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‘Rappler got at least P40M from Aquino govt’

Secretary Romulo-Puyat must disclose details
NO wonder the online newsite Rappler managed to survive since its establishment in 2012 despite its huge expenses on expensive internet technology, in order to rank high in Google searches, among other aims, which couldn’t be recovered through advertising revenues.

No wonder it has been so much a tool of the past regime of Benigno Aquino 3rd, that it was even at the head of the pack that lynched Chief Justice Renato Corona, and now so vociferously anti-Duterte that it has been grossly exaggerating the number of people killed in the wake of the President’s anti-drug war.

According to documents and claims by very reliable sources, Rappler received as much as P40 million from 2014 to mid-2016 from government agencies in the form of dubious consultancies, “intelligence services,” and advertising revenues.

Call a spade a spade: Rappler has been the Aquino regime’s paid media.

Rappler allegedly badgered Aquino for the funding when its main stockholder Benjamin Bitanga started to distance himself from the outfit mid-2014, after putting about P50 million into the firm. Rappler, however, got about P100 million in funding in late 2015 from US outfits Omidyar and North Base Media. But that got it into serious legal trouble since foreigners are totally banned from media under our Constitution.

Documents made public recently showed that Aquino’s tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez signed a contract with Rappler (represented by its sales manager Carla Yap Sy Su) on August 28, 2014 for the tourism department to pay the outfit P9.6 million for just three months of service.

Jimenez didn’t bother with rank.

Anyone familiar with internet consultancy—or any kind of consultancy services—would be shocked how generous Jimenez was and at how anomalous the contract was.

In just a month and a half after the contract was signed, on October 15, Rappler was paid P3.2 million. The output? A vague “tourism intelligence report” and “launch of microsite and crowdsource platform for 1st city.”

After another month and a half, on November 31, 2014, Rappler was paid another P3.2 million for “2nd intelligence report” and “launch of microsite and crowdsource platform for 2nd city.” And then on December 31—in time to celebrate the New Year— another P3.2 million for similar mysterious reports. C’mon, do you know of any outfit that works so feverishly as to complete a report through December?  (more…)

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Build, build, build Bulacan airport now!

ENOUGH is enough. The 36-hour closure of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last weekend — with that disaster, probably appropriately named — created a hell for air travelers who were looking forward to heavenly vacations or financially rewarding work abroad.

The horror stories on these were the hot topic all over Manila, what with over 100,000 travelers missing their flight since last Thursday. A nephew’s flight from Doha was diverted to Bangkok where he stayed overnight in a two-star hotel. He arrived in the country only through Clark airport, with his wife having to brave the torrential rains to drive four hours to and from Pampanga to fetch him. He lost three days out of his one-week vacation. My son, an international pilot, related to me the chain-effect of the closure on all airlines in the region, from higher fuel costs (for planes having to be diverted elsewhere), rescheduling of flights, to huge overtime pay for airline attendants and crew.

We need not belabor the point. Forget our dreams of our economy finally taking off to become at the very least another Malaysia in our lifetimes or becoming a top tourist spot if our main international airport — would you believe that? — has only one runway. Yes, just one which means our capital’s link to the world is closed by one airline stuck — as the Xiamen Airlines plane was on Sunday — on that single runway.

The richest cub tigers in Southeast Asia, Malaysia and Thailand, in fact had prioritized the building of new international airports, which were major factors for their rapid growth.

Malaysia started building its Kuala Lumpur International Airport 25 years ago in 1993, which opened in 1998.

The Thais bought land for its Suvarnabhumi Airport back in 1973. The project though was delayed by budget overruns, construction flaws, allegations of corruption, the 1997 financial crisis, and political turmoil. Sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? At one time, workers even refused to do their work after it was discovered that the airport was built on an old graveyard, with the laborers — of course — reporting to have seen angry ghosts.

