Thunder in the Far East​

Can President Duterte calm the political and economic storms in the Philippines?

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Category 4 typhoon Mangkhut is looming. A portent of things to come?

Already, there’s an ongoing unnecessary display of power, coupled with ineptness, as the ruling political elite tries again to silence a critic, the savvy Senator Trillanes.

It is timed when an ally of President Duterte, solicitor general Jose Calida, is set to have to answer for conflict-of-interest issues about his family’s security agency bagging contracts with government agencies. He will be in the hot seat at the Senate in a committee hearing headed by…drumrolls, please…Senator Trillanes.

Calida, fresh from spearheading the successful ousting of the chief justice, went to work, digging into the records of Trillanes as a former mutineer, then getting a sign off from President Duterte to void an amnesty granted Trillanes in 2011. It was served hours before the Senate hearing began.

But it was sloppy research work. Trillanes debunked every reason thrown at him, including one when he complied with a requirement of his amnesty. The press covered, reported on, broadcasted videos of that event, which the military now says they don’t have a record of.

Calida was being checkmated in every step toward bringing Trillanes behind bars. The lower court wouldn’t issue a warrant of arrest since there is no live case against Trillanes. The military is put on the spot when court martial was considered as the other option since Trillanes has long been a civilian. Court martial is only for soldiers.

Btw, this saga started last week, the day after the record high August inflation rate of 6.4% was announced.

The mismanagement of rice supply and prices was, loud and clear, among the major culprits. Food accounts for a big chunk of the basket of goods and services for Filipinos, especially the poorest of the poor. Rice is such a political commodity that rice crises in the past cost politicians their re-election. (It’s midterm election next year.)

Months ago, economic managers directly involved in managing food supply and production had a power play, resulting in the resignation of the competent few. When fingers were being pointed at Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol for the delayed rice importation, he ate rice crawling with pests. Yuck!

There’s also the slowing growth, the persistently weakening peso, the current account deficit, the rising global crude oil prices, and many more. But it’s the rising cost of food that resonates the most. Now, it’s very loud on social media, with viral and visual posts about the astronomic prices of fish, vegetables, etc. It’s gut-level hurt.

It makes one think if this Trillanes saga is just but another ploy to get people out of their nagging misery.

Later at 3pm, President Duterte will address the nation. He cut short his overseas trip, a day before his net trust rating slipped 8 points, to come home to a divided nation.

Will he calm the storm?

Cue the music!

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