September 2014

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

"War that will end all wars"

“War that will end all wars”

“America at war” headlines a newspaper. That’s an understatement; America has been at war since the “War that will end all wars” or World War I as we know it. Indeed, the world has been at war since then. Yes, World War II followed and then the Cold War… followed by the Korean War… followed by the Vietnam War… ad infinitum.

In 1991, the Cold War ended when the Soviet Union collapsed and America became the only superpower on the face of the Earth. Thus began Pax Americana.

But peace was shattered when Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. With America coming to the rescue, Saddam Hussein’s aggression was repelled.

World Trade Center bombings

World Trade Center bombings

A decade later, terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The U.S. went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Planet Earth has never been at peace again.

Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency in 2009 with a vow to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He achieved ending the Iraq War on December 15, 2011. In Afghanistan, American troops and NATO forces are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014. But the Arab Spring – a series of popular uprisings — brought the U.S. back to war when she and her NATO allies conducted air strikes in Libya in support of the anti-Khadafy rebels. Khadafy was killed but peace eluded Libya.

Drone.1Drone wars

On September 11, 2012, Islamic militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The attack prompted Obama to order drone strikes against militants in Libya.

The unprecedented use of unmanned drones has revolutionized the way wars are fought. Today, military operations involve the use of air and naval forces with the use of missiles against enemy targets. Many military experts, however, are of the opinion that air and naval warfare without “boots on the ground” is not enough to defeat the enemy. With several “secret” bases in the Middle East, Africa, and the Indian Ocean region, the U.S. started bombing terrorists in five countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia using unmanned drones.

On June 10, 2014, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadists – who have been fighting the Syrian government — crossed the border into Iraq and captured the city of Mosul. A few weeks later, Obama ordered air strikes against ISIS.

On September 22, Obama, with congressional authorization, expanded the war into Syria by sending waves of fighter jets, B-1 bombers, cruise missiles, and drones to hit ISIS camps. With new fronts in Iraq and Syria, the number of countries the U.S. is at war increased to seven.

US vs. Russia

New-Cold-WarBut there is another country – Ukraine — that the U.S. is at war, albeit a proxy war. Ukraine is fighting a de facto war against Russia who has sent troops and heavy armaments to the Donbas region in Ukraine to reinforce the pro-Russian separatists. But in reality the U.S. and her NATO allies are the ones who are at war with Russia. Ukraine is merely the battleground, which makes one wonder: Would it escalate into a shooting war between Russia and the U.S.? Not likely… for now.

The reason why the proxy war in Ukraine would not explode into a war between Russia and the U.S. is that Russia is not prepared to go to war against the U.S. She knows that the U.S. has a “Prompt Global Strike” strategy that she couldn’t match.

USS-Zumwalt-stealth-destroyer.5A “Ground Report” article titled “Nuclear war between Russia and the US could have apocalyptic consequences,” said: “The Prompt Global Strike (PGS) concept was adopted in the USA in the beginning of the 2000s. Prompt Global Strike (PGS) is a United States military effort to develop a system that can deliver a precision conventional weapon strike anywhere in the world within one hour, in a similar manner to a nuclear ICBM.”

Unless Russia can knock the U.S. out in a first-strike attack, the U.S. could retaliate — using her fleet of 14 nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) — with a devastating second-strike counter-attack. To neutralize the U.S.’s second-strike capability, Russia must destroy all of the U.S.’s SSBNs, which is virtually impossible to accomplish. On the other hand, a U.S. first-strike attack against Russia would be of such magnitude that it would render Russia incapable of a second strike against the U.S.

USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN 635) missile hatches

USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN 635) missile hatches

Nuclear backbone

The backbone of the U.S.’s nuclear capability is the SSBNs — known as “boomers” — that are silently prowling the high seas with their deadly Trident missiles. They are called “boomers” because when a Trident is launched, it makes a booming sound. Each of the 14 boomers carries 12 ballistic missiles and each missile is equipped with 8-14 nuclear warheads. That’s more than 2,300 nuclear warheads that can be simultaneously launched against Russia. That accounts for about 50% of the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal. The other 50% is land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) that could reach any target around the world… including China.

Although the U.S. considers China an “adversary,” the two countries are not yet at war. However, tensions are running high between China and several of U.S.’s treaty allies in the Asia-Pacific region. A report published in Want China Times said: “China has yet to build a three-pronged nuclear capability that could challenge the United States, consisting of strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The Second Artillery Corps is also unable to compete against the US in the number of nuclear warheads it has, the report said, adding that China would likely lose a full scale nuclear war in less than an hour.”

(Photo Credit: CNN)

(Photo Credit: CNN)

But while China is not militarily at par with the U.S. today, a report by Huffington Post said: “The good news is China does not want war now and in the foreseeable future, primarily because Beijing knows too well that the odds are not on its side. But if we look ahead 20 years from now, in 2034, the circumstances will have shifted significantly.”

While both Russia and China may be incapable of waging a nuclear war with the U.S. today, it could be a different scenario in 20 years; that is, if the U.S. couldn’t keep up with Russia and China’s upgrade of their military capabilities. But from the array of futuristic warfare the U.S. is developing today, she would – for goodness’ sake — still be ahead of Russia and China 20 years from now. Pax Americana would still be going strong.

Meanwhile, America is at war in eight fronts!

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

This article was originally published on March 28, 2001. I am not sure if Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay had explained it then but because he is now the Vice President of the country, many people are curious about his past. With his announcement of his plan to run for president in 2016, Binay should respond to this 13-year old question: Is the “Lord of Makati” story true?  The people need to know. — PERRY DIAZ

The Lord of Makati

By Miriam Grace A. Go
NEWSBREAK

Wednesday, 28 March 2001

Lord-of-Makati.2Can Binay explain his wealth?

In less than a decade, Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, former chair of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and former mayor of Makati, accumulated at least P80 million worth of real estate properties in Makati and Batangas, which he kept undeclared, our investigation shows. The amount excludes P12 million in declared investments, as well as other businesses that he and his friends reportedly control through dummy corporations.

After serving as mayor for 12 years, Binay now owns a 66-hectare farm in Rosario, Batangas—estimated to be almost double the size of the Ayala commercial center in Makati—according to our investigation. Based on conservative estimates of the land value alone, the property—excluding improvements—is worth about P23 million.

In addition, Binay and his wife, Elenita, current Makati mayor, also own at least two Hidalgo condominium units, located inside the posh Rockwell Center in Makati. A 208-squae meter unit in Rockwell, like the ones occupied by each of the two Binay daughters, costs around P28 million.

The three properties alone, worth at least P79 million, were never declared in the couple’s statement of assets and liabilities.

