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

By NESTOR MATA: THE REAL ROOT OF THE DRUG PROBLEM
('This is perhaps the most worrying lesson of the social scientists’ research: that it does not take evil to destroy a community’s peace and safety. Rather, ordinary human desire for security, coupled with weak institutions and desperate short-term thinking, can lead a country into an escalating disaster'. THE NY TIMES REPORT SAID)


SEPTEMBER 20 -By NESTOR MATA THE true roots” of the drug problem in the Philippines, which President Rodrigo Roa Duterte had vowed to suppress, can be traced back to the administration of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. This was revealed in a news report of The New York Times report last September 11, including the extra-judicial killings of drug lords, traffickers and addicts. “That is because,” according to the report, “the true cause of this kind of extra-judicial violation is the public’s loss of confidence in state institutions and its turning instead to more immediate form of punishment and control.”  “Mr. Aquino, elected in 2010 on promises to support the rule of law and human rights, failed to fix the corrupt and ineffective justice,” the report added. “His administration also faced a series of security-related scandals....And, perhaps most critical, Mr. Aquino was perceived as lazy and soft, unwilling to take the necessary steps to solve the country’s problems. Frustration with the government’s inability to provide basic security led to rising public demand for new leaders who would take more decisive action to provide security.” Since then up to this 89th day of his presidency today, President Duterte, who called for a new change in government, has waged a war against drugs and crime and linked more than 160 incumbent and former local government executives, lawmakers, and judges to the illegal drugs trade. And he warned that failure to address the problem within the next six years would transform the Philippines into a “narco state.” READ MORE...

ALSO By Ellen Tordesillas -100-day assessment: Filipino people will survive Duterte


SEPTEMBER 26 -By Ellen Tordesillas
In the traditional first 100 days assessment of a President’s performance one does not really expect concrete results knowing the complexities of governance but within the first three months, the public should have an idea the direction that the president is leading the country to. Duterte has made clear what the public can expect in the coming months: there will be more killings. The numbers vary and are difficult to ascertain but the figure being mentioned in news reports of illegal drugs related deaths under Duterte’s rule range from 1,500 to 300,000. The numbers continue to increase every day. Duterte himself has revised his figures of drug suspects from 700,000 to four million. He said, “Iyong 700,000, it’s going up, it’s gonna reach a million mark by the end of this month. One million drug addicts plus 3 million noong sinabi ng PDEA, ilan iyan, di 4 million. “ He asked for another six months to fulfill his promise of stopping crime, drugs, and corruption because he said, “I never realized the problem is this big.” READ MORE...

ALSO: By Rey Arcilla - [Digong's] Independent foreign policy


SEPTEMBER 20 -REY ARCILLA -WHY has the declaration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte aka Digong that the Philippines shall henceforth pursue an independent foreign policy – as mandated by the Constitution, mind you – stirred so much fuss among so-called political analysts and experts, sundry politicians, some oligarchs and remnants of the Aquino administration? I am not a political analyst, nor am I an expert on foreign policy. What I teach my students (as Dean of the College of International Relations of the Lyceum of the Philippines for the last ten years) and write in this column about foreign policy is borne out of decades of exposure to and experience in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy… and a bit of common sense. I was the Philippine representative in the permanent negotiating body of the defunct South East Asia Treaty Organization for many years; press attache in the Philippine Embassy, Bangkok; DFA assistant secretary, on various occasions, for press and public affairs (twice), for Asean Affairs and for UN Affairs; Deputy (with the rank of ambassador) to the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN in New York; alternate representative to the UN Security Council; member of the UN Security Council Committee of Experts on Afghanistan; permanent representative to the IAEA, UNIDO and the UN Office in Vienna, and ESCAP in Bangkok; member of the UN Commission on Human Rights (now Human Rights Council); member of the Philippine delegation to the annual UN General Assembly sessions on 16 occasions; ambassador to Bangladesh, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Laos and Thailand. There… I hope that somehow establishes my bona fides as a commentator on foreign affairs. Now, going back to Digong’s foreign policy… his reason is very clear and cannot be subjected to a different interpretation: “We will observe and must insist on the time-honored principles of sovereignty, sovereign equality, non-interference, and a commitment to peaceful settlement of disputes.” READ MORE...

