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Decide VP protest case now

There are three years left in President Duterte’s term, and to this day, the Supreme Court, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has yet to decide on the protest filed by defeated vice-presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos. Finally, after almost three years, the recount in the “pilot” areas chosen by the losing candidate’s camp has been completed; showing that in fact, in these three pilot areas (Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental), Vice-President Leni Robredo has gained about 15,000 verified votes to add to her 263,473, or about 6% more.

Defending our democratic space

This anniversary week for our martial law experience under Marcos is a reminder of how as our historical experience has confirmed that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Dying delicadeza

One of many Filipino values that is sadly disappearing, or has been forgotten these days, is delicadeza. It is one of the traits long held dear by our forebears as a mark of breeding, and of civilized, ethical, and responsible behavior. Recently there seem to be more and more displays of brazenness among our public officials, whether executive, legislative, or judiciary.

Leader or demagogue

Because of his populist approach to governance, it is possible for Rodrigo Roa Duterte to leave some beneficial legacies out of his presidency. Perhaps poverty incidence will decline somewhat, universal health insurance may almost be attained, thanks partially to legislative initiatives by the opposition, which, by the grace of God, he signed into law, and of course, a decline in crime rates resulting from his brutal “war on drugs.”

Understanding the Filipino voter

It has become fashionable to wring our hands and acknowledge that the atrocious kind of leaders we have today is the fault of the Filipino voter. Assuming that the elections have been honest (though this is also under question), here is an attempt at understanding why we seem to elect so many undesirables.

Lame brained and overtaken by events

To be fair, many of the populist policies of the Duterte Administration are laudable, including bills he signed such as for expanded PhilHealth coverage and the free college tuition, which were at least partly an initiative of the opposition. But I am still smarting with dismay at the lame brained foreign policy with respect to the West Philippine Sea. Duterte’s ridiculous attempts in his SONA (State of the National Address) to justify his position on the issue just made me more frustrated, and even angry.

Why not a Department of Agribusiness?

It seems that as often happens, Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s announced “transfer” of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to the Mindanao Development Authority is on hold following the announcement by Senator Bong “Rasputin” Go that Piñol is still staying in his Cabinet post because “he has performed well.” I wonder what the basis for this assessment is since all the statistics (contribution to GDP, growth rate, etc.) indicate the dismal state of Philippine agriculture, on which 30% of our families basically depend, and to which most of our poverty incidence belongs.

Historically courageous people toadying up to China

If he hasn’t acquired one yet, perhaps someone should give Rodrigo Roa Duterte a Jetski so he can fulfill his campaign promise to ride one to the Spratleys where he would plant a Filipino flag. So far, our president has, contrary to our 1987 Constitution’s mandate that “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens,” been shamefully second guessing China’s positions on the issues raised and already set aside in the UN Arbitral court.

Understanding China

Although my maternal grandfather was born and raised in China, my half-breed mother, who grew up with a childless Visayan aunt, never learned to speak Chinese. I was, however, exposed to some relatives in the Chinese community in my hometown. I guess this encouraged my lifelong curiosity about my latent “Chineseness.” In fact, I spent three years after office hours learning and practicing T’ai Chi in Chinatown, Binondo, Manila. In a way, this helped me appreciate concepts like “using the force of your opponent to defeat him,” and “resorting to indirect, not direct confrontation to confuse the enemy” and “investing in loss.”

What now, going forward?

Over a week has passed since the dismal, disheartening results of the mid-term elections, for both local and national posts. Having done all that hand-wringing, finger-pointing and resolves to henceforth stay away from politics, it is time for situation analysis. Why did that happen, and what can we do, going forward, to help our people choose better and worthier leaders?

Alleluiah, we can increase our shrinking democratic space

It only takes a couple of courageous souls, despite their advanced years, to rouse us out of our passiveness and despair. Look at what retired ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario have inspired with their audacious action of filing a case in the International Criminal Court against Xi Jinping, one of the most powerful men in the world and the leader for life of growing world power China, whom our national government has been too timid to contradict. The case was filed by the daring duo in behalf of the fisherfolk in the Philippine marine territories which have been literally taken over by China, thus depriving the fishers and their families and buyers of their precious livelihood and nutrition.

