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Thread: Mahathir questions Filipino-style democracy

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  1. #311
    The tragic silence of Nene Pimentel

    By: Manuel L. Quezon III - @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:08 AM October 23, 2019

    For a long time, Aquilino Pimentel Jr. was living proof that neither looks nor a gift for gab were requirements to be rewarded with national office by the people. All you needed, he seemed to prove, was a respectable brain, a fairly consistent set of ideals, ideas and principles, and some guts, and however humble your origin or far away from imperial Manila you came from, you could gain the trust and confidence of millions of your countrymen.

    How he earned that trust has been recounted in many ways in the embalming with honey that takes place after statesmen like him die, but to my mind his two finest moments occurred early and late in his political career.

    The first took place when he was a delegate to the ill-fated 1971 Constitutional Convention. On Nov. 29, 1972, delegates were called upon to ratify the Palace-prepared draft Constitution, which carried with it a Marcos-style sweetener: Only delegates who voted to approve the Constitution would become automatic members of a new interim National Assembly (another typical Marcos move: He subsequently had the provision deleted by referendum). But as Augusto Caesar Espiritu recounted in his diary, the “ratification” that day was a foregone conclusion; the real action had taken place two days before, on the final draft’s second reading:

    “Fourteen people voted ‘No.’ The most sensational vote was that of Nene Pimentel, who was standing before the microphone waiting for his name to be called. When his turn came to vote, he started to deliver a speech…

    “‘Because of the adulterous…’ his voice trailed off as presiding officer Abe Sarmiento banged the gavel. ‘Your vote,’ Abe ruled. ‘What is your vote?’

    “Nene Pimentel continued to explain his vote, but Brod Abe ruled that he should make known his vote first. Pimentel shouted, ‘I refuse to vote on this travesty of a Constitution…’

    “I heard later on that this was shown on TV.”

    The second was also seen by the nation on TV, when Pimentel, by then Senate President, co-presiding over President Estrada’s impeachment trial (because senatorial egotism refused to accept their unique but modest role as jurors, they demanded instead to garb and treat themselves as judges), resigned the Senate presidency after the impeachment trial collapsed.

    To my mind, these two were his finest moments, because the most difficult thing for any politician is to turn away from power: either not to accept it, or to let go of it; because it is always easier to rationalize embracing power. So: He would not become an assemblyman if the price was to abandon his role as an elected delegate to a convention; he would not hold on to the Senate presidency when the institution had failed the challenge to conclude the first impeachment trial of a president.

    His finest moments, however, must be accompanied by acknowledging three ironies his political career came to represent. The first was that, for a man who began as a parliamentarist, he gained his greatest fame as a member of the Senate in a bicameral legislature under the presidential system. On the whole, he became living proof of the wisdom of having a second, much smaller, nationally elected chamber imbued with a national perspective.

    The second was that, for a man who was not just a practicing lawyer but one who’d been a legal educator, his biggest and dearest-held idea, federalism, failed to prosper because the most elaborate legal schemes for organizing a nation can founder on questions proposed by other disciplines—in this case, economics. The question federalism’s proponents could never answer satisfactorily was that of the economic consequences of such a shift. And in the end, for all his efforts, his federalist proposal was just that: just one of a competing set of proposals, which meant that even as the idea enjoyed its greatest political backing, ever, neither its chief backer nor anyone else could quite convince the economic managers of the present dispensation of how it could possibly become a reality.

    And the third was that, for a man who devoted himself to one of the two political parties (the Liberals and his own PDP-Laban) that tried to transition from the premartial law system of patronage to a more ideas-oriented organization, the system of local government he helped enact became the biggest stumbling block to effective, cohesive party-building on a national scale. As I’ve argued elsewhere, simply put, our political parties are torsos lacking legs, because barangays have been declared “nonpolitical,” which means our basic political unit has nothing to offer the grassroots in terms of party participation.