ALSO: By Ellen Tordesillas - Truth cannot be killed


SEPTEMBER 20 -By Ellen Tordesillas
IF the allies of President Duterte in the Senate think that the public will never know the truth in the numerous killings that Edgar Matobato self-confessed member of the Davao Death Squad now that Sen. Leila de Lima has been ousted as chair of the committee on justice and human rights, they should be reminded that the truth always finds its way to come out. Not now, maybe. It may take circuitous route, but it will come out. One of the stories Matobato narrated in his testimony last week was the order of then Davao City mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte to kill the bodyguards of former House Speaker Prospero Nograles who ran against Duterte’s daughter, Sara, for mayor in the 2010 elections. In that election, Duterte ran as Sara’s vice mayor. Both daughter and father won. After last Thursday’s hearing, Nograles immediately sent out a message to media denying Matobato’s story. “As far as I know, there’s not a single incident that any of my staff or security personnel who were assigned to me while I was still in politics was killed even when I ran for mayor in 2010,” Nograles said. Nograles added that all his bodyguards are still alive: “Buhay pa naman sila hanggang ngayon.” That should dismiss the Election campaign 2010 killing as outright lie. Now, there’s a Facebook post under the account “Walang Sisihan” which said there were four persons who were killed in the matter that fitted the grisly narration of Matobato. They were not Nograles’ bodyguards but volunteers. READ MORE...

ALSO: By JB Baylon - Balikbayan boxes


SEPTEMBER 24 -By Jose Bayani Baylon
HOW many Filipino families are recipients annually of the so-called “Balikbayan boxes” from North America-based relatives? I suspect that for every Filipino family with a relative in the US or Canada, on two of those boxes arrive every year - one during the Christmas season and another mid-year in celebration of a birthday or a graduation or some other family event. There was even this joke once about the box actually being a coffin, with the goodies stuffed underneath the deceased’s pillow and the pasalubong Air Jordans adorning the dead man’s feet. Only Filipinos will be able to make a joke out of something as morbid. Only Filipinos will find the situation funny. This year I have already received three such boxes from my brother in Canada. They were mainly filled with two items: adult pull up diapers for my father, and dog food (biscuits and Cesar’s) for my two canine babies. The empty spaces between these main gifts were filled with Hershey’s and Nestle packages, Toblerone bars, one or two sets of bed linen, and toothpaste and bars of soap galore! . I have always found the last two an interesting, never absent content of the proverbial Balikbayan box; it is as if we can’t obtain soap or toothpaste here for our own consumption. It’s as if we were Venezuela. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

The real roots of the drug problem


By NESTOR MATA

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016 (MALAYA) By NESTOR MATA September 20, 2016 THE true roots” of the drug problem in the Philippines, which President Rodrigo Roa Duterte had vowed to suppress, can be traced back to the administration of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

This was revealed in a news report of The New York Times report last September 11, including the extra-judicial killings of drug lords, traffickers and addicts. “That is because,” according to the report, “the true cause of this kind of extra-judicial violation is the public’s loss of confidence in state institutions and its turning instead to more immediate form of punishment and control.”

“Mr. Aquino, elected in 2010 on promises to support the rule of law and human rights, failed to fix the corrupt and ineffective justice,” the report added. “His administration also faced a series of security-related scandals....And, perhaps most critical, Mr. Aquino was perceived as lazy and soft, unwilling to take the necessary steps to solve the country’s problems. Frustration with the government’s inability to provide basic security led to rising public demand for new leaders who would take more decisive action to provide security.”

Since then up to this 89th day of his presidency today, President Duterte, who called for a new change in government, has waged a war against drugs and crime and linked more than 160 incumbent and former local government executives, lawmakers, and judges to the illegal drugs trade. And he warned that failure to address the problem within the next six years would transform the Philippines into a “narco state.”

READ MORE...

Last Saturday, President Duterte showed the public a new list of 1,000 names of government officials with links to illegal drugs, including barangay captains, policemen, mayors, governors and judges.

The drug list, which was “fine-tuned” by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, prompted Duterte to ask for another six-month extension of his self-imposed deadline to rid the country of illegal drugs in three to six months when he assumed the presidency.

Duterte’s war against drugs has been criticized by his political critics as well as by the United Nations, especially the surge in extra-judicial killings of drug traffickers and addicts. But he rejected the criticism and denied government responsibility for the killings.

“The President,” according to presidential spokesman Ernest Abella, “decries the attribution of the killings of drugs suspects to the Philippine government. This is simply unfair, especially to the hardworking men and women in uniform who risked their lives to win the war against drugs.” And he said the police reported that many of the dead drugs suspects were shot while resisting arrest or were killed by rival gang members.

President Duterte acknowledged that he has been criticized for his drug crackdown, but he defended the anti-illegal drugs campaign and emphatically said he would compromise the next generation of Filipinos if he does not implement tough measures against drug lords, drug traffickers and drug addicts.

***

President Duterte’s strong and firm governance appears to be sending positive signals to foreign investors, particularly Great Britain’s investment community.

His clear “rule of law” measure has encouraged them to consider the Philippines as investment site, according to British Prime Minister of trade economy Richard Grahm.

What impressed the British investors, he said, is Duterte’s “strong leadership, especially his new trusts and objectives in attracting foreign investments.”

