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Trillanes can’t find new issue with Duterte, questions order to shut down Boracay

PHILIPPINES-POLITICS-CRIME-RIGHTS-TRILLANES

Photo credit: Getty Images

 

Senator Antonio Trillanes must be struggling to stay relevant in Philippine political discourse. His unending tirades against President Rodrigo Duterte hardly stirred any reactions from a public gone weary on his loud-mouthed but otherwise empty rhetorics. No matter how explosive he might sound with his tirades, these are greeted with yawns from the people. That must really be frustrating for Trillanes. Nothing he has hurled against Mr. Duterte has landed a solid punch; not even a dent has been caused on the public image of the President.

This guy’s credibility level is sub-zero!

And so I was more amused than irritated when I came across a story that Trillanes has questioned the “real motive” in the President’s order to close down Boracay for six months and give it the breathing spell to recover from the environmental woes it is suffering. The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as saying:

“I will question the real motive kung bakit ipinasara ang Boracay. Hindi ako naniniwala na environmentalist ito si Mr. Duterte,” said Trillanes, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.

(I will question the real motive behind the closure of Boracay. I don’t believe that Mr. Duterte is an environmentalist.)

Well, Trillanes can question the motive of the President, and entertain himself. But this tough decision is a necessary step to stop the environmental degradation that has happened in Boracay over the years. The problem has been there for decades. To his credit, only President Duterte has shown the political will to tackle the bull by the horns. Now everybody is moving in concert to save Boracay. Years of official neglect are now being rectified.

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Which side are we on?

I am confused.
When Iloilo City was hit by a spate of murders by gunmen riding-in-tandem, apparently upon orders of drug syndicates and their corrupt protectors, there was no outcry.
I was even sued by Jed Patrick Mabilog for libel for labelling him as a crime protector.
And now La Salle and Ateneo communities are being agitated to wear black to protest the so-called extra judicial killings!
Which side are we on?
I know there are vigilante killings. But these have been going on for decades now. It’s not as if Duterte gave birth to it.
But most of the deaths in the war against illegal drugs resulted from legitimate operations.
To prove that legitimacy, we just need to count the number of PNP and PDEA agents who have died in the line of fire.
Those guys who continue to peddle shabu and other illicit drugs are desperate. They will kill to keep on with their trade. They know the authorities are hot on their trail, and they will do business armed and dangerous.
The Duterte administration should not relent on its war against illegal drugs. It must keep up the momentum. This is a fight to the finish.

Is Binay making a break-away?

Two national newspapers, The Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star, reported on a Pulse Asia presidential survey conducted on December 4-11, 2015 showing that Vice President Jojo Binay has regained the lead among the contenders to become the next President of the Republic.

The survey was done nationwide with 1,800 respondents. It showed that if elections were held during the survey period, Binay would get 33% of the people’s vote.

Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Grace Poe were statistically tied at second place, with Duterte getting 23% and Poe, 21%.

The administration’s candidate, Mar Roxas, was fourth with 17%. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago rounded up the field with 4% of the projected vote.

This survey result validates my blog post last week that Binay has hit rock bottom while Roxas has hit the ceiling. Binay can’t possibly sink lower than the 31% he previously obtained while Roxas would have a hard time rising above 15%. The 2% improvement he achieved isn’t going to make a difference as the race is about to formally start on February 9, 2016.

This makes the efforts of the administration to eliminate the leading contenders through disqualification futile. Even if Poe and Duterte are disqualified, Binay would remain in the race because he cannot be charged formally before the Sandiganbayan on account of his immunity from suit. This means the idea of dislodging Binay by locking him up in jail before the elections is wishful thinking.

Roxas cannot hope to attract the Poe and Duterte votes if and when these two are eliminated from the presidential derby. A minimum of 80% of the Poe and Duterte votes will shift to Binay. What we’re seeing is a national expression of disapproval for Roxas, and there’s no way it would change in the home stretch.

This is the fundamental mistake in the political strategy of the administration. Roxas could not win by destroying his rivals before the court of public opinion and through legal means. The Liberal Party was overpowered by its own arrogance and believing its own propaganda that the “matuwid na daan” was making people happy.

The only way for Roxas to win under the circumstances is change the rules to “pirdi-gana”, a term used in the Filipino game of “dama” where the losing side in the end will emerge as winner.

The way things are going, the PCOS would not even be able to salvage a victory for him, because when the lead is so big, cheating would only spark violence and unrest for the nation.

But of course we can never underestimate Roxas and the Liberal Party: They might sacrifice the nation for their own personal ambition and survival.

