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A detour on straight path EDITORIAL 12/20/2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

A detour on straight path

Click to enlarge
What has happened to “daang matuwid” (straight path) of Noynoy Aquino?

The path seems to have ran right smack into a solid wall in the face of the Hong Kong government’s decision to hold its own probe on the bungled hostage rescue operations that claimed the lives of eight of the territory’s residents who were in the country as tourists.

The Palace balked at the prospect of the Aquino administration being placed on a practical international trial when its key officials are likely haled to a court of sorts in Hong Kong to testify on the tragedy that remains a thorn to the country’s relations with both Hong Kong and its mother country China.

Noynoy’s spokesman Abigail Valte said in so many words that Hong Kong should lay down all its cards on its proposed investigations first before it can expect cooperation from the Aquino administration on the probe.

Valte added that Noynoy’s administration wants to get assurance that the rights of Filipinos to be summoned to Hong Kong will be protected..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20101220com3.html

Toddlers wrestle with philosophy in new French documentary FRONTLINE Ninez Cacho-Olivares 12/20/2010

Fishing for evidence

Ninez Cacho-Olivares
The appointed commissioners and chairman of the unconstitutional Truth Commission may as well call it quits and fold it up, because even they believe that the Supreme Court is not likely to change its ruling.

The chances are really slim as it would take so many justices to be convinced to reverse their opinions. Ten to 5 is a big majority.

But there went some members of the commission, chief among them Carlos Medina, who said that they are now banking on the justices’ individual conscience for them to see the merits of their motion for reconsideration which they are reportedly set to file before the year ends.

That’s still an insulting appeal to the high court justices — no matter how one cuts it, since the implication in such a statement is that the justices struck down Noynoy’s Executive Order 1 (EO 1) due to other political considerations — among which Noynoy’s Yellow aides charged were Gloria Arroyo’s appointments insurance now paying off, and that the ruling smacks of the justices’ debt of gratitude payment to Gloria.
Medina was quoted as saying that the high court justices should “go back to their conscience and hopefully will realize the practical consequences of their decision.”.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20101220com5.html

Toddlers wrestle with philosophy in new French documentary FRONTLINE Ninez Cacho-Olivares 12/20/2010

Toddlers wrestle with philosophy in new French documentary

Ninez Cacho-Olivares
PARIS — A group of French three- and four-year-olds gather around a lit candle to tackle the big issues of life: love, death, liberty, other philosophical questions that flummox many an adult.

“Next time, we’ll be asking ‘What are parents for?,’” teacher Pascaline Dogliani announces as she wraps her latest philosophy class for toddlers.

More than two years of these sessions at a school just outside Paris have been distilled into a French documentary, Ce n’est qu’un début (Just a Beginning), which is intriguing audiences around the world.

Filmmakers Jean-Pierre Pozzi and Pierre Barougier recorded 180 hours of footage from classes introducing philosophy to young children and condensed them into a sometimes amusing, sometimes intense hour and 35 minutes.

The teacher first lights a candle that serves both to signal the start of the session and as a focal point for the attention of the children gathered around..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20101220com5.html

Can the DoTC still hack it? C.R.O.S.S.R.O.A.D.S Jonathan De la Cruz 12/20/2010

Can the DoTC still hack it?

Jonathan De la Cruz
DoTC Secretary Ping de Jesus must be having sleepless nights these days. And not just because he is religiously attending Simbang Gabi masses. The soft spoken DoTC head honcho has the unenviable task of telling the Filipino people, his and P-Noy’s bosses, why they seem not to have the means, some are even insinuating, the inclination, to review the books and subject the contracts of the transport concessionaires — from the Slex to the MRT3, even the LTO/LTFRB technology partner Stradcom to the inter island shipping and, to a certain extent, the domestic carriers — to more strenuous tests to ensure that they are performing in accordance with their mandates as public service operators. They are particularly incensed about the ways and practices of Slex operator SLTC and its Malaysian partner, MTD Berhad, the Sobrepena-soon-to-be-MVP managed MRT3 and, of course, Stradcom whose internal problems have spilled over to the operations of the LTO and LTFRB. What makes the public anger even more palpable is the DoTC’s acquiesence to all the nonsensical rationications being spewed out by these operators as if they have lost the will and the patience to even take a look at these guys’ facts and figures if only to ensure that they are not duping the public big time. So the question in everybody’s mind is: Can the DoTC still hack it?.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20101220com6.html

