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Preparing for 2019 elections

Published in Editorial & Other Articles

Amidst the problems of rising inflation, soaring prices of prime commodities and gasoline and services, election fever is heating up in the Philippines as the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy has been set for October 1 to 5 for national, congressional and local candidates. Proof of the heating election fever is the killing of many local officials and barangay leaders, most of whom are said to be aspiring for reelection or higher positions. Another proof is the frenzied selection by the major political parties of their senatorial and congressional candidates as well as the bets for provincial, city and municipal posts.


Pre-election positioning is also noticeable in radio and television advertising, especially by one Mindanao congressman eyeing to become a senator and a lady governor in the North who also wants to succeed her brother in the Senate. In Manila, pedicabs and jeepneys are seen covered with tarpaulins of candidates for mayor and vice mayor, including the possible tandem of reelectionist Mayor Joseph Estrada and his vice mayoralty candidate, former congressman Amado Bagatsing. Possibly in violation of election rules, Mayor Estrada bombarded with more than a dozen tarpaulins  the campus of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila proclaiming what he claimed he has done, using the taxpayers’ money, for the city university, even as Manilans and visitors are complaining everyday of heaps of uncollected garbage in city streets. Tarpaulins are also visible in other cities in the country while the more zavvy are all over the social media with their photos, videos, slogans, statements and even plans and programs.


Meantime, the Commission on Elections continue its preparations attending to the ballots and the registration of new voters, including overseas Filipinos, in the Comelec offices nationwide. Comelec wants to expand the registration sites to include the popular malls. The Comelec’s actions come amidst the assurance of President Duterte that the coming elections will be honest and credible. To ensure this, he has ordered that a limit to the number of bodyguards of politicians be reduced, among others. Earlier on, Mr. Duterte appointed the chairman and other commissioners of Comelec to fully constitute the body after the retirement of several commissioners. We support the initiative of the President but he and the Comelec cannot succeed without the full cooperation of all the candidates and the voters themselves. It behooves upon every citizen to be responsible voters for, after all, the people get the government that they deserve.


Who’s bluffing: Duterte or Xi?

Published in Perry Scope

A recent issue of the Philippines Today, headlines: “Duterte warns China of war over oil, uranium.”  I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  Was President Rodrigo Duterte bluffing?  Or did he finally find the courage to remind Chinese President Xi Jinping of the Philippines’ claim in the West Philippine Sea (WPS)?


Although Duterte had insinuated a few times before about war with China over oil exploration, he wasn’t taken seriously.  People would say, “He was just joking.”  But this time around, he seemed to be serious.  He gave the warning in a speech before the League of Municipalities on the Philippines (LMP), about two months prior to Xi’s scheduled visit to the Philippines in November.  What gives?


Duterte considers Xi as a “good friend,” having been able to get huge loans for his infrastructure projects.  He told his audience: “Mr. Xi Jinping, we also have a claim.  You know we have the award [U.N.’s arbitral tribunal ruling that awarded the Philippines in June 2016].  But I will not insist on recovering the award because it would result in a war, and it will be a massacre, I know.  But please be it noted that one day during my term, I will assert (our rights).”  Does that mean that by asserting our rights, he’ll go to war – a real war, not word war – against China?


Which bring another question to the fore:  Did Duterte play “offensive” move at a time when Xi is scheduled to visit the Philippines in November?  Could it be that he’s posturing to gain positional advantage when he faces Xi to talk or negotiate the issues that have been festering ever since Duterte abandoned pursuing the arbitral award? 


Checkmating Duterte


Surmise it is to say, if Duterte were a good chess player, he would move his pieces in positions to prevent Xi from moving his pieces forward within checkmating distance.  Xi now has to rethink of revising his playbook when he arrives in the Philippines.  He may have to deal with a leader who has changed his tune and might not be too willing to agree or accede to his proposal – or demands? – in relations to the Philippines’ claims in the WPS.


But the problem is what Duterte told his audience that if there is war, it “would result in a massacre,” a line he had repeatedly mentioned in the past.  This would weaken Duterte’s hand.  Besides, Xi is certain that Duterte will never go to war against China, simply because the Philippines doesn’t have the means to go war.   War with China would entail the use of naval and air forces in the contested waters.  With no heavy warships and just a dozen jet fighters, Duterte was right when he said that it would end in a massacre of Philippine forces.


Duterte’s ace card


Okay, so Duterte was bluffing… just joking again.  However, Xi knows he can’t go to war with the Philippines because Duterte has an ace card: the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), which calls for each party to come to the aid of the other in the event of an invasion from China or any other country for that matter. 


