Editor-in-Chief

Ignoring the warning signals

The

fall of foreign direct investments to the Philippines can

best

 be described as precipitous. Yet, it was not surprising, all

 things considered.

 The

 inflow of FDIs is only one measure of how well a country’s

 economy is going, but it does not solely measure the state

 of a nation. For

 now, it would appear that the Philippine economy is doing

 well. The construction boom continues, car sales

 are shooting through the roof, and the business process

 outsourcing industry is

 still doing well.

 Even

 the tourism industry is still relatively stable. But any and

 all of these positives can collapse in an instant and the

 Duterte

 administration will have no one to blame but

 itself.

 The

 sharp drop in FDIs can be interpreted to mean that the big

 players no longer see the Philippines in the same light as

 they did during the

 previous administration. Back then, the Philippines was

 considered as one of

 the best places to invest in. Foreign and local investors

 were placing their

funds in the stock market and directly to businesses such as

 real estate,

 manufacturing, transportation, and assorted services knowing

 full well that

 they would earn decent profits with no

 sweat.

 Foreigners,

 in particular, demand economic and political stability

 before they place their funds outside their home bases, and

 here is where the

 Philippine government, specifically the Duterte

 administration which remains in

 power until 2022, can expect trouble in the near

term.

 The

 Marawi crisis which lasted much longer than anyone expected

 showed that the Philippines could be targeted by ISIS with

 ease. The Maute

 group may be close to being destroyed by the Armed Forces of

 the Philippines,

 but the resilience they showed during the crisis could

 inspire other groups

 enamored with ISIS to challenge the national government

 anywhere, anytime.

 The

 unabated extrajudicial killings of drug suspects has also

 given the country a negative image worldwide, and no amount

 of denials by Mr.

 Duterte and his minions can erase the truth. Innocent

 civilians are being

killed in the name of the president’s war on drugs, and

 the last straw may have

 been when two minors were killed by policemen recently.

 Figures

will be debated, but the generally accepted figure is more

 than 10,000 mostly poor drug suspects have been killed by

 the Philippine

 National Police extrajudicially.

That’s

 about the size of a small town. And since the EJKs are

 ongoing, by the time Mr. Duterte steps down, the figure will

likely balloon to

 the point that the number of victims will be equivalent to

 the population of a

 big city.

 The

 real problem is actually Mr. Duterte himself. He never

 abandoned his mindset of thinking like a city mayor instead

of a president of a

 country.

His

 successes as administrator of Davao City are well known. He

 was able to clean up the city because he took an extreme

hardline stance

 against criminality. There were constant rumors of Mr.

 Duterte personally

 killing criminals, and depending on when and who he is

 speaking with, the

 president himself claims to have shot to death a number of

hardened crooks.

 His

 declaration of martial law in all of Mindanao and recent

 threat to place the entire country under his one-man rule

was one more reason

 that foreign investors have opted to take their funds

 elsewhere.

 We all

know the saying: You can’t teach an old dog new

tricks.

 The

president can talk the talk all he wants, and he has enough

sycophants surrounding him to tell him all is well.

Unfortunately for him, his administration’s flaws and weaknesses have now been laid

bare for all the world

 to see.

 A few

 days ago, the results of a new survey showed that his

 popularity had taken a sudden dive. As expected, Malacanang

 spin doctors said

 there was nothing wrong with this, and that there was no

need to worry.

 Those

same mouthpieces want the public to believe that the falling

 investments are a temporary glitch and that the economy

 remains strong.

 It’s

 not. In the weeks and months to come, the shaky state of the

 economy will become clearer to all as the prices of goods

 and services rise and

 the growth will sputter. Perhaps not to a halt, but enough

 to cause a steady rise

 in unemployment and the instability that goes with

it.

Mr.

 Duterte will not care because he knows that he cannot be

 removed from office. He cannot be impeached because

impeachment proceedings

begin at the House of Representatives, the majority of whom

 have pledged their

 loyalty to him.

They

 are the reason the Philippines now feels like a sinking

 ship.

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What is he thinking?

