Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hong Kong: A City confronts its mainland parallels


BOXES of diapers and milk powder block the entrance to the train. Inside the car, bags stuffed with cosmetics or electronics are crammed into every empty space. The passengers guard heavy luggage, their pockets bulging through oversize jackets. The direct train from Hong Kong to the city of Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland takes less than an hour, but I left the journey exhausted.
These are China’s “parallel traders,” travelers who make easy profits by buying goods from Hong Kong and reselling them in mainland China. The traders snap up everything from baby formula and tissues to cosmetics and iPhones, taking advantage of lower prices on some products in Hong Kong, a free port with zero or low duties for electronics and other imports. Customs officials say traders make an average profit of up to a few hundred yuan from each entry. According to some reports, 95 percent of people who make more than two border trips a day are parallel traders and the number of such travelers is about 20,000.
Parallel traders infuriate many Hong Kong residents, not because they crowd metro platforms, but because they represent the increasing influx of mainland Chinese who come to the city to benefit from its maternity hospitals, shops and real estate market. The mainlanders are seen as a drain on the city’s space and resources, as well as a reminder of Beijing’s meddling in Hong Kong’s economy and politics. The presence of smugglers has already triggered flare-ups in Hong Kong. Anti-parallel trade protesters demonstrated this month in Hong Kong, heckling and in some cases assaulting mainland visitors.
But parallel trade is not a new trend, nor is it unique to Hong Kong. In fact it is a fairly common practice worldwide that happens along U.S. borders and in parts of Europe. In the 1960s and 1970s, Turks regularly crossed into Iran to sell fruit and brought back the cheaper household goods for resale inside Turkey. The public outrage in Hong Kong over a fairly ordinary global practice is a symptom of greater tensions stemming from China’s fraught “one country, two systems” policy toward Hong Kong.
On the Frontier
In Hong Kong, the city changes as one moves north from the congested central part toward the Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen, where the Hong Kong’s New Territories abut the mainland. It is along this frontier that the dynamic between the two worlds is playing out.
As compared to the central part of the city, the streets are wide and the air is noticeably grayer. The high connectivity in this part of the city — as well as the ease with which the border can be reached — remind Hong Kong residents of the increasing integration with the mainland. Shopping centers balloon in size and many are linked to residential complexes and metros through an elaborate network of footbridges and indoor walking tunnels. Local Hong Kong activists worry that the farmland on the city’s periphery will gradually give way to shopping malls and high rises.
Hong Kong’s transit infrastructure is efficient and mainland visitors can move from one of the city’s many shopping hubs back to Shenzhen on the same day. From Kowloon district, a swift ferry or metro ride from the central financial hub, one can board a train that connects all the way to the border. These trains pass through districts in the New Territories where streets are lined with stores packed with boxes of diapers, soap and laundry detergent — products targeted at mainland customers. In one of these districts, Sheung Shui, residents say the influx of mainlanders has driven up the prices of these goods. There are also buses that leave from the city center and take people through the border into Shenzhen’s main transport nodes, interrupted by a brief walk through no man’s land at the checkpoint.
The number of smugglers has increased thanks to the 2003 easing of entry-exit barriers with the mainland. Those who are registered residents of Shenzhen can obtain multiple-entry permits. Symbolically, visits from non-permanent residents from Shenzhen have risen on Chung Ying street — a thoroughfare divided between China on one side and Hong Kong on the other. It is mostly a sightseeing destination now. When the British held Hong Kong, however, Chung Ying street was where the Chinese could access foreign goods before the easing of entry rules made Hong Kong itself the access point for foreign products.
There has long been talk of fully developing the New Territories into a frontier zone between Hong Kong and the mainland. Officials have reportedly floated the idea of allowing mainland visitors to enter this zone without a visa, though the prospect of public backlash has stalled such discussions.
Chinese demand
The resentment of mainland Chinese visitors is not confined to Hong Kong. It has sprung up in other parts of the world — especially as more and more mainlanders build up disposable income and spend it on travel. In factory outlet malls in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have often seen tour buses full of Chinese travelers. In both Paris and London, residents have become vocal in their complaints about Chinese shoppers. A swanky French hotel caused outrage in 2012 when it banned Chinese guests.
Hong Kong’s confrontation with this trend is notable not because of the cultural clash or because of xenophobia, but because it indicates how far China has to go to rebalance and shift to foster its own a consumer-led economy. Hong Kong’s popularity comes from the mainlander perception that foreign goods are better than Chinese-made items. Cross-border parallel trading may not make a dent in Chinese consumption figures in the macro economy, but the pattern highlights the challenges China faces in its push to spur consumer spending at home.
High demand among consumers, paired with high import duties in China, has created a thriving gray market for tax-free goods. China’s Ministry of Commerce has openly called for import tax cuts on consumer goods, but the measures will likely be slow in coming. As of now, China’s import duty and value-added tax mean some luxury items are more than 30 percent cheaper in other countries. Import duties on cosmetics can run as high as 40 percent — excluding an additional 17 percent value-added tax.
More important, the popularity of parallel trading indicates a lack of faith in Chinese products, triggered by consumer scandals involving everything from melamine-tainted milk to cooking oil recycled from gutters. In Hong Kong, it’s not only the designer fashions flying off shelves, but common household goods in demand from one of the world’s largest groups of middle-income consumers.
For the short term, Guangdong province is proposing a law to cap the number of daily border crossings. Border authorities say they will be more vigilantly inspecting bags for smuggled goods as well. But until more remarkable changes occur in Chinese consumption and economy, Hong Kong, a city that boasts itself as Asia’s world city, may continue to be fearful of those seen as endangering its valued political system and way of life.

