Roxas and the Mamasapano issue

 

Pres. Duterte and former DILG Sec. Mar Roxas

It may be seemingly unfair for President Duterte to be blaming then Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary and now senatorial candidate Mar Roxas for the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers in the botched police operation that happened four years ago.

Having been left out of the loop by his boss, former President Aquino, during the whole secretive and highly-sensitive planning operation dubbed Oplan Exodus, which sole purpose was to carry out the arrest of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan” and Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman who were reported lurking in Mamasapano, a Muslim rebel territory in the province of Maguindanao, Roxas never had any inkling what was going on behind his back until the shit finally hit the fan, so to speak.

One can still imagine Roxas’ face with mouth agape, unbelieving and stunned of the crisis he was in an instant facing as Interior Secretary.

In defending Roxas from Duterte’s culpability attack on the Mamasapano massacre, Sen. Francis Pangilinan reasoned out that what the president was doing was “pure politicking”, considering that the Senate had already investigated the incident and charges have already been filed in court.

“Raising the matter anew is pure and simple politicking, and a means to shun important and pressing issues affecting the Filipinos such as poverty, lack of opportunities, indignation over China’s aggression, and corruption hounding many of the administration candidates,” said Pangilinan in a statement.

Well, Pangilinan should really be putting the money where his mouth is for the truth is that to Roxas, the Mamasapano issue continues to be his political liability for not being man enough to confront Pres. Aquino on why he was excluded from a highly-sensitive Oplan Exodus meeting. but chose instead to connive, trust and discuss covertly the SAF mission with the suspended Police Gen. Alan Purisima .

Why the mistrust in Aquino’s own Interior Secretary and the latter’s PNP OIC chief, Lt. Gen. Leonardo Espina?

Roxas could have made something of himself if he only stood up to Aquino and defended his name, his reputation and the dignity of his office. After being wittingly ignored and disrespected, the least that he could have done was submit a courtesy resignation and the people would have lauded him for that. In fact had he turn his back on Aquino and left government he could have given Duterte a stiff competition during the 2016 presidential election.

Thus, Roxas spineless demeanor on the Mamasapano issue, where he in fact supported Aquino’s  action, continue to be a matter of contention in the May 2019 election that is being exploited to the hilt by Duterte because of his weak leadership.

With regards to other issues which Pangilinan considers ‘important and pressing’, like China’s aggression, poverty, lack of opportunities and corruption, well, as Liberal Party (LP) president, he should be the first one to admit that Duterte is addressing these problems better and more successfully than his party-mate Aquino during his time.

 

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A Songbird’s discordant voice

This is a compelling interjection I am making after reading Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez’s remark insulting the intelligence of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin when the latter said that the Philippines and China must not go to war over some kind of shellfish, but that China should just pay for it.

The bone of contention here is actually about the giant clams being harvested by China with impunity in the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal), which the Philippines claims to be part of its territory. Note that this is the same controversial shoal that used to be the rich source of livelihood and haven for Filipino fishermen during inclement weather until China took control of it, claiming it as belonging to their territorial waters in the South China Sea (SCS).

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin

“I am not going down in history as a clam defender, okay? It’s a complaint; we’re looking into it; but these are just fucking food; no one goes to war for clams (maybe Oysters of Locquemariaquer) but they just happen to be OUR food. They should pay for them like in fish market,” Locsin said.

This of course did not sit well for Velasquez especially that it sounded to her more like a sick joke coming from an intelligently irrepressible Locsin. I don’t think she has a clear knowledge of who Locsin is really.

“Ang akala ko pa naman matalino ka. Ako ay simpling tao lamang na may simpleng pagiisip,” Velasquez said in a tweet on Friday. (And I thought you were smart/clever. I am just a simple person with simple thoughts.)

“These people are invading our territory they are not just taking food sinisira nila ang ating karagatan!!!!” (…. they are destroying our seas!!!), she added.

Well, the reality is that having “simple thoughts” is what makes war, and that is precisely what Locsin is trying to avoid knowing both the economic and military might of China that our country is being subjected to.

