Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Why I’m not impressed with the debate

“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”

—Nelson Mandela


By Alex P. Vidal


BY the time this article comes out, most Americans may have already decided who won in the first of the three scheduled debates between U.S. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joseph Biden last night (September 29 U.S. Eastern Time) at the Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.

I watched from my room the “live” fiery debate that lasted for one hour and thirty minutes simultaneously in three tablets (channels CBS News, CNN, ABC), to make sure I won’t miss any fireworks starting at 9 o’clock in the evening.

For the record, I still rank President John F. Kennedy, Sen. John Kerry, President Barack Obama, as among the few Democrats who really impressed me in the presidential debates. 

Mr. Biden, who has been in public service for 47 years, too, is a hell of a debater but only 10 to 20 years ago, according to my personal assessment. Age must have slowed him down.

New Jersey Advance Media for NJ.com writer Jonathan D. Salant immediately conducted an online survey and as of this writing, Salant’s survey showed Mr. Trump ahead by 50.1%  (87,748 votes) as against Mr. Biden’s 49.9%  (87,392 votes) out of 175,140 votes.

I thought Mr. Biden would score a coup de grace when Mr. Trump seemed to have lost his poise as he came out swinging with a machete and interrupting moderator Chris Wallace in the early stage.

I thought the former vice president would exploit the scandalous and stunning New York Times expose on the president’s income tax where Mr. Trump had been supposedly exposed to have paid only $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017.




In my opinion, which most Democrats will surely disagree, Mr. Trump was able to avoid that dragnet. 

In Patch staff Todd Richissin’s opinion, “Mr. Trump was amped up big time throughout the debate.”

Mr. Trump has ridiculed Mr. Biden as "Sleepy Joe." 

That may have backfired, Richissin observed, given the energy Mr. Biden showed during the debate. He was feisty, garbled few words and fired back at Mr. Trump without hesitation, once calling him a "clown" (before immediately apologizing).

Mr. Trump also consistently interrupted not only Mr. Biden but also moderator Chris Wallace. 

The president once told Wallace it seemed it was Trump versus Biden and Wallace. Mr. Biden had his own moment after being repeatedly interrupted by Mr. Trump, asking the president, "Will you shut up, man?"

Mr. Bide went after Mr. Trump on his handling of the coronavirus crisis by framing it as "totally irresponsible" and managing it in such a way that the rich got richer while working-class people disproportionately. This is an emerging theme in Biden's campaign, Richissin said.

The New York Times reported this week that Mr. Trump had paid no income taxes in 10 of the 15 years prior to his presidency. 




When asked about it, Mr. Trump doubled down, claiming he paid millions of dollars in income taxes over that period. 

"Then show us your taxes," Mr. Biden snapped back.

When all else fails, look to the stock market. 

Mr. Biden has proposed raising the top tax rate for capital gains for the highest earners to 39.6 percent from 23.8 percent, and he would boost the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent. 

CNBC said if the markets go down Wednesday or Thursday or both days, that's a good indication that Mr. Biden was considered the winner.

If they go up, that's a nod to Mr. Trump's performance. 

Richissin said that may be a dubious claim since the number of people who drive the markets is relatively small.

It's hard to imagine that Wallace, of Fox News, will be seen as anything but a winner, added Richissin.

When Mr. Trump interrupted, Wallace asked him (and eventually pleaded with him), to stop. He did the same to Mr. Biden on the relatively few occasions the former vice president interrupted. 

Toward the end of the debate, Wallace asked Mr. Trump why he would not abide by the rules of the debate both campaigns had agreed to.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo)




Monday, September 28, 2020

Ex-‘gunrunner’ and COVID-19 survivor dangles $100 for Trump

“I've been wrong on everything about Trump; I've been wrong about everything on the Republican side of the ledger. But allow me - with that caveat - to made the prediction that Donald Trump will not be the president of the United States. It just will not happen.”

