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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, June 10, 2019

I'm not for capital punishment, but I'm willing to make exception for crooks who absconded PhilHealth funds worth a whopping P154B for bogus dialysis patients, some even already dead! Dynasties continue to bastardize party-list system.

President Duterte was quoted in the Inquirer as ready to order the NBI to arrest the "idiot" who schemed about allocating PhilHealth funds for ghost dialysis patients. The President was quoted as wanting to throw the guy into the Pasig River---though he ultimately relented by asserting that the criminal would be rescued from drowning.

If you ask me, throwing the guy into the Pasig would be too kind a punishment. 

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 I have always taken a stand against death penalty in the belief that human life is sacred and that only our Maker has the right to take it away. Reading about the hideous schemes uncovered by the Inquirer, however---the absconding of PhilHealth funds worth a staggering P154B intended for dialysis patients---I feel that perhaps the only way to scare criminals who deprive poor Filipinos of this very vital health service is to revive the death penalty. 

The question that hurts so much at this point is, Why have our people gone so corrupt? 

With corruption seemingly so inured in the Filipino way of life, perhaps only the death penalty would scare some citizens who have grown so brazen as to pass off patients long dead as continuing to receive dialysis. It's most likely that crooks in both hospital and PhilHealth have long been conniving to steal the funds intended for this procedure for the needy.  

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Dialysis is a means to alleviate malfunctioning of the urinary bladder, and it often hits poorer folk who have an overdose of bagoong and other salty stuff, as well as poor quality hard drinks. But the problem with dialysis is that it's a most expensive medical procedure to cleanse the body's wastes arising from organ malfunctioning.

PhilHealth enables those in the lower-income bracket to utilize this life-saving procedure by footing the bill;  but sadly, a staggering P154B was lost from the PhilHealth funds for bogus dialyses of bogus patients---a good number of them even already dead. 

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Obviously for this kind of racket to prosper in staggering proportions of P154B, there has to be wide and longtime collusion between staff of PhilHealth and personnel of participating clinics and hospitals. The crime has left a paper trail, but what is most unbelievable is how far it has gone and how bold and fearless of the law the corrupt bureaucrats have become!  

Mr. Duterte, who fashions himself as an anti-corrupt President, has to crack the whip as it not only involves staggering amounts of squandered government funds, it also victimizes especially the neediest citizens who need dialysis the most---and who presumably are dearest to the President's heart.  

Yes, I realize that it's unpopular to invoke capital punishment which has already been outlawed in our country. But it seems to be needed in this case, if only to sow fear among very corrupt bureaucrats.

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A week after the elections, my radio partner, Cecile Guidote Alvarez, and I invited to our "Radyo Balintataw" weekly Sunday program over nationwide dzRH Prof. Bobby Tuason, who heads the political science department of UP Manila and is the Executive Director of the Center for People Governance (CENPEG). We asked Prof. Tuason to give us an idea of how the party-list system fared in the recent elections.

True to our fear, he showed us that political dynasties continue to  maintain a tight grip on the party-list system, just as much as on the regular constituency.  Thus, in effect, this dynastic grip noted in various parts of the country bastardizes the innovation supposed to have been provided by R.A. 7941, "The Party List Law." The laudable rationale behind this law is to give proper representation to "Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and under-represented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined constituencies." 

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The aim of the Party List Law as envisioned by our Constitution drafters was noble and democratic, but the result of the recent elections shows that we have a long way to go, to truly democratize Philippine society. Herewith are the overall records to prove it, as furnished by Prof. Bobby Tuason, director of the CENTER FOR PEOPLE EMPOWERMENT AND GOVERNANCE (CenPeg):

SENATE

* Sixteen out of the 24 members of the Senate belong to political dynasties, which means 67% of the Senate members.

* 9 out of the 12 newly-elected senators are members of political dynasties, which means 75% of the newly-elected senators are dynastic in origin. 

* 7 out of 12  "continuing senators" (whose term will end on June 30, 2022) are members of political dynasties. This means that 58% of these "continuing" senators are members of political dynasties.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

* At least 149 out of the 304 new House members come from political dynasties---that's at least 49% of the House.  

* On district representation, at least 129 representatives out of 243 new district representation are members of political dynasties---that represents 53% of the new district representatives.

* On party-list representation, at least 20 party-list nominees who will become new members of the House of  Representatives come from political dynasties. 

* They  represent at least 33% of the 61 party-list seats which will be held by nominees who are members of  political dynasties.

* At least 34 out of those 61 Party-list seats were allocated to party-list groups linked to political dynasties.

Many thanks for these data, Prof. Bobby Tuason and the CenPeg secretariat.



Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Why oh why, with all the preparations, did Comelec come up with so many defective VCMs that heightened suspicions of hocus-picos on poll outcome? Recruit a Comelec head with impeccable integrity and professional IT experts to help him. Too many boo-boos in recent exercise---a shame. .



Why oh why did we have so many malfunctioning vote-counting machines (VCMs) in the recent elections when the Comelec had more than sufficient time to put them in order since the 2016 presidential elections?  This was the question on many citizens' minds as election day stretched out last Monday, May 13, and the ugly reality of malfunctioning VCMs came to fore once again across the country.

There were easily 400-600 malfunctioning VCMs that had to be replaced around 2 pm. of election day, and although Comelec officials were quick to assure that it has 10,000 VCMs ready as replacement (!), the question on many minds was:  why couldn't we have had those machines that were working RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING? Why use the ones they were unsure of?


Malfunctioning machines is so THIRD WORLD. WRONG. FIFTH WORLD PA NGA! And it encourages cheating and accusations all over the place.


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Among those who encountered defective VCMs were the camps of former VP Jojo and Nancy Binay,  Grace Poe and Pasig mayoralty candidate and ultimate winner Vico Sotto. It took five hours before the aberration could be fixed in Sotto's case, as at least 35 VCMs were not working in Pasig.  Faulty machines were also recorded in Datu Sinsuat in Maguindanao, the Central School in Jolo, Balabag in Kidapawan City and certain precincts in Marawi City. Many other glitches probably went unreported.


This prompted ACT Teacher party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio to opine that automation's benefit is quick and transparent counting of votes, but "It's beginning to feel like a throwback to the pre-automation era." What a shame before the world!


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The chaos created by malfunctioning machines all across the archipelago invited even minds not normally malicious to suspect and fear that monkey-business was being promoted by Comelec officials. This, in turn, could lead to the avalanche of protest votes which could clog up the work of the poll body---so that it becomes entirely possible that grease money could be coughed up by candidates who wanted their complaints settled fast. 


