October 2013

By Ina Andolong
Solar News

Noynoy.67President Aquino went on national television with a blunt address to the nation, that DAP is not PDAF, and that, contrary to what the obfuscators want everybody to believe about the pork barrel scandal, he is not the thief.

To be blunt about it, hearing the President defend the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is no longer new.

He’s done this several times, in interviews with the media and in various forums over the past few weeks.

Even Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma did not deny this when Solar News talked to him after the President delivered his speech.

Coloma, however, did explain why the President wanted to reiterate his position on DAP, saying that President Aquino wanted to make sure that the entire nation tunes in to what he has to say.

Coloma explained that, in forums where DAP was discussed and defended, the President was addressing only specific sectors.

This time, President Aquino apparently thought that airing a live speech on prime time TV would ensure that he is heard.

We also asked Secretary Coloma about the reference to the term “old politician” in his speech, alluding to the politician whose advice was apparently heeded by those out to misdirect the people, and criticize DAP.

While it would seem that the President was referring to someone in particular, Coloma said, he believes it was an idiomatic expression used by the president to refer to how old politicians would cloud up issues to distract the people.

As a background, we recall that among the politicians facing plunder accusations in connection with the pork barrel scandal are Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla.

Palace officials underscored that the speech was not in response to recent surveys tending to show a drop in the President’s approval ratings.

Experts we’ve talked to, however, didn’t buy this.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said the speech seems to show that the recent criticisms have hit the President hard, and that he now wants to personally address these criticisms, in the hope of preventing a further drop in his ratings.

Another analyst, Prospero de Vera, said “of course it has something to do with the controversy and the survey results.”

De Vera even commended the President for deciding to speak out, adding that “he is a better communicator than all of his spokespersons combined.”

Journalists were not allowed to throw questions after the speech.

However, on Thursday, when he inspects some ports and terminals in preparation for the expected exodus in time for All Souls’ Day, there should be opportunities to do so.

Here is the link to the full transcript of the President’s speech posted by Malacañan:
http://www.gov.ph/2013/10/30/pambansang-pahayag-ni-pangulong-aquino-noong-ika-30-ng-oktubre-2013/

Link to the English translation of the President’s address:
http://www.gov.ph/2013/10/30/televised-address-of-president-benigno-s-aquino-iii-october-30-2013-english/

http://www.solarnews.ph/news/2013/10/31/aquino-i-m-not-a-thief#.UnIRbyQZzJw

Source:  The Daily Tribune

39% SAY RP HEADING WRONG PATH UNDER AQUINO

Noynoy.66The controversial survey commissioned by Malacañang but which it denied ever existed showing a huge decline in the net trust rating of President Aquino to an unprecedented low of 35 amid the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and pork barrel controversies showed that respondents believed Aquino himself and his chief ally Senate President Franklin Drilon are liable in the Janet Lim-Napoles racket.

The Tribune obtained copies of the Palace poll, which Aquino and his aides have denied ever having commissioned.

The survey, portions of which were obtained by The Tribune also indicated that predominant of respondents, or 39 percent, believed the country is “going in the wrong direction” against 31 percent who believed that the Aquino administration is leading the country to his mantra of “daang matuwid” or straight path. Llamas’ denial, however, was apparently written by a law firm that also serves as a consultant for the office of Llamas which is the Belmonte, Sison Sawali and Associates counsels and consultants as the denial letter heading stated.

A Tribune source said the survey was leaked by a Palace office worker.

The result of the survey which first appeared in a daily broadsheet showed, among others, President Aquino’s trust rating dropping to a net 35 which was the difference of those expressing much trust of 51 percent and 16 percent of respondents who stated they have little trust on Aquino.

The survey was said to have 1,000 respondents but portions of the survey covering the National Capital Region was obtained by The Tribune covering 300 respondents and stating that it was undertaken from Oct. 8 to 10.
Another highlight of the survey, according to the document, was that corruption was cited by 45 percent of respondents as their most pressing concern surpassing jobs at 28 percent and prices at six percent.

The still unidentified pollster noted that in previous surveys, “corruption was a third or fourth issue” mentioned by respondents.

The survey also showed that Vice President Jejomar Binay’s trust rating dropped “though not as much as PNoy” of from a net 70 to a net 57; Senate President Franklin Drilon’s trust rating was one of the lowest at a net negative 14, and Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s are generally not trusted with net ratings of negative 16 and negative 21, respectively.

The survey also showed 49 percent of respondents believed the pork barrel is stolen by politician while 51 percent said this goes to “well-meaning” projects; 46 percent said the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) should be abolished and placed directly in agencies but a substantial 44 percent said it should not be abolished but only reformed; and that medical assistance an scholarships top the list where the pork barrel should be spent on.

A reliable source told the Tribune that the Palace, whether during the time of then President Gloria Arroyo or Aquino’s current time, always commissions surveys on the president and the administration, and are always conducted on a private basis, or for the Palace’s eyes only.