This is in violation of RA 6713, which mandates all officials to file every year the acquisition cost and the assessed and fair market values of their real property. They are also required by law to list other personal property, investments, cash on hand or in banks, financial liabilities, and their business interests and connections.

Violation of the law carries certain penalties—a P5,000-fine and disqualification from public office. Unfortunately, officials take the law lightly as none of them have been put behind bars for their transgressions. Former President Joseph Estrada himself was previously caught committing the same mistake.

We interviewed at least 15 contractors, former employees and farm hands, sources privy to transactions, and local residents who saw Binay inspect the properties, and who all confirmed his ownership of these properties. Without these testimonies it would be difficult to trace ownership to him because documents, if they are available at all, do not link him or his family members to the properties.

Appointed MMDA chair in 1998 and replaced early this year after the Edsa 2 uprising, Jojo Binay want s to go back to City Hall. Perhaps the most popular politician among Makati City’s poor who constitute the majority of the city’s voters, he is the neutral target of political opponents.

Makati’s coffee shops are bursting with stories about Binay’s alleged unexplained wealth which he supposedly acquired during his consecutive three terms as mayor from 1988 to 1998 (he served as OIC mayor in 1986 until the 1988 local elections)

And he has a lot of explaining to do, considering that as mayor, Binay received a monthly P32,000 salary and as MMDA chairman, he received P46,000. Elenita received the same salary as mayor.

“These charges are a rehash of old election issues,” says Binay in a written response to questions, brushing aside the allegations of misdeed.

In a city where there is an accumulation of tremendous wealth, it is said that Binay himself had amassed riches by tolerating the collusion between the city’s building contractors and permits officials. It is common knowledge in Makati that permits that City Hall gives to builders of condominiums sometimes come with a hefty, under-the-table price.

The local opposition says they have the goods on the former mayor. In fact, it spent a hefty sum on recent paid ads in the Inquirer that alluded to Binay’s posh residences in and out of Makati City.

But the tough-talking, sometimes brusque Jojo Binay is unfazed. He says he does “not feel alluded” in the ads anyway.

Landed Family

Two hours away from Makati City, in the agricultural town of Rosario in Batangas, a sprawling, modern, 66-hectare farm is owned by the Binays of Makati. A conservative estimate of the land’s worth is put at P23 million, excluding the improvements made in recent years such as the construction of two huge houses, a piggery, orchidarium, a cock farm; and the paving of a hilly road that would connect the farm to other areas in the town.

The Binays acquired the first chunk of the land—16.6 hectares—in 1991. Former farm hands recalled having started working there in 1993, disclosing that they saw the former mayor there almost every week at the time.

But the couple never declared this in their Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SAL) of 1996, 1997 and 1999, which Newsbreak obtained. The Office of the Ombudsman did not have a copy of his 1998 SAL. The Binay couple is scheduled to file their new SAL next month, as mandated by law.

As of December 1999, the couple declared a net worth of only P20.06 million. In the same period, they declared P12.24 million in business investments-without identifying which these are. In fact, the Binays said their real properties are worth only P3,183,445 as of December 1999.

The only real estate property that the Binays declared as acquisitions since Jojo Binay became mayor in 1998 was a residential property in Alfonse, Cavite. Acquired in 1994, its fair market value as of 1999 was pegged at P59,580. The couple, however, declared in their 1999 SAL that they spent P3 million in improving the Cavite residence.

The other real assets declared by the couple in their most recent SAL were either inherited, purchased or mortgaged to them before they dabbled in public service. Two of these properties were inherited—one in 1951, in Cabagan, Isabela; and the other, with an unspecified date, in San Pascual, Batangas. Three were purchased—Alabang Hills, Muntinlupa (1964); Mariveles in Bataan (1965); and San Antonio Village in Makati (1977).

Of the eight declared properties, three are classified as agricultural while five are residential. The residential properties include the ones in Cavite; Makati; Muntinlupa; San Pedro (acquired in 1964) and Calamba (1984), Laguna. The Bataan, Isabela, and Batangas properties are agricultural.

Their 1999 SAL does not say when the San Pascual, Batangas property was inherited.

San Pascual is in the second district of Batangas, very near Batuan, where Binay’s father was born (Binay’s mother comes from Isabela, which should explain his Isabela property.

Rosario, BatangasAlong the main road of Barangay San Roque in the Rosario town proer, a huge blue-and-white sign sits in front of heaps of huge fruit baskets. It says: “Jobin B. Mango Station.”

A caretaker of the Jobin B. Mango Station, an old man, refused to answer queries about his benefactor. The most he could say was that “taga-Maynila ang kapitalista (the capitalist is from Metro Manila).” At harvest time in June, he said, they bring the mangoes to business establishments in Binondo. This is the first time workers will harvest from the capitalist’s mango farm, whose location the caretaker gestures to be far-flung—he acquired in only recently.

Three barangays away, nearly a hundred mango trees line the mountainous expanse of greens and dirt roads. “Kabibili lang niya ng manggahang iyan (He has just bought that mango farm),” said a farmer-resident of Barangay Maligaya. By “he” the farmer meant, “si Binay, iyong mayor ng Makati (Binay, the mayor of Makati).”

Barangay Maligaya is just one of three barangays that Binay’s farm traverses. The other two are Mayuro and Bayawang.

The Newsbreak team saw that within the same property is a sprawling farm known in the area as Binay’s property. The undeclared property is in the fourth district of Batangas. Although Binay traces his father’s roots to Bauan town, and inherited from his uncle a feed mill in the farther town of San Pascual, he acquired the Rosario land only in 1991. He bought the first 16.6 hectares from a certain Donato Almeda, a brother of the Makati assistant city treasurer who resigned his job two years before the sale.

Through Renato Comla, one of his security aides who hailed from Rosario, Binay learned about the parcels of land which were up for sale around his property, according to a relative of Comla himself.

Binay expanded the land over the years by buying out neighboring farms. Former employees in the farm and residents of the barangays also told Newsbreak that among those who sold their properties to Binay for about P35 per square meter were the Patulays, the Goyenas, the De Toresses, the Quezons, and the Aldays. Except for the Patulays, none of these families are natives of Batangas.

Comla’s relative recalled that it was Comla himself who recruited farmers, including some of his other relatives from the surrounding barangays, to work in Binay’s farm.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, Binay’s former farm hands complained that each time Binay bought the parcels of land, these would be put under their names and they would be made to sign documents to that effect. Binay got all the documents, however, they said, depriving them of the right to pursue their claims. The agrarian reform law bars a landowner from owning five hectares of agricultural land. Beyond that, he or she must distribute the land to his workers.

By 1993, Binay had already acquired 38 hectares of land in the area. It was also then that he started his own hog raising business with 60 pigs.

