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

BY ARMANDO DORONILA: PRESIDENT A LOOSE CANNON


AUGUST 1 -By: Amando Doronila PRESIDENT Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) has come under heavy fire from international and domestic human rights groups for sending “confusing and contradictory messages” on his administration’s stance on human rights. The barrage was unleashed by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which denounced the administration’s ambivalent position shortly after its delivery last Monday. In a severe critique of the government’s double-talk, Phelim Kine, Asia deputy director of HRW, noted that the President rightly stated that the “rule of law must at all times prevail” and the government should respect “the human rights of our citizens.” But Kine said Mr. Duterte’s “unwillingness” to use his Sona to demand a thorough investigation of the alarming surge in police killings of suspected dealers and users in recent weeks “symbolizes a critical failure” in his “obligation to defend the rule of law and to uphold and protect the rights and freedoms of all Filipinos.” Right to life at risk Kine rebuked Mr. Duterte for “implicitly” voicing support for the rise in police killings of suspected drug dealers and users instead of speaking out against such brutality, adding that the President must publicly “recognize that his duty to respect the rule of law and protect the human rights of Filipinos extends to all Filipinos, including criminal suspects and those implicated in the drug trade.” He expressed hope that the administration would produce policy initiatives reflecting tangible support for that positive rhetoric. “But as long as President Duterte turns a blind eye to—or implicitly or explicitly encourages—summary killings, the fundamental right to life of all Filipinos is at risk from potentially random extrajudicial violence,” he warned. HRW branded Mr. Duterte a “cheerleader” for summary killings of drug suspects. Its reaction came in response to Mr. Duterte’s statement in his Sona that “human rights must work to uplift human dignity” and cannot be used as “a shield or an excuse to destroy the country—your country and my country.” These remarks turned out be the most contentious passage in the Sona. In his speech, Mr. Duterte exhorted the Philippine National Police and local government officials to redouble their efforts in the war against criminality and drug pushers. He reminded them that during his inauguration on June 30, he pledged that the fight against criminality and illegal drugs would be “relentless and sustained.” READ MORE...

ALSO: By Joel Ruiz Butuyan - Finding ways to evict China


AUGUST 1 -By: Joel Ruiz Butuyan
LESS THAN two weeks after the historic victory of the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute, China successfully repulsed two attempts to obtain a symbolic implementation of the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. Last July 14, or two days after the Philippine victory, officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) drafted a joint statement on the arbitral decision that invalidated China’s claim on almost the entire South China Sea. But China, acting through Cambodia and Laos, prevented the release of the statement. Ten days later, on July 24, during the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Laos, Asean officials drafted another joint statement of support for the arbitral decision. Acting through Cambodia, China again prevented the release of the statement that mentions the decision. The Asean joint statements would have amounted to a symbolic implementation of the arbitral decision. Formal recognition of the decision by other states will animate action or actual implementation later on. If other countries do not even speak up to recognize the decision, then it is unlikely that they will take action to assist in its actual implementation. But if they speak in support of the decision, it will be more than likely that they will support some form of action to implement it. It is true that the rules of the arbitral court do not provide for ways to implement the decision. But in the realm of possibilities, there is a range of actions that are available to countries who are minded to help implement it. This is based on how countries have acted in similar or analogous international conflicts. One option is military action. We have seen in countries like Syria, Bosnia, Sudan and Kuwait that powerful countries have used military action to assist other nations, and even invade other nations, under the banner of implementing international law. A second option is economic sanctions. These include restrictions on exports and imports, withdrawal of aid, asset freeze, or outright economic embargo. Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Iran and Venezuela have experienced economic sanctions imposed on them. A third option is political sanctions. These include travel bans, arms embargo, and cutting of diplomatic relations. South Africa, North Korea and Libya have experienced political sanctions imposed on them. The use of military action and of economic and political sanctions has been resorted to by the UN Security Council, the European Union and the United States, among others. But what is the likelihood that any of these options will be used to implement the arbitral decision? There is absolutely no chance for the UN Security Council to adopt any of these three options because China has veto power as a member. READ MORE...

