The ICC has no business meddling in our country

Th International Criminal Court must realize by now that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte hardly fits into the mold of the criminal tyrants that it needs to prosecute and convict.

Why?

How can you call a leader who is so well-loved by his people at a time when the term “lameduck” should be hanging heavy on his chest?

We have seen criminal tyrants in the world, and we know how repugnant their deeds have been. But these tyrants murdered their people on a whim, often on account of religious beliefs. We have seen wholesale massacres that didn’t spare women, children and the elderly. Such leaders must indeed be held to account for their evil acts.

President Duterte, however, is not like that. If there are victims of extra-judicial killings, a vast majority of them can be attributed to their involvement in illegal drugs and criminality. Fighting illegal drugs is a messy chore. Bloodshed is always an accessory to the trade, with many killings perpetrated by the syndicates. The Filipino people know that, and President Duterte is being accused of encouraging police action to eliminate drug pushers, they apparently support and condone it.

An emotional moment for Filipinos

The final State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday, July 26, 2021, would rank as the most watched and applauded event in his five-year reign. Despite the usual detours from his prepared speech, and the laborious length of about two hours and 40 minutes, Duterte’s SONA accomplished what every speech should: PENETRATE THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE AUDIENCE.

Millions of Filipinos became teary-eyed as President Duterte confessed the job was harder than he had expected, aggravated by Covid 19 and a string of natural calamities. One could easily see the frustration and lament — and he did use the word “lamentation” — in the man who risked everything to bring about the radical changes needed to set the nation on a straight course toward a prosperous nation.

It didn’t fit the standards by which politicians and journalists and academics would want to see in a SONA. But that is immaterial. President Duterte drew praises ordinary Filipinos here and abroad. Throughout the last five years, President Duterte defied conventions. He flirted with the law, pushed it hard to the limits, each time triggering angry shouts of protests from opposition politicians and human rights groups.

The President put things in right perspective when he said: “They clamor for the protection of human rights. I want to protect human lives.” Indeed, the tragedy that have befallen on the victims of drug-induced rapes and murders are never articulated in the protestations of these hypocrites. Neither have they presented ideas on how to curb the illegal drugs problem.

When he promised to stop illegal drugs, President Duterte thought he could put the Davao model into action for the entire Philippines. It is no secret that in Davao City, involvement in illegal drugs was a magnet to police operations that often had violent endings. He had miscalculated the problem.

The illegal drugs trade enjoyed protection at the highest levels of government. He discovered that nine police generals were behind the extensive protection racket with tentacles in the Bureau of Customs. Had he dug deeper, he would be shocked to know that a senator was a giant wall upon which drug lords had depended on protection.

President Duterte has one more year in office, and with this outpouring of support during his last SONA, I hope to see him take firmer action against illegal drugs and corruption. Both are closely intertwined. It would be good to see cases filed against the real criminals in society — the architects of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Tiktokers for #MamaLeni

All of a sudden, social media was awashed with tiktok videos extolling the virtues of Leni Robredo!

It was as if these young content creators who have gained wide viewership with short clips that are funny found the holy grail for their genre.

By its nature, Tiktok videos are incongruent with politics. It’s like mixing oil and water.

But in their desperation, the PR handlers of Robredo offered these kids — yes literally kids as in minors — oodles of money to create Tiktok videos about her and boost her poor image with less than 10 months before the elections.

Well, this PR effort fell on its face almost as soon as it began.

With the deluge of Leni Tiktok videos, it became apparent that this was a giant attempt to keep the vice president’s hopes for a Malacanang bid in the 2022 elections alive.

There wasn’t even a smooth transition to disguise the marketing campaign. What they could have done was begin with just one, then two, then three Tiktok creators to make it appear like it was an idea that caught fire. That it was organized, with plenty of money, wasn’t hard to unravel.

Worse, one young Tiktoker came out on Facebook to squeal on the offer made to him to join the “bandwagon” — a P15,000 fee to put Robredo into his content. “My politics is not for sale,” he said.

