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Sunday, September 30, 2018

The 5 Engines That Guarantee Vietnam More Fast Economic Growth This Year

Vietnam weathered an epic drought in 2016 and the World Bank estimates a third of its 93 million people still live in poverty. You hear about corruption and faltering agriculture, perhaps a reason why people are poor.
But so much for the bad news. The Southeast Asian country with a $200 billion-plus GDP and the welcome reputation as a cheaper manufacturing base than China will keep drawing investment, expanding export production and watching domestic consumption spread, according to forecasts. Vietnam’s economy that’s been on that track since the late 1980s probably grew around 6.3% last year for a lot of the same reasons and the government expects 6.8% in 2017. Why the country will at least come close to that target despite poverty, drought and corruption come down to these five points:
  1. The Trans Pacific Partnership will be revived or replaced. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is expected to scrap the 12-nation trade agreement that’s known as the TPP and that would particularly help member Vietnam as an exporter. But a few people suspect Trump will somehow salvage it. If not, Vietnam already takes part in 16 FTAs, including with economic powerhouses China and Japan. It can pursue bilateral agreements with other TPP members if the U.S. Congress declines to ratify the deal signed in 2016. Vietnam is also on the list to join a Chinese-championed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trading group that would encompass 30% of the world’s GDP.

    People use tablets and smartphones to play the newly launched Pokemon Go game at a public park next to Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre of Hanoi on August 10, 2016. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)
  2. Vietnam keeps giving foreign companies reasons to invest. Foreign investors already benefit from lower tariffs under the trade deals. Some get lavish tax breaks, too. In 2015 the country made its rules on foreign investment clearer and sped up permit processing. Last year was a “transition year” for those changes, and in 2017 Vietnam will start to “collect the fruits of having a more structured and competitive business legislation, which is having an impact on attracting more FDI and also helping Vietnam become one of the major manufacturing hubs in the world,” says Oscar Mussons, international business advisory associate with the Dezan Shira & Associates consultancy in Ho Chi Minh City.
  3. People are getting richer and spending more. Vietnam’s middle class will double by 2020 to 33 million people and that means more consumption, the Boston Consulting Group estimated last year. People in that group earn at least $714 per month, enough for phones, motorcycles, travel and health products, items that usually make the short list of local consumer preferences. The middle class got where it is because wages are rising along with a boom in jobs linked to growth in export manufacturing.
  4. Factory work is moving up in value from traditional industries. High-tech’s share of total exports from Vietnam reached 25% in 2015 from 5% percent in 2010 and kept going last year with no signs of abating now. Investments by electronics giants Hon Hai Precision, Intel and Samsung – worth billions of dollars -- have led the shift. Samsung Display is considering a new $2.5 billion investment in a project already worth about $4 billion, according to a stock market research firm in Hanoi. Electronics are replacing traditional industries such as garments and shoes, production of which is slowing moving to other Asian countries. Policymakers in Vietnam aim to increase annual export value by 8% to 10% this year, notes Louie Nguyen, editor and founder of the news website VietnamAdvisors. The trend will bring new skills, higher wages and more revenue for the companies making high-value stuff.
  5. Private business is expanding, and doing more kinds of work. Vietnam, long dominated by clumsy enterprises under the Communist government, has been slow to foster private business, creating a dependence on Chinese imports of goods that could technically be made at home. But now private business, which was rated in 2015 by the World Bank as an economic sore spot, is expanding. There’s retail and export manufacturing. You also see a boom in craft beer and startups in media, entertainment and online payments. Three localized venture capital funds hatched in 2016 helped startups get past a previous lack of funding.
As a news reporter I have covered some of everything since 1988, from my alma mater U.C. Berkeley to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing where I followed Communist officials for the Japanese news agency Kyodo. Stationed in Taipei since 2006, I track Taiwanese companies a...





