Easing Covid-19 restrictions

>> Wednesday, September 30, 2020


The Covid-19 pandemic, mainly a health problem, has led to economic crisis because of the lockdowns that have suspended or closed down economic activities.
    People are going hungry as a result and it is high time this country’s officials look into this. In North Luzon, at least, top officials have agreed to open their provinces and cities this coming October to tourism like Baguio City.
    The tourist town in Sagada is taking a more cautious stance and would like to see the effects first on Baguio and other provinces how this will affect people first before it will open its doors to tourists.   
    This is the local scenario. In the global scale, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres aired his thoughts on the matter at a   round-table discussion last week on “Rebirthing the global economy to deliver sustainable development.”
    He said: “Covid-19 is a human crisis. But it  also  became a development  and financing crisis as developing countries face vastly increased demands for public spending exactly at the same time as tax and export revenues, inward investments,  and remittances  are  plummeting.”
    He added: “We are on the cusp of a widespread debt crisis, with many  countries  faced with an    impossible choice between servicing their debt or  protecting  their most vulnerable communities and fighting the pandemic….”
    The Philippines was among the earliest countries in the world to order lockdowns. This has helped to limit the spread of the killer virus, but the government said it had had to spend billions of pesos to help all those who have lost all means of income.
    But there is still no accounting of the money, pundits are saying.
    Tax collections went down because business operations ceased. Export revenues went down because  the entire  world market was down. Remittances of our Overseas Filipino Workers were down; so many of them have now  been  forced to return  home as their host countries have been hit hard by the pandemic.
     Secretary  General  Guterres  cited the big picture of so many nations, mostly  developing ones but also many middle-income countries,  which have defaulted  in their debt  payments  and  are now unable to get access  to the financial markets.
    The Philippines is only a small part of  this big picture,  but  it is  the country’s own big problem. The people look up to the government to do the right thing related to business and industry and well-being of  every  Filipino whose life has been  upset by Covid-19.
    Last  Thursday,  presidential  spokesman Harry  Roque, meeting with the national media, said that if the country does not reopen soon, many businesses will go bankrupt and many people may die due to loss of livelihood. 
    Finance Secretary Carlos  Dominguez III also said at a meeting of the Inter-Agency  Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases that the “we need to shift  from our priority on health to opening  the economy because  unless we do, people will  simply die because of lack of livelihood.”
    He said the nation must face the reality that the virus is not going away soon and we should really begin opening the economy.  He suggested that lockdowns be limited to the level of barangays and companies with high cases of coronavirus.
    After  various  levels of lockdown since March 15, it may be time to  reopen  more of  our economy,  before we fall  victim to the financial crisis that UN Secretary General  Guterres  warned about. .
    This country’s Economic officials say they are now drawing plans for economic recovery from the last five months of lockdowns when people were told to stay home and offices and businesses were closed down to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
    The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the country slipped into recession with a record 16.5 percent contraction in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of the year. This contrasts with the 6 percent GDP expansion last year.
    Dennis Lapid, director of the BSP’s Department of Economic Research, said the country’s businesses and consumers now need to spend more to revive the economy.
    As the country rises from restrictions in these last six months, it remains to be seen if these are doable considering the Covid-19 pandemic. The next months would be crucial as people try to get back on their feet to feed their families. 


Where’s the Ombudsman?

