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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Diff’rent strokes

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Why not ask the US of A put up a military base there instead of additional EDCA sites purposely aimed to address a potential Taiwan Strait conflict?

How our top national leaders reacted to the latest Pulse Asia survey which showed a steep plunge in their performance approval ratings provides a study in contrasts.

Though likely un-studied, it gives us a mirror to their personalities.

I borrow the title of today’s column from the popular though short-lived (by American standards) early 80s sitcom which sometimes dealt on serious issues pictured in light vein.

The day after the release of the survey, the president was in Taguig to dispense sacks of rice to recipients of the 4Ps.

Though the survey results may have been unpleasant, the president took it in stride, and in humble tone accepted that this was “not surprising.”

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“People are having a hard time. The rice issue – that is a burden really…”

“You can’t blame the people. They are suffering… That’s perfectly natural. It’s not a surprise – let’s put it that way,” he added.

And on the same day, he announced the lifting of the controversial price ceiling on rice, started in early September, which had obviously failed to dampen the inflation rate, with the PSA itself and the Pulse Asia research confirming that food inflation, particularly that of rice, was the public’s main beef, as the index rose to 6.1 percent in September.

The president’s DA and DTI appointees expectedly stated the price cap worked, and said prices would not go up again because the palay harvests have begun. We hope.

Such brown-nosing over a failed market intervention does not square off with the small number of retailers “nationwide” which DSWD, given DTI’s list of retailers, was able to help through the 15,000 peso “ayuda.”

How explain the small number of beneficiaries who availed themselves of the “ayuda,” around 20,000 rice retailers nationwide after a month, while the DA proudly exclaimed there was 95 percent compliance just a week after imposition?

Even the masa cannot be fooled by such pompous pronouncements.

Truth to tell, the lowly ‘masa’ never felt so outcast from society as when they are forced to buy bad rice at P41 to P45 simply because the alternative was in the high P50s and P60 variety.

I remember what then President Erap, who started his shortened reign after a severe drought had famished our palay fields, admonished then NFA administrator Edno Joson that when he imports rice to fill up the supply shortfall, “siguruhin mong magandang bigas ang kakainin ng masang Pilipino.”

So we hope the president realized after the survey jolt it is better to have officials who will tell him the truth — the ‘bad news’ rather than sycophantic ululations which distort realities.

Panderers, especially those who say amen and hallelujah to everything the leader says even if they have doubts on its correctness, are the worst enemies of a good manager.

As the fourth US president, James Madison once said: “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”

***

The rumor mill has been quite active lately, speculating on forthcoming changes in the Cabinet, more particularly in key members of the president’s economic team.

Supposedly, an economist and seasoned politician who once headed the economic planning agency under a previous president will soon be appointed to a plum post, replacing a former professor of economics who has served four presidents including the present.

And then too, an executive of a huge family-owned conglomerate with interests in food processing, real estate and even air travel will soon replace another key member of the economic team.

Also, the president will soon give up his all-too-difficult agriculture portfolio and appoint a fishing business magnate who would take up the challenge of supervising food production, from soil-based staples to terrestrial livestock to marine and aquatic resources.

The supposed Cabinet shake-up, to be announced after the upcoming barangay elections, may be construed as a reaction to the latest survey, but truth is, Malacanang has been mulling such an option given both policy contradictions within the president’s team, and its own appraisal of the performance of the departments concerned.

***

Now back to the personality contrasts between the progenitors of the “Uniteam.”

Reacting to the flak she got from her unexplained confidential and intelligence funds, past and presently proposed for 2024, the vice president showed her feisty personality when she attacked those who oppose the CIF as having “insidious motivations,” and labelled them as “kalaban ng bayan.”

Instead of putting out the fire, she further stoked the flames. Her political enemies, will likely raise the ante.

The Uniteam is truly one of different strokes.

While one can perpetually display a conflict-averse leadership style, the other digs in and is often quite confrontational.

Instead of pointing to her city as a template for peace and order, with the NPA virtually extinct, and explaining her use of confidential funds to achieve the same, she went into Red-tagging and stereotyping.

Such that her own declaration before her Senate ‘inquisitors’ that she could live without the confidential funds has now been used as justification by the Speaker of the House, for transferring her CIF allocation towards fortifying the Kalayaan group of islands in the West Philippine Sea and other national security requirements.

Touche!

And announce this he did in Pag-asa ‘mismo,’ with his ‘cuadro de alas,’ his appointed budget barbers Zaldy Co, Stella Quimbo, Nonoy Libanan and Mannix Dalipe in tow, as they inspected the infrastructure-needy island.

As I said in a recent article in this space, it’s too early for the politics of 2028 to boil, but leaders like the vice president should also be able to reflect and absorb lessons on handling brickbats before they grow into crisis.

***

Still, Inday Sara’s enemies, whether ideological, political, or those who were paid to demolish her, crossed the line when they accused her falsely of getting the QCPD police to close down a portion of Commonwealth Avenue because a “VIP” would pass.

Twisted by the purveyor of such fake news to mean the VP instead of “a VIP,” the video was meant to discredit Inday Sara as a spoiled and insensitive official given to excessive entitlement.

The QCPD, which was used, must come out and be forthright on this issue instead of penalizing a lowly member of its force.

And the only way is for the QCPD leadership to identify who the real ‘VIP’ for whom they cleared that span of a busy and traffic-choked thoroughfare was.

Both the staff of the vice president and the purveyors of the viral video must demand that of the QCPD. Otherwise, it will be just a malicious demolition job where the “left” may have been wittingly or unwittingly used.

By the way, why does the police department and MMDA allow the “wang-wang” entitlements again? Didn’t PNoy back in 2010 ‘outlaw’ it?

***

And speaking of Kalayaan in Palawan, which appropriations chair now wants to convert into a tourist resort, where the sand is better than his Misibis Bay playground in Albay, one wonders at the expense of traveling by air or boat to said military outpost, as to be viable as a travel destination.

Why not ask the US of A to put up a military base there instead of additional EDCA sites purposely aimed to address a potential Taiwan Strait conflict?

If the intention is to fortify our alliance with them based on the Mutual Defense Treaty, wouldn’t it be better for the US to fortify Kalayaan, and prove to the Filipino people that they have an “iron-clad commitment” to defend our territory and protect our poor fishermen?

I am certain the residents of the Kalayaan group of islands would welcome the presence of “friendly” troops among them, unlike Cagayanos who, led by their Governor Mamba, are protesting the new EDCA sites in Lal-lo and Sta. Ana, veritably magnets for attack if China forcefully takes Taiwan.

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