Despite all its seemingly insurmountable difficulties, Suvarnabhumi Airport opened in 2006. It was my stopover airport during my trips as ambassador to Greece, which after landing at our airport, depressed me with the kind of feeling that Rizal described in his novel Noli Me Tangere as the “el demonio de las comparaciones.” (Greece a tiny country of 10 million people, contracted a private, mostly German-owned firm, to build and maintain its international airport, which took four years to build, and opened in 2001. It is located 20 miles from Athens, where the old airport was.)

Much earlier of course, Singapore opened in 1981 its now world-renowned Changi International Airport. That is one big factor for it becoming a financial hub, more perhaps than that “ease of doing business” so often attributed as the tiny country’s edge.

An efficient airport, and especially not one that would be closed when an airline is stuck on the tarmac on a rainy night, has especially become a very crucial element for an economy’s growth in this digital age of global online businesses.

And what have we been doing all this while? Building huge band-aids, Terminal 2 and then Terminal 3 — all to serve a single runway.  (more…)

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Benigno Simeon Aquino Aquino

I’M sure most of my readers will wonder at the title of this column, and see it as familiar and strange at the same time.

While he has been widely known as “Benigno S. Aquino, Jr.”, “Ninoy’s” official name, going by the Filipino convention, was Benigno Simeon Aquino Aquino. His middle name, or mother’s name, was also “Aquino” as his mother was Aurora L. Aquino, a third cousin of his father Benigno Simeon (“Igno”) Quiambao Aquino. The “S” was Ninoy’s second given name, Simeon.

Ninoy’s father had married into two rich clans. In 1916, he had married Maria Urquico, the youngest daughter of a prosperous rice merchant in Tarlac. Two years after Maria died in 1928, he married Ninoy’s mother Aurora, 16 years younger, and the youngest daughter of the related hacendero clan, the Aquinos of Concepcion, Tarlac.

“Igno” was a professional politician who rose to become a senator during the pre-war Commonwealth, and then especially since he was a high official of the pro-Japanese Kalibapi, Speaker of the Japan’s puppet government’s National Assembly during World War 2.

Ninoy in a way followed in his father’s footsteps, when as a politician, he would marry Corazon, a scion of another landlord class ascendant at the time, the Cojuangcos. Both would be classic cases, as political scientists would put it, of a country’s political class—the unique creation of an electoral democracy—linking up with the economic elite to create an oligarchic clan.

That is not his real name?

Ninoy’s son “Noynoy,” the inept President, followed his father’s practice and officially used Benigno S. Aquino 3rd. Although Philippine convention would have him named Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino, since his mother was Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco, scion of two powerful politico-economic clans. Noynoy technically cannot be the “3rd”, as his father’s name was different, Benigno Simeon Aquino Aquino, while his grandfather’s was Benigno Simeon Quiambao Aquino.  (more…)

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Is Duterte thinking of resigning?

CURIOUS about the front-page newspaper reports that President Duterte said that he was thinking of resigning, as he’s exhausted and tired from the “endless” fight against corruption, I read the transcript of his speech, and even watched a video of it. The speech was made at the launch ceremony for “Go Negosyo, Pilipinas Angat Program,” a program to help small entrepreneurs funded by the country’s tycoons (would you believe that?).

To say it was a strange speech is an understatement. But perhaps not really, given Duterte’s preference for extemporaneous, often rambling speeches which spill out the things that dominate his thoughts at that time. He set aside, even ridiculed, his prepared two-page speech which he said would just take two minutes to read. Instead he talked for nearly an hour and a half, discussing the state of the nation more than his official SONA did last July. (https://pcoo.gov.ph/presidential-speech/speech-of-president-rodrigo-roa-duterte-during-the-launching-of-the-go-negosyos-pilipinas-angat-lahat-program/)

After the perfunctory “congratulations at mabuhay kayong lahat,” he said: “Now, I’d like to talk also about my personal heartaches and all.” Before an audience of mostly big-business bigwigs and ambassadors — the kind of crowd wearing designer $1,000 suits and Patek Philippe wrist watches — Duterte related how the gutter of Philippine society looks — and his frustration of not being able to clean it up after two years of trying.

