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Tribune Editorial

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.

New terror battleground

Monday, 22 January 2018 14:14 Published in Editorial

The US government has officially transferred its “war Ton terror” in the Philippines’ theater with the so-called “Pacific Eagle — Philippines” which on the plus side would mean unlimited military financing and support but the payback for which is the increased American military presence.
Wall Street Journal said in a report that American government money will be infused to boost military and aid efforts to combat extremism.
The new counterterrorism mission would be eligible for the same funding used to finance long-running wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, WSJ, quoting US military officials, said.
The Trump administration elevated the U.S. mission in the country to an Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) and the decision was made last September “in response to a Philippines government request for more support to fight extremist groups.”
The armed forces then was battling the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute Group which had sought to turn Marawi City into an IS caliphate for Southeast Asia.
The U.S.-backed Philippine military prevailed after a five-month battle but Marawi City was left in ruins.
WSJ said between 200 and 300 American troops are currently serving in advisory roles in the country. In addition to advisory troops, technical support and equipment, the US mission is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance by drone.
At least 165 state troopers and 47 civilians died during the battle for Marawi City. Officials estimate around 1,000 IS fanatics including militant leaders Oma Maute and Isnilon Hapilon.
OCO funds typically are exempt from limits on routine spending and have financed U.S. wars known by such names as Operation Enduring Freedom, according to WSJ.
A US government official said elevating the mission in the Philippines was necessary to give it the kind of credibility it needed “to prevent IS from getting a foothold in southeast Asia.”
US officials are worried that dire humanitarian conditions facing marginalized Muslim communities in devastated Marawi City, for instance, may stir up the same resentment that drove support for IS in the region.
“IS has been beaten surely in Marawi, but the conditions are worse now than when IS took over” Justin Richmond, a U.S. veteran, was quoted in the WSJ report.
The new effort carries its own designation, the first such formal operation against Islamic State in East Asia, it reported.
Some U.S. officials have speculated that halting the previous mission was a mistake because it led to a vacuum that allowed Islamic State to expand and eventually capture Marawi.
The US government considered the Marawi City siege as a wake-up call on the spread of extremism in the Asian region.
The US which is the proponent of the war on terror after the tragic 911 attacks definitely has credible assessments on the degree of IS threat in the Philippines and in Asia.
President Duterte’s assessment was that while the military has liberated Marawi City, the country has not seen the last of the IS threat and that a bigger threat looms unless the structural problems in Mindanao are addressed.
Since the Marawi City battle ended, the military has been battling smaller pockets of IS supporters in Mindanao particularly in its remote areas.
That incipient threat is the compelling reason for the Federalism push since among the goals of the government system shift is to provide a legal ground for the creation of a Bangsamoro state which will provide a wide degree of autonomy to the Muslim regions in Mindanao.
The threat also justifies the impatience of Rody and his allies for the Federal State to take shape before the IS regroups and launch more destructive adventures feeding on discontent of the marginalized Filipinos in Muslim regions.

Positives and negatives

Sunday, 21 January 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

Moody’s Investors Service in affirming the two notches above investment grade rating on the Philippine credited the country for its fiscal stability while citing factors that may lead to an upgrade or a downgrade.
The affirmation was the result of $2 billion borrowings of the government to partly fund the massive infrastructure buildup this year.
It cited as positive factors the improvement in the predictability and stability of the political climate improve and success in defusing signs of prospective overheating in the economy and financial system.
Increasing revenue collections that is the main aim of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) law was also cited as contributing to a possible improvement in the credit grade.
The negatives are the emergence of macroeconomic instability as a result of a deterioration in fiscal and government debt metrics and an erosion of the country’s external payments position.
Likewise cited as a bad indicator is the rapid escalation of domestic political conflict that would undermine institutional strength and the government’s reform agenda.
Such cited threats apparently may come from the current efforts to undermine the administration of Rody by stepped up allegations of authoritarian rule from his critics.
The charges of abuses, however, are all made up as part of efforts to oust the overwhelmingly popular president.
Results of a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed 79 percent of Filipinos are satisfied with the performance of the administration of Rody against nine percent dissatisfied.
Satisfaction was highest in Mindanao at 87 percent, Metro Manila at 71 percent, the rest of Luzon at 67 percent, and Visayas at 57 percent.
The survey showed most Filipinos are satisfied with the administration’s performance in fighting terrorism, helping the poor, building and maintaining public works like roads and bridges, foreign relations, and providing jobs.
Redpondents rated the Duterte administration as good on reconciling with the Muslim rebels, telling the truth to the people, defending the country’s territorial rights, protecting human rights, reconciling with communist rebels, fighting crimes, eradicating graft and corruption, ensuring an efficient public transportation system, ensuring that no family will be hungry, solving the problem of “extrajudicial killings” (EJK), and ensuring oil companies do not take advantage of oil prices.
The EJK issue was successfully fended off since the survey showed that respondents acknowledge the efforts of the administration to end it contrary to Rody’s critics’ allegations that the incidences were state-sponsored.
In Moody’s assessment of the recent borrowings it indicated its recognition of the strong real gross domestic product (GDP) growth, among the fastest in Asia-Pacific and similarly-rated sovereigns, has been supported by robust domestic demand, which has provided a buffer against external economic shocks.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the global borrowing exercise got strong support in the international capital markets which was a testament to “the deepening investor confidence in the country’s newfound status under the Duterte presidency as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.”
Dominguez said the $2 billion bond float plus the additional revenue will be used to bankroll President Duterte’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program.
The actual new borrowing is $750 million while the $1.25 billion was used to reschedule debts.
The greatest positive for Rody is the high level of public trust that he had maintained which he uses as capital to pursue difficult reform measures.
A leader of a lesser political will would have folded to the intense criticisms that has been generated by his domestic opponents and those overseas.
The negatives are the obstructionists who exert all efforts to frustrate promise of change.






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