A new twist in Phil-China relationship

 

This is a new twist in the Phil-China relationship that I surely welcome and so should the rest of the Filipino people who feels aggrieved, bullied and disadvantaged over China’s wanton aggression and utter disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty – the international agreement that defines the limits of the territorial seas of nations and the areas in which they could exploit marine resources.

It is now history at what China has done and accomplished in the South China Sea (SCS), of which the West Phil Sea is part of it, and for a little insight you may open this link, among the other pieces I wrote about these controversial seas:  https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/eez/.

If it is of any consolation at least President Rodrigo Duterte has finally found the courage and the aggressiveness to chide China, calling it wrong the latter’s claim of the airspace over their militarized artificial islands in the SCS.

“That is wrong because those waters are what we consider international sea,” Duterte said in a speech before an audience that included foreign guests.

“You cannot create an island, it’s man-made, and you say that the air above these artificial islands is yours,” the president also said.

The logic of this statement is simply profound and, indeed, incontrovertible.

This rebuke from Duterte came in the wake of a repeated warning radioed by the Chinese military to a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon plane to “leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding” while the reconnaissance aircraft flew close to some of the man-made islands.

On this, Duterte said, “I hope that China would temper … its behavior.”

This observation and comments by Duterte did not sit well with Beijing, however, as it ignored Duterte’s chiding, saying and asserting instead that where the man-made islands are in the SCS all are China’s inherent territory and, thus, it has the right to react to foreign ships or aircraft that get close to its islands.

Perhaps piqued by China’s continued arrogance in asserting its supremacy of the airspace over the militarized man-made islands, which for timeless occasions even our own military aircraft patrolling the area receives Chinese radio warnings, Duterte could only issue another relative statement, saying, “You cannot create islands there and claim the sea. That is not an island, artificial islands are not true, are prohibited in the middle sea. ‘Yan nga ang rule diyan eh (That’s the rule there).

Another frustration vented? You bet!

I only hope that in this new twist in Phil-China relationship Duterte will be able to see a lot more to it than meets the eye.

It’s never too late.

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Duterte vents frustration

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

This may be aptly described also as the Duterte resignation brouhaha.

This has reference of course to the latest announcement by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte during a speech at Malacañang Palace that he was mulling of quitting the presidency, saying, “Guys, I want you to know that I am thinking of stepping down because I’m tired,” he said. “I am not angry [with] anybody. My chase against graft and corruption seems to be endless, and it has contaminated almost all government departments and offices.”

It is not the first time we have heard Duterte hinting about his plans of stepping down despite having four more years in his term.

But I don’t think Duterte is really serious in his threat of giving up the presidency.

For one he has made history and he owns the bragging rights about winning the presidency with over six million votes against his closest rival and to this day has a high support and trust rating from the Filipino people. In fact Duterte called his “historic” victory “the triumph of the people, by the people and for the people.”

But for another and more importantly, Duterte certainly would like history to be kind to him, thus all this brouhaha of having a Marcos or an Escudero to succeed him instead of Robredo and suggesting that a military junta would even be better to run the country when he steps down are all nonsensical and should not be taken seriously.

To say, however, that Duterte’s expressed feelings and emotions are product of his frustrations in not being able to defeat the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country and not being able to stop corruption from spreading in all sectors of government at the time frame he promised during the campaign and beyond is simply being forthright and human.

Duterte’s candor should not be mistaken for complete failure in his governance especially in dealing with corruption, criminality and most of all about the illegal drug scourge.

If Duterte has been able to sustain a high trust rating among Filipinos it simply means that most like what they see in him and what he is doing for the country. It could have been worse if we elected a yellow-bellied politician as a leader.

Thus, Duterte owes it to the people to continue leading.

But what the people can ask of Duterte at this very crucial moment in our history is to ponder once more if he really has the right people who like him, has primarily the interest of the country and the well-being of its people.

Duterte has to seriously think once more if his closeness with China a boon or bane for the country in the long term. I am saying this because almost all of the sources of illegal drugs in the country come from China and to think that China is very much our neighbor now.

Duterte should already refrain from trying to ram down in every Filipino’s throat to support and have another Marcos at the helm. Duterte won the presidency because he showed to be a different animal. Marcos belongs to the group of animals the people repudiated which made Duterte a winner.