It's interesting to note that the anti-American leftists in the Philippines have tirelessly been demanding for the revocation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the U.S.  But what baffles a lot of people is that the leftists don’t demand the abrogation of the MDT.  Why?  Is it suffice to say that the Filipino people – including the leftists -- treat the MDT as an “insurance” from the threat of war by another country, particularly China?  


When the Philippine Senate rejected the renewal of U.S. bases in the country in 1991 and the closing of the bases the following year, China – within two years – occupied the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.  The Philippine government couldn’t do anything to stop the occupation.  China could then have invaded the country.  But the MDT deterred her.  Without it, the Philippines would have fallen easily to Chinese invasion.  The “insurance” worked. 


It’s interesting to note that the MDT also covers any Philippine naval vessel that is attacked in the high seas.  That is why the BPS Sierra Madre, a rusty vessel of World War II vintage, was purposely grounded at the Ayungin Shoal in 1999 with a contingent of Philippine marines stationed on board to keep the Chinese at bay.   China had incessantly demanded that the Philippines remove the grounded Sierra Madre.  They even offered to haul it away for free!   Obviously, once the Sierra Madre is removed, they can then occupy Ayungin Shoal without interference.   


Malacca Dilemma


But China isn’t ready to go to war against America.  Not yet.  It would take many years for China to catch up militarily with the U.S.   But because of China’s dependence on foreign oil that accounts for 80% of her oil consumption imported from the Middle East and Africa, China is inflicted psychologically with what is called “Malacca Dilemma.”  


The “Malacca Dilemma” is a term coined by former Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2003 on China’s over-reliance on the Malacca Straits where her oil imports from the Middle East and Africa pass through.  A conflict in the region or war with the U.S. would effect China’s geopolitical and energy strategies.  If war erupts between U.S. and China, the U.S. can block the chokepoint at the mouth of the Strait of Malacca and the Indian Ocean; thus, stopping all oil shipments to China.  It is estimated that China has strategic oil reserves that would last for only 10 days.  Without oil China would be paralyzed and rendered useless militarily. 


In my column, “Duterte’s red lines: Is it a joke?” (June13, 2018), I wrote: “When Duterte told Chinese President Xi Jinping during a recent trip to Beijing that the Philippines intended to drill in the Recto Bank, Xi told him: ‘We’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel with you, we want to maintain the presence of warm relationship, but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war.’  Whoa!  It must have hit Duterte like a double whammy!    


“In an effort to placate Xi and maintain a friendly relationship, Duterte offered to jointly explore and drill for oil in the Recto Bank on a 60-40 sharing deal. “China has offered joint exploration and joint operation. And I said, maybe, we give you [China] a better deal, 60-40,” Duterte told an audience on April 26.”


Clearly, China wouldn’t go to war against the U.S. and, by extension, the Philippines.  China couldn’t afford the economic loss she would incur if war erupts, which makes one wonder: How are the Philippines and China going to play their geopolitical chess game when Xi visits the Philippines?  And who is bluffing: Duterte or Xi?  Or both? (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


Published in Headline

Court martial readied over AFP hospital mess; top cops linked to AK 47 rifle row




PNP ANNIVERSARY. Despite the rain, President Duterte troop the line during the 117th Police Service Anniversary at the Philippine National Police  Headquarters in Camp  Crame, Quezon City. With the President is PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde. The President has brought his campaign against corruption in the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Military Academy where generals and ranking officers were sacked.


MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s campaign against corruption in government continues without letup and this time it involves institutions such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), the school for future soldiers in all branches of the Armed Forces.


In the AFP, Duterte fired  a general and at least 20 high-ranking officials and employees of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Health Service Command over alleged corruption at the AFP Medical Center popularly known as the V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City.


AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carliot Galvez Jr. said those sacked were Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, the Commander of the AFP Health Services Command, Col. Antonio Punzalan, the Commander of V. Luna Hospital, and around 20 others implicated in alleged corruption activities such as anomalous and ghost projects. They will all face court martial proceedings.


At the PNP, a Chief Superintendent (general) and some ranking officers were ordered dismissed over the anomalous issuance of AK-47 rifle licenses from August 2011 to April 2013 some of which were later found with New People's Army (NPA) rebels.


PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde identified the highest ranking PNP officer dismissed as Chief Superintendent Regino Catiis of the PNP directorate for human resource and doctrine development.


Others dismissed in the PNP were Superintendent Nelson Bautista of Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit, Superintendent Ricky Sumalde of the Criminal Investigation and Detective Ggroup, Chief Inspector Ricardo Zapata Jr. of PNP Region 3 (Central Luzon), Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto, SPO1 Randy Madiam De Sesto, and non-uniformed personnel Sol Bargan, all assigned in the Civil Security Group. 