March L. Fianza

There is cause for worry over the investigation of alleged massive corruption in the primary health care government-owned and controlled corporation in the country. This after, the Ombudsman issued Memorandum Circular No. 01 that now restricts access to government officials’ statement of assets liabilities and net worth (SALN) by the public and media.
    The new Ombudsman policy said “no SALN will be furnished to the requester unless he/she presents a notarized letter of authority from the declarant allowing the release of the requested SALN.” Along with that, the conduct of lifestyle checks on government officials was also suspended.
    Those are causes for alarm that worries many of us because there are “opportunities” of possible escape from charges of corruption since the Ombudsman issued MC No. 01 on Sept. 10, 2020. The lifestyle check of people suspected of stealing taxpayers’ money “should be done away with since this is illogical and no longer attuned to reality,” the Ombudsman said.
    It follows that there is reason to pity the whistle-blowers who risk their lives, resign from their jobs and alter their careers because they do not want what they see. One of them is Atty. Thorrsson Montes Keith, the anti-fraud legal officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation who resigned from his position due to alleged corruption in the GOCC.
    Atty. Keith was forced to resign, because according to him, he was against the mandatory PhilHealth contribution of OFWs as it is unconstitutional and not part of the Universal Healthcare Law. He was considered a “hero” by the OFWs when he sacrificed his personal security for their protection.
    But his main reason was because of the alleged widespread corruption in PhilHealth. He was later invited to divulge what he knew before the Senate Committee of the Whole as a witness during the investigation of the PhilHealth corruption controversy.
    In times of crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic, we need real heroes. We expect people to set aside their personal interests and make good use of the funds of PhilHealth to pay the medical bills of as many as possible. Instead, the Senate reported that corrupt officials of the agency took the pandemic as an opportunity to steal money.
    After so many congressional hearings and investigations of varied issues, the government still fails to get the guilty parties convicted. After many congressional hearings, it showed that the problem within PhilHealth was deeply rooted. Then comes the Ombudsman’s new policy restricting access to government officials’ SALNs and suspending lifestyle checks.
    These are against the mandate of the Ombudsman’s office as the anti-corruption arm of the government. Many are sued, but not so many are convicted. Maybe that is why the public officials being questioned in congress are not candid, they keep changing answers and obviously tell lies.
    Access to SALNs and doing lifestyle checks are supposed to be simple and yet effective in knowing if public officials are performing their duties well and not just stealing money from peoples’ taxes through their positions. The Office of the Ombudsman was precisely created for this.
    But the Ombudsman said during a budget hearing in Congress that the SALNs are being used as “weapons” against enemies in politics, and that it is not required in a corruption investigation under Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
    Aside from the suspension of lifestyle checks, the Ombudsman also suggested in front of congressmen that his office can be abolished because nothing will happen with cases filed against corrupt officials because anyway witnesses refuse to testify.
    If the Ombudsman himself thinks his office cannot do anything to fight corruption even with the findings of Congress regarding the allegations of widespread corruption in PhilHealth, then maybe that could probably be the motivation in President Duterte’s mind why he suggested that PhilHealth be abolished.
    Until now, the PhilHealth executive officials appear to be resisting calls for their resignation. With the new Ombudsman policy on SALNs and lifestyle checks, the resistance even grows stronger.