It’s funny how the dilawans accuse pro-Duterte supporters as state-funded trolls, and then be exposed as putting into motion a glaring troll farm, recruiting many minors in the process and corrupting their minds with instant cash. Hasn’t it occured to them that this is detestable? More odd is the fact that mainstream media has kept quiet about a program to corrupt young minds for dilawan politics!

1Sambayan is a sunken derelict

Senator Ping Lacson is out of the game, as far as 1Sambayan convenor Antonio Carpio announced. That’s because Lacson “excluded” himself from the nomination process. Besides, Lacson has announced he is running. That makes the point of being considered by 1Sambayan moot and academic, the retired Supreme Court justice added.

It was funny reading this on the news because 1Sambayan has ceased to be relevant long ago. Carpio is trying to make 1Sambayan look as if it could still lure more politicians to join its nomination process when it has been stuck up with just two names: Robredo and Trillanes.

Apparently, presidential probables regard 1Sambayan as a sunken derelict, rusting, and its structure more like an artificial reef in the waters of Manila Bay. With Lacson announcing his candidacy, the entire playbook of 1Sambayan is ruined. It was anchored on the premise that the opposition — the term to describe any candidate that would challenge the administration — should have only one candidate. That’s to avoid slicing the pie thinner and thinner against a formidable opponent.

Troll farms

By last count, 13 senators have signed the resolution calling for yet another investigation into allegations that public funds are being used for the operation of “troll farms” that purportedly manufacturers an endless stream of fake news to prop the image of the Duterte administration and bash its political opponents.

With elections just beyond the horizon — nine months and a few days — this initiative led by LIberal Party senators apparently wants to disable any such capability to influence the public mind on issues. It is fueled by the results of the latest Pulse Asia survey showing incumbent senators at the bottom of the heap facing a real threat of being wiped out of the upper house.

These senators are barking at the wrong tree. “Troll farms” are supposed to manufacture fake news and flood the social media streams to control the flow of public thought. But looking at what is happening in the country and its state of affairs, there is no need for troll farms, and fake news, because good news is flowing with abundance on a daily basis. And the good news is propagated by real Filipinos who want to defend the Duterte administration against the daily slew of disinformation and fake news from the opposite side of the fence.

There are trolls and there are trolls on both sides of the fence. Is there government funding for the pro-Duterte trolls? Maybe. But I don’t think it can be established unless the Senate employs high-tech forensics experts to trace the URLs of known troll accounts. Do these senators think any of the computers used for such a propaganda operation could be traced to Malacanang? I doubt it. Why work from a place that would compromise the operation?

These senators have short memories. About a decade ago, a controversy erupted over the discovery that the office of then Palace communications guru Ricky Carandang was engaged in “social media” propaganda. Carandang purchased expensive Apple Macbooks and Blackberrys for his staff to ensure a steady flow of propaganda on Facebook and Twitter. IG wasn’t born yet, and YouTube not as popular as it is now.

Now that was a real state-funded troll farm. If it’s just putting out press releases and feed to mainstream media, two or three good writers would have sufficed. There really wasn’t that much news emanating from Malacanang anyway. Carandang’s use of social media was pioneering in government propaganda. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t last long in the job. So many controversies enveloped him because of his arrogance, and he was ultimately shown the exit door.

As I mentioned in my YouTube livestream, it is the oligarchy-backed opposition that has a massive infrastructure for fake news. It might not fit into the description of troll farms, but the objective is no different — to misinform and mislead. Mainstream media and celebrities are at the forefront of this high-end troll farm, especially ABS-CBN.

Lest we forget, ABS-CBN, with the guidance of Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte, engineered the fake ambush on Miss Kim Chiu on March 4, 2020. With the lights on its franchise dimming, ABS-CBN was scrambling for ideas on how to destabilize the Duterte administration and force his ejection from office. The effort was a flop. And I exposed the fakery of the entire operation.

Lacson-Sotto tandem has pre-empted Robredo, Trillanes and company

The announcement was scheduled for August 4, or two weeks from now. But Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and his partner, Senate President Tito Sotto III, couldn’t contain their excitement and revealed two days ago that their plan to seek the two highest positions in the country is a go. That it came in the form of a text message to media organizations didn’t diminish the impact of their decision. All of a sudden, it’s all hell has broken loose among the forces seeking to defeat the Duterte administration’s candidate.

