‘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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Aquino breaks up his Cabinet

In the 45 weeks since he assumed office, President Benigno Aquino III has convened a total of four meetings of the Cabinet, a crucial body which in most republican democracies serve as the head of the government’s executive committee and council of advisers.

Mr. Aquino seems so convinced that the Cabinet is a useless body or one that is so unwieldy for him that he has effectively broken it up into five parts, and may even be on the way to dissolving it in effect, through Executive Order No. 43 which he issued on May 13. It is a totally unprecedented, and radical restructuring of the Philippine presidency.

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Sex and the Bible

THE DEBATE over the reproductive health bill points to the fact that, with some exceptions, those against it are really arguing not from rationality but from faith in the Catholic dogma.

The central argument in the basic Church doctrine against the use of contraceptives, Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, is indeed a metaphysical claim: that the Church has a privileged knowledge of natural law, and that the use of contraceptives violates this law since it prevents sex from undertaking its “natural function” of procreation. We should be thankful that the Lord in his kindness designed sex to feel good, but the natural law should be complied with, it says.

But what does the Holy Bible really say about artificial contraceptives and, for that matter, sex?

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Unemployment worsens in Aquino’s first year

THAT’S ACCORDING to the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations, commissioned by the BusinessWorld daily, and reported on Wednesday in all major newspapers except one.

According to the SWS survey undertaken March 4 to 7, 27.2 percent of respondents reported they were jobless. The downward trend is pretty clear: the unemployment rate was 23.5 percent in November 2010, and 20.5 percent when President Aquino assumed office.
If the SWS findings are extrapolated to represent national data, the March jobless rate means that Mr. Aquino has presided over an economy in which in just nine months 2.8 million were added to the ranks of the jobless, now totaling 11.3 million.

It will get worse by the time Mr. Aquino marks his first year in office. UP economist Raul Fabella was quoted as saying that the unemployment rate will rise in June as college students who graduated end of March normally do not immediately get work.

Based on the SWS figures, Mr. Aquino now has the distinction of being the first President in recent decades whose first year in office is marked by the steep worsening of unemployment.

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