Cabbage in gloom

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE- Couple Jessica and husband George who manage a coffee shop in this tourist town planted some 1,000 square meters of a parcel of lot to cabbage  four months ago to augment income at this times of the Covid pandemic. Came harvest time this September and  a part of the produce, some 500 kilograms was given out to whoever was interested to get from their farm located at the southern part of this town.
    The rest of the produce harvested by the couple along with  two of their children was donated to Linking Smallholder Farmers to Markets (LinkSFarM) LinksFarm, a program of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
    Asked why, ‘cabbage is priced low at the market’, Jessica said.
    ‘Rather than see these rot in the garden we donated these’, she added.  
    As of harvest time third week of September till now at presstime, cabbage plummeted at a market price of  P4.00  per kilogram at the La Trinidad trading post.
    Transporting cabbage to La Trinidad can’t even answer for the transport cost at P8, 000 from Sagada, Jessica lamented.
     Arsenio, another gardener at the central part of town did it another way.
    Arsenio  plowed back  his 500 square meters of cabbage produce he was about to harvest from his farm located some two  kilometers from the roadside  when he learned that cabbage  costs  P4.00 a kilogram.  The plowed back cabbage serves as fertilizer for the next cropping.
    Asked why, another gardener said, labor to harvest the produce and transportation costs are not enough to answer for the cost of cabbage to be sold in the market.   
    Other vegetable farmers who transported their vegetable produce to la Trinidad trading post and reached the P4.00 per kg price of cabbage donated their produce  to passersby along the sidewalks of La Trinidad.
    The same way that farmers whose carrot produce reached a low of P1 per kg at the La Trinidad trading post early this March donated their produce while some threw their produce along the roadside.  
Marketing woes
    Such is the marketing problem of vegetable farmers of Benguet and Mountain Province in the 80s till now.
    That is, when prices go down,  the vegetable farmer could only drop the vegetables at the roadside or leave the vegetables to rot in the garden.
    Most times, gambling on veggie prices in the market had been the practice. Prices that were never sure if the market value will return investments relied on. Good if the veggie price reached at least ten pesos plus per kg of cabbage for example, but if not the produce is wasted.
    With expensive inputs on fertilizer and seeds to include labor fees, the vegetable gardener could only say ‘waday swerte waday malas’ (there is good luck and there is bad luck) depending on the market price of veggies .
    A fair share of the gardeners’ capital and labor had long been the problem since the 80’s on to the ‘90s to the present where the Covid pandemic highlighted it so.
    For highland vegetables from Benguet and Mt Province which supplies 70-80% of highlands vegetables in Manila, marketing issues has doubled where gardeners increased at this time of the pandemic.
    For some 200 conventional farmers here in the tourist town of Sagada have obviously increased with some tourist guides and others in the tourism business who have gone to vegetable farming to feed a family.
    Others not in the tourism business but have turned to farming as an additional source of income and livelihood  made the once bushy and weedy lots go  green with vegetables on the  go since the pandemic began this March.
    March to May was preparation and planting time and farmers just have seen the fruits of their labor August-September this year.  Comes September and farmers are again preparing their fields for harvest this Christmas season.
Private and government support
Help and support is needed especially in the government sector which has the resources.
    The plight of farmers especially on the marketing side of it looks up to the Department of Agriculture and other  concerned  government  line agencies such as the Department of trade and industry  (DTI) and  the Department of Science and Technology  (DOST) and local government units (LGUs) to take notice and address the problem.
    In Sagada, efforts of kailyan and friends based in Manila help in the marketing of veggies rather than see these rot.
    Manila-based Tracey Santiago a friend of Sagada coordinates veggies from Sagada through the office of the Municipal agriculturist (OMAG) and gets orders in Manila before these are transported to the city in a marketing program called Sustainable Sagada.
    Maria Ap-apid, OMAG officer said the LGU shall be transporting 4 tons of veggies per week to Manila beginning this September. She calls out to farmers to reach her office that their produce be included in the weekly transport to Manila.      
    Sagada farmers pay P7.00 per kg of their veggies transported via the LGU truck. In the first two trips, the Department of Agriculture (DA) took charge of the freight in April. The DA resumed recently this September  with the transport fee partly handled by Santiago.
    Recently, with DA’s delivery truck having malfunctioned, Santiago shall be handling the  transport cost and with at least P10.00 per kg of cabbage given to the farmer, Ap-apid added. .  
    Under the DA’s Kadiwa Express provides farmers’ groups transport assistance and links them directly to buyers. News reports say DA regional director Cameron Odsey said 768,070 kg of assorted vegetables have been sold as of August.
    From September to December this year,the  Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) in La Trinidad, Benguet shall serve as farmers’ “buyer of last resort” when there is an oversupply of vegetables in the Cordillera region.
    Equally, Menchie Buking of the Department of Agriculture who manages Linking Smallholder Farmers to Markets (LinkSFarM) in Mountain Province expects that farmers themselves come together and coordinate with DAR for their produce to be marketed.
    “We pay farmers at higher prices from the usual market price. Farmers pay transportation cost at 7.00 per kg”, she said. 
    With cabbage at P19-22 per kg sold in Manila, farmers get P10 per kilo and the rest for packing materials and freight. 
    LinksFarm aims to make smallholder farmers increase agricultural productivity and effectively manage their agricultural production by applying value chain process. LinksFarm is now ARBold, an expanded version of its project that links agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB) and smallholder farmers to the supply chain of products.
Packaging and processing woes
Packaging and processing of vegetables remains a big challenge among farmers and food processors so with concerned government line agencies and other stakeholders .
    Enthusiast-retail businessman Agustin Christian Lizardo based in Manila gets pre-ordered veggies before these reach Manila from Sagada via  private transport where farmers pay a P10.00 per kg of their veggies to answer for freight and toll fee. 
    Asked what issues he contends with, Lizardo said packaging is an issue to deal with. Having better boxes and better packaging facilities is important in selling veggies’, Lizardo said.
    Good looking veggies also come up significant in retailing veggies in Manila.
    ‘We are constrained to buy veggies at  La Trinidad Trading post as these are more attractive looking’, Lizardo said.
    Lots of farmers' vegetable produce of cabbages, carrots, bell pepper, tomatoes pose long time ago challenges in processing and preserving these into bottled pickles, kimchi, dried tomatoes, candies, chips much as these offer potential marketing possibilities.
    That is, a vast economic opportunity that has long not been given a chance to get noticed in the vegetable and marketing  industry. 
    It’s about time and it has long been about time that vegetable processing facilities be in place and help farmers regain their efforts, capital and labor.
    It’s a welcome development that the office of the Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar has funded a processing center  to be built at Benguet State University BSU through the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR). The amount of P10 million is meant for the construction of a building, while the P10 million will be used for equipment.
    Meantime in Benguet province, Governor Melchor Diclas is intent on constructing vegetable processing facilities in the province’s five municipalities following  an earlier discussion with DA Secretary William Dar.
    Benguet locates the popular vegetable producing towns of Buguias and La Trinidad.
    A vegetable processing facility is looked forward to be in place in Mountain Province with the attention of officials and concerned officers in government.
    Mountain Province locates the vegetable producing town of Bauko adjacent Buguias, and the tourist town of Sagada where gardeners have increased since the Covid pandemic struck March this year.  