More than anything, however, it destroys the faith of our people in our elections.

One Comelec official had the temerity to state that technical glitches were just among the many headaches that sprung up during election day. But why? Wasn't there enough time to prepare for the 2019 mid-term elections? Such glitches created the most destructive atmosphere for the recent elections as it prayed on the suspicions of many candidates---and their supporters---that cheating was going to be routine again in these elections. May 13 proceeded under a most unhealthy atmosphere.


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I submit that the administration should endeavor FROM HEREON to put the management of the Comelec in the hands of technical people who fully understand how to run this most important public office in such a way as to eliminate---to the best of their abilities---the technical glitches that spring up every election. Let's look for bureaucrats who will not regard these SYSTEMIC ABERRATIONS always  as an act of God. 


With all due respect, God doesn't favor frauds and stupidities. In the first place, such argument is blasphemous,  for as the story of the Creation tells us, God looked at His work and liked what He saw. He certainly wouldn't like to be blamed for malfunctioning VCMs, which is the realm of stupid and inefficient, perhaps even evil-plotting men.

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One problem with Comelec is that  since time immemorial it has been run either by ex-politicians or ex-jurists, under whom the technical guys work. Politicians such as Ben Abalos and Sheriff Abas have headed Comelec and jurists such as Hilario Davide, Jr., Bernardo Park, Harriet Demetriou, Alfredo Benipayo and Jose Melo were among its top executives.


I submit that we should take the Comelec away from the clutches of ex-politicians and ex-jurists and entrust the poll body---a most critical instrument, PERHAPS THE MOST CRITICAL, in a democracy--- first and foremost, to technical professionals with a reputation for integrity, so as to cure it of its periodic ailments come election time. Recruiting professionals would not only free the poll body from suspicions of partisanship, it would also professionalize the tough job of managing the elections.


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What the administration and the Comelec leadership seem to want the electorate to accept is the reality that our elections will always have such glitches and we just have to learn to live with them. This is a very Third World attitude which is shameful. In addition, it is most unhealthy, as those glitches give rise to election disputes arising from suspicions of cheating, which often ends up with violence.


Such machine aberrations condition the Filipino people to accept elections as always dirty and malfunctioning, and this attitude---accepting the incompetence and the corruption---is most unhealthy for our people, who should be exposed to excellence in every endeavor.  This is also grave injustice to our heroes, such as Jose Rizal who died so that we may all see the dawn.


Let's have free, clean and glitches-free elections we can be proud of to the world.




Friday, May 17, 2019

Political pundits are tripping all over, trying to analyze the mystique of Rodrigo Duterte that impacted the recent elections. Here's one more try.





Folks have been trying to analyze where the tremendous appeal of President Duterte is coming from. I submit that it's coming from various directions---like a blitzkrieg.

There is his folksiness combined with a penchant for bawdiness. For the first time in years we don't have a president who looks elitist. Mr. Duterte's craggy features tell of grassroots origin, a face that millions of rural Filipinos could identify with, and he speaks with a heavy Visayan accent, like typical rural folk.

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Contrast this, for instance, with one-time presidential candidate Joe de Venecia in the late 80's, who always spoke in English and above the heads of the masses. JDV would have been great as a super-diplomat to the UN or to the world banking community, but not to lead the rural Filipinos who comprise perhaps 70% of our country's population.


This is why JDV failed rather miserably in his presidential bid three presidential campaigns ago against Joseph Estrada---even though JDV would have made a brilliant president who could have put us on the world map in no time.

XXX


By contrast, all JDV's opponent then, Joseph Estrada, had to do on stage was to grunt and groan, but he ran away with the elections.


Erap was awfully folksy and a hit in the rural areas, but he didn't have the brains of another folksy character named Rodrigo Duterte, which is why his administration didn't succeed much. In no time he was booted out by the second People Power and in the elections just concluded, the Estrada clan was virtually wiped out in several places.


XXX


Other past candidates for the presidency had their own mystique worth weighing. For instance, there was Gilbert Teodoro who ran two presidential campaigns ago.


Tall, good-looking and scion of wealthy clans (the Cojuangcos on his mother's side and the Teodoros on his dad's side), a Harvard-trained bar-topnotcher lawyer, Gibo Teodoro fascinated the educated class (I campaigned very hard for him).

Gibo failed to make a dent, however, on the lower-income groups who comprise the vast majority of our electorate---because he looked too sleek and classy. Instead they voted overwhelmingly for his third-degree cousin, Noynoy Aquino, who looked every bit folksy and son of two political icons.

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Gibo was masyadong malinis, flying his own plane and with a beautiful model-like wife to boot. His campaign strategy for the presidency featured himself as a 747 pilot at the helm of Team Philippines---but a 747 was something 95% of the Filipinos have never ridden in.

By contrast, Noynoy Aquino, who won that same election, looked folksy, even though he was an hacendero and probably wealthier than cousin Gilbert Teodoro. Moreover, folks could identify with Noynoy, especially since his parents, Ninoy and Cory Aquino, were considered hero and heroine.


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Following the same line, Mr. Duterte not only looks very masa, he does sound like one with his thick Visayan accent. Couple this with his penchant for bawdy jokes and you've got an unbeatable tantalizer from the stage, for the Filipino audience---the masa out there who comprise 78% of the electorate.
Digong's bawdy jokes were a big hit in the recent campaign. Recall his line while on a campaign stage in Bohol, about his wanting to pull the panty garters of a good-looking lady mayor who chose to dress in a miniskirt on stage---so that she couldn't run away from him, smitten as he was with her beauty. How the townfolk lapped it all up!

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Foreseeable in the near-future is the readiness of Sara Duterte and her true believers, for her to succeed to her father's post. She is absolutely fascinating, with her steely looks and manners that remind one instantly of her Germanic roots on the side of her mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman.

Where Mr. Duterte is folksy and spontaneous with his remarks and mannerisms, Inday Sara comes across as quite cold and calculating, with a highly intelligent mind and good organizational ability. Truly, she will be a force to reckon with in the near future.



Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Sonny Alvarez withdraws from congressional race in Isabela's 4th district as he did not want to be party to vote merchandising. A loss for PH of our foremost advocate against climate change.




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Former Senator Heherson Alvarez is being interviewed outside the provincial capitol in Santiago City after his withdrawal from the congressional race in Isabela


I spent a few days in Santiago City, capital of Isabela province in Northern Luzon, where I was eager to watch the elections there and render support to my longtime friend, former Senator and Cabinet member in several administrations, Heherson “Sonny” Alvarez---the husband of my radio partner, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Theater Cecile Guidote Alvarez.