Oh yes, on the issue of extra-judicial killings in connection with his war against drugs, Grahm hinted that this controversy should be fixed and be defended by Philippine leaders.

***

Quote of the Day: “The security and well-being of law-abiding citizens is more important than the rights of criminals. Those who defend the latter are either coddlers or in the pay of drug syndicates.” – Anon.

---------------------------------

RELATED: THE REPORT FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

How Countries Like the Philippines Fall Into Vigilante Violence
The Interpreter By AMANDA TAUB SEPT. 11, 2016


THE WRITER: Amanda TaubVerified account @amandataub
Former human rights lawyer, now writer for the @nytimes Interpreter, exploring the ideas and context behind major world events. Washington, DC FROM TWITTER

When campaigning for the Philippine presidency last spring, Rodrigo Duterte promised to kill so many criminals that “fish will grow fat” in Manila Bay from feasting on their corpses.

Since taking office on June 30, Mr. Duterte appears to be making every effort to meet that grisly goal. Over 1,800 people have been killed by the police and vigilantes since then, and the wave of killings shows no sign of subsiding.

Many of the victims appear to have been innocent by any definition, and none had been proved guilty in a court of law. But the crackdown has struck a chord with the public, and Mr. Duterte’s popularity has been soaring.

What drives this explosion of extrajudicial violence — which, far from unique, bears striking parallels to previous waves of killings in Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Thailand and elsewhere?

It would be tempting to reduce this to a simple story of good versus evil, with the villain — whether that means enforcers like Mr. Duterte or the criminal elements they claim to be expunging — solely responsible.

But social scientists who study extrajudicial killings say the real story is more complicated, and more tragic. It is often the affected communities themselves that unwittingly help create the circumstances for this violence.

It tends to begin, the research suggests, with a weak state and a population desperate for security. Short-term incentives push everyone to bad decisions that culminate in violence that, once it has reached a level as bloody as that in the Philippines, can be nearly impossible to stop.

The Spark



It might seem that the Philippines’ trouble began when it elected Mr. Duterte, a brash provincial politician who has for decades embraced extrajudicial killings as a legitimate method of crime control.

But the true roots of the problem can be traced to the administration of Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III. That is because, experts say, the true cause of this kind of extrajudicial violence is the public’s loss of confidence in state institutions and its turning instead to more immediate forms of punishment and control.

Mr. Aquino, elected in 2010 on promises to support the rule of law and human rights, failed to fix the Philippines’ corrupt and ineffective justice system. His administration also faced a series of security-related scandals, including a hostage crisis in Manila in 2010.

And, perhaps most critical, Mr. Aquino was perceived as lazy and soft, unwilling to take the necessary steps to solve the country’s problems.

Frustration with the government’s inability to provide basic security led to rising public demand for new leaders who would take more decisive action to provide security.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN PH BROKEN

“The fact is that the judicial system, the court system, is broken in the Philippines,” said Phelim Kine, a deputy director of the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch.

Powerful people, Mr. Kine said, are often able to evade justice entirely. “When you factor in elements of corruption, and perceptions that people can buy themselves protection from the police or buy themselves out of trouble,” he said, “this adds up to a lot of frustration among Filipinos who sense that government and the judicial system is part of the problem, not the solution.”

The Demand

When people begin to see the justice system as thoroughly corrupt and broken, they feel unprotected from crime. That sense of threat makes them willing to support vigilante violence, which feels like the best option for restoring order and protecting their personal safety.

Gema Santamaria, a professor at the Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology in Mexico City who studies lynchings and other forms of vigilante killings, and José Miguel Cruz, the research director at Florida International University’s Latin American and Caribbean Center, used survey data from across Latin America to test what leads people to support extrajudicial violence.

The data told a very similar story across all of the countries in their sample. People who didn’t have faith in their country’s institutions were more likely to say vigilante violence was justified. By contrast, in states with stronger institutions, people were more likely to reject extrajudicial violence.

People turn to vigilante violence as a replacement for the formal justice system, Ms. Santamaria said. That can take multiple forms — lynch mobs in Mexico, for instance, or paramilitary “self-defense” forces in Colombia — but the core impulse is the same.

“When you have a system that doesn’t deliver, you are creating, over a period of time, a certain culture of punishment,” she said. “Regardless of what the police are going to do, you want justice, and it will be rough justice.”

Surprisingly, that includes increased support for the use of harsh extralegal tactics by the police themselves. “This seems counterintuitive,” Ms. Santamaria said. “If you don’t trust the police to prosecute criminals, why would you trust them with bending the law?”

But to people desperate for security, she said, the unmediated punishment of police violence seems far more effective than waiting for a corrupt system to take action.

And so, over time, frustration with state institutions, coupled with fear of crime and insecurity, leads to demand for authoritarian violence — even if that means empowering the same corrupt, flawed institutions that failed to provide security in the first place.

