Edwin Lacierda

Explanation required, Mr. President

My position regarding what has become Republic Act No. 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, has not changed since I first went over the Senate version (Senate Bill No. 2796) several months ago: I maintain that it is a deeply flawed law that will not be able to properly address the problems it was ostensibly designed for, including, but not limited to, libel, cyber-bullying, and cyber-prostitution. Of course, back in February, I was content merely to air my anxiety, because I was fairly optimistic that the ill-conceived bill would not prosper, such optimism—or maybe I should say, with the benefit of hindsight, naïveté—being largely rooted in my reluctance to entertain the notion that the denizens of officialdom would act, to use a time-honored phrase, like a bunch of drooling incompetents.

It seems opportune to raise yet again the important question of whether our leaders understand what goes on in cyberspace, even as they attempt to engage the wired middle and upper classes—certainly not the general public, in view of extant data on the level of Internet penetration, not to mention access to electricity, in the country—by establishing and using all sorts of online properties, such as web sites, blogs, and social media accounts.

The massive outcry against the anti-cybercrime law, which, as of this writing, includes four separate petitions filed with the Supreme Court by various groups, has found the apparatchiks of this administration scrambling to defend the decision of President Benigno S. Aquino III to sign it into law. For instance, at a press briefing yesterday, September 27, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, urging critics to wait for the pertinent Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), said that “freedom of expression is not absolute”, and that the law “[attaches] responsibilities in cyberspace”—pronouncements that are not without merit and would be difficult to disagree with, but tend to come across as incongruous at the very least, considering that Lacierda, along with other Palace functionaries, has been known to happily heckle political opponents—transport strike organizers and participants, say, or former Chief Justice Renato Corona—using his Twitter account, and could more convincingly serve as an exemplar of irresponsible online behavior than the opposite, especially because, by virtue of his position, he is supposed to speak with the voice of the Chief Executive.

Similarly irresponsible, as well as disingenuous, are the arguments advanced by Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III, who, in response to blogger Jon Limjap’s tweet that the law, presumably on account of its provisions on libel, could be used “to silence political critics online“, replied that Limjap’s “sweeping” statement “ignores the [C]onstitution and its guarantees“, adding that the Act contained nothing that “any columnist hasn’t had to live with since time immemorial“. I would have thought that the following patently obvious things need not be said: first, the Constitution will not prevent—and in fact allows—the litigious from threatening to file or actually filing lawsuits, as Quezon himself knows from experience, whatever the courts eventually decide; second, the majority of people online are not columnists and have had no journalistic training, though pretenders do proliferate; and third, just because a particular state of affairs has persisted “since time immemorial” is not a reason to maintain said state.

None of the foregoing is to advocate that a kind of exceptionalism be observed with reference to cyberspace and the various activities that go on it it, as The Philippine Star columnist Federico J. Pascual seems to believe, rather strangely, of those against the anti-cybercrime law. I do think that there is much that deserves to be regulated online, although that requires a separate discussion. The process of law-making, however, ought to be undertaken with intelligence, sensitivity, and no small amount of caution. Given the disturbing implications of the Act in its current form, a severe shortage of precisely the aforementioned qualities may well be afflicting Congress and Malacañang, and now time, energy, and taxpayer money must be spent, if not squandered, in the fight against a law that, as Cocoy Dayao has pointed out, could have been crafted “far, far better“, and would therefore have been a more efficient use of national resources.

It is interesting to note that, according to a recent report, Aquino did not exercise his veto power over the Act because the office of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. prepared a legal memorandum recommending the law for signing. Perhaps Ochoa or Aquino might be prevailed upon to release the contents of this memorandum to the public,  in order that the rationale behind the approval of the Act by a President who has repeatedly asserted his commitment to freedom and transparency might be understood by the people it will affect—the so-called bosses in whose interests he claims to work, and to whom he now owes a clear explanation.