Underrated crisis in agriculture and fisheries

Year after year -- in fact, government after government -- we get piecemeal revelations about our dismal food production. Agriculture and fisheries consistently contribute a measly part of our gross domestic product. And productivity in fisheries, except for the time when Malcolm Sarmiento was director of the Bureau of Fisheries, has been anemic, or in decline. Poverty incidence is highest among the people who produce our food; and incredibly, so is involuntary hunger.

Presidential orders to kill

We could be the only country in the world where the head of state gives public orders to the bureaucracy to “kill” suspected criminals (e.g., drug addicts, pushers, not necessarily drug lords, and lately, smugglers). He has gone further. Rodrigo Duterte has publicly mandated the Customs officials to arm themselves (specifically with Gluck brand pistols) and “to learn the art of assassination.” As far as I know, the presidential spokesman has yet to explain this away as just another “joke.”

Cognitive dissonance

A recent report from Social Weather Stations reveals that majority of voting age Filipinos say that they do not want to vote for candidates who are corrupt. This probably has the public confused because the list of leading candidates in the public opinion polls includes controversial characters like Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, Lito Lapid, and Imee Marcos, all of whom have been associated with issues of corruption, with the latter perhaps merely a beneficiary of her father’s well known and proven massive corruption, based on judicial decisions here and abroad.

Blurring right versus wrong

To be fair, the Duterte administration will leave some positive legacies, perhaps on the economics side, because the President has made a few creditable appointments to govern this sector. To name a few, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, NEDA Secretary General Ernesto Pernia, and the late Nestor Espenilla of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. I guess because he expressly values utang ng loob as a high value, he basically gives Dominguez, the leader of this group, a lot of leeway, and basic policy autonomy. Dominguez, after all, is from Davao, and was one of his early campaign supporters. Besides, Dominguez did not accept the job right away; and reports indicate that President Duterte practically begged him to take the job.

What is wrong with leftist thinking?

When I was a student, I heard an Englishwoman make a statement at a forum that I remember to this day. She said, “If you do not have leftist leanings before the age of 25, you have no heart; but if you still have leftist leanings after the age of 25, you have no head.” Why then does the chairman of our National Youth Commission demand that government scholars who become leftist activists be deprived of their scholarships? And why should uniformed officers go after students and teachers who espouse “leftist” ideologies, however they may define this?

All hands on deck for voter education

The late controversial politician Ernie Maceda seems to have been right. Any publicity, favorable or unfavorable is good for politicians. The list of leading senatorial candidates in the latest polls affirms this sad reality. Several notorious candidates are ahead of the “good guys.” Ex-detainees on plunder charges Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla are in the likely to win top 12. So, it seems, will Bato dela Rosa of the drug suspect killing sprees. Meanwhile, serious legislators like Bam Aquino and even JV Ejercito are barely making it And Erin Tañada and Gary Alejano are dangling down there. Even Lito Lapid who, last I heard, had not passed a single legislation in all his forgettable senate days is up there among the topnotchers.

Challenging opportunities in agribusiness

Agrarian reform should not be a hindrance to corporate farming. Agribusiness does not require ownership of land. Modern corporations such as Del Monte developed contractual relationships with small holder farmers which supplied produce which the corporate agribusiness venture turned into packaged consumer goods through value-adding technologies. Given the aging population of our farmers, who are now reported to be 60 years on the average, government should seriously take a look at the situation; and sooner rather than later take steps to make it easier for corporate investors to risk good money in agribusiness.

Mainstreaming the creative economy

A study for the British Council reveals that the creative industries, including commercial and not-for-profit (i.e. culture and art for art’s sake) activities are one of the global economic success stories of the last 20 years. Great Britain has benefited from its creative industries, such as film and the phenomenal Beatles. From 2000 to 2010, according to an UNCTAD study, the creative industries grew annually more than twice that of the service industries overall, and more than quadruple that of manufacturing in many OECD and developing countries. The UNCTAD report cited reveals exports were recorded at $171 billion in 2001. Creative industries are estimated to contribute from 3% to 12% of global GDP, depending on how creative industries are defined.