ALSO PARTY LISTS EDITORIAL - Mikey Arroyo et al.


AUGUST 4 -Rep. Mikey Arroyo of the Ang Galing Pinoy partylist claiming to represent security guards and tricycle drivers THE PUBLIC appears to have largely met with indifference President Duterte’s announcement that he wants the party-list system abolished once a constitutional assembly is convened to revise the Constitution. That many people are lending a sympathetic ear to the President’s denunciation of the “mockery of the law” that the party-list system has become is not surprising. Cynicism is usually the outcome of anything good that turns into a willful travesty of itself. The party-list system, enshrined in the Constitution no less, is a prime example, degenerating over the years from its lofty beginnings to yet another plaything of the political elite to try to perpetuate itself in power. Who would argue, even now, with the noble intentions of the 1987 Constitution’s framers? In the immediate aftermath of the long dark night of social injustice and oppression under martial law, they mandated the novel provision that 20 percent of the House of Representatives would be composed of members of the long-marginalized sectors—the farmers, fishers, urban poor, laborers, indigenous peoples, and the like. This provision was the heart of the social-justice bent of the Constitution, a formal recognition that the crushing socioeconomic inequality that prevailed was anathema to the country’s democratic aspirations, and hence must be addressed by institutionally giving voice and space to those rendered invisible and unheard. But beginning in 1995, when the enabling law on the party-list system was passed, various unscrupulous sectors saw the fresh, untested platform as a backdoor to joining or reinserting themselves into the ruling political order. Some others seized at the idea of pushing for civic or religious advocacies that would not qualify as coming from the underrepresented sectors, of which the law had mentioned only 12: labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers and professionals. But then the reward was immense: Each party-list representative would enjoy, for starters, the same P70-million pork barrel allocation then being received by regular members of the House. In time, the party-list system became more absurd by the year; hundreds of obscure groups purportedly representing just about anything filed for accreditation and jostled for a piece of the pie. A September 2012 report in this paper listed “health promoters, aviation advocates, athletes and hobbyists, entrepreneurs, former drug users, ex-military renegades, school dropouts, and even foreign-exchange dealers” as among 289 groups that sought accreditation with the Commission on Elections to participate in the 2013 polls. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL - When help is needed


AUGUST 4 -It’s one good idea that had been long overdue: an emergency hotline that gives the public a quick way to call for help when needed, with the government’s assurance that the call will be heeded posthaste. Rolled out last Monday as a partnership between the Philippine National Police, some government agencies, and the top two telcos in the country, the 911 emergency number replaces the existing Patrol 117 hotline. Just as laudable is the companion initiative: the 8888 number of the Civil Service Commission, which allows the public to communicate complaints on erring government personnel, red tape, slow or sloppy service, or corruption. The exasperating—though hardly unexpected—thing is that a curious public just had to check out these new “toys,” emergency or none. The result? Seven hours after activation, the 911 hotline logged 2,475 phone calls, according to the PNP. Unfortunately, only 3 percent of that number (or 75) were legitimate calls. Forty-five percent (1,119) were dropped calls and 12 percent (304) were classified as prank calls. The rest of the calls were still being validated as of press time. Similarly, the complaints hotline received a lot of calls, with a few prank calls keeping its 15 call center agents busy on its 30 lines. As of 5:30 p.m. on Monday, it had received 277 calls, or an average of 28 calls an hour during the day. While most people would dismiss the prank calls as harmless juvenile fun, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno deplored them as unnecessarily endangering those truly in need of emergency assistance. Quite right. With prank calls clogging phone lines, calls for help are needlessly waylaid and lives put at risk, as engaged phone lines also delay the response of police and fire officials. The serious consequences of such reckless disregard for the needs of others has prompted PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa to threaten prank callers with arrest. Indeed, tracing these callers and penalizing them with a hefty fine, arrest for repeat offenses, and many hours of community service (like staffing the phone lines themselves for a number of days) should be part of the long-term plan to make the hotlines more effective, efficient and truly responsive. As with most new initiatives, the emergency hotlines still have a few kinks that need ironing out, including the P5-per-call fee being charged by the telcos. While paying for the call is also the norm in the US model of 911 calls and, it has been argued, could make pranksters think twice before raising a false alarm, this fee might serve to discourage as well third-party callers or the plain indigent from reporting emergencies or crime situations that they’ve witnessed. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