Thus, it is best for the Songbird of Asia to just concentrate on what she does best and leave the diplomatic tussle to the knowledgeable. Her discordant voice in foreign relation is distasteful and therefore unwelcome, more so that her rhetoric has no basis at all.

Former Pres. Benigno Aquino

The fact is that had the Aquino government in 2012 handled the Scarborough Shoal controversy against China with utmost prudence, the rich fishing ground of Panatag Shoal could still have been accessible to our fishermen today. Note that the shoal has also been the fishing grounds of Chinese fishermen and there existed a ‘peaceful coexistence’ between them until the Philippine Navy surveillance ship started flexing its muscles and ordered their sailors to board eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in the shoal’s lagoon. They tried to arrest the Chinese fishermen for illegal fishing and “harvesting endangered marine species.” However, two China Maritime Surveillance (CMS) ships come to their rescue creating a standoff.

What made the standoff even unwise is when then President Aquino ordered the frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a newly refurbished warship from the US Coast guard, to the area to confront the Chinese at Panatag.

What happened next was that more CMS ships entered the shoal, bringing with them a flotilla of 31 Chinese fishing boats and 50 dinghies. The number of CMS vessels in the days that followed increased to 10.

Outwitted, the the BRP Gregorio del Pilar left on the pretext that it was going “to replenish fuel and food provisions” in its base in La Union.But why send a warship when CMS vessels are officially civilian, part of its Ministry of Transport’s Maritime Safety Administration?

Since then no Filipino ship or fishing vessel has been able to enter the shoal, now occupied by CMS vessels and Chinese fishing boats. The Chinese imposed a 15-nautical mile restriction perimeter around the shoal, and prevents any vessel from going into the shoal’s lagoon.

The unwanted Marcoses

It is gratifying to know that Gen X, the demographic cohort following the baby boomers and preceding the Millenials, have been able to sustain the momentum of communicating, explaining and educating the younger generation about the brutality of the Marcos regime.

Although it has been 47 years ago that President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law over the entirety of the Philippines, the agonizing consequence of it continues to be felt by many, especially the most aggrieved families.

When I remember my mother aborting, what to us, college students then, was even a short visit, and hurriedly and fearfully packing her belongings early that afternoon to be loaded on a ‘tartanilla’ (horse drawn carriage) so she could be on the vessel leaving that night for Baybay, Leyte, and be with my father the following day, I could not help but question the inhumanity of it all.

Forty seven years of conjugal dictatorship is not really that long for the Marcos matriarch, Imelda, and children, Bongbong, Imee and Irene, who are now back in their glory years, thanks but no thanks to Filipino sycophants, to just say we have got to move on.

One could not just say either that the children shall not suffer the iniquity of their parents because the fact is that they were not toddlers anymore when martial law happened. Imee was already a political youth leader being the chairperson of the Kabataang Barangay and Bongbong was in his teens already and fully aware of what was happening by the way he donned fatigue uniform of the military in one of the photo ops of the former dictator addressing the crowd of supporters from the balcony in Malacañang. In between her siblings stood Irene who was already as tall as Imee and fully aware of what was going on.

With this as a backdrop, it is heartening and reassuring to know that the students of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) condemned the attendance of Irene at the opening of the Ateneo Areté’s Amphitheater on Thursday, April 4, saying, among other things that “ …her presence is a grave insult and vehement mockery to Martial Law survivors and martyrs.”

A separate petition signed by various students of the university also demanded the university to issue a formal apology for the incident. The petition read, “Are we not aware by now how the Marcoses systematically use art as a tool to blind the people from their violence and corruption?”

Thus, the May 2019 elections should be used as a tool to repudiate another Marcos, Imee, a senatorial candidate, who has the propensity of lying about her educational records and for saying and making people believe that martial law is a conflict between the Marcoses and the Aquinos.

Imee’s presumptuousness is so overwhelming that one can’t help wondering how it would be if she becomes a senator. Let us not dignify her being a Marcos for the truth is that martial law is and will always be a conflict between the reprobate Marcoses and the Filipino people he was sworn to serve in the first place.

Enough of them already.

Disrespecting with impunity

President Duterte and the Pag-asa Island from the air.

