Friday, August 31, 2012

Much at stake for US as tensions rise in troubled China Seas

By Masataka Morita / AP
By NBC News staff

A boat from Hong Kong, center, is surrounded by Japanese Coast Guard vessels after Chinese activists landed on Uotsuri Island, one of the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands, on Aug. 15.
Vast oil reserves, trillion-dollar trade routes, fervent nationalist sentiments, competing territorial claims and bitter histories – the waters off the east coast of China are a sea of money and a sea of trouble.
Tensions have been rising for several years and recently hit new heights with activists landing on disputed islands, angry diplomatic exchanges and even a threat to deploy troops, prompting fears of an armed conflict that could potentially involve the United States, China, Japan and other nations.
The South China Sea has a myriad of competing claims of ownership: China staked out most of it in 1947 but its neighbors have never accepted it. The Spratly Islands alone are claimed by a total of five countries: China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam.
All are eyeing oil and gas reserves thought to be so rich that the area has become dubbed “The Second Persian Gulf.” Also, an estimated $5 trillion worth of trade is shipped through its waters.
In a speech last month in Cambodia, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told members of the Asean group of nations – which includes the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia – that “maritime security” was one of a number of issues in the region of “central importance” to the U.S., and spoke of “transnational threats” as one area of U.S. government focus.
But perhaps the most dangerous potential flashpoint is farther north in the East China Sea. China and Japan both claim ownership of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands – known as Diaoyu in Chinese – with strong nationalist feelings on both sides.
Just last week, the U.S. confirmed last week that the islands were covered by Article 5 of its security treaty with Japan, which spells out that an armed attack against either state would prompt each to “act to meet the common danger.”
‘Intimidate its neighbors’
Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow at the Center for International & Strategic Studies and a consultant to the U.S. government on East Asia, said if China decides to seize the Senkakus – currently administered by Japan – it would likely provoke a military confrontation.
An article in Foreign Policy magazine on Monday even speculated on who would win the “Sino-Japanese Naval War of 2012,” concluding it would end in a stalemate that would see Tokyo emerge with a political victory and potentially reverse China’s progress toward world-power status “in an afternoon.”
But Glaser told that she doubted war would break out, partly because China is aware that if they did seize the islands, “the U.S. would be there” for its ally Japan.
“I think there could be the possibility of some miscalculation – maybe there could be some exchange of fire, but an all-out war? No. I don’t think that’s on the cards,” she said.
Glaser said the situation was seen as a “test case of how China will act as it emerges as a great power.”
“The U.S. has an interest in trying to ensure that China does not intimidate its neighbors, that it does not use military force or other means to compel its neighbors to accept outcomes that are against their interest,” she said.
“Clearly if nations like the Philippines lose confidence in the U.S. ability to serve as the principal regional guarantor, they may embark on a potentially destabilizing arms build-up or accede to the demands of China. Neither would be in the interests of the U.S.,” she said.
“We do not want to set up a situation where the Chinese believe the Asia-Pacific is their backyard,” she added.
‘Unavoidable moment of truth’
Senator James Webb, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Monday that China had recently created a new national prefecture covering disputed islands in the South China Sea, and had announced it would deploy troops to guard them.
He said that China had “for practical purposes … unilaterally decided to annex an area that extends eastward from the East Asian mainland as far as the Philippines, and nearly as far south as the Strait of Malacca.”

An aerial view of Uotsuri Island, one of the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, in the East China Sea. (Kyodo via AP, file)
“The U.S., China and all of East Asia have now reached an unavoidable moment of truth. Sovereignty disputes in which parties seek peaceful resolution are one thing; flagrant, belligerent acts are quite another,” he added in the article.
For China’s part, memories of Japan’s violent invasion in the 1930s inflame nationalist sentiments.
Shi Yinhong, a leading scholar of international relations at Renmin University of China and a foreign policy adviser to China’s Cabinet, advocated the case for “new thinking” and more rational relations with Japan in 2005, but found himself under attack from Chinese nationalists for being “too soft” on the former enemy.
“Nationalism is the number one driving force complicating the problem,” he lamented, saying a “mutual hatred” existed between Chinese and Japanese nationalists.
However, he told that the nationalists in China were “not strong enough to push the government to take military action without 100 percent necessity.”
“I don’t think the Chinese government will take any action to occupy the Diaoyu islands,” Shi said. “The governments in Beijing and Tokyo have been extraordinarily careful to prevent any direct conflict between the two armed forces and this determination is as strong as before.”
Crisis for Japan?
In the South China Sea, China has set up a new military garrison and a regular “armed patrol” system to enforce its territorial claims, prompting critical reaction from the United States and some Southeast Asian countries.
But despite this, Shi said that the dispute with Japan over the Diaoyus in the East China Sea was the “potentially more dangerous” one.
Last week activists from Hong Kong, the former British colony now part of China, landed on the islands and a group of Japanese politicians then swam out to raise the Japanese flag. That sparked protests in the southern Chinese city of Shenzen as well as in several other cities.