The entry of the PISOT (this is one of the ACRONYMS coined by netizens) tandem is a monkey-wrench into the playbook of 1Sambayan and Liberal Party that premised its battle on a single-candidate only to challenge the administration. This early, administration probables have posted a commanding lead: Mayor Sara Duterte has consistently led the last few surveys with 25 to 28% while former Senator Bongbong Marcos was at a tie for second place with Senator Grace Poe at 13%. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao are also in the lead pack.

Lacson got only 4% in the latest Pulse Asia survey in a statistical tie with Vice President Leni Robredo. If both run, then they will have to fight for the bread crumbs while the administration delights in the largest slice of the pie. Hence, it is not hard to understand the call for a single candidate only for the opposition.

The obvious question that must be asked: Where is Lacson going to get the billions of pesos needed to fuel the campaign? Do they have secret backers from the business community that have assured them of the resources they will need? A presidential campaign, one that would challenge the party in power, is hard and costly. President Duterte attracted support from San Miguel’s Ramon Ang in 2016, according to the grapevine, which is why he managed to build a solid campaign organization nationwide.

Or could it be funding from abroad? At this time, with the political picture showing an almost certain victory for the administration, the usual political bets from big business are likely to go dry. The survey numbers of Lacson aren’t encouraging at all, and it is much too risky for Filipino businessmen to throw support behind him.

Right now, the only possible domestic backer would be the group of Manny Pangilinan that continues to covet the oil and gas underneath the West Philippine Sea. But 1Sambayan already holds the purse from this group. Will Lacson make an about-face and accept support from a group that includes leftists and petitioners against the Anti-Terror Law that he authored?

One thing is certain for me now: Robredo will not run. The future has turned pitch dark for her with this PISOT tandem coming into the playing arena. What about Trillanes? Well, knowing him to be a fool, he might just well run for the heck of it.

Numbers crunching time for Leni Robredo

Business executives call it “numbers crunching”.

It’s a time for them to review their balance sheets and make decisions about next courses of action. In business, it’s always about making profits.

Politicians also do numbers crunching – scrutinizing poll surveys and analyzing what is going well and what is not. For politicians with intentions on running in the May 9, 2022 elections, the last six months are likely to have been spent doing just that — crunching numbers. There is a science in poll surveys that cannot be taken lightly, and these periodic samplings of the voters’ pulse have become a reliable gauge to guide campaign strategies. The poll surveys can also be a guide on whether to run or not.

This is now the difficult task for Vice President Leni Robredo.

Her numbers have been consistently low for the last five years. It’s a reason for worry because her images have been literally plastered all over mainstream media, and so much airtime have been alloted for interviews for the mileage every politician covets. That has been reinforced by a social media program on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Such exposure is more than enough to put Robredo among the frontrunners at this time.

It’s clear her marketing strategy and tactics have nothing to show as results. It is becoming clear those relentless efforts at winning the hearts and minds of Filipino voters have failed. Her last poll survey rating of 6% in distant sixth place is discouraging.

In an interview with Christian Esguerra on ANC’s “After the Fact” on Tuesday night, Ms. Robredo had to admit this is what is making it hard for her to decide on whether to run or not. She cannot hope to accomplish a repeat performance of her 2016 vice presidential bid where she started off at 1% one year before the elections. At the time, she was unknown, and only her brand as the widow of the late Jesse Robredo gave her the slightest name recognition.

The political landscape is vastly different, Ms. Robredo confessed.

In 2016, she was running only for Vice President. She belonged to an administration party that controlled vast resources, not to mention the overflowing campaign kitty raised from the Disbursement Acceleration Program with the help of Janet Lim Napoles. The political machinery down to the barangay level was colossal. And there was the magic carpet she was made to ride by Andy Bautista to propel her past Bongbong Marcos — Smartmatic.

