Leni Robredo’s Own Game of Thrones part 2

By Sass Rogando Sasot

Guest writer for MINDAVOICES






That is the key question in interpreting the dinner held in honour of Vice President-elect Robredo that foreign diplomats in the Philippines attended. The presumption is “No. Non-citizens have no right to participate in the conduct of public affairs of countries of which they are not citizens.” 

What are the relevant sources of international law? I can think of two international treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. 

Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) grants the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs ONLY to citizens. By implication, non-citizens don’t have that right. This exclusion is a nod to one of the sacrosanct principles in international relations: territorial sovereignty, which is essentially the power to exclude.

The next question then is what type of activities can be considered as related to the “conduct of public affairs.” CCPR General Comment No. 25 of  the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN body given the task of interpreting the ICCPR, provides clarification (http://bit.ly/1Ye7Swy). 

Paragraph 25: The conduct of public affairs…is a broad concept which relates to the exercise of political power, in particular the exercise of legislative, executive and administrative powers. It covers all aspects of public administration, and the formulation and implementation of policy at international, national, regional and local levels…”

Having this in mind, is the dinner held in honour of Vice President-elect Robredo related to the exercise of political power in the Philippines? God is in the details. The organisers of that dinner has the duty to explain that that dinner is not in anyway related to the conduct of public affairs in the Philippines. Given the current political climate, do we have a reason to assume that this dinner is not related to the exercise of political power in the Philippines? 

Furthermore, the diplomats who attended that dinner is duty-bound to explain that their participation in that dinner doesn’t breach their obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. 

Article 41, paragraph 1 of the Vienna Convention states that persons enjoying diplomatic privileges and immunities “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs” of the receiving State. If the dinner is related to the exercise of political power in the Philippines, then participating in that activity may be considered an interference in the internal affairs of the country.

Things get more interesting if we consider Paragraph 2 of Article 41 of the Vienna Convention. It mandates that “all official business with the receiving State entrusted to the mission by the sending State shall be conducted with or through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the receiving State or such other ministry as may be agreed.”

Was the participation of the diplomats in the dinner held in honour of Vice President-elect Robredo sanctioned by their government? If yes, then they are on official business. If that is the case, did they conduct this official business with or through the Department of Foreign Affairs? If it’s not an official business, and they are participating as private citizens, what gave them the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs of the Philippines?

How to keep up with the changes in social media

As demonstrated in the 2016 Presidential elections, social media is paying an increasing role not just in informing, but more importantly in organizing and mobilizing into action. The rapid changes happening on both the technology and the content development sides of the equation means that social media publishers and users also need to evolve with the times.

According to social media experts who attended Newscred’s 4th annual #ThinkContent Summit held in New York City, content marketers, or those who produce the stuff we read, hear, and see on the internet, must focus on brand purpose, make sure content strategy evolves, and not be too focused on self-promotion.

The talks were given in front of about 1,2000 content marketers from across the United States and other parts of the globe. The theme for the event was “Convergence: The New Marketing Imperative.” For more details in the event, here’s the link to the story by Newscred’s Brian Caulfield – https://insights.newscred.com/thinkcontent-2016-content-marketing-experts-talk-brand-purpose-strategy-evolution-and-connections-in-storytelling/

Leni Robredo’s Own Game of Thrones

By Sass Rogando Sasot guest writer for MINDAVOICES

This looks innocent: Leni Robredo being honoured with a dinner by the diplomatic corps. I mean, what could be sinister with the Vice President of the Philippines discussing “common advocacies” and “partnering with them in the future”?  

Legitimacy of political leaders has an internal and external dimension. Internally, it comes as votes from the citizens; externally, it comes as support from outside powers. With allegations of election fraud and a razor thin margin, Robredo has a very fragile internal legitimacy. But being given with an allegedly 8,000 php per plate dinner in your honour by the diplomatic corps in the Philippines indicates that your external legitimacy might not be as rickety as your internal legitimacy.

Well, on the surface there’s nothing wrong with this dinner, but it’s politically questionable if one takes this into consideration: Robredo hasn’t taken any concrete steps to build rapport with the President. Instead of going to Davao and meeting with the President, she just kept on giving interviews to express her views.

Did she already call the President and set a meeting with him? If there’s any person in this world Robredo must first build rapport with, that is the President. Why are you first building rapport with the spectators of our politics? It’s not their partnership that you should first seek in order to realise your advocacies but the partnership of the President.

