Category: Manila Times Columns

So Duterte’s not a populist after all, huh?

THE political opposition most likely rejoiced over President Duterte’s veto last week of Congress’ purported “anti-endo” bill, as it gave them ammunition in their propaganda that he is “anti-people,” the communists’ formulaic allegation against him.

For the fast-vanishing Yellows, it is another instance of Duterte failing to fulfill his election promises.

One thing though that everyone, even his critics, would agree to is that contrary to academically pretentious claims by commentators who have struggled to explain away his popularity, Duterte isn’t a populist, or one who merely plays to the gallery, or who throws bounties to the masses, even if its economic consequences would make their situation worse.

This is a president who listens to his economic officials’ assessments and advice, and who understands that the nation has an economic base with its laws and dynamics, which the political leadership cannot just ignore. He makes decisions even if these would be unpopular, at least in the short term.

Without a doubt, Duterte has strengthened the business sector’s support for him in his veto of the “anti-endo” bill.

Duterte could be faulted, however, for not intervening early enough, so that Congress was able to pass the bill on third reading and gave it to him to sign into law. In fact, if he had not vetoed the measure, it would have automatically become law on July 27. Continue reading

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Fake SWS poll stokes anti-China sentiments

THE Social Weather Stations’ (SWS) recent poll, one of whose results an anti-Duterte media outfit headlined as “93 percent of Filipinos want PH to regain China-occupied islands” is a patently fake survey.

This SWS poll is the worst kind of push poll, or one disguised as a survey but which actually is intended to mold people’s minds. In this case, SWS polls tried first, to falsely portray China as having illegally occupied islands that the Philippines owns, and second, that more than 90 percent of Filipinos want these “islands back.”

The poll is utterly spurious because it asked its respondents a bogus question: “In your opinion, is it important that the control of the islands that China currently occupies in the West Philippine Sea be given back to the Philippines?”

SWS asked its respondents to give their opinion on something that is fiction. China does not occupy a single island that the Philippines owns or claims to own.

It occupies, starting only in the 1970s, seven reefs, or rocks barely above water, in the Spratly Islands (Kalayaan Island Group to us). China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia claim the area as theirs. Bajo de Masinloc is not an island but a shoal, and China occupies it now only because former president Aquino and his foreign secretary bungled in handing it over to the Chinese in the July 2012 stand-off. Continue reading

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Fake news? No such ‘PCA decision’ on suit vs China

NOT exactly fake news. But certainly a variation of it. This particular deception has been spread mainly by the Yellows, helped by mercenary academics and uncritical media.

For some reason, they are doing this to make Filipinos hate China and pressure President Duterte to take a belligerent stand against the emerging superpower.

This version of fake news: “The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 ruled in favor of Philippines’ claims against China.”

The Social Weather Stations even asked its respondents to respond to this false statement in its survey which was really intended to portray the false picture that Filipinos are angry over President Duterte’s stance toward China. It asked its respondents to reply yes or no to the statement: “The government should assert its right to the islands in the West Philippine Sea as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).”

There is no such “decision of the PCA,” nor was the Philippine suit against China over maritime claims in the South China brought to that court. The SWS asked its respondents to reply to something that didn’t exist.

The body that heard the suit and issued the award — the term it used, and which never referred to it as a decision — was, as the title page of the actual document on it puts it: “An Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII to the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.” (Annex VII details the procedures for arbitration.) The word “tribunal” is used here in its sense of a panel handling disputes, and not in its second meaning of a “court of justice.” Continue reading

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Colossal blowback: PH arbitration suit prodded, justified China’s island-building blitz

THREE years after the five-man arbitral tribunal ruled almost entirely in favor of the Aquino government’s maritime claims against China that invoked the Unclos provisions, its real impact has become so crystal clear, yet hardly talked about by US as well as our mainstream media and academe.

Totally unenforceable, the suit only helped China emerge as the unchallenged superpower in the South China Sea. It’s a perfect case of blowback, the most recent version of the law of unintended consequences that has been a curious feature of history. Here’s how and why.

China didn’t respond to the arbitration suit, which it claimed was a US-inspired plot to wrest its sovereign claims, merely through legal debates and propaganda.

Its real response was its feverish work on the ground – or rather, in the waters of the Spratlys. China built artificial islands on the reefs it occupied, making it now the nation with the most extensive and developed network of modern facilities in the South China Sea, complete with airports, piers and huge buildings.

US strategists who played President Aquino and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario to undertake the arbitration suit—which they thought was a brilliant “lawfare” and “shaming” project against China—must be banging their heads against the wall in regret. Aquino and del Rosario, who thought the suit would cover up their loss of Panatag Shoal to China in July 2012, are of course clueless over their huge role in helping China to dominate the South China Sea.