Biased mainstream media


I HAVE always given mainstream media the benefit of the doubt. In the face of criticisms, there is always that hope that while there are bad and rotten eggs in its midst, there are also those professional journalists who just really want the truth to come out in an unbiased, non-partisan way.
There is no denying that there are many practices that simply make it difficult to believe that media can ever be non-partisan and unbiased. In an age when journalists have become news personalities, we also see the blurring of the distinction between editorializing and news reporting. It is discomfiting enough that those we see as reporting or anchoring the regular newscast are also the same people who anchor political commentary programs. It is even much worse to see them unabashedly showing their political biases, posting critical commentaries in Facebook and Twitter aimed at political personalities.
Recently, the last remaining bit of trust and faith I had in mainstream media suffered an intense assault after witnessing a series of patently partisan biased reporting.
One example is the manner in which the results of recent surveys were reported. Indeed, the President’s ratings went down by double digits. It is fair to report this in the way it happened, but not to cast it as if it is already a harbinger of doom for the President. While it is important to point to the steep fall as an indication of eroding support, it is also fair to point out that the President remains the most trusted public official, and he still enjoys the support of a substantial majority in the country. But many in mainstream media ignored this angle and simply hammered on the decline as if it is the only facet of the reality that was captured by the surveys.
The media is supposed to be performing an important and critical role in a democracy not as critic, but as a shaper of critical thinking. However, the way most journalists have interpreted this is simply to pump up the contentious optics, and not to deepen the understanding of people about issues. There is a tendency to sensationalize, and to isolate events and facts from their contexts. Thus, while it is already fairly established that it is in the nature of politics that political leaders always suffer a decline in their ratings as their terms progress, this important lesson in understanding politics not as spectacle but as process is conveniently rendered invisible by the fixation on screaming headlines rendered by print journalism and sing-song, dramatic, as if in a perpetual state of heightened alarm, intonation by broadcast journalists.
And when there is an effort to expand context, most journalists would prefer focusing on the negative, or on the side of the political contest that suits their biases. Hence, there is the readiness to cite the President’s falling numbers as the reason why the polling numbers of those political personalities identified with him who are listed as potential senatorial candidates are also suffering. There is an effort to link to the drop in the President’s ratings the decline in the ratings of Sara Duterte and Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa, the inability of Harry Roque Jr. and Bong Go to enter the magic 12, and the poor performance of Mocha Uson with her 1.3 percent voter preference despite her much vaunted 5.7 million social media followers. There is a palpable effort to make it appear that presidential allies are suffering because of him.
Yet, there is not much focus given to the fact that the polling numbers of opposition figures are not improving as well. This fails to paint the picture of a shifting political landscape gradually moving towards the political opposition. Leni Robredo’s numbers remain stagnant. And in the senatorial contest, Bam Aquino is now out of the magic 12 and, except for Mar Roxas who landed at the tail end of the winning circle, almost all potential candidates of the political opposition are miserably languishing at the bottom of the pile with their much lower numbers.
And if there is one glaring evidence of entrenched bias, it is in how Imee Marcos’ performance is being downplayed. News 5 did not even mention her in its first report, thereby revealing a not-so-subtle Freudian slip. And what is hyped is the angle that Imee Marcos’ numbers are in fact not improving, but are simply stable, and that her rise in ranking was due to the falling numbers of others like Koko Pimentel, Bato de la Rosa and JV Ejercito, as if being stable in the face of others’ declining numbers is not a sign of viability as a candidate.
But an anti-Marcos sentiment is really a palpable trait that infects media, and which many of them do not even try to hide. When Juan Ponce Enrile made a controversial statement about martial law, several noted journalists jumped into the fray and posted their criticisms not only of Enrile but also of Bongbong Marcos. It should be noted that these are journalists, and not writers of opinion columns like me. Op-ed columnists are entitled to their biases, but journalists who are doing regular beats are expected to try as much as possible to control their partisan political hormones.
This anti-Marcos sentiment went into full gear in the reportage on the recent resolution released by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) on the election protest of Bongbong Marcos against Leni Robredo. Almost all news networks, including even the Philippine News Agency, bannered that PET had upheld the 25 percent minimum shading threshold as demanded by Robredo. A close perusal of the actual resolution in fact reveals that the PET did not. On the contrary, it reiterated its finding that there is no legal basis to change the threshold. In addition, the PET even took note of the fact that Comelec, even without a promulgated resolution providing such legal basis, changed the threshold of 50 percent not just to 25 percent but to a range of 20 percent to 25 percent.
Any thinking journalist worth his or her mettle would have simply realized the idiocy of any claim that would make PET uphold the 25 percent threshold in the face of such findings. A thinking journalist would even have zeroed in on the anomaly of having a range as a threshold in an automated election.
But apparently, many journalists in mainstream media appear to be no longer concerned about the thinking part. They probably hate fakers in social media because the latter are simply better in the art of peddling lies.