The colonial anti-boycott gaggle DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 12/20/2010

The colonial anti-boycott gaggle

Herman Tiu Laurel
Coalition of the weak” and “lovely collection of rogues and cowards” are some of the pejoratives used for the countries that rejected this year’s Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, Norway. Weak, rogues, and cowards… huh? Seriously?
Among the 18 or so countries that joined the boycott, Vietnam, Venezuela, Cuba and Russia are countries that have stood up to the foremost imperialist in modern times. The United States of America, for everyone’s information, maintains 800 military bases in 130 countries and continues to trigger wars in smaller countries on all continents of the globe (except Australia ).

Cuba, meanwhile, has withstood US economic blockade since 1960; Vietnam defeated the US in 1975; Venezuela has defied Uncle Sam to the benefit of Venezuelans and nationalized the oil industry which the US once controlled; while Russia has gone tit-for-tat with the US in arms control, missile defense, South Ossetian independence, and a lot more since Putin restored Russian sovereignty.

It would be more correct to describe the detractors of the Peace Prize boycott as a gaggle of weak minds for wittingly or unwittingly missing such obvious facts.

This gaggle among the local crop of naysayers should not surprise anyone anymore. The Philippine intelligentsia is still a colonial vestige that survives and thrives on the handouts of the imperial power. From the nurturing of their journalistic careers (with grants, scholarships, and visas), to the multi-national advertising money poured in for their media organizations, to funding for “human rights journalism” and recruitment to US academe, not to mention prestigious awards and prizes, this intelligentsia merely sucks from the great imperialist’s bosom.

Francisco Tatad, for instance, tells a story of this writer he saw decades ago in Washington DC. As he saw the latter tugging his luggage and making his way to State Department offices at the Watergate complex, the writer (now one of the most vitriolic in the Philippine Star on the Peace Prize issue) said, “Pera-pera lang ito,” revealing his role as a US hack.

The real surprise is that among the countries that boycotted the Nobel Peace Prize, Afghanistan and Colombia are both under US control. Were the leaders of these countries instructed to join or was it their way of nudging their American masters for more “aid” as it seems to be their habit?

The boycott from Ukraine is no longer surprising as it is under the new pro-Russia president Victor Yanukovych. Sudan, another country fighting off Western attempts to split it into two — the North whose President Bashir is persecuted by the International Criminal Court for “genocide,” a charge no African country believes, and the oil-rich South that has pro-US rebel forces — also joined the boycott. Iran, as we know, has defied the West’s nuclear apartheid for quite some time, so its boycott came as no surprise.

Other boycotting countries include Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Serbia (which has real issues against the West, such as the separation of Kosovo, later placed under the leadership of a Mafioso and organ smuggler), Pakistan (which has given the West the best runaround on its nuclear arsenal), Egypt , Morocco… and then the Philippines.

As I have said before, even if the Philippine boycott was for mistaken reasons, it was the “right” mistake, which may be a first step in wriggling a toe away from the US straight jacket. Hopefully it won’t go the direction of Gloria Arroyo who got one toe out in the Iraq pull-out but soon learned that the US will still give her free rein if only for corruption, subservience, and personal convenience — but never for political independence.

About the Nobel Peace Prize’s latest Trojan horse, Liu Xiaobo, few know that he rooted not only for the US attack on Iraq, but also praised the US-Nato-led Afghan War and campaigns for China to be fully westernized. For local intelligentsia such as the PEN writers who condemned China, westernization and colonial mind slavery are a ticket to more visas and Western literary awards or grants.