No privately commissioned survey on the president and his administration is made public when the survey findings are negative to the president.

These private surveys are usually done for the Palace people to gauge the real sentiment of the people, as the survey firms, especially under the Aquino administration, tend to provide the Palace results favorable to the president.

The two latest surveys from two polling firms, the SWS and Pulse Asia, released this month, showed great variance in the approval/performance/satisfaction ratings, which were found questionable.

Pulse gave Aquino’s approval rating at 79 percent, a six point increase from his survey rating in June. Pulse’s survey was conducted from Sept. 14 to 27. This was amid the pork barrel scandal and presidential pork.

Compared to Pulse ratings, Aquino’s rating in the Palace survey suffered a 44-percent drop.

It was also a decrease of 14 percent compared to his +49 percent rating in the Sept. 20 to 23 SWS survey, where Aquino dropped 35 percent.

The Malacañang commissioned survey also showed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima got a net 38 rating.

The survey also showed that Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. got a zero while Senate President Franklin Drilon obtained a -14 percent approval rating, the Star reportred.

Senators Jinggoy Estrada got -14 percent; Ramon Revilla Jr., -15 percent; and Juan Ponce Enrile, -21 percent. The three are facing plunder charges along with 34 others, in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scandal.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda got -20 percent and -16 percent, respectively.

Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo got -69 percent.

Said Llamas: “I strongly and categorically deny that there was any survey commissioned by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs concerning the President’s approval rating or any other public official for that matter,” according to the law firm letter quoting him.

The denial added: “As far as my office is concerned, the results of the recent surveys conducted by the country’s top two polling opinion bodies are enough to measure the people’s continued trust and support to President Aquino,” Llamas said.

Llamas said in the SWS survey report last Oct. 14, 2013, “the President continues to enjoy positive approval ratings”.

He said that “Mahar Mangahas, SWS chief, had explained it in his recent article, “P-Noy’s rating has never been double-downgraded. None of the previous four presidents were as popular as P-Noy is now at the same stage, or at any later stage, of their terms.”

Llamas added that “the Pulse Asia Ulat ng Bayan Survey for Sept. 2013 showed that the President’s performance approval rating climbed from 73 to 79, representing a 6-point increase, while his trust rating remains high at 76 percent”.

“I have released this statement in order to address whatever false impression that the said news article might have created,” Llamas said.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. also denied anything about the initiated “internal survey” by Malacañang.

“I have no knowledge of such kind of survey neither I have seen it if there is one,” Coloma said.

Anna Guerra-dela Vega, director, office of the Political Adviser (OPA), said Coloma was right in his statement.

She said OPA had not commissioned any survey whether private or not. Apparently, they were all lying.

http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/palace-poll-noy-drilon-equally-liable-in-pork-scam

By Angie M. Rosales and Charlie V. Manalo
The Daily Tribune 

Franklin-Drilon.4A staunch ally of President Aquino in the Senate has cautioned former Chief Justice Reynato Puno to think first of the actions being carried out by the Senate and the government on the controversial “pork barrel” before engaging in “politicking.”

Puno had earlier warned of chaos, including that of a possible military intervention, if the proposed people’s initiative to scrap Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) would fail.

“It’s unfortunate to hear about such statements, especially coming from a former chief justice. For me, this is a case already filed before the Ombudsman, (under investigation by the Senate) blue ribbon committee. The public is closely watching all the proceedings and developments, so there’s no basis for it,” Senate President Franklin Drilon yesterday said.

He noted that the former chief magistrate is engaging in “politicking.”

Drilon also continues to be defensive on the issue on the alleged payoff, saying that to this day, this remains an allegation that is yet to be proved by any evidence or documents.

Even Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who first broke out the issue on the P50 million distributed to some senators months after the Corona impeachment trial already said that the release of additional pork barrel funds did not influence him in rendering his verdict of conviction on the former chief justice, the Senate leader stressed.

“To me, all these talks of bribery are just rumors and there’s no single document that would show that it (the additional pork barrel) was a bribe,” he said.

The Senate chief also downplayed Puno’s reported statement Corona’s impeachment may be declared void if it would be proved that senators had been bribed with additional “pork barrel” in exchange of his conviction.
But Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, for his part, agreed with Puno’s assertion that the impeachment trial that had ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona could be voided if alleged Malacañang bribery to some lawmakers will be proved.

He, however, dismissed any possibility of Corona being “restored” to his former post since he himself, who sat as one of the senator-judges in the impeachment proceedings, denied any bribery.

“Yes, I think that is true. If there was intervention, if there was bribery, it can be declared void. I guess the Supreme Court will be the one to do that. But first prove it,” he told reporters in an interview.

It means, having some senators or at least one senator-judges, coming out and openly admitting being supposedly “bribed” to convict Corona, Osmeña stressed.