Iconoclastic, destructive leadership

The appointment of Lucas Bersamin as chief justice of the Philippines is yet another blasphemy committed against one of our sacred institutions, the last bastion of justice in our country. Let us be kind. In his inaugural talk to his people, delivered during the flag-raising ceremony, Bersamin betrayed his small-mindedness. The presidential appointment came at about the same time as when our national leader bad-mouthed the Catholic Church and its leaders in no uncertain terms. Rodrigo Duterte seems to be on a rampage, weakening institutions that help ensure a sense of justice, civility, and of right and wrong among our increasingly confused people. Even Filipino women, regarded worldwide as competent, kind and fine human beings -- from nurses and nannies, doctors to musicians, artists and designers -- are not spared from his insults.

Need for lateral thinking

It’s about time. At long last, the government has embarked on a bold initiative to address our inability to produce enough rice for our own needs. The plan to work with the government of Papua New Guinea to cultivate rice and transfer rice production technology is promising. Papua New Guinea is reported to have fertile soil and lots of wetlands to make rice production effective, since it is expected to be more cost efficient. So, we are finally recognizing that despite our decades of obsession with attaining self-sufficiency in rice, we can’t seem to make it work. There is of course, climate change, with unpredictable weather conditions, exceedingly high price of fertilizers, our aging farmers (average age now estimated at 60 years) and lack of interest of the younger generations in grueling farm work, and, of course, the usual widespread corruption all the way down to agricultural field technicians.

Machismo games

President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest rants against saints is, to my mind, just another instance of his continuing campaign to express his machismo; still another effort to demonstrate his manliness in terms of iconoclasm against all things held sacred, even by religious tradition.

Our teachers, our treasures

Because I was probably promoted too fast in my earlier schooling and am a natural rebel, I was not always an exemplary student. However, because I was blessed to have been sent to exemplary schools, and gifted with many extraordinary teachers, I was fortunate nonetheless to have learned from the best. To this day, I often think of my dedicated teachers all the way back to my kindergarten days, to whom I owe so much.

Our loving neighbor

The recent earthquake and tsunami disasters in Pula, Sulawesi, have brought to my foremind the special regard of Indonesians for Filipinos, which I observed during my many teaching trips to Indonesia in the late ‘80s. Many of the highly paid expat executives in Indonesian firms then were Filipinos whom the Indonesians were said to prefer to “white people” because of unpleasant memories from their colonial past. Some expats had been brought there by our first multinational: SGV, the accounting and management consultancy. The biggest ad agency which handled the Unilever account was headed by a Filipino, and its creative director, Eleanor Modesto, was a Filipina. A young Filipino was liabilities marketing director of the fastest growing bank in Jakarta. The Filipino executives were paid in expat level US dollars with perks such as housing and country-club memberships.

Descent into lawlessness gets pushback

It does look like the Duterte administration has crossed one red line too many. Solgen Jose Calida’s bag of legalistic tricks has been shot full of holes. Even the usually compliant Supreme Court managed to skirt huge public outcries by astutely finding a way to look like they are adhering to a rule of law. Yes, of course, they are not a trier of facts; and yes, indeed, it is the lower courts that can issue an arrest warrant. Even the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the national lawyers’ league, has awakened to its conscience and reminded all that there is a Constitution and that it must not be violated. They had been too quiet during the quo warranto dismissal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, against the constitutional provision that a Supreme Court justice can only be dismissed through impeachment. Even the Senate has rediscovered its backbone. It has dropped partisanship and united to protect Senate colleague Antonio Trillanes IV against arrest within its premises. Suddenly, we are reminded that, yes, indeed, the Senate is an independent and separate branch of government from the Executive and Judiciary.