He described the things that have made him angry:  (more…)

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Aquino’s Laguna Lake flood-control project to replace Arroyo’s never took off

A cautionary tale on PPP
WITH floods inundating Metropolitan Manila in recent weeks, can you think of anything worse than Benigno Aquino 3rd’s stupid move to cancel the major flood-control project involving Laguna Lake in 2011, simply because it was Gloria Arroyo’s?

Not just one but two things worse. First, P1.2 billion in taxpayers’ money went down the drain as a result of the Belgian contractor’s suit, in the form of a P700 million payment to it and over P500 million in legal fees. (How many new floodwater-pumping stations could that have constructed? At P10 million per plant, 125, enough to make at least Quezon City flood-free.)

And second, and probably much worse, the flood-control project Aquino boasted would replace Arroyo’s, never took off after five years of planning — because of his and his bureaucracy’s sheer incompetence.

With the public works department and other government agencies assuming throughout the Aquino years that there was a replacement on the pipeline for Arroyo’s Laguna Lake flood-control project, no other such major infrastructure was planned to dredge Laguna Lake.

Do you wonder now why in the past weeks, huge swathes of metropolitan Manila have been flooded despite the installation of over two dozen flood-pumping stations in the past two years?

Here is a brief narrative of this, another episode of the criminal incompetence of the Aquino regime.

Arroyo’s project
Just a few months after he assumed power, Aquino in November 2010 junked Arroyo’s Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project, which would have dredged the lake of 4.6 million cubic meters of silt and waste so it could contain more floodwaters. The project would have involved the deepening of the critical 7-kilometer Napindan Channel in Taytay so that it could better and more quickly draw floodwaters away from the metropolis to the lake.

Costing P19 billion, the project was to be undertaken by the 150-year-old Belgian dredging firm Baagerwerken Decloedt En Zoon (BDZ) and financed by a loan from the BNP Paribas Fortis bank, with the Brussels government providing a P7-billion grant — the biggest ever financial aid it would have given the country.

CAUSE AND EFFECT? March 29, 2016 newspaper article on the fiasco (top). August 9, 2018 British paper’s coverage on the (fiasco’s) result, below.

However, Aquino claimed the project was ridden with corruption, and ordered it stopped in November 2010. I was told he even asked Sen. Franklin Drilon’s law firm to investigate it to the extent of even interviewing BDZ officials in Brussels. Six years after going through all the records, not a single hint of corruption was found.  (more…)

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Revealed: Marcos’ secret operations to take over entire Spratly archipelago

THE strongman Ferdinand Marcos ordered secret military operations in 1970 to 1971, and in 1978 to take over the entire now hotly disputed Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea.

Marcos apparently decided to undertake the military operations after being alerted of the area’s existence by fishing-industry businessman Tomas Cloma, a seafaring adventurer from Batangas. Cloma with his crew of over 40 men had wandered into the Spratly islands in 1956. He subsequently issued a “Proclamation to the Whole World” that announced the creation of a new state he called “The Free Territory of Freedomland,” made up of most of the island group.

Marines announcing our property in the Spratlys, circa 1970-1971. Photo by Capt. Tucay

The Philippine Navy and its marines though were thwarted from accomplishing fully the mission ordered by Marcos by South Vietnamese and Taiwanese ships, as they decided not to engage militarily what were, after all, forces from friendly nations.

Still though, in 1978 Marcos formalized through Presidential Decree 1596 the incorporation of all of the 14 islands and 13 reefs into our territory as the Kalayaan Group of Islands, designated as a municipality of Palawan. This was despite the occupation by the Vietnamese of nine islands and reefs in the area, by the Taiwanese of the largest island Taiping, and by Malaysia of the Layang-layang reef on which it has reclaimed land to turn it into a dive resort.
Our entire holdings in the Spratlys to this day consist of these features Marcos ordered grabbed, which altogether have an area of 84 hectares, making us the biggest real-estate “magnate” in the disputed area. The next biggest property-holder is Vietnam with its nine islands and seven reefs having a total hectarage of 50. Our Pag-Asa island with 37 hectares is the second biggest island in the area, next to Taiwan’s 46-hectareTaiping island.
However, the massive land reclamation since the last decade by China on the seven reefs it occupied starting in 1988 have created a territory far bigger than the area of all of the natural islands.