“As far as I know, there was no bribery. There was excess fund and they offered it to the senators to be part of their PDAF. I know that they are not going to offer me P50 million for my vote, I will throw it back to their faces. As a matter of fact, you saw it for yourself, from 2003 to 2007, I had no PDAF because I was an opponent of (then President) Gloria (Arroyo). They couldn’t bribe me,” he added.

The matter stems from the alleged additional PDAF or pork barrel that was supposedly taken from President Aquino’s economic stimulus program called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), distributed to some senators and congressmen before, during and after the Corona impeachment trial, supposedly on top of their regular allotment of their yearly PDAF.

The senator also explained that even if the Senate was an independent body from the high court, there were certain cases that the SC would say yes while the Senate could take jurisdiction on it.

“But they will look for esoteric reasoning that lawyers are usually able to do in order to justify throwing this to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Philippines,” he added.

House leaders, including Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, and congressman-prosecutors of the impeachment trial, meanwhile, denied any bribery took place, saying if there was, it never was a factor in proceedings as they insisted they won the case fair and square.

While airing confidence that bribery cannot be proved, congressmen, however, expressed various views as to how Corona can get justice in case evidence will prove that financial and considerations other than evidence influenced the way the senator-judges voted.

Several members of the prosecution team from the House of Representatives reacted to reports that Puno had warned that the removal of the impeached magistrate may be voided.

“No bribery whatsoever. Ex-chief justice is certainly very vocal nowadays,” Belmonte said.

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., also the chairman of the House committee on justice and head of the prosecution team, said claims of bribery were mere speculations.

He, however, pointed out that the conviction of Corona is now final.

For his part, impeachment prosecutors and partylist Representatives Rep. Sherwin Tugna (Cibac) and Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna) also aired confidence that claims of bribery have no bases.

“I disagree with the former CJ (Puno). The impeachment case was decided on the merits by the Senate impeachment court,” Tugna said.

“It was an open trial for almost half a year. The respondent, former CJ Corona, had his day in court and was given due process,” he added.

Tugna said Puno must first prove bribery before airing any comment on the issue.

Colmenares also defended the Senate ruling on the impeachment issue, saying Corona’s “guilt has been established.”

A staunch critic of the Aquino administration’s DAP expenditures, Colmenares admitted that accusations of bribery had indeed tainted the decision of the Senate.

“If former CJ Corona wants it nullified he has to ask the Senate to reconvene since according to the SC impeachment is a political act beyond the jurisdiction of the court,” he explained.

http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/drilon-accuses-ex-cj-puno-of-pork-politicking

Source: Mosquito Mail

(File Photo)

(File Photo)

These days, according to a Malacañang Palace mole, President Noynoy Aquino goes around with a strange fashion accessory—a sheaf of papers folded and tucked under his upper arm. From time to time, Aquino can be seen reading from the plain-paper sheaf, as if he has to remember something that he had just read in it.

What’s printed on the papers isn’t some state secret or even some important policy. It’s just the 1987 Constitution that any schoolboy can read in the library or download from the Internet for his homework.

Why Aquino wants to keep a copy of the charter handy at all times is anybody’s guess. Perhaps he’s memorizing his supposed constitutional defense of his Disbursement Acceleration Program pork barrel fund?

Still, I wonder why Aquino has to keep insisting that his pork allocations are justified by the Constitution, according to his own personal reading of it, when he already has the country’s biggest team of legal aides working for him full time in the Office of the Solicitor General, the presidential legal counsel and the Department of Justice to do the justifying for him. In any case, I think Aquino should have gone through the charter a long time ago, not just now, more than three years into his term.

It’s enough to make me revise my pet nickname of “Boy Sisi” into something more current, still using the initials of his first two given names. Perhaps I shall now call him “Boy Saligang-Batas” Aquino.

* * *

The hacking of this newspaper’s increasingly popular Web site, I’m told, has gone on unabated. And some sources have informed me that this malicious activity is being conducted in the Malacañang “war room,” a high-tech monitoring and online intervention facility that was built during the time of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo but used extensively and “weaponized” for propaganda black ops only by this administration.

The war room is located in an old National Intelligence Coordinating Agency building inside the palace grounds across the river from the main palace, where both Aquino’s official residence, Bahay Pangarap, and the Presidential Security Group headquarters are also located. The facility was built through the efforts of an Arroyo super-supernumerary, a woman so close to the former President that she was suspected of acting as the ex-Chief Executive’s “bag lady.”

People who have gone into the war room said it used to be called Arroyo’s “situation room,” adorned with banks of big-screen computer monitors that give it a “Dr. No” feel, or the aura of NORAD headquarters. It’s also equipped with a working bar and its own kitchen, supposedly so that the President can stay in it for long periods of time while “monitoring the situation” online and through surveillance cameras.

Arroyo herself hardly ever set foot in the building during her term, I’m told. But for the tech-savvy gamer who replaced her in office, the situation room (quickly renamed the “war room”) was heaven-sent.

This is where Aquino stays when he disappears for long periods during the day (or for days on end). And the war room is also were the online monitoring, propaganda and hacking effort is based.

