Ninoy: The Filipino is worth dying for? Or is it the presidency?

His taped last talk with a friend
DID Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. risk his life to liberate the country from a dictatorship or did he mainly see it as a chance to succeed Ferdinand Marcos, well worth the risk of returning to Manila?

His candid conversation on Aug.13, 1983 with his close friend, the late Steve Psinakis — the husband of Presentacion Lopez, the only daughter of the “Don” Eugenio Lopez Sr. — would seem to point to the latter motivation.

In Ninoy’s last interview with foreign correspondents inside the plane in the wee hours of Aug. 21, 1983, he portrays himself as the opposition leader who decided to return to the Philippines, as he put it, “to help the opposition rebuild its grassroots organization” for the 1984 Batasang Pambansa elections. Ninoy says: “I no longer crave for political office. I would like to reiterate: I am not out to overthrow Marcos.”

Aquino responds thus to a reporter’s question on why he was returning to the Philippines: “I don’t think a general should be 10,0000 miles from his troops, even if he’s leading them from prison.” He says: “I have to suffer with my people, I have to lead them because of the responsibility given to me by my people.”

Fatal miscalculation? Aquino assassinated at the tarmac.

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New normal: Living and working, with Covid-19 still out there

I KNOW the term has become a cliché, but I just can’t think of another one to describe what the Duterte government and most of us now view as the realistic approach to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We live and work, and even start to play, with the virus still out there. It’s the new normal.

While a less-than-strict-lockdown — which we call general community quarantine — is obviously still necessary for several cities in Metropolitan Manila, and especially for limited-area hot spots, we can no longer, after five months of doing it, stop or severely restrict economic activity as a means of stopping the spread of the virus. The lives-or-work dichotomy is false.

We have to live with the coronavirus, and for the government to see to it that most Filipinos do what science says will reduce the risk of their being infected by 95 percent: wear face masks, observe social distancing, and wash hands frequently.


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We’re not performing spectacularly vs Covid-19, but not badly either

HOW is our country objectively performing in this global war against the deadliest pandemic in the past 100 years?

In gist, not as fantastic as Switzerland, Germany and Japan, but better than the United States, the United Kingdom, and yes, a colleague of mine’s model, Sweden. We’re not doing badly: in a spectrum consisting of the safest country to be in during this pandemic to the riskiest nation to be in, we’re to the right of the middle.

Out of 200 countries the group studied, deploying sophisticated mathematical tools and accessing “big data,” the Philippines is ranked 55th in terms of residents’ safety in this pandemic. That means we’re better off than 145 countries of the world, but worse than 54 nations. The study used points for over 60 metrics. We got 532 points, with the safest country, Switzerland, getting 752 points.

We’re a safer country to be in during this pandemic than (other than those already mentioned) France, Russia and Iran, which in the listing were ranked 60, 61 and 72, respectively. (The caveat here is that the study was undertaken in June, and two months is a long time for this pandemic.)

Source: Deep Knowledge Group (Note: Not shown here are the countries ranked 101 to 200.)

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Pandemic signals the end of the American era

THAT’s actually the subtitle of an extraordinary essay by noted Canadian-Colombian anthropologist Wade Davis in the Aug. 5, 2020 issue of Rolling Stone, with its main title “The Unraveling of America.”

I had also used that term in my column last June that was titled “The unraveling of the colossal deception that is America.” My piece used as a jumping board two of the most shocking things that have been happening in the United States this year.

First, what was supposed to be the richest nation with the most advanced medical institutions in the world, the best bureaucracy and the smartest citizens was being brought to its knees by the pandemic. Since June, America’s quagmire has deepened and is now the most infected nation on earth with 5.5 million cases and with the most deaths — 172,606.

Second, torn apart was the deception that the US is a the land of “all-men-are-born-equal,” when African Americans — and include there all non-Caucasians — are suffering a ferocious yet hidden racism that led to the public execution last May by the police of a black man suspected of some minor felony.

Photo from Rolling Stone.