Recognizing exemplary people power

THE Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI) which was founded 51 years ago by the late Don Ramon Aboitiz, has evolved from the charitable institution it was at the outset into a multi-dimensional NGO that is largely funded by personal assets of the late Don Ramon Aboitiz and his only son, the late Eduardo Aboitiz. From supporting orphanages and hospitals, to providing scholarships to the poor, it is now engaged in multiple developmental concerns, including leadership and citizenship, integrated development, education, microfinance and entrepreneurship, and culture and heritage. Except for the fact that descendants of Don Ramon Aboitiz sit on its board of trustees, RAFI operates independently of the Aboitiz businesses which have their own Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm, the Aboitiz Foundation, Inc.

Our short memories and quiet revolutions

It was just a little over a generation ago when Ninoy Aquino came home to a tragic death at the hands of our own people. Just 35 years ago when hundreds of thousands of us openly marched in the streets for hours, while the dictator still controlled the levers of power, to accompany his body to his resting place, and to demonstrate our heartfelt appreciation of his sacrifice. And three years later, after years of marching in the streets to publicly express our outrage, we finally converged on EDSA to oust the hated dictator Marcos and his family from Malacañang.

Disruptive private sector investments in rice production

There is a great deal of rahrahrah these days for the magic of rice tariffication as the latest bright idea to bring down the price of rice and end the constant threat of rice-shortages from the decades of rice importation control through quota restrictions by the National Food Authority. Rice tariffication is also proposed as a magic wand to help improve the incomes of our beleaguered and aging (average age is 57) rice farmers.

Preparing for federal government

Finally, after two years on the job, in his third SONA, Rodrigo Roa Duterte has delivered a statesmanlike speech, managing enough discipline for almost an hour with no obscenities. I am almost convinced that he is sincere in some of his intentions, even if we do not agree with his methods. Hopefully, as he goes further into the Presidency, he will also become more law-abiding and civil in his public behavior and statements. Who knows, he might even reverse himself on his challenges for someone to prove to him that God exists. He might even become kinder and more chivalrous toward competent women in leadership positions. Hope springs eternal.

Changing the rules after the game is lost

An indication of our national character is how we behave in games of sports. The recent melee at the FIBA games, an international basketball federation competition which we were hosting is certainly a shame. We also have in our sports history at least one case where the Philippine team was disqualified because we passed off an overaged but undersized kid as a qualified member of our youth baseball team. These are cases of our being sore losers, or willingness to cheat just to win.

Harassed in our own waters

First of all, why is the China Coast Guard patrolling our own waters, the West Philippine Sea, which by international law, the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) to which both China and the Philippines are signatories, is recognized as clearly part of the territory of our country? Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s excuse (on behalf of whom?) that the brouhaha was nothing but a misunderstanding makes the situation we have gotten ourselves into even more pathetic.

Rule of law and ethical norms going downhill

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has defended Solicitor General (SolGen) Jose Calida’s family security services firm having contracts worth over P150 million with four government agencies as not a case of conflict of interest. Of course, Calida claims that he had resigned his position as President of Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency, Inc. (Vigilant) when he became SolGen.

Shame on our shortsighted, irresponsible justices

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Community action against hunger goes viral

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A biased Supreme Court, threat to our fragile democracy

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Court of last resort flip flops once again

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Lessons from The Post

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Our machismo politics

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China’s power and territorial expansion

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Federalism brand in front; dangerous agenda in back

Being a probinsiyana myself, I can sympathize with long time Davao Mayor Duterte’s passionate, and even seemingly sincere advocacy of Federalism. In some earlier columns,...

Con Ass: Potential Disaster

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Infrastructure and dictatorship

One of our wealthiest citizens has been quoted to have said that infrastructure development is faster under dictatorships. I hope this does not encourage...

Investing in our human capital

In my multifaceted career, the most difficult, though psychically rewarding full time jobs were those as a teacher. I started out as a high...

The SyCip Magic: passionate attentiveness to matters great and small

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Teacher’s job: Unlocking human potential

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