Edwin Lacierda responds to Manila Zoo situation and may stay on it

I didn’t expect that my post (The Very Sad State of Manila Zoo) will receive so much attention and cause Propinoy.net’s server to crash. “Manila Zoo” even trended worldwide on Twitter. I’m glad that it did because it caught the attention of Malacanang and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda released the following statement in the Official Gazette.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda:

On the Manila Zoo

[Delivered on July 14, 2011]

We share the concern expressed by concerned citizens over the condition in which animals are kept in the Manila Zoo. We have taken steps again to alert the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), which, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 8485, otherwise known as the Animal Welfare Act of 1998, places the animal welfare certification and regulation of zoos under the authority of the Director of Animal Industry and the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the DENR, pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 9147 (Wildlife Protection and Conservation Act). As a response, the BAI, through the Committee on Animal Welfare, said that it continuously engages in a comprehensive discussion with the animal advocates, particularly on the condition of Mali the elephant and other animals in the zoo. They made a plan of action to uphold the welfare of the animals that should be led by zoo officials.

We have also communicated with the office of the City Mayor of Manila and are confident that Mayor Alfredo Lim will dialogue with concerned citizens. The City Mayor has directed Public Recreations Bureau Chief Engineer Deng Manimbo to receive assistance and support from concerned citizens. Those who may wish to help in raising funds or otherwise helping to restore the Manila Zoo may call telephone numbers 468-9498 and 383-6862.

It is noteworthy that concerned citizens have expressed the willingness to assist in any way they can, to help the Manila Zoo improve its facilities and raise its standards. We are encouraged by this demonstration of public spirit on the part of our fellow citizens. It is a positive sign that the citizenry wants to be part of the solution and not just point out a problem.

I appreciate the quick response by the government but I’m jaded. How long will it take for BAI, DENR and City of Manila to act on this. The animals aren’t getting healthier and quick action is needed here. There is no time to play Chinese garters with bureaucratic red tape. I and most of the people I know are not willing to donate money when we don’t know where it will end up. What most of us are willing to do is volunteer. Personally, I would rather that Manila Zoo either close down then send the animals to a big sanctuary either in Palawan or another country, or that Manila Zoo be sold or partnered with a private company which can guarantee its maintenance and attention to the animals’ welfare.

My friend Nix de Pano went to Manila Zoo this morning and took photos of the animals. I’ll try to update tonight about what she found out. My friends and I are planning to visit the zoo very soon and we are looking for a zoologist, ornithologist, herpetologist or any animal specialist who is willing to help us. If you are or if you know somebody, please contact ProPinoy or me (I’m @dementia on Twitter).

One last thing, it has come to my attention that Tagaytay Zoo is almost as decrepit as Manila Zoo, with animals lacking in food and sanitation. The government needs to look into this too and I will visit the zoo the next time I’m in Tagaytay to see how the animals are.

Statement of the Spokesperson on Rep. Lagman’s erroneous interpretation of the 2010 Global Integrity Report, May 5, 2011

Statement of Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda:

“Global Integrity 2010 report writes finis to Arroyo administration’s dismal anti-corruption record”

[Released on May 5, 2011]

Rep. Edcel Lagman has a knack for shooting himself in the foot. He could have checked his facts and looked at the methodology of the most recent Global Integrity Report. He would have realized that the survey unmasked the lack of accomplishment of the Arroyo administration in fighting graft and corruption.

What did Global Integrity actually do, and what was the basis of its 2011 report? A review of their website categorically states the following: “From August 2010 to March 2011, Global Integrity conducted field research (assessing the period June 2009 to June 2010) in 36 countries,” including the Philippines.

When Rep. Lagman said the report “unmasked” as “lacking in substance and performance… the high-profile campaign on ‘good governance and less corruption,’” he was actually issuing an indictment of the former President he so slavishly serves. The field research and assessment Lagman pointed out as suggesting the future will be “an empty page for dearth of heartwarming stories or a perjured page of conjured ‘good news,’” he was actually summarizing the reasons his political principal and her works were rejected by the Filipino people.

The month of May is Anti-Graft and Corruption Awareness Month, proclaimed as such by former President Arroyo. It is appropriate that the gap between rhetoric and reality on the part of the former administration should be so graphically exposed:  by the slipshod manner in which Rep. Lagman tried to make political hay of what is actually a damning indictment of the previous dispensation.