President a loose cannon


By: Amando Doronila

MANILA, AUGUST 8, 2016 (INQUIRER) By: Amando Doronila @inquirerdotnet 12:13 AM August 1st, 2016 - PRESIDENT Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) has come under heavy fire from international and domestic human rights groups for sending “confusing and contradictory messages” on his administration’s stance on human rights.

The barrage was unleashed by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which denounced the administration’s ambivalent position shortly after its delivery last Monday.

In a severe critique of the government’s double-talk, Phelim Kine, Asia deputy director of HRW, noted that the President rightly stated that the “rule of law must at all times prevail” and the government should respect “the human rights of our citizens.”

But Kine said Mr. Duterte’s “unwillingness” to use his Sona to demand a thorough investigation of the alarming surge in police killings of suspected dealers and users in recent weeks “symbolizes a critical failure” in his “obligation to defend the rule of law and to uphold and protect the rights and freedoms of all Filipinos.”

Right to life at risk

Kine rebuked Mr. Duterte for “implicitly” voicing support for the rise in police killings of suspected drug dealers and users instead of speaking out against such brutality, adding that the President must publicly “recognize that his duty to respect the rule of law and protect the human rights of Filipinos extends to all Filipinos, including criminal suspects and those implicated in the drug trade.”

He expressed hope that the administration would produce policy initiatives reflecting tangible support for that positive rhetoric.

“But as long as President Duterte turns a blind eye to—or implicitly or explicitly encourages—summary killings, the fundamental right to life of all Filipinos is at risk from potentially random extrajudicial violence,” he warned.

HRW branded Mr. Duterte a “cheerleader” for summary killings of drug suspects. Its reaction came in response to Mr. Duterte’s statement in his Sona that “human rights must work to uplift human dignity” and cannot be used as “a shield or an excuse to destroy the country—your country and my country.”

These remarks turned out be the most contentious passage in the Sona. In his speech, Mr. Duterte exhorted the Philippine National Police and local government officials to redouble their efforts in the war against criminality and drug pushers. He reminded them that during his inauguration on June 30, he pledged that the fight against criminality and illegal drugs would be “relentless and sustained.”

READ MORE...

He said, “We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier and last pusher have surrendered or put behind bars.”

War hasn’t worked

Duterte’s statement flew in the face of reports that found that the war on drugs has not worked as a successful strategy in the light of the experience of countries that deployed it.

In April, world leaders met at the United Nations to rethink the decades-old global war against drugs and drug abuse.

On the sidelines of that meeting, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told The New York Times that “war that has been fought for more than 40 years has not been won” and “when you do something for 40 years and it doesn’t work, you need to change it.”

That view was echoed in a letter by political leaders from all over the world and even celebrities as Sting and Mary J. Blige, secretary to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The letter said that the “drug control regime that emerged during the last century has proven disastrous to global health, security and human rights.”

Vast drug market

“Focused overwhelmingly on criminalization and punishment, it created a vast illicit market that has enriched criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive violence, distorted economic markets and undermined moral values,” it said.

The war on drugs has had tragic consequences, the letter argued, citing governments that “devoted disproportionate resources to repression at the expense of the human condition.”

“Tens of millions of people, mostly poor and racial ethnic minorities, were incarcerated mostly for low-level and nonviolent drug law violations with little, if any, benefit to public security,” it said.

Cutting corners

The Guardian newspaper has derided Duterte’s populist law and order campaign.