Today, the Liberal Party is in shambles. Even the incumbent Senators eligible to run again are almost certain to lose in next year’s elections. Janet Lim Napoles is now in prison. And the death of its leader, former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, last month didn’t lift the image of the dilawan political brand as many followers had hoped. Its last standard bearer, Mar Roxas, has hung up his gloves. He is now busy playing with his kids, obviously trying to overcome depression. Roxas is dejected about being rejected thrice

And the bottomline, now virtually alone to face the battle, Ms. Robredo doesn’t have the money to mount a nationwide campaign. There is nothing in the horizon that can serve as a beacon of hope.

These are factors that are swirling in Ms. Robredo’s mind now as we approach the period for filing of certificates of candidacy on October 1-8. That’s only two and a half months away. If this were a game of chess, Ms. Robredo has only a minute left on her clock with a most disadvantageous position.

Defeat is certain if she runs; her pride would be wounded severely if she backs out of the game.

My unsolicited advice is that she should withdraw from the race right away. It would be unfair for the opposition to be kept waiting. Only a miracle can change the equation. Maybe she is still hopeful President Duterte will be forced out of office, or even die, to pave the way for succession.

But that is not going to change the outcome at the polls, because the Fiilipino people will get angrier if her wish is granted. It will be a political tsunami that will sweep her in defeat in the unlikely event that happens.

Covid 19, Sara Duterte and running an LGU

With Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio almost a runaway winner for next year’s presidential elections at 28% in the latest Pulse Asia Research survey, it isn’t surprising at all that all guns are now being trained on her in a desperate bid to shoot down her possible candidacy.

Since three weeks ago, Mayor Inday has been visiting various parts of the country meeting with local leaders, and it didn’t take long before the purpose of her cross-country trips was to solicit feedback to help her decide on whether to heed the clamor or not.

Until her visit to Cebu City last July 9, Mayor Inday has been coy about the possibility of running for President. Her father, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, has expressed opposition to the idea, saying the Presidency isn’t for women, and he didn’t want to see his daughter suffer the insufferable insults and criticism that comes with the job description.

At the start of the year, when her name was on top of a Pulse Asia survey, Mayor Inday declared she had no intention to run and asked poll survey companies to remove her name from the list of probables shown to respondents.

It isn’t known if this request was heeded by the survey firms. But just the same, these survey outfits allow respondents to list down names of their preferences if he or she does not appear in their list.

Her name simply can’t stay off the lists of probables, and neither did it change in her topmost ranking. She emerged number one in the Pulse Asia survey for the first quarter of 2021 released last April. After a lapse of three months, Mayor Inday’s position stood in that same number one position.

Apparently, the clamor had reached a crescendo, making it difficult for her to ignore it. About three weeks ago, pictures of her visiting the family of San Pedro City vice mayor Art Mercado circulated on Facebook. Her trips were quite low-profile, with indications of where she had gone to visit only coming out in social media posts.

It was in Cebu City when Mayor Inday finally faced the media and admitted that she was “open” to the possibility of running for President and succeed her father.

Understandably, that drove the opposition nuts. When a possible presidential candidate could attract such strong support without even declaring her intention speaks volumes about where it would ultimately bring her — a landslide victory. It would be safe to assume that in the next survey cycle, her lead in the polls will get a tremendous boost, and her numbers could only go up more.

Hence, it’s not surprising to see a barrage of criticism levelled against her for supposedly going away for these consultation trips while her city is confronted by the Covid 19 threat. Without a doubt, her consultation visits are now seen as a real threat to their own political ambitions. Sara’s increased visibility in other parts of the country can only result in attracting wider support, and cause their own plans to evaporate into thin air.

The answer to these criticisms is a no brainer. As local chief executive, Mayor Inday can run the City of Davao as effectively if she were in the foothills of Mt. Pinatubo as she could from City Hall. In case these critics are still ignorant about technology (which is, of course, not true) a chief executive remains in charge of the LGU without having to stay in the city hall physically. With Zoom, virtual face-to-face meetings are now ordinary activities. Constituents can bring their complaints and appeals for help through Facebook, Twitter or even Instagram.

In short, it makes no difference anymore whether Mayor Inday stays in Davao 24/7 physically or not. She can make her presence virtually felt 24/7 through social media. And decisions can be made as quickly on virtual platforms as when she is inside the Mayor’s office.