Members of a Japanese nationalist group raise Japanese flags as they land on Uotsuri island, part of the disputed islands in the East China Sea, on Aug. 19. (Kyodo via Reuters)
One of the Japanese protesters, Eiji Kosaka, a local politician from Tokyo’s Arakawa District, said it was “only natural” for him to protest, even though he and his fellow demonstrators were denied permission to land on the island by the Japanese authorities.
“Senkaku Islands of Ishigaki City, Okinawa, is on the verge of a crisis. Along with 10 other comrades, we felt the need to declare that this is Japanese territory,” Kosaka said.
Another protester, Satoru Mizushima, said that they had carried out the protest “to shed light on the fact that the Japanese government has abandoned its duty to defend people’s lives and property.”
Japan is also involved in disputes with Russia over the Southern Kuril islands and with South Korea over the Dokdo Islands, which have been under South Korean administrative control since 1952.
During the London Olympics, a member of South Korea’s men’s soccer team held up a sign handed to him by a fan proclaiming “Dokdo is our territory.”
Earlier this month, South Korean President Lee Myungbak made a surprise visit to the island — a first by a Korean president — prompting Tokyo to take a more active role in staking Japan’s claim. For the first time in over 50 years, Japan has decided to take its case to the International Court of Justice in Hague.
‘What is ours is ours’
Japan is not the only U.S. ally in the region feeling the pressure as China becomes more powerful.
Henry Bensurto Jr., head of the Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs under the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, told that the Philippines had tried to resolve the dispute with China over the South China Sea “in a quiet way” for a long time.
“But as we do that nice diplomacy, we are slowly losing our own territory,” he said. “It’s not good to have a picture of a strong country overpowering the small country. That is not an acceptable scenario.”
“I think this issue is going to be there for a long time, I don’t think there’s a thought that it’s going to be solved overnight. We’re working for the long haul,” he added.
A report in July by the International Crisis Group said, “At least five significant skirmishes were reported within the first five months of 2011, although the Philippines’ lack of modern surveillance equipment made it difficult to substantiate accusations.”

Vietnamese navy personnel patrol the Truong Sa or Spratly Islands in this April 13, 2010 file photo.
“In response, the Aquino government began to ratchet up diplomatic efforts, accelerate military procurement and refer to the South China Sea as the ‘West Philippine Sea’ in all official communications,” the report said. “The president declared in July 2011 that ‘what is ours is ours’ in reference to Reed Bank [one of the disputed areas].”
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam might be expected to have better relations with China, but disputes over territory have raised similar tensions.
In 1988 the two countries fought over disputed islands, resulting in China occupying the Paracel Islands. According to the International Crisis Group report, this “led many Vietnamese to believe that China would not hesitate to use force again to settle sovereignty disputes.”
“Nationalist sentiments in Vietnam run particularly high in its disputes with China and put pressure on the government to stand up to Beijing,” the report said. “The bitter nature of the disputes has led observers to surmise that Vietnam would not back down from a military confrontation with China, despite China’s overwhelming military capabilities, if only to raise the cost for Beijing.”

Protesters hold banners while chanting slogans on a street in Hanoi on July 22, during a protest against China’s moves to strengthen its claim on disputed islands in the South China Sea. (Nguyen Lan Thang / Reuters, file)
To many, the situation appears deadlocked, with China arguing there should be one-to-one talks with Vietnam and other neighbor states, while they push for negotiations involving all parties.
“It’s kind of a pessimistic situation but what can we hope for…?” Nhuyen Thi Lan Anh, deputy director of the Center for South China Sea Studies at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, told
“At least we need rules of the game. If no one knows the rules of the game, we can get out of control, and in the end of course peace and stability will be hampered.”
NBC News’ Eric Baculinao in Beijing, Arata Yamamoto in Tokyo, Ploy Bunluesilp and Ian Johnston contributed to this report.

Robredo extolled for ‘tsinelas leadership’

Source: GMA News
During the deep and widespread flooding that plagued much of Luzon this month, Jesse Robredo would often show up for work wearing tsinelas, always ready to get his feet wet.
Call it “tsinelas leadership.”
In an often lighthearted sendoff for Robredo from his Cabinet colleagues Saturday night, Energy Secretary Rene Almendras made “tsinelas leadership” the theme of his eulogy to the late Interior Secretary, who died in a plane crash last August 18. Many retweeted excerpts from the speech that discussed lessons in leadership as among Robredo’s legacies.
“Nahihiyang lumapit ang naka tsinelas sa nakabarong. Leaders must be accessible to those they serve,” said Almendras, who has said he and Robredo often confided in each other about the challenges of their jobs. “No job is too small to be taken up by a leader.”
“Tsinelas leadership is about no frills, no kaartehan but with a clear vision,” Almendras explained as his takeaway from his experience of working with Robredo.
On the last night of Robredo’s wake in Malacañang, the Cabinet was the last group to hold a memorial service for the beloved former mayor of Naga, who attained national prominence in 2000 as the first Filipino local official to receive the prestigious Magsaysay Award.
Ending on a happy note
In addition to eulogies, Robredo’s colleagues sang songs to him and his wife Leni, who was in the audience. She will accompany her husband’s body back to Naga on Sunday morning.
His colleagues said they tried to end the memorial services on a happy note because that would have been the way Robredo wanted it, even if it meant syrupy love songs sung out of tune, as many watching the event’s livestream noted.
Crowding the area around Robredo’s closed casket, current and former Cabinet colleagues sang Jesse and Leni’s “theme song,” “Betcha by Golly Wow” by the Stylistics, featuring a spirited solo by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
They also sang “The Impossible Dream” and “My Way,” but tweaked the last line to make it “Yes, it was Jesse’s way.”
On Sunday morning, a Mass is scheduled at 5:30 a.m., to be presided by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, before departure ceremonies at Malacañang.
Servant leader in slippers
During his talk, Almendras recalled Robredo showing up at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council during the habagat floods in August wearing slippers, an act that was at the core of Robredo’s philosiophy.
“I have come to define Tsinelas Leadership as the pragmatic and more demonstrative version of servant leadership,” Almendras said.
Almedras added that Robredo had always said leaders “need to make sure that the ordinary person is acknowledged.”
Election fashion?
As Robredo attains iconic status, Almendras said some politicians may try to win votes by wearing slippers during their campaign in the 2013 elections.
“Malamang next year may mga mangangampanya na nakatsinelas. Sana hindi lang pang-picture taking ang tsinelas nilang suot,” he said.
Instead, he hopes the slippers fashion statement is a promise by leaders to live up to Robredo’s ideals.
“Sana they will step up to the standards that have been set by SecJess and sana they will be worthy to wear the tsinelas,” he added. — ELR/HS, GMA News