If it’s really true that it’s the diplomatic corps that sponsored this allegedly 8,000 peso per plate dinner in Robredo’s honour, then why are they giving her this lavish reception? They didn’t do that to the President. If there’s any ass they need to kiss, that’s Duterte’s dirty old ass. The President, after all, is the chief architect of our foreign policy, and any decision that involves foreign affairs is the prerogative of the President. Period.

Who is the political strategist of Robredo? The pictures give a thousand clues.

Photos are from the Leni Robredo fanpage



Map of Recent News Regarding the Action Points of Duterte’s Cabinet

a.k.a. Enough of Satisfying our Tabloid Desires. Tigilan na ang TikTik Mentality

By Sass Rogando Sasot guest writer for MINDAVOICES



From the Department of Budget:

“President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s candidate for budget secretary is looking at a wider budget deficit to fund new infrastructure, which he hopes will boost growth momentum and spread the benefits of the Philippines’ economic improvement in recent years.” (Read: http://on.wsj.com/1ZmkMqP)

From the Department of Finance:

“Incoming Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez said he is mulling over the imposition of additional taxes on junk food to discourage its consumption, promote health and boost government revenues.” (Read: http://bit.ly/22DLbSO)

From the Department of Social Welfare and Development:

“We would like to know about that ano na ang impact ng 4Ps ano nagawa na positive, ano yung areas na nagraduate na because may trabaho na nagkaroon nang lupa or is that impossible, or tingnan din natin na beyond 4Ps ang mga beneficiaries would also be able to organize themselves,” Judy Taguiwalo. (Read: http://bit.ly/25G9FjD)

From the Bureau of Customs:

“A reorganization that includes the abolition and merging of offices is officially underway at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) due to the recently signed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) and the impending change in leadership. Under the CMTA, outgoing Commissioner Alberto Lina said his successor, former Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, may reorganize BOC personnel and employees to streamline processes in the revenue-generating agency.” (Read: http://bit.ly/1TU9Imj)

From the Department of Education:

“Incoming Education Secretary Leonor Briones announced Wednesday that she will prioritize the expansion of alternative learning system (ALS) to provide equal opportunities for those who will not be covered by the K to 12 program.” (Read: http://bit.ly/25BHrGE

From Department of Agrarian Reform:

“Incoming Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano announced a review of the implementation of what he said was a “sham” agrarian reform program in a sugarcane estate owned by the family of outgoing President Aquino as among his priorities as head of the agrarian reform department.” (Read: http://bit.ly/1Uov19G)

From Department of Justice:

“Incoming Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday said the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) will undergo some “drastic” changes under the Duterte administration.” (Read: http://bit.ly/1TUafVc)

From the National Economic and Development Authority:

“Aside from generating more jobs in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, Duterte’s administration plans to reform the income tax system, Pernia said. He added that they want to increase the bracket that is covered by the tax exemption and calibrate the system to the inflation.” (Read: http://bit.ly/1O8vGQc)

From the Department of Foreign Affairs: 

“The incoming Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary-designate, Perfecto Yasay, hinted on Monday that bilateral talks would be the likely diplomatic track to be followed in the effort to untangle the territorial conflict with China in the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea).” (Read: http://bit.ly/1O0b90h)

Political Naïveté

Political Naïveté

By Sass Rogando Sasot guest writer for MINDAVOICES



Composite Photo from CNN Philippines


I watched yesterday the whole press conference of Duterte in which he presented some of his cabinet secretaries. One of the questions hurled by the press at Duterte was what he can say about what people are saying regarding his cabinet choices not reflecting his slogan:Change is Coming.” They were chosen because they were close to him etc…KKK blah blah.

Duterte was thankful that the issue was asked. He said that the cabinet secretaries are alter egos of the President. When a cabinet secretary fucks up, the blame goes all the way to the President. The buck stops at him. Thus, he chose his cabinet secretaries based on how much he can trust them and how competent they are. What’s wrong with these criteria? Nothing. You don’t hire people you feel you cannot trust. He also said that for most of his political life he was only based in Davao City. He didn’t create a large network of friends in Manila, the political capital of the Philippines. His sphere of influence is quite small. So, he explained that he could only pluck people from his own small political circle. They are the people he can trust. Was Aquino this transparent to you?

