Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 03 May 2017

Trump’s new best friends

There’s a saying, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”
If so, then President Donald Trump may well be a closet tyrant.
His “admiration” for Russian President Vladimir Putin is well known. His administration is suspected of having closer than expected ties to Putin that should make all Americans uncomfortable, at the very least.
And while he has pointed to North Korea as one of the most serious problems his presidency faces, Trump also said this week that he would be honored to have a face to face meeting with Kim Jong Un.
Finally, the US president invited his Philippine counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, to come and visit him in Washington some time in the near future.
So what do Putin, Kim and Duterte have in common?
Plenty. The trio are not exactly paragons of democracy. Or even decency. They are, in a word, tyrants. Not exactly the kind of leaders that the US should roll out the red carpet for.
Putin and Kim are communists, of course. And depending which way the wind blows on a particular day, our motherland’s chief executive is too. He is known to admire Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison, and even attended an anniversary celebration of the New People’s Army while still Davao City mayor.
There is nothing wrong with the POTUS extending a hand of peace to its enemies. The world became a safer place when President Richard Nixon made peace with Mao Zedung. Ditto with President Ronald Reagan befriending USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Putin, however, is another matter, while Kim has openly threatened the US and its allies with nuclear war mere weeks ago.
As for Duterte, the less said about the Philippine leader, the better. The number of Filipinos his administration has killed in the name of its drug war is now more than 7,000 and counting. Some of the victims were innocent, and none were given their day in court.
While we cannot discount the possibility that Mr. Trump’s welcoming the three is part of a larger strategy, we also cannot help but be disturbed at his turning a blind eye to the horrors that the trio have inflicted on their countrymen.
Mr. Trump seems to forget that he is leader of the world’s greatest democracy. Other nations look to the US to show how democratic institutions must be preserved and protected at all costs.
His administration’s saying that Kim should be respected because he happens to be the leader of his nation is faulty logic. Kim inherited his position, as his father did before him. He was never elected in free elections.
Of the three, only Mr. Duterte was elected president, unfortunate as this was.
Mr. Putin may claim he was likewise freely elected, but only after the elections were heavily stacked against his opponents.
Mr. Trump is still learning the ropes of what being US president is all about, it seems. In the meantime, we can only pray and keep our fingers crossed that there is method to his apparent acts of madness.


CA rejects Lopez as DENR chief

By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor-in-Chief


MANILA– Despite the support of President Rodrigo Duterte as well as Senator Manny Pacquiao, the Commission on Appointments (CA) voted to reject Gina Lopez’s appointment as Environment Secretary on Wednesday, May 3.
TheCA had twice bypassed Lopez and the Wednesday session was make-or-break for her. Under the law, no Cabinet appointee can be bypassed for a third time.
The senators of the minority Liberal Party all voted for Lopez, as did administration alliesSenators Loren Legarda, JV Ejercito and Tito Sotto. But the bi-partisan support still fell short of the majority needed by Lopez to be approved by the CA.
Days before Lopez faced the CA for the final time, Pacquiao said he felt she had “a50-50 chance” of making it.
The professional boxer also serves as head of the Senate environment committee, whose recommendation to the CA would normally have given Lopez a winning edge in being approved.
However, a strong lobby from the mining industry which had been angered by Lopez’s actions as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources doomed her chances.
Earlier this year, Lopez ordered the closure or suspension of mining operations nationwide. She also cancelled mineral production sharing agreements.
Her most controversial order was for all suspended mining companies to give P2 million for every hectare of farmland affected by their operations.
Aside from the mining industry, Lopez had also crossed swords with two fellow Cabinet secretaries.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez refused to support Lopez’s appointment as DENR secretary when he testified before the CA.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also blocked her order requiring the mining companies to pay P2 million, saying Lopez had no authority to charge what was tantamount to a tax or levy.
Yet another order that made Lopez even more unpopular was her ban on “prospective”open pit mines in the country.
Opponents said that Lopez was placing the jobs of millions of Filipinos at risk with her anti-mining stance.
Lopez is the second Cabinet secretary rejected by the CA, with Perfecto Yasay earlier getting the thumbs down after it was discovered that he had previously been granted US citizenship.
One of the more controversial members of the Duterte Cabinet, Lopez is part of the clan that controls media giant ABS-CBN, with whom the president has been at odds with lately. She, however, was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.