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beware this Chinese company

 ‘The BIR should exercise extreme caution in qualifying Huagong Tech to participate in its bidding process for the agency’s new cigarette tax stamp system.’
IN preparation for the expected increase in excise taxes on cigarettes, our revenue officials are looking at modern laser scanning systems to monitor the excise stamp taxes due on tobacco products. Hopefully, they will choose the supplier carefully. As we hear it, the low bidder is a Chinese company.
Huagong Tech Co. Limited is a company with a history of corporate malpractice, even to being suspected of having corporate corruption issues earlier this year. The BIR should exercise extreme caution in qualifying Huagong Tech to participate in its bidding process for the agency’s new cigarette tax stamp system.
Otherwise, there goes the Matuwid na Daan. We may find that government funds are wasted on obsolete or unreliable technology bought cheap, but totally useless when finally delivered by the supplier.
Originally put up 13 years ago, Huagong Tech based in Wuhan, China was listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2000, Huagong Tech specializes in laser processing systems and laser holographic anti-counterfeiting products.
Last July, Ma Xinqiang, the company’s chairman was removed from his position on suspicions of insider stock trading.
In early June, the company released a list naming several of its managers and shareholders who were accused of violating the country’s securities laws. The list included Luo Xiaoming, its independent director, and Liu Wei, its secretary to the chairman of board. Luo resigned from his post at the company on June 15.
Reports indicated that Chinese officials had already met with BIR Commissioner Kim Henares to signify their intention to compete with the merged entities Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp.(PMFTC) for the provision of a reliable excise stamp tax technology.
Allowing the substandard Chinese technology could cause more problems and delays for the BIR’s cigarette tax stamp system, a controversial project that has been several years in the pipeline.
Aside from being fairly new to the business, Huagong, it must be stressed, does not manufacture the same stamp tax technology in its home country since China does not adopt the system.
The bidding followed the government’s decision to no longer accept build-operate-transfer (BOT) proposals for tax stamps. Some government members think BOTs are more suitable for infrastructure projects like roads.
Aside from the Chinese proposal, there is also an offer from Philip Morris and Fortune Tobacco (PMFTC) for its self-monitoring digital marking system.
However, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares has announced that the shortlist of suppliers may be limited to those which do not manufacture tobacco products. This could mean that PMFTC’s proposal is no longer being considered.
Reader Marecelo Tecson writes long letters to government officials, copies of which he often sends me. In a recent one arguing that the Oil Price Deregulation Law actually gave us more expensive fuel, we find this undisputed evidence from the audits of the Oil Industry undertaken by government:
• On gasoline prices: “(1) Under regulation as of 1998: Percent margin on industry sales: 23% of P11.62 price per liter = P2.67 margin per liter.”
• “(2) Under deregulation as of 2005: Percent margin on industry sales: 16% of P31.18 price per liter = P4.99 margin per liter.
• “(3) Under deregulation as of 2008: Percent margin on refiner sales:18% of P44.45 price per liter = P8.00 margin per liter.”
While the margin decreases as a percentage of the price, with the price doubling and tripling, the oil companies are actually making more on every liter. Of course, the main reason why deregulation did not work is that the world market price of oil went crazy.
Todd Akin is a Republican Congressman who is running for the U.S. Senate. Recently, he caused a stir when he said this to the media in answer to a question:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said, referring to conception following a rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
What has this to do with the Philippines? Just to show that when it comes to matters about reproduction and such, specially when it comes to how the law and religion impact on the issues, there are just as many dumbos in other countries as there are dealing with the Reproductive Health legislation that is being discussed in our legislature at the moment!
I have been an Apple user ever since I discovered that its computers were sturdier that the IBM (which were mostly fake IBMs locally assembled machines). Using those local IBMs, I would often even lose what I was working on. As a journalist, only the Apple Macintosh OSX worked for me.
Recently, in a US court, Apple won over a billion dollars in the US after it sued Samsung for infringing on Apple’s patents. In Korea, where Samsung has its corporate headquarters, a court also heard an infringement case filed by Samsung. The Korean court found both Apple and Samsung guilty of patent infringement. It banned some Apple products from Korea and also some Samsung products.
The Korean judge banned the sales of Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad 2. Also banned were Samsung’s Galaxy S and Galaxy S II.
This will have an effect on Android products in general and specifically on the smartphone and tablet markets.
Readers who missed a column can access This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at

Who is Sereno?

