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Maharlika Fund to bring back elite’s wealth stashed abroad?

GOING by the plethora of criticisms against the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill, passed on May 31 by Congress and awaiting the signature of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., it should have been killed by a thousand cuts.

Many of the criticisms are hilariously nitpicking, such as that of Far Eastern University (FEU) law school’s former dean Mel Sta. Maria, who claimed in a news website column that even previously “convicted criminals can be members of the Maharlika’s board of directors.”

Another critic pompously claims that Maharlika is confused, in that it can’t make up its mind whether it is a sovereign fund or a national development fund. But can’t it be both, as Singapore’s Temasek Holdings was in its inception and the more recent Indonesian Investment Fund is?

It is astonishing that 24 — yes, two dozen — Ph.Ds from the UP School of Economics wrote a paper damning the MIF bill essentially on two points: its goals are unclear, it is risky. Yet these economists offer nothing by way of making the goals “clearer” or how risky is risky.


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How the US defense industry’s greed led to the Ukraine war.

Collage of NYT images by author

WHAT struck me most in the letter by American national security experts condemning the US for provoking Russia to invade Ukraine (which I posted in this column last Monday, June 19) were the following assertions:

“Why did the US persist in expanding NATO despite repeated warnings [by its own security officials and by Russia]? Profits from weapons sales was a major factor. Facing opposition to NATO expansion, a group of neoconservatives and top executives of US weapons manufacturers formed the US Committee to Expand NATO.

Between 1996 and 1998, the largest arms manufacturers spent $51 million ($94 million today) on lobbying and millions more on campaign contributions. With this largesse, NATO expansion quickly became a done deal, after which US weapons manufacturers sold billions of dollars of weapons to the new NATO members.”

(NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was set up by the US and several of its allies in 1949 as a military alliance to counter the USSR’s growing military strength after World War 2.)


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US weapons manufacturers pushed for Ukraine war

I WANT to be absolutely clear: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in unnecessary, horrific attacks against that country’s civilians. A UN agency reported that from the start of the war to May, there have been 23,606 civilian casualties: 8,791 killed and 14,815 injured. About 8 million, or 20 percent of that nation’s population have fled, throughout Europe.

Relentless attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have caused over $10 billion in damages and left over 12 million people with no or limited electricity, while also disrupting water supply and heating systems, according to a UN study.

Images from the article

But most people know this, as the powerful US media machine has been relentless in disseminating this view of the war, day in and day out.

What most people don’t know is that the US for nearly 20 years had provoked Russia to attack Ukraine. The US and NATO would have practically turned Ukraine into their platform for attacking Russia, or at the very least encircling it with its armies. Vladimir Putin had had enough of it but miscalculated that Ukraine would fall in a month at most. He probably never thought that even with its debt crisis, the US would spend $150 billion to provide the Ukrainians with all the modern weapons they could use — and soon, the state-of-art F-16 fighter planes. After all, the US military-industrial complex mainly gobbled up that $150 billion.

Such analysis and information came recently from people who would know, their patriotism unquestionable: 14 US national security experts and former US military officials who had manned the American defense establishment.


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Read more about the article Romualdez championing not PH foreign policy but the US’
‘Good work’? Biden with the Ambassador. PHOTO FROM FACEBOOK PAGE OF STARGATE PEOPLE ASIA
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Romualdez championing not PH foreign policy but the US’

JOSE Romualdez, our ambassador to Washington, D.C., has been implementing not Philippine foreign policy but that of America, which he confuses as our foreign policy. Especially as the US capital is the most important diplomatic post in the world and since he is the most talkative member of our foreign service corps, Romualdez has and will be reversing the gains in instilling nationalism among Filipinos made by late Foreign Affairs secretary Blas Ople, and of course former president Rodrigo Duterte.

Romualdez himself obliviously revealed his American worldview in an interview with the Hong Kong-based news website Asia Times. The interview was conducted by his big fan, also a pro-US, anti-China writer, Richard Heydarian, who himself seems unaware of the fundamental divergence between US and Philippine foreign-relations policies.

