China’s bomber plane has landed

 

China’s H-6K bomber plane

But of course, and where else but in the South China Sea (SCS), where China is establishing military control over the disputed sea.

Surprised? Anxious?

Well, this should not surprise us for it was bound to happen sooner or later and there was nothing we can do really.

If the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia policy did not stop China’s militarization in disputed islands in the SCS, would you think that a third world country like us will have the audacity or the bluster, if you may, to stand up against this world power and derail the Chinese hegemony in the area of which the West Philippine Sea is part of?

Because the SCS may be the most strategically important waterway of the 21st century, many nations, including the Philippines, have urged Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which sets maritime zones of control based on coastlines, but to no avail.

Nobody seems to have resisted China’s insistence in its “nine-dash line” claim that encircles as much as 90 percent of the contested waters. Beijing maintains it owns any land or features contained within the line based on what it calls China’s “historical territory since ancient times.”

Thus, China disaffirms UNCLOS and its function viewing it instead as an instrument of Western hegemony designed to undercut China’s expanding influence as a world power.

One wonders now if the Trump administration’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”, where all nations are “free from coercion” and can pursue paths forward in a sovereign manner. will ably replace the Obama era of “rebalancing” toward Asia and make a difference. Open sea lines of communication and open airways are said to be a vital part of this thinking. Or has it come too late already, too?

So, should we be anxious or fearful of China’s brazen occupation in the SCS?

Of course we should!

The fact that China’s H-6K bomber has landed on Woody Island, Beijing’s largest military outpost in in the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, after already having deployed in the Spratlys J-11 fighters, HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missiles, and other military apparatus there, is indeed a reason for grieve apprehension.

Admiral Philip Davidson, incoming chief of the US Pacific Command, warned that China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in “all scenarios short of war with the United States.”

With American bases in the country, what this means is that we find ourselves now in a precarious situation caught between the devil and the deep blue sea and can be likened to iron files that is easily drawn to the magnet of war between these two military giants, if ever, God forbids.

 

 

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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.

 

Sereno ousted

 

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Surprised?

Well, not really, if you ask me.

Ever since former president Benigno Aquino appointed Maria Lourdes Sereno as replacement for the ousted late Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court (SC) Renato Corona in 2012 for undeclared wealth, there was no denying that the writing on the wall was likewise ominous for her.

The fact that Sereno leapt over her more senior peers of associate justices was unfair enough, but it was even deemed more unthinkable that Sereno, then 52, was expected to stay in her post until reaching the mandatory retirement age in 2030. It is no secret that it is the dream of every associate justice who have aged and gone this far to head the SC one time or another before retiring.

Perhaps this is the reason why Sereno was joined by only five associate justices at her first flag-raising ceremony.  Local media viewed the absence of her eight other colleagues as a snub, and confirmation that she leads a divided court.

Divided court indeed, for at the crucial time when Sereno needed her associate justice’s support, eight (8) turned their back and left her to fall in disgrace.

This is what the writing on the wall was all about, so to speak. For one reason or for many reasons, for as long as it not only pleases the ears of those who dislike Sereno, but has found justifiable reason for her to be removed, then the mechanism for her ouster could immediately be initiated.

It all started last March when the House of Representatives’ justice committee voted on the impeachment complaint against CJ Sereno filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. During these times, Solicitor General Jose Calida also filed the quo warranto petition citing Sereno’s failure to submit the required statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth when she was applying for the Chief Justice position.

What happened is that the SC en banc granted the quo warranto petition that questioned the validity of Sereno’s appointment and, voting 8-6, ousted her.

The decision is expected to be immediately executory, pending the filing of a motion for reconsideration by Sereno.

Not a lawyer, I wanted to educate myself on what ‘quo warranto’ is all about and if it has all the legal basis in ousting an impeachable official like Sereno.

This is what I learned, and gladly sharing it with you, after I visited this site: https://oag.ca.gov/opinions/quo-warranto.

Quo warranto is a special form of legal action used to resolve a dispute over whether a specific person has the legal right to hold the public office that he or she occupies.

Quo warranto is used to test a person’s legal right to hold an office, not to evaluate the person’s performance in the office. For example, a quo warranto action may be brought to determine whether a public official satisfies a requirement that he or she resides in the district; or whether a public official is serving in two incompatible offices.