China & global commons

WHAT is it to belong to the global commons? Some Filipinos have remained neutral on the issue of territorial and maritime disputes with China. Most of the Filipinos thought that things will pan out to the interests of both parties since we have a shared history what with the Philippines being a haven to Chinese families who left the mainland for various reasons. But the recent discoveries, although we know those were not built overnight, on the much advanced state of reclaimed facilities in disputed reefs, atolls and shoals speak ill of China.
China committed a serious crime against humanity by destroying the ecology around those reclaimed areas. In its persistence to prove its nine dash line concept, it disturbed the ecology, destroyed the habitat of what is termed as the global commons and compromised the future generations’ sustainable development.
In the hope of explaining things and lessen the anxieties caused by China’s unilateral action, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news briefing that the “reclamation and building work in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea was needed partly because of the risk of typhoons in an area with a lot of shipping that is far from land.”
“We are building shelters, aids for navigation, search and rescue as well as marine meteorological forecasting services, fishery services and other administrative services” for China and neighboring countries, Hua said. The islands and reefs would also “meet the demands for China’s military defense,” Hua said without elaborating.
The South China Sea is a “marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometers (1,400,000 sq mi). The area’s importance largely results from one-third of the world’s shipping transiting through its waters, and that it is believed to hold huge oil and gas reserves beneath its seabed.”
“In China, it is called the “South Sea”, Nánhǎi, and in Vietnam the “East Sea”, Biển Đông. In Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, it was long called the “South China Sea” (Dagat Timog Tsina in Tagalog, Laut China Selatan in Malay), with the part within Philippine territorial waters often called the “Luzon Sea”, Dagat Luzon, by the Philippines. However, following an escalation of the Spratly Islands dispute in 2011, various Philippine government agencies started using the name “West Philippine Sea”. In September 2012, BSA 3rd signed Administrative Order No. 29, mandating that all government agencies use the name “West Philippine Sea” to refer to the parts of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and tasked the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) to use the name in official maps.”
China, by reclaiming the atolls, shoals and reefs destroyed hundred million years of habitat created by the movement of seas and submerged lands as well as mountains. That China, without due regard to the global commons arrogated to itself the right to destroy these resources by reclaiming the seabed and parts of the strobe rock formations submerged has clearly committed a crime against humanity. China crossed the fine line by invoking its right over global commons, where all living and non-living resources belong to all.
The term “global commons” is typically used to indicate the earth’s shared natural resources, such as the deep oceans, the atmosphere, outer space and the Northern and Southern polar regions, the Antarctic in particular.
According to the World Conservation Strategy, a report on conservation published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in collaboration with UNESCO and with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF):”A commons is a tract of land or water owned or used jointly by the members of a community. The global commons includes those parts of the Earth’s surface beyond national jurisdictions — notably the open ocean and the living resources found there — or held in common — notably the atmosphere. The only landmass that may be regarded as part of the global commons is Antarctica …”
What are the implications of this unilateral act by China on the Philippines? Clearly, it impacts on our national security, food security and energy security. One can consider these acts by China a national crisis on the part of the Philippines. Diplomacy is the way to go but creating a countervailing force in the region is vital. Japan, India, Asean are critical actors in this regional flashpoint. An economic coalition via the Trans-Pacific Partnership can also bring a much needed balance against the biggest market of China. Constructive ownership should be implemented by the Philippines so we do not lose by default. Back channel negotiations should be considered despite the several failures. We just cannot afford a military option against a giant acting more and more like a bully.
The other side of the coin is that the release of these reclamation activities in contested areas is said to be made to influence the Supreme Court on the pending constitutional issue of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA. After the AFP chief released the photos and a few percolation hence, Gen. Gregorio Catapang issued a statement that “US troops will have access to at least 8 Philippine military bases under EDCA. The military bases include: Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; Crow Valley in Tarlac; Basa Air Base in Pampanga; Naval Station San Miguel in Zambales;
Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan; Naval Station Carlito Cunanan in Palawan; Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu and Naval Base Rafael Ramos in Cebu.”
Truly, China should have known that “it is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” At the global stage, China is fast losing the possibility of being world leader.

Corruption began with the elite

By Jose Ma. Montelibano
Corruption-in-the-Philippines.2A Chinese philosopher once said, “Men cannot see their reflections in running water, only in still water.”
In the English dictionary, there is an idiom that goes, “Running around like a headless chicken.”
And Carl Rogers, an influential American psychologist of the 20th century admitted, “The curious paradox is when I accept myself just as I am, I can change.”
There are countless more sayings from men and women wiser that most of us are, from saints and gurus, from masters and teachers, and most of all, from our own elders, especially parents who turn grandparents, sayings trying to say the same thing. The issue is change. The challenge is how to.
It seems that the usual flavor of Philippine society, at least among those who try to be heard, is about how bad things are and that there should be change. Change, invariably, is political in nature. When the issue is what is wrong about governance, when the issue is about corruption, when the issue is about abuse of power, or even about the stupidity of those in high positions and the laziness or inefficiency of the bureaucracy, those who make critical commentaries mostly have no qualifications themselves, not from expertise or from track record.
There was a time when news was news, but it is hard to remember when. Journalism was a noble profession, the gathering and editing of information for presentation through media. The nobility was both in the intent and the execution. Somehow, news was then believed to have the higher purpose of informing different public audiences and, consequently, give them better basis for understanding and decision-making. And in the presentation of news, truth, factuality or objectivity was primordial.