The following year, Binay decided to build honest-to-goodness structures in the farm, which required him to secure a building permit from the municipal government. At the time, the “owners” of his properties—farmworkers, actually—were no longer employed in his farm and therefore refused to sign any documents that facilitate the release of the permit.

“Pineke nila ang pirma namin. Tuwing kailangan, ‘yon ang ginawa nila,” said one of those formerly assigned to the piggery. “May kakutsaba sila sa munisipyo.” (Binay’s aides just forged our signatures. Every time these were needed, they would just forge them. Somebody in the municipal hall connives with them.)

A Manila-based source, one of those who sold his property to Binay, in fact, warned that the moment inquiries about the property are made in the assessor’s office in Rosario, Binay is immediately tipped off.

The vacation house inside the farm, which according to a farm insider, is “being patterned after the Palace in the Sky” project of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, rose simultaneously with spacious pens to house about 10,000 hogs, an expansive orchidarium, and hundreds of teepees for fighting cocks.

The property, based on farmers’ estimates, now spans 66 hectares and, at P35 per square meter when the first parcel was bought, should be worth at least P23.1 million.

Comla resigned as caretaker of the farm a few years ago due to his frequent conflicts with Elenita Binay’s aides. “There was a time when Doctora visited the farm more often than the mayor did because she had to check on her flowers. And her aides were commandeering people around, something which did not sit well with Ato,” a friend of Comla recalled.

Former farm workers recalled that in 1999, suspected communist guerrillas raided the farm because Binay reportedly maintained an armory there. They seized 10 different types of guns, according to farm employees at the time. Comla’s brother, his friend said, happened to be a member of the New People’s Army in the province.

The farm is now heavily guarded, a farmer in nearby barangay said, with security guards coming all the way from Makati and General Santos City. Farm workers from surrounding barangays have been replaced by aetas from Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales and Tarlac who stay in quarters inside the farm. “Batanguenos complain a lot,” a former farm worker said, recalling the reason they were dismissed from their jobs.

HE said they were made to work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, and were made to choose between two salary arrangements—P150 a day without free food, or P3,000 a month with free food.

To further secure the farm, Binay’s chief chief security, Lito Glean, frequently visits the place and has been befriending local leaders in the area. The chairman of Barangay Maligaya, Danilo Recto, is now Glean’s kumpare after he stood as sponsor in the wedding of Recto’s daughter.

At present only one Batangueno, Pepito Carrido, remains employed in the farm.

Carrido, who started out as bookkeeper in the farm seven years ago, is, by all indications, now a trusted man of Binay, in charge of releasing the salary of farm workers. Even if Carrido was present when we visited his house one Sunday evening, his wife, who had orchids as fine as Mrs. Binay’s in her mini patio, said her husband was out, that she did not know the number of his cellular phone, and that they never talked about his work in the farm.

Carrido lives in a middle-class subdivision in Barangay San Roque. A stone’s throw away from the gate of his village is the Jobin B. Mango Station.

Without these testimonies from residents of Rosario and former workers of Binay, it would be difficult to trace the ownership of the land to the comebacking mayor.

This is the same difficulty that Newsbreak encountered when it investigated reports that Binay, through dummy corporations, also owned several business establishments in Makati. However, people privy to the transactions or who have seen the Binays in posh residences in the city have spoken with Newsbreak to confirm his ownership of these companies and residences.

The papers of incorporation were mostly unavailable at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and, in instances that documents could be accessed, they listed non-incriminating names. Land titles remain in the names of former owners or fronts, according to people privy to Binay’s style, but the documents are all with him for safekeeping.

The Makati Properties

Wearing a house dress which indicates her domestic familiarity with the place, Mayor Elenita Binay emerged from the elevator at the lobby of the Hidalgo condominium building at the plush Rockwell Center. The security guard acknowledged her with a respectful nod, which she returned with a casual inquiry, “May units pa bang for sale dito?”

A real estate broker, who had just shared the elevator ride with the doctora, was impressed that she seemed to be on a condo-buying spree. For that was the impression created by the Saturday afternoon visit some six months ago. The mayor at the time had just visited two of her daughters occupying two units on the 19th floor.

These days, the family reportedly already owns four units in the P100,000-per-square meter structure. However, Rockwell employees could confirm ownership of only two of these. Company officers declined to talk about the matter.

Only one of the daughters, the Ateneo law student, stays in the place now. The other was asked by her parents to go back to their old house on Caong Street in Barangay San Antonio.

The Binay couple still live in the same house and in the same tough neighbourhood where the father grew up. Orphaned at an early age, Binay was raised by his uncle who exposed him to simple living.

But said a former trusted aide of Binay, “He keeps cash by the millions in that house.” And that is not his only house.

Residents of Bel Air Village 2 attested that the “yellow house” at number 212 Orbit Street belongs to Binay. “It’s some kind of a safehouse, a place for meetings,” said a resident. “There are days when the place is quiet, and these are days when so many cars are parked outside the house.”

Over in the less affluent Barangay West Rembo, a huge house, known to residents as being occupied by Binay’s newlywed daughter, has also been built. Just last February 24, squatter families were alarmed at the sight of engineers surveying the area for a possible widening of the road that leads to what they will call the “mansiyon.” Paving the roads means a possible demolition of their shanties.

However, except for the fact that these houses are either occupied or frequented by members of the Binay family, there are no documents to show that they indeed own them.

How could he have done it?

Nongovernment organizations campaigning against Binay asked realtors to explain the most likely scheme that Binay, a former human right lawyer, must have used to hide his ownership of these houses.

The realtors explained it this way: He forms a company, which buys or builds the house for him. He then lists down unknown names from different addresses as incorporators of the company. After buying the property, registration papers do not bear his name. Instead, the original owner is asked to either issue a mortgage in Binay’s favor or sign a paper bestowing him with a power of attorney over the property. Only Binay has copies of the pertinent documents, such as deeds of sale and land titles.

A former aide of Binay who worked with him for three years under the Aquino government claimed that the former mayor used this scheme to acquire more than 10 houses and lots in Dasmarinas Village, all of them being rented out.

“There are these people from Bulacan whose names he’s been using [to acquire some properties],” the source, now retired from government, said. “In fact, he and Doctora are special guests of those people during fiestas.”

Homeowners, however, could not confirm whether Binay indeed has properties in the neighbourhood. SEC records of holding companies involved in recent purchases of properties in the village did not point to Binay or any of his close associates.

A contractor said the “usual SOP” is that in exchange for a building permit, contractors give a representative of the office of the mayor one condominium unit. This is aside from the requirement for most contractors, until 1998, to hire the services of excavation contractor NJ Bautista Enterprises, which, according to three contractors interviewed by Newsbreak, is owned by the couple Noel and Celine Bautista. Both are said to be close to the Binays.

