Beting Dolor

Editor-In- Chief

Meaningless numbers

US President Donald Trump likes to talk about “fake news” a lot. Anything that he feels reflects badly on himself as a person as well as his administration and presidency is automatically dismissed as fake news.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte? Not so much. Unlike his American counterpart, Mr. Duterte can dismiss any news he does not like because he truly does not give a damn, with few exceptions.
This is not to say that he is dismissive of all negative news about his presidency. When someone in his administration releases data that does not conform to the view that he has created about the state of the country, that government official can expect to be summarily dismissed, and later accused of wrongdoing.
Ask the average Filipino if extrajudicial killings (EJKs) are a fact of life in his country, and nine times out of 10 you will get a yes. Even from Duterte diehards. I know a few such Dutertards and they offer the same reason – those killed are mostly scum of the earth who deserve what they got.
But ask that same Pinoy how many of his countrymen have been victims of EJKs and you will get a blank stare, at best, or a wild guess, at worst.
So what’s the true number? Is it four thousand? Five thousand? Ten thousand? More?
The chances of getting an accurate answer are lower than low since no one really knows.
Ask the Philippine National Police and they will cite statistics that say only a handful – maybe two or three – have been killed by cops extrajudicially, and in all cases the policemen involved were rogues to begin with, and have been administratively charged and/or dismissed. Blah blah blah.
One reason for the huge discrepancy in figures may be because a good number of the EJKs were committed by men riding in tandem in motorcycles. There are literally hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of cases of men riding in tandem targeting supposed drug users or peddlers.
The Dutertards whom I know may be half right. Drug pushers deserve to be put to death for the ills they spread upon society, but only after they have been charged and proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. It is the killing of drug users that I take issue with the Duterte administration. It is only in the Philippines where these drug addicts and dependents – who should be considered as victims – are considered criminals.
When I was in high school, most of us at least tried marijuana and other illegal substances. We were kids, not criminals. So if we were in high school during these Duterte years, does that mean that we should be put to death by tandem-riding assassins?
We all know the answer to that one. And just to prove that drug users can rid themselves of the habit, I am proud to say that the majority of the guys I smoked weed with back then are now productive members of society, either as professionals, top executives, or highly successful entrepreneurs.
There were tragic exceptions, of course. Those who could not escape the habit saw their health collapse when they should have been at the prime of their lives, and passed away with friends and family regretting that they never attained their full potential.
I will say it again and again: drug dependents do not deserve to be killed by the police or the vigilantes acting in the name of their idol, President Duterte. One figure that landed one executive of the administration in hot water came from the chief executive himself, who said early in his regime that there are at least 1.5 million Filipinos hooked on drugs.
Where he got this figure is not clear, but Mr. Duterte stands by it.
The EJKs have had a chilling effect on society. We have become jaded to the senseless killings.
In other cases, the motorcycle-riding killers snuff out lives of men and women who are not even involved in drugs in any way. To this day, a friend and colleague of mine who was killed by motorcycle riding assassins earlier this year has remained just one of the thousands of victims who may never find justice.
He has become just another statistic, and soon enough his case will be forgotten.
How many more will be killed extrajudicially during the Duterte administration?
Nobody knows. But if just 10 percent of the supposed 1.5 million drug dependents are targeted, that means 150,000 Filipinos will die in the name of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs. If we put the number of killed thus far at 10,000, Then the police and the vigilante-assassins have 140,000 more to go.
Meaningless numbers? I think not.


Duterte offers to be dialogue partner with North Korea

By BetingLaygo Dolor, Editor-in-Chief with GMA News

MANILA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte mayyet play a role in diffusing the tensions between the US and North Korea, whichthreaten to explode into a full blown nuclear war unless a diplomatic solutionis found.

Tensions between North Korea and the US had deterioratedto dangerous levels this week, with the Hermit Kingdom threatening to bomb USterritory Guam. This, after PresidentDonald Trump had vowed “fire and fury like the world has never seen” shouldNorth Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un continue to threaten the US.