At the PMA, meanwhile, ordered dismissed by Mr. Duterte was Maj. Hector Marana, a PMA comptroller, who has been charged with messing up P15 million supposedly for allowances of the PMA cadets.


Duterte announced and signed the dismissal order of Marana in the middle of his speech before businessmen at the launching of the “Pilipinas Angat Lahat” program in Malacañang.


The President also approved the recommendation of the military court to sentence Maraña to a prison term of six to 12 years. Marana was also charged with fraud, conduct unbecoming of an officer, and conduct prejudicial to good order.


Last week, Duterte fired all board members of Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) over a “grossly disadvantageous” 70-year property lease contract of its Paranaque City reclaimed property to a Hong Kong-based company which will put up a resort and casino there.


Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said corruption activities at the AFP Medical Center included anomalous purchases of equipment and fraudulent transaction, such as ghost purchases, splitting of contracts to circumvent the mandatory bidding processes, and conceiving fictitious suppliers. 


Roque said the AFP  has a report involving one ghost transaction involving P1.491 million but a larger report involving hundreds of millions of pesos will be released in due time.


“Tomorrow, they (AFP) will be releasing a larger report. The report that they have now only involves ghost transactions, ghost deliveries involving P1.491 million but there are (a) series of transactions involving almost hundreds of millions of pesos. So they will be releasing subsequent reports in due course,” Roque said.


"The AFP welcomes the pronouncement relieving from his post Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, the Commander of the AFP Health Services Command, and Col. Antonio Punzalan, the Commander of V. Luna Hospital, and around 20 others to face court martial proceedings," AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Galvez Jr. said.


The relief of these Gen. Torrelavega and other officials stemmed from the outcome of two different but parallel investigations ordered by the AFP chief of staff.


"The task to thoroughly collect material and relevant information regarding the case started sometime in the month of May 2018. The results of which I transmitted to Malacañang by way of a letter to the President sometime this month (August)," the AFP chief added.


The case against the AFP officers and men will be tried under the military justice system and the accused will face court martial proceedings where they will be given the opportunity to be heard, Galvez said, adding that they are charged with violation of Article of War 95 (Fraud against the Government).


Galvez said this is without prejudice to other infractions of the Articles of War that may have also been violated; and the accused military personnel’s right to due process.


"As the AFP chief-of-staff and like our Commander-in Chief, President Rodrigo Duterte, I am both saddened and offended by this report. I am not prejudging the named Officers and Enlisted Personnel as the would-be recommendations of the courts martial will be submitted to me for approval and further submission to the Commander-in-Chief for final approval," he added.


"But I commit to the members of the AFP, to the Filipino People, and to our beloved President and Commander-in-Chief that I will render justice to all concerned without undue haste. As the President said during the last SONA (State-of-the-Nation Address) corruption is corrosive. And the warning that— 'I will get you!' And I am one with him in that desire. At ito na yun," Galvez said.


In line with this and based on the investigation, the AFP chief said that he will order that reforms be instituted in the AFPHSC along with a major revamp in the unit to address the supposed systemic corruption there.


"I will cause the installation only of officers and staff with the necessary qualifications, competencies, integrity, and unquestionable reputation, to run this institution which is vital to the health and well-being of our personnel and their dependents," Galvez added


In Camp Crame in Quezon City, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said that Chief Supt. Catiis and the others dismissed will also suffer the penalty of forfeiture of retirement benefits, cancellation of eligibility, and disqualification from public office. 


The Ombudsman earlier ordered the police officers' dismissal.


Retired Chief Supt. Raul Delfin Petrasanta who previously headed the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office was also ordered dismissed. Petrasanta opted for early retirement last June 2017.


Meanwhile, retired Chief Supt. Allan Parreño had his compulsory retirement last December 2015.


SPO1 Eric Domasig Tan of PHAU was also included in the dismissal case but was already axed from the service in February 2018. He was also meted a fine equivalent to one year’s salary.


NUP Nora Pirote, who was also ordered dismissed, availed of optional retirement. Pirote was told to pay a fine equivalent to a one-year pay. 


Ombudsman records showed that firearms licenses were issued to Isidro Lozada after he facilitated the procurement of 1,400 units of AK-47s.
The Ombudsman said the requirements for license applications were incomplete and the guns were later found in the possession of CPP-NPA rebels

(Photo from Philippine Star)


Singer, comedienne and actress Ai Ai delas Alas and veteran actor Eddie Garcia won the Best Actress and Best Actor trophies in the just concluded Cinemalaya 2018 festival.


Ai Ai got the award for her role as the co-leader of a syndicate victimizing children in “School Service.” The film’s director, Louie Ignacio, accepted the trophy on her behalf as she was taping her variety show, “Sunday Pinasaya” for GMA Network during the award ceremonies at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Main Theater.