The Supply

Leaders like Mr. Duterte have a political incentive to exploit this sentiment, marketing their willingness to go around the system to prove that they are willing to do whatever it takes to solve the country’s problems.

“When you have a weak government that faces a security crisis and also a crisis of trust of the people, the issue of promising more punishment is a shortcut to gain citizens’ confidence, to gain support,” Ms. Santamaria said.

Why not instead promise to fix the real underlying problems?

First, because institutional reform isn’t as politically appealing as identifying villains — in the case of the Philippines, criminal gangs — and promising to take them down.

Second, because the very state weakness that created the problems often means that leaders are incapable of fixing the underlying issues.

A number of developing countries struggle to deliver security, said James Robinson, a professor of public policy at the University of Chicago and an expert on state failure.

State weakness creates the “demand” for better security by any means, he said, “but there’s also a supply side.”

“And the supply side,” he continued, “is that the state encourages this kind of informalization of violence, this kind of informalization of security.”

A result is that politicians who embrace extralegal violence gain public support, and those who oppose it are often painted as weak and ineffective.

“Rule of law does not sell well,” Ms. Santamaria said.

The Escalation

This dynamic can drive leaders like Mr. Duterte to encourage vigilante violence, even if the bloodshed only worsens insecurity and its targets are largely innocent. The point is demonstrating a willingness to go to any length to get results.

By portraying the victims as criminals, Mr. Duterte can claim success, and local communities might believe things are improving. But the extrajudicial killings, though intended to provide security, instead end up provoking a self-reinforcing cycle of ever-worsening insecurity and retaliation.

Once the government makes it clear that no one will face legal repercussions for extrajudicial killings, Mr. Kine of Human Rights Watch said, “then anybody with a gun and a grudge has free license to go and victimize people without worrying about the consequences.”

That fuels public demand for more extralegal violence to quell the problem. Eventually, the situation spirals out of control.

Mr. Kine pointed to the Philippine city of Tagum on the island of Mindanao. There, the city government encouraged off-duty police officers and collaborators to murder petty criminals, including street children, in the name of being tough on crime.

Once its ability to operate with impunity was established, Mr. Kine said, that death squad began engaging in contract killings for money. People who opposed the death squad, including some police officers, were deemed enemies and often targeted. The city became more dangerous and lawless, with devastating results for ordinary citizens.

The real problem, Ms. Santamaria said, is not just the violence. Rather, it is the way it alters the rules of society itself: what is acceptable, and what is necessary to survive.

People whose relatives have been unjustly killed see violence as a legitimate way to right that wrong, Ms. Santamaria said. Once violence becomes an acceptable means for settling disputes and exerting power, it is difficult for people to trust any other system, she added.

States, locked in that escalating cycle, struggle to re-establish order. A culture of vengeful punishment takes hold, crowding out the rule of law. State officials have little standing to demand that people follow the rule of law when the state itself has been encouraging lawless violence.

In Guatemala, decades of extrajudicial violence have left thousands dead, opened space for ruthless street gangs and sent tens of thousands of child refugees north in search of safety.

In Colombia, vigilante “self-defense” groups grew, in the 1970s and ’80s, into large paramilitary organizations. They joined with state-supported counterinsurgency groups and became major players in the country’s drug trade and a party to its civil war, in which they were known for particularly gruesome attacks on civilians they perceived as enemies.

This is perhaps the most worrying lesson of the social scientists’ research: that it does not take evil to destroy a community’s peace and safety. Rather, ordinary human desire for security, coupled with weak institutions and desperate short-term thinking, can lead a country into an escalating disaster.

Follow Amanda Taub on Twitter @amandataub.

A version of this article appears in print on September 12, 2016, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: How the Philippines Fell Into Vigilante Violence. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe


100-day assessment: Filipino people will survive Duterte By Ellen Tordesillas September 26, 2016


By Ellen Tordesillas

In the traditional first 100 days assessment of a President’s performance one does not really expect concrete results knowing the complexities of governance but within the first three months, the public should have an idea the direction that the president is leading the country to.

Duterte has made clear what the public can expect in the coming months: there will be more killings.

The numbers vary and are difficult to ascertain but the figure being mentioned in news reports of illegal drugs related deaths under Duterte’s rule range from 1,500 to 300,000. The numbers continue to increase every day.

Duterte himself has revised his figures of drug suspects from 700,000 to four million.

He said, “Iyong 700,000, it’s going up, it’s gonna reach a million mark by the end of this month. One million drug addicts plus 3 million noong sinabi ng PDEA, ilan iyan, di 4 million. “

He asked for another six months to fulfill his promise of stopping crime, drugs, and corruption because he said, “I never realized the problem is this big.”

READ MORE...