‘Many, many questions inundated the pages of newspapers soon after Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was named by President Aquino as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.’
When President Aquino named Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as the first woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, many questions were asked despite attempts by Malacanang mouthpieces to shield her from harsh public criticisms with accolades about her “good reputation, competence and independence.”
The first question was “Who is Sereno?” And this was quickly followed by a flood of other questions: Why did the President pick her, the youngest and with the least experience, instead of the most senior member of the high tribunal, in the shortlist of nominees submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC)? Does she fulfill the four basic qualities of a chief justice as enumerated in the Constitution, namely, “competence, integrity, probity and independence,” to a degree higher than all the other nominees? Is she endowed with personal knowledge in all fields of the law and the most capable of carrying out the kind of reforms in the Judiciary that Aquino may have in mind? And, with her at the helm as the new highest magistrate of the land, will the President, at last, get his longed-for wish to have his own “Aquino court”?
“Who is Sereno, really?” can best be answered by no less than Chief Justice Sereno herself. (Those other questions will be the subject of this column on Thursday.) She’s 52 years old, married, with two children. A public high school valedictorian, she took up AB Economics at the Ateneo de Manila University, and completed her law degree at the University of the Philippines in 1984, cum laude. She had her post-graduate degree at the UP School of Economics, and in 1993 she earned a Master of Laws degree from the University of Michigan. She started her career in private practice as a junior associate of the Sycip Salazar Feliciano and Hernandez law firm in 1986. She served as legal counsel of various government offices such as the Office of the President, Office of the Solicitor General, and the Department of Trade and Industry. And she taught law and economics in various colleges and universities here and abroad.
During Sereno’s brief stint in the tribunal as Aquino’s first appointee, she wrote a dissenting opinion on the decision last year to allow President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to leave the country. And she also a separate opinion suggesting that the family of President Aquino be compensated more for Hacienda Luisita, which is to be distributed to farmers under the agrarian reform program. Her evaluation has been condemned by the hacienda farmers for favoring the landowners, Aquino’s Cojuangco clan.
In her Statement of Assets and Liabilities for 2010, Serena declared P17.9 million in assets and P142,342.88 in liabilities, for a net worth of P17.76 million in 2010, but she reportedly didn’t include her share of the P2.65 billion paid by the government to the legal team that handled the case filed by German airport operator Fraport AG and Philippine International Air Terminal Co. before an international court in Singapore over the expropriation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.
Sereno scored the lowest among the nominees in the psychological-psychiatric tests conducted on behalf of the JBC, according to a Manila newspaper, having obtained a grade of “4” (Not Satisfactory) where the top grade is “1” (Excellent) and “5” (Very Unsatisfactory). And the report revealed that under the existing policy of the JBC, a nominee who garnered a grade of “4” will no longer be recommended. The tests evaluated Sereno as “dramatic and emotional, she appears energetic and all smiles and agreeable, but with religious preoccupation in almost all significant aspects of her life…”
This inevitably raised more intriguing questions. Why then did the JBC ignore and include Sereno’s name in its shortlist? Was it, perchance, because the JBC succumbed to the reported “pressures” by President Aquino, his eminence grise, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, to do it, despite that psychological evaluation of Sereno’s “strong tendency to make decisions based on current mood that could result in highly subjective and self-righteous outcome”?
And finally, does Sereno really possess the basic constitutional qualities of “competence, integrity and independence” required for a chief justice? But she’s now the 24th chief magistrate and could very well serve up to 18 years until her retirement at 70, long, long after her tribunal seniors have retired, and her “godfather” bows out of the presidency. She replaced Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, who was impeached by Aquino’s compliant allies in the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate impeachment tribunal last May on a mere whim of a vindictive president, which should serve as a warning to Sereno.
Well, Her Honor, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has 18 long years to prove herself as the highest magistrate of the land!
Quote of the Day: “The basic, constitutional quality requirements for a chief justice are no other than ‘competence, integrity, probity and independence.’ No one can possess all these qualities in a degree higher than all the other nominees. Not one of the nominees, for instance, can be said to possess the highest degree of competence in all fields of law. The scope of law is so broad that necessarily there are varying fields of specialization. Precisely the Supreme Court is a collegial body in recognition of this fact—and so that it can resolve the various problems that can be brought before it…” — Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Govt shuns Sino funding, doubts Beijing’s sincerity

