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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Manila Standard: Its 36th founding anniversary

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“The tripartite agreement among the Philippines, Japan and the United States forms an alliance that can neutralize the assertive attitude of China in this region”

This week, the Manila Standard is celebrating its 36th founding anniversary, capped by a fellowship today at Casa Buenas at the Newport World Resorts in Newport City.

As chairman emeritus of this newspaper, I should be joining everybody to mark the paper’s red-letter day. Unfortunately I cannot.

My doctor told me at my age, 95 going on 96 years, I should not because the elderly are susceptible to COVID-19 infection.

The MS has its own story to tell.

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I recall that after the exit of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos, the late Rodolfo Reyes, a journalist and a very good friend of mine, who was known for his expose in the defunct Manila Times for having infiltrated a drug den in Tondo and lived to tell it, called me he wanted me to start a newspaper.

He claimed he got a call from Manda Elizalde from Florida that he would like Rod to head it.

Thus, Rod and I started to have a complete staff with me as chairman of the editorial board and a column and with him (Rod Reyes) as publisher and editor-in-chief.

Recall that Manda Elizalde was Secretary of the Department of Cultural Minorities during the incumbency of Marcos Sr.

Manda was later on accused of allegedly kidnapping minority women and fled from the Philippines during the latter part of Martial Law.

Rod and I soon found out that Manda fled to Costa Rica and joined his former classmate from Harvard University, at the time the president of Costa Rica.

When the term of Manda’s former classmate ended, Manda went to the United States. In Florida he called up Rod.

Soon after, Manda came back to the Philippines despite a pending warrant of arrest.

You would not believe it, but it was the late Noynoy Aquino, who wold eventually become president, and his paternal aunt Tessie Aquino Oreta who met Manda at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and facilitated Manda’s return through immigration and Customs, after which Manda spent some time at his beach resort in Batangas.

In the meantime, Rod Reyes and I were given the authority to use the former Elizalde Building along Ayala Avenue which housed Tanduay Rhum.

The first issue of MS was in tabloid form.

But, later on, we went into the regular form to accommodate advertising.

Manda financed the MS, but it was losing money as a newcomer in the print media industry.

If I am not mistaken, after four or five years, Manda decided to sell the MS, and the buyers, at P5 million, were the Soriano and Yuchengco groups

Soon after, Alfonso Yuchengco, a very good friend of mine, told me that he wanted to get out from the newspaper because he could not get the cooperation of the late Andres III to use the MS to also attack his competitor. For that he sold out his control.

That left the Soriano Enterprises in full control of MS.

When the Sorianos sold out their interests at San Miguel, they also sold out their interest in the newspaper business and left Ricky Razon, as partner at Soriano, as sole owner of the MS.

When Teddy Boy Locsin, who was former foreign secretary, decided to discontinue the newspaper “Today” he decided to join the MS and its full staff.

That was when the MS was known as The Manila Standard Today.

The MS was left in full control of the daily until Razon sold MS to the present owners, the PMSPI.

That, in short, is the story of The Manila Standard, where I am still today since the beginning.

I had opportunities to write for other newspapers, but I am that kind of person whose loyalty to something is forever.

And I guess I’ll stay as a columnist of the MS until I write “30”—a euphemism for the final paragraph. I love this newspaper, those that work with me and its visions.

*** *** ***

President Marcos Jr. said that charter change is not a priority.

That’s his point of view, since he believes, Santa Banana, that FDI’s or foreign direct investments will not come to the Philippines without charter change.

Both chambers of Congress are now considering amendments among the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

Yes, FDIs may now be attracted to the Philippines since it’s the President assuring foreign investors with ease of doing business now under his administration.

To me, my gulay, BBM missed the real point on the imperative need to amend the 1987 Constitution that has become antiquated after 36 years.

In fact, the economic provisions of the charter have become oppressive and restrictive aside from being antiquated.

In fact, I’d say there are so many other provisions of the charter that have become out of date, so much so that the 1987 charter itself is not only antiquated, but needs to be updated to catch up with time.

No constitution is etched in stone that should never be amended.

Perhaps, Bongbong Marcos thinks the move by the Senate and the House of Representatives to push through with the amendment of the economic provisions of the charter might lead to the opening of Congress to amend other provisions of the charter, specifically on the terms of duly elected public officials.

This will not happen with both chambers of Congress voting separately under a constituent assembly.

Senator Robin Padilla, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, is specific on his move to amend the constitution.

His resolution provides only amendments to the economic provisions of the charter – similar to the push of Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

Aside from this, we must not forget the executive branch is distinct and separate from Congress.

Whatever moves Congress does should not be dependent on what the President thinks and wants.

In this connection, I believe despite what President Marcos Jr. thinks of the moves of Congress to amend the 1987 Constitution is his alone.

Taking all things in consideration, both the Senate and the House should pursue what they believe in about the antiquated, oppressive and restrictive provisions of the charter.

In fact, I believe the final word should be on the people.

In this connection, it is my belief a plebiscite should help on what the people want.

If the people believe the provisions of the charter should be amended, that’s it.

After all, the people ratified the 1987 Constitution.

Vox populi, or the voice of the people, suprema lex. The voice of the people is the supreme law.

*** *** ***

The five-day working trip of President Marcos Jr. to Japan is certainly his most productive vision, not only as far as economic benefits to the country are concerned, with no less than 35 businesses in the Philippines signing separate deals with their counterparts in Japan, but also insofar as defense and security are concerned.

The tripartite agreement among the Philippines, Japan and the United States forms an alliance that can neutralize the assertive attitude of China in this region.

The tripartite arrangement can even be enlarged with South Korea and Australia.

And this arrangement should be no reason for China to raise tensions in this part of the world.

In fact, it’s but natural for Japan and the Philippines to enter into this tripartite arrangement because they are allies.

If China and Russia can have a bilateral arrangement, why not a tripartite agreement among the Philippines, Japan and the US?

After all, the US and the Philippines have expanded their EDCA or Expanded Defense Cooperative Agreement with the US, now having access to four more Philippines bases.

*** *** ***

I do not want to end this column without extending my belated Happy Birthday greeting to my good friend Johnny Ponce Enrile who just turned 99 years old.

JPE is now the Presidential Chief Legal Counsel of BBM.

I have known JPE since he enrolled at the old Ateneo de Manila at the ruins of Padre Faura to take up a two-year pre-law associate title, after which he took up four years of law at the University of the Philippines.

Happy Birthday Johnny !

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