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.

Why the Philippine transportation sector players are blackmailing each other

Jeepney drivers from the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), members of the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO) and Stop and GO Coalition staged a nationwide transport strike on Monday, September 30, to protest government’s plan to totally phase out jeepneys by 2020. The strike, according to the jeepney drivers and operators, was considered a success while the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) described the effort as useless with the result as “an ordinary Monday morning rush hour”.

But while government agencies claim that the strike was not successful, they offered free rides to stranded passengers while the LTFRB threatened to cancel or suspend the franchises of participating jeepney drivers and operators. The public’s opinion was divided with some calling the threat as being insensitive to the plight of the operators and drivers.

But when one looks at the bigger picture, both the LTFRB and the jeepney drivers and operators are simply blackmailing each other. The former threatens to cancel franchises while the latter uses the plight of the commuters to intimidate. In the end, the commuters are the ones suffering. But why are they doing these?

First, some of the LTFRB personnel benefited largely from the issuance of colorum franchises so all the agency can do is threaten. While five LTFRB personnel have been sacked and 44 others have been transferred, this did not stop the issues hounding the agency that even prompted the senate last year to probe on new anomalies. In a sense, LTFRB seems to tell the drivers, particularly the colorum ones: Don’t join the strike or we’ll cancel the colorum franchises we gave you.

Otherwise, if the LTFRB is serious, it could have cancelled the franchises of those who joined the strikes since its officials are always bragging about the bases for cancellation. But how many franchises have been cancelled to date? Only 20 and that was for the strike done in 2017.No doubt LTFRB Chief Martin Delgra earned the monicker of “Boy Banta”. And, more so, it should have cleaned its database, posted the list of colorum vehicles, and let the traffic enforcers apprehend them.

LTFRB;s inefficiency and being prone to temptation now becomes the source of confidence of the drivers and operators. In fact, there are drivers who claim to have paid P288,000 to P300,000 to LTFRB personnel. Who will return the money, then? Even those sacked were not reported to have returned the money to their victims. So they seem to be saying: Cancel our franchise and we’ll open a can of worms.

The drivers and operators, too, find their confidence on the weakness of the Land Transportation Office (LTO). Annually, vehicles are being examined for their road worthiness. But, how come dilapidated jeepney units and those unfit for public transportation still pass the exams and continue to operate?

Lastly, while the commuters can just but complain, they find the situation hopeless. Whether they like it or not, the jeepneys still provide the cheapest and readily available source of transportation. The mass transit systems are always problematic and the buses, particularly those in Metro Manila, are not always available particularly in the arterial roads.

The problem in the public transportation industry are the bones in the closet of the stakeholders from the part of the government. If the government is really serious in preventing strikes and providing a convenient public transport system, the best way to start is to clean its closets. If it can really cancel the franchises of those erring jeepney operators and drivers, so be it. But at the same time, cancel or remove also from the government employee registry the erring personnel and not just transfer them. If the transportation franchise is just a privilege, so is serving the government.

How Senator Bato betrayed the PMA

Sen. Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia.Org

The death of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Cadet Darwin Dormitorio created a loud noise all over the country. But while PMA officials and alumni were to cautious about their statements over the incident, the unbridled lips of Senator Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa, a member of the PMA Sinagtala Class, spilled a ca of worms betraying his comrades.

Indeed, PMA officials were too cautious calling the incident as “hazing” and would rather use the term “maltreatment”. As PMA Superintendent Lieutenant General Ronnie Evangelista stated, “It was wrong for a cadet to die in this manner. It was a wrong for a cadet to die in the hands of a fellow cadet. Maltreatment is wrong in PMA.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Even Senator Panfilo Lacson, also a PMA graduate, was too cautious calling the incident as “misplaced enthusiasm” or “indiscretion” — meaning, the physical injury was “unplanned” or not pre-meditated.

But here comes Senator dela Rosa joining the fray betraying his colleagues by publicly admitting that hazing is deeply embedded in the PMA. He said, “Just imagine, kung itong mga civilian universities mayroong hazing, mas more ang military academy. Imagine-in ninyo. Tine-train ang mga tao diyan para maging warriors.”

In fairness, however, Senator Dela Rosa should be commended for living up to the words of former President Manuel Luis Quezon. According to Quezon, “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.” In this case, the senator’s loyalty to the PMA ended by exposing the truth about hazing in the PMA for the sake of the Filipinos especially the taxpayers who need to know what is happening to their money.

But while that is a “plus” for the senator, admitting that hazing is the way to train warrior is the “minus”. There are many physical endurance training that can be used. In addition, PMA should not just be developing warriors but intelligent and morally upright soldiers – those who know what is right and what is wrong, and understands with all their heart the laws they are supposed to promote and uphold. These laws include the anti-hazing laws.

Somehow, Senator dela Rosa moved one foot forward but with his power as a Senator, we are hoping that he will do more and this include cleansing the ranks and the educational system being used in the PMA. But may he not be selective in truth-telling and truth-seeking. In the first place, he owes his position to the real powerholders — the Filipino people. Right?

