MAGANES: Year 2016 in retrospect

December 25, 2016 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment


vir
The year 2016 was full of unexpected events that were both happy and sad. Personally, it was a year of frustration and despair. It was also a year that change the political landscape of the country that made headlines both in the local and foreign media.
The height of political campaign for the national and local elections was witnessed during the first quarter of 2016. At the national level, five candidates ran for the presidency- Senator Grace Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, then Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Of the presidential candidates, Poe was the most saddled with legal issues because of her citizenship, which was resolved by the Supreme Court in her favor. She was at first leading all surveys until Duterte took over because of his unconventional political approaches banking on the issues of illegal drugs, corruption and criminality. Roxas, who has the backing of then President PNoy and the Liberal Party candidate, lost focused on his development agenda. He concentrated on making tirades against his political opponents. Binay was saddled with corruption issues while Santiago on her health situation having declared that she has stage four lung cancer.
 In Pangasinan, the gubernatorial race was between former 5th District Rep. Mark O. Cojuangco and the son of then Governor Amado T. Espino Jr. -Amado I. “Pogi” Espino III. The political campaign on both camps was intense. The older Espino ran for congressman for the 5th District against then Rep. Kimi S. Cojuangco, wife of Mark. The political fight was between two prominent families.
I will no longer dwell here on the other candidates for vice presidency, senators, vice governors and other local candidates during the elections.
The second quarter saw the victory of Duterte for the presidency and the younger Espino for Governor of Pangasinan. Duterte’s caught the fancy of the electorates with seven million votes lead against Roxas. His tongue-lashings and colorful words sit well among the Filipinos. On the other hand, the Espinos got the mandate of the Pangasinenses amid issues of alleged corruption and illegal black sand mining.
The newly elected officials in the country from the president down to the members of the Sannguniang Bayan/Panlungsod started their official duties at 12:00 noon of June 30. During his inaugural address, Duterte outlined his government’s programs that give priorities to combat illegal drugs, corruption, illegal gambling and other form of criminalities. He also announced the initial composition of his cabinet secretaries.
The onset of the third quarter was bloody. Under the mandate of his appointed Chief of Philippine National Police (PNP) Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, OPlan Double Barrel- Operation Tokhang and Operation High Value Target (HVT) was enforced. Drug personalities started to surrender, “shabu laboratories” unearthed, suspected drug pushers and users were either nabbed or silenced for life. In August, the biggest blow was the discovery of drug lords and their drug operations inside the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in which newly elected Senator Leila De Lima was pinpointed as the protector starting when she was still the Justice Secretary during PNoy’s administration. Duterte revealed his list of drug personalities that involved generals of PNP, judges, governors, mayors, policemen and prosecutors. The “drug matrix link” inside the NBP was publicly announced to the surprise of Pangasinenses. Five prominent figures in Pangasinan were named in the “drug matrix link”- former Justice Undersecretary Francisco “Toti” Baraan, De Lima’s driver Ronnie Palisoc Dayan, former Provincial Administrator Raffy Baraan, 2nd District Board Member Raul Sison and former Governor now 5th District Rep. Amado T. Espino Jr. Except for Toti Baraan and Dayan, Baraan, Sison and Espino were publicly cleared by Duterte in September when “a shabu laboratory” was discovered in Arayat, Pampanga.

Deaths related to drugs escalated during the third quarter. What was surprising was that “deaths under investigation” allegedly perpetrated by the “vigilantes” outnumbered that of legitimate operations. Innocent people were also killed, which prompted the Senate to conduct legislative inquiry in aid of legislation. Senator De Lima led the “extra judicial killings” inquiry as head of the Senate Committee on Justice but later on replaced by Senator Dick Gordon.
It was also during the third quarter that President Duterte started to visit our neighboring countries- Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, China and Japan. He announced an independent foreign policy and lashed out US President Barack Obama, United Nations and the European Union because of their negative comments on the “war against illegal drugs” and extra judicial killings. Despite of these criticisms, Duterte’s popularity among the Filipinos was high. He issued the first Executive Order on Freedom of Information (FOI).
Operation Tokhang’s intensified during the onset of 4th quarter. From 3,000 deaths, it escalated to more than 5,000. Drug surrenderers rose to 800,000 and a new “drug rehabilitation center”, which was donated by a Chinese national was inaugurated in Nueva Ecija. In November, Dayan was nabbed in La Union province after hiding for months after he refused to testify before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Justice on NBP’s illegal drugs operations. To protect media practitioners, President Duterte issued Administrative Order No. 1 creating the Presidential Task Force on Media Security. Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, a media man was appointed as Executive Director last December 9.
While the government under Duterte’s administration focused its operation on illegal drugs, the various agencies delivering services were not left behind. Agriculture has been intensified, smuggling of agricultural products was minimized, health services got better, infrastructure projects that were not moving during PNoy’s administration were continued and the delivery of basic services in towns and provinces have improved.
The gains of Duterte’s administration have yet to be felt by the ordinary Juan as what Duterte’s promised for a “massive reforms and change”. The six months period is still too short to evaluate the impact of his administration, which is also applicable to the provinces and municipalities in the country. Let us hope for the best to come in the coming years of his administration. I hope Duterte will not fail us.
On personal notes, 2016 wasn’t good to me. The candidates that I supported did not win in the election. However, I am still hoping that someday they will continue serving the people. Although the Cojuangcos lost in the elections, they are still visible in the political scene. Mark continues his advocacy on recommissioning the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant and busy as a resource speaker on the benefits of nuclear power plants in various fora in universities, colleges and media organizations. Kimi, on the other hand, continues her advocacy on Reproductive Health and is still providing assistance to women’s organizations.
In July, my dear mother passed away at the age of 93. She was very supportive to my work as a media practitioner. She was also my number one critic especially on writing and broadcasting issues on illegal drugs, jueteng and corruption. She was a big loss to me.
Last November 8, a day after my birthday I almost lost my life to persons with “criminal minds”. I thanked God I survived the shooting incident, which has left me with physical and emotional scars. The healing period will take a longer time.
The year 2016 has left me good and bad memories. The good memories have to be treasured for years and the bad ones to be left to the disposal of the Master of the Universe. In any event in our lives, God has always a purpose. Let’s look at them and reflect. What lies ahead?
(For comments and suggestions, email me at emperorvirgil@yahoo.com. Visit my blog “The Roving Pen” at http://www.virgilmaganes.wordpress.com.)
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