In a country like the Philippines, nothing can be kept secret. At least not for long. Thus, it was imperative for President Duterte to stem rampant speculation about his state of health. Recently, he finally admitted to undergoing colonoscopy and endoscopy in Davao last month and a biopsy at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center on Oct. 3. The news went viral.
On Oct. 9, Duterte announced that the results showed he’s clear of cancer. He also said that if he had cancer, he would not seek treatment, and instead would step down from office. But in the same forum where he made the announcement, he took yet another swipe at Vice President Leni Robredo. While she is intelligent, he said, she is “walang diskarte” (not savvy in maneuvering or responding).
Robredo was at her gracious best, not stooping to Duterte’s level. She said no one wants to wish illness on the President but his attack against her was truly uncalled for.
I especially like Robredo’s succinct reply to Duterte: “Hindi ko ugali ang mamulitika; mas gusto kong tahimik na magtrabaho. Pero sasabihin ko ito ngayon: ang tapang, lakas at diskarte, hindi nadadaan sa mapanirang salita. Ang kailangan ng taumbayan ay tapang sa gawa.”
We can relate more with the words said in Filipino, but in a nutshell, Robredo said, “I am not fond of politicking. I like working quietly. This, I will say now: courage, strength and ‘diskarte’ cannot be found in destructive words. What the people need is courage in action.”
PH-CN Friendship Bridge
Building bridges, roads and infrastructure is one of the most – if not the most – important factors behind China’s growth and development. We understand and support the president’s Build, Build, Build program. We wish it great and swift success.
However, in any major undertaking, consultations with stakeholders, especially those who will benefit from or be adversely affected by the undertaking, should be a priority even before the project starts.
Two weeks ago, the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands, located on Magallanes Street in Intramuros, released a position paper questioning the building of the PH-CN Friendship Bridge that connects from Intramuros to Binondo. It is an issue I have raised since last year.
I have gone around and made a survey of the most important stakeholders in the project, the key Tsinoy organizations in Binondo. I am shocked to find out that not one of them knows or had been consulted about the project. My position, and that of the Intramuros stakeholders, is that a pedestrian rather than a four-lane bridge will be more useful.
The objections revolve around three things: historicity and heritage impact, worsening traffic congestion and potential flooding. We have personal knowledge on the first objection: historicity and heritage impact. But we hope experts and project proponents can assuage our fears on the second and third objections.
The project entails the destruction of the entire span of San Fernando Bridge. It is the point where the early Chinese immigrants went to shore after their quarantine. It is also where the eighth parian, the Alcaiceria de San Fernando, was located, and where the first consulate, Comunidad de Chino, and the first school, Anglo Chinese School, were established. It is also where Teodora Alonzo and her children lived after Jose Rizal’s death.
The bridge was renovated by Imelda Marcos in 1976 as chairperson of Metro Manila Development Authority. At this point, no one knows if this part of San Fernando will be affected. And if so, what provisions are being made to ameliorate the destruction.
Using the bridge to travel from Intramuros to Binondo, to San Nicolas, you hit Pedro Guevara Elementary School and Jose Abad Santos High School. School opening and dismissal worsen traffic congestion.
Connecting to Binondo, however, one hits the Federation Center where buildings and offices of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc., Chinese Filipino Business Club Inc. and Jinjiang Hometown Associations are located. Traffic congestion is expected when these organizations hold big events.
At the other end of San Fernando is Juan Luna Street leading to Binondo Church. At present, without the bridge, it is already a bad chokepoint because the streets are not getting any wider and high-rise condominium buildings have increased motor and pedestrian traffic considerably. Residents fear the worsening of traffic with the volume of vehicles going up and down the new bridge.
As well, the adverse impact on heritage buildings in Intramuros is a cause for nightmare.
We were informed that the huge pylons supporting the bridge will mainly be on the Binondo side, especially at the Estero de Binondo fronting the FFCCCII. The estero’s space will become narrower, thus worsening the flooding that has been occurring with increased frequency. It is not known if there are plans to desilt and widen the estero before huge pylons are put in.
These are questions stakeholders need answers to. Some sectors say the objections arise because it is a China-funded project. Frankly, no. Whether funding is from the World Bank, Japan, Asian Development Bank or China, the same objections will be raised.
Destabilizers under Du30’s nose
The Star columnist Cito Beltran hit the nail squarely when he wrote that the threat of destabilization is very imminent.
But the destabilizers are under the nose of the President himself.
This is how Beltran described it: “There is no denying how effective they are. In a matter of months, the ‘destabilizers’ have successfully destabilized the government while telling the President that their work would benefit the people and ‘make this country great again.’ The only reason the administration cannot see or identify the destabilizers is because they are all under the very nose of the President.”
Beltran mentioned that among the destabilizers are “experts of the law” who persecuted political enemies like former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. This move ended up being an attack on the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
“What made it worse was the attack orchestrated by (Solicitor General) Jose Calida, who, by using quo warranto, launched an attack on Congress and the Philippine Constitution, the most sacred testament of all laws in the Philippines,” Beltran emphasized.
“Experts of the law” also persecuted Australian nun and missionary Sister Patricia Fox, 71. She is elderly and can barely walk without assistance. But the government deemed her worthy of punishment through expulsion from the Philippines.
Recently the same “expert of the law,” Calida, spearheaded a most amateurish surprise attack against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV by attempting to revoke the senator’s amnesty.
Beltran concluded: “When men and women no longer hold anything sacred: not the law, not the courts, neither life, not even God. What then can stand and be stable?”
Yes, I agree. Unless we take a stand against these events, we deserve what may come next.