Lastly, Duterte should rethink about his exhortation and move for the country to adopt a federal  form of government. This is one political recipe that will only exacerbate the proliferation of drugs, encourage more corruption and abet criminality. The country is not ready for this. The country needs politicians in the mold of Duterte to make federalism a success.

Otherwise, Duterte’s frustrations today will be the Filipino people’s nightmare tomorrow.

 

 

The federalism hoopla

 

Ever since the subject of federalism has been broach up years back I never was sold out to it.

The current 1987 Constitution was promulgated during the time of Pres. Cory Aquino when she discarded the 1973 Constitution because  “she did not want to derive legitimacy and power from the very institutions that she fought”, saying, she wanted to start anew and break from the “vestiges of a disgraced dictatorship.”

I am just saying this at the outset because the 1973 constitution, to this day, has served us well.

One of the compelling arguments for those trumpeting the federal form of government is that the concentration of power and wealth will now be decentralized such that governance is now done in a regional manner thus making it more convenient and responsive to the immediate need of the people.

So what if the authority will now be localized and to hell with “imperial Manila”?

Are we saying that by changing the Constitution again in order to comply with the requirements of a federal form of government we will finally and ultimately be able to address the country’s political and socio-economic woes?

Can’t we not, for a moment, rationalize that in fact and in truth what has gone wrong all these years that we had been under a presidential form of government is that the people we elected to lead this country did not live up to our highest expectations?

Is the transformation we are expecting from this Constitutional change will also alter completely the character of the people such that peace, tranquility and progress for the nation and the Filipinos will be attained?

Or is the shifting from presidential to federalism only going to be a transition from bad to worse?

And I am not even talking here yet about the enormous expenses to be incurred when it is going to be effected, God forbids.

I had always been pragmatic in my belief that after experiencing the dark days of the Marcos regime the brilliant minds behind the drafting of the 1987 Constitution made sure that what they wrote will do justice to the Filipino people and will be able to stand the test of times.

The 1987 Constitution may not be perfect, but if it is deemed to have failed such that people are calling for it to be re-written, the stark reality is that it is the imperfection of man that has made it deficient.

The election of Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency in 2016 has convinced me more than any other time that it only takes a determined, fearless and strong-willed leader who knows his law to make the 1987 Constitution potent and successful.

I find it very ironic that in the same vein Duterte is the very person that is loudly advocating the change to federalism.

It would have served Duterte well had he thoughtfully considered  former Chief Justice Hilario Davide’s warning that shifting to federalism was a “lethal experiment” as it did not suit the Philippines and the “people of our generation and even those of the succeeding generations.” Davide happens to be one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution.

Davide is not only referring to the Philippines being a third world country with more regions poorer than richer, but more so about our nature as Filipinos.

Davide said that if the shift to federalism were to deal with the imbalance created by an “Imperial Manila,” then this could be done by “effectively and efficiently implementing the relevant provisions” of the present Constitution “for strong local autonomy and decentralization.”

With the kind of president that Duterte is, this could easily be done without spending billions to make federalism workable and sustainable in the whole Philippine archipelago.

Presidential daughter should heed call to lead the country

 

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte

I am of course talking about Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the president’s daughter.

I could not agree more with Senator Panfilo Lacson who recently said that his choice for the next leader of the country is Sara.

For one who had been supporting President Rodrigo Duterte, warts and all, all these years, and acknowledge and recognizes his good intentions of making the whole country a safe and livable place, like what he has made Davao City to be one such place, I could not think of anybody else who could be more apt and adept to take over the reins of leadership than his own daughter, Sara.

Sara, in her own right, is also a lawyer and a successful politician.

Sara has been able to sustain what the father has started in Davao City, and she is her own person.

In totality Sara is what her father is – an out-of-the-box thinker, strict, tough and a heart especially for the poor. Cusswords? Well, she may likely utter them, too, but perhaps covertly, and I cannot blame her.

But over and above her character or attributes she has inherited from her father, what is important and significant is that she knows who her father is and what he is doing for the country and the Filipino people in general.

What I am driving at is having a continuity in the mission and vision of President Duterte for the country and its people. There could not be anybody else reliably better than Sara, the daughter herself.

It takes somebody like Sara, who is very close to the president, and who serves sometimes as a presidential confidant, to understand how things are done and to have no other selfish motivation but to move the country forward, help alleviate the lives of the people and establish a country that is respected and well spoken of.

