Beting Dolor

Editor-In- Chief

When Digong meets Donald

From all accounts, US President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte have already met at least twice, even if only by phone. The two seem to have hit it off with their latest chat leading to an invitation for Mr. Duterte to visit Mr. Trump in Washington sometime in the near future. Meanwhile, the POTUS will likely visit Manila towards the end of this year. What is not yet clear is if either trip will take the form of a state visit.
There is little to indicate that the two gents have much in common. One spent his adult life creating vast wealth for himself based on his real estate projects. The other is a lawyer who has been in politics for the longest time and earned a reputation for eradicating crime (and criminals) in his turf even at the expense of law and order.
In local speak, one could have easily been little more than a kanto boy from the mean streets of Tondo who made good, while the other was the male equivalent of a Pinay colegiala who grew up in an exclusive Makati village and went to school in Ateneo or La Salle.
The one common denominator they have is that their fathers paved the way for their business/political success.
So what will happen when the two leaders finally meet face-to-face?
That may well be the biggest question of the day. While the respective diplomats of both nations will take care of all the formalities, there will be a few moments when Messrs. Trump and Duterte will be facing each other mano-a-mano. They will have to drop the usual niceties and talk shop.
Both are known to have an eye for the ladies. The American has been thrice married, while the Filipino has had an equal if not greater number of life partners. The man called Digong has been officially married once, but that ended a long time ago. Even today, he makes no secret of the fact that he still enjoys nocturnal female companionship.
Both are in their 70s, by the way, which means that their best years as bedroom studs are far behind them. But they can recall their past conquests, real or imagined, then debate which is better, Viagra or Cialis.
They could also discuss their favorite communist buddies. Mr. Trump has his Russian best buddy Vladimir Putin, while Mr. Duterte has Chinese President Xi Jinping as his new friend for life.
If their talks turn serious, they may discuss a certain rogue state whose fat boy leader has become a friendless pariah. Perhaps, in secret, they may nervously laugh at that Asian leader’s fixation for launching missiles every so often. They may even agree that he is probably overcompensating for something or another.
Then they may turn to their favorite pet peeve, media. They will curse and rant and rave about the unfair treatment they are getting from print and broadcast journalists, who in their eyes are little more than lying hacks anyway.
The Pinoy head of state could give his US counterpart tips on how to handle those pesky media moguls like banning government ads from their publications – which another Philippine chief executive had done previously – or even blocking their franchise to operate.
What the two will not be doing is exchanging toasts, as the billionaire businessman-turned-president does not imbibe in any form of alcohol, not even wine. His Philippine counterpart is not exactly a teetotaller but health issues prevent him from imbibing too much.
Speaking of health, the big and beefy Trump looks to be in much better shape than the smallish Duterte. The former is an avid golfer while the latter has not been known to hit the links even if it is to just unwind.
One ugly word that they will both scoff at is impeachment.
Although he has been in office for little more than 100 days, there has already been talk of legally removing Mr. Trump through impeachment. Ditto with Mr. Duterte. But both know that such a move is not likely to prosper. Both have their respective congresses in the palms of their hands, so why worry?
If all goes well, a bromance can blossom between the two gentlemen, if they can be called that. Despite all their differences, both still end each day by looking at the mirror and thinking out loud: “I’m the president! Whoohoo!”


Elected leaders who misunderstand their roles

It would seem that a number of our elected officials have no clear understanding of the roles they have to play under a democratic government.
Foremost of these are US President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as US House Speaker Paul Ryan and Philippine Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez.
Messrs. Trump and Duterte both have issues with judges who disagree with their actions. For the American leader, his ill-fated Executive Order banning nationals from seven predominantly Islamic countries from traveling to the US was quickly shot down by federal judges last month. But he is so hell-bent on his anti-Muslim campaign that he has just released another EO that continues to limit nationals from six of the original seven countries from entering the US.
In the Philippines, meanwhile, Mr. Duterte has just said that local government officials such as mayors should not be subject to audit by the Commission on Audit, whose job is to make sure that public funds are spent legally. Speaking in the vernacular this week, Mr. Duterte said something to the effect that the men and women of the CA should just take over as mayors since they seem to know better.

It has been pointed out time and again that Mr. Trump’s lack of experience in governance is one of his biggest weaknesses. He simply does not understand that his heading the executive department does not mean he also heads the legislative and judicial branches of government, or that they are subordinate to him. He feels he is more empowered because he was elected, while everyone else in the two other branches of government are either appointed or promoted.
As for Mr. Duterte, he recently admitted – an apologized for – continuing to act like a city mayor, which he was for the longest time. As president of the Republic of the Philippines, he wields tremendous power and has appeared swamped by the responsibilities of office.
As SpiderMan was reminded by his Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
As President, Duterte still does not comprehend his great responsibility to the Filipino people. Consider that some of his appointees like Mocha Uson (essentially a former bold starlet) and Cesar Montano (a faded matinee star) have been committing acts that show their failure to follow the rules at the local board of censors and a marketing arm of the Tourism department, respectively.
It will get worse in the near future as Mr. Duterte has promised to give a job to publicity hound Sandra Cam (a self-styled whistleblower), who is already acting like a big shot by claiming to be close to the president.


PH, China squabble over Benham Rise


MANILA – A 13-million-hectare underwater plateau known as Benham Rise has become the latest cause of a squabble between the Philippines and China after it was learned that a Chinese vessel had intruded there recently.
On Monday, March 13, President Rodrigo Duterte issued a statement over the Chinese presence in the area off Aurora province, in conflict with at least two of his Cabinet secretaries. The president initially said that he had granted permission for the Chinese vessel to conduct a survey of the area, but Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he found the incursion “very concerning.”
Mr. Duterte then added that he did not want to pick a fight with China over Benham Rise. He, however, admitted that China was laying claim to the disputed area, not unlike its claim of ownership of Scarborough Shoal.
“Let us not fight over sovereignty or ownership at this time,” Mr. Duterte said, adding that “things are going great for my country” vis-à-vis its relations with China.
On Tuesday, March 14, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “Benham Rise belongs to the Filipino people.”
The commotion was triggered last week by a statement from China that the Philippines cannot take Benham Rise “as its own territory.”
By Tuesday, this week, however, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said her country “fully respects the Philippines’ rights over the continental shelf in the Benham Rise, and there is no such thing as China challenging those rights.”

She added that China merely sought to enjoy the freedom of navigation in the area.
It was another spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, who had said that the Philippines had no right to claim Benham Rise as its own.
While part of the Philippine Sea, the country cannot claim “ownership” over the plateau, but can only claim exclusive rights to develop the area under international law.
It is believed that besides being rich with minerals, Benham Rise may have commercial quantities of natural gas, which China’s booming economy desperately needs as a source of power.
A large portion of Benham Rise falls within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, as recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea.
The previous administration of President Benigno Aquino III had taken China to international court over its claim over Scarborough Shoal, winning the case in 2012.
Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario on Tuesday noted "recent negative observations" on Benham Rise as well as the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In a statement, Del Rosario said this shows that "promoting national security, including protecting what is ours, must be paramount."
"Under no circumstances would it be wise for us to trade away our national security," Del Rosario said. – With an additional report from Rappler

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