TEDDY LOCSIN BILIB KAY SASS ROGANDO SASOT "You're one of the best that I've met! Keep it up!" 9/30

Airbrushing history in gullible PH


The Philippines has not really been truthful, forthright and candid on the accounting of the past. The Zaide textbooks on history, for one, generally framed history as a succession of events — chronology as history. The brutalities of the occupation periods, from the Spanish to the American occupations, are written as some passing and totally acceptable chapters in our history. The history of heroes focused on the personal attributes not on how much they suffered from the nastiness of the conquista and the multi-pronged acts of subjugation.
The focus on subdued heroism — if there was any heroism at all — was on the heroism of the Ilustrado class and not the revolutionary proletariat like Andres Bonifacio. The inordinate focus on Jose Rizal had a side agenda, to diminish and obscure Gat Andres et al.
The generation that got their basic Philippine history from the Zaide books, this was the damning result, failed to imbibe the great and inspiring lessons on heroism, love of country and sacrifice. One reads history to appreciate the heroic deeds of the past and the steadfast courage and dedication to the Motherland of our forefathers — to instruct ordinary citizens and make them remember the heroes and their struggles. Those dear lessons are missed in the sanitized Zaide textbooks.
Yet, for the young disenchanted with Zaide’s staid and selective rendering of heroes and heroism, alternative books were available. Teodoro Agoncillo, falsely accused of writing history from a Marxist lens, rescued Andres Bonifacio from the subtle vilifying he suffered from the Zaide-oriented historians. Thus, his definitive book, Revolt of the Masses, shattered the version that it was the Ilustrado that led and staffed the revolt against Spain. It truly restored Bonifacio’s role as the true and pure revolutionary.
Renato Constantino, though essentially a journalist, amplified the thesis of Agoncillo through thin but trenchant pamphlets on the miseducation of the Filipinos.
Toning down and taming the anti-imperialist character of the Philippine struggle is definitely mainstream and has a long history.
Even that has not prepared us from  Mr. Enrile’s recent rendering of the martial law period. Had he tweaked the history of that dark, bloody and ruthlessly corrupt chapter by just a tiny, wee bit, his act would have been forgivable, given his age and his tenuous legal status  (he was a central figure in the P10-billion Napoles scam).
But his fresh, and ever-changing version of martial law, was so unhinged from reality that it now ranks very near the Holocaust denial as one of the most egregious attempts to whitewash history.
Did Mr. Enrile outlive most of his contemporaries to punctuate his colorful life with the most outrageous lies and a whimper? Even the powers-that-be that Mr. Enrile wanted to reach with his prevarication message were so shocked with his version of martial law that they had to rebuke, timidly, of course, Mr. Enrile.
There is a law that compensates the victims of martial law abuses, said presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr., whose roots was human rights lawyering.  Even a certified Palace flack like Mr. Roque could perhaps not believe that Mr. Enrile would stoop down to that level of lie peddler. The Bantayog ng Mga Bayani, while standing lonely and forlorn and forgotten, stands firmly as a memorial to the prominent names murdered, assassinated and tortured under martial law.
What about the name of the faceless, nameless victims? Like young poets, journalists, lawyers, doctors, union leaders and peasant organizers?
What about the “sons of grocers,” the women activists, the community activists from the far-flung barrios and the urban slums?
What about the young Archimedes Trajano?
What about, this is now personal, the one who typed this piece?
It was 1976 and I was working as a clerk-researcher at a small government agency by the Manila Bay, where many government entities known as the “turf“ of Mrs. Marcos were based. One day I got this urgent letter from personnel. You are fired. The basis was a NISA file that said I was a “ threat to national security.” I was then below 100 pounds and my earthly possessions were a few books, three pants and six threadbare shirts. My last participation in an organized protest against martial law was in early September 1972. From 1972 to 1975, my activities were confined to three — plowing the paddies, pasturing carabaos and drinking gin bulag at night, after the brutal farm labor was over.
The firing, I took in stride. But a NISA “ invitation “ came through personnel on the day I cleared my ancient desk, the last day of work.
The “ invitation” was the standard code word for interrogation and for two days the NISA people took liberty of whatever dignity was left in me. It was a horrifying experience but what I suffered was a million times bearable than what the others suffered.
Decades after that dark period, you see Mr. Enrile on Bongbong Television, mocking the lives lost, sneering at the national opportunities squandered, and writing a version of history that is as egregious as the denial of the Holocaust and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
A life that he designed to end with a bang now ends with lies and a whimper.



