FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

It was really a stupid idea to hold the APEC summit right at the heart of a terribly congested metropolis. Now we know why.

Monday morning, we greeted the week with the spectacle of tens of thousands of commuters walking many kilometers in the hot sun to get to work after traffic flow simply stopped along the coastal road.

Monday night, the torture continued. Hundreds were forced to sleep in their cars in the southern portions of Metro Manila because traffic simply did not move.

The chaos continued through Tuesday even after classes and work were suspended. Road closures in the area around the airport simply choked traffic flow.

The dreadful situation will hold until Friday, when all the APEC delegates are expected to leave the city and security is relaxed. Until then, the economic costs of the disruption will continue to mount.

Never mind how much was officially spent for hosting this summit. The economic costs incurred because of the logjams, the cancellation of flights, and the suspension of work should run into the hundreds of billions. Those costs accrue directly to ordinary citizens.

Whose idea was it to hold this summit meeting right at the heart of Metro Manila?

None of the Cabinet members take responsibility for this brain-dead decision. Therefore, it must have been President Noynoy Aquino who took the decision.

Last Monday, Aquino delivered a speech before global CEOs that so blatantly cherry-picked the data it can only be characterized as deceitful. It was, as all his previous utterances before international audiences, also terribly parochial.

Aquino made much about the country moving up five notches in the Ease of Doing Business Index. He conveniently forgot to mention we remain way down in the bottom half of global rankings.

He boasted that budgetary outlay for infrastructure climbed up to four percent of GDP. He did not tell the audience that much of that was unspent.

He claimed that five million Filipinos were lifted up from poverty during his watch. He did not mention that more people are now below the poverty line.

And so on and so forth.

Then he boasted we have much to teach other countries about “inclusive growth.” Those trapped in gridlocked traffic in the streets can only feel excluded. Their comfort never mattered in the preparations for this grand event. The fact that no new major infra was added to this forsaken city in the last five years necessitated flight cancellations and work suspensions to make way for the APEC summit.

To the city’s suffering masses, Aquino must have sounded like he was speaking of another planet.


We expected a close vote. In the end, the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), by a vote of 5-4, rejected the petition to disqualify Sen. Grace Poe on the grounds she was not a natural born Filipino.

Those closely following the proceedings knew well before the vote that the three Supreme Court justices sitting at the SET would all vote to disqualify Poe. Sen. Nancy Binay said at the very start of the proceedings she would vote with the justices, this being a mainly legal debate. Therefore one swing vote will dictate the outcome.

No additional vote was added to the four inclined to disqualify Poe. Fine. She now remains included in the presidential race – at least until an adverse vote at the Comelec on petitions to discard her certificate of candidacy on grounds of citizenship and residence.

The fact, however, that all three justices at the SET thought she should be disqualified on the basis of law and jurisprudence while five senators chose to support her makes this outcome more political than judicial.

That leaves the dark cloud hanging over her candidacy.


Supporters of Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, continue to nurse the possibility he would still run and offer the nation another choice for president. This even if the odds against such candidacy happening become steeper with each passing day.

Those stubbornly clinging to the possibility of a Duterte run look at the events in Paris and fear international terrorism might wash up our shores. There are groups here, such as the Abu Sayyaf, that declared allegiance to the same loose movement responsible for the Paris attacks as well as the downing of a Russian plane over the Sinai.

Last Tuesday, the Abu Sayyaf aggravated anxieties by choosing to execute a Malaysian hostage ISIS-style. The bandits set a deadline for ransom to be paid. When that deadline came, the hostage was beheaded. The timing helped magnify the horrible images of the Paris carnage.

In addition to rising anxieties about resurgent terrorist groups in our midst, Duterte supporters point to the epidemic of drugs and increasingly rampant crimes against property. Government appears helpless before the drug menace and the scourge of criminality, in addition to the looming terrorist threat.

Those fears make Duterte such an attractive option for many of our voters. They see in him the sort of decisive leadership and tough handling of criminals that is sorely absent in the present administration.

One might say the popular image of the sort of leadership Duterte might provide the nation is as much a creation of public desperation. That desperation wishes a strong hand to take control of our collective fate. It wishes a leadership capable of inspiring effective action against all that threaten our communities.

The inflated imagination of what a Duterte presidency might be capable of providing our beleaguered society is probably so grand it intimidates the tough mayor himself.












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