Round and round we go

Prof Solita Monsod in her weekly column for The BusinessWorld quotes a paper authored by Ms Rosario Manasan of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies or PIDS a government think tank which estimates that based on its current trajectory, the Philippines will meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of achieving universal primary education by (brace yourself) 2079(!) sixty four years behind the 2015 deadline.

That is unless the government changes its course and raises education expenditures in the near term. Currently there is a mere 65% completion rate of students that enter primary school. Many factors contribute to the high attrition rate, most of which we are all too familiar with: large class sizes, poor teachers, a backlog of classrooms, materials and clean drinking water, improper access for disabled and indigenous children.

To bring the current attainment rates up to 90% by 2016 (the end of President Aquino’s term) would require a near-doubling of the current education spending in the next year according to the paper. Manasan provides forward budget estimates of P382 billion (3.8% of GDP) for 2012, P308 billion for 2013 (2.3%), P325 billion for 2014 (2.8%), P341 billion for 2015 (2.7%), and P355 billion for 2016 (2.6%). The spending “surge” in 2012 includes provisions to bridge the capital spending backlog accumulated over recent years. The likelihood of this happening is very low considering the fiscal consolidation being undertaken to contain public deficits and debt.

Given its inability to raise and sustain a tax collection rate above 15% of GDP (Manasan says it should be around 18%), the government has resorted to expenditure contraction as a means of keeping its deficits in check. To raise its tax take to the prescribed level while sticking to its “no new taxes” pledge, the Aquino administration would have to pull a few policy levers at its disposal. What are these? Well, they’re the usual suspects: rationalizing tax exemptions to investors, restructuring excise taxes on sin products, and reforming the road users tax.

These are all familiar prognostications. After all the animosity the government has recently faced over reducing subsidies for commuter trains, highways and utilities, the politics of increasing rates on alchohol, tobacco and automobiles would make the enactment of two out of the three proposed measures unlikely.

Improving Retention

In this year’s budget the Aquino administration has tried to improve retention in schools via the demand-side of the equation by placing more money in the conditional cash transfers (CCT) program. This is a recognition that apart from inadequate inputs from the public sector, it is the lack of family income that drags attainment levels down. The problem of course is that once demand for education on the part of families is stimulated, supply on the part of the government will have to surge to meet it.

So round and round we go, locked in the policy/spin cycle until the year 2079…unless of course we introduce some kind of structural “break” in the process. That could come in the form of a reproductive health act that would allow parents to make informed decisions about the number and spacing of their children. By all accounts, that would mean lowering the average size of each household if the true wishes of parents were fulfilled. If this were introduced this year, its effects would be felt in the kindergarten enrollment levels of 2016. While current enrollment growth rates are already declining, the reform would slow them down even more. This would allow the government some breathing room to catch-up with the demand for schooling.

Many players on both sides of the debate do not seem to appreciate just how close their positions are.

Of course the reason why past incarnations of the RH Bill have failed to make it through Congress is the opposition faced from the powerful Catholic bishops. From watching the panel discussion on Al Jazeera TV (see video clip embedded below), the main stumbling block in this Congress has been what an abortifacient consists of. Bishop Ted Bacani seems to accede to other forms of man-made contraceptives that prevent conception. Perhaps this is in part due to the Pope’s own statement regarding the acceptability of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Many players on both sides of the debate do not seem to appreciate just how close their positions are. While the current RH Bill does not explicitly enumerate the different forms of legal and safe methods of birth control that would be offered; by the same token, it does not seek to legalize abortion either. The position of the clergy seems to be that under the bill, substances, both herbal and synthetic, that induce termination of pregnancy (abortifacients) could be construed as legal forms of contraception. An example of this the morning after pill, that in some countries has been offered to victims of rape, might form part of the mix unless explicitly prohibited.

As presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda pointed out, that was an issue up for debate. The disengagement of the bishops from the process is the reason for the current impasse. It is quite unfortunate that Ms Beth Angsioco an advocate of the RH Bill was not asked to clarify her position on the matter. It would have been enlightening to hear it rather than the toing and froing over rights that occurred. It should be noted that even in countries where abortion is legal, the use of such morning after pills is tightly controlled. For the sake of guaranteeing its passage through Congress, it would be best for advocates of the bill to compromise and  leave the debate over whether or not to legalize abortifacients for another day.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXYo5kmc6Mo&fs=1&showinfo=1&rel=1]

 

Untangling the Complex Policy Web

Returning to the issue of how to finance education. It is quite clear that in the near term, the bridging of the education gap will be difficult particularly because the government is hoping for a credit upgrade from the various rating agencies. This would mean reducing the fiscal deficit to within 1-2% of GDP. One cannot discount the benefits a one or two notch upgrade would bring about. You cannot get there without fiscal consolidation or controlling cost pressures in the budget, improved collection by the government revenue agencies recently reported notwithstanding.

The basic source of this gap is the sheer size of our population. Reducing its growth rate even fractionally would have huge benefits down the track in terms of education, health and employment outcomes. The government may not be able to attain the MDG target by its deadline, but it can lay the groundwork towards balancing the conflicting policy goals it has to contend with at the moment.

The Politics of Reform

Like mother like son?

The Asia Sentinel at the end of last week posted a piece entitled The Philippines’ Tentative President. It makes the point that as he enters his ninth month in office P-Noy has yet to demonstrate that “he has the will to use his popularity and the size of his mandate to make tough decisions.”

Such a piece is timely as we approach the 25th anniversary of the first people power revolution of 1986, as comparisons are now being drawn between the president and his mother. She was generally regarded as a weak leader although the generals who served under her embattled presidency and helped her stare down numerous coup attempts would challenge such a view.

Be that as it may, the Sentinel piece highlights the fact that with his penchant for posing as the “nice guy” P-Noy risks being perceived as a do-nothing president unwilling to roll-up his sleaves and tackle reforms that would pit him against very powerful interests.

His stance towards the issue of family planning is illustrative of this point. After promising support for the passage of the Reproductive Health or RH Bill that has languished in Congress for the last 13 years, his spokesman announced early this month that it would not be listed among the priority measures he would endorse to Congress on the 28th of February.

His intention as explained by Palace spokesman Lacierda is to introduce a new draft bill maybe later in the year following extensive consultations with the Catholic hierarchy. This of course assumes that the current RH Bill making its way through the plenary sessions of Congress will not pass. His refusal to meet with adherents of the bill further cements the view that he has closed off all access for those seeking reform to himself.

Indeed the vascillation of Aquino-II in the RH Bill can be likened to that of Aquino-I in the enactment of the CARL (or Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law). Just as Aquino-I allowed for the watering down of the bill that sought to address the issue of asset inequality (CARL), Aquino-II seems to have acceeded to the more conservative and powerful interests in the country to water down a bill seeking to address the issue of human capital inequality (RH Bill).

The saying, “what are we in power for” which symbolizes the politics of corruption and collusion in this country went to the root of P-Noy’s popularity. The country in the last election was craving for more honest leadership. When it comes to honesty in government, none can come close to the Aquino brand.

Just as Aquino-I allowed for the watering down of the bill that sought to address the issue of asset inequality (CARL), Aquino-II seems to have acceeded to the more conservative and powerful interests in the country to water down a bill seeking to address the issue of human capital inequality (RH Bill).

But to run an honest government is not the sole purpose of the reform-minded leader. The point of power is to wield it to do “some good”, namely to restructure incentives that currently align themselves to bring about perverse outcomes. Currently, in the debate over reproductive health, the Catholic Church as a corporate entity wants to preserve its monopoly of ideas when it comes to the issue of family planning.

The current structure of incentives makes it impractical or improbable for poor couples to make the best informed decision with regard to the size of their family and to stick to that decision. Studies have shown that particularly in poor families the gap between the size that they want (small) and the size that they actually end up with (large) is significant given the present levels of support available to them in this regard.

The bishops with their vast resources have issued veiled threats against the president on the eve of the EDSA-1 commemorations against changing the status quo. Having blocked the enactment of the RH Bill for so long, they want to see a version that agrees with their views. In the president they seem to have found a willing accomplice.

In engaging in the politics of reform, there were so many possibilities open to a president with exceedingly high popularity ratings. He could have set the agenda by opening a debate over reproductive health. He could have led the debate by using his office as a bully pulpit from which to educate the public with respect to the issues. He could have leveraged the sizable majority that supports the bill and could have built alliances to act as a counter-weight to the vested interests (the Artists for the RH Bill being one of the potential members of such an alliance).