First raising of the flag on Kalayaan island, circa 1970 -71. PHOTO BY CAPT. TUCAY.

Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, who has made a second career of demonizing China as a bully in the South China Sea, demonstrated his intellectual dishonesty when in his 90,000-word e-book on the territorial dispute, he devotes just one sentence to explain this very audacious move of Marcos that got for us our properties in the South China Sea.

He couldn’t even mention the word “Marcos” in the one single sentence he wrote to explain why we are in the Spratlys: “Presidential Decree No. 1596 dated 11 June 1978 incorporated the Kalayaan Island Group into Philippine national territory ‘on legal, historical and equitable grounds’.”

However, Marcos’ move to grab the Spratlys for us was far from being a staid issuance of a presidential decree.
I have stumbled in the world wide web on a narrative that reveals to us with some vivid detail Marcos’ secret operation starting in 1970 to take over all of the islands in the Spratlys.

The narrative is undoubtedly authentic as it was an interview—accompanied by photos—of Navy and Marine officers who actually undertook the operation, and who had migrated to the US. The account was in a 2012 posting in the blog bonginvirginia.blogspot.com of Filipino Americans living in Virginia.  (more…)

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Mocha must go? The Yellows wish!

“MOCHA must go” was the title of this newspaper’s editorial the other day, with the obvious topic.

I had to check again that the editorial was really in this newspaper and not in the Yellow Philippine Daily Inquirer as that has been the Yellows’ fervent wish ever since President Duterte assumed power. That editorial would have followed up that paper’s recent story that there is an alleged “outrage” against her for her “pepedederalismo” episode.

Assistant Secretary Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson has been the Yellows’ nightmare ever since she supported Duterte during the electoral campaign. Her role in forming public opinion has been tremendous, and growing.

Even if one considers that “pepedederalismo” thing as a huge gaffe, “debasing the federalism discourse,” as the editorial pompously put it, it certainly can’t ignore Uson’s huge role in rallying Filipinos —whether you like it or — in support of Duterte’s administration and its radical reform programs.

If you’ve been following Uson’s blog, it’s just been one of her many very educational postings on federalism. The sanctimonious outrage against that “pepedederalismo” and the demand for her to be fired is of the same genre as the Yellows’ paroxysms over Duterte’s “Stupid God” description of the biblical deity. Have some sense of humor, guys.

Our ambassador to the UN, and Cory Aquino’s spokesman Teodoro Locsin, Jr. even found that controversial post very useful to the national discourse: “Nobody was paying attention to federalism except its critics who didn’t bother to read the proposal. Maybe thanks to Mocha they will,” Locsin said in a series of tweets.

5.7 million followers not something to pooh-pooh.

But we could debate until kingdom come on the propriety or vulgarity of that posting. However, to put things in perspective which could clarify our thinking, consider the following facts.  (more…)

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Smartmatic chairman was Cory’s prime PR strategist in 1986 elections

I WROTE the following column in November 2015, republished here completely unchanged. That was three years ago, but I’m sure our readers will find it very relevant today, with more and more indisputable facts being unearthed over the massive cheating undertaken through Smartmatic’s computerized voting system, apparently in order to pad votes for vice-presidential candidate Leni Robredo.

This was written when the Comelec chairman then, Andres Bautista, seemed to be squeaky clean, before his wife Patricia made public his huge P1 billion unexplained bank holdings. After a PR blitz defending himself, even crying in a TV interview, Bautista surreptitiously left the country early this year, with nothing being heard from him again, except a message from his Oklahoma-based gastroenterologist brother Martin that he was ill, and can’t return to the Philippines. In Bautista’s media campaign, Martin claimed that the money in his brother’s accounts were all his, and that he was a billionaire.

Celebrating: Controversial former COMELEC chairman Andres Bautista (with moustache) living it up with brother Martin in Oklahoma City. (Photo March 2018).

