Why the Drug Czar offer to VP Robredo is a double edged sword

When Vice President (VP) Leni Robredo declined the offer of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) to be a Drug Czar, the pro-administration crowd thought they pinned down the opposition. In the latest statement, Malacañang said that Robredo should just keep her mouth shut as she is just afraid to prove her mettle and put her foot to where her mouth is.

Robredo retorted, however, that if Malacañang is really winning the war on drugs, why toss the ball to her?

“Kung walang failure, bakit ipapasa sa akin? ‘Di ba? Kasi ipapasa mo lang ang isang bagay kapag hindi mo na kayang gawin. Kung hindi— Kung successful kasi siya, hindi kailangang ipasa, kasi wala nang ipapasa, eh. Kasi nagawa mo na. Pero kung ipapasa mo sa iba, hindi ba admission iyon na ang dami pang kailangan gawin?” Robredo told reporters in Iloilo City.

The VP has a point. Passing the buck on the war on drugs is a blunder on the part of the administration. Not unless PRRD is joking again. But to make matters worse, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced on media that he texted Robredo about PRRD’s drug czar offer — an act unbecoming for a supposedly serious issue. Or, Malacañang is just really joking because if Robredo accepts, the VP might carve her way to the 2022 elections putting all the efforts of the Duterte camp down the drain?

Indeed, if Robredo accepts, she will become the most powerful official in the land taking control not only of the Philippine National Police (PNP) but also the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) which supervises the local government units, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Dangerous Drugs Board and even the Bureau of Customs owing it to the announcement that illegal drugs is imported from other countries. Note that the PNP and the DILG play crucial roles in the elections. This basically puts PRRD as a lameduck president.

Assuming that the full control of the aforementioned offices are not given to Robredo, then Malacañang will be put on a tight spot thus confirming actress Agot Isidro’s tweet. As Isidro puts it, “(I)n all honesty, do you think they will let her succeed?” In a sense, any lack of support, intentional or not, to the VP will be construed as the Malacañang’s way of hindering the efforts against combating illegal drugs.

Worse, the deadline of six months is too tight. So the lack of control over the important agencies and units is simply confirming what the opposition are talking about: That Malacañang never really intended to make Robredo succeed.

On the other hand, with Robredo at the helm of the war against illegal drugs and with full control, there is no reason why she won’t re-open the issues against PRRD’s son, Faeldon, and other names close to the president for their alleged involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs. There is also a possibility that Robredo will take in Antonio Trillanes IV, the president’s number one critic to be at the frontline in the campaign. Will these not be enough of headaches to the President and his minions?

Worse, if Robredo succeeds, it is her and the opposition who will reap the rewards. Isn’t it that the generals who came at the near end of the battle are the ones who reap the reward?

But of course, Robredo declined the offer and that should give a sigh of relief to Malacañang. But with Panelo pounding the issue further is kicking the stool that keeps them from getting hanged.

Shop Amazon – Used Textbooks – Save up to 90%

The problem of unregistered birth and its consequences

While many are on the level of advocating for the recognition of stateless persons, only a few are looking at the micro and addressing one of the root causes of the problem – unregistered births.

I facilitated an issue mapping workshop among civil society organizations (CSOs) in Cagayan de Oro City when the issue of birth certificates came up. Apparently, a significant number of children in the city have no birth certificates. I was surprised because I thought the issue was only common among the Badjaos in Tawi-tawi because of being sea nomads. But more shocked were the  participants who initially thought that the problem was not a major concern but learned among themselves that it is prevalent not only among the urban poor but also the rural poor particularly among the indigenous people. And the participants were further shocked to learn that the lack of birth certificates not only has short-term impacts but also long term even affecting the dignity of the children as a human being.

In the short term, lacking a birth certificate can lead to the denial of access to social services particularly in health and education. In some local government units particularly those  highly politicized ones, a requirement to avail of these services is an identification card which, unfortunately, is sometimes issued based on a birth certificate. So, ever wondered why we failed to achieve our commitments in the millennium development goals and may find it more difficult to attain the sustainable development goals? That is one of the culprits.

Another is in the field of education where enrolling in kindergarten or moreso in Grade 1 requires a birth certificate. Because there are teachers who are differently mannered, they would ask their pupils again and again to remind their parents about their birth certificates. Those who can’t produce would just drop out from class and those who can survive would be able to reach Grade 6 but could not get their diplomas because they lack that single requirement – birth certificate. While we pound on poverty as one of the major causes of a higher dropout rate, has anyone ever considered the lack of birth certificate as a cause?

The bigger problem is the impact of the prodding of the differently-mannered teachers to the children. Psychologists say that this may sometimes lead to low self-esteem if not getting bullied by their classmates. And the effect is long-term as in the end, children subjected to the negative treatment of teachers and their classmates could develop an emotional and psychological disturbance that could have disastrous consequences to themselves and those they may deal with in the future.

Lastly, children whose births have not been registered may lead to complications particularly administrative obstacles that can lead to statelessness. Fortunately, the Philippine government is not that strict in terms of identifying its citizens. Anyone who looks like Filipino can claim to be a Filipino citizen and there will be no more questions. But that limits him/her to cross borders for the lack of documents such as passports which also requires a birth certificate. In some countries, if one does not have papers to prove that he/she is a citizen of that place, the possibility of him/her being deported is very high.