 

 
President Rodrigo Duterte likes cracking jokes, many of which fail to hit the mark. There are also times when he says something not intended as a joke, but which elicit laughter anyway.
This week, he came up with a biggie.
It is well known that like US President Donald Trump, Mr. Duterte has no love lost for media. He only appreciates media organizations which treat him like an emperor, which is why print and broadcast media organizations which have an independent streak are on his hit list.
The president hates ABS-CBN and he abhors the Philippine Daily Inquirer, among others. When he meant to snap at ABS headman Gabby Lopez earlier this week, he cursed actor Gabby Concepcion instead.
For those who may not know who Gabby Concepcion is, the guy is an actor who was big in the 80s. He married superstar Sharon Cuneta and the two had one daughter, KJ Concepcion who occasionally dabbles in acting.
Unfortunately, the political bug hit Gabby Concepcion after he split from his first wife, and he took the daughter of a local politico as his partner. He then ran for mayor, but his stardom was not enough to convince voters to give him a try.
In this regard, he is not unlike Richard Gomez who has run multiple times for a variety of elective posts, losing each time.
The moral lesson here is that good looks will not be enough to get elected mayor, governor, or senator. And don’t think of Joseph Estrada who has been mayor, senator, president, and mayor again. The man called Erap was never a matinee idol.
But I digress. For whatever reason, Gabby Concepcion was again in the news courtesy of Mr. Duterte. All this is well and good, I suppose, since Gabby Concepcion has never been able to regain his popularity after returning to the Philippines after a lengthy spell in the US. His movie roles have been sparse, as well as his TV roles. What he’s become mildly successful at is as endorser of a few consumer products such as bottled water.
Then came Mr.Duterte’s verbal error.
It was an unintentional joke heard all over the archipelago, so much so that  hashtags quuckly appeared on Facebook, to wit: #Standwith Gabby Concepcion, and #JusticeforGabbyConcepcion.
This is only the beginning. Soon, I expect videos to appear demanding that the former matinee idol be allowed to post bail despite committing plunder, or begging former wife Sharon Cuneta to give him a second chance, or asking either the opposition Liberal Party or administration PDP-Laban to include him in their Senate slates in the next elections.
A lot of silliness will crop up because of Mr. Duterte’s possibly honest mistake. I say possibly because it is not impossible to think that the president really had the actor in mind. Maybe he asked Gabby Concepcion to endorse him when he ran for president, and he declined? Who knows?
So I really wanted to ask, What was he thinking? But instead, I need to ask, What is he thinking?
From his actions, it would appear that the chief executive is not thinking clearly anymore. He says things off the top of his head which make little sense, and for whatever reason he has developed a habit of calling for press conferences in the wee hours of the early morning.
His words and his actions are disturbing, to say the least. It’s a good thing that the Philippines is still a developing country because it would be unthinkable for a president of a developed nation to say many of the things Mr. Duterte says.
Mr. Trump may say something stupid such as calling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Rocket Man, and the consequences could be most dire. The insult is being used by the communist state to say that the US has, in effect, declared war on them.
For Mr. Duterte, there may be no consequences at all. 
Recall that only last week, he openly admitted lying about the supposed bank records of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. This he did when interviewed over government television.
Nothing happened, or course. He lied last week, then lambasted an aging actor this week. What more can he do, I cannot say. What a lot of people are saying is that the president who previously admitted to regularly taking the dangerous drug fentanyl is no floating the idea that his daughter, the current mayor of Davao City, can succeed him when his term ends.
More inspired nonsense, huh?
But no, he is not insane. The fact that he refuses to sign a waiver so that his bank accounts can be revealed to the public shows that Mr. Duterte is still of sound mind, one that has a lot of secrets.
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Too good to be true?

