Category: SONA

SONAkakasindak 2017

imagine. the president who disappeared on us twice last june (including on Independence Day) for several days at a time due to undisclosed health issues — nagpahinga lang daw — delivered a two-hour speech in congress, then went outside the batasan and berated the leftist rallyists for some fifteen minutes, and then went back in for an hour-long press conference.  all this with nary a hint or whine of weariness.  awesome performance for a 72-year old.  i wondered what he was on, some upper, surely?  or maybe he was just still super high from the overwhelming support of the house and the senate that had recently okayed the extension of martial law in mindanao for another 5 months?

whatever.  the speech was vintage duterte.  belligerent, brusque, bellicose.  unrelenting on the drug war.  no apparent change in strategy: first, kill the demand, that is, kill the addicts.  second, stop the supply, that is, the drug lords, and so he continues to seek the death penalty.  meanwhile, or should i say, otherwise, nakita naman natin ang nangyari kay espinosa the druglord at kay marcos the policeman.  yung una na-rub-out while in jail, yung huli nasuspend sandali tapos naibalik rin sa puwesto at tila mapo-promote pa in 6 months.  ika nga ni duterte sa minamahal niyang mga pulis at sundalo, yang mga human-rights-human-rights, wala yan! I.HAVE.YOUR.BACKS!  ang sweet, di ba.

but i must say, he pushed the right buttons a few times — calling out the mining industry that pollute farms and seasides  and, even, calling for industrialization, wow!  calling out the supreme court for the RH TRO, and, even, america for refusing to return the bells of balangiga — quite effectively confounding critics, raising hopes anew, even if only a little.  cheap thrills.

the bad news — though good news to many — is that the president seems to be gearing up to call off the peace talks with the Left.  i suspect that if there had not been that ambush on his PSG the week before the SONA (No ceasefire, no prior notice: Joma explains attack on PSG convoy.  read also satur ocampo’s Gov’t ceasefire demand snags peace talks anew) the president’s men would have come up with some other reason anyway.  sa joint session of congress pa lang nuong july 22, when it convened to vote for the extension of martial law in mindanao, maya’t maya ang ungkat sa CCP-NPA, almost in the same breath as the maute and abu sayyaf and other terrorist groups.

but the peace talks, the CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) round, especially, is our only hope for a truly “comfortable life for all.”  without it, duterte’s campaign promise of a new economic model that will lift the masses from poverty will remain just that, a promise.  balik na naman tayo sa trickle-down eklat and dole-outs just because the president’s economists are loathe to give up the goose that lays their ilk (and only their ilk) the golden eggs, pardon the cliche.

nakakasindak sa lahat, of course, is that the mayor who called for a stop to lumad killings in 2015 is now the president who threatens to bomb lumads and their schools to extinction for being allied with the Left.  if the president follows through on this, it might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  again, pardon the cliche. (we have become a nation of cliches.)

i guess, like erap, the president made campaign promises vis a vis corruption and the economy that he didn’t realize were undoable until he was himself in the driver’s seat?  i guess it was too good to last, the president’s accommodation of the Left that is, was? unprecendented in recent history.  and then, again, Can DU30 afford a break with the Left?   read marlen v. ronquillo:

A year ago, in his SONA, Mr. Duterte promised a “peace for the living“ with a peace pact with the Left and the Muslim secessionist groups in mind. His accommodation of the Left is unprecedented in recent history. Through a series of tactical moves—naming Leftists to his official family, convening a serious peace panel that promptly opened up peace talks with the leaders of the Left, and supporting that peace process wholeheartedly—his strategic goal was to make history by going the way of Colombia in dealing with the FARC.

As mayor of Davao City, Duterte dealt with the Left. He left the Left alone and the Left left him alone to pursue his Davao agenda. But that was a smaller, more manageable setting.

Now, all of these grand initiatives on a national scale are in jeopardy.

Question: Can DU30 afford a break with the Left, the one sector that he wants on his side and did a lot of political accommodation to win it?

The Left is often dismissed as a “sunset group” but the application of that is limited. As a rebel group with an agenda of seizing state power to put in place a government of central planning guided by Marx, Lenin and Mao, that is deemed as next to impossible. Its chosen road to state power, that of encircling the seat of power from the countryside and peasant hordes overwhelming the reactionary forces of the state, is now a failed approach. As far back as the 1970s, a group of heretics led by the late Popoy Lagman wanted to change strategy from the Maoist version to the Nicaraguan model.

… While the Left has a very narrow path to seizing state power, it remains the most potent enemy of the established order. It is the only group with an above-ground force, an army of ideologues that can argue from the mainstream, a cadre of Marxist intellectuals that can speak from a perch of high moral ascendancy. There is nothing more morally right than preaching from a perch of liberating the poor, the huddled masses.

