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To lift or not to lift?

Aye, that is the question. The extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for Luzon will end in 10 days, by the end of April. The President and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases are between a rock and a hard place; between saving lives at the expense of saving the economy and between saving the economy at the expense of saving lives.

The Hammer and the Dance

Strong coronavirus measures today should only last a few weeks, there shouldn’t be a big peak of infections afterwards, and it can all be done for a reasonable cost to society, saving millions of lives along the way. If we don’t take these measures, tens of millions will be infected, many will die, along with anybody else that requires intensive care, because the healthcare system will have collapsed.

State of the national health emergency

Last Saturday, March 8, President Rodrigo Duterte declared a nationwide state of public health emergency pursuant to a Department of Health (DoH) letter of recommendation from Health Secretary Francisco Duque dated Feb. 21 should local transmissions occur. The day before, we learned that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country had risen to six, two of which were deemed locally transmitted. Yesterday, four more cases were confirmed. We’re now on alert level Code Red sub-level one. It means we’re one step away from the “possible sustained community transmission” of the virus, or Code Red.

Prepare for the worst

As of Sunday, 8:13 p.m., Feb. 23, 2020, the COVID-19 global snapshot was this: 78,830 confirmed cases and 2,469 deaths. Of the total, 76,936 confirmed cases and 2,442 deaths were in China. The rest are scattered in 30 countries worldwide and one cruise ship, the Diamond Princess.

Diamond standard

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed his nation last week. It’s best practice and worthy of global emulation. Here’s the transcript.

VFA headed for the scrap yard?

Will the VFA be scrapped? What would its far-reaching consequences be to national security and nation-building?

Starting the year on the wrong foot

At the start of 2020, I was asked what the year would be like. I replied, “50-50.” I was just being facetious. It could very well turn out to be worse.

The politics of water

The current tussle between the concessionaires and President Rodrigo R. Duterte (PRRD) stems from two arbitration awards by separate arbitration panels in favor of Maynilad Water (P7.4 Billion) and Manila Water (P3.4 Billion), in July 2017 and November 2018. The claimed amounts allegedly represent their accumulated losses after the Regulatory Office under the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) refused to grant their petitions to raise their tariffs from 2014 to 2018.

Dark clouds and silver linings

In recent days, we’ve seen the passing of high-profile personalities who I’ve known one way or the other. It’s been a sobering year as age hurtles faster at warp speed toward the inevitable. As the saying goes, “We’ll never get out of this world alive.”

A worthy enterprise to save the future

A few days ago, I spotted this interesting piece of news that China has reportedly reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plant trees in a bid to combat pollution by increasing the country’s forest cover. A large regiment from the People’s Liberation Army, along with some of the nation’s People’s Armed Police, have been withdrawn from their posts on the northern border to work on non-military tasks inland. Most will be dispatched to Hebei province, the area known to be notorious for the smog blanketing Beijing.

Somewhere beyond the sea

Last week the Philippines hosted the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, who came to Manila to address the India-Philippines Business Conclave and the 4th ASEAN-India Business Summit in Manila on Oct. 19. The night before, President Rodrigo Duterte tendered a dinner in his honor in Malacañan. A major player of that conclave and summit was the Philippines-India Business Council (PIBC) chaired by Johnny Chotrani.

Campus safety and security

I spoke last week at a summit for campus safety, security, and disaster resilience. I called for a broad alliance of school stakeholders (administrators, faculty, staff, employees, safety/security officers and students) and partners (military, police, media, local officials, emergency response organizations), to ensure readiness, mitigate risk, rapidly respond to emergencies, and skillfully manage crises.

Learning never ends

Who I am, what I’ve become and how I could yet be, can be traced back to my foundational years. I’m the product of my upbringing at home, formal education and self-education... to this day.

Hong Kong’s long march

Hong Kong has captivated the world these past 15 weeks, awed by the tenacity of its citizens to live free and stay free. But this has forced the dragon, which we had hoped would evolve peacefully into a responsible global citizen and stabilizing force for good, to carefully weigh its options. Today, we liberally quote two respected thinkers — Alexander Neill and Shyam Saran — who have written of the risks that lie ahead. Mr. Neill is the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific security, while Mr. Saran is a former Foreign Minister of India.

Heroism beckons

After three years, we need to undo, trash, and reset relations with China. Trust, sincerity, mutuality and reciprocity must define it. There’s a clear observable pattern of imperial abuse and coercion by China reported in media.