It should be recalled that he anchored his campaign on the promise that he will eliminate illegal drugs, crime and corruption in three to six months. If he fails, he said during the campaign in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, he will resign and turn over the presidency to Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who was running for vice president under a different ticket. Marcos didn’t win.

Dutrerte slammed those skeptical about his self-imposed deadline saying that if he couldn’t do it within three months,” I really cannot do it even if you give me 10 years of rule.”

The numbers and deadlines are changed but there is not much change in style of governance that can be expected: he will continue to curse and gain notoriety in the international scene.

STATESMAN

In the first place, he said, “Hindi naman ako nag-apply ng position na statesman. Nag-apply ako ng posisyong presidente. Nagpa-elect ako statesman, I do not know how he would dress. I do not even know how he would open a statement. But what I know is that I have to serve the greater interest of the Filipino people.”

A statesman is defined as “an experienced politician, especially one who is respected for making good judgments. “

Social anthropologist Melba Padilla Maggay’s incisive analysis of Duterte’s style of governance in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, is very helpful to cope with the situation.

“Many in this country mistake President Duterte’s unswerving use of force as political will, when what is really before us is an alarming drift toward an authoritarian barbarism, where the full apparatus of power—formal or nonformal—are used to savage those who stand in his way, without regard for law or the niceties of civility.

“Quite early, the telltale signs are there. There is the reiterated permission to shoot and kill, which effectively gives license to all, in uniform or out, to serve as judge and executioner and set off on a killing spree. There is the rough and heavy-handed treatment of the Chief Justice, who was threatened with martial law when she dared question his jurisdiction over the justices publicly named in his hit list of supposed coconspirators. And then there is the ongoing saga of a senator of the realm being hounded and subjected to all sorts of harassment, her personal life crudely exposed to public shame, in what looks like a deliberate ploy to cast a chilling effect on all who would stand him down.

“There is method to this apparently mad and outrageous violation of the boundaries of our legal and cultural norms,”

NAME MD SHAME CAMPAIGN

Maggay warned of the insidious effect of what Duterte is doing: “In his name-and-shame campaign, he has proven to be a shrewd and masterful player in that more capacious space afforded by what anthropologists call the informal domain, where the influence of power, privilege and sheer personality can overrun formal processes and bend the rules.

“In normal societies, the technical, formal and informal domains of social behavior are of equal space and weight. In this country, the power of the informal domain is such that legal technicalities are summoned, not to shed light on the law, but to serve the demolition purposes of the powerful. Institutional checks and balances collapse before the pressures of that invisible web of interlocking interests bonded by political and familial loyalties.

“It is perhaps not just coincidence that within months of the Duterte presidency, we see the resurgence of unsavory forces rumored to be partly behind his ascendancy. We see the irony of the principals accused in the NBN-ZTE scandal going scot-free, while the poor whistle-blower is convicted of graft. We see the ever-present danger of a return to power of an unrepentant dynasty whose patriarch was a plundering dictator and is now being foisted on us as a hero. By this attempt to erase from memory the terrors wrought under his regime, the country is under threat of a permanent historical amnesia.

“These historic reversals, overshadowed by the spectacle of vigilante killings, are in fact more dangerous. While there is blustering talk about fighting corruption and an unjust system, we are in fact experiencing an increasing moral rot in the very fabric of our society. There is a subtle overturning of our values, a corrosion of our civic sense of what is just and decent and acceptable. As a sign of this creeping contamination, we just need to take a look at how those once honorable senators voted to oust De Lima as justice committee chair.”

Maggay said, “The press release about Mr. Duterte is that he is a lovable rake with a soft heart. The cultivated image is that of a rough and tough probinsyano who is refreshingly unlike those who have held the highest office in the land. He is popular precisely because he rides roughshod over the rules of an effete elite culture that has ruled us so ineffectually for so long.”

She further said, the testimony of Edgar Matobato, who claims to be a member of the Davao Death Squad, reveals a very dark underside of Duterte. “It validates the fear that at the center of power in this country is a man who is morally obtuse. The coarse language, the recklessly compulsive outbursts directed at the Pope, the US ambassador and the US president himself are but the tip of the iceberg.

Scripture tells us that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” What this means is that speech mirrors our state of heart, a verbal reflex of what is inside, displaying the quality of our soul. Bad language is not just bad manners.”

Given the dizzying happening these past three months, many ask,”Can Duterte finish his six year term? “ I consider that a politically incorrect question. The more appropriate question is “Can we last six years of Duterte”

I believe in the Filipino people. We will survive.


Independent foreign policy By Rey O. Arcilla September 20, 2016


SEPTEMBER 20 -REY ARCILLA -

WHY has the declaration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte aka Digong that the Philippines shall henceforth pursue an independent foreign policy – as mandated by the Constitution, mind you – stirred so much fuss among so-called political analysts and experts, sundry politicians, some oligarchs and remnants of the Aquino administration?