Saturday, September 29, 2018

Philippines’ extrajudicial violence traces roots to Aquino admin according to The New York Times

New York Times article has confirmed what some of us have been saying all along – that the root of the problem in the Philippines that the current government is facing today can be traced to former President Benigno Simeon Aquino. It is funny though how it had to take foreigners to validate what Get Real Postwriters have been writing about for six years. This is what they had to say about the previous administration:
But the true roots of the problem can be traced to the administration of Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III. That is because, experts say, the true cause of this kind of extrajudicial violence is the public’s loss of confidence in state institutions and its turning instead to more immediate forms of punishment and control.
Mr. Aquino, elected in 2010 on promises to support the rule of law and human rights, failed to fix the Philippines’ corrupt and ineffective justice system. His administration also faced a series of security-related scandals, including a hostage crisis in Manila in 2010.
And, perhaps most critical, Mr. Aquino was perceived as lazy and soft, unwilling to take the necessary steps to solve the country’s problems.
Frustration with the government’s inability to provide basic security led to rising public demand for new leaders who would take more decisive action to provide security.

The New York Times called former President BS Aquino 'lazy and soft'.
The New York Times called former President BS Aquino ‘lazy and soft’.

It is also ironic that while BS Aquino’s supporters share the New York Times article because it is mostly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s policy on illegal drugs, they gloss over the part where the NYT writer blames the former President for his failure to crack down on the drug trade and his failure to fix the slow justice system. BS Aquino’s supporters also turn a blind eye to the fact that the drug problem became an epidemic during his term. His government was given a list of politicians and members of the military and police who were involved in drug trafficking but they just sat on it. They also tolerated the way convicted drug lords continued to operate inside the prison walls.
More importantly, BS Aquino also set a precedent for denying due process to his political enemies, which is why ordinary Filipinos have become frustrated with the Philippines’ justice system. They would now rather take matters into their own hands. This was what I wrote prior to BS Aquino stepping down:
The application of selective justice in the Philippines is the reason why Filipinos are getting increasingly frustrated at the current government. BS Aquino’s Daang Matuwid or so-called “straight path” only works for his friends and allies. No wonder Duterte’s vigilante style of justice has become acceptable to a lot of people. If the justice system is broken anyway, people think it is better to take matters into their own hands. They are tired of politicians like BS Aquino and Mar Roxas who say they are “decent’” but do not have any qualms about destroying people who get in their way.
Corona was never found to be guilty of corruption by a real court. His only offence was in the discrepancy in his Statement of Assets and Liability Net Worth (SALN), which by law, government officials are allowed to correct whenever discrepancies are found. Most public servants would be guilty of that but they are spared from the persecution Corona was subject to under BS Aquino and his minions. BS Aquino keeps bragging about being the first President to impeach a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice. He couldn’t have done it without the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and pork barrel funds and a corrupt Congress.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand why majority of Filipinos approve of Duterte’s brand of justice. They waited for six years for BS Aquino to do something about the increasing violence in the country but they were disappointed. The media is only highlighting the killings now but incidence of drive-by shootings had become more brazen in recent years even before Duterte came to power. The people have become angry and helpless reading news about victims of rape, assault and robbery even in broad daylight perpetrated by drug gangs. To a lot of Filipinos, it is better that drug dealers and pushers be dead than innocent people, which is why they do not feel sorry hearing of people dying during police operations or in the hands of unidentified suspects. Some Filipinos even cheer when they find out drug dealers and pushers are killing each other.
People would accuse me of giving the situation my seal of approval. They are wrong. I am merely giving my own observation of what is happening in the country. I saw it coming. I am not entirely surprised that people are dying on the streets. Duterte did warn everyone that he would go after drug traffickers while he was still campaigning. Besides, life has always been cheap in the Philippines. The violence was ignored in the past because it involved mostly the lower classes. It is part of Filipino culture to ignore what is happening to others if it doesn’t involve members of their inner circle of family and friends. In the Filipino vernacular, it is called kanya-kanya. It is only now that there is outrage coming from so-called “civil society” because some members of the upper classes are now getting killed or caught in the middle of Duterte’s war on drugs.
In other words, some folks were in denial there was a problem to begin with. Again, that is the fault of BS Aquino who made people believe everything was under control. He was good at hiding problems or pretending there was none. This is why the news that there were city mayors who were coddling drug lords came as a rude shock to everyone. Even celebrities were not spared in the naming and shaming. If there is one thing positive about Duterte’s drug war, it appears that it doesn’t discriminate or favour anyone, rich or poor. Everyone involved in the drug trade is getting equal treatment.
The New York Times is saying that a culture of vengeful punishment is taking hold in the Philippines. This is nothing new. It has always been like that in the Philippines. It is still a primitive country pretending to be civilised. Most people don’t even understand the concept of rule of law. If they did, they wouldn’t have tolerated how BS Aquino treated his political enemies even back then.

About Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.



Howard Jones,
BBC World Service. 
BBC Broadcasting House, 

Dear Mr Jones,
I am writing to you with grave concerns over your highly inaccurate and unfair analysis of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and your implied stance of him being some sort of dictator.
I have come to this conclusion after watching your recently aired documentary on the BBC World Service, ‘Democracy in Danger’. Firstly, this documentary has been showed repeatedly recently on the BBC and I believe been given unfair airtime with no counter program to ensure fairness?
Surely the BBC is showing bias and this is a case of unfair journalism? The program In question is very critical of President Duterte and his policies to protect the Filipino public against the evils of drug dealers and crime by those addicts who are high on Shabu.
Since President Duterte took office, crime is down by almost 50% in some areas, corruption has been greatly reduced and of course the Filipino people have given the President a consistently high approval rating in various SWS polls.
In your documentary you focused on several areas where in fact the President is working hard to clean up the country.
The curfew imposed on children and those who would loiter in the streets, is not in fact a strong-arm tactic or meant to be dictatorial in any way, it merely ensures that children are getting the required amount of rest to ensure they can get the most out of the educational opportunities afforded to them and also that they are not somehow caught up in the drug trade or offered drugs. Same applies to so called ‘Tambays’. There is always a risk that people loitering around the streets could become involved in crime.
I am very sure that are many legitimate reasons why people would be on the streets as you say, but I hope you would respect that the PNP and indeed government have every right to ensure peace and order.
Then there is the matter of your almost ambush interview of Imee Marcos, daughter of former President Ferdinand Marcos, to ask her if she would compare President Duterte to her father as a dictator, is somehow asking her to insult her own father as well as President Duterte and similarly the same can be said of your questioning of Bong Bong Marcos.
Then your comments claiming that news blog website Rappler is somehow legitimate in the Philippines, one minute you liken President Duterte to a dictator, and not following the constitution, the next minute you imply that Rappler being banned from covering the President is almost an affront to democracy, yet all the Duterte administration is doing is following the constitution in banning foreign owned journalists from covering the president under the guise of being a Filipino owned news agency.
Yes, I admit, you did interview Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque briefly, yet out of at least 4 individuals who are against the President, you only interviewed one supporting him? Is that fair journalism?
By the way, Sen Leila De Lima who you portray as a political prisoner, is in fact a suspect in a drugs case, not only that, members of her family have now been suspected in being involved in the drugs trade, is she a reliable source for your report?
Also you interviewed Sen Trillanes, who you correctly identify as one of the biggest critics of the Duterte family who by the way, is currently out on bail, having also been suspected of being involved in a crime. Is he a reliable witness therefore?
Do you ever report on the good work President Duterte is doing or even highlight it in your report? How about improvements in infrastructure, reduction of red tape, the President’s support of OFW’s, the billions of pesos he brings to the national economy following his highly fruitful and important overseas visits?
I hope you will have the decency to reply and as a licence payer, hope you will respect my right to challenge you on my perception of your unfair journalistic approach.
Finally, I can categorically assure you that Democracy is safe and well in the Philippines, doesn’t a dictator ban protests and challenges to their leadership? In fact President Duterte is happy to meet his critics and ensures they are afforded maximum tolerance by the authorities.
Also please remember that President Duterte was elected by 16M Filipinos. Please don’t therefore insult them by this biased campaign against him by you and the BBC.
Yours sincerely,
Malcolm Conlan,
Concerned Netizen 
London, UK





