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CHINA and the NINE-DASH LINE

July 22, 2016

9-dash-line

All you need is a look at the map to see the imperiousness and brazenness by which the red line was drawn across the blue space to mark the claimed territory.   Pushing out as far as possible away from its own shores, it proceeds to graze right through its own neighbors’. Imagine this happening in your own locale, one of the neighbors, Mr. Big Shot, suddenly howling out to all that the entire lake where everyone in the community fishes and takes a swim, is all his, then proceeds building a fence cutting across everyone else’s front yard.   Of course, you and the other neighbors would bristle and protest, because you know that you own part of the lake too. But then as he is the most powerful man in the block, you oppose him only at your own peril.

Anyway one sees it, it is not a pretty sight.  It is a scandalously inconsiderate and arrogant.  It is nothing but a brazen display of Might, where Might makes Right because anyone who would dare pose any challenge would be crushed helplessly.  That is not an act of a good neighbor.

Now, that is just me with my layman’s rather simplistic view of the world.  In the world of global relations and diplomacy,  there are possibly other elements that my analogy could not capture.  Like China’s competition with the world’s superpowers for world domination, for instance.  Still and all, the principles and elements that build a good neighborhood are all and the same at every level.  In an increasingly interconnected world,  we are a community of nations, much a like a community of people who must learn to live with each other.

Is this the best way for China to guard its own dominion in this part of the world and advance its interest?  Be rough and intimidating on its neighbors? Instead of employing persuasive powers,  the terror of brute force?  This is not the way to win allies nor sway enemies.

Now that the ruling on its nine-dash line was dashed by the International Tribunal, China decides to dig in and threatens the Philippines and the rest of the world to lay it aside or else.  After ignoring the jurisdiction of the Tribunal where it could have presented its side with its own evidence, it now uses the international media to broadcast its side of the story while threatening the rest of the world of possible devastating consequences.

The world should engage the citizens of China.  Do they agree to the actions of their government?

China should reconsider its own posture and image.  As a mighty giant, it should not be seen as a bully or an intemperate ogre ready to go on a rampage if offended.   It should assume a more high-minded stance as a world superpower.  The Philippines indeed could be leaning more on its side being a next-door neighbor which could provide plenty of benefits, but is being  pushed away instead into the embrace of another.

ON THE WAR AGAINST DRUGS

July 12, 2016

In the spirit of the times, for whatever it is worth, I am re-publishing a couple of posts about the war against drugs, the first from a year ago, the second, from eight.

1.Why the War on Drugs Will Never be Won 

The case of Maryjane Veloso, the Filipina convicted of drug offense whose execution in Indonesia was temporarily stayed, once more calls attention to the wisdom— or lack of it— of the war against drugs. Maryjane is really just one among the so-many casualties of this war. Indeed, how many thousands have been executed or sentenced to a lifetime in jail since the war started?  How much public funds have since been poured into the effort?  Yet,  illegal drugs trade has steadily flourished over time into a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide, and is growing more robustly than ever.  This alone should compel us to rethink our approach and strategy.

Society, no doubt driven by noble motives, takes it to itself the responsibility to shield its citizens from the menace of drugs. Thus it legislates laws in various degrees of severity in the fulfillment of this assumed responsibility.

The drug user though does not share such society’s concern; he rebels against it.  To him, it is simply his right, he exercising his own free will to satisfy his own cravings.  It is not for society to decide what pleasures he must indulge in or not.  At times, he must be perplexed: what’s the big deal? what wrong is there in his using drugs?  He enjoys the highs and the mind-bending effect it has on himself, why deny it to him?  It is not like he is causing any damage on anyone or anybody’s property that if caught he must be shot to death or be placed in prison for the rest of his life.  If  there be any harm, it is only on himself, but then that is his personal business.  A lot much like smoking or drinking or skydiving… Absent any moral restraint or bother, there being no inherent evil in his vice, he continues to seek the fulfillment of his desires, plays cat and mouse with the police if need be, and pays the price no matter how high— and to hell with the Government playing Big Brother on his life.