Recently approved UN Security Council sanctionswere the toughest yet and are sure to hurt the already fragile North Koreaneconomy, which is heavily dependent on trade with China.

Although China also approved the latest sanctions,North Korea blames the US and its allies Japan and South Korea for their being passedby the UN.

President Duterte on Tuesday, August 8, exchangedpleasantries with North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, shaking hands atthe 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) atthe Philippine International Convention Center.

“We are very pleased to have you here,” Dutertesaid.

Ri, in turn, congratulated the ASEAN, which thePhilippines is chairing this year, on its 50th anniversary.

"We would be a good dialogue partner,"Duterte replied.

Duterte's brief exchange with Ri comes days afterthe Philippine president called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "tarantado" and "buang," referring to the East Asiannation's nuclear threat.

North Korea is not a dialogue partner of the ASEAN,but it is part of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which gathers 27 foreignministers - including those of Russia, Japan, the United States, China andSouth Korea - to discuss security issues.

The US had previously called on the ASEAN todowngrade ties with North Korea, including itsremoval from the ARF. Japan has also called on the ASEAN to apply morepressure on North Korea.

Amid missile fears, North Korea has assuredthat it wouldn'tuse nuclear weapons on any country unless it joins a military action by the US.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, whowas on Duterte's side when he welcomed Ri, said the President welcomed theopportunity to have a dialogue during the ARF.

"What the President told me is that the ARF isa good venue for everyone to dialogue and for us to hear out North Korea andhopefully they will listen. That's what I understand," he told reportersafter his press conference at the ASEAN International Media Center.

Cayetano pointed out that the ASEAN knew that theARF is the lone regional organization or forum where the North Korean ministerattends.

"My understanding is that it was in thatcontext that he welcomed him here... But it was in the sincere hope that theywill only listen and not only speak," he said.

Despite Duterte's remarks to Ri, Cayetano said thePresident would not deviate from the position of the Philippines, the ASEAN,and the United Nations on North Korea's nuclear weapons.

"But as I've said, we are willing to do apeacemaking role," he said.

"It depends on the reaction of the NorthKoreans... They should show the opening that they want peace and they wantnegotiation," Cayetano added.


