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Denominator bias

Finding higher infection in the charts, officials claim their efforts are really much more successful because the death chart shows shorter bars.

Dean Dela Paz

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Numbers do not lie. We are not talking here about statistics, bar charts or graphs. Not even survey results where a random sample is taken to mean as a representation of the whole universe, where a subset is extrapolated and assumed as the whole.

It is that assumption that lies in the realm of the subjective. The smaller the subset, the farther from fact.

As for charts and graphs, again, each are either representations or interpretations of data. They are not the actual data themselves. At best they are estimations.

These said, statistics are better than nothing and are far more reliable than numbers pulled straight out of thin air.

Now while these representations, interpretations and estimations do not necessarily lie, they can be made to lie.

Indulge us then a second premise. While numbers do not lie, that cannot be said of people who quote numbers. And they can lie with numbers.

That people lie with numbers is easy to prove. Ask any Filipino male his height. Don’t even start on other less visible body parts. You will never get an honest answer.

Now leap to the political arena where every other word, even when cited with numbers, is not only questionable but, invariably tainted with politics, would probably be a lie despite quantitative bases cited.

Let’s start with numbers we can count using fingers. That shouldn’t be difficult even for politicians.

Amid a pandemic where numbers are critical to the fashioning and implementation of policies to balance priorities among infections, hospital capacities and an economy spiraling south, the correct numbers are important. Unfortunately, the experts we’ve trusted can’t even get their act together on the simplest things. One ranking official said we are now amid a second wave. Another said we’re on our first.

One says the infection curve flattened. Yet no charts show plateauing or flattening. Later, the good doctor says “flat” really means “bent.” How can anyone trust these clowns?

The most ludicrous, heard almost on a daily basis, is when, finding higher infection in the charts, officials claim their efforts are really much more successful because the death chart shows shorter bars.

They are interpreting an interpretation. The numerically challenged suffer from denominator bias focusing on numerators alone, thus drawing the wrong conclusions. Combined with a “recency” bias to overweigh with proximate events, the problem worsens.

The foregoing is an example. They array the numerators of total deaths with total infections and ascribe the latter to successful testing, yet ignore the denominators simply to parry charges of incompetent pandemic management.

This is how numbers are made to lie. Unfortunately, these come from people we trust. And that is the unfortunate truth.

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Commentary

UN should know better

I therefore call on the stakeholders in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East and Africa: if we cannot be friends as yet, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much.

TEB

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President Rodrigo Duterte succeeded in bringing across the message that nothing is more precious than human lives during his address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The pandemic, however, restrained the appreciation of the precisely aimed statements of the President, many of which were intended at his inconsolable detractors.

Calling the onslaught of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as the biggest “test the world and the United Nations faced since World War II,” Mr. Duterte raised the need for the whole world to act together to defeat it.

In one of his weekly addresses to the nation, the President revealed the demands of some foreign pharmaceutical giants for a “reservation charge,” which was a show of greed that appalled him.

With the very existence of mankind probably at risk if the advance of the virus is not halted, Western drug outfits still have their priorities clouded by the profit motive.

The intervention of a body such as the UN is needed to assure the universal access to a cure when it is made available.

Similar to other international bodies, the UN had mostly turned into a grievance forum aside from being a venue for annual social events that contribute little to the improvement of people’s lives.

Mr. Duterte believes that the UN is capable of a bigger role during the crisis period.

“We will need to ask hard and fundamental questions about the vision and mission that the United Nations conceptualized 75 years ago,” the President said.

He added that while each nation has its own strategy in fighting the pandemic, “what the world needs are coordinated international plans and efforts to pursue a common purpose.”

With his plea came a warning that “COVID-19 knows no border. It knows no nationality. It knows no race. It knows no gender. It knows no age. It knows no creed.”

“When the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld. It should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy,” he appealed.

Speaking for the developing world, Mr. Duterte said that a global health agenda with enough resources and policy space for the World Health Organization (WHO) should be set up.

“We need a WHO that is quick to coordinate and quicker to respond. The Philippines will do its part in the pooling of global resources. Our health workers are among the best,” he offered.

He also sought a moratorium on superpowers’ rivalry for hegemony.

“When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled flat,” according to the President.

