January 2013

By DUCKY PAREDES
MALAYA

‘(W)e should at least begin doing something about the fifth column that China employs composed of Filipinos who will reveal themselves as traitors to their own country when China finally makes its move.’

I HONESTLY do not understand how young Filipinos will demonstrate in front of the United States Embassy just because an American vessel went into the Tubbataha Reef and destroyed coral. After all, the United States will surely pay the million or so dollars that is the fine the vessel must pay for the damage it caused in the world heritage site.

The United States is cooperating with our officials and is definitely willing to pay. Big deal. I wonder how the Chinese would have reacted if it was their vessel that caused the damage? Why do I ask?

Where were these demonstrators when the Navy of the People’s Republic of China occupied Scarborough Shoal a few months back? These demonstrators never raised a peep when the Chinese maps were redrawn to show that China owned a large portion of what has always been part of the Philippine territory from the time that we became a country.

What are these demonstrators? In the event of a Chinese invasion, will they be China’s fifth column?

Sure, it has always been fun to march against our former colonial masters. It made us feel good about ourselves going against the once-feared Gods who ruled this land. But, really they haven’t been of much importance anymore in the recent past.

I really do not mind any Pinoy demonstrating against the Americans. If that makes them feel good about themselves, they should just go ahead, But we are in a dangerous situation today. China looks very much like it is preparing for war and, if it is, we must be wary of our local Communists who would probably prefer their comrades taking over this country from the Filipinos

Recently, China’s Foreign Ministry, in a press statement published by China.org.cn, lashed out at the Philippines’ impending acquisition of a second Hamilton class cutter from the United States, as well as our plans to buy fighter jets for the Philippine Air Force.

We are buying 12 patrol ships from Japan, aircraft from South Korea, as well as search and rescue ships from Australia.

In this way, through the help of our allies, we can at least develop a “minimum credible defense posture.”

Why should China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei mind this? He said: “The Philippine decision to draw a third party into the incident in any way will further escalate the situation and even change the nature of the issue.”

Beijing also quotes an official of China Institute of International Studies who correctly pointed out that while the Philippines can buy weapons to improve its armed forces, it can’t be compared to China’s military.

That’s right. We are no match for China’s military might.

Major General Xu Yan, an official of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) National Defense University points out: “Once (the Philippines) dares escalate the movements of maritime police into military operations, it will suffer a great calamity from China’s strike in response to their attack.”

Xu adds that China now has “a large batch” of large and advanced ships that can be immediately deployed to Scarborough shoal.

According to the US Department of Defense’s latest report on China’s military forces, Beijing has 203 destroyers, frigates, amphibious transport, landing ships, diesel and nuclear attack submarines, and coastal patrol vessels deployed in the South and East China seas alone.

According to the Pentagon: “The PLA Navy has the largest force of principal combatants, submarines, and amphibious warfare ships in Asia.”

We know all that. What worries me it that we have Communist insurgents in our country that are working with Communist China and a corps of demonstrators who, from their choice of demonstration targets could just as well be Chinese agents preparing for the day when their Chinese masters enter our country as modern-day Genghis Khans.

Considering that the Communist insurgents in this country are as good as kill-for pay gangsters who will burn trucks and heavy equipment if they are not paid the revolutionary taxes they expect from businessmen, it would not be so difficult a task for their Chinese masters to pay their Pinoy alipins to cause disruptions in preparation for an eventual invasion.

A separate commentary published by China.org.cn, also criticized Japan over its proposed patrol ships deal with the Philippines.

A commentary written by Chen Guangwen says: “As Japan is already engaged in a dispute with China over the sovereignty of Diaoyu Island, aiding the Philippines in its territorial disputes with China in this way could dramatically escalate tensions in the region.

“It is not hard to understand Japan’s intentions. As a country outside the region, Japan’s active engagement has two main purposes. One is to distract China’s attention from Diaoyu Island and the East China Sea. Japan wants to use the disputes between China and other South East Asian countries as bargaining chips in its negotiations with China on the issue of Diaoyu Island. The second purpose is to protect its interests relating to its freedom of navigation and resource development in the South China Sea.

“Both Japan and the Philippines are concerned about China’s peaceful rise, despite its good intentions based on the policy of ‘building an amicable, tranquil and prosperous neighborhood. The Philippines has already benefited from China’s rise and concomitant bilateral trade. Even in the Huangyan Island dispute, China did not react with force to Philippine stubbornness. By contrast, the recent warming of relations between Japan and the Philippines is clearly based on the intention to counter China’s growing regional influence.”

I don’t know about the rest of you but, to me, it looks as if China is talking about a war in the offing. We’re not about to start one; but we should at least begin doing something about the fifth column that China employs composed of Filipinos who will reveal themselves as traitors to their own country, when China finally makes its move!

According to a report in the Washington Times, China’s new supreme leader President Xi Jinping has revamped the People’s Liberation Army, the largest military force in the world one mission: “get ready for a war, quickly.”

China has disputes with Japan. South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and us. Without the US, the People’s Republic could take us all over – in the Philippines, with the help of its local band of gangsters – the New People’s Army. Wake up, Philippines!

***

Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at duckyparedes@yahoo.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

By Marvin Sy and Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star 

MANILA, Philippines – Three years before the country elects a new president, the ruling Liberal Party (LP) is fielding Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II as its standard bearer.

Sen. Franklin Drilon said this was the consensus in the LP but admitted that Roxas has not yet decided if he would accept an official nomination.

“I do not know exactly what is on his mind but he said he has not yet decided and I assume he has not yet decided because he wants to concentrate on his job as DILG (secretary) and doesn’t want his decisions to be influenced by 2016 at this point,” said Drilon, vice chairman of the LP.

“Insofar as the LP is concerned, insofar as I am concerned, we believe that he is best qualified for 2016,” he added.