Feast of Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael, Archangels

Feast of Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael, Archangels

John 1: 47-51

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I approach this time of prayer earnestly. I believe that you have called me to be faithful and loving in your service. I thank you along with Mary, the saints and the holy angels for the marvelous works of creation. I will humbly try to reflect your greatness to all I meet today by honestly fulfilling my duty.
Petition: Lord, help me be an instrument of your peace and love.
  1. Honesty Is the Best Policy: Once as Jesus spent the whole night in prayer, he searched for apostles that would be honest and sincere. Jesus took a liking to Nathanael when he discovered an Israelite without guile in his heart. Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him. It seems that Jesus admired this angelic trait in men. As soon as he saw Philip bringing Nathanael forward to meet him, Jesus immediately noticed the virtue Nathanael lived. If I want to be highly thought of by Jesus, then I need to be sincere in mind and heart.
  1. The Holy Angels: The Church venerates today the holy service of three of the archangels. They stand out for their honest love for God’s most holy will. With such fidelity, St. Gabriel faithfully delivered the most important messages of human history to Zacharias and Mary. St. Michael wrestled with Lucifer and cast him out of heaven. St. Raphael came to the aid of Tobias in the Old Testament. In these angels there isn’t any duplicity of heart. God asks them a favor and they truly fulfill it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to implement our talents and gifts toward a service of this nature? Wouldn’t it be great to be honest instruments of God’s infinite love like these three archangels?
  1. The Lord’s Gaze: Jesus looks into the heart and doesn’t judge by appearances. Christ’s gaze penetrated Nathanael on this occasion. Jesus penetrates the motives of my heart even though they are kept hidden from the others. Jesus is the first one to know if I am true to the faith I have received. If I am faithful to the dictates of my conscience and obey God’s lead, in private or in public, then I have nothing to hide and nothing to lose. If on the other hand, I am dwindling in my surrender to Christ by boredom and monotony, then it is about time I sought renewal. Christ needs me! How many are dying and fading away because they lack Christ and his love? I, in turn, have been graced by many special spiritual favors! Jesus gazes into my eyes and dreams of my fidelity and love.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for the example of these three archangels and of the holy apostles. The holy apostles ended up shedding their blood for you and the holy angels aid us on our journey towards you. Lord, seeing so many lacking the faith, I resolve to be your tireless instrument, like them, so that many may come to praise you for all eternity.
Resolution: I will visit the Eucharist (if this is impossible, then kneel before the crucifix) and repeat confidently, Lord I wish to be your instrument – help me!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Caguioa the Unclear


GOOD, clear writing is important. It is especially important if you’re a justice of the Supreme Court seeking to rule on a contentious issue like the electoral protest against Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo.
Before yesterday, I had not read any decision, treatise or even a haiku written by Associate Justice Alfredo Caguioa, the high court member whose only claim to fame prior to landing in the Supreme Court was his being a former classmate of Noynoy Aquino, who made him magistrate. After yesterday, I don’t think I will want to do so ever again unless I really have to.
Caguioa’s ruling on the motion for reconsideration filed by Robredo insisting on a 25 percent threshold for the shading of a ballot in order for it to count is probably the worst piece of judicial writing I have ever encountered. And I’ve gone over countless orders and rulings from all sorts of courts in over 30 years as a journalist, so that’s saying a lot.
High court justices are supposed to write clearly, perceptively and even profoundly, after all. Caguioa’s magnum opus was vague, confusing and unintelligible — sometimes all of that in a single overlong paragraph or meandering sentence.
But credit Robredo and her chief lawyer, Romulo Makalintal, for seeing an excellent propaganda opportunity where others only saw imprecise and obfuscating verbiage. Robredo immediately called a press conference to proclaim that the high court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, had upheld her contention that only 25 percent shading was needed for a ballot to be valid — even if this was not stated (clearly or otherwise) anywhere in Caguioa’s horrible 22-page brain fart.