Waiting for Season 7

After back to back to back weeks of quantum entanglement and the goings on of Silicon Valley, I’m going to focus on the serious stuff—Season7 of Game of Thrones. I am embarrassed to say that I am not only addicted to the show, but I’m letting my kids watch it. My family has been watching over the entire series from the start, looking for clues about the relationship between Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Did he kidnap her or did they runaway? We hear both accounts embedded in lines. The writers did not wrap this up for easy consumption like a box of Chicken Nuggets. Really, I think this show has to be watched all over from the beginning in order to really enjoy Season 7, which premiers on July 16.

Whether or not Rhaegar and Lyanna loved each other, we know that they are Jon Snow’s parents. The viewer knows this and Bran Stark saw this in a vision, but everyone else privy to this secret, is dead. He and Daenerys are the only Targaryens alive. I wonder how he discovers his own Targaryen-ness. Viserys Targaryen claimed to be a dragon and Daenerys, though the object of dragon affection and commendably immune to fire, does not seem dragon enough, not to my satisfaction. That naked/fire-immunity thing is getting long in the tooth. I am hoping that Jon Snow will ultimately turn out to be a dragon. Now, that would be interesting. He has already risen from the dead and intimidated a white walker. Jon Snow is more than just man…that’s my theory. When he walks into the fire, not only will all of his clothes burn off, but he will breathe fire too.

“The story of Daenerys Targaryen introduces the notion of "Einsteinian" power,” says Matt Lowenkron of Arizona radiowave fame. “One measure of the legitimacy of power is that power, just like energy, cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another. And, that is certainly one underlying theme of the Daenerys chapters.”

Here is another unpredicted twist: Daenerys does not live to assume the Iron Throne. I don’t know how she dies but putting her on the Iron Throne will wrap up the story so predictably that it cannot happen that way. Instead, Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark will reunite in a marriage of happy convenience and rule together. Jon will rule the North. Jamie will kill Cersei in the heat of the moment, having been forced to decide between brother and sister.

But enough of the realities with respect to who will sit on the Iron Throne, in a perfect Westeros, if the seat to the Iron Throne were an elected one, who would you vote for: Donald Trump, President Duterte, or King Joffrey? And if Westeros also had an electoral college system, do you think one would win the popular vote and another the electoral vote and thus the throne? Would the White Walkers be allowed to vote? Would the Wildlings be deported, even if they fought to defend the wall? Finally, if KingJoffrey were presented with the liver of a terrorist, would he offer to eat it with salt and pepper?

These are the profound things I have to share when I am past my deadline. I look forward to Ed Sheeran’s crooning cameo and I’m hoping I can actually recognize some of the other ones.

The ultimate plot twist came from Manila resident and relative of mine, Bob Barretto: “Dueto climate change, winter isn’t coming.”


PH reasserts rights over Pag-asa Island

MANILA -- The Philippines on Tuesday, May 2, reasserted its sovereignty claims over the larger Kalayaan Island Group, including Pag-asa island, thus, any visit or activity in the area is legal.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar stressed that Pag-asa Island and the larger Kalayaan Island Group are a municipality of Palawan.
“Any visit or activity we undertake there are part and parcel of our Constitutional mandate to ensure the safety, well-being, and livelihood of our citizens living in this municipality,” he said in a statement.
Bolivar was responding to the remarks of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua who claimed that Philippine occupation or activity on the islands were illegal.
Pag-asa Island is the largest of the islands which is part of the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratlys) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Apart from the Philippines and China, several countries including Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have made competing claims over parts or all of West Philippine Sea. -- PNA