Just in case you didn’t notice, in the last administration the buck didn’t stop at Aquino. The blame even went all the way to Gloria Arroyo. Aquino didn’t release his cabinet choices as early as Duterte. He released his cabinet choices a day or two BEFORE his inauguration. Tell me, did Aquino bother to explain to you why he chose those people? Did you demand Aquino to explain his constant rift against his VP, Binay? No. Did Aquino explain to you why he recommended Domingo Lee to be our Ambassador to China even though Lee didn’t have a fucking idea what diplomacy was, as well as the difference between soft and hard power and the pillars of our foreign policy? No.

Now, as a staunch Leni Robredo supporter (I expressed my support to Robredo as early as October 2015), I was disappointed when Duterte said that he wouldn’t offer any cabinet position to Robredo yet. He mentioned this already before. You know why? Because he doesn’t know if he can trust Robredo. That’s why Duterte said, they must build rapport first. What the hell is wrong with this?

Just in case you were living under the rock, during the campaign period, Robredo herself said that among the presidential candidates it was only Mar Roxas who knew what tasks to assign to her based on her abilities. Clearly, Roxas is not our president. Ergo, following Robredo’s logic, the president-elect, who is not Roxasdoesnt know what tasks to assign to her. So why the hell are you complaining?

Ahhbecause Duterte said giving Robredo a cabinet position would hurt the feelings of Marcos Jr. Let me remind you this: Whether you like it or not, Robredo won by a hairline against Marcos Jr, and with allegations of election fraud. Duterte won with a huge margin against Roxas and the latter was even accused of shaving Duterte’s votes. Robredo’s mandate to lead is very, very, very fragile. Giving Robredo a cabinet position at this stage will be politically risky. 

It is politically risky to give Robredo a cabinet position while Marcos Jr is still seriously considering to file an electoral protest against her. Politics – student council politics, office politics, national politics, or the politics diplomats play within the United Nations – will always be a numbers game. If we stop whining and start looking closely at the results of the last elections, well see why the feelings of Marcos Jr shouldnt be hurt. Whether we like it or not, Marcos Jr is now an indispensable political force  and no amount of Facebook ranting can change it. 

In April 2016, ABS-CBN published an infographics on the distribution of voters in the Philippines. Luzon has the highest number of registered voters, 56% of them inhabit this island. Its followed by Mindanao with 23% of voters. The remaining 21% of registered voters reside in the Visayas. Who dominated Luzon? Marcos Jr. And he dominated it fabulously.

According to the information from COCs shown at the COMELEC-run Pilipinas 2016, Marcos Jr was voted as the majority vice president in 13 out of 38 provinces and the plurality vice president in 9; while Robredo was the majority vice president in 6 and plurality vice president in 8. Majority means the candidate got more than 50% of the votes; plurality means < 50%. Marcos Jr was also the majority vice president in 2 out of 7 NCR cities that have COCs on the website, while the plurality vice president in 4 of them. Robredo was neither the majority nor plurality vice president in any NCR city. However, Robredo dominated Visayas. She was the majority vice president in 7 out of 16 provinces, while the plurality vice president in 6. Marcos Jr didnt win as a majority vice president in any provinces in the Visayas, but was plurality vice president in 2.

Duterte owned Mindanao. Hes the majority president in 21 out of 22 provinces, and the plurality president in 1 of them. He didnt do that well in Luzon and the Visayas. In the Visayas, hes the majority president in Cebu, the most vote rich province in the country. Hes the majority president in one NCR city – Taguig-Pateros, while the plurality president in 8 Luzon provinces, 5 NCR cities, and 4 Visayan provinces.

If you hurt the feelings of Marcos Jr, you run the risk of alienating his HUGE following in Luzon: Abra (89.24%); Apayao (85.21%); Benguet (59.02%); Kalinga (69.20%); Ilocos Norte (96.82%); Ilocos Sur (93.05%); La Union (89.76%); Pangasinan (61.21%); Cagayan (78.90%); Isabela (74.72%); Nueva Vizcaya (66.76%); Quirino (64.23%); Nueva Ecija (55.65%); Pasay (50.69%); and Manila (53.03%). To quote Duterte: that is the political reality.

Duterte didn’t do well in most of the provinces where Marcos Jr was leading. Either Poe or Binay was number 1 in those provinces. Duterte’s grand plan of using his admin to lead the transition of the country into a federal system requires him to get as much support he could get from different provinces, specially from Luzon. The truth is, to achieve this goal, Duterte will need Marcos Jr more than he will need Robredo. The choice then is between alienating the supporters of Robredo or alienating the supporters of Marcos Jr.