Cory Booker


By Alex P. Vidal


A CONFESSED former “gunrunner” in the Philippines in the early 70s who now lives in Queens, New York City is rooting for reelectionist President Donald Trump of the Republican Party in the November 3 U.S. Presidential Election and has dared fellow Filipinos here who support Trump’s rival to a $100 bet.

Joseph “Pinky” Nocum, 82, said he is confident that Trump will beat Joseph Biden of the Democratic Party, dismissing results of several polls conducted most recently that showed 77-year-old Biden ahead in the race to obtain 270 electoral votes.

“MANG PEPENG” (Right) and the Author in Elmhurst. Queens

A native of Guimba, Nueva Ecija, Nocum, popularly known in the Elmhurst community as “Mang Pepeng”, said he expected Mr. Trump to outshine Biden, a former vice president, in their first debate at the Samson Pavilion of the Health Education Campus (HEC) shared by Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland on September 29 (at 9 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time).

Naghahamon ako ng pustahan kahit $100 lang sa mga Filipino Democrats para matigil na and debate kung sino talaga ang manalo sa Nobiembre tres (I’m challenging Filipino Democrats to a $100 bet to settle the debate on who will win on November 3),” said Nocum, who survived the COVID-19 in June after being tested positive together with his wife, Karen, 78; and only son, Jason, 40.




Nocum, a retired employee of the U.S. Post Service’s Office of the Personnel Management, “escaped” the Philippines a year after President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 23, 1972.

“I sold all types of guns to different individuals, including politicians and bodyguards of VIPs,” Nocum confessed. “When Martial Law was declared, pinag initan ako at dinamput ang mga kasama ko, so I escaped to the U.S. by marrying a balikbayan woman from Tondo (Manila).” 

Nocum said he also voted for Republican presidential candidates in the past like Ronald Reagan, George Bush (father and son), and John McCain.

He “didn’t like” former President Barack Obama for his “lack of economic foresight” but credited Mr. Trump for “stabilizing” the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) despite the pandemic.

“I’m rooting for President Trump because he helped stabilize the New York stock exchange and because he fulfilled his promise to the Americans to improve the economy and eradicate graft and corruption in the government,” Nocum announced. “He has succeeded in draining the swamp.”

The American Prospect, however, belied Nocum’s claim about President Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” after it was reported that the president had “packed his administration with former lobbyists and corporate executives.” 

It turns out this was one of the biggest whoppers in modern American politics as it made the swamp even swampier, insisted the American Prospect.




In total, more than 300 lobbyists now reportedly work in the Trump administration–many in key positions overseeing the industries they used to lobby for. 

Mr. Trump and his family are reportedly “personally profiting from the presidency.” 

Despite Mr. Trump’s promise he would sever all ties with his existing businesses and place all assets in a “blind” trust to eliminate any conflicts of interest, documents reportedly show he remains the sole beneficiary of his trust and still retains the legal power to revoke the trust at any time. 

Mr. Trump is also reportedly “catering to billionaires and corporations at the expense of the American people.”

In the fall of 2017, mega-donors reportedly shelled out more than $31 million in political contributions to Trump and Republicans. And in return, they reportedly got a massive $2 trillion tax cut. 

The president is also reportedly “using taxpayer dollars to subsidize his luxurious lifestyle.” 

Since taking office, Trump’s golf trips alone have reportedly cost taxpayers more than $110 million dollars.

“His children have also charged taxpayers for costs associated with business trips around the world that they’ve taken, including India and Uruguay. Taxpayers even footed the bill for Donald Trump Junior’s hunting trip to Canada,” added the American Prospect.

Finally, the Trump administration has been reportedly “riddled with scandals and ethics violations.” 

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo)





Sunday, September 27, 2020

End the skirmish

“Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”

—William James


By Alex P. Vidal


WE expect the word war in the social media between Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin Jr. to stop right away.

Let’s put it this way: Teddy Boy fired the first shot; Treñas retorted. 

You hit me, I hit you back. A tit for a tat.