2015 column starts here:
A bit of information that was not mentioned in the bio-data of Smartmatic Chairman Mark Malloch Brown, as posted on the company’s website, was that he was the close media adviser and speechwriter of the late President Corazon Aquino. He was then disguised as a foreign correspondent during the “snap” elections that led to the 1986 People Power Revolution in the Philippines.

Book that narrates how US firm ‘handled’ Cory’s campaign that led to EDSA I. Right, it’s main operative, Malloch Brown, now Smartmatic chairman.

He even played a very crucial role in Cory Aquino’s ascent to power in 1986, according to an authoritative book on that episode.  (more…)

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Aquino, Del Rosario begged US to use its military in Scarborough crisis

Just go to court and pass EDCA, Americans responded
IF not for the US leaders’ pragmatism and cool-headedness, President Aquino 3rd and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario could have dragged it into a war against China on the South China Sea, a conflict that could have even triggered a nuclear war between the two superpowers— just to cover up their bungling of the Scarborough Shoal crisis.

In April 2012, Chinese civilian-government and fishing vessels went to their fishermen’s succor at Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal) when the Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Aquatic Resources accosted them for alleged illegal fishing. Aquino ordered to the shoal the Navy’s biggest warship, acquired only a year earlier, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar to board the fishermen’s vessels to take them in.

That was a big boo-boo. China pounced on Aquino’s blunder by loudly protesting that the Philippines had “militarized” the dispute, and that “Philippine warships” were detaining its helpless fishermen.

Cleverly, China did not respond by sending its own warships, even as several of its modern frigates were on alert stand-by just over the horizon. It instead undertook a sea-borne version of people power by having over 60 Chinese fishermen’s vessels—escorted by some six civilian government vessels—to the shoal. The Chinese and Filipinos vessels were then locked in a stand-off that lasted for about six weeks from late April to May 2012, with each party aware that whoever blinks, or withdraws from the shoal, will lose it – forever, as it were.

Aquino’s June 8, 2012 meeting with Obama to beg for US intervention. The dour-faced Obama probably thought: ‘What part of ‘No’ doesn’t he understand?’


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Did the US manipulate Aquino and Del Rosario to lose Panatag to the Chinese?

THERE are very valid reasons to conclude so. Read on, you decide.

When Philippine and Chinese vessels in May 2012 were in a stand-off at Panatag Shoal, President Aquino’s foreign secretary Alberto del Rosario quite suddenly ordered the vessels of the Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to withdraw from the area. This is according to Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, an ardent supporter of Aquino at the time, who was his personal envoy to the Chinese to resolve the crisis.

The Philippine ships left June 3, but the Chinese vessels didn’t. Our vessels since then have been blocked from the area. That’s how we lost Panatag (also called Bajo de Masinloc and Scarborough Shoal).

Del Rosario’s own account of this episode, which he wrote in an article, is as follows: “We were approached by the US, an honest broker, for both China and the Philippines to agree to a simultaneous withdrawal of ships from the shoal. We therefore agreed. At the appointed time, we withdrew, whereas China did not — in violation of our agreement.”

Trillanes, however, claimed that when del Rosario ordered the ships out, he (Trillanes) was still negotiating with the Chinese on how to resolve the stand-off. A former Navy officer, Trillanes even pointed out the physical difficulty of a simultaneous withdrawal because the lagoon’s mouth was narrow and involved the high risk of a collision if two ships passed through it at the same time.

Aquino deployed this warship to Panatag in 2012, giving the Chinese the reason to claim the Philippines had militarized the dispute. The US donated it to us a year earlier.

Trillanes claimed that even Aquino himself was livid over del Rosario’s move. He wrote in his aide memoire, quoting Aquino: “Kaya nga sinabihan ko si Albert kung bakit niya pinalabas yung BFAR na hindi ko nalalaman.” (That’s why I asked Albert [del Rosario] why he ordered the BFAR vessels to leave without my permission.) Del Rosario has not disputed Trillanes’ claims, which I first wrote about in 2016 and repeated in several columns.  (more…)

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