Cecile had invited me to watch the debate that was arranged by the local Comelec office in Santiago City among the major contenders in the 4th congressional district, namely, Sonny Alvarez, former Rep. Gorgiddi Aggabao and a young  Ateneo Law graduate named Sheena Tan, who was supported by the Chinese business community there.

The idea was for me to follow the on-going election campaign among the three candidates until May 11, when I was to return to Manila in order to cast my own vote last Monday in Taguig City What I stumbled upon in Santiago City was a political melee of vote-buying and unprincipled competition, instead of what should have been a legitimate political joust among worthy opponents.

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The symptoms of political disaster were all there in that event. The local Comelec had scheduled earlier a debate among the three contenders for the lone congressional seat of Isabela’s fourth district, which was mainly Santiago City, on topics of immense interest to its citizens. This included protection of the environment, political dynasty and a host of other subjects which should have been lively and open to all the citizens in public or over TV/radio.

 What happened, however, was that it was only Sonny Alvarez who showed up by his lonesome---his two other rivals for the congressional seat had their own individual reasons for not showing up. Students from the various schools attended upon invitation of the Comelec officials, to watch the debate---the first time ever in Santiago City---but they were plainly disappointed as Tan and Aggabao chose to stay away---either because they were scared to face Alvarez or they thought it was a waste of time since they had perhaps other methods of winning that didn’t drain them of intellectual energy.

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The Comelec organizers were plainly disappointed at the no-show of contenders Tan and Aggabao, but their staying away was not surprising. The fact is that Sonny Alvarez has a solid reputation for being a fiery debater, beginning with his days as a student leader in  UP and later in the halls of Congress. 

In subsequent years, when he and Cecile and their children went on self-imposed exile to the US from the Marcos regime, Alvarez had his hands full working for the restoration of democracy in the Philippines. Together with Raul Manglapus, Boni Gillego and other Filipino democratic leaders in the US, Alvarez brought the argument for support of the restoration of democratic rule in the Philippines during the martial law years to leaders of the US Congress, notably Richard Lugar, Ted Kennedy and others. The US congressional leaders were to play a key role in succeeding historic events in the Philippines. 

Obviously his rivals for the congressional post in Isabela were aware of Alvares's debating prowess and wisely stayed away from the great debate---to the vast disappointment of the Isabelinos.

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But his rivals had their own plan: to curry political favor with the Isabelinos by buying their votes.  This realization that his opponents had planned to reduce the coming elections to a big "kalakaran" prompted Alvarez to denounce it publicly, and then he went straight to the local Comelec to withdraw from the political race that he felt would be a sham. 

 Last May 11, two days before the elections, Alvarez came out publicly to announce his withdrawal from the congressional race. He said that participation in the elections  had been reduced to meaningless merchandising between his two rival contenders that involved cash that run to several thousands for each voter, as well as gasoline funds. He would have no part in it.

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To begin with, Alvarez didn’t have the kind of funds that his political opponents had mustered;  moreover, it was against his principle to indulge in voter-buying, like a cheap politician.  In his withdrawal statement he termed the massive vote-buying a political cancer that would kill the spirit of the Isabelinos, in pretty much the way drugs would kill the physical body. Alvarez stressed that he would have no part in the merchandising of votes.  

26-year old Sheena Tan, heavily supported by the Chinese community in Isabela, won over Georgiddi Aggabao by some 1,500 votes. The merchandising of the people’s votes constitutes a sad episode in the political history of Isabela’s 4th District. 

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I felt a personal loss in this fight of Sonny Alvarez, for aside from being a longtime friend, he could be the point man in the House of Representatives to forge a legislation package to battle the increasingly ferocious onslaught of climate change. 

This battle has to be fought first and foremost in the halls of Congress and I went on the air in Isabela to campaign for him---pleading to the Isabelinos to marshal their native son for one more term in Congress, so he could lead our country's battle vs. climate change, as he has studied this phenomenon more than any other political leader. 

But alas, money politics dominated the local political arena, and  the sad thing is that Isabela is not an isolated case. What do we do about this ferocious monster rearing its ugly head periodically in our political landscape?





Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The huge crowd at recent CNN Philippines debates could not hide its resentment toward Chinese intrusions and show of force---and the feeling that Duterte administration is selling PH to China. The President should mollify this widespread fear and resentment with concrete steps.

A rally in Batangas follows the appearance of a Chinese dredging ship.


In the CNN-sponsored debates held at the cavernous UST Quadricentennial Hall last week, one thing that became quite obvious to many people there was the increasingly strong anti-Chinese sentiment among our people. I noted this in the way the vast audience would applaud loudly as some candidates would express strong feelings against recent developments between our two peoples. In fact, the candidates who got the rowdiest cheers were those who articulated nationalistic sentiments vs. the Chinese.

This is lamentable, as our two peoples have been dealing with each other over many centuries and have mutually benefited from the relationship, e.g., trade in goods and services, people-to-people exchange, inter-marriages among our two peoples, etc.

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In fact, many Filipinos, including some of the most prominent business families here, have descended from Chinese ancestors and while the local Chinese have generally been affluent, due to hard work and ingenuity, they have also integrated well into our national life.

Among the prominent Chinese-descended political clans are the Osmeñas and the Gatchalians. In the business community, there are the Sys (reported to be the richest clan in the country), Ramon Ang, John Gokongwei, Lucio Tan, Lucio Co, etc. Nobody has ever doubted that these taipans have their hearts anchored to this country and its future and welfare.

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But recent developments seem to begin to bear out the alienation of many Pinoys from dealings with the Chinese in recent months, and President Duterte would be well-advised to take note of this development seriously. In reference to the President's pivot to China in the past two years, there's a prevailing sense that this is being overdone, to the point of compromising even national welfare and security.  Some even deplore that he is selling out our country to the Chinese. 

It might have begun with Mr. Duterte's decision to ignore the hard-fought victory of the Philippines in the International Arbitration Court in The Hague in July 2016, which declared the West Philippine Sea our unquestionable domain. Because this decision was ignored by this administration, the harassing of Filipino fishermen in those waters by Chinese elements became bolder, so that Chinese ships would menacingly surround our small fishermen.

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Then came what seems to Filipinos the massive "invasion" of our country by Chinese nationals who enter as tourists. Because of the laxity of our immigration officials, they end up working here without working permits and visas---thus depriving the more than 5 million jobless or under-employed Filipinos of work opportunities.