Now, where there is a buyer, at the right price, there is always a seller, count on it.   To the seller, it is simply business, no more no less.   The merchandise to him is just that, a thing to sell for profit.   Does a businessman care if his rope is intended for suicide?  Or the knife to kill?   Yet even in case he does and shifts to other wares to sell,  trust that someone will emerge from out of nowhere to take his place to supply the buyer the merchandise, if under the most forbidding circumstances, at the right price.

The thing is, prohibition accomplishes two things: one.  it limits general access of the public to the drug, but, two, it also jacks up the price of the merchandise.   The first is the intended result, the second the unintended.   From the original unintended consequence emerges a chain of undesirable spin-offs.   As prohibition jacks up the price of the product, at times astronomically, peddling drugs becomes an extremely lucrative business.  It’s the Law of Supply and Demand, nothing more. And because it is illegal, the criminal types naturally get to take full charge.  The kind to whom you would otherwise deny access to riches for the evil that they are,  inevitably they get to take control of a business that rakes in cash in overflowing abundance.  What happens when criminal minds have billions at their disposal?  Of course, limitless power to buy or force their way in and out of every nook and cranny of society.  To what extent do they now have control of our society, we could only speculate.  But if  the occasional cocky display of power and hints of incipient influence be any guide, we could only shudder.

Indeed, it is a difficult dilemma but we must make a choice.  Protecting society from the evils of drugs appears to have spawned a greater monster.

 

2.  An Argument for the Legalization of Drugs

For alcohol prohibition, our US version, it was about 13 years. Between mafia crime, poisonings from adulterated beverages, and the dropping age at which people were becoming alcoholics, Americans decided that the “Noble Experiment” — whether it should actually be regarded as noble or not — was a bad idea. And they ended it. New York State did its part 75 years ago today, ratifying the 21st amendment to repeal the 18th amendment, bringing the Constitution one state closer to being restored. It took another half a year, until December 5th, to get the 36 states on the board that were needed at the time to get the job done. But Americans of the ’30s recognized the failure of the prohibition experiment, and they took action by enacting legalization of alcohol. Industrialist John D. Rockefeller described the evolution of his thinking that led to the recognition of prohibition’s failure, in a famous 1932 letter:

“When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.”

Link

The “experiment” with drugs, it appears anywhere you look, is headed for the same devastating failure. In the United States, the trend is going opposite the intended direction: addiction is worsening and the industry is flourishing. This despite the billions of dollars poured into the effort, not to mention thousand deaths and executions littering the path. And surprisingly, figures show higher percentage of users in countries where draconian measures are on employ, like the US.

To be clear, the above article comes from a pro-drugs site likely maintained by drug addicts. Yet, while the idea is unpopular, its pitch for legalization makes sense. For ultimately, the economics of the market will force the issue. Prohibition does not and cannot eliminate the twin forces of supply and demand. That much is clear, notwithstanding the nobility of the mission to shield people from the perceived evils of drugs. It can for a time stand in the way but like water seeking its own level the forces of supply and demand eventually adjust to find their equilibrium. Basic economics, pure and simple. Price goes up sky high to reflect the deadly risks involved in the equation. Indeed, the business maxim that risk and profitability are in direct proportion to each other, is just as true here. Which means a more dogged enforcement coupled with laws made more severe would only jack up the price of drugs even more. With a margin of profit two-arm lengths wide, you have an extremely lucrative business opportunity in your midst openly luring all sorts of risk-takers from far and wide, from high and low, from every nook and cranny to cash in quickly real big time. And as it is prohibited by law, business go nowhere but underground, naturally— into the hands of shady characters that very well belong there, people whose reason for being is to kill and die for every piece of action. Over time, wealth overflowing in limitless abundance accumulates in the wrong territory. You have a fountainhead of great power in the hands of Darth Vader. That which has had a humble start paying off and threatening lowly cops, moving gradually up, eventually graduates into bankrolling a presidential campaign. Then they take decisive control of society, these shady characters and their troops of gangsters, with a president as their front.