With the military might of China well entrenched in the West Philippine Sea, the Chinese arrogance and aggressiveness towards our country has never been as opprobrious as it is today.

It seems that China’s unimpeded stay in the disputed waters have given the occupants the entitlement to do what it pleases them even to the extent of violating and disrespecting the rights of a poor and disadvantaged country like the Philippines.

But we can only take so much of the despotic attitude of China’s leadership, thus, it is only appropriate that President Rodrigo Duterte be commended for standing up against China at the time when his strong leadership is urgently needed.

This, after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has reported that a surge of Chinese vessels have been circling Pag-asa Island since January 2019.

Accordingly, this corroborates an earlier report by the Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative that China deployed Chinese militia to the vicinity of said island after the Philippines began building a beaching ramp for large navy cargo ships for easier unloading of construction materials for the repairs of military facility like the Rancudo Airfield and even the building of a safe harbor which is a project of the local government.

Pag-asa Island is a 37-hectare island, the largest of the Kalayaan Island Group territories claimed by the Philippines and is part of the municipality of Palawan. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 184 people. Aside from an airstrip, it has a commercial communications tower, power generators, a 5-bed lying-in clinic and a small elementary school.

There is no doubt that the commanding presence of Chinese flotilla in the area is not only to monitor what is being done in the island, but its show of intimidating force is simply sending an explicit message and warning that it is the Filipinos that are the intruders in what is now their exclusive maritime territory according to their own historical facts, which for all intents and purposes have been debunked by The Hague tribunal.

Each one of the militia vessel seems to echo the mantra of unjustified ownership that ‘what is ours is ours and what is yours is ours too’!

This abusive and despotic behavior certainly does not sit well with Filipinos as China’s action not only violates our country’s sovereignty, but most of all it disrespects with impunity human value and decency.

Thankfully, it has finally dawn on President Duterte that even his deportment as being non-confrontational towards China in the WPS is being taken advantage of and, thus, it is inspiriting to know that the president is reacting the way many people wants him to do, including those in the opposition, by strongly pushing back at the Chinese machination in Pag-asa Island.

It is good to receive investment help from China to finance Duterte’s economic Build, Build, Build agenda, which could be the start of an infrastructure boom in the Philippines, but it is quite the contrary when the dignity of the Filipino, as a race, is being debased and disrespected with impunity in his own turf.

Department of Water

 

The Metro Manila(MM) water crisis not only has brought to the fore the difficulty the residents are being subjected to in different manner, shape and form, but it has also magnified the importance of a sustainable water supply from concessionaires, who in turn are dependent of their sources that is governed, managed and controlled by, supposedly, responsible government agencies.

Perhaps being more concern that it is an election year, the knee-jerk reaction of the Duterte administration, to assuage the gloomy feelings of the MM electorate, is to immediately propose the creation of a Department of Water (DOW).

Reportedly, the DOW is envisioned to have jurisdiction over the functions currently assigned to several agencies including the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management, National Irrigation Administration, Local Water Utilities Administration, National Water Resources Board and Laguna Lake Development Authority.

But do we really have to create another layer of bureaucracy over all these agencies just so water supply dilemma of this proportion happening in MM won’t recur?

Having all these agencies established and designed by government to either function dependently or independently of one another for sourcing, treatment and distribution of water have been thought of and studied well to serve the well being of the people in this country.

So, where and why have we failed disastrously this time after all these years?

If one looks at the mandate of these agencies, which can very well be described in their mission and vision statements, all is geared towards giving the best service to the people with competency, efficiency and integrity. Take time looking, for instance, at the mandate given the National Water and Resources Board (NWRB), a government agency responsible for the management of water resources in the country and you will know what I mean. I am making NWRB as an example because it has a responsibility that impacts importantly the water security all over the country.

But while the office is always characterized as such, the same cannot be said all the time of the people tasked to run the office.

Don’t get me wrong. There are very educated and highly capable people to run a department, but if such individual has the tendency to macromanage all the time, especially in service oriented organizations, then sometime or another that individual will fail. Leaving their employees too much on their own is a guaranteed recipe for failure.