Another contractor, who built at least two buildings recently, said his company had to give an undisclosed amount of money to an unidentified City Hall official before it got “accredited” to do work in Makati during Binay’s last term.

He said the condominium payoffs, although made several years ago, remains “a very sensitive issue” which he could not discuss in detail.

Despite persistent talk, however, nobody has come out to openly accuse Binay of pocketing commissions from these deals. The comebacking mayor has repeatedly denied this, claiming that his first mission was precisely to clean up the permits unit at City Hall.

Pointing out that “everybody’s hassling everybody” in City Hall anyway, a third contractor contacted by Newsbreak said, without elaborating, that his company has opted to just comply with Binay’s extra-legal requirements so it could continue building in Makati. By doing so, he said, “we have not encountered problems so far.”

Business Ventures

Just beside the barangay hall of Comembo, residents of Makati’s poorer communities have their own Glorietta to troop to.

Called Apex, the five-story commercial complex on the corner of J.P. Rizal Extension and Sampaguita Street sits where a city government-owned sports complex used to stand. It houses on its first floor a Chowking restaurant, a Mercury drugstore, and a few RTW stalls. A bookstore occupies part of the second floor, while two cinemas share the third floor with a computer school, which also occupies the rest of the building.

What makes the mini-mall popular among residents is that they know it belongs to former Mayor Binay. The name of the company, JOBIM, is a dead giveaway. City Hall insiders said it stands for Jojo Binay, Irasga (the last name of Nelson, his former chief city engineer and trusted aide with whom he had a falling out in 1998), and Mercado (the last name of former councilor Ernesto, who is widely recognized in Makati as Binay’s alleged bagman).

The Chowking branch on the first floor of Apex which opened in 1996 is registered under the name BIMECH Food Chains Corporation, which, reliable sources said, again stands for Binay, Irasga, Mercado, and , possibly, one Lilia Chavez, whom SEC papers showed is a resident of Barangay Guadalupe in Makati. Chavez owns the most number of shares in the corporation, which, in 1998, reported a total net income of only P181,644, which dropped to P59,390 in 1999.

However, as in the case of his alleged houses, documents on the ownership of these and other business establishments do not bear the name of Binay or any of his close political allies. In some cases, there are no papers of incorporation at the SEC at all. And as in the case of the houses, only employees and people privy to Binay’s business deals will attest to his ownership of the companies.

For instance, two McDonald’s outlets along J.P. Rizal—one at the corner of Reposo Street, very near the City Hall, and another at the corner of Pasong Tamo, near the Sta. Ana Race Track—are widely known in Makati as Binay’s. A check on the papers, however, revealed that the franchise of the said outlets remains with McGeorge Foods Corporation, the mother company of McDonalds in the Philippines.

A source knowledgeable about the deal said Binay earns from McDonald’s because he owns the lots on which the said outlets stand and also leases them to McGeorge. The Makati assessor’s office refused to reveal the identities of the owner of the said properties.

The Dreyers ice cream booth in Glorietta at the Ayala Center, the franchise for which is pegged at P1 million, is also widely known to be Binay’s The company’s name, BIMET Manufacturing Corporation, is quite similar to the JOBIM acronym of a mall that Binay reportedly co-owns with Mercado. The SEC, however, has no records on the company.

No registration papers could be dug up either at the SEC for two more widely known businesses of Binay: the two-story Areflor Funeral Homes on J.P. Rizal Extension, and the Christine’s water purifying plant in Barangay Pembo, to provide space and an access road for which a Montessori school and a number of shanties were torn down.

The Binay couple reported in their SALs from 1996 up to 1999 that they had investments in business which grew at an average of P2 million annually. No details on the nature of these investments were given.

Election issue

Corruption is an issue that has been raised against Binay in every election since 1988, including the one held three years ago, when he fielded his wife while he was waiting for his term to pass.

Each time the charges—bloated payrolls, overpriced equipment and supplies, grease money demanded from businessmen, and hefty commissions from projects and purchases—would prove immaterial to voters, as Binay would always win hands down.

To the poor, who compose almost half of Makati’s 505,203 population, Binay is the champion who has delivered to them the goods and services by pounding on the rich to pay their taxes.

The local opposition recognizes that it would be a “difficult climb” trying to downplay what Binay has given the poor, patronage politics being a concept that voters do not seem to regard as negative.

Free education in a university that would shame private institutions in terms of structures and equipment, access to free medical care in the expensive Makati Medical Center, burial assistance for families who have lost loved ones, basketball courts and paved roads—as long as they benefit from these, residents of depressed barangays are unlikely to question whether these are their rights and not acts of goodwill from Binay.

“We cannot deny the fact that Binay has been delivering to Makati’s poor more than what they ever had before,” said Councilor Mark Joseph, one of the only two oppositionists in the local legislative body. “What our constituents should be made aware of is what he is not delivering. Where people need medicine, they are given roads. Where people training for livelihood, they are given cement.”

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Buddies: Jojo and P-Noy

Buddies: Jojo and P-Noy

For more than four years since his election to the vice presidency, Jejomar “Jojo” Binay was on top of the world enjoying an unprecedented popularity no other politician before him had enjoyed. Indeed, he was so popular that he was convinced that the Liberal Party (LP) of his good friend, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III, doesn’t have anybody who could beat him in the presidential derby in 2016.

Riding on the crest of popularity, Binay exudes optimism in clinching the presidential election. Only about a month ago, he was the “unbeatable” front-runner in the race. The Liberals were so frustrated with Mar Roxas’s waning presidential standing that supporting Binay as the common candidate of the LP and Binay’s yet-to-be-named-political-party — still in its embryonic stage — is now a viable option. With Binay running under that coalition would make him so formidable that nobody in the current crop of wannabes could defeat him. Indeed, if the presidential election were held today, he’d trounce them all.

Lord of Makati

Lord-of-Makati.2But the election is still a year and a half away. Although nobody has come out openly against Binay, the “demolition job” has begun. An article written by Miriam Grace A. Go in March 2001, titled “The Lord of Makati,” is being republished in the print media and has become one of the hottest topics in the social media.

According to the article, Makati’s former mayor Jojo Binay had “accumulated at least P80 million worth of real estate properties in Makati and Batangas, which he kept undeclared.” This excludes “P12 million in declared investments, as well as other businesses that he and his friends reportedly control through dummy corporations.”

The article further said, “After serving as mayor for 12 years, Binay now owns a 66-hectare farm in Rosario, Batangas – estimated to be almost double the size of the Ayala commercial center in Makati – according to our investigation. Based on conservative estimates of the land value alone, the property – excluding improvements – is worth about P23 million.