Emotions were high because of the tension caused by the pandemic; there’s no need to prolong the discord.   

We are confident Locsin will no longer make any follow up of his negative remarks against the city mayor supposedly for “blaming” his constituents while appealing to downgrade Iloilo City’s status from MECQ to GCQ.

After they have released their emotions, both gentlemen are now expected to behave like statesmen.

We also appeal to the supporters of Treñas to refrain from fanning the feud with unnecessary and corrosive comments in the social media so as not to exacerbate the misunderstanding between the two highly respected government officials. 

Conflicts or verbal wars will distract our leaders from their jobs as public servants; COVID-19 is too serious to be set aside for an energy-sapping joust just to prove who’s the macho man.        

Treñas has spoken. 

He was peeved by that unceremonious tirade; it’s but proper the city mayor gave the foreign affairs boss his comeuppance. 

Move on, everyone.




A Filipino-American chess player from Woodside, Queens in New York City said he was surprised to receive in a direct bank deposit an additional $900 from the New York State’s Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program on September 25.

Martin, 56, a native of Iloilo City, Philippines, said he thought the $900 he received early this month was the last money from the government funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“I earlier received a total of $900 or $300 each representing three weeks for the month of August after I made a certification with the Department of Labor for my LWA,” explained Martin, a former jeepney driver in Calumpang, Molo district in Iloilo City. “May ara pa gali nga additional $900. Thank you Lord.”

From first week of August to September 25, Martin netted a total of $1,800 from the FEMA through the federal government as part of the executive order (EO) signed by President Donald Trump when congress failed to pass a bill in August that would extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) of millions of unemployed Americans as a result of the COVID-19.




Martin, who lost his job in a restaurant after the lockdown here in March, is one of the more than 20 million Americans who received $600 a week from April to July on top of the $400 a week from the New York State under the PUA.

Before the two $900 (a total of $1,800) came, Martin collected more or less $16,000 from April to July under PUA.

Pero wala ko naga salig nga mag sigi sigi ini. Ga obra gid ko ya, ga paninlu ko balay bisan under the table lang,” he said. “The pandemic is unpredictable. What if I will be out of work until next year if the pandemic will prolong?”

President Trump signed into law the CARES ACT on March 27, 2020 that gives states the option of extending unemployment compensation to independent contractors and other workers who are ordinarily ineligible for unemployment benefits.

“I promised my relatives in the Philippines that I would share my stimulus money to them if it’s available. Now, I can make many of them smile,” said Martin.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo)





Saturday, September 26, 2020

‘God’s will’ to kill Roe v. Wade?

“We will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe abortion in this country.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg


By Alex P. Vidal


FILIPINOS must also pay attention to some of the major and controversial issues being tackled and developing in the United States nowadays prior to the November 3 Presidential Election because some of these issues aren’t only relevant, but will also affect many of us in one way or the other.

For instance, it’s a common knowledge that when some Philippine celebrities, politicians and VIPs are embroiled in scandals like unwanted pregnancies and illicit affairs and they want to keep the “putridity” under wraps, they fly to the U.S. where they believe their problems will have a permanent solution.

Like abortion.

With the most recent appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, the liberals, especially those who invoke their constitutional right to have access on safe and legal abortion, fear the Roe v Wade will be overturned or further eroded once the conservatives will become the majority in the SC.

President Donald Trump named 48-year-old Barrett to the SC on September 26, setting in motion a rush by Republicans to cement a conservative majority on the court on the eve of a tense and potentially disputed U.S. election.




Barrett “will defend your God-given rights and freedoms,” Mr. Trump told the crowd in Middletown, where supporters enthusiastically received news of her nomination.

Senate Judiciary Committee hearings to consider Barrett’s nomination are expected to begin October 12.

If confirmed, Barrett will fill the seat of late liberal justice Ginsburg, likely steering the court to the right for years, expanding the current conservative wing’s sometimes shaky 5-4 advantage to a solid 6-3.

