Pubdate: Wed, 31 Aug 2016
Source: Philippine Star (Philippines)
Column: Sketches
Copyright: PhilSTAR Daily Inc. 2016
Author: Ana Marie Pamintuan


When the late Rafael Salas became the first head of the United 
Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) in 1969, among his 
young recruits was Cecile Joaquin.

Cecile was still working in New York in what was renamed the UN 
Population Fund when she met a Filipino lawyer some years later. The 
lawyer, Perfecto Yasay Jr., traveled the world after being named vice 
president of the international YMCA when he was just in his early 
20s. Romance bloomed between the two, which led to marriage.

During the Ramos administration, Yasay was named chairman of the 
Securities and Exchange Commission while Cecile headed the Population 
Commission. A common quip about the couple was that Yasay controlled 
the SEC while his wife controlled the sex.

The pair never forgot the international environment that brought them 
together. Now the nation's top diplomat, Yasay would not say if their 
jaws dropped when President Duterte warned that the Philippines would 
withdraw from the UN amid criticism of the drug-related killings. But 
Yasay stressed that the Philippines did not intend to leave the UN, 
of which the country is a founding member.

Instead Yasay told Asian journalists the other day that the President 
was merely "frustrated" with the UN. Among the frustrations and 
"disappointments," Yasay told participants in the Japan-ASEAN Media 
Forum in Manila, was that the UN simply paid "lip service" to its 
avowed commitment to fight the drug menace. And the fight is often 
stymied, Yasay told us, by those defending the rights of drug dealers.

While the Duterte administration understood the UN's role in keeping 
the peace and balancing conflicting interests, Yasay said people must 
also express their frustration over the lack of progress in the world 
body's campaign against illegal drugs.

President Rody is fulminating against the UN's condemnation of the 
drug-related deaths in the Philippines, now approaching 2,000. Yasay 
said the President "stands firm against extrajudicial killings... 
he's very firm on this."

There is also no legal basis, Yasay said, to hale his boss before a 
UN tribunal for crimes against humanity. This is merely opposition 
"propaganda" with "malicious and unfounded basis," Yasay told over 20 
senior journalists from Southeast Asia, Japan, China and India who 
participated in the media forum sponsored by the Japan Foundation 
Asia Center. The forum at the Shangri-La EDSA ended yesterday.

* * *

As we know, Yasay's principal had a more succinct comment on crimes 
against humanity: drug suspects aren't human.

Yasay, one of the officials who find themselves regularly putting out 
fires set off by Dirty Rody, was not asked for comment on that. But 
the foreign affairs chief, like another "firefighter" of the 
administration, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, seems to 
have gotten used to his role. Yasay gamely fielded questions on 
foreign policy throughout a two-hour dinner, just like Andanar did 
over a working lunch the other day on a wide range of issues, with no 
answer off the record or on background.

Fielding questions from us probably prepped them for Dirty Rody's 
first foreign trip as president  to Brunei and then Laos for his 
first ASEAN summit, and then on to Jakarta where he and Indonesian 
President Joko Widodo may exchange notes on their support for capital 
punishment and a tough stance on drugs. It's uncertain if President 
Rody will plead with "Jokowi" for the life of Mary Jane Veloso, the 
Filipina migrant worker who remains on death row in Indonesia for 
heroin trafficking.

Yasay pointed out to us that not a single ASEAN member has issued a 
statement condemning the Philippines' relentless drug war. But then 
this region is not known for adherence to the Universal Declaration 
of Human Rights.

Dirty Rody isn't the first ASEAN leader to launch a bloody war on 
drugs in the recent past. About 3,000 drug suspects were killed in 
Thailand in three months before the government of Thaksin Shinawatra 
eased up on the campaign amid international condemnation. Myanmar, 
part of the opium-producing Golden Triangle together with Laos and 
Thailand, is said to be interested in duplicating the harsh Duterte 
campaign against drug traffickers.

* * *

Both Yasay and Andanar give the polite versions of Dirty Rody's 
rationales for the brutal drug war.

The drug menace, Andanar told the media forum, has become "a 
pandemic" - an extraordinary problem calling for extraordinary solutions.

He said the government has identified three major concerns of the 
masses: shelter, food and safety. The first two are being addressed, 
and "clearly what is lacking is security." The crime rate was down 40 
percent last month, he said, compared to July 2015.

Dirty Rody is simply doing what voters expect him to do, both 
officials stressed; he had warned of a bloody war on drugs during the 
campaign, and he won by a landslide.

When someone pointed out that Duterte's harsh statements were 
damaging the country, Andanar urged the foreign media to look at the 
other policies of the government.

A journalist asked: why doesn't someone try to "control" Dirty Rody? 
"You cannot change the President," Andanar replied.

Andanar, a former news anchor himself, tossed to the foreign 
journalists a favorite question of the President: given a choice 
between protecting 700,000 families and over 100 million other 
people, who would you save? None of the forum participants offered to comment.

"Our President is now the most popular president in the world," 
Andanar told the forum, apparently referring to Duterte's 92 percent 
national trust ratings, and citing comparisons with Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew.

Asked when the vicious drug war might stop, Andanar replied, "Until 
our streets are given back to our children."

Even before that happens, he invited the critical foreign media to go 
around the country and see for themselves the impact of the drug war.

As for the presidential mouth that needs washing with soap, Andanar 
commented, "The President speaks his own mind. He got to where he is 
because he's a tactician."

Can the foul mouth be tempered? "You cannot manage the President," 
Andanar replied.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom