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Pirma: A brazen and dishonest, yet idiotic move to capture power

Second of 3 parts

I DON’T think there’s been a political project to capture power in the country that is as brazen, as deceptive and as imbecilic as the current attempt to revise the Constitution by this shadowy dubious enterprise called Pirma, with House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez allegedly behind the plot.

That the Pirma campaign is not at all for the good of the nation but a shameless conspiracy to allow the House speaker to succeed his cousin, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in a new parliamentary system is obvious in that the change in the Constitution that Pirma is seeking solely involves changing a provision that would in effect give the 315-member House of the Representatives which the speaker commands, total control of what subsequent proposals to amend in our most basic law. The Senate, with only 24 members, would be totally marginalized. (See my column last Monday, January 29).

Oñate with his boss at Lakas-NUCD, President Ramos, in 1995.

If the Constitution is amended that way, it would be a walk in the park for the House to subsequently propose transforming the two-chamber legislative body into a unicameral one and for it to vote a prime minister as head of government, junking the current presidential system of citizens directly voting who they want to be president.

The Romualdez-Pirma conspirators have been deceiving the nation that what is being proposed is the lifting of all restrictions on foreign capital and other measures to make the economy more competitive. This is a total lie. There is no assurance at all that the House would really propose such economic amendments.

There are so many indications that this campaign to change the Constitution is a farce.

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‘Pirma’: A plot to make Romualdez our leader after Marcos

First of 3 parts

THE project to amend the Constitution by a dubious Ramos-era outfit called Pirma is intended to get House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez to succeed his cousin Ferdinand Marcos Jr. when the latter steps down in 2028 and to let him change our most fundamental law in any way he pleases.

This is not only based on his cousin Sen. Imee Marcos’ disclosures that Romualdez is behind the conspiracy and that somehow, P20 million has been or will be given to each congressman who supports the conspiracy.

Study the facts, and you will be outraged at how this disgraceful project intends to do it. The proponents’ propaganda that the Constitution will be amended to reform the economy — removing restrictions on foreign investments — is a total lie.

The amendment Pirma is proposing and asking people to sign solely involves Section 1 of the Constitution, which stipulates that “any amendment to, or revision of this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.”

Romualdez’s Pirma and its operator want to insert two crucial words in this section — that Congress will be “voting jointly,” i.e., the House and the Senate will be melded to form one entity that would make and vote on proposals to change the Constitution.

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Jinggoy should have been convicted of plunder

Why? Senator Jinggoy was convicted, his colleague Senator Bong acquitted on similar pork-barrel scams. ./

Second of Two Parts

If you read the 396-paged  decision  — based on testimonies of 300 witnesses and over 100,000 documents  — of the Sandiganbayan First Division that  convicted Senator Jose “Jinggoy’ Estrada of the crime of bribery,  you will be, as I was, astounded why the court did not convict him of the original charge of plunder.

The decision concluded that at least half of the P262 million of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF, the official term used for pork-barrel funds) allocated to Estrada from 2004 to 2008, rather than being used to provide livelihood projects for the poor were instead mainly turned over to Pauline Mary Labayen, Estrada’s deputy chief of staff.  Prosecutors claimed that Labayen was merely his agent in collecting the stolen funds, with half of it going to the pocket of the scam’s architect and operator, Janet Lim-Napoles.

Labayen though vanished since 2014 when the charges were filed, and the prosecution and the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) couldn’t find any bank account – or significant assets – Labayen owned. As discussed below though, it found funds deposited to several of Estrada’s bank accounts made on the day or a few days after the funds were given to Labayen. (It is very strange that authorities aren’t even trying to look for Labayen. Why aren’t they?)

The scheme involved Estrada’s endorsement to the authorized government agencies to release  his pork-barrel funds to six NGOs, which were fake entities set up by Napoles and her gang.

These funds were purportedly to be used to buy tools and materials the NGOs would buy and distribute to farmers, which they will use to undertake income-generating endeavors such as manicure and pedicure services and making vegetable pickles. The Ombudsman even painstakingly got the sworn statements of over 80 farmers that they did not receive such tools and material.  One witness almost hilariously told the investigators: “Why would I do pedicure and manicure, I am a farmer.