Wells Fargo announces Small Business Neighborhood Renovation Program Contest

SAN FRANCISCO – Wells Fargo is introducing the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business: Neighborhood Renovation Program Contest, designed to help improve eligible small businesses in designated neighborhoods in five cities – Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and Minneapolis – through a physical location or storefront makeover. Wells Fargo is launching the program in collaboration with Rebuilding Together, a premier nonprofit organization focused on rebuilding communities.
Through the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business: Neighborhood Renovation Program Contest, eligible small business owners in select neighborhoods and zip codes in five cities across America will have the opportunity to compete for a business makeover. In each city, there will be four winners: one business will win up to $25,000 in business renovations, and three businesses will each win up to $10,000 in business renovations.
To enter the contest, which runs May 1-31, 2017, eligible small business owners must complete a contest application on and write an essay responding to four questions about their business. No purchase or entry fee is required. The contest rules, including full eligibility, application requirements and information on eligible neighborhoods in each city, can be found at A panel of judges will review the entries and Wells Fargo will announce the winners in each of the five cities in August.  Wells Fargo will also host a small business community event in each city to showcase the renovations and extend resources to the broader community of small business owners.
“Working with small business owners is one of the most important things we do at Wells Fargo, and we know that when small businesses succeed, our communities prosper,” said Lisa Stevens, Wells Fargo head of Small Business. “We are committed to the communities we serve and are focused on encouraging economic development in cities across the US. By transforming a group of local small businesses, this program will help neighborhoods in five cities take another step forward.”
Wells Fargo serves approximately 3 million small business owners across the United States and loans more money to America’s small businesses than any other bank. To help more small businesses achieve financial success, in 2014 Wells Fargo introduced Wells Fargo Works for Small Business  – a broad initiative to deliver resources, guidance and services for business owners. 
“Small businesses play an integral role in the communities we serve," said Caroline Blakely, President and CEO of Rebuilding Together. "Through this opportunity, Wells Fargo is adding a crucial layer to our work, helping us build stronger communities throughout the country."
The launch of the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business: Neighborhood Renovation Program Contest coincides with Wells Fargo’s Small Business Appreciation Celebration, which runs April 1 – June 30. This annual event, which also coincides with the US Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Week in May, highlights the accomplishments of small businesses and provides business owners with special offers on several products and services.

Visit to learn more about the Neighborhood Renovation Program Contest, and learn more about Wells Fargo Works for Small Business – a broad initiative to deliver resources, guidance and services for business owners.

Inquiry into MPD's 'hidden cell' sought

MANILA -- A resolution was filed Tuesday, May 2, seeking to look into the reported “hidden cell” which was discovered at the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 1 in Tondo after members of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) made a surprise inspection.
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV filed Senate Resolution No. 348 seeking to investigate the operation of the cell and at the same time urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to clean up its ranks.
Aquino, in filing the resolution, said the probe is aimed at ensuring that the rights of those under custodial investigation or detention by the PNP are protected.
He also stressed that cleaning the police ranks must go hand-in-hand with the administration's war against drugs to earn public trust.
"As the government's enforcement arm in its war against illegal drugs, the PNP should safeguard the public's trust by ensuring that abusive policemen are investigated and punished accordingly," Aquino said in his resolution.
According to the CHR, the hidden cell was occupied by at least 12 persons who were detained for at least 10 days even without the filing of proper charges and without arrests being recorded.
Families of the detainees also claimed that elements of the Drug Enforcement Unit asked for money in exchange for their freedom.
Neophyte Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, for his part, urged PNP Director General Chief Ronald dela Rosa to immediately launch an intensive probe into allegations against police officers involved.
Gatchalian, in a statement, also warned that the current administration’s campaign against illegal drugs would “nosedive” if the PNP fails to address reports of police abuses.
"The endless string of public scandals concerning the questionable methods employed by police officers in waging the fight against illegal drugs is starting to take its toll on the credibility of the PNP,” Gatchalian said.
“Public trust in the institution is fast declining, and the people are losing their faith in police officers," he added.
He also emphasized the importance of the public perception of PNP in the success or failure of the administration's anti-illegal drug campaign.
"The integrity of the PNP and its members must remain unsullied at all times. If the people lose trust in the police, we will lose the war on drugs," he added.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, former PNP chief, also said that it was obvious that the hidden cell was a human rights violation.
“You can see there’s a violation, that’s plain view. It is clear in the law that secret prison cells are prohibited. So there should have been action taken against the police officers concerned,” Lacson said in an interview. -- PNA


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!”


63-year-old American nabbed for alleged sexual abuse of 13-year-old girl

MANILA -- An American will be facing charges for allegedly abusing a female minor inside a motel in Cagayan de Oro City.
The suspect was identified by police as Anthony Bruce Mallet, 63, who reportedly picked up a 13-year-old girl and took advantage of her.
Senior Inspector Maricris Mulat, chief of the Divisoria police station, said they received information from an unknown individual that Mallet was with a minor and had checked in at a motel in Barangay Consolacion on Monday, May 1.
Police said the victim, a native of Malaybalay City in Bukidnon, went with Mallet as she was promised payment in exchange for sex.
Mulat said Mallet, who is married to a Filipina, was charged with violence against women a few months back, but it appeared that they have already patched things up.
She said the American could be charged with rape and violation of Republic Act 7610 or the Anti-Child Abuse Act.
Mallet denied the allegations against him, saying he was deceived by the minor who claimed that she was 18 years old, Mulat said.
The suspect also told police no sexual intercourse took place during their stay inside the motel.
Mallet was brought to the City Prosecutor’s Office Tuesday afternoon for inquest proceedings.
Mulat said they are now monitoring foreigners who are in the city, either as residents or visitors, who may be engaged in pedophilia.
The city has its share of foreign nationals, particularly Americans, Europeans and Asians, who call Cagayan de Oro their home.
Although cases of pedophilia or child abuse involving other nationalities are not rampant in the city, Mulat said they don’t want minors to be victimized by foreigners.
“We are keeping our watch and urging the people to report to the police any foreigner who may be abusing our children or violating our laws. We are not taking any chances,” Mulat said.
She added that they will also be monitoring the movements of foreign nationals hanging out in beer joints along the Divisoria area, the city’s old business district, especially those who have the tendency to abuse children either sexually or physically. –


