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China likely to blacklist PH as a tourist destination because of POGOs

CHINA is getting closer to publicly announcing that the Philippines is under its blacklist as a tourist destination due to its displeasure that the new Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. government hasn’t made any move to close its overseas gambling operations in the country, diplomatic sources said.

The only message from the President so far — a weak one— on the issue was through the Office of the Press Secretary officer in charge: “The President is closely monitoring this and as far as the President is concerned the Philippine National Police is in charge of this matter.”

The police are being left to decide such a crucial issue involving a superpower in the region and our second biggest trading partner?

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VP Harris’ visit to Palawan will raise Taiwan, South China Sea tensions

WHEN reporters asked if he thought US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Palawan this week might pique China, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the other day in Bangkok: “No, I don’t see why it should. She is in the Philippines, and she is visiting another part of the Philippines. And of course, it is the closest area to the South China Sea, but it’s very clearly on Philippine territory. So, I don’t think it will cause problems.”

Marcos’ statements were a remarkable display of naiveté, sarcasm or maybe condescension toward media. Reporters should have thrown back to Marcos their own sarcasm: “Will she go to El Nido, Amanpulo or just the world-famous Underground River?”

C’mon now, Harris’ visit to Palawan tomorrow is not just a visit to “another part of the Philippines” by just another US official. It will raise the geopolitical temperature in our region. It will be a geopolitical tremor, and thus was headline news in Western newspapers’ foreign sections.

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The age of shallow social media, like Rappler and Pinoy Ako, is ending

ABOUT two years ago, I had an epiphany of what social media really was about. In a mall’s hardware section, on a grumpy morning trying to buy a replacement for a busted light bulb, I saw a young salesgirl dancing, with her co-worker taking a video of her with her Chinese-made cellphone.

In Filipino of course, I told her in an admonishing tone: “What the hell are you doing?” She replied, still smiling: “Para sa TikTok lang ho, para dumami followers ko.”

She captured in essence what social media, or at least what its huge shallow part has become: a venue for creating for the user the illusion, the delusion, that the world is acknowledging her existence, no matter how silly she was.


Especially as social media has engulfed the planet to be used by the masses — practically 77 million Filipinos or all of its adult, literate population are registered users — the essence of what many Facebook, Instagram and Twitter denizens are posting are merely verbal versions of that underpaid salesgirl’s TikTok dancing.

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Where to? Marcos should learn from his father

THE good news is that the Philippine economy has bounced back from its two-year contraction because of myriad problems created by the worst pandemic in the post-war period. The bad news is that I don’t think the government has mapped out plans on what kind of economy it wants to build. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should get some tips from his father.

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Read more about the article <strong>BuCor graft loot: P100 million a year?</strong>
Screengrab from Inside the Gangster’s Code
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BuCor graft loot: P100 million a year?

The slaying of broadcast journalist Percival Mabasa should lead government to undertake a drastic crackdown on corruption at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) , the agency  that runs the world’ds largest penitentiary with 30,000 inmates called the  New Bilibid Prison.

Scenes inside Bilibid: Maximum-security pedesrriansm , a sari-sari store (the figure in black is the American documentarist asking for directions where he could find a gang leader, a restaurant. Source: Screen grab from  “Inside the Gangster’s Code”.

While most Filipinos think the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal revenue have been the most graft-ridden agencies, reputations they deserve, BuCor which is under the Justice Department has largely been out of the public radar as one of the most lucrative sources of graft money. 

This is because from the outside, the question is how could officials running the national penitentiaruy make money out of people deprived of their freedom and their money?

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Fast-track Remulla plan to relocate Bilibid!

WITH the assassination of journalist Percival Mabasa revealing, among other sordid things, that the country’s New Bilibid Prison could be the headquarters of an appalling “Murder Inc.,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla now has much public support behind him to pursue his plans to relocate the prison from its present location in Muntinlupa to at least three sites in the Visayas and Luzon.

The country’s national penitentiary was relocated in 1940 from the Spanish-era prison in what is now downtown Manila to Muntinlupa. That area was very sparsely populated and officially rural, with only 10,000 residents because of its hilly terrain, unsuitable for rice farming. Now Muntinlupa is classified as a highly urbanized city with 600,000 residents, and over a million daytime population.

Top New Bilibid Prison in 1940. (Source Wikipedia) Below Today (Google Earth Pro)

The growth of metropolitan Manila and the building of the South Luzon expressway during the Marcos era spurred the development of Muntinlupa as a residential area for middle- and even upper-class subdivisions and the consequent sites for workers servicing those villages, commercial areas, and small and medium factories. With the country’s population growing fast after the war, so did the crime, expanding Bilibid’s prison population from the 3,000 it was designed to house to over 30,000.