Furthermore, Robredo is from LP which launched a very hostile campaign against Duterte. Remember all the black propaganda of LP against Duterte? Oh dear, the political operators of LP even fed them to foreign press. Have we forgotten the attack dog called Trillanes? Do you really think that Duterte can already TRUST Leni after what LP did to him? No.

Regarding that comment about journalists. Duterte was asked what he would do about journalists being killed. Duterte should have just answered by quoting those words attributed to Voltaire, which Duterte always does whenever freedom of speech is implicated. But Duterte and his dirty mouth narrated a story about corrupt journalists playing with fire. If you are playing with fire, expect to get burned. That’s what he meant when he said that journalists aren’t exempted from being assassinated just because they are journalists. 

Duterte was not endorsing the assassination of corrupt journalists. He was saying that if a journalist were about to get killed by a person s/he abused with his/her pen, how could freedom of speech and the Constitution protect him/her? Can a journalist debate with his/her assassin? In his story, Duterte pointed out an unfortunate reality in our country: Not everyone can handle criticisms, let alone abusive criticisms, very well. He said: “Ako praktisado ako, eh yung iba papaano? (I’m used to these, what about others?)” When this part got reported by the media, they highlighted the soundbites and decontextualised them.

Nonetheless, Duterte is in desperate need of a smart, sharp, and charming press secretary. Davao journalists are used to his style of speaking so they understand him. But he must now realise that his reality has now changed and must adapt to it in order to be and remain effective.

Mindanao Tourism Gets a New Lease on Life

Have you ever looked at one of those tourism ads and wondered what sort of stories lie behind the spectacular sunsets, the colorful sceneries, and the sweet smiles of the people in the glossy photographs?

Are they just as happy when the cameras aren’t around? Or does the twinkle in their eyes fade when the afterimage from the last flash dies down. What secrets do they keep and what kind of lives do they lead beyond what tourists normally get to see.

In Mindanao, where years of government neglect has rendered many beautiful places inaccessible except for the truly determined, there is hope that some of these hidden gems will finally see the light.

If there is one thing that the first Philippine President from Mindanao has brought to the national consciousness, it is a greater interest in the land he calls home. While much of the focus so far has been on the political front, images and reports on the beauty of Mindanao are also starting to come out. And with them come the stories of the people.

In the next six years, Mindanao will have an unprecedented opportunity to reveal itself to the world – and the world will, for the first time, have greater access to this last pristine frontier of Philippine tourism. Hopefully this will be supported by the administration with the appointment of a Tourism Secretary who is also from Mindanao and understands its people and culture.

With Duterte and the Muslim rebels promising lasting peace, maybe the stories of Mindanao can finally be told by those who have lived them.


All photos are by award-winning Davao-based Photographer, Rhonson Ng




We Need to Hear What Duterte has to Say

No one is asking anyone to apologize or make excuses for what Duterte says or does, least of all the President-elect himself. Duterte has never sugarcoated any of his faults, so why should he mince words when it comes to talking about the shortcoming of others?

While we do not agree with everything that President-elect Duterte says, we do share his opinion that these are things that need to be said. Seeds of change cannot take root on barren soil. The complacency of the people with the established order must first be uprooted like weeds to allow new ideas to grow.

And like a plow ripping across the hard-packed earth, Duterte’s attacks against the leaders of the Catholic church and the media-elite force the Filipino people to question long-held beliefs about these so-called pillars of truth and virtue.

Whether you agree with him or not, it cannot be denied that he has widened the horizons of public discourse into topics that in the past were only spoken of in whispers. And even if in the process he has taken the brunt of counter-attacks, he has shown equanimity and fortitude in staying this rough and dangerous course.

But then again, even during the campaign Duterte has always declared that he will do what he has must, and his life and the Presidency be damned. These qualities, which some find shocking in the context of our old-style “pa-pogi” politicians, is just what the country needs to shake and break our rotting social order.

Once we get past the self-righteous outrage, we can see that we do need to hear what Duterte has to say. We have to remember that he was not elected to coddle us and sing us lullabies while the country burns to the ground. People chose Duterte because he is as angry as they are.

Finally we have a President that makes us move and take part in the national dialogue on what role these institutions play in public life and governance. With a few choice words, Duterte has done more to open our eyes to the reality of the abuse that we face everyday than the previous administrations has after years of being in power. 

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