At the risk of sounding banal, I have to repeat the old saying: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Too good to be true, that is.
This week, President Rodrigo Duterte said something that almost turned me into a Dutertard. The chief executive claimed that he had spoken to an unidentified member of the Marcos camp, and the family of the late dictator had promised to return their ill-gotten wealth.
As my favorite actor Keanu Reeves likes to say in nearly all of his movies, I also told myself: Whoa.
Could this be real? Had Mr. Duterte enlightened the Marcoses to realize the error of their ways? Had he convinced them to surrender what they took from the nation’s coffers so that they may finally clean their soiled reputations in the history books?
No. Not quite.
To backtrack, I was browsing through Facebook as I am wont to do every morning. One of my friends posted a one-liner about Duterte saying the Marcoses would return their ill-gotten wealth. To my friend, I stated: Fake news?
I was so convinced that it was so implausible that I didn’t think more of it. That greedy family would in my mind never ever return the wealth that turned their patriarch into one of the biggest thieves of all time. Not my judgment, but this is according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Or as Filipinos would say, this would only happen “pagputi ng uwak,” or when the crows or blackbirds turn white.
Later in the day, I browsed through my favorite news sites, the ones I still find as being generally honest and fair. Lo and behold, it was true. Sort of. The president did, in fact, say that the Marcoses were now willing to return their wealth, including “a few gold bars.”
Listening to the president speak, it became clear that while he may indeed have spoken to one of the Marcoses, the promise to return their ill-gotten wealth was so full of vague conditions as to be little more than double talk, or gobbledygook as some wordsmiths would call it.
What the Marcos spokesperson said was that whatever the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) could find, they would return.
Such malarkey.
The late dictator had stolen billions of pesos, or even dollars, that the few hundred millions that the PCGG had recovered over the last three decades was a proverbial drop in the bucket.
While no one truly knows the full extent of the greed and thievery of Ferdinand Marcos, simply seeing the current lifestyles of his immediate family is proof that vast amounts remain in their pockets, beyond the reach of the government in general, and the PCGG, in particular.
It is known that at the height of martial law, the bulk of the country’s gold reserves was flown out of the country. Where that gold went is a secret only the Marcos family knows. It may be stashed away in Switzerland, or it may be in several banks in countries that are completely inaccessible.
Indeed, Marcos and his family have managed to commit the perfect crime. They were able to rob the country blind and get away with it, and still have his mortal remains buried in a heroes cemetery. Moreover, his wife, son and one of two daughters have been elected to government positions again and again.
Worst of all, Marcos institutionalized corruption in high places such that today, anyone who enters government service has the choice of making illicit money and have a good chance of keeping all of it when he exits the government. More often than not, the elected or appointed government officials will succumb to the temptation of earning dirty money.
No wonder the Philippines has become a narco-state, as President Duterte says it is.
Perhaps the Marcoses really will return some of their ill-gotten wealth, which they are now claiming they only kept “for safekeeping” in the event the dictator was kicked out of the country and the Philippine economy were to take a tailspin.
This new line may or may not work with the electorate. Their old line that the dictator’s vast unexplained wealth was because he had found the fabled Yamashita’s treasure had few takers. Perhaps the more gullible among our countrymen will believe their yarn that they were just acting as mere guardians of the country’s wealth.
Such bull. Don’t believe the Marcoses when they say they will return anything to the government and the people. Just as crows and blackbirds will forever remain black, the family of the ousted dictator will never return the bulk of their ill-gotten, unexplained wealth. To do so would be to undo the perfect crime their old man got away with.

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This one’s for Mike

A friend of mine was shot to death last week.
He was not just shot to death. The better word would be murdered, or even assassinated.
My friend’s name is Michael ‘Mike’ Marasigan, and we worked together at Business World almost three decades ago when I came in as a desk assistant and he was the chief of reporters.
Mike was with his brother Christopher, who was also killed. The two of them were in Mike’s SUV driving along San Juan when two men riding in tandem in a motorcycle stopped them and pumped 34 bullets into the pair.
It was a little past 6:00 pm and witnesses said the motorcycle had no plate number. It was also learned that someone had been casing Mike’s residence in the days preceding the killing.
In other words, it was a planned murder, not some random act of violence as had been suggested. The killer definitely used a semi-automatic pistol considering the number of shots fired. He also made sure that Mike would not survive as six bullets found their mark, two in the neck and four in the body.
As of this writing, there are still no leads as to who masterminded the killing, and who actually fired the shots.
I am writing about this case for several reasons.
I had been interviewed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer and I repeat what I said to their reporter: Mike had no known enemies. He was one of the nicest guys around. Amiable is the word PDI used to describe him, and it is quite fitting.
An undersecretary who works in Malacanang called me up the day after the killing to ask about Mike. This usec is also in charge of investigating media killings since he was a former reporter. He worked under me in two newspapers and was quite serious in saying that they would do everything to get to the bottom of the crime. I know he will.
The National Bureau of Investigation has taken charge of the investigation, and I am not surprised that the case will be difficult to solve. Indeed, Mike was an honest-to-goodness Mr. Nice Guy, one who was quick to laugh and ready to help anyone in need.
He was also a successful businessman, having put up a video production house as well as a public relations practice. Right after retiring from Business World a decade or so ago, he went into producing films about the country’s tourism spots.
His most high profile PR client was Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez.
With this background, what reason would anyone have to kill him?
At his wake earlier this week, a mutual friend asked me the same question. In talking to other Business World alumni, our shared shock was due to our long-held belief that we were insulated from the violence that sometimes exists in local media. After all, we were not tabloid or radio journalists constantly spoiling for a fight. We were pros who did our job such that no one could question anything we ever wrote.
We were business journalists, for God’s sake.
I am saddened since I will not be present for Mike’s memorial service where friends are asked to tell their Mike Marasigan stories, of which I have plenty. But I know that Mike will understand because I am closing this newspaper on the day he makes his final exit.
During our time together, we did what we had to do. Work always came first. Then we would go out and have drinks, and boy could Mike drink.
The last time I saw him was a few months ago when we had a party for a balikbayan reporter from BW. After everyone had gone home, as mall group of us stayed behind to drink some more.
We talked about the good old days under the Locsins. But we did not only delve in the past. Mike and I may have been in our 60s already, but we still had many things we wanted to do, to accomplish. We still had a lot of living to do. And every so often, we would have such reunions where we could eat, drink, and be very merry.
We ended on a high note in the wee hours of the morning that time knowing that there would always be a next time. We would still drink ice cold beer or single malt whiskeys that he now favored.
Now, he will no longer have the chance. A paid assassin made sure of that.

