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

BY JOJO ROBLES: MAKING PEACE


OCTOBER 18 -JOJO ROBLES  If you still believe that President Rodrigo Duterte is anti-American, you’ve probably never heard of Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez. Or if you do know Babe, then you didn’t know that last week, Romualdez, a columnist in another paper and a longtime ally of the Americans in the Philippines, was offered by Duterte the ambassadorship to Washington. Sources in Malacañang have confirmed to me that Duterte met with Romualdez for an hour last Thursday, during which the offer was made. Apparently, Duterte has decided that he wants to send a clear signal that he is not against the Americans, despite the intensifying campaign to drive a wedge between the Philippine president and Washington in international media and among local anti-Digong politicians. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - A much-awaited decision


OCTOBER 19 -The Supreme Court will decide today whether or not former President Ferdinand Marcos can be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City. Six petitions tried to stop President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier pronouncements that he would allow the interment of the late strongman, whose remains now lie in a mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte. The petitioners argued that the burial of Marcos at the Libingan would be illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice. The government, however, argued that as former president and duly recognized soldier and war veteran, Marcos is entitled to such a burial. Interment would not necessarily rewrite history and turn him into a hero. An extended status quo ante order, which the High Court issued to buy itself time to resolve the case on its merits, expires today. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - A flawed number-coding scheme


OCTOBER 19 -THERE are several things wrong with the plan to extend the coverage of the number-coding scheme, as announced by the Department of Transportation. The original number-coding scheme, which banned cars from the streets of Metro Manila one day a week, depending on their plate numbers, was aimed at reducing the volume of vehicles on the road to ease traffic. Under the old scheme, banned cars could still be used during “window hours,” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., since these were outside the rush hour. Now, the so-called Inter-Agency Council on Traffic (I-ACT) and the Metro Manila Council (MMC) have decided to close that window on major thoroughfares, practically banning the use of thousands of vehicles for an entire day, and preventing thousands of residents from leaving their homes in their own cars. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - A reminder from ‘Lawin’


OCTOBER 22 -These days we tend to watch everything that comes out of President Rodrigo Duterte’s mouth. Since the campaign, he has proven himself a fascinating character, a rebel who seemed to have his heart in the right place. But it is now clear that the effort that went into decoding this maverick President’s words is counterproductive and time consuming. Would it not be a relief to have a leader who says exactly what he means instead of making impulsive, populist statements which his subordinates later have to put “in the proper context?” READ FROM THE BEGINNING...
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READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Making peace


JOJO ROBLES

MANILA, 0CT0BER 24, 2016 (MANILA STANDARD) posted October 18, 2016 at 12:01 am by Jojo Robles - If you still believe that President Rodrigo Duterte is anti-American, you’ve probably never heard of Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez. Or if you do know Babe, then you didn’t know that last week, Romualdez, a columnist in another paper and a longtime ally of the Americans in the Philippines, was offered by Duterte the ambassadorship to Washington.

Sources in Malacañang have confirmed to me that Duterte met with Romualdez for an hour last Thursday, during which the offer was made. Apparently, Duterte has decided that he wants to send a clear signal that he is not against the Americans, despite the intensifying campaign to drive a wedge between the Philippine president and Washington in international media and among local anti-Digong politicians.

READ MORE...

Romualdez has always been close to the diplomats in the US Embassy in Manila and is particularly tight with the current ambassador, Philip Goldberg. Tonight, in fact, Romualdez and the Manila Overseas Press Club, of which Babe is an influential member, are hosting a testimonial dinner for the American envoy.

I’ve been told that Romualdez did not say yes to Duterte’s offer but has instead offered to help mend fences with the Americans in an unofficial capacity. Babe, as far as I know, has never worked in government, even if his brother, the late and very much admired Dr. Alberto “Quasi” Romualdez, once served as Joseph Estrada’s health secretary.

But what about Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., the diplomatic Mr. Fix-It of various administrations, whose last great accomplishment was running the Apec summit in Manila last year and who was reported to have been given the Washington post by Duterte? Apparently, the president wants to keep Jun Paynor at the home office, to keep doing the job he knows best (that of running international events in Manila); while Digong knows Paynor will do a good job in Washington, he needs Romualdez more for that post right now.

