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Tribune Editorial

When giants collide

Thursday, 22 February 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

The threat of an actual armed conflict igniting betweeen the United States and China over passage in the South China Sea remains low but it has been elevated a few notches as a result of the Chinese buildup of structures believed to be military in nature in some of the formations in the contested seas.
The recent developments merely confirmed the tack followed by President Duterte on China, which is to engage the Asian giant which is a huge departure from the previous policy of confrontation, is correct.
Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana admitted in a forum the risk of “miscalculation” and armed conflict in the South China Sea has risen as China starts to challenge US dominance in the disputed waters.
Lately, China has been suspected to have expanded its communications links and other facilities on artificial islands in the area, despite Beijing’s denial saying that it is building only civilian facilities.
Sta. Romana said the balance of power in the region is shifting as the two global powers compete for control of the waters.
From the start, Rody has taken an independent foreign policy to disentangle the country from being labeled as a hopeless American lackey in the region.
The position taken by the administration is that the maritime friction is more between the United States and China rather than between China and the Philippines.
His administration also took a diplomatic approach on the territorial conflict. China and the Philippines, for instance, have an ongoing Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM) in which both countries periodically consult which was not even imaginable two years ago amid a tense maritime standoff between both countries.
While relations improve between the Philippines and China, the US seems to have raised its presence in the South China Sea while also wooing Rody whom it wants to consider still a solid ally.
Sta. Romana said that which is under dispute is the dominance in the Asian waters which Sta. Romana predicted “a shift in the balance of power.”
He compared the two powers to bull elephants engaged in a heated battle for dominance that the Philippines should keep off unless it wants to be trampled on.
The Carl Vinson, with a fleet of about 40 fighter jets and roughly 5,000 American sailors, arrived in Manila this week in a display of American presence in the disputed region. A US aircraft carrier is also expected to dock in Vietnam in March, the first time in more than four decades.
But the presence of the warship would not change China’s established advantage in the region.
“The aircraft carriers’ visits are only symbolic – to show that America still has a military presence in the region and that it is still a hegemon,” Xu Liping, a researcher on Asian-Pacific studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.
“With the military construction program on the three major islands in the South China Sea, China has built an effective network of intelligence gathering and defense abilities,” he said.
Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, had told a congressional hearing that China had unilaterally built seven new military bases in the South China Sea, with new facilities including “aircraft hangers, barracks facilities, radar facilities, weapon emplacements and 10,000-foot runways”.
Sta. Romana said China gave the Philippines an assurance that the military assets it is deploying on disputed islands in the South China Sea are not aimed at the Philippines and other neighboring countries.
“It is part of the rivalry between a rising China and the US over the South China Sea,” Sta. Romana said.
Sta Romana underlined the independent foreign policy of Rody: “We want to remain friends with both, and to gain the maximum benefit.”
The Philippines, with its strategic location in the Asian region and its strongly Western-influenced culture, can only hope in vain of assuming a neutral role in the conflict.
The independent foreign policy of Rody, however, offers the country a wider latitude in maneuvering away from sustaining a major impact from the struggle among the superpowers.

Canard in one, canard in all

Friday, 16 February 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who is accused of being the gatekeeper of the previous administration’s selective justice, was recently proven to be also into releasing and withholding selective information.
Solicitor General Jose Calida’s discovery of the termination of the Ombudsman’s probe on the case filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes in May 2016 accusing then presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of maintaining 11,000 ghost employees exposed the level of political bias guiding Morales.
Morales’ motive in withholding the outcome of the case was also evident since it has a huge bearing on another Trillanes allegations of plunder against Rody which the senator had revived on unexplained wealth and undeclared bank accounts on the President and members of the First Family.
During the 2016 campaign period, Trillanes and Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas accused Duterte and his family of maintaining secret bank accounts.
Trillanes then and now had brandished supposed documents of over P2 billion that purportedly flowed into Duterte’s bank accounts, which he claimed was not declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). He also made similar accusations on members of Rody’s family which Rody has repeatedly denied.
Trillanes during the presidential campaigns when he fared miserably in his vice presidential bid termed his ghost employee allegations on Rody as the “smoking gun” since he claimed it could prove to be one of his sources of unexplained wealth.
Calida said he inquired from the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB), through a letter dated Feb. 8, the status of the criminal complaint filed by Trillanes on Rody to which Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang stated that the investigation has already been closed and terminated.
Since Trillanes’ allegations turned out to be a dud, it will unmask his other bogus charges.
Instead of protecting Trillanes and his yellow principals in their pursuit to malign Rody, Morales, Calida said, must be the protector of the people and has the constitutional duty to publicize matters covered by investigations “when the circumstances so warrant and with due prudence.”
Morales is doing a great disservice to the public with the omission since the case involved the President of the Republic of the Philippines.
Morales’ complete silence on the result of the probe of the anti-graft body on the Trillanes complaint was in stark contrast to its filing when Calida said a press conference was even conducted.
“Three months after the termination of the case, the public has still no knowledge that the evidence supporting the allegations of Trillanes is without merit,” Calida said.
Calida did not need to state the obvious when he said that Morales’ act may prove that she is coddling the complainant, Senator Trillanes.
Also, Rody had termed all the charges that Trillanes hurled against him as garbage which was only buttressed by the dismissal of the ghost employee allegations.
“His evidence was junked, and because it is junked, it is another word for garbage,” Calida noted.
The most obvious reason for Morales’ silence was that it would pave the way for the termination of the unexplained wealth and undeclared bank accounts probe since Trillanes claimed that keeping the ghost employees was the source of the supposed hidden wealth.
Only Trillanes may have known that the anti-graft probe on his allegations was already terminated since he is now rushing the conduct of a Senate probe on the same canard.
The proving of the tall story that the chief critic of Rody had peddled regarding the ghost employees also necessarily has implications on his other charges including the spectacle of submission of the “crimes against humanity” complaint into which the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it is looking.
The ICC may also have to reassess its move unless it wants to be seen as another victim of con artist Trillanes.