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They did it again

The Philippine National Police – and by virtue of the principle of command responsibility, President Rodrigo Duterte – did it again. The PNP committed what appears to be nothing less than cold-blooded murder. In fact, what happened to Ozamis City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., his wife, son and nine associates was not simple murder, but a massacre.
It does not matter if the now deceased mayor was a mafia-style drug lord, which is what the Duterte government is saying in so many words. Because Parojinog was guilty as sin, he and his clan had forfeited their right to live. This is now the logic that has become prevalent within the PNP, and we all have a right be afraid of what comes next.
Using that logic, in the early morning hours of Sunday, this week, ostensibly to serve a warrant, the PNP killed everyone in the household of the Ozamis mayor.
The first obvious question: why was a warrant being served at 3:00 in the morning?
Standard procedure, is it? I think not.
I have never been involved in law enforcement in any way, shape or form, but I’d like to think that I still have some common sense. Granting for the sake of argument that Mayor Pajorinog and his group had indeed fired at the policemen serving the warrant, wasn’t the reaction of the cops a severe case of overkill?
Not only were they a larger force with superior firearms – a grenade was hurled at the house of the mayor, which almost certainly caused some of the fatalities – but the advantage was completely theirs. They had the place surrounded, after all.
The PNP team could have used tear gas, or they could have waited until morning by which time the mayor and everyone inside the house would have realized that they had no choice but to surrender.
All news reports state that not a single cop was killed or injured by the supposed shooting coming from inside the mayor’s house. So was there really a need to eliminate everyone inside?
Let me state that I do not know any of the victims of the heinous crime committed at the start of this week by the very force that has a sworn duty to protect and to serve. I wasn’t even aware of the existence of the late mayor and his cohorts. All I know is what I’ve read in the papers, and heard and seen on TV as well as online news.
Like everyone, I have too many questions about what happened, and I doubt if those questions will ever be answered.
There is a bothersome trend that has emerged with this week’s killing of the Ozamis mayor. He was the third mayor who had been tagged by the president as narcopoliticians to be shot to death by the PNP.
Previously, Datu Saudi Ampatuan mayor Samsudin Dimaukom died in a shootout with the police. But the worst of the killings of Mindanao mayors accused of being involved in the illegal drug trade has to be the case of Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa, who was already detained in a prison when he was executed gangland style by a PNP team.
That team, quite incidentally, was suspended but was recently reinstated by the PNP brass, supposedly because of the country’s shortage of cops.
So what is the ordinary citizen supposed to make of all this?
Literally thousands of Filipinos have been killed in the name of President Duterte’s war on drugs, yet the drug menace has not been eradicated. If anything, it’s only gotten worse, as proven by the massive shabu haul that came out this week. Reportedly, more than 600 kilos of shabu worth some P6.4 billion had come in from China by passing through legitimate channels.
The shipment passed through the Bureau of Customs, leading some lawmakers to conclude that corrupt customs personnel were in cahoots with the drug lords.
That wholesale importation of shabu may have been unearthed by the government, but doesn’t it prove that the drug lords remain as active as ever? Why else would they dare to bring in illegal drugs if they were not certain that they could distribute the same, and continue to earn billions?
In the weeks and months to come, more local government officials suspected of being involved in the narcotics trade are likely to be killed. No longer will anyone be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
As long as the president points to anyone as being a narcopolitician, his or her days are numbered. This is known as Duterte’s Law.