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Scrap P9-B new Senate building construction, build Covid-19 hospitals instead, Wuhan-style

WITH our country — and the world — now in the midst of one of the worst pandemics this century, and with the looming threat of a steep recession, do you know what our Senate has been quietly doing?

It is continuing to build what is a monument to 24 super-egos, the Senate’s new headquarters in the Bonifacio Global City, planned in 2018. The project broke ground March last year and had its first concrete pouring February this year, scheduled to be finished next year. Full speed ahead, I was told, was the Senate’s orders to its contractors. “Anong covid-covid? Tuloy tayo,” a senator reportedly told the contractor.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, when he first proposed the project in 2018, claimed it would cost P5 billion and even issued a press statement claiming that I was wrong in my column that estimated it would eventually cost P15 billion.

News reports on February 6 on the first concrete pouring for the building attended by Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd all reported that it would cost P9 billion, a figure obviously from a Senate press release. (See my column March 20, 1019 “P15B monument to 24 political super-egos”). And this is just the contractor’s price, which doesn’t include fixtures and other hi-tech features of the building.

This is crazy. We are the only country in the world to be undertaking such a huge $200 million project, which is inarguably a luxury office for 24 government officials, at a time when we are in a recession, with our economy expected to contract 8 percent this year as compared to last year. And of course, there is still the real threat of being overwhelmed by a disease that has brought to its knees the richest nation on earth, the United States, which has had 5.3 million cases.

WHAT PANDEMIC? Senators at the site of their new building in February (top). Below, illustration of the ‘Bagong Senado.’ Senate photos

Use the P10 billion instead to build Covid-19 hospitals.

And Lacson even boasted in a speech at the Senate in February that the building would sit on 2 hectares of land with four towers and 11 floors. Each senator would have a floor?


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Exploiting arbitration ruling, Malaysia claims most of our Kalayaan Island Group

WHAT did former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, his Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario and his solicitor general Florin Hilbay do when they brought the arbitration suit against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013?

They shot themselves in the foot. Correct that, they shot the Philippines in the foot.

Two of the major provisions of the arbitration award handed down in 2016 for that case emboldened Malaysia to claim that its continental shelf would include most of our territory called the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), which the strongman Ferdinand Marcos had created by decree in 1978.

On Dec. 12, 2019, Malaysia submitted to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UN CLCS) a claim that its continental shelf extended beyond 200 nautical miles in the northern part of the South China Sea. The northern outer limits of Malaysia’s submission, as its accompanying map and its geographical coordinates show, are even 100 to 150 kilometers north of our KIG. (Lime and red lines in figure accompanying this column.)

Malaysian expansionism: it will eat up the Kalayaan Island Group and EEZ part. Image by author using Google Earth Pro

Continue ReadingExploiting arbitration ruling, Malaysia claims most of our Kalayaan Island Group

Yellows silent on Malaysian grab of PH territory

THE Yellows keep ranting that President Duterte hasn’t continued to quarrel with the superpower China to assert our sovereign rights in our exclusive economic zone — ignorant of, or rejecting the fact that not just China, but Vietnam and Taiwan are claiming not just rights but sovereignty over those areas our EEZ encompasses. Thus, as Duterte succinctly put it, “China is claiming it. We are claiming it.”

The hypocrisy — or ignorance, feigned or not — of former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario and their resource person former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio, is obvious in the fact that while they have been livid, or pretended to be livid, over China’s alleged aggressiveness in the South China Sea, they have been inexplicably quiet in their hundreds of statements — even in Carpio’s book — over the brazen grab by Malaysia of Philippine territory.

And I’m not referring to Sabah.

Two presidents — Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada — could do nothing to stop the seizure of four reefs in our sovereign territory, the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and an island in our EEZ by Malaysia, which at that time was, so to speak, in our weight class.

Malaysia’s seizure of PH territories: Celerio (Swallow) Reef in 1986, which is within our EEZ, Antonio Luna (Ardasier) Reef in April 1986, Mariveles Reef in November 1986, Pawikan (Investigator) Shoal and Gabriela Silang (Erica) Reef in April 1999. PREPARED BY AUTHOR USING NAMRIA OFFICIAL MAP

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