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FROM THE MANILA TIMES

EDITORIAL: NEW DU30 POLICY--EMBRACE RUSSIA AS OBAMA AND TRUMP DO


JANUARY 7 -Brute strength in Luneta: Russian Marines smashed bricks over their comrades' stomachs as part of an eye-catching charm offensive in the Philippines The communist bugaboo of the Russian kind has not been working anymore on Filipinos for many years, since soon after the Fall of the Berlin Wall about 20 years ago. Our friendship for Russians, who mostly disdain their past communist overlords, was once more apparent when visiting Russian Marines demonstrated their combat skills before the Jose Rizal monument at Rizal Park (Luneta) in Manila on Thursday. Filipinos—and Filipinas—hugged the Russkys and took selfies with them. Such effrontery, before 1989, would have elicited strident protest actions from local rightwingers, especially because the audacity was displayed in front of the acknowledged national hero of the Philippines, not before the monument to Andres Bonifacio, who perhaps to Lenin’s countrymen was more “revolutionary” than Rizal was. The Russian Marines were treated like celebrities, not some eastern Slav giants who got stranded at the South Harbor while on a five-day port call here. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Ma. Isabel Ongpin - SSS pension raises must be funded


JANUARY 6 Ma. Isabel Ongpin
ONE bit of good news is that President Duterte is listening to his economic managers. Particularly in the case of the raise in SSS pensions. He is trying to find a sensible and effective way that the pensions can be raised without ruining the Social Security System for its future pensioners. While it is quite true that the pensions need to be raised, they cannot be raised without providing for the future of the Social Security System and its future pensioners. This only means that funding must be provided for the Social Security System to absorb the added expense and continue its mission of providing the right pensions for its contributors in the long term. Thus, the legislature did a shortcut insisting on raising pensions without providing the necessary safety net to keep the Social Security System viable. Another case of populist promises that have no underlying support to prevent them from collapsing at the end. Indeed, finally coming to a broken promise in the long term. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Y. Makabenta - Needed: a strategic shift from monologue to dialogue


JANUARY 7 -YEN MAKABENTA I’m puzzling over a conundrum, or maybe it is what Winston Churchill called “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Last Thursday, December 29, President Duterte held a series of one-hour interviews with six TV networks. He was asked the same questions over and over, and DU30 predictably gave the same answers over and over. Six journalists took turns asking questions, but oddly it all seemed like a pooled interview or coverage. The more DU30 talks, the less we understand him. In one interview, he declared that it is the people’s and the media’s problem when they do not understand his off-the-cuff and oftentimes shocking remarks, and cannot tell when he is serious and when he is joking. According to the most detailed recounting of the interview marathon, the six broadcast journalists (five female, and one male) were given one hour each to do an exclusive sit-down interview with the President. The first interview started at 4 p.m. and the last interview ended past 11:30 p.m. Yet at the end of it all, our 72-year-old President looked hale and fit for an early call the following morning to lead the traditional flag-raising rites to mark the death anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal. READ MORE...

ALSO: By A. Contreras - When a film searching for justice has gone to the dogs


JANUARY 7 -ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS ON March 22, 2014, four small-scale gold miners in Sitio Campo, Barangay Gata, Caramoan, Camarines Sur, were found lying in a pool of their own blood, apparently, victims of a massacre. Their murder is forever etched as a nightmare in the memory of this village that is blessed with deposits of gold in a town otherwise marketed as a paradise for its white beaches. Julio Labiano, Rene Labiano, Salem Virtus, Jesse Brondia. These were the names of those who, according to the findings of the special panel formed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) released on June 3, 2015, died in the hands of members of the environmental watchdog of the Province of Camarines Sur, the Sagip Kalikasan Task Force (SKTF) As indicated in the findings of the DOJ, it is established that the four victims, like all the many others from the village, were engaged in small-scale mining, which unfortunately while considered to have been done traditionally since the 1940s as one of the main sources of livelihood for the village, the other being fishing, has been found to have been done without a proper permit. READ MORE...


