Good news, personal. Brother, Napoleon â€œBillyâ€ Abueva, survived his recent strokes that I reported here. He emerged from the ICU of the National Kidney and Replacement Center near the Quezon Memorial Circle. He has been receiving many visitors, including musical artists who love and serenade him. We hope with Cher, Ching, Amihan, and Mulawin that Billy leaves the Center after three days. My recovering wife, Coring, continues with her home care in Beverly Hills, Antipolo.
I turn 86 years old today and celebrate the day praying for Godâ€™s blessing; and simply sharing special lugao with some colleagues and staff at my daughter Lanelleâ€™s Crescent Moon CafÃ© in Antipolo City. Hopefully, I can finally retire from a very long career in a year or so. Pastilan!
Good news national. At the start of the World Economic Forum on East Asia hosted by the Philippines, on Thursday, May 22 President B.S. Aquino III turned to the Filipino people whose collective effort, under his leadership, brought the country â€œin the midst of a dramatic turnaround in every sector.â€ He told visiting political and business leaders that â€œachieving inclusive growth that could be shared by all was the yardstick by which we measure any government undertaking.â€ He said, â€œNo longer are we the Sick Man of Asia.â€ The Philippines achieved a growth rate of 7.2% in 2013. The President added that now â€œthe Philippines is the bastion of good governanceâ€ and urged the delegates to have fun in the Philippines.â€ Of course, Philippine tourism has long been telling all: â€œItâ€™s more fun the Philippines!â€
President Aquino III has led the nationâ€™s heroic effort to achieve the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the implementing effort to draft the proposed basic law on the Bangsamoro political entity that he intends to submit as his priority bill to Congress.
The President has also mightily defended our territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea by seeking the arbitration of the appropriate institution in the United Nations. He has sought the support of the ASEAN on this problem.
Filipinos are among the worldâ€™s most positive peoples, reported the U.S. based 2013 Gallup Positive Experience Index that showed the Philippines with a positive experience of 80, tied with Thailand and Indonesia. Gallup poll asked respondents to answer â€œyesâ€ or â€œnoâ€™ when asked whether they experienced positive emotions the previous day such as (laughter or smiling a lot), feeling well rested, being treated with respect, or sense of accomplishment from something learned or done.â€ â€œPinoys among worldâ€™s most positive people,â€ The Philippine Star, May 24, 2014.
Bad news national: exclusive wealth, growth, benefits, governance; poverty, hunger, corruption, injustice. A commentary by Carmina Flores-Obanil and Jed Alegado tells us a different story. â€œeven if the government is trumpeting 7.2 percent growth rate and the credit rating upgrades from Standard and Poorâ€™s, Moodyâ€™s, and Fitch, 11.8 million households consider themselves poor, with 8.8 million households food-poor, according to the Social Weather Stations for the last quarter of 2013. Joblessness is pervasive with a rate of 27.5 percent, and the Gini coefficient of inequality has remained stagnant despite social and economic measures at reducing it.
â€œClearly, growth alone does not produce the desired broad benefits that would reduce poverty and hunger. Extreme concentrations of wealth in the hands of the few have promoted inequality, further perpetuating poverty since wealth also redounds to power, influence and connections. In our country, for example, inequality is threatening democratic institutions and access to public funds.
â€œThe P10-billion pork barrel scam roiling society is a concrete example of how inequality undermines equal access to wealth, with the privileged fewâ€”the scam perpetratorsâ€”using power and influence to tilt the balance in their favor. This is a clear illustration of how a massive concentration of resources is a significant setback to inclusive political structures and economic growth.â€ â€œRising inequality and the WEF,â€
Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 23, 2014.
Reminding the Aquino leadership and administration, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said: â€œDonâ€™t forget the poor; where is growth going? Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 24, 2014.
But now on its fifth year and still not ending is the trial of the Ampatuan massacre that occurred on November 23, 2009 where 58 men and women, including 32 media workers, were brutally murdered in one of the worst attacks on democracy and press freedom in Philippine history.
Samuel Olivero, a broadcaster in Digos City, Mindanao was murdered on May 23, 2014, the 28th media murder under President B.S. Aquino and the 164th since the Marcos dictatorship ended in 1986.
â€œDavao City. Summary executions of suspected criminals are not new to the Philippines, U.S.â€”based Human Rights Watch said in a 71-page report that tagged Reynaldo Uy, former Tagum Mayor, as one of those responsible for the killing of nearly 300 crime suspects in the city from 2007 to 2013. The New Yorkâ€”based international rights group sia summary killing had been used by other officials, like Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.
â€œIn 2009, the rights group said: â€˜reports of similar killings in other Philippine cities suggest that the Davao Death Squad … has motivated other town officials to adopt extrajudicial killings as a crime control method. xxx [Mayor] Duterte and [Manila Mayor Alfredo] Lim got away with judicial killings. â€™â€ A culture and practice of judicial impunity.
â€œDuterteâ€™s popularity, built on his seeming willingness to engage in unlawful violence to eliminate common crime, a serious problem in many urban areas in the Philippines, has an appeal that extends far beyond Davao City.â€ Germelina Lacorte and Karlos Manlupig, Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 23, 2014.
President Aquinoâ€™s Remaining Two Years: June 30, 2014â€”June 30, 2016. Exclusive political institutions and poor and dependent citizens sustain family political dynasties, rampant corruption and injustice, and a virtual culture of impunity for abusive and corrupt leaders.
But widespread citizen knowledge of massive government corruption and aroused public opinion to hail the culprits to court are unprecedented. We hope we shall approach the tipping point for public retribution, institutional reforms, and justice to really begin to happen.
Is the Philippines under President B.S. Aquino III â€œthe bastion of good governanceâ€? What can he and the government and the nation optimally achieve in his six years as President by June 30, 2016?