Study in chaos
What a study in chaos last week was — kicked off on Monday by the requisite hoopla surrounding the President’s fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona) and the dust storm of Palace clarifications and public commentary that duly followed, roiled the following days by Malacañang’s shock announcement that President Duterte had vetoed his long-promised anti-“endo” bill, and ending Friday night with yet another golpe de gulat from The Boss: an order, made on video, to immediately halt all gaming activities including lotto, small town lottery (STL), Keno and Peryahan ng Bayan under the ambit of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Mr. Duterte cited “massive corruption” in the PCSO as the basis for his out-of-nowhere order, but provided no specifics.
Still, armed with nothing more than that command, Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde and his lieutenants made a great show the next day of shutting down lotto outlets. They fanned out to high-visibility spots, had themselves photographed personally padlocking lotto outlets that, just a day ago, were legitimate and legal franchises from the government, and draped the shuttered outlets with police yellow lines — as if a crime had been committed in these places.
By Monday, the PNP had closed down 20,241 STL outlets, 6,313 lotto outlets, 2,762 Peryahan ng Bayan, 778 Keno and 190 STL drawing centers, suddenly stripping at least 120,000 gaming operators and staff members of their livelihood.
The week’s befuddling tone was set early with the President’s statement in his Monday Sona that China was “in possession” of the West Philippine Sea and that it was “claiming all the resources there as an owner,” thus his administration’s light-handed approach in dealing with the flexing superpower.
The alarming national-security implications of that seeming concession immediately triggered an outcry from various quarters, and was contradicted the next day by no less than National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
China was not “in possession” of the West Philippine Sea, only “in position” as it had admittedly built artificial islands in the area, said Esperon.
For presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, it was all much ado over pronunciation: “possession-position,” potahto-potayto, what’s the fuss?
The frenzy over the President’s words were still not over when the Palace triggered another round with the announcement that Mr. Duterte had vetoed the security of tenure bill he had previously certified as urgent.
Malacañang rolled out the news in a startlingly shambolic, muddled manner: Panelo first announced it, then took it back supposedly because the President’s decision wasn’t final yet, and then confirmed it the next day, to livid cries from the labor sector that had pinned their hopes on the President’s promise.
The meltdown of the anti-“endo” push also left lawmakers dazed and confused, as they had dutifully cobbled together the bill just as the President had directed in last year’s Sona, only for it to be struck down at the last minute.
Completing the trifecta of pronouncements from left field, and further underlining what has become the prevailing state of ill-advised decision-making and governance by whim (or pique) by the President, was the surprise suspension of PCSO operations, without even a perfunctory investigation to serve as basis for that sweeping action.
Panelo said Mr. Duterte “will identify the culprits in due time and the full force of the law will come crashing down on them.” It was only this Monday, however, that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a probe and case buildup, and file charges if necessary.
Accuse first, then let the state agencies scramble for evidence to support the charges — that, unfortunately, has become the administration’s hallmark.
Why raze the entire structure of the PCSO to exterminate the colony of termites inside?
The President has billions of pesos in intelligence funds at his disposal — so who are these people he accuses of “massive corruption” in the state lottery and gaming operations, and what evidence does the government have against them, such that it would warrant the blanket cancellation of legitimate businesses by small-time franchisees and the wholesale displacement of workers who have nothing to do with the rot at the top?
(Panelo: “I’m sure those affected are not that poor.”)
As with all shock-and-awe operations by this administration, it needs to be asked: What’s the real potato here?
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