In a text message to The STAR, Roxas expressed surprise at Drilon’s revelation and said he is at the moment focused on his job as DILG chief.

“I was surprised. Maybe it’s his plan or projection. But I’m busy with my job fighting criminality so it’s not on my mind,” Roxas said in Filipino.

It was the second time that Roxas had been declared LP bet for president. The first was at the start of the campaign period for the 2010 elections. He eventually gave way to then senator Benigno Aquino III following widespread clamor for the latter to run for president after the death of his mother, former President Cory Aquino.

Roxas ended up running for vice president alongside Aquino but lost to then Makati City mayor Jejomar Binay. He is likely to face off with Binay in 2016 if he accepts the LP nomination.

“We are preparing by means of following the matuwid na daan (straight path). That is our preparation because it is all about good governance. That is the advocacy of LP, of which the President is the chairman,” Drilon said.

Since Aquino assumed the presidency in 2010, Roxas has held key posts in his administration, the first being secretary of transportation and communications.

Drilon argued that it was not too early to prepare for the 2016 polls, considering that UNA has started its own preparations, starting with this year’s elections.

Drilon said there’s no way UNA can hide the fact that it’s an opposition party intent on making the President a “lame duck” in his last three years in office.

Drilon cited the statement issued by the President that those in the LP coalition for 2013, dubbed as Team Pinoy, are his allies and that the people should be wary of pretenders.

During an interview over ANC, UNA secretary-general and Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco took a swipe at the straight path policy of the administration.

Tiangco said that UNA is offering a magandang daan (beautiful path) as against the tuwid na daan of the administration, which he said could still be crooked or full of potholes.

Such statement, Drilon said, only bolsters his argument that UNA should be considered an opposition party.

“We are conscious of that. The President is conscious of that and we draw the line. We will not be a lame duck. We will have the majority of the people with us because we still have reforms to do,” Drilon said in the same television interview.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. You want to make a lame duck administration so when the time comes that the endorsement of the President is not given to you, it would mean nothing to you. But that’s a challenge for us. We will show that for the next three years, we will do things correctly; we will do things in a manner that a decent right-thinking (person) will do regardless of politics,” he added.

No more playing safe

For Malacañang, battle lines have been drawn between the administration’s slate and that of UNA and there is no room for playing safe now that the campaign is near.

“I think the first salvo of the LP advertisement would show what kind of a campaign the LP is going to mount,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said when asked if they expect mudslinging.

“It is to clearly show you these are my candidates, these are their candidates. These are the people I trust to forge ahead with my reforms, so these are the people that I ask you to vote for. That’s very clear, that’s Team Pinoy,” Lacierda said.

“The opposition, if you notice, has been trying to say that they put a qualifier. It’s called constructive opposition but we’ve heard anything but constructive from them,” he said.

Lacierda said UNA’s style was “confusing” because its camp was hitting the government but not directly the President.

“So they would like to make sure that they don’t want to be identified as against the President. But the President has already made it clear in Team Pinoy, in the advertisement: ‘These are my senatorial (candidates). These are my people. This is the one that will push for my reforms.’ So it is clear what kind of campaign we will employ and what UNA will do,” Lacierda said.

“That’s why Sen. Frank Drilon yesterday was saying: ‘Let’s call a spade a spade. This is the LP coalition. These are the people from UNA’,” he said.

“Very clear we need to have the set of people who will forge ahead and push for my reforms in government, and that’s what we’re looking at. We’ve passed three years wherein reforms have been instituted,” he said.

Lacierda could not say who shouldered the ads for the LP bets, but clarified that no government funds would be spent.

“I can categorically tell you that we are not using government funds for this political campaign,” he said.

Lacierda lamented that UNA had been hitting administration programs like the conditional cash transfer and even the President’s recent trip to Davos for the World Economic Forum.

“Well, the only thing that they have said positively is that they support the Philippine approach to arbitral tribunal. Of course, it’s a no-brainer if you’re going to go against that policy. Who’s going to go against that policy?” Lacierda said.

On the line

For his colleagues in the LP, President Aquino is putting his political capital and performance at stake in the May 13 midterm polls.

“The coming May 13 vote is a midterm election, in which the President is putting on the line his performance for the first three years of his term and his programs for the next three years,” Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, one of LP’s spokespersons, told reporters.

He said Aquino would go all-out for members of his Team Pinoy senatorial ticket on the campaign trail.

“They are the people he has assembled, the people he can trust and rely on up to the end of his term in 2016,” he said.

Asked whether the President could trust candidates of UNA who, according to its leaders, are the “constructive opposition,” Quimbo said, “We are not sure of that.” – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jess Diaz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/01/31/903102/lp-field-mar-president-2016-drilon

By Angie M. Rosales
The Daily Tribune 

A three-way contest for the presidency in the 2016 elections shaped up yesterday as the Liberal Party (LP) affirmed it is fielding Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II as party standard bearer after President Aquino ends his term while the Lakas-CMD party of former President Arroyo will field Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla for the presidential run.

Vice President Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) had long indicated his plan to seek the highest post of the land in 2016. He said, however, the 2016 polls will be “interesting.”

The 2016 elections can be considered the second edition of the bruising Binay against Roxas faceoff. Binay came from behind to trounce Roxas for the vice presidency in the 2010 national elections.

LP chairman Sen. Franklin Drilon announced the LP will field Roxas for the 2013 presidential polls, scheduled three years from now.

Just when this came out, House Minority Leader Rep. Danny Suarez bared the Lakas-CMD party’s plan to convince its president, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., to join the 2013 presidential race.

Drilon’s revelation was made during a television appearance Tuesday night when he was asked by the host on who will be LP’s standard bearer for 2016 since Binay is believed to be a shoo-in insofar as the political opposition is concerned.
“(It’s) Mar Roxas,” the senator said, referring to their party president.