Like Lacson, I am not saying that there are no emerging young leaders in the country to take over the helm of government after Duterte.

In fact how I wish Lacson, who himself is strict and straightforward, could take over after Duterte, but his past, as we all know, will just be used to haunt him.

But the truth is that I could not imagine having a Cayetano, a Trillanes, a Sotto, an Ejercito, a Poe, or an Escudero to succeed President Duterte.

Surely their motivation and aspirations will be different, as will be their sense of direction for lack of political will.

We had been there before and for a long time having traditional politicians as leaders and it got us nowhere.

With President Duterte at the helm there are favorable differences happening in the country that are welcomed by many Filipinos, thus Duterte’s high satisfaction ratings in the polls.

It will take another Duterte, hopefully Sara, to fulfill her father’s dreams for the country and its people.

 

Dissecting the mind of Trump

I am one of many individuals around the world who continues to wonder, and of course to worry, what has become of the United States of America (USA) with Donald Trump as its president.

It makes one even wonder more if Trump really meant what he said when he made popular his rallying cry, ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA).

Or could it be that, for a populist president like Trump, what he wants his slogan to be, absolutely, is ‘Make Trump Great Again’ (MTGA).

It is for this reason that I reprinted here a very engrossing and thought-provoking article I found published in POLITICO Magazine and authored by Ms. Bandy X. Lee and Mr. Tony Schwartz because I want to share with you how ably and aptly they have dissected Trump’s mind and persona that only confirmed, without any doubt, who we truly believe Trump is and what his ambitions are as the leader of the greatest nation on Earth.

In a way this piece is comforting.

Inside the Mind of Donald Trump

He’s grandiose, deceitful and paranoid—but don’t let him drive you crazy.

By BANDY X. LEE and TONY SCHWARTZ

July 27, 2018

Why is President Donald Trump behaving in ways that seem ever more irrational, impulsive, self-destructive, dangerous and cruel? Many Americans have been shocked by Trump’s behavior, most recently by his taking the side of a known enemy in Vladimir Putin and Russia over his own intelligence community.

It isn’t possible to reliably diagnose any individual from a distance, but it is reasonable to flag clear, observable signs of impairment and to make inferences based on repetitive patterns of behavior. There is a significant difference between diagnosing a specific disorder and analyzing the meaning of the qualities Trump exhibits, such as paranoia, grandiosity, lack of empathy and pathological deceit. Trump’s behavior, we believe, is the predictable outgrowth of this psychological disposition, exacerbated by the stress of the intensifying criminal investigations he faces.

Our assessment is based on descriptions from those who have worked with him, his own voluminous responses to real situations in real time, and above all by our unique vantage points. One of us is a forensic psychiatrist who has treated more than 1,000 individuals with characteristics similar to Trump’s. The other spent 18 months shadowing, observing and interviewing Trump in order to co-write The Art of the Deal.

Trump’s increasing grandiosity is evident in the superlatives he uses to refer to himself—“stable genius” among them—and in the way he has consolidated his power by getting rid of aides and Cabinet members who have challenged his authority. Because no person or circumstance can possibly satisfy his needs, nearly everyone in his life eventually becomes expendable, and he becomes more and more isolated.

Trump’s growing paranoia is reflected in the vitriolic comments he has made about a range of perceived enemies, including Democrats and Republicans, allies in the G-7, the intelligence community, the news media and immigrants. His hunger for absolute power is evident in his bizarrely admiring words about despots, including North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte. His frequent lies reveal his need to redefine reality when the truth doesn’t serve his needs.

Given Trump’s volatility, incuriosity and severely limited attention span, his decisions are not significantly influenced by reflection or analytical reasoning. Because he cannot tolerate even the mildest criticism, he is largely immune to learning and growth. Instead, unable to regulate his emotions, he reacts angrily, and often with threats of revenge, to any challenge to his authority. Even success provides him with only momentary satisfaction.

Trump’s psychological disposition has profound implications for our personal, national and international security. Unfortunately, Americans remain deeply reluctant to talk openly about mental health or to recognize how profoundly it can influence behavior. Because the president’s level of mental impairment is so unusual to observe, it is difficult for most of us to understand what catastrophic desperation such people can feel to fill their own inner sense of emptiness.