Rockwell Center, Makati

Rockwell Center, Makati

“In addition, Binay and his wife, Elenita, current Makati mayor [in 2001], also own at least two Hidalgo condominium units, located inside the posh Rockwell Center in Makati. A 208-square meter unit in Rockwell, like the ones occupied by each of the two Binay daughters, costs around P28 million.”

Go and her team of investigative reporters had “interviewed at least 15 contractors, former employees and farm hands, sources privy to transactions, and local residents who saw Binay inspect the properties, and who all confirmed his ownership of these properties. Without these testimonies, it would be difficult to trace ownership to him because documents, if they are available at all, do not link him or his family members to the properties.”

The question is: How did Binay hide his ownership of these properties? According to the realtors who were questioned by investigative reporters, Binay’s modus operandi works this way: “He forms a company, which buys or builds the house for him. He then lists down unknown names from different addresses as incorporators of the company. After buying the property, registration papers do not bear his name. Instead, the original owner is asked to either issue a mortgage in Binay’s favor or sign a paper bestowing him with a power of attorney over the property. Only Binay has copies of the pertinent documents, such as deeds of sale and land titles.”

Plunder

Former Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado testifies before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee

Former Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado testifies before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee

But finally the truth is catching up to Binay. Recently, former Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, saying that Binay got 13% in kickbacks from all city projects. He said that he acted as Binay’s “bagman” and personally delivered money to Binay’s house in duffel bags containing anywhere from P1.5 million to P10 million.

Makati parking building emblazoned with Binay's political propaganda.

Makati parking building emblazoned with Binay’s political propaganda.

While all these alleged shenanigans were being exposed, Binay, his son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, and 23 others were charged with plunder in relation to the alleged overpricing in the construction of an 11-story parking building that Makati City allegedly built for a whopping P1.56 billion! The complaint claimed that in 2007 then-Mayor Jojo Binay had “proposed and approved” a city ordinance for the construction of the parking building with an initial budget of P400 million; thus, making it “the most expensive parking building in the country, if not the entire world.”

The question is: If the Binays were indicted for plunder, would the graft court, Sandiganbayan, issue arrest warrants against them? If so, it could be the end of Binay’s presidential run. Unless he would continue to run from behind bars just like when Sen. Sonny Trillanes ran for senator in 2007 from his detention cell. And if he won the race, he would be released to assume the presidency, which would give him immunity from prosecution, including plunder.

Public opinion

Binay dynasty (credit: Equalizer)

Binay dynasty (credit: Equalizer)

While the Ombudsman is investigating the plunder charges against the Binays, the court of public opinion is in “full session.” With emotions running high in light of the pork barrel scam, the people are looking at l’affaire Binay with keen interest, after all Jojo Binay could be their next president. And the specter of the “Lord of Makati” becoming the country’s “Grand Lord” could just be too much for those who are convinced that Jejomar “Jojo” Binay is corrupt to the bones, which begs the question: Would the court of public opinion deny him the presidency?

With the plunder case and the “demolition job” that’s going on against the Binays, it makes one wonder if Jojo could overcome the biggest obstacle in his quest for power and glory. He believed so not too long ago. But does he now?

Quo vadis, Jojo?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

P-Noy vs. Jojo

P-Noy vs. Jojo

With one and a half years to go before the next presidential elections, the race is heating up among several wannabes including recycled presidential candidates and newbies who have nothing else but optimism – and ambition – to reach the pinnacle of power. And by the looks of it, it’s going to be a very expensive run to the top.

Right now, there are two declared candidates and a third – President Benigno “P-Noy”Aquino III – who is exploring for a way to amend the Constitution to allow a sitting president to run for re-election.

Let’s set P-Noy aside for a moment and look at Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago who had made known of their plans to run for the country’s top job. Binay and Santiago are considered giants in a political landscape dominated by a menagerie of political dwarves with mediocre leadership talents and humongous ambitions.

“Lord of Makati”

Lord-of-Makati.2Binay was a former mayor of Makati, arguably the richest city government in terms of revenue, who had made a name for himself in the last two decades. But he is not Mr. Clean by any standard, having been accused of massive corruption in a city, which he and his immediate family controlled since the EDSA People Power Revolution more than a quarter of a century ago. Called the “Lord of Makati,” Vice President Jojo and his wife, former Makati Mayor Elenita had allegedly amassed a multitude of prime real estate properties. And with their son, Makati Mayor Junjun, and two daughters – Senator Nancy, and Congresswoman Abigail, keeping the Binay political dynasty unshakably entrenched in positions of power, influence, and wealth, the Binays are on top of the world.

Jojo sees himself as the president-in-waiting with approval ratings in the high 70s. And no amount of demolition job, as he calls it, including plunder charges against him, could derail his presidential bandwagon. But if he falls from his lofty position, it would be head down with a crashing, deadly thud, which would result in his political death.

The immediate danger would be if the Ombudsman gathered enough evidence to support the plunder and graft charges against Binay, his son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, and 23 others in relation to the alleged overpricing in the construction of an 11-story parking building that the city allegedly built for P1.56 billion. The complaint claimed that in 2007 then-Mayor Jojo Binay had “proposed and approved” a city ordinance for the construction of the parking building with an initial budget of P400 million; thus, making it “the most expensive parking building in the entire country.”

The question is: Should the Binays be indicted for plunder, would the graft court, Sandiganbayan, issue arrest warrants against them? If so, it could be the end of Binay’s presidential run. Unless, he will continue to run from behind bars just like when Sen. Sonny Trillanes ran for senator in 2007 from his detention cell. And if he won the race, he would be released to assume the presidency, which would give him immunity from prosecution, including plunder.

Feisty mighty

miriam-santiago.16Meanwhile, while Binay is now pictured as corrupt and evil by his political enemies, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the feisty past presidential candidate who had gained a solid reputation of incorruptibility as hard as the granite Rock of Gibraltar had indicated her plan to run. But she has health problems that could stop her cold in her second quest for the presidency. A few months ago, she announced that she was diagnosed with lung cancer. However, she said that she is taking a daily dose of a “wonder pill” that has removed about 80% of the cancer tumor. She indicated that she would pursue her run if she had fully recovered from the disease.

And true to her prominence as a graft-buster, it came as no surprise when she indicated her preference for a running mate: Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte. She said that Digong, as his constituents call him, would make an excellent vice-president since the two problems in the country are corruption and peace and order.

Next on Miriam’s short list is former Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, P-Noy’s second cousin. However, Gibo showed no interest in the job. And unless he changes his mind, he is out of the race.