“Is this cast in stone?” the host asked to which Drilon replied with: “Yes it is.”

When asked if there are some efforts already underway to prepare Roxas in seeking a higher office, Drilon said they are “preparing by means of strictly adhering to the straight path policy of President Aquino.”

“That is our preparation. Because it is all about good governance. That is the advocacy of LP which the President (Aquino) is the chairman,” he said.

But when interviewed by Senate reporters, Drilon said it was the consensus of the LP in backing Roxas in the presidential elections although they have yet to hear from the Cabinet secretary on this matter or any concrete plans insofar as his political ambitions in the near future.

“I do not know exactly, what is in his mind but he said he has not yet decided. I assume he has not decided because he wants to concentrate of his job in the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) and does not want his decisions to be influenced by 2016 at this point,” Drilon said.

Both Roxas and Revilla when asked about the endorsements from their party said they have not entertained the idea of a presidential run.

“We perfectly understand his position when (Roxas) said that it came as a surprise to him and that it is not on his mind. Insofar as the LP is concerned, and insofar as I am concerned, I believe he is the most qualified now. This senatorial election is just a preparation for the 2016 (polls),” he said.

The same was elicited from Revilla, when sought by reporters on the claims made by Suarez saying that it’s too early to discuss his political plans.

“While we’re still here (in the Senate), we’d like to concentrate on our work here for now. But I will prepare for it. I cannot say that am ready but we will prepare for it, we will study our moves carefully. What is at stake here is the interest of the people,” he said.

Revilla emphasized that the moment he makes public his decision to take a bid in the presidential race, it goes without saying that he’s well-prepared in seeking a higher position, the highest post in government.

“As I said, I have yet to make any decision. I’m still studying my options. I was told it’s no walk in the park. I will decide when the right time comes,” he said.

Revilla said their party will try to decide Tuesday next week what will be the party stand on this matter.

http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/item/9887-binay-roxas-revilla-battle-looms-for-%E2%80%9916

GLIMPSES
By Jose Ma. Montelibano

I am not sure who started what, whether political dynasties co-opted Church leaders or Church dynasties nurtured political dynasties. I guess that the history of societies would give us the final clue on who began dynasties – the agents of God or the agents of the State.

Religious rivalries have often brought out different claims from the various competitors about which one organized itself ahead of the others, which holy book could be dated the oldest, and which is the most wise, or at least accurate. This kind of rivalry seems to indicate that dynastic tendencies appear first in the religious realm rather than the political. Tracing oneself to the oldest is not enough if there are broken threads in the leadership of that religion. Each competing religion would have to point to a continuity of leadership as that leadership has been the continuing representation of the divine.

Political systems, on the other hand, do not even try to trace their beginnings to the oldest. There is no point in doing so because the older forms of governance, or political control, would invariably be found in raw and superior force, in victory by violent means. Political systems would rather identify themselves either to great personalities or the most beneficial form of governance in the current times. Those who have little or no connection to the finer or the higher would usually find an Alpha male as the commander-in-chief, the winner of an enduring survival-of-the-fittest culture.

The most operative, or desired, term of political systems appears to be “democracy.” Even among the governments that are clearly to the right, or still lean on central authority, is the tendency to call themselves “democratic.” Most governments would like to present themselves as democratic because it means that they are their people’s choice. It is secondary that they might have grabbed power by force, or keep control that way. There are many dictatorships out there who call themselves a democracy.

Democracy – of the people. Dynasty – of the leadership. Yes, there is a natural opposition between the two attitudes and systems. Democracy in its purest would demand that the people decide, a bottom up process of authority. Dynasty, on the other hand, respects less a people’s choice and holds on to the principle of anointment – a top down process.

That the Catholic Church finally calls for an end to dynasties, and for the Leftist groups led by Bayan Muna praises the move, is nothing short of comic. The least democratic in the sense that their leaders, that of the Catholic Church and the Left, have little or no reference to popular elections but depend on the anointment of the highest leadership cannot be credible spokesperson for any anti-dynasty advocacy. It used to be that the same Church allowed itself to be represented by Jaime Cardinal Sin in the heady days of Edsa People Power, a representation that was considered great not so much because of democratic principles but by the force of personality. And the main Leftist force has a history of purges, of killing those who sounded and behaved less than obedient.

Democracy and dynasty have contrasting and often conflicting energies, the former encouraging the greater number to reach a majority choice which becomes official policy, and the latter trying to implement an efficient compliance from that same majority. It does not necessarily mean that democracies are better governments in terms of efficiency and accomplishment, but it means at all times that the principles of democracy look to the people as the root source of authority.

The choice of the Filipinos is democracy. There is a more fundamental insistence on freedom, but that freedom is often understood as democracy. For that freedom, Filipinos have fought Spain, America and Japan. For that freedom, Filipino rose against the Marcos dictatorship. And for keeping that freedom in the hands of democracy, Corazon Aquino became the most beloved of presidents and awarded the Mother of Democracy title.

There is no such freedom and democracy is theocracy, in communism. It does not make theocracy and communism wrong, or less effective. When these have great leaders, historical highlights are achieved. In human history, the most significant moments have been connected to the character and courage of great leaders who were not democratic. It is not my intent to pass judgment on what is superior though I prefer one over the other. What I want to do is point out the difference, and to point out that the Catholic Church and the Left should be the last institutions to talk against the very system which nourishes them.

The bane of Philippine democracy in trying to dismantle what many of its advocates believe to be political dynasties is that there is no democratic process than can do this in the time frame that they insist. Perhaps, it is because the supposed dynasties being criticized for being so are not real dynasties, just wannabee dynasties. Philippine democracy by intent and by form does contain safeguards against real dynasties – and that is called democratic elections. That is also why those who cheat and steal elections are tyrants and guilty of the highest treason. It is that very act which subverts democracy the worst, not a few political families who keep winning elections for a few generations.