By Othel V. Campos  
Manila Standard Today
The government is no longer interested in tapping Chinese funding for the P2.7-billion port rehabilitation program of the 35-year-old Navotas fish port complex, given the strained relations between the two countries over territorial issues.
Manila and Beijing had clashed over claims in the islands in the South China Sea, specifically the Scarborough Shoal, which emerged as the focal point of the conflict after the Philippine Coast guard caught Chinese fishermen poaching with the country’s 200-mile exclusive, economic zone.
Beijing had since strengthened its claim over the entire South China Sea by establishing Sansha City and a military garrison aimed at protecting their “sovereignty.”
In a text message, Alcala said the foreign department was apparently unconvinced that Beijing was willing to help us economically because of the row in Scarborough Shoal.
The ongoing conflict prompted Philippine officials to entertain doubts whether Beijing will still extend economic help to the country.
In a text message, agriculture department secretary Proceso Alcala voiced out the same concern as expressed by the Foreign Affairs department.
“Dahil sa nagkakaproblema na tayo sa prutas natin, nagkaproblema na tayo sa Scarborough, nagduda po yung DFA kung tayo ay gusto talagamg tulungan ng Chinese governemnet o hindi.”
“Because of our problems in our fruits and the Scarborough Shoal, the DFA now doubts if the Chinese government really wants to help or not,” Alcala said.
“Financing the project using government funds is an option that we are considering. The upgrade of the Navotas fishport complex has been identified as a very necessary, if not, a critical project,” Agriculture Undersecretary for operations Joel Rudinas said in an interview.
Previously, the Agriculture Department was looking at sourcing as much as P2.56 billion from the China Export-Import Bank to upgrade the country’s premier port complex.
“We figured that the required funding is not that big anyway. I suppose the Philippine government can finance it on its own,” he said.
It is the second project with Chinese financing terms that the government amended.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said Wednesday the government shunned financial assistance from China for the second phase of the P7-billion Casecnan multipurpose irrigation and power project.
The government earlier asked the Chinese government for a P5.29-billion loan to fund the multipurpose project.
The Philippine government turned instead to Korea for assistance. Agriculture officials said the government asked for credit facility from the Korean Exim Bank for the irrigation component of the Casecnan project.
The National Economic Development Authority board has yet to give its approval for the Navotas fishport project.

Economic War: Blame Game

By Erick San Juan
What went wrong with China? According to Keith Bradsher of the Global Edition of the New York Times (August25,2012), after three decades of ardent growth, China is now reportedly encountering an unfamiliar problem with it’s economy. There’s now a huge build up of unsold goods that is allegedly cluttering shop floors, clogging car dealerships and filling factory warehouses. There is now an over supply from steel, household appliances to cars and apartments which impede China’s efforts to emerge from a drastic economic slowdown. It led to a series of price wars and manufacturers redoubling their efforts to export what they cannot sell in China. The Chinese government, according to report, has been trying to cover it up by blocking or adjusting it’s economic data in an effort to prop up confidence in the economy among business manager’s and investors.
China’s economic nightmare is interconnected with the global recession where the Eurozone’s currency is collapsing and the United States economy and it’s political gridlock paralyzes America and the world. The pattern is glaring. Real estate prices and stock markets have fallen, imports and exports have also stalled, sales fell dramatically.
Here comes the prophets of doom namely- Jacob Rothschild, john Paulson and George Soros all betting that financial disaster is coming.( Jacob Rothschild, one of the wealthiest men in the world made a bet of almost 200 million dollars that the Euro will go down. While billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson made around 20 billion dollars betting against the US housing market during the last financial crisis is again betting that the Euro will go down and that the price of precious metals especially gold will go up. The other week, George Soros unloaded all his stocks and convert it into physical gold investments. Definitely, the gold price will soar creating massive financial disaster in the process. Their behavior is alarming for all of us.
Are these elites are the only one to be blamed? What about the policies of governments’ and the world’s regulators like the United Nations, World Trade Organization, APEC, ARF,etc.? As if undermining the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of global free trade talks was not bad enough where the last ministerial meeting in Geneva produced barely a squeak, the United States has reportedly compounded it’s folly by actively promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CRS-Congresssional Research Service Report Dec.12,2011). This was actually announced by US President Barack Obama during his sorties in the Asian region. At the onset, this is being propagated using the western media to the unsuspecting public as evidence of American leadership on trade. But the fact is the opposite. It is important that those who care about global trading system know what’s really happening. According to pundits, this could allegedly trigger a ‘Dracula’ effect: expose what remain hidden to sunlight and it will shrivel up and die.
The TPP partnership is criticized as a testament to the ability of American industrial lobbies, Congress and leaders to obfuscate public policy. It is widely understood today that free trade agreements, whether bilateral or multilateral are perceived built on discrimination. Reason most economists call them PTA-preferential trade agreements. In principle, countries are free to join the TPP but a closer look reveals that not all can just like China. The TPP is believed to be US political response to China’s new aggressiveness designed to contain and possibly confront China in the process. TPP’s template include numerous agenda unrelated to trade like labor standard and restraints on the use of capital account control, many of which preclude China’s accession. These extraneous conditions will reportedly make the TPP a ‘high quality trade agreement for the twenty-first century.
The result of the TPP is now being felt in South America and by China. Many Asian countries joined the TPP to ‘keep the US in the region’ in the face of the Mainland China’s heavy handedness. They embraced the US in the same way that East Europeans rushed to join Nato and the European Union in the face threat-real or imagined posed by post-Soviet Russia. These big nations are pushing each other to the wall and blaming each other overtly and covertly.
Governments and big banks all over the world are discreetly preparing for an eventual financial disaster. What about us? Our ‘trapos’ (traditional politicians) are preparing for the 2013 and 2016 elections. Wake up!

