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Put up or shut up

Put up or shut up"Robredo should take up the President’s offer."



After years of being pestered by the opposition over his war against drugs, President Duterte’s patience finally ran out when he invited the opposition’s leading lady, Vice President Leni, to join his Cabinet and run the drug war herself.

It would be a homecoming of sorts for Leni, who earlier served on Duterte’s Cabinet as his housing czar when he first took office. She had to step down, though, after trying to have her cake and eat it, too by leading rallies against him while enjoying the perks of Cabinet office. It’s safe to say that she’ll be expected to show the same circumspection if she rejoins his official family, which would hobble any ambitions she might have of leading a revival of the nearly moribund opposition.

We’re rooting for her to take up Duterte’s offer so she can finally put to the acid test all those theories she has about running a “right proper” war on drugs. Belonging as she does to a political party whose years in power, under PNoy, saw a threefold increase in drug offenses and other crimes, she should have the advantage of knowing how to undo what her confreres did earlier.

On the other hand, if she turns him down, she should really just put up and shut up and let Duterte’s people do their rough but necessary work. The latest SWS survey for this quarter shows no change in the number of addicts that people are seeing on the streets. Results are results, no matter what, and if Duterte’s been complaining about the lack of progress in his war, it’s not because he’s been remiss. It’s really because he may have set his own performance standards too high against the intractability of the enemy.

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Duterte’s penchant for going overboard when making promises to his people was also on display last week when he promised to use his “extraordinary powers” in order to push the Kaliwa Dam project, over the vociferous objections of some 5,000 local tribesmen who believe that their desire to stay put is somehow more important than access to drinking water by millions of Metro Manila residents as well as irrigation by farmers in the surrounding provinces.

Duterte has certainly not been forgiving with the private water concessionaires over the recurrent shortages plaguing the megalopolis. And these businessmen also deserve their share of the blame: by squirreling away billions of pesos in profits, by failing to carry out their sewerage construction mandates, by frequent lapses in operations planning that a suspicious public is increasingly ready to blame on their malfeasance rather than just mismanagement.

Having said that, Duterte realizes that the existential problem is where to get more water, not how to distribute it. This is where the government alone has to suffer the blame. There are several viable wholesale water projects already in the pipeline: Laiban, Kaliwa, Kanan, Wawa, as well as various attempts to make Laguna de Bay water potable. Whether these end up being done by the government alone or by variants of PPP, the President’s extraordinary powers will be essential to lubricating that pipeline.

On the power front, Energy Secretary Cusi has finally received the formal recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for developing the nuclear power sector in the country. He’s promised to draft an action plan in response that will be proposed to the President for consideration.

Duterte is reportedly open to the idea. SWS surveys show that most Filipinos are ready to follow his lead on the issue. And within Congress, there are already bills pending to support nuclear energy development. Will we yield to the eco-alarmists, the Luddites, the Marcos-haters on this issue? Or will we finally start using common sense in thinking about what is arguably the greenest power source around?

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Abroad, the news is somewhat more dramatic, starting with the US Federal Reserve’s decision to cut its benchmark Fed funds rate for a third time this year, down to a range of 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent. Lower US rates tend to weaken the dollar against other currencies, like the peso, while encouraging or at least sustaining the growth that our country has to be able to rely upon within its oldest trading and investment partner.

The Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, promised no more cuts this year, relying mainly on a steady pace of new hiring by the economy that will boost employment, spending, and consumer confidence. But more pessimistic economists remain worried about the downside from the continuing US-China trade war and the delay of an orderly UK “Brexit,” which could dampen US growth and roil international markets, respectively.

More apocalyptically, the World Health Organization has issued a gloomy forecast that the outbreak of African Swine Fever may end up killing a quarter of the world’s pig population. It’s a disease that’s not dangerous to humans—not yet, anyway—but 100 percent fatal to pigs.

Our country has long prided itself on its disease-free swine population, which enabled us to carve out profitable export market niches among finicky Western buyers. If we’re able to continue to insulate our local industry through strict sanitary standards on imports, we might yet be able to turn a worldwide calamity into an opportunity for ourselves.

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In today’s Gospel (Luke 14: 15-24), Jesus tells the parable of the great feast, to which many people had been invited but no one accepted. The host, therefore, ordered his servants to bring in common people from the streets—“the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame”—to be his guests at the banquet he had prepared. If the Jewish holy men would reject Jesus, then He would open His message and His kingdom to the Gentiles, the disabled, those deemed unworthy.

If we accept His invitation, we are expected to partake in His banquet by attending to our duties as Christians, using wisely the gifts God has given us. Paul enumerates those gifts in the first reading (Romans 12: 5-16), but they can all be summed up: “Let love be sincere; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.” We are all Jesus’ guests, and we do our Host the proper honor by showing honor first to each other at His table.

Readers can write me at [email protected]

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Leni Robredo , World Health Organization , African Swine Fever
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