“I therefore call on the stakeholders in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East and Africa: if we cannot be friends as yet, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much,” he added.

The entire address of the President has one core message which is that the wellbeing of one person will contribute to the overall betterment of mankind.

He cited for instance the ordeal of Filipino migrant workers who were among those whose future was abruptly disrupted by the contagion. More than 345,000 overseas Filipino workers needed to come home after losing their jobs.

The number of affected Filipinos is multiplied considering that many families depend solely on remittances of migrant workers to survive.

Mr. Duterte’s philosophy from the start of his presidency that the lives of the innocent can’t be compromised holds true for the world during the global catastrophe.

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Commentary

Distorted priorities indeed

Martires was among those who voted to oust Maria Lourdes Sereno over alleged non-filing of some mandatory asset declarations.

Concept News Central

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Perhaps former Supreme Court associate justice Samuel Martires had good reason for deciding to scrap lifestyle checks on public officials before he had even warmed his chair at the Office of the Ombudsman.

He may have had solid reason, but it currently escapes ordinary citizens who may consider these lifestyle checks as the last recourse to investigate graft and corruption allegations.

Lifestyle checks are usually made on those who figure in graft allegations. It is also called for when “unexplained wealth” is observed.

It is not merely a tool to sic investigators on someone nor is it supposed to be used to ruin anyone’s reputations.

If our government is doing it right, and justice really intended, then it should be used to prove one’s innocence.
Martires at the budget hearing in Congress last Tuesday said that as soon as he sat as Ombudsman, he had the lifestyle checks stopped because he already had doubts over some of the provisions of Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

He would like to propose amendments, he added, because he thinks some of these provisions are vague and lacking in logic.

“…What is living beyond your means? Those who earn P50,000 a month, lives in a small house, saved money, bought a BMW on a promo, zero interest, in installment — is he living beyond his means? I don’t think so. What he has are distorted values and distorted priorities,” he added.

Ombudsman Martires’ logic in this case is the one that beats understanding, seeming to miss the whole point of a “check” in the first place.

Martires’ explanation shows he has already judged the matter before anyone can even look into it.

So what amendments does the Ombudsman have in mind to strengthen the anti-graft law in the Philippines?

Martires had also earlier restricted public access to the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of public officials filed in the Ombudsman.

He said these SALN are not necessary to prove plunder, as he thinks these records are only being used to ruin reputations of public officials.

His exact words in a GMA-7 report: “In the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, we do not need SALN to prove undue injury, undue advantage, even plunder. For what is SALN? It’s being used destroy the reputation of government officials.”

To recall, Martires was among those who voted to oust Maria Lourdes Sereno over alleged non-filing of some mandatory asset declarations.

The former Chief Justice lost her fight in 2018 after it was shown that she “did not submit 10 years’ worth of SALN prior to her appointment in 2012.”

SALN are required by law under Article XI Section 17 of the Philippine Constitution and Section 8 of RA 6713.

The law requires officials to submit these SALN upon assumption of office and every year thereafter on or before 30 April.

These documents could show not just bad judgment on some officials’ part in using their savings, but potentially reveal any items that “cannot be attributed to a salary, investment, gift, inheritance or other legal sources and therefore are likely to have come from illegal means.”

Now that more inexplicable movements of funds and national budgets have been observed in this time of the pandemic, a lifestyle check and these SALN are mire necessary than ever.

The Ombudsman, however, has practically declared it a waste of time.

Nobody thought so, however, when Sereno and even former President Joseph Estrada were on the gangplank.

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Commentary

Lessons from Northern Mindanao

Governor Emano’s immediate action, having declared a state of calamity even as early as January this year, has helped control the number of cases in the province.

Harry Roque

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Iligan City in Northern Mindanao and Lanao del Sur in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) are the only two areas that are currently under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) because of rising cases of COVID-19.

This makes the neighboring city of Cagayan de Oro (CdO) a hub for patients seeking treatment in the city’s designated COVID-19 referral facility — the Northern Mindanao Medical Center, and in other medical facilities in the city. CdO also has several licensed COVID-19 testing laboratories, which is why many patients from neighboring provinces and cities come to CdO not only for treatment but also for their COVID-19 testing-related needs.