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Digong said, Joma said

One of the oddest exchanges of words we’ve seen in the last week was between President Rodrigo ‘Digong’ Duterte and Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria ‘Joma’ Sison.
The pair have known each other for many decades. As young men, Duterte was a student under then Professor Sison in the ‘60s.
The two gents exchanged accusations that the other was seriously sick. Mr. Duterte was more specific when he said that Joma had colon cancer, while Joma retorted that it was the president who was gravely ill. Of what, he did not specify.
Mr.Duterte, the communist leader pointed out, had yet to explain his one-week absence from the public eye last month. It was not the first time that the president disappeared either. He had done so on at least two previous occasions, but last month was the longest period he had been absent.
Digong is 72, while Joma is 78. No spring chickens they, but both are still relatively sharp mentally, although between the two it is the younger Duterte who has had mental lapses in recent months. Now and then, he rambles when giving speeches, jumping from topic to topic just like US President Donald Trump.
The once warm relations between the two Filipino leaders has cooled off recently after the president scrapped – again – the peace talks between the Left and the national government.
It’s difficult to point out which side is at fault. In fact, it now seems that a final peace agreement between the two sides will never take place in this lifetime. This is a shame since Mr. Duterte has had the closest ties to the underground Left among all Philippine presidents, yet even he has not been able to settle the rift that divides the two sides.
In resorting to an all-out war policy, Mr. Duterte has made sure that the communist rebellion – one of the oldest if not THE oldest in the world -- will continue for a few more years, if not decades. The president is following in the footsteps of another chief executive, a populist who could have ended the six decades’ old rebellion. This was deposed president and now Manila mayor Erap Estrada. Despite referring to himself as maka-masa, Erap called for total war against the Left as well as the Muslim rebellion in the south, resulting in thousands of needless deaths.
One other president who stood an excellent chance of ending not only the communist but also the Muslim rebellion to put up an independent homeland in Mindanao was Fernando Poe Jr., but he was cheated out of the presidency by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
But that’s another story.
Messrs. Duterte and Sison are never going to forge a permanent and lasting peace between the national government and the underground Left even if they wanted to because the situation on the ground has become too complex. Too much illicit money is involved, and the operatives on the ground will not give up the millions that they earn each month that easily.
For the government, this means essentially the Armed Forces of the Philippines, of which Mr. Duterte is the titular commander in chief. The AFP would lose billions in “aid” from the US, and other friendly states, which now includes China and Russia.
The billions of pesos budgeted for the AFP would be slashed, which means the kickbacks for the procurement of equipment, arms, etc. would be lost to the bean counters within the armed forces.
It’s pretty easy to see who in the AFP earns millions. They’re the ones who retire with a lot more in assets than they should have, but whom even the mighty Commission on Audit is wary of investigating.
The leftists who are actually businessmen are even harder to identify. The leaders of the underground usually retire to their farms with secret golden parachutes. Others, like Joma, even end up as what the late Doroy Valencia called “steak commandos,” waging war against the established order from the comfort of their foreign homes. They also receive pensions from their host governments, incidentally.
For his part, Mr. Duterte has realized that he has to turn the AFP and to a lesser extent the Philippine National Police leadership into his new best friends, at least for as long as he is president. Without the AFP and the PNP's backing, Mr. Duterte’s hold on the presidency will be too precarious, and he knows it.
So now we can expect to have more public exchanges, more insults and put downs, between Messrs. Duterte and Sison. By their actions, neither of the two truly wants peace.

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Is Digong Duterte losing it?