The Left is spread out and almost omnipresent. It has leaders and advocates from the academe, the small businesses, organized labor, the peasantry, the Church and almost every institution that matters.

There are uninvolved people who nonetheless believe in the rightness of economic parity, social justice and egalitarian causes, which makes them sympathetic – and closer to the left-wing beliefs – than any other belief system, including the flawed liberal democracy. I know of many good and decent people under this category.

And when the Left opposes a particular government, it is with fire in the belly and the rage is not dictated by focus groups and survey results. The mainstream oppositionists would not oppose a President as popular as Mr. Duterte. The Left will fight and fight to the death the most popular President on the planet.

Mr. Duterte knows this. Deep in his heart, he does not want an enemy as relentless and as committed as the Left.

What the strategists of Mr. Duterte fear most is a tactical coalition between the Left and the mainstream groups. Once this happens, the opposition to Mr. Duterte will not be of the timid, calibrated kind. But the type and kind of protests that embody the fury of the Left – go for broke and without heed of the consequences.

At this point, the last thing Mr. Duterte needs is the Left protesting on the streets with fury in the eyes and fire in the belly.

distressed and disconcerted

by the torrent of killings, drug-related and not, with many innocents presumably “caught in the crossfire”, but just as badly by the shabu menace that’s past eradication and likely impossible to “contain” in this third world country without livelihood options for mules, runners, and pushers and without free health and support services for addicts asking for help.

and disgusted by the announcement of house speaker pantaleon alvarez (whom we don’t know from adam, yet who is sooooo powerful all at once with that super majority na, super minority pa) that the prez has changed his mind re a constitutional convention for the shift to federalism upon the advice of previous presidents fvr, estrada, arroyo, and aquino because, you know, concon is too expensive, argh.  please naman, mr. president, this is too important.  we simply do not trust congress.  if we can’t afford to do it properly, then let’s not do it at all, instead work with what we have already, like senator nene pimentel’s local government code of 1991 that could work for the bangsamoro, too.

and disgruntled, still, by that disastrously pa-creative coverage of president duterte’s first SONA, those “disturbingly lingering, unflattering low angle ‘ilong’ shots,” ika nga ng isang veteran TV director, not to speak of the rather pointless tight shots on the presidential hands and other indie film gimmicks that were all quite inappropriate to a SONA, seriously distracting from the speech of a president who does not really speak very clearly, whether in english or tagalog or bisaya, and so you need to focus and to watch his lips if you want to catch the full sense of what he’s saying from one sentence to the next.

calling out presidential comms sec martin andanar: what were you thinking? there was nothing “master class” about that SONA coverage.  the president cannot be boring even if he tried (except to diehard critics of course) just because he’s unlike any president we’ve had before, and we need help deciphering him, adlibs, asides, and all.  and i hope it’s not true that you’re tapping the same indie feature film director (famous for poverty porn) to direct information campaigns critical to nation, unless the idea is to distract from the issues maybe, or from shifts in the presidential mindset? make it impossible for us to keep track? OMG

p.s. sana pinaghahandaan na ninyo, at ng mainstream and social media na rin, ang information campaign on federalism and constitutional change.  we expect nothing less than savvy and clarity on all sides.


i was hoping it would be different.  i was hoping that the informed public’s displeasure over DAP had shaken him up enough to eschew the bragging (about small change) and the sniping, the snarking, at critics (left right and center).

i was also hoping to be suprised, praying that the continuing and increasing poverty, joblessness, high prices, environmental decay atbp. all of four years into his watch would have shaken him up enough to see that any talk of transformation is just that, just talk, and so finally he would level up, find the mind and the heart, the nerve, the guts, the balls, to walk the talk, even run with it, take the leap, and we would all rally behind him, the middleclass and the majority poor, towards a new equitable socio-economic order.  ika nga ni alex magno, who for once wasn’t comparing the president with his former boss GMA:

Aquino had immense political capital at the onset. He could have deployed this capital to break new ground, alter our policy architecture to wean it away from oligarchic capture. 

that would have been awesome.  i mean, you know, talk about inclusive growth and transformation…

alas, the 5th sona was no different from the first four: self-congratulatory, proud of small pockets of achievement, and other small changes lined up, at least one for every sector it would seem, but apparently unmindful of the big picture and of long-festering issues and crises in all sectors, almost as though not acknowledging these would make them go away, like magic.

