The Southeast Asian Times

Singapore and Brunei high on lack of freedom list
For press freedom in ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 23 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 21 April 2019

Re: “Extraditions are not about justice”, in Bangkok Post, Opinion, April 20.
Mr Sadoff is right that when extradition attempts fail, the person under
indictment can be exterminated by other means.
Unfortunately, he did not mention drastic and deadly action mostly illegal under international laws that a state can take, such as clandestine operations, including abduction and murder.
The USA made many attempts to extradite Osama bin Laden but the several countries suspected of hiding him claimed that they did not know about his whereabouts.
Ultimately, bin Laden was found in Pakistan and killed by a US Seal team in
Although illegal, the Seal team’s bold raid to take down bin Laden was an
extraordinary operation which most legal experts, journalists, and media
mavericks in the West regarded as a resounding success.
It is also clear that most of the authoritarian states do not really care about
press freedom or international treaties.
In 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Thailand ranked 136 out of 180 countries.
Singapore is ranked 151, and Brunei leads the pack 152/180 for lack of press
freedom among its peers in the Asean.
When it comes to press freedom, in most Asian countries, the extraditions and exterminations are not about justice.

Kuldeep Nagi,

Who wants to assassinate Philippine President Duterte?
Not the Communist Party of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 20 April 2019

Who wants to assassinate President Duterte?
Not the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Founder and chairman of the Philippines Communist Party, Joma Sison, himself said he wants Mr. Duterte alive so he can be held accountable for the injustices, impunity and violence under his administration.
So, is it the opposition?
They have big brave hearts, but are miniscule in number.
The “yellows”?
Certainly not.
They are politically and economically entrenched; they wouldn’t rock the boat.
How about the “masa”?
With neither public relations men nor spokespersons to tell their stories of woe, they suffer in silence.
Only the four walls of their shanties bear witness to their pain, hunger, grief and anger.
Hopeless and defenseless, they can only grit their teeth and clench their fists in frustration.
So who is out to get Mr. Duterte?

Evelyn Silay,

Wake up call for sitting Filipino judges
Who think and act like tyrants
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 April 2019

With reference to the news item, “CA orders recall of arrest warrant vs Du30 critic” April 14, 2019, we find it disheartening how retired Cavite Regional Trial Court judge Emily Alino Geluz got away with her gross ignorance of the law so easily.
For a mere infraction of the rules on Mandatory Continuing Legal Education, she ordered the imprisonment of a lawyer for not paying the fine imposed on him.
The rules promulgated by the Supreme Court only authorize the striking out of pleadings and filing of charges for disciplinary action including disbarment against such a lawyer, before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) submits recommendations to the high court for final disposition.
The former trial judge treated the fine she imposed as subject to “subsidiary imprisonment” if unpaid, as if there was a conviction for a criminal offense.
The Court of Appeals ruled it was patently wrong and voided the arrest warrant. Case closed?
This is one major flaw in our justice system.
Why was the trial judge not held to account for her gross ignorance of the law?
So she has retired, big deal.
She still receives her pension, courtesy of taxpayer money.
Why not go after that, or better still, charge her before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for some disciplinary action as a lawyer?
Tinkering with people’s liberty is not something to be simply sneezed at.
That should serve as a wake-up call to numerous sitting judges who think and act like tyrants - that they can still be held accountable even after retirement, which should not be thought of as a pass to immunity and impunity.
If nothing else happens to errant judges whose bad decisions only get reversed, many of them will continue to behave like tyrants, or worse, like mercenaries.

Arnulfo M. Edralin,

Intolerance of China towards religion
No surprise to Filipino's
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 16 April 2019

I was recently mistaken for a Chinese national at our bazaar.
The young man spoke to me in Mandarin, thinking I was from the mainland.
He was very surprised when I spoke to him in fluent English, explaining that I am a Filipino.
But that did not discourage him from pursuing a conversation with me and my partner.
We were able to do this, thanks to the translator app in his smartphone.
At first, I was very suspicious of the man since I am very critical of how China has been treating the Philippines, not to mention the loud and rude behavior of some of his countrymen while based here in our country.
At one point, I even asked him bluntly if he was a soldier.
He denied this.
From our dialogue, he confided that he has been working in the Philippines for three years in an IT company.
He also admitted that he is a Christian, making the sign of the Cross while divulging this information.
From there, our discussion covered the policies of China, which, according to him, were oppressive.
With his consent, I took pictures of his responses and thoughts regarding his country’s governance.
I was not at all surprised about the intolerance of China toward other religions.
In fact, some Catholic churches in China have been torn down while followers have been harrassed, persecuted, jailed and even tortured.
That, he said, was one reason why he decided to work here, because of the freedom to practice one’s faith.
He also found Filipinos very kind.
Was I taken for a ride?
Was I gullible?
I will never know, until circumstances prove otherwise.
But I felt so ashamed for having been too critical of most Chinese from the mainland.
It never occurred to me that, maybe, some of them saw an opportunity to flee their country because of its oppressive regime.
It turns out we might have some things in common after all, aside from a shared ancient heritage.
Lesson learned: Do not generalize.

Charlie Laureta,


The pro- Royal Thai Armed Forces party
Won the popular vote in Thai elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 9 April 2019

Some of your American letter writers here have voiced that the winner of an
election should be decided by popular votes.
How do they feel now when the wrong party for them turned out to get the most
popular votes here in Thailand.
Not a few hundred or thousand, but seemingly at least half a million more votes.
Do you still stand for popular votes as most democratic - or is it only when it
fits your political agenda?

A. Johnsen,


Self determination in Muslim Mindanao
Includes increase in income similar to Kuwait
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 1 April 2019

There are good indications that the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) will succeed, except for Nur Misuari’s threat of waging war if federalism is not considered under the very nose of President Duterte and his top security advisers.
Misuari did not elaborate what type of federalism he is asking for, and he seems to be not fully aware that the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) features have a semblance of the federalism espoused by former Senate president Nene Pimentel.
I was in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) area more than a week ago, and I noticed all top-rated hotels in Cotabato City were fully booked with foreign visitors.
Photocopying and blue printing shops were busy reproducing land titles, location maps, copies of Malls of Asia (MoA) and deeds of sale, signifying an upbeat business atmosphere after the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL)
I learned that the leaders of the transition government are attempting to increase the per capita income of Muslims in the area to a level similar to Kuwait’s GDP per capita $69,700 as of 2017 estimate from the Philippines’ GDP of $10,000 (2017 estimate).
This is a realistic target, considering the millions of barrels of gas and oil deposits in Liguasan Marsh that belong to the
Filipino Muslims.
Let us pray to Allah that progress and peace will reign forever in the Muslim region.

Isidro C Valencia,


Is Philippine President Duterte looking for an excuse
To declare martial law?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 16 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 15 April 2019

So, the onion-skinned, trash-talking gunslinger from Davao, who rants and raves at perceived enemies, brandishes the middle finger, bullies and jails those who dare criticize him, whose self-created image of himself is as a tough guy, is afraid for his life after all.
He was seen behind a bulletproof glass during a speech in Malabon last week.
One wonders how much that glass cost the taxpayer?
So, who would want to kill him?
Not the majority of his constituents who, according to surveys, trust him.
Certainly not the Philippine National Police or the Armed Forces whose collective balls are under his control.
Not the opposition - they’re not crazy.
Perhaps the New People’s Army? Or, more likely, anyone of the surviving kin of those poor, lowly drug addicts in the slums of the metropolis, terminated (there is no more apt word, except murdered) in his brutal war on drugs, who are brave enough to exact revenge?
His fears are imaginary.
Is he looking for an excuse to declare martial law?
Now he threatens us with a revolutionary war/government if pressed against the wall.
Who is pressing?

Robert Alvarez Hyndman,


Support for Thai state-run enterprise
To join anti-corruption integrity pact
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 15 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 9 April 2019

Re: "Graft board asks AoT for 'clear' bids", in Bangkok Post, April 5.
I strongly support Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) chairman Vichien Phongsathorn in ACT's insistence that the Airports of Thailand (AoT), as a state-run enterprise, join an integrity pact to prevent graft during the bidding process to run the duty-free shops at AoT's four airports.I strongly support Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) chairman Vichien Phongsathorn in ACT's insistence that the Airports of Thailand (AoT), as a state-run enterprise, join an integrity pact to prevent graft during the bidding process to run the duty-free
shops at AoT's four airports.
Such pacts will be essential in protecting the nation's interests as opposed to
just those of AoT.
"Under the Integrity Pact, a third party or "independent observer" from the civil sector (will be) added (to) the process, starting from creating the Terms of Reference (ToR) to the end of the agreement. To create a transparent and fair process of procurement, this participation enables the third party to observe and monitor risks to any corruption that may happen in the procurement process" (source: ACT's website).
The independent observer from the civil sector should have the right to issue a
minority report in any matter for which a vote is taken, and have the same
rights and compensation as any other member in the vetting process, including
the right to documentation that he/she deems necessary.
The airports should be run for Thailand's interests as a whole, since travellers
are a lucrative, high-income captive audience that's vital to our country's
growth, and airports tend to be natural monopolies.
Companies would be delighted to "lend" any number of Richard Miles watches, etc. to influence the selection process, and integrity pacts, vigorously implemented, would be a strong deterrent to temptation.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should fight corruption with more than words -
starting with having integrity pacts in all matters related to AoT's awarding of

Burin Kantabutra,

Call for apology or compensation from Philippine President
For extraducial killings in war on drugs
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 14 April 2019
First published in the Phippine Inquirer, Thursday 11 April 2019

The extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the name of President Duterte’s drug war have reached thousands.
But has this administration solved the problem?
“Shabu” just keeps coming in.
In fairness to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, some of the shipments have been intercepted.
These days, the President is into brandishing “narcolists.”
Mayors and other public officials, even police officials, are on the lists.
Judges and celebrities, too.
The lists remain pending, waiting for validation, officials say.
But this process of validation was not, is not, applied on the powerless and the helpless.
They were/are simply shot to death by extrajudicial means.
Church leaders and bishops have denounced the EJKs.
And for doing so, they reap the most horrible and vile counterattacks from the President.
Months ago, he warned that his drug war would become even more chilling.
But, perhaps seeing now that “tokhang” is not the solution, the President has begun to say he is getting tired and cannot do anything anymore.
But that’s like saying the merciless, violent “tokhang” operations were just an experiment (though he does not say he is giving them up).
A mindless, terrifying experiment that has cost thousands of lives, with families and local communities bearing the pain, the fear, the anger.
Will we see any kind, any gesture, of apology or compensation from the President for this?

Sister Marissa Piramide, OSB,
Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing,
Manila Priory,


The pro- Royal Thai Armed Forces party
Won the popular vote in Thai elections
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 9 April 2019

Some of your American letter writers here have voiced that the winner of an
election should be decided by popular votes.
How do they feel now when the wrong party for them turned out to get the most
popular votes here in Thailand.
Not a few hundred or thousand, but seemingly at least half a million more votes.
Do you still stand for popular votes as most democratic -- or is it only when it
fits your political agenda?

A. Johnsen,

Filipino's forced to leave their homes
In battle between AFP and NPA
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 April 2019

Because of the encounter between the Armed Forces of the Philippine's (AFP) army and the New Peoples Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the residents of Barangay Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, Philippines were forced to evacuate their homes.
My family is one of the evacuees.
I am disgusted with the New Peoples' Army (NPA).
They give us a great deal of chaos.
The resident’s livelihoods are greatly affected.
My children’s studying is interrupted just because of them.
Just being constantly worried for my loved ones’ security is a big burden.
I’m sure there’s a lot more people like me who are concerned about what’s going on.
It’s not just the 1,700 residents of Barangay Quintin Remo that they’re infesting, they have been dragging mayhem to other places.
It’s enough we can’t take it anymore.
We support the government’s move on eradicating the New Peoples Army (NPA)s and I hope they won’t spare even one terrorist.
We badly want this to end immediately.

Maricor Salvador,


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Is not above the law and the constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 April 2019

The Philippine Supreme Court order for the release of tens of thousands of documents relating to the extrajudicial killings, both by vigilantes and police in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs ( Southeast Asian Times 10/4/19 ) is an exemplary example of a truly independent court of law doing what it's meant to do in a democracy : uphold the rule of law without fear or favour.
The Supreme Court rejected the Solicitor General's argument that " the release of the documents was a risk to national security" on the grounds that " the documents do not involve rebellion, invasion, terrorism, espionage, infringement of Philippines sovereignty, or any military, diplomatic or state secret".
It has become commonplace in many democratic countries around the world for state authorities to invoke " national security " concerns to circumvent citizens fundamental democratic rights and freedoms.
The Philippine Supreme Court did not buy that spurious state argument.
The Philippine Supreme Court order is a clear reminder that the law of the land is meant for everyone to adhere to, including the President.
The President is not above the law and the country's constitution.
So long as we have a court of law conduct itself in the courageous manner in which the Philippine Supreme Court has demonstrated, dictatorship, tyranny and a " reign of terror " can never acquire a permanent foothold in a democracy.
Other countries in the region should study this Philippine Supreme Court order and draw valuable lessons from it to keep their country solidly anchored in democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Rajend Naidu,

Support for protest marches against
"That big bully north of the Philippines"
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 5 April 2019

I join Filipinos who applauded and cheered for Albert del Rosario and Conchita Carpio Morales in their gigantic endeavor to uphold the independence of our country against the undisguised tyranny of China and its master, Xi Jinping.
The charges filed against China and Xi in the International Criminal Court (ICC) show that there are still those who will honorably defend our country even against overbearing giants.
China will probably just shrug off the charges by not answering the ICC, just as it had done before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
But isn’t the People’s Republic of China a member of the United Nations?
Did it not sign any commitment to follow UN rules when it dislodged the Republic of China as a permanent member of the UN?
If it did and it will not follow what it had agreed to, it is, as far as I am concerned, a giant of a hypocrite.
I do not like to join protest marches, although I did join once against Joseph Estrada.
But if there is one to be organized and scheduled by concerned Filipinos in support of Del Rosario and Morales, I will join, even if I am 78 years old and not as sprightly as before.
History passed me by when Marcos was deposed in February 1986, since I was not in the country, and that was something that has always rankled me.
I will join history this time if only to join any march for these two sterling Filipinos, and against that big bully north of the Philippines.

Rocky B Denoga,

Philippines call for arbitration proceedings with China
To be held in Singapore
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 April 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 5 April 2019

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo says the Philippines will never default in its obligations to China.
But supposing the work of the Chinese engineers on the China-funded projects is highly defective so that the Philippines refuses to pay the loan?
There will then be arbitration in China. Will the Chinese arbitrators side with the Philippines?
They will, of course, declare the Philippines in default.
The Philippines needs good lawyers to go over the loan agreements.
The first thing they should do is to disapprove arbitration proceedings in China and insist on arbitration in a neutral country, perhaps Singapore.

Rene Torres,

Malaysia's withdrawal from International Criminal Court (ICC)
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 April 2019

On 4 April we read on The Star Online Malaysia's PM Dr Mahathir statement regarding the wastefulness and absurdity of spending so much money on war technology essentially to enhance our ability to kill people ( ' Dr M: So much money spent on how to kill people' ) and we think wow what progressive leadership is that.
Then the very next day we read again on The Star Online ' Country turned back on its commitment over Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) , says Amnesty International Malaysia' and we think wow what backward/regressive leadership is that!
The later suggests Malaysia seems more concerned about preserving the feudalistic privileges of its monarchy than with being a responsible global citizen concerned with the protection and wellbeing of humanity.
That's a shame.

Rajend Naidu,

Curruption is normal in Papua New Guinea
Despite Christians in the parliament
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 7 April 2019
First published in the National, Thursday 4 April 2019

Many Citizens believed that by voting faithful Christians into the Parliament that would change our country.
Many were voted in with the hope of making differences in the past 43 years.
We proclaims ourselves as a Christian country and so we are all Christians.
Despite, changes made in the governing system corruption become tradition and norm in Papua New Guines (PNG) politics.
Who and what type of person will totally transform Papua New Guinea (PNG) in terms of economy, military, education, agriculture, technology and most importantly empower the lives of our local populace.
Let me give an example with international leaders.
Adolf Hitler is known as extremist and world deadliest leader but, one important thing you could learn from him is the patriotism. He put his national sovereignty first.
He wanted to build the legacy of Germans, that’s how he become powerful.
Nelson Mandela the first South African President. He is long remembered throughout globe because of his vision and heart he has for his people. He sacrifice everything including his life for the sake of people.
He became the father of Apartheid which he unite the Black with the Whites just same as Dr Martin Luther King Jnr did in USA.
We also have Mahatma Ghandi in India, which he use peace as a strategy to remove all the foreign powers or domain in his country.
Now the whole point is, I don’t want to talk about history but, when you read the stories of the great leaders above, you will learn that they were man OF VISIONS and were great patriot of their respective countries.
They love their people more like their own precious lives.
They were courageous, brave, fearless, eloquent and transformative.
They have determination, willingness and enthusiasts’ heart so they made it happen for their people.
In Papua New Guiea (PNG) context we have Bryan Kramer who is a real patriot of Papua New Guinea (PNG).
I am not being bias here to support BK but, as a matter of fact I am articulating what I think is true.
It’s time we Papua New Guineans work together and stand with person who has a vision and burning desire to serve us with dignity, accountability, transparency and honesty.

Nason Mul Solo,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Call for Philippine government to do something
About Chinese vessel in West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 April 2019

It is with great dismay that I write this letter as I express my agony on the recent issue of a Chinese vessel in Lobo, Batangas, Philippines.
The world knows that Chinese aggression is still happening in the West Philippine Sea.
And just recently, a Chinese vessel, 2,990-ton MV Emerald, a hopper dredger, dropped anchor 500 meters from the 30-hectare mangrove reserve of Lagadlarin village in Lobo.
This vessel has no right to enter the Philippine territory.
The local government of Lobo expressed their concern on the said issue.
The entrance of China vessel in that area can cause environmental destruction.
And that is a concern that needs to be dealt with accordingly.
Lobo is part of the Verde Island Passage, a marine sanctuary considered by scientists as the world’s center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity.
The ship’s anchor might have already damaged the sea grass, a breeding ground for fish and sea turtles.
The Philippine government must do something to address this issue.
Likewise, I appeal to the Chinese government if they still have respect to the authorities and to the Filipino people to stop their actions in West Philippine Sea.

Regine Mamagat-Agapay

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak
Says he has done nothing wrong
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 April 2019

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak has pleaded not guilty in his corruption trial saying he has done nothing wrong.
Under his rule, when he had absolute power over the country's public purse, billions of dollars disappeared from the state development fund ( 1 MDB ).
A good amount of that money found its way into Najib Razak's personal bank.
The stolen money was used to support the lavish lifestyle of Razak, his family and his cronies.
Najib's plea of not guilty is understandable.
Some political leaders don't thinking looting from the public purse amounts to wrongdoing!

Rajend Naidu

Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
Watches new boys on the block
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 April 2019

If two Sydney councillors - one a former mayor and the other a Liberal councillor - can be referred to the state's corruption watchdog over a Chinese trip they took with a developer, whose multi-million dollar projects they helped to push through without declaring any conflict of interest ( ' Sydney councillors referred to corruption watchdog over China trip' Sydney Morning Herald 2/4/19 ), imagine what it must be like in poorer places like Papua New Guinea (PNG) and other small Pacific island countries, with a relatively weak tradition of democratic accountability?
What kind of influence must developers have over local political leaders?
Is it any wonder the inroad the new boys on the block are making in the region and beyond?

Rajend Naidu,

No voices raised over 2004 massacre
At Krue Se mosque in southern Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 30 March 2019

The international media reported that Britain's Prince William would travel to
New Zealand to add royal support and sympathy to the victims of the mosque
massacre earlier this month in New Zealand.
This happened in a western country with the entire world looking on.
The irony is that no one raised a voice internationally when the then Thaksin Shinawatra administration ordered the crackdown on the Muslim community at the Krue Se mosque in Thailand's deep South in 2004.
Thaksin walked away free, without any accusation of murder or guilt by the Thais
or the international community.
I guess events in Thailand do not rate international recognition, except in the event of a coup of course.
Then every idiot in every government worldwide shouts to be the first to condemn.

David James Wong

Why can't the Thai Electoral Commission
Count the New Zealand postal votes ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 April 2019

I write to say I agree 100 percent with what a fellow letter writer Burin Kantabutra says in his letter 31/3/19 regarding the Thai Electoral Commission's decision not to count the postal votes from NZ.
That diminishes Thailand's democracy or rather return to democracy.
I would be grateful if my message could be passed onto him.
Best regards,

Rajend Naidu


Thai's Future Forward Party
Warned not to push thier luck
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 April 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 30 March 2019

Re: "No political savvy", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, March 27
John Hancock observed that to avoid a future coup, "a constitution needs to be
worth more than the paper it's printed on"
He did not elaborate how could that sort of a coup-less constitution be written. Britain does not have a written constitution and its democracy thrives even under the current Brexit crisis.
The answer is in those political players who do not push their luck too far in
giving any excuses to the army to come out of army camps.
With social networking, a coup cannot be carried out as easily as before.
We should always remind the army of the Tunisian experience with networking on Facebook and Twitter that brought about the Arab Spring.
The last democratic government under Yingluck Shinawatra gave that excuse to the
army when her party tried to bring Thaksin Shinawatra back as free of guilt.
That pushed their luck and brought out some reasonable men and women to the
streets with the resultant impasse.
Commander-in-Chief, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, came out and under the pretext of an umpire and asked the government's caretaker justice minister, Chaikasem Nitisiri, whether the government was ready to resign.
Bombastically, the reply was "As of this minute, the government will not

The reply was rightfully as bombastic: "So, as of this minute, I decide
to seize ruling power"
with prepared troops outside the Army Club.
What is the lesson one learns from this conversation?
It is don't ever give them an excuse to bring out the tanks.
Go backwards and wait for a better day in the future!
I hope very much Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the Future Forward Party's
leader, remembers when one can push one's luck and when not to push one's luck
too far.
Like the advice of that great golfer, Ben Hogan, who said that when you
hold a golf club to hit a ball, don't hold it too tight as you could choke the
club and don't hold it too lightly so that you cannot control the club!

Songdej Praditsmanont,


Call for Thai Election Commission
To count late New Zealand ballots
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 31 Marh 2019
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 29 March 2019

A conscientious Election Commission (EC) would have counted the 1,500 ballots from New Zealand that arrived at their precincts after ballot counting had begun.
True, the law allows for them to not be counted, but a duty-bound, proactive Election Commission (EC) would have noted that the ballots' delay was not any fault of the voters, nor had they been tampered with en route.
An Election Commission (EC) motivated by the spirit of the law would not have used the letter of the law as an excuse; it could have merely delayed certifying the count for the precincts in question for a day or two.
Such an Election Commission (EC) with no vision or motivation should find other jobs.

Burin Kantabutra

Time will tell if challenge
To Thai military rule is successful
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 March 2019

We read in The Southeast Asian Times headline article 'Seven-party coalition to stop return of military rule in Thailand' ( 28/3/19 ) that according to Sudarat Keyuraphan, the coalition's choice for prime minister, her party and its six allies "stand firm in their determination to prevent Gen Prayut Chan-o-Cha from remaining in power".
She claims that "pro-democracy parties had the mandate to form a coalition government".
Time will tell whether they succeed in stopping a return to military rule.
They are certainly putting up a strong and united challenge to the military junta that has been in power since the coup of 2014.

Rajend Naidu,


Almost of business in Papua New Guinea
Is owned and run by expatriates
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 March 2019
First published in the National, Sunday 24 March 2019

I see that nearly all retail and wholesale outlets are owned and run by expatriates in Jiwaka.
Local landowners and retailers and those who own land and buildings seem to be giving in to rental deals.
Locals buy items from these outlets - including counterfeit products - in bulks and then resell them in black markets.
How can we Papua New Guineans be successful with small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) if we allow foreigners to dominate the market?
On one hand we create an Small to Mediam Enterprise (SME) programme that is intended to help local people and on the other hand we invite foreigners to invest and operate in the province and the country at large.
Jiwaka’s business development office should review and vet the participation of foreigners in the retail sector to ensure locals get a chance.
We know that the provincial government is collecting revenue in the form of goods and services tax but that should not lead to less opportunities for local businesspeople.

Jim Hemilton Kolip,
Dongamp Parra Express,
Papua New Guineas

Time will tell if the pro-Royal Thai Armed Forces party
Won the popular vote
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 March 2019

Reading through the Reuter's article 'Charges of cheating amid confusion over Thailand's election result' (in The Fiji Times 27/3 ) I get the distinct impression that the first post coup election, instead of delivering a return to democracy has exposed the modus operandi *of the military junta set on staying on in power by adorning itself in a democratic garb.
The military coup ousted PM Thaksin wrote an opinion piece from exile headlined ' The Election in Thailand Was Rigged' in the New York Times on Monday in which he says "I knew that the junta running Thailand wanted to stay in power, but I cannot believe how far it has gone to manipulate the general elections on Sunday".
Sudarat Keyuraphan, candidate for prime minister of the Pheu Thai Party, spells that out :
" We've voiced our concerns before for vote-buying, abuse of power, and cheating. All three have manifested". She goes on to tell a news conference " We will fight back through legal means".
With all the institutions of state effectively under the control of the junta it's hard to be optimistic about any such fight back.
Time will tell.

Rajend Naidu

Malaysia's human rights organisation
Condemns execution in Singapore
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 March 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 23 March 2019

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) non-government human rights organisation condemns the execution of Michael Anak Garing that took place in Singapore at dawn on Friday 22 March, 2019.
The death penalty will never provide justice.
Michael’s execution will not deter future crimes or undo the crime he committed. The death penalty merely endorses and repeats the violence and senseless loss of life inflicted by the accused through his crime, and legitimises violence.
The Malaysian government must learn from this senseless violence and ensure that Malaysia is set on a path to totally abolish the death penalty and not on a path to legitimise murder through the criminal justice system.
Suaram would also like to take the opportunity to extend our condolences to the family of Michael Anak Garing.

Sevan Doraisamy,
Executive Director,
Suara Rakyat Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur.

Papua New Guinea first in Asia-Pacific
To sign up with China"s Belt and Road Initiative
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 26 March 2019
First published in the National, Friday 22 March 2019

China is using its massive financial assets to dominate smaller economies through long-term control of infrastructures, natural resources and associated land assets by offering less-than-desirable credit terms for infrastructural loans.
Funding for the initiative is through China’s policy banks.
Another source for funding is the Beijing-based multilateral development bank Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The AIIB was created precisely to service projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, which Papua New Guinea was the first in our region to sign up to.
China wants to become the superpower.
One such policy, which is related to the Belt and Roadt Initiative, is debt-trap diplomacy.
China invests in our country to develop ports, airports, roads and other infrastructures and gives loan at lower rates.
In return you have to do business with the Chinese company that is involved in the projects.
China is supporting infrastructural projects in our country through aids and loans to the government.

SJK Ganio ,
Kumo Gere,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

Call for Philippine President Duterte
To uphold respect for religious beliefs
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer

Dear President Duterte,
It is a basic Filipino right to have freedom of expression, and also that everyone’s rights must be respected.
As you are looked up to as a role model in our country, we believe that respecting these rights should go both ways.
We respect that you have these views and opinions about our faith.
But, although we all have the right to freedom of expression, it is still important to remember that we must uphold respect for others and be more vigilant about what we say.
We understand that you have your own opinion on our religion because you see us from an outsider’s point of view.
In the same way, we too, are outsiders to your beliefs, yet we continue to uphold our respect toward you.
Your generalizations and comments regarding the leaders of our religion make your position as President questionable.
We acknowledge that your duty as our President comes with a lot of pressure and stress.
However, we believe that having an open mind toward the different cultures and beliefs of Filipinos would help unite our country amid our diversity.
President Duterte, please don’t take this matter lightly as it deals with the beliefs of the people who look up to you.

Isabell Martinne I. Crisologo,
Maria Elena Trinidad S. Daco,
Liandra Elise C. Espinosa,
Arianna Sofia D.C. Rosas,
Diane Andre M. Velasco
Grade 12, Paref Woodrose School

Call for information on how to vote
For Filipinos in comming elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 15 March 2019

Mr. Segundo Eclar Romero’s article, “Debates are for the electorate, not candidates” in Philippine Inquirer March 4, 2019 is extremely timely.
In the next few months, Filipinos would again flock to the voting booths to exercise their right of suffrage.
However, I have grave misgivings if the electorate has indeed the freedom to choose the right legislators who know how to craft laws, and elect governors, mayors and barangay leaders who know how to lead and govern.
How I wish the country could be transformed into a “classroom,” with the entire populace as “pupils” sitting attentively and listening to instructions on how the nation ought to choose its governors, and how it ought to be governed.
Our voters need correct education in this respect.
How long shall we wait for our people to be freed from the shackles of ignorance and political illiteracy?

Bob Gabuna,

Special corruption courts
To be established in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 March 2019
First published in the Star, Thursday 21 March 2019

The C4 Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism welcomes the announcement made by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that special courts to deal specifically with corruption cases will be set up.
These special courts are needed for greater efficiency in resolving corruption cases promptly.
Dr Mahathir reportedly said that the reason for establishing the special courts is because, currently, trials related to corruption are “considered ordinary trials, without any priority accorded to them” see “Special High Court and Special Appeals Court to speed up corruption cases” in the Star.
While it is a most necessary step forward in swiftly dealing with the corruption scourge, we ask the Pakatan Harapan government to clarify if this is a continuation of attempts by the previous government to create 18 special courts to fight corruption at the state level.
We ask what is the status of these 18 courts?
Was there no political will to see it through?
We note that Promise 19 in the Pakatan Manifesto – “To Restore Public Trust in Judicial and Legal Institutions” – has also been included in the National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023 under Strategic Objective 4:
To set up additional specialised corruption courts to manage the increased number of backlogged cases.
To prioritise for corruption cases to be handled by judges and public prosecutors who are trained and/or experienced in corruption cases.
This announcement comes at a critical time to restore faith in our criminal justice system.
While the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has investigative powers, and the Attorney-General has prosecutorial powers, judicial specialisation is a critical part of national anti-corruption reform strategies. It’s obvious the regime under former PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak failed to provide the necessary “oomph” and political will to make these special courts a functioning success.
It is now imperative that the Pakatan government clarify whether this special corruption court should adopt procedures that are substantially different from those of other criminal courts, with special provision for the selection, working conditions of the special corruption court judges, specific resources and expertise.
The details of such an important structural reform in the judiciary must have clarity of focus in upholding the rule of law, involve legal experts in developing clear and adequate terms of reference, and allow capacity building for members of the judiciary.
We hope the setting up of this special corruption court will expedite all corruption cases so we can recover as much of the nation’s lost money as possible before it becomes untraceable.

Cyntial Gabriel,
Executive Director
C4 Center (Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism)
Kuala Lumpur

Support for exposition of Non-Government Organisations
Financial support for Communist Party of the Philippines

The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 March 2019

I support the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) initiative to expose the evidence against the Karapatan Partylist and other Non Government Organizations (NGO) on their participation and support for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA).
It is truly time for the European Union (EU) to end their financial support for this group.
The Commission on Human Right must prove that they still have the integrity of being fair in their investigations on this matter since it seems that their office is the crying ground and comfort zone of the leftist organizations and other anti government individuals.
On the other hand, if I were an European Union (EU) official, I would find no need to present more evidence to prove that the Non-Government Organisations (NGO)s are truly supporting the terrorist New Peoples Army (NPA) since clear evidence was exposed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)) founder Joma Sison on a propaganda video and I think it strongly proves the accusation of the involvement of Karapatan parylist and other Non-Government Organisations (NGO)s.
And I am with Brigadier General Antonio Parlade in his challenge of Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay to have a debate so that truth will prevail.
If the secretary general Cristina Palabay has nothing to worry about and can truly defend the accusation against them, then there is nothing for her to worry about.

Romeo E. Alcoseba

Call for police to stop investigations
Into International Women's Day march in Kuala Lumpur
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 March 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 18 March 2019

I refer to the statement issued by the Jawatankuasa Hari Wanita Sedunia 2019 on March 14.
According to the statement, the organisers of the International Women’s Day march that took place in Kuala Lumpur on March 9 are being investigated by police under Section 9(1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA 2012) and Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act.
The investigations by the police are unwarranted, unnecessary and encroach upon the rights of the organisers of the march.
Media reports have shown that the organisers provided the requisite 10 days’ notice to the police.
There is no reason for the police to investigate the organisers under the PAA 2012, as the requirement under Section 9(1) of the Act appears to have been complied with.
As for the Sedition Act, it is a colonial vestige that is draconian, repressive, and has no place in any democratic country.
The Act contains provisions which are disproportionate and unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.
The use of the Act is also contrary to the Federal Government’s commitment to repeal the said Act.
Freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of assembly, are fundamental and inalienable rights which are guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
These rights should not be restricted or denied merely on the basis that the exercise of these rights is not consonant with the government’s position or is objectionable to some quarters of society.
Citizens in this country must be allowed their democratic right to dissent.
I therefore call upon the police to immediately cease all investigations against the organisers of the International Women’s Day march.

Syahredzan Johan,
Constitutional lawyer,

Call for Malaysians
To ensure racial and religious harmony
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 March 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 18 March 2019

The mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that left more than 50 people dead on Friday is a despicable crime that must be condemned in the strongest terms.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and injured, together with our heartfelt condolences to their families.
I also hope that everyone abides by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) reminder to social media users to not share the video recorded during the shooting incidents.
MCMC said that doing so could stir unrest or create unwanted incidents that could incite panic and anger among the public.
New Zealand police have also described the video as “extremely distressing” and urged web users not to share it.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern aptly described how the incident has caused one of her country’s “darkest days” and said the suspect holds “extremist views” that have no place in New Zealand or the world.
New Zealand is known as one of the safest countries in the world.
The fact that it could become a target shows that no country can take its safety and wellbeing for granted. Terrorism knows no boundaries and the world has to come together to defeat this menace.
Our government should cooperate with other countries to monitor and deal with violent extremism in this region, especially the exploitation of social media by extremists and terrorist groups.
The extremists have been using social media and the Internet to influence people for recruitment purposes.
Therefore, it is imperative that the government strengthen its monitoring of social media and the Internet to identify anyone promoting violence extremism.
More engagement programmes with all sections of society should be carried out effectively, as such efforts would be able to win the hearts and minds of impressionable people who might otherwise be drawn towards extremism and acts of violence.
The task at hand now for all Malaysians, irrespective of race, religion and political affiliation, is to ensure racial and religious harmony, and reject all forms of extremism that could undermine interracial and inter-religious peace and harmony.
History proves that Malaysia is able to overcome such challenges
if its people stand united to overcome adversity together.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye
Kuala Lumpur,


Expat retirees in Thailand
To maintain reserve fund
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 March 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 13 March 2019

Re: "Chasing expats out", in Bangkok Post, PostBag Saturday March 9, 2019.
My opinion related to the Immigration Department's requirements that foreigners
living in Thailand demonstrate financial reserves adequate to cover reasonable
living expenses and possible medical or other emergencies is likely to be
unpopular with some expats.
But, personally, I do not think it is unreasonable for the Thai government to
demand that foreigners living in the country - especially elderly retirees -
maintain a balance of at least 800,000 baht to cover unforeseen emergencies and
One could make a case for requiring a lower reserve fund balance for
retirees who can show proof of adequate health insurance, but demanding some
combination of financial security to address financial emergencies and shocks is
not unwarranted.
To simplify the requirements, I would suggest that the reserve balance be it
800,000 baht or another amount must be maintained for the duration of the time
an expat lives in the kingdom - not just for a confusing number of months
before and after applying for renewal of their long-term visas. Regulations
could be crafted to allow for the reserve fund to be restored to the minimum
level within a reasonable number of months should the foreigner need to tap the
reserve fund for medical or other emergencies.
I feel sympathy for foreigners who may not have adequate savings to meet such
financial requirements. But let's be realistic - 800,000 baht is not a massive
amount to expect people to maintain to cover life's unexpected emergencies.
Respected financial advisers routinely urge individuals to maintain an
"emergency fund" adequate to cover six to 12 months of living. A major medical
disorder can easily run into hundreds of thousands of baht for treatment.

Samanea Saman,

Malaysia's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) party
Stands up to racists and religious extremists
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 March 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 13 March 2019

Finally, a political party that has the guts to stand up to the gutter politics of racists and extremists and make a decision that takes into account the fact that Malaysia is a multi-racial country, that shows they will not succumb to the false preaching and hypocrisy of the RREs (racists and religious extremists).
That Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) the People's Justice Party, is fielding Dr S. Streram in the Rantau by-election bodes well for Malaysia.
It signals that all races have an important part and role in making our country a successful and tolerant one.
The way the other two parties, United Malays National Organisation (Umno), Malaysia's main opposition party and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) formerly known as Malayan Islamic Party, are exploiting race and religious issues just to come back to or stay in power is extremely deplorable.
The 33 million Malaysians need economic growth, jobs, lower costs, affordable housing and three square meals a day, which many are struggling to provide. Neither race nor religion will help put food on the table, create jobs or help ease the struggle to live.
On the contrary, the more we discard the common sense of growing the economy, reducing corruption, improving competitiveness, increasing productivity and attracting investments and go backwards to advocate only race and religion, this Asian miracle called Malaysia will become a has-been.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has taken a bold step to stand up to racists and religious extremists.
As level-headed Malaysians who only want good for the country, we should applaud this decision.
While we all must respect whatever the decision the good people of Rantau will make next month, we do need to show our appreciation of a party that is standing up to divisive race politics. Kudos.
“There are two types of people you should never trust: A religious leader who tells you how to vote and a politician who tells you how to pray.” (Source unknown.)