Follow closely how the P4B shabu haul in Subic will eventually disappear from view. It is instructive. Law enforcement finds its limits where this is said: “take this fortune and get out of the way or you and all the people you love will perish”. Show me one who will dare cross the line and I will show you a fool.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE

June 30, 2016

President Rodrigo Duterte starts his six-year term today.   I wish him luck and good health, good health most especially because of his advanced age.  I see a strong-willed, damn-all-the-torpedoes kind of leader with a clear—well, more or less— understanding of the nation’s problems.  A natural-born leader, from what I sense, the role of leadership should fit him well, and, at 71, the oldest yet to become Philippine President, he should have the added advantage of the respect and deference normally accorded older people.

Despite all the flak he was getting lately for his roguish ways and wayward mouth, we are hearing enough admiring testimonies about the man from good, reputable people.   He also has a remarkable track record to boot.  These are enough for me for now. But just to be clear, I did not vote for him, well, not for anyone actually, because I skipped the elections altogether.

Let me make some cursory comments on a few things:

I think the China problem will be one of the most intractable and most difficult challenges. But maybe, just maybe–I laughed aloud when this idea came to me–his womanizing ways could actually help him navigate the waters.  If you could balance between three to four women at a time, all of them happy to share between them you, maybe you too have the natural skill to deal with two world superpowers trying to woo you into their side. As it is, we are at a precarious balancing act between two powerful countries, and for the Philippines, the best position is to be able to stay in the middle, friendly in our own terms to both powerful nations, much like being the object of desire of two competing women who are taking care to be in your good favor.  Huh, if Duterte could do that, it would be a great feat in diplomacy.

Poverty, this problem that has been with us for the longest time, should finally get its real solution.  The designated NEDA chief, Dr. Ernesto Pernia, was talking about investment-led growth as the goal.  Finally someone who understands… Most of poverty is actually due to lack of jobs or opportunity to earn enough means to pay for the high cost of living.   So, it’s really all about job creation and job creation is a function of investment.  More investment, more jobs; more jobs, less poverty. It’s an oversimplification in a way, but it helps to make plain one simple underlying actuality that is somehow often lost in too much theorizing and analysis.

I remember Duterte’s novel proposal about offering our numerous uninhabited or sparely populated islands as exclusive autonomous investment havens  to big investors.  I like the idea.

War on drugs?  He will most likely fail in that area because it’s the law of supply and demand.  Tighter drug prohibition would only serve to constrict supply  and up the price of the commodity some more. The higher the price, the more profitable, though more risky, the business becomes. The more profitable the business goes, so do its size and wealth. Bigger and wealthier, more brute power and  influence to battle the government. Like The Prohibition in the 1920s, it will only lead to more blood and violence in the streets but the industry would flourish nonetheless.   The alcohol and cigarette of those years are the equivalent of our prohibited drugs today.  The same social and economic forces are at work, no more, no less, and look at where alcohol and cigarettes are being sold today.   But, hey,  I am willing to be disproved.

President Duterte has taken personalities of varied, even opposing, persuasions into his Cabinet.  I am wondering just by what magic could he meld such divergent personalities into one working team, instead of one squabbling bunch.

I am also amazed at how he is taking everybody into the fold:   Joma Sison and the communists,  Nur Misuari and the separatist Muslims, the human rights victims, leftist radicals, the Marcoses… wow!

There’s just so much in one plate: war on drugs, war on criminality, war against corruption, war against poverty, bureaucratic reform, economic reforms, peace talks with the communists, peace talks with the Muslim rebels, constitutional revision, parliamentary form of government, federalism, and more…

But Duterte should be wary of the Yellows.  The Yellows genuinely believe that he was voted into office by a misguided, ignorant minority.  They also believe that they are duty-bound to put things back in order by whatever means necessary. They are the ones who are happy about the way things are and are opposed to change. They are the ones agog over the developments over the last six years.  They are the ones who want continuity and are against the disruption and reordering of things that Duterte had promised to make.   Make no mistake about it, they are the enemies who are lying in wait for his fall…

RUDE ROD LIKE A DURIAN?

June 16, 2016

Seen from ordinary eyes, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is quite a complicated character to read.  For that reason I too stayed away from the subject for sometime. For someone who would suddenly rise as the nation’s top leader, I am surprised that even for a news junkie like myself, I actually know so little about him.   It was only when his name cropped up as a possible presidential candidate that I came across bits and pieces which but painted only a blurry, pixelized image of the man.