Don’t forget to share your thoughts below.

Deuterium: China’s major interest in the Philippine seas?

I visited Davao City a month ago and got an interesting story in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown. Circulating among the middle class and intellectuals is the theory that China’s interest in the West Philippine Sea and Benham Rise is not oil or your typical marine resources but Deuterium —a colorless, odorless, nontoxic, diatomic, flammable gas which, when burned, releases only water vapor to the atmosphere unlike other fossil fuels. Hence, environmentally, it is one of the best, if not the best, energy source on the planet.

Deuterium is widely used in prototype fusion reactors and has their application in military, industrial and scientific fields. It is is used in nuclear power, fusion power, deuterated optical fibers, deuterated lubricants, lasers, light bulbs, R & D laboratories, and annealing semi-conductor rims.

In nuclear fusion reactors, it is used as a tracer and it is responsible to slow down neutrons in heavy water moderated fission reactors.

Deuterium is not radioactive and could even be used for medicinal purposes.

Deuterium is still understudied but it promises to be the fuel of the future offering a better and cleaner energy. In its raw form, it is also believed to be a “coolant” for nuclear reactors and may be useful in mitigating nuclear meltdowns similar to Chernobyl or that of Fukushima. And China, being a country that is becoming dependent on nuclear power, needs to search for alternative energy that is safer or, at least, something that can ensure the safety of its current nuclear reactors. Currently, China has 45 nuclear power reactors in operation, about 15 under construction, and more about to start construction according to the World Nuclear Association.

There are claims that Deuterium is currently found in the deepest parts of the oceans including the Philippine Deep and other waters surrounding the Philippine archipelago. But while the chemical properties and uses of Deuterium is uncontested, the claims of its presence in the Philippine waters is. A South China Morning Post writer in 2004, for instance, considered this a science fiction without offering any scientific evidence that could debunk the claims.

Assuming that the presence of Deuterium in the Philippine waters is indeed a hoax, why is it that China has been going out of its “Nine-Dash Line” entering the uncontested Philippine territory passing by Tawi-tawi, patrolling the Turtle Islands, and surveying the Benham Rise. If the interest of the dragon is just a territory, why risk its reputation and just be contented with the 200 exclusive economic zone that is accepted by more countries around the world?

Interestingly, the Philippine President who is known to lean more to China, diverted his “jetski ride” to the Benham Rise, which allegedly contains more Deuterium than in the West Philippine Sea, rather than go straight to the Spratly Islands or, if just for a show, in the territorial waters of Bataan or Zambales where Chinese ships are also doing surveys? And, ironically, why is this kind of story circulating in the very city where the President lives? Aren’t conspiracy theories supposed to hatched somewhere else?

Don’t forget to share your thoughts.

Is the US justified in banning entry to those involved in the De Lima case?

Malacañang and several high ranking Philippine officials decried as intrusion in the Philippine domestic affairs the move of a United States Senate committee to amend a bill and ban the entry in the North American country of Philippine officials involved in the continued detention of Senator Leila de Lima. Is Malacañang and the high ranking officials correct or are they the ones intruding in the domestic affairs of another sovereign?

Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo slammed the move as “a brazen attempt to intrude into our country’s domestic legal processes given that the subject cases against the detained senator are presently being heard by our local courts“. This was echoed by Senate President Tito Sotto who touted the US Senators as “mga pakialamero” adding that the latter do not know what the case is all about.

But let us think this way: When former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario were denied entry in Hong Kong, nobody came to their rescue — even the Philippine Government they both previously served. Instead, the PRRD’s alter ego, Sal Panelo, issued a statement saying:

“I cannot also understand the good ambassador. Why? He knew from the very start that the Hong Kong authorities have detained former Ombudsman [Conchita Carpio] Morales… (I)f I were Del Rosario, I would have not gone to Hong Kong because I’m sure, I would have anticipated, that I would be going [through] the same ordeal like the former Ombudsman did. Now why did he go there? That’s my question to him.”

The only high ranking official who defended Morales was Ted Hui Chi-fung, a Hong Kong lawmaker who criticized the action as “barbaric.”

In simple terms, the Philippine government admits that foreign countries have the right to deny or admit entry to individuals other than their citizens. And that includes the United States whose legislators can define who to bar or to admit. Just like how Ramon Bautista was declared persona non grata in Davao City over a “hipon” remark.

Apart from that “inalienable right”, the Philippines has also given the United States a “handle of control” — the aids. As US Senator Patrick Leahy spilled in a statement, “Every year, the United States provides large amounts of aid to the Philippines, and I have supported that aid. I assume President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s spokesman who defended the wrongful imprisonment of Senator De Lima does not consider our aid to be ‘interfering’ in their sovereignty.”

Leahy’s statement is an outright slap on the face of pro-Duterte defenders who claim that the Philippines has shaken free of US control but that is another story. The point is: The Philippines is still in the position where it cannot dictate things. Not yet.

So is the US justified in banning entry to those involved in the De Lima case? What do you think? Don’t forget to leave your comments.