    The result was a man frustrated into silence: beaten by the system into an acceptance that led many of his admirers to shake their heads over how he stopped fighting.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  2. #312
    The barrio versus modernity

    By: Manuel L. Quezon III - @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:07 AM November 06, 2019

    We have been trying to be a modern nation since 1935 (after the stillborn efforts of 1896 and 189, but our collective attitudes still hark back to the barrio (not the barangay — at least if you adopt, as I do, Damon Woods’ argument that the barangay is a myth due to an American scholar’s intervention in translating a friar’s report). And so, however increasingly complex governance for an ever-growing population gets, our expectations are simple. And the more things get complex, the more we hardheadedly insist on simple approaches to complicated problems.

    So: Calamity strikes, and we expect national officials on the spot, personally taking charge. When President Benigno S. Aquino III tried to make a rational response — visit later, rather than get in the way — he was raked over the coals by the public. When his successor did the same thing, on exactly the same logic, the response was muted. The difference lies in the expectations both chief executives raised, and which spells all the difference. Time and again, Aquino said the public was the boss; his successor has time and again thundered that he is the boss. The former then declared it open season on himself, while his successor directly stated that any criticism is a challenge, and hardly anyone dares.

    Besides which, the President operated by proxy in the most dramatic way possible: Sen. Bong Go vroom-vrooming into Tulunan, North Cotabato, not only made good copy, it was almost as if the President himself was there. This kind of political bilocation was once the preserve of first ladies, but the point is that it works: When Go announced that the NHA would help with housing and DTI would distribute livelihood packages, everyone understood it as being as good (because authoritative) as if the President had announced it himself.

    Genaro Magsaysay wasn’t a memorable senator, but he did make one statement that’s proven memorable: “More talk, more mistake; less talk, less mistake; no talk, no mistake.” While it could be easily said that the President subscribes to this dictum, what might be more accurate to say is that we have gotten more used to what bureaucrats like to call an “all-of-government approach” to calamities.

    But the approach, this time around, is remarkable, not for what it’s doing, but the absence of those doing it. Consider how the natural manner in which Cabinet officers, at their worst, tend to bicker over turf or try to steal media exposure, or at their best, try to come to grips with the logistical challenge of relief operations, isn’t particularly on display this time around. Calamities in the past have hurt the reputations of civilian officials. This time around, the proliferation of ex-generals in the Cabinet doesn’t open up the official family to criticism — not least because it’s not in the nature of ex-top-brass to be particularly forthcoming to public scrutiny (though some may be better at public relations than others).

    The designated head of relief efforts, the secretary of national defense, Delfin Lorenzana (PMA ’73), is a former general not even senior in either former rank or military experience to the other former generals in the Cabinet: Rolando Bautista (PMA ’85), former Army chief, now head of the DSWD; or Eduardo Año (PMA ’83) former AFP chief of staff, in the DILG; or another former AFP chief of staff, Roy Cimatu (PMA ’70), in the DENR.

    Just because the secretary of national defense is, ex-officio, chair of the NDRRMC; the secretary of the interior, vice chair (for disaster preparedness); the secretary of social welfare also vice chair (for disaster response); and the secretary of the environment an ex-officio member, doesn’t mean they would automatically get along or work together well. But they have had enough time to get to know each other in their civilian capacities, and their shared military culture may make them suited to cooperating and sticking together — though again this can have its downside.

    To be sure, the NDRRMC issues regular reports, but it requires institutional knowledge to sift through and read between the lines of these reports, a task to which the increasingly resource-starved media is increasingly ill-equipped to conduct on a sustained or even focused basis. Which actually makes the task easier for government: Less scrutiny, fewer reporters on the ground, an absence of foreign correspondents, and a presidency that knows how to push the right buttons make for a controversy-proof effort, not least because there are enough critics to bog down discussions on fanning regionalistic bickering to take the spotlight away from where it belongs — government.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  3. #313
    No gain without pain

    By: Peter Wallace - @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:06 AM November 07, 2019

    I had occasion to travel the lower level of South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) the other day, and I don’t think we should penalize San Miguel Corp. (SMC) with a P44 discount on tolls. I think we should give them a medal. I’ve never seen so much construction built over such a long area in such a short few weeks, with so little dislocation.