Justice grinds to a halt
In the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 14 March 2019

There is something so terribly wrong with our judicial system that seems to be beyond redemption. No matter how many circulars the Supreme Court may have churned out to speed up the administration of justice, nothing seems to work. Justice still grinds as slowly as ever.
At the trial level, judges appear so inept it normally takes them years to decide even the simplest cases, where law students might already be able to give the correct answer in just five minutes of class recitation.
At the appellate level, things are much worse.
If only some of the litigants cared to line up from Maria Orosa Street, Manila where the main Court of Appeals sits, to wait for their turn to get judicial relief, the tail of that line would probably be found somewhere at the Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City, moving a foot closer every five years; and at the Supreme Court in Padre Faura, Manila, the tail of the caravan may only be moving an inch closer every 10 years!
That’s how bad waiting for justice is in this country.
Parang laging naghihintay ang mga huwes sa may balak na gumapang sa mga kaso. The longer it takes for bribers or influence-peddlers to do their thing, the more cobwebs the cases gather.
Has anyone ever noticed how fast cases get decided if moneyed people and influential lawyers are involved?
Everyone wants to retire from the judiciary with very fat accounts!
And the Supreme Court is not free from blame.
Not only is it giving a bad example to all lower courts with all its record-breaking and Constitution-defying delays, it also does nothing about aberrations in the proceedings below that tend to erode the people’s faith in its oft-repeated pronouncements of speedy trial and delivery of justice. Instead of sanctioning lazy judges, it shields them from complaints.
My in-laws have endured civil litigation in the trial court that rendered a decision in their favor after more than six years, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals after eight years, and is now pending in the Supreme Court for 12 years already - and counting!
My wife’s father, the original plaintiff, had already died of old age.
Despite hearing whispers about it, her family never really had the means to make gapang and could only hope for the best.
I suppose my in-laws were just lucky the other party seemed to be in no better position to make gapang either.
Thus, things being “equal” in that regard, the case got to be decided on the merits. But in the Supreme Court, it’s anybody’s guess. Is this the “normal” that justice-seeking Filipinos are stuck with?

Ulysses Bermudez Uy,

Call for Amnesty International to study
Thai constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 March 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 13 March 2019

Re: "Foreigners get TRC case all wrong", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, March 11
I agree with Veera Prateepchaikul that Amnesty International's Thailand branch
appears to have jumped the gun when its campaigner Katherine Gerson on March 7
voiced her "concerns" over the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) party.
"This decision highlights the Thai authorities' abuse of judicial powers to
restrict the peaceful association and expression of the political opposition.
This far-reaching measure raises strong concerns about the human rights to
freedom of association and expression in the period leading to the elections…"

Instead of voicing its "concerns" in such a knee-jerk fashion, Amnesty should
have studied the Thai constitution, especially the part that stipulates the
monarchy must always be regarded as above politics.
Whoever is behind Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) party is trying to wedge between Thais.

Vint Chavala,

Call for European Union to stop providing funds
To the New Peoples Army in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 March 2019

I would like to express my opinion on the issue about Non-Government Organization (NGO) tagged as the New Peoples Army (NPA), the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) receiving funds from European Union (EU).
With the sincere efforts of the government to end insurgency in the country, last month the Philippine delegation went to Europe and called the attention of EU and the government of Belgium to their practice of providing funds to the New Peoples Army (NPA) terrorist through None-Government Organisations (NGOs).
Over the years we have been deceived by the roles of the NGOs in society. We thought that the None-Government Organisations (NGOs) were a positive force in our community but with this development and with the actions by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) we can now see clearly what they are doing.
The None-Government Organisations (NGOs) are recruiting young people to join the New Peoples Army (NPA).
According to Brigadier General Antonio Parlade who is part of the delegation that went to Europe, Belgium programmed to release 3 million euros a year for five years to 7 None-Government Organisations (NGOs) based in the Philippines. And the EU for its part gave an initial 621, 000 euros to the groups.
This is the very reason why the Philippine government is exerting much effort to stop providing monetary support to the None-Government Organisations (NGOs).
As a nation, the Philippines should look at the larger picture here. The issue is about blindness and soft headedness of Philippine society about the terrorist New Peoples Army (NPA) and its fronts and supporters on the interest of democratic space.
It is high time for us, Filipinos, to rally behind the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and help our government in cutting off the fundings and be more aggressive in uprooting insurgency in the country.

Regine Mamagat-Agapay,


Call for Papua New Guinea
To hold on to traditional names
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 March 2019
First published in the National, Friday 8 March 2019

We have a serious naming crisis in Papua New Guinea.
Something needs to be done as soon as possible before our identity disappears from the face of this Earth.
The Government has taken a blind eye and is not proactive in addressing this.
This will most likely affect the National Identification Project (NID) system as well.
People are starting to call themselves names like John Mark, Peter Andrew and the list just goes on.
Why is this happening?
We need to look back and see where our fathers came from and how they had their names addressed.
For example, if someone had the surname Wartovo, we will know that this person comes from East New Britain, Gawi from East Sepik, Kaupa from Simbu and Vagi from Central.
Let us be proud of our identity.
If you hold on to your ancestral names you will be unique in the world.
You will never lose your identity as an individual and or nation.
No wonder we have a lot of homeless people wondering on the streets of our towns who don’t know their traditional homeland.

Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

Politics fast way to fill pockets
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 13 March 2019

In his letter to The Southeast Asian Times 11 March Max. M Wapi of Port Moresby writes " ... A political revolution is necessary to rescue this country [PNG] from the systematic corruption that is crippling it...".
That reminded me of an interview I saw on SBS television some time ago during a Papua New Guinea national election.
An aspiring candidate was asked why he was fighting an election to get into parliament when he was already doing alright as a businessman? He replied politics was a fast way to fill one's pocket in PNG!
Wonder to what extend this societal cancer has come to afflict other countries in the region since the end of colonial rule and the political takeover by the local mob?

Rajend Naidu,


Call for Chiang Mai abattoir
To be moved away from Night Bazaar
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 March 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 8 March 2019

Few visitors to the The Rose of the North and most residents in fact realise
that Chiang Mai's abattoir is just two minutes away from The Night Bazaar, major
hotels and five minutes from Thapae Gate and Wat Phra Singh.
The sight of this place of death and misery with the fresh meat stall almost
next door is abhorrent especially when convoys of trucks are seen transporting,
cows, buffaloes and pigs making their distressing way through the city to meet
their fate.
I am not totally vegetarian but I find this sickening, particularly having lived
in this predominately Buddhist community for over two decades and where life, in
any form, is considered sacred.
I realise that an abattoir is probably necessary but why situate it so centrally
and so close to where the joyous community of locals and visitors celebrate the
delights of the city and life itself.
The contrast is nauseating.

Chris Anderton,

Call for removal of Westminster system
Of government in Papaua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 March 2019
First published in The National, Friday 8 March 2019

The only way to stop systematic corruption and the practice of double dipping in this country is through a political revolution that results in the removal of our existing Westminster system of democracy and adoption of a presidential system of government.
The presidential system is an advanced democracy where every political power is fragmented and used independently without fear or favour, keeping checks and balances alive, unlike in the Westminster system where every political power is fused, checks and balances are heavily politicised, undermining democracy.
In a presidential system, the political party is too strong, presidential candidates are properly screened and viewed by the entire citizens in terms of their qualification, job experience, business empire, policies and character.
After the screening process during the campaigning period, most candidates are eliminated with only two left to contest the presidency.
The presidential system has a fixed term of office, promoting political stability.
Our Westminster system is politically unstable and filled with votes of no-confidence.
A political revolution is necessary to rescue this country from the systematic corruption that is crippling it.
It’s possible for Papua New Guinea to create a hybrid political system, meaning a combination of both.
Our 40 or so weak political parties can be trimmed to a two-party system, with the people electing the prime minister and deputy prime minister in a more robust democratic process instead of leaving that privilege in the hands of our elected few who themselves are susceptible to political maneuverings.
Papua New Guinea’s Westminster system lacks a proper screening process for candidates.
We should therefore set up a candidate screening committee commission (CSCC) comprising the Ombudsman Commission, Electoral Commission, Registrar of Political Parties Commission, Council of Churches, Law Society, and Trade Union Congress to screen the candidates who have been nominated.

Max M Wapi,
Port Moreby,
Papua New Guinea

Malaysia calls on government to reaffirm understanding
Of implications of climate change
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 March 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 4 March 2019

It is clear that climate change and extreme weather patterns, resource scarcity and energy security are growing threats to the long-term viability of businesses as well as the prosperity of the public.
A fundamental structural transformation of the Malaysian economy is required to ensure that Malaysia develops new resilience, strengthens its economy and is well positioned for the possibility of new risks and opportunities that lie ahead.
Undertaking this change in the right way could ensure that Malaysia takes a leading position in developing sustainable industries, techniques and technologies of the future.
Malaysia should rightfully commit to this transformation and align strategies across the various ministries.
There are businesses that are already investing in and helping to grow and transform the Malaysian economy, and they would be able to do more if presented with a credible roadmap to a sustainable future.
We look to the government to reaffirm that it understands the implications of climate change science and set a long-term stable strategy and policy framework which will enable us to invest and act accordingly.
There are generally four key tenets of a sustainable economy:
A secure, efficient and decarbonised power sector;
A resilient and efficient low carbon built environment;
An integrated and secure transport system that enables ultra-low carbon choices; and Sustainable consumption patterns that are supported and encouraged by policy frameworks, business models and resilient supply chains.
While businesses and the government are already working on some aspects of these priorities, a more sustained and ambitious strategy is needed.
Greater collaborative efforts between business, academia and government and better deployment of limited financial resources are needed to unlock new home-grown technological solutions to the challenges.
This is an agenda that is exciting as it will deliver new business opportunities, develop new markets, create jobs and drive innovation.
To drive this successfully, Malaysian businesses need to be at a level playing field with businesses in other economies, and the right kind of support must be provided for home-grown innovators that are ahead of the game.
Naturally, creating a vision of the future Malaysian economy that everyone can participate in will require strong commitment from all stakeholders.

Dr Renard Siew,
Kualar Lumpur,


Filipino fisherman restricted by China
From fishing in West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 March 2019

As one of the fishermen who fishes in the West Philippine Sea, I don’t see any reason for restricting Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.
They have been fishing there for a long time and this is where their livelihood comes from.
If China will keep on doing this, what will happen to my fellow fishermen’s’ family? This will affect their daily living and the education of their children.
The government should investigate this and secure the welfare of the Filipino fishermen as well as the marine environment of the West Philippine Sea.
The life of the West Philippine Sea is the life of the Filipino Fishermen; Filipino Fishermen is the life of the West Philippine Sea.

John Michael Gapas

Call for review of the Philippines - US
Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT)
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 March 2019

As a citizen of this country, I agree with Defense Secretary Lorenzana, that the Philippines - US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) should be reviewed.
It was signed 67 years ago.
We are now in 2019 and we are now situated in a totally different government, society and security obstacles.
The review will help in determining the significance of this treaty in this modern period.
It will further adapt with the Philippine current necessities and will enlighten the ambiguity of the treaty.
This will conclude efficacy of this on our end and determine if this will just cause future disarray, especially regarding the West Philippine Sea dispute.
This is not to solely depend on US but to execute effective measurements to address national difficulties.
Review on the Mutual Defense Treaty will grant the opportunity to revise it and eventually make use of this to safeguard our national territories.

Marjane Dy,

The Catholic church
Is not going anywhere soon
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 6 March 2019

This refers to the article “Duterte: Catholic Church will disappear in 25 years” February 26, 2019
The Catholic Church has been around 2,000 years.
At various times, the Church was rocked by scandals, lies, hatred from flawed and unfaithful men who betrayed their vows.
The Church even hurdled the years of Inquisitions, World Wars, Crusades and suffered persecutions and schisms - yet the Church is still here.
Isn’t that a sign of longevity?
Will the Church disappear in 25 years?
The Church is not going anywhere soon, and it should be fine for another 2,000 years.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City

Call for international community
To do what's right by the Palestinian people
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 March 2019

I support the Indonesian foreign minister Marsudi's call for support for the Palestinian struggle for independence ( Southeast Asian Times 5/3 ) because it's the right thing to do *.
Every people have the right to live in freedom and human dignity.
That right was arbitrarily and unjustly taken away and subsequently denied the dispossessed Palestinian people for some seven decades.
They have been living in a state of siege and the international community has been an impotent bystander to this disgraceful state of affairs.
It's high time the international community summoned the moral courage to do what's right by the Palestinian people and restored their right to live independently.
Nothing more nothing less just as most other people around the world take that right for granted.
I am neither Muslim nor am I anti- Israel

Rajend Naidu

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines deny they are a front
For the Communist Party of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times. Tuesday 5 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 4 March 2019

We, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, a national organization of women and men religious, priests and lay, condemn the tagging of our organization as a “communist front,” this time through the complaints filed by National Security Council deputy director general Vicente Agdamag to the United Nations (UN).
The report, submitted to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva on February 21, alleged that we are trafficking tribal children.
This is such a desperate move to vilify us, for we have been effective in raising people’s awareness on the plight and demands of our farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples, and in exposing the grave abuses of human rights in the country. It only reflects the cowardice of those behind this move.
We condemn in the highest terms this slander of our organization. We reiterate that our commitment to serve the rural poor moves us to provide programs for them, including literacy and numeracy drives for “lumad” children, livelihood programs, relief and rehabilitation, and training and education for rural communities.
Agdamag’s move is definitely alarming, as it can be used to justify going after rural missionaries, priests, sisters and lay workers.
We urge our fellow Christians to condemn these preposterous accusations, and to echo the call to end the attack against rural poor and peace advocates
Human rights defenders in our country are in such a perilous situation.
We must be ever vigilant and stand together with the Filipino people in exposing and resisting the state’s attacks against those who criticize it.

Sr. Elenita Belardo,
Religious of the Good Shepherd National Coordinator,
Rural Missionaries of the Philippines

Call for Malaysian government
To reduce road toll fees
First published in the Star, Friday 1 March 2019

Why has toll renegotiation degenerated from asking the concessionaires to charge lower rates to taking over the highways?
Taking over the highways will take time, but I am sure renegotiating with concessionaires to come up with more reasonable toll rates is much faster and easier.
Did Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto promise to reduce toll rates or take over the highway concessionaries?
It has been nearly a year since Pakatan took control of the federal government.
All this while, as far as I know, there has been no serious attempt to tackle the toll issue except “study” and more “study”.
A few days ago, even the Works Minister was talking about a study which may only be completed in another few months.
Before the 14th General Election, numerous analyses had indicated the excesses of toll charges.
Surely those excesses can be trimmed by asking the concessionaires to reduce the toll rates across the board?
I have said numerous times that toll concessions are risk-free business.
Risk free businesses are only entitled to risk-free returns, which the government must seriously take into consideration.
Even if the federal government intends to take over these concessions, it must first cut the excesses, otherwise the valuation of these companies would be much higher than they deserve.
I think the government must first renegotiate the toll rates with all toll concessionaires.
The government must deliver lower rates to the people across the board, not at 3am or only during a two-day festive occasion.
If we had begun negotiations earnestly and immediately after the general election, I am sure we would have got some results by now.
I think it is not cool to be told after nine months that the government is contemplating taking over toll highways.
If we take 10 years to take over water concessions, do we need 20 years to take over toll concessions?

T.K. Chua,
Kuala Lumpur,



Metropolitan Manila Development Authority
Big on making pronouncements on grandiose plans
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 March 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 1 March 2019

We are often flummoxed at what the Department of Public Works and Highways is widening streets and spending billions of taxpayer money for in Metro Manila alone.
Just look around and what do you see?
The additional concrete lanes become parking lots for private cars, jeepneys, buses, delivery trucks, tricycles and what-have-you, faster than anyone can turn his head to check if the cement has dried!
And why can’t the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority do anything about it?
It is so big on making pronouncements about grandiose plans costing taxpayers millions ad infinitum to ease traffic, but so little on making its hard-knuckled presence felt.
Simply put, it is utterly inutile at fulfilling its mandate.
Those so-called “clearing operations” we see on TV every now and then seem to be nothing more than photo-ops.
Of course, when the cat goes away, the mice come back to play!
This kind of governance by these two leading government agencies concerned with our traffic problems is so irredeemably f*cked up.

Stephen L. Monsanto,

Philippines call for deportation
Of illegal Chinese workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 March 2019

The number of illegal Chinese workers in the country is very alarming. I am aware that President Duterte is trying to please the Chinese government when he said that it is okay for Chinese workers to stay here. However, with the limited job opportunities in the Philippines and with higher competition Pinoys are left unemployed.
Lawmakers expressed their concern about the issue and asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Bureau of Immigration (BI) to deport those illegal workers. But Duterte did not agree on the proposition citing that there are 400 thousand Filipinos working in China and he is afraid of retaliatory action by Beijing.
I understand the concern of the President, however, it is clear that the Philippine government must send a clear message that these illegal workers should be deported. An alien who violates the labor code of the Philippines must face the consequences of their actions. What they are doing is illegal and immoral at the same time.
It is imperative that the Department of Labor and Employment conduct an honest head-count of foreign workers. It should be a top priority in order for the affected sectors to make a necessary action.
I believe the violations of these illegal workers must be dealt with severely. And that concerned government officials must enforce the rule of law.

Winna Vista,

Not all Marawi city was devastated
In the seige by ISIS terrorists
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 March 2019

I am offended with the article published by the Washington Post’s February, titled “Philippine forces cleared this city of militants in 2017. It’s still a "ghost town” which was referring to the city of Marawi in Mindanao in the southern Philippines.
The article is a clear manifestation of lie and deception since only 250 hectares of Marawi’s land area was affected during the Marawi siege.
Marawi City today is as lively as other cities in Lanao del Sur and I can prove it since I was one of the business men investing in the area.
After its liberation, the economic and peace status of the city is continuously progressing despite the extended Martial Law in Mindanao.
Marawi’s rehabilitation is ongoing since 550 units of transitory shelters has turned over to 206 families who lost their homes during the conflict.
The government efforts are being felt in the province as well as the security issue in the area. On the otherhand, if the Washington Post sees that Marawi is still a “ghost town”, then how will they describe cities in other conflict countries that are infested with terrorists?
Like Israel, Afganistan and etc.
I may not have the capability to run after the Washington Post on this disgrading issue against our government, but I do believe that this is not right.
Any foreign news portals has no rights to write a lie or a fake news since it damages the credibility of a nation.
The government, the senator and all law makers must put an action to this issue.

Edward Aquino Marquez,

Call for Sabah Wildlife Department
To ban roadside zoos in Sabah
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 February 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 22 February 2019

Sabah is blessed with an array of unique wildlife that contributes to the tourism industry in the state.
Sadly, there are roadside zoos in the state which are not only archaic but also a
burden to the animals they keep.
These zoos appear to be operating without sufficient supervision and the plight of animals go largely unnoticed.
The term roadside zoo is loosely used to define a captive animal facility which is generally not managed by experienced zoo professionals and does not employ full-time veterinary personnel.
They usually receive no accreditation by a zoological association and enclosures are often not built to meet the specific needs of individual animals.
Poor diet for animals are also common in roadside zoos.
There are a couple of roadside zoos only several kilometres away from the Sepilok area in Sandakan, which is home to popular tourist attractions including the Rainforest Discovery Centre.
These two attractions have been keeping animals in dreadful condition for years, and we have photographs to prove it.
The latest set of photos and videos we received of these and other Sabah roadside zoos show that the welfare of animals at both remain unchanged.
We have ourselves investigated roadside zoos in Sabah over the years.
In these roadside zoos, many animals are kept in decrepit or barren enclosures and there is no sign that they receive enrichment, which is vital for the physical and psychological wellbeing of captive animals.
Early death of animals is not uncommon and shows are often exploitative and outdated.
At one of the roadside zoos near Sepilok, a macaque is chained around its neck while it is forced to entertain visitors, including children, during animal shows.
Don’t these roadside zoos affect the state’s tourism image?
Not unless they’re widely exposed, as these zoos are virtually unheard of outside the towns and cities in which the operate, and they are mostly visited by locals. One roadside zoo in Tawau was so bad a British online news portal helped expose the plight of the animals there.
It was only then that the Sabah Wildlife Department took action and closed the zoo down several days later.
We have in the past spoken with local tourist guides who bring foreign tourists to Sepilok.
The guides informed us they would not bring tourists, especially Western tourists, to roadside zoos as they are afraid the visitors would be shocked and angry at what they see.
It would also be unimaginable for the Sabah Wildlife Department to allow roadside zoos in the state to keep iconic Sabah animals such as the orang utan and sun bear as they are aware there will be huge public outcry if these animals are kept in a dreadful captive situation.
The animals in roadside zoos in the state are forgotten, as most of these menageries often receive no public scrutiny.
Roadside zoos in Sabah, like most zoos in Malaysia, have no conservation value and they are teaching children that it is acceptable to keep animals in pitiful condition for “education”.
The Sabah Wildlife Department must ban these zoos from receiving more animals and eventually shut them all down.
Members of the public should also boycott these zoos.
Change starts with us all.

Upreshpal Singh,
Friends of the Orangutans (Malaysia)
Kuala Lumpur,

Philippines on track
In eliminating budget underspending
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 19 February 2019

I am writing in response to Ben O. de Vera’s article, “Budget underspending still an issue” in Business, November 2, 2019.
De Vera claimed that the Duterte administration underspent in 2017 with a disbursement-to-obligations rate of 74.7 percent.
Underspending is the difference between actual expenditures and programmed expenditures.
According to data from the Department of Budget and Management, P2.824 trillion, or 97.1 percent, was disbursed of the P2.909-trillion program for 2017. This translates to an underspending rate of 2.9 percent.
The underspending rate of 2.9 percent is significantly lower compared to underspending in the later years of President Benigno Aquino III’s administration, when it was recorded to be as high as 13.3 percent and 12.8 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
The figures show that the second Aquino administration’s actual spending was well below programmed spending.
This has not been the case under the Duterte administration.
In 2016, the year President Duterte assumed office, underspending was drastically reduced to 3.6 percent by year end. In 2017, the first full year of the Duterte administration, it was cut further to 2.9 percent.
We will continue to ensure that the spending program will be followed to the letter within a fiscal year.
We are on track in eliminating underspending for 2018.
As of September 2018, or the first three quarters of the year, government expenditures have exceeded programmed expenditures by 2.6 percent.

Benjamin E. Diokno,
Department of Budget and Management,

Thailand needs China
Like it needs another coup
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday 26 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 24 February 2019

Let's briefly consider local geopolitics and the Thai military.
Thailand needs China like it needs another coup.
However, China needs Thailand for a variety of reasons.
The US has had a longstanding favourable relationship with Thailand and
is its most powerful ally.
Now to be frank, the Thai military is not a deterrent and is not capable of
engaging in war successfully.
If Thailand was attacked its only hope would come from a phone call to the United States.
Thus, there is every reason to restructure the military into a civil defence
organisation (the only function it now realistically serves) and spend US$2-3
billion (63-94 billion baht) per year to maintain it.
Such a strategy would prevent the next coup and free up considerable funds for urgently needed development of the kingdom.
From a rational perspective this strategy combined with comprehensive police and
judicial reform would allow a First World status to emerge. Otherwise, it's a
hopeless proposition.

Michael Setter,

Call for Philippines Bureau of Immigration
To stop issuing work permits
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 February 2019

This pertains to the editorial “I thought I was in China” in Philippine Inquirer February 1, 2019.
We are grateful for your coverage to present this pressing issue before your readers.
Please allow us to add a development on the topic.
At the budget deliberation of the Bureau of Immigration, we took the floor to ask the bureau the express legal provision on its charter that allows it to issue special work permits, citing the fact that only the Department of Labor and Employment has the technical competence to vet a foreigner’s capacity to work in the country. Unable to provide a clear legal provision authorizing the bureau to issue work permits, we moved to include a special provision mandating the bureau to cease from issuing work permits.
We reiterate the fact that we are not against the entry of foreign workers in the country. In this globalized world, our country benefits from the technical knowledge that foreign workers share with our countrymen whenever they work here.
The same is true with our overseas Filipino workers when they share their talent in different parts of the world.
What we are against is the proliferation of foreign workers whose jobs - call center agents, construction workers and kitchen staff, among others - can be done by Filipinos.
Our Constitution is clear about the preferential selection of Filipinos for jobs.
We reiterate our sincerest gratitude for your paper’s interest in covering the issue of illegal foreign workers.
By explaining the issue, we hope that the general public becomes more enlightened as to why this issue concerns everyone.

Sen. Joel. Villanueva,

Birds of a feather stick together in the rorting
Of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 February 2019

When I read in the Southeast Asian Times 23 February that Mohd Hafarizam Harun,47, the lawyer for ousted former PM Najib Razak was charged for money laundering in relation to the same appropriation of state funds scandal (1MDB ) that Razak has been charged for, I was not too surprised.
It shows birds of a feather do stick together and that scruples fly out the window when greed gets hold of you.
That's the story of this crooked lawyer and thieving ex- prime minister.

Rajend Naidu,

The seeds for the approval of the BOL
Sown by past Philippine administrations
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 February 2019

In the midst of breast-thumping over the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), let’s not forget that President Duterte merely reaped the fruits of the seeds of peace sown by the past administration.
The approval of the BOL in the “House of Lapdogs” is a walk in the park for Mr. Duterte.
I believe he will never have his “finest hour” in his incumbency.
Look at the following presidential statements: on the Bureau of Customs corruption, “Corruption in the BOC cannot be resolved whoever heads it”; on traffic problems, “I give up”; on the West Philippine Sea, “We cannot win a battle or war with China”; on the Edsa rehabilitation, “Let Edsa remain as it is for 20 years”; on inflation and oil price hikes, “You can…behead me, I cannot do anything about oil”; on the antidrug campaign, “Others cannot do it, how can we? Those drugs, we cannot control it.”
Such unpresidential statements are expressions of weakness, hopelessness, cowardice, subservience. They do not merit brownie points for Mr. Duterte’s finest three seconds.

Evelyn Silay,

Call for Royal Commission of Inquiry in alleged
Malpractices and misconduct in the judiciary
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 February 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 16 February 2019

A sitting senior Court of Appeal judge has made some startling and serious allegations about malpractices and misconduct within the judiciary.
He has also called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to inquire into these matters.
I am, like most Malaysians, not at all surprised to learn about these scandalous allegations.
For more than a decade until May 10, 2018, when a new government took office, our country was enveloped in a state of fear.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had acknowledged that the office of the prime minister had assumed such a magnitude of power that there is currently a review to see how these powers can be shared with Parliament.
In any dispute, however, the Judiciary is the ultimate arbiter.
As the country takes steps to fully implement the rule of law with added significance apportioned to the principle of separation of powers, our Judiciary has to be equipped with not only adequate constitutional powers but also people of calibre, the highest integrity and courage.
The retirement age should also be raised to 72 years, given our longer life expectancy and to discourage retiring judges from seeking post retirement chairmanships in government-linked companies and private companies.
To the Court of Appeal Judge who has spoken out, I say “Congratulations” and salute him for his courage.
The State is obliged to protect him.
It is important to reiterate the principle that the dictum of the law should remain supreme, not the dictates of the leadership of any institution.
It is my view that bribery, chicanery and flattery are greater assets in certain flawed systems of governance, quasi feudal setups and some current administrative hierarchies.
People who shrewdly practise these dark arts can sometimes be a lot more successful than those who are competent, hardworking, honest, candid, have high integrity and moral courage.
There are also officers who operate not by disagreeing or seeking clarification about new ideas and proposals but by going to the higher-ups in the system and confidently whispering that the powerful political warlords won’t have this or that.
I think one major weakness in our system of governance is the rush to reward officers and the slowness in meting out the mildest of penalties and punishment.
Perhaps the heads of our Judiciary should be considered for the highest honours in the third year of service in the highest judicial office rather than at the beginning of their tenure.

Datuk M. Santhanaban,
Retired Ambassadorm

Call for Thai's to start practising Buddha teachings
As taught by Buddha
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 19 February 2019

Re: "Cops crack down on criminal monks", in Bangkok Post, Monday 18 February 2019.
It is a good thing to apprehend criminal monks.
A wholesome lesson would be to send them to prison as monks, albeit wearing the standard prison robes.
There is no need to disrobe them since it is perfectly clear from their existence that
being a serious criminal is entirely compatible with being a monk, just as it is
with being a Christian priest, bishop or cardinal.
A more substantive way to cleanse the nationalistic religion known as Thai
Buddhism is for Thais to start practising the actual teachings of Buddhism as
taught by the Buddha, which practice needs no state-run religion office to
control citizens.
Don't support monks or monasteries that take money, gilt or gifts from politicians or political players in exchange for loyally crafting religious teachings to suit the desires of the conspicuously generous givers, which is exactly what much of Thai Buddhism does instead of teaching and following the actual teachings of the Buddha.
The Buddha's teachings in the Kalama Sutta and the First Precept are but two
examples that show the gulf between Buddhism and officially indulged Thai
The Buddha's wise teaching promoting right understanding in the Kalama
Sutta flatly contradicts the censorship and mindless conformity to authority
that is so beloved of certain types of Thai political players over the
centuries, certainly of the past five years.
Similarly, the First Precept, despite legalistic twistings to the contrary, clearly asks followers of the Buddha's wisdom to abstain from paying servants to torture and kill animals for no better reason than to sate a lust for tasty animal flesh: if you pay for a tender pork steak or a delicious chicken dinner, you are paying others to kill
and inflict suffering on your behalf.
Even Thai law has the good sense to realise that mafia bosses who order their paid thugs to carry out their dirty work are nonetheless guilty of the crimes committed on their orders.

Felix Qui,

Media pays large sums
To advertise the news
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 February 2019

Have you ever wondered how a lengthy, detail laden, "investigative" news feature can break on the same day, with virtually the same content and often the same script across a large number of mainstream "news" outlets?
Remember Kashoggi, Jussi Smolett, Stormy Daniels, or Christine Blaisy-Ford?
All of these stories and countless others are produced by propaganda shops for wealthy clients who wish to influence public opinion.
These operators then often pay large sums to media outlets to give their "stories" international coverage.
Not only do individual News outlets such as CNN and the Washington Post engage in this practice, news agencies like Reuters also participate.
Even op-ed pieces are produced in this manner, the Project Syndicate is a prime player in this regard.
Bottom line: the news is not the news anymore, its all advertising these days.

Michael Setter
Bang Saray,

Call for a commission of inquiry in Papua New Guinea
Into sale of customery land
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 February 2019
First puplished in the National, Tuesday 19 February 2019

It was reported in the media that customary landowners namely Dubara Idi Bana clan of Motu-Koitabu, asserted their ownership over land adjoining Air Transport Squadron, near Jackson’s airport.
The land is a State Lease, officially known as Portion 698 Milinch Granville, Formil Port Moresby.
It is currently being squatted upon by people, predominantly from Northern, with minority from other provinces.
Landowners are questioning Lands and Physical Planning and Defence departments, as to how this land had been acquired by the Defence.
This was reportedly at a cost of K15 million, however, title is yet to be given to Defence.
Landowners are claiming that this land, and other adjoining land, had never been legally acquired by the State or colonial administration.
Therefore, as far as they are concerned, it is still their customary land.
They are now calling for a commission-of-inquiry to investigate into sale of this property, as described above, before Lands and Physical Planning issues a replacement title for the alleged missing “title”.
This matter has been on the drawing board for some years now.
It seems that Lands and Physical Planning has continuously failed to provide any clear evidence of the colonial administration’s acquisition of the land in question.
Otherwise, if this information had already been provided to the clan, then this could amount to sheer ignorance on their part.
This information of clear evidence of land acquisition (including purchase documents, sketch maps, amount of payment details, list of landownership, clan leaders, etc,) once provided, will render their customary claims void and of no effect.
One would wonder if the leaseholder of Portion 698 Milinch Granville, and Formil Port Moresby, has had any due care at all to protect its legal interests from occupations by the squatters and or the contentious claims of ownership by this clan.
Why take the acquiescence stance?
State leases are granted over State-owned land in the country.
With that are minimum improvement covenants, that the successful leaseholder has to comply with in developing the property or land, within the given period – normally five years at the least.
The leaseholder of Portion 698 Milinch Granville, Formil Port Moresby, had totally failed to comply with the improvement covenants over its property, by neither developing it all, nor taking actions to remove the squatters when they first moved onto the property.
It therefore brings to question why Lands and Physical Planning would have allowed this speculative transaction between Defence and the leaseholder of Portion 698 Milinch Granville, Formil Port Moresby, to have fallen through.
Despite the improvements, covenants have not been complied with as one of the conditions of lease.

Lorenitz Gaius,
Ketskets village,
Papua New Guinea

Chinese tourists in Malaysia
Not rowdier than visitors from other countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 February 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 15 February 2019

I’ve rented to people who looked good and supposedly owned a restaurant.
They ended up not paying the rent.
Character is hard to judge and many landlords resort to short cuts by profiling tenants based on race, age, sex, etc.
Perhaps time is money to many, and there is not much of it to waste to discover if one’s tenant can pay the rent.
Race: check; age: check; occupation: check; large deposit cashed: check; okay, it’s a deal.
The truth is, being a landlord is a tough deal. Evicting tenants is a highly stressful experience.
You worry if the person will retaliate by destroying your property.
You worry if he will resort to violence. You feel bad for forcing him to pay while his child looks at you like you’re a villain.
So yes, some landlords are racists but the stakes are high, where the risk is having a non-paying tenant who is impossible to evict.
I know, I evicted one.
From the outside, the guy ticked all the boxes: Caucasian, well-spoken, friendly, and exhibited signs of being open to cultures.
He ended up trashing the place and not paying rent for three months.
We had to settle the case at the local Rental Board where he was finally evicted (this was back when I was living in Montreal).
A small percentage of people doesn’t represent the entire group.
Take tourists from China, for example.
I’ve been to places where Chinese tourists invade your space, have no regard for queuing up, and don’t respect seating arrangements despite multiple attempts by attendants to coax them to give up their seats.
In fact, the attitude is so bad that recently the Chinese government had to impose jail terms on citizens who refuse to give up seats not assigned to them on trains. One lady was sentenced to jail for five years.
But when I looked at all my friends from China from my student days, I realised how friendly and helpful they were.
There was none of the rowdiness we see so often with tourists from China nowadays.
So I think that while cultural background may be a factor, it all boils down to numbers.
I recently started handling a large class of students.
And the number of issues I dealt with increased immensely compared to last semester when my class size was only a fraction of what it is now. I also realised that 15 out of 150 who misbehave is only 10 percent of the class.
Before this, I had four who misbehaved out of 20, which was about 20 percent.
So while the percentage of bad behaviour halved, the number of misbehaving students actually almost quadrupled.
While the proportion of issues is actually lower in a big class compared to the smaller one, when it comes to experience, you feel like the problem is worse because you’re dealing with 15 students instead of four.
You can extend that to the experience of driving around town.
If you drive around town one afternoon and encounter a total of 50 cars that day and three drivers overtook you without indicating, that’s only 6 percent of the total number of cars you encountered.
If you drove out to buy groceries at the corner shop and encountered 10 cars, and one overtook your car without signalling, that’s already 10 percent of the cars you encountered that day.
Six per cent sounds like less but three rowdy drivers to deal with is not exactly a more pleasant experience than one rowdy driver.
You’re tempted to think the second experience is better than the first, but statistics-wise, the first scenario had a lower proportion of misbehaving drivers.
Perhaps, contrary to popular belief, it’s not that Malaysians or Asians are bad drivers.
Maybe we just have too many cars in Asia.
Large cities, high population density and lack of town planning don’t exactly help either.
In a similar manner, Chinese tourists may not be rowdier than visitors from other countries, but there’s just too large of a population in China that however many you encounter, no matter how small of a percentage of the country’s 1.3 billion people, it’s still significant in total figures.
Perhaps the same argument holds for tenants: there’s just too many out there that you’re bound to encounter some bad ones.
While strategies exist for landlords to weed out potential problems later on, perhaps it’s wiser to leave race out of the equation and focus on actual facts and numbers such as profession, credentials, recommendations and, where possible, credit report ratings.
At least that should be the case as we progress to a more developed status where open-mindedness and acceptance become values to be celebrated.