This is not to insult the fans and followers of President Rodrigo ‘Digong’ Duterte, -- I am sure there are still a handful of them out there – but we really have to now ask, Is he still of sound mind?
From his latest words and actions, it would seem that the country’s chief executive is losing it. Literally, losing it.
He appears almost clueless as to what is happening in Marawi now. Mr. Duterte must be reminded that he is also commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. His claim that he was not aware that US troops had joined the AFP in ending the crisis in Marawi is mind boggling.
He has also said in various occasions that the NPA and Nur Misuari’s MNLF should join the fray, then backtracked by saying that the underground Left should not have a part in the government’s efforts to wipe out the Maute group, which remains in control of some parts of Marawi as of this writing.
Recall that the president said the Marawi “incident” would be over by May 31 and that the Maute group was little more than a nuisance, a ragtag band that had been created by a group of drug dealers.
Not true, of course. The ISIS-linked Maute group has proven itself to be a major thorn on the side of the AFP, and driving them out of Marawi could take a few more weeks, perhaps months.
Yes, Mr. Duterte has paid tribute to the AFP’s men who have fallen in the ongoing battle for the city. He has attended their wakes and promised to help their families. This is all well and good, and is part of the job of the president. He must not only condole with the country’s fallen heroes, he must be seen by the people to be doing so.
Being commander in chief involves so much more than public perceptions though. To admit that he was not aware that foreign troops were actively engaged in the battle against homegrown terrorists means that he is no longer totally in charge of his mental facilities.
That the Marawi attack happened at all indicates that there was a failure of the intelligence community to keep tabs on what was already a known terrorist organization that was active in the area.
In the private sector, when a chief executive officer is no longer able to perform the task of running the company, the course of action to be taken is obvious. That CEO is asked to resign, or is relieved of his post if he fails to admit that he is no longer able to run the company.
Digong Duterte’s absence during this week’s Independence Day rites is yet another reason to believe that he is no longer fit for office. The poor excuse that he was “not feeling well” is lame, at best, and was an outright lie, at worst.
All he needed to do was to wake up early, head for Rizal Park, and give a short speech. He was not being asked to deliver a Gettysburg address. It was nothing more than a photo op to show the people that their president is alive and well and in control.
One day after he missed that very important event, Malacanang had the temerity to announce that the president was in excellent health and only needed some rest.
Already, there is talk that Mr. Duterte should simply be allowed to play the role of president by cutting ribbons and showing up at public events on a regular basis, while letting his Cabinet run the country as some kind of cabal whose only goal is to stay in power until the end of the president’s term.
This same cabal has already gotten used to disseminating false news and getting away with it.
As the latest proof, so-called Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre showed “evidence” that opposition senators were behind the Marawi attack by displaying an old picture of those lawmakers having lunch. After his falsehood was exposed, Aguirre was not even man enough to admit his mistake.
Meanwhile, the Palace’s spin doctors announced that the injustice sec was doing a terrific job and had the full confidence of the president.
For ordinary citizens, it can be downright scary to see a president losing control, all the while surrounded by yes men and sycophants telling him – and us – that all is well and good.
This is what it was like during dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s waning years of misrule. A sick man is the head of state and he is now lost.
Why we are back to this sorry state is difficult to fathom. But this is exactly where we are.

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Preparing to cross the line

President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that he will defy the Supreme Court if the high tribunal does not toe his line in relation to his declaration of martial law last week is the clearest indication that he will perpetuate himself in power, even if he is fully aware that he does not have too many good years left.
Very likely, he plans to follow in the footsteps of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, but at a different pace. Where the former strongman first set the stage for the imposition of martial law by first suspending the writ of habeas corpus, Mr. Duterte didn’t even bother to prepare the people for the worst.
What he did was to declare martial law in all of Mindanao, but immediately followed this up with a statement that he was prepared to place the entire country under his one-man rule on the vague condition that he will take the draconian measure if terrorists enter the Visayas and Luzon.
Under the current regime where fake news proliferates, it will come as no surprise if fake terrorists are spotted in Metro Manila, who will then commit some unspeakable act of terrorism and voila! The regime has a perfect excuse to declare martial law nationwide.
This was done before by Marcos, who had then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile fake an assassination attempt just before Presidential Decree 1081 placing the Philippines under martial rule was signed. Enrile himself admitted that the supposed assassination attempt on his person was faked.
The way Mr. Duterte has been acting, it will not be impossible or even improbable for his regime to dictate to Congress to legitimize his version of 1081, and to switch from legitimately elected Philippine president to illegitimate dictator for life.
He can then do one of two things: prepare his anointed successor during this period, which can either be his daughter Sarah, or worst, defeated vice presidential bet Bongbong Marcos.
Being a lawyer but nowhere near possessing the admitted brilliant legal mind of the older Marcos, Mr. Duterte will have to have his subordinates legally justify the soon-to-be permanent state of martial law in the country. Unfortunately, the lawyers in his Cabinet are a most unimpressive bunch.
And with an independent-minded Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the person of Lourdes Sereno, the Duterte legal cabal are overmatched. It is for this reason that the president said he would defy the SC if it rules against his martial law, or any of the acts committed by the administration related thereto.
For Marcos, his justification was to “save the republic and reform society,” which was later the basis for his ridiculous New Society.
Mr. Duterte is more blunt. He says he will declare marital law nationwide “to save the people,” whatever that means. The only people who need saving are the unfortunate poor suspected of using drugs who continue to be killed extrajudicially on a daily basis.
As expected, Mr.Duterte’s apologists tried to tone down his “I will defy the Supreme Court” stance by saying he did not exactly mean what he said. 
Yeah, right.
Just like his telling the Armed Forces that he would “allow” soldiers to rape up to three, but never four or more women while doing their duty. At least this is better than Ferdinand Marcos’s martial law, when soldiers and even policemen could do as they wish. Literally tens of thousands of Filipinos were raped and/or killed.
By perpetuating himself in power, Mr. Duterte is setting the stage not only for a repeat of the rampant abuses during the Marcos martial law period, he all but guarantees that the situation will be much, much worse. The country’s economy which was left in good shape by former President Noynoy Aquino will be the first victim. Foreign investments will disappear, while those who are part of the Duterte regime will commit brazen acts of plunder from the highest to the lowest levels.
In 1986, the Philippines found a savior in a small group of reform-minded officers of the Armed Forces who inspired millions of Filipinos to force the Marcoses and their cronies out of the country. Perhaps it is within the same Armed Forces of the Philippines that another group of young officers will recognize the evil that is martial law and take whatever measure is necessary to end it and restore the country’s democratic institutions.
It must begin with the head of state unconditionally accepting that the chief justice of the Supreme Court is his co-equal, and not his subordinate.
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Duterte’s fatal attraction