Last Monday, I and my team visited CdO where we conducted my regular press briefing. CdO City Mayor Oscar Moreno informed us that the city still has available isolation facilities that are being used particularly for the temporary quarantine of repatriated overseas Filipinos (ROF) and locally stranded individuals (LSI).

In controlling the spread of the virus, Mayor Oscar Moreno emphasized the need to strictly follow the minimum public health standards and the importance of local government unit (LGU) interventions like containment of local cases and the enforcement of proper quarantine measures for ROF and LSI.

The city’s protocol on ROF and LSI is commendable as these returning individuals are fetched from the airport or seaport by the LGU and health authorities and are immediately brought to isolation facilities for swabbing and temporary quarantine while they await the result of their PCR tests.

The city government of CdO has also ramped up its testing capacity with the purchase of RT-PCR machines for the use of some of its medical facilities. With improved testing, Mayor Moreno said they are hoping to serve not just the people from the region but also from the neighboring regions of BARMM and CARAGA — a truly admirable case of neighbors helping neighbors to beat the pandemic.

Misamis Oriental Governor Bambi Emano, who was also my guest in the said press briefing in CdO, highlighted the importance of working closely with local chief executives especially in implementing strict protocols in choke points to protect borders and the people of Misamis Oriental.

On the part of the provincial government, Governor Emano’s immediate action, having declared a state of calamity even as early as January this year, has helped control the number of cases in the province. This has also allowed them to gradually build their critical care capacity, with isolation facilities established in municipalities and barangays all over the province.

In the case of Iligan City, it is admirable that Mayor Celso Regencia has appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to escalate his city’s quarantine classification to control the rising number of cases. Mayor Regencia said that the current MECQ classification is already helping lower the number of COVID-19 cases in the city.

Similarly, Iligan City is also ramping up its isolation capacity by renting local hotels as temporary quarantine facilities and adding isolation facilities with the assistance of the national government through the Department of Public Works and Highways.

From what I had seen personally, the people in Northern Mindanao are showing resiliency in facing and dealing with the pandemic. They are not taking the COVID-19 situation idly, and definitely not letting it hinder their way of living. They are being careful and are clearly practicing what I have always been saying, ingat buhay para sa hanapbuhay.

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Commentary

May pera ako (1)

By offering PERA through a digital platform, Contributors can now browse different PERA investment products, access and monitor their accounts and settle their transactions through online banking.

Dean Nilo Divina

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The new normal presented prospects for an expedited transition to everything digital. In seizing this opportunity, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) recently announced that it is revolutionizing the Personal Equity and Retirement Account (PERA) by launching Digital PERA.

PERA is a voluntary retirement account established by and for the exclusive use and benefit of the Contributor for the purpose of being invested solely in PERA investment products. It is different from the retirement benefits which employees receive from the SSS or GSIS. Essentially, PERA means forced savings that is withdrawable upon retirement.

In 2008, PERA was established pursuant to Republic Act 9505. However, it was only in 2016 that the law was actually implemented. Even then, it did not gain sufficient traction and received limited contributions. Thus, this year, BSP decided to revive the program to educate and encourage more Filipinos to save for their future. With all its promising features, PERA remained an under-utilized retirement fund-building vehicle.

Anyone who has a Philippine Tax Identification Number (TIN), whether employed or self-employed, is qualified to open a PERA investment. To open an account, a Contributor must first choose an administrator who shall oversee the account. In order to diversify, PERA allows a Contributor to invest in different investment products by opening up to five accounts.

The PERA Law particularly recognizes the plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFW). As we know, it is common for OFW to remit all their hard-earned money to their families in the Philippines, leaving them with less than what they need while abroad. Because of this, OFW are allowed a greater maximum contribution at P200,000 or double a local-based Filipino may contribute annually. Meanwhile, a married person may contribute up to P100,000 per year. Hence, a married couple can contribute P200,000.

The IRR of the law clarifies that a person who intends to contribute beyond these maximum amounts may do so. However, the amounts in excess of the P100,000 or 200,000 in case of OFW, are no longer entitled to a tax credit. Likewise, the investment income made therefrom is no longer exempt from tax.