2 ex-DFA heads air opposing views on Asean statement

MANILA – Former Philippine foreign secretaries Albert del Rosario and Perfecto Yasay Jr aired opposing views on the Chairman's Statement from the recently concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.
Reportedly due to China's lobbying, the Asean Chairman's Statement evaded two key issues involving the disputed South China Sea:
  • The Asean Chairman's Statement did not cite the ruling of an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, that struck down China's expansive claim over the South China Sea.
  • It also did not voice concern over China's island building activities in the disputed waters.
Del Rosario, who served as foreign secretary under the Aquino administration, criticized the recent Asean Chairman's Statement.
The Philippines chairs the 10-member Asean this year.
Sought for comment, Del Rosario told reporters on Sunday, April 30: "Our government – in its desire to fully and quickly accommodate our aggressive northern neighbor – may have left itself negotiating a perilous road with little or no room to rely on break power and a chance to shift gears – if necessary."
It was under Del Rosario's watch that the Philippines filed a historic case against China over the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.
A former Philippine ambassador to the US, Del Rosario led the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for 5 years.
Yasay: Asean 'did the right thing'
Yasay, on the other hand, praised the Asean document.
In a Facebook post titled "Kudos to the Asean Way," Yasay said on Sunday: "Asean, under the Philippine leadership, did the right thing in not bringing the Arbitral Tribunal's ruling on the SCS in the discussions of the recently concluded Summit. Nothing was to be gained by it except setting us back in our efforts towards peace, cooperation, progress and stability."
In any case, Yasay said the Hague ruling "serves as the strong legal foundation" for the Philippines to pursue bilateral talks with China.
At the same time, he said Asean "never wavered in its firm stand, agreed in Laos last year, against the militarization and reclamation activities" in the South China Sea.
It was on July 12, 2016, during Yasay's first two weeks in office, that the Hague tribunal issued the ruling that favored the Philippines.
Yasay, who had no previous experience in diplomacy, was removed from his post on March 8 after lawmakers rejected his appointment. A former dormitory roommate of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, he stayed in the DFA for 8 months.
On Tuesday, May 2, the current DFA leadership also weighed in on the issue, denying that China interfered with the crafting of the Asean Chairman's Statement.
Zaldy Patron, executive director of the DFA's Office of Asean Affairs, said the Asean leaders "exercised their independence." –