Quo warranto is not available to decide whether an official has committed misconduct in office. A person who commits misconduct in a public office may be penalized or even removed from office, but quo warranto is not the proper forum for those cases. Other processes are available for that purpose.

The term “quo warranto” (pronounced both kwoh wuh-rahn-toh, and kwoh wahr-un-toh) is Latin for “by what authority”—as in, “by what authority does this person hold this office?” The term “quo warranto” is still used today, even though the phrase no longer appears in the statutes.

Quo warranto originated in English common law as a process initiated by the crown to find out whether a person was legitimately exercising a privilege or office granted by the crown, or whether the person was instead intruding into a royal prerogative.

Duterte’s decision to close Boracay

Perhaps one can say that this piece is already water under the bridge since President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved the recommendation of the three government agencies, namely, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to close the resort island of Boracay for six months.

The description by no less than the president of the famed place as “cesspool” indeed decidedly put a halt to the influx of tourist to the place.

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smells of what? Sh*t,” he had said.

Pretty strong and unfavorable words for the local government and stakeholders, but they all had it coming.

I am not writing this to discuss the inadequacies and ineptness of those governing and running their private entities while thinking only of the windfall of earnings they can make at the expense of the tourist who simply wants to experience fun in the Philippines, and the much talked about Boracay in particular, for this issue has received quite a beating already.

But it is perhaps proper and timely to mention here that the shortcomings, the myopic vision, and the vested interests of their own concerns took a toll on the environment, which is an important facet of tourism.

What I want to talk about, therefore, which certainly is not water under the bridge, is in the context of the urgency and necessity of the Boracay closure.

We must admit that the problems that caused embarrassment to Boracay, famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, did not happen overnight, or to put it straightforward, during Duterte’s presidency.

It has been reported that Boracay’s degradation has been blamed on the failure of the local government to enforce ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, and zoning and construction, among others.

Also, that at least 300 hotels, resorts and inns have been ignoring an ordinance that requires them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities. They have instead been dumping waste into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow.

Another upsetting revelation is that four of the nine wetlands on the island, meanwhile, are occupied by a shopping mall, a hotel and around 100 illegal settlers.

Talking about impunity by both the governing body and the governed!

While past administrations acted like the three proverbial monkeys exemplifying the proverbial principle of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, Duterte used his leadership and political will to make a difference in Boracay.

After all, it is the long range plan of sustaining the grandeur of Boracay for the country’s tourism industry that matters most.

 

US hands-off policy on South China Sea dispute

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim recently issued a statement, saying that America will defend the Philippines should a foreign force attack any of the country’s territories.

“Our commitment set in the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) is absolute that we will defend the Philippines,” said Kim during the Ambassador Series forum organized by Asia Society Philippines.

The US ambassador is referring to the treaty between the Philippines and US that was signed in 1951, which provides for the US to come to the assistance of the Philippines if its metropolitan territory or island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific area would be attacked.

Kim made the statement, however, with a caveat, which is that their hands-off policy on the Philippine-China territorial dispute is irrefutable.

What this means is that while the US is monitoring closely developments in the South China Sea amid the continuing militarization efforts by China on its man-made islands in the area, what concerns most the US is that the freedom of navigation in this part of the world goes must remain unhampered and undisturbed.

Not only that.

The US military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies. This is what is described as free nautical movement.

“…What we do is freedom of navigation and overflight to the freedoms of assembly and expression online. These are the things that we will enforce and so we fly, sail, and operate wherever international law permits.”

This statement was issued by Brian Hook, a senior adviser to the US Secretary of State on Asia Policy.

Hook described China’s militarization of the South China Sea as “provocative” and reiterated US commitment to uphold international law.

“We very strongly believe that China’s rise cannot come at the expense of the values and rules-based order… When China’s behavior is out of step with these values and these rules, we will stand up and defend the rule of law,” he said.

It will be noted that the Philippines has raised its claims on the South China Sea to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration and was favored by the international court in 2016. China, however, has refused to recognize the ruling.

Be that as it may, the US policy on free nautical movement is consolation enough that somehow claimant nations in the territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea that are allies of the US are protected.

Scandalous Jinggoy never learns

Former senator JinggoyEstrada

I am talking of course about former senator Jinggoy Estrada, who until today and after spending 3 years in detention for plunder and graft charges relative to the scandalous P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), seems to have never learned to change his old ways.