Amazing Grace

Grace-Poe-and-FPJThe third person Miriam is considering is Sen. Grace Poe. Although Grace is a political neophyte who won a Senate seat in 2012, she projects an untainted image. Being the daughter of the late presidential candidate and action actor Fernando Poe Jr., Grace was being groomed from the day she was sworn into office, not for vice president but for president. She had made it known that she was not against running for president in spite of her inexperience. But who says that experience makes a good president?

Grace might just be lucky to have two traditional politicians – trapos – as opponents: Jojo who is just a few legal steps away from jail and Miriam who may be pre-empted to seek the presidency by health issues. And if Grace plays the game right, she just might ride a crest of public outcry against a corruption-ridden government including the pork barrel scams that had blown in the faces of lawmakers for allegedly stealing the people’s money.

P-Noy’s folly

Cory and NoynoyBut regardless of the white-pure innocent persona of Grace, the question of P-Noy gunning for a constitutional amendment to remove the ban on the president from seeking a second term is gaining momentum. And this begs the question: Can the Supreme Court stop the tinkering of the Constitution to allow P-Noy to run for re-election?

With two Supreme Court unanimous rulings declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) illegal and unconstitutional, the high court might deal P-Noy with another reversal, which would effectively reduce him to a lame duck entity for the rest of his term.

But can the Supreme Court stop P-Noy from subverting the spirit of the 1987 Constitution, which his mother, the late president Cory Aquino had worked so hard to embody in the Constitution to prevent gross abuses of presidential powers in the future?

Sad to say, the irony of her own son debasing her legacy bodes ill for what lays ahead. But there is always a bright side beyond the looming gloom. Like they say, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Making life worth living
By Ellen Tordesillas
Malaya

Hainan claims to administer all the waters enclosed by the dashes from 1 to the heavy red line intersecting the dashes between 8 and 9. The enclosed waters comprise two million square kilometers. China claims a total of three million square kilometers of maritime space, and all the resources found there, out of the 3.5 million square kilometers of maritime space in the South China Sea.

Hainan claims to administer all the waters enclosed by the dashes from 1 to the heavy red line intersecting the dashes between 8 and 9. The enclosed waters comprise two million square kilometers. China claims a total of three million square kilometers of maritime space, and all the resources found there, out of the 3.5 million square kilometers of maritime space in the South China Sea.

China’s 9-dashed line map, which was recently expanded to 10 dashes, goes against the “concept of global commons” which was the foundation of the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said in a speech delivered on the 75th Anniversary of the College of Law of the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City last Aug. 30.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

Thus, Carpio said, China fisheries laws particularly giving Hainan, China southernmost province, exclusive jurisdiction over the waters in the South China Sea as well as on the fishery resources of Macclesfield Bank is “a grand theft of the global commons in the South China Sea.”

Hainan claims to administer all the waters enclosed by the dashes from 1 to the heavy red line intersecting the dashes between 8 and 9. The enclosed waters comprise two million square kilometers. China claims a total of three million square kilometers of maritime space, and all the resources found there, out of the 3.5 million square kilometers of maritime space in the South China Sea.

Hainan claims to administer all the waters enclosed by the dashes from 1 to the heavy red line intersecting the dashes between 8 and 9. The enclosed waters comprise two million square kilometers. China claims a total of three million square kilometers of maritime space, and all the resources found there, out of the 3.5 million square kilometers of maritime space in the South China Sea.

Carpio traced the origin of the concept of the global commons way back in the 6th century when The Institutes of Justinian of the Roman Emperor Justinian, declared that the sea is “common to mankind” and its use is subject only to “the law of nations.”

Carpio said the Dutchman Hugo Grotius wrote his famous Mare Liberum or the Free Sea in 1609 that “No nation could claim ownership of the oceans and seas because they belonged to all mankind.”

The naval powers at that time – Spain, Portugal and England – held the opposite view, claiming ownership of the oceans and seas by discovery, he further related.

An opposite view was forwarded by the Englishman John Selden. But Carpio said, “Grotius’ idea eventually won and became the foundation of the law of the sea” earning for the Dutchman the stature as “ Father of international law.”

“Thus, under international law since the turn of the 19th century until today, the waters beyond a coastal State’s territorial sea could never be subject to sovereignty by the coastal State. Before UNCLOS, the territorial sea was a belt of 3-NMs of waters from the coast, and beyond this 3-NM territorial sea was the high seas, belonging to all mankind as part of the global commons. Under international law, before and after UNCLOS, no State could appropriate the high seas as its own exclusive waters. Before and after UNCLOS, the high seas were part of the global commons,” Carpio said.

Here comes China’s 1986 Fisheries Law which was amended in 2011 that requires foreign fishing vessels to secure permission from Chinese authorities “before entering the territorial waters of the People’s Republic of China to carry on fishery production or investigation of fishery resources.”

Carpio sounded the alarm:” The problem arises when China’s Fisheries Law is applied to the high seas, and to the EEZs of other coastal States, that China claims fall within its 9-dashed lines in the South China Sea. China’s 12th Five-Year Plan for National Oceanic Development states that the sea area under China’s jurisdiction comprises three million square kilometers.The 12th Five-Year Plan of the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration states that the sea area under Hainan’s jurisdiction comprises two million square kilometers. The South China Sea has a sea area of three million five hundred thousand square kilometers. In the 1988 decision of China’s National People’s Congress creating the province of Hainan, Hainan’s territory expressly includes Zhongsa Island or what is internationally known as Macclesfield Bank. “

Carpio stressed the importance Macclesfield Bank:

“Macclesfield Bank is one of the largest atolls in the world, with a water surface area of 6,448 square kilometers, about ten times the land area of Metro Manila. Macclesfield Bank lies just outside the Philippines’ EEZ facing the South China Sea in Luzon Island. Macclesfield Bank is named after the HMS Macclesfield, a British warship that ran aground in the area in 1804.

“Macclesfield Bank is not an island but a fully submerged atoll whose highest peak is some 9 meters below sea level. China calls Macclesfield Bank the Zhongsa Island, which is glaringly misleading because the entire area is fully submerged even at high tide. Under UNCLOS, a geologic feature is an island only if it is above water at high tide. Macclesfield Bank does not qualify as an island under this UNCLOS definition. An island is subject to a claim of territorial sovereignty but not a fully submerged atoll beyond the territorial sea like Macclesfield Bank. As a fully submerged atoll beyond China’s territorial sea, Macclesfield Bank is not subject to any claim of territorial sovereignty by China. And since Macclesfield Bank is beyond China’s EEZ, China cannot also claim any sovereign right to exploit exclusively the fishery resources in Macclesfield Bank.