Duterte coalition suffers cracks

By Vergel O. Santos
Cracks have begun to show in the coalition government of Rodrigo Duterte, the last thing he needs at this time. With criticism of his high-handed presidency mounting and his popularity declining, he can ill afford to be distracted by house repair. But he doesn’t seem to have a choice; the damage has occurred in the most delicate of places.
On April 3 Mr. Duterte fired his interior and local-government secretary without warning over anonymous insider allegations of corruption. The surprised secretary protests his innocence and blames ambitious deputies.
An odd mix of characters has indeed produced volatile relationships inside the Cabinet.
Two are fighting over turf; one, the Cabinet secretary, is a former communist and the other, the secretary of agriculture, is an extreme ideological opposite – a farm owner in the south who has violently opposed political accommodation for Moro rebels.
A more open rift involves a finance secretary whose family has had strong links to the mining industry and a natural-resources secretary who is an environmental activist. In patent disregard of fraternal courtesy, the finance secretary testified against his Cabinet colleague at her own confirmation hearing in Congress. She was bypassed.
In the House of Representatives, Duterte lieutenants are also feuding.
Pantaleon Alvarez sits awkwardly in the Speaker's chair after being revealed, and forced to admit, he has a mistress and, from yet other past liaisons, also children. Amid the moralistic noise stirred up by the revelations, undertones of intrigue have surfaced promoting Gloria Arroyo, the former president, to replace the Speaker. Ms. Arroyo says she is not interested, but a loyalty issue with Mr. Alvarez depreciates the credibility of her disavowal. As majority leader, Ms. Arroyo had been deputy Speaker to Mr. Alvarez until he sacked her, along with more than 20 others holding leadership positions in the House, for voting against Mr. Duterte’s pet bill reinstituting the death penalty, abolished in 2006, during Ms. Arroyo's presidency.
The dissenters from the majority, however, are too few to make a difference even if they vote with the minority, who are even fewer.
But one oppositionist, Gary Alejano, a retired Marine captain once jailed for rising up against President Arroyo, felt inspired all the same to file an impeachment case against President Duterte, accusing him of corruption and of promoting death-squad-style murders in his war on drugs. Only a third of the House vote is needed to impeach him and send his case to the Senate for trial, but even that is a long shot. At any rate, the more urgent issue is death penalty.
                            Crucial bill
The bill passed the House easily, 216 votes to 64, but it appears in for a rough sailing in the senate, raising the prospect of further division in the coalition. Elected nationally and given to independent-mindedness more than the district delegates to the Lower House, the senators are predicted to turn in a vote so close it may even defeat the bill.
Before the Senate went on summer recess in late March, Mr. Duterte had gathered 15 senators in the presidential palace for a courtship dinner. It is doubtful, however, whether the undecided among them became impressed enough to ensure the bill's final passage into law.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, the former police chief, who co-authored the bill, himself doubts it. But Sen. Francis Pangilinan, whose opposition Liberal Party accounts for even less than a third of the senate members, says, "It's too early to say." The Senate will take up the bill as soon as it reconvenes on May 2, but the vote, Pangilinan points out, will not come until after weeks of deliberations. He only hopes, he says, that by then the protests against Mr. Duterte's draconian ways in general and against the death penalty in particular will have snowballed enough to influence the senate to kill the bill.
Much, indeed, rides on that vote. It is the first one to be taken in Congress on not only a major issue but a moral one. The death-penalty bill, complemented by another that lowers the age of criminal liability from 15 to nine, is linked to the war on drugs, which, since it was launched upon Mr. Duterte’s accession to the presidency in July, has taken the lives of between 7,000 and 8,000 alleged drug dealers and users, many of them young. Western governments and international rights groups have criticized Mr. Duterte roundly for those deaths, many of which bore signs of summary executions – "extrajudicial killings", as they have come to be more known.
Philippine human rights lawyers, meanwhile, have organized themselves to seek out survivors of Mr. Duterte's war and offer to take up their case.
Given his autocratic predilections, Mr. Duterte must have been anxious to impose martial law, as he has repeatedly threatened to do, but apparently he is not prepared to risk being overturned by Congress or the Supreme Court.
                              Unknown factor
Another unknown factor is the military. Mr. Duterte has been curiously deferential toward it. After he had ordered that Chinese encroachers be left alone in South China Sea waters declared by an international arbitral court as part of Philippine territory, his defense secretary sent out a patrol ship. Apparently to redeem himself and not seem so helpless in the face of such defiance, he made a bold and dramatic assertion of sovereignty; he ordered the military to occupy the remaining empty islands in the disputed waters and announced he would himself plant the Philippine flag on them, an unfulfilled promise resurrected from his electoral campaign.
The most striking indication of military ascendancy may perhaps be gathered from the President's reaction to his generals' opposition to the communist rebels' demand that all their comrades in prison be freed as a condition to peace talks. He said that, if he didn't go along with the generals, "the military might not like it . . . [and] oust me."
Mr. Duterte is not accustomed to being contradicted. Before his election to the presidency, he ruled his native southern city of Davao for two decades as a strongman mayor. Ghosts from those years have now appeared to haunt him. Two professed assassins testified in a congressional inquiry that they had taken part in hits ordered by Mayor Duterte and that the mayor himself had taken lives by his own hands. The later testimony, given by a retired police officer to corroborate the earlier one, has figured among the reasons cited in a Pulse Asia survey for the 7% dip in Mr. Duterte's approval rating to 76% in March, from 91% when he took office in July to 86% in October to 83% in December. The lawyer of the two whistleblowers is now preparing to file a case against Mr. Duterte with the International Criminal Court.
Not in the best of health by his own admission, Mr. Duterte, who turned 72 this month as he began his 10th month in office, would sometimes let on his doubts about finishing his term. "Will I survive the six years?" he asked on one occasion. "I'd make a prediction: maybe not."
The intimation takes on a graver significance today. –
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