And, Mayor Inday can delegate the day-to-day management of City Hall to her Vice Mayor. She said she has filed leaves of absences for the periods covering her trips. From the purview of the Local Government Code, she is not doing anything wrong.

If her absence from Davao on these short trips might look detrimental to the welfare of her constituents, the complaints should come from them, and not from politicians who are getting jittery about Mayor Inday growing stronger by the day.

Nokia, the Liberal Party and why Leni Robredo is destined to lose

Not too long ago, Nokia was the giant in the telecommunications industry. Almost everyone owned a Nokia, although there were other brands in the market (Alcatel, Sony Ericsson and Motorola among others). Before that, Motorola was the king in the market. But where are these brands now? Almost gone to oblivion.

The market is now dominated by Apple, Samsung and Huawei. With rapid advances in technology, these companies introduce upgraded models to give consumers more choices and better capabilites. The first smart phones were packed by more computing power than the massive main-frame computers packed into buildings for the Apollo missions that ultimately took man to the moon. In a span of one decade, that power tripled and quadrupled and more.

Twenty-five years ago, nobody could have foreseen that the Nokia 3300 hand-held phone was a dinosaur of a gadget for a brand that almost vanished entirely from the face of the earth. Nokia is still around, but its efforts to regain its foothold in the market have accomplished so little. The Finnish company became so comfortable in its position as market leader it ignored warning signals that the telecommunications industry was about to experience tectonic shifts.

In politics, the fate of Nokia is the same thing that has befallen to the Liberal Party, the once great political party that produced Presidents, Senators and Congressmen over 75 years ago. It reached its peak when the late Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III was propelled to the highest post of the land in the 2010 elections, with much help from the emotional outpouring of Filipinos upon the death of his mother, the late Corazon C. Aquino.

As the party in power in 2010, the Liberal Party had everything a political power could possibly desire. The yellow ribbon became a national icon which became popular as windshield and bumper stickers. Dilawan was a label worn with pride. It looked like the victory of Aquino was the start of a long era of rule for the LP, with Mar Roxas getting ready to succeed his political and personal friend by 2016.

But the arrogance of power corrupted the Liberal Party. It became consumed by desire to perpetuate itself in power. How else to better accomplish that than corrupting the democratic institutions to remove any and all obstacles to feed that hunger. Thus was born the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a thinly disguised scheme to destroy the enemies of the Liberal Party and reward its allies with pieces of silver, so to speak. Stealing from the public treasury was given legitimacy, albeit for a short period of time only.

As this was happening, Mr. Aquino’s weaknesses as a leader unravelled one after another. It started with the Luneta hostage incident that resulted in the death of eight tourists as well as the disgrunted policeman who had hijacked their chartered bus. Poor judgment and inability to put the right people for a tough job began to emerge as the trademark of the Aquino administration. The problems started to pile up: the MRT and LRT frequently broke down because of mismanagement and corruption, the illegal drugs situation worsened, Yolanda relief and rehabilitation was bungled, the infamous Mamasapano massacre that took the lives of 44 SAF troopers, and Dengvaxia, just to name a few.

Against this backdrop of corruption and incompetence, the nation saw an ambitious Mar Roxas showing insensitivity to what was happening and just keep his eyes on the Presidency in 2016.

Essentially, like Nokia, the Liberal Party forgot to look at the rapidly changing environment and adapt to the people’s needs and wants. The people were disillusioned, and yet, LP ignored the writing on the wall. LP believed nothing could stop its goal of becoming the party in power for decades to come because of the overflowing campaign warchest it had amassed from Janet Lim Napoles and the DAP. It believed its own propaganda that yellow symbolized clean and honest government, when the exact opposite was being exposed.

Illegal drugs and criminality made the Philippines a dangerous place in the minds and hearts of most Filipinos. The people saw through the propaganda and understood drug lords were becoming the power elite that funded politicians like Leila de Lima. If the Aquino government didn’t want to take action, then the people took matters into their own hands. Their weapon: the ballot.