Yes, Virginia, there is a computer geek hacker paradise in the palace, and your taxes and mine are being used to pay for it. And guess who’s in charge of all of that, as well?

* * *

But we’re talking about the hacking of this paper’s site (and other perceived anti-Aquino Web pages, it’s safe to assume), which I’ve already discussed in a previous column and which goes on, to this day. I’ve also discussed this with my boss, MST’s very patient and amiable publisher, Rollie Estabillo, who assures me that steps are being taken so that people who want to read this column and other articles in the paper aren’t redirected to a porn site or don’t get other such denial-of-service messages, as they still sometimes do.

I hope the counter-measures work. But I also know that even the most secure official Web sites in the US, where the government has all the motivation and resources to keep their data secure, are hacked from time to time.

Personally, since I am no longer in charge of MST’s day to day operations, I can only ask readers for more understanding. The famed “mosquito press” that helped bring down Ferdinand Marcos and other efforts all over the world to get the truth out also suffered similar repressive measures in the past, whether from brutal dictatorships militantly against freedom of speech or from outwardly benign rulers, who profess to love democracy.

But in the end, the truth always comes out. Sooner or later, the people will know.

I also take some consolation from the Streisand Effect, named after the reclusive American popular singer. A decade ago, Barbra Streisand sued to stop the online publication of photographs of her California mansion, taken as part of a series of publicly-available photos documenting that state’s coastline.

Instead of preventing the photos of her house from spreading, the suit called attention to them, making them go viral. I wait for the same thing to happen to the truths that this administration wants suppressed.

Email: mosquitomail2013@gmail.com

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“What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.” — Abraham Lincoln

By Alex P. Vidal

Rene-VillaIf we think Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) Chairman Rene Villa is embarrassed by latest report that he had professional links with jailed bogus NGO organizer Janet Lim-Napoles, we can be dead wrong.

Villa, who could not win a congressional seat as long as the Defensor father and son — Iloilo Gov. Arthur Sr. and Rep. Arthur “Toto” Jr. — are lording over the third district of Iloilo, must be enjoying the kind of publicity he has been reaping in the national media these past days.

Touted as one of the most brilliant Ilonggo lawyers to ever serve the cabinet during the time of President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; and now in the cabinet of President Nonoy Aquino, Villa’s admission that he once served as Napoles’ lawyer and financial adviser is not actually a mortal sin.

JAILED

Nobody gets jailed or stripped of his dignity for counseling a charlatan in the past. Nobody loses his job for waltzing with a Madame Bovary or a Lady Chatterley. Any politician worth his salt in Villa’s shoes today would prance around the paddock if given the same opportunity to expound his ties with a high profile inmate in national media.

The kind of publicity that Villa is enjoying in the Napoles l’affaire is the kind of publicity that most politicians want–and need!

Notwithstanding the eerie tag and freakish notoriety attached to her name, Napoles can still be considered now as a celebrity in her own right–and a national figure to boot.

To be linked to Napoles in a not-so-scandalous fashion isn’t outright kiss of death. It may a little bit dampen a public servant’s bid for an Order of Sikatuna award, but not his political career.

POPULARITY

In a country where popularity is convertible to elective government post, the more you are mentioned in media–and the controversy you are embroiled with is endlessly tackled in prime time and headline news, the more that your name-recall edge will be amplified and sharpened. Voters will easily remember you during election period whether you belong in the reel or real world.

It is easy to decipher if Villa detested the Napoles link publicity. If he refused to elaborate further, that means he was uncomfortable in the “hot seat” he was in. But if he was willing to talk and share willingly what he knew and in the mood to flash his brilliancy in the Q and A arena, you can bet he was in the joy ride.

SPEAKER

The late former House Speaker Jose M. Aldeguer (Nacionalista Party, Iloilo 5th district) would reportedly pay radio block time talents to lambast him on air. Aldeguer believed that if no one was attacking him as a public official, that means he was not doing his job; that means he was lousy and irrelevant.

The late former Senator and Iloilo City Mayor Rodolfo “Roding” T. Ganzon considered bad publicity and criticism as “good” if leveled against a politician.

“They (my political opponents and media) can say anything they want under the sun against me as a public servant. I will not complain. Basta indi lang sila mag alegar nga putyong ako because only my wife has the right to say that,” enthused Ganzon, the “Stormy Petrel of the South.”

Fans and admirers of Chairman Rene Villa should relax and enjoy the show.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

RELATED STORY:

Palace: LWUA chair lawyering for Napoles not an issue

By KIMBERLY JANE TAN
GMA News

Malacañang on Wednesday shrugged off the revelation that Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chair Rene Villa had served as the lawyer of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, saying this does not affect the President’s opinion about him.

In text messages to GMA News Online, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) head Herminio Coloma Jr. said he “doesn’t think” that President Benigno Aquino III’s opinion about Villa will change because of the revelation.

“He [Villa] is not implicated in any irregularity. It’s not an issue,” he said.