Dr Kuang Seng How,

Malaysia calls for internatioanl community
To break silence on Palestine
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 February 2018
First published in the Star, Wednesday 13 February 2019

The government must be lauded for its firm stand in barring Israeli sportsmen from participating in sports events in the country.
It’s a courageous stand, well appreciated by the Palestinians and those who believe in democracy, human rights and justice.
In Gaza, Malaysian flags were flown in Yamrouk football stadium along with Palestinian flags and fans shouted slogans praising Malaysia and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
It is hoped Malaysia’s example will spur other leaders, particularly from Arab and Muslim countries, to take a similar firm stand against Israel for the atrocities it is committing against the Palestinians.
Anyone with a conscience cannot remain silent about Israel’s crimes.
As Martin Luther King said when breaking his silence on Vietnam: “A time has come when silence is betrayal and that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.” For the international community, the time has come when it cannot remain silent on Palestine.
Palestinians are facing an existential threat. Israel has made it clear that it will not stop its activities - land expropriations, illegal building of Jewish settlements and the Separation Wall, humiliating searches at checkpoints, house demolitions, bombardments and assassinations, transfers, arrests, imprisonment and isolation of people from their communities.
The international community is unable to make Israel accountable for its crimes because it is protected by the United States.
Former United Nations rapporteur and international law expert Richard Falk described Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza as “genocidal, and risks destroying an entire Palestinian community” and warned of “a Palestinian holocaust in the making” which “should remind the world of the famous post-Nazi pledge ‘never again’”.
The International Court of Justice, in 2004, delivered an advisory opinion that the construction of a wall by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated régime, is contrary to international law. It stated that Israel is under an obligation to stop further construction and pull down the wall in the occupied territories.
Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are under an obligation to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law, as embodied in that convention.
The court declared that the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall.
The Goldstone Report on investigation into violations of international humanitarian law during the 2008 Gaza War concluded that Israeli forces had wilfully targeted civilians and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council. Israel rejected the report.
The Palestinians have been resisting Jewish settler-colonialism for more than 100 years and their resistance continues.
The land of Palestine is scattered with the bones of martyrs who gave their lives fighting British imperialism and Zionism.
Dr Mahathir wrote on his blog recently: “A proper strategy is needed to bring justice to the Palestinians.”
The promotion and intensification of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign globally is key to dismantling the apartheid regime in historic Palestine.
Malaysia’s bold and moral move to prohibit Israeli sportsmen from participating in sports events in the country is a move in the right direction Malaysia should convene a meeting of experts, including civil society activists, to formulate a strategic plan of action to dismantle the apartheid regime in Israel.
The collapse of the UN-supported two-state solution to the conflict and the formalisation of the apartheid regime in Tel Aviv by the Israeli Parliament, which has declared Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, require fresh strategic thinking.
Our Parliament should be convened to pass a resolution to commemorate the Palestinian Nakba (May 15) and endorse and support the international BDS Movement.

S.M. Mohamed Idris,
Citizens International Bhd.,
Kuala Lumpur,


Call for maintenance of death penalty
In Malaysia
First published in the Star, Thursday 14 February 2019
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 February 2019

I refer to the report “Musa: Death penalty must stay” in The Star, February 13 and fully concur with former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Musa Hassan that the death penalty must be maintained for heinous crimes.
News about the commission of heinous and dreadful offences such as murder, violent extremist incidents resulting in death, trafficking in dangerous drugs, and possession or control of any firearm, ammunition or explosives without lawful authority is appearing in our media daily.
Such crimes deserve the most severe punishment, reflecting society’s abhorrence and intolerance towards them.
Public interest demands that law and order must be maintained at all times.
A sentence that is too lenient may well have the effect of sending a message to the public that it is worth committing an offence because if caught, a lenient sentence will be imposed on the offender.
The public would lose confidence in the administration of justice if a lenient sentence is meted out for serious offences.
Murder nowadays is not only rampant, but brutal and vicious.
The accused may apologise to the family of the victim, but nothing can alleviate the anguish and sorrow experienced by the victim’s family and friends who will have to come to terms with the trauma, shock and loss caused by the horrifying death of a loved one.
Currently, out of the 195 countries in the world, 53 countries, including Malaysia, still retain the death penalty in their domestic legislations.
Some view the death penalty as a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment while others contend that such severe punishment breaches the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Some even argue that imposing the death penalty does not deter criminals or reduce violent crimes, hence many are supporting the move to abolish it.
It is humbly submitted that the death penalty should be maintained to reflect the gravity of the offence and that public interest demands a deterrent sentence on offenders.
Undoubtedly, it would be ludicrous to contend that the imposition of the death penalty for serious offences has not deterred or reduced the commission of such offences to a certain extent over time.
While it is true that substituting the death penalty with an increase in the years of imprisonment or life imprisonment would remove the offender from the community and thus no longer pose a risk to society, the wishes of the deceased’s family members grieving the loss of their loved one as a result of the brutal or uncivilised criminal acts of the accused must also be viewed with serious consideration.
It is also noteworthy that serious offences punishable with the death sentence would be tried in the High Court and, to convict the offender, the case must be proven against the accused beyond all reasonable doubt.
The legal burden is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and the evidential burden is on the accused to raise a reasonable doubt.
The duty of a judge at the end of the trial is to carefully evaluate the whole of the evidence of the prosecution and the defence to determine whether reasonable doubt has been raised as to the guilt of the accused.
Where the court finds that the accused is guilty of the offence for which he was charged, the court will assess the appropriate punishment to reflect the seriousness of the offence.
In determining the sentence, the public interest must supersede other considerations.

Ashgar Ali Ali Mohamed,
Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws
International Islamic University Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,

No reason to call for an all-out-war
Or religious war in Mindanao
The Southeast Asian times, Sunday 17 February 2019

It upsets me to read posts and comments in the social media from people so eagerly calling for an all-out-war when the alternative of peace has been laid out in front of them. Their rage is understandable after the bombing in Jolo, Sulu and Zamboanga City. But spilling of blood, including of those innocent civilians, can never be justified on the basis of any emotional experience.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law has received plenty of criticism in the past few months. Even without the bombing incident,a lot of questions will still be thrown that would be understandable. That is how democracy works. But there is no reason to call for an all-out-war or religious war; a peace process is in progress and it is meant to end the war there in Mindanao; the troops from 5th Scout Ranger Battalion was precisely sent to Patikul, Sulu to stop terrorists who were intent on aggravating the conflict situation in Mindanao.
I think many people in the social media need to take a step back and reflect on what they are asking for. Rejecting altogether the proposed solution that would pave the way for peace to rein in Mindanao is foolhardy.
Justice will continue to be sought for the families of the victims, and peace for all Mindanaons, especially for those directly affected by the cruelties of terrorism.

Nikki Genesis Marquez

Call for Manila Regional Trial Court to fast-track
Declaration of CPP and NPA as terrorists
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 13 February 2019

I am a student of Political Science in one of the universities here in the Philippines and hopefully I will be graduating soon.
But, after all, I still don’t understand why the Manila Regional Trial Court can’t fast-track approval to legally declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorists since the Department of Justice (DOJ) has already filled its petition and as President Duterte himself proclaimed them as terrorist on December 2017.
This really troubled me hence the European Union (EU) has declared them as foreign terrorist groups including their self-exiled communist leader Jose Ma. Sison. As I have read in an article citing reports from Ambassador to Belgium and EU Clemencio Montesa, that EU Council of Ministers adopted a "common position" to have the NPA declared as foreign terrorists and Sison as a terrorist last October 28, 2002.
With EU declaration, individuals and organizations identified with the New People’s Army (NPA) and Sison, who is living in exile in the Netherlands, will be denied visas to as well as sanctuary in any EU member country.
Their funds and assets in the EU will be cut and frozen, and any other fund-raising activities will be prohibited.
With all this basis, why it’s so easy for the EU to declare this group as terrorist and it’s so hard for our Philippine court to declare and decide on it?
Are this people hiding something that it’s so hard for them to decide on this matter? Maybe that’s why this terrorist group has the confidence to do all their atrocities because they knew that law in our country are weak and decision making is sluggish even though evidence are all present. So I challenge our court now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and especially the Manila Regional Trial Court to declare this group as TERRORIST as soon as possible.

John Brian T. Gateb,
General Santos,

Influx of Chinese in the Philippines
Beginning of Chinese takeover of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 February 2019

I was dismayed after reading the editorial titled “I thought I was in China” on February 1, 2019.
Dismayed because I suddenly remembered President Duterte’s statement at the anniversary of the Chinese Business Club on February 19, 2018, where he supposedly joked (?): “If you want, just make us a province, like Fujian.”
I couldn’t help wondering if this sudden influx of illegal Chinese in the Philippines, with many of them taking jobs away from Filipinos, is now the beginning of a Chinese takeover of the Philippines as a “province of China.”
Mr. Duterte’s acquiescent and sheepish behavior toward Beijing, always catering to Xi Jinping’s whims, is exactly the opposite of the way he treats his own people - always bullying the weak and the helpless with guns, bullets, threats and invective.
I feel sorry and afraid that, because of Mr. Duterte being a “yes-man” to China, my countrymen might also someday find themselves being ruled and harassed by the Chinese.
I hope that never ever happens because, except for Mr. Duterte and his underlings like Salvador Panelo et al., true Filipinos have their pride and would rather fight and shed their blood than easily give in to invaders.

Juanito T. Fuerte,

60 years of mono Party Rule in Malaysia
Has led to a bloated civil service
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 February 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 12 February 2019

I refer to the report “Civil servants told to carry out directives or face the music” in Sunday Star, February 10 on the National Patriot Association’s (Patriot) call for disciplinary action to be taken against civil servants who do not carry out the government’s directives.
Why are the civil servants not carrying out the directives of the government of the day?
The answer lies somewhere along the 60 years of mono party rule.
To say the civil service has grown exponentially is correct.
The growth has just been organic.
Layer upon layer of new posts were created (without due planning) as new projects were thrust on the public.
This, coupled with the “empire” building need of the past administration, led to a bloated civil service.
Does the Public Service Department (PSD) have a comprehensive human resource planning in place for the public sector?
Has it conducted any evaluation on any aspect of human resource management or human resource development and taken cognizance of the results?
If it had, then the current situation would not have been allowed to continue unabated all through these years.
A case in point is the annual performance appraisals of civil servants. If the public can be shown the overall tabulation of the annual performance appraisals, we believe it will very informative.
We believe the following scenario on annual performance appraisals happens in the Malaysian Civil Service: 5 percent of those appraised get less than 80 points out of a possible 100 points, 80 percent get more than 80 points out of a possible 100 points while 10 percent would get 95 points out of a possible 100.
This is typical of the bell curve distribution – but inverted!
With these super excellent performances, our civil service must be top in the world or even better than the private sector!
In fact, we need not ask them to follow directives as they would have initiated these on their own steam.
But we need to ask the question: Are we anywhere near the top achieving civil services of the world?
Or are we just duping ourselves?
Again, if we had evaluated ourselves, we would have taken corrective action based on the findings. But as usual, self-interest, self-preservation and politics prevailed. The syiok sendiri (self-interest) syndrome continued until a change of government happened.
Public servants implement policies, programmes and projects of the government of the day. The size of the civil service and its effectiveness is a direct correlation of programme logic and the national budget.
Although the budget circular has prescribed that all programmes must be evaluated, it is high time this is actually implemented.
It is also appropriate to use evaluation to rationalise both the budget and human resource requirements in our strategic performance plans.
Evaluation of our programmes and policies is the way forward.
Done without prejudice and with a sincere motive to improve, we can overcome many shortcomings early and move ahead to be a world-class civil service.

Supramaniam Sinnasamy,
Malaysian Evaluation Society
Kuala Lumpur,


Live baby crocodiles in Malaysia packed in boxes
Labelled as frozen fish for transport
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 13 February 2019
First published in the Star, Thirsday 7 February 2019

The seizure of live baby crocodiles at Sibu airport, “Fishy shipment sniffed out” in Star, Sunday Jan 13, is not a new incident.
A similar one occurred in May 2018 in which an illegal shipment of 50 live crocodiles from Malaysia was seized by border officers at Heathrow Airport.
The shocking truth is the manner in which the year-old juvenile saltwater crocodiles were transported. Crammed into five boxes, the reptiles were not packed in accordance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations, invalidating the permit and making the importation illegal.
The crocodiles were discovered in horrific conditions by Grant Miller, head of the national Border Force Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at Heathrow, who commented: “It is just not acceptable for reptiles to be transported in this way.”
Each box had room for only four crocodiles but 10, measuring 30cm each, had been packed into one box.
Due to the very limited space, the crocodiles fought with each other during the flight, resulting in the death of one.
This is a clear example of how Malaysian wildlife exporters and traders are only in the business for profit.
They do not have any regard for animal welfare. Squeezing as many reptiles into a box while limiting the number of boxes used in order to save costs is the norm for these wildlife exporters.
These crocodiles were believed to be meant for a farm in Cambridgeshire where they were to be bred for their meat.
Fortunately, the horrifying condition led to the confiscation of the surviving crocodiles, which were cared for to be re-homed later.
In the Sibu case where the live baby crocodiles were packed in two white boxes labelled as frozen fish, the truth was discovered when the package was intercepted at Sibu Airport (pic).
In this case, the particulars of the sender were believed to be false.
In the first case, there was no further news as to the identity or address of the crocodile exporters.
As for the latter, the falsification of the sender’s particulars led to no further arrest.
The potentially large profits combined with relatively minimal penalties if caught, especially for a first offence, have resulted in a large number of smugglers and a diversity of smuggling techniques.
Sadly, while no one knows exactly what percentage of the illegal wildlife trade involves reptiles, it is thought to be substantial. Smugglers will go to great lengths to conceal their activities.
One of the most routine and often effective strategies employed by smugglers moving animals is simply falsifying the import and export documentation.
Enforcement of existing trade laws is often lax, hence a great many illegally shipped animals simply go by undetected.
Unfortunately, failures in enforcement of CITES requirements have prevented the successful application of CITES as a conservation tool. These, as well as failures in the compliance of IATA regulations, have resulted in the inhumane treatment and death of a large number of reptiles.
Due to the fact that it is extremely difficult or impossible to identify the exact source of most reptiles, exporters may take in illegally caught animals, declare them captive-bred and sell them off at a bigger profit.
The Internet has facilitated an increase in both legal and illegal wildlife trade. It has revolutionised the reptile trade by connecting sellers and buyers throughout the world in a way that was never before possible.
The above two cases serve as a reminder that enforcement is difficult and sometimes depends on nothing more than just blind luck.
No one really knows the true extent of this aspect of the trade. However, it is believed that the illegal trade is substantial and is equal to or greater in value than the legal trade.
Some illegally collected reptiles are laundered through so-called reptile farms or other facilities and labelled captive-bred, and then sent to buyers in other locations through a vast network of collectors, exporters, importers, wholesalers and retailers.
They represent the proverbial tip of the iceberg in the world of illegal reptile trading.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) calls for a thorough investigation by the relevant authorities into the two cases and bring the culprits to book.

S.M. Mohamed Idris,
Sahabat Alam
Kuala Lumpur

Papua politicians enjoy luxurious service
In privately-owned hospitals at taxpayers expense
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 February 2019
First published in the National, Friday 8 February 2019

Please let me air out my view as a concerned citizen and a hardworking taxpayer to this dire nation.
I am seriously concerned about the way our Government is investing money into so many unworthy projects and programmes that do not even add value to our livelihoods.
Most politicians are now using public money for their own interest and personal gain.
They enjoy luxuries at the expense of Papua New Guineans.
I am a simple, ordinary citizen struggling to meet my needs every day in a costly and luxurious capital city.
I am deeply concerned about how effective and serious our Government is in reducing chronic unemployment and petty crime, eradicating income disparity between rich and poor, and most importantly improving rundown health facilities.
Most of our politicians are very incompetent, immature, retarded or ill-minded.
They are not even being proactive and visualise the outcomes of real economic benefits before making investments.
I don’t know if they even analyse and assess the cost and benefit of their particular investment.
Look at the yoga programme, for instance.
That was a very uneconomical, costly and unwise decision made by Governor Powes Parkop.
This programme has no real economic return.
There is an alarming petty crime rate, rundown health facilities and high unemployment rate coupled with high cost of living in the city.
One person’s interest makes thousands of people suffer.
Yoga cannot help people beat the high cost of living in the city.
K3 million is a huge amount of money, which can be used for better health services, which can help everyone.
The poor people suffer, while politicians keep enjoying luxurious service in privately-owned hospitals and clinics that cost taxpayers a lot more.
In turn, they give money to expatriates who own these hospitals and clinics.
These people remit money back to their country to improve their economy while we keep suffering in our own country.
What really frustrates me is that you cannot not even see any politician getting treatment using public health facilities in clinic and hospitals, even the Yoga advocate himself.
That is certainly true in most cases.
All of them get treatment in private, high-cost clinics and hospitals owned by foreigners within and abroad.

Maran Kess Mamatsirah
Concerned citizen,
Post Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Call for Thai PM to use absolute power under Section 44
To release Bahraini footballer from detention
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 9 February 2019

Re: "PM's one-man show", in Bangkok Post PostBag, Saturday 9 February
David James Wong was only half right in his insistence that one country alone
cannot issue a red alert - only Interpol can do it.
The fact is that both member countries and Interpol must work together to start and carry out this process.
In the case of Hakeem al-Araibi, a red notice was issued by Interpol at the
request of the Bahraini government on November 8, 2018.
The Australian government, having been aware of this situation, made sure that
the red notice was rescinded on November 30. But Araibi arrived in Bangkok and was arrested three days prior to that.
Even worse, by the time Australia made a request for Araibi's release, his case
had already been forwarded to the Thai court.
Thus, this case looks like it will be time-consuming if there are no out-of-court settlements made any time soon.
That is why it takes all countries concerned to resolve this problem.
Mr Wong, who has been strongly advocating for democracy in Thailand, surprised
me when he said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should be encouraged to use
Section 44 to settle this matter.

Vint Chavala,

Drones spraying water over Bangkok
Have no impact over smog chocked city
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 4 February 2019

Re: "Masking, not mastering the smog", in Bangkok Post, Friday 1 February 2019
Thai officials amaze me in their ability to come up with ever more ludicrous
ideas to make the country a laughing stock.
The latest is the use of drones to spray water over smog-choked city areas.
What simpleton actually believes that these baby helicopters, carrying just 5
litres of water, can have any impact whatsoever in dissipating the city's
choking pollution?
I'm sure that city officials are enjoying their taxpayer remunerated work hours
amusing themselves with these flying toys, but I wish they would rather spend
their time focused on measures that might have real impact in reducing pollution

Samanea Saman,

Thailand's move to produce EV batteries
Not a good move
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 7 February 2019

Thailand's move to become the world leader in EV battery production is not a
good thing (Business, Feb 5).
The pollution associated with manufacturing batteries is staggering and detrimental to the local environment.
Two countries with major pollution issues on multiple levels, China and Thailand, are the two competing for market dominance.
Thailand is not known for regulation compliance and is one of the more corrupt
countries, so how will environmental regulations concerning battery production
be drafted and enforced?
If making batteries is such a great money-maker, why are the batteries not produced in the countries that demand them?
Would make fiscal sense if the most expensive component of a product was locally sourced.
They are not manufactured in first world nations because compliance with
environmental standards makes the venture cost prohibitive.

Darius Hober,

Footballer's claim that he is a victim
Of Bahraini political persecution is believable
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 February 2019

Hakeem al Araibi, the footballer detained by Thai authorities pending extradition proceedings, claims he fled Bahrain " after he and other athletes were allegedly beaten and tortured over their or their families involvement in political protests"
( ' Thailand Claims Australia's Interpol alert triggered arrest of Bahraini footballer ' Southeast Asian Times 7 Feb. 2019 ).
I am inclined to believe Hakeem's claim given the Economist Intelligence Unit's democracy index survey finding that Bahrain is an " authoritarian regime and absolute monarchy". Freedom House describes it as a " not free" country and Reporters Without Borders ranks the country 164 out of 178 on press freedom.
It's not at all hard to understand why Hakeem fled the country and why Australia granted him refugee status.
What's hard to understand is why all the bogus extradition rigamorall?
Political persecution is the modus operandi of authoritarian regimes.
In the case of Bahrain that is very well documented by internationally reputable organisations.
( see ' Hakeem al-Araibi case : Bahrain is emboldened to take human rights abuse beyond its borders?' The Guardian 5/2/19).
Hakeem is a victim of that.
All else is BULLSHIT!

Rajend Naidu,

2019 elections in the Philippines
Could become the bloodiest in electoral history
The Southeast Asian Times, 7 February 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 February 2019

Is the government ready for the violence that may erupt in the 2019 elections?
Election-related killings have claimed a former La Union congressman and a Bicol party-list representative.
While the Bicol murder seems solved, La Union’s unsolved execution casts a pall over the whole province, with some theories now connecting this to assassinations of Sudipen’s mayor and Balaoan’s vice mayor.
Many deaths triggered by local rivalries also plague other barangays, towns, cities and provinces from as far north as Cagayan and Ilocos Norte to as far south as Sulu and Basilan - and many other places in between, including Quezon City recently.
Apart from the La Union cases, the Ilocos Region also features the Fariñas-Marcos clan face-off in Ilocos Norte and a personal showdown between Chavit Singson and Edgar Zaragoza for mayor of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur.
Pangasinan has its own share of killings of local councilmen and barangay officials.
Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera Administrative Region also have simmering dynastic contests.
All these portend a bloody North Luzon political season, as most camps are well-armed dynasties.
Similar dangers spill over into Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Bicol, as well as to the Visayas and Mindanao, where the situation gets more complicated given the Bangsamoro Organic Law’s implementation.
Goons, guns and gold can resurface in deadly force, so 2019 could become the bloodiest in Philippine electoral history if political warlords can’t keep their followers on a tight leash.
The transactional nature of the current leadership coalitions could distract the attention of both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) from attending to these looming risks.
Hopefully, sounding these alarms this early will prod the Comelec to create a civilized and issues-oriented political campaign period.
Also, religious leaders and media experts should more proactively set an environment for peaceful and orderly elections, and the government should more forcefully enforce the gun ban.
If the administration can’t prevent 2019 from becoming the most deadly Philippine elections, the electorate will have no choice but to desert their candidates in May.

Jose Z. Osias,

Call for ASEAN to negotiate with China
In Belt and Road Initiative as a bloc
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 February 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 4 February 2019

While the domestic concern for Thais is the upcoming general election on March
24, broadly speaking it is a relatively small geopolitical event.
We must not lose sight of the bigger picture: The trade war and battle for
supremacy between the US and China, and its effects on Thailand and Asean. Look no further than the newly elected Malaysian government cancelling the
China-backed rail and pipeline projects, endorsed by the Najib-led government.
China and the US will each put pressure on Dr Mahathir's government with
different interests in mind.
In Dec 2018, Abhisit Vejajiva gave an interview to Nikkei Asian Review,
suggesting that Asean nations - with Thailand's turn as its chair - should
negotiate with China and its Belt & Road Initiative as a bloc.
Moreover, he added that the advertising revenue of the tech giants must be taxed for the benefit of the region.
I agree to both and will add that it will be a long time before Asean can enjoy similar benefits as those of EU, while minimising its costs to avoid a Brexit-like scenario.
Perhaps by 2050, Asean will have adopted a single digital currency, become
cashless, and use E-Asean passports.
Politically speaking, by 2050, today's generation of politicians will have either retired or "expired", leaving room for compromise and mutual cooperation within each nation and between Asean nations.
Asean must learn from today's Brexit to avoid "Singxit" or "Thaixit" in
the event of us merging with other Asean nations in deeper ways than today.
Last but not least is striking a balance between non-interference principle vs
ceding some autonomy for Asean collective interest.
The last point will be a hard nut to crack partly due to Asian values.
When there is domestic violence in your neighbourhood, most Thais will treat it as their neighbour's private matter.
So too will they treat a genocide in their neighbouring country as a private matter. That said, success in climate, economic and food securities in the future will heavily depend on global cooperation.

Edward Kitlertsirivatana,

Call for serious action
To reduce pollution in Bangkok
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 February, 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 1 February 2019

Re: "Haze shutters city schools", in Bangkok Post , Thursday Jan 31, 2019
Why are the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and Prime Minister's
Office dragging their feet in implementing measures to combat the PM2.5
pollution choking the city?
Why only now is City Hall "inviting" construction firms to talk about possible measures to reduce dust generated from construction sites?
Why will "more stringent measures" be rolled out only next week - why
not immediately?
Why is the promise of soldiers checking factories for illegal discharges being couched in terms of future action, instead of being done on a regular basis?
Why only hypothetical proposals to limit the number of vehicles in the city, shift to B20 fuel and ban smoke-belching diesel-powered vehicles?
Mr Prime Minister, Mr Governor, we're choking now!
Instead of deflecting, and
confusing the public with ineffectual nonsense like drones dribbling a few drops
of mist over the city, we need serious action.
There is no excuse for delaying these common sense measures to clear the air - not only this week or this month, but for the long term.

Samanea Saman,

Corruption almost a way of life
In Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 February 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 1 February 2019

We often hear people complaining about corruption among politicians.
In fact, corruption is a major topic of conversation among Malaysians, and we even discuss it with people we don’t know.
But has anyone wondered whether corruption is actually a way of life for many of us today?
From “informally” settling traffic offences to paying a small fee to secure a million ringgit business deal, many Malaysians are involved in some sort of corrupt practice without feeling a sense of guilt.
In recent years, many have suggested to me that I offer a small fee to secure a business deal.
But I have firmly told these people that I do business with integrity and zero corruption.
I would say, though, that 90 percent of business owners and authorities in my industry openly practise some form of corruption.
I can safely say that there are many givers and takers, and that corruption is rampant in every industry.
I applaud the government’s continuous anti-corruption prosecutions because these will serve as a warning to those who are corrupt or thinking of it.
However, efforts to curb this cancerous menace and to inculcate integrity among Malaysians should be carried out at home and in schools too.
Those who are involved in corrupt practices may have money, but are they really at peace?
I always believe in Mahatma Gandhi’s message: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.” Gandhi has clearly pointed out that any misalignment between thoughts, words and action will take away our happiness.

Vigneswaran Kannan,

Call for labelling of agricultural crops
Sold in Philippine markets
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 February 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 1 February 2019

Robert Domoguen, a former columnist of the Mountain Province Exponent and an official of the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera Administrative Region, once wrote an article on falsely labeled Sagada oranges being sold at the public market in Baguio City.
I later encountered similar stories of lowland beans brought to Baguio but tagged as “Baguio beans,” robusta coffee beans tagged as “Benguet arabica,” and ordinary rice mixed with glutinous rice tagged as “heirloom rice.” Baguio beans, Benguet arabica coffee and heirloom rice are among the high-value crops produced in the Cordillera without being fertilized by inorganic fertilizers or sprayed with petroleum-based fungicide, insecticide or pesticide; hence, they are tagged as “organic crops.”
Organic crops are sold in the market with higher prices compared to the usual commercial crops we usually buy in the market.
If the falsely labeled Sagada oranges (Michael L. Tan, November 1, 2018 and January 23, 2019 ) are a pair of shoes or “maong” denims, the seller could be apprehended for violating the trademark law.
And so comes the question: Which government agency monitors the false labeling of agricultural crops sold in the market?
I believe false labeling of high-value crops violates the rights of consumers and the rights of high-value crops farmers, whose livelihood is being endangered.
We should thank Dr. Tan for his columns on falsely labeled Sagada oranges; his columns should encourage a full-blown investigation into a trade practice full of worms.

Claro Q. Esoen,
Research coordinator,
Baguio City,


Philippines Pray for success of President orders
To destroy the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao
The SoutheastAsian Times, Saturday 2 February 2019

Recently, President Duterte releases his marching order to the military to “destroy” the Abu Sayyaf following the deadly bombing in Jolo, Sulu cathedral bombing on Sunday that resulted to the death of 21 individuals and wounding a hundred people.
Well, the order of the president is just right.
The perpetrators just got the “taste of their own medicine” and for me, it should be worse than what they did to the helpless victims of their terroristic activity.
Yes, we have all the assets.
Though our Armed Forces is not yet fully modernize, we still have the capability. We have artillery, helicopters, airplanes and ships so we have nothing to worry about.
Our state forces has succeeded in the Marawi siege caused by the Maute group so there is no reason that our soldiers cannot make it once again.
As a civilian and an ordinary citizen of our country, I cannot help fight this terrorist group like our soldiers are doing but instead I can help them through my support and my prayers that may they accomplish their mission and may they return home to their family safe and sound.

Edward Aquino Marquez,


Hokkien lost to Mandarin
In Penang
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 February 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 30 January 2019

Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai’s article expressed my sentiments exactly in “Feeling lost in Penang”, On The Beat, Focus, Sunday Star, January 27
I attended primary and secondary school at Convent Green Lane, and later went on to do my Sixth Form at St Xavier’s.
Needless to say, I do not speak any Mandarin either. I, too, feel increasingly displaced in Penang, and am so sad to see Hokkien perceptibly fading away.
In preparing for my sociolinguistics class with undergraduates, I came across an interesting website by the Persatuan Bahasa Hokkien Pulau Pinang,
Others are concerned too.
By the way, my class was studying concepts of language loss and language death, and I picked Penang Hokkien as a case to highlight the issue.
In my demo, I spoke some and we all had a great big laugh – my personality inexplicably transforms when I speak Hokkien!
One of the last bastions of Penang Hokkien could possibly be the Sg Ara market. During a visit sometime last year, I could still hear quite a bit of this beautiful dialect being spoken, to my great delight.
Thank you for highlighting the issue from a heartfelt personal perspective.
I will include it in the reading list to help my students understand that language loss is not some abstract theoretical construct but is real and happening in our own backyard in Penang.
By the way, wah ah boey khi bank gia ang pow long.
Wah boh eng! Ah bo wah khi pasak bey kah ho
I haven’t gone to the bank to get ang pow packets. I am not free! Maybe it’s better that I go buy them in the market.

Joy Quah,
Kuala Lumpur,


Religiosity keeps Filipino's poor
Or does poverty cause religiosity ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 31 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 29 January 2019

According to the commentary “Poverty, religiosity and scientific literacy” by Edwin de Leon in Philippine Inquirer Opinion, January 22, 2019 our poverty rate correlates with our religiosity.
In other words, our poverty and religious levels are both high.
However, since correlation does not necessarily mean causation, we cannot conclude that religious faith keeps us poor.
It could be that poverty causes religiosity, or another factor causes both.
In addition, poverty is a complex issue resulting from individual, cultural, economic, political and international factors.
I don’t think religion automatically causes poverty. In fact, the Protestant ethic has contributed largely to the prosperity of the United States.
I think particular self-defeating religious beliefs, not religion itself, keep us from developing.
Particularly, the belief that God will provide tends to make us dependent on God for our financial wellbeing.
Because God will provide, we fail to plan and work for our future, make intelligent decisions and solve problems effectively.
Instead we do stupid things that ruin our lives in the belief that God will provide anyway.
We don’t have to abandon our religiosity to escape poverty and achieve progress.
Instead of believing that God will provide, let us believe these two popular sayings: “God helps those who help themselves” and “Do your best and God will do the rest.”

Jori Gervasio R. Benzon,

New Pakatan Harapan (PH) government
Need more than fifty percent of the Malaysian vote
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 January 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 29 January 2019

The Barisan Nasional victory in the Cameron Highlands by-election on the weekend has attracted numerous analyses.
Many of the opinions and warnings issued do hold water, in my opinion.
Prime Minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was right, too, in stating that economic and living conditions must be addressed by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.
Everything said, we need courage and honesty to be mindful of the potent force that hides below the tip of the political iceberg.
It is very clear that the voting population is more than a reflection of eligible voters. They represent the true sentiments of the entire nation of citizens.
With a little more than a 50 percent win by Barisan Nasional (BN) in the by-election and the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s seizure of Putrajaya last May also with just over a 50 percent victory, the message is very clear:
This country may be stuck in a yo-yo pendulum swing between Pakatan Harapan (PH) and BN in the years ahead.
That is not going to herald stability and progress for the people. Policies will be made; policies will be dismantled; accusations and court cases will be mounted. And the nation will suffer.
Such swings will permanently divide the nation into one that is at war within – and probably along race, religion and territorial lines.
Hence, after the people gave an unthinkable victory to a Barisan Nasional (BN) alternative for the first time in the nation’s political history, it is critical that Pakatan Harapan (PH gets down to serious soul searching, having clocked some nine months of attempted governing since GE14.
The only defining parameter that can give Pakatan Harapan (PH) a 60 percent or higher victory over its political opponents in the next General Election is its readiness to fulfil its election manifesto regardless of the circumstances be.
Further, Pakatan Harapan (PH) cannot afford to keep losing or even winning any future by-elections by a mere 50 percent as it will further erode confidence in the much peddled “new” Malaysia credo.
There are far too many fundamentals that evoke the sentiment of good governance that have yet to be experienced and shared across the many divides in the country.
The roots of Umno are still much alive even though the tree and its branches may (as some say) have been chopped off.
Justice and rule of law can only be saved and made to work full throttle if the government since GE14 can convincingly tackle corruption.
As Prof Dr Terrence Gomez rightfully pointed out, for as long as the very machinery (government-linked companies and government-linked investment companies) created to address the plight of citizens is not made transparent, accountable and can stand the test of public perception, PH is teetering on the edge of a dangerous cliff.
Anwar must know, too, that the tip of the iceberg is economy and cost of living. But the crux is that which drifts below: race, religion, rights.
People want a capable, effective, uniting, and progressive government that can free this nation from class-structured citizenship and that can let the economy thrive on level playing fields free of corruption in any shade or shape.

J.D. Lovrenciear,
Kuala Lumpur,

Rise of economic nationalism addressed
At World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 January 2019
First Published in the Star Monday 29 January 2019

Global leaders and representatives from more than 100 governments gathered in Davos, Switzerland, this week for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
The major theme for this year was globalisation.
The United States and China’s trade dispute, and the economic challenges posed by issues like Brexit (Britain exiting the European Union) were an important part of the agenda.
There has been a lot of criticism that the Davos Forum was coming together at a time of deep division in the world and speaking for globalisation when the concept is under great pressure.
The key topics discussed were on trade, environment, inequality and technology. Economically and politically, there was a sense of uncertainty about the path we should take in the coming months.
But, overall, there was a shift towards a more sustainable growth pattern – and the good news is that a recession is not expected even though the global economy is slowing down.
The rise of economic nationalism and populism were addressed too, to allay fears among global democracies unable to tackle the systemic flaws embedded within governments.
Therefore, leaders were cautiously optimistic at policy levels of the government responsibilities they have the burden of carrying through the months ahead.

Dhanaraj Arumugam,


Call to make palm oil mills
Environmentally friendly
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 January 2019
First published in the New Straits Times, Friday 25 January 2019

The trends for palm oil are clear - the selling price has been on a downtrend for the last six years. Will the price go up in the future?
No, for two reasons: too much land for cultivation in lower-cost countries, including Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and biodiesel use of palm oil will decrease.
On the other hand, production costs are increasing.
Efficiency and productivity gains are offset by inflation.
So how long more before Malaysia is pushed out of palm oil production by more competitive countries?
Consider a few facts:
Climate change is damaging Earth;
If Malaysia competes with low- cost countries in oil palm cultivation, it is condemning itself to the middle-income trap.
These resources need to be released for higher value;
The world is slowly but surely moving towards healthier diets, so more fruit and vegetarian food supply is needed.
Oil palm land can be converted to this and other more productive uses;
MicroalgaeI can produce at the least 15 times more edible oil than oil palm per hectare per year;
Malaysia very intelligently transitioned from rubber to oil palm.
The same wisdom must be applied again for another transition.
Fortunately, there is an easy, rapid and painless way for oil palm estates to make this transition:
Start with cleaning up oil palm mills.
Here, the Department of Environment has to play a bigger role;
should be an aerobically digested;
Methane should be used for electricity production, thus increasing renewable energy production; and,
The liquid digestate should be used to grow microalgae in areas used for ponds.
Hence, no new land is used.
This will make palm oil mills environmentally friendly.
The transition can be showcased with just one palm oil mill, which is a tiny price to pay for a big opportunity.
The proposal above could transform Malaysian agriculture, release the nation from the middle-income trap, position it in line with future trends, and help Earth.

