"The story only gets worse for the yellows."
The first quarter 2019 survey by SWS shows Duterte’s gross approval rating up to 79%, a five-point improvement over his score in the last quarter of 2018. At the same time, his disapproval rating fell by two points to 13% from 15%. These two trends combined to increase his net approval rating by five points to a “very good” score of +66, equal to his personal best that was posted way back in June 2017.
I won’t be surprised if Pulse Asia’s findings, whenever they come out, paint the same picture. It’s enough to drive the yellows up the wall. After lambasting Duterte as “inexcusable, unworthy, irrational” in her latest column in the yellow rag Philippine Daily Inquirer,
yellow doyenne Winnie Monsod looks at his ratings improvement and plaintively whines, “Why? What does that make us?”
Oh, I can think of any number of choice replies I could make to Ma’m Winnie. But in keeping with the Lenten spirit, I’ll confine myself to saying this: Quite clearly, the masses look at what Duterte does, not what he says. Thus is measured the vast gulf between them and the chatterati like Winnie who’re terminally absorbed by words and appearances. Que horror, que horror!
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The story only gets worse for the yellows. In their latest survey of senatoriables, both rating agencies virtually give the entire election to “anybody but otso sa nitso.”
Only Bam Aquino is within shouting distance, in 12th or 13th place. And poor Mar Roxas, who almost ran for the presidency in 2010, and in fact did so in 2016, has been shoved down to 16th place in both surveys.
The engine behind this stellar performance is, of course, Duterte himself. His ratings rise will only improve the prospects of his multi-party anointed ticket. As his candidates close in on what may even become a clean sweep of all 12 seats, it’s time for the voters to go beyond the Duterte metric—whether the candidates are for or against him—and ask hard questions about their stands on the issues that matter to voters.
In my case, I have just two issues that concern me. One is federalism, an advocacy which the yellows led by former Chief Justice Davide have said will “send us straight to hell”. Not all the pro-administration candidates have spoken out in its favor, and a number of them in fact oppose federalism, whether secretly or openly. Voters who trust Duterte’s support for federalism should ask the candidates whether they too agree with him on it.
The other hot-button item for me, as an observant Catholic, is how the candidates line up on various issues that deeply matter to the Church—and I’m talking here about the global Church, not the local one many of whose princes have succumbed with all the best of intentions to the temptations of political partisanship.
Did the candidate vote for the RH bill? Has he shown sympathy for legalizing divorce? Will she defend basic principles like gender identity and ordered sexuality from the importunings of the LGBT agenda and the siren call of same-sex marriage? Will the candidate stand up for human life against all the threats raised against it by the modern world: abortion, assisted suicide, the death penalty?
Issues like these and others that matter to the voters could form the stuff of a debate series that might be aired over TV and social media for all of our benefit.
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The latest provocations by China, carried out by official spokesmen as well as through the maritime intrusions being launched by hundreds of Chinese fishing boats, mark a reversal in what to date was a fairly non-aggressive posture towards our assets and activities in the West Philippine Sea.
We can only speculate about why this is happening now. My own guess is that they’ve decided to test how much goodwill they’ve been able to buy so far from their heightened investments into our economy. With louder mutterings among Filipinos about the presence and behavior of Chinese workers, as well as the illicit activities of Chinese drug smugglers, they may be wanting to measure how much respect they’re getting for their renminbi.
It hasn’t helped them that their ancient rival, Japan, has quietly been adding to its much larger initial stock of goodwill with us. The Japanese are now talking about their own “quality technology”, an ill-disguised dig at the unflattering reputation of Chinese goods. Their claim is buttressed even by their choice of infra projects, such as the technically challenging Metro Manila subway, or revival of the discredited Northrail project first initiated with Chinese loans.
As for borrowing costs, it’s been rightly pointed out that Chinese loans may be even more expensive if you take account of expected relative depreciation of both currencies as reflected in their swap rates, not to mention other “non-standard” language that might be lurking around in Chinese loan agreements.
Duterte has been responding in like manner, such as by reaffirming our country’s military ties to the United States through DFA’s Teddyboy Locsin, who might be described as a better-dressed homologue of his foul-mouthed boss. The message from both of them to the Chinese is the same: Back off. We hope it’s being heard loud and clear by the mandarins of Beijing.
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Today we read again from the Deutero-Isaiah, the mysterious oracles of Israel’s greatest prophet that foreshadow our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and which supply the first readings at Mass from Palm Sunday to the Easter Triduum.
God tells His servant, “It is too little…for you to be my servant…and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49: 1-6).
Thousands of years later, at a Passover feast, a haunted Jesus allows Judas to commit the treachery that will initiate His passion, even as He also rebukes Peter for his boastful declaration of loyalty. And then He leaves His disciples with these incandescent parting words: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples” (John 13: 21-38).
Between Jesus’ time and place in history, and the ends of the earth, lies an ocean of human sin and misery that can be terrible to contemplate. Bridging that ocean with the salvation message is a forbidding prospect. But His instructions for doing that are simple: Love one another as He loved us. What else could be so easy, and yet so difficult, for us to do?
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