If Babe goes to Washington, it will be another of those inspired appointments that Duterte is known for, for the most part. I know Ambassador Goldberg, who has had famous run-ins with Digong, will certainly heave a sigh of relief.

* * *

It’s also silly to insist that Duterte intends to barter away the national patrimony for Chinese aid. After all, what Duterte has been saying all this time is that the arbitral ruling that the Philippines won this year from the court in The Hague is not ever going to be set aside, regardless of how much he wants to befriend our big new superpower neighbor to the northwest.

“I will not bargain anywhere [because] we will continue to insist [on what] is ours,” Duterte told a news conference in Davao City, before he left for Brunei over the weekend. “I cannot give what is not mine and [that] which I am not empowered to do by any stretch of imagination.”

As far as China is concerned, what Duterte does want is more trade and assistance, especially because he thinks the Chinese will be more amenable to give now that we have a favorable ruling. And what he doesn’t want is to engage in a shooting war with China over the disputed territories because, according to the president, this is a fight that we simply cannot win.

Duterte understands that it will take many years before the dispute with China is resolved, just like similar conflicts with the Chinese took much time (and sometimes very bloody wars) to resolve. This was the lesson that Duterte must have learned in the border disputes that the Chinese had in the past with both the Russians and the Vietnamese.

Ultimately, Russia and Vietnam resolved their territorial problems with China by negotiations, after first going to war with the Chinese over them. But it took a lot of time and a lot of talking before those borders were fixed for good.

Of course, Duterte’s problem is that some hawkish Filipinos want their government to “enforce” the favorable ruling, especially because they sincerely believe that the US has got our back. But the basis for this belief is tenuous, at best, simply because Washington and Manila have always viewed the dispute from different angles.

The Philippines has always considered the dispute an issue of territorial integrity which it feels that American military muscle must resolve in our favor. The US, on the other hand, is only in the South China Sea to ensure that the sea lanes stay open for unimpeded commerce.

Also, the US has its own bilateral ties with China to consider and will never go to war with the Chinese simply because the Philippines thinks so. Despite the long-running saber-rattling between the two countries over our shared waters, war doesn’t seem to be imminent between the superpowers.

I believe Duterte simply wants us to use the ruling on the South China Sea to our advantage, but not to use it as an excuse to go into a war we won’t win. And selling out to the Chinese is the job of Senator Antonio Trillanes, after all, not that of the new president.

Yes, all this talk of selling the country down the Yangtze River reminds me of the allegations made against Trillanes by former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile in 2012. Maybe one day soon, Enrile’s allegations against Trillanes, who walked out of the Senate in the middle of the senior senator’s philippic against him, will be substantiated—and karma will catch up with him, too.


A much-awaited decision posted October 18, 2016 at 12:01 am

The Supreme Court will decide today whether or not former President Ferdinand Marcos can be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City.

Six petitions tried to stop President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier pronouncements that he would allow the interment of the late strongman, whose remains now lie in a mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte. The petitioners argued that the burial of Marcos at the Libingan would be illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice.

The government, however, argued that as former president and duly recognized soldier and war veteran, Marcos is entitled to such a burial. Interment would not necessarily rewrite history and turn him into a hero.

An extended status quo ante order, which the High Court issued to buy itself time to resolve the case on its merits, expires today.

READ MORE...

The issue has festered for many years. Interment at the Libingan—translated as a Cemetery for Heroes—has become an emotional issue for Filipinos given the memory of martial law. Vociferous objection to the idea of Marcos’ burial there has been all over social media for the last few years.

Meanwhile, President Duterte, during his campaign, said he would allow the burial to finally put the issue at rest. He won by a decisive plurality anyway. His friend, Marcos’ son, placed second in the still-contested vice presidential race.

Everybody has said his piece on the matter and no further arguments have surfaced. It’s the Supreme Court’s turn to speak, as it is expected today. However it decides, we trust that the magistrates have weighed all the implications of their decision. They are not described as “erudite” for no reason. The court is also described as the “court of last resort.”

There is already much discord in this country, and on many fronts. The Marcos issue must be laid to rest. Let us hear the ruling and proceed from there.


A flawed number-coding scheme posted October 19, 2016 at 12:01 am



THERE are several things wrong with the plan to extend the coverage of the number-coding scheme, as announced by the Department of Transportation.

The original number-coding scheme, which banned cars from the streets of Metro Manila one day a week, depending on their plate numbers, was aimed at reducing the volume of vehicles on the road to ease traffic.