It doesn't help assuage this concern when President Xi Jinping told President Duterte in their recent "Belt and Road Initiative" meeting in China that Filipino labor would be allowed in the construction of railways around China. But the question that immediately comes to many minds: what would be the counter-cost to us? 

Assuming that a few hundred Filipinos do get to work in China indeed, thus opening up another OFW program which is, by itself, already producing such terrible side-effects on families, as studies have proven. In return, however, it's totally foreseeable that thousands upon thousands of Chinese could come to this country to put up businesses, mainly on-line gambling which is not good for our people. 

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With the current overstaying Chinese nationals in Metro Manila, most notably in on-line gambling, the proliferation of drugs appears to have been accelerated. The raid two months ago of a house rented by Chinese nationals in a very high-end subdivision that yielded an enormous quantity of drugs, appears to epitomize this problem.

A recent photo showing restaurants sporting only Chinese characters in Boracay may be more than symbolic. All along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City, Chinese enterprises have sprung up, including a ot of on-line gambling, while any taxi-driver will tell you how a number of residential subdivisions in Metro Manila have now become virtually exclusive to Chinese residents.

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To the huge audience at the UST debates sponsored by CNN Philippines, mostly students as well as the TV audience across the nation, it would seem that the antagonism toward the Chinese would be more of fear of all sorts. 

Fear that Chinese nationals are taking jobs away from the 2/2 million unemployed Filipinos and around 5 million under-employed is quite valid. So is the fear that drugs have a very direct connection with the avalanche of Chinese.

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There is also a lot of valid fears about the way the President seems to be contracting enormous loans from the very willing Chinese leaders to fund his "Build, build, build" mega-projects. Should something happen to Mr. Duterte, God forbid, his successor would be so saddled with tremendous loans our country may not be able to pay back. 

In his recent visit to Manila, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad warned us to be wary of such loans, while the fate of small nations in Africa that have suffered from over-dependence on Chinese loans is well-known.  

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Thus, there is worry that patrimonial assets, such as an oil-rich island in Mindanao, could be seized as pay-back for our mega-loans from China, should we default.  Fear and outrage caused by the recent carting away of our giant clam species from their protected sanctuary is valid. 

Then there was the brazen attempt to dredge  the Verde Strait between Batangas and Mindoro, also a sanctuary of aquatic life, of its sand and ship it to Hongkong, to create a 4th airport runway.  That move so angered the townspeople of Loboc in Batangas that the dredging ship was forced to sail away empty-handed. 

All these developments are too recent to forget. No wonder that the resentment toward China of the boisterous student crowd at the CNN-sponsored debates at UST was so palpable. Let's pray that the President re-thinks the China connection very well before he makes firm commitments that could bring unfortunate results. 







Wednesday, April 10, 2019

President Duterte defends family's wealth as acquired prior to his presidency and therefore "not public funds." Problem is that he didn't disclose it in his SALN as law demands. He should heed advice of someone who's been in that predicament and paid dearly for her mistake---ousted CJ Sereno. She advises him to heed PCIJ's queries on wealth, lest he suffers same fate.

President Duterte was reported to be very upset over the recent report of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) about the alleged great wealth of his family---said to stem from a reportedly unregistered law firm of his family and other undisclosed business interests. The PCIJ report was cited by the Inquirer to have delved on "significant increases in the income of the President and his children, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio and former Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte while they were in office."
The PCIJ report cited statements of assets, liabilities and net work (SALNs) of the President, Sara and Paolo, that appear to buttress the fact that the Dutertes have a law firm that's not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to PDI, the law firm put up by Sara and her husband in 2008 even opened an office in Mandaue City last Feb. 13, and its clients included cigarette maker Mighty Corp, Panay Electric Co and those that deal with the Bureau of Customs.
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The PCIJ report cited Mr. Duterte as a partner at a certain law firm, but it said that he did not declare his interest in the firm in his SALN.  As quoted by PDI,  the President stressed that "the law firm was a necessary option for their family" and that "other people had no business poking into their affairs, as long as it did not involve public funds."  Mr. Duterte was quoted as asserting that "Whatever his family earns outside of politics is nobody's business."

Accusing PCIJ of being a "paid hack used by his enemies to smear his family's name and reputation,"  he insisted that "Our law firms and what happened to our business partnership, it's not your ...business. It's my worry, for as long as it's not the people's money."

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It's easy to see that this latest revelation about the Duterte family would put the President right smack in the center of controversy once again, as the law is very specific about candidates offering themselves for public posts. The law covering SALN  requires candidates to divulge all their assets and liabilities past and present---where their wealth came from.  In this case, according to the PDI report, "The series delved on the significant increases in the incomes of the President and his children," while they were in their respective elective offices in Davao.

Inquirer traced the President's net worth from his office as former mayor at P9.69 M in 2007, to P28.54 M in 2017. Likewise, according to Inquirer, Sara Duterte's net worth jumped 51.8% ---from P7.25M in 2007 to P44.83 M, while that of Paolo Duterte jumped 233 percent, from P8.34M to P27.74M. The newspaper also cited the presidential family's "interests and engagements in at least 23 corporate entities but did not consistently declare them in their SALNs."

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Moreover, even if the President stresses that he has distanced himself from law practice and the family firm that's run by his children and in-laws, still there could be the lingering public suspicion that clients of the law firm could be receiving special treatment and accommodation. This could be presumed from the fair assumption that the law firm run by Mr. Duterte's children and in-law (Sara's husband, lawyer Maneses Carpio, could do a lot for their clients during his administration.

There's tremendous potential for violation of the law in this kind of set-up, which is doubtless why the law on divestment and declaration of one's SALN by a public official is very specific.  Thus,  Mr. Duterte's argument that his family earnings from this law office are "outside of politics" will have to be justified to the SEC, the BIR and other supervisory government agencies, to hold water---but perhaps some folks would be quite skeptical about such declaration.

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One former official who, I imagine, could not prevent herself from weighing on this issue of the presidential family's wealth and their non-declaration of certain business activities in their SALN was one who suffered tremendously---precisely because of her alleged  failure to incorporate certain relatively minor details in her SALN when she was still a UP professor. 

Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who was ousted from office as Chief Magistrate over questions about the inaccuracy of her SALN, asserted in an interview by Inquirer that Mr. Duterte and his family ought to respond to the queries raised about their wealth by the recent PCIJ report. 

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Said Sereno, as quoted in the Inquirer yesterday, April  09, 2019:  the President could not invoke the argument that "it's nobody's business," further asserting that it is clear that the people need an explanation.  (President Duterte) is not being accused (of any crime or violation) as of now." She was further quoted as saying, "I believe that we (government officials) should display a simple lifestyle. If an official is suspiciously wealthy, there should be an explanation. And the explanation should be made public."  