Commemorating 34 years of Mt. Data peace accord


Geanjesse B. Posadas
National and local leaders, elders, autonomy advocates, and representatives from various sectors gathered last Sept. 13, in Baguio City to recollect and discuss the deep meaning of the 34th Mt. Data Peace Accord of 1986. 
    Regional Development Council Vice Chairman and NEDA-CAR Director Milagros Rimando welcomed participants, while Agriculture Secretary William Dar delivered the opening remarks. In his speech, Secretary Dar emphasized that peace and development in the region could be attained through regional autonomy. 
    Later, Cordilleran leaders and personalities recounted the events that culminated in the signing of the eace accord. As a young local leader in the municipality of Sadanga in the 1980s, Mayor Gabino Ganggangan shared his firsthand account of the events that led to the peace pact between the Cordillera rebels and the national government.
    The 1970s to the 80s was marked by a period of oppression and exploitation of Cordillerans and their resources by the then Marcos-led government.
    According to Rep. Mark Go of Baguio City, there were two major events that sparked the organized people's movement in the Cordillera: first the Chico River Basin Development Project in Kalinga and Bontoc, and second the Cellophil Project in Abra.
    Both projects threatened to displace the peoples of Abra, Kalinga, and Mountain Province from their own ancestral lands. The local tribal leaders then mounted a stand to oppose these projects and some took up arms against the government. 
    When President Marcos stepped down, the newly-installed President Corazon Aquino reached out to the leaders of the movement and entered into a peace agreement with the rebels led by Fr. Conrado Balweg. The issues were addressed through the indigenous practice of Sipat held at the Mt. Data Hotel in Bauko, Mt. Province on Sept. 13, 1986.
    This ceased hostility between Philippine armed forces and the armed groups in the Cordillera. This was the first peace agreement signed in the history of the peace process in the country. This peace agreement led to the inclusion of regional autonomy for the Cordillera in the 1987 Constitution.
    As a transition towards the autonomous Cordillera governance provided in the Constitution, the Philippine government created the Cordillera Administrative Region through Executive Order 220.
    After 34 years, the autonomous region for the Cordillera has yet to be realized. Mayor Ganggangan said it is only when regional autonomy is established that the essence of Mt. Data Sipat will be achieved. “We commemorate this day to remind our regional and national government leaders and officials to affirm and intensify our efforts and commitment to establish Cordillera Autonomy.”
    Leonardo Bun-as, one of the program’s speakers and signatory of the peace accord stated that Cordillerans should actively push for autonomy in this present administration. National officials, headed by Senator Cristopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, the guest of honor of this year’s Sipat anniversary, relayed in their messages their reassurance of support of the region’s ultimate goal, by helping push the bills filed in the Congress for the establishment of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera.   
    After the two failed plebiscites of 1990 and 1998, a renewed drive for regional autonomy was headed by the RDC-CAR. House Bill no. 5687: “An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera”, was filed last Dec. 2, 2019 in the House of Representatives which was authored by all of Cordillera’s Congressmen.
    Senate Bill 1232, a counterpart bill, was filed by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri last December 11, 2019. 
    Among those who also participated in the Sipat celebration were members of the military, heads of the regional line agencies, youth leaders, and IPMRs of the region. The program was also attended through online videoconference and was shared through online media sites.


