POSTSCRIPT / September 16, 2018 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Can’t Duterte just ignore Trillanes?

PRESIDENT Duterte gains nothing, loses much, by continuing to think and talk of Sen. Antonio Trillanes. By engaging the minority senator, he has only succeeded in unduly magnifying his image as an opposition figure.

Presidential time spent on Trillanes could, or should, have been devoted instead to easing the more urgent issues pressing the people, including rising prices, stagnant wages, criminality, traffic madness and government corruption, not to mention natural calamities.

Crowding around the boob tube Tuesday awaiting what Malacañang trumpeters had built up as the “President’s Address,” people were treated to a two-hour Q&A with Duterte being led by his lawyer. He mentioned Trillanes some 20 times. (He should be billed for the advertising.)

Trillanes has not done anything tangible for us plain folk, but having become a presidential obsession, he may just eclipse opposition leaders who are more qualified to challenge an obviously dazed Duterte.

Questions have popped up: (1) Is Duterte putting up Trillanes as a straw man, a pushover foe; (2) Is a foreign operator misleading Duterte into making a fatal miscalculation by targeting Trillanes; (3) Is this alien element the source of Duterte’s story of a three-party destabilization plot against him this October?

The cases against Trillanes are already with the courts where the President’s lawyers are waiting in ambush. Duterte should just keep quiet and position himself as far away as possible from the skirmish.

If Solicitor General Jose Calida loses the cases before the Supreme Court and the lower courts where he appears to have gone forum-shopping, the President can fire him — after a decent gap — for other reasons.

The only problem is if Calida had the foresight to also “research” on Duterte and his family while he (the SolGen) was using government personnel and resources digging dirt on Trillanes and former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

It is quite obvious even to the casual observer that the President is mentally and physically tired and in bad need of a long recuperative vacation.

After two years of hacking the job, it has become clear – even to him, I suppose – that the shoes of the president are a bit too big for the Davao mayor. He can let a tight, competent team – if he can assemble one – to run things while he rests.

Trillanes is just a minor problem. The stiff soldier playing senator can be safely ignored – unless Duterte has secret big reasons to be deathly scared of him. That, we kibitzers don’t know.

 ‘Ompong’ rivals fury of ‘Florence’ in US

FILIPINOS in the United States, especially in the eastern seaboard, have been watching TV split-screens showing hurricane “Florence” walloping North Carolina on Friday and typhoon “Ompong” slamming Northern Luzon the next day.

Whether hurricane or typhoon, the tropical cyclones (their generic tag) are basically the same, with the name depending on where they originate. They are hurricanes if from the North Atlantic, central North Pacific, and eastern North Pacific, and called typhoons in the Northwest Pacific.

We understand from Mang Tani (resident meteorologist Nathaniel Cruz of GMA-7) that such weather disturbances start as a low-pressure area at sea, growing into a tropical depression, into a storm, then into a full-blown typhoon/hurricane as it gathers strength and volume.

The destruction left on their path look similar whether in the US or in the Philippines, except for the structures damaged. Naturally the houses and the vehicles Americans use, even the pets they carry to safety, look different.

There is also a marked difference in the preparation, rescue and relief operations, as dictated by logistics, infrastructure, funding, and cultural nuances.

Politics also creep in. As our politicos quarreled over “Yolanda” toll figures, so did American officials (President Trump no less, included) in counting the dead left by hurricane “Maria” in Puerto Rico.

We cannot help comparing residents’ reaction to entreaties of authorities for them to evacuate. Americans cooperate more readily. Most Filipinos balk, cling to their belongings, or work animals, etc., and often leave a male family member behind.

It hurts to hear many hesitant evacuees explain that they are afraid to lose their belongings to thieves taking advantage of their absence. Sadly, upon their return many of them find their worst fears not entirely unfounded.

A survey of overcrowded evacuation centers lacking in basic amenities might explain partly why some people hit by typhoons and floods hesitate to leave home. The use of family tents to ensure privacy in evacuation sites, as Marikina has done, is worth emulating.

One laudable standard procedure already being followed is the pre-positioning of relief goods in strategic depots in calamity-prone areas. This saves time in servicing multiple disaster areas in the archipelago.

These random details are inputted, we assume, in disaster planning and management. We dare say that even in the design of schoolhouses, which invariably end up as evacuation centers, should consider the needs of a sudden stream of a large number of displaced persons.

While we’re on the subject, and in the spirit of “pagbabago” (change), we strongly reiterate our suggestion that the weather bureau be given a proper name.

Its name “PAGASA,” which stands for ‘Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration,” is contrived and tortured to fit a bogus name signifying “Hope.” Giving hope, as in forcing sunshine on a stormy day, is not a function of the weather bureau.

As we write this, four hurricane-related deaths have been reported in North Carolina. We have not heard from Philippine media reports of losses in lives and property attributed to “Ompong” (international name: “Mangkhut”).

When it hit land at 1:40 a.m. yesterday in Baggao, Cagayan, “Ompong” was still packing maximum sustained winds of up to 205 kph and gustiness of up to 285 kph. It was moving at 35 kph west-northwest after landfall.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 16, 2018)

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