In an editorial, the paper noted Mr. Duterte had said very little that was precise about his policies, but what he had said was not reassuring.

“His tough law and order line has brought in the votes (but ) although he says he is against extrajudicial killing of criminals, the record in Davao City suggests that such killings have been commonplace there. He wants to make the Philippines into a more federal country. The idea is attractive to those who resent Manila’s dominance and lion’s share in everything, but decentralization might bring more problems than it can solve. He rages against the everyday corruption that Filipinos have to endure but offers nothing specific to counter it. Mr. Duterte’s appeal has been his insistence that he can fix everything and does not care what corners to cut.”

His supporters suggest his bark is worse than his bite. But at the end of the day, The Guardian said “there is a cheeky chappy side to Mr. Duterte that can be engaging. But, there can be no denying that, in office, he could prove to be a very loose cannon indeed.”


Finding ways to evict China By: Joel Ruiz Butuyan @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:09 AM August 1st, 2016


By: Joel Ruiz Butuyan

LESS THAN two weeks after the historic victory of the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute, China successfully repulsed two attempts to obtain a symbolic implementation of the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Last July 14, or two days after the Philippine victory, officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) drafted a joint statement on the arbitral decision that invalidated China’s claim on almost the entire South China Sea. But China, acting through Cambodia and Laos, prevented the release of the statement.

Ten days later, on July 24, during the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Laos, Asean officials drafted another joint statement of support for the arbitral decision. Acting through Cambodia, China again prevented the release of the statement that mentions the decision.

The Asean joint statements would have amounted to a symbolic implementation of the arbitral decision. Formal recognition of the decision by other states will animate action or actual implementation later on. If other countries do not even speak up to recognize the decision, then it is unlikely that they will take action to assist in its actual implementation. But if they speak in support of the decision, it will be more than likely that they will support some form of action to implement it.

It is true that the rules of the arbitral court do not provide for ways to implement the decision. But in the realm of possibilities, there is a range of actions that are available to countries who are minded to help implement it. This is based on how countries have acted in similar or analogous international conflicts.

One option is military action. We have seen in countries like Syria, Bosnia, Sudan and Kuwait that powerful countries have used military action to assist other nations, and even invade other nations, under the banner of implementing international law.

A second option is economic sanctions. These include restrictions on exports and imports, withdrawal of aid, asset freeze, or outright economic embargo. Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Iran and Venezuela have experienced economic sanctions imposed on them.

A third option is political sanctions. These include travel bans, arms embargo, and cutting of diplomatic relations. South Africa, North Korea and Libya have experienced political sanctions imposed on them.

The use of military action and of economic and political sanctions has been resorted to by the UN Security Council, the European Union and the United States, among others. But what is the likelihood that any of these options will be used to implement the arbitral decision?

There is absolutely no chance for the UN Security Council to adopt any of these three options because China has veto power as a member.

READ MORE...

There is also virtually no chance that the United States, European Union and other countries will adopt any of these three options because of the following cocktail of reasons: The economic benefits that other countries derive from China far outweigh whatever gain they will obtain by siding with the Philippines; China has the ability to retaliate with military, economic and political sanctions that can seriously destabilize other countries; and this conflict over sea territory is minor compared to other international conflicts that have resulted in deaths and the exodus of refugees.

If these three options are out of the question, then what’s the use of discussing them? One, it dispels the unrealistic expectation of many Filipinos that countries like the United States will come to the Philippines’ rescue like a knight in shining armor, with planes, warships and soldiers. Two, it tempers any idealistic reliance that our allies will choose friendship over economic benefits. Three, it forces us to channel our energies to efforts that are realistic, pragmatic and long-term in range.

When US Secretary of State John Kerry met with President Duterte last week, he repeated what President Barack Obama and Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, declared in the past: The United States will not interfere in the competing claims of the Philippines and China, and its interest is only to ensure that freedom of navigation is respected in the South China Sea. It is clear that the United States will not use military might, or economic and political sanctions, to help the Philippines recover its sea territory from China.