By offering PERA through a digital platform, Contributors can now browse different PERA investment products, access and monitor their accounts and settle their transactions through online banking. PERA products cover unit investment bust fund, mutual fund, entity contract, insurance pension products, pre-need pension plan, shares of stock and other securities listed and traded in a local exchange, exchange-traded bonds, among others.

The entities which may apply with the concerned regulatory authority for pre-qualification as administrator include banks, trust entities, investment company advisers, security brokers, investment houses including those with quasi-banking license, insurance companies, insurance brokers and other entities as may be determined by the regulatory authority.

The administrator, who must be accredited by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, is tasked to report on the contributions made to the account, compute the values of investments, educate the Contributor, enforce PERA contributions and withdrawal limits, collect appropriate taxes and penalties for the government, and secure BIR Tax Credit Certificates for the Contributor. It also has the duty to consolidate report on all investments, income, expenses, and withdrawals on the account. Most importantly, the administrator must ensure that the contributions are invested properly and within the prudential guidelines set by the regulators.

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Commentary

Leaders with Brains

In less than a speak, the seismic changes in Philippine politics leave the Filipino public confused more than ever.

Darren M. de Jesus

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Rep. Pantaleon D. Alvarez, former Speaker of the House, recently made headlines, yet again, for his brash and truthful statements made in his local AM radio show. It is interesting how news trinkled down the local beat onward to the national scene. He bared that the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is a failure and that the next President of the country should be a leader with brains. Both statements are true but open to a lot of interpretations. The message made is a stroke of genius.

The statements came at a perfect timing. We are 20 months away from the next presidential elections and we are feeling the political tremors gaining ground. Mild earthquakes are now shifting powers left and right. This is most evident in the House of Representatives where the President’s son, Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, nearly caused the premature change in the Speakership in his almost declaration of the seat vacant last Monday. The squabble is traced from the supposed uneven budget allocations for 2021 – a most crucial year as this being the final full 12-month calendar for projects to be completed. It is the final year to complete a politician’s accomplishment report and to fill up a “war chest.”

It also came at a time when the nation has succumbed to the acceptance of our failed public health system and of the continuous rise of infected individuals with COVID-19. We have transferred our attention to other things, such as the artificial white sand beach in a portion of Manila Bay. Health Secretary Francisco Duque has disappeared to nothingness — a relief for him — amid the PhilHealth controversies and inept COVID-19 response.

Alvarez pointed out something that no one else had the cojones to say. People are debating online on who the next “brainy” leader should be. Alvarez made it clear that he is not insinuating that President Rodrigo Duterte has no brains. He would never say that about his good friend, but he is able to speak his mind well enough to point out flaws objectively. This is the Alvarez brand we came to know very well during his time as Speaker of the House from 2016 to 2018.

What makes Alvarez’s timing even more perfect is that right after these statements were made public, President Duterte delivers his speech at the United Nations General Assembly denouncing China’s occupation in the South China Sea, affirming the ruling of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and raising the favorable arbitral award issued back in 2016 — one of the few resounding victories achieved by the Aquino Administration. Isn’t this a “brainy” move by the President?

In less than a speak, the seismic changes in Philippine politics leave the Filipino public confused more than ever. Questions abound: Will there be a change in the Speakership? If so, how soon will it be? Alvarez quipped on his stance that there should be no term-sharing agreement since the Speakership is about the Filipino people, not the individuals involved.

What is the status of diplomatic relations of Philippines and the US? We must see the trending — from the Visiting Forces Agreement, Daniel Pemberton pardon, to the UNGA speech that shall eventually lead to a US presidential elections with an expected Democratic victory for Joe Biden. Are we going back to the arms of the Americans? How about our relations with China that reached a historic high during the time of President Duterte?

Have we made a full turn-around after the countless public statements made by President Duterte in favor of President Xi Jinping?

The answers to these questions could only be resolved with finality by a President with brains. Alvarez ignited a storm by addressing the elephant in the room. What was a mere utterance made in a local radio show in Davao del Norte is now a subject of national debate. Now we are left with more questions. If at all, the Alvarez statement highlighted that the campaign season for 2022 has already begun.

For comments, email him at
[email protected] or tweet

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Business

Debt collection via a small claim case

It is best to protect your interest at all times. While your generosity may be abused by others, you are not left without any recourse.

