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Tribune Editorial

The bottomline

Thursday, 25 January 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

The government should just ignore those representing themselves as rights organizations whose bread and butter is to fish for reactions from governments they criticize since the more their name gets mentioned the better their finances.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) for instance issued a rebuttal on Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano’s January 21 statement saying HRW was “intentionally misleading” the international community with its report that the human rights situation in the Philippines is at its worst since the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
“We will not allow Human Rights Watch to portray an unfair and unjust image of our country nor will we let it question the strength of our democracy,” Cayetano said.
Phelim Kine, HRW deputy director for Asia division, said “Cayetano’s groundless accusations come as no surprise, given his record as Duterte’s chief denier of the growing evidence linking state-sanctioned killings to the anti-drug campaign.”
Indiscreetly below the Kine’s piece lambasting Cayetano titled “Philippines’ Duterte Pursues Distraction Over Accountability — Administration Claims Human Rights Watch ‘Politicized’ Drug War Killings” was a message saying “your tax deductible gift can stop human rights violations and save lives around the world” together with the choices $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 and “others” with a stress on “others” by putting the “DONATE NOW” box under it.
The barefaced solicitation was appalling considering the HRW’s representation or misrepresentation of a guardian of global ethical norms.
The HRW stepped up its criticism of the Duterte administration saying Cayetano’s defense was “the latest manifestation of the government’s distraction strategy that appears aimed to sideline domestic and international demands for accountability.”
It repeated the unsubstantiated claim of the yellow liberals that the drug war death toll reached more than 12,000 people over the past 18 months, citing the estimates of “nongovernmental organizations and media outlets”.
Kine also lined up a litany of what it believed was the brazen defense of the rights abuse being attributed to Rody.
He said that in September at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Cayetano declared the “drug war” a “necessary instrument to preserve and protect the human rights of all Filipinos and was never an instrument to violate human rights.
He branded Cayetano’s dissertation as a “demonstrably false declaration” that “did more than add gross insult to injury for family members of the anti-drug campaign’s victims, including children.”
It was also an effort to “airbrush” extrajudicial killings (EJK) of course in the manner of what HRW claimed as having been undertaken by “Philippine National Police personnel and their agents.”
Kine also made an outlandish claims that “Human Rights Watch joins a growing list of institutions and people – including United Nations officials – targeted for harassment and intimidation for demanding accountability for abuses linked to the drug war.”
As in past occasions of his picking on Rody, Kine mentioned the case of jailed Sen. Leila de Lima, “who challenged the lawfulness of Duterte’s drug war” and is under detention “on politically motivated drugs charges.”
Of course, the new yellow pursuit was the supposed attack of the free press at Kein said “the government threatened to close, a start-up media platform that has published numerous investigative stories exposing Philippine National Police involvement in the summary killings.”
Incidentally, the 12,000 bloated figure in the drug was supplied in great part by Rappler as it cobbled up media reports and figures from other sources except from the government.
“That hostility to accountability underscores the need for a UN-led international investigation of the killings to help expose the extent of the abuses and to determine possible targets for a criminal investigation, including possible prosecutions for crimes against humanity,” Kine said.
The bottomline, of course, in all of Kine’s toxic statements, is always “your tax deductible gift.”