“Under UNCLOS, Macclesfield Bank is part of the high seas since it is situated beyond the EEZ of any coastal state. Macclesfield Bank is within the hole of the doughnut in the middle of the South China Sea. UNCLOS prohibits any State from subjecting the high seas to its sovereignty. All States have the right to fish in Macclesfield Bank, which is part of the global commons. Macclesfield Bank, rich in fishery resources, has been a traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen, just like the nearby Scarborough Shoal. “

The Philippines has questioned before UNCLOS’ tribunal China’s 9-dashed line map which encroaches on 80% of the EEZ of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea, including the Reed Bank and the Malampaya gas field.

“The stakes are enormous not only for the Philippines, but also for all States of this planet,” Carpio said.

He said the Philippine suit before UNCLOS is to prevent China from encroaching not only on the EEZ of the Philippines, but also on the global commons in the South China Sea.

“The Philippines is fighting a legal battle not only for itself but also for all mankind. A victory for the Philippines is a victory for all States, coastal and landlocked, that China has shut out of the global commons in the South China Sea. ASEAN States whose EEZs are also encroached by China’s 9-dashed lines will likewise benefit immensely from a Philippine victory,” Carpio said.

***

A cartographic exhibit “Historical Truths and Lies ( Scarborough Shoal in Ancient Maps) will be launched on Thursday, Sept. 11 at De La Salle University on Taft Avenue (6th floor Henry Sy Hall).

The exhibit, based on the impressive June 6, 2014 lecture of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio on Sept. 11, 2 p.m., is presented by the Institute for Maritime and Ocean Affairs; Maritime Law Association of the Philippines and DLSU.

***

Please click below for Justice Carpio’s whole speech:
Grand Theft of Global Commons

– See more at: http://www.ellentordesillas.com/2014/09/07/justice-carpio-chinas-9-dashed-line-grand-theft-of-global-commons/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EllenTordesillas+%28Ellen+Tordesillas%29#sthash.nHRpAlFt.dpuf

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Masked men in military uniforms with no insignia in Crimea.

Masked men in military uniforms with no insignia in Crimea.

After annexing Crimea using masked men in military uniforms with no insignia, Putin found himself in a tight spot when the U.S. and her western European allies imposed sanctions against Russia. Denying what was obviously an invasion into Ukrainian territory, Putin pretended to play the role of a “peacekeeper” between the pro-western Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian separatists in southeast Ukraine. But how can he achieve peace when Russian troops masquerading as separatist Ukrainians using Russian heavy weapons are roaming around shooting at Ukrainian government forces?

What became apparent was that Putin in so many words had declared his intention to assert Russian domination over Eastern Europe – or what he referred to as “near abroad” – just like the days of the Soviet Union or, nostalgically, the glorious era of the Czarist Russian Empire.

Czar Vladimir Putin

Czar Vladimir Putin

Putin probably sees himself as the personification of Peter the Great, Czar Alexander I, and Vladimir Lenin all rolled into one. Like Alexander I, Putin was born in St. Petersburg, which was founded by Peter the Great. Like Lenin, who was the leader of the bygone Soviet Union, Putin is acting like the leader of a revival of the Imperial Russia of Catherine the Great.

Czar Alexander I is remembered in history as the one who defeated Napoleon by burning Moscow to deny Napoleon the victory of his lifetime. With Napoleon fleeing in retreat, Alexander said that the burning of Moscow had “illuminated his soul”; and declared, “Napoleon or I: from now on we cannot reign together!”

“Greater Novorossiya”

Novorossiya-map
Today, Putin is faced with the prospect of a reinvigorated North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), his old nemesis, which has now expanded to 28 countries including 12 former Soviet client states. But Putin has nobody to blame but himself for the revitalization of NATO as a force in the geopolitical affairs of the western hemisphere. It is interesting to note that for more than two decades after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, the acronym “NATO” took a new meaning: “No Action, Talk Only.” Now, with Putin rearming Russia like never before, a repeat of “Munich Appeasement” will not be allowed to happen again.

And when Putin mentions “Novorossiya,” it sends shivers down the spines of leaders of the “near abroad.” The term “Novorossiya” – New Russia — is the czarist-era name for Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeast, which Putin is now eyeing as his next conquest. But Putin’s sight goes beyond the boundary of czarist Novorossiya. Recently, he has been using the term “Greater Novorossiya,” which includes a wide swath of contiguous territory from Russia’s western boundaries to the borders of Moldova and Romania. This would give Russia total control of the land on the northern shore of the Black Sea; thus, denying NATO access to the Black Sea by land. Although, NATO warships can enter the Black Sea through the Dardanelles Strait, which is controlled by NATO member Turkey, the Montreux Convention of 1936 limits the stay of naval ships not belonging to Black Sea states to 21 days. Control of the Black Sea then is crucial to Putin’s expansion plans.

“Pax Russica”

Putin's Pax Russica

Putin’s Pax Russica

In 2005, Putin said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy for Russians. “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” he said. It did not come as a surprise then that Putin had put Ukraine in his crosshairs.

But Putin’s incursion into Ukraine and his dream of a “Greater Novorossiya” came at a most inopportune time: the biennial summit meeting of NATO. The summit, held in Wales, brought together 60 world leaders, including NATO allies and partners. This summit was arguably the most important assemblage of world leaders since the founding of the United Nations in 1945 where representatives from 51 countries signed the U.N. charter. And what made the NATO summit extremely significant was Putin’s predilection for mimicking Hitler’s attempt to put Europe under his authoritarian rule. This time around, Putin would impose his opportunistic and imperialistic brand of world peace, “Pax Russica.”

Ceasefire

Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin

Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin

While Ukraine’s new and dynamic president, billionaire-turned-politician Petro Poroshenko, was making a strong pitch for NATO’s assistance to stop Putin’s assault on Ukraine, he was also negotiating for a ceasefire with Putin by phone. A ceasefire was agreed upon and the fighting stopped; however, NATO leaders were skeptical about it. And true enough, less than 24 hours after the ceasefire took hold, fighting renewed in the government-held city of Mariupol, strategically located on the north coast of the Sea of Azov. If Mariupol fell to the pro-Russian rebels, it would open up a corridor from Russia to Crimea, which begs the question: Was this part of Putin’s grand design to create “Greater Novorossiya”? As the Ukrainian Interior Minister said, “Are you surprised that Putin is treacherous?”

But treachery has always been the trademark of a KGB agent, which Putin once was. And Poroshenko should know that; he didn’t make his billions playing patsy to anyone. Should the ceasefire crumble and the fighting resume, Poroshenko would be much better prepared for it. He said that the U.S., France, Italy, Poland, and Norway would provide Ukraine with military advisers and lethal weapons to defend Ukraine if Russia attacked.