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It is good to look back to much simpler days when our problems were merely how to ask money from our parents to buy our favorite snack or toy without being scolded. Then we got older, got a job or started our business and adulting became real.

When we start making our own money, we realize why our parents reacted the way they did when we had tantrums whenever they refused to give in to our childish whims. Now, we have bills, mortgages and a lifestyle. If we’re lucky, we learn how to tighten our belts and be smart with our hard-earned money.

Sometimes though, a relative needs money for medical expenses, or a friend wants to do business with you or borrow money from you for their immediate needs. And because you thought you were being a nice person, you cannot bring yourself to turn them down. They come with a promise to pay on a specific day but here comes that day and they are nowhere to be found. Now, the question all over your head is, how can I get my money back?

A loan or a debt is considered as an obligation to do under the Civil Code of the Philippines. When a person is obliged to do something, (in this case to pay you what they owe) and failed to do so, you may demand that they fulfill their obligation. Demand may be made extrajudicially by settling the obligation out-of-court or it can be made judicially by filing a collection case in court.

Either way, your chances of successfully recovering your money greatly increases if the agreement is in writing. If asking your relative or friend to sign a loan agreement is too awkward for you, then you should only loan an amount that you can afford to lose because without any evidence, you may never recover anything.

Having said that, considering that court processes take time and money, it is advisable to take this matter, as much as possible, extrajudicially. You yourself, or with assistance of your lawyer, may send a demand letter to your debtor. The demand letter may contain a demand to pay the loan within a certain period upon receipt thereof, and failure to do so will result to incurring of interest and filing of necessary civil or criminal case (if applicable) against the debtor.

After a reasonable time given to the debtor to pay his loan and he failed to do so, you may now consider filing a collection case in court.

Depending on the venue of the claim, if the amount of loan does not exceed P400,000 for Metropolitan Trial Courts, or P300,000 for Municipal Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, you may file a small claim action. Should the debtor have several loans but the amount still did not exceed the aforementioned amount, small claim action is still proper.

A small claim action is commenced by filing with the court a verified Statement of Claim (Form 1-SCC) and Certification Against Forum Shopping, Splitting a Single Cause of Action and Multiplicity of Suits (Form 1-A SCC), and attaching therein your sets of evidence of the loan. This action may be filed in court having jurisdiction over the place where either you or your debtor resides. The forms may be downloaded from the internet or you may ask the assistance of any court. This is do-it-yourself claim considering that a representation of a lawyer is not allowed in small claim action. After notice and hearing, the court shall render its decision within 24 hours from the termination of the hearing and such decision is final and executory.

If the loan amount exceeds the amount proper for small claims, the collection case may be filed with the Regional Trial Court having jurisdiction over the place where either you or your debtor resides. In this instance, the case will undergo the regular proceedings. Unlike in small claim action, a lawyer’s representation may be necessary to protect your rights. While this may take time, the legal interest continues to run, and you may also claim for other damages, such as attorney’s fees and cost of litigation.

It is best to protect your interest at all times. While your generosity may be abused by others, you are not left without any recourse.

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Commentary

Leadership

It turns out Velasco possesses the leadership the incumbent possesses only due to the transactional politics he espouses.

TEB

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Jazz legend Miles Davis must’ve been talking about life when he famously said, “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.”

It could not have been just about music.

His words — or notes if you will — could apply to our next dish’s ingredients, the next words to a journalist’s still incomplete phrase, or maybe in leadership and steering the political culture and future of a country fast losing its honor.

Like ours.

But there are still a few who could keep their heads high. Who could maintain grace even when under intense attack. It’s the notes you don’t play.

So out of tune was the House leadership in the past days that Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has again shown a character not expected of him.

Cayetano, the Taguig City representative, is reneging on his agreement with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to share between them the House leadership.

He is supposed to serve just 15 months. Velasco is to finish all 21 months until the next elections are held.

It was Cayetano who described their deal in front of President Rodrigo Duterte as a “gentlemen’s deal.” Turning his back on the agreement, he proved himself the opposite of a gentleman and one without honor.

It made one of his members quip: “One who backs down on vows to his peers could not be truthful to his vows to serve his country and people.” We could not agree more.

Cayetano claimed that Velasco had attempted to snatch the House leadership four times. The media should know if there was one. Not much could escape the media’s noses.