But then, again, news was accepted as public service first and foremost. Its professional practitioners could earn if their publications or broadcasting companies were stable financially, but it was never a profession that could make those involved in it rich. Oh, yes, there were exceptions, but they were clearly exceptions.
Profit and public service, though, are strange bedfellows that usually and quickly become estranged. Profit is not primarily concerned with public service, it is concerned with itself as the bottom line. In other words, when public service is not profitable as a business, the business collapses, or the public service is subordinated to the requirements of profit. The priority between profit and public service dictates what will never be sacrificed in case conflict of interest arises.
So it is with the issue of change. When changed is demanded in the political field, whether it relates to corruption or the mismanagement of power, the nature is clearly collective. Many miss that fact that in a situation of extended wrongdoing in democratic or representative governments, change takes on a collective nature. Even though specific personalities can be targeted, the higher in the totem pole they are, they could not have practiced their corruption or abuse without an environment primed to collaborate. Janet Napoles is a prime example. She could never have succeeded if the culture of corruption had not been there before her, and quite dominant at that.
Corruption cannot become a defining feature of Philippine society if Filipinos, those who count by influence or are dominant numerically, had not tolerated it, or even aided and abetted it. Corruption does not become a social cancer unless it is societal in scope. The acceptance of corruption has to be high before it can become a subculture. And I wish to point out that corruption has had to be initiated by the ruling class, largely tolerated by the non-corrupt in the ruling class, before it can trickle down to those who have less influence and value in a society with severe gaps between the few rich and the many poor.
If we can take a few moments of quiet and reflect on the noise out there, it is not coming from the majority poor; and it is not coming from the youth either. The finger-pointing, the belligerent rhetoric, the holier-than-though posture of critics, all these come from the higher echelon of society. The growth of the Internet, especially the entry into it by OFWs and their families, has great impact in allowing those who used to be poor and quiet to express themselves as well. However, they are in social media but keep mostly to family and social interests.
In other words, where corruption began and grew until most of Philippine society became infected by it is also where the most noisy recrimination against corruption is coming from. It is the elite against the elite, whether they know it or not, because corruption by definition is the immoral abuse of power for personal gain. Power here means formal power, the kind that only governments can give to its officers and agents.
It is not surprising to me that the primacy of corruption as a political issue over more than six decades of Filipinos running government has not resulted in the elimination of corruption, not even in its obvious mitigation. It has been a lot of sound and fury, but really empty. It has something to do with hypocrisy or selective honesty, but maybe more about a lack of intelligence in the game of societal change.
If the sector that began corruption cannot admit it had done so, and then sustained it over these past decades, then its correction will be misdirected to those whom they influenced. Still waters mean absolute honesty to oneself and not looking at the others meanwhile. Only when we accept ourselves as we really are can there be change.
But, of course, we still have our favorite option, to run around like headless chickens, making lots of noise and doing lots of things, going nowhere, achieving nothing.



(Is she qualified to be president? Eminently!)
Grace-Poe.1To me, it was the first bit of good news I read throughout the whole of last week.
I refer to the survey report that Senator Grace Poe is now only five points behind frontrunner Vice President Jejomar Binay as the people’s preference to be the next president of the Republic.
The second bit of good news was the report that Grace said she is not considering running for vice president. I agree entirely with the reason she gave for her decision, i.e., that 2016 is the best time for her to run as president.
I will not be so presumptuous as to think that my views count on the matter of Grace running for president. However, as a voter, I am as entitled as the next fellow to express them.
But first, I must clarify that I have never met or talked with the good senator. What I say below is merely based on what I have seen in her photographs, articles I have read about her and, more importantly, the few instances I have watched and listened to her on TV and radio, particularly during the Senate hearings on the Mamasapano Massacre.
To me and I’m sure to many others, she is beautiful. Important? Of course! In more cases than one, the physical appearance of a leader, male or female, is an added asset, not that it could spell the difference between winning and losing a political contest, but an asset nevertheless.
However, what makes me think she will be a good leader is that she exudes grace under pressure, sincerity, confidence, courage of her conviction, all amply demonstrated in her speech and demeanor.
And, above all, her eyes!
I will never forget the time when her mother, Susan Roces Poe, said after the “I am sorry” speech of Ms. Gloria Arroyo regarding the “Hello Garci” election scandal that allegedly cheated Grace’s father, Fernando Poe, Jr., out of the presidency.
Susan said something like: “It’s in the eyes. The eyes are the mirror of the soul”, referring to Arroyo’s obviously contrived manner with which she delivered her “I am sorry” speech.
Is Grace qualified to be president? Eminently!
She certainly is well prepared academically having finished high school at Assumption-Makati where she excelled in oratorical competitions and became the Captain of the school’s debating team.
She then pursued her college education at the University of the Philippines and Boston College in Massachusetts, USA, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.
Her website has the following entry on her brief career as a public official:
“As the chairperson of the Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, she championed the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, which was approved on third reading by the Senate on March 10. She believes that the attainment of a just, progressive and lasting peace in the country greatly depends upon the free flow of information to the public. (Note: The FOI is one of the campaign promises that President Noynoy Aquino has reneged on.)
“Sen. Poe is also the first lady senator to serve as chair of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs.
“Over the years, she has spent her career standing for the rights of Filipino people. Making sure everyone especially children has access to quality education and proper nutrition is her major legislative priority that’s why one of the first bills she filed in the Senate was the Free Lunch Program which seeks to provide free lunch to malnourished children in all public schools nationwide.
“And true to her ‘showbiz’ roots, Poe has also filed a bill promoting Film Tourism that aims to make the Philippines into a major shooting destination for international films.