Eddie Garcia won for his role as the fragile-looking but beastly retired Colonel in the martial law-themed movie, “ML.”


It was gathered that the best actor award is the third award at the festival of Eddie, who is now 89. Festival records showed that Eddie first won a Cinemalaya Best Actor trophy in 2005 for “ICU Bed #7,” then in 2012 for “Bwakaw,” which won him the same honors at the 7th Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong.


Ketchup Eusebio was declared Best Supporting Actor for his role as loving son in “Mamang” while Therese Malvar won the Best Supporting Actress award for both roles in “Distance” and “School Service.”


Newcomer Che Espiritu won the Best Director award for “Pan De Salawal” whose story she wrote.


The  Best Film trophy went to  “Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon” directed by Carlo Enciso Catu, upsetting box-office leader and festival favorite “Liway,” which won the Audience Choice Award. “Kiko” won the Audience Choice Award for Short Features.


Winners of the technical awards were: Best Sound - “Musmos Na Sumibol Sa Gitna Ng Digma;” Best Musical Score - “Pan De Salawal;” Best Production Design - Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon; Best Editing - ML.


Best Cinematography and Best Screenplay went to “Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon;” while the Best Screenplay for Shorts Features was awarded to “Sa Iyang Isla.”


The Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Awards were given to “Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon’ for Full-length and “Sa Iyang Isla” for Shorts.


Special Jury Awards winners were “Pan De Salawal” for Full-length and “Si Astri Maka Si Tambulah” for Shorts.


A Special Jury Commendation was handed to “Liway.”


Children who starred in the entries were also given Special Jury Award for Acting – Kenken Nuyad as Dakip in “Liway” and as one of the kid beggars in “School Service”; JM Salvado in “Musmos Na Sumibol Sa Gitna Ng Digma”; and Miel Espinosa for “Pan De Salawal.”


Other Shorts winners were “Jodilerks Dela Cruz, Employee of The Month” as Best Film; Xeph Suarez, Best Director for Si Astri Maka Si Tambulah.


Nespresso Awards were also given out:  Best Picture to “SLN;” “Braveheart,” 2nd Prize; and “Ako.”


The international-winning Mandaluyong Children’s Choir sang the Cinemalaya theme song at the start of the ceremonies.


Founder Antonio “Tonyboy” Conjuangco also graced the occasion along with CCP chairperson Margie Moran-Floirendo and other festival and center officials.


Here's a full list of winners:

  • Audience Choice Award (Short Feat): KIKO by Jojo Driz
  • Audience Choice Award (Full-length): LIWAY by Kip Oebanda
  • Best Sound (Full-length): WILDSOUND for Musmos na Sumibol sa Gubat ng Digma
  • Best Original Music Score (Full-length): LEN CALVO for Pan De Salawal
  • Best Production Design (Full-length): Marielle Hizon for Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon
  • Best Editing (Full-length): Mikael Pestano for ML
  • Best Cinematography (Full-length): NEIL DAZA for Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon
  • Best Screenplay (Short-Feature): SA SAIYANG ISLA by Christian Candelaria
  • Best Screenplay (Full-length): JOHN CARLO PACALA for Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon
  • Best Supporting Actor (Full-length): KETCHUP EUSEBIO for Mamang
  • Best Supporting Actress (Full-length): THERESE MALVAR for Distance and School Service
  • NETPAC Jury Award (Short Feature): SA SAIYANG ISLA by Christian Candelaria
  • NETPAC Jury Award (Full-length): KUNG PAANO HINIHINTAY ANG DAPITHAPON by Carlo Catu
  • Best Actor (Full-length): EDDIE GARCIA for ML
  • Best Actress (Full-length): AI-AI DELAS ALAS for School Service
  • Special Jury Award for Acting: KENKEN NUYAD for Liway and School Service, MIEL ESPINOSA for  Pan De Salawal, and JM Salvado for Musmos na Sumibol Sa Gubat ng Digma and Pan De Salawal
  • Special Jury Commendation: LIWAY by Kip Oebanda
  • Special Jury Award (Short Feature): SI ASTRI MAKA SI TAMBULAH by Xeph Suarez
  • Special Jury Award (Full-length): Pan De Salawal by Che Espiritu
  • Best Director (Short Feature): XEPH SUAREZ for Si Astri Maka Si Tambulah
  • Best Director (Full-length): CHE ESPIRITU for Pan De Salawal
  • Best Film (Short Feature): JODILERKS DELA CRUZ, EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH by Carlo Francisco Manatad
  • Best Film (Full-length): KUNG PAANO HINIHINTAY ANG DAPITHAPON by Carlo Catu


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