How can anyone with a right mind award a Peace Prize to a war monger, and worse, to one that seeks to erase Asian historical and cultural legacy? The mainstream of Philippine opposition to the Peace Prize boycott is conveniently weak, if not absent-minded. It likes to shoot from the hip while knowing very little about the Nobel laureate and hardly considers the recent turn for pro-war figures of the Peace Prize committee chairman, Thorbjoern Jagland, a Nato war hawk and concurrent chairman of the hawkish Council of Europe.

The Philippine anti-boycott voices reflect the prevailing colonial mentality of local intelligentsia. It explains why the Philippines is unable to break free from colonial exploitation and oppression, making the nation exceedingly poorer.

If the nation’s intelligentsia today were only half as proud and independent as those of Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela, Iran, or China, our nation would long have stayed at the forefront of Asian intellectual leadership as the revolutionary intellectual Rizal and company showed. As things stand, a Philippines that exists only under the shadow of the US will never grow intellectually, cultural, politically, and economically.

(Tune in to Sulo ng Pilipino, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 6 to 7 p.m. on 1098AM; watch Politics Today with HTL, Tuesday, 8 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11 p.m., on Global News Network, Destiny Cable channel 8; visit our blogs, http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com and http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com; P.S.-“10 minutes lights out vs power plunderers,” 7 to 7:10 p.m., Monday nights)

SLTC’s gall. Take the case of the Slex operator, South Luzon Tollways Corp. (SLTC) and its Malaysian partner, MTD Berhad. After perfunctorily attending a TRB “hearing and consultation” meeting a week or so ago in grudging compliance with the Supreme Court decision mandating it to hold such meetings before even announcing any rate change, SLTC issued out notice that: a) the TRB has approved its petition for provisional increase of 300 percent over the present rate by Jan.1, 2011 but that b) “‘out of goodwill’ and their sense of corporate responsibility they will “grant” motorists discounts up to March 31, 2011. What gall!
So, is the public supposed to thank SLTC and the TRB which is headed by the DoTC secretary, for this show of magnanimity? Are we supposed to sing hossanas to these guys? Of course not. If, as these guys reported, they can afford to offer discounts and take a P75 million cut, what prompted them to even ask for a 300 percent increase in the first place? And then, in the same breath, why are they now asking TRB to give them the means to “...recover P1 billion in lost revenues” since according to them the automatic toll hike increase as provided in their agreement was delayed since its implementation was suspended last July?

Obviously, these guys have a mastery of their numbers and the terms and conditions of what is now turrning out to be a “sweetheart contract” with the TRB so they can play around with all this false sense of responsibility and sensitivity to the fate of the riding public. As lawyer and consumer rights advocate Jun Francisco noted during the TRB hearing, the agency was not being fair and responsible in the discharge of its functions as it only gave the oppositors 24 hours notice to file their comments. Moreover, Francisco noted, the TRB did not even discuss the genuineness of the figures which the SLTC presented much more the accuracy of the same. He advised, for example, that the submitted P10 billion cost for the Slex rehabilitation and expansion submitted by SLTC’s Malaysian partner to the Kuala Lumpur Exchange where it is listed is very different from that which it submitted to the TRB. In the former, the cost was supposed to cover the stretch from Alabang to Lucena City while in the latter, it was adjusted to cover only the currently usable portion from Alabang to Calamba. That is a huge difference by any measure.

Given that submission alone, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the SLTC can very well afford not to petition for any rate increase for the usable Slex stretch for the next six maybe even 10 years even if its agreement with TRB stipulates that it can do so every two years. That the TRB never even mentioned that huge differential in any of its issuances or, if it believes that Francisco’s data are wrong, to correct it shows how this regulatory agency has been captured by the entity it is supposed to be regulating.