A majority of Americans—by 57 to 38 per cent—oppose the push for confirmation before the election, according to a Washington Post/ABC poll.

Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973.

It affirmed that access to safe and legal abortion is a constitutional right.

According to Planned Parenthood, 73 percent of Americans don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

Planned Parenthood fears one-third of all women of reproductive age in America could lose the ability to access abortion in their state once Roe v. Wade has been overturned.




“The data is clear: Despite attacks on our rights, Americans support Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to access abortion,” Planned Parenthood bewailed.

It added: “Roe wasn’t the beginning of abortion in America. The ruling allowed people to access abortion legally and prevented people dying from unsafe, illegal abortions, , as happened before Roe v. Wade.”

It explained that “in 1965, illegal abortions made up one-sixth of all pregnancy-related deaths—and that’s just according to official reports; doctors think the actual number was a lot higher.”

Prohibition of legal abortion particularly hurt people with low incomes; a survey conducted in the 1960s found that among women with low incomes in New York City who had obtained an abortion, eight in 10 had attempted a dangerous, self-induced procedure, added the Planned Parenthood.

“Now that abortion is a legal right thanks to Roe, it’s become one of the safest medical procedures in the United States—with a safety record of over 99 percent,” Planned Parenthood further stressed. “Also, because abortion is legal, people who decide to have an abortion can receive support throughout the process from medical professionals.”

Advocates of Roe v Wade insist that “the right to safe and legal abortion has been the law of the land for more than 45 years, and is a part of the fabric of this country. Roe v. Wade is clearly established precedent, and it shouldn’t be up for debate. Yet opponents of abortion have made it increasingly difficult for people to access—and these threats are not slowing down.”

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo)


Thursday, September 24, 2020

‘Depende sa debate’

“Those who cannot understand how to put their thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of debate.”

Friedrich Nietzsche


By Alex P. Vidal


SOME Filipino-Americans in New York have remained undecided whether to vote for reelectionist President Donald Trump of Republican Party or for Joseph Biden of Democratic Party.  

Like many Americans, most of them continue to monitor the day-to-day campaigns from the different states and the strategies being marshaled by both parties with less than 40 days before the election day on November 3, 2020.

Nestor Urdaneta, 68, of Leyte said he voted for Hilary Clinton in 2016 but recent developments, particularly the riots that ensued after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis cops on May 25, may change his mind about supporting the Democrats unless Biden can convince him in the debates. 

“But I’m still a Democrat by heart,” said Urdaneta, who lives in Astoria, Queens. 

Urdaneta, a retired health worker, said he will wait for the Presidential Debate first on September 29 before making his final decision.

Depende sa debate. Malalaman natin kung sino talaga ang magaling na candidato(It depends on the debate. We will know who is the better candidate),” he stressed.




Remegio Saranas, 61, employee of Staten Island Ferry, chided Urdaneta: “MagTrump ka na. The Democrats are destroying America. Look at the Black Lives Matter. Look at the radical Democrats. They are the ones leading the riots and they want to defund the police. The hate President Trump because he is doing the right thing for America.”

Saranas, a former seaman from Pangasinan, said five years before he became an American citizen, “I studied the political history of America. I want my children to become rich and this can only be achieved if we are governed by the Republicans. How can we become rich under the Democrats when all they do is to give free food, free housing, free financial assistance, free lahat p_tang ina.”

Urdaneta replied: “I will have to consult my family again. We haven’t talked yet because of the pandemic. I was supposed to go home to Leyte in August but my flight had been cancelled. As I said, depende sa debate.”

Sixty eight-year-old Herminia of Marbel, Cotabato, who divorced her Hollywood-based American husband six years ago to live with a 36-year-old Latino, earlier convinced Urdaneta to vote for Mr. Trump.

But Urdaneta gave the same excuse: “Depende sa debate.”

Urdaneta didn’t hide his displeasure at Mr. Trump’s “habitual lying” and his “being insensitive” to the deaths of more than 200,000 victims of COVID-19 in the United States.