The electoral campaign of course changed it all.  In no time at all, the man is center of national attention, in full view in the raw, and how shocked the public was with all the obscenities, expletives, the cursing,  cuss words, dirty jokes, death threats and all flowing out from his mouth. After winning the elections, the horrified all the more multiplied.  For now,  the dominant image of him, at least to the prim and proper crowd, is pretty much cemented: he is one rude and uncouth, murderous, immoral, degenerate old man.  The view is that the voters have made one unmitigated, colossal mistake.  Is this the new President?

I have my own seeing eyes.   In my own personal experiences, I have met a few people of this kind.   He’s not the kind you would want your daughter to marry nor would you want to be a neighbor or friend.   But, surprise, as time goes by, you find he’s actually a good man who could be a friend.

What impressed me most about Duterte was the story about how he offered himself to be the hostage in a deadly hostage situation years ago.  Now, that to me is epic.

Beyond the rough, offensive exterior seems to lurk a different man.  He seems to keep a public persona and a private persona.

Even now, I still could not paint a better, more comprehensive picture of him even for my own consumption.  But from the little that I could gather researching over the Internet, perhaps, to know him is to paint an opposite of him.  Certainly, he is not Mr. Refined Rascal or Mr.  Gentlemanly Felon.    He is not The Classy Rogue or The Honorable Hustler.    He is not any of those.  He is just Rude Rod.

I move around ordinary folks as I am among them.  One thing about ordinary folks, what you see is what you get.  Beyond the extremely personal issues, everybody is almost naked.  Pretense is minimal, there is comfort in familiarity even in the most unglamorous form.   You could afford to look stupid with them around, no big deal at all.

In contrast, among the prim and the proper, you could sense a lot of pretense, there is much attention given to looking good, about external appearance.  It takes sometime to learn, beyond the appearance of elegance and refinement,  there’s much of  vile rottenness hiding.

I don’t know, if Duterte is just one of those unpretentious rude mannered men who are in truth good men.  Just a guess on my part too.

But here’s an interesting essay of a former unbeliever turned believer.  She likens him to the durian, that renowned fruit which smells like shit.

Duterte Leadership Guide for Dummies by Julmar Grace

Mayor Duterte’s leadership is like the Durian fruit experience for me. It wasn’t a love at first sight. I wasn’t appreciative of it at first. I looked at him through my religious and perfectionist lenses and wasn’t a fan.

“A leader should be this…”

“I leader should be that.”

“In the eyes of God…”

Blah… blah… blah…

His family life, morality and “association” with the Davao Death Squad were huge stumbling blocks for me. To be honest, I was the number 1 anti-Duterte fan so focused in my own religious judgments that I did not vote for him during the Duterte-De Guzman race for mayorship. I proudly exercised my rights of suffrage against him. I did not believe in his leadership. For me, he was just one plain sinner who shouldn’t be in office because he was a bad example especially to the youth.

Just like Durian that I had to look past of the foul smell to enjoy the taste, I also had to look behind Duterte’s toughness and roughness to see that the reason why I am enjoying this “life is here” experience as a Davaoeño is this tough-taking Realist. And just like Durian, the moment I started enjoying the taste; I got addicted.

I became a “Dutertard” (which means a Duterte retard?) and started seeing the benefits of his leadership. My eyes were open and saw that this “Imperfect Man” to many is bringing a close-to-perfect environment of peace, order, safety and progress in my city that couldn’t be experienced anywhere else in the country (as of writing… [because it’s about to change]).

Now that the Mayor is now the President Elect, thousands are skeptics because they don’t understand him as Davaoeños do. They call those who get past of the “foul smell”, fanatics. What they don’t understand is we love Duterte because we look past his imperfections because his close-to-perfect leadership shouts louder.

But I admit… our beloved Mayor is hard to love.

He’s a “long term relationship” kind of man, not a “one night stand”. You have to know him first. You have to spend time with him. You have to be open-minded (in faith that God is sovereign no matter what) to be able to start smiling at his jokes and laughing at his sarcasm.