To those in the know this sorry state of affairs at the TRB comes as no surprise at all. They tell us that Isaac David, SLTC’s president, and the other Filipinos who joint ventured with MTD Berhad and wangled this one sided contract with PNCC and thence TRB, were once connected with both entities. They were, in one way or the other, instrumental in the forging of these agreements whose incredibly disadvantageous terms they are now imposing on the public. In short, they are dealing with themselves.

MRT3, Stradcom redux. The sad, sad story of these “public service” operators and these include, as we earlier mentioned, the inter island shipping companies, domestic carriers and, yes, those in the power sector (remember the IPPs and the privatized entitities now all raring for rate hikes?), the water utilities and even the telecoms groups, aew the reality staring us in the face by 2011 and beyond. These guys have gotten themselves highly advantageous (to them and their owners and cohorts, in and out of government, of course) contracts which the regulatory agencies are hardly reviewing and whose contents they have yet to fully disclose to the public.

What makes the Slex issue especially problematic for Secretary De Jesus is the fact that he himself knows what these tollway contracts are all about having been the head honcho of the Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) which is handling the North Expressway and recently the SCTex. With such knowledge and experience the public was reassured that which he did sensitively in the north he would or could do in the south. Unfortunately, he seems to have given up on this one and left everything to his subalterns and the likes of the TRB spokesman Julius Cesar Corpuz who is acting more like the SLTC defense lawyer than a government official. So, the question persists: can the DoTC still hack it?

That question gained more currency with the revelation that government will continue to subsidize MRT3 rates to the tune of P7 billion by 2011 on top of preparing the public mind for a possible rate increase on this facility. Again, the question being asked is: Has the DoTC taken a second even third look at the MRT3 contract, especially since it has been bruited about that government spent $800 million to and more than 80 percent of the “economic interests” of the MRT3 system? So, how does that “buy out” square with this multi billion peso subsidy and fare increase? It is time the DoTC comes out with its own study and assessment of this contract as it now stands given all the changes which have happened since the time it got on track to this time, six months after the P-Noy government’s take over.

The same can be said of the Stradcom contract which has metamorphosed into a multi hydra kind of operation with all kinds of fees being imposed on hapless drivers, vehicle owners and transport operators. Quite apart from refereeing the corporate intramurals which has consumed the company lately to the detriment of the public doing business with the LTO and LTFRB what has the DoTC done about this contract? Can it at least explain to us mortals what the features of this contract are, what is its standing at this point, how long will it still be in place and so on and on. In a word, can somebody from the DoTC tell us what is happening on this front and how much more suffering are we supposed to endure before we can see the light of day?

These and other issues are hounding and will continue to hound the DoTC until and unless it clears the air and truly provides a clear path out of these “sweetheart contracts” it has on its plate,most if not all of which this administration merely inherited. And because it so inherited these problems the more aggressively it should be able to secure solutions to these. That is, if it hopes to gain the people’s trust and not be cast like the others before it as a captive of the past. It is time the regulators truly become what they are supposed to be — regulators — not the regulated or the captured ones.
SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20101220com7.html

Noy’s Christmas Aldrin Cardona 12/20/2010

Noy’s Christmas

Aldrin Cardona 12/20/2010
Results of this mid-year’s presidential polls have given Filipinos much optimism, there seems to be a carryover of their confidence as we head into a new year full of hope.

A Pulse Asia survey shows nine out of 10 Filipinos are greeting 2011 with much anticipation of a better life under the reform agenda of President Aquino, whose campaign promises seem to have lingered on the minds of his constituents.

They are willing to wait for Noynoy to make them happen, with only a few — just one in 20 feeling apprehensive, waiting the Aquino bubble to burst.

Aquino’s landslide victory, however, should translate to real changes, primarily in improving the economic lot of the people or, as Ana Maria Tabunda, Pulse Asia chief researcher, said, people’s optimism would decline if the economy did not improve.