Instead the president has chosen to remain within the fold of the dominant bloc. The thing about dominant groups is that they are often in the minority. Their ability to concentrate power to themselves comes from their ability to mobilize resources to help their cause compared to the majority that are often inchoate and disorganized.

The only way to move from a closed society to an open one is to democratize access to information and power. A bill which seeks to improve access to information and empower individual households among the poorest especially with respect to family planning and parenthood deserves to be prioritized. The advocates of it deserve a seat at the table.

Rather than closing off access to his office, the president should guarantee it. Only in this manner will policy development be allowed to proceed in a rational and considered manner. Only in this manner will the politics of reform be given new life.

Aborting the RH Bill

Just as the RH bill cleared the House Appropriations Committee yesterday, Malacañang had practically ensured its stillbirth. On the 7th of February, the Inquirer reported that indeed the Palace had retracted its earlier position by de-prioritizing its own version of the bill from among the legislative measures it intended to endorse at the February 28 reconvening of the LEDAC or Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council.

Reacting to speculation that this constituted a caving in by the administration in response to veiled threats issued by the CBCP or Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines following a courtesy call by retired Archbishop Ricardo Vidal, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda defended the Palace position by reportedly stating that “the bill could be introduced in Congress within the year but it would not be certified as urgent anymore” and that “(w)e are not pushing, we are not introducing the bill until after we finish the dialogue with the bishops” adding that “the Palace had nothing to do with the consolidated RH measure now set for plenary debate in the House of Representatives” (quotes taken from two Inquirer accounts).

Indeed by withdrawing its endorsement of its own bill, the Palace may have demonstrated an unwillingness to play the amazing hand that it has been dealt with. The president not only can boast of tremendous popularity, but he could also claim that a sizable majority of Filipinos were in favor of the bill. There was no need or urgency to be circumspect in selecting battles. The inability to call the bluff of the bishops and readiness to fold this early in the game shows perhaps a lack of a political strategy among the players within Malacañang.

It should be noted that for the Palace to endorse a bill to Congress, it was not necessary for it to present its draft of legislation as final. It could endorse a proposed draft or set of drafts subject to consultation as it is most likely to undergo during congressional deliberations. Privileging the voice of the clergy in this way over that of other groups, namely women’s and children’s as well as gay rights groups, was a tremendous concession to make, which could be construed as an act of extreme risk aversion.

Earlier, P-Noy had performed what could be considered an intelligent reframing of the debate by calling the RH Bill the “Responsible Parenthood” Bill, not that it concerns itself with parenthood alone, as HIV/AIDS prevention is an important element. By constructing the target audience of the bill in this manner, P-Noy was legitimizing the policy to power brokers by connecting it with the mainstream and not just the marginalized groups on the fringes of society with negative cultural connotations.

Contrast that with today’s headline that the President would plead with the Chinese president to grant clemency to three Filipinos sentenced to death because of drug trafficking. It might be said that Malacañang was unwilling to take up the cudgels for the thousands of women that die every year (according the the UN Population Fund) due to poor maternal and reproductive health services, yet it will go to great lengths to plead for the lives of three convicted drug smugglers. In either case, it will be seen as being ready to fall prostrate before a “higher power” whether secular or religious for political expediency.

In Parliamentary parlance, what the Palace has in fact done has been to call for a conscience vote on the floor. In effect, if the RH Bill is ever voted upon, the ruling party would not have a policy position either for or against the legislation. Congressmen and senators that comprise the ruling coalition will be free to vote as they please without any reprisal from the ruling party. Being isolated in this way will make them even more vulnerable to lobbying and threats by the vocal groups that oppose it.

What P-Noy might eventually be accused of is leading his troops in the charge and then abandoning them right in the midst of battle. Having been leaned on by the patriarchs of the Church to wash his hands of any parental responsibility over his love child, the president might be viewed as having left the proponents of the RH Bill with only two options: either to abort it or deliver it on their own.

Palace to review setup of 3-headed media group

Palace to review setup of 3-headed media group
By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—It has finally hit the Palace that its three-headed communications group must put its act together.

Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications and Strategic Development Office said Cabinet officials would meet on Thursday to discuss ways on how to communicate more effectively the government’s programs.

“We felt the need to tighten the way that we communicate to the public what we’ve been doing,” Carandang said in a news briefing in Malacañang.

“Many things that we’ve done over the last several months have not gotten the emphasis that we feel they deserve,” he added.

Carandang admitted that breaking up the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) under his office and Secretary Herminio Coloma’s Presidential Communications and Operations Office was a factor in failing to get the desired results.

There’s also presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

“We needed to get our act together as far as communications is concerned,” Carandang said.

Birthing pains

“We broke up the (OPS) and Secretary Coloma and I have occupied these two offices. It’s a new structure so it has taken some time to get used to it,” he said. “I think perhaps those birthing pains contributed to the lack of the message getting through to certain sectors.”

Carandang believes the message of the administration against corruption and for economic progress must have been successfully relayed to the public given what he called an improvement in President Benigno Aquino III’s acceptance ratings.

“I wouldn’t say that the message is not getting through. I’m saying that the message could probably be told with more consistency and perhaps a little bit more flair,” Carandang said.

Noy lauded for remaining firm on RH Bill support

Noy lauded for remaining firm on RH Bill support
By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star

House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Mr. Aquino “needs to be complemented and supported for standing firm against the Catholic hierarchy in his advocacy for responsible parenthood and contraceptive use based on freedom of informed choice.”

Curiously though, a prominent member of the House minority bloc, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is against the RH Bill and has co-authored a pro-life measure to protect the rights of the unborn.

“The steadfast position of the President on voluntary family planning is an unequivocal endorsement for the enactment of a comprehensive and nationwide statute on reproductive health and population development,” Lagman said.

Aquino taps Roxas as adviser

Aquino taps Roxas as adviser
by Joyce Pañares
Manila Standard

Defeated vice presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II has been named a “senior adviser” of President Aquino, thus his inclusion in the business delegation that has left for the United States, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Tuesday.

“There’s nothing unusual that he joined the trip. He is a senior adviser,” Lacierda said, noting that Roxas, being a former New York-based banker, can help the President during his meetings with top executives of US firms.

During his New York and San Francisco visits, Mr. Aquino is expected to make an investment pitch for Manila when he meets leaders of US firms Coach, Luen Thai, IBM, JP Morgan, Sutherland,Automatic Data Processing and Hewlett Packard.

Roxas, however, does not have any official position or portfolio, given the one-year appointment ban on candidates who have lost during the May 10 polls, Lacierda said.

Roxas, a former senator and trade secretary, left for New York ahead of the presidential delegation which only arrived in the US state yesterday.

Roxas is disputing the electoral victory of his rival Jejomar Binay and the Supreme Court will hear the case on Sept. 30.

Presidential messaging head Ramon Carandang said Roxas was personally invited by the President to join the US trip.

“He’s going to be a big help in connecting Philippine business with US business. Mar knows a lot of the very influential businessmen,” Carandang said.

Roxas was also present during Mr. Aquino’s visit to Cebu last week for a regional economic managers’ meeting and during a ceremony for the Metrobank Foundation teacher awardees at the Palace earlier this month.

“I only do what the President asks me to do,” Roxas said in an earlier interview in Cebu but declined to elaborate.

In New York, the President will have a bilateral meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyan Minh Triet at the United Nations headquarters and an interview with the New York Times Tuesday (US time).

Mr. Aquino will have an audience with former US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and an interview with the Wall Street Journal today (WEDNESDAY US time).

Mr. Aquino will make his international debut when he addresses the 65th United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24.

“The theme of 65th UNGA, ‘Reaffirming the Central Role of the United Nations in Global Governance,’ is fully aligned with President Aquino’s platform of institutionalizing good governance and combating poverty,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said.

On the same day, Mr. Aquino will serve as coordinator for the 2nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations-US Leaders Meeting in New York which will be co-chaired by US President Barack Obama and Nguyan.

“As country coordinator for 2009-2012, the Philippines has a mandate to broaden and deepen the spheres of cooperation between the countries of Southeast Asiaand the United States,” Romulo said.

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