Bare mental records, Chief Justice dared

By Jomar Canlas, Jaime R. Pilapil and Ritchie A. Horario Reporters
The Manila Times
Chief Justice Sereno during her oath-taking last Saturday in Malacañang. MALACAÑANG PHOTO
NEWLY appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno should disclose to the public not only her wealth but also her state of mental health in the interest of transparency and to prove that she has the moral ascendancy and psychological fitness to govern the Judiciary, according to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
IBP President Roan Libarios said that it is ideal for the public to know Sereno’s true wealth and state of mind considering the significance of the position that she will be holding for the next 18 years.
“Generally, the result of the psychiatric test must be disclosed like the issue of SALN [statement of assets liabilities and networth] for the sake of public interest, provided that a waiver must be signed by her allowing to disclose it,” Libarios told The Manila Times by phone.
Sereno and Libarios were classmates at the University of the Philippines College of Law.
Sereno’s predecessor, Renato Corona, was impeached over the non-disclosure of his real assets.
The incident prompted several sectors to suggest that candidates for the top judicial post be required to waive the secrecy of their local and foreign bank accounts, if any.
On Friday, the Times ran a story about an 11-page psychiatric test report indicating that Sereno and Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza got the lowest grade of four in the mental examinations conducted by two psychiatrists and two psychologists on candidates for chief justice last month.
Records show that Sereno was interviewed on July 18, 2012 by the doctors. Despite her “unsatisfactory” mark, members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) still included her in their shortlist of nominees for the post.
It is a policy of the JBC that an applicant to any position in the judiciary who garnered a grade of four shall be considered “Not Recommended.” The rule was changed in Sereno’s case.
Sources said that Malacañang officials and President Benigno Aquino 3rd were furnished copies of the report but would not disclose its contents. This runs counter to Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte’s claim that the report was unverified and that it did not merit a comment from them.
The least that the Palace can do, they said, is to ask Undersecretary Michael Frederick Musngi of the Office of the President to show his copy of the report, he being a member of the JBC who sat for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
On the day her appointment was announced by Malacañang and when the Times story was published, Sereno fended reporters’ queries about the psychiatric test results.
When Justice beat reporters cornered her on Friday evening to comment on her appointment, she particularly evaded a question by Cecille Villarosa of GMA Network-dzBB pertaining to the Times report about her low mental test grade.
“’Di na muna natin ‘yan i-aaddress [We will not address that yet]. Today is the day of thanksgiving. So thank you very much, thank you for your time,” the new chief justice said.
In the 11-page Psychiatric and Psychological Report signed by four doctors and noted by a lawyer, Sereno was said to be “dramatic, emotional, all smiles and depressive.”
Sereno is “dramatic and emotional she appears energetic and all smiles and agreeable, but with religious preoccupation in almost all significant aspects of her life. She projects a happy mood but has depressive markers too. There is a strong tendency to make decisions based on current mood thus, outcome is highly subjective and self-righteous,” the report said.
Lawyer Jose Mejia, a JBC member representing the Academe, said that there are no waivers signed by any of the applicants for the top judicial post or other positions in the Judiciary.
Mejia said that there was no waiver required because the psychological report was covered by the doctor-patient confidentiality rule.
“There are no waivers being signed by any of the applicants because it is covered by the doctor-patient confidentiality rule, unlike in the case of SALN or bank accounts there are waivers because it is a mere mathematical computation,” Mejia said.
He pointed out that only the psychiatrists or the doctors who conducted the tests can interpret the report.
“The applicants [like Sereno] do not even know the result of their psychiatric test whether they passed or failed,” he said.
President Aquino on Monday threw his full support behind Sereno whom he urged to restore the people’s trust in the judiciary and ensure fair justice despite resistance from fellow senior justices due to her younger age and alleged incompetence.
Mr. Aquino pulled a surprise on Friday when he named Serero, 52, as the 24th chief magistrate and the first woman to head the SC, besting more senior colleagues in the tribunal including then acting CJ Antonio Carpio.
Woman on top
Today, Sereno will officially preside over the Court’s en banc session.
On Wednesday, she will make her first public appearance as chief magistrate before the Presidents of Law Associations in Asia (POLA) at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay City. The event is under the auspices of the IBP headed by Libarios.
The President mentioned Sereno in his speech at the Libingan ng mga Bayani yesterday.
“Umaasa akong titimbangin mo ang iyong hatol at pasya upang manumbalik ang kumpyansa ng taumbayan sa institusyong iyong pamumunuan [I trust that you will weigh your judgment and decisions to win back the people’s trust and confidence in the institution that you now lead], ” Mr. Aquino said.
“The people’s mandate to you is: let the fair system of justice prevail. It should be impartial to either the rich or poor, to ordinary Filipinos or the powerful,” the President said in Filipino before members of the diplomatic corps, Cabinet officials and veterans under a tent behind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Aware of the controversies hounding Sereno, the President said that his latest appointee has also the backing of the entire Filipino citizenry.
“To our new Chief Justice, don’t lose heart when a deluge of challenges comes your way. Be assured that the Filipino nation is your ally,” Mr. Aquino stressed.
Sereno’s oath-taking on Saturday was not attended by most of her colleagues. Out of the 13 other justices, only four were present—Associate Justices Martin Villarama Jr., Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Mariano del Castillo and Bienvenido Reyes.
Conspicuously absent were the five most senior justices—Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion and Diosdado Peralta. Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez and Jose Mendoza were also absent.
Presidential prerogative
Also on Monday, several senators defended the President’s decision in appointing Sereno.
Senators Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Edgardo Angara, Aquilino Pimentel 3rd and Francis Pangilinan said that it is too early to criticize and put political color on Sereno’s appointment.
Honasan stressed that nobody could question the decision of the President to choose Sereno over other senior members of the SC saying that this is his “prerogative.”
“Ang tawag diyan ay [That is what you call] Presidential prerogative bilang [as the] appointing authority ayon sa batas at tamang proseso at walang maaring mag-question dito [which is being dictated by law and nobody could question it],” said Honasan.
He said that Sereno’s independence should not be doubted as she had “declared publicly that she will be independent and that she will uphold the spirit of the Constitution.”
“We have to believe her and trust in the judgment of the President as the appointing authority for the sake of public interest,” he added.
Angara said that Sereno should be given the chance to prove her worth and independence adding that criticisms hurled against her should not affect her job as the new chief justice.
For his part, Pangilinan said that Sereno should face the challenges in instituting reforms in the SC and in the judiciary in general.
He said that Sereno’s age could be advantageous on her part because she has the energy and strength to implement judicial reforms.
Pimentel said that Sereno’s appointment is a “welcome development” that should be respected.
Meanwhile, a House leader said that Sereno should speed up the wheels of justice by inspiring young lawyers to fill the court vacancies.
Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada 3rd of Quezon province made the call two days after Sereno took her oath.
“We all know that we can only ease and eliminate the backlog of cases by addressing the shortage of judges and other court personnel. I think she will inspire many qualified members of the Bar to transfer to the Bench. This is the kind of migration of talent we would like to see,” Tañada pointed out.
While the hiring of judges is a function of the JBC and the Executive, Tañada noted that the beefing up of the ranks of court personnel such as researchers, interpreters and other critical frontline workers, is a prerogative of the judiciary.
“On this matter, budgetary support has been assured by the DBM. The Chief Justice can tap into this huge reservoir of goodwill in boosting the number and quality of judiciary workforce,” Tañada added, referring to the Department of Budget and Management.
Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela party-list agreed with Tañada, saying much injustice is being done because courts are clogged with numerous cases.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. The lengthy trial procedures and the delay of decisions in very important cases including the Maguindanao massacre is a case in point. This can be extremely frustrating for victims of violence,”
Likewise, Ilagan cited that Sereno should be able to institute reforms that will make justice efficient and accessible for the poor.
With a report from Llanesca T. Panti