“As chair of the Movie and Television Regulatory and Classification Board (MTRCB), she advocated “intelligent media viewership” instead of “censorship” and formulated a new, age-appropriate ratings system designed to empower parents to exercise caution and vigilance with the viewing habits of their children.”
There is one thing that caught my eye when I came across an interview of Grace with Ms. Bianca Gonzalez of Philippine Star in January last year.
Asked “what kind of Philippines she is looking forward to for her children and the next generations, Grace said:
“I would like for them to have a country that they can really be patriotic and proud of. (Note: This is what struck me most, specifically the ‘patriotic and proud’ part, which I will explain in a future column.)
“What I want to have for them is a country that thrives environmentally, cleaner air for the kids, that there would be enough food, and basically opportunities for all would be available. I want them to really believe that they are proud to be Filipinos. And you can have that if you restore trust in our institutions. I think that change in government has already started but we still have to work hard to be able to achieve a certain form of transparency. That’s why it’s important, and magpluplug na ako, na may FOI tayo. So we can head towards that. Hopefully, we have six years. Yeah, we can do something.”
Is Grace winnable? Definitely!
…Unless she is cheated like her father was. But that’s another story. In any case, I believe that the Filipino people will no longer allow such a dastardly act to thwart their will again.
Also, I do not think it was a mere coincidence that Vice President Jejomar Binay made the statement that a “newbie” should not be president after the survey results came out. I think it was a manifestation of his concern that Grace is a winner who could beat him in the presidential race come May 2016.
Other presidential contenders also feel the same way that is why they are tripping over each other trying to convince Grace to be their running mate.
Binay said local government executives, like he was, are better able to handle national positions because of their experience and competence in governance, citing the case of the US some of whose past presidents were state governors.
He may be right, but I suppose it depends on the kind of “experience” or “competence” in governance the local government executive has.
We had a former local government official as president once. Look what happened.
Incidentally, I heard someone paint the following scenario: Jejomar as President, Nancy as Senate President, Abigail as House Speaker, Jojo as chairman of the country’s Mayors’ League and Elenita as Secretary of Health! Diyos ko po!!!
Have I already decided to support and vote for Grace if she decides to run for president next year?
Not yet.
There are at least two more things, at this point, that matter to me.
The first is her citizenship. Is she an American citizen or a green card holder? If she is either one, I believe she should renounce it forthwith. As a senator of the Republic she should not have either one. And definitely if she ever becomes president. She cannot have double loyalty.
The second is closely related to the first… her foreign policy platform. What is it? Is she determined to pursue an independent foreign policy as mandated by the Constitution, especially as it pertains to our relations with the US?
None of our previous presidents, including the incumbent who is also rumored to be a US green card holder, has been able to cut our umbilical cord to the US. As long as we keep relying on the US or any other foreign power for our political, security, economic and financial needs, we will never progress as a nation as rapidly as we would like to.
We are a rich country with a highly skilled and knowledgeable human resource. All that we need is a competent, dedicated and incorruptible leader who would assemble a team comprised of members with the same qualities.
Our peripatetic Foreign Secretary Albert “Super Amboy aka Giant Smiley” del Rosario said he is flying to Washington soon to follow up on the recent announcement of US Defense Secretary Ash Carter that his government wants to deploy advanced air, naval and maritime equipment to the Philippines amidst China’s ongoing reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.
No need. Del Rosario should just wait for the US to finalize her plan and tell us about it by sending a team here. To begin with, does he even know the difference between a bazooka and a howitzer? If he insists on going, he should bring with him weapons/equipment experts from the AFP.
We also don’t want to appear like we are begging again from our big brother whose interests will also be adversely affected if China is not dissuaded from continuing with her reclamation activities in the WPS.
Del Rosario also said the government is now looking at options other than filing protests to deal with the Chinese intrusion in the WPS. It would be most interesting to know what they are. Understandably, he did not reveal them.
Meanwhile, his boss, Noynoy, said he will raise again the territorial dispute and push for the adoption of an enforceable Code of Conduct when he attends the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur from April 26 to 28. I am afraid it will be another exercise in futility.
Last week, I wrote: “I have said it before and I’ll say it again… it ain’t gonna happen… unless the pro-Chinese members in the Association, namely, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar change their minds. The Association, unfortunately, decides by consensus. The lukewarm attitude or, shall we say, cautious approach or even doublespeak of the other Asean members towards any move that they perceive might jeopardize their relations with China is an aspect that Noynoy and Del Rosario should also not overlook.”
The Reminders (for Noynoy) portion of this column will be published next week.
Today is the 356th day of the eighth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.
I dread to think of how many more years it will take before Jonas’ disappearance is finally resolved. It is beginning to look like it will not be during Noynoy’s daang matuwid watch.
From an internet friend:
Faith healer: “Tumayo ka Tatang.” Dahan-dahang tumayo si Tatang na nasa wheelchair.
Faith healer: “Ngayon, lumakad ka Tatang. Lakad! Sige, lakad!”
Naglakad si Tatang nang dahan-dahan. Nagulat ang mga tao.
Faith healer: “Ano ang masasabi mo ngayon, Tatang?”

Can we still hold clean and honest elections?

This, rather than who should be running for President or Vice President, is the real question before us now. Is a clean and honest (and hopefully intelligent) Philippine election still possible? What can we do, and what should we do, to make it happen? Is the idea of a clean and honest election compatible with the use of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine?
