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Du30’s war against women–and all of us

When faced with a competent, outspoken and, yes, feisty woman in the course of a debate or heated discussion, some men react in one of two extremes. Either they bend over backward to treat their opponent with excessive gallantry and patronizing politeness, sending a veiled message about their own superiority and magnanimity, or they bring up matters completely extraneous to the argument, designed to embarrass and intimidate. Among these tactics is to allude to the woman’s physical appearance, or her age, or her sexuality. Or they bring up her private sex life, who she is (or is not) sleeping with; they scrutinize her romantic life and entanglements as if these were matters of public concern or national security.

President Du30 has often showed these two extremes of behavior. After heaping scorn on Vice President Leni Robredo and refusing even to invite her to his inauguration, he lavished her with faint praise over her attractiveness and youthfulness when they finally got to meet personally. Perhaps he hoped Robredo would be so swept away by the flattery that she would immediately fall into swooning fandom. I’m glad no such thing has happened and the Veep continues to stick by her principles even if these be contrary to presidential policy.

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And now, in reaction to Sen. Leila de Lima’s announcement that she would preside over a Senate inquiry into the extrajudicial killing of nearly 1,000 suspected drug users and pushers, he has lashed out at her personally. The President accused the senator of having, as the jeepney-bumper banners put it, a “driver sweet lover” who is also, he alleged, her bagman for payoffs from drug lords.

Accusations regarding the senator’s alleged involvement in the drug trade should be the subject of a formal investigation and the filing of formal charges, if these be warranted. But Leila de Lima’s love life? What has that got to do with the price of rice?

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De Lima’s colleague, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, has issued a formal statement not necessarily in defense of the former justice secretary but also reiterating her deep-seated principles as a woman and activist. “They are misogynistic,” says Hontiveros of the President’s remarks concerning the senator, noting that his latest statement establishes “a consistent and disturbing pattern which is prejudicial to women.”

The attack on De Lima, says Hontiveros, is “an awful display of ‘ad hominem politics.’” She notes that the President gave “a premium to personal attacks over real arguments, and appealed to prejudices rather than discourse.”

After all, De Lima—or any other senator, for that matter—is entirely within her rights to call for an investigation into the “EJKs,” carrying out her oversight duties as a member of the legislature.

Which is why the broadside issued by the President is not only ungentlemanly but also undemocratic. It seems designed to stifle a legitimate, even necessary, function in the course of carrying out the “checks and balances” between the three branches of government. What is the President so afraid of? Or has he become so arrogant he would brook no objections, answer no questions, tolerate no doubts about his war on drugs? Even if this is turning into a war against his own people.

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Former tourism secretary Bertie Lim, who used to sit as a member of the government panel in talks with foreign airlines, writes in to argue with some points raised by tourism figure Robert Lim Joseph contesting a policy limiting the role of private local airlines in these talks to that of observers.

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The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), says Lim, is the industry regulator “with a mandate to work for the national interest, which is not just the interest of our airlines (or ‘producers’) but includes that of our ‘consumers’—i.e., tourists, other travelers, foreign investors, OFWs, exporters and importers whose cargoes ride in plane bellies, and all the industries that benefit from tourism (accommodations, manufacturing, food, transportation, etc.).” One of the reforms introduced by then President Fidel Ramos, Lim points out, was Executive Order No. 219 that specifically gives priority to the interests of the consumer over those of the producer.

Despite the government’s efforts to prioritize the interests of the traveling public, adds Lim, “the dominant airline continued to capture the regulator and monopolize the industry as (former president) GMA ignored the policy. The result was less competition, high prices, poor service.” And one of the ways by which the “dominant airline” held sway was by “sitting as official member of the negotiating panels,” virtually dictating which country to negotiate with, the number of frequencies to negotiate for, fifth freedom rights, etc.

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Contrary to Lim Joseph’s assertion, says the former tourism secretary, “other countries do not include airline reps in their negotiating panels,” with panel members of “self-respecting” countries comprised only of government officials “to avoid the appearance of undue influence of narrow interests.”

Lim adds that there already exists a mechanism where the private sector can make itself heard, and invited to CAB hearings “to determine the appropriate balance between consumer and producer interests, and even between the competing needs of airlines.” The airlines, he points out, can still sit in the bilateral negotiations as observers, with the Philippines probably the only country that even allows airline reps to do so.

Allowing the airlines back into the negotiating panels, says Lim, is a “step backward.” He expresses the hope that Transportation Secretary Art Tugade “understands the need for CAB to be independent.”

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TAGS: Alberto Lim, Arthur Tugade, Leila de Lima, leni robredo, Risa Hontiveros, Robert Lim Joseph, Rodrigo Duterte
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