Somehow, that lesson didn’t sink into the minds of the Liberal Party. Its leaders still held on to the notion that the color yellow was an effective marketing tool for their brand of governance. In 2019, the party managed to field only eight candidates. Towards the end of the campaign, Roxas detached himself from the LP line-up and declared he was an independent candidate. He realized, too late, that the “dilawan” label was a ticket to defeat. Roxas suffered the worst fate a politician can experience — losing as Vice President, President and Senator.

Roxas predicted correctly that the Otso Deretso was headed for disaster; he failed to bail out before their plane plummeted to the sea of political doom.

The Liberal Party became the Nokia of politics. Once dominant, now a symbol for dinosaur politics. Not even the death of their leader, Noynoy Aquino, breathed new life into the party as what many of them had hoped.

The handlers of Vice President Leni Robredo refused to heed the lessons of the last two elections. Political scientist Dr. Julio Teehankee had warning the other month that the “dilawans” needed to change their narrative in order to regain bouyancy in the turbulent seas of politics. Teehankee pointedly told the dilawans their usual “Duterte is bad” messaging wasn’t working. The dilawans needed to demonstrate what they could do differently and persuade Filipinos voters to give them a second chance. His advice fell on deaf ears.

With less than 10 months to go before election day, the challenge confronting the Liberal Party and their allies is like raising Lazarus from the dead. The poll surveys have been consistent: Robredo struggled to keep her head above water in rough seas. Her last poll showed a slight slip from 8 to 6 percent. It was funny how her spokesman, Atty. Barry Gutierrez could even describe that as “respectable”.

Robredo should get out of the game while there is time. To run and lose is to validate what most Filipinos have long believed — she had won the vice presidency through cheating.

Why did Ping Lacson suddenly end his “Tour of Luzon”?

It was supposed to be a wide-ranging consultation with local leaders in various provinces of Luzon, a process that could take weeks and months, to enable Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and his purported running mate, Senate President Tito Sotto, to get a sense of what they think are his chances if and when he decides to run for President.

The “tour” started in the historic Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan where the duo had their pictures taken while praying at a pew. That was a Thursday, July 8. To everybody’s surprise, the news coverage ended up Lacson put out a press release from a La Union stop-over in which he described the May 9, 2022 elections as the most serious and important in recent Philippine history. Sotto announced he and Lacson will make an announcement on August 5, 2021 on their decision.

Have they cut short their consultations and already weigh the feedback they have gathered in only three days? There is no word their trip to the Ilocos provinces had gone ahead as scheduled. How about the Visayas and Mindanao? Will they no longer seek feedback from the rest of the nation? Are the three days enough to make a decision?

My gut feel is that three days in Bulacan, Pangasinan and La Union gave them enough evidence that running for President and Vice President would be an exercise in futility. Lacson wasn’t in the top 5 among presidential probables, securing a place a notch lower than Leni Robredo. Knowing how unpopular Robredo is, and seeing himself earn a slot slightly below her is a telling blow that could not be ignored.

It’s not as if Lacson lacked media exposure in a way that Filipino voters haven’t had an opportunity to size him up. Lacson was active in his work in the Senate. He took active part in Senate investigations and always asked scalpel-like questions. The Pulse Asia survey showed Lacson enjoyed 99% awareness level. Hence, his poor performance in the latest survey suggests that despite his posturing at every opportunity, his efforts to persuade voters that he is presidential timber didn’t achieve the desired results.

Lacson said it’s either the Presidency or retirement. He’s eligible to seek re-election. And the poll survey showed that if he ran for re-election,, he would be a shoo-in for another six-year term. He is tied for 8th to 11th places in the survey, and that could be reinforced with good campaigning.

What this tells me is that Filipino voters believe Lacson has done an excellent job as legislator, and they would gladly vote for him again. But very few — 4% — believe he has the right stuff to become President. Perhaps it is an issue of trust. There’s something about his eyes that makes many people nervous. Are the ghosts of his past as police officer haunting him? Maybe. But a dagger-look in the eyes does send a chilling sensation to ordinary people. It is a cause for discomfort.

Let’s wait and see. Aug. 5 is less than three weeks away.