The PCIJ staff claim that efforts to communicate with the Duterte family on this subject were not responded to. Perhaps the presidential family ought to listen to---more than anybody else---former CJ Sereno, as she ran into a worst luck because of a single omission in her SALN.  She failed to declare her fees as UP professor, prior to her appointment to the High Court, arguing during her impeachment trial later that her efforts to recover those records yielded nothing from the UP.  

In the scheme of things, the omission in |Sereno's SALN---her professor's fees from the UP---is  peanuts compared to the earnings of the Dutertes. But because of her defective SALN she went down in the SC's history as the second CJ to be ousted (the first was CJ Renato Corona, but the issue against him was more of a political nature than Sereno's). Full disclosure of SALN details sounds like pretty sensible advice from the ex-CJ to the presidential family. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

President Duterte has the prayers of entire Filipino people in war vs.drugs, but he has to get to the bottom of the allegation of ex-Police Senior Supt.& PMA class 1989 grad Eduardo Acierto that Davaoeños close to the President are involved in drug trade.




Former Police Senior Supt. & PMA class 1989 grad Eduardo Acierto denouncing alleged drug operatives in Davao. 


I laud President Duterte's candor in recently admitting that the drug problem in our country "has worsened." The prayers of all Filipinos should accompany the Chief Executive as he battles this horrible problem that's destroying the lives of many of our people, particularly the youth.

Having said that, I join all citizens who love our country and care for its future, in calling on Mr. Duterte to do far more than he is doing now to combat this menace in our midst. If he puts his whole effort into this fight against drugs---without fear or favor---he would have the support and prayers of all Filipinos, as we all don't want our country to become another Mexico or Colombia.

XXX

Putting his heart and soul into the battle vs. drugs could be something up close and personal for the President. Note for instance, the recent "true confession" of former Police Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto, member of PMA Class 1989, as published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last March 26.  Acierto claimed that he went into hiding after he was implicated in the smuggling of P11 billion worth of shabu into the country some two or three months ago---that was exposed by a brave and heroic woman customs official named Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang (whom Cecile Alvarez and I interviewed over our dzRH Sunday program).

The smuggled shabu was stuffed into four magnetic lifters that arrived in the Manila International Container Terminal and was subsequently spirited out to a Cavite warehouse by Chinese-looking persons riding in Mercedes Benzes. The incident was blasted all over media and resulted in the sacking of the MICT manager and his replacement by a new official.

XXX

Now along comes former Police Senior Supt. and PMAyer Eduardo Acierto, who was earlier dismissed from the service allegedly because of his having sold assault rifles to communist rebels. Acierto, speaking to an intimate media group as disclosed by the Inquirer, now claims that his life is in danger after he informed Malacanang that "two Chinese nationals close to President Duterte were involved in the narcotics trade."

 Acierto claimed that the two Chinese nationals whom he identified as Michael Yang, a wealthy businessman based in Davao City, who was reported to act as the President's economic adviser for a time, and a certain Allan Lim, are quite close to the President. Acierto alleged, however, that perhaps Mr. Duterte doesn't know about their illegal activities---such as their supposed involvement in "the operations of clandestine shabu laboratories in Davao and Cagayan de Oro and their connection with alleged Chinese drug lord Johnson Chua."

XXX

The complication lies in that Mr. Duterte, as reported in the Inquirer, in a meeting with members of the PMA Alumni Association Inc.,cleared Michael Yang, stressing that the latter is close to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua--- so that the envoy even sleeps in Yang's residence whenever he comes to Davao. In fact, noted Mr. Duterte, Michael Yang was a member of the entourage of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang when the latter visited Manila last year.

Obviously President Duterte does not believe Acierto's story regarding the alleged involvement of Yang in drugs---even after the ex-police and PMAyer claimed that Yang and Lim allegedly received P50,000 per kilogram each as their share for facilitating the smuggling of P11B worth of shabu into the country.via the MICT.  Acierto also claimed that the "Davao group" has put up a P15-million reward to kill him.

XXX

It's a tight fix for the former PMAyer '89, as apparently the President does not believe his claims either about the alleged involvement of the two Chinese nationals in the MICT shabu smuggling two months ago---nor Acierto's story about the bounty on his head by the "Davao Group."

The Inquirer story whereby Acierto links the "Davao Group" to drug smuggling is staggering---particularly since the Chinese nationals named by Acierto are from Mr. Duterte's backyard and are apparently well-known to him. They also have their links to the Chinese ambassador and officialdom. 

XXX

Mr. Duterte, however, cannot afford to ignore ex-police officer Acierto's allegations as it's something that a man with the latter's background cannot afford to make---unless there is some truth to it. Moreover, the dramatis personae cited are from Mr. Duterte's territory.  

Indeed, as he claims, the drug problem in this country has worsened and his decisive moves to curtail it, perhaps right in his home-ground, are much awaited by an increasingly concerned citizenry---with loads of prayers for him and his efforts. 

Let's pray, too, for the safety and deliverance of former police officer Eduardo Acierto---may his guardian angel watch over him and his family.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Unlike senators who are elected at large & deal more with national issues, House members constantly come to grips w/ constituents' gut issues. This difference is root of impasse between the two chambers over P3.8T budget for 2019, as House insists on "itemized" sums (easier for grant to local constituencies).

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo---at loggerheads over budget items.

The current imbroglio over the 2019 budget amounting to P3.8T illustrates the difficulty of having two chambers of Congress--- how much easier it would be to deal with only one chamber.  Yet, given the current Philippine situation---the unpredictability of the country's leadership and the malleability of a lot of members of Congress---it may also be a blessing in disguise that we have two chambers.

 For if there were only one chamber, there may be no adequate check-and-balance system, specially given the tendency toward strong-man rule of the incumbent tenant of Malacanang. 

That said, having two chambers of Congress oftentimes constitutes a real pain in the neck.

XXX

Take the current over a month-long impasse over the 2019 budget that was separately ratified by the two chambers of Congress last Feb. 8. Transmittal to the President for his signature has been much delayed as a word war has intensified between the Senate and the House over lump-sum appropriations in the budget.

The Senate accuses the House of making "unlawful post-ratification" amendments, including realignment of funding for public works and health centers. In turn, Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo questioned the lump-sum appropriations that were retained in the proposed budget---arguing that such sums are "unconstitutional."  She was quoted as stressing: "No lump sum," adding that the House just wants to see the details---that  appropriations be "itemized." 

