POSTSCRIPT / July 13, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Price of a ‘surgical’ bomb for Mautes

IT IS amazing how partisan politics has polluted the air in Manila. The other day I asked on Twitter if anybody had information, which I needed, on the unit price of those “surgical” bombs being dropped on rebel lairs in Marawi.

Instead of a simple price tag, I got this impertinent tweet of a reply: “Cheap whatever the price considering the alternative. Maute wins and gays flung from rooftops.” Huh?

It was a good thing a retired AFP officer, sober at 69, emailed me a longer but more factual answer, with the caveat that the correct figures may have changed since he left the service. He said:

“The Armed Forces does not announce the types of bombs being used in Marawi. But many times, what are being referred to as ‘bombs’ in the media are not bombs but rockets and other small missiles. If the ones used are rockets, then they will not be too expensive.

“An ordinary ‘dumb’ 250-pound bomb will cost something like $2,000 to $3,000 depending on the type and manufacture. Those US-made are more expensive, but practically all arms-manufacturing countries, including the Philippines, produce them. Floro used to make them.

“A 2.75-inch ‘Hydra’ ground-attack rocket costs a minimum of $2,500. The cost will depend on its warhead. Air Force trainers pressed into service in Marawi are armed with these rockets. Also the SF 260 light attack planes as well as the MD500 choppers.”

I took the opportunity to ask also about armored personnel carriers, such as the V-150, that our resourceful soldiers have converted into gaudy fighting machines clad in layers of cardboard and wooden planks scrawled with graffiti in the jeepney folk tradition.

He explained the seeming incongruity of wood and cardboard being used to protect steel armor:

“The soldiers in the field have discovered that RPG (rifle-propelled grenades) rounds just get embedded in wooden planks instead of exploding. These ammo have contact fuses na puputok lang pag tumama sa matigas na object like an armor plate.”

With that input from the testing ground, the designers of the V-150 and other armored vehicles may want to go back to the drawing board.

• Comelec ousts overstaying mayor

WE USED to marvel at the staying power of Marino “Boking” Morales, 66, who has been mayor of our town (now city) of Mabalacat for the past 22 years – defying the limit of three consecutive three-year terms (or 3×3=9 years) for local executives.

In what looks like a political Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not,” Morales has served continuously as Mabalacat mayor in 1995-1998; in 1998-2001, in 2001-2004; in 2004-2007; in 2007-2010; in 2010-2013; and in 2013-2016. He “won” again in 2016.

But last May 25 the Commission on Elections snapped his winning streak via an en banc ruling that Morales was no longer qualified to run again in 2016 because he had overshot the term limit as mayor. The decision was enforced only on June 29.

Not a few observers ask why the Comelec woke up only now to the violation of the term-limit rule and allowed Morales to keep running a seemingly endless electoral marathon.

As told by STAR reporter Ding Cervantes: The Comelec ordered Morales to relinquish the mayoral post to Crisostomo Garbo, the candidate with the second biggest number of votes.

A side issue is Vice Mayor Christian Halili’s protesting that as second in the line of succession, he — and not Garbo — should replace Morales.

Since the petition to disqualify Morales was filed (by Pyra Lucas the fourth-placer in the mayoral race) before Morales and Halili were proclaimed mayor and vice mayor, respectively, the candidate with the second biggest number of votes (Garbo) was declared mayor-elect when Morales was dropped.

As expected, Morales ran to the Supreme Court with a plea to strike down the Comelec decision. Nobody knows how soon the tribunal, which is busy with more weighty questions like martial law and the vice presidential row, can rule on the local poll case.

• Comelec delayed rulings helped Boking

HOW Morales succeeded in beating the rule on term limits is a classic study on the legal art of delaying the resolution of electoral protests.

In 2004, after three terms, Morales ran again for mayor in what would have been a prohibited fourth term. But he managed to draw a Comelec ruling, announced rather belatedly, that his opponent in the previous 2001 elections was the true winner.

His rival in the 2004 election, businessman Anthony Dee, questioned his candidacy and poll victory, but the protest dragged on while Morales continued to sit as mayor.

Then, a few weeks before Morales’ contested fourth term ended, the Comelec declared him to have lost the protest in the 2001 polls. Although he had virtually served the entire three-year term, that 2001-2004 term was not counted as his.

The legal effect of that loss was that the counting of Morales’ consecutive terms was broken. Hence in the succeeding election, he was qualified to run again. He ran, won and started another winning streak.

One new argument of Morales is that since Mabalacat was granted a charter in 2012 as a component city, he is actually serving his first term (2013-2016) as city mayor and is good for two more terms. The Comelec did not accept the line.

In claiming that Mabalacat the new city is an entity totally different from the old town, Morales cites among other criteria the fact that its land area has grown. At least 85 percent of Clark Freeport is in Mabalacat.

Adding Clark land has doubled the new city’s area of 8,000 square kilometers and given Mabalacat the lion’s share in the mandated participation of contiguous local governments in the revenues of the bustling Freeport.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 13, 2017)

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