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Our issue for January 28, 2006

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS

January 28, 2006 Issue

Main Features

1.Cover: Police Director General Arturo Lomibao (with 8-page Philippine National Police supplement)

2. You Don’t Have the Final Say

Now it’s coming straight from her. President Arroyo, addressing the Lakas-CMD national directorate meeting in Malacañang, says she is not stepping down until her term expires in 2010. She will be there even after the shift to parliamentary government and she will have more, not less, powers. That’s the decision of the party—dictated to be sure by Malacañang. Former president Fidel Ramos has not said anything since the Saturday meeting, but he has already made known his stand on the matter: Mrs. Arroyo must cut her term in June next year to clear the way for the transition to parliamentary government after the amendment of the Constitution. He has distributed to news organizations copies of Mrs. Arroyo’s political adviser, Gabriel Claudio, who has misled the press into believing that Ramos has agreed that Mrs. Arroyo should finish her supposed term. In his marginal notes Ramos says that no “win-win? solution has been found to his differences with Malacañang’ position and that he holds following the Palace’s plan is just maintaining the “status quo?—four more years of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, that is, four more years of political instability arising from the question of the legitimacy of Mrs. Arroyo’s rule. In an interview on television Ramos asks, “Can the economy stand it?? The economy can pull through with great difficulty, as it has always done. What may not be able to hold is the Arroyo administration. Its strategy of scrapping next year’s midterm elections—which has turned out to be Speaker Jose de Venecia’s idea to save Lakas from annihilation, maintain Mrs. Arroyo’s support base in the local governments, and persuade opponents of constitutional amendments in Congress—is threatening to explode in its own face, with even Mrs. Arroyo’s fiercest supporters in the Senate, Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Richard Gordon, fighting it and insisting on leaving the Constitution alone, and junior military officers asking whether the people are willing to endure four more years of Mrs. Arroyo. As things stand in the Senate, whatever the Palace and Lakas have agreed to do to buy time for Mrs. Arroyo is nothing—the Senate will be the final battleground in the administration’s attempt to change the system of government. The Senate expects that den of traditional politicians, the House of Representatives, to raise the questions of the congressional vote on amending the Constitution and the people’s initiative to the Supreme Court, now dominated by Mrs. Arroyo’s appointees (9-4), but the senators believe the Court will not risk embarrassing itself by siding with the House or with the administation.

By Ricky S. Torre and Wendell Vigilia

3. Stupid

Marcos loyalist Oliver Lozano is forcing himself on the country’s political history. Coming back with his own interpretation of the constitutional limit to impeachment of officials, Lozano refiles his impeachment complaint against President Arroyo that the House minority amended—because it was “toilet paper?—and that Mrs. Arroyo’s enforcers in the House shameless dismissed last September. The refilling comes six months ahead of the constitutional injunction and the House minority recognizes that it is invalid. But Lozano is persistent, forcing the House minority to consider bringing disbarment charges against him.

By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia

4. Poor, What Poor?

Does National Economic and Development Authority chief Augusto Santos ride a helicopter to work every day so that he cannot see poverty in the city? To be sure he does not, but he’s got to be blind, at the least, or dishonest, at the most, to say that he cannot find very poor people. He says he can’t, even in Metropolitan Manila. He is disputing the findings of the latest poverty poll of the Social Weather Stations that despite the Arroyo government’s claims of economic growth, more Filipinos are going hungry. The pollster has found that 16.7 percent, or 14 million, people went hungry at least one day during the last three months of 2005, up from 15.1 percent in the middle of the past year and the second record high since the poverty poll began in 1998. Santos says people can claim they are poor but they must prove they are really poor to qualify for the government’s subsidized noodles and rice program. How, by bringing social workers to their makeshift homes under the overpasses and on the garbage dumps? And what noodles and rice program? Budget Secretary Romulo Neri says there is no provision for subsidized food in the P35-billion spending announced by President Arroyo last week. Somebody inserted the line about subsidized food in Mrs. Arroyo’s speech so that she would have something to say about poverty in her government’s plan to stimulate economic activity in the first three months of the new year. Now the Budget Department has to make adjustments here and there to create a fund for noodles and rice and the Social Welfare Department has to enroll the poorest people in the villages of the metropolis in a subsidized food program that must have something to show or President Arroyo will be seen as a habitual liar.

By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid

5. The Fish Are Disappearing

In 1988 William Nieremberg, director emeritus of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, told an international meeting in Washington, D.C., that overfishing was depleting the fish population of the world’s oceans. Overfishing has caused a glut of fish on the world market over the last 50 years, breaking the California sardine industry and the Peruvian fishing industry. The peak seems to have been reached and now the oceans are yielding little. Small fishing countries have to conserve the fish populations of the seas around their territories to allow regrowth. The Philippines has refused to listen. Three governments, although introducing conservation programs, have sought to top each other in fish production succeeding only in overstripping the country’s marine resources. The country’s marine fish production has gone down by the hundreds of tons every year with Filipino and illegal foreign fishers competing for the fish in the Philippines’ unprotected seas. Only the country’s inland fish production has been growing, but even this is threatened by increasing environmental pollution. Destructive fishing, especially the method that employs dynamite, is destroying coral reefs and killing fish. The result has been increasing fish imports in recent years. The agriculture and environment departments, both embroiled in politics, have been ineffective in dealing with the fishery industry’s problems. Fishermen are demanding governmental action to save the seas and drive out foreign poachers. But the two departments are more concerned about looking for ways to help President Arroyo save her presidency than for ways to save the fishing industry.

By Ramiro C. Alvarez

Two editorials

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