But there was one we remember that Cayetano and his coup pals had tried to forge — that one in March this year. There was also one he tried against Koko Pimentel when they were together in the Senate. Both attempts had failed.

It was not Velasco who tried in March, but Cayetano himself, using a supposed clamor from his allies for him to stay as Speaker as his short term neared its end.

Cayetano is once again using the same script, accusing Velasco of orchestrating yet another coup over the weekend.

Coup. Coup. Coup.

There was none.

Cayetano is using the coup bogey to mask the accusations coming from his own House majority allies that he had cornered a lion’s share of the funds for the Department of Public Works and Highways for 2021.

That was the issue being thrown at him when Cayetano once again cried wolf after he got cornered by his own peers.

Imagine the inequity as Cayetano will receive P9,762,773,000 for 121 projects ranging from repairs, widenings and expansion of roads, construction of buildings and rehabilitation of old structures in Taguig City.

He will be sharing the amount with his wife Lani, who represents the other half of Taguig. They are the only husband and wife who are living together but who represent separate districts of a city.
The other congressmen are receiving far, far less. But possessing power pays… a lot.

He was out of tune in claiming a coup. But there was dissatisfaction among his peers, contrary to his claim of still having overwhelming support.

In contrast, Velasco took Cayetano’s taunting in a very cool manner.

He issued this statement:
“I have been silent during the duration of the gentleman’s agreement in deference and respect to the sitting Speaker.”

“My silence does not mean I’m disinterested nor I have turned my back on the covenant.”

“‘Being mum on issues’ means I just don’t want to call attention to myself. Being a party to the term-sharing agreement, one does not and should not seek to compete with the current Speaker as a gentleman’s agreement is in force. We will have our turn at the right time.”

“When both parties finally honor the agreement, I will show my colleagues the kind of leadership I espouse. Thereafter, at the end of my term, my peers can then be the judge of my loyal service to God, to the President, and ultimately to the Filipino people.”

He did not allow himself to be sucked into Cayetano’s dirty tricks.

It’s the notes Velasco did not play that made him stand out as a true and honorable gentleman — a leader.

It turns out Velasco possesses the leadership the incumbent possesses only due to the transactional politics he espouses.

The House needs Velasco as a leader. It should come soon — even without a coup.

No less than the President has said it. They need to respect the agreement. The one who turns his back on it will walk in shame for the rest of his life.

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Commentary

Like Batman, like Robin

Government and industry officials, however, believe there is no reason for the EU to revoke trade perks offered to Philippine exporters over political and human rights issues.

Concept News Central

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Minus the cursing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque is sounding more and more like the man he speaks for at the Palace.

With his trademark flair, the erstwhile human rights lawyer has grown combative like his boss, the incumbent tenant at Malacañang.

He has grown to the ways of defending President Duterte on issues needing his wit as a lawyer. But the best testimony that he can sometimes be on the offensive is when he recently lambasted the European Union (EU) for threatening to revoke the country’s trading privileges.

“Go ahead,” an angry Roque exclaimed as he dared the EU parliamentarians to make good their threat.

“I’m sorry I’m being very undiplomatic in my answer, but what else can I say? At the time of a pandemic, they are threatening us? What else do we lose?” he asked.

The issue stems from the recent resolution of the European Parliament threatening revocation of the Philippines’ trading privileges if it will not implement international conventions on human rights. It also urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to continue its inquiry into allegations that President Duterte committed crimes against humanity in his bloody war on drugs.

The European parliamentarians also called on Philippine authorities to “step up efforts to tackle corruption effectively,” reminding the country that it enjoys trade benefits under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which could be revoked if the government fails to meet certain standards.

The privilege allows the Philippines to export 6,200 products tariff-free to the 27 EU member states.

The EU lawmakers want to start the process of taking away the trade benefits, unless the Duterte administration demonstrates a “substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate.”

If the EU goes on to curtail the country’s trading privileges, analysts believe it would sink the Philippines further in its economic downturn, no thanks to the ongoing health crisis.

The threat, according to a think tank, is alarming, particularly in this time of the pandemic. Losing a market as big as Europe would lead to unemployment, thus aggravating poverty.