The Speaker sent San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora to the Senate in an effort to recall the House version of the 2019 budget that had been submitted to the Senate President for signing. Senate Chief Sotto has refused to sign it, also arguing that it contains "unconstitutional" amendments made by the House after the Feb. 8 ratification---which the House flatly denies. .

Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya also reminded Rep. Zamora that no congressman had the authority to recall any enrolled bill without the plenary's approval.

XXX

Thus, the Senate has its own version of the budget bill and so does the House, but the two versions have to be reconciled prior to  transmittal to the Chief Executive for signing into law.  Speaker GMA has held on to the House version of the budget bill as she insists that her chamber will continue to advocate that no lump-sum appropriation would be retained in this bill.

This issue---to carry lump sums in the budget bill, as the Senate wants, or to itemize those lump sums, as the House demands---has not been resolved, despite the month-long negotiations between the two chambers of Congress..

What upsets the senators is that as far as they're concerned,  the House bill should already be signed by Speaker GMA after Senate President Sotto already signed it---so that it could already be transmitted to the President for his signature.  Recall that the bureaucracy is now operating under a REENACTED BUDGET---hence the understandable clamor for the new budget's ratification by the two chambers and its signing by the President. 

XXX

Senate President Sotto is miffed as well as puzzled about the House's resistance to lump-sum appropriations in the budget, when according to him, the state of these items should have been raised during the bicameral conference committee hearings. Sotto was quoted as saying that the "central issue" was the "arbitrary decision" of the congressmen to allocate P95.1B in infrastructure funds to select congressional districts.

On the other hand, Speaker GMA is obviously under tremendous pressure at this point to help her House colleagues get hold of funds for their reelection. Because House members are elected by districts, they are truly more susceptible to disposal of funds to the electorate come election time, as their playing field---their respective districts--- is very specific and constricted. Thus, theirs is unlike those of the senators who are elected at large, all over the country.

Thus, in the various districts, funds are badly needed to get the House members reelected---e.g., funds for job-generation, school-houses, road projects, health centers, etc. As Sen. Panfilo Lacson was quoted by the Inquirer, "Blame (the impasse) on the dizzying pork."

XXX

Senate Chief Sotto has stressed over and over that he would sign the budget bill only if it was the original bill ratified last Feb. 9. On the other hand, Speaker GMA warns that no budget bill would be transmitted to the President--- unless the two chambers reach a compromise on the distribution of the funds.

 It's a tough game for the veteran politician that GMA is, indeed. Let's see how President Duterte will solve this problem for his close ally.

Friday, March 15, 2019

In this season of Lent, our thoughts go to the prevalence of drugs, as tightly sealed cocaine packs drift to PH shores, now deemed a transshipment point to perhaps South America. T'is the season for politicos' denial of inclusion in Palace's narco-list. Grizzly murder of 16-year old Lapu-Lapu City lass, sadistic beyond description, can only be traced to drugs.



Tightly-sealed packets of cocaine washed ashore in various parts of Quezon and Camarines Norte. Is PH now a transshipment point of this dangerous drug to South America, as some authorities allege?



When the question was posed by President Duterte a week or so ago as to whether he should reveal the names of various politicians involved in drug trafficking, my instant reaction was, such revelation ought not to be rushed by the Palace for a number of reasons.

For one, I felt that this being the thick of the election season, some names might be included who may be innocent, and once a reputation is besmirched, it is almost impossible to retrieve it. Since we are in the midst of election season, some political enemies might take advantage by making false accusations to down an opponent.

I have also wondered if this list of alleged drug-trafficking politicos recently released has been duly vetted---so that no one was included who is innocent or perhaps just set up by opponents to eliminate him. There are politicians who would do anything just to win.

XXX

Having said this, I'm sure that some names in the list published by Malacanang are openly associated with drugs by the electorate n the regions involved, and it only shows how deep this menace has become in our society. Drugs come in handy in raising enormous funds, as elections are frightfully expensive in this country---primarily because the pols often have to resort to vote-buying to win, and voters especially in the rural areas expect to be courted with funds---perhaps the one and only time they become the object of attention by their politicians. .

Vote-buying has become so pernicious, which is why graft and corruption by many of those in office seeking reelection cannot seem to be eradicated---the pols have to recover their heavy investment after they win. It's a vicious cycle that seems to get nastier and nastier as poverty gnaws deeper and deeper among our people.

XXX

Speaking of vote-buying, I cannot help but recall how, in an earlier era, this was played in a different plane. Not so much buying votes from rank and file citizens as is done nowadays, but the courting of delegates to the political convention which would elect the candidate to represent the party. I had the chance to see this up close in the early '60s, when I was just a couple of years out of the UP---very dreamy-eyed when suddenly thrown amidst hard-nosed politicians.

My Jesuit connections maneuvered to enable me to work for Emmanuel Pelaez who had become  Vice-President to President Diosdado Macapagal. Manny Pelaez aspired to be President as  Macapagal's term was coming to an end. Had Pelaez won it or had Macapagal succeeded in his reelection bid,  the course and destiny of our country might have been entirely different from what it turned out with Ferdinand Marcos---who successfully challenged President Macapagal's reelection bid and later imposed a lengthy dictatorship.

But first Pelaez had to win the nomination of the Nacionalista Party where his rival was no less than the wily Senate President Marcos. It was a battle of titans.

XXX

Each of the two rival camps at the NP convention held in Manila Hotel in 1964 had its own stable of political luminaries and soon enough it became obvious that the Marcos camp was out to buy votes right there. Die-hard supporters of Manny Pelaez, especially from the Sugar Bloc, egged him to come out and match the Marcos funds that began flowing like wine at the convention.

Pelaez's followers were just waiting for his go-signal to tap various fund resources to match those from the Marcos camp, but the Veep refused to play that kind of game. He stood pat on his position--- no buying of delegates' votes as it should be an honorable contest among gentlemen, even if his opponent was no gentleman at all.

To no one's surprise---and the great frustration of the supporters of the highly principled Manny Pelaez---he lost in the NP convention. Indeed, had he won the NP nomination, he was heavily favored to be elected President of the Philippines, as re-electionists, such as Macapagal was, were not as favored in Philippine politics. At any rate, in either scenario, the history of our country doubtless would have been very different from the turn it took after Marcos won the NP nomination and the elections of 1965. The Philippines then was on to the long road to martial law and dictatorship.