but, ok, pasalamat na lang that he didn’t rant anew at the supreme court, and that disimulado ang pag-push niya pa rin sa DAP.  also it was a relief that unlike sonny coloma and some yellowyalists, the president did not claim credit for the arrests of enrile, estradajr and revillajr, maybe because the question still is, why oppositionists only…

i was waiting for him to iterate the FOI promise, but he didn’t.  lacierda says it’s because the prez had already promised its passage (before the end of his term) in that daylight dialogue with the world bank, sabay:

Besides, the government is already giving the public access to data through Open Data initiative, Lacierda added. 

tila pangakong napako nang tunay.  maybe congress could would only promise the supplementary budget he’s requesting, and passage of the 2015 budget of course? maybe FOI in 2016 pa pala, just before he steps down?  or maybe never, in case it’s his annointed who wins in 2016?  that open data ek is surely nothing like FOI or they’d be calling it FOI, kahit pa watered-down na, ‘no?

as for that emotional all-choked-up the filipino-is-worth-dyinglivingfighting-for moment, it was an obvious tug at heartstrings, premised as it was on a notion of supreme sacrifice.

To my Bosses: You gave me an opportunity to lead our efforts to transform society. If I had said “no” when you asked me to take on this challenge, then I could just as well have said that I would help prolong your suffering. I cannot do that in good conscience. If I had turned my back on the opportunity, then I might as well have turned my back on my father and mother, and all the sacrifices they made for all of us; that will not happen. On our journey along the straight path, you have always chosen what is right and just; you have been true to your promise, and I have been true to all of you. [Applause] 

back in 2010 when conrado de quiros, alex magno, and bongbong marcos (among other strange bedfellows) were urging, nay, challenging, him to run for president, i blogged: not yet, noynoy.  i thought it would be wise to run as mar roxas’s vice-president muna, learn the ropes, while reading the writings his father left behind, products of much thought, products of a brilliant nationalist mind.

given your parents, the history, the genes, the values, you, more than any other filipino, can do it, can be it. but not without serious preparation for the role, which would mean learning not just from your mother’s successes but also from her mistakes — e.g., (in) land reform, foreign debts, atbp. — and, most importantly, by being truly your father’s son not just in terms of his sacrifice but also of his political ideology.

when your father came home in ‘83 he had a program of action that he drafted while in exile in boston. surely that program of action is worth looking into — other than the dismantling of military rule, things haven’t changed much, except gotten worse, since the 80s — and hopefully, you will be up to the revolutionary challenges it poses.

forget de quiros and other hopeless romantics who urge you to run in 2010. to do so, and to fail at non-violent revolution because you are not ready, would be the end of you. in effect, you’d be neutralized, which would be a shame.


SONA’s deafening silence on coco levy loot atbp.

i was only half-listening to the prez until he started talking coconuts…aha, here we go, i thought, let’s hear your plans for the coco levy loot (160B and counting).  alas, nothing, as in zilch, as though it doesn’t exist.  nothing, too, about the problem of aged unproductive trees that we’re not allowed to cut down without first getting permits and paying fees.  worse, the president’s best answer to the low productivity of coconut lands is nothing new.  intercropping is an old idea.  we’ve tried it and it doesn’t work, unless of course yours is a large-scale operation with lots of capital.  to be sure, i emailed what the prez said to my coco farmer sibs based in tiaong and got this reply today:

The State of the Coconut
By Luis Umali Stuart

I listened to the SONA on the radio, and drew close when coconuts came up, since I still have a stand of them up the hill. From the ground here, my immediate thoughts:

Procy* is from these parts and when it comes to cocos he pretty much knows the score, it’s a job cut out for him.

1. The real problem is that world prices for copra have fallen drastically, largely on a challenge from palm oil. Two years ago we were netting up to P4.50 per nut on lean months, now it is down to P1.50 almost year-round. Even “buko” (murà here) down from P6 to P3.

2. The market for coconuts is now shifted to higher-technology, higher-value, processed coconut products – virgin coconut oil from the meat, activated charcoal from the shells, coirflex and planting media from the husks, coco sugar from the water, packaged buko juice. These are where the reported gains are coming from, but are really only viable largescale, and require considerable capitalization. Large landholdings are the early beneficiaries (Villa Escudero I underatand has a thriving VCO operation.)

3. To participate in the new industries, avail of financing and incentives, small coconut farmers must organize into cooperatives, always easier said than done. Coconut farmers are producers, they are not businessmen and cooperatives are serious business, there is enormous paperwork involved. In the end it is rural businessmen and do-gooders that set up these cooperatives, who naturally end up controlling the whole shebang, turning the producers into the same cut-rate suppliers that serve the copra industry.