Offhand, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with President Rodrigo Duterte going to Russia in order, he says, to correct the country’s “overdependence on traditional partners.”
Presumably the Philippines’ chief executive expects to receive the same kind of “friendly” aid that China has committed to the country, specifically billions of dollars in soft loans and outright grants, plus thousands of free firearms for the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as the Philippine National Police.
So off he goes this week to the Kremlin to presumably meet President Vladimir Putin, whom Duterte now calls “my friend” and whom he had previously expressed high admiration for.
By his words and by his actions, Mr. Duterte is hell bent on pivoting the country’s economic, social, and political ties to the two former communist superpowers at the expense of more traditional allies such as the US and Japan.
This may be his prerogative but for one thing. All surveys show that the majority of Filipinos still prefer to side with the US and still have a strong distrust for China. 
And why shouldn’t they? China continues to encroach on Philippine territory and very recently threatened to wage war on the country – you know, it’s the one that Mr. Duterte is supposed to protect with his life -- if it tries to occupy any of the islets the Asian power claims to be theirs, but which are infinitely closer to the Philippine land mass than to China.
At least Russia hasn’t done anything that can even be remotely considered as a threat to the Philippines’ integrity.
Still, the question must be asked: Why Russia, of all countries?
There are no strong ties linking the Philippines and Russia, and the number of citizens of both states living and working in the other is minimal, at best, choosing Russia over such countries as Australia, New Zealand, and India, among others, must be considered as odd, to say the least.
By his own admission, Mr. Duterte admits that he is now addicted to the powerful drug Fentanyl, so this must be clouding his thinking. Maybe addicted is too strong a word, but what else can be said of his imbibing the drug on a daily basis, without which he says he cannot function normally?
                                                Russian “tools”
A story is told about the late Indonesian strongman Sukarno, who once paid a visit to the former USSR (the former superpower centered around Mother Russia). In order to assure that the Indon leader would always toe the communist Russian line, he was gifted with a prostitute or two while there.
Russia’s use of sex as a tool to keep both its friends and enemies in check is widely known. So after his visit, Sukarno was reportedly informed that there were highly incriminating photos of him in the act. The veiled threat was that the photos would become public if he ever did anything that Russia disapproved of.
They did not realize that Bong Sukarno was a man made of sterner stuff. He called the Russian dare, even offering to show the photos over Indonesian television. The Russkies backed off, of course.
More recently, a stunning  Russian spy was uncovered while working for their embassy in the US. The pretty woman did not deny that she was working for Russian intelligence, and had bedded some powerful US politicians.
When she was forced to go back home, she received a heroine’s welcome. Presumably, she is still working for Russian intelligence, but no longer as a spy.
At the very least, Mr. Duterte should be wary of the “gifts” he will receive while paying a visit to Mr. Putin, who he must be reminded was once head of the dreaded KGB. 
The Philippine president is most welcome to receive aid, grants, weapons and whatever else Russia offers the country, but he must make sure that his admitted weakness for the ladies does not put him in a most precarious situation.
Incidentally, rumors were rife some months ago that US President Donald Trump is so enamored with Russia for the wrong reason. In a visit to the Kremlin not too long ago, he was reportedly given the same gift or tool that Russia likes to offer foreign leaders.
The rumor mill says that he and his host/hosts engaged in some bedroom games involving golden showers.
I don’t want to believe that this POTUS has ever done anything that smacks of perversion, but who knows? He remains attracted to Putin and Russia and only he can say why. But just to be on the safe side, maybe he should warn his Philippine counterpart?
Mr.Duterte’s attraction to China and Russia may just turn fatal for him one of these days.
 