Jag Kaurah,
Port Dickson,
Negri Sembilan,

The Hippocratic Oath in Malaysia
Sidelined in corporatised healthcare system
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 January 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 25 January 2019

The Health Ministry has been the focus of media attention of late with its no smoking campaign in all eateries, big and small.
It has earned the wrath of smokers and the gratitude of non-smokers.
The minister and his staff have expended time, energy and money to promote this anti-smoking campaign by going on rounds, distributing no-smoking leaflets and marshalling enforcement officers.
The most difficult part of this campaign is enforcement.
The ministry is short of enforcement staff to snoop around in every eatery and will need to employ thousands of people to ensure smokers comply with the restrictions.
The financial requirements could be enormous.
Perhaps the money and energy expended to mount this campaign, whose outcome is uncertain, could be better used to upgrade the facilities and manpower at government hospitals.
A case in point is the dearth of specialists, which is quite critical, in the orthopaedic department especially in the Penang General Hospital.
The long list of B40 (lower income group) patients needing knee surgery has no prospect of being treated here as the two specialists surgeons have left for positions in private hospitals.
The doctors in the department have to give patients the option of waiting for one-and-a-half to two years to get the surgery done if the specialists become available.
Alternatively, they are advising patients to get the surgery done in the private hospitals where the former knee specialists are now working.
These lower middle class and B40 government servants and other poor patients cannot possibly afford a surgical procedure that costs between RM30,000 and RM40,000 at the private hospitals, let alone afford the RM8,000 needed for the artificial replacement.
The Hippocratic Oath seems to be sidelined in the current corporatised healthcare system where hospitals are more of a business concern than a place of compassion and healing for all and sundry.
Compassion and healing are pared according to the patient’s ability to pay.
The Health Minister would be well advised to devise and implement healthcare strategies that include specialists and equipment to benefit those Malaysians who cannot afford the high charges of private hospitals.
There should be regulation to curb the high number of specialists moving from the public to the private sector in healthcare facilities.
Otherwise, the common man and woman will be left in the lurch.
Perhaps we need to inculcate in medical students the actual meaning of the noble profession, one that is selfless and not self-serving.

Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin,
Centre for Policy Research and International Studies
Universiti Sains Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,

Philippine government build, build, build program
Notoriously corrupt and inefficient
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 26 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 22 January 2019

The recent series in the Inquirer regarding the wasteful use of government funds raises our worst fears regarding the Duterte administration’s flagship program “Build, build, build.”
It is not wrong to dream big, but dreams must be anchored on realities on the ground.
We may have the talent to formulate the concepts and draw up the plans for such a gargantuan undertaking.
We may even be able to assemble the necessary financial resources which could be laden with traps, but the question is: Are the bureaucracy and industry ready?
We are all too familiar with the fact that the Department of Public Works and Highways, tasked to execute the program, is notoriously corrupt and inefficient. We wish we could say differently about the private side of the construction industry.
This is not to condemn ourselves forever to this quagmire of incompetence and corruption, but to set our priorities straight.
Unless and until we set out on a plan to build integrity and capability in the construction industry and show that we have such standards in a measurable way, after this “Build, build, build” we would only have created a new breed of nouveau riche players spawned by an unfair playing field, enclosed in an enclave and surrounded by the desolation of a country that should have benefited from their work, but which they had bled dry instead.

Cristino Santos,

Call for Malaysia to repeal
The Sedition Act 1948
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 January 2019
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 23 January 2019

The government should consider repealing the Sedition Act 1948 [Act 15] as it is deemed archaic, especially after the 14th General Election, which has seen the demand for more freedom of speech and expression.
This is in line with the announcement by Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that the government is studying whether to amend or repeal several securities laws, including the Sedition Act 1948 [Act 15].
Sedition Act 1948 [Act 15] was introduced by the British in 1948, the same year the autonomous Federation of Malaya came into being. This law remained on the statute books through independence in 1957, and the merger with Sabah and Sarawak that formed Malaysia in 1963.
Note that the Sedition Act 1948 [Act 15] would be unconstitutional without Article 10 (2) of the Federal Constitution, which permits Parliament to enact “restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the federation or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or of any legislative assembly or to provide against contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to any offence”.
This matter has been settled clearly by courts through cases like Dewan Undangan Negeri Kelantan & Anor v Nordin bin Salleh [1992] 1 MLJ 697, Minister of Home Affairs v Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran [1990] 1 MLJ 351, Abdul Rahman Talib v Seenivasagam & Anor [1966] 2 MLJ 66, Zainur bin Zakaria v Public Prosecutor [2001] 3 MLJ 604 and Arumugam a/l Kalimuthu v Menteri Keselamatan Dalam Negeri & Ors [2010] 3 MLJ 412.
Since such law has been enforced for 70 years, the time has come for the Pakatan Harapan government to consider replacing it with a new law that can protect one’s freedom of speech and expression and, at the same time, protect our nation from malicious or hatred ideas.
The aim of the proposed National Harmony Act is to strike a balance between ensuring every citizen’s freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under the Constitution and the need to handle sensitivities in a multicultural society.
The government can set up a task force to study this proposal before a decision is made.
The task force can be led by the attorney-general, or at least monitored by the Attorney-General’s Chambers, and include experts on human rights, legal practitioners, academicians and non-governmental bodies.

Dr Muazaffar Syah Mallow
Senior lecturer,
Faculty of Syariah and Law,
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia,
Negri Sembilan.

Philipine President tirades against Catholic Church
Is no joke
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 16 January 2019

President Duterte’s latest series of tirades against church people is no joke and never should be considered one; rather, it is part of his systematic attack against those who work to build a better society for Filipinos and those who criticize the unacceptable, antipeople policies of his administration.
His rants are so scandalous that they smokescreen and conceal horridly his administration’s neglect of its responsibilities toward the people, and its plans that pose even graver danger to the nation and our future.
This administration has mastered the use of sloppy propaganda and diatribe to deter any rational discussion and criticism of its agenda.
Mr. Duterte even resorted to inciting violence and inducing government forces to commit more crimes aimed at the people, including those from the Church.
Much more fearsome now is the pressing possibility that the President’s provocations might lead to actual physical attacks, considering there are already seven cases of killings of clergy and religious personnel and other frustrated attempts and threats against them, following Mr. Duterte’s justification for Fr. Mark Ventura’s killing.
His statements might even reinforce and back up the forces behind the cases of attacks against church people.
In this midst, we cannot remain silent. We are called to partake “…in the proclamation of good news to the poor… To send liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Lk 4:18-19).”

Nardy Sabina,
Promotion of Church,
People’s Response,

Thai PM warn voters to beware
Of unrealistic and impossible policies
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 January 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 18 January 2019

I fully back PM Prayut in his warning for voters to beware of campaign policies
which are "unrealistic and impossible", and not to listen to those who "caused
damage to the country".

To test which party planks are the most feasible, I suggest that Thai public TV
televise a series of round-robin, face-to-face debates between the four parties
with the most members, each debate centring on a key area needing reform, eg,
decentralisation, education, the economy, police/military, fighting corruption,
or promoting reconciliation.
The debate could be on "We agree that the Democrat Party's plan to reform the police/military is superior to that of the Pracharath Party".
The winner would be the side getting the most swing votes.
Each team could have two people, including its prime minister candidate (who
would be essential, as they would lead reform efforts).
The moderator would be neutral and forceful, keeping participants on-topic and ensuring that they didn't evade valid questions.
The studio audience could include neutral academics or practitioners whom the moderator might call upon for insights.

Burin Kantabutra,

Malaysia drops in list of most powerful
Visa-free access to 180 countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 January 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 14 January 2019

One of the most widely cited measures of the strength of a country’s passport is the Henley Passport Index (HPI), which measures how powerful a passport is by its visa-free score, namely the number of countries the passport holder can visit without needing government-approved visas prior to travel.
This year, the Henley Passport Index (HPI) has listed the Malaysian passport as the world’s 12th most powerful, with visa-free access to 179 countries.
However, as a proud Malaysian, I was slightly disappointed when I noted that this was a drop from the 10th place last year, with visa-free access to 180 countries.
It was also a bit disappointing to know that the passport of neighbouring Singapore is currently the world’s second most powerful, with visa-free access to 189 countries.
Top of the list is Japan with visa-free access to 190 countries.
I did note a few reasons as to where and why Malaysia somewhat lags behind in terms of passport strength based on data from the Henley Passport Index (HPI) and credible news sources in the last few years.
To begin with, Malaysia is the only Asean country that has yet to sign a mutual visa exemption agreement with Myanmar, citing issues of large numbers of illegal Burmese foreign workers as the main reason.
Looking further at the Eurasian continent, Malaysia does not currently have visa-free arrangements with the economic giants China, India and Russia as well. Recently, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stated that Malaysia is “not yet ready” to grant visa-free access to Chinese citizens, hence China would naturally not want to reciprocate.
Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran did moot the idea of visa-free travel for Malaysians to the Indian government but nothing seems to have progressed so far.
Russians can currently travel visa-free to Malaysia but the Russian government is not reciprocating.
Although there was news about possible visa-free travel for Malaysians to Russia back in 2012, this does not seem to be the case now.
Further across the oceans, both the United States and Canada have not reciprocated Malaysia’s visa-free entry privilege for their citizens.
In Canada’s case, the visa requirement was apparently effected post-September 11, although Malaysians have recently found it easier to obtain visas compared to many other countries.
As for the US, the past three years have seen numerous talks about Malaysia being next in line to be included in the Visa Waiver Program.
Despite having fulfilled all conditions set by the US government, the Trump administration seems to be unwilling to lift the freeze on adding new countries into the list, preventing Malaysians from having visa-free access to even some unincorporated American territories such as Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands.
I’m writing this to raise awareness and with the hope that our current government would seriously pursue visa-free arrangements with these countries, and more, for the benefit of all who are proud of holding a Malaysian passport.

James Ang,
Port Dickson,


Call for land rights for Orang Asli
Over native customary land in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 21 January 2019
First published in the Star, Sunday 20 January 2019

A candidate's statement in the Cameron Highlands by-election that the Malay community would not even buy kuih from the orang asli, let alone vote for an orang asli candidate is tactless and distasteful, and shows how our society has unequivocally failed them.
That a significant percentage of mainstream society would not vote for an orang asli candidate is not a sign that the candidate is unqualified or incapable, but that we as a society have systemically marginalised the orang asli.
A politician’s threat to stop the payment of stipends shows how the government has denied the orang asli self-determination and self-sufficiency and offered them handouts.
It is a sign that protectionist laws, policies and government agencies have disenfranchised the orang asli and given them welfare in place of rights.
Land and property laws and policies have demoted the orang asli from the position of guardians of their customary land to squatters who can be evicted by property developers and state governments and displaced at the convenience of the authorities.
Our orang asli need representation, the right to be heard and the right to control their own destiny.
What orang asli communities need are representatives in Parliament, government agencies and non-governmental organisations who can advocate for their communities and make decisions without fear or favour.
Fielding and voting in more orang asli candidates would create opportunities for the communities to participate in decisions that would affect their lives.
If there was adequate representation and autonomy, they would not have to resort to measures such as blockades and petitions just to get their voices heard.
Fielding just one orang asli candidate does not make us an inclusive and diverse society any more than giving handouts to Tok Batins make us caring and compassionate.
The fact that we are not fielding more orang asli candidates is an indication that we as a society have been deaf and blind to their rights, needs and concerns for too long.
The first step to recognising the rights of the orang asli is to prioritise their control over native customary land, and include and consult them in any discussions on land use and education processes and policies that affect them.
Until we have more orang asli voices in positions of leadership, the fielding of token candidates by political parties and coalitions amount to nothing more than insincere and empty gestures.

Wong EE Lynn
Petaling Jaya,


Call for release of Mali the elephant
From Manila zoo
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 20 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 14 January 2019

More than 35 years ago in a lush forest in Sri Lanka, Mali, a barely weaned baby elephant, was stolen from its mother.
She was transported to a zoo in Manila where she continues to languish to this day. Elephants are intelligent and very familial.
Can you imagine being separated so young from your mother?
Mali has led a sad life in captivity, alone, with no other elephant for company.
Mali does not get veterinary treatment even as thousands of caring people around the world have petitioned to move the elephant to a sanctuary in Thailand.
Many animal organizations have also tried to purchase Mali so she can be released, but the Manila Zoo refuses to let her live the natural life that she was intended to live.
Mali’s feet are sore and cracked from pacing the dry dirt in her small captive area.
Is there no compassion left for a poor neglected elephant such as Mali?
Please live with compassion.
Speak up for Mali’s release to Thailand.
Contact the zoo, tell them how you feel.
Contact local officials who can help free Mali.
Go see Mali if you can; it will bring tears to your eyes.
Animals suffer so much at the hands of humans who only think of their ego and greed.

David Knightly,
United States

The Philippines
Is not yet a full-blown dictatorship
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 January 2019
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Thursday 17 January 2019

The Philippines is not yet a full-blown dictatorship, but our claim to democracy has become tenuous at best.
Reliable figures are hard to come by in a country where surveys are predetermined by their “sponsors.”
Nonetheless, the headlines of dailies cannot but give a horrendous picture of the human rights situation in the former Pearl of the Orient.
New and old criminal cases overlap.
The Ampatuan massacre occurred on Nov. 23, 2009, in Maguindanao province. Thirty-two journalists are known to have been killed.
The trial in the town of Ampatuan drags on with not a single conviction in sight.
The powerful perpetrators have the money to cover the exorbitant fees of lawyers who see to it that they literally “get away with murder.”
On December 4, 2017, at around 8 p.m., Fr. Marcelito Paez, then regional coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Central Luzon, was shot while driving his vehicle in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija.
A day earlier, elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army and the Marines killed eight T’boli and Dulangan Manobo in Sitio Datal Bong Langon, Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.
The list of heinous crimes lengthens.
On record since the start of the Duterte regime on June 30, 2016 are 13 massacres, 216 political killings and more than 20,000 killings related to the ongoing drug war.
Obviously, the present regime is oblivious to the matter of human rights and morality.
More recently, nine farmers were massacred in Negros Occidental; a week later their lawyer, Benjamin Ramos, was ambushed and killed.
Former congressman Satur Ocampo and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, together with 16 others, were also arrested and charged with trumped-up charges of human trafficking in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
On November 28, President Duterte announced that he will create an armed civilian group to counter the New People’s Army Sparrow unit, a group of urban assassins blamed for the deaths of security forces and former rebels.
The President said his DDS (Duterte Death Squad) would be sent to transport terminals, eateries and other public places to kill suspected rebels and even loiterers and junkies.
All these point to the blatant disregard for human rights by the powerful of the land who are supposedly chosen to serve God, people and country.
Thus, the importance of Human Rights Day (marked on December 10); it is no less than a declaration of the universal and inalienable right to be human.
But, in the Philippines at present, such a declaration sounds more and more like “a weak voice crying in the wilderness.”

Fr. Wilfredo T Dulay
Religious Discernment Group,

Accountability and transparency are vital attributes
To Malaysia's constitutional monarchy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 January 2019
First published in the Star, Monday 14 January 2019

I must commend Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai for writing a couple of enlightening articles in his column, On The Beat, over the last two Sundays about the monarchy system in Malaysia.
The articles have helped to inform readers about how the system works and its relevance to our nation today.
However, it is not quite right to say that “our Malay monarchy dates to the 15th century...”
The first sultanate that emerged in the Malay peninsula was the Kedah Sultanate in 1136.
The ruler was Sultan Mudzaffar Shah who was on the throne till 1179.
The Kedah Sultanate has an unbroken lineage centring on the same dynasty, which makes it, arguably, the oldest sultanate in the world today.
From historical records, we know that it exercised effective domestic jurisdiction and attended to the needs of the people, including building the famous Wan Mat Saman canal in 1885 that irrigates a huge expanse of padi land from northern to central Kedah.
It also established bilateral and regional relations with other kingdoms.
In discussing the Malaysian monarchy, it is also important to emphasise that as constitutional monarchs, accountability and transparency are vital attributes.
It is these attributes that distinguish constitutional monarchies from their feudal predecessors.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar,
Kuala Lumpur,



Malaysia concerned at plight of ethnic Uyghur Muslims
In China
The Southeast Asian Times , Thursday 17 January 2019
First published in the Star, Sunday 13 January 2018

The Movement for an Informed Society Malaysia (Wadah) is troubled and alarmed concerning the plight of ethnic Uyghur Muslims as reported worldwide.
Wadah urges China and the international community to act to end the oppression and persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
The UN estimates one million ethnic Uyghur Muslims are being held in detention arbitrarily in internment camps all over Xinjiang.
China has admitted to the existence of these ethnic prison system but termed them as "re-education camps".
"Re-education camps" are chilling because it reminds the world of the harsh "gulags" and the cruel concentration camps of the past.
Camps renown for enforcing thought control, collective punishments, torture and even death.
Whole families are reported to have disappeared behind these detention centre walls.
It is grave and severe because the arrests involve wide swathes of the minority ethnic Muslims.
The personal beliefs, culture, language, rituals and even appearances of Uyghurs are being targeted and used as flimsy grounds for detention in such camps.
Daily prayers, growing beards, dressing and even fasting in the month of Ramadan have been astonishingly criminalised by Chinese authorities.
These are the dreadful forms of mistreatment and persecution of minority citizens in China at present.
China need not be in a state of enmity and confrontation with its minorities, Muslims and even the religion of Islam.
China has a rich cultural history, a strong and stable government, and is a world economic power.
It can celebrate diversity and inclusiveness of its vast population. Muslims and Islam have existed in China throughout its history and even during challenging and turbulent times.
China has to come to terms with its own minority citizens by tolerating and respecting their religion, culture and languages while always safeguarding the foundations of the nation, preserving loyalty to the country, upholding the national language and acquiescing to central administration.
It can reconcile to live together peacefully with mutual trust by observing and adopting strength through diversity within the framework of national unity. Unity in diversity is workable and Malaysia is a fine example.
Wadah would like to urge China to take the path of peace, engagement, dialogue, reconciliation, mutual respect and building mutual trust with its religious minorities so as to be an example to the world for sustaining a great and prosperous country together. This path will definitely boost and greatly complement China’s ambitious world economic initiative.

Ahmad Azam Abrahman,
President of Wadah,
Kuala Lumpur,


Call for reconsideration
Of phasing out of palm oil
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 January 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 5 Jan 2019

This is an open letter to the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt.
It was reported that the European Union has decided to phase out the use of palm oil by 2030.
It is understandable that the Western edible oil industry has launched a vicious campaign against palm oil out of commercial interest.
But when governments side with the for-profit industry in phasing out the import of palm oil without careful consideration of the facts, then it calls into question fairness and democratic principles that Western countries often preach.
Campaigns against palm oil have been mainly on two issues.
First, the deforestation and environmental destruction caused by oil palm cultivation. Second, the high saturated fats content in palm oil, which is deemed unhealthy.
It is true that in the past, vast pieces of land had been cleared for oil palm cultivation.
That was during the administration of the previous government.
Our present government is different. Environmental and health protection takes precedence now.
Criticism of Malaysia’s fast deforestation has been unfair. According to a World Bank report in 2018, 67.6 percent of the total land area in Malaysia comprises forests.
In contrast, for Britain it is 13percent, France (31percent), Germany (32.7percent), Italy (31.6percent), United States (33.9percent), and Canada (38.2percent).
Furthermore, livestock and soy farming in the west cause more deforestation than oil palm cultivation. Canola, soy and corn plants use more pesticides and herbicides than oil palm.
The criticism towards palm oil as unhealthy because of its high content of saturated fats has flaws.
The lipid or cholesterol theory of heart disease is paradoxical to the understanding of human physiology.
Our liver has to synthesise the different types of cholesterol to maintain normal physiology.
In 2015, the US and British governments lifted butter, eggs, meat, etc, from the ‘naughty food list’, when studies contradicting the lipid/cholesterol theory of heart disease started to surface in the preceding years.
In 2017, the British Royal Pharmaceutical Society pronounced the cholesterol theory of heart disease dead, effectively stating that cholesterol was not the cause of heart disease.
Malaysians have been consuming palm and coconut oils (both high in saturated fats) all our lives.
The prevalence of heart disease here is much lower than in western countries that consume more canola, soy and corn oils (mostly from genetically modified crops).
Claims that canola and other oils with unsaturated fats are healthy have no support from any proper study.
In fact, the Lauretti and Pratico study in 2017 published in the Journal of Scientific Reports associated consumption of canola oil with worsening memory and learning ability and weight gain in an animal study.
Another study in 2014 by Marchese and colleagues found vitamin E in canola, soybean and corn oils associated with rising incidences of lung infection and asthma.
However, vitamin E from olive and sunflower oils (both non-GMO) improves lung functions.
Palm oil has the best source of vitamin E because it consists of tocotrienols and tocopeherols.
Corn oil has a small amount of tocotrienols while canola and soybean oils have none, but only tocopherols, making the quality of vitamin E in these oils of inferior quality.
Incidentally, Malaysia’s vitamin E, extracted from palm oil, is the best in the world. There are several studies pointing to the other benefits of palm oil other than high-quality vitamin E.
The intention here is to make the case for palm oil and not impose on consumers in Europe what oil they should consume.
It is an appalling lack of consideration for governments to ban the import of palm oil.

Capt Dr Wong Ang Peng (Rtd.,)
President, Society of Natural Health Malaysia,
Member, National Patriot Association,
Kuala Lumpur,



Call for new Malaysian government
To seriously address bread and butter issues
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 January 2019
First published in the Star, Wednesday 9 January 2019

We have emerged from a year of tumultuous happenings, including the dethroning
of the previous political regime that had been in place for more than 60 years.
The new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government has promised to stop the rot of
corruption by cleansing the system and putting in place a governance of
integrity and accountability to create an affordable and harmonious life for
The initial euphoria of bringing down a corrupt government and bringing to
justice those responsible for nonfeasance, malfeasance, and misfeasance is now
wearing off as reality sets in.
Except for the unshackling of the press, the reinstatement of the rule of law,
the transparent and ethical stance of governance, there are no tangible benefits
for the common man.
The common man is concerned with survival, or at least having an affordable life that would enable him to put food on the table, give his children a proper education, and provide shelter and affordable health care, among other basic necessities.
His main concern is the spiralling cost of living that will adversely affect his
standard of living.
He is not concerned about institutional changes or that cleansing the system is a prelude to a better life.
That stopping the haemorrhage of government finance as a result of corrupt practices will make available monies for people-centric development.
I doubt most ordinary people can comprehend what sort of a burden that a RM1
trillion national debt courtesy of the previous government is.
They know it is wrong to amass wealth at the people’s expense but the source of the monies, which could be from unknown illegal sources, does not impact directly on them.
If it had been monies from their personal accounts or their salaries deducted to
meet these expenses, it would have caused an uproar.
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government must seriously address bread and butter issues.
They must first address the spiralling cost of living, which could be due to profiteering.
The B40 (lower income group) does not care about the mechanics of a market
economy that is based on supply and demand and the principle of profit
Nor do they care that some of these factors affecting price movements are beyond
the government’s control, the result of the volatility of external economic
What the middle income and B40 groups in society want is for the government to ensure that essential commodities are affordable.
To this effect, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government must start getting its act together.
The component parties must stop bickering about positions and who is going to be the next Prime Minister.
They must start serving the people who put them in power in the first place.
Thus, it behoves the ministers of the relevant ministries to start implementing
strategies to address the economic woes of the people by curbing profiteering
and creating jobs, especially for unemployed graduates.
Granted that the government is currently preoccupied with cleaning out the
systemic rot left by the previous regime, but at the same time, it needs to be
innovative in addressing pertinent issues and implement strategies for the
immediate benefit of the people.

Mohmed Ghouse Nasuruddin,
Centre for Policy Research and International Studies,
Universiti Sains Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,

Physcholologists call for government
To decriminalise drug addiction in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 14 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 9 January 2019

Malacañang does not intend to change the government’s approach to drug addiction even as a group of psychologists objected to its criminalization.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo maintained that the government’s policy on drug addiction has been effective, contrary to the claim of the Pyschological Association of the Philippines (PAP).
“Ineffective where?
Why not?
We have reduced, dismantled in fact a huge chunk of the illegal drug apparatus,”
he told a press briefing.
The Palace made the remarks following the Pyschological Association of the Philippines (PAP) recommendation that the government amend Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, to align it with RA 11036, or the Philippine Mental Health Law.
More humane approach.
The group of psychologists also proposed that the government shift to a more “humane” approach and deal with “social issues that perpetuate addiction such as poverty and unemployment.”
The Pyschological Association of the Philippines (PAP) added that the public’s exposure to summary executions of drug suspects would desensitize the public to violations of human rights, and that the lives of innocent people were mere collateral damage.
The Palace, however, challenged the group of psychologists to come up with an alternative instead of claiming that criminalizing drug addiction ran counter to the definition of addiction or substance use disorder in RA 11036.
“When you say you cannot solve the drug problem, what’s their alternative proposal?
They are not saying anything,”
Panelo said.

Julie M. Aurelio,

The closure of Rizal Park on New Year’s Day
To the detriment of Manila dwellers
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 13 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 11 January 2019

Barricading Rizal Park for the New Year’s Day celebration represents another modification to the park’s running that is to the detriment of the recreational experience of park visitors.
I say “another” because, through the years, the park committee has set measures that did much disservice to the purpose of the country’s prime freedom park, such as closing it for the night and perennially fencing off large sections for overdue regreening.
Rizal Park has been the breathing space for us Manila dwellers who need to unwind and recharge from our daily urban stress.
It is our sole place for rest and relaxation; this we cannot avail ourselves of in other parks in the western section of Metro Manila.
For decades, both city inhabitants and visitors have spent Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in Luneta.
These holidays serve as our sabbath after a whole year of preoccupation.
Also, we do not come only for the purpose of rest:
We are also festive, fired up by the jovial thought that the holidays are special days when everyone is merry and benevolent toward each other.
With the influx of the crowd comes the recurring littering problem.
Nonetheless, the decision to close down Luneta’s main grounds for New Year’s Eve speaks poorly for the administrative integrity of the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC).
Instead of implementing measures to discipline and educate parkgoers to prevent the mess from happening again, the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) deprived the public of the chance to enjoy the park’s amenities which, in the first place, are supposed to benefit the people.
The committee ought to let the people use the park, while also working to educate them on how to help maintain order and cleanliness in the place.
I hope the new administrative measures of the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) will not change the purpose of Rizal Park a park built for the benefit and enjoyment of all Filipinos.

Francis Raymund M. Gonzales,

In praise of whistleblowers, witnesses, prosecutors, lawyers
Against plunderers and murderers in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 10 January 2019

Congratulations to the Inquirer for its news feature on the four judges who “gave hope in the fight against impunity” in 6 January 2019.
Seeing their pictures prominently displayed, I realized that there are real people who are determined to provide justice for the victims of cruelty and oppression.
The story made me remember the God of scriptures who “rescued his chosen people from their suffering.”
May I take this opportunity, please, to suggest that you also feature the stories of those who work hard behind the headlines for the sake of the hapless victims of cruelty and injustice, like the whistleblowers, the brave witnesses, the prosecutors, and the lawyers who work hard to prepare airtight cases against plunderers and murderers.
Surely their stories will inspire many Filipinos like me not to lose hope but to go on.
Featuring their stories will be a kind of affirmative journalism in these days of cruelty and impunity.

Mariano F. Carpio,

Philippines kowtowing to Tokyo for fear
Of losing economic favours
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 11 January 2019
First published in the Philippines, Wednesday 9 January 2019

Once again, our government is kowtowing to Tokyo by telling Filipinos to keep in mind that the Japanese government is our “strategic ally” (“Laguna statue part of freedom of expression—Panelo,” ) in Philippine, Tuesday 1 January 2019.
Salvador Panelo also warned Filipinos against “unduly politicizing an issue which has already been addressed.”
The world knows the issue has not been addressed properly.
Sure, Panelo is just doing his job, which includes bending over backward for this shameless, unscrupulous administration by making absurd pronouncements.
Just like the time earlier this year when a “comfort woman” statue installed by a patriotic group on Roxas Boulevard was swiftly removed by the Manila authorities, this wariness to offend the Japanese government for fear of losing its economic assistance is part of a pattern.
Unlike Germany, which long ago apologized and made restitution for its war crimes, the world knows that Japan has refused to acknowledge its atrocities during World War II.
Its leaders have long failed to make an official apology to the victims. It thinks it’s done enough by doling out some amounts of recompense (not officially but from private organizations).
Incidentally, the euphemistic tag for those victims should never have been used - “comfort” was only derived by Japanese soldiers by prostituting girls and women who experienced great pain and misery.
For Panelo to declare that “Japan, after all, has paid dearly for its past deeds, which includes giving reparations” is as ridiculous as the man and his boss. Sadly, the Laguna statue included an empty chair beside the seated woman so that people could sit there and take selfies.

Isabel Escoda,
Cebu City,

Call for Thailand to allow Saudi would-be-refugee
To seek protection from UNHCR
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 January 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 8 January 2019

Under military rule, Thailand has become cruel and heartless - repeatedly
colluding with repressive foreign governments to intercept asylum seekers and
send them back to face life-threatening dangers.
Saudi women fleeing their families can face severe violence from relatives,
deprivation of liberty, and other serious harm.
Thai authorities should immediately halt attempts to deport Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, and either allow her to continue her travel to Australia or permit her to remain in Thailand to seek protection as a refugee from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Sunai Phasuk,
Human Right Watch,

Does Malaysia need to be declared an Islamic state
In order to live like good Muslims ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 January 2019
First published in the Star, Saturday 5 January 2019

Because I am wondering what is it that is preventing us from doing everything we can to live as good Muslims right now.
It is by the grace and mercy of Allah that everyone, regardless of their ancestry, found their way to this blessed country the way they did.
The challenge of living together is a test by Allah where we are told to put our best foot forward, and let Allah be the sole judge of all our earthly disputes.
Those who call for Malaysia to be declared an Islamic state need to tell us by what definition of Islam is this state to be built upon, and if this move will isolate our country even further from the modern Islam embraced by the rest of the world.
As it stands, the rest of the Islamic world is moving to criminalise all forms of female circumcision – but Malaysia feverishly defends the practice with a fatwa that still stands today.
The rest of the Islamic world is campaigning to end child marriage – but Malaysia defends this as even a “necessity” in certain states.
The rest of the Islamic world has moved to end racism in their countries – but Malaysia insists that certain racial superiority over the land must prevail for the sake of social fragility.
An Islamic state led by politically-motivated parties whose priority is to exert power by policing morality instead of prosecuting corrupt leaders will be a devastating downfall for Malaysia.
Ibn Abbas reports that our beloved Prophet once said: The most hated of the people to Allah are three persons: A person who deviates into the unlawful; a person who seeks for the tradition of ignorance to remain in Islam; and a person who seeks to shed another’s blood without right of justice.
Why can’t we just be good Muslims in a progressive country that embraces modernity and is friendly with all nations East and West?
Because if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere, and seriously, isn’t that what we want?
For Malaysians to be globally savvy instead of a Malaysia that is paranoid and suspicious of everything that comes from outside our borders?
I wonder about the fragility of the faith of an ummah that is built upon the fear of humans and not love for God.
I wonder how they would fare on the stage of the great wide world out there.
I wonder about thought and how it can be frightened into obedience, or nurtured to imagine fantastic futures.
A future where people no longer need to be afraid. A world where people no longer suffer.
An end – as our beloved Prophet brought – to an age of ignorance, and henceforth, the birth of a great civilisation of knowledge and creativity brought about by the liberated imaginations of Malaysians.

Majidah Hashim,
Communications Manager,
Sisters in Islam,
Kuala Lumpur,

Sabah and Sarawak against Malaysia
Declared an Islamic state
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 January 2019
First published in the Star, Friday 4 January 2019

With reference to an article in The Straits Times, Singapore, on December 29, 2018, entitled “Malay group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) wants Malaysia declared an ‘Islamic state’”, we in G25 Malaysia are of the view that Sabahans will not accept Malaysia being an Islamic state and we are quite sure Sarawakians will feel the same way.
They have said the two states will leave the Federation if Malaysia becomes an Islamic state.
An Islamic state means an autocracy where religion dictates the laws of the country, with the council of ulama having the final authority on any legislation that the elected Parliament or the Cabinet wish to introduce.
The ulama council can also veto those it feels are not Islamic enough to be in the government.
Isma should make it clear whether such a system of governing will make Malaysia a progressive country with a strong economy to raise standards of living and build confidence in the future of the country.
Our view in G25 is that what Isma is advocating will lead the country to become a failed state with poverty and misery for the masses.
Isma may well get the one million signatures it is aiming for but mainstream Malaysia, which represents the majority, will not subscribe to its Islamic agenda. Malaysians of all races know that the country has a better chance to develop into a united and successful nation under the democratic Constitution that we have now rather than under a divisive Constitution based on religion.
Our people know that the reason why several Muslim countries became failed states is because they allowed the autocratic nature of religion to manipulate politics and interfere in personal lives.
All of them have bad economies because nothing works in their system of government.
Malaysia has done well under the Constitution, which the leaders of our independence, representing the three major races, created with the concurrence of the Malay Rulers, to be the foundation of a new nation.
The 1957 Merdeka Constitution is democratic in character, with all the provisions for a modern country. Its basic character has not changed despite the formation of Malaysia in 1963 and various amendments to a few articles.
Malaysians are determined that the Constitution must remain as our founding fathers intended it to be. The people will support amendments that are aimed at correcting past mistakes to make us a better democracy. We will not support amendments that will change us from a democracy to an authoritarian regime or to a theocracy.

G25 Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for approval of Bangsamoro Organic Law
In southern Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 January 2019
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Friday 4 January 2019

Stakeholders of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) should be guided by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who urged Filipinos “to foster peace and solidarity among themselves by working toward the eradication of a mentality that promotes disputes among people, and regarding others as one’s own brothers and sisters.”
We cannot disregard the figures of 120,000 Filipinos who shed blood in war-torn Mindanao for more than four decades.
Let us put a period “sa ating mga kabaliwan.”
If we will perceive Muslim Filipinos as our enemies, not as brothers and sisters, we will never attain the path of peace.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) should be approved on January 21, 2019, via plebiscite by Filipino Muslims in Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur; six municipalities in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in Cotabato, so that they shall govern independently the Bangsamoro region, acquiring freedom from Imperial Manila and hoping to progress from “bondage to bounty.”
The pros and cons are working doubly hard to promote their interests.
The more than 200,000 members of YES to Bangsamoro in Cotabato City alone are actively campaigning for the law’s final approval from the Filipino Muslims.
This organization is also advocating that, upon the law’s approval, Islamic countries, banks and institutions - not China - should be given priority to invest or explore natural resources like oil and gas in the Bangsamoro region.
After all, both parties have common denominators (religion, traditions, belief, education, laws, historical background and aspirations).
The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) approval and successful implementation will be a template for federalism, which most Filipinos are skeptical about as shown in the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia surveys.
Let our Muslim brothers and sisters govern the Bangsamoro region, no one else.

Isidro C. Valencia,
Taguig City,

Papua New Guinea watching how benefits of APEC
Outweigh the cost of hosting the APEC summit
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 January 2019
First published in the National, Friday 28 December 2018

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) year is winding down and officially ending on December 31.
The organisers and everyone who gave their best efforts in making this colossal APEC regional economic forum a success, might have taken days off work, refreshed and reflected gleefully on their achievements.
You did very well and deserve our congratulations.
What is coming next, of course, are months and years of action when the signed bilateral, trilateral and multilateral agreements will be implemented.
The hopes of seeing change roll-out are high on the lists of citizen’s expectations. The post-summit work on these agreements and whatever else is there to do, must start as soon as practical. The real setbacks are likely to be delays on our part in getting the priority projects moving in the first six months of 2019.
Papua New Guineans will expect APEC agreements implementation news and information to fill the newspapers, airwaves and websites.
This Government-to-people information and communication will help to keep the people abreast of how the different agreements are worked out and concluded.
Further still, the Government should consider creating an APEC commission staffed with experts, whose role will be to monitor and publish work in progress on all the signed agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MOA)
I am sure many of you will be keenly focused and watching how the benefits outweigh the costs of hosting the summit.