Since the Supreme Court voided the Commission on Elections’ P269-million contract with Smartmatic for the repair of 82,000 PCOS machines to be used in 2016, some of us seem to believe that our battle against the PCOS machine is over, and that we are but a few steps away from holding a non-farcical election.
This feeling is understandable, but it seems entirely wishful. The Court decision ended a “midnight contract” which probably meant fat commissions for some Comelec officials or former officials; but in what way has it advanced the cause of clean and honest elections? This is what we must examine.
We cannot do away with the old PCOS units without doing away with automated voting. Without the voting machines, we would be forced to revert to manual voting, which may not be easy to do at all. It would mean repealing the automated voting law, which has developed its own constituency among our mostly transactional politicians. Should we fail to change the law, we cannot go manual even if it were the only remaining option. We will have to make do with the 23,000 new PCOS units which the Comelec is leasing from Smartmatic now.
This would mean an overload of several thousand voters per PCOS machine. The technical complications are unimaginable. They could lead to a possible failure of elections, which some Aquino supporters could exploit to argue in favor of extending his “term.”
The PCOS machine is not our only problem. But our discussion must begin here because of its critical role in any automated election. The corruption of the PCOS machine has rendered completely questionable not only the validity of the last two elections, but also the use of the PCOS in any future election.
Under Chairman Jose Melo, the Comelec removed all of the PICOS machines’ security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms, in violation of law and without regard of public opinion. In 2010, this produced the de facto presidency of B. S. Aquino 3rd. In 2013, this produced the “60-30-10” senatorial slate led by the hitherto unheralded Grace Poe. In 2016, unless corrected, it could produce another de facto president.
Deleted from legal existence were the mandatory review of the source code, which contains all the operational instructions to the PCOS machine; the ultra violet scan of every ballot paper to be used by every voter; the voter verification mechanism, which allows the voter to see that the machine is reading and recording his vote right; the digital signature on every report coming out of the machine, certifying its origin, timelines, and authenticity of its content; the certification by an independent authority of the perfect condition of the machines before they were used; and the random audit of the machines once they were operational.
The Court ruling does not discuss the legal castration of the PCOS machine. But until the Court requires the Comelec and Smartmatic to restore all the security features and accuracy mechanisms that had been taken away from the machine, we cannot begin to talk of a clean and honest automated voting. This point is important because while the Court nullified the defective repair contract between the Comelec and Smartmatic, it did not ban the infected machines from the next elections.
Nothing prevents the parties from entering into a new contract that is free from the legal defects of their nullified agreement. In fact, the Court did not say anything about the 23,000 new PCOS units the Comelec is leasing from its favored supplier.
This means that if the failed contract were properly rebidded, in accordance with the national procurement law, the 82,000 old PCOS machines could still be repaired and used in 2016, even without restoring the features that had been illegally removed in 2010 and 2013. So the PCOS machine would be back in action, while remaining the dirty word it had become in the last two elections.
It is therefore absolutely necessary that if a new repair and maintenance contract were to be drawn up between Comelec and Smartmatic, the word “repair” should be understood to mean restoring all the necessary features that had been illegally removed by the Comelec.
Together with this, our judicial system should be able to support our campaign for clean and honest elections by acting with reasonable dispatch on the various petitions and complaints that have been filed against those who have committed serious electoral offenses since 2010. These include those filed with the Ombudsman against Comelec officials responsible for disfiguring the PCOS machine, and those filed with the Supreme Court seeking the nullification of the results of the 2010 presidential elections.
The first set of complaints appears to have slept the sleep of death at the Office of the Ombudsman, while the petition before the Supreme Court against the 2010 presidential election, according to petitioners Homobono Adaza and Herman Tiu Laurel, has been “given due course,” but has not really moved at all. The entire government needs to get involved in this enterprise; but where the government is indifferent or antagonistic, the people must weigh in. For this involves the highest national interest.
The life of our democracy is a life-and-death issue for every patriot. And we must all be prepared to be patriots. As such our first duty is to stay focused, especially when others seem to be more occupied with what is superficial and meaningless than with what is truly meaningful and substantive, with ideas that could help us find a way out of the prevailing darkness. Nothing illustrates this better than what we read daily in the media about non-entities who seem to be completely preoccupied with their ambition to become president.
I cannot seem to understand why despite the sincere effort of the National Transformation Council to point out that our constitutional order is broken, and needs to be fixed first before we should start talking about people who should be running for the highest office, the most ambitious of them would not risk saying that they too would like to help fix the system before talking of their interest in any office. Even more distressing is the tendency of some people to name some senators as possible materials for the highest office.
It is simply the wrong place from which to draw any material for president or even vice-president. Why? Because it is an institution that has completely destroyed itself. In the presidential bribery that took place during the impeachment trial of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, 19 of the 20 senators who had voted to convict Corona received a bribe of P50 million to P100 million. This was so many times more than what Judas got when he sold his Master to his enemies. At least 16 of those senators remain seated in the Senate. The newcomers are not among those who had taken a bribe, but they were also part of those who were benefitted by the 2013 Hocus PCOS that gave us the 60-30-10 winning senatorial slate.
We need to see that our reigning emperors are naked.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

US Pinoys: Pray to Blessed Mother to protect us from China

No Limitation
By Ted Laguatan 
Part of China’s arbitrary reclamation projects in Philippine territory.
Part of China’s arbitrary reclamation projects in Philippine territory.
“Through prayer and fasting, one can stop wars, one can suspend the laws of nature.”- Blessed Mother Mary to Mirjana, Medjugorje visionary, July 21, 1982.