Reopening Summer Capital to tourism


Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO Mayor Benjamin Magalong reconsidered the decision to reimpose liquor ban in the city supposed to take effect last week following findings that unbridled drinking sprees caused the two recent clustering of Covid-19 cases in the city.
    Instead of the liquor sale and consumption prohibition, the mayor said the city through the barangays and law enforcement agencies will just intensify monitoring and policing of residents to ensure compliance with health protocols.
    "What happened at Slaughterhouse and Ferdinand barangays must not be disregarded but we also have to consider the economic repercussions of implementing another liquor ban at this time when businesses are struggling to recoup their losses," the mayor said.
    "We needed to balance our decision and we decided for a win-win solution."
    The mayor issued a memorandum directing concerned agencies and barangays to strictly monitor and ensure that people adhere to basic protocols.
Memorandum No. 337-2020 reads:
    "Over the weekend, our testing operations resulted in two barangays under hard lockdown, and several others on lockdown for purposes of contact tracing;
    "Our Contact Tracing Teams have identified that several of our active cases had attended drinking sessions, shared eating utensils with companions, engaged in prolonged unnecessary social gatherings, and were unable to observe proper social distancing;
    "Henceforth, you (PBs) are directed to implement and strictly monitor the public's compliance with our standard health and safety protocols. Exercise all lawful means necessary to ensure that our citizens keep themselves, and each other, well protected and safe from COVID-19 transmission through proper wearing of face masks, practicing basic hand hygiene and cough etiquette, not sharing drinking and eating utensils, and maintaining appropriate physical distancing. During this time of public health emergency, discipline, precaution, and responsible behavior are paramount qualities in our response and mitigation mechanisms, and these shall be applied first and foremost in our barangay communities."
    The mayor further appealed to the public to do their share by not neglecting their responsibility of obeying the Covid-19 safety measures at all times.
    "Let us continue to espouse discipline wherever we are and whatever we do. It is our only hope in surviving the virus and moving on with our lives. When we drink, please make sure that we don't overdo it. Drink moderately and be virus-free," he said.
The city government wants all business establishments within the central business district physically ready for the reopening of the tourism industry particularly in the implementation of health and safety protocols against Covid-19.
To ensure this, Mayor Magalong said the city will require all establishments to employ corrective measures to rectify violations and deficiencies in their structures. 
    Last Sept. 18, the city and business owners agreed to close the 14 buildings along Mabini St. to give them time to improve their facilities and ensure compliance with the Covid health and safety measures to ensure safety of both their workers and clients.
    City Buildings and Architecture Office led by Arch. Johnny Degay who was tasked by the mayor to oversee the closure and compliance with the corrective measures said the owners of the buildings and their tenants agreed to the scheme and adapted makeover work in their business areas by clearing all kinds of obstructions to allow ample spaces for human traffic in their entrances and alleys.
    Unnecessary signages should also be removed or replaced with appropriate and presentable ones compliant with the approved protocols.
    As of Sept. 24, 75 percent of the establishments have complied and have reopened, Degay said.
    After Mabini, the same method will be implemented in other streets at the central business district namely Assumption Road, Upper and Lower Mabini, Session Road, among others.
    The city had launched the tourism reopening program to cater first to tourists from Region 1.  Target date of allowing entry will be on Oct. 1.
    This is part of the thrust towards the calibrated rebooting of the city’s economy which is largely dependent on the tourism industry to bounce back from the losses wrought by the health crisis.   