Varnished

(Coffeebreak, December 15, 2015)

Mar Roxas has a simple game plan in his bid to become the next President of the Republic of the Philippines: varnish his image with artificial gloss and eliminate his rivals through a host of legal maneuvers.

We’ve already seen Roxas lift a sack of rice. Also garlic. He tried his hand at being a firefighter and a traffic aide under the rain. He played the role of an ice carver, and even posed on a block of ice lying on his side for photographers. He pedaled a pedicab. And the list is growing longer and longer.

But these are cheap gimmicks that only boomeranged on Roxas the moment pictures came out on social media. Much as he tried to mimic the acts of ordinary Filipinos who have to endure backbreaking work to survive, there is simply no way Roxas could pass for one. That he was born rich, and never had to wonder where his next meal would come from, was glaring from the onset of such efforts.

These last few days, Roxas was again under fire in social media.

This time, he came under heavy criticism for labeling himself as a “Wharton graduate” in his curriculum vitae. It was another deceitful claim to add luster to his name, which had struggled to rise past the 15% mark in survey after survey.

While it was not entirely false, it was a misrepresentation. That’s because “Wharton graduates” in the layman’s understanding refer to those who have obtained their MBAs from this prestigious school in the University of Pennsylvannia.

Roxas earned his undergraduate degree from Wharton-UPenn without distinction. It was an education that his wealthy status made possible for him. Of course, he had to study hard to complete the baccalaureate degree. However, it didn’t give him a distinction that MBAs from this college are accorded with respect and admiration.

Wharton alumni always accompany its name with the extension, “UPenn.” But in the case of Roxas, he merely put Wharton as his alma mater, giving the impression that he finished his MBA there.

The Wharton MBA program is considered one of the premier training grounds for corporate executives, almost at par with the Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business. Yale and Northwestern University have similar programs that are regarded as topnotch.

That’s why a Wharton MBA is given a premium when it appears on a young corporate upstart’s curriculum vitae. It is regarded as a badge of distinction. It is a symbol of an individual’s capability to analyze complex problems and provide leadership in any organization.

It is not to denigrate the undergraduate program at Wharton. But in the scheme of things, a holder of a bachelor’s degree from Wharton can never be placed in the same platform. In experience, training and leadership capability, the Wharton MBA will be two or three notches above a B.S. degree holder.

I can’t blame Roxas though for trying to sneak this through.

He needs to shellac his image as he enters the home stretch of the presidential race. The official campaign period for national candidates won’t kick off until February 9, 2016, but the contenders for the presidency have been barnstorming around the country for months now. And yet, Roxas remains a poor third or fourth in the surveys. His ratings have hit the ceiling at 15%.

Nothing seems to work for Roxas.

His endorser, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, had hoped Roxas’s numbers would rise after he raised the Liberal Party’s standard bearer last September 30. Since then, Roxas has tapped celebrity endorsements, including a music video featuring the talents of ABS-CBN. Roxas has also the backing of congressmen, governors and mayors.

Despite all these efforts to catapult Roxas to the front of the race, he struggles to rise above his current survey rating of only 15%. In a manner of speaking, he has hit the ceiling. He continues to eat the dust of Davao City mayor Digong Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and even the battle-scarred Vice President Jojo Binay.

Clearly, Roxas has a serious problem. How can he expect to become President when he can’t even come close enough to winning against his opponents? With less than one-fourth of the projected votes, he can’t even be regarded as a serious contender.

Of course there’s the elimination game ala “trip to Jerusalem” that the Liberal Party is playing. There’s a good chance Senator Grace Poe might be disqualified. Duterte, too, will face the same troubles. And knowing the LP’s determination to ram through its effort to win the Presidency for Roxas by hook or by crook, Duterte’s being swept aside from the race is not remote.

The scenario that’s being set should leave Roxas standing alone in the ring.

But wait, there’s still Binay. After a whole year of bashing and harassing the brown-skinned man from Makati City hasn’t been knocked down. In fact, Binay remains ahead of Roxas in the surveys — way ahead.

This presents a tough problem for Roxas: if the LP succeeds in eliminating Poe and Duterte, it can’t just get rid of Binay. That’s because the scenario calls for Binay being thrown in jail. And Binay enjoys immunity from suit. He can’t be charged criminally until after June 30, 2016.

In short, Binay’s name will remain a contender for the Presidency on May 16, 2016. He has 31% of the projected vote if elections are held today. If Poe and Duterte and DQ’d, I can bet most of their votes will go for Binay. It’s not because people don’t believe Binay is corrupt; but Filipinos believe Roxas will make a worse President than Mr. Aquino.