M M Ondassa,
National Capital District,
Papua New Guinea

Muslim insurgency airbrushed out of existence
In southern Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 January 2019
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 1 January 2019

Re: "Xmas spirit a Thai virtue", Editorial, Monday December 24, 2018
In an amazing feat of journalism, the editorial of the Bangkok Post celebrating
the Xmas spirit succeeds in airbrushing the Muslim insurgency in southern
Thailand out of existence (on May 13 of this year, this newspaper published an
article titled "Muslim insurgent leader surrenders" but there is no Muslim
insurgency), airbrushing fundamentalism out of Islamic fundamentalism (Islamic
fundamentalists, who are the most intolerant and violent, are not called so
because they have a literal interpretation of Islam), and airbrushing Islamic
terrorism and its non-Muslim victims out of existence (the Thai citizen who was
tragically murdered last week in Strasbourg was not killed by a terrorist who
had sworn allegiance to Islamic State, at a Christmas market, shouting Allahu

Baffled Reader,

Shal Tharumalingham in Malaysia
Has two wishes for 2019
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 January 2019
First published in the Star, Tuesday 25 December 2019

I still vividly remember waking up on May 10 with euphoria and an immense feeling of hope for our nation.
In the seven months since that fateful day, many things have happened, some anticipated and some not.
That’s life, for we can never anticipate everything.
There has been one constant, though, and that is continuous criticism of the current government, not only by the parties that comprise the Opposition, but also by numerous other groups and individuals, each with their own agenda in mind.
The key issue is that we placed a lot of hope in what is now the ruling government to turn the tide around for our nation, which was on the verge of being swallowed into a dark whirlpool under the previous administration.
Now that we have had a taste of how the current government is performing, we are beginning to see the flaws and shortcomings.
The reality is, no government is perfect, as there are no perfect human beings.
Yes, I agree that they are accountable to the rakyat in ensuring that they deliver on the promises that were laid down in their manifesto.
However, beyond that, what is imperative is how they administer and manage the challenges that they inherited from the previous administration; also, how they handle issues that affect the rakyat, eg, cost of living, protection of children and women, the welfare of all Malaysians in the B40 (lower income) category, etc.
I have two wishes for 2019.
The first one is that the respective individuals and parties that comprise Pakatan Harapan spend more time working together in rebuilding our nation rather than protecting their own agendas.
I know, politicking will always be present, however it is a question of to what extent and how disruptive it is in derailing the bigger agenda that the government ought to be focusing on.
For the ones who will be affected most if the government fails are the rakyat.
My second wish is that the government, Opposition parties, Non Government organisations (NGO) and the rakyat in general remember that we are not Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban, Murut, etc, first, but Malaysians first and foremost.
Each and every one of us has a personal responsibility to respect one another and work together to maintain the unity, fellowship and peace in our beloved nation, Malaysia.
Let’s all work hand in hand in turning the tide in 2019 to ensure that Malaysia returns to being a formidable country.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Shal Tharumalingham,
Petaling Jaya,

God have mercy
On Filipino's
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 January 2019
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 28 December 2018

As we face uncertain times, we entrust our nation to Your loving care.
We ask You to bless us with the wisdom to understand the reason why we are troubled with many social evils in this country.
God, what good will You bring out of it?
We pray for our leaders to know the right thing to do and for them to speak the truth.
Give them the hunger and thirst for your righteousness.
We pray, too, that all things that we decide or do in this country should be inspired by Your love and not by our selfish pride, arrogance and hatred.
God have mercy on us Filipinos.

Reginald B Tamayo,
Assistant city council secretary,
Marikina City,


Papua New Guinea commemorates the Gang of Four
To welcome in the New Year
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 January 2019
First published in the National, Monday 28 December 2018

While preparing to welcome the New Year, we will commemorate the lives and achievement of exemplary Papua New Guineas who were around at the time our country’s independence.
There are many Papua New Guineans who achieved many great things, but given the time and space we will only look at the famous ‘Gang of Four’.
The Gang of Four refers to a group of influential young civil servants who played a leading role in holding together public administration and public policy in the formative decade or so after Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975.
When there was a top bureaucratic, government or diplomatic post that became available, either one of the four would make it to the final cut.
They are; Sir Mekere Morauta, Sir Charles Lepani, Sir Rabbie Namaliu and Sir Anthony Siaguru.
We already looked at Sir Mekere Morauta and Sir Rabbie Namaliu in the preceding articles.
We will look at Sir Anthony Siaguru. Tony, as many called him, had a most distinguished career and in no exaggeration it is safe to say he was Papua New Guinea’s renaissance man.
The place and time of his birth is sketchy but his illustrious career truly defines him in every aspect as a lawyer and statesman who shaped Papua New Guinea’s foreign relations in the years after independence.
He was a torchbearer representing Papua New Guinea at the Commonwealth of Nations as its deputy secretary-general. Sir Anthony was a corruption fighter to the core who started the Papua New Guinea chapter of Transparency International and a business icon who started the Port Moresby Stock Exchange.
He graduated in Law at the University of Papua New Guinea and took further studies in Harvard, USA.
He received a Fulbright Scholarship in 1980, and as an Edward Mason fellow, was attached to the Harvard Institute of International Development.
Much earlier, Sir Anthony was a foreign service trainee in Australia in 1972 with subsequent short attachments at the Australian Mission in Geneva.
He became secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs when Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975.
Among his other achievements was the significant role he played in the negotiations between Pacific Island countries and Australia and NZ, leading ultimately to the establishment of Sparteca (South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement).
Sparteca, according to the Pacific Island Forum website, is a regional trade agreement established in 1981 to allow smaller, more economically-restricted South Pacific island countries tariff-free access for many of their exports into Australian and New Zealand markets.
It was Sir Anthony in his capacity as secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade who advised Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to establish diplomatic relations with China.
The relationship between these two countries has been cordial ever since then.
He had a short stint in politics.
Sir Anthony entered Parliament, winning the Moresby North-East seat in 1982 and served as minister in various portfolios including as Minister for the Public Service.
Following his departure from politics after the 1987 election, he joined Blake Dawson Waldron as a senior partner specialising in commercial law.
In 1990, he was elected to a five-year term as deputy secretary-general of the Commonwealth.
After this period of service, based in London, he returned home to Blake Dawson Waldron again before ‘retiring’ in 1998.
Sir Anthony was appointed chairman of the Port Moresby Stock Exchange in 1998.
He represented Papua New Guinea on the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC) Business Advisory Council. Sir Anthony was a member of the Policy Advisory Council of Aciar.
He was a prolific and respected commentator on national affairs and columnist. Many of his essays and collections were compiled and later published as a book.
As foundation chairman of Papua New Guinea’s chapter of Transparency International Sir Anthony launched the Integrity Pact concept, in which politicians were encouraged to sign an Integrity Charter at the time of the 1997 election in Papua News Guinea, pledging themselves to institute good and transparent governance.
I remember the Integrity Pact concept was also adopted by the Independent Public Business Corporation to use across the State-owned enterprises for good and corporate governance.
I pay great homage to Sir Anthony as our nation’s golden child.
Of the famous ‘Gang of Four’, he short-lived them all, yet his legacy is far reaching and monumental.
With the time and space, I could do no justice all the accolades of our great statesman.
As I conclude here, I quote part of the of Sir Anthony’s close friend Prof Ross Garnaut’s tribute: “He has been the decathlon gold medalist in Papua New Guinea’s national life since independence, earning points in each of many events.
“These essays have been selected from the weekly Post-Courier newspaper columns and from speeches in Tony’s years outside official life, mostly in the late 1980s and after the return from London in 1996.
“This is a highly-readable volume, clearly written, spiced with good humor and with points of reference drawn from the experience of the whole of humanity.
“It leaves the reader with a sense that, despite the difficulties, democracy is the most natural as well as the best of all the imperfect ways of organising the affairs of humanity in Papua New Guinea.”

Sir Anthony succumbed to cancer as he was undergoing treatment in Brisbane in April 2004.
He is survived by his wife Wilhemina, and three sons.

David Lepi,
Port Moresby.
Papua New Guinea

Peace negotiations between Philippine government
And communists important in 2019
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 January 2019

I was just moved to give my opinion on the statement of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) on the issue of “Duterte’s order to destroy Reds” that says “As a leaders of churches in the country, we are troubled by this announcement and the escalation of violence and violation of human rights that will surely ensure”.
Well, this kind of statements only gives the rebel group Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA) the confidence to continue all their atrocities against innocent civilians specially those who are powerless.
These kind of words spoils them to do what they are doing now because they know that someone is still there to defend and protect them.
Yes, life is precious.
And human rights is a basic rights for every human being and I know that church leaders value that.
But what should we do if other don’t give importance on this so called life and continue to abuse, and disrespect the life and human rights of others not just once but for 50 long years?
Does the government have the choice not to destroy the communists if that’s the only way to stop them?
And yes peace negotiation is important.
But do we need to stick to this kind of solution when for 50 long years of going to the negotiating table nothing happens because the government is talking to insincere leaders?
Year 2019 is coming so soon, let us stop believing in impossible dreams for this group because if that is real, then 50 years of atrocities and lies had never happened.

Jomarie Kaye Patalinghug,


Call for Filipino's
To reject federalism
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 31 December 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 28 December 2018

Upon reading “How can we be apolitical?” by Elizabeth Lolarga in Philippine Inquirer Opinion, December 12, 2018.
I connected it to the quote: “All it takes for evil to prevail in this world is for enough good men to do nothing but watch events happening before their eyes.”
This is what millions of Filipinos are doing right now.
Come May, let’s do something we can be proud of - let’s vote for people who can make a difference.
And for God’s sake, please reject federalism!

Elena C Cutiongco,

Philippine President Duterte order to destroy communists
Is monstrous and frightening
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 28 December 2018

I was shocked when I read that President Duterte called on the military to do what General Suharto did to Indonesian communists.
Our President ordered: “Do not fight them, destroy them. Destroy them, kill them.”
Before the 1965 anticommunist massacre in Indonesia, there was supposedly a failed procommunist coup.
Suharto and his henchmen directed a massive massacre afterwards. Between 500,000 and 1 million victims died at the hands of military-led vigilante mobs over a six-month period.
The CIA gave Suharto the names of communist party members.
They were killed, as well as activists, ethnic Chinese and religious minorities.
Also murdered were neighbors whom the mob leaders did not like.
Few bullets were fired; most were killed by stabbing, beating and strangulation.
Historians such as Benedict Anderson claim there was actually no coup, but it was an excuse manufactured by Suharto to sideline President Sukarno and seize power for himself. After this mass butchery, Suharto became a dictator, ruling Indonesia for the next 30 years.
For our President now to order the military to destroy the communists is monstrous and frightening.
Whatever guise it takes, such a campaign will damage not just the communists, but also society itself.

Jonathan Foe,

Newly crowned Philippines Miss Universe
To enlist in the Armed Forces of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 29 December 2018

I was just want to express my gratefulness and excitement that our newly crowned Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray is to enlist as a reservist in the Army.
As a license pediatric doctor and a proud member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Reservist Force, I believe that Miss Universe Catriona Gray’s advocacy is a big help in our mission particularly in socioeconomic development and in helping in operation and maintenance of essential government and private services.
Where, like me as a pediatric doctor, together with the other men and women of different profession decided to joined the reservist of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) since we believe that this is the best way that we can help our fellow Filipinos who are incapable of going to hospitals because of the absence of financial capability.
The Reserve Force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is looking forward to this possibility of Miss Catriona Gray to join the Army reservist in so, hand in hand we can help the silver lining in the society and we both see the smile in the face of the children not only in Tondo, but instead, to the whole area of Philippines.
Thank you.

Maria Christina Lim,
Quezon City,

December 26, 2018 marks the 50th anniversay
Of the New Peoples Army
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 28 December 2018

December 26, 2018 marks the 50th year anniversary of the New People’s Army, (NPA) the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). This day commemorates the 50th year of deception, lies and destruction of the New Peoples Army (NPA) against the lives of the innocent civilians who have been victims and suffered horrible act of terrorism from the hands of this group.
The 50th year anniversary of the New Peoples Army (NPA) displays their decade of failure and defeat in overthrowing the government and a real manifestation that armed struggle will not and will never win despite all their efforts as they continue their massive attacks in different areas of the country in accordance to their celebration.
May this day remind everyone the decade of sorrow, fear, and heartaches caused by the killings, arson, deception, extortion, illegal recruitment, and kidnapping perpetrated by this group. Let this be the last day and last year that the terrorist New Peoplesl Army (NPA) will able to celebrate another year of terror and deception. Let us be united to knock them out as we face the new year of hope, peace and progress in our country.

Sandra Ballaran,
Peace Advocate,

All I want for Christmas
Is peace in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 27 December 2018

If American singer Mariah Carey says, “All I want for Christmas is you,” I want to reply with, “All I want for Christmas is peace.”
With good news circulating over media for the past weeks like the coming home from the United States of the Balangiga bells and the crowning of Miss Universe of Filipino, Catriona Elisa Gray, I am positive to hear about the success of our local government units (LGUs) to finally seal local peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels in their respective localities.
In my view, local peace talks between communist rebels and Local Government Units (LGU) is better than resorting into an armed offensive against them.
We all have to support this local peace talks.
It’s Christmas time.
I am sure members of this group are also longing for their families.
They have been in the mountains and away from their loved ones for so long.
If both parties agree with local peace talks, they will no longer need to hide in the forests and worry how their family members are doing while they are not around.
Besides being with their families, they no longer have to be the people known in threatening the lives and properties of their fellow countrymen.
They no longer have to be the reasons behind the grief of every soldier who gets hurt and dies in armed encounters with them.
All that’s left is peaceful living, not only for them but for also for all the locals.
All I want for Christmas is peace.
We all want this, I assume.

Mc Howard Abdon,

Call for workshop in Thailand
To study red, yellow and green shirt political parties
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday. 26 December 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 21 December 2018

Re: "Media warned against revisiting past unrest", in Bangkok Post 19 December 2018.
"Media ... have been warned against ... presenting hate-provoking news and false information as they may be used online to influence how people vote...",
according to Somsri Han-anantasuk of the Open Forum for Democracy oundation.
For example, she said, media should not report stories like the 2010 pro-Thaksin, red-shirt protest against the Abhisit government which led to arson attacks and a military crackdown in which six people died at Wat Pathum Wanaram.
But, "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it", said George Santayana.
Thais are very resistant to learning from history, for we hold the world record for coups d'etat.
I fully agree that speakers must not intentionally provoke hate or false information, but until we understand what motivates adherents of each side, seek to understand those who believe differently, and work together to achieve common goals, we will neither reconcile nor have sustainable peace.
For example, what did the red shirts believe in when they sought to overthrow
the Abhisit government?
To what extent was that worldview factual?
To what extent was the military crackdown justified?
What can we learn from this tragic incident that will help us reconcile and work in unison?
How about a series of workshops, led by neutral academics, with participants
from all major groups of thought - including red, yellow and green-shirts and others?
Each workshop would focus on one area of reform, eg, education,
military, or economics.
They would study the root problems of each crisis and work out joint long-term sustainable solutions to present to the incoming government, loaning their leaders to implement their proposals.
If you approve, how would we create pressure on workshop participants to
produce, not just argue and finger-point?

Burin Kantabutra,

What kind of tourist travels around Thailand
With 300,000 baht in their bag?
The Southeast Asian Times, 25 December 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 21 December 2018

Re: "Driver returns B300k to Israeli tourist", in Bankok Post Friday 21 December.
Khun Yaya Jehmaeng is the latest in a long string of impressively honest and
honourable Thai drivers who have returned small and large fortunes to careless
and forgetful customers.
My deep respect and sincere appreciation go out to Thai drivers in general - the vast majority of whom are upright, honest and hardworking, despite being widely maligned.
I do wonder about the latest incident, however.
Not about the taxi driver, but about the so-called "tourist" involved.
What kind of tourist travels around with 300,000 baht cash in their bag?
Big spenders, travelling in luxury, pay their bills with credit cards or electronic transfers.
Budget travellers don't have need for such large amounts of cash.
I hope the authorities are looking into this rather strange anomaly to uncover the story behind the story.

Samanea Saman,

Call for New Peoples Army to surrender
To Armed Forces of the Philippines for Christmas
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 24 December 2018

We are a few days away from Christmas day and all are busy either decorating their homes or rushing to the stores for their last-minute shopping of gifts and noche buena.
While everyone is excited to spend the day and night with family and friends, I can’t help but pity the poor members or should I rather says victims of New People’s Army who have not surrendered yet because they will be stuck in the mountains this Christmas.
The unilateral ceasefire they have announced is useless because our government is firm with their decision not to declare ceasefire this time.
They will continue to pursue the remaining members of New Peoples Army (NPA) in the coming days even on Christmas.
For this, I can see now that the present administration through the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, is really serious with its goal to end Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) insurgency.
I can only imagine how it’s going to feel being away from your family this Christmas because I personally can never allow myself not to spend the most-awaited holiday with my family.
For now, I can only ask the remaining New Peoples Army (NPA) to surrender and receive the benefits of their Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
They must realize that they are just being used by the leadership of CPP-NPA to continue with their extremist approaches in harming the only nation Filipinos can call “home”.
And I cannot blame their members.
They are just deceived.

Brenda C. Macasaet,
Nueva Ecija

Call for Philippine President to order executives
Of Manila rail transit system to ride the train
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 23 December 218
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 18 December 2018

My wife and I are both retired “balikbayan.”
We always enjoy coming home to our beloved country especially during Christmas, because we feel the season’s spirit here.
On December12, around 9 a.m., I took the Manila Light Rail Transit System (LRT) 2 from Araneta to Recto in order to visit my older brother, also a balikbayan, in Manila.
The escalators were not working as I walked to the platform.
I said it would be a good exercise.
As a senior citizen, I enjoy the privilege of getting on the Persons With Disabilities (PWD) coach.
But I still had to stand up because some of the seats were taken - by not-so-senior and not-really-disabled passengers.
Maybe there was no more space available and they might be late for work.
A middle-aged lady carrying a disabled boy got on our PWD coach, where the air-conditioning was barely working. She didn’t look like a beggar but just a normal passenger.
I was so impressed by the patience and persistence of this mother to take care of the boy.
I took out a P100 bill, which is less than $2, and handed it to her.
She was hesitant at first to accept it, but I said “Merry Christmas.”
She took it finally and said, “Pagpalain kayo ng Panginoon.”
The other passengers started handing P20, P50, P100 bills and some coins.
I noticed she was teary-eyed, and my eyes, too, started to moisten.
Was this the real meaning of Christmas?
Was this being a Christian?
In the Bible, Jesus came for the poor and the oppressed.
Was Jesus present in this Persons With Disabilities (PWD) coach?
This was the first time I experienced something like this in my life.
I thought about the other homeless and poor people in the Philippines.
I wonder if our politicians and leaders of religious institutions really notice them, since they ride in chauffeured and tinted vehicles and live in mansions.
President Duterte should order the heads and executives of Manila Metro Rail Transit System (MRT) And Manila Light Rail Transit System (LRT) to ride the train every morning when they go to work.
It might be worth a try.

Fiden Claudio,

Thailand puts financial burden of survival
On those barely surviving
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 22 December 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 20 December 2018

Re: "TDRI urges higher VAT to solve disparity", in Bangkok Post, Business, December 15.
The recent suggestion of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) to cover up and hide the greed of the Thai elite by increasing the value-added tax to
improve underfunded poverty schemes is brazen hubris which does nothing to
resolve the issue of wage slavery and economic disparity.
According to an economic expert's interpretation of the latest Credit Suisse Report, Thailand has claimed the No.1 place of economic disparity worldwide during the latest junta regime.
Those responsible for this downturn in economic viability are also the masterminds behind the "20-Year Thailand 4.0 Plan".
Making those that are able to afford things beyond the basics pay more in taxes to offset corporate greed does not serve the people!
Rather than admitting that the pay scale in Thailand is too low to allow people to thrive, and adjusting to a living wage like other sound economies and societies, Thailand chooses to put the financial burden of survival on those barely surviving.
Those that have far more than they "need" due to profiteering are exempt from
responsibility for the situation that their greed has created.
This scenario is doomed to failure and will result in a backlash that will further erode social stability and cohesiveness.
Pinning the future prosperity of Thailand on projects such as the recently-launched super mall and luxury condo offering are the result of the elite being allowed to exert their hubris on the masses.
I have talked to many people that have visited the super mall, yet none of them bought anything.
Even the people that work there cannot afford to shop or support their place of
Maybe a good litmus test to determine if a financial project is truly needed is
to ensure that the people working there can afford to benefit or use it.
This simple idea might reduce the desire of the government to further pillage a
working family's budget with a VAT increase.
Little tokens of few baht here and there are not solutions!
These are just methods of placation to stave off social unrest.
When the paper reports that the average salary of university graduates is only 14,000-16,000 baht a month there is a serious issue about wages that can only be resolved through raising wages.
Nothing less will suffice.

Darius Hober,


Call for protesters against Martial law in Mindanao
To stop blocking Manila streets
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 December 2018

I am glad to know that the Senate and the Congress of the Philippines has approved the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao for another year.
Our brothers and sisters in Mindanao has been suffering so much for so long under the hands of abusive anti-government entities like Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Islamic State of Lanao (Maute) and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) armed wing New Peoples Army (NPA).
It's indeed the time that we have to provide them with the protection they need so they can be safe and secured while they make a living and improve their own lives.
I have been to Mindanao for two times during they implementation of Martial Law and I can remember I have never felt as secured as I was in a locality I am not familiar with.
The police and soldiers were everywhere but it seemed like everyone liked and loved their presence.
I just hope the rallyists, who are said to be just front organizations of New Peoples Army (NPA), would stop blocking the streets of Manila with their streamers and placards just to contradict the enactment of Martial Law in Mindanao.
The residents in Mindanao consistently favor Martial Law.
Why don't we just listen to them, the people who experience it first-hand?

Charinna Grace Belleza,
Marikina City,


Communist Party of the Phillipines urged to talk peace
With Philipppine President before his term ends
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 20 December 2018

If there is someone we can see as close as a crane to an old man, it was the former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, one of the persons closest to President Rodrigo Duterte.
He appealed to New People’s Army (NPA) rebels not to shut the door to peace negotiations with Mr. Duterte.
“I call on the NPA to trust President Duterte,” Go told reporters in San Andres town, Quezon province last December 13.
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) leaders, however, said they were always ready to meet with government negotiators for the purpose of reviving the talks.
Further, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had rejected calls for the government to reciprocate the rebels’ gesture.
Surprisingly, this would be the first time that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was not even contemplating on declaring a ceasefire with the New Peoples Army (NPA).
We can recall last month that the President closed all doors to the possible revival of stalled peace talks.
The government also ordered government forces to launch all-out offensives against the New Peoples Army (NPA).
Peace talks between rebels and the Duterte administration started on a high note after four rounds of negotiations to bring a peaceful end to the 50-year-old communist rebellion.
But on November 23 last year, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 that terminated peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the umbrella group of all underground communist organizations.
What is interesting here is the Communit Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples's Army (NPA’s) response.
Communist terrorist rebel leaders had said they would prefer to wait until the President stepped down at the end of his term in 2022 rather than pin their hopes for a peace deal on him.
This is a game changer.
It seems that the past two years of negotiation with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA) is the verge of pure ambivalence from the courtyard of the terrorists.
If they will keep on tilting their heads in favour with them, their ends will definitely be crippling.
Meanwhile, this opportunity being given by the government is only a buying-time for them to consolidate powers; from recruitment to combat strength.
It is clear that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) of insincerity and denounced its armed wing, the New Peoples Army (NPA), for continued attacks on government forces.
I encourage the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA) to take advantage the offer by a leader like President Duterte.
If they will wait until President Duterte’s term ends, they would have difficulty looking for another leader to talk with.
Peace must be secured before the two party.
It is enduring to see a lasting legacy of peace in this holiday season and beyond.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,


New Peoples Army always ready to revive
Peace talks with Philippine President Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 19 December 2018

If there is someone we can see as close as a crane to an old man, it was the former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, one of the persons closest to President Rodrigo Duterte.
He appealed to New People’s Army (NPA) rebels not to shut the door to peace negotiations with Mr. Duterte.
I call on the NPA to trust President Duterte,” Go told reporters in San Andres town, Quezon province last December 13.
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) leaders, however, said they were always ready to meet with government negotiators for the purpose of reviving the talks.
Further, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had rejected calls for the government to reciprocate the rebels’ gesture.
Surprisingly, this would be the first time that the Armed Forces of the Philippines was not even contemplating on declaring a ceasefire with the New Peoples Army (NPA).
We can recall last month that the President closed all doors to the possible revival of stalled peace talks.
The government also ordered government forces to launch all-out offensives against the New Peoples Army (NPA).
Peace talks between rebels and the Duterte administration started on a high note after four rounds of negotiations to bring a peaceful end to the 50-year-old communist rebellion.
But on November 23 last year, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 that terminated peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the umbrella group of all underground communist organizations.
What is interesting here is the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army's (NPA’s) response.
Communist terrorist rebel leaders had said they would prefer to wait until the President stepped down at the end of his term in 2022 rather than pin their hopes for a peace deal on him.
This is a game changer.
It seems that the past two years of negotiation with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA) is the verge of pure ambivalence from the courtyard of the terrorists.
If they will keep on tilting their heads in favour with them, their ends will definitely be crippling.
Meanwhile, this opportunity being given by the government is only a buying-time for them to consolidate powers; from recruitment to combat strength.
It is clear that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) of insincerity and denounced its armed wing, the New Peoples Army (NPA), for continued attacks on government forces.
I encourage the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) to take advantage the offer by a leader like President Duterte.
If they will wait until President Duterte’s term ends, they would have difficulty looking for another leader to talk with. Peace must be secured before the two party. It is enduring to see a lasting legacy of peace in this holiday season and beyond.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

Philippine's fight against corruption
Overshadowed by acquittal of poltical allies
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 18 December 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 11 December 2018

Stolen wealth does not make the thief respectable. Neither will the trappings of wealth mask [nor] cap the stink that thievery exudes.” (President Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address).
In most of his public appearances, President Duterte has stressed his hate for corrupt officials.
He has fired executive officials whom he had accused of stealing public funds.
But, at the same time, he has recycled Customs chiefs under whose watch billions of shabu were smuggled into the country.
The President’s fight against corruption is also being overshadowed by the acquittal/granting of bail/bestowal of honor to big-time plunderers who happen to be his political allies.
It is during his administration that the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani; former president Gloria “I am sorry” Macapagal Arroyo was acquitted; and bail was granted to former senators Jinggoy “Sexy” Estrada and Juan “No one was arrested during martial law because of their political beliefs” Ponce Enrile.
And now, the acquittal of former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
Can one really believe that Revilla’s chief of staff engaged in those transactions without his approval and knowledge?
The President’s fight against corruption is as shallow as his campaign against drugs.

Raffy Rey Hipolito,


New doctrine invented in the Philipppines to acquit
Former president Gloria Macapagal of plunder
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 17 December 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 14 December 2018

Allow me to comment on Artemio Panganiban’s column, “More questions on Imelda’s conviction” 9 December 2018, which pointed out the fact that it was then Associate Justice (now Chief Justice) Lucas Bersamin who invented a “new” (i.e., previously unheard of) doctrine that led to the acquittal of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in a plunder case.
Bersamin practically junked the settled rule in criminal law that the “act of one is the act of all” and therefore it is irrelevant to determine who the “mastermind” and the mere gofers are in a charge of conspiracy.
As Panganiban said, that perverse ruling is now “binding jurisprudence in plunder cases” which looters of the people’s money are now invoking in their own cases with alacrity.
The former chief justice may have missed one more fact.
That same Bersamin decision set aside an elementary rule in the Rules of Court promulgated by the Supreme Court itself which explicitly prohibits review of any trial court’s ruling denying a demurrer to the evidence.
That rule requires the accused to proceed presenting his/her own defense pronto.
Arroyo’s lawyer, Estelito Mendoza, went straight to the Supreme Court to seek review of the Sandiganbayan ruling finding sufficient evidence to convict her and therefore denying her demurrer.
Bersamin, who incidentally was appointed to the Supreme Court by Arroyo, seemed to have obliged happily.

Romano M. Montenegro,

Is an attack on bishops in the Philippines
An attack on Jesus Christ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 16 December 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 14 December 2018

The latest attack on the bishops by enticing the faithful to kill them goes too far.
In this context, I would like to raise the following questions:
Shall we stand by and watch the bishop-bashers whose crass and condescending tongues continue to badmouth and threaten our bishops?
Shall we respond with anything more than generic platitudes written in a pastoral letter?
When will the bashing stop? Where will it end?
Is an attack on bishops considered an attack on Jesus Christ?
Is there a reciprocal union between the bishops and Christ?
If these attacks are not halted at once, they might lead to an escalation not only against the bishops, but also against the entire Church.

Reginald B. Tamayo,

Martial law in Mindanao southern Philippines
Is becoming the new norm
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 15 December 2018

Finally, the implementation of Martial Law was then again extended in Mindanao. Many people who are living here in the metro are questioning about the purpose of this extension.
This people are insisting that Martial Law in Mindanao would only bring fear and injustice to the Mindanaoans.
Honestly, as a Mindanaoan and working as hotel manager here in Makati, the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao really gives us peace and security.
Yes, I agree with Senator Francis Escudero saying that “martial law is becoming a “new norm” to implement peace and order in a perceived lawless area.
I could say that this is because people in Mindanao for the first time felt secure and peaceful from the moment martial law was being implemented.
I cannot deny that the first implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao seems hard for the Mindanaoans because there are lots of adjustment being made especially in the everyday life of the people.
At first, some do not agree with the implementation, some are protesting because they need to adjust in their normal lives but obviously later on, the Mindanaoans understand the benefits of Martial Law in the island.
Acts of terrorism were being minimize, rampant kidnapping, killings, car napping, used of illegal drugs, use of private armies and many more where being controlled. Fear and violence made by lawless groups are being oppress also.
People in Mindanao felt safe now because of Martial Law.
People living in Metro and spend their lives in busy live here do not understand how to live in Mindanao and they don’t have the right to protest and question the legality of Martial Law.
To the congressmen/congresswoman and all other law makers who are opposing the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao, stop using the issue just to take attentions.
For you don’t have the rights to question it because you did not spend your lives in Mindanao.

Shaira Fahad R Dimaporo,

Philippine medical community up in arms
Over mandate for organ donation
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 14 December 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 11 December 2018

Last month, I watched on TV how Congress is preparing legislation that will make it compulsory for everyone to donate their organs for medical availability to patients who may need organ transplant as part of their treatment.
I had to listen twice just to confirm that I heard the right news, which I thought could only be possible in a bad dream.
But there it was, the law was being discussed by lawmakers to mandate people to donate their organs.
Should the law be enacted, the whole medical community would be up in arms.
Will the organs be for sale?
Commercial trading is unethical and strictly forbidden.
Who would think of such a macabre idea, unless there are ghouls in Congress?
A person has absolute autonomy in deciding what is to be done with his body.
Even in times of illness, when there is need to remove an organ to cure the disease or prolong the life of the patient, no physician may even touch, much more operate on the patient’s body, without the patient’s expressed consent.
To do so is malpractice, or a disregard of the ethical right of the patient and violation of the Code of Ethics of the medical profession.
Section 24 of the Medical Act of 1959, the law that governs the study and practice of medicine in the Philippines, provides penalties for such violations.
Who should do the harvesting of the organs?
No doctor can be forced to do so.
I am not aware that senators and congressmen can do so.
I do hope explicit copies of the proposed bill of the Organ Donation Law may be made available to the Philippine Medical Association so I can be more correct in m stirred-up opinion.

Santiago A. Del Rosario Jr.,
Committee on Ethics,
Philippine Medical Association,


Call for Philippine government not to consider
Christmas ceasefire with Philippine Communist rebels
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 December 2018

Christmas may be coming but our government defense forces do not reconsider issuing a ceasefire with communist rebels or Communist Party of the Phiippines (CPP)- New Peoples Army (NPA)-National Democratic Front (NDF).
What for?
Para makaluwag sila to regroup and refurbish para after laban na naman?
Para maka pagdiwang sila ng bongga sa kanilang 50 years na pagpapahirap sa bayan?
We are fooling ourselves about this cease fire.
"A ceasefire is always in their favor never our troops," said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana
Sec. Lorenzana pointed out that communists will just use this opportunity for them to strengthen their group.
On this note, I am on Lorenzana’s side.
There is no need for a ceasefire.
These people we are talking about are totally untrustworthy.
They do not have this what we call palabra de honor or word of honor.
Just as how the repeatedly committed ambush offensives against our policemen when while the peace talks are ongoing.
What’s better to do is just enter with localized peace talks.
That’s way better than ceasefires.
That is long-term.

Rich B. Madrillejos
Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW)

Call for Philippine Congress
To extend Martial Law in Mindanao
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 December 2018

Will there be a final yes or n
President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until end of 2019, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed Friday. “Yes,” Medialdea said when asked if Duterte has approved the recommendation of the police and military for extension of martial law in the region.
On May 23, 2017, Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law after the ISIS-inspired Maute Group attacked Marawi City.
Let us say that the 1987 Constitution provides that martial law can only be imposed for a maximum of 60 days.
Duterte asked Congress to extend it until December 31, 2017 after it expired on July 2017.
Still, the discretion lingers on the President’s handful of decision. Anyway, congress may veto the pronouncement in majority vote cast.
In reality, a threat still lingers but the government is prepared.
From sleepers, splinters, and bandwagoning groups/movements, there really is a necessity to put a stoppage since those elements may turn into another flying mosquitoes; unseen and unheard to suck blood from its victims.
I hope that Congress will approve the President’s request on Martial Law extension for people’s security.
We need to support this beyond measure.

Jumel G. Estranero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

Call for relocation
Of Philippine capital Manila
The Southeast Asian Times, 11 December 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 7 December 2018

This is a reaction from a constant reader to Peter Wallace’s “Clark: a new capital in the making?” in Philippine Inquirer 22 Novemeber 2018.
This is an alternative proposal I had sent to the consultative committee reviewing the 1987 Constitution headed by former chief justice Reynato S. Puno:
Restate where the capital city and where the national government center will be located.
May I suggest that the above be located and established in an appropriate location in the Sierra Madre, Quezon Province or Aurora Province where the buildings of the three branches of government will face the east or the rising sun while overlooking the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
It will be a resplendent and glorious site and sight, like a “city on a hill.”
We can design and build this capital city and national government center like but not exactly Brasilia or Washington DC, the world’s “first custom-designed capital.”
But certainly not our present capital, which our 1935 Constitution designated as Quezon City. Yet Manila or Malacañang functions today as the seat of central power; and as it appears and functions now, our Senate is in Pasay City, while our House of Representatives is in Quezon City, and in the near future both the Senate and the Supreme Court will be in Bonifacio Global City - signifying or symbolizing what some critics describe as a dysfunctional government.

Edmundo H. Escalante,
Retired judge and former president,
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)

New Thai tax law
Could divert funds to alternative currencies
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 10 December 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 8 December

Re: "New tax law prompts suspicions of snooping", in Bangkok Post December 5, 2018.
It is refreshing to read a draft law, especially on taxation, that is simple and
clear albeit far-reaching in covering tax loopholes. Against the law to protect
the privacy of banks' customers, banks and similar financial institutions are
required under the proposal to report to the Revenue Department names of those
who have more than 3,000 transactions per year or 400 transactions with an
average sum of 2 million baht per year. What is the catch?
The main aim is to catch all digital transactions that threaten traditional
retail trade. Those transactions via e-commerce are difficult to trace for
auditing tax obligations. The thresholds of having an average 250 bank
transactions per month or 21 per day are unlikely to apply to most people unless
they are tax-evading traders or other illegal operators.
The same can be said for the case of 20 items per month with an average sum of 2
million baht per item. The added beauty of this proposal is that it will catch
those grey businesses, such as those who heavily transact in cash and
participate in other illegal activities of a money-laundering nature.
Therefore, the criticisms from a few members of the National Legislative
Assembly reported in your press are simply far-fetched and do not hold water.
One criticism that could have been highlighted is that the move could violate
the law preventing the disclosure of customers' names. Hence, this proposed law
requires parliament to approve an override of that long-held rule.
A defence of the law is that it may create more fairness in imposing tax
obligations, thereby reducing the number of citizens dodging their civic duty to
pay fair taxes. However, in having this proposed law enacted, some could feel
averse to having business transacted via banks and divert their funds into
alternative currencies like bitcoins.
The Finance Ministry and the Revenue Department should be praised for adjusting
their thinking to cope with the digital world instead of sticking to the still
water of the past. In doing so, Thailand's tax net would be widened and society
would become fairer just because of one factor alone -- the fear of names being
disclosed and exposed to tax examination. No responsible citizen could argue
against that.

Songdej Praditsmanont

Philippine President warned of human rights violations
In war on Communist Party of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 December 2018

Communist rebels are set to observe a holiday truce even after President Rodrigo Duterte had declared a full-scale war on the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), according to CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison.
“It is to the interest of the people, the NPA and other revolutionary forces that there be the traditional holiday ceasefire.”

On the other hand, Colonel Noel Detoyato, public affairs office chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the military would welcome such a declaration from communist rebels. “I hope they are serious and it reaches down to the last man on the ground.”
The thing really here is the anathema of hope to fully fulfil the demand of long-lasting ceasefire between CPP-NPA and the Government of the Philippines (GPH).
We suspect that it will be another show from the Reds.
That is why the result was President Duterte’s declaration that he was no longer interested in resuming peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the umbrella organization of underground rebel groups including the CPP and NPA.
The President, however, must be careful with the pursuit of a full-scale war on communist rebels.
Any human rights violation will always be against the government.
The expletive reactions of Makabayan bloc will always be at par like the Sagay 9 and Talaingod 18.
Meanwhile, recently there was a pronouncement by the Chief of Staff to have a national task force to end insurgency. This shall be established sooner or later.
Like terrorism, the evolution of insurgency in the Philippines is frantically different from before.
Now, they precipitate even in urban jungle where recruitment is at faster phase.
The issue on Satur Ocampo and Martial Law Extension are issues being exploited by media and LLOs to delay the actual taking down of CPP-NPA.
While I do not fully trust CPP-NPA with their rhetoric, we hope that it will be a ceasefire forever and let their cadres return to the fold of laws and not in the field of violence.
Filipinos deserve peace beyond holiday season.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

Call for investigation into
Health threatening practices at Kenyir Lake
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 December 2018
First published in the Star, Thursday 6 December 2018

Kenyir Lake is an amazing place to visit with its abundance of wildlife and breathtaking sceneries!
Last month, we were there on board a large pontoon houseboat, cruising and fishing for three days while enjoying the unspoilt beauty and serenity of this vast lake ecosystem.
Our greatest disappointment while on the houseboat was to learn that the sewerage from the toilets was flushed directly into the lake without any prior treatment and the water for the showers and sinks was drawn directly from the lake.
We were shocked beyond belief that such practices are still permitted in Kenyir Lake where the ecosystem is so carefully preserved and protected.
Furthermore, this practice can pose a major health risk for visitors with young children or seniors with a weaker immune system and are prone to sickness.
I am not a medical expert but having raised two children and being a senior myself, I have experienced these issues.
Is what we experienced normal for Kenyir Lake or is it just someone blatantly violating the law?
I hope the local authorities would look into this and stop such practices to preserve the ecosystem and also prevent the spread of diseases.