Beware of extortionists, UV ray disinfection devices


Alfred P. Dizon

    The Department of the Interior and Local Government has warned local chief executives not to fall for extortionists who pose as DILG officials asking for money in exchange for assistance in their pending cases.
    DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya, said they have received reports that impostors tell local officials they will help clear pending investigations against them in exchange for cash.
    “Any claim that they will be cleared of pending charges for a fee is a hoax,” Malaya said.
    He said there was an instance when a mayor was asked by an individual posing as a senior official that the DILG would donate 2,800 sacks of rice, but the mayor should send P20,000 for transportation costs.
    “Let the public be warned that senior officials of the DILG do not call LGUs asking for favors. It is prudent to always check and consult our provincial DILG office to confirm before believing or sending money to these con artists,” Malaya said.
    The DILG has reportedly received complaints of extortion from local executives from Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Masbate, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Iloilo, Leyte and Cotabato.
        So far, there are no reports of this kind of scam in the Cordillera.
    We know of some officials in the region who have pending cases with the Ombudsman’s Office, but so far, we don’t hear of scammers approaching them to “fix” their cases.
         The DILG has ordered the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to look into the incidents and arrest the perpetrators.
        Malaya advised the public to be careful in dealing with individuals pretending to have connections with the DILG.
The Dept. of Health (DOH) has cautioned the public against the dangers of using ultraviolet (UV) ray disinfection devices sold in the market as a protective measure against Covid-19.
    During a virtual briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH is not recommending to the public any device using UV light for disinfection and sterilization.
    Vergeire said UV rays pose harmful effects to humans when used incorrectly.
    “If an individual does not know how to use the UV light properly, it can cause skin burns or affect the eyes,” she said.
    The World Health Organization (WHO) previously warned the public that UV radiation could cause skin irritation and damage to the eyes.
    While UV light has been used for disinfection in hospitals and other health facilities long before the coronavirus pandemic,     Vergeire said strict rules are observed in using it.
    “Based on our protocol what we recommend – and this is supported by evidence – is directly wiping off surfaces using disinfectant (to kill the virus),” she said.
    “When it comes to UV light, there is no sufficient evidence what type and dosage of UV light would be enough to kill the SARS-Covid 2 virus,” she added.
    For the protection of the public, especially children, Vergeire urged those interested to use UV light for disinfection to first learn the process and be guided by its proper use.
    The WHO said cleaning hands with alcohol-based sanitizer or washing with soap and water are still the most effective ways to remove the virus.
Sen. Imee Marcos has sought to end the commercialization of state colleges and universities (SUCs) that allowed foreign students to enjoy the same benefits reserved for Filipino state scholars.
    Marcos said enrollment quotas for foreign students were preventing more Filipinos from availing of government-funded college education, particularly in expensive medical courses. 
    "Let’s take care of Filipinos first. Our taxes must support our future Filipino doctors, especially amid this enduring pandemic,” Marcos said in a press statement.
    “Our effort to ratchet up our supply of doctors may be lost entirely and merely expended on foreigners,” Marcos added, citing that the Senate was on the verge of enacting legislation on expanding medical scholarship, known as the 'Doktor Para Sa Bayan' bill.
    Marcos called on the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to submit a list of foreign students in SUCs in the past five years, during a Senate finance committee hearing Monday on the government agency’s budget for 2021.
    The CHEd is asking for an additional Php4.6 billion to expand the government’s capacity to sponsor Filipino medical students to 5,368 each year.
    CHEd chief Prospero De Vera said that the government agency’s hands were tied in limiting the number of foreign students in SUCs because the decision to accept them rested on the Board of Regents of each college or university.
    The Bureau of Immigration has recorded some 26,000 foreign students in the country but did not determine how many were studying medicine in eight SUCs including Mariano Marcos State University, University of Northern Philippines, Cagayan State University, Bicol University, West Visayas State University, University of the Philippines - School of Health Sciences, University of the Philippines - Manila, at Mindanao State University - Marawi.
    Three more SUCs have an ongoing application to offer medical courses - Cebu Normal University, Western Mindanao State Univerity in Zamboanga City, and the University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City.
    Marcos called on the CHEd, SUCs, and the Bureau of Immigration to conduct an immediate review of policies regarding foreign students to ensure that Filipino students are given priority.
     Marcos also sought the cooperation of medical student organizations to stay alert and report to the government on how SUCs might be favoring foreign students.