“The President doesn’t even mention in his speeches that he is sympathizing with the victims and their families. He even downplays the statistics and refuses to believe in science and the mandatory wearing of a mask,” Urdaneta said.




All the debates will start at 9 o’clock in the evening (Eastern Time) and will run for 90 minutes without any commercial breaks. 

The first and third debates will be six 15-minute segments, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

Each topic of the segments is selected and announced by the moderators at least one week before the debate.

The format for the second presidential debate will be reportedly more of a town hall meeting, and questions will come from the citizens of the location. The schedule of the three debates are as follows: Sept. 29 at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio); Oct. 15 at Adrienne Arsht Center (Miami, Florida); and Oct. 22 at Belmont University (Nashville, Tennessee).

 The New York Times said Trump was reportedly "discussing with his advisers the possibility of sitting out the general election debates in 2020 because of his misgivings about the commission that oversees them," but the President later cleared up that claim on Twitter.

"I look very much forward to debating whoever the lucky person is who stumbles across the finish line in the little watched Do Nothing Democrat Debates," President Trump wrote.




The president’s campaign also reached out to the CPD in August, asking the CPD to include a fourth debate in the early part of September. 

Mr. Trump also suggested moving the final October debate to the first week in September as another option. 

This would be so mail in-voters would be able to watch a couple debates before voting.

The CPD rejected the request early August and wrote a letter to Trump's campaign saying, "While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized. Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity."

The first and only debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris is set for October 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in Kingsbury Hall on President's Circle.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo)




Wednesday, September 23, 2020

‘We sink or we swim together’

“I'm tired of being behind this virus. We've been behind this virus from day one. We underestimated this virus. It's more powerful, it's more dangerous than we expected.”

Andrew Cuomo


By Alex P. Vidal


WHILE the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency 6 (PDEA-6) has cleared 64 additional Western Visayas villages of illegal drugs through the “barangay drug-clearing deliberation process”, more drug traffickers have been arrested these past weeks and millions of pesos worth of shabu have been seized in Iloilo and Negros in simultaneous raids.

In another news, authorities suspect that a Chinese group has been largely responsible for the continued proliferation of illegal drugs in Western Visayas despite the absence of known local drug lords believed to have been neutralized during the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s all-out war against illegal drugs before the pandemic.  

If this is true, even if most villages in Western Visayas will submit their applications and folders in compliance with the parameters of the Barangay Drug Clearing Program mandated by Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Regulation No. 3 series of 2017, there is no assurance that trafficking of illegal drugs will be minimized if not stopped.

As long as the alleged Chinese group remains scot-free and continues to clandestinely operate without being detected, the “total war” policy of the Duterte administration against illegal drugs will be useless. 




UNVEILING a plan to have two billion doses of coronavirus vaccine available by the end of 2021, the United Nations (UN) health agency has described coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as “unprecedented global crisis that demands an unprecedented global response.”

UN reported September 21 that roughly 64 per cent of the global population lives in a nation that has either committed to, or is eligible to join, the coronavirus Vaccines Global Access Facility, or COVAX, which enables participating Governments to spread the risk and costs of vaccine development and provide their populations with early access to vaccines. 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), said working together through the COVAX Facility “is not charity, it’s in every country’s best interest. We sink or we swim together.”

Speaking at a press briefing with the international vaccine alliance GAVI, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the WHO chief said that commitment agreements have been secured and the COVAX Facility would begin signing contracts with vaccine manufacturers and developers.




The overarching goal of the COVAX Facility is to ensure that all countries have access to vaccines at the same time, and that priority is given to those most at risk, according to the WHO chief.

“The COVAX Facility will help to bring the pandemic under control, “save lives, accelerate the economic recovery and ensure that the race for vaccines is a shared endeavor, not a contest that only the rich can win”, he upheld. “Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery”.

So far, $3 billion have been invested in the ACT Accelerator – only a tenth of the required $35 for scale-up and impact.