Realizing these, the participants to the workshop decided that one of their plans is to create a program that will encourage and assist the parents to have the births of their children registered. But while this is a welcome move, this also requires the cooperation of government particularly at the local level. In Bongao, Tawi-tawi, then Mayor Jasper S. Que organized a registration drive for the Badjaos. Hopefully, this will be replicated in other areas as well not just for the indigenous people but also for all the affected children and even adult population in general.

A call to review local DRR systems

The Philippines is third most risky country in terms of natural hazards. These hazards include earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, flooding and landslides.

While there are laws that help promote local disaster management, and provide guidelines of responding to disasters, the systems and procedures are so generic that all victims are treated alike. Unfortunately, biological and psycho-social differences exist. Children are among them.

This video was created to enlighten and call everyone to act and review current DRR systems particularly of local government units.

State-owned mass transportation: For better or for worse?

Filipino national democrats like Renato Reyes, Jr., are proposing that a state-owned mass transport service be institutionalized as a replacement for the single-proprietor jeepneys. This is in response to the transport strikes particularly the Black Monday protest of jeepney drivers and operators last September 30, 2019. But will this make the transport system better or will this proposal just make matters worse?

While the proposal has merits, the current governmental system and behavior of those working in the government are not ready and could only make the matters worse. First, corruption is rampant and there is no assurance that the proposed state-owned mass transport service will just be used for private gains. For instance, how many government-owned corporations and government-run economic enterprises are living up to expectations and bringing in money and at the same time quality service to the public? Haven’t they all ended up depending on the general appropriations when in fact they should be earning? Even the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office is under scrutiny lately for questionable fund releases and expenditures in addition to the red flags of the Commission on Audit (COA) over the gaming office’s P10.17 billion funds.

Second, in reality, accountability is not yet fully embedded in the government structures. Will not this be a subject of abuse especially considering that those in government offices still think their position is a God-given right? How sure are we that the appointing officers will hire drivers based on merit? And how sure are we that the drivers who will be hired will perform their functions properly and not end up as a public official’s chauffeur during unofficial businesses?

Again, on accountability, has anyone observed the operations of the Light Rail and Metro Rail Transit systems? The government could not even ensure that the operators of these transit systems perform properly as per the contract and here we are adding more to manage?

Third, what will happen to those who will be affected — the small operators and the “karelyebo” of the jeepney drivers that will not be hired? What will happen to their livelihood? Should they just be treated as plain collateral damage?

We have working transportation laws. All we need to do is implement them. Jeepneys that haven’t pass the road worthiness test should not be allowed on the streets. In that way, the operators will be pressured to come up with better, and modernized, vehicles. Jeepney drivers who are not qualified and could not extend simple road courtesies should not be allowed to drive. In that way, we’ll have disciplined drivers. Third, existing government employees in the transportation department who could not perform their job well should be kicked out of office. In that way, we’ll have efficient and even pro-active government employees.

Should we add more?

Why high ranking Filipino officials are agitated over the US Senate amendment

Last September 27, United States Senator Dick Durbin announced in Twitter that his and Senator Patrick Leahy’s proposed amendment prohibiting entry to any Philippine Government Officials involved in the imprisonment of Filipina Senator Leila de Lima was approved by the Senate Appropriation’s Committee. Hours after the tweet, high ranking Philippine officials who are allies of President Rodrigo Duterte issued statements lambasting Leahy and Durbin.

But why are they so agitated to the point that Senate President Tito Sotto called the senators as “pakialamero”?

  1. Guilty feelings. The proposed amendment was clear. (T)he section “Prohibition on Entry” said the US Secretary of State “shall apply subsection (c) to foreign government officials about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of…. Senator Leila de Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.” If some of these officials were not guilty, then the common reaction should be: “Who cares if I am not allowed in the US as long as I do my job?” And who are among those who were so noisy? Former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who caused the investigation and imprisonment of Delima.
  2. Fear that they cannot anymore go to the United States. Well, many still look at the US as a “dreamland”. A number of Filipinos also have, in one way or another, a relative in the United States. The prohibition could be a guillotine for the dream or a scissor that could cut the passport to visit a kin. Worse, most of the games of Senator Manny Pacquiao are held in the US. How can they watch the boxing game then?
  3. Ignorance. or stupidity. Every country and even a city has the right to choose who to admit or deny entry to its territory. Even Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin admitted this when he announced that United Nations (UN) Rapporteur Agnes Callamard will be denied entry to the Philippines. The UN was silent because it is plain and simple common sense. Note that even Davao City was able to declare an “undesirables” list which include Ramon Bautista who became infamous for his “hipon remark”?
  4. Double Standards. The common reason, which was chewed on by Diehard Duterte Supporters (DDS), is the treatment of the amendment introduced by Leahy and Durbin as tantamount to intrusion on local affairs.  The wheels of justice is still moving for De Lima and the US Senators do not know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, those who condemned the amendment were silent when former Ombudsman Conchita Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario were held by the immigration in Hongkong. Clearly, the Duterte allies respected China’s move to deny entry to those the latter calls as “undesirables” — a case of double standard. Lastly, if they are indeed serious in their “domestic intrusion” claim, why are they silent in the earlier move of the United States to use social media information to vet for visa applicants? This is far dangerous because one can immediately be denied entry for a simple statement liked, shared or made against the US.
  5. Blind obedience. The worst reason is blind obedience to the “higher ups” so they condemned the move of Durbin and Leahy without using the God-given mental faculties. This is common among the trolls and blind followers who would just echo whatever message is downloaded from the top.

Do you also condemn the Durbin and Leahy Amendment? If so, what is your reason for doing so? Feel free to share your comments.