(And let’s face it. Pinoys are not a cooperative bunch. We have been so well-divided-and-ruled for so long perhaps that we really only trust the very closest to us. Even our vaunted bayanihan spirit, at least hereabouts, is not instinctive, there is always a promise of food and drink and and cigarettes after, it’s a small party limited to short friendly chores requiring many people.)

4. To help the small scale coconut farmers (under five hectares?), Procy’s sell to the president is “intercropping.” Give them something else to earn from, forget the coconuts, he means, and he’s got all these other products lined up: kape, cacao, saging, chickens… to intercrop with the niyog. None of which is new. The Silang (Cavite) project in the 60s of the rural reconstruction movement (that bred Juan Flavier and Boy Morales) was a showcase of intercropping (coconuts with papayas cum pineapples). But it now seems to be the focus, radically giving up the coconut industry to the more poised financially for the new directions in the market. In this regard the old small farms have been quickly outflanked by new players opening new sites.

5. The message for the small coconut farmers, is to stop relying on the coconuts and get off your butts, start working the land around your old trees, and intercrop. What would be new is if it will turn out to be worth all the work this time. Will the market and right prices be there when the critical days of harvest come, or will it be quickly cartelized by deft middlemen as usual? Will there be post harvest support and dependable technology inputs for more efficient processing and storage?  Otherwise all this crop diversification business doesn’t work. I suggest to Procy, if he wants farmers to really intercrop, he should be fielding futures buyers everywhere now with ready checkbooks for these startup crops, and then everyone will get to work.

6. Material inputs for the intercopping seem to be in place as claimed. Last October (21012) this forwarded text from my sister Babes: “tita, eto po ung contact sa alaminos laguna PCA, incharge of coco seedlings distribution… namimigay po cla normally 100 seedlings per person.” Bobby de Guzman (Candelaria) got some of these free trees himself (in San Pablo) with start up free-range chickens for their farmland in Dolores. I have heard also of ECA giving away coffee and cacao seedlings. Obviously one has to run around for these freebies, but they are out there, if only for the fleet and able.

7. It would be great if government can bring these offerings around farmgate to farmgate. Farming is a hunkered down life, and true farmers venture little outside their cozy soil-based comfort zones. They aren’t ones to run around playing government’s games, they (I) must be reached out to. The government must “missionarize” the farms, or it can never hope to suck the farmers in.

8. But we know, new and greater efforts require new and greater funding, and I dream of crop futures and farmgate services for small farmers with the coconut levy fund in back of my mind, if it should ever get in the hands of honest people, i.e.

The fund is again unmentioned in the SONA, simply because there is not anything good or clear to report. I heard recently that the SC has finally (?) decided vs Danding and given it all (?) to the coco farmers. This is obviously good news, but Noynoy can claim no victory nor promise anything from it. Indeed, what legal tricks are still open to Danding’s formidable lawyers so well-paid from the looted funds? The best thing about it is that we know where this bulk of the fund is and how much it is now worth.

For us coconut folk from whom this fund was extorted in the 70s under duress of martial law, following its trail and the long story of machinations that have kept it in Danding’s hands all this time, we all yearn to put the perpetrators in their place and fully recover this wealth. Still and all, I have grave misgivings where these funds are headed.

From my vantage, the coconut levy fund was a scam from the get go. I don’t have the dates, but the levy was well in force and being collected when I started in Santol in ’77. It was amounting, I think, to 10c per kilo of shelled nut (at P1/kg it was a whopping 10%). The buyers would return with booklets of stubs for us to fill up, equivalent to our contributions, loads of them for they were in small denominations and we soon gave up trying to keep filling them up. Until a while later, news came of scholarships being handed out. I dug them up and filled up hundreds if not a thousand. Aling Nene rushed to sign them up. We were to get “certficates” of a sort in return. But very soon after, that cocofund office in town closed, and we never heard of scholarships again nor ever saw any of our certificates.

In all these years following the progress of the levy fund chase, I have not once seen or heard of a list of its so-called beneficiaries nor ever met anyone with any kind of certificate in hand. Nor have we ever received any communication from any source that would suggest that we are on anybody’s list as true contributors to the fund. My very strong suspicion is that there is no true list, and that whatever list of beneficiaries exists, or should suddenly surface, is spurious.

At least in these parts, many of the farmers and coconut lands that were squeezed to build the fund are long gone, to the great beyond or other parts, the trees the way of the powersaw in the spate of land coversions in the face of CARP. If by some magic, the coconut levy fund should actually metamorphose from its shady beginnings into some real support fund for coconut farmers, I would be very surprised and declare it a holy day for the overwhelming power of good intentions. (2013 Aug 01)

*proceso alcala, secretrary of agriculture