New presidents normally enjoy great number in popularity surveys, but they quickly lose them as each of their days expires..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20101220com8.html

Hopeful Dinah S. Ventura 12/20/2010


Dinah S. Ventura 12/20/2010
As the year draws almost to a close, most companies make their year-end evaluations or wrap up their last 12 months with celebrations, whether lavish or simple, and prepare their teams for the year ahead.

For their part, workers appease themselves with thoughts of using that much-anticipated 13th month pay and, if they are lucky, even a Christmas bonus. Though fleeting pleasures, these little extras somehow alleviate the prospects of another grueling year ahead.

With the unemployment rate still dismal, chances of better opportunities hereabouts remain slim. Even those encouraging words of entrepreneurship sound foreign, as the mere words “investment” or puhunan seem daunting enough.

It’s barely believable that another year is about to pass, yet here we are, striving to feel the joy of Christmas — sadly perhaps without all our loved ones in our shores. Maybe a brother, sister, mother, father or friend may be working in other lands, and we might have to bear another Noche Buena wishing they were here. If only greener pastures did not have to be sought elsewhere... but then again, greener pastures are always exactly that..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20101220com9.html

Experts: Errors fill new peso bank notes 12/20/2010

Experts: Errors fill new peso bank notes

Errors are proving to be a hallmark under President Aquino.

After the tourism slogan debacle that resulted in the resignation of a key Department of Tourism official, now comes geographically-challenged Philippine maps and a rare parrot with the wrong-colored beak that were among glaring errors in new editions of peso bills that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas recently rolled out.

The new-generation bank notes, rolled out earlier this month and containing the signature of President Aquino who took office this year, bombed spectacularly in the graphics department, critics said.

The reverse side of the new P500 bill features a rare native bird, the blue-naped parrot, with its red beak incorrectly rendered in yellow and the tail feathers underneath colored green instead of yellow.

A map on the bill, which also carries portraits of Aquino’s late parents, mislocates Saint Paul’s, a subterranean river that is designated as a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) world heritage site..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20101220hed1.html

Learn, stop jousts with SC, solon tells Noy’s legal team By Angie M. Rosales 12/20/2010

Learn, stop jousts with SC, solon tells Noy’s legal team

By Angie M. Rosales 12/20/2010

Instead of engaging the Supreme Court in a word war, the Palace should task its legal team to buckle down to work and improve its efficiency, a senior member of the Senate said yesterday.

“It’s unnecessary. I think it’s needless (to do so). It’s unnecessary because each one is doing its own job. So if somebody erred, then you pursue what is the proper procedure, not lambast the other party, especially the courts if the case is still pending,” Sen. Edgardo Angara said.

The senator was referring to the recent exchanges in public of President Aquino’s two-man legal team with the judiciary over the spate of decisions unfavorable to the Executive, such as the unconstitutionality of Executive Order No. 1 that established the Truth Commission.

Angara, himself a former executive secretary during the Estrada administration, said thedecisions rendered by the SC on matters concerning moves of the Executive only highlighted the lack of needed experience and expertise of those surrounding Pres. Aquino..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20101220hed2.html

Palace stance on HK probe fans more anger By Michaela P. del Callar 12/20/2010

Palace stance on HK probe fans more anger

By Michaela P. del Callar 12/20/2010

Palace remarks that laid down the conditions for the Aquino adminis-tration’s accession to a Hong Kong plan to reopen the probe into the hostage-taking crisis further fanned anger in territory over the President Aquino’s handling of the tragic incident.

Li Yick-biu, a survivor of the botched hostage rescue operation last Aug. 23 was quoted in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) as reacting angrily to Aquino spokes-man Abigail Valte’s statement that the Aquino administratin will put the rights of Filipinos first if Hong Kong calls them to testify at an inquiry.

Hong Kong’s Department of Justice said it wanted to summon 116 Filipino witnesses, including Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, police snipers, doctors and medical examiners, to its own inquiry.