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New DU30 policy—Embrace Russia just as Obama and Trump do


JANUARY 7 -Brute strength in Luneta: Russian Marines smashed bricks over their comrades' stomachs as part of an eye-catching charm offensive in the Philippines

MANILA, JANUARY 9, 2017 (MANILA TIMES)  BY THE MANILA TIMES ON JANUARY 7, 2017 - The communist bugaboo of the Russian kind has not been working anymore on Filipinos for many years, since soon after the Fall of the Berlin Wall about 20 years ago.

Our friendship for Russians, who mostly disdain their past communist overlords, was once more apparent when visiting Russian Marines demonstrated their combat skills before the Jose Rizal monument at Rizal Park (Luneta) in Manila on Thursday. Filipinos—and Filipinas—hugged the Russkys and took selfies with them.

Such effrontery, before 1989, would have elicited strident protest actions from local rightwingers, especially because the audacity was displayed in front of the acknowledged national hero of the Philippines, not before the monument to Andres Bonifacio, who perhaps to Lenin’s countrymen was more “revolutionary” than Rizal was.

The Russian Marines were treated like celebrities, not some eastern Slav giants who got stranded at the South Harbor while on a five-day port call here.

READ MORE...

To be seen in the old days with Russians, Marines or not, was a sure ticket to being labeled a Red coddler or a communist sympathizer, a passport in turn to social ostracism, if not outright condemnation.

Besides, in that historical past, to be caught even just an arm’s length of Marxists–Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese or Cuban–constituted a risky and reckless disregard for one’s personal safety.

The Russian Marines aboard two destroyers are in the Philippines because President Rodrigo Duterte wants expanded military ties with Moscow in line with his own pivot to Russia, as well as to capitalist-roading Communist Party-ruled China.

On Friday, the President climbed up the Admiral Tributs, probably the first time that a Philippine leader had set foot on a foreign naval boat, Russian or American.

Well, the President once advertised himself as a “socialist,” a fact that he apparently wants to be known to the United States, a long-time ally of the Philippines, which, however, is seen as restricting Manila from pursuing an independent foreign policy that from DU30’s verbiage – separation! — could consist of disregarding US-Philippine agreements, treaties and customary details of decades-long friendship.

This pursuit, of course, has not shocked Filipino conservatives as unobservant Filipinos might think.

These Filipinos lack the facts because they do not deign to know what the Center for Research and Communication and the University of Asia & the Pacific espouse.

Conservatives are ALL wrongly and unjustly seen to be political and business surrogates of US interests. The fact is conservatives are just as patriotic as the Leftists and their idea of an independent Philippine foreign and economic policy is one that is free from anyone’s control, whether of Russia, China, Japan or the United States.

The DU30 policies resonate with members of the Philippine radical Left who have apparently given up the thought that Moscow and Beijing are led by “revisionists” and traitors to the doctrines espoused by Lenin and Mao.

There are no Bayan Muna marches to the Russian Embassy. A few moons ago, BM would have denounced any apparatchik transiting through Manila by ship or airplane. There are no incendiary speeches in the Philippine Congress warning about a Russian invasion.

Times they are a-changing.

It would be a sad exercise in self-destructive parochialism for the Philippines to
ignore that there are more countries than it ever imagined that could offer Manila better trade, economic and political deals.

To President DU30, Russia, as well as China, could help “make this world peaceful,” says Malacañang spokesman Ernesto Abella. This is a remarkably extremely late realization, considering that the USA itself and Russia have been having a honeymoon for years now, although the marriage experiences, like any other marriage does, a souring up every now and then, caused by such things as the defeated Democrats’ insistence that Russia had hacked the recent elections. This, however, the US president-elect, Mr. Donald Trump, who is sweet on Russian President Putin, calls ridiculous.

Russian Ambassador to Manila Igor Khovaev of course likes DU30’s apparently anti-American acts and pronouncements. The envoy says the more the merrier it would be if the Philippines freed itself from America’s embrace.