Tedros stressed that $5 billion is needed “immediately to maintain momentum and stay on track for our ambitious timelines”.

“Our challenge now is to take the tremendous promise of the ACT Accelerator and COVAX to scale”, he said, adding, “we are at a critical point and we need a significant increase in countries’ political and financial commitment”. 

The WHO chief cited estimates suggesting that once an effective vaccine has been distributed, and international travel and trade is fully restored, “the economic gains will far outweigh” the $38 billion investment required for the Accelerator.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do”, he spelled out.

“COVAX is now in business,” said Gavi CEO Seth Berkley. “Governments from every continent have chosen to work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere”.

“With the commitments we’re announcing today for the COVAX Facility, as well as the historic partnership we are forging with industry, we now stand a far better chance of ending the acute phase of this pandemic, once safe, effective vaccines become available”.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo)






Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Duterte’s UN speech

“The purpose of the United Nations should be to protect the essential sovereignty of nations, large and small.”

Nikita Khrushchev


By Alex P. Vidal


WE are glad that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has agreed to deliver his speech in the United Nations (UN) despite lambasting the U.N. in the past.

In a world turned upside down, as emphasized by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres during his speech in a largely empty General Assembly Hall here in New York City, Duterte finally delivered his pre-recorded message played during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 22, 2020, at UN headquarters. 

The prerecorded video is the meeting's format this year because of the pandemic.

The U.N.'s first virtual meeting of world leaders started Tuesday (September 22) with pre-recorded speeches from some of the planet's biggest powers, kept at home by the coronavirus pandemic that will likely be a dominant theme at their video gathering this year.

Mr. Guterres characterized the pandemic from the podium as “not only a wake-up call” but “a dress rehearsal” for challenges to come. 

“In an interconnected world, it is high time to recognize a simple truth: solidarity is self-interest.  If we fail to grasp that fact, everyone loses”, he said, delivering his annual report on the work of the Organization.   




As the sometimes aggressive critic of the U.N. addressed its annual gathering of world leaders for the first time, Mr. Duterte defended his drug crackdown, dismissed criticism from human rights advocates and underscored his country's claims in the South China Sea.

The often brash-talking former mayor of Davao City struck a somewhat conciliatory tone about the organization he has often criticized and at times threatened to leave with the coronavirus taking a human and economic toll on the Filipinos.

“The Philippines values the role that the United Nations plays in its fight against the pandemic,” Duterte said.

Mr. Duterre welcomed the U.N.'s launch of a relief fund and called on the international community to make sure potential vaccines are accessible to all.

He also spotlighted Filipino health care workers' contribution to the virus fight at home and around the globe.

Known for his cuss words and badmouthing his critics, Mr. Duterte often lashes out at what he decries as international meddling in Philippine domestic affairs even as Western governments and human rights groups see it as expressing justifiable alarm about an anti-drug crusade that has left more than 5,700 mostly poor suspects dead.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in June that the Philippines' "campaign against illegal drugs is being carried out without due regard for the rule of law, due process and the human rights of people who may be using or selling drugs."




Bachelet’s office called on the government to end all violence targeting suspected drug offenders.

He has denied authorizing extrajudicial killings but has repeatedly and openly threatened drug dealers with death. 

Duterte publicly ordered the country's top customs official to shoot and kill drug smugglers just this month.

The International Criminal Court opened a preliminary probe in February 2018 into complaints about the killings; Duterte's government responded by withdrawing from the court.

“The Philippines will continue to protect the human rights of its people, especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism,”

Duterte told the assembly, complaining that “interest groups have weaponized human rights” to discredit his government.

He expressed openness to “constructive engagement" with the U.N., but only if there is “objectivity, noninterference, nonselectivity and genuine dialogue.”

The president also pointed to the South China Sea, where Beijing's sweeping territorial claims have set off disputes with several neighboring countries and the United States.