Under the old scheme, banned cars could still be used during “window hours,” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., since these were outside the rush hour.

Now, the so-called Inter-Agency Council on Traffic (I-ACT) and the Metro Manila Council (MMC) have decided to close that window on major thoroughfares, practically banning the use of thousands of vehicles for an entire day, and preventing thousands of residents from leaving their homes in their own cars.

READ MORE...

The concept of keeping cars off major roads, even during the so-called window hours, makes sense only if other alternative routes are open to them. Thus, it makes sense to close the number coding window on Edsa, because there are many alternative roads to the main highway, and there are multiple intersections where it can be crossed.

The same cannot be said for other major thoroughfares that the I-ACT and MMC added arbitrarily, with little regard for the residents in the affected areas or the lack of alternative routes.

One example is Commonwealth Avenue, a 12.4-kilometer highway in Quezon City that starts from the Quezon Memorial Circle inside the Elliptical Road and passes through the areas of Philcoa, Tandang Sora, Balara, Batasan Hills and ends at Quirino Highway in the Novaliches Area. Along each segment of the highway are residential villages that have no other access to the rest of Metro Manila, save Commonwealth Avenue. The new number coding scheme traps them for an entire day—unless they leave at an ungodly hour and come home late at night.

The same could be said of other major roads that have been added—almost as an afterthought—to the no-window restriction.

In seeking to clear Metro Manila of traffic, the authorities ought not lose sight of the true objective, which is to ensure that people can get to and from work safely, comfortably and within a reasonable time. Compelling a fifth of car owners to use means other than their own vehicles once a week would be all right if decent and affordable public transport were available—but we all know this is not the case.

The true measure of success of traffic management isn’t how much you can inconvenience car owners, or how much you curtail their rights to use their hard-earned assets, as the new scheme clearly does. The true measure is how productive we can be. If the authorities banned all cars from the roads from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., they could brag that they had solved the traffic problem, but we would also be losing a whole lot of productivity.


A reminder from ‘Lawin’ posted October 22, 2016 at 12:01 am

Amid this country’s woes on the domestic and international fronts, typhoon “Lawin” ripped through Northern Luzon this week, leaving in its trail at least seven people dead, five missing, homes and livelihoods destroyed, and billions of pesos in damaged crops and infrastructure.

Even the offices of the Cagayan Valley Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council were not spared, and disaster officials were forced to conduct meetings, in the aftermath of the typhoon, in a hotel.

The typhoon, which made landfall Wednesday evening, had winds of 225 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 315 kph. As a result, several provincial councils have declared a state of calamity in their respective areas.

“Lawin,” deemed a super typhoon, has been compared to typhoon “Yolanda,” which ravaged the central Philippines nearly three years ago. Yolanda taught us a few things at that time, and it would be good to ask ourselves whether we had indeed learned these lessons—or if we just fell back on the same patterns that have rendered us perpetually surprised and scrambling when disaster strikes.

Out of the experience of Yolanda and succeeding typhoons, we determined that the flow of information between and among government units, local and national, was crucial especially in the first few hours. Clear protocols must be established to know who makes the decisions during emergency situations. Scientific terms have to be communicated clearly to the people.

And politics should not get in the way.

We learned that a disaster near Metro Manila is not more important than a disaster in a far-flung community that does not have cellular service or internet connection.

Given the present government context we are also reminded that some issues are not any more important than others just because they are talked about in controversial—nay, scandalous—fashion. For example, we have seen how the congressional investigation into the alleged links of Senator Leila de Lima to the drug trade in the National Bilibid Prison amounted to nothing despite the so-called witnesses’ explosive claims.

These days we tend to watch everything that comes out of President Rodrigo Duterte’s mouth. Since the campaign, he has proven himself a fascinating character, a rebel who seemed to have his heart in the right place. But it is now clear that the effort that went into decoding this maverick President’s words is counterproductive and time consuming.

Would it not be a relief to have a leader who says exactly what he means instead of making impulsive, populist statements which his subordinates later have to put “in the proper context?”

And would it not be good for the people to be assured that the President knows just what to do in ensuring the resilience of communities instead of always fretting about the next disruptive, embarrassing, or potentially damaging thing he might say?

“Lawin” reminded us that we still have a lot to learn in getting our priorities in order.


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