The fact that it was for decades in one location (“territory” as it were) made Bilibid’s population (i.e., prison officials and inmates) develop its own “culture,” a full-fledged institution even if a criminal one. The prisoners had organized themselves into gangs (“tribes”) that struck myriad arrangements (“treaties”) with the “rulers” (guards and their bosses) to keep themselves as comfortable as they could while enriching their jailers.

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Lady Justice finally rules Chief Justice Corona innocent

The victim of Hacienda Luisita’s wrath.

THE Aquino 3rd regime’s persecution of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 was one of the most evil, most shameful episodes in our history as a nation, unparalleled in the injustice it wrought on a high public official and how Congress and media were accomplices.

Ten years after he was removed through the Senate impeachment court’s May 29, 2012 decision, the long hand of justice has vindicated Corona, de facto condemning his persecutors to infamy.

The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court ruled on Nov. 3, 2022 that the accusations against Corona were totally, indisputably wrong, that his assets — which a resolution by the House of Representatives headed by Feliciano Belmonte to impeach him had claimed were ill-gotten — were all explainable by income through 45 years of private and law practice, and from sales of his wife’s inherited assets.

In its decision, the Sandiganbayan admonished Congress that the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) which the latter alleged Corona had not submitted accurately, is “a tool for public transparency and never for a weapon for political vendetta.”

Ironically, it was the ruthlessness and determination of Aquino 3rd’s political assassins that provided the venue for justice to be done, for Corona’s name to be cleared. The Aquino operatives had a “Plan B” in case the Senate had acquitted Corona.

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Has Elon Musk proven Chinese social media policy right?

COLUMNIST Ben Kritz called the new Twitter owner, “Chief Twit” Elon Musk’s move to ask for a $8 per month “verification badge” a user pays for certain advantages in the platform as signaling the end of social media. A columnist in another paper typical of a Yellow writer, saw it as the beginning of tyranny in social media. (The badge alerts readers that an account is “real, credible, authentic and of interest to the public,” according to the Twitter “Help.”)

I beg to disagree: the American Twitter is just a small part of the social media universe. Jeez, its ranked 14th among the most popular social media networks in the world.

What Musk did though was to finally expose Twitter and all US social media platforms as huge moneymaking profit-making constructions of American capital, with the two biggest, Twitter and Facebook, aligned with the hard-core imperialist Democrats. So much for freedom of speech though when Twitter banned Donald Trump, while Facebook unsuccessfully tried to ban or at least slow down anti-Robredo posts in the last election. I know that, as my account had been suspended three times in the run-up to the May elections. After that, never.

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Tips on propaganda: Doing, defending against and detecting it

AFTER many years in journalism, and about five as a government spokesman, I think I can confidently write about tips in this kind of endeavor. 

First, ridicule what can be ridiculed, or must be ridiculed. President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. surprisingly demonstrated this “trick” the other day. After he had already turned his back to leave at an impromptu press conference with reporters in Cavite the other day, he faced them again and said with a mischievous smile, “Welcome to Hokkaido!” He then guffawed wildly, turned around and left, waving goodbye. 

He was responding to rumors in social media, that he was in Japan at the height of the typhoon for another R&R, just as he went last month to Singapore to watch the Formula 1 race. Compare Marcos’ jab at that rumor to the Palace’s curt, oh-so-serious statement. “The president is not in Japan.” I think we’ve seen the last of this #nasaanangpangulo nonsense in twitter.

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EDCA could be Marcos’ biggest test

WHETHER he likes it or not, global events are developing to make the EDCA issue the first major test of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s leadership and wisdom. His very pro-American officials — ambassador to the US, second cousin Jose “Babe” Romualdez and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, and most of the Filipino elite — will likely urge him to uphold the EDCA, which of course could lead us into the two wars that the US could possibly be involved in, with China and Russia.

That position would be a very slippery slope putting us, in case even of a limited conflict, in the cross-hairs not just of China but Russia. Even without a war, Marcos’ acquiescence to US plans to activate EDCA would reverse his predecessor’s huge gains in drawing the country closer to its biggest trading partner, and perhaps even the biggest source of cheap official credit.

China can also play dirty when it thinks the US is making the country its puppet. In the 2012 Scarborough Shoal stand-off our banana exports to China suddenly had to be inspected for infestation — resulting in the rotting of thousands of dollars’ worth of shipments at Chinese ports.

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