“We firmly reject attempts to undermine” a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated most of China’s claims, Mr. Duterte said. 

China refused to participate in the arbitration by a U.N.-backed tribunal, dismissed the ruling as a “sham” and continues to defy it.

Mr. Duterte lamented on a larger scale that tensions among major powers are intensifying.

“When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled flat,” he said, imploring countries with interests in the South China Sea and other global flashpoints: “If we cannot be friends as yet, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much.”

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo)




Monday, September 21, 2020

Nothing can stop them despite the pandemic

“I believe that the war on drugs is a tragically misplaced use of resources-an immoral venture that produces far more suffering than it alleviates.”

—David Harsanyi


By Alex P. Vidal


BASED on the volume of illegal drugs, particularly shabu, confiscated by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the number of personalities arrested most recently, it seems Western Visayas has now become a narco region.

A narco state or narco-economy is a state whose economy is dependent on the trade in illegal drugs. 

We haven’t reached this level in the Philippines hopefully, but we fear the evolution of a “narco region” once all the main tentacles of drug syndicates will not be cut off immediately.

Sadly no big fish has been added in the list in Western Visayas’ campaign against illegal drugs ever since the killings of Boyet “Dragon” Odicta and Richard “Buang” Prevendido. 

Just when we thought trafficking of illegal drugs will suffer a decline because of the pandemic, statistics based on what have been reported in the media these past months, indicated that there were still rampant transactions involving illegal drugs worth millions of pesos.

The perpetrators didn’t fear President Duterte; they didn’t fear the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).




As if the fears of many people aren’t enough, there have been simultaneous buy bust operations in Negros and Iloilo, and many of those apprehended were former members of law enforcement or PNP personnel who have gone AWOL (absent without official leave).

It would be extremely difficult for lawmen to solve the problems on illegal drugs if some cops or former cops were involved.

This will make the campaign of the government against illegal drugs become nil if not impossible as the syndicates will not only have protection from corrupt authorities but are also controlled and managed by some of those who are sworn to eradicate the illegal drugs.    

If these illegal transactions have been going on unabated even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we suspect that the Duterte administration will go in 2022 without totally stamping out the illegal drug trade from the system of the Filipinos contrary to the administration’s pre-election campaign battlecry.




THERE are two types of voters in the November 3 Presidential Election  in the Filipino-American community here in the United States: the “Angry and Loud Filipinos (ALF)” and the “Calm and Silent Filipinos (CSF).”

ALF members are those who can’t hide their disappointment that in many major polls, Democratic Party’s Joseph Biden is way ahead of reelectionist President Donald Trump.

ALF members are Trump die-hards; they hate the policies of the Democrats and most of them were married to white Americans. 

When they criticize the Democrats in public, they call the political party as “demon-crats” and sneer at 77-year-old Biden for being a “Jurassic” or already “past his prime” as a politician.

ALF members also hit Biden’s runningmate, Kamala Harris as “a mistress (of a former mayor in California) and therefore a bad choice.”

ALF members also believe that “it is not necessary to wear a face mask in public because the coronavirus is a hoax and President Trump is correct; we trust our president.”

A 68-year old woman rabid ALF, who grew up in Digos in Mindanao, and a dyed-in-the-wool believer of Conspiracy Theory, has been calling fellow Filipinos to “vote for Trump because it was (former President Barrack) Obama who brought the coronavirus in America, and they intend to make us all as fertilizers when we die.” 




Members of the CSF, on the other hand, don’t usually criticize Mr. Trump in public. 

Most of them aren’t married to white husbands or wives. 

They acquired citizenship through other legal means, not by marrying white Americans.

“That’s why we still have a heart for immigrants and those who intend to come to America in the future,” explained one CSF member, a 57-year-old nursing assistant.

CSF members believe that if Biden and Harris will win, “the gates of more opportunities will open for Filipinos and other Asians who will pursue their American dreams in the United States.”

The dreams, CSF members said,  will be stymied “if President Trump and the Republicans will win on November 3.”