Only honest elections with voters choosing wisely can bring in leaders and public officials who will do well by the people and be appreciated as such. Families with members winning popular elections are not dynasties, and the proof of this is simple history and current events. While there are some who survive up to the third generation, there are more who do not – by simple democratic elections.

The most serious challenge of proponents of an anti-dynasty law is to is how to do it without being anti-democracy. The principle of equal rights cannot be shoved aside because some towns or cities or provinces cannot find enough voters who will keep changing leaders by virtue of their family names.

But, then, why should they? What is the difference between voting in, and voting out, candidates on the basis of their family names? For a democracy, that becomes the height of stupidity.

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 

If there’s a senator who’s up for reelection this year that we should be scrutinizing very carefully ­— it has to be Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. His latest instigation — a senate coup against Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (JPE) — just exploded in this plotter’s face last January 21.

Determined to demonstrate his support base and stop the whispers of intrigue attributed to Trillanes, JPE grabbed the initiative and forced the issue. He delivered a valedictory last January 21 and vacated the position of Senate President. As expected, the majority of the senators, including those of the Liberal Party, supported JPE.

In his speech JPE said: “One Senator is so desperate that he has repeatedly and shamelessly invoked and sought Malacañang’s involvement and intervention just to get enough support to oust me. He continues to make a mockery of the Senate as an independent institution.” JPE was referring to Trillanes who has been announcing the “Palace-backed” coup to media.

JPE knows that Trillanes doesn’t have the support of Malacañang. This was confirmed to me by sources that are high up in the Palace totem pole two weeks ago. JPE would have been reckless to vacate his position without first ascertaining if he still has the support of the majority. There was no real drama to be found in JPE’s speech. The outcome was already ascertained. The drama was not in the speech but in the rigmarole to embarrass the loose cannon in the senate.

The wise man would have made a retrograde maneuver after being exposed and shamed by the old and wily Senate President. Trillanes did the opposite. He then revealed to media that JPE would be ousted by February, again invoking the “forthcoming” support of the four Liberal Party senators — senators Frank Drilon, Kiko Pangilinan, TJ Guingona and Ralph Recto. Typical of the troublemaker — Trillanes even put on the spot Drilon and Senator Manny Villar as the possible replacements to JPE.

This pronouncement of another senate coup in February placed both the senate majority and the executive in an awkward position. Why does Trillanes not realize this? It’s unbelievable for him not to know that all these pronouncements of his about getting the support of the Palace have no basis. The executive has so many important matters to transact with the senate majority and will not jeopardize this for the whims of the loose cannon in the senate. Trillanes doesn’t realize that in this equation in the senate, he has been behaving like a bull in a china shop, recklessly jeopardizing the objectives of the President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy) administration.

P-Noy almost got his fingers burned when the backchannel role of Trillanes in dealing with China was revealed. Trust me, P-Noy will not give the loose cannon a second chance to burn his hands. P-Noy, as my friend Raissa Robles had noted, is a very calculating power player. Raissa likened P-Noy’s style of attaining his objectives to that of a billiard player who sets up his sequence of shots. A calculating power player like P-Noy would not want to employ loose cannons in his organization.

These actuations of Trillanes are consistent with his three other mega blunders, two of which could have caused serious internal strife in our country. These three mega blunders were the Oakwood Mutiny, the Manila Peninsula siege and the tragic suicide of General Angie Reyes after having been verbally abused and shamed by Trillanes in a senate hearing. Not too long ago, the loose cannon said a mouthful about his role as backchannel to China.

What strikes me about Trillanes as a sign of a dangerous man in power is his track record of employing a strategy that’s the opposite of what a great soldier and general ‑ Douglas MacArthur ‑ would prescribe. According to MacArthur, a good general will not try to win with bravado what he can attain with strategy. The charge of the British Light Brigade in the Crimean War was a blunder owed to reliance on bravado.

Trillanes was all-bravado in Oakwood, in the Manila Peninsula siege and in this latest senate coup attempt. He didn’t have the means to attain his objective but relied on bravado to do the job for him. If he’s our president at this time, he might even attack China. People in the power game who display this bravado syndrome tend to lead their flock to tragic misadventures that cause many deaths and inflict extensive misery. Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler were of this mold, although in the case of Napoleon — he exhibited strategic brilliance in the battlefield, Austerlitz most notably.

George Bernard Shaw wrote that: “The masses will follow anything that moves.” This was shown in the rise to power of Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler. In both cases, there was turmoil and the masses were confused. Emerging like the proverbial white knight on horseback, Napoleon and Hitler grabbed power and ruled as autocrats. Ruin and many deaths marked their downfalls.

Trillanes had demonstrated in Oakwood, the Manila Peninsula siege and the latest senate coup attempt that when he gets fixated to a certain objective, he then loses sight of the cost equation.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star 

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is among the countries where risk of corruption in the defense sector is “very high” due to lack of transparency and weak congressional oversight, an international watchdog said.

A study by Transparency International UK showed that the Philippines belongs to “band E” – countries with “very high risk” of corruption in the defense sector.

With the Philippines in the group are Afghanistan, Bahrain, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Sought for comment, defense department spokesman Peter Galvez said measures have been undertaken to curb corruption and promote transparency in their procurement.

“We have instituted measures to ensure greater transparency in our acquisitions. We have invited the media, NGOs (non-government organizations) and civil society to observe the process,” Galvez said in a phone interview.

“The survey may not have taken into consideration the new developments under the new administration,” he added.

Galvez said they were not aware of any effort by Transparency International to look into their system.

“We wish to know basis of study,” he said.

Other groupings in the survey are band A or “very low risk,” band B or “low risk,” band C or “moderate risk,” band D or “high risk” and band F or “critical risk.”

Countries in band A were Australia and Germany while those belonging to band B were Austria, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom and the United States.

Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Spain belong to Band C.

Countries grouped under band D were Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, India, Israel, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Nepal, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Turkey.

Nine countries – Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Syria, and Yemen – were in band F or countries with “critical risk.” The report said these countries lack even the basic anti-corruption measures.

Transparency International UK analyzed 82 countries selected according to the size of their arms trade, the absolute and per capita size of the military, size of their security sector.

In its study, Transparency International UK said political corruption risks are the most prevalent in the Philippines due to lack of oversight authority of Congress.

“The defense budget is available online and there have been recent examples of vigorous debates on the subject of defense policy in the Senate. Despite this, considerable power rests with the president and the de facto oversight authority of the Congress is limited,” the study read.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/01/30/902641/defense-corruption-phl-gets-low-mark

By REY O. ARCILLA
MALAYA

‘The COA reported that at least P4.13 billion in contributions and loan payments made by 12 government offices to the GSIS had not been credited to the offices as of Dec. 31, 2011.’

AS this space had been urging for months, the Department of Foreign Affairs has finally brought the territorial dispute we have with China in the West Philippine Sea to the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Annex VII of the UNCLOS provides for the creation of an arbitral tribunal which can decide the case we lodged even without the participation of China.

Within thirty days (from January 22), we will find out China’s official reaction to our move. Let us hope that she will abide by the obligations she assumed when she adhered to the UNCLOS.

Malacañang has said that the move will not ruin our relations with China. That, I believe, is up to China.

I suppose the decision to go to UNCLOS has been preceded by an intensive and in-depth study of all the possible reactions of China and its implications on the national interest.

I hope I am wrong, but given her ascendancy as a world economic and military power, I fear China will simply ignore our move. And if the arbitral tribunal should decide in our favor, she will ignore that too.

A decision in our favor will, of course, be a victory of sorts but it will be hollow if China ignores it.

That would bring us back to square one.

When President Noynoy Aquino decided not to send our ships back to Panatag Shoal and allowed China to stay and remain in control of it, that to me was already tantamount to giving up our rightful claim by default. Up to now, I still am unable to understand why Noynoy took that decision, given his bold assertion that what is ours is ours and we will fight for it to our last breath, or some such brave words. I also recall him saying at one point that any foreign power who steps on Recto Bank would be like stepping on Recto Avenue.

Let us not forget that occupation is ninety percent ownership. Look what happened to Mischief Reef and Sabah.

***

The personal representative of the US President in the Philippines, Ambassador Harry Thomas, has finally come out with a protracted apology for the US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian running aground in the Tubbataha Reef and wreaking extensive damage to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was clear from the very beginning that the ship was intruding into territorial waters and had been warned several times not to proceed to the marine park. The warnings were totally ignored. To add insult to injury, the park rangers were told by the ship captain to bring their complaint to the US Embassy. Geez, if we have friends like these… we don’t need friends!

As I said in this space last week, the commanding officer of the ill-fated ship should be summoned by the Philippine authorities charged with the task of investigating the incident to shed light on the circumstances that led to the disaster. The question he should specifically be asked is why he ignored the warnings of Reef officials.

A former navy officer and expert mariner has the following to say about the incident:

“The USS Guardian is a mine sweeper normally deployed in littoral and protected waters either for mine laying or mine sweeping. To find this vessel operating in open waters way far from the usual shipping routes is indeed a mystery and invites further scrutiny and speculation.

“Understand the vessel is home-ported in Yokosuka, Japan, now being the middle of winter there. It may well have been deployed to warmer waters for exercise and training? Did the Captain take the liberty to go for R&R, i.e., scuba diving and other extracurricular activities in wanton disregard and violation of Philippine sovereignty and regulations?

“The Navy said the vessel was enroute to a port of call. If the port of call is not in the Visayas or Mindanao, it is certainly not in the right shipping channels. Did they give prior notice on what Philippine port they were intending to visit? If their port of call is in the Pacific Ocean or west to south of the Philippines such as Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia for example, the ship is ridiculously out of position.

“The US Navy announced that the incident was due to faulty navigation charts. This is very hard to believe. The US Navy, the most powerful in the world today, has made the most thorough hydrographic survey of all the seas and oceans to ensure the safe navigation of their billion-dollar submarines and surface vessels.

“They must take us for being ignoramuses and naive as well. The Americans initiated and operate a very precise positioning system called the GPS (for Geographic Positioning System) that is used by all naval and merchant vessels as well as aircraft. This is a very accurate and dependable system of pinpointing any location on the planet. Either they have an incompetent crew or careless navigator at best. We can surmise that they must have been planning to drop anchor close enough to shore but misjudged the weather, currents, wind and visibility, etc. Did they run aground at night and darkness?

“The US treats this incident in a cavalier fashion as if we are all ignorant and can be taken for granted.”

***

Don’t you find it strange that not one of the honorable senators who received the P1.6 million largesse from the Senate’s budget through the “generosity” of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has not said anything about what they have done with the money or what they intend to do with it?

After the public outcry over the illegality or immorality of their action, they should have returned the money or at least followed the example set by Senator Pia Cayetano. She donated the P250,000 she received to the victims of typhoon Pablo and of the present devastating floods in parts of Mindanao. (Cayetano, her brother Alan and Senators Miriam Santiago and Antonio Trillanes received the same smaller amount from Enrile supposedly for being members of the minority.)

What does that make of them?

And what about the honorable congressmen who reportedly received P500,000 each as yearend bonus from the House speaker? How come nobody is questioning it? Are they any better, in a sense, than the distinguished senators of the Republic? Why are they not being taken to task by the public and the media? Is it because nobody complained about being treated differently by the Speaker, making no distinction between majority and minority members of the House? They reportedly all received the same amount.

***

This brings to mind the oft-repeated vow of Noynoy to end corruption in government.

In a recent pronouncement, he said “it has become clear that there is no room for straying from the straight path and those who abuse their office and power would be held accountable.”