‘Good work’? Biden with the Ambassador. PHOTO FROM FACEBOOK PAGE OF STARGATE PEOPLE ASIA

In the Asia Times piece which was in a Q&A format so that there can be no doubt that the writer was merely transcribing verbatim Romualdez’s view, he said:
“We are facing a real geopolitical situation here. Our alliance with the United States, obviously, is a very important one because of where we are today and whatever we’re doing now — a lot of it is really about deterrence, especially in light of a potential conflict between the United States and China.
“We live in a global village, and the bottom line for us is this: Which side do you want — do we want to be on as a country? What kind of system of government do we want? Freedom and democracy, which are very important for us, or the autocratic government?”


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Our ambassador to Washington can’t be a toady to the US

Last of 2 parts

INDEED, an ambassador to the US or any country in the world is addressed as His (or Her) Excellency, the highest honorific title, to emphasize that he is the alter ego, the representative of the only official carrying that title here, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who represents a sovereign state.

Yet in deeds and in words, our ambassador to the US, Jose Romualdez, appears to be acting as if he is representing a vassal state.

As I explained in my column last Monday, his telling then-President Duterte to restore the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) so the Moderna anti-Covid vaccines, already paid for, would be released to us, is not what an ambassador would recommend. He would instead have told Duterte to complain to the world that this hegemon, the supposed champion of a rules-based international order, was violating basic commercial laws to gain a geopolitical advantage against its emerging rival, China.


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Exposed: The US’ vaccines-for-bases demand

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PRESIDENT Duterte in June 2021 recalled his order made in 2020 to end the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as a quid pro quo the US demanded for it to immediately release the already-paid Moderna vaccines urgently needed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic that was raging at that time.

Surprisingly, this was revealed by our ambassador to the US himself, Jose “Babe” Romualdez Jr., a cousin of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in an interview with the Hong Kong-based news website Asia Times by a pro-US, anti-China writer, Richard Heydarian. Ironically, this atrocious demand by the US was disclosed in the author’s obvious attempt to portray Romualdez in glowing terms, with the article titled: “The man behind Marcos’ swift shift to the US.” It was even Romualdez who convinced Duterte to restore the VFA, the article claimed.

The relevant part of the Asia Times interview reads as follows:

“Heydarian: What explains Duterte’s turnabout in his final months in office, particularly his decision to restore the Visiting Forces Agreement during US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to Manila in 2021? What happened there? Was he ever really serious about his threats against the alliance? Was this all about Duterte’s gratitude for large-scale US Covid-19 vaccine donations?


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Maharlika: The good and bad news… and the ugly

THE good news over the Senate’s passing of the Maharlika bill nearly one year into President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration is that it indicates that he still has the very strong support of that Senate, which traditionally easily turns opposition as soon as a president stumbles. After all, each of this gang of egotists thinks that because of their nationwide votes they are all “presidentiables.”

Why, even former president Rodrigo Duterte — whom Marcos has largely ignored and whose equidistant foreign policy vis-à-vis the US and China he has scrapped — seems to have supported the bill, going by the affirmative votes of his trusted lieutenants Christopher Go and Ronaldo de la Rosa (who I hope read the bill). That kind of political support, and I suspect his high satisfaction ratings if a poll is to be taken now, makes him a very powerful president to do what he likes.

The passage of the bill seeking to create a Maharlika Investment Fund (although a final version would have to be formulated by a joint committee of House of Representatives and the Senate) points to an important character of this president. Once he sets his mind on something, he won’t give up. That’s both good and bad. Woe to us if he becomes obstinate on a clearly disastrous policy — as I think his all-out embrace of the US and truculent stance towards China is.


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After half a century, Reds soon to be dead

THE British magazine The Economist’s lead paragraph in its May 3 article on the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was as hilarious as it was so revealing of the situation of the insurgency.

“Last month the guerrilla leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA) ordered its units all over the Philippines to give a 21-gun salute to two fallen heroes. Yet this martial display was diminished by an instruction to give the salute silently, either because the army is out of bullets or for fear a fusillade would alert the police.

The few hundred fighters who duly lined up (and presumably whispered “bang”) are all that remains of a once-formidable Maoist insurgency. The NPA was launched 54 years ago to overthrow an American-backed president, Ferdinand Marcos. It is now on the brink of yielding to his son and successor, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.”

If I were a “Far Side” cartoonist, a cartoon of that “salute” would have shown the NPA rebels being ordered to fart, instead of firing their guns.


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