 
 
 
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Why the VIP treatment for a plunderer?

I am not a lawyer but I see something terribly wrong with the way Janet Lim Napoles is being treated by the Duterte regime, specifically the Department of Justice, but also by the president himself.
When President Rodrigo Duterte opined months ago that maybe Napoles was not as guilty as had been presumed – presumptions based on mountains of evidence – it seemed that it would only be a matter of time when she would be cleared of charges.
This hasn’t happened yet, but the initial steps have been taken, and they have to disturb anyone who still believes that the guilty must be charged and convicted in a court of law, and the innocent set free.
To recall, Napoles and her brother (who remains in hiding) had found themselves an obscene but highly profitable gold mine in the pork barrel allocations that congressmen and senators had been granting themselves for decades.
Since all the country’s lawmakers had given themselves millions every year to dole out to their pet projects, these pork barrel allocations had been a source of graft and corruption.
In many cases, the projects – usually public works -- were overpriced and the results substandard. The lawmakers would award the projects to favored contractors, who then built the low grade roads, bridges, school buildings, basketball courts, waiting sheds and the like, making huge profits in the process.
Naturally, the lawmakers received their share of the pie. Under the table and tax free, of course.
This went on for the longest time, until Napoles came up with one bright idea: Why build projects at all? Why not create ghost non-government organizations concocting impossible-to-audit projects to receive pork barrel funds?
The millions – billions actually – would be shared between the lawmakers who doled out the funds to the NGOs, and Napoles.
Improbable as it seems in this 21st century, this is exactly what Napoles and her cohorts did. But as the saying goes, the truth will eventually come out, and when it did a good number of congressmen and senators were found to have been active and willing participants to the scheme.
In the case of three senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla – the amounts doled out and the kickbacks they received were sufficient enough for them to be charged with plunder, meaning they gifted themselves with more than P50 million in rebates. That’s roughly $1 millon in today’s exchange rate.
Estrada and Revilla are now incarcerated, while the court allowed the 90-something Enrile to post bail owing to his advanced years and frail health.
Napoles, meanwhile, was also incarcerated not only for her role in the plunder of pork barrel funds, but also because she had kept a former employee and distant relative imprisoned inside a rest home for Catholic priests in an exclusive Makati village. Benhur Luy was that Napoles employee who revealed the scam after he had been rescued by the NBI.
In my book, if a guy says he was kept against his will, and if his close relatives say he was kept against his will, then in all probability he was kept against his will. A court therefore convicted Napoles for illegal detention.
Under the Duterte regime, the law seems to have become ultra-selective. Janet Napoles has been getting special treatment for unknown reasons, although any fairly intelligent person can guess why. She was recently cleared of the illegal detention charges by the Court of Appeals, at the behest of the Justice department.
We can see where this is going. Sooner or later, she will also be cleared of the plunder raps she is now facing. Naturally, the senators will likewise be set free. This is justice, Duterte style, ladies and gentlemen.
Having amassed billions of pesos, most of which remains unaccounted for, Napoles still wields a lot of clout. And with so many congressmen having been in her payroll in the past, they would rather that their names be kept out of public scrutiny. For this reason, they will do anything to keep Napoles happy.
Very recently, the pork barrel queen requested that she be kept in a cell separate from the hoi polloi criminals she is imprisoned with, citing threats to her life.
Request granted, of course.
It isn’t only now that VIPs get preferential treatment, of course. For the longest time, rich criminals are treated like kings and queens because their jailors are aware of what they can do. They can be generous to their captors, which is the case with too many wealthy crooks to mention.
As for the poor, they don’t even get their day in court. The policy now is to shoot them rather than spend government funds for their capture, detention, trial and incarceration.
Such is the Philippine judicial system, circa 2017.
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