A change of ownership, and why it matters

For those of us in media, most especially those who worked at one time or another in the country’s largest and most respected newspaper, the news both stunned and caught us flat-footed.
The paper I refer to is the broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer, or very simply PDI. There will be arguments with fans, followers and employees of the other big papers, namely the Philippine Star and the Manila Bulletin. But in my book, PDI is the one. It set the standards for journalistic integrity, independence, vision, and just plain balls.
As such, PDI has made a lot of enemies over the years. Today, no less than President Duterte has vowed to crush PDI, more specifically its present owners, the Prietos. I suspect this is the real reason for the sudden sale of the paper.
Mr. Duterte’s threats against PDI, as well as another media giant ABS-CBN, sends a chilling effect on the newsroom. He is no ordinary president, having said time and again that it’s all right to kill those who he perceives to be his enemies.
This week, the Prietos announced that they were selling their shares of stock to San Miguel Corporation head honcho Ramon Ang.
There is a promise that there will be no changes in the newsroom, but I seriously doubt if this will be the case.
For the record, I worked with the PDI family and I found company to be as professional as possible. No, it was not perfect, but at least there were serious attempts to be the best possible newspaper in the business.
Incidentally, I was with Inquirer Publications, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PDI, as Editor-in-Chief of their tabloid Bandera. I stayed for three years and constantly interacted with the editors of PDI. I sometimes regret not taking their offer for me to transfer to the big paper.
The best thing I liked about working in the Inquirer group was the complete and total editorial independence. The editors of PDI led by the late Letty Magsanoc made it quite clear to the owners that they were united in demanding editorial independence and integrity at all times. It was almost as if the employees were telling the owners what to do and what not to do.
Not surprisingly, the Prietos agreed to the arrangement.
The CEO of the paper was Sandy Prieto, and I was somewhat bothered by the fact that she had married a Romualdez (AKA the Enemy, as the newsroom was full of ladies and gents who never forgot what the Marcos-Romualdez clan had done to press freedom and Philippine democracy in general). But Sandy was a pretty nice boss and she always kept clear of editorial work.
To be sure, PDI was not always clean, reputation-wise. As with any large organization, there was bound to be some bad eggs here and there. Also, there were mistakes made in the coverage of major stories, but the intention was never mean or vicious.
So now, the glory days of PDI may be coming to an end. I pray not, but I expect major changes to take place in terms of editorial policy.
I do not know very much about the new owner. All I know is that he was a creation of Danding Cojuangco, who passed on the reins of SMC when age and failing health began to take its toll. I’ve heard rumors about Ramon Ang, of course, and not all have been favorable.
Suffice it to say that I would not want to be in the Inquirer newsroom at this time under the new ownership.
One more thing, when I say that I consider PDI the best of the Philippine broadsheets, I have to clarify that from where I sit, the true best of the best local newspaper is or was BusinessWorld, where I spent almost a decade in various capacities.
As a business daily, it never competed with the other broadsheets since its concentration was mostly on economic and financial matters.
Sadly, BusinessWorld changed when the late, great Raul Locsin – founder, chairman, and quite possibly the best newspaperman the country has produced – passed away. His equally terrific wife Letty Locsin stayed on after Don Raul passed, but she too followed him to the great beyond soon thereafter.
Although I had stints in other broadsheets, I consider PDI and BusinessWorld as the only newspapers worth working for. And while both papers are still around, the spirit of the old PDI and BW is gone.
Good thing for me there’s still Philippine News. At least this paper still maintains the independence and integrity that is so important to this now grizzled old vet.


How the government corrupts itself

Somewhere in this week’s issue of Philippine News is a story about a planned trip of Department of Tourism officials along with a handful of members of the House of Representatives to Iceland and Norway. The trip was ostensibly in compliance with the national government’s Gender Awareness and Development program.
What it really is, is a useless junket, one that would cost Filipino taxpayers millions of pesos. It is not just the plane fare – business class, of course! – and hotel where our tax money is wasted. The junketeers will also get a fat allowance, as well as other perks.
What’s interesting about the trip is the inclusion of the four congressmen as well as House secretariat employees who have noting to do with the country’s efforts to push tourism to the global market. It is also unclear what they have to do with gender awareness and development.
In truth, this is just one of countless examples of how our tax money goes down the drain. Billions of pesos are wasted because of the sense of entitlement of the top officials of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
I wanted to exclude the judiciary, but it is well known that our judges and justices also enjoy spending money as if there was no tomorrow whenever they go on leave. They find some excuse, usually to attend some meeting of jurists in some First World countries. There, they usually discuss the latest news and information over bottles of fine wine. Such data are all available on the internet, which is where they can also meet face-to-face in real time.
They don’t take this option because they would still be stuck back home.
Judges and justices are the least guilty of wasting the people’s money, though. It is Congress and Malacanang with their power over the budget and the power to dispose of the funds that extreme abuses are committed.
During their regular breaks, one would be hard put to find a senator or congressman here in the country. The majority will be abroad, and they don’t even pretend that their trips are “in aid of legislation.”
And if you think our legislators are an abusive lot, look at how the executive branch has been burning money with trip after trip of the president, bringing along for the ride a number of civilians who have no business in those junkets.
The records are pretty clear. President Duterte has taken more foreign trips in his first year in office than his predecessor did in his entire six years in office. Further, the entourage of Mr. Duterte has always been excessively large in each of those trips.
Just take a good look at the photos of the last couple of trips that the chief executive has taken, and see who joined him. Know that each one in the entourage is given an envelope with a fistful of dollars for “personal expenses.”
Foreign trips by government officials are rarely ever absolutely necessary.
It may be argued by some that the junketeers are just doing their job. But they should know if the trip they take is essential in delivering necessary basic services to the people. Most of the time, it’s not.
There are many other ways that government officials are corrupted by the system, of course. Trips with freebies and perks are one way, but there are many others. The old favorite remains kickbacks from government contracts.
During the time of Gloria Arroyo, kickbacks rose to a heady 50 percent of the project cost. During PNoy’s time, this slid to 20 to 25 percent. It is not clear how much the going rate is now under Mr. Duterte, but do not for a minute believe that graft and corruption has been eradicated under the current regime.
The saddest part is that kickbacks used to be the territory of mid to lower level government bureaucrats. But after Ferdinand Marcos, it became clear that graft and corruption flourished at the top.
After Macoy, Cory may have been clean, but her close relatives were not. Ditto with Fidel Ramos. Then of course, Erap was both corrupt and incompetent. Arroyo took corruption to greater heights, perhaps worse than Marcos.
And PNoy whom many now miss may have been relatively clean like his mom, but he too was surrounded by “smart” officials who gave themselves ultra-hefty retirement benefits.
And now we have Digong Duterte. He may not be padding his pocket, but he is turning a blind eye to what the incompetents around him are doing.
In the Philippines circa 2017, corruption remains a way of life.