I am not a political analyst, nor am I an expert on foreign policy. What I teach my students (as Dean of the College of International Relations of the Lyceum of the Philippines for the last ten years) and write in this column about foreign policy is borne out of decades of exposure to and experience in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy… and a bit of common sense.

I was the Philippine representative in the permanent negotiating body of the defunct South East Asia Treaty Organization for many years; press attache in the Philippine Embassy, Bangkok; DFA assistant secretary, on various occasions, for press and public affairs (twice), for Asean Affairs and for UN Affairs; Deputy (with the rank of ambassador) to the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN in New York; alternate representative to the UN Security Council; member of the UN Security Council Committee of Experts on Afghanistan; permanent representative to the IAEA, UNIDO and the UN Office in Vienna, and ESCAP in Bangkok; member of the UN Commission on Human Rights (now Human Rights Council); member of the Philippine delegation to the annual UN General Assembly sessions on 16 occasions; ambassador to Bangladesh, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Laos and Thailand.

There… I hope that somehow establishes my bona fides as a commentator on foreign affairs.

Now, going back to Digong’s foreign policy… his reason is very clear and cannot be subjected to a different interpretation: “We will observe and must insist on the time-honored principles of sovereignty, sovereign equality, non-interference, and a commitment to peaceful settlement of disputes.”

READ MORE...

This was amplified by Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. in his recent speech before the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He said, among other things, that we are no longer the little brown brothers of the Americans, that we should not be lectured upon on the question of human rights; that we remain committed to the rule of law; that it is inappropriate for us to be given certain things with a list of “to-dos”..

Isn’t that the kind of foreign policy that a self-respecting sovereign state must have?

Yasay also confirmed Digong’s position that we stand by our agreements with the US and the international community, in general.

***

Why then the so-called political analysts, experts and government critics’ apparent impression that we are becoming anti-American; that we might alienate and lose aid from the US; that we will lose US backing on the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea (WPS/SCS) dispute; that we are becoming pro-China?

How about becoming pro-Filipino for a change?

And why don’t they let the US speak for herself?

Fact is, the US has already spoken in the wake of all this brouhaha about Digong’s pronouncement of pursuing an independent foreign policy.

No less than President Barack Hussain Obama, his State Department spokesman and the US ambassador to Asean have said in clear terms that “PH-US relations will endure”.

Of course, we know the US is unhappy with the changed direction in our foreign policy. They’d rather we didn’t change, but I’m quite sure she understands. She knows we cannot be her lackeys forever.

***

Going back to the “laments” of the so-called political analysts, experts and government critics:

1. That we are becoming anti-US, ergo, pro-China – Nothing could be further from the truth. Just because we want to talk with China our way? Digong has already said we will not get out of the “four corners” of the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea (WPS/SCS) territorial disputes. But even if Digong decides to disregard the ruling, that is our business. We filed the case. We won. We have the right to do as we choose with the ruling in whichever way it will serve our national interest best.

2. That we might lose US aid – That’s the dumbest part of their argument. The years from 1991 when we got rid of the US military and naval bases in Clark and Subic till 1998 when the Estrada administration approved the VFA, US aid to the Philippines came down to a trickle. We survived. We can again. After all, an independent foreign policy dictates that we should strive for self-reliance, particularly military self-reliance. As we have seen, this has not been possible because of our uninterrupted dependence on the US. That is why Digong is now talking about sourcing our requirements from other countries.

Also, as one analyst pointed out, the US Agency for International Development has given us $5 billion over the last 30 years. Thirty years?! Jeeezzz… How much rental did the US not pay us for Clark and Subic alone from the early 1900s to 1976? Nada. Zilch. She will also not pay rent under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Does the analyst know how much Cambodia received from China for stopping the issuance of an Asean final communique in 2012? Reports said Phnom Penh received about $3 billion, including the putting up of an integrated steel mill in Cambodia.

Without saying that our relations with the US are at par with her relations with Israel, recent reports said that the latter received $30.8 billion aid for the next ten years. Wow, that’s almost $3.1 billion per year!

3. That we might lose US backing on the WPS/SCS dispute – The US has her own interests in these parts and ours is not one of them. If at all, it merely coincides with hers. To begin with, she is really not backing us. She’s neutral on the dispute, remember? If she were backing us, she would have said from the very start that she would not tolerate any change in the status of Panatag Shoal or in the areas of the Spratlys within our Exclusive Economic Zone which China has reclaimed, just like the way she declared herself on the Senkaku islands claimed by Japan.

It is also pretty clear, judging from her statements and actions, that she is not about to tangle with China over the WPS/SCS issue. For one thing, her relations with China are far more important to her than her relations with a lackey. That’s us, remember.