Khai B. Toh,
Subang Jaya,

Call for international community
To pay attention to crisis in West Papua
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 7 December 2018

The news report that West Papuan pro-independence separatists, described as "stronghold separatists who have battled Indonesian rule for 50 years " have reportedly shot dead up to 31 migrant construction workers ... bring the construction project to a halt" ( Southeast Asian Times 6/12/18 ) is shocking, sad and tragic.
It is a classic case of violence begetting violence with innocent lives being lost.
How is this pattern of violence - with Indonesian occupation and political repression on the one hand, and West Papuan freedom fighters on the other - to end?
That is the critical question. But the international community has not paid it the attention it deserves thus perpetuating the state of violence in West Papua.
I wonder why the absence of commitment to the crisis in West Papua?

Rajend Naidu,

Call for investment and development
In Myanmar's Chin state
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 December 2018
First published in the Myanmar Times, Thursday 29 November 2018

Sir - I felt disheartened to read your article “Impoverished Chin sees little progress in drawing investment” printed on November 29, fearing that it is doomed to remain in a quagmire of inactivity and wasted potential.
Chin State is becoming an increasingly popular travel destination, and rightly so. This is especially the case for those Myanmar people and foreigners who are keen to explore beyond the “Grand Four” - Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake in southern Shan.
And yet this increase in interest has not translated into a widespread development of products and services for visitors to Chin since the State was declared open to foreign visitors in 2013.
While over the last five years places such as Dawei and Hsipaw have seen a blooming of hospitality options and products for tourists, the change in Chin is limited.
The most noticeable difference when travelling to Chin today, compared with in 2013, is that the main track leading up Mount Victoria is plagued with motorbike taxis and other vehicles, and the summit is peppered with rubbish.
This is understandably to the vexation of those who go to the area to spot the birds, or marvel at the rhododendrons in peace.
In addition, Chin remains expensive to travel to and there are few reliable local providers to work with.
It is true that Chin State’s landscape and distinct culture, coupled with its relative peace and political stability that it enjoys, does imbue it with much potential for tourism. But without investment in development, I fear that Chin’s future as a bright tourism hot spot will come no closer to realisation.

Bertie Lawson
Managing director, Sampan Travel,

Myanmar's Buddhist monks are the elephant in the room
In the repatriation of Rohingya Muslims to Rakhine
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 5 December 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 3 December 2018

Re: "A Thai solution for the Rohingya crisis", in Bangkok Post Opinion, November 29.
Nehginpao Kipgen has spelled out all the organisations that could or should be
involved in any solution to the Rohingya crisis, now that Thailand is the Asean
But the elephant in the room is the current population of Rakhine state,
especially the Buddhist monks who were so opposed to the Rohingya people
The Myanmar government needs to work closely with local people to put an end to
their prejudices and ensure they are ready to positively welcome the Rohingya
And that of course is a massive task.

Gerry Popplestone,

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)
Appoints first woman secretary-general
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 4 Dec 2018
First published in the Star, Saturday 1 December 2018

After the devastating knock-back of the 14th General Election (GE14), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) did not retreat in defeat.
Instead, it remained resolute, defiant in adversity - and the unexpected happened. Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) made a breakthrough of sorts in empowering womenfolk.
At its recent party election, Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) saw the appointment of its first woman secretary-general, Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, making it the first local political party with a female holding this high-level post.
Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) also made headlines this year when Nicole Wong Siaw Ting was voted in to helm the Youth Wing over her male contender, Ng Kian Nam.
Never has a woman been elected national youth chairman in Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)'s 69-year history!
This impetus of change did not end here.
The 2018 party election also saw a significant increase in the number of women candidates vying for key party positions.
Among them were the Central Committee Member Chan Quin Er, a lawyer who is a former deputy public prosecutor, and Dr Pamela Yong, an orthodontist.
The entry of these women into a once male chauvinist political party spells renaissance and is simply a breath of fresh air and hope!
It also bodes well for and is synchronous with the manifesto of the newly minted president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, who espouses a new era embracing innovation in the revival of Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).
Indeed, this change in the grassroots support for women candidates has certainly moved MCA away from being a male-dominated party.
It is also a manifestation of the fact that this 69-year-old party is ready to be helmed by women who would then be the voice for MCA.
With a good representation of women leaders, MCA can be more vocal on gender equality and liberty in an environment that tends to disadvantage and put them down. And the transformation from a businessman to a completely professional team at the helm – consisting of Dr Wee, a civil engineer with a doctorate as president; Dr Mah Hang Soon, a heart specialist as his deputy; and two lawyers and an accountant as vice-presidents – will also augur well for the future of a two-party system.
Like most traditional patriarchal Chinese families, MCA has conventionally been a male-dominated party.
While women were given some room to play key roles, they often shied away from the combative nature of politics.
And the dominance of one gender in decision-making at the national level did not help matters as, more often than not, it was a huge turn-off.
However, with the changing times and emerging global trends where more and more women are being elected to high office, women in Malaysia are motivated to step out of the shadows and participate in active politics.
This is most evident with the increasing number of women, including those with professional backgrounds, who volunteered to take part in the party’s recent election, seeking to be voted in to the party’s top echelon.
Many of these women leaders spoke about wanting to help the party regain support from the people as well as pressing socioeconomic issues.
Despite the huge challenge to effect change as an opposition party, they are, however, resolved to seeking the fulfilment of the reforms and promises made by the ruling party in their election manifesto.
This serious no-nonsense manner of its womenfolk might be the right prescription for MCA to re-emerge as a political party that can be counted upon.
Their determination and wilfulness would most definitely be a formidable asset.
Such was the case of an engineering consultant whose service contract was terminated due to her refusal to relinquish her party post.
This admirable Wanita MCA member was “let go” from her RM70,000 a month job because her employer did not want to risk antagonising the sitting government by “harbouring” a high-ranking MCA official in its payroll.
Yes, GE14 saw the defeat of MCA but this just might be the blessing in disguise that we have all been waiting for – because only the good men and women will choose to remain to defend the party and keep it alive while the less noble leaders would abandon ship.
Some may say that this is perhaps the rock bottom that will become the solid foundation upon which MCA will be rebuilt.
So, please, do watch this space.

Datuk Seri To Lian Ker,
Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research (INSAP),
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for Human Rights Commission to call-off objection
To deployment of millitary to southern Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 3 December 2018

Confussion is still lingering.
I am confused with the reaction by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) about the deployment of troops to the southern Philippines.
I think there is nothing wrong in the plan for the government to deploy more troops to this area as long as it is for the benefit of the people.
I assume that the government is deploying more troops to the southern Philippines because there is a threat in the area or maybe because they have to streghten the military presence in particular areas in the south.
If I were a resident in Negros, Bicol or Samar, I would be thankful that there is a military presence in the community, since I know that they can help us in security matters especially for the upcoming 2019 Election.
And honestly, the presence of bad guys like the New People’s Army (NPA) are truly rampant in the area.
So why is the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) CHR so afraid of the deployment of troops?
Are they protecting someone?
Is there anything that they are hiding?
Why are these groups always against the government’s plan?
They should rather focus on the mandate being tasked to them.
So far the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the government have not violated any Human Rights with this plan.
Instead, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) must focus on Human Rights violation of the New Peoples Army (NPA) and help bring justice to the family of those killed by this terrorist group.

Jomarie Kaye Patalinghug,

Communist Party of the Philippines and New Peoples Army
Are not heroes
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 December 2018

As we celebrate Andres Bonifacio Day today, I hope our fellow Filipinos would not only think of his name but all his sacrifices as the head of Katipunan to fight against the Spanish colonizers.
But I would to say that his actions of being a revolutionist must be isolated from the way Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA) members - who also consider themselves revolutionists - act today.
Bonifacio's revolution in late 1890's was focused on the thought of freeing our people and our country from the hands of abusive foreign invaders, the Spaniards. Their revolution was also about igniting the sense of nationalism among Filipinos and unite as one against Spaniards.
Today, the revolutionists existing in the Philippines are communists.
They are not really crying for freedom because in the first place, we are not under any foreign control.
What they really push for is transforming the prevailing political ideology which is neoliberalism to communism, which is in reality, inexistent.
There is no absolute communism, and this truth makes it impossible to fight against a systematized government and for an ideology that is not really existing.
It will cause us serious threats in politic, security, and economy.
If that happens, Philippines would be a total mess.
Bonifacio and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA) members may both be fighters of a revolution.
But we have to realize that they are fight two separate thoughts.
We can never accept the idea that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA), too, are heroes.
They are not.
They are the real antagonists of this nation.

Chadrick Benito,

Call for Israeli government
To investigate exploitation of Thai workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 1 December 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 27 November 2018

The BBC World Service online news ran a short video about Israeli exploitation
of Thai workers and the sordid, disgusting conditions they live in.
Then I thought of the way many Thai employers abuse Cambodian and Myanmar migrant workers.
Suddenly the shoe is on the other foot.
As a former kibbutz member, I can attest to the wonderful conditions my kibbutz
provided for migrant Thais, and I have retained strong friendships with many of
my friends both there and those who have returned to Thailand.
A few bad apples do indeed spoil the basket, as the saying goes.
It is incumbent upon the Israeli government to fully investigate the abuses of
not only Thai workers but all other migrant workers in Israel. Exploitation of
slaves, free workers, etc is a no-no, made inherently clear the Old Testament.


Call for peace talks between Philippines local government
And Communist Party of the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 30 November 2018

He no longer has control on the ground. He’s only with them during extortion,” said Senator Panfilo Lacson III referring to Mr. Joma Sison who is the founder of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
The senator clearly have debunked the idea that Joma is still the head of the communist group with this statement.
Well, he may be, in paper.
But this implies Joma is now powerless when it comes to decision-making processes of its members.
Joma Sison, for the longest time of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) existence, has been away from the Philippines and the operations of this leftist group. From this, I can agree with Senator Lacson that he doesn’t have the full control to the group anymore.
This is why I agree that we must support localized peace talks between local government units (LGUs) and local CPP-NPA-NDF group around the country. After all, those who are in the field experience the hardships and not Joma.
This goes to say that it is fair for the local Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)- New Peoples Army (NPA) groups to settle the rift between Local Government Units (LGU) and their group so as to provide a peaceful and sustainable environment for every Filipino.
If he has no control over the existing members here in the Philippines, then, it is reasonable not to restore peace talks with him and start local peace talks instead. This time, maybe, it could work. Maybe we could attain peace this time.

Rich B. Madrillejos,
Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW),

Remember staged ambush of Juan Ponce Enrile
As pretext for Marcos to declare martial law
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 29 November 2018

In order to realize the necessity of the government to fully kill terrorism and insurgency in the Philippines, a Memorandum Order (MO) 32 has to gained traction in favour with government’s dissident campaign knowing the recently, the government held captive a Maute recruiter that will be imprisoned for 40 years. The said Memorandum Order No. 32 (MO 32) is being pushed to deploy more troops to the provinces just by giving orders to the military.
From the given MO 32, we can tell the difference between those who support the fight against terrorism and even those keep an eye to meltdown the plan.
They will keep on saying that the imagined "act of violence and terror" is just an excuse of the President to proclaim martial law to install himself a dictator. Remember in the 70s when the detractors insinuate that the staged fake ambush of then Secretary of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile was used by Marcos as pretext to declare martial law (ML).
Unfortunately, this has been the case since Martial law was declared in Marawi and Mindanao at large.
For the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA), this will also another platform to exploit to consider this act as a threat to democracy whatsoever.
Regardless of persistent insinuations of Reds, the MO 32 must be act true its sense in thwarting the communist rebels’ plan to extort money from candidates in next year’s midterm elections in “critical areas”.
This political reason by the government may be a good buy-in as STRATCOM to the people to avoid Communist Party of the Pilippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA)-led or supported candidates.
On the other hand, the challenge here is on how to get the attention of Local Chief Executives (LCEs) to support this.
This needs consensus to all target areas as part of area of operation in Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas and Bicol.
In case the LLOs will exploit this, the general information warfare to extensively proliferate is that was no problem with the memorandum because BY DEFAULT, the President has the constitutional authority to call out the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to suppress lawless violence or rebellion in the entire or any part of the country as stated in Article 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
I also dismiss any claim that the very act will be a prelude to nationwide pronouncement and implementation of Martial Law nor a suspension of writ of habeas corpus.
Our times right now is really in a high time to push forward this kind if initiative to coil down all but not limited to spill overs and/or splinters of Maute-ISIS inspired group.
Let us remember that we have a twin dilemma that we need to solve: insurgency and new/emerging threat of terrorism in urban and rural areas.
We have to support this order to concretize the intensification of intelligence operations and the investigation and prosecution of people behind acts of violence.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,


Commission on Human Rights opposes deployment
Of Philippine government troops to fight New Peoples Army
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 28 November 2018

I suppose the majority of Filipino people will agree with me if I say that we must unite and be as one in fighting against lawless violence and terrorism.
These heartless people from Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA)-National Democratic Front (NDF) haven’t done anything good either for their families nor the nation.
They keep on recruiting the vulnerable sectors of the community including farmers, drivers, and laborers to whom they can feed their hypocritical ideologies.
They deceive the students, who maybe the most idealistic ones, just eventually entice them to hold guns and grenades in the mountains and forget their dreams. They resort to creating violence and chaos that threaten not only the economic stability of localities where they are present but also thousands of innocent lives.
Now that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued Memorandum Order 32 which seeks to amplify the number of our government troops to be deployed in Bicol region, Samar, and Negros Occidental the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) seems to oppose it.
I pay high respect to the mandate of the CHR mentioned in Executive Order No. 163 Sec. 3. “(3) Provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons within the Philippines, as well as Filipinos residing abroad, and provide for preventive measures and legal aid services to the under-privileged whose human rights have been violated or need protection.”
It was clearly stated that Commission on Human Rights (CHR) must vow on the human rights of all Filipinos, but how come I kind of see that Commission on Human Rights (CHR) only wants to protect the rights of those who are wrong such us drug pushers and addicts killed during operations, terrorists like Isnilon Hapilon of Maute group, and some other more criminals. They seem to have forgotten that the majority of the Filipino people are also oppressed by these criminals.
Our state soldiers and policemen are risking their lives fighting against these perpetrators to provide and maintain a nation of peace and stability. How is that not understandable for Commission on Human Rights (CHR)?
Now, I suggest the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to do its job as other government agencies including civilian and armed offices do their respective mandates as well.
To CHR: Stop mending other agencies’ business. Stop favoring criminals over the real oppressed.
Stop fabricating fallacies against the government that deceive the people.
Stop it all.
To my fellow Filipinos: Let us unite for peace and against anyone who wants otherwise.
Let us go the same path towards progress, and that is through peace. Let us support one another.
No lawlessness.
Just pure unity and love for peace.

Carmelita Bunag,
Surigao del Sur,

The Philppines not China should draft
Oil and exploration agreement
The Southeast Asian Times Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Whether the tough personality of the current Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary is his default persona or not, I agree with his words that the recent deal with China must be in accordance with and in favour with us – Filipinos!
The Philippines, not China, should draft an oil and gas exploration agreement, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Wednesday.
Locsin made the remarks on Twitter as he rebuffed President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, who said on Tuesday that he did not care if Beijing drafted the agreement because Manila would review it anyway.
As a backdrop, it was Locsin and Chinese Minister of State Wang Yi who signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development between the Philippines and China.
It was among the 29 agreements signed by the two countries during the visit here of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi returned home on Wednesday after a two-day state visit.
Interestingly, Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares filed in the Supreme Court an urgent motion to resolve his group’s petition to nullify the 2005 joint exploration agreement between the Philippines, China and Vietnam.
The group’s petition to declare the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) unconstitutional and detrimental to national interest has been pending in the high court for the past 10 years, Colmenares said in a statement.
He said the President was “making the same mistake” as Arroyo when he signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on oil and gas joint exploration with Xi.
This kind of set-up between Philippines and China gives the impression that a rainbow after the rain has been the over-arching political scene. One might say that the oppositionists’ game plan is to stage the undertaking of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in transparency. This is going to be effective since freedom of information has been stamped in the mind of many but let us remember that not all governmental documents can publicly be shown to all.
For one, if we have observed, Arroyo administration and Duterte’s current signing of deal with China will eventually be exploited by Communist Party of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA) through their legal fronts.
That is why Colmenares and Casiño keep on insisting to have a copy of what was agreed and a narrative dissenting against Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) and current concession.
We can forecast that they will exploit Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) and will always recall that during the Arroyo administration, the Philippines, China and Vietnam entered into an agreement - known as the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) for a jointly conduct oil offshore exploration covering both disputed and undisputed waters.
The alleged failure will comparatively be linked to the current negotiation by all means.
On the other hand, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army (NPA) knows no name.
Even though China is pegged as a Communist state as they claim, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples Army in the Philippines will break this code to advance their interest to destabilize the government.
While China is after the openness in socio-economic sphere and prosperity, the detractors of current administration will continually destroy the reputation of Xi’s visit and the laid down plans.
The challenge, however, with the government is how they will convey this message of partnership between two states to the public that everything is purely trade and economics and no string attached.
On one hand, we hope that whatever had transpired therein, it must follow 60-40 sharing.
What is good right now is that Locsin is trying to portray a tough diplomacy with China in terms of possible inequity of documentary manifestation.
But we have to see the next portrayal of Locsin being the topmost Diplomat of DFA right now.
Whether he will remain like that for the next couple of years, that remains to be seen though.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,


The Malaysian Estate Owners’ Association
Calls for stop to demonisation of palm oil
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 26 November 2018
First published in the Star Saturday 24 November 2018

The Malaysian Estate Owners’ Association (MEOA) is gravely concerned over the continued demonisation of palm oil by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), food companies and retailers, and calls on them to immediately cease their actions because they are discriminatory and not holistic in presenting the facts.
The latest act in this systematic demonisation campaign is the anti-palm oil advertisement placed by Iceland, a British supermarket chain, that was to be aired on television over the Christmas period.
The advertisement has been banned by the United Kingdom’s regulatory advertising authority for being political in nature.
Nevertheless, if the point of the advertisement is anti-deforestation rather than anti-palm oil (as claimed by Iceland’s managing director), why isn’t it addressing other sectors and other edible oil crops that are responsible for more deforestation than palm oil?
We fully agree with British journalist Piers Morgan’s assertion that the supermarket chain is being “hypocritical” and that using the “Rang Tan” advertisement amounts to “cheap publicity” when the supermarket chain continues to stock other branded products that contain palm oi.l
Let’s examine the issues of deforestation and land usage.
1. oil palm is not a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE). It contributes only 0.6 percent of global GHGE. The largest contributor from the agriculture sector is ruminant farming, and yet there are no calls by any environmental organisation for a ban on beef or lamb production. In fact, two million hectares of land are cleared annually for cattle farming alone. Another 480,000 hectares are cleared annually for soya bean cultivation to sustain the feed industry for animals.
2. Palm oil is a cheap and competitive oil not because it is sub-par or irresponsibly cultivated. It is cost-effective and competitive because it has high yields (four to 10 times those of other vegetable oils per unit area of land) and its cultivation and production involves a well-managed industry. We are proud that the oil palm trees occupy just 0.001 percent of total global land area and 0.4% of the world’s area under agriculture and yet contributes over 35 percent of global oils and fats.
3. oil palm is not responsible for most of the clearing of forests. Over the past 100 years, only 19 million hectares of land have been cleared globally for oil palm cultivation. But in just the last 10 years, 14.5 million hectares have been cleared for soya bean cultivation. One wonders why Greenpeace, which created the advertisement for Iceland, has not mounted any campaign against deforestation for soya bean planting. Mind you, it is well known that soya beans cater to the beef industry, and cattle are huge emitters of methane, a potent GHG.
The Malaysian government has repeatedly emphasised that this country is committed to maintaining a 50 percent forest cover. No European country can match that.
4. The world’s population is growing and a lot of food is needed to feed this increasing number. Unesco and Oxfam have both stated that global food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050. Palm oil can contribute towards filling this gap. Already, 975 million people are suffering from chronic malnourishment. Palm oil is an affordable source of nourishment not just as a dietary fat but in carotenes, vitamins A and E, tocotrienols and other nutrients as well.
The world needs more palm oil to combat global hunger and malnourishment. Harming this industry via a sustained negative campaign goes against the grain of these objectives.
5. Across Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, the palm oil industry is crucial as it supports close to three million small farmers. This industry has lifted millions out of poverty and ensured economic and social justice for the poorest sections of society. It has also helped Malaysia achieve its economic and political objective of wealth redistribution, and in so doing it has helped to maintain social stability.
6. In the next few years, under the mandatory Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme, palm oil in Malaysia will provide the assurance required to all that it is sustainably produced.
It is ironic that other edible oils do not require a sustainability fiat and are not subjected to the same stringent requirements demanded of palm oil. This is discriminatory and reeks of double standards.
Palm oil is not confined to cooking oil and biofuels. It has a future that includes oleochemicals and biochemicals, pharmaceutical products and energy from its biomass. Its production involves a multifaceted and complex industry that serves important social and economic objectives in South-East Asia, as well as addressing the ever-pressing global imperative of feeding a growing world population.
Attempts to denigrate and demonise palm oil affect the livelihoods of millions of innocent and hard-working people. These attempts have to stop. Enough is enough.
What do Iceland and Greenpeace want to achieve? Reduce the demand for palm oil and substitute it with some other edible oil which entails greater deforestation?
We call on retailers, food companies and other related organisations such as NGO members of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to actively encourage the use of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO), and to defend CSPO when unfair accusations appear in the media.
These bodies need to stop playing with people’s livelihoods and stop demonising an efficient, productive oil that in 100 years has helped to feed the world and pulled millions of small farmers out of poverty.

Malaysian Estate Owners' Association,

US-Australian military installation on Manus
Will not benefit Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 25 November 2018
First published in the National, Tuesday 20 November 2018

Please allow me to share my views regarding Papua New Guinea’s involvement with Australia and the United States for the redevelopment of the Lombrum naval base.
United States Vice-President Mike Pence made some interesting and contradictory comments in his speech during the Apec CEOs’ Summit.
He said (smaller) economies in the Apec economies (in the Indo-Pacific) should refrain from taking excessive loans that in a way undermines their sovereignty.
On the contrary, Pence said the US will partner with its sheriff in the Pacific, Australia, and refurbish the Lombrum naval base on Manus Island.
This statement by the VP contradicts his other statement and I disagree.
Papua New Gguinea should understand that any military installation or development in our country undermines our sovereignty.
I am of the belief that the Apec CEOs’ Summit was an opportunity for member countries to foster relationships and create avenues for mutually benefitting economic cooperation in a conducive and friendly environment.
The VP’s statement only promotes anxiety and the mentality that there is imminent danger in the Indo-Pacific region.
On the other hand, the Australian PM chose his words very carefully, calling us family and wantok when delivering his speech.
How do we define the term family when the other family member has in place a lot of stringent measures for the other family member to seek employment or just to spend holiday and do shopping in the family member’s country?
Papua New Guinea should take a neutral stand and be seen as an advocate of peace and love in the Indo-Pacific region.
A country that is open to all will invest in meaningful and friendly economic activities.
After all, we say Papua New Guinea is a Christian country, so let’s practise what we preach.
By a long stretch of the imagination, the military installation on Manus will never benefit this country in any shape or form.
If war and disharmony is the only thing the US and Australia promote around the world, then take the fight to your own countries.
The last thing the people of Manus and PNG need is for Kim Jong-un, of North Korea, to lock in the coordinates for an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile to be delivered to Manus if he so chooses to reignite his passion for nuclear arms technology.
North Korea made that threat to Guam, so let’s learn from that.
The governor and the people of Manus should remain steadfast and be resilient in rejecting this unbeneficial project in its entirety.

Sideline Analyst
Papua New Guinea

Wikileakes accused of exposing only US secrets
Never Russia or China's secrets
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 November 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 23 November 2018

Re: "Freedom an illusion", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, Wednesday 21 November 2018
The writer mentioned a controversial figure and Wikileaks's founder Julian
Assange, who is a long-time thorn in the side of the US.
I always wonder why Mr Assange was obsessed with exposing only the US's secrets,
but never about Russia and China's.
Maybe he knew he could get away from the US's law, but not the Russian and
Chinese "law". (Sergei Skripal's case and the vanishing of four Chinese
dissidents while staying in Thailand comes to mind).
Had Mr Assange exposed Russia and China, he would have made the US look like Dorothy Gale.
Some of Mr Assange's fans have an excuse for him, though, saying his staff at
Wikileaks didn't have knowledge of the Russians and Chinese.
Come on, you can do better than that!

Somsak Pola,

Filipinos should not be confused as to why
President Duterte welcomes China President Xi Jinping
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 23 November 2018

When talking about President Xi Jinping, the very first thing that comes to my mind is the West Philippine Sea.
It is impossible for me, as a Filipino, not to think about West Philipppine Seas when the topic is about China’s chief executive.
Undeniably, he is considered as one of the most powerful leaders in the world today.
With this comes great influence around the globe in politics and economics.
Yes, US is still powerful but the way I see it is that it is no longer as powerful as it used to be.
With President Duterte’s independent foreign policy, “friends to all, enemies to no one,” the public should not be confused as to why the leader of our nation is being nice and welcoming to President Xi of China.
The hopes of genuinely owning the West Philippine Seas is still with me but considering the fact that China is way more powerful than the Philippines, the only way to agree on this kind of disputes is through friendly negotiation and diplomacy.
I still want the residents in nearby coastal municipalities to be able to go to Scarborough Shoal and I am still asserting that the Chinese Coast Guard members must not be in the area to threaten and exercise power tipping over our poor fishermen.
But it is not wise to just resort into something that could cause chaos and further deathtrap to our citizens who only want to provide food for their families.
The solution I see here for both the Philippines and China to mutually agree with the terms in utilizing the resources of West Philippines.
That does not mean letting the Chinese colonize the Filipino territory.
That is called protecting the entire populace.
Whilst we want to solely claim our rights over West Philippine Seas, it is wise for President Duterte to consider that we can never engage into an armed struggle versus China and end up maligning even the people from the grassroots.
I just hope people would think about the logical implications of their wants first before saying that we must go into war with China.
Is that really what we want?
I say, we have to think of the common good.
We have to stop thinking more like demons than angels.
We have to stop thinking of cruelty and war as solutions.
We have to stop all these negative thoughts.
Let us not just go with the consensus brought about by our intensified emotions. The situation in West Philippine Sea right now might not be what we want.
But sometimes what matters more is not what we want.
More importantly, it is our needs-our needs for holistic peace and economic stability.

Chissan Rae Balderas,

How is the PNG Morobe Provincial Government
Going to repay Philippine loan of US$100 billion?
First published in the National Tuesday 20 November 2018

I wish to comment on the recent media announcement by the Papua New Guinea Morobe provincial government to seek a US$100 billion (K334 billion) funding from a partner in Philippines to fund various developmental projects in the province.
While the idea seems exciting, it will be a massive undertaking.
Even the Papua New Guinea Government cannot go to the extent of negotiating external funding of this magnitude and any layman would ask what financial institution, company or organisation will spend this kind of money in one province in Papua New Guinea and for what financial or other benefit.
Also, is this money a grant, loan or free assistance?
Whether it is a grant or a loan, Morobe Provincial Government must guarantee this loan.
What assets does the province own that can be used as collateral?
No-one in his or her right frame of mind would want to give this kind of money away without any benefit in exchange.
The people of Morobe and Papua New Guinea need to know the details about this project.

Robin Siwick.
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Philippine government serious in providing help
To New Peoples Army recruits to abandon armed struggle
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 21 November 2018

I am glad that the E-CLIP or Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the government is an effective tool in helping rebel returnees as they begin their normal lives after being recruited by the New People’s Army (NPA).
Wherein, according to Administrative Order No.10, Section 1 Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) is hereby enhanced by providing a complete package of assistance to former rebels (FR) who were member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA), and National Democratic Front (NDF) as well as their immediate family member, who have surfaces beginning and expressed their desire to abandon armed struggle and become productive members of the society.
It is obvious that the government is serious to its commitment in helping former rebels by giving them livelihood assistance.
As a result, another 134 New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels from Bicol recently receive livelihood assistance amounting to P65, 000 each from DILG.
Not bad to start a better and peaceful life anyway.
To me, if I am a rebel, I would rather go back to the folds of the government than to sacrifice my family, happiness, freedom and why devote life inside the Communist group who don’t have the sense of integrity?
Whose expertise is to kill, to exploit, and spread terror.
Why stay on a group who are losing ideology?
Better live life with peace together with family without fear.
As they say “Di kailangang magtiis”

John Jason Castillo,

Lawyer fighting for land rights shot dead
Defending slain sugarcane workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 November 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 14 November 2018

To Philippine Inquirer columnist Oscar Franklin Tan:
On November 6, 2018, lawyer Benjamin Ramos Jr., one of our founding members, was shot dead in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, by unidentified assailants.
Attorney Ramos had been assisting the families of nine sugarcane workers who were slain in Sagay, Negros Occidental, last month.
He was a staunch human rights advocate who had readily provided pro bono legal services to embattled activists and peasants fighting for land rights.
Another one of our lawyers, Kathy Panguban, is facing a patently malicious and baseless charge for the nonbailable offense of kidnapping.
Like Ramos, Panguban provided legal assistance to the families of the slain sugarcane workers in Sagay by facilitating a mother’s recovery of her custody over a 14-year-old witness to the atrocity.
Ramos is the 34th member of the legal profession killed since President Duterte came to power in 2016.
Panguban is certainly not the first of our lawyers to have been slapped with a groundless harassment suit for the legitimate practice of law or, worse, faced violent threats to their life.
We are saddened that, amid this brutal milieu, you have devoted much of your precious column space to disparage our efforts before the Supreme Court based on yardsticks you haughtily brandish on account of your Harvard “pedigree” and ability to rub elbows with who you perceive to be the rising eagles of the legal profession.
We would have immensely benefited if you, instead, shared your insights on mechanisms we could further explore to protect our ranks, or tapped into your apparently vast network to raise a hue and cry against these atrocities committed against members of our profession.
However, we are consoled by the fact that groups and institutions have spoken up. These recent events have propelled us to link arms with various international human rights and lawyers organizations, the Commission on Human Rights, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the European Union and, more importantly, a considerable number of grassroots people’s organizations to condemn these attacks on lawyers and human rights defenders.
We are mere creatures of imperative, Mr. Tan. We were established in 2007, prompted by a state of necessity arising from the rampant killings of activists during the term of former president Gloria Arroyo.
Like you, we long to see the day when the Supreme Court’s dockets are no longer plagued by our petitions.
We strive to become irrelevant and unnecessary in a world where established institutions work efficiently and effectively, by themselves, to promote human rights.
To be rid of us, Mr. Tan, you have to struggle with us to dismantle our imperatives.
By then, we would happily joust with you on the finer points of oral argumentation before the high court, and we could sip fine wine as we debate whether this or that legal maneuver is done for hype or substance.
But the place and time for that is not here and not now.
Because we are being killed out there, Mr. Tan.

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) National Council,


Philippine primetime show shows that being a rebel
Is better than being a Duterte government employee
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 19 November 2018

I am writing to have the attention of “Ang Probinsyano” production and Philippine National Police (PNP).
I am now worried with the subliminal message of the story.
This show seems to imply to the public that being in a rebel group is way better than being an employee of the government, whether civilian or armed.
So what’s really wrong?
Let me just get into three points:
One. Public officials in the characters of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and the President of the Philippines, as part of the government, are being portrayed as corrupt and bad personalities in the show.
I consider the fact that no government is ever perfect and flawless.
But I also realize that not all people working for the government are tinted with corruption and anomalies.
The portrayal of above characters in “Ang Probinsyano” affects the general public’s perception on all government agents - influential, power-trippers, corrupt, criminals, and the list of negative identities goes on.
Again, objectively speaking, there may be of these sorts in our government.
The administration acknowledges this fact and this is the reason why President Duterte wants to cleanse it.
However, there remains a lot of good pure hearts whose only dream is to serve the Filipino community.
Two. Pulang Araw is the group of rebels in the top-rating show.
The way I see it, it is the group that symbolizes Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
The existence of this rebel group is portrayed as a catalysts for a better society, that their members are those with genuine concern for the Filipino citizens.
While it is true that FPJAP is a fictional show, it is also worth considering for its production to assess the psychological impacts of their show to the audiences from varied ages from all walks of life.
Having said this while I acknowledge the role of entertainment media as an influencer through creative writing, I ask the scriptwriters, producers, and everyone behind FPJAP to reassess and redefine their real intent for creating the show - not only to provide the audiences with entertainment, but more importantly to help the nation succeed with its campaign against insurgency that sabotages our economy.
And three. In this primetime show, Cardo Dalisay decided to cut ties with Pulang Araw and formed his own vigilante group - Vendetta - with some other former members from the rebel group mentioned earlier.
His group, in the story, has been having encounters with the government forces and bad guys to rationalize the act of killing.
This is no better than any other group in my opinion.
The only legal authorities who shall implement the rule of law are those who are in the government.
Thus, what Cardo Dalisay does as a Vendetta is completely wrong, in reel or reality.
The people behind the show must stop romanticizing the existence and acts of rebel groups, making them like protagonists not only in the show but in the hearts of viewers.
I hope that Philippine National Police (PNP) and entertainment media must work hand-in-hand to provide viewers with great stories without sacrificing the image of the government.
We have to have stories that will empower their sense of patriotism and loyalty to the Constitution.
The government cannot stand alone. It needs us, the private citizens, to help it be on track for progress.