A report published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Villa as admitting Napoles was his client for four years when he was working in the private sector. But he said he advised her on “purely private financial matters, nothing on government or political matters.”

Asked if Aquino knew about this, Coloma said he doesn’t know but that the “President does not need detailed information on hundreds of nominees for appointment.”

Villa was appointed in 2011 to replace Prospero Pichay, who was dismissed as LWUA chair for the alleged misuse of the agency’s funds.

Villa was part of the “Hyatt 10″— group of 10 Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officials of the Gloria Arroyo administration—who officially withdrew their support from Arroyo at a meeting in the Hyatt Hotel in Manila in 2005, and joined groups that called for her ouster from office over the “Hello Garci” poll fraud scandal.

The other members of Hyatt 10 who are now with the Aquino administration are Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita “Ging” Deles. —KG, GMA News

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/333176/news/nation/palace-lwua-chair-lawyering-for-napoles-not-an-issue

Source: wtkr.com

Navy Destroyer Dumwalt(CNN) — The Navy’s newest warship slipped out of dry dock this week into the waters of Maine, marking a new era for war fighting at sea.

The USS Zumwalt, the first of the DDG-1000 class of destroyers, is longer, faster and carries state-of-the-art weapons that will allow it to destroy targets at more than 60 miles, according to the Navy.

At 610 feet long and 81 feet wide, the Zumwalt is longer and thinner than the USS Arizona, a battleship sunk at Pearl Harbor. But it weighs about half as much.

USS-Zumwalt-stealth-destroyer.6Much of the ship’s superstructure is wrapped in a huge, canopy made of lightweight carbon fiber composite.

The canopy and the rest of the ship is built on angles that help make it 50 times harder to spot on radar than an ordinary destroyer.

“It has the radar cross-section of a fishing boat,” said Chris Johnson a spokesperson for Naval Sea Systems Command.

The Navy had planned to spend up to $9 billion in research and development on the DDG-1000 program and up to $20 billion to design and deliver seven ships. But cost overruns cut production to three ships.

When it begins missions, the Zumwalt will be the largest stealthy ship in the Navy.

Coming out of dry dock at Bath Iron Works in Maine does not mean the ship is ready to put to sea.

The shipbuilder will now begin installing a considerable arsenal of weapons, including two Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) which can fire rocket powered, computer-guided shells that can destroy target 63 miles away. That three times farther than ordinary destroyer guns can fire.

The DDX will go to sea with a crew of about 150 as opposed to current destroyers which carry a crew of 275. One reason is the AGS is virtually self-firing. It needs no sailors to load the shells or remove the spent rounds.

The Zumwalt will also be equipped with a new missile launching system capable of firing 80 missiles, including Tomahawk cruise missiles and Seasparrow surface to air missiles.

Finally it will be able to carry and launch two Seahawk helicopters or four unmanned aerial vehicle.

Its christening had been been scheduled for last month, but the government shutdown forced the Navy to cancel the ceremony.

It’s expected to be rescheduled next spring. The shipbuilder, plans to finish construction and turn the ship over to the Navy next year.

http://wtkr.com/2013/10/29/navys-stealthiest-destroyer-has-new-look/

By J. Berkshire Miller
The Diplomat

The three countries have stepped up their rhetoric. Now they need to match that with action.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Dita Alangkara/Pool

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Dita Alangkara/Pool

Effective trilateral cooperation is never a simple endeavor. Indeed, achieving a worthwhile set of common strategic objectives is difficult enough between two states, let alone throwing a third in – even if it is a likeminded ally. Washington’s three most important allies in the Asia-Pacific are Japan, South Korea and Australia. Attempts to forge a trilateral partnership between the U.S. and its two East Asian allies has been scuttled repeatedly over the years due to sniping between Tokyo and Seoul over history and differing strategic goals.

But the futility of comprehensive alignment with Japan and South Korea has opened the diplomatic capital for another key trilateral – Tokyo, Canberra and Washington – that both suffers and benefits from its geographic disparity. The U.S.-Japan-Australia Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD) was first launched in 2002 at the bureaucratic level and was then elevated to the foreign minister level in 2006. After a relatively nondescript meeting in 2009, the three ministers met for the third TSD earlier this month in Bali on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial summit.

This year’s TSD Joint Statement contained the usual diplomatic reaffirmations of mutual support for objectives regarding disarming Syria’s chemical weapons as well as the next round of talks on Iran’s nuclear program. The ministers also agreed to condemn “North Korea’s continued development of its nuclear and missile programs and proliferation activities” and the U.S. and Australia even agreed to include the abduction issue as an area of concern, to satisfy Japan.

But achieving consensus on Syria, Iran and North Korea has never been a hurdle for the TSD. The elephant in the room has been and always will be China. While previous Statements delicately approached Beijing’s role, this month’s meeting produced a less nuanced message. With regard to strained Japan-China ties over the Senkaku islands, the TSD noted: “Ministers opposed any coercive or unilateral actions that could change the status quo in the East China Sea. They underlined the importance of efforts to reduce tensions and to avoid miscalculations or accidents in the East China Sea, including by improving marine communications.”

