Back and forth
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2017 - 4:00pm

I have written in previous columns that I feel that the peace talks would just be a complete waste of time and resources. After all, it’s pointless to come to the table in the guise of peace if neither side has any intention of negotiating properly. It’s just wasted breath to say you want peace but are not willing to give up nothing to achieve it.

In the end I am glad the peace talks have stopped. It’s been time to move on for a long time. However, even if the parties have left the table the issue is far from over. With peace no longer viable at this time those involved just keep going back and forth either insulting or threatening one another. President Duterte has hurled his share of insults at the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines Jose Maria Sison and Sison has fired back with plenty of insults of his own.

It’s clear there is no love lost between these two and the last I read is that Sison is calling the president a head case and saying engaging with him is pointless. The two even got into an argument about their health and dared the other to bare their medical records. However, it looks like neither of them is actually going to do it.

Personally, I think this back and forth is just another clear indication that nothing good could have come from discussions between them. I am still hoping however that our government can come up with a solution to the rebels that are continuing to attack our forces, steal land and property, and kidnap or kill civilians. If Plan A (i.e. peace talks) didn’t work then it’s time to pursue Plan B.

And whatever Plan B is it should include the president being extremely careful in the days and month ahead. Only the other day, NPA rebels dressed in army uniforms attacked a PSG van. It was fortunate that the president was not onboard. After all, President Duterte likes being on the ground with the soldiers and troops as much as possible.

Amidst all the controversy surrounding him that is something I truly admire about the commander-in-chief. He tries his best to be there for the soldiers he is putting on the front line. He makes an effort to be on the ground and offers assistance to those who are in trouble and offers help to the families of those who have fallen. That’s the least that our country can do for those who have fallen in the line of duty.

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It certainly seems like President Duterte and the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) are on a collision course. This started back in early March when over 5,000 members of Kadamay, an urban poor group, led an occupation of housing units in Bulacan that were originally intended for soldiers, policeman, and jail personnel. Arguments about the houses have continued since then, with the president claiming what the Kadamay did was inciting chaos and anarchy and the group claiming that what they did was in protest over housing for the poor. Currently the president has convinced the army personnel and policeman to not press charges regarding their claim to those particular houses and promises them that he will build them better houses by December.

In his State of the Nation address last Monday, the president warned the Kadamay that if they continued illegally snatching land the way they did he would come after them full force and even threatened to shoot them if they did not heed his warning. The president went on to say that either they follow the law or they get punished. He reminded them that they cannot use poverty as an excuse for chaos and that their complaints – like the complaints of so many others in the country – need to be expressed and addressed lawfully.

I agree with President Duterte’s stand on this because, while I feel for the poor and definitely think housing needs to be addressed I don’t abide by them going outside the bounds of the law to get what they want. If they are allowed to do that then what’s to stop others from doing the same? The last thing we want to condone is people not following the law in the pursuit of their own interests.

However, I think the president’s warning has fallen on deaf ears. Kadamay appears to remain unfazed and has said that their occupation campaign will continue as they target other idle government infrastructure. They claim to have their sights on roughly 100,000 unused government houses.

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Awhile back I wrote about my support about the increase of monthly pension. What is currently being given to retirees who have contributed their whole careers is too low to survive on once they stop working. Especially considering the rising costs of medical expenses and the potential for illness later on in life.

However, now that the bill has been approved at the House committee level there needs to be some clarity on where the increase will come from. As far as most people are concerned they should not come from a spike in contributions from employees and employers as both are already burdened by too many deductions on their salary as is. That does leave the question though of where to get the money? If this isn’t addressed properly and the hike pushes through the SSS will collapse very quickly.

Luckily there is still time to find a solution. The government needs to look into this quickly and find a viable option whether the increase shold come from mutual funds, bonds, or delinquent members’ penalties. Let’s not wait until it’s too late to find a good solution and instead prepare early and thoroughly. Everyone will benefit from proper forward planning.

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