Satellite pictures have now exposed to the world China’s secret, immoral, rushed construction of extensive military bases, runways and stations in seven different areas deep inside the Philippines’ UN-defined 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Massive fortified buildings and runways are at advance stages of construction in expanded reefs and islands.
The driving force behind these constructions is China’s demonic plan to own and control the Philippines’ enormous oil and marine resources. To sustain continuous economic growth, China needs a constant supply of energy. It is now the world’s biggest importer of oil, most of it from Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The fish and other foods from vast Philippine marine resources can also feed millions.
Blessed-Mother-MaryHowever, having legitimate needs does not justify stealing resources from other people who also need them. But China’s leaders show no concern for moral niceties.
They see the Philippines as a weak, dysfunctional, corrupt nation with practically no military power, whose enormous natural resources are easy to take. They expect Filipinos to be helpless and frozen with fear when they invade and establish military bases in Philippine territory. Their expectations have so far been proven to be true.
Their only concern: If the U.S., the Philippines’ powerful ally, interferes and stops them. But when disputes escalated between China and the Philippines, the U.S. announced that it would not interfere in territorial disputes. This encouraged China to send more naval and fishing boats inside Philippine waters. Meeting no resistance, it proceeded to rush the construction of military bases and stations.
When these are completed, bombers, fighter planes, helicopters, missiles, warships, gunboats and thousands of military personnel will be stationed there. It will then be a cakewalk to install their giant super oil rigs and also control the fishing over thousands of square miles of Philippine territory. China will exclude the Philippines from benefiting from its own vast energy and marine resources.
This, essentially, is China’s game plan. Any other representations by Chinese officials to the contrary are nothing but sneaky, misdirecting cover-ups. Upon the global community’s discovery of these bases, a Chinese spokesperson immediately announced the obvious lie that these constructions were to be used merely as service stations for fishermen.
If these bases are completed, the national security of the Philippines and surrounding countries and the welfare of generations of Filipinos and other nationalities would be perpetually threatened as it would then be practically impossible to dismantle them.
Relevant background information: The now detained previous Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo facilitated China’s extensive oil exploration of Philippine waters from 2005 to 2008, in exchange for all kinds of personal considerations. She authorized the treasonous Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), which shocked many foreign observers. The obvious sellout resulted in serious consequences for the Philippines.
Upon discovering the enormous oil reserves in Philippine waters, China conceived of a bold, devious plan to own and control the precious black gold. It would also get the Philippines’ vast fishing domain as an added benefit.
China justified its imaginative plan with obvious fictions. It started by claiming ownership of the whole South China Sea on the basis of ludicrous reasons, which cannot possibly legally stand upon scrutiny. It absolutely knows this but it doesn’t care: “Might makes right” is its only actual, real, raw, brute argument.
Beijing claims that various ancient Chinese maps show that the whole South China Sea belongs to China, including the Philippines’ 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone as defined by the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) which China in fact signed in 1996. It has not publicly shown any of these supposed maps. In response, Philippine Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio publicly exhibited authentic, ancient maps. None of them supported China’s claims.
Even assuming that there are such maps, these cannot give legal ownership rights to China over such an area as the Philippines 200 mile EEZ. Historical events over time cause changes in national boundaries. The Philippines was under Spain, then under Great Britain, back to Spain, then under the United States, then to the Japanese, back to the United States, then independence. China’s legal ownership claim based on ancient maps is pure garbage. Italy might as well also claim ownership of Europe and parts of Africa because these were once under the Roman Empire.
To further supplement China’s ridiculous territorial ownership claim it conveniently adopted another fiction concocted in 1947 by an unknown official in Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang government. The official arbitrarily drew a U-shaped line composed of 11 dashes on a map of the South China Sea. Nobody really knows whether he just wanted to show the extent to which Chinese fishermen could go fishing or maybe was just fantasizing that Chiang’s government might someday own a huge designated area. In any case, no formal or any kind of territorial claim was ever made by Chiang’s government based on this map which later became known as the “nine dash line map” (the eleven dashes were later shortened to nine).
Clearly, an action by a government claiming territory based on an arbitrarily drawn line on a map neither has any legal or other rational authority that can be taken seriously. As such, the map was just mothballed. It was never used for any formal territorial claim.
That is, not until China discovered the massive oil deposits in Philippine waters. Then suddenly, on May 7, 2009, China started using the concocted Kuomintang government’s 9-dash line map together with the supposed ancient maps as a basis for claiming ownership of a whole ocean plus the territories of other nations.
The Philippines has filed a complaint against China in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (ITLOS) but China announced that it would not participate in the proceedings nor honor it’s decision. Of course, it would have an ice block’s chance in hell to win there. However, since no force is stopping China, it rushed military construction has proceeded merrily along in Philippine waters.
Over a year ago, I found out about China’s initial base construction in Philippine territory. I immediately wrote about the dangerous implications of increasing Chinese aggression on Philippine security and economic interests. I urged Philippine officials to persistently seek logistical and moral support from our powerful allies and immediately destroy this Chinese project. But great fear can shrivel and fossilize people’s minds. Like so many of our citizens they believe that we are helpless and alone against China’s military might. We are not. We have powerful allies and countries friendly to us.
Ironically, by announcing that we are limiting our options only to the ITLOS action, we gave China effective notice that it could proceed with its rushed constructions without interference. Now, not only one but seven deadly military bases and stations are already in advanced stages of construction.
I’m a lawyer and I respect the rule of law. But what if you are faced with the reality that the other side has a Mafia mentality and acts in bad faith with no respect for the law nor for you. Then you had better face reality and defend yourself as appropriate or you will get slaughtered.