Time to call it a day, champ

It was a sad time in Manila this weekend, not just because Manny Pacquiao lost to Aussie upstart Jeff Horn, but also because there were so many Filipinos celebrating and gloating over his loss.
The general consensus is that he was cheated. A good number of experts said so. But unless a formal complaint is filed and a rematch ordered, it will remain on record as one of those questionable losses suffered by a once-great fighter whose boxing skills are admittedly not what they once were.
It must also be painful for his millions of fans to witness so many of his countrymen celebrating Pacquiao’s loss. A few years ago, this would have been unthinkable. He was, after all, considered some kind of national hero, a super athlete who could unify his country every time he entered the ring.
His undoing, if it can be called that, was his entry into politics, and his turning into a political butterfly with no sense of loyalty to his political mentors.
Recall that after a forgettable stint as congressman, Paquiao decided to run for higher office. He set his sights on a senate seat and he won, not because he was qualified but because he was popular.
In Manny Pacquiao, we see the worst of Philippine politics.
His heart may be in the right place. He may truly desire to serve the people who have idolized him ever since he began winning world title after world title, fighting and beating the best pugilists in the world.
Along the way, he decided he wanted to be some sort of Christian pastor, as well as a singer, and even as a professional basketball player. Then he reached too high for his own good, running for a seat in the House of Representatives despite his total lack of credentials.
Over the weekend, the people who once treated him as a demigod witnessed the sad spectacle of a warrior who was once nearly invincible being bloodied and beaten by a young prizefighter whom he would have made short work of five or 10 years ago.
It was reminiscent of past greats insisting on fighting when they were long past their prime. This was true of the great Flash Elorde. Ditto with a boxer considered as the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali. It was also true of the one-time baddest man in the planet, Mike Tyson.
All were beaten by mediocre competition at the tailend of their career because they thought they were still in their prime.
Among the greats, only two left the ring on their own terms, as undefeated champions. There was Rocky Marciano and more recently Floyd Mayweather.
And speaking of the latter, he will be fighting a mixed martial artist very soon, coming out of retirement in order to fatten his already bloated bank account. He will win, of course, because the fight will be held under pro boxing rules. Mayweather may be 40, but he is still fit.
In contrast, Pacquiao who is still a few years shy of turning four decades old may already be a spent force.
You may love him or you may hate him, but there is little doubt that his best years are now behind him.
It’s time to call it a day, champ. You have nothing more to prove.

