POSTSCRIPT / July 18, 2017 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Cut the pretense, extend martial law

MARTIAL LAW talk is already oozing out of my ears. At this point, I don’t care anymore if President Rodrigo Duterte places the entire country — including the West Philippine Sea (if his Chinese BFF would allow him) — under his military control as Commander-in-Chief.

All assessment inputs on the situation in Marawi City and the rest of Mindanao can be ignored for being irrelevant. Whatever the reports say anyway, Mr. Duterte will do as he pleases according to his ulterior designs.

Those numbers on the briefing board are just that – numbers, not unlike the kill scores of his bloody anti-narcotics drive. Statistics do not tell the whole story nor give a justification for the dictatorial drift of presidential thinking on Mindanao and the rest of the country.

After the Social Weather Stations sang a 1,200-voice vox populi chorus for nationwide martial law, Mr. Duterte needs only the agreement of the armed forces (“my soldiers”) and nobody else. Not even his lapdogs in the Congress.

Note, btw, that supposed poll interviewees in Metro Manila and Luzon (if you’re willing to accept table surveys) approve of martial law in Mindanao. Siyempre! It’s not their backyard anyway. Besides, what’s the point in saying No when one’s opinion won’t matter?

Mr. Duterte’s problem, as pointed out in our Postscript of July 11, is the dilemma between (1) keeping the Marawi rebellion raging so as to justify martial law and (2) pretending to maintain normalcy so as not to scare away investors and tourists. See:

If the President claims to have quelled the rebellion and restored normalcy, he would have no more legal excuse for martial law. But for him to continue battling an “ISIS-inspired” insurrection would impact adversely on the nation’s political and economic stability – and global image.

In the final analysis – or “at the end of the day,” as our favorite TV analyst would quip – this national debate kuno to which many of us have been baited to join is largely irrelevant to Mr. Duterte. He’ll just go ahead and do what he wants to do.

• An alt-SONA state-of-mind report

WHAT we need on Monday is not the usual State of the Nation Address by President Rodrigo Duterte, but a medical report on the state of mind of those who presume to shepherd this nation of (mostly) sheep.

Whatever the President wants to report in his SONA before a joint session of the 17th Congress can just be uploaded in the Internet, in addition to the document being printed and distributed free to those who are interested.

That way, we spare our weary President the burden of delivering a lengthy speech in English. He can then concentrate on reading a 30-minute Executive Summary that he can spice with his trademark profanities and rape jokes.

After all, the true state of the nation is not what the President says it is, or what reverberates in his echo chambers — but what every Filipino father feels in his gut, what every mother wants and worries about for her children, and what the youth yearn for.

As slums dwellers in the very national capital say, the poor cannot eat government statistics on promised foreign investments and roads and rail lines crisscrossing the archipelago. As for prices, their going up or down is immaterial without purchasing power.

Claims made in the SONA, mostly numbers, can be counter-checked, but not the state of mind of the President and other “leaders” making decisions affecting people’s lives. Hidden like some kind of state secret, Mr. Duterte’s state of health alone has become the subject of speculation.

Divining the state of mind of government leaders is key to getting insights into their motivations. Deprived of this information, the people will find it hard supporting their policies, plans and actions.

When a congressional leader, for instance, who is bogged down by issues of maintaining multiple wives pushes legislation for divorce or the expeditious annulment of marriage, his state of mind, morality and motivations are put in serious question.

When the Commander-in-Chief clears officers who executed drug suspects even before the court has heard their cases, his motivation is suspect. More so when he promises immunity, reward and pardon even before “his” policemen carry out orders to shoot.

• Semirara steps up hiring for 2017

INTEGRATED energy company Semirara Mining and Power Corp. has hired 387 personnel for its mine site on Semirara island in Western Visayas to support expanded operations to boost coal extraction to 16 million metric tons in the next two to three years.

The mine site needs dump truck drivers, backhoe and bulldozer operators, motor graders, water truck drivers, cadet engineers, staff auditors and staff nurses.

In 2016, SMPC’s coal production peaked at 11.9 million metric tons, most of it sold to local power and cement producers. The firm is the only power producer in the country that owns and mines its own coal to generate electricity for the Luzon and Visayas grids.

SMPC President/COO Victor A. Consunji said the firm still has to fill nearly 170 positions in its mine site this year. To meet this requirement, SMPC has launched inter-island job caravans. Last May, these drew more than 100 job seekers from Semirara, Mindoro and Iloilo. Around 40 of them were hired.

Applicants were taken on a tour of the mine to familiarize them with operations. Those from nearby islands were given temporary lodging on site. Representatives of the National Bureau of Investigation, PhilHealth, SSS, local governments and the local police helped applicants with the required paperwork.


(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 18, 2017)

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