What the United States has done is to support the Philippines in words. Together with Japan and Australia, it has called on China to abide by the arbitral court’s “final and legally binding” decision.

No similar words of support, much less action, are forthcoming from Asean. Brunei, Cambodia and Laos have declared that the disputes “are not an issue between China and Asean and should not affect China-Asean relations.”

Singapore states that it does “not take sides on the competing territorial claims.” Vietnam “welcomed” the decision but urged peaceful resolution. Malaysia “noted” the decision but urged the parties to “maintain peace.” Indonesia urged “restraint” and “avoidance of military activities.”

These muted reactions are the results of China’s political and economic might.

The Philippines bannered “right is might” when it achieved its arbitration victory. China brandishes “might makes right” when it mutes support for the decision. Both countries will attempt to reconcile “right” and “might” when they sit down to negotiate.

The march of modern history favors “right” over “might,” but it’s a long and bumpy road ahead for the Philippines.


Mikey Arroyo et al. @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:13 AM August 2nd, 2016


Rep. Mikey Arroyo of the Ang Galing Pinoy partylist claiming to represent security guards and tricycle drivers.

THE PUBLIC appears to have largely met with indifference President Duterte’s announcement that he wants the party-list system abolished once a constitutional assembly is convened to revise the Constitution. That many people are lending a sympathetic ear to the President’s denunciation of the “mockery of the law” that the party-list system has become is not surprising. Cynicism is usually the outcome of anything good that turns into a willful travesty of itself. The party-list system, enshrined in the Constitution no less, is a prime example, degenerating over the years from its lofty beginnings to yet another plaything of the political elite to try to perpetuate itself in power.

Who would argue, even now, with the noble intentions of the 1987 Constitution’s framers? In the immediate aftermath of the long dark night of social injustice and oppression under martial law, they mandated the novel provision that 20 percent of the House of Representatives would be composed of members of the long-marginalized sectors—the farmers, fishers, urban poor, laborers, indigenous peoples, and the like. This provision was the heart of the social-justice bent of the Constitution, a formal recognition that the crushing socioeconomic inequality that prevailed was anathema to the country’s democratic aspirations, and hence must be addressed by institutionally giving voice and space to those rendered invisible and unheard.

But beginning in 1995, when the enabling law on the party-list system was passed, various unscrupulous sectors saw the fresh, untested platform as a backdoor to joining or reinserting themselves into the ruling political order. Some others seized at the idea of pushing for civic or religious advocacies that would not qualify as coming from the underrepresented sectors, of which the law had mentioned only 12: labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers and professionals. But then the reward was immense: Each party-list representative would enjoy, for starters, the same P70-million pork barrel allocation then being received by regular members of the House.

In time, the party-list system became more absurd by the year; hundreds of obscure groups purportedly representing just about anything filed for accreditation and jostled for a piece of the pie. A September 2012 report in this paper listed “health promoters, aviation advocates, athletes and hobbyists, entrepreneurs, former drug users, ex-military renegades, school dropouts, and even foreign-exchange dealers” as among 289 groups that sought accreditation with the Commission on Elections to participate in the 2013 polls.

READ MORE...

Multimillionaires fronted for many of these groups. One, 1-AsalPartylist, claimed to represent the urban poor, but its nominee lived in Corinthian Gardens. The most egregious example happened in 2010, when Ang Galing Pinoy, said to be a group of security guards and tricycle drivers, won a seat in the House. Its representative was Mikey Arroyo, a son of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and former holder of the seat that she now occupies, who had a declared net worth of P95 million and could not have possibly been a security guard or tricycle driver in his life.

This was the group Mr. Duterte alluded to when he said that the system had been abused and only those with money could win: “Inabuso lahat yan… Ang nananalo ay yong may pera. Representing what? The security guards?” The situation was made worse by a 2013 Supreme Court decision stating that “parties or organizations… do not need to represent ‘any marginalized and underrepresented’ sector” to be able to take part in the party-list elections, essentially opening the floodgates to even more sham groups and poseurs.

