‘Aquino addresses Davos’?

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P-Noy to speak in Davos,” was a major newspaper’s headline last Sunday, put in screaming fonts across the front page, as if Aquino joins the big league of European leaders who have addressed that prestigious meeting.

“Davos” refers to the conference held in the same Swiss Alpine town annually called the “World Economic Forum,” which has grown since its founding in 1971 to become the largest gathering (2,600 this year) of the planet’s big names in the high fields of human endeavor.

The banner’s subtitle was “Daang Matuwid goes to the World Economic Forum” (WEF), as if President Aquino will be teaching the world a thing or two in governance. Wow!

That would mean that Daang Matuwid has become among Davos’ “big ideas” to be discussed just like other WEF topics this year such as “China’s Next Global Agenda,” “Is Religion outdated in the 21st Century?,” and “The Eurozone Crisis.”

It would certainly be a momentous achievement for our President. The only Asian to address the WEF has been China’s Premiere Wen Jibao last year, but that was the so-called “Summer Davos”—and held in Tianjin, China. Indeed, only European leaders have addressed the conference so far, as opening or keynote speakers such as Russia’s Putin in 2009 and Medvedev in 2010, France’s Sarkosy in 2010, and Germany’s Merkel last year.

You mean it would be Aquino in Davos 2013?

Only if you believe everything you read in the newspapers. That however was what the deputy presidential spokesperson, Abigail Valte pathetically tried to portray, helped tremendously by that newspaper which fell for that spin. Other newspapers headlines didn’t buy the spin though, and simply reported it as minor story: “Aquino to attend Davos Forum,” “Noynoy goes to Davos,” and even just “President Aquino going to Switzerland.”

So will Aquino be speaking at all at Davos? Well he is—as one of the 280 panelists in the conference’s 79 back-to-back sessions lasting 15 minutes each over five days. The session he’ll be joining has six panelists, which gives him 2.5 minutes to talk, if he’s aggressive enough to assert his allotted time.

Credit Aquino’s people for scrambling to get him into the WEF, one way or another. Until January 21, Aquino wasn’t listed among the 280 session panel members in the WEF 2013 website. But Valte had claimed on January 20 Aquino was to be the keynote speaker in the “WEF ‘Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI).”

But PACI is not Davos. PACI is the name about two dozen CEOs of global European companies gave to the meetings they agreed in 2004 to regularly convene to share and document experiences in dealing with corporate corruption. Because they met in the Davos meeting in 2004 and are regular WEF participants, they were allowed to carry the Forum’s trademark in the group’s reports.

Valte claimed corruption is a topic in the WEF meet. It is not. She qualifies her statement that Aquino will speak in the “anticorruption forum on the sidelines of the Davos meeting.” Sidelines? Sidelines of the Davos meeting which has 79 15-minute consecutive sessions? Did Aquino’s people ask some PACI members to meet at a coffee shop (or the bar) during the breaks, for him to give them his “keynote address”?

Whatever, there has been no PACI announcement that it would meet “at the sidelines” or wherever for Aquino to address its members. It appears that the initial plan to get Aquino into Davos had been aborted.

So they managed to execute Plan B. They managed to squeeze Aquino as one of six speakers in the session “Resiliency in Diversity,” which, according to the program, will discuss Asean economies’ next wave of growth with special focus on Myanmar and Laos.

The term “speakers” as used by the WEF is often a misnomer. Except for the welcoming and keynote speakers, as well as few discussing specialized topics, most are actually members of a panel of four to six people discussing a particular issue in one of the WEF’s sessions (Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was a panelist in 2007 in the session “Asean’s 40 Years: A New Future” and in 2009 on the topic “Rebooting the Global Economy.”)

In the WEF’s original program, the session “Resiliency in Diversity,” the “speakers” consisted solely of CNN Asia-Pacific Managing Editor Ellana Lee, the Myanmar vice president as well as the deputy prime ministers of Thailand and Laos. It was revised only yesterday to include Aquino and Malaysia Prime Minister Abdul Razak. The Malaysian leader was originally scheduled in three other sessions.

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Army disgraced with its ‘Special Massacre Forces’

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The Philippine Army has be come another institution among many that has been debased—wittingly or unwittingly—under President Aquino’s administration.

International media, from the Washington Post to huffingtonpost.com carried the following headline over the killing of 13 people in a checkpoint in Atimonan on January 6: “Philippine army, police kill 13 suspects in clash”.

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The Atimonan massacre should worry us all

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The massacre of 13 people by the police and army troopers at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon on January 6 should worry us all. Consider the following scenario:
You’re traveling with a group on the road in some province. You made it a point to travel in daylight, just to be safe. Then at about 3 p.m., you see a police checkpoint, but you’re not worried at all.

Why, your vehicle even has a Philippine National Police Academy commemorative license plate and a genuine decal of the “Office of the President, Malacañan Palace.” And of course the brand-new Mitsubishi Montero you’re riding in should send the signal to the police manning the checkpoints that you’re respectable well-to-do citizens, not some criminal gang who’d likely be using an old FX or even a beat up Safari. A policeman gestures for your SUV to stop, and as it slows down, there’s a volley of gunfire, and you fall into oblivion. (more…)

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Gun business booms under Aquino

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It’s certainly admirable that President Benigno Aquino 3rd has shown so much concern over the death of Nicole Ella that he even raised to P2 million the bounty for the capture of the shooter who fired the bullet that killed the sweet 7-year-old girl on New Year’s Eve.

I can’t help shuddering a bit though: Mr. Aquino is the poster boy for the Philippines’ gun culture. It is this subculture, which has made brandishing, and using the deadliest hand weapon invented by mankind into a sport just like tennis and golf, a hobby just like gardening. It is that overarching gun culture that led Nicole’s shooter to think that firing his gun up in the air was an innocuous way of celebrating the New Year. (more…)

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World Bank 7.1% 3rd Quarter GDP rate could be wrong

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The reported 7.1 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate the Aquino administration and its cheering squads have been euphoric over may in fact be an over-estimation, and the actual figure could be as low as 5.7 percent.

This conclusion is based on the World Bank’s December 2012 “Philippine Economic Update”. After mentioning the 7.1 percent growth rate in the third quarter, the Bank qualified in its seemingly trivial but really significant footnote:

“Growth in the third quarter must be tempered by the fact that statistical discrepancy explains 1.4 ppt of the 7.1 percent growth. This suggests that either third quarter growth will be revised downwards or fourth quarter growth will be lower by around two percentage points as statistical discrepancy is zeroed out in the full year growth statistic.” (more…)

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