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Our issue for November 26, 2005

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS
November 26, 2005 Issue

Main Features

1.Cover: Winners and Losers

President Arroyo wants all newspapers and radio and television stations to be like the Manila Bulletin, the only newspaper in the whole universe that runs such insignificant headlines as “GMA meets Bush at APEC? and “10,000 jobs offered by trade fair.? She wants to manage the news so that only what her administration is doing will make it to the front pages. She doesn’t want news about irregularities in her government, about allegations that she rigged last year’s presidential election, about her Marcosian tactics in dealing with opposition to her rule, about her investigation by the people’s court, about “losers,? meaning the opposition. Imagine the gall of a leader who will say those things at a meeting of television journalists, and pulling reporters at a job fair and telling them to interview businessmen. For that she got a mouthful from both the opposition and her own allies and the press, at least the organizations that will not be dictated to. Mrs. Arroyo has been thinking dangerously since she imposed her rule on the Philippines last year, not unlike Ferdinand Marcos who after saying he was not running for reelection did not only stay but also canceled all elections and all freedoms in 1972 and went on ruling the losers—the Filipino people—until they decided to stop losing and gave him the boot in 1986. Maybe it is true that Mrs. Arroyo has a private army or she will not go on squandering her political capital and rolling back civil rights and liberties. But what can her private army do or the military, if she doesn’t have a private army, do when the people have summed up her sins against them? (Here, review from December 30, 2002 to attack on clergy-led rally on Mendiola.)

By Ricky S. Torre

2. Descent into Apathy

The major religious congregations in the country refuse to just watch as Filipinos go about their daily lives seemingly undisturbed by the leadership crisis. The Jesuits, Dominicans, Benedictines, Franciscans, Augustinians and La Sallians and the student populations of the schools they run have being urging President Arroyo to step down and allow the Philippines to start afresh, but Mrs. Arroyo, despite failing to clear herself of electoral fraud charges, insists on ruling the country. Emboldened by the church leaders’ division, she sneers at people power and the people seem not to mind the insult and instead forbear with her presence in Malacañang and her increasingly dictatorial tactics in dealing with opposition to her. Congregation leaders lament the public’s indifference but swear not just stand by as a budding tyrant lords it over a nation that once was ever faithful to the church.

3. Call to Accounting

Members of the House of Representatives who gripe against the leadership of Speaker Jose de Venecia have suddenly remembered that the budget for their expenses has remained the same despite an increase in allocation dating back to the 12th Congress. About P1 billion in members’ allowances is missing and the gripers have been going around asking their colleagues if they have been receiving more than their usual allowances. The answer is no. What has de Venecia done with the money? The question has reached the office of de Venecia, but the speaker is not saying anything. The gripers are not yet accusing de Venecia of pocketing the money or channeling it to President Arroyo’s 2004 campaign, but if is not rendering an accounting soon they will be consulting among themselves also soon. De Venecia should hurry because the candidates for his position are multiplying. One distracting he can pull, in case he is not yet ready to explain the mission billion, is allow a reorganization, as demanded by members who are still expecting him to give them their rewards for voting against Mrs. Arroyo’s impeachment. But that’s only one way to delay the accounting. Can anybody think of something else?

By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia

4. Too Early to Tell

President Arroyo goes around boasting that the imposition of value-added tax on all goods and services has begun to result in economic improvement, as shown by the appreciation of the peso’s value and a series of rollbacks in the price of gasoline. Does she think all Filipinos are stupid? The peso appreciates in value this time of year every year because the 8 million migrants rush remittances to their families for Christmas. Fuel stockpiling in temperate countries has ended, that’s why world oil prices are falling and naturally Philippine oil companies should cut pump prices. Doesn’t she or her minions go around wet markets and supermarkets? If she doesn’t, then she doesn’t know that food prices have become higher in wet market than in supermarkets. Fresh produce now cost higher in wet markets because transport operators are passing on the VAT on gas to sellers. Prices of canned goods in supermarket remain stable because the manufacturers are not yet passing on VAT to consumers, as they have already announced. They will start passing on the tax when they can no longer carry it. It’s been only two weeks since the imposition of the tax, so it’s too early to even try to see its effects on the economy. For one thing, the power companies have yet to send out bills. Wait for the bills, and wait till January, when the tax goes up to 12 percent and when migrants’ remittances return to normal and see what happens.

By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid

5. Stand by (Butch Serrano)

6. Dangerous Digging

The death of 17 miners in a mining disaster on Mt. Diwalwal in Davao del Norte has shown again the danger of amateur mining on that old, rolling mountain. The government has already banned mining on Mt. Diwalwal, especially small-scale, or amateur, mining. How come miners are back on the mountain and using dynamite?

By Ramiro C. Alvarez

7. Life & Style

c/o Gerard Ramos

Two (2) editorials

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