to stop corrupt officials, correct the ineffective Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, speed up the construction of infrastructure projects and allocate as much as P30 billion as health assistance to poor families living in the poorest provinces.

True to form, Duterte unveiled a plan to hire 3,000 more policemen and double the salary of security forces to start “a bloody war against crime.”

His spokesman also attempted to calm market jitters, assuring the businessmen that it will be “business as usual” should the mayor be elected president. The front-runner will provide businesses the “right and proper atmosphere” to prosper without sacrificing the welfare of the people, spokesman Peter Laviña said in a statement.

But Duterte, like the other presidential candidates, failed to present a clear-cut economic agenda—the one that will significantly reduce poverty incidence, attract foreign investors and respect their contracts, liberalize certain sectors of the economy, improve the lot of farmers and fishermen and close the gap between the rich and the poor.

Duterte has not identified his economic team to allay the fears of businessmen. He has so far overlooked the gains of the economy and failed to identify the reforms needed to boost it further. The stock and currency markets will reflect the political and economic uncertainty he has created.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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