The reason why I am emphasizing his individuality and ethos is because Estrada, an actor and a failed senator, is contemplating again in running for senator, and to think that he is just out on bail momentarily.

As if the plunder and graft charges against him are not shameful and degrading to his persona, enough to put him at the higher pedestal of corrupt government officials, it, however, shows no negative effect on him as he continues to beguile Filipinos with impunity.

Take for instance Estrada’s application for a travel motion to go to the US from April 21 to May 31, 2018. Accordingly, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan granted the motion on March 26 since it is a simple travel motion that the court almost always grants for defendants.

The problem, however, is that the scheming Estrada, not contented with just the travel motion request to the US, flaunted it as having been invited to speak in Michigan on Philippine affairs, and it was upon the invitation of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG).

It was even reported that Estrada attached an invitation from William Dechavez, identified in the letter as USPGG president.

Apparently, this grandstanding by Estrada was debunked by no less than the incumbent USPGG president himself, Mr. Rodel Rodis, who issued a statement, saying: “I can confirm that there is no planned USPGG event on May 20 in Michigan. I communicated with Mr Wllie Dechavez, our USPGG Michigan chair, and he made no plans for this event as he is in the Philippines for a vacation and he has not been in touch with his members in Michigan.”

If this is not another reprehensible and dastardly act by Estrada, worthy of condemnation and boycott on his senatorial run again, I do not know what is.

Because of this fraudulent turn of events, the Ombudsman prosecutors told the Sandiganbayan: “With this information, the prosecution is constrained to pray that the Honorable Court hold in abeyance the issuance of the travel authority of accused Estrada since accused appears to have committed material misrepresentations in his motion, thus openly violating one of the terms and conditions of the court in allowing an accused to travel.

They added: “Allowing accused Estrada to travel to the United States with the consequence of making him beyond the reach of the Honorable Court, despite the falsity of the purported invitation letter, may constitute a travesty of justice.”

Jinggoy with President Duterte at the Palarong Pambansa 2018.opening.

Yet, unabashedly, Estrada continues his odious quest for a slot in the PDP-Laban senatorial slate for 2019 by working hard to be under the good graces of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Look how Estrada tries hard to ingratiate himself to the president by showing his slavish subservience – shaking the president’s hand and bowing so low.

Cambridge Analytica a non-factor in electing Duterte president

Long before Cambridge Analytica, a British political data firm, got embroiled in controversy of scandalous proportion when it was alleged to have secretly and inappropriately made a Facebook data breach and harvested personal contents from some 87 million users, including, it said, over a million in the Philippines, to influence the country’s 2016 presidential election result, the way it is said to have catapulted America’s Donald Trump to the presidency, the majority of the Filipino people by then had already decided that, for a change, they will no longer be voting for a traditional politician.

It was no surprise therefore that when then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte finally declared his candidacy for president, the Filipinos went crazy rooting for him. Their prayers were answered. They now had an out-of-the-box candidate, a no-nonsense one at that, whose track record in governance is something most politicians should be envious about, but whose heart really beats for the Filipino people and whose dream is to make the whole country a livable place, in the same manner Duterte made Davao City a comfortable place for the Davaoeños.

Senator Antonio Trillanes and President Rodrigo Duterte

The reason why I am saying that Cambridge Analytica has nothing to do at all with Duterte being elected president stems from the fact that opposition senator and known Duterte basher, Antonio Trillanes, has been reported to be filing a resolution calling for a Senate probe into the role of Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 presidential elections, the same way the British firm is being accused now of capturing Facebook users’ data to corrupt the minds of the Americans into making the controversy-laden Donald Trump their president during the 2016 US presidential election.

The reality is that it was the intense hunger of Filipinos for a fearless and selfless down-to-earth Filipino leader with political will that made Duterte an overwhelming choice for the presidency.

The majority of poor voters who gave Duterte a margin of 6 million votes over his closest rival are proof enough that Cambridge Analytica was a non-factor, for they were not relishing in having a Facebook account.

Thus, I find Trillanes’ move for a Senate probe a mere grandstanding and purely nothing but a witch-hunt.

For not finding anymore culpability to spew barbs at Duterte, the way the latter continues to get support, trust and high approval ratings in his performance as president, Trillanes somehow thought he has found a bomb to be used against Duterte in the Cambridge Analytica controversy.

Soon Trillanes will come to realize that the bomb is a dud after all!