Red Mirage takes center stage on election night


Perry Diaz

        What if President Donald Trump wins on November 3 based on 15% of the vote by mail ballots that had been counted?  According to FiveThirtyEight, this could give Trump a projected lead of 408-130 electoral votes on election night.  But once 75% of mail ballots are counted, four days later, the lead could flip to Joe Biden’s favor.  This particular modeling scenario portrays Biden as the ultimate winner in a massive victory, 334-204.   
      But on Election Night, the “Red Mirage” would come into play.  The Red Mirage is a term coined by a group called Hawkfish, Democratic data and analytics funded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg who lost in the Democratic presidential primaries.  Red Mirage is based on the premise that Trump will appear to have won on Election Night, perhaps in a landslide.  However, he could lose when all the votes were eventually counted.  But among Democrats, fear of a “Red Mirage” on Election Day is gripping them.  It has caused some Democrats to change their plan on mail-in voting and instead encourage people to “vote early” and “in person if possible.”
      Polls show significantly more Democrats plan to vote by mail than Republicans: a Monmouth University poll released last month found 72% of Democrats planned to cast their ballots by mail in November, while just 22% of Republicans said the same. 
      And this is where Trump – who has prepared for this scenario – will prematurely declare victory based on the Election Night counted ballots.  But as soon as Biden has overtaken Trump a few days later, chaos will erupt with Trump’s diehard supporters massing in the streets, some armed with guns and assault rifles.  Trump’s legal team will also challenge the mail-in ballots that Trump said are fraudulent. With the Post Office in disarray due to the changes that Postmaster General Louise DeJoy instituted that would delay the delivery of mail on Election Day, there would be a possibility of Trump applying political pressure to reject a high number of mailed-in votes counted after Election Day.
Refuses to concede
It’s anticipated that if Trump loses, he will refuse to concede.  Instead he will challenge the validity of the mailed-in votes, contending that massive fraud has been made.  He had time and time again discredited mail-in voting for months, claiming Democrats could rig the election.  However, experts say there's no evidence that mail-in voting is unsafe and point to the fact that the practice has been widely used by both Democrats and Republicans in previous elections with no issues.
      Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Biden said he is ready to fight for the absentee and mail-in votes that will ultimately determine the winner.  He said his campaign has assembled a team o 600 lawyers to counteract Trump’s attempt to suppress the vote.
      The question is:  What will happen if Trump loses and refuses to leave?
      There has been discussion among a bipartisan group of about 80 political operatives and academics what could happen if Trump lost the election and then barricaded himself in the White House? 
      One of the group’s organizers said, “All of our scenarios ended in both street-level violence and political impasse. The law is essentially helpless against a president who's willing to ignore it.”
      Trump could be desperate enough to call his base to come to his rescue with assault rifles.  The likelihood that armed militia who are supporting Trump would converge in Washington, DC ready to heed Trump’s “call to arms.”
Martial Law
And this dovetails into Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime political ally and Republican ”dirty trickster,” who has urged Trump to seize power and declare “martial law” or invoke “the Insurrection Act If he loses reelection on November 3.  Stone called for Trump to “form a special task force of federal agents to physically stand in the way of criminal activity” in the election.
Stone then suggested that Trump order the arrest of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, the Clintons and ”anybody else who can be proven to be involved in illegal activity.”  The progressive group MediaMatters first reported Stone’s comments.
      As reported, “Stone called for Trump to appoint former Rep. Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican, as a special counsel ‘with the specific task of forming an Election Day operation using the FBI, federal marshals, and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity.’”
“He singled out Nevada,” the report said, "The ballots in Nevada on election night should be seized by federal marshals and taken from the state. They are completely corrupted. No votes should be counted from the state of Nevada if that turns out to be the provable case. Send federal marshals to the Clark county board of elections, Mr. President!"
      "They want to play war — this is war," Stone said, adding: "I'm for a legal election. Everything I'm going to be involved with in terms of helping Donald Trump get elected will be perfectly transparent and legal."
With Stone encouraging Trump to seize power if he loses the election, this brings to fore the military’s role should Trump would indeed seize power.  Will he barricade himself in the White House surrounded by groups of armed white supremacists, white nationalists, Ku Klux Klan, Boogaloo Boys, and white militias?  Will the military intervene, which could lead to bloodshed and possibly, civil war?
Supreme Court ruling
And while the confrontation is going on, legislative peacemakers will enter the picture and mediate the issues that Trump has brought about.  Trump could petition the Supreme Court to rule on the fraud and rigged election allegations.  And this is where the Supreme Court could rule either way.  With the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, it is expected that Trump will nominate a hard-line conservative to replace her.  That would put the Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority.  However, recent Supreme Court decisions showed that three justices have crossed ideological lines to favor the    liberal minority’s thinking. 
      And this is where Trump hopes that at least five of the six conservatives in the Supreme Court would support him.  But with the voting record of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts tilting either way – he’s the ”swing vote” in the court – and possibly Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh (both of them ruled against Trump in the Court’s decision over whether Trump could defy a subpoena making him turn over his tax returns) there is no guarantee that Trump would get a 5-4 vote in his favor.  But what if he doesn’t get it?