Given the rot infecting the system, is it right to abolish it altogether? Perhaps revisiting the framers’ original intent is in order. Sectors such as teachers, youth, peasants and women that have made up the progressive representation in the House, for instance, have proven the value of the system by their significant contributions to pushing for laws, or at the very least raising public consciousness, on such issues as electricity reform, better labor conditions, public health and freedom of information.

Filipinos genuinely in the margins still need the party-list system. Reform, not abolish, it to make it truly work for them—and for the country, which needs to hear their voices.


EDITORIAL: When help is needed @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:34 AM August 4th, 2016

It’s one good idea that had been long overdue: an emergency hotline that gives the public a quick way to call for help when needed, with the government’s assurance that the call will be heeded posthaste. Rolled out last Monday as a partnership between the Philippine National Police, some government agencies, and the top two telcos in the country, the 911 emergency number replaces the existing Patrol 117 hotline.

Just as laudable is the companion initiative: the 8888 number of the Civil Service Commission, which allows the public to communicate complaints on erring government personnel, red tape, slow or sloppy service, or corruption.

The exasperating—though hardly unexpected—thing is that a curious public just had to check out these new “toys,” emergency or none. The result? Seven hours after activation, the 911 hotline logged 2,475 phone calls, according to the PNP. Unfortunately, only 3 percent of that number (or 75) were legitimate calls. Forty-five percent (1,119) were dropped calls and 12 percent (304) were classified as prank calls. The rest of the calls were still being validated as of press time.

Similarly, the complaints hotline received a lot of calls, with a few prank calls keeping its 15 call center agents busy on its 30 lines. As of 5:30 p.m. on Monday, it had received 277 calls, or an average of 28 calls an hour during the day.

While most people would dismiss the prank calls as harmless juvenile fun, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno deplored them as unnecessarily endangering those truly in need of emergency assistance. Quite right. With prank calls clogging phone lines, calls for help are needlessly waylaid and lives put at risk, as engaged phone lines also delay the response of police and fire officials.

The serious consequences of such reckless disregard for the needs of others has prompted PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa to threaten prank callers with arrest.

Indeed, tracing these callers and penalizing them with a hefty fine, arrest for repeat offenses, and many hours of community service (like staffing the phone lines themselves for a number of days) should be part of the long-term plan to make the hotlines more effective, efficient and truly responsive.

As with most new initiatives, the emergency hotlines still have a few kinks that need ironing out, including the P5-per-call fee being charged by the telcos. While paying for the call is also the norm in the US model of 911 calls and, it has been argued, could make pranksters think twice before raising a false alarm, this fee might serve to discourage as well third-party callers or the plain indigent from reporting emergencies or crime situations that they’ve witnessed.

READ MORE...

Another urgent need now that the hotlines are in operation and apparently being used profligately by certain people, is proper training for call center agents or hotline operators, who must know how to detect prank calls and quickly disengage from this type of callers to free the line.

They must also be trained to ask the right questions in order to solicit the correct information and ascertain the kind of assistance needed, and to employ the tone and language that could calm down agitated or fearful callers.

In the United States, 911 call takers are trained to ask questions in a predetermined order, using the answers given as a road map for the next specific query. As a result, they are able to relay enough correct information and instructions to first responders during the crucial first minutes of the emergency.

For now, the 911 hotline is being staffed by 45 PNP personnel, making it mainly a police hotline for crimes or police-related emergencies.

So far, Dela Rosa said, the operators’ job mostly entails coordinating with local police offices, which would then contact emergency responders in their areas if need be. “It will take some time to integrate the other emergency responses for fire, medical [situations] and disaster because we are still building the capabilities of local government units to be able to provide and sustain such services,” he said.

En route to that, schools can use the Sibika subject to make young children aware of how the hotlines can contribute to the community and how using them properly can save lives. As one government official said, “It is part of the civic responsibility of every Filipino to act responsibly and to help each other in every way they can.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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