I admit, I was once also in the same position like many Filipinos now who are lost in figuring out who this President Elect really is. I understand that it can be alarming to put your trust in a Leader who you don’t fully understand. We don’t value what we don’t appreciate right?

So I listed a few insights here from how I know the President Elect as a Davaoeño for 15 years now. This may be limited but I hope this will help everyone in the country get a starting grasp of who our incoming President is.

He is a good man. Duterte may be tough and rude to many but for us who have known him, we can say that he is good. He is passionate and compassionate. He is always for the people. He is willing to die for the poor and the oppressed. Yes, his ways are tough… his words are blunt and dirty… his stance is proud… But these are just coming from a fierce personality who hates injustice and corruption. He’s a lion who wildly roars against criminality and inequality. But know that behind the those fiery eyes and foul words is a heart that aches for a better society. When you need someone to defend you, he’s the man. You just need to go beyond the surface and see the motive of his heart. When you do this, you will see a genuine leader who is authentic, efficient and effective. He is not perfect. But you’ve got to trust that his heart is always good. His 22 years of public service in Davao City can attest to this. He has not done evil to this city. I couldn’t recall any negative issue that nailed him because he’s corrupt and wicked. There were only oppositions when we did not understand the laws and ordinances. But nothing to pin point the Man on any exploitation against any person or entity. And this is because he’s a good person. He has a good heart.

He is a man of principle. He will not bow down to anything or anyone. If you are in the evil side and against the welfare of the people in general; you’re an enemy. May you be the Pope, UN Secretary General, US President, State Ambassador, rich, powerful, or whoever; he doesn’t care. He knows his values and what he stands for. If you’re on the other side… start running!!!

This is unless you change…

Because he is also light-hearted especially to the young, women and the minority.

He has principles. And it is always guided by what is good.

He is wise. Right when you think you got him, you’ll realize that he’s the one who actually got you because he was 3 steps ahead of you! He’s been a public servant for years and have seen it all. He is smart and strategic. He is seasoned. He knows when to expose things and when to submit to wisdom and keep quiet. He’s someone you can’t figure out unless you get to know him and start thinking like him. Most Davaoeños are already good at this. Thus when the nation is whining about a statement, we smile because we know he is just taunting you so you expose your own corruption in your reactions.

He’s a lion. But he’s also an eagle… The Philippine Eagle type who eats monkeys who are foolish and steal people’s food!

He is a simple man. There is no drama in him. He just works. He refused a lot of prestigious nominations as a public servant because for him he’s just doing his job.

And it’s true. He eats with his hands at home, he lives simply, and is not for show. Anyone can approach him anywhere. He doesn’t like prestige. He is real. He doesn’t wear political masks.

He’s the best. He’s not even in Malacañang Palace yet but change is already happening all over the country. This is because he’s the best. He is a genuine leader who lives simply and is efficient and effective in his ways because he’s driven by passion for the nation and compassion for people. We have seen it in Davao City and this nation is about to experience it.

 

 

THIS MADE ME LAUGH…

June 15, 2016

TROUBLE AT THE LIBERAL PARTY

June 13, 2016

It seemed like a harmless omission for awhile, but the failure of presidential candidate Mar Roxas and his party, the Liberal party, to submit to the Comelec their Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) as required by the rules could yet explode into a political crisis so unexpected.  The problem revolves around some pretty categorical rules that require absolute compliance within clear, specific, non-extendable deadlines.  The consequences are staggering because winning LP members, national down to local,  who should assume office by noon of June 30 could not do so legitimately precisely for that deficiency.

Was it a case of casual neglect?  Maybe not.  The story behind could be more damning than we dare to think.

It’s interesting how they  will maneuver out of this complicated situation.  The genius of our legal professionals will surely be tested on this one.   Perhaps, a petition for TRO at the SC will be filed to compel the Comelec to suspend the rules on the grounds of “doubtful constitutionality”.  But will the enemies of LP let it pass without mounting a serious challenge?

Curiously, unless I missed it, this issue could not be found on the leading local news sites.

 

 

ENRILE ON MARTIAL LAW

June 2, 2016

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