At the same time, she does not want to lose or even share her predominant position in this region with a rising China.

She ostensibly also wants to maintain freedom of navigation and ensure the free flow of commerce in the sea lanes.

I have always doubted China has that in mind. That would be like cutting off her nose to spite her face. If she did that, she will be no match with the combined forces of Australia, Japan, South Korea and the US. Let us also not forget that the bulk of China’s trade with the countries to her west, including the Middle East, Africa and Europe goes through the same sea lanes.

4. That we are becoming pro-China – Wrong! First, as stated in our new policy, we want to be friends with everyone who would be friends with us. Second, we are committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes. Ergo, we want to settle our differences with China by talking with her, something that the US and her surrogates in our midst apparently do not want.

As Digong said, we don’t want to fight with China. We are no match for her. But if need be, we will, Digong also said. Then, perhaps, we’ll see how iron-clad the US commitment is to our defense. I suspect that is a point the US doesn’t want reached, at least for now. She doesn’t war with China. And neither do we. If war should come, we will be among the first to be destroyed because of the presence of US forces and military arsenal here.

The analyst also said that without the backing of the US, we will have no leverage with China, that we will be trounced in any negotiations with her. That’s virtually an insult on the capability and patriotism of our would-be negotiators. And on Digong’s. He has the final say on any agreement reached with China.

***

Without question, PH-China relations have to improve. We are neighbors. Many of our people and past and present leaders have Chinese ancestry. Our culture is basically Asian. China’s, of course. We have lots of OFWs there. Our Fil-Chinese taipans have extensive businesses in China. China is now our biggest trading partner. She is now the world’s second biggest economy. Her people are the world’s number one tourists.

Reason or common sense, if you will, dictates that we start looking East instead of West as the famous author Martin Jacques (When China Rules the World) says. And in case one hasn’t noticed, China has become modernized and a great number of her people, with their newly acquired affluence, have become “westernized” in many ways like us.

***

Today is the 146th day of the tenth year of Jonas Burgos’ enforced disappearance.

The family and friends of Jonas hope that the Duterte administration will not be part of the continuing cover-up. The Burgos family implores Digong to haul the perpetrators to justice and bring Jonas back home.

***

From an internet friend:

Mr. Jacobs, the biology instructor at a posh suburban girl’s junior college, said during class, “Miss Arnold, would you please name the organ of the human body, which under the appropriate conditions, expands to six times its normal size, and define the conditions.” Miss Arnold gasped, then said coldly, “Mr. Jacobs, I don’t think that is an appropriate question to ask me. I assure you my parents will hear of this!” With that she sat down red-faced. Unperturbed, Mr. Jacobs called on Miss Jones, another student, and asked the same question. Miss Jones, with composure, replied: “That would be the pupil of the eye, under conditions of dim light.” “Correct,” said Mr. Jacobs. “And now, Miss Arnold, I have three things to say to you: One, you have not studied your lesson. Two, you have a dirty mind. And three, you will someday be faced with a dreadful disappointment.”


Truth cannot be killed By Ellen Tordesillas September 21, 2016


By Ellen Tordesillas

IF the allies of President Duterte in the Senate think that the public will never know the truth in the numerous killings that Edgar Matobato self-confessed member of the Davao Death Squad now that Sen. Leila de Lima has been ousted as chair of the committee on justice and human rights, they should be reminded that the truth always finds its way to come out.

Not now, maybe. It may take circuitous route, but it will come out.

One of the stories Matobato narrated in his testimony last week was the order of then Davao City mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte to kill the bodyguards of former House Speaker Prospero Nograles who ran against Duterte’s daughter, Sara, for mayor in the 2010 elections.

In that election, Duterte ran as Sara’s vice mayor. Both daughter and father won.

After last Thursday’s hearing, Nograles immediately sent out a message to media denying Matobato’s story. “As far as I know, there’s not a single incident that any of my staff or security personnel who were assigned to me while I was still in politics was killed even when I ran for mayor in 2010,” Nograles said.

Nograles added that all his bodyguards are still alive: “Buhay pa naman sila hanggang ngayon.”

That should dismiss the Election campaign 2010 killing as outright lie.

Now, there’s a Facebook post under the account “Walang Sisihan” which said there were four persons who were killed in the matter that fitted the grisly narration of Matobato. They were not Nograles’ bodyguards but volunteers.

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Here’s a portion of Walang Sisihan’s post: “In his voluntary testimony before the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights investigating the extra-judicial killings in the country last Thursday, Matobato who claimed to be a former CAFGU personnel and at same time a 15-30 city hall employee from 1988 to 2013 alleged that Mayor Duterte ordered the abduction and killing of the four at the height of the 2010 national and local election campaign.