But even if we don’t have the admirable courage of the Vietnamese and the Israelites in facing powerful enemies, heaven has recently favored us. Because of the alarming satellite pictures showing China’s extensive military base constructions, the U.S. and the other most powerful industrialized countries in the world — Japan, U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Canada, known as the Group of Seven (G-7) — have now become aware of China’s violations of international law, it’s aggression and apparent greed-based, malicious plans. A powerful joint collective statement was issued a few days ago by the G-7 countries, specifically referring to China’s Philippine territory constructions:
“We strongly oppose any attempt to assert territorial or maritime claims through the use of coercion, intimidation and force…We call on all states to pursue the peaceful management or settlement of maritime disputes in accordance with international law, including through internationally recognized legal disputes settlement mechanisms, and to fully implement any decisions rendered by relevant courts and tribunals which are binding on them.”
The G7 countries also called for the protection of the delicate marine environment which is being damaged extensively because of China’s massive constructions.
President Barrack Obama himself did not mince words when he strongly criticized China for using “sheer size and muscle” to intimidate and “elbow” smaller countries. This was preceded just days before by statements from U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Harry Harris and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declaring that the U.S. is prepared to use military force against China if necessary.
These policy statements were followed a few days later by massive war exercises involving around 12,000 military personnel from the Philippines, U.S. and Australia near China’s bases construction sites, which are still ongoing.
China’s more responsible leaders and citizens should immediately stop the construction of these military bases in Philippine territory to serve their interests. The very strong collective expressions of warnings from the most powerful nations on earth are telling China in no uncertain terms that its rogue nation bullying behavior is not acceptable.
These military bases threaten not only the Philippines’ national security and economic interests but also those of the G7 and other countries as well. They also threaten world order and peace. And they also threaten the security and safety of the Chinese people. These bases can lead to a terrible war that no one wants. The world cannot allow them to exist. They have to be destroyed one way or another.
US Pinoys call on Blessed Virgin Mary for help
Since China respects neither international law nor moral law, a group of influential Filipino-Americans believes that asking help from a higher authority to protect the Philippines from China’s aggression is necessary.
The US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG) has passed a unanimous resolution calling on Filipinos in the Philippines and all over the world to pray to the Blessed Mother and to her son Jesus Christ to protect the Philippines from China’s aggression. Consistent with Christian tradition, when asking for favors from our Blessed Mother or from our Lord, those who wish may fast at least one day a week ingesting only bread and water or doing some other form of sacrifices. She is the Patron Saint of the Philippines.
The USPGG is also respectfully asking Cardinal Luis Tagle, other church officials, priests, brothers, nuns and laymen to support this important sacred call for prayer and fasting and announce this call in schools, Sunday masses and other venues.
Under the protection of our Blessed Mother and her son Jesus, even with its mighty army, the dragon will not prevail. Let us also pray for the good Chinese people. They are not our enemy. The darkness and the evil in the minds and hearts of their leaders are the real enemy. They also cause much pain and danger to the Chinese people.
Please air this call to all Filipinos and ask them to do the same. We are praying peacefully for our future and the future of generations of Filipinos.
Note: Atty. Ted Laguatan is a U.S. based human rights lawyer and a California State Bar certified expert on Immigration Law. Email tel 650 991-1154

False polls: Uncle’s survey boosts Poe’s ratings

I’m not sure Senator Grace Poe had anything to do with it, principled as she seems to be.
But the recent “best-leaders” poll by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) headed by her uncle, Mahar Kelley Mangahas, who is the first cousin of her dad, the late Fernando Kelly Poe Jr., appears to me as another one of the many SWS episodes that depict a “trend” showing a political figure becoming a formidable candidate for the presidency.
SWS on April 15 released results of its latest survey done about a month ago, which asked respondents who they thought were “the best leaders (“magagaling”) to succeed President Aquino” after the end of his term in 2016.
Very cunningly, the SWS didn’t ask who they would vote for as president. Any social scientist would tell you that opinion polls are mostly accurate and useful in voter-preference surveying as the respondent is asked to report an intention, a future action, rather than a whim or a passing thought.
However, to pretend that its poll was one that asked its respondent about their voting preference for the president, SWS prefaced its question with the following statement: “According to the Constitution, the term of Pres. Noynoy Aquino is up to 2016 only, and there will be an election for a new President in May 2016.”
But the SWS poll is patently not a voter-preference survey in which a respondent chooses only one candidate. This emulates the actual election in which a voter choosing more than one candidate automatically invalidates his ballot.
In contrast, in the SWS “best-leaders” poll, a respondent is allowed to pick three “best leaders” to succeed Aquino. “Maari po kayong magbanggit ng hanggang tatlong sagot, [You may mention up to three names]” according to the survey questionnaire.
It’s a clever trick for exaggerating a candidate’s chances in a presidential contest: A poll for fools.
Polls or propaganda tools?: SWS “best-leaders” surveys, recent and past
Polls or propaganda tools?: SWS “best-leaders” surveys, recent and past
While it is not a voter-preference survey, as if on cue, the Philippine Daily Inquirer — and most media outlets — reported it as such a poll for the presidency, and had it as its banner story: “Poe cuts down Binay lead,” with its lead paragraph reading: “As she closed in on Vice President Jejomar Binay as the voter’s choice for the next President of the Philippines, Sen. Grace Poe said she was inspired by the people’s approval of their work.” Obviously, this was SWS’s intention for its “best-leaders” survey, to fool the media.