Divided by land, connected by sea

I just returned the other day from a trip to India on the invitation of Johnny Chotrani, Chair of the Philippine-India Business Council (PIBC) of which I’m a member. We met with the ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Inc. (FICCI), and the Chamber of Indian Industry (CII). The trip had a dual purpose: it included matters pertaining to the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations (PCFR), which I chair, and where Johnny’s a member. I met with Philippihne Ambassador to India Dondon Bagatsing, our Defense Attaché and officials of India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MFA).


Reliable sources have disclosed that Operation “Awakening the Believers” was rolled out globally in early July. Simultaneous attacks were launched in Syria, Libya, Mozambique, Somalia, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Iraq. Islamic State Southeast Asia (ISEA) will allegedly follow suit with multiple coordinated attacks in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. The attacks will reportedly come in waves, first from July to September, then another wave till the end of the year. High value targets such as churches, hotels, malls, public transport, and other heavily populated areas are reportedly in their sights.

How much do we know about 21st century warfare?

For today’s column, I abridged an article entitled “A New Generation of Unrestricted Warfare” by David Barno and Nora Bensahel. Lt. General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) is a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, and Dr. Nora Bensahel is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence, at the School of International Service at American University. Both also serve as non-resident Senior Fellows at the Atlantic Council.

ISIS on the comeback trail

On June 28, news filtered in from Indanan, Sulu that two suicide bombers had penetrated the headquarters of the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team. As of the latest reports, eight people were killed (the two bombers, three soldiers, and three civilians); while 22 were wounded (12 soldiers and 10 civilians). The Islamic State East Asia Province (ISEAP) allegedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Chinese Maritime Militia

I’m directing this column to our national and local leaders whose duty is to defend the country, protect the people, and secure our natural resources. There’s a need to adapt mindsets to a deteriorating security situation in the South China Sea -- fueled by China’s spurious claims of “indisputable sovereignty” over this vital body of water -- by thinking, speaking, and acting as one united leadership to confront the external and internal threats to our national security.

Moving in the right direction

I’ve noted three positive directions being taken by President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration that points to legacy and a lighter load for the next administration.

Observations and telltale signs

A week after the e-lections, citizens are questioning its integrity. Just like before, we hear cries of “dagdag-bawas,” be it manual or electronic. But who has the smoking gun? Only telltale signs, so far, that aren’t admissible in court. It’s a given that some won hands down on their own merit and those who fell short of the mark. What we don’t know is the exact count, whether some winners are really losers and if some losers actually won.

Myth: a religious sect’s endorsement assures election

On April 30, I wrote in this space that a religious sect endorses only the candidates who the polls show to be likely winners. By so doing, it sustains the myth that its endorsement assures victory.

Surveys not useful in these times

I have written here after every election that the results bear out the surveys. The results of the 2013 midterm election for senators and the 2016 presidential election validated pollsters Social Weather Stations’ (SWS) and Pulse Asia’s forecasts.

Plowshares pounded from swords now cultivate economic growth

Almost 28 years ago, in September 1991, 11 senators rose on the Senate floor to warn of war, hunger, pestilence, and disease if the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Security between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America was rejected. Here are excerpts of their grim predictions.

Overdue time for educating Filipino voters

During episodes of DZMM’s series on senatorial candidates, the station’s field reporters asked ordinary folks in the streets who they would vote for senator. Many said they would vote for candidates who can provide jobs or access to housing while many others said they would choose candidates who can enforce the law. A few said they would choose candidates who can “fix” things if and when they find themselves in conflict with the law.

Vox populi, vox Dei?

Vox populi, vox Dei. The voice of the people is the voice of God, so let the people decide come election time, say personages of national stature.

What happened to the Edsa regime?

Whatever happened to the Edsa regime, UP Sociology Professor Randy David asked in his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the eve of the 33rd anniversary of the Edsa Uprising. He was referring to the political order that was founded on February 25, 1986 when the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown by people power.

How Gloria Arroyo’s appointees in the Comelec and Supreme Court debased...

President Gloria Arroyo was prohibited by law to run for reelection in 2010. But in her lust for power, even if only a fraction of what she wielded as president, she decided to run for representative of the 2nd District of Pampanga. Her son Mikey, then the representative of the district, had to give way to his Mom as the candidate for the position.

Are the satisfaction ratings reported by Social Weather Stations valid?

Social Weather Stations’ fourth quarter 2018 survey found 54% satisfied and 17% dissatisfied with the Supreme Court of the Philippines, and 52% satisfied and 17% dissatisfied with the Cabinet as a whole.

Do satisfaction rating surveys provide useful information?