    We complain at the government for not providing us with the infrastructure to smooth our lives. Are we now going to complain when they do something about it? Do that, and who is going to volunteer to build the new transport systems we ever so desperately need? No one, that’s who. Given the sorry state of our cities, it’s unavoidable that any new construction is going to result in some dislocation. There’s no way to avoid it.

    Why should one person or company suffer considerable financial harm while others get financially rewarded? The Skyway extension is something that will benefit us all, so we should all share in the suffering a little to achieve it. If the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) insists that a P44 refund be applied, then once the extension is completed, a P44 surcharge over and above the toll rate should be applied to all motorists until SMC recoups its loss.

    This is justified for the same reason the TRB wants to justify a reduction — the extra time and cost of the delay is TRB’s justification. Well, the shorter time and less cost when travel time is reduced equally justifies a higher cost.

    I wish to dispute the claim that it’s a fallacy that lowering the toll will erode investors’ confidence. As someone who has been intimately involved in dealing with foreign investors for the past 40 years or so and worked for several of them, I can assure you it will. Add that to the P7 billion foregone revenues in toll increases SMC has requested in the past, and the many more billions other investors in public services here have suffered for similar payment delays. Anyone can doubt, but investors are discouraged from entering such an uncertain market. Or, if they’re not, they will increase their initial cost to cover that likely event. Then we will end up paying more.

    As SMC president Ramon Ang said, the problem was the poor design in the first place, with lanes reduced to three from five at the Alabang viaduct. This had to be fixed. As an aside, read my column in January 2016 when I asked what idiot (a carefully chosen word) designed only one lane for the ramps to Alabang. That will come to haunt us next.

    In less than 14 months from now, or by December 2020, the Skyway will extend all the way to Susana Heights/Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway (MCX). According to Skyway O&M Corp. (SOMCO), the project, once completed, would raise the Skyway’s capacity by 4,500 vehicles per hour northbound, and 3,000 vehicles per hour southbound. The project should enable motorists to bypass traffic along the Alabang viaduct. Or would you rather that the traffic just gets worse and worse, as no one can risk doing anything about it?

    There are other projects that are causing traffic disruptions at the moment but are expected to ease commute over the long run. Among these are the MRT 7 extending all the way to San Jose del Monte in Bulacan, and the extension of the LRT 1 all the way to Cavite. These projects should be operational over the next three to five years. In the meantime, there’s unavoidable traffic congestion.

    What we’ve already done to the water concessionaires is bad enough—penalizing them with heavy fines for things they’re not responsible for. Or ordering them to take thoughtless actions that would put the city in chaos. Have you all forgotten the nonexistent water systems when they were government-run?

    If we insist on penalizing everyone who’s trying to improve our future, then our future is in deep you-know-what.

    This government’s “Build, Build, Build” program is a visionary, ambitious attempt to right the sins of the past and provide us with the roads, bridges, railways, subways, airports and seaports we needed a long time ago. We’re finally getting them now. I’ll suffer a little dislocation for that. So we and our kids will have an easier life in the future.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  4. #314
    Lorenzana not keen on new martial law extension

    By: Jeannette I. Andrade - Reporter / @jiandradeINQ

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:55 AM November 12, 2019

    MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is not inclined to recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte another extension of martial law in Mindanao.

    “If it were up to me, I will not recommend anymore the extension,” Lorenzana said on the sidelines of Monday’s sendoff ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City for participants in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

    Martial law “has been going on for too long,” he said. Its third extension is until Dec. 31 this year.

    The President issued Proclamation No. 216 declaring martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017, after the Islamic State-inspired Maute group attacked Marawi City.

    Military rule was initially valid for 60 days, but the President succeeded in asking Congress to extend it three times.

    Not necessary

    Lorenzana said another extension would not be necessary if Congress amended the Human Security Act.

    “It (amendments) would be a better arrangement,” he pointed out.

    He told reporters that he was still waiting for the recommendation of the police and the military.

    Should the military or police recommend another extension, Lorenzana said “we’ll evaluate the reasons of the military and the police and act accordingly.”

    In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President would consider the recommendation of Lorenzana.