From a rock-bottom of 31%, Binay has the potential to rise above the 51% mark on election day to win majority of the votes cast. Roxas will be left eating more dust than he did when Binay beat him for the Vice Presidency in 2010.

It becomes clear that no matter how coats of shellac or varnish Roxas puts on his name, he still won’t be able to remove the people’s dislike for him. He can spray himself with all the best known deodorizers, but the rotten smell of a bad President simply won’t disappear.

‘Tough’ Mar Roxas?

After two days of deliberating his next move, Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas has publicly announced he is ready to face Davao City mayor and rival candidate Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte to a slapping match.

Apparently, Roxas wants to appear, and sound, tough to level up to the stature of Duterte, who has drawn millions of admirers across the country for his street puncher image.

But it’s too late for Roxas to change his image as a soft-palmed scion of a wealthy family. If he was tough, he could have demonstrated that trait when he was DILG secretary and crushed criminal syndicates, including the known drug lords in Iloilo City.

Sorry, Mr. Roxas. Being tough isn’t just a matter of cheap talk. That image is drawn from a person’s character. You have always looked like a weakling. Even your politics is a life in the shadow of your mother, Mrs. Judy Araneta Roxas.

 

Political will

Jed Patrick Mabilog has been in office has been in office as City Mayor for only seven months, but we are already seeing manifestations of a dynamic leadership that wields political will.

Among the early campaigns that Mabilog has embarked upon is the enforcement of the anti-jaywalking ordinance and the anti-smoking ordinance.

Recently, he has turned his sights on violators of environmental laws, and from what I heard over radio, he’s even set to close down a riverside restaurant that blatantly dumped soil on the river with a view to obstructing the waterway.

This is a welcome development for City Hall. In the past, placidity was the hallmark of the city government, and many problems festered because of the slow response to issues. Mabilog is showing that political will is a potent weapon that can attract votes, and not the other way around.

Indeed, Iloilo City needs a strong leader who is not afraid to displease certain sectors just so that the law can be equally enforced. We’ve seen how illegal sidewalk vendors were untouchable because our leaders feared the whiplash of their anger at the polling place. Ordinances were broken right before enforcers. Respect for the law declined.

I’d say Mabilog is doing the right thing. He needs to demonstrate to his constituents nobody is above the law. Economic status will not make a difference when an individual breaks the rules. If he or she crosses the street outside of the pedestrian lanes, then it will not help if the offender wears a Rolex.

It’s not surprising that Mabilog is drawing more praises from the people for what he has done so far. In other cities, the display of political will has proven to be an effective strategy.

Acting DILG secretary Jesse Robredo showed that political will can transform a city like Naga into one of the most outstanding LGUs in the country in terms of efficiency, cleanliness and dynamism. Even relatives are fined when they violate ordinances in Naga City.

Davao City is known as the local version of Singapore because residents are so disciplined one can’t find a cigarette butt on the streets. Now vice mayor Rudy Duterte has imposed a strict no-smoking rule in public places when he was mayor, and now it has become the culture for the people of Davao.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to talk for two hours with Cotabato City mayor Japal Guiani Jr. during the Janiuay town fiesta and he also shared his own success in bringing change with political will.

Not too long ago, Cotabato City was notorious as a city of violence and kidnappings. Located right in the middle of Maguindanao province, Guiani said he had to tackle herculean tests when he assumed the office as local chief executive.

The first thing he did was clear the sidewalks of illegal vendors. A lot of people warned him it can’t be done. But Guiani went ahead with his plan and demolished those stalls that occupied the sidewalks after a deadline he imposed.

Then he asked the police and military to stop giving out mission orders (M.O.) to civilians to allow them to carry firearms outside their residences. At first, he sensed the military officials didn’t like the idea. He discovered it was a money-making venture for them. Guiani threatened to expose the practice of issuing M.O.’s for a fee. So it stopped.

Guiani next turned his attention to criminality. He got a list of individuals with pending warrants of arrest from the police. The only way to neutralize them, he knew, was put them behind bars. When he dispatched policemen to run after these guys, he was told some of these criminals were “assets” of the military, hence, untouchable. Again, he took a hardline stance, and the military relented. The criminals were placed behind bars.

After just six months, Guiani said Cotabato City has emerged from the dark shadow of its negative image of the past and rapidly taking its position as one of the fastest growing cities in Mindanao. All it took was political will, uncompromising political will.

I know Mayor Mabilog is encountering problems trying to enforce the ordinances on jaywalking and smoking. He should not give up. He should push harder and show the people he means business. I’m sure he will earn more political capital from doing this and emerge as a very strong leader who will be hard to beat in the next elections.