Macromanaging can lead to inefficiency on the part of employees in regards to time spend on the job, work completed, and who they seek out for answers. I am not saying that micromanaging is a better style of management because it does more harm to the morale of the employees.

What I am just saying is that at the end of the day the head of the organization has to be on top of what is happening in his department so that proper guidance and direction can be adequately instituted, if needed.

 

Mandaue politics

 

Rep. Jonas Cortes and Mayor Luigi Quisumbing

A political drama unfolding in Mandaue City is so intriguing that Mandauehanons are compelled, with bated breath, to watch how it would end.

Political allies to start with, now 6th district Rep. Jonas Cortes and Mandaue City Mayor Luigi Quisumbing are throwing at each other practically everthing but the kitchen sink, after the former has accused the latter for defaulting on their agreement to switch places in the May 2019 elections.  It must be noted that both traded places in 2016 elections, while Cortes was then the mayor and Quisumbing, a congressman, for political expediency.

Whether or not both are perceived to have been ineffective in their present capacity as government officials, it glaringly appears that of the two elective positions the mayorship seems perhaps more covetous and fulfilling – personally and politically,

Thus, it is no wonder that Quisumbing is not giving up the position, while Cortes is hell bent on being elected mayor – yet again.

But what really makes the Mandaue politics all the more fascinating is the palpability that some Quisumbings are favoring the candidacy of Cortes.

Take for example the appearance of one Cortes supporter, presumably a Quisumbing, where during a most recent political rally he was openly seen wearing a T-shirt that said, “I am a Quisumbing but I am for Jonas Cortes”.

Mayor Quisumbing himself admitted, in an interview with Leo Lastimosa on dyAB radio, that his relations with his grandfather, businessman Norberto Quisumbing Jr. (NQ), have been estranged.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how else is one to interpret a photo published not too long ago in a local daily of the highly respected NQ turning over a number of motorcycles and other materials for Jonas’s campaign use?  Certainly this speaks volume of who his grandson is or how Mandaue City government is managed and Cortes is circulating this publicity to his great advantage.

In Mandaue City mayoralty contest, therefore, the single most important factor that will determine the winner is not about having an outsider like  Sara Duterte endorse and raise ones hand, but rather having an insider and a respected member of the community in the person of NQ who has the business, social and political sense to inculcate in the minds of the Madauehanons what is best for them.

 

What hope?

I understand the continuing concern the opposition has about the impunity over how China developed, occupied and militarized the West Philippine Sea (WPS). This, even after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands, overwhelmingly favored the Philippines in its 2016 decision on the disputed waters of the South China Sea, of which the WPS is part of, ruling that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.

The tribunal furthermore found China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in those waters by interfering with its fishing and petroleum exploration and by constructing artificial islands which are being used now for military purposes.

But if one looks at the events leading to China’s massive development and eventual occupation and militarization of the WPS with an open mind, it must have been and continue to be the concern also of all Filipinos including President Rodrigo Duterte who assumed office while the country waited with bated breath at the PCA’s verdict.

Thus, I find it quite unsavory and unfair that to this day Duterte continues to be at the receiving end of verbal tirades from different parties opposing the president for not doing anything against China’s incursion in the WPS.

Not only that. Now former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and a group of fishermen have filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC), that also sits in The Hague in the Netherlands, against Chinese President Xi Jinping and some Chinese officials of crimes against humanity for what the PCA described as “severe harm to the coral reef environment and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened, or endangered species”.

As if equating this accusation against Xi to crimes against humanity, which are certain acts that are deliberately committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian population, is not ridiculous enough, now comes Vice President Leni Robredo chiming in, saying, that she appreciated the bold steps taken by del Rosario and Morales “for it added to the hope of Filipinos, that we have the courage to stand up to a giant like China.”

What hope is Robredo talking about?

If the most powerful nation, the U.S.A., and its Western allies, has not been able to rebuke and deter China’s hegemonic ambition in the area and China has no respect for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) nor has it accepted or acknowledged the judgment rendered by the PCA, declaring the ruling in fact as “ill-founded” and “naturally null and void”, what would make Duterte’s critics believe that the ICC has the authority and wherewithal to abrogate China’s predominance in the disputed area when it is not even a member of the organization?