Independent policy pays off

Wednesday, 24 January 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

President Duterte’s pragmatic approach on the maritime dispute where it takes no sides has given the country a firm neutrality which is in accordance with the national interest.
The Palace said the administration has refused to be drawn into the flareup of friction between the United States and China that resulted in a Chinese protest of an American warship passing near a disputed shoal.
“The United States can take care of its own interest”, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said adding that “we do not wish to be part of a U.S.-China intramural” in the disputed South China Sea.
China accused the U.S. of trespassing in its territorial waters when a guided missile destroyer sailed near Scarborough Shoal to promote freedom of navigation in the disputed waters.
Rody has taken a radical shift in diplomatic relations from his rabidly pro-American predecessor, Noynoy, who brought the dispute with China to international arbitration in 2013 in a process where China refused to participate.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) issued an award to the Philippines which in essence invalidated China’s nine-dash line boundary in the disputed region but China ignored the decision.
Rody said he will not press China on the 2016 arbitration ruling but promised to take it up with China under a friendlier atmosphere.
China has carried out extensive land reclamation work on many of the islands and reefs it claims, equipping some with air strips and military installations that have alarmed rival claimant countries and Western governments led by the United States.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Saturday that China would take “necessary measures” to protect its sovereignty after the USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana even chided the US saying it did not notify the Philippines of its naval operation near Scarborough.
“We have no say over whatever the Americans do in the South China Sea. They (US) do not inform us beforehand of their activities there,” Lorenzana said.
China, meanwhile, appreciated the government’s decision to allow China to do research at Benham Rise in a joint project with the University of the Philippines.
One of the many mouthpieces of the Chinese government said Duterte’s granting of permission to China’s scientific activities and accordingly offering facilitation, reflects the president’s high-level trust in China, and meanwhile is an embodiment of the concept of “setting aside disputes and pursuing joint development” advanced by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
The steps taken by the administration has reestablished mutual trust between Beijing and Manila that has been thrown into the freezer during the term of Noynoy.
Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano is a main critic of the joint exploration saying that “allowing a Chinese national think tank to conduct so-called scientific research over Philippine waters… is careless and absurd.”
China said the marine activities of the two countries at Benham Rise are purely for scientific purposes, with no intention to jeopardize the Philippines’ “justified” interests there.
“We hope Duterte can stand up to domestic pressure and focus on cooperation with China rather than strategic calculations” a Global Times editorial said.
Rody had taken positions on the diplomatic arena that baffle his critics as well as both the United States and China.
In several meetings, he had approached the Chinese leader and broached the country’s sovereign claims on the disputed areas some of which the Chinese had already reclaimed and had set up structures.
On the other hand, he had rebuffed the United States and other Western nations who are pressing him to demand China comply with the arbitral ruling.
Rody’s stand, however, is only confusing in that it has departed from the familiar role of the Philippine leader acting as a US factotum in the region.

Stop ruining Rody’s political capital

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

The internecine feud between the House and the Senate over the manner of voting in a proposed constituent assembly (con-ass) has become a major hurdle for the charter change (cha-cha) for Federalism move that may greatly erode public perception on the need to even change the Constitution.
The initiative for change of President Duterte seeks two simultaneous radical transformation which would consist of a practically new Constitution and the shift from a unitary presidential government to a Federal system.
The mere mention in the past of cha-cha invites public suspicion of self-serving designs for political perpetuation.
Rody succeeded in great measure to convince many Filipinos of the need to revise the Constitution and to pursue the Federalism shift as a solution to the persistent problems of the country. But the problem would be the proposed provisions that tend to curtail certain freedoms.
Right after assuming the presidency, Rody called on his allies to facilitate the shift which regrettably resulted in a serious rift between the two chambers of Congress that know no alliances but only among members of the Senate and the House.
The basic need of the public is information on what Rody believes constitute lasting change to have it approved in a plebiscite.
Instead, the public is being treated to the spectacle of the House and the Senate trading threats to protect their respective turfs.
The Senate said it will not go with the House in its insistence for a unicameral vote under the con-ass insisting that the intent of the Constitution was for separate voting of the two chambers despite the unified assembly.
Now, senators and Representatives are trying to outbluff each other on whose stand will prevail.
An oddity in the imbroglio is that it does not know any alliances as leaders of the Senate and the House, who are naturally within the broad administration coalition and headed by two PDP-Laban stalwarts, Senate President Koko Pimentel and Speaker Sonny Alvarez, They have fortified their positions in the feuding chambers.
The key to the resolution of what is obviously a deadlock would be the dominant party itself by prodding Pimentel and Alvarez to reach an agreement that is essential in speeding up the already tight timetable for the Federalism shift.
The extended friction had also prompted some experts to declare that cha-cha is dead in the water.
The Federalism move, however, is far from over since the rush apparently is linked to the target of holding the plebiscite alongside the barangay elections in May which is too ambitious.
The more practical phase would be that of being advocated by original Federalism proponents such as former Senate President Nene Pimentel who wants Congress to stress on public information rather than rushing the process.
Not siding with any of the protagonists, Pimentel, however, said the con-ass should be transparent and inclusive which should attend mainly in holding public consultations even in remote areas.
The process should be “open, public, and covered by media” so that the people will be able to participate and air their side, he added.
Pimentel, who favors the forming of a constitutional convention to push cha-cha, however, said the primary target should be to completely attain a Federal State since he expects a different administration would have less commitment than Rody who is an advocate of the shift.
He said, however, people must be allowed to participate through public hearings all over the nation.
There is also a proposal that if the target is to hold the barangay elections and the plebiscite together then it should be moved to May next year instead of this year.
The two chambers of Congress should first arrive at an agreement to work together which would also underline to the public the value of what is being offered to them.






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