POSTSCRIPT / June 30, 2011 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Noy: ARMM folk aren’t mature enough to vote

SIGNING TODAY: The signing today by President Noynoy Aquino of the bill postponing the election in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is expected to trigger a flurry of objections, including a petition for the Supreme Court to strike it down.

The groups and individuals opposing the move to synchronize the ARMM polls, set by law this August, with the 2013 election and for the President to just appoint officials to serve until 2013 said that:

1. The synchronized election law (RA 7166) being invoked by the administration applies only to the president, vice president, senators, congressmen, provincial, city and municipal elective officials – not to regional elective officials such as those in the ARMM.

2. Appointing ARMM officials is illegal because under the region’s charter they are to be elected, not appointed. The President cannot arbitrarily substitute his wishes for the will of the electorate.

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JUSTIFICATION: In justifying the suspension of elections, President Aquino said that the voters’ lists in the region are not reliable, also implying that many voters there may not be mature enough for responsible citizenship.

(Incidentally, Mr. Aquino won in the ARMM in the last 2010 presidential elections.)

He also pointed out that corruption and maladministration have marked governance in the area, raising the need for reforms before the voters are allowed suffrage.

If those reasons are valid, elections in other regions should be similarly postponed since those places are plagued by the same problems of unreliable registries, corruption and immature voters.

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BELATED: Twenty years after three women members of the Vizconde family in Parañaque were stabbed to death, one of them raped, after a decade of prosecuting Hubert Webb and six other suspects, and six months after the Supreme Court acquitted them with finality, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima comes rushing in (two days before the unsolved crime is to prescribe) to announce that state investigators have found to be false Webb’s alibi that he was in the United States when the crime was committed – implying that the accused was in the country and may have been involved in the massacre.

Secretary De Lima appears to be belatedly reopening the case — not in court but in the media jungle. And still-traumatized Webb has to defend himself all over again?

This, indeed, in a bizarre world.

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STATESIDE PINOYS: Filipinos in the United States, estimated at more than four million, appear to be more wide awake than their compatriots back home.

No picket or protestor materialized outside the Chinese embassy in Manila to denounce Beijing’s bullying as it pressed its claim over islands in the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines as defined under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.

The coordinated coast-to-coast FilAm picketing was called by the US Pinoys for Good Governance, a national organization led by Loida Nicolas Lewis and Rodel Rodis. The group includes leading Filipino American business, political and community leaders.

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DRILLING SET: Rodis said the July 8 demonstrations will hammer on China’s reneging on its pledge to the Association of South East Asian Nations to resolve territorial disputes through negotiations.

In March 2010, China declared the South China Sea a “core national interest” similar to its claims to Tibet and Taiwan and therefore “non-negotiable.”

China has 2.17 million soldiers, a number bigger than the combined armed strength of the ASEAN members. Emboldened by its military superiority, China plans to set up this July one of its most modern oil rig off an islet 125 miles west of Palawan.

Official news agency Xinhua has reported that China National Offshore Oil Corp. plans to invest 200 billion yuan ($30 billion) and drill 800 deep-water wells that can bring up some 500 million barrels by 2020 worth about $50 billion per year.

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INTRUSIONS: China has built a number of structures near Philippine-claimed Iroquois Reef-Amy Douglas Bank near Palawan. The site is southwest of Recto (aka Reed) Bank and east of Patag (aka Flat) Island well within the Philippine EEZ.

Even after the foreign office protested Chinese harassment of a Filipino scientific team conducting studies off Recto Bank, several more intrusions into Philippine waters were reported.

The Philippines has an airstrip, as well as a waterworks system and communication facilities, on Pagasa Island, the biggest in the Kalayaan group off Palawan. The thriving community holds regular election with the rest of the country.

Two weeks ago, a local lass, Sarah Sopio Osorio won the crown as Mutya ng Palawan in a beauty pageant. In the interview portion, she declared a strong stand that Kalayaan where she grew up and lives is part of the Philippines.

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CHINA DEBTS: Private intelligence outfit Stratfor reported, meanwhile, that China has announced for the first time that local government debts stood at 10.72 trillion yuan ($1.66 trillion) by the end of 2010. Only 54 county governments out of more than 2,800 had no debt.

The debt figure announced by China’s National Audit Office is close to the 10-trillion yuan estimate leaked in late May, but lower than the 14.4 trillion yuan given by the People’s Bank of China last June.

Stratfor noted that if the NAO’s 5.7-trillion yuan estimate for non-LGFV (local government financing vehicles) debt is combined with the PBOCs 14.4-trillion estimate for LFGV debt, total debt amounts to around 20 trillion yuan, or 50 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

Combining this with the central government’s debt — around 20 percent of GDP — China’s gross public debt would be around 70 percent of GDP, making its public finances appear much worse than official announcements would indicate.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 30, 2011)

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