However, since the SWS poll wasn’t a voter-preference poll, which would require only one choice from the respondents, it can’t be used to compare the percentage of those who preferred Binay against those who preferred Poe, simply because a respondent was asked to give three choices as the “best leader to succeed Aquino.”
This is because a respondent in that kind of SWS poll could choose both Binay and Poe, and even a third choice as his choice as among the best successors of Aquino.
To illustrate this, if you ask tech-savvy respondents to name the three best computer operating systems, the percentages would probably be 40 percent Windows and 40 percent Mac OS X and 10 percent others. But if you ask them what operating system they will buy, the results (according to a Philippine poll) would be 92 percent Windows and only 4 percent OS X.
Mamasapano hearings
Cleverly in the case of the SWS “best-leaders” poll, the survey was undertaken at the height of the Mamasapano hearings, which Poe chaired to consequently boost her name-recall so more people remembered to put her in their list. So, Poe was named in the recent SWS poll by 31 percent of the respondents, up from 21 percent in December. Does that mean, she is, as two broadsheets reported the poll, “closing in on Binay?”
Certainly not. Because some of the 31 percent of respondents who put Poe among the “best-leaders” list had at the same time also picked Binay – or Mar Roxas, or Rodolfo Duterte or a third leader.
How many? We can’t say from the polls’ design. None or even all of Poe’s 31 percent theoretically also picked Binay. The only way to find out is to undertake an honest-to-goodness voter-preference survey, not the hogwash of a poll the SWS did, with the question: “Who will you vote for President, and you may, as the actual balloting will require, pick only one. “
I’d like to give Mr. Mangahas the benefit of the doubt that he is just doing his pollsters job. But I find it difficult to do so when a few days after he released the SWS’s garbage “best-successors” poll, Mangahas disclosed the results of an authentic voter-preference poll, but only for the vice-presidency.
The SWS says the two polls were both undertaken on March 20-23. Most likely, both were undertaken in the same “run,” that is, the two questions were asked by the same pollster in one interview of the same person.
So why didn’t SWS undertake a presidential voter-preference survey (“Who would you vote for as President in 2016,” but instead, only a vice-presidential one, and a best-leaders poll?
The answer is so obvious. Poe would get a high rating, such as 31 percent in the “best-leaders” poll, especially after the Mamasapano hearings, which would, anyway, be interpreted by the gullible media as a presidential poll. And with an authentic voter-preference poll for the vice-presidency released right after, media — and the people – will think that the “best-leaders” poll had the same reliable design as the vice-presidential poll.
In a real presidential-preference poll, in which a respondent would have to pick Poe to the exclusion of Binay, Mar and other candidates, she’d get much less than that.
One indication of this is that in the last (March 1-7) presidential-preference poll undertaken by Pulse Asia on who respondents would vote for as president, Binay got 29 percent while Poe received 14 percent. In a two- or three-cornered fight, I would bet – from past elections and polls – Poe would get much lower ratings.
So wrong
Except for the top-rated choice, SWS’ “best-leaders” polls have been so wrong in predicting the outcome of presidential elections. In the last SWS “best-leaders” poll before the May 2010 elections, Aquino obtained a 59 percent rating, 17 percentage points higher than the actual 42 percent he got in the elections. The runner-up, though, Joseph Estrada, who got 26 percent of the votes, was ranked only fourth in the “best-leaders” poll, with 18 percent.
So clever is Mangahas’ best-leaders poll, don’t you think? And so useful, as contributors use such polls to hedge their bets at this early stage. I suspect the SWS polls have opened the spigot of campaign financing a bit for Poe from the more gullible financiers.
Pollsters in other nations have been ethical not to employ such a “trending” device. I have yet to find a pollster anywhere in the world — and even here — who does what Mangahas has been doing with his “best-leaders” false polls.
In fact, if you’re one among probably millions of Filipinos now regretting why on earth they voted for Aquino in 2010, you can put part of the blame on the SWS “best-leaders” poll.
Hardly had the mourning period for Corazon Aquino, who died Aug 1, 2009, ended, when the SWS used its “best-leaders” tool to portray Aquino as the next president.
Its “best-leaders’ poll undertaken Sept 18-20 that year reported that 60 percent of Filipinos picked Aquino as Arroyo’s successor from nearly nothing (0.4 percent) before his mother died. It was a rating that suddenly deflated the front-runner Manuel Villar’s standing and likely created a bandwagon effect. That, of course, had donations suddenly flowing to Aquino, helping create a “trending” to elect somebody who would be the most incompetent Philippine president ever.
SWS’s earlier king- (and queen-) maker attempts, however, have not always been successful:
Loren Legarda got a high 44 percent in the SWS September 2007 “best-leaders” poll. Her ratings in that poll would fall to 3 percent by November 2009 and lower to 1 percent in the latest. Is Poe the new, improved Loren?
Noli de Castro got 35 percent in March 2008 (higher than Poe’s latest 31 percent). His ratings fell to 3 percent by November 2009.
Francis Escudero ratings had seemed to be on the way up, rising from 13 percent in 2007 to 23 percent by February 2009. It’s at 8 percent in the latest “best-leaders” poll.
This SWS kind of polls bolsters my view, which I have explained in past several columns, that in this country, opinion polls have been degraded into a political weapon and a propaganda tool. Only a few backward countries, in fact, report voter-preference polls on the front pages. Here it is routinely done and even brandished with screaming banner headlines.
The politicking season in our country is a time when pollsters make their millions, but we have to be critical of those since they could subvert democracy. What is a scientific tool in civilized countries has been debased in our country as a tool for propagating an irrational name-recall system for determining who would lead the nation next.
FB: Bobi Tiglao