During episodes of DZMM TeleRadyo’s special on senatorial candidates, the station’s field reporters asked ordinary folks in the streets who they would vote for senator. Many said they would vote for candidates who can provide jobs or access to housing while many others said they would choose candidates who can enforce the law. A few said they would choose candidates who would extend assistance if and when they have to deal with government offices or when confronted by law.

The laughable quotes of 2018

I have cited in past columns the most laughable statements in 2016 and 2017 of high profile public officials of the Rodrigo Duterte Administration. Many of the regular jesters in the Court of DU30 stayed on in 2018 to provide again much comic relief with their absurd, vacuous, or incredible utterances. While two of them have left the court, their replacements proved to be as capable as they drew much laughter with their ludicrous pronouncements. Here are what I consider the most laughable statements of high-ranking officials in 2018.

The new chief justice begs for acceptance, love, and support

“I am an accidental chief justice. I know that you have expected maybe another individual to be appointed to this office,” said Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin when he spoke before justices and employees of the Supreme Court in the first flag-raising ceremony attended by him as chief justice. So he asked his colleagues: “Please accept me. I ask you to welcome me, to love me, to support me, to help me in my 11 months.”

The President’s men: a bunch of meek, docile, and intimidated people

Just as he had promised to change the system established by the elitist leaders of the past during his campaign for the presidency, President Rodrigo Duterte has remained the same man that he was when he was the mayor of Davao City. He has kept the simple lifestyle that he lived for 22 years as Mayor Digong.

Brexit, Bremain, Bruckyou, Bremorse

While researching on the subject matter to understand the motivations behind it, I came across this piece from the Daily Pnut. Below is the abridged version of this amusing analysis.

On the recent surveys favorable to Duterte

Detractors of President Rodrigo Duterte cannot believe the findings of Social Weather Stations (SWS) that 70% of adult Filipinos are satisfied with the President’s performance and that the country is in the right direction despite the high prices of basic commodities, the drug trade still thriving, and incidents of crime as rampant as before.

Special Forces combat mission teaches 11 brilliant lessons in leadership

Writer Jeff Haden spoke to a number of Special Forces operators about perseverance, developing the right mindset, and how the only limits we really have are self-imposed -- adaptability, attitude, mental toughness -- and that in life there’s no finish line. One of them, Herbert Thompson, a Special Forces (Green Beret) team leader shared a story of a combat mission he undertook replete with leadership lessons.

Arroyo is again acting like she’s the prime minister

On Oct. 17, 2018, House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Arroyo spoke before the delegates to the 139th International Parliamentary Union (IPU) General Assembly at the Centre for International Conference Geneve in Geneva, Switzerland. Mrs. Arroyo was head of the Philippine delegation to the IPU assembly.

Why the hype on the Communist threat?

One of the lies told by Juan Ponce Enrile in that pathetic video interview by Bongbong Marcos was that Bongbong’s father imposed martial law to save the country from the Communist threat. Actually, he imposed martial law to retain power beyond 1973 when his second term was to expire.

Is there a silver lining to the gloom and doom?

Filipinos are being destabilized by all kinds of risks -- political, safety and security, economic and external. It’s not that we’re new to it but we’ve never been through all that’s happening at the same time in rising intensity, real or imagined. What am I referring to? Hang on to your seats as I run through my list.

Attempt to revise martial law story backfires

If Bongbong Marcos had hoped to present a revised version of the story of the martial law years by conducting that scripted video interview of Juan Ponce Enrile, he instead provoked an across-the-board retelling of what really happened during that dark period in our history.

We’re stuck in a time and mind warp

As a direct witness to history spanning 48 years since my graduation from college, I can say that we haven’t learned from history’s valuable lessons.

Try to remember the Septembers of 1972 and 2009

It rained every day from September 1 to 19, 1972, placing Metro Manila and Central Luzon under water. Hundreds of lives were lost and crops worth millions were destroyed. The impact of the devastation on the economy wrought havoc on the already beleaguered Ferdinand Marcos presidency.

T for Trouble

President Rodrigo Duterte claimed last Saturday, Sept. 8, that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is colluding with the Liberal Party (yellows) and the communists (reds) in efforts to topple his government by October. Trillanes, meanwhile, remains camped out in his Senate office as of this writing to avoid arrest following the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 572 (PP572).

De Castro will fortify SC’s character

“THE next president gets to appoint 10 Supreme Court justices. The wrong choice might mean that black becomes white and white becomes black because they can interpret. And that’s why we need to be very, very careful. It will change the entire character of our judicial system. It will, therefore, change the entire character of the rules and regulations under which we live as a society,” Presidential candidate Mar Roxas told members of the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines in March 2016.