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DTI in serious disconnect with reality

IT’S not just our military brass that has been in serious disconnect with reality, believing that with the US and other allies’ help, we can quickly build up our naval resources to challenge China’s naval and coast guard might over the South China Sea disputes. (See my column, “Hilarious disconnect with reality,” Jan. 12, 2024.)

It seems the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is in a similar disconnect with reality, this time believing that under the current administration, there has been and will be a massive inflow of foreign investments into the country never before seen. So much so that by the end of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s term, we will be “the second biggest recipient of overseas capital in Southeast Asia, second only to Singapore.”

I cannot say if the DTI officials are just saying this for propaganda purposes, that they are so deluded because they think they have done spectacular investment promotion jobs, or they are just toadying to the President. They would seem to be so despondent over the slowdown in foreign investments that, as I report below, they are classifying projected remittances of our overseas workers as “foreign investments.”

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Americans should be ashamed

WITH South Africa’s bold, watershed move to file on January 11 a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of genocide and with the US’ continued military and diplomatic support for the Israelis’ non-stop massacre of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Americans should be ashamed of themselves.

How can a people claiming to be the champions of humanity’s noblest values, human rights and democracy especially allow the Frankenstein monster they helped create and mainly nurtured, Israel, to massacre over 23,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including 8,000 children, in just three months? Over 1,000 Palestinian children have been amputated of their legs or arms because of the Israelis’ indiscriminate bombings. And such atrocities are even witnessed in real-time all around the world.

Israel in court for genocide. AFP PHOTO

The ferocity of the Israelis has been such that they have bombed even hospitals and refugee camps as well as convoys of refugees fleeing as they themselves ordered northern Gaza. The area is now said to be inhabitable, with its urban areas reduced to rubble where thousands of Palestinian children and elderly are buried, together with hundreds of unexploded bombs.

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Hilarious disconnect with reality

A NEW YouTube channel authored by a dubious outfit that calls itself “Asean Analytics” was recently launched as another of the US’ many propaganda venues against China, exploiting the superpower’s territorial and maritime-entitlement disputes with the Philippines to demonize it as an aggressor in the South China Sea.

Recently, it posted a video entitled “How modern the Philippine military:Enough to protect the West Philippine Sea.” However, “Asean Analytics” is a fake news outfit.

It does not have any connection at all with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but pretends to be so by using Asean’s name and logo, a trick to give it credibility. It says it “aims of promote Asean tourism and deliver information about the economy and development within the Asean and neighboring nations.” But it hasn’t posted its own videos on these topics.

It is really another of the many US propaganda venues to demonize China, and push the Philippines into being belligerent towards the superpower. By pretending to be an Asean unit it calculates that gullible writers will think it is a legitimate channel, and repeat in mainstream media its misinformation. It also confuses readers into thinking that Asean supports the Philippines’ hostile stance against China over the two countries’ territorial and maritime-entitlement disputes in the South China Sea. (Asean hasn’t and has remained neutral over these issues.)

For instance, two of its recent videos are entitled “Oil and Gas Deposit in South China Sea China wants to control” and “PH Exclusive Economic Zone Controlled by China.” These claims are totally without basis. Most analysts have dismissed that 1970s idea that the South China Sea has huge commercial oil and gas deposits, and even if it has, it is expensive for China to extract it and transport it at least a thousand kilometers to the mainland. China’s hydrocarbon reserves are in its more accessible northwest areas (e.g., in Xinjiang) and these are equivalent to 5.4 times its annual consumption.

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What? Our annual spectacle of superstition declared a holiday?

I’M convinced that we are a country so deeply infused in religious superstition of the worst kind spread by the Catholic Church that it is one reason for our underdevelopment.

There is no developed country in the world that has such an annual spectacle of superstition encouraged by the opportunistic Catholic Church, attended by hundreds of thousands of people, even 5 million in 2015.

I refer to the erroneously named “Feast of the Black Nazarene*,” a procession held every January 9, in which a purportedly miraculous 17th-century wooden image of Jesus Christ in kingly robes carrying the crucifix, which myth says was used to kill him, is brought from the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta (which the previous day had been brought without fanfare to that site for “devotees” to kiss its feet) to the Quiapo Church, its “home.”

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