Putting sense into our vote

 

Election is just a few days away and there is no better time to make sure that our country will be in good hands going forward than for everyone to go out and vote.

Every election time is very crucial for the country as it helps chart the destiny of the country, but I hope people will consider the May 13 midterm legislative election as something compelling for them to exercise their freedom of suffrage because we want to make sure that the outcome will not allow us to retrogress and risk the relapse of becoming the ignoble “sick man of Asia” again.

The reason why I am saying this is because the world community is acknowledging and recognizing the leadership of President Duterte and there is nothing more important than to choose candidates who support the direction the president is leading the country and not be an obstructionist for the sake of being one.

We have to admit that like everybody else, Duterte is a flawed man, but for one whose satisfaction rating has always been high, and even rated “excellent” in the first quarter of 2019 by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), it could only mean that most Filipinos approve of his non-traditional leadership.

Duterte’s relentless war on illegal drugs and his aversion to corruption in government, as well as his repulsion to criminality in our society, are exercises of political will. Many loathe him for his seeming uncivility, but this is what sets him apart from past presidents who would rather be popular than be motivated to perform a political action that would have negative impact upon the voters, so come what may.

Suffice to say that Duterte governance has always been predicated on his love for the country. It is not about himself but rather about the Filipino people he has been sworn to serve.

Sad to say, however, that many candidates who are running now for senators are banking on their popularity and not on what they have inside their heads and their hearts. They seem to have correctly psych up already how the Filipino electorate votes and this is what makes them confident that they will win. Talking about actors, singers, and the prominently infamous one of the martial law years and those of the PDAF scandal.

Certainly, this is not putting sense into our votes and this is why I am appealing for more well meaning Filipinos to participate in this election if only to offset those looking at election as a popularity contest. If they happen to belong to the Dutertes PDP-Laban and Hugpong ng Pagbabago parties, repudiate them.

Perhaps it is worth remembering Plato’s famous quote about politics, saying: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

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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.

 

Honesty in politics

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio

There is no doubt that Filipinos have unabashedly shown their appreciation and admiration for President Rodrigo Duterte and presidential daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, for their political will, political toughness and their predilection that a politician who runs for public office must truly be a sincere servant leader.

Both exemplified this out-of-the box leadership style in making and sustaining what Davao City is today – a safe, peaceful, stable and highly livable place, which has become the envy of other cities in the country.

The Filipino people, hungry for a change in governance by traditional politicians, opted to throw in their lot with Duterte hoping that what the latter has done in Davao could be duplicated in the whole Philippine archipelago.

On the promise that that he will be waging war against illegal drugs, corruption and criminality like it has never been done before, the voters overwhelmingly gave Duterte the mandate to lead the country. Alas, in totality, the complexity and enormity of the drug problem plaguing the whole country has been so overwhelming that three years into his presidency the war is far from over.

 It is on this context that presidential daughter, Sara, is spearheading the campaign to have her Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) senatorial bets elected in the coming May 2019 elections if only to ensure that President Duterte will be able to have control of the Senate to help him implement whatever remaining programs and reforms he has for the country in the last remaining three years of his presidency.

What is perturbing, however, about the coming election is that both the administration and opposition party leaders and their respective candidates are more obsessed about honesty more than what they can do to help move the country forward and improve the lives of the Filipinos.

I mean, c’mon, honesty has never been the strongest attribute of any politician and never has it been a requirement to qualify them to run for public office.

Even Socrates, during his time said, “I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.”

It is said that one of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politicians’ objective. Election and power are.

In effect Sara Duterte is right when she said that honesty should not be an election issue. But it does not mean, however, that she has the best senatorial bets. On the contrary she has quite an array of notoriously popular but inept candidates whose only advantage over the opposition bets is their closeness to the powers that be and, who, in reality, does not belong in the Senate.

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.

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.

 

 

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?

Anybody but Callamard

 

I am talking of course about UN Special Rapporteur (SR) Agnes Callamard and her penchant in announcing to the whole world that President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is a failure, prejudging it as nothing but willful summary executions and extrajudicial killings that blatantly violate human rights.

I say penchant because this is where Callamard’s expertise lies – investigating and reporting wherever and whoever it is that is behind the extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions.

It wouldn’t have been a problem if she did her job objectively in the Philippines. The problem is that she sought and depended largely on people, sectors and entities belonging to the opposition and Duterte bashers who would tell her what she wants to hear.

Almost always what Callamard hears is not the truth, for the truth should be coming from the majority of Filipinos who elected Duterte for president because they wanted change in governance and which Duterte is seen to be delivering in his promise to wage war against drugs, corruption and criminality.

Duterte has been in power for almost two years now and his trust and approval ratings remain high despite negative reviews he is getting from people like Callamard, on his alleged human rights abuses and his bloody war against drugs.

One should be a citizen of this country and an avid follower of the political events that has happened in the past up to the present to fully understand and appreciate the difference it makes by having a leader who exercises power coupled with political will, as oppose to a leader who has power but lacks the political will.

Political will is defined as the ghost in the machine of politics – that motive force that generates political action. This is what differentiates Duterte from the recent past presidents and knowing closely now what made us the ‘sick man of Asia’ for so long, his unorthodox leadership necessitated an out-of-the-box thinking and ideas on how to move this country forward to stability and improve the lives of Filipinos.

The reality is that in so doing the forces of good battles the forces of evil that has been instrumental in hindering the progress of this nation, and lives are lost, sometimes brutally in the process.

It is no surprise, therefore, that while the Philippine government is now amenable to have an investigation conducted into alleged human rights abuses in its bloody war on drugs, it has equally signified strongly its opposition that it be headed by SR Callamard.

Presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, a lawyer, said the Philippines welcomed any investigation provided that the United Nations sends a “credible, objective and unbiased” rapporteur, who is also “an authority in the field that they seek to investigate”.

Callamard does not fit that description, he said.

I have written once about Callamard which you can read at this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/war-on-illegal-drugs/.

But to know more about Callamard, I am sharing with you this link which definitely says more about this controversial SR: http://www.manilatimes.net/un-rapporteur-callamards-big-lie-un-resolution/326057/.