    Asked at a press briefing to comment on the defense secretary’s remarks that he may not propose extending martial law, Panelo said, “The President always says that he will defer to the advice or the recommendation of those on the ground.”

    Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the military would have to consult local governments in Mindanao on the matter, saying they and the local military commanders were fully aware of the situation in the region.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  5. #315
    Marawi: Failure, delay, confusion

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:09 AM November 14, 2019

    Just how long will the displaced residents of Marawi City have to suffer neglect for a conflict caused by the failed intelligence work of the military and this administration?

    Two years after government forces routed the IS-affiliated Maute group that laid siege on Marawi starting May 2017, the city’s rehabilitation remains a pipe dream for some 70,000 evacuees still languishing in makeshift shelters.

    The five-month battle against the terrorists left more than 800 militants and 162 soldiers dead, displaced some 200,000 Marawi residents, and transformed a once vibrant center of commerce into a war-torn ghost town.

    But despite the creation of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) in the aftermath of the war, the hearing last week of the House of Representatives subcommittee on Marawi rehabilitation revealed the “failure, insufficiency and slow implementation of specific programs, projects and activities” meant to make the city habitable again, as Khalid Ansano, Marawi resident and member of the Marawi development assistance team, put it.

    Worse, P4.4 billion out of the total P10 billion earmarked for Marawi’s rehabilitation in the 2018 national budget has yet to be released by the Department of Budget and Management. The fund expires by yearend, and new appropriation would further delay the Islamic city’s recovery.

    What has particularly riled the survivors is that, two years on, they are still being prevented from an “immediate and dignified return to their homes,” said Ansano — ostensibly because of unexploded bombs buried all over the 250-hectare Ground Zero composed of 24 barangays.

    And yet, despite the ban against residents, “why are visitors (allowed) to enter the area?” indigenous leader Maulana “Abu Mujahid” Mamutuk asked government representatives at the House hearing.

    The hearing also uncovered repeated government delays in housing displaced residents, according to the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch (MRCW), which has been monitoring the city’s rehabilitation since 2018. The delays have prompted claims of discrimination from aggrieved residents whose call for compensation for lives put on indefinite hold has so far been ignored.

    The seeming betrayal rankles, and so does the government’s lack of transparency on its plans for Marawi, the timetable for the evacuees’ eventual return, the resources available for rebuilding, and the outputs to be expected.

    In a press briefing last Thursday, the MRCW called out TFBM and other government agencies for their lackadaisical work so far. Agencies present at the House hearing, for instance, were a picture of confusion as they failed to provide accurate updates on the implementation of their programs.

    Lamented Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman: “We face our constituents as representatives and we want to inform them accurately (of what you’re doing)… (But) if agencies like you that implement the programs are not aware of it, what can you expect from us lawmakers?”

    TFBM insists that it has made some progress, such as trimming the number of internally displaced persons from 76,284 to 11,949 as of September 2018, and putting up more evacuation centers from 23 to 67 and transitional shelters of 1,522 units, with another 1,500 to be completed.

    These efforts, however, are simply not enough, according to Marawi’s dispossessed. Why are they not consulted and included in the planning, the timetable, the use of resources, the choice of contractors or even the design of their new homes that would reflect their culture and consider the particular needs of their Muslim community?

    Take that December 2021 deadline for the complete rehabilitation of Marawi City that TFBM chair, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, had given. Waiting another two years would mean an interminable, unconscionable period of dislocation for survivors who have been in exile for two years now, and who simply want to be allowed back to resume their interrupted lives.

    Government agencies, too, must provide a clear accounting of the P5.52-billion fund that had been released for Marawi’s rehabilitation in 2017, and the P10 billion earmarked for the same purpose in 2018.

    And whatever happened to the pledges of financial assistance from other countries — Australia’s P1 billion, the United States’ P730 million, Japan and Thailand’s P100 million each, the European Union’s P49 million, and China’s P70 million for the wounded soldiers and P15 million for the rehabilitation process? Who’s handling the funds? How are they being disbursed? Are they, at the very least, still intact?
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI


 
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