The three ministers also called out China’s intransigence in the South China Sea: “The ministers affirmed the importance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. They called on claimants to refrain from actions that could increase tensions, to clarify and pursue claims in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and for ASEAN and China to agree on a meaningful Code of Conduct.”

The TSD statement predictably received a quick retort from Beijing, which warned the group not “to interfere in territorial disputes, otherwise it will only make the problems more complicated and harm the interests of all parties.” But while some have critiqued the TSD for taking an adversarial posture against China, the reality is that maritime security is one of the linchpins for this trilateral relationship, which extends across thousands of miles of ocean. Admittedly it would be counterproductive to direct the TSD as a tool to deter China. Still, there would be little effectiveness to a trilateral that simply dodged anything but a vanilla statement on the key maritime security issues in their own backyard while detailing comprehensive steps in regions further afield such as Iran and Syria.

The Joint Statement strikes the correct balance and tone on these two disputes. For example, on the East China Sea, the three allies clearly – and rightly – side with Tokyo’s sustained appeal that China not be allowed to forcibly change the status quo. However, the statement also commits Japan (as well as China) to “avoid miscalculations or accidents” – which is an integral aspect of U.S. and Australian policy on finding a diplomatic resolution. The statement also refrains from taking a stance on the sovereignty of the islands – another long-held position of Washington and Canberra. Moreover, the statement does not explicitly endorse Japan’s administration of the islands – despite the implicit mention of the “status quo.” These nuances are important to note and no doubt have been carefully calibrated and negotiated between the three sides.

The Washington-Tokyo-Canberra partnership has also been bolstered by an increased focus on defense cooperation. As part of the TSD, the Defense Ministers have met on three occasions since 2007, with the most recent meeting happening this past June on the sidelines on the Shangri-La Dialogue. During this summit, all sides agreed to strengthen trilateral cooperative efforts, through information sharing and joint military training and exercise coordination. The defense chiefs also paved the way for the Foreign Ministers meeting with discussions on protecting the “freedom of navigation and maritime security in the region’s sea lanes.”

The TSD continues to gain steam for a number of reasons. First, as noted earlier, the failure of a Japan-U.S.-Korea trilateral has freed up time for senior officials in Washington and Tokyo to buy into the process. A second driver has been the diplomatic triangulation between the three sides that has been furthered by Japan’s entry into Trans-Pacific Partnership talks. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the U.S. and Japan, the TSD has been given more teeth by a combination of factors: the U.S. rebalance, the return to power of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, and the election of the Liberal-National coalition in Australia.

Yet despite this opportunity, the TSD still faces some significant hurdles. First and foremost, the Dialogue will be ineffective if it cannot shake the perception – whether accurate or not – that it is a tool to contain Beijing. All TSD states remain focused on engaging with China and understand that encirclement would be counterproductive. While the TSD cannot ignore China’s assertive posture over its maritime disputes, it also needs to walk a tightrope so as not to isolate Beijing. This is especially important in light of Australia’s goals of greater economic engagement with China.

A second obstacle will be the ability of the TSD to move beyond rhetoric and engage in comprehensive and operational cooperation. Example could include greater information and risk assessment exchanges on regional threats. The TSD can also improve operationalization on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Indeed, focusing the TSD on non-traditional security areas will be crucial not only in trust building but should also help soothe Chinese concerns about the intentions of the trilateral.

http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/25/u-s-japan-australia-a-trilateral-with-purpose/

By Jeff Himmelman
The New York Times Magazine

Photographs and video by Ashley Gilbertson

Produced by Mike Bostock, Clinton Cargill, Shan Carter, Nancy Donaldson, Tom Giratikanon, Xaquín G.V., Steve Maing and Derek Watkins

The Sound China SeaAyungin Shoal lies 105 nautical miles from the Philippines. There’s little to commend the spot, apart from its plentiful fish and safe harbor — except that Ayungin sits at the southwestern edge of an area called Reed Bank, which is rumored to contain vast reserves of oil and natural gas. And also that it is home to a World War II-era ship called the Sierra Madre, which the Philippine government ran aground on the reef in 1999 and has since maintained as a kind of post-apocalyptic military garrison, the small detachment of Filipino troops stationed there struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation. Of all places, the scorched shell of the Sierra Madre has become an unlikely battleground in a geopolitical struggle that will shape the future of the South China Sea and, to some extent, the rest of the world.

In early August, after an overnight journey in a fishing boat that had seen better days, we approached Ayungin from the south and came upon two Chinese Coast Guard cutters stationed at either side of the reef. We were a small group: two Westerners and a few Filipinos, led by Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., whose territory includes most of the Philippine land claims in the South China Sea. The Chinese presence at Ayungin had spooked the Philippine Navy out of undertaking its regular run to resupply the troops there, but the Chinese were still letting some fishing boats through. We were to behave as any regular fishing vessel with engine trouble or a need for shelter in the shoal would, which meant no radio contact. As we throttled down a few miles out and waited to see what the Chinese Coast Guard might do, there was only an eerie quiet.