Robredo was so touched by her interpretation of the ruling that she likened herself to the late movie icon Fernando Poe Jr., who was famous for getting beaten up near the beginning of his films, only to win convincingly through the sheer volume of counter-punches he would throw at the various bad guys placed in his path. For two years, she declared, she felt like she was getting mauled in the protest proceedings, but she triumphed, FPJ-like, in the end.
But it was not like that at all. According to Caguioa’s turgid decision, what the PET did was to set aside the issue of shading, which can in no way be taken to mean that Robredo’s demand for a 25 percent threshold was upheld.
If anything, the tribunal granted the motion of Robredo’s rival, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., upholding the 50 percent threshold, because the Commission on Elections failed to inform the PET that a new minimum had been put in place for the 2016 elections.
In one of the clearer passages of Caguioa’s ruling, he wrote: “Given that at the time of the drafting and approval of the 2018 PET Revisor’s Guide and the commencement of the revision process, Comelec had not issued any official document setting a new threshold for the 2016 elections, the Tribunal was therefore constrained to follow the fifty percent (50 percent) threshold under the 2010 PET rules.”
(I promise not to unduly anger the reader by unnecessarily quoting passages from Caguioa’s decision. But this is a key paragraph that I will be referring to again, so please bear with me.)
More important than shading thresholds to the tribunal, Caguioa ruled, was the use of election returns where there is a discrepancy in the counting and appreciation of ballots. These returns are directly produced by the vote-counting machines used in the 2016 elections in electronic and printed form; they should in no way be used as substitutes for the ballots shaded and used by voters themselves, which are the ultimate test of the validity of contested votes.
The other thing that the tribunal, through Caguioa, said was that decrypted images of digital ballots could be used in the recount — something that, like the ruling on ERs produced by the VCMs, is being hotly contested by Marcos. After all, if the ERs and digital ballots had been tampered with, as Marcos alleges, then they cannot be used as substitutes for the ballots themselves.
But the tribunal said that while it noted Marcos’ objection to the use of digital images, the former senator has not produced evidence of their integrity being compromised. Mere allegations, the ruling said huffily, are not proof.
The whole point of the ruling, I have concluded after seeking the advice of several knowledgeable sources, is that the tribunal has actually succeeded in favoring Robredo by adding yet another layer of verification — the digital images — in case of a discrepancy in the recount of the actual ballots cast. This can be taken to mean that Robredo did score a win at the tribunal, even if it was not in the matter of the shading threshold.
If you agree that Robredo’s overall strategy is to delay the recount until the end of her contested term in 2022, she has succeeded. Perhaps, in the future, the tribunal will even get to rule with finality on the shading threshold controversy, the resolution of which will take up even more time.
I end by calling the attention of those media outlets (and there are many) that reported on the matter as if Robredo’s and Makalintal’s press conference was the final word on the shading controversy. Instead of carefully wading through Caguioa’s admittedly murky writing, being careful to understand the background and nuances of the case, these mainstream outlets unthinkingly bought the vice president’s line that she had won the battle for the correct shading threshold.
It’s easy enough to say that this is due to laziness and a lack of comprehension on the part of the reporters who wrote about the issue. But if the editors and producers of these news outlets, who decide how a story is “angled” or even if it is used at all and who really should know better, deliberately misunderstood Caguioa’s ruling, then we’re all in deep manure.
The reports that Robredo won the shading threshold battle are fake news in the extreme. Just read the paragraph I quoted, if you still doubt that last statement I made.
Now, I really wonder how Robredo and her media enablers would get out of this mess that they themselves made. Or if the media will blame Caguioa for writing so badly that they had to take the word of Robredo, who is as biased a source as you can find in this case, as the tribunal’s.