Short of war
With the island-building triggered by Aquino and del Rosario’s suit, China, as a ranking US general, in a congressional testimony said, “is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”

Before the Philippines filed its arbitration suit in January 2013, China’s “real estate” in the South China Sea was the poorest. It controlled only seven reefs, and didn’t have a single island. All of the other claimants had islands, the biggest of which, Taiping, was occupied by Taiwan. We had the second, third, and fifth biggest islands, Pag-Asa, Likas and Parola. Vietnam had the fourth and sixth biggest. Even Malaysia has its Layang-layang island— Celerio to us, Danwan Jiao to the Chinese—which its special forces grabbed only in 1983

What have you done, Messrs. Aquino and del Rosario? Satellite images of Chinese-controlled reefs, before and after we filed the arbitration case vs China.

Continue reading

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Imbecilic kalikasan writ suit will result in political chaos and economic collapse

THE so-called writ of kalikasan suit asking the Supreme Court to compel government to enforce our environmental laws in the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal is a cheap, despicable and stupid political plot by the Yellows and Reds. If it wins, it will result in political chaos and economic ruin, at a level worse than we’ve ever seen.

Lawyers led by failed Otso Diretso candidate Jose Manuel Diokno, known to be close to the Communist Party, filed the suit last April claiming to represent the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Filipino fishermen affected by foreigners fishing in those areas.

But the fishermen have declared that they had nothing to do with the suit, didn’t authorize Diokno and his gang to represent them. They said they were shocked when they saw their names as complainants in media reports. Solicitor General Jose Calida the other day submitted to the court the affidavits claiming such, sworn under oath by all the 19 fishermen whom Diokno’s gang said it represented.

What Diokno and his gang did was a patent violation of Section 27 of the Rules of Court No. 138, punishable by disbarment: “A member of the bar may be removed or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for…for willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so.”

The Diokno suit is imbecilic or mentally bone-idle since it wanted the high court to order government agencies such as the Coast Guard, the DENR and the Navy to enforce the country’s environmental laws, and arrest foreign fishermen violating our rules at Ayungin Shoal, the Panganiban Reef and Panatag Shoal, which they claimed the July 2016 ruling of the “Permanent Court of Arbitration” determined were within the country’s EEZ. (It wasn’t the PCA, but a five-man arbitral tribunal, which used the PCA only as registry, and one of its huge halls as venue.) Continue reading

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Duterte enfeebles oligarch-owned and US media’s power

BASED on the latest Social Weather Stations’ poll, President Duterte has emerged as the most popular president in our post-EDSA history, with a remarkable 80 percent of Filipinos satisfied with his leadership.

SWS data show that for the three years that he has been power, Duterte’s net satisfaction rating (percent satisfied minus dissatisfied) averaged 59 percent, trouncing the 44 percent in the same period of Corazon Aquino who, conventional wisdom says, was the country’s most popular president, being the near saintly heroine of Philippine democracy.

That is significant in itself as there has been a non-stop, intense and well-financed propaganda effort from the Left and the Yellows, as well as American media, that Duterte is Cory’s antithesis, an authoritarian who will soon do a Marcos, that is, declare martial law to establish one-man rule.

There has been practically a cottage industry of opinion pieces and articles by academics abroad trying to explain — or explain away — Duterte’s popularity.

The most harebrained — and academically pretentious — is the one which claims that it is a “function of mass propaganda and deception.” That writer, with his usual penchant of trying to impress his readers that he’s read a lot of books, also claims that Duterte’s “authoritarian brand of populism is in tune with the political zeitgeist.”

In just one sentence, that commentator commits two logical fallacies. First is begging the question. He assumes what needs to be proved, that Duterte is an “authoritarian populist.” The second is tautological: Duterte is popular because he is “in tune with the “spirit of the times,” i.e. the most popular way of looking at the world at a particular time. Continue reading

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Thank God, PDI fake news flops

I SWEAR, one of these days, if it doesn’t drop its anti-China, anti-Duterte thinking, the Philippine Daily Inquirer will publish inflammatory but fake news that will rouse Filipinos to go to war.

Last Friday, the newspaper put out a banner headline: “Foreign fishing crowd PH waters.” Covering two-thirds of the front page were satellite images of what seemed to be an invasion of boats into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone(EEZ). I myself was alarmed, as the images were compiled by the respected Karagatan Patrol from a weather satellite using infrared sensors that detect lights, day and night, hundreds of miles away from earth. The assumption in this technology is that the lights are from fishing boasts.

