POSTSCRIPT / July 24, 2018 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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House revolt bares crack in leadership

THE BLITZKRIEG that nearly toppled Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez yesterday before the opening joint session of the 17th Congress to listen to the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte exposed a crack in the administration power structure.

The unexpected turn of events puts pressure on Duterte to take a firmer hold of his political allies. The revolt in the House of Representatives could spread to other sectors propping up his two-year-old presidency.

But there is also a view that instead of shattering Duterte’s political base, the attempt to replace Alvarez before the SONA with Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may even consolidate, in reaction, the President’s control of the political structure.

As we write this at 5:17 p.m., Alvarez is back at his assigned place at the podium standing with Senate President Tito Sotto, and President Duterte between them, for the singing of the national anthem and, later, his SONA that was set to start at 4 p.m. 

The big question that lurks in our mind is on whose side is Duterte – for Arroyo or Alvarez? There is talk that Alvarez was just allowed to carry out his ceremonial task yesterday, but would continue to be challenged as Speaker.

Duterte reported on his accomplishments. He reaffirmed his resolve to step up his anti-illegal drug campaign that he said is aimed at benefiting the greater number. His critics, he said, are worried of the present while he is more concerned with the future.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar had given a foretaste on YouTube of the same accomplishments listed by the President: the drug war, end of contracting out workers, OFW welfare, 9-11 & 8888 citizens’ hotlines, extension of passports & drivers’ licenses, PNP-AFP benefits, agrarian reform, free irrigation, clearing of lake fishpens, diplomatic handling of China issues, peace talks with rebels, the Bangsamoro law, and the rebuilding of Marawi.

The rest of Andanar’s report segued to what looked like a dazzling Duterte vision, including ambitious projects presented with the use of slick slides of architectural and engineering drawings. A sample is the dream New Clark City rising at the Pampanga-Tarlac boundary.

Andanar’s preview of the SONA was all positive, none of it giving a hint of the critical comments about what had been done or left undone by the administration during the period under review.

Delivering his 48-minute SONA yesterday after a delay occasioned by the attempted coup against Alvarez, Duterte managed somehow to project the image of a leader with a heart. His speech was more restrained than his SONA last year that was peppered with expletives.

Duterte’s heart, by the way, was pronounced in good running condition over the weekend by specialists at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center who gave him a thorough checkup.

As expected, the President sounded like going back to campaign mode — reciting once more with feeling the exhortation against drugs and crime that convinced 16 million-plus voters in 2016 to elevate him from the Davao city mayoralty to the presidency.

We expect many Filipinos, disposed to looking up to a forceful tribal chief, to hang on to his renewed promises of a better life. Optimism runs through the melodrama of this nation of more than 100 million – never mind that 48 percent of them (11.1 million families) now consider themselves poor.

Still, the people would have to touch the ground to feel the true state of the nation, which after all is how the common man feels it in his gut.

Not a few people see these as indicators of the true state of the nation: Rising prices, falling real wages, growing joblessness, runaway crime and corruption, investors bypassing us, a Red Dragon gobbling up maritime areas, plus talk of a debt trap waiting at the end of a building-borrowing frenzy.

More than reiterating its still unfulfilled promises, the administration should address immediately the deadly combination of natural and man-made disasters bedeviling the nation.

• Number of poor Pinoys rises to 48%

IN ITS LATEST (June 27-30) nationwide survey, the Social Weather Stations found the number of respondents who said their families were poor has increased by 1.3 million, just three months after they were asked the same question.

The SWS second quarter survey showed that self-rated poverty rose to 48 percent from 42 percent in March. This translates to an increase from an estimated 9.8 million to 11.1 million families.

It was the highest self-rated poverty figure in the country, released Friday, since the 50 percent obtained in the SWS survey in March 2017.

The only place where the self-rated poverty number went down was in Balance Luzon (Luzon outside Metro Manila), where it dropped from 40 percent in March to 35 percent in June.

The places where the number of Filipinos saying their families were poor went up were: Metro Manila, by 13 points (from 30 percent to 43 percent); the Visayas, by 13 points (from 54 percent to 67 percent); and Mindanao, by 18 points (from 42 percent to 60 percent).

The survey showed that the self-rated poverty threshold, or the monthly amount needed by a family of five for them to not consider themselves poor, increased in March from P13,000 to P15,000.

Those who considered their families poor said they lacked P6,000 every month on the average for them to reach the poverty threshold. It was the highest recorded value for the self-rated poverty gap since first surveyed in 2010.

The number of Filipinos who said their families were “food-poor” – or those who rated themselves as poor based on the food that they eat – increased to 34 percent, or 7.8 million families, compared to 29 percent, or 6.7 million families, in March.

The minimum daily wage for non-agricultural workers for each region is: NCR, ₱475-₱512; CAR,₱270-₱300; Reg-I, ₱256-₱310; Reg-II, P340; Reg-III, ₱329-₱380;  Reg-IVA, ₱317-₱400; Reg-IVB, ₱259-₱300; Reg-V, ₱280-₱290; Reg-VI, ₱295-₱365; Reg-VII, ₱308-₱366; Reg-VIII, P305; Reg-IX, P296; Reg-X, ₱316-₱338; Reg-XI, P340; Reg-XII, P311; CARAGA, P305; and ARMM, P280.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 24, 2018)

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