Li demanded the Philippine authorities to “do what they can” to give evidence in the Hong Kong court. Li, 73, was released unharmed by hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza during the incident in which eight Hongkongers died..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20101220hed3.html

Navy whistle-blower faces court martial 12/20/2010

Navy whistle-blower faces court martial

Court martial proceed-ings were recommended by a Navy investigating com-mittee against disgruntled Rear Adm. Feliciano Angue who publicly criticized the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) promotion system and accused Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin of meddling in the process.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. confirmed that the Navy’s special investigating committee, headed by former Navy Vice Commander now retired Rear Adm. Roberto Estioko, had completed its inquiry on Angue.

“The Philippine Navy investigating committee submitted to general headquarters its recommendation regarding the Angue case. The recommendation has been referred to the AFP, recommending for a pre-trial investigation,” Mabanta said.

“They recommended to the JAGO (Judge Advocate General’s Office) for a pre-trial investigation. So this still has to be approved by the chief of staff,” he added..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20101220hed5.html

Sonic booms rouse randy crocs 12/20/2010

Sonic booms rouse randy crocs

Sonic booms created by Israeli warplanes speeding across the sky are having the unintended consequence of launching hibernating crocodiles into mating mode, the daily Maariv reported Sunday.

According to the newspaper, each time warplanes break the sound barrier over a crocodile breeding farm in the Golan Heights, the randy reptiles begin emitting their ritual mating cry.

“The powerful squealing noises, reminiscent of the sound of a car braking, can be heard from hundreds of meters around,” David Golan, head of crocodile breeding at the Hamat Gader park, told Maariv.

The calls appeared to be a response to the sonic booms, which seemed to convince the crocodiles that other males had begun making mating signals, the newspaper said..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20101220hed8.html

Organ donation starts next year, says PhilNOS 12/20/2010

Organ donation starts next year, says PhilNOS

Based on current statistics, only one in 10 million Filipinos who meet sudden death — say, a fatal accident or a stroke — donates any of their organs to those who need them to live. Compare this with a country like Spain, where as many as 350 of 10 million Spaniards in their last throes shared their organs in 2005.

The Philippine government, through the Department of Health (DoH) and private-sector partners, is hoping to improve the country’s numbers in this regard starting next year, especially with the notable rise in illnesses like chronic kidney disease (CKD), a cousin to hypertension and diabetes, that often deteriorates to an end-stage condition requiring kidney transplantation.

Organizing the procurement of organs from the “brain dead” to give new life to those who are sick is the tough new proposition to meet the growing needs of Filipino patients for organ transplant, and to turn around the country’s besmirched reputation in recent years because of alleged organ-trafficking activities.

A tall order, but doable, says organ-transplant surgeon Dr. Maria Vanessa De Villa, a main architect of the newly launched DoH program on organ donation from deceased donors. She estimates that it might take several years for the program to see optimal results as shown in other countries, an assessment that is drawing some concern among fellow practitioners..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

 URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20101220nat2.html

AFP crafts ‘Bayanihan’ to end insurgency in 2016 By Mario J. Mallari 12/20/2010

AFP crafts ‘Bayanihan’ to end insurgency in 2016

By Mario J. Mallari 12/20/2010
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has dubbed its new counter-insurgency campaign plan as “Bayanihan” which is people-centered and focused more on the whole-nation approach to finally end the decades-long communist insurgency problem in the country.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. said that AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo David Jr. will formally present the campaign plan Bayanihan to the commander in chief President Aquino during the celebration of AFP’s 75th founding anniversary on Tuesday in Camp Aguinaldo.

“It’s (campaign plan Bayanhihan) official launching and submission to the President will be on Dec. 21st,” said Mabanta.

The campaign plan “Bayanihan,” Mabanta said, was conceptualized by the AFP general headquarters led by no less than David, who has given priority to promotion of human rights..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20101220nat1.html

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