Straight into the hug of the Russian bear?

Not necessarily, according to Khovaev, who recently explained to reporters, “Diversification of partners doesn’t mean choosing between old and new but having good relations with many.”

Good advice.

This is precisely what Russia has done (after it shredded Das Kapital and the Marxist-Leninist tomes), following the example of America and Europe.


SSS pension raises must be funded BY MA. ISABEL ONGPIN ON JANUARY 6, 2017 ANALYSIS


Ma. Isabel Ongpin

ONE bit of good news is that President Duterte is listening to his economic managers. Particularly in the case of the raise in SSS pensions. He is trying to find a sensible and effective way that the pensions can be raised without ruining the Social Security System for its future pensioners.

While it is quite true that the pensions need to be raised, they cannot be raised without providing for the future of the Social Security System and its future pensioners. This only means that funding must be provided for the Social Security System to absorb the added expense and continue its mission of providing the right pensions for its contributors in the long term.

Thus, the legislature did a shortcut insisting on raising pensions without providing the necessary safety net to keep the Social Security System viable. Another case of populist promises that have no underlying support to prevent them from collapsing at the end. Indeed, finally coming to a broken promise in the long term.

READ MORE...

Admittedly, the Social Security System has not been all that efficient in collecting dues from employers in the past. Even if they suddenly were able to collect more or all that is due and they should, it could not endure the financial outlay that an across-the-board P2,000 increase would cause.

The point is that there is no free lunch. It has to be paid. Thus, it seems the only option is to raise the dues that contributors pay now to about 17 percent.

This will cause a howl of populist outrage but it is the one way to pay the cost and the only way that the Social Security System can reach the future with intact service. Perhaps the win-win solution that the President is looking for lies in reducing the percentage for low salaries and raising it for higher salaries. Moreover, there is a tax reform bill being proposed that will lower income taxes for those with lower salaries.

At least Social Security System members have regular jobs and monthly salaries which means they are better off than many of their countrymen. They also use public services and have social security benefits. Their contributions will be commensurate with their pensions and the services rendered in the long run. But if shortcuts are taken, there will be no long run.

Let us hope that the government’s communications office explains the above in simple terms to the general public and in particular to Social Security System members and pensioners. Nothing can be free without paying in some way—taxes, contributions, VAT, etc.—for a society to be viable and render the basic services, including pensions. A government that stands by this principle is a responsible and trustworthy one which will not gloss over what is necessary.

Maybe it is time for the government to stop the populist promises of free this and free that. It is hoped that the raises in salaries of soldiers and police and eventually teachers and government personnel are funded from sources that can manage them and not cause a budgetary deficit that will be the ruin of government operations and the general economy. I am sure the economic managers can manage the problem and let us hope the President and the Executive Department as well as the Legislature, which is crucial and needs to cooperate, will listen.

There are cautionary tales from all over the world on populist measures without safety nets, citizen discipline and demagogic directions. Please note present-day


Needed: a strategic shift from monologue to dialogue BY YEN MAKABENTA ON JANUARY 7, 2017 OPINION ON PAGE ON


YEN MAKABENTA

I’m puzzling over a conundrum, or maybe it is what Winston Churchill called “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Last Thursday, December 29, President Duterte held a series of one-hour interviews with six TV networks. He was asked the same questions over and over, and DU30 predictably gave the same answers over and over. Six journalists took turns asking questions, but oddly it all seemed like a pooled interview or coverage.

The more DU30 talks, the less we understand him. In one interview, he declared that it is the people’s and the media’s problem when they do not understand his off-the-cuff and oftentimes shocking remarks, and cannot tell when he is serious and when he is joking.

According to the most detailed recounting of the interview marathon, the six broadcast journalists (five female, and one male) were given one hour each to do an exclusive sit-down interview with the President.

The first interview started at 4 p.m. and the last interview ended past 11:30 p.m.

Yet at the end of it all, our 72-year-old President looked hale and fit for an early call the following morning to lead the traditional flag-raising rites to mark the death anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal.