Trump described to Tony a cold father with whom his relationship was “almost businesslike” and a mother who was mostly uninvolved in his life. Through Bandy’s work interviewing men who were deprived in childhood of the love and support necessary to develop a core self, she concluded that the stable internal center that holds their beliefs, principles, attachments, loyalties—and even their capacity for humanity—never gets well established.

Instead, most such men become almost completely dependent on others for their sense of self-worth. They become hypersensitive to slights. In the most extreme cases, their envy can prompt them to take sadistic pleasure in tormenting perceived enemies, and those they think are getting more respect than they are. In Trump’s case, his need to demonstrate over and over that he is worthy of admiration overwhelms his capacity to focus on nearly anything else.

While our elected officials and much of the news media have avoided the topic of Trump’s mental health, it is clear that our adversaries have carefully studied his psychological weaknesses and determined how to use them to their advantage, as we saw during his negotiations with Putin and Kim Jong Un. Ironically, our own intelligence community does just this sort of analysis about foreign leaders.

Trump’s grip on reality will likely continue to diminish as he faces increasing criticism, accusations, threats of impeachment and potential criminal indictments. We can expect him to become more desperate, more extreme in his comments, more violent in his threats, and more reckless and destructive in his actions. His latest extreme threat to Iran is one example, and he is likely to return to similar threats to North Korea if he feels that Kim Jong Un is making him look weak and unsuccessful.

So how can we hold onto our own mental health in the face of the danger Trump poses? First, don’t use logic or rationality to try to understand or counter Trump’s statements and behaviors. He is driven not by reason but by negative emotions that are infectious. Trump thrives on creating fear and sowing confusion. He lies without guilt. Don’t match his emotion with your own.

Second, be clearer than ever about your core values, beliefs and principles, and rely on them for guidance and comfort, especially when you are feeling most triggered and fearful. Challenge every day the natural inclination to feel overwhelmed, fatigued or numb in the face of Trump’s behavior. This is what people with his psychological inclinations count on. Trump is aware that whatever he says repeatedly—no matter how outrageous—many people are more likely to believe, or at least to stop resisting.

Lastly, recognize that fear is your enemy. Holding onto the opposites of realism and optimism is the best antidote. James Stockdale, a Navy vice admiral, was imprisoned for eight years in North Vietnam and tortured repeatedly. What he said afterward about how he survived is relevant for anyone dealing with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Bandy X. Lee is assistant clinical professor in law and psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a project leader for the World Health Organization.

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive of The Energy Project and the co-author of The Art of the Deal.

Duterte’s scandalous choice of Arroyo

 

Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo replaces Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez as Speaker of the House

I do not know how else to describe the Dutertes preference for former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for the speakership of the House replacing Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, but one that is scandalous for several reasons.

When I say ‘Dutertes’, I actually mean Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and her daughter, Sara, who is presently the mayor of Davao City and the one identified as having orchestrated the coup against Alvarez.

There is no doubt that the Dutertes preference for Arroyo translated into a sealed victory for the latter, especially knowing that Duterte’s allies control the House. It was clearly seen as a rebuff of Alvarez’s leadership and his arrogant and ambitious persona that knew no respect for his co-equals in government, more so for those lower in rank.

I have no words of compassion for Alvarez, but like many, I only have disdain for the man, as he bitterly savors the taste of his own medicine.

But why choose a corruption-plagued former president as a replacement for Alvarez?

As it is, we are still divided as people and the support and election of Arroyo is not only scandalous in nature but is adding more crack to the chasm that already exist among us.

If the Dutertes believe that Arroyo can be used as an instrument to unite the people, I think they haven’t accurately felt the pulse of the people.

The Filipino people has had enough of former president Arroyo, after being involved in major anomalies such as the Fertilizer Fund scam, the Hello Garci controversy, the National Broadband Network scandal, the Northrail controversy, etc. This is not even mentioning the corruption charges filed against Arroyo’s husband and son.

The fact the Arroyo was under hospital arrest for charges of electoral fraud and misuse of millions of dollars in state lottery funds speak volumes of the kind of leader she is.

Very ironic, indeed, that Duterte, who won the presidency on the promise, among other things, to work for a corrupt-free society has taken into his fold a high profile corrupt politician. Sad to say it simply defeats the purpose of the Duterte presidency.

Certainly, Arroyo’s ascendancy as the leader of the House does not augur well for the country.

Hope the Dutertes realize this sooner than later.

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.