Roque knows this, that is why he bluntly returned the dare: “If they really want to do it, we cannot do anything. Let them watch as the Filipino people suffer.”

Senator Franklin Drilon also weighed in on the repercussions, saying as many as 200,000 Filipinos could lose their jobs. Such a decision, according to the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, will result in massive social and economic repercussions to the Philippines, and will compromise the notable progress that the EU and the Philippines have built over the years.

Government and industry officials, however, believe there is no reason for the EU to revoke trade perks offered to Philippine exporters over political and human rights issues.

“The EU Commission has a mechanism in place and process to follow to verify issues before sanctions are imposed. So far, we are able to explain objectively the Philippines’ side on issues that are raised,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement. “We don’t see any reason why our GSP+ privilege will be withdrawn.”

Even before that in 2017, Duterte has repeatedly said he would reject any donations coming from the EU if there are strings attached, a threat that was fulfilled, at one point in January 2018 when economic officials rejected P380 million in aid from the bloc.

As it is, respect to human rights has been a key component of EU assistance, including GSP+, a matter not understood even by the industry. “What we don’t understand is why they have to cancel it based on perception or possibly because of advocacy of certain sectors,” said Sergio Ortiz-Luis, president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc., an industry group.

“They could’ve asked, I’m sure if they will listen to their representatives here, I’m sure they will say that is far from the truth,” he said. “Unfortunately, they politicized the issue.”

Whatever the consequences, we salute Roque for his brave stand. He has, at this point, lived up to be the Robin to Duterte’s Batman. Nobody ought to be bullied. No one ought to be blackmailed. That’s what the Dynamic Duo stands for.

And a grateful Gotham that is the Filipino nation could only nod in approval.

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Commentary

Behind the buzzwords

As our foreign policy pivots strategically from east to west and back, to maintain our balance as we spin and pirouette, we need to know the truth behind the buzzwords from either hemisphere.

Dean Dela Paz

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The terms are neither in Filipino nor Mandarin. They are in English. There should be no need to translate.

Unfortunately, these terms are either euphemism or dysphemism. As such, the words per se do not mean what they say at face value and finer definitions and expansive qualifications are necessary where words disguise rather than reveal their true meaning.

It is a matter of underlying purposes. Or agenda. Some of the terms are contrived for political correctness. Some for marketing so that certain negativities are packaged with nice brightly colored paper and spruced up with red silk ribbons. On the other hand, some are pure and plain vanilla deceit.

In the terminology of some of the following examples, there are equal amounts of diplomacy and deception that cancel out each side of the equation. Most however either lean towards diplomacy or deception. Where one places the weights is subjective. And it is solely for this reason that cryptic terminologies continue to exist.

Allow us to tackle a few of these euphemisms alongside political commentary where the milieu is conducive to both diplomacy and deception.

In the western world three terms are often heard surrounding the political developments in the United States as the Democratic Party fights a trench war to recapture the White House taken from them in 2016. The three terms are “liberalism,” “far Left” and “socialism.” Common among the three is a platform they call the “New Green Deal.”

Liberalism is a political ideology that advocates civil liberties that emphasize freedoms. Sans responsibilities and accountability, in a progressive continuum, liberalism intensifies and ratchets up, and turns into the term “far Left.” If we add “socialism” as the ultimate endgame, we might see where the Democratic Party is taking the American electorate in the 2020 presidential derby.

To validate, simply analyze who comprise the supporters of Democratic candidate Joseph Biden. They are the supporters of Bernard Sanders and followers of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both rabid advocates for a socialist state underlying a bizarre “New Green Deal” that effectively transforms the United States into a heavily taxed colossal 18th century Amish town.

On this side of the Pacific the following terms have been bandied about. One trading partner expands its influence globally via a debt-based offensive characterized by the buzz words “Dual Circulation.”

Cutting to the chase, its global economic strategy is essentially a chemistry of bilateral debt and infrastructure programs that bind economies amid a global trade war employing “dual circulation” — economic gobbledygook for nothing more than import substitution, the come-on strategy to wean economies away from traditional suppliers by substituting and replacing within the supply chain cheaper, volume-priced goods.

As our foreign policy pivots strategically from east to west and back, to maintain our balance as we spin and pirouette, we need to know the truth behind the buzzwords from either hemisphere.

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