XXX

I had occasion to discuss the depths of the drug problem in our country with a knowledgeable person not too long ago, and I raised the query of how come cocaine has been found drifting to our shores in various parts of the archipelago, notably in Quezon and in the Camarines area as well as in northeastern Mindanao. The cocaine floated ashore in tightly sealed containers and while some such packets found their way into  the hands of the police authorities, it could be assumed that there must be other packages that landed in the hands of those who had meant to obtain them in the first place.

I queried a knowledgeable official about these cocaine packs and he opined these these were likely not meant for the Philippine market, as ours seems limited mainly to the less expensive shabu. The cocaine, he opined, was meant for other countries that use this higher-grade drug and PH appears to be used only as a TRANSSHIPMENT POINT. Meaning, that from here it would be transported to another destination, perhaps in Asia or to South America, such as Colombia. Perhaps the traditional routes to that southern continent has become too guarded, hence new routes have to be devised.

XXX

This is totally believable as our shorelines are so porous and it's believed that a lot of corruption still prevails among our law-enforcers--- despite the clean image of PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde--- as well as among local officials.  If shabu is still so handily available despite trumpeted efforts to curtail its entry here and eradicate drug-pushers--- and our shores are now appear to be used for transshipment of cocaine---the future does look frightening indeed for our people, especially for our vulnerable youths.

The very recent grizzly murder of a 16-year old Cebuana lass---that involved a SAVAGERY hitherto unseen in local criminal history--- appears to be the work of a drug-crazed youth. This murder should prove that our society has no option but to tighten up on the war vs. drugs and it needs the cooperation of every concerned citizen. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Even administration senators have rejected Duterte policy to allow Chinese tourists to stay and work here sans visa/work permits. It's not only unfair to other nationalities, it's outright dangerous to our country, and deprives our own labor force of opportunities for gainful employment.



 Macapagal Boulevard by Manila Bay houses many online gambling, call centers and other businesses operated by Chinese nationals who entered PH as tourists and have stayed without working permits from the BID. Filipino lawmakers are up in arms against this policy of the Duterte administration. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      If you readers have a chance to walk along Macapagal Boulevard near the reclamation areas in Pasay all the way to the Cultural Center, you might think that you are not in PH but somewhere in China---even the restaurants' names are in Chinese.  This is because you will meet scores and scores of Chinese youngsters there and hardly any Filipinos. In this area where the Chinese have conglomerated, they're working in on-line casinos, BPOs such as  call centers and various types of businesses that rake in profits for them.

 So what's wrong with that? A lot. For one thing, many Chinese youths have no working papers here, as they entered the country as tourists and have failed to exit. Apparently the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) has allowed these Chinese tourists to remain beyond their departure date here. Under normal circumstances, they're already illegally staying---and YET THEY WORK IN VARIOUS JOBS THAT SHOULD BE DONE BY FILIPINOS. . 

This situation of foreigners working without necessary immigration papers/work permits won't be knowingly tolerated anywhere in the world. To be sure, many Filipinos have done the same thing in  the US and in Europe, where their relatives could hide their existence for a while. But sooner or later the long arm of the law catches up with them and they are deported---and the relatives who hide them get into hot water too. 

XXX

Taxi drivers I talk to have nothing but tall tales about mushrooming Chinese enclaves in the metropolis. These foreign nationals have snapped up many condominiums, particularly the moderately-priced in Pasig and other environs, as well as in Bonifacio Global City. From various accounts whole villages south of Manila, such as Ayala Alabang now cater mainly to Chinese ex-tourists who don't seem to mind the jacked-up rentals all over the metropolis.  

There is now a huge scarcity of  Filipino drivers as they prefer employment by the Chinese---who reportedly pay drivers as high as P26,000 monthly, as against the P15, 000 to P17,000 paid by Filipino employers. The same is true of Filipino housemaids and secretarial staff---they are paid far more handsomely.

From what appears in the news, the plan is to create enclaves of Chinese businesses all over the country, particularly in the various economic zones.

XXX

When the news broke out about the Chinese "invasion" of the Philippines it was met with alarm in various quarters, particularly since the BID has been very remiss in running after "tourists" without papers and abusing the country's hospitality. What was most interesting, however, was the way President Duterte defended the BID's policy not to raise the hackles of the Chinese. Mr. Duterte was quick to give the impression that he has been aware of this super-lenient policy toward Chinese tourists working here, and that in fact, the BID's leniency has his blessings.

The President's reasoning went something like this: if we throw out the tens of thousands of Chinese working here without  working visas, the Chinese government might retaliate and throw out the 300,000 Filipinos whom he claims have been working in China. In a subsequent disclosure Mr. Duterte upped the number of Pinoys in China to 400,000. Frankly many people question this number---in HongKong there may be as many as 200,000 Filipinos working as domestics there, but in mainland China there are not that many Pinoy workers as its doors have not opened to massive foreign workers' entry. 

XXX

It is hard to imagine that this same President who did not seek to spare the lives of youths said to be indulging in prohibited drugs could become so tolerant of tens of thousands of Chinese "tourists" working here without work permit. One reasonable explanation for Mr. Duterte's turning a blind eye toward this anomalous situation may be the fact that China---with its booming economy---is funding a good number of big-ticket items in the President's "Build, Build, Build" program. Among these huge projects funded by the Chinese goernment are the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge along the Pasig River, worth P4.61B and the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge also along the Pasig, P1.37.B. 

But these are tiny projects compared to some 35 gargantuan ticket items identified and approved in the NEDA Report as of Nov. 30, 2018---12 of which would be covered by Chinese loans and grants. In addition, also in the pipeline are a total of 75 flagship projects of Mr. Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" program that's aimed at ushering what's termed as the "golden age of infrastructure" under his administration which ends in 2022.  

XXX

The biggest China-funded project will be P173.32B Philippine National Railways South Long Haul, which will connect Metro Manila to Bicol via a 639 km. rail project extending to Matnog in Sorsogon, aimed to be finished by 2022. 

There's also the P50.03B Subic-Clark Railway, totaling 71,13 km., including a 64.14 mainline between Clark Freeport Zone and Subic Bay Freeport Zone, as well as a 6.94 km. spur line connecting the mainline to Subic Bay Port New Container Terminal. All to be funded by China. 

