I turned 91 last Saturday, the same time Super Typhoon “Ompong” (Mangkhut) was battering Hong Kong and other parts of China. Was that a coincidence? I don’t know.
I consider myself blessed for reaching this age. My mind is still very clear and my memory is as vivid as ever. I have a generally healthy body, except for the usual aches and pains, and I am still able to pound on my typewriter to write this column three times a week. Meanwhile, others my age are wheelchair-bound or bedridden.
I thank God every day for all the blessings I have. Indeed, the road never ends!
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There were three events that stood out last week. First it was Super Typhoon Ompong that devastated northern Luzon. The damage could go up to the billions of pesos.
Second, President Duterte revoked the amnesty given by his predecessor to Senator Antonio Trillanes and 59 other Magdalo soldiers who were involved in standoffs at the Oakwood and Peninsula Manila hotels during the Arroyo administration.
Trillanes has indeed become a thorn on the side of the President and his family, with his incessant attacks on them.
The third event was when President Duterte and his dummy, presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, had that zarzuela—they called it a tete-a-tete. This, when the people expected the President would address the nation on the many ills we were facing. Prices were soaring and the staple commodity, rice, was hard to come by.
During this conversation, President Duterte echoed the claim of Solicitor-General Jose Calida that President Aquino had not really signed Trillanes’ amnesty proclamation and simply delegated it to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. Thus, it had no effect because only presidents could pardon on grant amnesty.
What happened was that with all Duterte’s ranting against Trillanes, he made a martyr of the latter. The President should not have done this because Trillanes was nothing of the sort. He does not deserve the attention.
Sadly, nobody among the opposition—not Trillanes, not Vice President Leni Robredo—enjoys that credibility to successfully provide an alternative to President Duterte.
The President also lost the opportunity to connect with the nation when he chose to devote much time to talk about an alleged attempt by the communists, the Liberal Party, his critics, and Trillanes.
President Duterte may sit comfortably with his very good trust ratings – for now. In the long run, however, the gut issues of inflation and rice will haunt him and undo everything he has done.
History tells us that small events become the tipping point that decides the fate of the republic.
I have been a journalist for almost seven decades and I have covered no less than 10 president. I can assure you —yes I have seen things happen.
Santa Banana, there is another problem from which President Duterte cannot escape. Super Typhoon Ompong devastated a large area and damaged lives and assets. This affected many Filipinos, rich and poor alike.
With so many rice farms and corn fields destroyed, the inflation rate is bound to surge further. And then, our economic managers have decided to import meat, fish and other commodities. It’s a matter of supply and demand. When the supply of goods and services is outpaced by the flow of money, that’s inflation. Politicians cannot blame greedy businessmen, foreigners, the tax reform laws and other factors.
This is why President Duterte should address the problem. Inflation is a gut issue. As more people grow hungry, so will the discontent.
When the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law in 1972, he was facing threats from the communists, the Mindanao secessionists, and civil society.
These days, President Duterte is facing more problems. I really don’t know how he can solve all these.
I am not saying President Duterte should declare martial law or a revolutionary government. I am just saying that he is facing overwhelming challenges.