“It was quite weird that the bodies of the four victims were all found on Good Friday, April 2, 2010 in different locations in Davao City, Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur provinces.

“A spear fisherman discovered by accident the mutilated body of Ka Onad tied with a heavy-duty hydraulic jack to prevent it from floating at the bottom of the shallow waters in Davao Gulf not far from a beach resort at Sitio Baybay, Brgy. Panggubatan, Kaputian District in the Island Garden City of Samal across Davao City reportedly owned by a certain Sonny Buenaventura, said to be a ‘DDS handler’ that was mentioned by Mr. Matobato in his voluntary testimony today.

“At the same time, the decomposing body of Nanay Juling was believed to have been washed ashore and found half buried in the coastline of Sitio Mamacao, Brgy. Kisulad, Sta. Maria town, Davao del Sur.

“The body of the younger missing campaign volunteer under General Martillano was found at a cottage inside Bonguyan Beach Resort in Times Beach, Matina-Aplaya in the city. A resort cashier found the body and immediately called the police for assistance.

“The body of the older missing man working with General Martillano was discovered at Matigol River in Sitio Ladian, Barangay Marilog. Around 60 years old, the victim was believed to have been drowned.”

Walang Sisihan said in the 2010 elections campaign, Nograles sought the help of Jovito Palparan Jr. , who was former Bantay Partylist Representative, ANAD Partylist Representative Jun Alcover, and retired CSupt Eduardo Martillano who is a former PNP director in the Davao Region - all staunched anti-communism advocates, in countering the harassments of the NPA in the hinterlands of Davao City that favored Duterte’s Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod.

I don’t know who runs the Walang Sisihan account but his post is supported by links to news reports of the incidents cited. Check it out.

This is what I meant that truth can’t be killed. It will find a way to come out.


Balikbayan boxes By Jose Bayani Baylon September 23, 2016


By Jose Bayani Baylon

HOW many Filipino families are recipients annually of the so-called “Balikbayan boxes” from North America-based relatives? I suspect that for every Filipino family with a relative in the US or Canada, on two of those boxes arrive every year - one during the Christmas season and another mid-year in celebration of a birthday or a graduation or some other family event.

There was even this joke once about the box actually being a coffin, with the goodies stuffed underneath the deceased’s pillow and the pasalubong Air Jordans adorning the dead man’s feet.

Only Filipinos will be able to make a joke out of something as morbid. Only Filipinos will find the situation funny.

This year I have already received three such boxes from my brother in Canada. They were mainly filled with two items: adult pull up diapers for my father, and dog food (biscuits and Cesar’s) for my two canine babies. The empty spaces between these main gifts were filled with Hershey’s and Nestle packages, Toblerone bars, one or two sets of bed linen, and toothpaste and bars of soap galore! . I have always found the last two an interesting, never absent content of the proverbial Balikbayan box; it is as if we can’t obtain soap or toothpaste here for our own consumption.

It’s as if we were Venezuela.

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As you know, that oil rich country that produces as much Ms Universe title holders as it does barrels of oil has suffered a tremendous economic reversal and now suffers from empty grocery shelves. Cotibzes have to cross the border to neighboring Colombia just to be able to purchase a bar of soap, a tube of toothpaste, jars of jam and loaves of bread - because the Venezuelans economy has all but collapsed. CNN has aired footage of Venezuelans lining up outside Colombian stores to buy household staples that are no longer available back home. And the look on the faces of those able to buy some stocks reminds me of the look on my brothers’ faces -- and mine as well – when a box from our maternal grandmother and grandfather would arrive and we would rush to tear the packaging tape just to see what was inside!

I suppose it is because Pinoys in North America always troop to a Costco or some other warehouse club to buy these items wholesale, making it much cheaper per piece and ensuring that the receiving family will have enough supply for twelve months. Never mind that we have our own S&R; iba pa rin ang galing sa America if not in quality at least in smell. Right? Things that come out of Balikbayan boxes always have that distinctive “imported” scent to them.

And I suppose it is also better to send “biyaya” in terms of goodies than in terms of “greenbacks” which could be spent in many other ways less beneficial to the family.

That’s why PAL planes have to make technical stops in Guam. Because they fly against the wind while fully laden with Balikbayan boxes they need to refuel in Guam to be able to get to Manila. Notice how they can easily fly straight to North America because they fly with the wind and the cargo bays are empty!

I guess for as long as Filipinos abroad always feel some sense of accomplishment in sending home a box or two laden with foodies plus toothpaste and soap, and Filipinos here always feel some sense of joy sniffing the air of America whenever a newly arrived box is open, we will continue to see this practice flourish and homes stack up with Dove or Dial soap and Crest toothpaste.

Hopefully my kin will just add a box or two of Frosted Flakes next time to remind me of a childhood joy long gone!

Then and only then will I stop complaining that we are not Venezuela!


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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