Benjamin Cruzado III
Script Supervisor,

Extention of Martial Law in Mindanao
Dependent on consensus
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 November 2018

Will there be another extension of Martial Law in Mindanao right after this year? Recently, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said the military would recommend the extension of martial law in Mindanao, citing the result of military assessments and favorable feedbacks from local chief executives in the region.
As told by the Chief of Staff, “In the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), we had a very lengthy assessment and we saw that most of the local government units were recommending the extension of martial law.”
Based on what I have seen in the news, most of the provincial governors in Mindanao wanted martial law extended in their areas.
Moreover, like Galvez, Sobejana said he had been receiving favorable feedback from local chief executives on plans to extend martial law in central Mindanao. “The province of Lanao del Sur manifested [its] support for the extension of martial law, as well as Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat. I am waiting for North Cotabato. I’m waiting for their consensus,” Sobejana said.
Though there is a need to extend martial rule in Mindanao, the people in the region should be consulted first to garner the support needed (like people’s initiative).
On the other hand, the electorate must decide on the single political question whether ML be pushed through which must be agreed or not in general vote by the electorate through referendum; not by plebiscite alone unless the latter has already gained traction.
The only challenge here is that if the Local Chief Executives (LCEs) statements are total consideration of a plebiscite given the populace’s necessity to decide on a public question situated in the affected areas (i.e. Cagayan de Oro, Lanao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, and alike).
Also, the proscription case being filed against CPP-NPA should also be in constant motion to roll over to intensify the effort of government to fight all forms of violent extremism.
I believe that the government was able to thwart lawlessness in his areas of responsibility because of martial law.
And so, we can justify that it helps a lot in our campaign against all forms of lawlessness and encourages the civil government to do their jobs as well.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

The world is divided
Between the U.S and China
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 November 2018

We are in the age where the world is divided between U.S. or China’s alliance specifically in trade.
The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - a China-backed bid to complete the world’s largest trade deal without the United States has - been pushed back to 2019.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said economic and trade officials came to this conclusion at the economic community council meeting of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit here. RCEP, covering half the world’s population, is billed as an antidote to US President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda, which has seen tariffs imposed on almost half of all Chinese imports to the United States and retaliatory levies by Beijing.
The negotiations on the proposed agreement formally began on November 12 (Monday), with RCEP initially expected to be signed during this week’s three-day summit here. RCEP was given extra impetus after Trump pulled the United States out of the rival Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
RCEP is a free trade deal among the 10-member states of ASEAN and six Asia-Pacific states with which the group has existing free trade agreements.
These are Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
The remaining 11 countries in TPP are preparing to inaugurate the revised trade deal, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, following Australia’s ratification earlier this month.
The deal is due to take effect on December 30.
Several other economies are preparing to try to join the pan-Pacific accord, including the Philippines and South Korea.
Although the USRAPAC Commanding General Robert Brown just recently visited the Philippines for its almost a week of stay to assure its partnership with the Philippines in terms of defense and security, it is undeniable that China is now the standard-bearer of global free trade with ‘RCEP’ at the heart of its strategy.
On US’ Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), it is still alive even without United States, but RCEP is now the world’s biggest trade deal.
This is to mention that we still have to consider the presence of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS, and AIIB.
The latter organizations are deliberately making some noise at some point to at least counter US-led trade affairs in the Asia Pacific given that we have 6 non-ASEAN member states in RCEP that are also bidding to be part of another revised version of TTP into CPTPP by the end of December.
The game changer here is going to be the number of states to relinquish its membership as future trade partners with China (under TPP) and United States (under CPTPP). This is going to be a battle in number of support to be pushed through.
On the other hand, it is going to send a message to the international community that China is trying to sway other Asia-Pacific partners to stand by free trade with rising protectionism and strains on free trade that US is trying to interdict not only with China but also to the rest of the world and so, China says we need to advance the RCEP negotiations.
India, at one side, concerns over opening its markets to competition, in particular from Chinese businesses, has been a key sticking point in the several years of negotiations.
I can sense that the negotiation is in the most critical stage, with a greater focus on market access for goods, investments and services.
As I see China right now, Chinese economy was facing “challenges” in the wake of the trade war with the United States, but he insisted strong fundamentals meant radical intervention was not the remedy.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

New Peoples Army set fire to construction equipment
At plantation in South Cotabato, Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 November 2018

Heavy equipment of a private construction firm in South Cotabato were recently burned by the New People’s Army (NPA). Supt. Aldrin Gonzales, spokesperson for the regional police, said 10 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) set ablaze a backhoe of Gemma Construction at the village of Lamfugon, Lake Sebu town, in South Cotabato.
Further, Gonzales said rebels, under New Peoples Army (NPA) Guerilla Front 73, had been operating in the hinterlands of Lake Sebu. Earlier, on October. 4, New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels also burned a truck, 20 sacks of fertilizers and 18 hectares of lemon at a plantation in Agusan del Sur.
The plantation was owned by a Charity Ampong at the village of Balit in San Luis town who was accused by rebels of being “despotic” to her workers.
Let us remember that since 2015, more than a dozen heavy equipment of private firms engaged in road construction and concreting in the upland towns of South Cotabato, have been burned by the rebels.
On one hand, New Peoples Army (NPA) stand on this kind of crime is like acting a la Robin Hood.
Blaming the government or company owner while giving pitiful concerns to the people in the locality.
Words like the workers can only have their time to rest during lunch break but they are required to rest in sheds or else their wage will be deducted.
Meanwhile, this is not the first time they have acted like this.
In a statement last year, the New Peoples Army (NPA) owned up to the burning of quarry equipment in Koronadal City.
Those equipmens tend to be of high value for local construction or probably in agricultural usage but to no avail, the New Peoples Army (NPA) has continually making crimes that has to put them in contempt at any rate of criminal act.
Clearly as the sun kissed, this is the work of New Peoples Army (NPA), which has been mulcting the construction company.
Pure hostilities of properties not even owned by the terrorists is a big crime of humanity.
What an economic sabotage an endangering the lives of many Filipinos!

Jumel G. Estranero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

Singapore provides best model
For exellence in education in Asean
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 15 November 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 5 November 2018

Re: "Thai English proficiency drops", in Bangkok Post Monday 5 November 2018.
So why does the drop in ranking constitute tragic news?
Who in the country really cares about this, or any other ranking system?
For more than a century, we have known there is a strong correlation between higher English proficiency, a nation's wealth and its progressive social values. Although each Thai student studies English for at least 12 years at primary and secondary school, they are still unable to communicate in English.
This is proof the educational system that has been place for 70 years is shortchanging them.
Even Thai students who are doing their PhDs, as well as the professors advising them, can't speak or write in correct English.
Draconian immigration laws and work permit rules are partly to blame for the
dismal state of English in Thailand.
Thailand can easily tap into the talent of foreigners who have relocated here by providing them suitable visa benefits and hassle-free work permits.
Many of us who have decided to live here are willing to work for free.
Thailand will not be able to improve its stature and economy without making
English a medium of instruction.
It also needs good teacher-training programmes at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Within Asean, Singapore provides the best model of how excellence in education can lead to the creation of wealth and prosperity for its citizens.

Kuldeep Nagi,


Call for Thai government to lift
60 day ban on election compaigning
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 November 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 12 November 2018

Re: "60 days 'long enough' for campaigning", in Bangkok Post, Saturday 10 November 2018.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon insists that 60 days is enough for
election campaigning after the ban on political activities is lifted.
If democracy is "government of the people, by the people, and for the people",
as Abraham Lincoln defined it, then 60 days is nowhere near enough for
The junta's ban is on all political activities, not just campaigning.
Before a party can even come up with its platform, it must engage in many now-banned activities, for example, holding nationwide meetings of its membership to
determine what they, the constituents, want from their party - especially since
almost all parties are brand-new.
Members from one region may have different needs from their compatriots
These differences must be discussed at length and harmonised.
Even for old parties, constituent needs change as circumstances change, for
example, a core plank for the US's Grand Old Party (GOP) has been free trade for decades, but Mr
Trump has been hurling tariffs left, right, and centre.
Then, party delegates must meet and, through time-consuming negotiations, forge
a party platform that defines who they are and why voters should select them
above all others.
Only after they have a well-hashed-out platform appealing to a sufficiently wide
segment of voters should parties go on the campaign path - and even so, 60 days
isn't enough for nationwide campaigns.
Thus, the junta should lift the ban on political activities now, empowering
parties to accurately reflect their members' well-hammered-out long-term needs
and wants through extensive discussions, leading to stable constituencies who
stay with their party through thick and thin, giving us a stable government.

Burin Kantabutra,

Actress joins League of Filipino Students
In order for her voice to be heard
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 November 2018

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) are really helpless now in recruiting members that they are already using even Ms. Angel Aquino, an actress trending because of the intense scenes she has in a newest sensual film.
I have read in a Facebook post saying that she was a member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) - a front organization by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) when she was a student at University of the Philippines in Baguio.
Upon doing my research through open sources, I found out the truth.
She was a member in the past.
She mentioned in an interview that she felt her voice needed to be heard, making it the very reason for joining League of Filipino Students (LFS).
But she eventually entered show business that gave her better avenue to spread her advocacies.
By the looks, she did not become successful because of League of Filipino Students (LFS).
She became an influential person by being in the limelight as an actress. That is what's clear.
I think League of Filipino Students (LFS) is just again using Ms. Aquino to recruit students in the form of deceit knowing that she became a very successful person in her career now.
To students, do not believe their lies.
No one succeeds in joining Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) (unless they quit the hypocritical organization if they are already in it).

Chris M ,

Call for Philippine Defence Forces
To face charges against Philippine government
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 November 2018

This is in reaction to an article written at Philippine Star, November 10, 2018 entitled with “NDF consultant appeals arrest order” by Marc Jayson Cayabyab.
First of all, I just wondering where do the Philippine Defence Forces (NDF) get the guts to demand for the release of Vicente Ladlad as well as the other communist leaders from detention?
Who are they to demand the authorities when they are facing grave offenses against our government?
What do they think, they are more powerful than our court and our state law?
“Ang kapal talaga ng mga mukha eh”.
One more thing, Mr. Ladlad filed motion for reconsideration to seek the courts consideration on his absence in the hearing last October 22, for safety and security concern.
If that is so, then let it be the reason of everyone who were not able to attend their hearings in the court.
Honestly, it is just an excuse of coward person.
If he has nothing to hide, then be it.
If he want truth to be prevailed then there is no reason for such excuses.
I believe that the Philippine Defence Forces (NDF) team are really afraid because one by one, there high profiled leaders are now being caught.
There time is over and its time for Joma Sison, Fidel Agcaoili, Tiamzon couple and other Philippine Defence Forces (NDF) consultant and leaders to show their self and face their cases filed against them once and for all.

Jomarie Kaye Patalinghug,

Call for abandonment of "lock 'em up" solution
For Aboriginal children in detention in Darwin
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 11 November 2018

In response to the latest rampage at Don Dale juvenile detention center many Darwin citizens will be calling for a stronger punitive approach towards juvenile offenders; however, the Royal Commission has shown this has not worked in the past.
The fact that at one point all juveniles in detention were of Aboriginal descent also suggests a racial element exists, both in the justice system and in society as a whole.
The “lock 'em up” solution does nothing but produce resentful and damaged souls who are often destined to become a burden to their stressed parents and grandparents, further straining the social fabric.
The Australian public has belatedly expressed great sympathy for the kids detained on Nauru.
After five years on the island, refugee children are now being offered psychiatric care and other assistance when they are transferred to Australia.
What about Aboriginal kids, incarcerated in far harsher conditions?
Many become institutionalised, and are released with untreated psychological conditions, including anxiety and PTSD.
The end result is often substance addiction and a premature death.
This is not a theory, but comes from personal experience, one shared by many Aboriginal families.

Dr Bill Day,
Consulting Anthropologist,
Northern Territory,

The Communist Party of the Philippines has waged war
In rural Philippines for 40 years
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 10 November 2018

What is it with students of the University of the Philippines (UP) or Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) that they are easily recruited to become members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), or worse, join the heavily armed terrorist group New People's Army?
I remember before that Anakbayan said "The arrest is alarming since the reactionary military forces have a track record of violent and inhumane treatment of their captives, especially women."
Of course this is mere Anakbayan propaganda.
If there is any organization responsible for recruiting women to fight our soldiers, it is the Anakbayan group.
For many years, we have been saying that Anakbayan was one of the above-ground allied fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA. Also, Anakbayan charges the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for their violent behavior, but in truth if there was no armed insurgency by the New Peoples Army (NPA) or Anakbayan, then there wouldn't be any need for soldiers to patrol the hinterlands of Negros Island.
The fact that AFP does not reveal the identities of any of its captives is a proof of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) adherence to international and humanitarian law.
But for the New Peoples Army (NPA) who accuses the military of violations of human rights, they are far worse in the sense that they are recruiting innocent and underage students to fight their lost cause.
The CPP/NPA/NDF have been waging a war in the countryside for 40 years without let-up, hoping that someday, they would change the Philippine government's adherence to our democratic principles and embrace the tenets of Communism. Fortunately for our youth, there are only a handful of UP students who fall into the trap of Communism to the point of arming themselves to fight our military forces.

Jumel G. Estranero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,


No justification for a mandatory military draft
In Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 November 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post Tuesday 6 November 2018

Re: "Apirat defends mandatory draft", in Bangkok Post 4 November
There is no justification for a mandatory military draft when the country is not
at war! Forced servitude to the government for any means is equivalent to
I am a veteran from the greatest military power ever created and it is
a totally voluntary militia.
My country learned this lesson after Vietnam when they realised forcing people to join when they did not want to created bad soldiers and corruption with people trying to get deferments and avoid the draft.
Making military service voluntary forces the military to become more efficient
and treat the soldiers better.
When the military elites do not have to address soldiers complaints and concerns, then the system automatically becomes abusive and tyrannical.
Tyranny seems great if you are one of the few at the top of the pyramid, but less so as you get further down the rankings. Having a voluntary military means that the soldiers are truly respected for their sacrifice and encouraged to support the effort so that there is not a need for a draft programme.
US soldiers are offered reenlistment bonuses, college stipends, base housing
(for families) and other financial perks that support any civilian career path.
This creates a viable institution that reflects honouring the sacrifices made.
Also, this creates a higher calibre of people filling the ranks.
Soldiers for any developed country are only used against those outside the
country and deemed "enemies" by the government. Since Thailand does not have a
military that can compete with those of developed nations, then why the push for
a fake military?
When the military does not have a focus outside the country's borders, then it
automatically starts targeting the civilian population. It is time for an honest
discussion about the purpose of the military and the actual needs of the people,
not the military elites if the country is truly to advance into the 21st
century. One would think that one of the few countries that supports Buddhism
would have the smallest military and the largest Peace Corps.

Darius Hober,

Democracy is morally and practically
Better than dictatorship
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 November 2018

Re: “Different visions”, in Bangkok Post PostBag, Nov 1
In his reply to my letter pointing out that the politicians ruling over Thais
since the coup in May 2014, Dusit Thammaraks repeats a number of pious myths.
First, there is the dramatically dubious claim that Thailand was facing
“possibly devastating civil war”.
The discussion necessary to establish any such claim has never taken place.
The known facts suggest otherwise: That the streets were so easily cleared supports the idea that at most a brief period of martial law would have been more than adequate to stop the protests aiming to “Shut down Bangkok,” thereby allowing an election to form a new government to proceed smoothly in accord with the constitution.
When he then proceeds to suggest that Thai people cannot be trusted in the
matter of “casting unbiased and honest votes”, he repeats a falsehood popular
with anti-democratic forces everywhere.
This presumption of being superior to the great majority is not only false, but ignores the moral imperative that people have a right to a voice in the form of their government.
This is a moral truth that dictators reject. Finally, no one is such a straw man
as to think democracy a panacea that can magically cure all ills, merely that it
is morally and practically better than dictatorship, save perhaps for the
dictators making up laws that just happen to be so very beneficial to themselves
and those colluding with them.
To the insultingly low opinion of the Thai people as unfit to have a fair say in
determining their affairs, no supporting evidence is given.
But myths are by definition blindly credited.
Happily, Thais are no longer so piously blind, even regarding Thai affairs, as the dictatorially inclined who deem themselves superior would have them be.

Felix Qui,

Under martial law the military acts to restore order
As instructed by the elected government
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 Novemeber 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 30 October 2018

Re: "Stop chaos in its tracks", in Bangkok Post PostBag, October 29
To Khun Dusit Thammaraks,
I would ask whether the military, if it was sincerely interested in "protecting
the constitution"
as you suggest, should pledge never to stage another coup?
The way it works in a democracy is that when there is significant civil unrest
the government declares martial law and the military acts to restore order as
instructed by the elected government.
But in Thailand the military seems congenitally indisposed to taking orders from
civilians. President Trump is the US commander-in-chief and, believe me, the US
military jumps when he says jump.
This might be a good example for future Thai governments to consider.
As to claims of peace and the absence of governmental fraud under the junta, how
would anyone know?
Remember those jingoistic statues built in Hua Hin by the army?
And how are things going in the "restive" South?
But, hey, we caught those tourist desperadoes armed with spray cans right?
Khun Dusit imagines these "young kids" are not up to the task of running a
How would you know, I must ask?

Michael Setter,
Uncharted seas,

Call for helicopter ban
Over inhabited areas
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 November 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 5 November 2018

The sad death of King Power and Leicester City Football Club chairman Vichai
Srivaddhanaprabha underlines the danger of flying in helicopters.
It seems not a day goes by that one or more of these dangerous contraptions somewhere falls out of the sky, usually resulting in deaths.
It is time the manufacturers admitted their machines are hazardous and stopped selling them for use in general transportation.
Admittedly there are situations where they can be useful and can be justified, but drones are about to displace them, doing a better and safer job.
If the Thai military want to pay over the odds for their helicopters, that appears to be their privilege.
Forces members who use them are expected to accept hazardous situations as part of their chosen profession.
Helicopters should certainly be banned from flying over inhabited areas, as happens far too frequently.

W Brown,

Philippine order for National Task Force
To address conclict allegedly caused by communists
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 5 November 2018

Finally, President Duterte has ordered the creation of the National Task Force to address the armed conflict caused by the local communists.
As to the statement of Sec. Panelo, “The Chief Executive announced the creation of the National Task Force in order to address the armed conflict occasioned by the local communists”.
It is just and right that all the atrocities that this communist group should seriously given attention.
It is the right time to that this people who are responsible for the death of thousands of victims and suffering of the family pay their sins and put them into jail.
It is also right that the Department of Justice (DOJ) must pursue the proscription case against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) -National Defence Force (NDF) as a terrorist organization.
It should and it must be proclaimed that this group are terrorist!
All they did are all kind of terrorist activities.
From using child warrior, recruiting students, initiating ambushes, extortion and promulgating activities to overthrow government are all terroristic activities.
No reasons to not allowing to brand this group as “TERRORIST”.
Now Na!

Sandra M. Ballaran,
Peace Advocate,

Unscrupulous Philippine loan sharks
Leave coconut farmers with nothing
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 4 November 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Wednesday 31 October 2018

I’d like to thank Cielito F. Habito for featuring a very interesting topic in “In search of a coconut roadmap” 23 October 2018 which was about the status of our coconut industry.
Being a Cocofed scholar and having inherited a parcel of land from my parents have allowed me the opportunity to further familiarize myself with the problems confronting our coconut farmers today.
The Philippines is the world’s top exporter of coconut products, particularly copra. It is exported to the United States, Europe, the Middle East and South America. However, it is sad to note that most of our coconut farmers, especially the tenants, remain poor.
This is aggravated by the dismal drop in copra prices.
Last year’s price was almost P40 per kilo, now it is only P18 per kilo.
While the price of copra drastically drops, the labor cost continues to increase.
Imagine, a coconut climber or gatherer earns P700 a day; this labor cost would never decrease no matter how much the copra price is.
If this situation is not abated, nothing is left for the coconut farmers who also suffer from unscrupulous loan sharks.
What would now be the future of our coconut industry?
Back then, we were made to believe that coconut exports had jumped 315 percent, with coconut water becoming a popular energy drink abroad due to its natural qualities and lack of chemical preservatives.
What has happened to the more than P80 million in coco levy funds that were supposed to benefit small coconut farmers?
Now, more than ever, is the time for our country’s economic managers to take a hard look at this matter. In a nutshell: Use your coconut.

Aldy B. Novo, Maed,
Tandag City,
Surigao del Sur,

Former Kadamay members of Philippine urban poor
Condemn alleged ties with communist rebels
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 3 November 2018

There are people who know how to sing and some are really and obviously singing in destruction.
At least 600 former members of militant urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) gave their ex-colleagues a dose of their own medicine on Sunday, parading red-lettered streamers and condemning Kadamay’s alleged ties with communist rebels.
The former Kadamay members, in a protest action called “Walk for Life,” now reside in government housing units that were forcibly taken by Kadamay in 2017. They walked out of their houses at the village of Cacarong Matanda and Cacarong Bata in this town recently, proceeding to a park at the village of Bunsuran where they held their anti-communist rally.
The former Kadamay members burned a cardboard coffin bearing the words Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) “CPP-NPA,” for Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.
They belonged to a breakaway group that started negotiating with the National Housing Authority (NHA) to buy the houses that Kadamay had occupied at the two Pandi villages.
From a political vantage point, the indoctrination is a form of radicalization.
In fact, their leader Jeffrey Ariz and other Kadamay members, are being indoctrinated on communism.
To recall last March last year, Ariz’s group was part of the thousands of urban poor families, led by Kadamay organizers, who broke into idle NHA houses meant for policemen and soldiers.
That was the starting point of a popular and bold tactics the left-inspired group in disguise of socio-economic related upheavals.
At that time, President Rodrigo Duterte asked the beneficiaries to give up the houses to avoid a bloodbath.
At this point, PRRD has all the means to put premium to police power in case needed.
But after such employment, we can see another live action of rebuttal from human rights reactors and even LLOs (i.e. Makabayan bloc).
Meanwhile, Kadamay is a mob in plain and simple context tainted with communism and socialism.
The law must be enforced they should be evicted and punished from the Housing units they forcibly stole.
In a nutshell, this is a good divide and rule strategy to see who is who and which is which group is telling the truth.
If they are not then they have to abide with terms of conditions set by the government.
There must a WIN-WIN solution here. We need their cooperation, not lamentation that is being used by NPA in so many ways.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

The people of so-called democratic nations still suffer
Endless indignities and oppression by their governments
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 November 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 18 October 2018

Re: "UN tramples its own ideals", Bangkok Post Editorial, October 15
The article points out the structural shortcomings of the premier international
These limitations are a reflection of the failure of globalism as it is envisaged and implemented by elitist bureaucrats who sit at the top of a top-down model of our future.
Organising the UN by nations and giving each one a vote in the general assembly
is absurd.
The people comprising many member nations either don't vote China
for example or, if they do, their vote is only a token gesture in support of a
dictator the Philippines or Cambodia.
If the leaders of China, the Philippines, Cambodia or Thailand were asked
whether the UN should be organised according to truly democratic principles
would their answers be a reliable indication of their values?
Most of the world is not free.
The people of so-called democratic nations still suffer endless indignities and oppression by their governments. Conscription, excessive taxation, over regulation, regimentation, behavioural restrictions, compulsory vaccination, and ever more government intrusion into ordinary life is our lot.
Soon we will be chipped and monitored continuously, and not long after
that we will be perfectly programmed by people like Duterte, Hun Sen, Xi, Kim
Jong-un, Maduro, al-Bashir, Khamenei, al-Assad, Erdogan, Nkurunziza, Mbasogo, Idriss Deby, Kagame - the list never seems to end when it comes to tyrants.
There are 40 dictators ruling today, eight of them in Asia.
I would encourage those not familiar with some of their names to see exactly what UN member states are about with regard to human rights.
Thus, when it comes to the UNHRC, don't be surprised when they throw your rights away while simultaneously endorsing
resolutions to uphold them.

Michael Setter,

A Thai coup by definition
Overthrows the constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 November 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 30 October 2018

Re: "Stop chaos in its tracks", in Bangkok Post, Post Bag, Monday 29 October 2018.
When Dusit Thammaraks appears to extol the new army commander for threatening a coup on the grounds that "He made it clear that the army would uphold the monarchy and protect the constitution", he seems to overlook that a coup necessarily, by definition, overthrows the constitution, the supreme legal
foundation of the nation, and that in Thailand's case, the constitution so
overthrown is what also founds the democratic constitutional monarchy of the
Thai nation.
To be loyal to Thailand's form of democratic constitutional monarchy, you must, indeed, uphold and protect the constitution of the Thai nation.
Mr Thammaraks goes on to suggest that voters in the upcoming election, which
might well come to pass sometime next year as promised, ask themselves some very pertinent questions.
They are solid questions of the sort that voters should indeed be asking themselves of politicians who aspire to be leaders of their nation.
He specifically asks us to consider whether these "politicians have a proven
record of loyal service to their country, coupled with dedication, honesty and
Did their wealth result from hard work, or from the benevolent hands of parents and family? And what might be their real motivation and agenda?"
As they appear to be threatening to continue their own political careers, I was, I
confess, a bit disappointed that Mr Thammaraks did not also go on to answer his
own very pertinent questions for the currently ruling politicians who seized
power in 2014 by overthrowing the constitution of the Thai nation.

Felix Qui,

Philippine Defence Forces (NDF) allege that universities
Used as recruitment hubs for New Peoples Army (NPA)
The Southeast Asian times, Wednesday 31 October 2018

I just read an article online saying that youth groups in Baguio City have filed a case against the police because of alleged red tagging to some activist groups.
These young minds do not seem to understand the message that the police and military only cares for the lives being used and wasted by Joma Sison and the entire Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) -New Peoples Army (NPA) leadership.
It’s like playing chess.
These young members recruited from the academes are eventually being positioned as pawns - frontlines of the game - to sacrifice their innocent lives and protect their officials.
For what?
For their officials’ selfish goals of overthrowing a government and making a lawless nation?
The great minds of these future leaders are now being put under a realm with nowhere to go.
From my point of view, the police nor the military nor the parents would never want them to be harmed.
That is why they are strongly sticking with their stand that educational institutions are being used as recruitment hubs for New Peoples Army (NP)A disguised as student organizations.
Yes, they may be activists, But sooner or later, when they no longer can hold the grudge and hatred that is fed to them by the dangerous ideology of Communist Party of the Phillipines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) - National Defence Forces (NDF), they will eventually would want to hold guns and put the law on their own hands.
As they say, you can never really appreciate goodness until what’s only left is evil.
Do not be fooled, dear students.

Ma. Cristina Baltazar,


Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)
Denies involvement in massacre of sugarcane workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 30 October 2018

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Charlito Gavez said in a press conference, ”There is the hand of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) because there was one warning shot or agitation shot which is what happened in Mendiola and Hacienda Luisita. A shot came from the ranks of the protesters. Then that's when the shooting began.”
The information by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) did not shock me anymore.
But what shocked is to know that Sagay 9, as members of National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NSFW), may be members of the New People’s Army (NPA). In circulating reports it was mentioned that National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NSFW) may have been a front by New Peoples Army (NPA).
I hope it’s not true.
But if it is, why would they kill their own members?
What kind of conscience and heart do these New Peoples Army (NPA) members possess?
They have to stop doing these to their fellow Filipinos.
The have to stop treating people from the marginalized sector as baits just to create a story that they think would arouse the hatred and anger of the entire Filipino populace to the government.
Also, there were reports saying that some of National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NSFW), members were not really sugar farm workers.
Chief Galvez also mentioned in a press conference, “We gathered eight of the victims were new recruits . . . The recruits possibly were not beneficiaries. Most of them were not from there, some were tricycle drivers, some lived in nearby municipalities.”
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) denied all the allegations by Armed Forces of the Phillipines (AFP) against them and their involvement to the said crime.
But why do I still have this feeling that they Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) is not telling the truth, the truth that the public needs to know.
I am rooting on Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), along with other government agencies, on this case.
Any innocent Filipino doesn’t deserve to be killed and burned because of some selfish souls.
I hope justice for the nine people killed will be served the soonest.

Aleli Conchita M. Batol,
La Union,

Philippine government welcomes New Peoples Army
Into Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 29 Oct 2018

I am writing because I pay high respect to the credibility of media and recognize its role on the propagation of truth the world deserves.
Nearly a week has past now since Sagay massacre happened.
The massacre the victimized nine lives could be an eye-opener, not only to the government and the public.
More importantly, it must be an eye-opener to remaining New Peoples Army (NPA) members along with all their front organizations like National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NSFW).
Their members are being deceived by the leaders of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New People's Army (NPA).
Enough. Enough with destroying and killing of Filipinos. If these leaders would want to fight the government, I suggest stop using the peasants.
All these people wanted is to provide food for their family and give their children all their needs to be successful citizens someday.
Then here comes CPP-NPA recruiters, deceiving them with fabricated truths and harmful principles. All for one reason: to destroy the government - whoever the chief executive may be - because they always try to oust whoever seats.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Galvez said, “The CPP has been hatching plans to oust the Duterte administration and this incident is part of their plan to rouse civil unrest and discredit the government.”
New Peoples Army (NPA) members might as well think now that they are never safe in the hands of their leaders because it was implied on Galvez’s statement that they will do everything - even kill their own members - just to come up with a story that will made the public to hate the government.
Is that how an organization should work?
I don’t think so.
I know life is always harsh, but joining a rebellion is never a resort.
It is never too late for the members.
They can still change their way of life.
Because the government is still welcoming them back to where they initially have belonged through their Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program
(E-CLIP) program.
So might as well decide now before it’s too late.

Brian Carlos Manipon,

Communist Party of the Philippines deny allegations
Of involvement in killing of Sugarcane workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 28 October 2018

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) may have been behind the killing Sagay 9 in Negros last October 20.
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Charlito Gavez said in a press conference, ”There is the hand of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) because there was one warning shot or agitation shot which is what happened in Mendiola and Hacienda Luisita. A shot came from the ranks of the protesters. Then that's when the shooting began.”
The information by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) did not shock me anymore.
But what shocked is to know that Sagay 9, as members of National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NSFW), may be members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
In circulating reports it was mentioned that National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NSFW) may have been a front by New Peoples Army (NPA).
I hope it’s not true.
But if it is, why would they kill their own members?
What kind of conscience and heart do these New Peoples Army (NPA) members possess?
They have to stop doing these to their fellow Filipinos.
The have to stop treating people from the marginalized sector as baits just to create a story that they think would arouse the hatred and anger of the entire Filipino populace to the government.
Also, there were reports saying that some of National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NSFW) members were not really sugar farm workers.
Chief Galvez also mention in a press conference, “We gathered eight of the victims were new recruits . . . The recruits possibly were not beneficiaries. Most of them were not from there, some were tricycle drivers, some lived in nearby municipalities.”
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) denied all the allegations by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against them and their involvement to the said crime.
But why do I still have this feeling that they the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) is not telling the truth, the truth that the public needs to know.
I am rooting on Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), along with other government agencies, on this case.
Any innocent Filipino doesn’t deserve to be killed and burned because of some selfish souls.
I hope justice for the nine people killed will be served the soonest.

Aleli Conchita M. Batol,
La Union,


Call for members of the Communist Party of the Philippines
To pay for their sins
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 27 October 2018

I am calling the attention of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) - National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) organizers and leaders in this letter.
Hopefully, this reaches Mr. Joma Sison.
For as long as I can remember, I have been hearing reports about the involvement of this leftist groups in criminal incidents in both rural and urban areas all over the Philippines.
Are their members the antagonists of Philippine’s progress?
I don’t think so.
Prior to entering this underground movement, these members were students, laborers, ethnic leaders, community helpers, farm workers, teachers, and professionals on their respective fields.
They were working diligently daily so they can all have a bright future.
Then, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) - National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) organizers came in.
They set the focal point on the vulnerable side of the people, indoctrinated them with wrong ideals, deceived them with promises and fabricated truths, taught them to go against the government, gave them firearms and explosives, and instructed them to kill one another through “cleansing”.
Can these acts be ever considered humane?
A former New Peoples Army (NPA) rebel narrated all of these in an episode of the longest-running drama anthology on TV here in the Philippines.
In addition to those, the narrator also mentioned forgetting about family.
When was it ever accepted anywhere in the world to leave your family ties?
There and then, I have realized that the members being deceived and recruited by the organizers are victims, too.
I want them to be captured and pay for their sins in the eyes of law and God, but I also want them to be saved from the hell they have been dragged into by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) - National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) organizers.
All I want to happen now is for the organizers, most especially to Mr. Sison, to just let their members decide through localized peace talks with the local government units.
Just let the members use their unadulterated logic over peace and holistic public administration.
Let them have a chance for safe and quiet lives while attaining their dreams for themselves.
Let them be with their families. And let them leave Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Army (NPA) - National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) organizers without any harm and threat.
Let them live and love.
Just let them be.

Carmelita Bunag,
Surigao del Sur,

Malaysian Universities
Progressively more market-driven
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 26 October 2018
First published in the Star, Sunday 14 October 2018

I refer to “The road ahead for universities” in The Star 7 October 2018.
It was refreshing to read the article by Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Lim Koon Ong where he reflects on the idea, origin and evolution of the role and function of the university, the latter not always for the best for humanity and civilisation.
The two aspects of the initial university model, autonomy and academic freedom, are increasingly less prominent intrinsic, admirable characteristics that used to define the nature of a university as a centre for learning, thought and creativity. Extrinsic factors and pressures have not helped to enrich and inspire university life, but rather the converse.
The university is progressively more market-driven.
Documentation, quantitation of less essential parameters over quality teaching and education are evident.
The annual “Ranked or be Yanked” exercise consumes much time and energy. More meetings are needed for such data, to analyse, promote and market achievements that can be publicised.
Jerry Muller in his insightful book “Tyranny of Metrics” highlights that the obsession with quantifying human performance threatens our schools, universities, medical care, businesses and governments, the belief that the path to success is such quantitation and publicising the results and distributing the rewards based on the numbers.
The Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of the heads of university departments is dependent on the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of the staff and the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of the Dean of the faculty hinges on the combined Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of the component departments and this “merit go round” continues to turn.
I have taught for more than three decades in a university medical school.
I tell my younger colleagues that I do not envy them as they are involuntarily caught up in this performance wheel.
They have less unpressurised time to read and prepare lectures.
Less unhurried time to be creative and have more personal interactions with students, whom the university should exist for.
Our university academic culture where our students spend several prime, formative years has a major influence on their thinking, learning and their development as wholesome, responsible professionals and citizens. Like produces like.

Dr Cheng Hwee Ming,
Universiti Malaya,
Kuala Lumpur,

Call for a larger middle class
To help Malaysia go forward
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 October 2018
First published in the Star, Friday 19 October 2018

Malaysia's aim of becoming a high-income country is only meaningful if many more Malaysians are given the opportunity to share in a bigger piece of the economic pie. Much of the focus has been on growing a larger and more resilient middle class, said to be the engine of our future growth.
In past decades, we have often relied on a low wage policy to produce cheaply for the export market.
This is now not an effective or the best strategy as countries, including China, Thailand and Vietnam, with even lower wage structures can play this low wage game better.
One avenue of reform is to grow our own consumer markets.
The economic multiplier effect will create investment opportunities for our businesses, and in turn employment opportunities, particularly for our youth.
Higher waged workers allow for the growth in our local consumer market.
Note that household consumption is the largest component of aggregate demand, which is between 50 percent and 60 percent for Malaysia.
Higher basic wages for our workers would in turn boost the revenue of the many small businesses and stall holders.
All this will in turn expand business opportunities for the bigger businesses. Businesses’ total reliance on keeping costs low can only be sustained for so long, as more important for them is to grow the revenue inflow.
Einstein’s definition of madness in doing the same things endlessly and expecting better outcomes applies here.
We cannot continue applying yesterday’s solutions to a changed economic reality. A much larger portion of middle class means improving the standards of living for many more Malaysians and is in line with the new administration’s mandate of greater inclusiveness.
A larger middle class, who has been a strong advocate for better governance and increased accountability, will help Malaysia go forward sooner, rather than later.