One awful public servant

I do not know who this Lorraine Badoy is, except that she is an undersecretary at the Social Welfare department.
She also happens to be full of herself.
Why she has been wasting her government position by constantly insulting the second highest official of the land is beyond me.
This “lady” with a pathetic family name continues to attack Vice President Leni Robredo, almost always on a personal basis.
My advice to her: Begin by legally changing your surname. Badoy just doesn’t cut it. Everyone knows what the Tagalog word ‘baduy’ means, which many pronounce as ‘badoy.’
Many decades ago, there was a professional basketball player with the surname Dacula. For real. He was the butt of countless jokes for obvious reasons. And no, he was not a bloodsucking vampire.
If memory serves, he later legally changed his name. His pro career, however, was shortlived. All those insults must have gotten to him.
As for this great unknown Lorraine Badoy, be reminded that your boss – President Rodrigo Duterte, in case you’ve forgotten – very recently told everyone for the umpteenth time that there is only one person who can legally take over in case anything happens to him.
That person is Leni Robredo. Live with it, ok?


When Digong meets Donald

From all accounts, US President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte have already met at least twice, even if only by phone. The two seem to have hit it off with their latest chat leading to an invitation for Mr. Duterte to visit Mr. Trump in Washington sometime in the near future. Meanwhile, the POTUS will likely visit Manila towards the end of this year. What is not yet clear is if either trip will take the form of a state visit.
There is little to indicate that the two gents have much in common. One spent his adult life creating vast wealth for himself based on his real estate projects. The other is a lawyer who has been in politics for the longest time and earned a reputation for eradicating crime (and criminals) in his turf even at the expense of law and order.
In local speak, one could have easily been little more than a kanto boy from the mean streets of Tondo who made good, while the other was the male equivalent of a Pinay colegiala who grew up in an exclusive Makati village and went to school in Ateneo or La Salle.
The one common denominator they have is that their fathers paved the way for their business/political success.
So what will happen when the two leaders finally meet face-to-face?
That may well be the biggest question of the day. While the respective diplomats of both nations will take care of all the formalities, there will be a few moments when Messrs. Trump and Duterte will be facing each other mano-a-mano. They will have to drop the usual niceties and talk shop.
Both are known to have an eye for the ladies. The American has been thrice married, while the Filipino has had an equal if not greater number of life partners. The man called Digong has been officially married once, but that ended a long time ago. Even today, he makes no secret of the fact that he still enjoys nocturnal female companionship.
Both are in their 70s, by the way, which means that their best years as bedroom studs are far behind them. But they can recall their past conquests, real or imagined, then debate which is better, Viagra or Cialis.
They could also discuss their favorite communist buddies. Mr. Trump has his Russian best buddy Vladimir Putin, while Mr. Duterte has Chinese President Xi Jinping as his new friend for life.
If their talks turn serious, they may discuss a certain rogue state whose fat boy leader has become a friendless pariah. Perhaps, in secret, they may nervously laugh at that Asian leader’s fixation for launching missiles every so often. They may even agree that he is probably overcompensating for something or another.
Then they may turn to their favorite pet peeve, media. They will curse and rant and rave about the unfair treatment they are getting from print and broadcast journalists, who in their eyes are little more than lying hacks anyway.
The Pinoy head of state could give his US counterpart tips on how to handle those pesky media moguls like banning government ads from their publications – which another Philippine chief executive had done previously – or even blocking their franchise to operate.
What the two will not be doing is exchanging toasts, as the billionaire businessman-turned-president does not imbibe in any form of alcohol, not even wine. His Philippine counterpart is not exactly a teetotaller but health issues prevent him from imbibing too much.
Speaking of health, the big and beefy Trump looks to be in much better shape than the smallish Duterte. The former is an avid golfer while the latter has not been known to hit the links even if it is to just unwind.
One ugly word that they will both scoff at is impeachment.
Although he has been in office for little more than 100 days, there has already been talk of legally removing Mr. Trump through impeachment. Ditto with Mr. Duterte. But both know that such a move is not likely to prosper. Both have their respective congresses in the palms of their hands, so why worry?
If all goes well, a bromance can blossom between the two gentlemen, if they can be called that. Despite all their differences, both still end each day by looking at the mirror and thinking out loud: “I’m the president! Whoohoo!”