READ MORE...

Oddly, it seemed as if after all the talking, neither the public nor the media learned much of anything, they got little insight into the President and his six-month-old presidency.

To the credit of the interviewers, they pressed DU30 on when the war on drugs will end. To everyone’s disappointment, the interviewee stuck to his spiel: the war will end when the last drug pusher is dead or when his term is over, whichever presumably comes sooner.

Why Palace communications falters

This unrewarding conclusion leads me to a tentative explanation of why presidential communications in the Age of Duterte is not very communicative or satisfying: President Duterte speaks mainly in monologue, and hardly ever in dialogue with the public and the media.

To improve communications and public understanding in the new year, I extend this unsolicited advice: presidential communications should undertake a strategic shift from monologue to dialogue.

I picked up this insight from an interesting article posted on the Internet that confidently asserts that the idea that governments need more or better communication is a myth. It was posted in April 2012 by a certain Lawrence Serewicz. He wrote:

“There is an ongoing myth within social media circles that governments need more and better communication. The problem is that this is not true. Governments spend a large amount of time and money communicating with the public. They have annual reports, they have newsletters, they have Twitter feeds, Facebook accounts, and they have YouTube channels. They have minutes, they have agendas, and they have reports all of which are published in paper and electronic copies. Then within each government, the various departments have their own publications, their own media teams, and their own engagement strategies.

“The issue is not communication nor is it the quality of the communication. The reports are well researched, written, and presented. The message is often consistent and repeated from the political leadership through the senior management down to the frontline services. The staff know their lines, their key messages, and they can explain them. The reports, papers, messages, and communication consistently stress the good news from the organization’s perspective. Even when policies, projects, or proposals do not work as intended, the communication is couched in good news.

“So, what is the real issue? Dialogue not monologue.

“Everything I have mentioned above is a monologue. It is the organization communicating with the public but on the organizations’ terms and conditions. The public, however, want dialogue. They want to talk to and talk with the people who deliver the services. They do not want to be talked to. They do not want to have the press line or the management line. They want to talk to someone who can answer their questions no matter how far-fetched or obvious. They want to have answers and they want to ask questions. They do not want to wait days for a non-response or a response that tells them what they already know.”

Change in communication culture

Transposing his point to current communications under President Duterte, I will make the following observations:

1. This president is invariably simplistic, one-dimensional when he discusses issues or his initiatives. Things are black or white for him ; there is little shading; there is no room for argument.

2. DU30 does not engage the media or the public in dialogue. Communication is one-way, not two-way. There is no discussion, no public conversation.

3. The sense of a monologue is most apparent when the subject is the war on drugs and the summary killings it has inflicted. DU30’s line on this subject is inflexible.

4. There is a clear administration line on the drug war, and everyone conforms. The Duterte Cabinet is entirely composed of yes-men, although DU30 would doubtless benefit if there were some no-men.

5. Government need both internal and external dialogue – within the organization and with the public.
All this is to say that for communications to be more effective, there has to be a change in the communication culture. The culture is against dialogue that strays away from the monologue. But what the public wants and needs is someone — be he leader or spokesman — who can answer their questions.

The culture is compounded by risk aversion. Government, local or national, is notoriously risk averse. To avoid the risk, the dialogue quickly becomes a monologue where leaders simplify the message to what they profess, and communicators merely relay the organization “line.”

Leadership and management fearing loss of control encourage monologues.

This breeds a communication culture that discourages both an internal or external dialogue. If government is to “communicate” better, it has to accept and nurture dialogue. The process has to start inside the organization. If the dialogue and openness are not occurring in the organization, it will not happen externally.

Managers and political leaders should understand the benefits that result from dialogue. They need to understand the benefit of an internal communication system that can communicate critical information upwards, and how external dialogue can improve organizational reputation.

As a practical matter, dialogue should enable the Duterte government to communicate more fully its real achievements to the public, and to explain the shortcomings and lapses.

