Republic downgraded in Aquino-MILF meet

“MILF: NOY gave us hope,” this paper’s banner headline said recently, referring to President Aquino’s August 5 meeting in a Narita airport travelers’ hotel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

Mr. Aquino indeed gave the insurgents a lot of hope—to make the MILF the core of a sovereign state. The meeting in effect put the MILF on the same category as the Philippine Republic—sovereign entities. Read the MILF’s statement on the meeting (which was strangely under-reported in mainstream newspapers) and it’s the conclusion you will arrive at. (I have posted it at www.trigger.ph).

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Aquino Sona claims a life

It was the rush by President Aquino’s officials to include in his State of the Nation Address last July 25 what they thought would be a spectacular “exposé” of an alleged Marcos-style “behest loan” during the past administration that led to the suicide of 43-year-old Development Bank of the Philippines lawyer Benjamin Pinpin.

A despondent Pinpin took his life on Aug. 2, and in the suicide notes he left to his wife and mother, he regretted the false statements he made in an affidavit he signed on July 27, reportedly after weeks of pressure by the DBP board. The affidavit was to be among the evidence the DBP board would submit in its graft case to be filed at the Office of the Ombudsman alleging that 25 DBP officials connived to extend an anomalous loan to tycoon Roberto Ongpin, described in the suit as a “Marcos crony.”

The DBP board had to resort to intimidating Pinpin and other DPB officials to provide evidence for the graft case because of the tight schedule for its planned inclusion in Mr. Aquino’s Sona.

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‘Truth is GMA won’

An epidemic of amnesia seems to be sweeping our country, leading to hysterical demagoguery. Try to remember the facts.

The opposition in 2004 was so much of a squabbling, disunited pack that everyone wanted to be president. The result: Panfilo Lacson helped defeat Fernando Poe Jr. by grabbing 11 percent of the votes, with the late Raul Roco and Ed Villanueva together getting 12 percent. All these votes could have gone to a single opposition candidate – but didn’t.

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‘Take it personally! Rage! Kill!’

PRESIDENT AQUINO made very worrying remarks in his speech Monday:

“Some of my critics say that I am taking this campaign against corruption personally. It’s true: doing what’s right is personal for me, to make people who did wrong pay, whoever they are. And it is not only me who should take this personally, everyone should take this personally, since every Filipino is a victim.”

How could taking things personally ever be a virtue? Taking things personally means one has an insecure yet overblown ego and an unprofessional attitude. Certainly nothing to brag about. But that may be, unfortunately, our President’s proclivity.

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Wag-the-dog presidency

President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address next week will be a quintessential wag-the-dog speech. The hustle and bustle in the past several weeks of hurling charges against officials of the past administration were all about getting the tail to start wagging for the Sona, so Mr. Aquino can claim that he has done something in his first year in office. The accusations were so rushed in fact, that included in the charge sheets were people who helped Mr. Aquino get elected.

The moralistic tuwid-na-daan storm troopers have even stooped as low as to offer freedom to Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the accused in the massacre of 58 human beings, as long as he concocts charges against the former president and her other officials. That this is simply a wag-the-dog (i.e., media) operation has been disclosed in reports that it is Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang who have been lobbying for Ampatuan’s “Plan B.”

With the crime situation getting out of control so that even dentists—yes, dentists—are now cowering in fear in their clinics, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, the Cabinet secretary in charge of the police, has been spending his time coaching a crooked Comelec official on what kind of mud to throw against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Mr. Aquino himself has been busy meeting with DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman who he thinks knows what other mud to throw at his predecessor.

Consider our country’s situation, what Mr. Aquino has done so far, and we can expect what he will say next week.

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OFW ‘exit permits’: unconstitutional?

As ambassador not only to Greece but also Cyprus, I was bothered by reports that Filipinas were being unwittingly lured into prostitution to Cyprus’ then-booming nightlife districts. Reports were that they were exiting the country without the papers required by government, and they were able to do so as they were being escorted through the international airport’s gates by corrupt immigration officials.

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Flaws of hunger polls

Other than the three “bad-news” Cabinet members he mentioned, it is the Social Weather Stations’ hunger polls that must be giving President Benigno Aquino III headaches. One month SWS reports a million more Filipinos going hungry. A few months later, a million Filipinos are no longer hungry. What’s the man to do?

The surveys are innocuous really, but when Mr. Aquino’s officials use the most recent hunger survey to applaud the purported success of its dole-with-conditions program (euphemistically called “conditional cash transfer”), and even to recommend its expansion, they are on to a major policy fiasco.

With due respect to the very professional SWS, which has been politically independent in contrast to its rivals, I submit that its hunger surveys are flawed.

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National budget not a Batanes budget

President Aquino’s narrative (a mythical one, as I discussed in my article in Rogue magazine’s June issue) is that his administration is the sequel to his mother’s 1986 people-power government, out to slay the Corruption Dragon.

A corollary to that narrative is that his predecessor President Arroyo left the economy in tatters – a total disregard of the facts, among them: the average economic growth rate from 2001 to 2010 of 4.7 percent was the highest among the past four administrations, and the average inflation of 5.2 percent, the lowest.

Thus, Mr. Aquino’s ideologue, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad quickly reacted to Arroyo’s criticism of the incumbent’s “nobody-home” administration not by showing that there’s really a mind in Malacañang. He goes on the juvenile kill-the-messenger tack by alleging that Arroyo mismanaged the country’s coffers. “Prudent expenditure took a back seat to political survival and political patronage,” Abad said in his statement posted on the Department of Budget and Management’s website. “The country was left with the largest budget deficit to date of P325-billion or 3.9 percent of gross domestic product,” he alleged.

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The Spratlys: Marcos’ legacy, or curse?

Make no mistake about it. The Spratly islands dispute could get messy. In March 1987, a clash between Chinese and Vietnamese warships in the disputed island group resulted in both sides losing a vessel, and 120 Vietnamese soldiers killed. A year later, Chinese ships sank three Vietnamese vessels in Fiery Cross Reef with 74 sailors dead. The United States just watched, of course.

Before President Aquino’s three spokespersons go on another flag-waving, saber-rattling tack, they should take very seriously Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s advice: “Don’t agitate China.”

“What they are doing is posturing, but when things go really bad, I’m sure they will be the first to run. These subalterns are very talkative,” Enrile angrily said.

Enrile knows what he is talking about: he was there at the inception of this geopolitical flashpoint.

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Is he losing it?

WITH PRESIDENT Aquino’s receding popularity, few listened to his two Independence Day speeches, one at Kawit and the other at the Luneta. A sympathetic media solely reported on, well, his “announcement” of the start of a new graft-free chapter of our nation, as if that herculean task had already been achieved.

Maybe that was for the best, for our peace of mind on our nation’s birthday. But read his speeches (posted at www.gov.ph), and you will worry. They will go down in our history as the worst ever given by a president on our country’s National Day.

A biased conclusion? Decide for yourself:

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