Bito-onon stood at the prow, nervously eyeing the cutters. Visits to his constituents on the island of Pag-asa, farther northwest, take him past Ayungin fairly frequently, and the mayor has had his share of run-ins. Last October, he said, a Chinese warship crossed through his convoy twice, at very high speed, nearly severing a towline connecting two boats. This past May, as the mayor’s boat neared Ayungin in the middle of the night, a Chinese patrol trained its spotlight on the boat and tailed it for an hour, until it became clear that it wasn’t headed to Ayungin. “They are becoming more aggressive,” the mayor said. “We didn’t know if they would ram us.”

Read the full story and view the photos >>  A Game of Shark And Minnow

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas

Noynoy-net-satisfaction-ratings-2010-2013The people cheered when President Aquino called them his “bosses” as he thanked them for treading “the straight and righteous path” and creating change during his second State-of-the-Nation address on July 25, 2011. Now, more than two years later, his sincerity in calling the people his “bosses” and in promising to tread the “daang matuwid” with them is in question.

The President has obviously chosen to ignore the voice of his “bosses” who have repeatedly called for the abolition of the pork barrel system in protest marches, through the internet and through the media. His “bosses” made clear their stand against the abuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the congressional pork barrel, and the illegal use of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), one of several presidential lump sum pork funds, when they brought Aquino’s approval ratings down by at least 15 percentage points in separate surveys by Social Weather Station and reportedly a survey commissioned by Malacanang.

According to the SWS survey, conducted from September 20 to 23, Aquino’s approval rating dropped to +49 percent from a high +64 percent in June. This was one of the steepest drops suffered by Aquino since he took office on July 1, 2010.

Not ready to believe the SWS survey because his approval and trust ratings barely changed in a similar survey by Pulse Asia, Malacanang, according to the Philippine Star, commissioned a survey that showed an even worse drop – a net approval rating of only +35 percent, 44-percent less than Pulse Asia’s figures and 14-percent lower than those of SWS.

It was even worse for both the Senate and House of Representatives, whose approval ratings dropped by at least 14 percentage points — +39 percent for the Senate and +32 for the House. The worst drop was on the ratings of Senate President Franklin Drilon, the biggest supporter of pork barrel in Congress whose approval rating dropped to 50 percent from 62 percent in June and a trust rating of only 46 percent.

The surveys reflected the anger of the people over the misuse of pork barrel and DAP funds as the surveys were conducted at the peak of the pork barrel controversy in late September and early October.

But obviously, the surveys didn’t matter to Aquino and his congressional cohorts. The senators later voted to realign their PDAF funds into Aquino’s calamity fund, while the congressmen passed in less than one hour a General Appropriations Bill that included their pork barrel as line items for projects of their choice.

Aquino, on the other hand, continued to defend his illegal use of the DAP funds, which were culled from unspent or un-appropriated funds of the various government agencies in 2012. He said he smelled a conspiracy among suspects in the plunder charges and some elements of media, and insisted that the DAP funds should be treated as stimulus to economic growth. How could the billions stimulate the economy when most of the funds went to the pockets of the lawmakers and unscrupulous businessmen like Janet Lim Napoles?

The sentiment of the people did not seem to matter to Aquino, who said in 2011 that he would vow to the wishes of his “bosses.” His arrogance in the pork barrel controversy has betrayed his insincerity and dishonesty in dealing with the people’s trust and money.

Even former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, one of his closest friends and allies, distanced himself from Aquino’s stance on PDAF and DAP when he assailed in a speech before the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) the President’s “constitutionally infirm act” of augmenting” non-existing” items in the budget law and realigning the savings of the executive branch to the legislative, referring to the disbursement by Aquino of P50 million to P100 million to senators and P10 million to P15 million to congressmen in DAP funds shortly after the impeachment and conviction of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

Lacson, who never availed of his pork barrel allotment when he was a senator and who has consistently opposed pork barrel, said the country was now saddled with a P5.684-trillion debt that enabled the government to accumulate “savings” of P669 billion that was being used to impose a “fiscal dictatorship” to control all branches of government and to perpetuate greed and corruption.

Lacson said the national budget had more than doubled under Aquino just in his first year.

“In 2002, the first national budget under former President [Gloria] Arroyo was P782.9 billion. Nine years later, in 2011, the first national budget under President Aquino had more than doubled to P1.645 trillion,” Lacson said.

“An ordinary citizen’s valid question is — Why do we keep on borrowing when we keep on saving? I will venture a guess for an answer: Para may mapaglaruang pondo ang mga nasa gobyerno, (So that those in the government will have funds to play with),” Lacson said.