“One for all, all for one”

NATO Summit in Wales

NATO Summit in Wales

But the game-changer that came out of the summit was NATO’s decision to create a new rapid response force to counter Russian aggression. It will have headquarters in Eastern Europe and a “spearhead” force consisting between 4,000 and 5,000 troops who would be in place to respond to any crisis, including Russian invasion, within 48 hours.

The reinvigoration of NATO from the doldrums of the post-Soviet Union era is a healthy sign for the “near abroad” states that live in constant fear of Russian aggression. With large populations of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are easy prey to Russian invasion. But with U.S. President Barack Obama reminding Putin that an “attack on one is an attack on all,” Putin should never in his megalomaniacal moments ever think of invading a NATO country.

Indeed, Putin’s Russia is no different from the evil empire of the defunct Soviet Union. At the end of the day, the re-emergence of NATO bodes once again that the good shall prevail over evil.

The ultimate question is: Would NATO allow Russia to dismember Ukraine with the creation of “Greater Novorossiya”? Time will tell.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

P-Noy's "bosses" burn his effigy during his State of the Nation Address on July 28, 2014 (Photo/IC)

P-Noy’s “bosses” burn his effigy during his State of the Nation Address on July 28, 2014 (Photo/IC)

When Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. was asked what made President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III change his mind about amending the Philippine Constitution and pursuing a term extension, he said, “What is essential for the President is to know the sentiments of his ‘bosses,’ the Filipino people. He will continue to listen to them so he will know their views on how to ensure that the reforms and transformation that he has begun will continue and will become permanent.” But what reforms had he instituted that are beneficial to good governance?

If there is one reform that is direly needed, it is the Freedom of Information (FOI), which P-Noy had consistently refused to certify as “urgent” legislation. If he stays in power beyond his six-year term, then FOI would presumably remain in limbo, which begs the question: Is he scared of FOI? If so, why?

Pro-FOI rally.

Pro-FOI rally.

Another reform that is as important as FOI is the repeal or revision of the bank secrecy law and the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (FCDA) that have provided untouchable “safe havens” for corrupt officials, jueteng lords, drug dealers, and other criminals to hide their ill-gotten wealth.

That, in a nutshell, is what’s at the center of a whirlwind of debate over whether the Constitution should be amended to give Aquino a second chance to run for president.

If P-Noy was really serious – and sincere – about stamping out corruption, he must have an FOI, which, if enacted into law, would remove the firewall that is shielding corrupt officials and criminals from the reach of the law.

If P-Noy wanted to listen to his “bosses,” then he should look at the polls taken in the aftermath of the pork barrel scandals. He should also listen to the social media “chatter,” which provides a great deal of straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth critique; thus, giving him an accurate measure of the people’s sentiments. He should – nay, must! — go out and rub shoulders with the poor and hungry and feel their “pulse,” and perhaps even taste the pagpag that his “bosses” eat to survive from day to day.

Imperial presidency

P-Noy in Malacanang Palace

P-Noy in Malacanang Palace

But after four years of P-Noy’s imperial presidency, things really haven’t changed much, which reminds me of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s famous epigram in 1849: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Indeed, the changes that P-Noy brags about is like a bucket of water: you kick the bucket and the water pours out — gone. They’re nothing more than empty slogans like his oft-repeated mantra, “Kung walang korap, walang mahirap” (“No corruption, no poverty”), which has become the butt of jokes in the social media. Indeed, his much-touted crusade against corruption is now just another public relations exercise intended to keep the people’s hopes high while lawmakers ransack the treasury.

What is sad is that these lawmakers plundered the people’s money right under P-Noy’s watch. But what makes this whole charade so despicable is that the money the lawmakers stole was from the bloated pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that P-Noy created. These funds were supposed to be used for projects endorsed by members of Congress for the benefit of their constituents. But as the ongoing investigation into the pork barrel scam had revealed, more than P10 billion had been skimmed off the top and pocketed by lawmakers in cahoots with Janet Lim-Napoles, the notorious “pork barrel queen.” To date, three senators are in detention for the non-bailable charge of plunder. More are under investigation.

Patronage politics

Patronage-politicsThe recent rulings of the Supreme Court that declared the PDAF and DAP unconstitutional had put an end to P-Noy’s use of “patronage politics” to keep the loyalty of the majority of the legislators to achieve his legislative agenda. Some say that P-Noy is engaged in bribery using the PDAF and DAP money to pursue his private agenda, which doesn’t equate to benefits for the people, his “bosses.” Take for instance the additional P50 million in discretionary funds – taken from DAP –given to each of the 20 senators who happened to have voted to convict ex-Chief Justice Renato Corona.

And how did his “bosses” react to all these shenanigans? In today’s age of the “information highway,” the people can express their opinions in the Internet on just about everything that the government does. Of course, there is the traditional method of taking the “pulse” of the people, which is to survey a random sampling of the population. The two major pollsters are the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia.

Poor performance

SWS-net-satisfaction-Aquino-June-2014Since his presidency began, P-Noy had consistently been rated “Good” or “Very Good.” But a SWS survey taken last June 27-30, 2014 showed that P-Noy’s net overall performance rating had dipped to +29 or “Moderate,” which is down from the +45 or “Good” rating in the first quarter of 2014. But a closer look at the numbers further reveal “tectonic” slippage in P-Noy’s ratings on specific issues. For “Ensuring that no family will be hungry,” P-Noy was rated -9 (“Neutral”); “Fighting inflation” -18 (Poor); “Ensuring oil firms don’t take advantage of oil prices” -19 (Poor); and “Resolving Maguindanao massacre case with justice” -44 (Bad).

For the first time, P-Noy’s net performance hit the “Poor” and “Bad” ratings, which doesn’t bode well with his “bosses.” As to P-Noy’s desire to run for a second term, an ANC survey of business leaders shows that 71% oppose the idea. The question is: Who are those who want P-Noy to run for a second term?

P-Noy, Lucio Tan, and Tan Ching.

P-Noy, Lucio Tan, and Tan Ching.

Various sectors have voiced out their opposition to a P-Noy extended term. The groups that favor P-Noy running for a second term are his Liberal Party mates, his “KKK” cronies – Kaibigan (friends), Kaklase (classmates), and Kabarilan (shooting buddies) – and his relatives; which makes one wonder, why?

The answer to this question is obvious. These are the people who benefit from their association with P-Noy, politically and economically. Needless to say, if P-Noy wins a second term, their political and economic assets would be protected and continue to grow in value as well as influence. On the other hand, if P-Noy steps down, his cronies would have to look for another padrino whom they could cling to… profitably.

P-Noy has to make a choice. Would he listen to his “bosses” who don’t want him to run or to the “voices” of his cronies that are much louder – and more influential — than his “bosses”?

At the end of the day, politics is all about power. And power corrupts.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)