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Where is the decency?

Decency, it is often said, is a liability in politics. That’s why lowlifes excel in politics. Public service should not be confused with politics. Public service is what decent human beings like Jesse Robredo do. Politics is what scoundrels do. It is important to make that distinction because public service and politics often intersect.
Jesse Robredo ventured into politics to become a public servant. He engaged in politics but he remained a public servant. Unselfish, putting others ahead of himself and his family, he went to his death with his good name intact. He now serves as a model and an inspiration for others. That’s not easy. There are not many who have the strength to resist the temptations of public office. How many idealists have gone into public service only to turn into scoundrels? How many good men ended up becoming crooked and power-mad?
Jesse Robredo should be allowed to be buried in peace, as a good man who served others unselfishly and to the best of his abilities. He does not deserve to be turned into a soapbox for assholes who want to use his death for their own or their paymaster’s political ends. I’m talking about those who accused the President of shedding crocodile tears over the tragedy, who insinuated that the President should be blamed for Robredo’s death, and who suggested that there must be a real reason for the plane crash and it is being covered up.
Wrote one:
“Dear Liberal Party Senate candidates: Is it too much to ask you not to descend, locust-like, on Naga City and make political hay out of the funeral of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo? Never mind if your party chieftain asks you to come and wave to the Bicolano crowd as you ride on top of Robredo’s hearse, as Teddyboy Locsin fears. Please resist the temptation of once again shamelessly using a national tragedy to further your political plans and confirm to everyone that you cannot see a significant number of people assembled without thinking about the number of votes you get from them.”
“Robredo died because he took a light plane that somehow could not make the trip from Cebu to Naga City on that fateful afternoon last week after delivering a speech that Aquino was supposed to give.”
“If the President and the politicians really wanted to know why Robredo died, they can always investigate the crash itself. If they wanted the people to know, as well, they would allow Robredo’s aide (who seems to have disappeared after surviving the crash and being quizzed by Aquino himself) to appear at an investigation that will be open to the public.”
Wrote another:
“HYPOCRISY: Now that Robredo has died while on official duty — standing in for his President who was in Manila — those who did not treat him properly in life, those who had kept him out of the loop, are now tripping all over themselves praising him and touching his coffin.
It is too late for all that. The melodrama is nauseating.
A housewife signing in as @malougm10 on Twitter described the farcical act as: “Naghuhugas ngGUILT. Or plain HYPOCRISY, pakitang tao.” I retweeted that.”
Those assholes think they are scoring points by turning grief over Robredo’s death into anger, if not hate, against the President and members of his administration. In fact, they are insulting the family of Robredo. They diminished Robredo, not the President, not his official family, not the Liberal Party. They painted Robredo a fool who could not tell who his real friends were, someone who did not have enough sense to differentiate sincerity from insincerity. Worst of all, they raised questions about the man’s character and motives for why would he want to serve in an administration that did not want him in the first place?
Imagine going to Robredo’s wake uninvited to tell his grieving family, “You know Jesse would still be alive if the President didn’t order him to go to Cebu and deliver a speech for him. You know they never wanted him in the administration. They never cared for him. Their tears are fake. They are only here to campaign. They will just use his hearse as a soapbox.” That is what those assholes did through their editorials. Where is the sympathy and the decency in that?
How would you feel if someone condoled with you in that manner?
Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (


By Jose Ma. Montelibano
A schism, according to Wikipedia, is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization or movement of a religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a break of communion between two sections of Christianity that were previously a single body, or to a division within some other religion.
From the Catholic encyclopedia, schism is, in the language of theology and canon law, the rupture of ecclesiastical union and unity.
And from the dynamics within the Philippine Catholic Church and faithful, the seeds of a schism are now clearly planted by the controversy over the RH Bill.
It is less the RH Bill, though, that has triggered the open controversy between Catholics and Catholics, whether religious or lay. The issue of divorce had come earlier, but it did not have the universality of the pro-life and pro-choice battle. It is still there, though, and will not go away until it happens. No nation except the Philippines (well, the Vatican, too, if we regard it as a full-fledged nation) has withstood the reality of divorce. Perhaps, it’s delayed acceptance is due to the fact that a substantial percentage of Filipino couples are not married in the first place (too poor to do so).
In my mind, though, it is neither the RH Bill or the divorce issue that are the fundamental causes of the looming split within the Catholic Church. I believe that the Catholic faith itself as understood by the laity is severely challenged. The dominance of Catholicism in Europe has long faded away, partly from schisms and then from the steady drifting away of the laity from the practice of the faith. Beyond historical beliefs and practices, Catholics in Europe must have found more relevant options for their spiritual needs.
Worldwide membership of the Catholic Church remains steady with actual growth rates in Africa and Asia despite a slight drop in Catholic percentages in the Philippines. It is the historical pattern of Church membership in Europe that particularly interests me because our own domestic Catholic Church is a product of the European Catholic Church. I would then look at Brazil because our percentages to total population approximate ours. Thirdly, I watch the Catholic Church in the United States because Filipinos continue to be heavily influenced by American behavior and practices.
From the outside, it is also good to observe the rise of Protestant churches and groups as they are almost half of the population of Catholics worldwide – not bad for a splinter group that was born from a major schism in the Catholic Church.
When status quo organizations or groups are threatened, most invariably turn towards conservatism, then fundamentalism. The Catholic Church in the Philippines is no exception, as it confronts the RH Bill. The question in my mind is how successful, from the beginning of its formation, has the Catholic Church been in resisting all it had by becoming rigid or belligerent – as in the case of divorce. Contraceptives have become commonplace, not only in the Philippines, but especially in America which has about the same number of Catholics as us.
In the Philippines, the family size becomes smaller as the economic capacity becomes higher. In other words, the birth rate in Forbes Park or Dasmarinas Village is much lower than the birth rate in Baseco. But I seriously doubt that the residents of the plush villages have less sex than the residents of poor communities. There is no government agency distributing contraceptives in the rich subdivisions but lower birth rates happen as a consequence of finer lifestyles. Maybe if government will induce economic progress among the impoverished, the poor themselves will find their own way to having fewer children – no matter what the government or Church says.
The shrill voices that are at the forefront of the anti-RH Bill effort border on the fanatical. Yet, many of them send their children to Europe or America where the lifestyle is more liberal than the Philippines, more liberal than pro-RH Bill members of Congress. They would do much better by shielding their own from the modern and liberal lifestyles abroad or their own children would follow the footsteps of the elite with the lowest birth rates in the country, lower than what the RH Bill hopes for.
Poverty is the greatest supporter of high birth rates just as the wealthiest achieve the lowest. It surely seems like more money, more exposure, more opportunity, more comfort and more leisure result in smaller-sized families. Perhaps, if both the Church and the State were to concentrate their efforts to bring more jobs to the poor and raise their income levels, the RH Bill may become moot and academic. As it is, the focus on poverty has been diverted to population control instead of wealth creation.
Meanwhile, Catholics fight Catholics in a game where nobody wins and the Church ends up the biggest loser. The fundamentalists have the floor, but the liberals will not listen to them. When liberals take the floor, the fundamentalists will close their ears as well. What people will remember when they go home is that there is a lot of anger going around.
Most times, it is not the issue itself that divides. Issues are often just triggers. Most times, it is the way issues are handled that cause the most harm. The RH Bill is only a trigger, but a powerful one. The way the extremists on both sides sound indicates a schism is not only possible, it may be near.