By foreclosing discussion and discouraging questions, monologues offer only an illusory idea of success.
The benefits that come from dialogue are enduring, because they strengthen the leader’s standing and the confidence of constituents.


When a film searching for justice has gone to the dogs BY ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS ON JANUARY 7, 2017 OPINION ON PAGE ONE


ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

ON March 22, 2014, four small-scale gold miners in Sitio Campo, Barangay Gata, Caramoan, Camarines Sur, were found lying in a pool of their own blood, apparently, victims of a massacre. Their murder is forever etched as a nightmare in the memory of this village that is blessed with deposits of gold in a town otherwise marketed as a paradise for its white beaches.

Julio Labiano, Rene Labiano, Salem Virtus, Jesse Brondia. These were the names of those who, according to the findings of the special panel formed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) released on June 3, 2015, died in the hands of members of the environmental watchdog of the Province of Camarines Sur, the Sagip Kalikasan Task Force (SKTF)

As indicated in the findings of the DOJ, it is established that the four victims, like all the many others from the village, were engaged in small-scale mining, which unfortunately while considered to have been done traditionally since the 1940s as one of the main sources of livelihood for the village, the other being fishing, has been found to have been done without a proper permit.

READ MORE...

The SKTF was formed and armed by the provincial government of Camarines Sur purportedly to help enforce environmental laws in the province. As allegations indicate, the task force was accused of abusive behavior by the local people, and it was established in the DOJ report that there was brewing animosity between the local miners and the members of the SKTF.

Mercy Sueno, who was the barangay captain of Gata, alleged that there were antecedent cases of harassment by the SKTF of the local people, one of which was when the SKTF detained around 30 local miners for allegedly mining without a permit. After this incident, Sueno endeavored to obtain such a permit from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). According to Sueno’s narration, this was not enough for the SKTF, even as she challenged their authority considering that their field functions were allegedly confined only to manning checkpoints along the highways, and not in on-site apprehensions.

It is clear, however, that the DOJ has found probable cause for charging some members of the SKTF with multiple murder. The suspects are already in jail but the case is far from being resolved, even as the provincial government of Camarines Sur remains on the side of the SKTF, doubting the guilt of its members.

This case, which has been billed as the Gata 4 massacre, clearly illustrates the criminalization of traditional livelihoods of communities in a regime of modern environmental laws. But what makes this even more tragic is that it happened allegedly in the hands of those who are armed to protect the environment. Under the rule of law, illegal miners and forest occupants are supposed to be apprehended, and not massacred.

The plight of the Gata 4 is a continuing struggle of the families of those who were murdered to seek justice. It is this struggle that the movie “Oro,” an entry in the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), endeavored to bring to the consciousness of the movie-going public.

“Oro” is fictionalized. It took artistic liberties to change the names and narratives of characters. But it remained a riveting and compelling artistic reenactment of the deaths that visited this rural village that very few Filipinos know about. The entire movie was filmed on the same location. The four characters representing the victims were murdered in the movie in exactly the same spot where the real victims were gunned down. There was an attempt to make the representation as real as possible.

The ensemble acting was superb, earning for Irma Adlawan, who played the role of the barangay captain, the award for Best Performance of an Actress in a Lead Role.

And then a fatal mistake happened.

In the desire to make the representation as realistic as possible, a law was violated. A dog was actually killed and butchered in one scene.

And in that simple act of realism, the whole struggle of a community left behind by those men who died in the hands of agents of the local government, a perfect example of an extra-judicial killing (EJK), was overshadowed by the death of a dog.

We remain a country of laws. There are laws that govern the welfare of animals. The act by the filmmakers, if proven, can bring for them a penalty that includes both a fine and a prison term. Already, an award earned by the film was withdrawn, even as Ms Adlawan’s trophy was spared, for indeed it would have been unjust to penalize her superb acting just because her director and producer transgressed the law.

But the film remains a compelling work of art reminding us not to forget the Gata 4. It will be hard for us to justify if justice will be served sooner on those who murdered the dog than those who murdered those men.


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