CSF members agree that Mr. Trump “didn’t take the coronavirus seriously” blaming him for the rise of the COVID-19 casualties in the United States which have breached 200,000.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo)












How Americans elect their president

 “It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”

Joseph Stalin


By Alex P. Vidal


WHEN we cover the actual U.S. Presidential Election on November 3, we will also be sharing our stories to our blogs on a regular basis until the new president will be inaugurated in January 2021.

In the previous U.S. elections, some broadcast entities from the Philippines requested fresh data, facts, and other information direct from those accredited to officially cover the world’s much-awaited election rather than rely on CNN and other international cable and worldwide web news sources.   

A lot of people outside the United States still don’t understand why a winner in the popular votes does not automatically become the new or reelected president in the United States and some broadcast entities needed to explain this to their listeners.

For instance in the 2016 election, while heavily favored Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party got 2.87 million more votes than Republican Party’s Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman received the majority in the Electoral College and won upset victories in the pivotal Rust Belt region. 

Mr. Trump received ultimately 304 electoral votes and Clinton 227, as two faithless electors defected from Trump and five defected from Clinton.




Here’s a closer look at how Americans elect their president.

When they cast their votes for president and vice president, Americans are in reality directing other people called “electors” to vote for the candidate who receives the most votes in their state. 

The political party of the winning candidate—reelectionist President Trump or Joseph Biden in the 2020 election—in each state then sends its preselected electors to the state capital to vote. 

This is the Electoral College, and its members elect the president and vice president of the United States.

It was the framers of the U.S. Constitution that established the Electoral College in the Charter to forge a compromise between those who wanted the president to be elected by members of Congress and those who wanted a president elected by a popular vote.

There are 538 electors that constitute the Electoral College today. 

Each state is allocated electors equal to its number of representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives (currently a total of 435) plus its two senators (a total of 100). 

The District of Columbia is also allocated three electors. 

These numbers can change every 10 years, based on the results of the census. 

US State laws differ on how electors are chosen. 




Here’s more: Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have a winner-take-all policy that the Electoral College must follow. 

That means that a candidate who wins, say, 51 percent of the state’s popular vote is awarded 100 percent of the state’s electors.

Since the nation’s founding, hundreds of proposals to reform or eliminate the Electoral College have aimed to change how Americans elect a president. 

But since the process is defined in the Constitution, only an amendment can change the system. 

Passing a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Representatives and in the Senate plus the approval of three-quarters of the states, or a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures which has never happened.

A Pew Research Center study found in March 2020 that a majority of U.S. adults (58 percent) were in favor of amending the Constitution so the presidential candidate who receives the most votes nationwide wins, while 40 percent preferred to keep the current system in which the candidate who receives the most Electoral College votes declares victory.

Electoral votes are allocated among the States based on the Census, according to USA.gov. 

Every State is allocated a number of votes equal to the number of senators and representatives in its U.S. Congressional delegation—two votes for its senators in the U.S. Senate plus a number of votes equal to the number of its Congressional districts.

Under the 23rd Amendment of the Constitution, the District of Columbia is allocated three electors and treated like a State for purposes of the Electoral College.




Each State (which includes the District of Columbia for this discussion) decides how to appoint its electors. Currently all States use the popular vote results from the November general election to decide which political party chooses the individuals who are appointed. 

All States, except for Maine and Nebraska have a winner-take-all policy where the State looks only at the overall winner of the state-wide popular vote.  Maine and Nebraska, however, appoint individual electors based on the winner of the popular vote for each Congressional district and then 2 electors based on the winner of the overall state-wide popular vote. 

Even though Maine and Nebraska don't use a winner-take-all system, it is rare for either State to have a split vote. Each has done so once: Nebraska in 2008 and Maine in 2016.

The allocations below are based on the 2010 Census. They are effective for the 2012, 2016, and 2020 presidential elections. Total Electoral Votes:  538;   Majority Needed to Elect: 270.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo)