Happiest countries

Recently there was an article published about the happiest countries in the world.

Immediately the normal reaction is to see where the Philippines stands in the ranking and obviously one is not surprise to find the country way down at 71 among the 156 surveyed by the 2019 UN World Happiness Report.

It is a fact, however, that happiness is relative. It comes in many ways affecting people differently. It varies from one person to another.

But when happiness affects the citizenry the same way, then the blissfulness becomes absolute and collectively it reflects on the country they are residents of.

This is how impressive Finland has become when, for a second year in a row, it has been named the happiest country in the world. What is amazing is that joining Finland in the top four are three other Nordic countries, namely, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. The Netherlands joined them in the top five. Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria completed the top 10.

So what got these phenomenal places to occupy the coveted rankings of happiest countries in the world?

Well, not only are the countries mentioned above affluent and developed but the reality is that the countries’ affluence and progressiveness are being used by government to its greatest advantage in making its people happy and contented living where they are.

Again happiness to every person is relative, but when the government truly serves the people well, fights corruption and all the evils that plague society, provides excellent health care, ensures high-quality education system, protect individual rights and encourages people to participate in civil society, then these also make everyone thoughtful and considerate such that cooperation with government becomes an obligation for everybody.

What stands out most about these countries, however, is that they are not populous and therefore not as troublesome and onerous to govern. Even their immigrants are said to be the happiest immigrants in the world!

Certainly, this cannot be said of the USA which came in 19th place, dropping one spot since last year and a total of five spots since 2017. With President Trump at the helm seemingly causing divisiveness among his people and anxiety among world leaders in his treatment of immigrants, expect America to slide further down in the list of happiest nation in the years to come.

But woe especially to the third world countries like the Philippines where to be happy individually continue to be a dream and aspiration. With a population of 107 million people living in over 7,000 islands scattered all over the archipelago, and with a government that has always been fighting poverty, corruption, criminality and lately the menace of illegal drugs, not to mention that China is now occupying our backyard armed and dangerous, while seemingly helping finance the Build, Build, Build program of government, it is unimaginable that there will ever be a time when the Philippines will be included at the top of this exceptional list of happy nations.

 

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Save Hanjin Philippines

 

The government of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is finding itself in a predicament over the declared bankruptcy early this year of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines – the Korean shipbuilding company based in the country.

Hanjin Philippines together with a big Japanese shipbuilding company, Tsuneishi, located in Cebu, has put the Philippines on the map as the fourth largest shipbuilder in the world.

But more than these companies being our sources of pride, it is about the boon it has given the country for employing thousands of workers most of which are skilled workers. Needless to say that Hanjin Philippines is one of the big employers in the country.

Whatever the truth is about the company’s closure, whether it is mismanagement, or liquidity problems to repay its debts, or the unexpected glut in shipbuilding demand, the fact remains that the huge Korean shipbuilding facility, which started construction in 2006 on a foreign investment locator within the Subic Freeport area, is not only a mecca for employment but also a valuable contributor to the economic growth of the country that it would be a grave mistake to leave it non-operational for a long time.

One can’t help but wonder why this misfortune affecting Hanjin Philippines came about when it is supposedly safeguarded by generous subsidies and strong support by government for foreign investors to thrive?

But that is neither here nor there now.

What is important is for President Duterte and his government to look for viable solutions to address what economist Gerardo Sicat described as “the biggest corporate bankruptcy to ever hit the Philippines.”

Offhand, Sicat’s glaring statement seems to warn that it would be foolish for government to declare a takeover for we are a big debtor country already, not to mention that we don’t have the capability and expertise to manage a complex shipbuilding operation the size of Hanjin Philippines.

Even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s contention that the government’s takeover of Hanjin would result in our capability to build warships of all sorts needed to protect our territorial integrity is wishful thinking.

It would be to our country’s advantage if government instead invites the soonest possible time multinational shipbuilding companies, including China, and hear what they have to offer before the complex deteriorates.

National security breaches, as some politicians worry about, is not about the existence of foreign nationals in our country. That is nonsense. It is more about the competency and efficacy of our government operatives to make our country safe.

Soldiers at the BOC

 

This is not about questioning the wisdom of President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive for the military to have part of its component deployed to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for law enforcement activities.

After all, not being a lawyer, one can only submit to the statement of Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, saying, “Time and again, the President assures everyone that as a lawyer, he knows the limits of the power and authority of his office.”

This, after Malacañang finally saw it fit to declare a state of lawlessness at the BOC following the seemingly undetected shipment of illegal drugs (shabu) worth billions that entered the country through customs during the time of recently ousted Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, and even during the time of his predecessor, Nicanor Faeldon.

Obviously, what is happening at the BOC can be considered as a crime committed against humanity, which can also be interpreted in the same vein as invasion or rebellion and the only way to quell it is by the use of military force which is a constitutional mandate of a president.

But what I am questioning, however, is the efficacy of such an order.

It is not as if there never were military officers assigned to the BOC before. In fact this is one government agency where, because of its notoriety as haven for nefarious activities, retired military leaders are immediately considered on the pretext that their training, rank, assignment or position while on active service will be able to instill discipline and change the despicable corrupt culture of the hugely income generating agency.

Alas, time and again the once highly respected gentleman and officer fall short of his mandate to tame and cleanse the agency or his department for that matter, of unscrupulous individuals and become instead a willing participant of a rotten system.

So what makes the deployment of ordinary soldiers a ray of hope at the BOC under a newly minted commissioner who is himself a general of the armed forces?

I understand it is a tactical approach not only to make the bureaucracy change its notorious corrupt practices but also effect a turn-around of the negative perception of the people about the BOC.

It’s an approach intended to stir ‘shock and awe’ feeling in the bureaucracy, but who are they kidding?

Whatever and however one describes the crime syndicate inside the bureau that are smuggling illegal drugs with impunity and creating havoc in our society, the fact remains that those behind it cannot easily be intimidated and, therefore, no amount of soldiers and weaponry brought in could ever bring down the monster that it has become all these years.

This is not to belittle our soldiers, but this is not the kind of confrontation they have been trained to do their best and so let us save them from embarrassment as they will surely fail. Without strong psychological preparedness in battling corruption, human frailty can easily succumb to temptation.

Hopefully, Duterte would consider looking once more into what Sen. Panfilo Lacson has suggested which is having a need for a sophisticated counter-intelligence mechanism in the BOC. This is not about force but rather of having a superior intelligence by any means under a competent and exemplary head.

Robredo leads opposition against Duterte

 

Vice President Leni Robredo

I do not know why the political opposition, headed by the Liberal Party (LP), is making a big deal about Vice President Leni Robredo spearheading it.

It simply follows that because Robredo is the highest ranking government official in the land belonging to the LP who has shown her dislike in the way President Duterte is running the country, not to mention the colorful language he uses, and has been seen to be taking the cudgels for those being the subject of Duterte’s ire, that she has the moral authority to lead.

The question, however, is – can she deliver?

Does she have the ‘oomph’, meaning the intensity, effectiveness and sustainability to deliver the blow of political issues against Duterte that will cause people to rally behind her and upset the president?

Robredo may have the charm, but charm is not what it takes to unsettle a formidable and savvy opponent like Duterte.

Robredo may be a lawyer, but against Duterte she is doomed!

The fact alone that Duterte has described her as not fit to be president of a country like the Philippines because of incompetence speaks volumes.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace welcomes an “active” opposition as part of a healthy democracy.

A ‘strong’ opposition is a more apt description, but with Robredo at the helm there is no doubt that it is going to be a weak opposition and surely will be steamrolled by Duterte and his PDP-Laban supporters.

To start with it is not enough that one has to criticize immediately the country as having a ‘worsening economy’ as Robredo described it, piqued after being called incompetent by Duterte.

If that is how she sees it then, for chrissake, offer a solution!

I don’t think the economic stride Duterte has gained during his just two years in office can be scoffed at.

If Robredo and her rabble rousers have better ideas to improve the economy, then help the government by suggesting it.

Otherwise, let us trust the economists who have forecasted that the Philippine economy is expected to grow at a robust pace this year and next on the back of a buoyant expansion in fixed investment, which is benefiting from the government’s infrastructure investment program.

Duterte’s ‘perplexing’ popularity

 

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman

I am simply amused at how Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman described Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity – ‘perplexing’.

Why would it be difficult for him to understand Duterte’s popularity?

Perhaps what would be more difficult for him and those like him in the opposition to understand is why over 16 million Filipinos voted for the man from Mindanao to be president?

“It is a puzzle that despite the failure of President Rodrigo Duterte to deliver most of his campaign promises, his irreverence to established institutions, including the Catholic Church, his unpatriotic surrender to China’s expansionism in the West Philippine Sea, his policy equivocation, and his antihuman rights record, he still enjoys a high popularity rating across classes in his second year in office,” Lagman said in a statement.

What an absurdity!

This, after Duterte scored a net satisfaction rating of +56 during the first quarter of 2018, which according to Social Weather Stations survey is considered as “very good”.

Lagman even showed arrogance when he bad-mouth the intellect of the electorate, saying, “they like a leader who is authoritative even in his blunders and blabbering and that they simply want to justify their choice, however errant it may have been. ”

Excuse me?

What Lagman is actually trying to say is that Duterte does not act presidential, does not talk presidential and is, in general, an aberration to the presidency.

Lagman who pretends to be the epitome of decency in words and deeds should recognize and accept by now that the likes of him have failed to move this country forward and majority of Filipinos have lost faith in them and their style of leadership.

That is why Duterte continues to remain popular because the people like what they see in him and admire how much he cares for the country and its citizens no matter his bloody war on drugs, alleged extra-judicial killings, China’s incursion into the West Phil. Sea, and the ‘stupid-God’ comment of the Catholic religion.

Duterte has just completed his two years in office as he continues waging war also against corruption and criminality, as he has promised, and one cannot just deny that the country’s economy is doing better despite his non-presidential traits.

Perhaps what Lagman could do in his solitude is to reflect what could it have been had Poe, Roxas or Binay been the president?

Duterte’s baffling statement

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping

Two years into his presidency and I can say with candor that I remain an avid supporter of Rodrigo Duterte.

I always seem to understand what he is trying to say, given his colorful language, the emotion,   and the tonality he puts on it

But Duterte’s recent statement, however, saying, “The assurances of [President] Xi Jinping were very encouraging… ‘We will not allow you to be taken out from your office, and we will not allow the Philippines to go to the dogs,’” is somewhat baffling to me.

In short what Duterte is trying to tell the Filipinos in particular, and the whole world in general, is that China’s leader, who finds himself elevated to the status of president for life, following the removal of the country’s presidential term limits, does not want Duterte ousted as the country’s leader.

This is definitely an instance where I can’t seem to fathom Duterte’s trend of thought.

Now, why would China say that and who are the people alluded to that would try to destabilize and oust Duterte? And why would the Philippines be going to the dogs?

Certainly, Duterte continues to have high trust and support rating from the Filipino people in his governance of the country and I don’t see any reason, therefore, why he is entertaining the thought of being ousted.

Or could it be that the close relationship now between China and the Philippines, especially with the absolute presence and militarization by China of the South China Sea (SCS), have made the two allies unite against one common enemy which is the U.S.?

There is no doubt that China’s military aggression in the SCS does not sit well with the Americans and the latter frowns upon the fact that the Philippines is not raising a hell of a lot more about China’s incursion in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Duterte had blamed the US instead for the current maritime tensions, saying they failed to stop China’s building and arming artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

That is very true and there is nothing much the Philippines can do.

China has established their dominance in the region and nobody, but nobody, could make them move out from that strategic place.

Perhaps this is the only reason why Duterte is being assured of his continuance in office because of his seeming fealty to the Chinese leader. Perhaps an assurance also that after him another Duterte could take over with China’s help.

Sara Duterte?

Just asking.

 

Human rights world summit in the Philippines

 

President Rodrigo Duterte attending the 25th APEC Leaders’ Summit Meeting in Vietnam.

Stakeholders concern about violation of human rights should congratulate President Rodrigo Duterte for recommending the Philippines to be the site for a world summit on human rights.

“We should call a summit. And I will volunteer to make the Philippines the venue,” Duterte said during a late night press conference in Vietnam where he attended the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit.

Hopefully, human rights advocates/agencies will consider this challenge and push through with it.

There is no question that the Philippines has issues on human rights violation and it has been magnified even more because of Duterte’s relentless and brutal campaign against illegal drugs.

But Duterte issued a caveat in that the summit should focus on human rights not just in the Philippines but also across the globe. He said that the conference must tackle how to “protect the human rights for all human race.”

I could not agree more with Duterte. For one who feels he is being criticized harshly and singled out as behind the extrajudicial killings in the country as a product of his deadly war on drugs, it is only right and just that human rights violation in other countries should be scrutinize as well for it is in comparison that one could judge if the Philippines tops the list or simply pales when analyzed.

Just because the Philippines is a struggling democratic country does not mean that developed countries supporting democracy and advocating human rights can just go hammer and tongs for what Duterte and his government believe that it is what is destroying the nation especially when abetted by unscrupulous and corrupt politicians?

Asked if he would request the United Nations to monitor his proposed human rights summit, Mr. Duterte said he prefers “a panel of lawyers” to do it.

“I’m more comfortable with a panel of lawyers. Because they will understand immediately the legal implications,” he noted, adding that he might also invite “experts in the science of medicine” and the “destruction of the human body.”

It is in this light that I say this to the people and world agencies speaking ill of the Philippines’ human rights record: Before sternly condemning the country led by Duterte on its alleged human rights violations, why don’t you research the human rights violation committed by the following countries and then ask yourselves what you have done about it: Syria, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Myanmar, Yemen and Nigeria.