Instead of holding the Senate and the House members accountable for apparently taking liberties with the people’s money, Noynoy said that that is their business. Little does he know, it seems, that certain departments and offices under the executive branch also engage in the same practice of using savings to grant bonuses to officers and employees. How those savings are effected is something that should be looked into by government auditors.

Incidentally, Noynoy said recently that some people will get a jolt when he reveals something about anomalies being committed in government. We are still waiting for the surprise, Mr. President.

***

Reminders (for Noynoy’s action):

1) Filing of charges against of­ficials of the National Food Administration (NFA) during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency.

Incidentally, whatever happened to the Senate investigation on the alleged anomalies that took place in the agency during the watch of Noynoy’s administrator-appointee who resigned in September last year to run for Congress?

2) Investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia.

Now that there appears to be a falling out between the Aquino administration and the Garcia family of Cebu (its governor is still resisting her suspension from office for six months), it is hoped that an investigation of Winston Garcia, a brother of the suspended governor, would now proceed.

In the meantime, COA reported that at least P4.13 billion in contributions and loan payments made by 12 government offices to the GSIS had not been credited to the offices as of Dec. 31, 2011.

COA also said the amount of unrecorded remittances could go much higher because only 36 agencies have so far responded out of the 186 that were sent confirmation requests by government auditors. Of the 36, 27 confirmed “discrepancies” in their premium and loan payments ledgers when compared with those of the GSIS.

Paging Mr. Robert Vergara.

3) Facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments.

4) Expeditious action by the AFP on the case of Jonas Burgos.

***

Today is the 268th day of the sixth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

***

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PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Scarborough Shoal

In a matter of days, the Philippine government took strong actions against the two most powerful countries in the world – the United States and the People’s Republic of China.  Now, that’s what I call “wow, wow!”  Yep, a double wow, indeed.  But as it turned out, the country was hit with a double whammy!

The first whammy was China’s seizure of the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) that is within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).   Last August, after China tricked the Philippines into withdrawing her vessels from the lagoon, China roped off the only entrance into the lagoon; thus, preventing other fishermen from getting in.  Only Chinese fishing boats are allowed to enter the lagoon.  In effect, China has taken de facto possession of a piece of Philippine territory… without firing a shot.

Bajo de Masinloc, as Scarborough Shoal was named as far back as 1734 during the Spanish era, is 124 miles west of Masinloc, Zambales in the South China Sea.  The shoal is a triangle-shaped chain of reefs with a circumference of 34 miles and an area of 58 square miles.  Many of the reefs are just below water at high tide.  The lagoon contains a large variety of fish and other sea life including endangered species such as sea turtles, sharks, and giant clams.

Arbitration

Helplessly unable to defend her territory, let alone recover those she already lost, the Philippines had no other recourse but to turn to the United Nations to resolve the territorial dispute.

Last January 22, the Philippines’ Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario formally notified China that the Philippines is bringing the case before the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  The issue is China’s claim to about 90% of the entire South China Sea delineated by an imaginary – and arbitrary – “nine-dash line” drawn by China.    

In reaction, the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines, Ma Keqing, reasserted China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.  However, she said that China supports a negotiated settlement through “peaceful means.”  Well, with several Chinese warships permanently deployed inside the lagoon, “peaceful means” might just be another convenient tool from China’s bag of tricks.

Doublespeak

Last January 28, China’s supreme ruler, Xi Jinping, told the 25 members of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee Political Bureau (Politburo): “China will stick to the path of peaceful development. No foreign country should expect us to make a deal on our core interests and hope we will swallow the bitter pill that will damage our sovereignty, security and development interests.”  And as before, “core national interest” is not negotiable, peacefully or otherwise.

Xi Jinping

As China had demonstrated in the past three decades, her salami-slicing tactics of grabbing other countries’ territories – Paracel Islands, Mischief Reef, Macclesfield Bank, Scarborough Shoal — have been successful.  And now her biggest – and most ambitious – goal is to annex the South China Sea and the East China Sea all the way to the Okinawa Trough as a prolongation of China’s continental shelf.  That would be the fulfillment of China’s dream.

Evidently, China’s “talk and take” approach is paying dividends… until Japan decided to use force — if necessary — to counter China’s aggressive attempt to grab the Senkaku islands near Okinawa in the East China Sea.

Recently, during Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to the U.S., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a “veiled warning” to China not to challenge Japan’s control of the Senkaku islands.  She said that the islands were under Japan’s control and therefore protected under the U.S.-Japan Treaty.  Her remarks instantly ignited a war hysteria in China.  Xi Jinping ordered the People’s Liberation Army to get ready for war, quickly!

Tubbataha Reef

Meanwhile, about 600 south in the Sulu Sea, Tubbataha Reef is getting a lot of attention since an American warship, the minesweeper USS Guardian, ran aground in its vicinity.  The reef consists of two coral atolls five miles apart and each reef has a single small islet protruding from the water.

Tubbataha Reef

More than 1,000 species inhabit the reef of which many are considered endangered including manta rays, tortoises, clownfish, lionfish, and sharks.  There are 350 coral species and 500 fish species.  It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Asia and inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.  It is called the “Crown Jewel of the Coral Triangle.”

On January 17, 2013, the USS Guardian ran aground on the reef.  An initial visual inspection showed that at least 10 meters of the reef were damaged.  Aerial photographs made by the Philippine military showed the “ship’s bow sitting atop corals in shallow turquoise waters, with the stern floating in the deep blue waters.”  The warship was bound for Puerto Princesa after routine refueling and supply replenishment in Subic Bay.

Initial reaction from Malacañang defended the Guardian’s presence in the protected area. “I confirmed with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin that there was such a port call request made for Puerto Princesa by USS Guardian,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.  “There was a request made and the request was granted.”

