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Tribune Editorial

Harboring a deviant

Sunday, 23 April 2017 00:00 Published in Editorial

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez made sure that everybody knows of her being an iconoclast Cabinet member by offering to commission members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to, in effect, oversee the operations of mining firms while obviously throwing roadblocks to the review of the closure orders on mining projects.
Lopez stunned the public when she said she is willing to cooperate with communist rebels to protect the environment.
The problem with Lopez’s idea is that the communist rebels have been torching equipment of legitimate businesses that refuse to pay what they call revolutionary taxes, although this is extortion, plain and simple.
In a business forum, Lopez said she is willing to allow the NPA to participate in development projects for mining communities in Agusan del Norte.
“What I’ve seen with the NPA, they just really want to get people out of poverty, they’re really not bad people,” Lopez said. Gee, Gina, killers, kidnappers and extortionists are not “bad people” but miners are?
Her idea surely does not jibe with the NPA character of refusing to give up their extortion activities which Rody sought as part of the peace negotiations ongoing between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“They’re really nice if you meet them... My hope there is we do it in one place, we’ve done it everywhere,” she added.
Lopez may just as well say the government agrees to sharing power with the rebel group which has sought to put up a communist system through the power of the gun.
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, as expected, welcomed in a statement Lopez’s offer.
Lopez, while playing footsies with the NPA, moved to block a plea of the Department of Finance (DoF)-led Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) for the government to allocate P50 million to review the mine closures ordered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Finance Assistant Secretary Paola Alvarez said most of the agencies in MICC were perplexed at the reason Lopez wanted “to throw a monkey wrench” into the MICC-approved review of all mining operations by opposing the budgetary support of P50 million the body had asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Alvarez said that the action of Lopez was considered inconsistent with the order of Rody in a Cabinet meeting last February 7 for the review of the DENR order.
In an MICC meeting, she herself formally approved such an MICC review by signing MICC Resolution 6 during the Council’s meeting.
On the P50-million budgetary support, Alvarez recalled that “Lopez had also green-lighted this request to the DBM during the follow-up MICC meeting last February 20, as the council would need to hire a sufficient number of private experts from different fields to review the technical, legal, social, environmental and economic aspects of all 311 mining contracts in the country.”
Lopez also demanded that Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin to inhibit from the MICC process supposedly due to his past ties to mining companies.
Alvarez said “Secretary Lopez is free to make such an appeal, in the same manner that certain groups are free to oppose her confirmation by the Commission on Appointments on a conflict-of-interest issue and other grounds.”
Agabin worked for the Philippine Associated Smelting & Refining Corp. 15 years ago and with Rapu Rapu Minerals Inc. 10 years ago.
“Perhaps, it is the DENR secretary who needs to refuse herself from the MICC process, given that she has publicly stated that she would stick to the findings of the DENR’s audit report regardless of the outcome of the MICC review ordered by the President,” Alvarez said.
She said the recruitment of the experts who will conduct the review is a multi-agency process of which the DoF is a part of, as so mandated by Executive Order 79 that then-President Aquino issued in 2012 creating the MICC.
“The DoF cannot be excluded from this process, as it does not of itself face any conflict of interest, without violating its mandate under EO 79,” she said.
The MICC is mandated under EO 79 to review all mining-related rules and regulations, issuances and agreements, and was ordered convened by the President during the February 7 Cabinet meeting to discuss and reassess the DENR’s audit last year.
Lopez’s presence continues to weigh heavily on the whole Cabinet if not the whole nation, due to her insistence of pushing her advocacy even at the cost of the government’s interest.