Elected leaders who misunderstand their roles

It would seem that a number of our elected officials have no clear understanding of the roles they have to play under a democratic government.
Foremost of these are US President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as US House Speaker Paul Ryan and Philippine Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez.
Messrs. Trump and Duterte both have issues with judges who disagree with their actions. For the American leader, his ill-fated Executive Order banning nationals from seven predominantly Islamic countries from traveling to the US was quickly shot down by federal judges last month. But he is so hell-bent on his anti-Muslim campaign that he has just released another EO that continues to limit nationals from six of the original seven countries from entering the US.
In the Philippines, meanwhile, Mr. Duterte has just said that local government officials such as mayors should not be subject to audit by the Commission on Audit, whose job is to make sure that public funds are spent legally. Speaking in the vernacular this week, Mr. Duterte said something to the effect that the men and women of the CA should just take over as mayors since they seem to know better.

It has been pointed out time and again that Mr. Trump’s lack of experience in governance is one of his biggest weaknesses. He simply does not understand that his heading the executive department does not mean he also heads the legislative and judicial branches of government, or that they are subordinate to him. He feels he is more empowered because he was elected, while everyone else in the two other branches of government are either appointed or promoted.
As for Mr. Duterte, he recently admitted – an apologized for – continuing to act like a city mayor, which he was for the longest time. As president of the Republic of the Philippines, he wields tremendous power and has appeared swamped by the responsibilities of office.
As SpiderMan was reminded by his Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
As President, Duterte still does not comprehend his great responsibility to the Filipino people. Consider that some of his appointees like Mocha Uson (essentially a former bold starlet) and Cesar Montano (a faded matinee star) have been committing acts that show their failure to follow the rules at the local board of censors and a marketing arm of the Tourism department, respectively.
It will get worse in the near future as Mr. Duterte has promised to give a job to publicity hound Sandra Cam (a self-styled whistleblower), who is already acting like a big shot by claiming to be close to the president.


PH, China squabble over Benham Rise


MANILA – A 13-million-hectare underwater plateau known as Benham Rise has become the latest cause of a squabble between the Philippines and China after it was learned that a Chinese vessel had intruded there recently.
On Monday, March 13, President Rodrigo Duterte issued a statement over the Chinese presence in the area off Aurora province, in conflict with at least two of his Cabinet secretaries. The president initially said that he had granted permission for the Chinese vessel to conduct a survey of the area, but Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he found the incursion “very concerning.”
Mr. Duterte then added that he did not want to pick a fight with China over Benham Rise. He, however, admitted that China was laying claim to the disputed area, not unlike its claim of ownership of Scarborough Shoal.
“Let us not fight over sovereignty or ownership at this time,” Mr. Duterte said, adding that “things are going great for my country” vis-à-vis its relations with China.
On Tuesday, March 14, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “Benham Rise belongs to the Filipino people.”
The commotion was triggered last week by a statement from China that the Philippines cannot take Benham Rise “as its own territory.”
By Tuesday, this week, however, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said her country “fully respects the Philippines’ rights over the continental shelf in the Benham Rise, and there is no such thing as China challenging those rights.”

She added that China merely sought to enjoy the freedom of navigation in the area.
It was another spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, who had said that the Philippines had no right to claim Benham Rise as its own.
While part of the Philippine Sea, the country cannot claim “ownership” over the plateau, but can only claim exclusive rights to develop the area under international law.
It is believed that besides being rich with minerals, Benham Rise may have commercial quantities of natural gas, which China’s booming economy desperately needs as a source of power.
A large portion of Benham Rise falls within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, as recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea.
The previous administration of President Benigno Aquino III had taken China to international court over its claim over Scarborough Shoal, winning the case in 2012.
Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario on Tuesday noted "recent negative observations" on Benham Rise as well as the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In a statement, Del Rosario said this shows that "promoting national security, including protecting what is ours, must be paramount."
"Under no circumstances would it be wise for us to trade away our national security," Del Rosario said. – With an additional report from Rappler

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