A propaganda boost

Sunday, 11 February 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

Critics of President Duterte had a heyday last Thursday when Presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced in advance that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will issue a statement on the conduct of a preliminary examination into the crime against humanity complaint filed by his chief detractors.
The complaint is based on the fabricated extradjudicial killings (EJK) figures of 14,000 individuals related to the war on drugs.
The figure was tossed around among the yellow media and his critics and fed to their allies overseas who then use the figure as basis to attack Rody.
The Philippine National Police (PNP), however, admits to 3,987 killed in anti-narcotics operations, while 11 percent, or 2,235, of the total 19,560 murders under police investigation are drug-related.
Rights groups who make a living out of assuming the role of global moral guardians such as the Human Rights Watch (HRW) uses increasingly hyped up allegations against Rody to raise funds, the more atrocious the allegations, the better.
Even if the ICC action was merely procedural similar to an inquest of a complaint lodged before an ordinary court, Rody’s critics made it appear that Rody has already been convicted.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the court will “analyze crimes allegedly committed” but Sen. Antonio Trillanes, the Liberal Party (LP) and the HRW, for instance, had taken it to a higher level.
HRW for instance said the ICC’s action “is a rebuke of the Philippine government’s campaign of denial and distraction seemingly designed to deflect growing evidence of extrajudicial executions that Duterte and senior government officials have incited and instigated.”
It added that Philippine journalists, foreign correspondents, and international human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch “have compiled damning evidence over the past 19 months of police involvement in thousands of extrajudicial killings.”
It, however, admitted the preliminary examination “is not a full-blown, on-the-ground investigation” meant to determine a possible basis for a formal ICC investigation yet it concluded that “it’s a first step and sends an important signal that the severity of the alleged abuses warrants the prosecutor’s scrutiny.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Rody is ready to face a possible probe and, “if need be” would make his own defense before the ICC.
HRW also accused the government of effectively institutionalizing “impunity for police involvement in serious rights violations.” It cited a speech of Rody in August in which he supposedly vowed to pardon and promote any police personnel implicated in unlawful killings.
The HRW coup de grace was its call for the United Nations (UN) to likewise initiate a probe on Rody.
“The ICC’s announcement should spur efforts by United Nations member countries to push back against Duterte’s efforts to legitimize his bloody drug war,” it said.
The usual Rody hound Phelim Kine of HRW pitched in saying “the government has also hobbled public pressure to provide accountability for the killings by subjecting critics of the government’s drug war narrative to withering harassment, intimidation or worse.”
“Targets have included the official Commission on Human Rights, United Nations officials, and Sen. Leila de Lima.
On February 24, 2017, after a relentless government campaign against her, police arrested de Lima on politically motivated charges – she has remained in detention ever since,” he claimed.
The ICC action is what the yellow critics of Rody are banking on to crank up the propaganda machinery against Rody rather than to have him successfully prosecuted.
The futility of the bloated allegations against the war on drugs in standing up in the ICC will not deter his critics from seizing the opportunity to generate the noise which they hope will result to the erosion of his survey ratings.
That is, after all, the key target to buttress another mob action that the yellow society had long planned to launch.

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