Apology

The following week, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. apologized for the incident.  When the apology was relayed to President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III — who was attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland at that time – he told reporters who were covering his trip that an apology was not enough.  He wanted a thorough investigation to ascertain how the USS Guardian ran aground on the reef.

Grounded USS Guardian

But the United States Navy already made its commitment to do everything it can to repair the damage caused by the minesweeper.  Didn’t he know that?  Yet P-Noy continued to question, “How it could happen when the minesweeper, a U.S. made vessel, was supposed to be possessing of high technology military navigation devices?” He said that the U.S. would have to comply with Philippine laws regarding the incident.  “They violated it, there are penalties. Then they will have to address all of these violations of our pertinent laws,” he said.

But P-Noy didn’t realize that the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) had already fined the U.S. Navy for “unauthorized entry.”  However, it did not disclose the amount of the penalty.  Under Philippine law, the maximum penalty for unauthorized entry is of up to a year in prison plus a fine of up to P300,000 ($7,300).  The TPAMB decided not to include the jail option in the penalty.

VFA

When a reporter asked P-Noy about the call of some groups to review the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the U.S. and the Philippines in the aftermath of the Tubbataha incident, he toned down and said that the VFA only governs the conduct of visiting American troops when they’re in military exercises in the Philippines.  He explained that the VFA has no connection to the Tubbataha incident; it’s a question about violating the country’s ecological laws.

Meanwhile, Fernando Hicap, the chairman of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, called for the filing of a “millennium class suit” against the US Navy for damaging the reef, saying that the US should pay the country a considerable amount following the destruction of the reef.  P-Noy was also criticized by Anakbayan national chairman Vencer Crisostomo and Kabataan Partylist national president Terry Ridon for his statements, which they claimed was tantamount to a “whitewash” on the incident.

But what is interesting to note is that these leftist groups are quick to attack the U.S. for any “infraction” but are quiet about China’s aggression against the Philippines.  What would they do if one day they wake up to see an armada of Chinese warships in the Sulu Sea on their way to Puerto Princesa?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

By Kate McGeown
BBC News, Philippines

Imelda Marcos with some of her shoes on display at a museum in Marikina City (Feb 2001) Imelda Marcos’s shoes are the best accounted for among her possessions

Imelda Marcos: a name synonymous with wealth, greed and excess.

During her husband’s 20 years as Philippine president, she amassed a huge collection of art, jewellery, property and – most famously – at least 1,000 pairs of shoes.

Paintings by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Rembrandt, Rafael and Michelangelo; palatial homes in the US and the Philippines; silver tableware, gold necklaces, diamond tiaras – the Marcoses collected the best the world had to offer.

When they were ousted in a “People Power” revolution in 1986, Philippine investigators estimated their wealth at about $10bn (£6.2bn).

The next president, Corazon Aquino, set up a special commission to recover these funds for the government coffers – but now, more than 25 years later, just $4bn has been accounted for.

So what happened to rest of the Marcos collection?

The issue came to the fore again late last year, when Mrs Marcos’ former aide, Vilma Bautista, appeared in a New York court charged with illegally selling a Monet painting.

She was also found to have another three famous artworks in her possession.

The commission admitted that all four were on a list of 146 paintings once owned by the Marcoses which they had not been able to track down.

Shoes and shares

Not surprisingly perhaps, Imelda’s shoes are the part of the collection that is best accounted for.

Vilma Bautista (C), the former secretary to former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos, leaves Manhattan Criminal Court in New York (18 Dec 2012) Former secretary Vilma Bautista was found to have some of the Marcoses missing artworks

Photographs of row upon row of designer footwear, left in the presidential palace when the Marcoses fled to Hawaii, became the symbol which summed up their lavish lifestyle.

Many of these shoes are now in a special museum in Marikina, an area north of Manila known for its shoe manufacturing.

Others are in the National Museum, along with some of Mrs Marcos’ gala dresses.

There was an outcry in September when it was revealed that much of the museum’s collection had been eaten by termites.

“The Philippine government has no right to question why Mrs Marcos had this art” — Robert Sison Imelda Marcos’s lawyer

But while the shoes and clothes are of undoubted historic interest, they do not have big monetary value.

The Commission on Good Government has been concentrating on the bigger-ticket items – it has sold real estate in New York and millions of dollars-worth of shares, and obtained $600m in Swiss bank accounts.

It has also found a ruby and diamond tiara, locked in the vault of the Swiss central bank, which could fetch more than $8m.

But Andres Bautista, the head of the commission and no relation to Vilma, admits there is still a lot missing – especially the paintings.

The commission started with a list of more than 300 missing paintings – many by the grand masters – and about half of these are still unaccounted for.

“We really don’t know where they are. They could be anywhere,” Mr Bautista said.

‘Confiscated’

I asked him if he thought that some of these artworks were still in the hands of Imelda Marcos herself (her husband Ferdinand died in 1989).

His reply was careful: “Your guess is as good as mine”.

Robert Sison, Mrs Marcos’ lawyer, fears that is exactly what the commission thinks.

And while Mr Sison says he is unaware exactly what art the family still has, he believes that is not the right way to look at the issue.

“Filipinos are too forgetful – and we forgive too easily” — Andres Bautista Head of Commission on Good Government

He refers to the Marcos wealth as being “confiscated” rather than recovered by the commission, insisting there is no legal basis to take any of the assets.

“The Philippine government has no right to question why Mrs Marcos had this art,” Mr Sison said.

“Ferdinand Marcos was a gold trader before he became president, and he made his money then.”

Mr Sison also pointed out that, despite numerous cases being filed against the family, no-one has been successfully prosecuted.

Back in power

In defending the commission’s actions, Mr Bautista refers to a Supreme Court decision from 2003, which found all but $320,000 of the Marcos assets to be the result of ill-gotten wealth.