Insular Life offers global investment for savings

By Karen L. Plata

Restricted travel and limited dining-out during the lockdown period created savings for some Filipinos.
Insular Life (InLife), the country’s largest Filipino life insurance company, is offering a life insurance and investment plan that will put these hard-earned savings to work.  
    Called the “InLife’s Wealth Assure Guaranteed Issue Offer” (GIO), the product is an investment option for those who wish to put their money in the global market and technology winners.
    This life insurance and investment plan is available until Sept. 30, 2020.   
    “InLife understands that Filipinos need to plan for their family’s future and make prudent investment decisions during this time of uncertainties. Our Wealth Assure GIO responds to these two financial needs at the same time,” InLife president and CEO Mona Lisa B. Dela Cruz said.       
    Since this product is a guaranteed issue offer (GIO), there is no need to go through the usual insurance application process with lengthy forms and medical exams.
    There will be no long waiting time, as InLife financial advisors will assist in the application process digitally. 
    Aside from its investment component, InLife Wealth Assure GIO provides life insurance coverage equivalent to five times the annual premium.
    The plan’s built-in investment feature boosts insurance coverage by putting premiums in Peso Global Equity Fund or Peso Global Technology Fund.  
    The Peso Global Equity Fund gives access to the world’s market leaders which have constantly issued dividends through the years. Peso Global Technology Fund, on the other hand, seeks to achieve long-term capital appreciation through investments in equity securities of technology companies around the world.   
     Secure your family’s future. Visit www.insularlife.com.ph/wealth
assure-gio to know more about InLife Wealth Assure GIO; or call 02-8-876-1800 and e-mail inquiry@insular.com.ph to get in touch with an InLife Financial Advisor. 
    Insular Life (InLife) is the first, largest, and only mutual Filipino life insurance company in the country with over 109 years of uninterrupted service.
    It has an asset base of over P143 billion and net worth of P43 billion. We have a nationwide presence in 54 branches all over the country, and an expanded digital footprint to serve its customers.


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