The piece’s spin was that these “foreign ships” were mostly Chinese, quoting international law expert Jay Batongbakal, that there was a “high likelihood” that many of these were Chinese vessels. The piece of course fits into the PDI and the Yellows’ narrative that China is intruding into our territory.

Probably because of the sharp decline in the PDI’s credibility since President Aquino, whom it supported, stepped down from power, no other media outlet – not even its ideological sister Rappler – followed up (so far) on the newspaper’s banner story. Thank God. Or the country would have been caught up in another ‘the-Chinese-are-invading-us’ frenzy.

I think it is still necessary to expose it as fake news, as in all likelihood the Yellows will regurgitate it to claim that President Duterte has been allowing the “invasion of Chinese fishing vessels” into our country.

That PDI piece is fake news because of the following. Continue reading

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3 myths about China and The Hague tribunal verdict

THE following is a must read, a totally different perspective from what the Yellows and Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio have brainwashed a lot of people to believe in. This was written by two American scholars, Jared McKiney and Nicholas Butts, back in July 14, 2016, a few days after the arbitral panel issued its ruling on the Philippines’ suit against China, for which we spent P500 million.

The article was in the respected 34-year-old magazine The National Interest, published by the Center for the National Interest, a Washington, D.C. think-tank that espouses the school of thought in international relations theory known as “realism,” which obviously the Yellows, Carpio, the China-hater Albert del Rosario, and even noisy academics here have never heard about.

Realism has been described as one of the dominant strains of thought in modern foreign policy and is not tied to ideology. It does not favor any particular moral philosophy, nor does it consider ideology to be a major factor in the behavior of nations. I daresay realism appears to be President Duterte’s foreign-policy paradigm.

Three years after the piece was published, this article’s theses have proven to be very accurate. Continue reading

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Impossible for Carpio and del Rosario not to know that they are deceiving the country

THE claim that President Duterte should be impeached for not restricting our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from foreigners is so absurd that it is astonishing that media has given it mileage at all, with even otherwise sober commentators believing that rubbish.

What is disgusting is that the two men mainly responsible for spreading this nonsense—Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and Aquino 3rd’s foreign secretary Albert del Rosario—cannot not know that they are misleading the public, as I will show in the course of this piece.

Why are they doing so? Because of an ideological hatred for China, and an added factor for del Rosario, to cover up for his role in our losing Bajo de Masinloc (also known as Panatag or Scarborough Shoal) in 2012 to China. The Yellows are cheering them and repeating their yarn of course because they think they can pull down Duterte’s popularity by stoking the embers of anti-Chinese racism among Filipinos.

At the outset, we have to emphasize first that Duterte was referring not to our EEZ in its entirety but only to Recto Bank (Reed Bank) within which he said we cannot ban Chinese fishermen. His comment was in the wake of protests over the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel – whether it was a deliberate case of ramming or an accidental collision hasn’t been established.

Our huge EEZ (in red). Everyone except us banned there? (Source:

Recto Bank is indeed within our 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and whose natural resources therefore we have the sovereign rights to exploit. (Let’s leave out of this discussion the other fact that Recto Bank is also within the area we claim as territory, the Kalayaan Island Group, but which China, Taiwan, and Vietnam also claim.) Continue reading

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Duterte is wrong to call Carpio buang… or maybe not

PRESIDENT Duterte is wrong to call Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio buang, for criticizing his statement to allow Chinese fishermen access to “Philippine waters.” Buang means stupid — certainly a description that applies to the Yellow senators who claim Duterte would be violating the Constitution to allow that.

But Carpio isn’t stupid. He’s worse. He is so ignorant about an issue he blabbers on about but doesn’t understand that he should be ashamed to be in the Supreme Court, an institution dedicated to arriving at the truth based on facts.

But I don’t think Carpio is ignorant. He is diabolically devious, and his criticism of Duterte is just another instance of his incessant propaganda to stoke anti-Chinese xenophobia using our territorial disputes with China, exploiting the respected pulpit of a Supreme Court justice.

First, let’s be clear about what Duterte said. He was asked on Monday night whether government would bar Chinese fishermen from Philippine waters after a Filipino fishing boat was allegedly sunk in the Reed Bank by a Chinese vessel. He answered, in a roundabout way: “I don’t think China would do that. Why? Because we’re friends. They are of the same view that that should not result in any bloody confrontation.”

Duterte obviously meant that if we ban Chinese fishermen from the area, the Chinese will retaliate by banning our fishermen. The two countries won’t do that because they respect each other now. Continue reading

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