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,

Sugar workers armed by New Peoples Army
Shot dead in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 October 2018

Burned bodies of three of the farmers using sugarcane waste and gasoline coupled with innocent lives washed out through a number of bullets.
Out of death wish, there was an unexpected killing of nine sugarcane workers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
According to the police, the victims, including 4 women and 2 minors, were resting on Saturday night in a makeshift tent when at least 40 armed men shot them inside Hacienda Nene in Barangay Bulanon, Sagay City.
The victims were identified as Eglicerio Cambannga Villegas, 36; Angeliffa Dumaguit Arsenal, 47; Paterno Baroy, 48; Rene Laurencio Sr.; Morena Mendoza, 48; Marcelina Dumaguit; Rommel Bantigue, 41; Jomarie Oghayon, 16, and Marchtel Sumicad, 17, all of Sagay.
They were members of the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).
From a distance, the usual case scenario is that the Reds will technically absorb the issue form the core, hype the sentimental and will spiral its claim to different allegations against the government (the same with what happened to Aquino regarding Kidapawan Massacre before his terms got ended).
The usual target of the claim is the Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) or the Philippine National Police PNP) via militiamen from a unit assigned therewith.
But here is an alarming fact of the matter in the given crime perpetrated by unidentified suspects - 40 armed men?
We already know who can come up with such a number of armed men.
We certainly know where that outlaw group belongs to.
The usual lie being imputed by Communist Party of the Philippines - New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA) that it is the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which has its sleight of hand on this case but to no avail, there is no any single amount of truth to that.
In fact, they carry out “Oplan Bungkalan at Okupasyon,” a plan to cultivate and occupy private and government land using their “mass base” to instill chaos to the area.
The Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) also bandwagons on this issue by an act of condemnation. Everything is pre-meditated.
Another thing that we can look into are the arms owned by one or two farmers that were killed.
Can we say that they are also members of New Peoples Army (NPA)
Moreover, the funny thing about Colmenares is that he is using the argument that the issue is about land dispute.
As always, his usual rhetoric is that the incident was really absurd because the issue of land is a legitimate issue.
For Reds, that is an attempt of the Duterte government to quell any form of protest by criminalizing legitimate demands.
We need to adhere to the principle that the right to life shall remain unthreatened by proprietary interests, and this extends to agrarian settings.
We hope for an impartial aid of legislation to solve the issue.
I hope this issue will not be a case unclosed given that New Peoples Army (NPA) is visible on this as perpetrators.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,


Call for release of Philippine women activists
Arrested for being members of New Peoples Army
The Southeast Asian Times, 23 October 2018

Where is the truest sense of law if human rights have already eaten the mind of many?
Recently, human rights watchdog Karapatan on Tuesday called on the Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to release four women who were arrested in Nueva Ecija on Oct. 13 by the military for being members of the New People’s Army.
Ii that rate, Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, disputed this, describing Yolanda Diamsay Ortiz, 46, as a member of militant group Anakpawis, and Eulalia Ladesma, 44, as a member of the Gabriela Women’s Partylist. Edzel Amocling, 23, and Rachel Galario, 20, are youth activists who have been advocating farmers’ rights, she said.
Incidentally, the Philippine Army reported the women’s capture in Rizal town, claiming they possessed a sub-machine gun, ammunition and four hand grenades but a Karapatan report said they were arrested in Natividad town, also in Nueva Ecija.
Now, Palabay’s statement on the issue has been the same with previous words she keeps spitting against the government for the past years every time any rebels from their group, has been intended captured or killed in action. For example, she said that the relatives of Ortiz and Ladesma have confirmed that the four women were in the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) at the old capitol building in Cabanatuan City, but paralegal workers were denied access to them.
How come that they are denied with such basic remedy and/or protection of law?
Take note, the forever phrases that we can hear from her and all defender of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New Peoples Armey (NPA) is to call for the immediate release of the perpetrators.
They will always condemn this continuing spate of attacks against activists and rights defenders.
They will keep on pushing through the idea that there is a torture allegedly likened very much a part of the military and police’s practice, despite national and international laws and agreements that prohibit its use.
With all the blind ideology, this a big blunder against CNTs for using youth once again in their corruption of mind.
Meanwhile, I believe that the Karapatan had no evidence the four women were tortured.
How can Karapatan say that the four captured amazons were tortured?
What is their proof?
It is easy for them to accuse things like that without any basis.
Shown then talk with the government.
That’s how the rule of law be treated.
The government adheres to International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights with the highest regards.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,



Philippines lose rice land
To posh housing subdivisions
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 22 October 2018

Cielito Habito’s piece “Momentum breakers” in Opinion 16 October 2018 is sobering.
It made me wonder where our country is going and if our economy would end up in shambles.
Unchecked economic problems will likely deteriorate into political chaos and a precarious national situation.
I can understand the spiraling interest rates and oil prices, for they are beyond our control.
But I have difficulty reconciling his point on the spike in rice prices, since we are an agricultural nation and yet we import our staple food from neighboring countries that studied in our agricultural universities.
Why do we import rice during harvest time?
Why don’t we import ahead of the lean months to ensure ample reserves?
Also, why do we convert rice lands into posh housing subdivisions?
A hectare that produces 200 sacks of palay per harvest season but is sold to commercial developers means a loss of rice supply.
I concur with Habito that if our country is economically dislocated and pushed into penury, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Bob Gabuna,



CPP calls for establishment of democratic government
For workers and farmers in rural Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 October 2018

October Fest is coming and the alleged Red October is nearing to its end.
What a hype of oxymoron.
People say, ‘Forget Red October, Black November or White December’. Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison has admitted that rebels are incapable of unseating President Rodrigo Duterte in the face of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ obsession with conspiracy plots. “What the revolutionary forces and the people are capable of is only to establish democratic government of workers and farmers in the countryside. These are the organs of democratic power,” Sison said in an online interview from Utrecht, the Netherlands, where he lives in exile.
Last month, the President said he had evidence of a “loose conspiracy” involving opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, the Magdalo group, Liberal Party and the CPP-NPA to overthrow him.
All parties have denied his claim.
On the other hand, the military decided to call the rebel plot “Oplan Talsik (Ouster),” which, it said, was aimed at summoning a critical mass for a broad united front to remove the sitting President.
This is akin to the objective of Red October.
Accordingly, under Oplan Talsik, the CPP-NPA intends to stir labor unrest through its “Oplan Aklasan (Revolution),” given that the workforce is the “most vulnerable due to increasing prices of commodities and inflation.
Generally speaking, the Red October aims to topple from power, like what happened to strongman Ferdinand Marcos and President Joseph Estrada, without the NPA deploying its fighters to the capital.
Meanwhile, the AFP has claimed that the Red October plot to oust the President fizzled out after it came to light but we can see that the Red October might be a rolling plan that would culminate in December, when the CPP marks its 50th anniversary.
What the government has to observe is the back-up plan of CPP to weaken the government prior to its takeover.
The usual act, like in any other state with insurgents, is to agitate people to rebel against the government by fomenting unrest, sow discord and highlight issues of alleged human rights abuses by government.
Let us be careful with lies and deception of CPP-NPA.
They are terrorists.
They can kill a lot of innocent lives using their armed struggle.
I am certain that what Joma Sison said is nothing but pure LIES.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

Nuclear power has become a non-option
Due to expense and safety
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 October 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 18 October 2018

I do not agree with James Debentures' argument in favour of nuclear power
in Bangkok Post Wednesday 17 October 2018.
Nuclear power has rapidly become a non-option around the world, based mainly due to expense as well as safety issues.
No nuclear power station has been built or planned in the US for a long time. Several European countries including Germany, Austria and Sweden have announced plans to denuclearise their power systems.
I also do not entirely agree with his comments about electric motorcycles.
It is true that recharging the machine's battery results in burning fossil fuel
provided the relevant power system is totally served by coal- or gas-fired power
However, that is slowly changing as more renewable power sources become available to the power grid.
If it is meant that renewables, such as solar and wind turbines, are unreliable
because solar does not produce at night and wind turbines do not produce when
the wind does not blow, I would agree.
Otherwise both technologies are reliable.
That situation will change as back-up batteries become cheaper.
Millions of households around the world are installing roof top solar systems and the addition of back-up batteries will enable people to decide to disconnect from
the grid. Households such as these will be able to recharge electric vehicle
batteries without the consumption of fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, there is a marginal advantage in battery charging transferring
pollution from tailpipes to power station chimneys.
Power stations are mostly located away from built-up areas and so the cities will benefit from cleaner air, even though total pollution will remain similar.

Paul Sweeney,

Communist Party of the Philippines
Supports President Duterte agenda on land reform
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 October 2018

It seems like Joma Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has new brilliant ideas of propagandas to divert people’s opinion and perceptions on their organization.
First of all, according to him, he supports the president’s agenda like agreeing with the president’s assessment that Filipinos can be given jobs here in the Philippines, but insisting on their group’s version of land reform.
Second is that they are open to participating in the election since according to him the people want to elect their leaders.
Where did he get that information or rather it’s a very stupid imagination?
I only person that what to elect their leaders are their members not the Filipino masses. Filipino voters are vigilant now.
Then, Sison said the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP),National Defence Forces (NDF) and New Peoples Army (NPA) supports a continuing ceasefire.
Is he really in good health?
When was the time they follow such agreement?
Even in time of Suspension of Offensive Military Operation (SOMO) wherein the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) traditionally declare during Christmas and New Year’s Day to give both sides a respite to celebrate with their loved ones but then the red side still attack the military.
Where is the word of honor there?
And he even questioned the government program motive toward the rebel returnees.
Well, simple, the government motive is to give chance and livelihood to the returning rebel that once exploited by Sison’s group.
Then, this is the most shocking.
According to him, they welcome the resumption of peace talks without preconditions.
Are they serious?
No, they are not!
When was the time that they did not ask for it? I rather say “mas sigurista pa sila sa mga singkit”.
I believe Sison’s deceptive tactics are not believable any more.
If he is serious and still has the power over his followers, then do the right thing, order them to lay down their armed and stop the armed struggle.
To Mr. Sison, return home and have a localized peace talks and that he can say that Peace is possible in our lifetime.

Sandra M. Ballaran
Peace Advocate,



Call for neutralization of anti-government forces
To bring law, peace, harmony and love to the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 October 2018

I heard in a news report that according to Defense Secretary Lorenzana, the “Red October” plot by the communist rebels has already been dissolved.
Good Lord!
I have been worrying about my daughter who is now studying Political Science in PUP.
Ever since I heard of the news that these communists have been trying to penetrate universities in Manila to recruit students as their new members, I have become consistently worried on a daily basis.
I am not living in Manila nor do I talk with my daughter all the time to monitor on her activities.
It’s not that I do not trust her, but I am fully aware that she is still vulnerable to influences of other people, most especially about matters she’s interested in.
My daughter is my most precious possession, my source of strength, but is also my worst weakness.
I can never afford to just let her be with the rebels and destroy her life with fabricated truths and hypocritical ideologies.
Secretary Lorenza said in an interview, "Eh nung ilabas ng AFP sila nagpulasan na, kaya hindi na matutuloy (When the report was made public, the plotters fled)."
If he is telling us a fact, then it would really be a great relief - not only for me, but also to other parents - that our kids are somehow safer now from the hands of anti-government entities.
I want to applaud the efforts of our military and police in bringing out this alarming information to our students, professors, university administrators, and even the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
This is one concrete proof that our intelligence units or offices are working really hard for all of us.
After all, neutralizing these groups Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New Peoples Army (NPA) (CPP- NPA)and other anti-governments - would not only benefit the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippines National Police (PNP) nor the government.
It will eventually provide us all with a nation that is governed by law, peace, harmony, and love - which for me, are the cores of humanity and progress.

Aleli Conchita M. Batol,
Business owner,
La Union,

2019 Philippine election aspirants
Expected to to be loyal to the flag and Constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 October 2018

The 2019 elections may still seem to be far yet for an ordinary Filipino citizen.
But for an aspirant, this day connotes the beginning of their not-so-easy, not-so-quiet, and not-so-safe life.
I couldn’t help but think why, albeit knowing all complexities, a lot of Filipinos would still want to be involved in the Philippines. From municipal city councilors way up to senators, there are two things I have in my mind on their intent: public service and corruption.
Does an aspirant willingly want to sacrifice his/her private life for genuine public service to the general public?
Or does he/she want the position to just generate profit through corruption?
For as long as I can remember, the Filipino populace has been condemning the acts of graft and corruption.
This is why I am writing, to reach as many aspirants as I can.
I hope that with their intent to enter the political arena, comes all their purest and most genuine intentions to serve the Filipino people because we deserve a public servants whose values and ideals are aligned with the government’s goal to provide a sustainable and peaceful environment in and around the archipelago.
Personally, I would want also to emphasize that public service in the Philippines requires a heart for the people - heart to share love, peace, and harmony with one another, within our nation and even to our friends around the world. I am also praying the anti-government entities will not take advantage of this period, create chaos, and deceive people that the government is responsible for it.
I am really hoping that all this aspirants are not anti-governments who want to enter the government and destabilize it.
As possible public servants, they are all expected to be loyal to the flag and the Constitution. Please do not go against the rule of our land like other militant groups do.
I am assuming that they all know their purpose prior to filing their Certificate of Candidacy (COC). I am honestly optimistic that they all want to work together towards one goal: a land governed by rule of law, harmony, love, and peace.

Mc Howard Abdon,



Call for Philippine students
Not to join the CPP-NPA
The Southeast Asian Times, 16 October 2018

The news about the recruitment of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New Peoples Army (NPP) CPP-NPA to the universities and students sector has caught my attention. I am writing this letter which is really intended for the students and youth.
As I was born in this country, I grew up believing in the saying that “KABATAAN ANG PAG-ASA NG BAYAN”.
As times goes by, I have become increasingly confused especially now.
How come that the youth is the hope of the nation when it is very evident nowadays that the youth are one of those tools being used by the CPP-NPA to ruin the government?
How would it be possible that they are the hope of the nation if they are volunteering their selves to be one of the members of the CPP-NPA?
So to those youth who are planning to join their organization, think about it twice as you do.
Remember the case of Josephine Lapira, the UP student who was killed on a clash in Batangas.
She was dreaming to be a doctor but all of her dreams just fell out into nothing because she joined the organization of the CPP-NPA.
Her life ended for nothing.
She died fighting for nothing.
She died without aiming anything in life.
What a lost, isn’t it?
An innocent young lady died because she allowed others to rule her life and fool her.
Do you want your life to be wasted, too?
Do you want your dreams don’t come true?
Would you let them steal your innocent way of living just to die for no reason? Think about it.
Think about the future you want to have and think about it more of what your family would go through if you let the CPP-NPA ruin your life.
Be smart.
Be brave.
Be strong to say NO for the wrong ideologies being instilled in you.

Jhoi Lorenzo,

"Red October" plot to oust Philippine president Duterte
Heresay or figment of the AFP imagination
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 15 October 2018

Critics says that the “Red October” issue is just a mere hearsay.
It was just an imagination of the Philippine President as well as the Armed Forces of Philippines.
But hearing all the statements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the president himself regarding the “Red October” issue, I cannot avoid comparing the situation with what happened in Marawi.
Remember, before the ISIS Inspired Maute terrorist attacked and ruined the city of Marawi, the president had warned that there were foreign and local terrorist building a strong coalition and starting to recruit students from different universities in Mindanao to join and start their demonic activities.
Then, people did not mind it and instead the president was criticized by anti-government groups and gave attention and focus on the faults of the president and other unnecessary issues.
Then what happened next in the city of Marawi is history.
Now, the President once again has warned and exposed the alleged “Red October” plot to oust him, organized by a broad coalition led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
And obviously rallies by leftist group against government is rampant in this few days and the sad thing in here is they are using students for their activities.
I think this is an issue that we should not under estimate.
I think we should give attention on this issue and if it is true?
Well, we all know that worst may come to worst and we don’t want it to happen of course.
Let us protect our country as well as our children who are vulnerable in all lies and deception from the hands of opportunist.
Let us guard our children, their future and our country.

Sandra M. Ballaran,
Peace Advocate,


Services of the ombudsman
Crucial to Malaysian citizens
First published in the Star Friday 12 October 2018

I refer to the report “IPCMC will finally be set up” in The Star, September 22 on the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
The report also mentioned that the Public Complaints Bureau (ld soon be replaced by Ombudsman Malaysia.
This change augurs well for the new Malaysia as people’s expectations have risen for greater transparency and accountability.
The ombudsman will be empowered by the Ombudsman Act, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament soon, to play a more effective role in addressing and redressing a wide range of public complaints.
The ombudsman chosen should be an accomplished and capable office holder supported by competent and experienced multi-racial staff because the scope of duties and responsibilities will be wide and diverse.
The Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) was hamstrung by its limited terms of reference, resulting in many public complaints being resolved unsatisfactorily.
In some countries, the power and authority of the ombudsman have gradually increased as a result of changes initiated by their governments after they realised the important role it was playing as middleman between the people and the administration.
I hope our ombudsman will be empowered to deal not only with public and quasi-government departments but also the private sector.
At a time when the bond between our elected representatives and the people is wearing thin, the services of the ombudsman would be crucial to citizens.
The ombudsman would also be able to protect individuals and groups from government action that favour vested interests.
A lot of government officers, especially those in higher positions, have been able to do what they like knowing that the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) and the complainants are hamstrung and cannot undo decisions that have already been made.
All these could change with the introduction of the ombudsman.
It could lead to less corruption, abuse of authority and power, unreasonableness, biased decisions, bureaucratic delay and red tape; lack of transparency and accountability; wastage of money and a host of other shortcomings in the government administration.
To be more effective, the ombudsman should also be authorised to deal with complaints on housing, healthcare, education and financial matters.
The ombudsman would surely be a democratic vent to an increasingly complaining and discontented Malaysian public.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) which has assisted me to address a large array of community and social complaints for the last 30 years.
It was extremely effective in dealing with my complaints and has played a big role in solving numerous problems in Sungai Buloh.
I do feel sad that it has to go but I hope to see the diligent and caring officers back in the Ombudsman Office.

V. Thomas,
Sungai Buloh,


Philippine universities instigate rebellious ideas
And rebellious actions
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 October 2018

A reaction to the written opinion of entitled “The scholar as a rebel” by Gideon Lasco 11 October 2018 was well fortified.
But the statement was disturbing, as I understand it only tolerates the drastic way of expressing ones opinion and it gives a signal to groups who are taking advantage of student power.
Yes, I agree that we are in a democratic country and everyone has the freedom to voice and express his own predicaments to the government.
However it is not an excuse that state universities instigate not only rebellious ideas but also rebellious actions.
Even how hard we try to keep it, even how hard we mislead facts, it is 100 percent true that many state universities are participating and motivating students to proliferate hatred, violence and armed struggle against the government.
And as far as I understand, it is not the main priority and responsibility of the students to eco the difficulties of our Lumad brothers on the disadvantage of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law and mind you, I don’t think ‘Lumads’ are the first and for most to complain about TRAIN law.
And if that is, I think there is a proper agency to address on this matter.
Indeed, we all have different point of views and understanding on different issues in our country.
However, let us not use this to spread false information to students and other people.
We all know the truth and I believe that the leadership of Philippine National Police (PNP) is not on degrading state universities nor the scholar but it only give warning and awareness to students, parents, teachers and the rest of the Filipinos who are doing a big part in our country.

Divine Macapobre,

Philippines call for exercise of rights won against China
At the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 October 2018

There was a warning from the Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio saying that the Philippines is giving up a “very strong” legal deterrent against a possible China invasion of the West Philippine Sea in case our nation withdrew from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
As we recall, President Duterte gave the order in March after the ICC prosecutor began a preliminary probe into a complaint accusing him and 11 of his officials of committing crimes against humanity for the thousands of deaths in the President’s war on drugs.
At the last round of oral arguments on October 9, Carpio listed the implications of President Rodrigo Duterte’s order in March to pull out from the international treaty creating the ICC on the maritime dispute with China. Carpio told Solicitor General Jose Calida in open court that the Philippines could sue China’s leaders, led by President Xi Jinping, at the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity should China invade Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island or Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Moreover, he said such an action was tantamount to the crime of aggression, which, under the Rome Statute, fell under crimes against humanity.
“In withdrawing from the Rome Statute, we will be giving up this very strong legal deterrent,” Carpio told Calida.
On the question of constitutionality, opposition senators and human rights advocates contested the order to withdraw from the Rome Statute since he did not get the Senate’s approval.
This news highlights the question of decency of act coming from Philippine’s dealmaking. Can we consider this as diplomatic?
This may enshrines how the current administration deemed to be more cautious than past administration (Aquino administration) for that matter to have a different path in deciding which institution to connect with.
The issue on ICC is not necessarily a big hole that may shot fire against the government since internationally, this may not give us binding agreement in the first place if we choose not to.
It is only the Western side that put us on hold to be in a cliff-hanger state.
Meanwhile, we need to exercise our rights as we won the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) Hague Ruling two years ago but this is not to disrupt the relationship with China since it has been our co-existing partnership strategy under Duterte administration.
Equibalancing is the key.
I believe that the President has its own prerogative to have independent foreign policy; exercising his constitutional prerogative as the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy.
On one hand, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is hands off the President’s decision to pull out from the ICC claiming the issue involved a political question and thus not subject to judicial review.
I support his decision but it must be strategized since the issue is not a mere walk in the park.

Jumel G. Estrañero,
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

IPCC report says world has the means
To tackle climate change

The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 October 2018

Please allow me to share the following concluding remarks from the article ' 8 things you need to know about the IPCC 1.5 report ' in Renew Economy, 8 October 2018 which I believe best sums up where we are at on the climate change debate : Turning evidence into action
"There's no sugarcoating it : keeping warming to 1.5 C will be hard. Really hard. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report also makes it clear that the world has the scientific understanding, the technological capacity and the financial means to tackle climate change. Now what we need is the political will to precipitate the unprecedented concerted actions necessary to stabilise temperature rise below 1.5C.
There are substantial economic and development benefits from bold climate action. And even more important, limiting global warming to 1.5 is imperative. Falling short would lock in climate impacts so catastrophic our world would be unrecognisable. Governments, businesses and others have the clarity they need. Now it's time for them to step up to the challenge".

As a layman I prefer to be guided by the expert, evidence based views of the world's top climate scientists who have prepared that report.
Why would any rational person not be guided by them?

Rajend Naidu


Proposed new Thai airport falls short of the standards
Of the US National Fire Protection Association
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 October 2018
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 8 October 2918

Re: "New terminal strays from plan", in Bangkok Post Thursday 27 September 2018.
The Prayut Chan-o-cha government should change its plan to build a new terminal
at Suvarnabhumi airport.
First, the Architect Council of Thailand and the Engineering Institute of
Thailand were not consulted or involved in this project - sparking rumours that
it is both corruption-prone and poses a risk to human lives.
Second, the Airports of Thailand-approved design of the terminal, which involves
using wood as the majority of construction material, will fall short of the
standards of the US National Fire Protection Association - to which Thailand is
a signatory - and will pose a huge fire risk.
Third, the Airports of Thailand has switched the site of the new terminal to the
northeasterly position instead of the southerly position.
This was contrary to the original master plan put up by a consortium of foreign and Thai experts.
Fourth, even before its construction, the project has become an international
scandal both in terms of it being corruption-prone and a huge risk to human
lives by fire!
Hence, the government should avoid being the party to blame for its decision to
approve this plan.

Chavalit Wannawijitr,
Chiang Mai,

School officials deny that students reqruited
To oust Philippine president Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 October 2018

This letter is intended for the students in Metro Manila’s colleges and universities being tagged on the Red list.
School officials denied that their students are being recruited by the rebels to oust the President.
I am also a college student of a university and I do believe that there are these universities which has really been recruited and actually there are students who’s already a member of the organization.
Let’s not be blind!
Very evident!
We all know that University of the Philippines and Polytechnic University of the Philippines are the universities with high numbers of protesters and I also believe that they have the most numbers of students who are already members of the Communist Party’s organization.
What I don't understand is I really cannot imagine how these students were able to betray the President and the government knowing that they were able to go to the university and study their courses because of the free tuition fees initiated of course by nothing but our president and our government.
Is this the life they want?
Instead of attending their classes, they’re spending their time allowing others to fool them?
For what reason?
Will they be benefited?
Do not allow yourself to fall on their wrong ideologies.
It may harm you sooner and worst, it may kill you.
Learn from the experience of the former UP student who died in the clash between the New Peoples Army (NPA) and the government members.
How about you?
Do you want your life to end for nothing?
Wake up and allow no one to fool you.

Emjae Lorenzo,



Malaysian Islamic Party meeting
Avoids talking about Rohingya Muslins in Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 October 2018
First published in The Star, Tuesday 18 September 2018

Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS) Malaysian Islamic Party has just completed its muktamar (annual general meeting) in Kuala Terengganu.
At the meeting, members highlighted the caning of two Malay women for “trying to have sex” as a success story but said nothing about the systematic murder of thousands of Rohingya, who are Muslims, in Myanmar.
Here we have an Islamic party that wants to save the ummah and yet considers sex between two consenting adults as far more important than genocide.
I hope Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is attending the current United Nations General Assembly, will announce to the world that Malaysia does not tolerate genocide.
Those of us who follow the news about the murder of Rohingya by the Myanmar military must stand in solidarity with the Rohingya and say that any crime against humanity will be punished.
Aung San Suu Kyi has betrayed the trust that many placed in her.
For four years, I served as Chair of Asean Parliamentarians on Myanmar, and we campaigned relentlessly for her release and for democracy in Myanmar to be restored.
In return, what we got from her was genocide.
Now it is imperative that Malay­sia takes this case of genocide to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
I have contacted a brilliant international lawyer, who is also a Queen’s Counsel in London, who has agreed to accept the case free of charge if Malaysia decides to initiate proceedings against Myan­mar.
We have done gallantly for Gaza and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We must do the same for Myan­mar.
I hope the Foreign Ministry will read this piece and consider my proposal seriously.
Of course, it will strengthen our credibility if we also ratified the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951.
One hundred and forty-five countries have ratified the Convention, so why not Malaysia?
We will cause no pro­blems ratifying the Convention as the UN has a proven and fair system to allocate intakes to countries that are required to accommodate refugees.
In the face of Donald Trump’s madness, Malaysia must provide global leadership in the fight for justice.
We must stand up for stateless people like the Rohingya and other refugees. Pakatan Harapan talked enough when it was the opposition.
Now that it is the govern­ment, it must act with cou­rage.
Our new Malaysia is not just about changing the government or the much-touted institutional reforms.
We need to go deeper and search ourselves: Let us be a country of conscience. Conscience will drive us forward with policies and laws that care about the helpless and the poor.
Only a society with conscience can stem the powerful tide of greed.
For many years, we succeeded in branding ourselves as “religious” and “Islamic”; but without conscience, we lost the plot.
We became a world-famous kleptocracy.
Let the Rohingya genocide and deportation of women and children stir our conscience and drive us to take the lead in bringing Myanmar to the International Court of Justice.
This will be the best antidote for any temptation to return to our inglorious past.

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim,
Kula Lumpur,

Philippines professor instructs students
To serve the Lord and community
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 7 October 2018

I am a professor of Lyceum of the Philippines while doing research in the government for nearly like five years.
Months from now, I’ll turn 30.
Together with my students, I always instruct them to always serve the Lord and community in the best way possible.
But with the recent news I have been seeing in the television with the hype of serial clashes between militants and government forces, I cannot imagine how time really flies.
From dawn to twilight of our time, I can sense that our youth of today has become addicted with liberal democracy.
I mean, there is nothing wrong with liberal democracy by the way since we have been inherited this and we are enjoying this.
Well, I can also tell that there is something wrong with it at micro-lense.
As a professor of politics for how many years, I have seen different colors of students (silent vs. bully, talented vs. inept, aggressive vs. shytype, nationalist vs. passive).
But this millennial age is really an oblique and shitty postmodernity.
Everyone has its own voice in a pluralistic world.
Like last time when I crossed the street of Cubao, I have seen students of one university from Sta.
Mesa having their litanies rectified.
Then it followed by vandalizing the walls of random public spaces with stones in their hands.
What’s that for?
A weapon of mass destruction?
A tool for peace?
You judge.
Okay, we are in a democratic state, yes.
But let me tell you children, we are not utopia.
A perfect society drawn from our senses is only as bad as my ass.
Never in a lifetime will we be a utopia.
I remember one of my students asked, “Sir, what is your stand on student activism?”
I plainly answered, “You are free to voice out but not to the extent of being careless of your intent and acts.”
Where in the world you can get a handful of water being stocked at hand for long a long time?
But do not be waters always looking for some place to escape.
Fluid as it is.
On one hand, it takes one to see the reality we have right now is different from Marcos times nor Cory Aquino days.
Compare with the previous administrations, I see a more vibrant state despite its imperfection.
But for the students/out of school youth whose future is being reclaimed by left-leaning ideologies of New People’s Army (NPA) is a full slavery of mind and poisonous future for students.
Why not study and serve for now instead of drafting oneself to such movement. Why not do the best effort then help your family afterwards instead of throwing chairs initially owned by government?
There is a better world for peacemakers after all.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,


New Peoples Army recruiting students
In the name of Philippine nationalism?
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 October 2018

It is sad to see how the News People’s Amry (NPA) can easily destroy our youth by spiraling shots of evil.
If the communist rebels are indeed recruiting students from some of the country’s top universities to join a plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte, I want to question the intent?
Where is nationalism there?
As per reports, Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., assistant deputy chief of staff for operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), had infiltrated 18 schools in Metro Manila, including De La Salle University (DLSU) and Ateneo de Manila University (ADU).
To be honest, there is nothing new and was practically common knowledge, said school officials could be unaware that the CPP was behind the recruitment for the oust-Duterte movement.
Usually, it usually starts from a film.
In Cinema One for example, human rights-related films with abuses under the late President Ferdinand Marcos were being shown to incite students to rebel against the government, incite resurgence of the First Quarter Storm (FQS) experience among students while projecting President Duterte as the new Marcos.
What the heck?!
Also, the rebels were exploiting other issues, such as extrajudicial killings, to incite students to revolt.
Meanwhile, UP student regent Ivy Taroma protested against what she described as the military’s “Red tagging” of the schools to justify repression that would endanger the lives of student activists.
Why not study and be a better citizen of this republic, right?
What is wrong with these students?
I hope they really can succeed on claiming that a “proletarian dictatorship” will happen.
If it succeeds in ousting the President with good and pure intention, probably I may join but to avail such flimsy dreams of rebels for a perfect society is something that I cannot fathom. Wake up people of the Philippines!
NPAs are criminals.

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

United States companies in China
Moving production to Southeast Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 October 2018

What comes goes around, comes around.
It’s been months since the trade war between United States and China has gone through series of charades; clashes that even Philippines has been sandwiched hitherto.
And all throughout the cycle, President Donald Trump vis-à-vis Xi Jingping’s bout of foreign policy has been clashing.
The United States has imposed tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
In response, China immediately retaliated by imposing new taxes on $60 billion of American imports.
China’s trade sanctions is less than the American sanctions because Beijing is running out of American products to impose tariffs. This is one reason why Trump believes that the United States can easily win a trade war with China.
From geopolitical analysis, China could undermine US efforts to disarm North Korea by not enforcing US sanctions.
China could also confront the United States in the South China Sea.
An escalation of the trade war could lead to China becoming more belligerent. Other options include attempting to isolate Taiwan, deepening ties with Russia as a counterbalance to the US and accelerating its military buildup.
Indeed, US-China trade war is creating some winners in Southeast Asia. According to Bloomberg: “The region is capitalizing on a rush of new orders and production moves as firms reconsider their business in US and China amid a deepening trade war. About one-third of more than 430 American companies in China have or are considering moving production sites abroad amid the tensions, according to survey results released September 13 by the American Chamber-China and the American Chamber-Shanghai. Southeast Asia was their top destination.”
In reality, the Philippines cannot afford to miss participating in this major wave of industrial relocations from an increasingly expensive China.
So where are going the sail our ore?

Jumel G. Estrañero
Defense Research Analyst & College Faculty,

Red October
Strategy to get rid of Philippine President Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 October, 2018

This is a reaction regarding Tonyo Cruz’s ‘The Fictional ‘Red October’ in Philippine Inquirer 29 September 2018.
He specified that the military use the not-so-funny phrase “Red October” as a tagging for strategy to get rid of President Duterte.
He was so irrational and crabby to say that the administration and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were not firm with the said ‘Red October’ plot just because it has not called for a conference with the National Security Council vis-à-vis the significance of the suspected threat.
I am not in agreement with his statement that the said Red October is just a imaginary effort of Duterte to lead astray public anger from the regime that aggravates, humiliates and tyrannizes them just before the wide-ranging cohesive front can straightforwardly conquest this story.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced this as a precaution to the community for what may occur this coming October.
The public should not be persuaded by this propaganda made by a crabby writer possibly Joma Sison's tentacle (José María Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines) that aims to destroy the president’s image and mislead the nation’s trust to the administration and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

Eley-Eydi Del Rosario,


Call for the Philippines to replace
The name Philippines with United Malayaland
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 October 2018
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 25 September

Our country was named after King Philip II of Spain. Hence, we are called Filipinos in honor of the king of Spain.
I personally believe we should aspire to eliminate the last symbol of servitude and oppression that our national hero, Jose Rizal, had chronicled in his writings.
If we review our history, we would know that we belong to the Malay race, like our Asian neighbors Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
Malaysia has even accorded honor to Rizal, describing him as the pride of the Malay race.
To eradicate the last symbol of bondage to Spain, we should replace the name Philippines with a name that truly represents our real race as Malays.
The Thai people have named their country Thailand.
We could name our country “Malayaland,” which means “free land.”
Or we could adopt the word “united,” similar to the United Arab Emirates, and be known as “United Malayaland,” since we are an archipelago.
This way, the name of the king of Spain, whose expeditionary force had colonized our country and oppressed our ancestors for over 300 years, will be expunged from our race and nation.

Ildefonso G Falla,



Wildlife trafficking is world's third illicit trade
After drugs and weapons
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 October 2018
First published in the Star, Saturday 27 September 2018

Our local media often display images of seizures of pangolin, ivory, rhino horn, tiger parts and testudines with headlines hailing the success of wildlife operations conducted by the Malaysian authorities.
While these pictures depict the success of law enforcement against wildlife trafficking, it can be alarming due to the sheer quantity of wildlife products seized not only in Malaysia but also those en route to or re-exported from Malaysia.
Wildlife trafficking is thought to be the third most valuable illicit commerce in the world after drugs and weapons.
Discussions on combating wildlife trafficking have focused mainly on elephants, rhinos and tigers in Africa and Asia.
Often forgotten, however, is the fact that wildlife trafficking occurs across all continents and threatens a wide range of imperilled species, including exotic birds, sea turtles, corals, caimans, iguanas, pangolins, and the list goes on.
Illegal wildlife products are moved through countries and across borders and sold both openly and covertly.
Much of the trade goes on undetected and thus it is difficult to ascertain the enormous quantity of illicit wildlife shipped and sold internationally.
In some cases, wildlife is hidden and passes through checks unknown to Customs and border officials, or is accompanied by false documentation.
Customs officials could also turn a blind eye, give tip-offs or help to conceal illegal wildlife in exchange for bribes or other benefits.
The passage of illegal wildlife through checkpoints and borders may reflect a lack of capacity, training, or a low priority for preventing wildlife crime.
Globalisation has also increased opportunities for concealed transactions, especially where law enforcement and agencies charged with protecting wildlife are under-resourced and poorly supervised.
In many countries, agencies responsible for combating wildlife crime, including addressing corruption in this area, lack the capacity and resources to do so.
This may be due to a lack of priority for wildlife crime, a general lack of resources or infrastructure, or vested interest among decision makers in maintaining corrupt institutions which allow them to enrich themselves illegally.
There is also the perception that the problem is essentially victimless, and as a result governments tend not to give high priority to the issue of wildlife crime, including wildlife related corruption.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a global body, is tasked with regulating international wildlife trade. But it is ineffective as it has no enforcement powers, meaning that the slaughter of endangered species and their sale for profits continue unabated.
Transport and logistics is not only the backbone of a modern economy but also a key enabler for trafficking wild animals and wildlife products. Therefore, the transportation and logistics sectors play a critical role in identifying and eliminating risks along the supply chain.
In the case of Malaysia, it has one of the best infrastructures in the region, making it easy for smugglers to transport their goods.
Reports of seizures at sea and airports are common especially in the area of Johor, Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Penang International Airport.
Malaysia has a big smuggling problem and is among the top 10 smuggling hubs in the region together with the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.
In addition, there is a new trend of trading through the Internet where buyers are both Malaysians and foreigners.
The question now is whether the legislation in our country is adequate to protect endangered species and to combat illegal wildlife trading.
Does the law provide adequate sentences against illegal wildlife traders?
What approach is taken by the judiciary in combating illegal wildlife trade?
The main issue is with sentencing, which usually means a small fine to the offender or a day spent in jail because the judge or magistrate does not understand the seriousness of the crime.
The authorities need to fight tooth and nail to address wildlife crime in the region through information-sharing as well as joint efforts across government agencies and other relevant agencies and institutions.
Strengthening the enforcement of wildlife law and fighting wildlife crime must be given national, regional and global priority.
Support from organisations like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Interpol, World Customs Organisation and CITES is crucial to the success of such efforts.

S.M. Mohamed Idris,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur

Call for Malaysian students
To pay back student loans
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 October 2018
First published in the Star, Saturday 22 September 2018

I refer to the report, “Dr M: Shame on all you defaulters” in The Star, September 21.
What the Prime Minister said is very true, although I think the problem applies not just to National Higher Education Fund Corporation Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasiona (PTPTN) debtors but also many other Malaysians.
We generally like to delay paying whatever we owe.
Finding an excuse would be our first line of defence.
Unpaid loans to PTPTN were a disaster in the making years ago.
First, we appointed a group of government servants who knew zip about finance and loan management to manage millions of ringgit in student loans.
Many of them did not even know how to keep the records straight.
If the records are topsy-turvy, how do they know who had taken the loans and who had repaid?
How do we pursue the debtors when our records are not even up to date?
When banks give loans, do they face problems like what PTPTN is facing?
Some time ago, I said PTPTN loans were a populist universal entitlement for most students regardless of their financial status.
Many students (and their parents too) took the loans because they are cheap and available, treating them like additional income.
When records and recovery measures are ineffective and slow, it is natural for many to delay and find excuses.
There is a saying: “Overdue debts are usually potential bad debts.”
Dr Mahathir talked about the virtue of “shame”, obligation, character, value and culture to pay off one’s debt. I agree, but I think it cannot happen overnight when the whole nation has witnessed stealing, corruption and kleptocracy of the worst form during the past one decade.
We need a tough and professional approach to deal with delinquents.
All PTPTN debtors must be asked to come forward to update their records - name, MyKad number, income, permanent address and telephone number - with the National Higher Education Fund Corporation within a certain period, failing which their passport should be blacklisted again.
Once this is done, PTPTN should work out a repayment schedule with each debtor after taking into consideration all the relevant and extenuating factors.
The idea is they must pay back each month no matter how small the instalment.
It’s time to leave the populist and political considerations aside.
Loan recovery needs a no-nonsense business-like approach. If the borrowers do not pay, there must be consequences.
This is the best approach before we reach “character, culture and value enlightenment”.
And just imagine, the RM36bil in unpaid loans to PTPTN are almost at the magnitude of 1MDB.

T. K. Chua,
Kuala Lumpur,

Donations after typhoon Ompong not forthcoming
Due to insults metered out by President Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 30 September 2018
First published in the Philipppine Inquirer, Thursday 27 September 2018

The September 19 issue of the Philippine Inquirer reported that the death toll from Typhoon “Ompong” has risen to 74 and damage to crops has climbed to P14 billion.
Up to 40 people are still feared to have been buried in the landslide in Itogon, Benguet.
This has been the most powerful storm to hit the Philippines this year, and it has been widely reported in international media.
In major disasters such as this, international donors, private and government, have historically been the first to announce that financial and material aid are on their way.
I was dismayed when I read that Secretary Sonny Dominguez was quoted to have said that he was considering tapping the World Bank for a $500-million loan to help restitute the damage left by Ompong.
Where are the international donors?
Have they turned sour on the Philippines?
Have we become Asia’s leper?
When a country, world leader or international personality is insulted by no less than the Philippine president, will they turn a blind eye and continue with their generous ways?
I wish I will be proven wrong. I wish donations will pour in.

Dionisio Gil Jr.,