Roque’s absurdity: Sison and wife got P2.4M as human rights victims


AGAIN that cliché I can’t help but use for this affront to the Republic: Only in the Philippines.
Communist Party founder Jose Ma. Sison spent his entire adult life trying to violently overthrow our democratic system. By many accounts, he had personally ordered the execution of probably several dozen Filipinos whom he condemned as counter-revolutionaries, ordered the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing of a Liberal Party rally, and for nearly 50 years now exhorted the party’s New People’s Army to wipe out soldiers and policeman of the Republic.
He was captured in 1977 and faced charges of rebellion, subversion, and murder in two military courts, a process deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1981, since the crimes were committed during Martial Law.
Corazon Aquino ordered him freed eight days after she assumed power on Feb. 25, 1986. A few months later, after a speaking tour at the University of the Philippines, he abandoned his comrades in the country and went abroad, finally settling in the Netherlands in 1987. There he continued his incessant exhortations for the NPA to intensify their killing of the Republic’s soldiers — one soldier a day, he even boasted a few months ago.

Revolutionaries become instant millionaires, thanks to a Yellow law.
Yet last May, he and his wife Juliet got P2.4 million, remitted to his bank in Utrecht. For his arrest in 1977 and incarceration, and because his wife’s psychological travails due to his detention, they were declared “human rights violations victims” during the Marcos regime, deserving to be, as Sison himself quipped, “instant millionaires.”
It was the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) attached to the Commission on Human Rights that declared the Sison couple as “human rights violations victims,” and gave them P2.4 million. Among the members of the board (who are appointed by the President) who decided on this was now CHR chair Chito Gascon, and former National Democratic Front spokesman Byron Bocar.
Trail of blood
How on earth could the top communist whose party’s insurgency has left a trail of blood all over the Philippines merit that?
It was authorized under Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparations Law, passed in February 2013. It was former President Benigno Aquino’s huge gift to the Communist Party that lobbied for it through its representatives in Congress, which consequently supported him almost entirely during his regime.
The money for compensating the alleged victims of martial law came from the $670 million ($350 million in 1986) which the Swiss Federal Court ordered remitted to the Philippine government, after concluding they were illegally acquired by Marcos and his wife Imelda.
About 10,000 have been beneficiaries of the law. The joke that had been going around among leftist activists and former NPAs, after the first releases were made: “I didn’t know we won. We are now receiving our back pay.”
It is this law which Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque Jr. the other day invoked as having already determined martial law’s “history,” which is really the Yellow and communist narrative that there was widespread violation of human rights under the Marcos regime.
Referring to former senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s recent claims questioning that Yellow narrative, Roque said. “I don’t think they can twist history when there’s a law and when there are court decisions attesting to what happened during Martial Law.”
Roque exaggerates; there are no other “court decisions” confirming the Yellow and Reds’ narrative of martial law.
Only this R.A. 10386 does that. It was passed at the height of Aquino’s power, during which he had Congress under his thumb, bribed by billions of pesos from his now notorious Disbursement Acceleration Program that was initially intended to get the legislative body to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona in a few months’ time.
It was authored by Aquino’s loyal legislators like Lorenzo Tañada 3rd and Edcel Lagman and communist party-list congressmen such as Neri Colmenares and Teodoro Casiño. The bill was cleverly introduced in March 2012, at the height of Corona’s impeachment trial, most probably in a quid pro quo for the Left’s support for Aquino’s project to assault the Supreme Court.
Hereby declared
The law’s Section 1 legislated a history of Martial Law.
“It is hereby declared the policy of the State to recognize the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos covering the period from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986.”
Thus, Sison simply submitted while he was in the Netherlands newspaper articles that he was arrested and detained, and claimed that his wife suffered psychologically, and the board awarded them P2.4 million.
I am astonished at how Roque, formerly a legal academic, could subscribe to this blatantly inane view that a bunch of opportunistic politicians could legislate history. That is what the Aquino-controlled Congress did when the law they passed defined as anybody incarcerated under Marcos’ martial-law powers, as automatically a human rights victim, each one or his heirs entitled to as much as P1.8 million in “compensation.”
What if another Congress were to enact a law declaring that all arrests, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings from the day Cory captured power in February 1986 to 1991 — which numbered 10,882* up to 1988 alone — are human rights violations, with the victims also entitled to P1 million compensation? Such a law might even declare that the more than 200 killed and wounded in the 1987 Mendiola massacre and in the fight against Hacienda Luisita will be given an additional P2 million in compensation. It could even declare that Cory had the worst human rights violations among Philippine presidents. So what if there are no reports by historians to verify that. RA 10386 wasn’t based on any historical studies, yet it was enacted into law?
History cannot be legislated. It is stupid for Roque to claim that Enrile is “revising the history of Martial Law,” simply because there are as yet no objective history narratives of that period written by scholars and peer-reviewed. There were no reports on that era by historians, nor even by the National Historical Commission, to Congress when the bill was rushed. There is totally no mention at all in the law of the one thing that caused the arrests and even killings: the war waged by the communists to violently overthrow the democratically elected government.
What we have are the books written by American parachute journalists right after Marcos fell wishing to cash in on the best-seller possibilities of hate-Marcos books, and hacks of the Yellow cult, and recently by a crackpot blogger who thought that she could make tons of money if another Yellow president won, who would make her book required reading in our schools.
There is only one case about which several mainly European states indirectly legislated a history: That of the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis. This was by making it illegal for anybody in their nations to deny that the Holocaust occurred.
I hope Roque realizes that the law he claims has determined what the martial law era was leads to such an absurdity as the top communist — himself guilty of human rights abuses (as I wrote Monday) and who had waged a bloody war against the Republic — being declared as a human rights victim, and with his wife awarded P2.4 million as compensation.
He should also realize that the mob that claims widespread human rights violations during Martial Law is the very same gang that alleges that his boss in his war against illegal drugs is following in Marcos’ footsteps. Or is Roque just being clever, calculating that he would be the “DDS” whom the Yellows and the Reds would vote as Senator next year?
It probably says a lot about Sison that nobody knew that he and his wife had applied for compensation as human rights victims, until he admitted it when interviewed by a Europe-based TV network reporter.
Most top communist leaders, retired or current, like Bernabe (“Commander Dante”) Buscayno, army defector Victor Corpus, former party chairman Rodolfo Salas, and Satur Ocampo did not apply for compensation. They had proudly claimed that they joined the revolution to serve the people, and for money. I guess, to use a sentence allegedly made by Imelda Marcos: “Some are smarter than others,” whether you’re a capitalist or a communist.
* This is the figure reported, purportedly based on local reports, in the book by Richard Kessler, Rebellion and Repression in the Philippines (1989: Yale University) which I reported in a 2016 column, “Human rights abuses under Cory as bad as dictator’s record — Marcos critics’ own data.”
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