Vicious noises turned up anew

Saturday, 22 April 2017 00:00 Published in Editorial

The blitzkrieg on Rody and his war on drugs come in pairs as if timed by an orchestra conductor to have the most severe effect on the still impregnable public confidence on him.
A day after a survey showing Rody’s war to have suffered a decline, immediately two condemning reports in a day at a time. British news wire Reuters published a long report quoting two anonymous sources in the local police force supposedly affirming the pay for hit scheme not only for drug offenders but also petty criminals.
The recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed public satisfaction on the conduct of the anti-drug campaign has gone down by 11 percentage points, from a net 77 in December 2016 to a net 66 in March 2017 but almost hidden in the netting system of the SWS is the fact that 78 percent of respondents remained satisfied against the 12 percent dissatisfied.
The degradation in the survey grade of Rody may have encouraged the yellow conductor to launch more assaults and funnel in bigger resources to the anti-Rody campaign.
The other day Human Rights Watch (HRW) reiterated its prejudgment on Rody that he inspires summary executions to jibe with, and bolster, the Reuters report.
Phelim Kine, HRW Asia Division deputy director who has been at Rody’s back since the campaign, said “Duterte has a perverse idea for a job creation program: Hire the unemployed to kill criminal suspects.”
He took issue with an obvious bluster of Rody before a group of overseas Filipino workers in telling them, “If you lose your job, I’ll give you one. Kill all the drug addicts.”
From there Kine connected the statement to the recent special report stating that his “latest exhortation for vigilante killings comes as no surprise.”
Kine added that Rody had made repeated calls on the public to kill drug addicts as part of his anti-drug campaign.
He quoted a speech of Rody last June 30 when he said “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”
Kine said these calls could constitute criminal incitement to commit murder.
Of course all the efforts are directed toward a foreign audience to fan efforts to make Rody stand before an International Criminal Court (ICC) trial which appears to be the ultimate target of his yellow critics.
ICC tries crime on humanity that the opponents of Rody are accusing him of committing this crime through the extrajudicial killings (EJK) that happened in the war on drugs.
Similar to Kine, the yellow opponents of Rody use sweeping statements to pin on him the supposed executions that the Reuters report conjured up as having reached 9,000 deaths since Rody took power.
Philippine National Police (PNP) officials said that the opponents of Rody had lumped all unsolved killings, including murder that are unrelated to the drugs campaign, to come up with the bloated figure.
It was Rappler, a yellow news blog, which earlier cooked up the figure that the yellow critics of Rody used for inclusion in VP Leni’s controversial “palit-ulo” video to the UN saying that 7,000 EJK occurred in the war on drugs.
HRW said Duterte repeatedly called for the PNP to target suspected drug users and drug dealers with extrajudicial violence, which could be considered instigating law enforcement to commit murder.
HRW again recalled that in August 6, Rody warned suspected drug dealers: “My order is shoot to kill you. I don’t care about human rights, you better believe me.”
“We found that many of the 3,271 killings the police attribute to ‘vigilantes’ and drug gangs are a veneer to shield themselves and police agents from culpability in death squad-style extrajudicial executions,” Kine said.
It would have been more believable had HRW offered even one shred of evidence to go with its “findings” but all, save for the testimonies of Trillanes pawns Edgar Matobato and Arthur Lascañas, and other yellow sources who go by anonymity.
HRW added that Duterte’s killing campaign has targeted a distinct population, urban slum dwellers and as such it concluded the killings could amount to crimes against humanity as defined by the ICC, “of which the Philippines is a member.”
It ended with the call for the “Philippine people to reject Duterte’s drug war and join the growing international chorus for accountability for its thousands of victims.”
Going by the surveys, more than three out of four Filipinos see HRW and its ilk are merely part of what the Palace termed as vicious noises against Rody.

Dutertenomics gets going

Friday, 21 April 2017 00:00 Published in Editorial

The recent Dutertenomics forum which assessed the economic policies under Rody, came up with quite an impressive showcase, including plans for a total of P3.6 trillion worth of projects under the so-called three-year rolling infrastructure plan (TRIP) until 2020.
Among the more ambitious projects that were unveiled was Mega Manila Subway Project which is coming soon as the President and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to sign in November an agreement for the project’s funding.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the construction of the first subway is set to start by the fourth quarter of 2019 and completed by 2024 at a cost of P227 billion.
The subway project will traverse 25 kilometers underground to link major business districts and government centers and is expected to move 300,000 passengers daily.
The first phase of the subway system will traverse Quezon City to Taguig City with 13 stations. The subway’s proposed stops are: Mindanao Avenue, North Avenue, Quezon Avenue, East Avenue, Anonas, Katipunan, Ortigas North, Ortigas South, Kalayaan, Bonifacio Global City, Cayetano Boulevard, Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Its feasibility study which is being conducted with the help of a grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency is expected to be completed by July and will be presented to the government.
Under the proposal, the subway would start from San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, to Dasmariñas City, Cavite. The study focuses on the central zone of the subway starting from Quezon City to FTI.
Secretary Tugade did not say if this was the same subway that the “tuwid na daan” folks of Noynoy tried to rush during the twilight period of the previous administration but costing P374 billion or an overprice of P147 billion.
Budget Secretary Ben Diokno said the entire infrastructure program until the end of Rody’s term amounts to around P8 trillion to P9 trillion.
That means spending on vital projects of about P1.5 trillion a year which is already evident with the many road developments happening at the moment.
He said this program would be partly funded by borrowings, 80 percent of which to come from domestic fund sources while the balance of 20 percent sourced overseas.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said that in the decades when the government neglected the infrastructure buildup while neighbors in the region rapidly built up theirs, “we lost out on competitiveness.”
The “tuwid na daan” regime was noted for underspending the budget which, as it turned out, was recycling public funds for a slush fund named Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Nobody knows the extent of the DAP, but some estimates put it at more than P200 billion until it was stopped in 2014 when the Supreme Court ruled that Palace actions that created it were unconstitutional.
The economy suffered while the yellow mob feasted under Noynoy.
The neglect was particularly debilitating for the country due to its archipelagic nature.
Lack of infrastructure raises the costs of transporting goods between islands, Dominguez said.
“That is the reason our food price regime is high. Our congested roads and ports discouraged investors who need to operate on just-on-time deliveries. Our high power costs and unstable supply discouraged investments in manufacturing,” he added.
It is infrastructure where the country should begin rebuilding its competitiveness, Dominguez said.
The rebuilding is happening under the “happy conjuncture of low interest rates, market liquidity, a benign oil price regime, the strong support of countries like China and Japan, an investment-grade credit rating and a young and vigorous labor force.”
Add to that a leader with a strong political will and has a clear vision on what he wants to do.

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