The business community had criticized Aquino for under-spending in the first two years of his administration, resulting in huge budget surpluses and billions of unspent appropriations that were eventually used to control Congress in the matter of Corona’s impeachment and the approval of the controversial Reproduction Health Law.

And yet, despite these savings, Lacson correctly pointed out, the Aquino administration increased its foreign borrowings as it increased the national budget year after year. Now, every single Filipino owes almost P62,000 each mostly to foreigners.

Aquino has also chosen to ignore the appeal of both the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) and the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association (PMAAA) for Aquino to return to the National Treasury the Malampaya Fund and other government funds spent at his discretion so their use could be monitored.

The PMA alumni, in a statement, entitled “A Call for Good Governance,” urged Congress and the President to totally abolish the PADF or pork barrel funds in whatever form and for Aquino to discontinue disbursement of the DAP funds. They also demanded that all revenues of the government, such as the Malampaya Fund, Pagcor and PCSO funds, be deposited to the National Treasury and be spent only in accordance with the General Appropriations Act.

The retired generals also asked all those implicated in the pork barrel scandal to take a leave of absence or to resign, and asked the Judiciary to speed up the prosecution of these cases. Finally, they called on all public officials, including members of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces to “set the correct example in good governance, perform their duties as protectors of the people and the State (underlining mine), and not use their office to amass wealth illegally.”

Then President Joseph Estrada made the mistake of ignoring a similar plea by the retired generals in 2000 at the height of his impeachment trials and paid dearly for it, forced out of office by an obvious military coup that was made to appear as EDSA People Power in January 2001.

Aquino has to reconsider his arrogant position on the pork barrel issue. He promised to listen to his “bosses” — the people, not the military — and this may be a good time to fulfill at least one of his many promises.

By Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star

Ping-Lacson.8MANILA, Philippines – Confronted by images of his fellow legislators wheeling and dealing among themselves for share in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during budget deliberations, former senator Panfilo Lacson said he realized the controversial mechanism “was a ticking bomb ready to explode in our faces.”

“The question, when it would happen was the only thing I thought was uncertain. I had a practical reason for believing so,” he said recently in a speech before the Philippine Constitution Association.

“In this material world, satisfaction is a myth. It is greed that is real. It has now exploded,” Lacson said.

Each senator is allocated P200 million annually in PDAF while a congressman receives P70 million.

Lacson, who had never availed himself of his PDAF allocation, said he saw first hand how legislators would discuss among themselves ways to increase their respective allocations.

“Every year, just before the period of amendments of both chambers, small and big group caucuses decide how much each member would get as additional pork, usually at least P100 million more for senators,” he said.

“The second tranche of how much more should come just before the bicameral conference committee meetings, traditionally referred to as the third and most powerful chamber of Congress,” Lacson said.

It’s in bicameral conference meetings where representatives of the Senate and the House try to reconcile any conflicting provisions in their respective versions of the budget measure. Most of these meetings were held behind closed doors.

“The smarter ones manage to wrangle as early as during the committee hearings held to tackle the budgets of departments and agencies; likewise during plenary debates when questions are addressed by individual legislators to heads of the different agencies through the budget sponsors,” he added.

‘Co-conspirators’

Lacson said funds are parked in the budgets of the different government agencies “whose heads are willing co-conspirators in the schemes or scams.”

“The amounts realigned or inserted range from a few hundred millions to even over a billion pesos for the smart, diligent and well-connected legislators of both houses,” he said.

Lacson cited an instance in 2006 when the senators held a caucus on what to do with P38 billion in special purpose funds or lump sum items in the budget.

He recalled that there was an agreement to slash a substantial portion of the fund and realign it to the pork barrel allocation of the legislators or P300 million each.

Lacson said he objected to this during the caucus because the senators were already receiving P200 million in pork barrel funds each at the time.

Later in the same year, Lacson recalled he was approached by then Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano during a weekly gathering with other opposition politicians, businessmen, political analysts, and advertising people, who asked him to allocate P50 million of his additional P200 million PDAF to Taguig.

“Apparently, Cong. Alan got wind of the information from his ate (sister), Sen. Pia Cayetano,” he said. “From an initial P300 million in additional pork that did not materialize because of my objections, they were embarrassed by one-third so they just ended up with P200 million during a second caucus where I was not invited,” Lacson said.

He said he later confronted the finance committee chairman and the Senate president at the time and threatened to expose in the plenary the goings-on in budget discussions.

“A few more intervening events transpired afterwards, but to make the long story short, the P200 million additional pork for each of the 23 senators did not materialize,” he added.

Earlier, Senate committee on finance chairman Francis Escudero vowed to open the bicameral conference meetings to the public for the proposed P2.268-trillion national budget for 2014.

“This will be my first bicam, we will make it open. It’s a public hearing,” Escudero said.

He said there is no reason for representatives of the Senate and the House in the bicameral conference committee meetings to oppose his move since they all have nothing to hide.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/10/27/1249851/ping-reveals-pork-deals-among-lawmakers