“This is a job we took an oath to do, and we want to do it well,” he said.

Imelda Marcos (R) and her two daughters, Imee and ?? Imelda Marcos, her daughter and a son are all still involved in Philippine politics

But Mr Bautista faces an uphill battle – and not just because the art is proving difficult to find.

The commission itself is not well respected – previous members have been accused of corruption, or “taking eggs from the chicken coop”, as Mr Bautista euphemistically puts it.

He admits that the commission “needs to have the support of the public”, and he is not sure whether it still does.

The Philippine judicial system is also frustratingly slow. Many of the legal cases filed against the Marcoses and their allies have been stuck for years in the backlog, never reaching court.

But there is another major factor hampering the commission – the Marcoses are once again a political force.

Imelda is a congresswoman; her daughter Imee is a provincial governor; her son BongBong is a respected senator who has a realistic chance of becoming president in 2016.

The fact the Marcoses are back in power “really doesn’t help us,” Mr Bautista conceded.

Given all this, it is perhaps not surprising that he wants to wind the commission down.

He is not quite ready to admit defeat – he suggests the Department of Justice still continues to investigate – but when I asked him if he thought the whole Marcos collection would ever be recovered, he paused for a while, then laughed softly.

File image of Gloria Arroyo from May 2001 Former President Gloria Arroyo is facing a lengthy corruption trial

“Filipinos are too forgetful – and we forgive too easily,” he said eventually.

New priorities

The emphasis now has shifted to another former president, and her alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Gloria Arroyo left office in 2010, and has already been accused of corruption as well as a string of other offences. Her trial looks set to be expensive and time-consuming.

Time marches on, memories fade and new priorities take precedence.

Maybe the full Marcos collection will never be found. Maybe the missing paintings will remain in private homes, stores and bank vaults around the world.

As for Mrs Marcos, she is now in her 80s but still as strong and flamboyant as ever – and still a keen art collector.

During one of my interviews with her, I asked for a photograph as a keepsake.

We posed next to a painting. “Wow, is that a Picasso?” I asked. “Yes,” she said proudly.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21022457

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

RELATED STORY:

Marcos Treasure (video)

August 25, 2009 | Politics & Government

Here is a recent video taken in February 2009 with Imelda Marcos showing her valued treasures and a sum of $987 billion to a BBC UK reporter.

CLICK TO VIEW VIDEO >> Marcos Treasure

 

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas 

The immigration reform plan announced on Monday by a bipartisan group of senators may not appear to be the cure-all for the massive immigration problem of the United States, but the mere fact that the Republicans and Democrats are finally talking to find a solution to the decades-long question is something to be hopeful about.

Under the compromise proposal reached by eight leading senators — four each from the deeply divided Democrats and Republicans — undocumented immigrants would be allowed to register with the government, pay a fine, and then be given “probationary legal status” allowing them to live and work without fear of being deported, provided they pass criminal background checks and pay back taxes and fines.

The road to citizenship, however, will stay closed until a state-federal commission has certified that the border was secure and that a system was in place to make sure that visa holders aren’t overstaying. These undocumented immigrants also would not get green cards until everyone else already in line for permanent residency have received theirs.

While these conditions would make the path to citizenship long, bumpy and circuitous, at least the Republicans, who have opposed any proposal that would resemble “amnesty,” may now be willing to open a road to the legalization of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US.

It may not be much, but for the first time since Congress last passed a comprehensive immigration law in 1986, the Republicans have realized they need to patch things up with the ever-growing Latino population, 70 percent of which gave their vote to President Barack Obama in last November’s presidential election, and probably also with the fast-growing Asian-American sector, which also favors legalization to undocumented immigrants.

Confronted with this shocking realization and by the fact that recent surveys have shown a changing sentiment of Americans on the issue of illegal immigrants, many Republicans may now be more than willing to compromise their previously rock-hard stance on the issue of granting legal status to some, if not all, of the undocumented immigrants.

Earlier this month, an Associated Press poll showed that 62 percent of Americans — including 53 percent of Republicans — favor a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the US. The survey also showed that when it comes to fixing the system, Americans said they trust Democrats more than Republicans, 41 percent to 34 percent.

Many Republican leaders, especially those who are known to be eyeing the presidential nomination in 2016, are changing their stance on the issue. For example, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, co-wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal last week, saying, “The best way to prevent illegal immigration is to make sure that we have a fair and workable system of legal immigration.”

Among the eight senators who drafted the proposal are Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, who were both very vocal against any form of “amnesty” for years. Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who was a leading opponent of past efforts in Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law, delivered a speech on the Senate floor acknowledging the need for reforms. Conservative Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida praised the Senate outline.

The other good news is that a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives is also reportedly close to unveiling its own immigration proposals. The day after the Senate bipartisan group announced their plan, President Obama was scheduled to announce his own immigration reform agenda in Las Vegas, a plan which many believe would offer an easier path to legalization.

Both sides of the political divide may have finally come to the realization that their extremist views for and against immigration reform can no longer hold, and that they must find a middle ground to put a balance to the need to stop illegal immigration on one side, and the need to make these undocumented immigrants a chance to become more productive residents of this great country and to satisfy the need of many businesses, particularly the agricultural sector, for workers willing and able to do the job.

It is easy to be skeptical about the senators’ proposal, considering that it wouldn’t open at once the path to citizenship, but the good thing here is that there may finally be a consensus to open the door – albeit not completely — to these 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The senators’ plan envisions faster citizenship paths for immigrants with advanced degrees, farm workers, and the young students known as Dreamers — not something to be ecstatic about, but something that offers hope that eventually, the rest of the undocumented immigrants would eventually find their place in the American sun.

It will definitely be an uphill battle, but with many Republican leaders willing to listen to the voice of the people, it may not be insurmountable after all. We may just have to make our voices louder.

(valabelgas@aol.com)