Admittedly, there's a lot of projects here to be funded by the Chinese economy--- now the richest in the world, But there's also the nagging worry about how our tiny country and economy, apparently already held in the bag by our super-power neighbor to the north, would be able to exercise its rightful sovereignty---given the way the BID is looking the other way as far as illegal workers are concerned.  Will PH be forever a tiny vassal state of China? Independence begins with the exercise by our country of its right to demand proper documentation of every alien entering this country. To give up on this right is to yield our country---famous for heroes who gave their lives for its sovereign independence---without any legitimate move at all. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Arrogance of Chinese girl who threw taho at MRT police could indicate foreign group's sense of entitlement in our own country. Why the big hoopla over cleaning up Manila Bay when reclamation projects certain to pollute the Bay's waters are already approved, per PRA's testimony in the House? What happens to world's most beautiful sunset when casinos shoot up?


Beautiful Manila Bay with its world-famous sunset is threatened with reclamation projects. 

The Chinese girl's arrogance toward the MRT policeman---splattering taho at him when he forbade her to bring her drink into the train---is merely symptomatic of what's reputed as the Chinese invasion of the country.

I have been riding taxis since I lost my driver and invariably I strike up conversation with the drivers---as they have always had their pulse on what's cooking in town. One cabbie commented that this taho episode is not surprising, as the Chinese girl's compatriots are now all over the metropolis. Perhaps they think they own the Philippines now, he asserted.

In fact, one cabbie pointed out that whole villages  are being built for the Chinese south of the metropolis, and as everyone knows, they have been buying or leasing condominiums all over the Greater Manila area, driving up condo rentals for the locals. 

XXX

In Facebook a woman wrote with ill-disguised irritation that when she brought her child to the emergency room of a downtown hospital, it was crawling with Chinese children and she could hardly be attended to. Others ascribe the current acute shortage of drivers, housemaids and office staff to the hiring of these personnel by Chinese corporations that have set up here. The latter are reported to be paying far higher wages than Filipinos.

It had long been the talk in town, corroborated by the Bureau of Immigration, that Chinese workers have been entering the country in droves, as they are setting up companies in various parts of the archipelago---especially in the industrial zones. The query in many minds: are they all properly documented?

The problem here is that while we welcome foreign investments into our country, under normal circumstances and as demonstrated by other foreign nationals, only the top officials are foreign nationals---the rest of the staff and workers would be Filipinos. This does not seem to be the case with the Chinese, who insist on bringing their own people by the hundreds and thousands. This explains why exclusive enclaves of the Chinese are going up in various parts of our country.

Do our leaders know what's happening, and is this seeming mass Chinese invasion part of a deal of sorts?

XXX

On another front, recall that there was a big hoopla in past weeks about the clean-up of Manila Bay, with lots of young people and various NGOs volunteering in this laudable project. Recall too, that various business establishments said to be polluting the historic bay have been admonished and some, like the Aristocrat Restaurant on Roxas Blvd.,  were even suspended from operating until they fix their environmental compliance. The project to clean up and save the Bay drew so much enthusiasm as most Metro Manilans feel sentimental about Manila Bay and watching its world-famous sunset has been a generational past-time.

But alas, like many things in this country, all the ballyhooed clean-up may come to naught. In a hearing last Tuesday at the House of Representatives, Joseph Literal, Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) assistant general manager for reclamation and regulation, told shocked congressmen that his agency is currently processing applications for 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay that would likely affect some 22,000 hectares of our historic bay! Once approved, the projects would affect about 11% of the bay's 1,994 sq. km. area, doubtless in a manner that could compromise  environmental sanitation!

Other sources actually say that the total reclamation projects in Manila Bay number 43!.

XXX

PRA Assistant GM Literal also stressed that these 22 (or 43?) projects scheduled in the metropolitan area are only part of some 120 reclamation projects in the whole country.  Literal also admitted that of the 22 reclamation projects lodged before his agency, three have already been approved in principle---after the developers were said to have complied with Department of Environment and Natural Resources regulations.

These are the 360-has. Pasay reclamation project, the 140-has. Solar City project, and the Navotas Boulevard Business Park.

XXX

Among the most shocked solons at yesterday's hearing on the Bay's reclamation projects was former Manila Mayor and former Environment Secretary, now Buhay Party-list Rep. Joselito Atienza, who raised possible adverse effects of these projects on the environment. Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao joined Rep. Atienza in grilling the PRA official.

To Atienza's query on the possible ill effects of these reclamation projects on the environment, the PRA official admitted that there will be an effect, but he stressed that  " 'systems' " would be put in place to reduce the environmental impact of the reclamation projects."

XXX

Fuming,  Rep. Atienza shot back: "You are aware that there will be indeed effects on the environment
and yet you will still let these projects proceed---and just try to mitigate these adverse effects?" The former Manila Mayor stressed that "the effects will be catastrophic for all of us," beginning with the rise in sea levels. Atienza decried the "reclamation craze sweeping across the country which the PRA seems to just keep approving and approving without due diligence."

Anak-pawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, on the other hand, stressed that the reclamation of Manila Bay ought to be stopped as "it's threatening the genuine essence of its clean-up, so that it must be opposed."  Indeed.

XXX

As a way to mitigate adverse reactions, Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano has stressed that all reclamation projects would be reviewed, but what complicates the matter is that according to recent news reports, the Office of the President has taken DIRECT CONTROL AND SUPERVISION over the PRA and its 43 reclamation projects in Manila Bay. Thus, the DILG appears to have been sidetracked in this issue.

 In fact, the Inquirer carried last Tuesday a news item that one project in the Manila Bay Area  has already been awarded to Dennis Uy, a businessman from Davao with close ties to President Duterte. His project involves 265-hectares of the Bay, called the Pasay Harbor City, estimated to cost some P62 billion.

I'm afraid that the side-tracking of the PRA in this issue would only worsen the environmental state of storied Manila Bay. It also does not encourage a picture of integrity for the Office of the President.

The query that will be left in citizens' minds: who stands to make money on these projects?

XXX

From various write-ups, we are given to understand that multi-function reclamation areas similar to those in cities like Dubai are being considered to be set up in Manila Bay, and presumably these would involve casinos, night-clubs and other high-end entertainment.

All these big-ticket reclamation projects would naturally involve enormous funds, some of which could be generously funneled to cooperative politicos in various areas, especially in this campaign season. But we citizens go back to the question: what is to happen to the historic Manila Bay, which has seen many a battle in our history and which boasts the most beautiful sunset in the world? The island of Corregidor, bathed in the blood of Filipino and American defenders during World War II, is part of the proud history of Manila Bay.

What was the much ballyhooed clean-up of  Manila Bay---designed to benefit families---all about, if in the end it's just going to be polluted by reclamation and establishments that could cater mainly to gambling and other vices to be set up there? Who stands to profit from all these reclamation projects? We're already certain about the losers: it's the Filipino people.