Issue of January 15, 2017
     
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Did he or did he not?

In previous years, the Baguio Christmas tree was erected at the top of Session Road. This year it was moved to the Rose Garden in Burnham. Last Tuesday the tree caught fire and burned.

The Year of the Fire Rooster must really be upon us.

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In our Dec. 25, 2016 column, we said that we liked it that Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, unlike almost all other Presidents before him, had no special fondness for the City of Baguio. And thus, during the Christmas season, he did not choose to come up to Baguio. This saved us from the usual Presidential entourage and hangers-on that would have added to the traffic mess.

In the same column we also wrote about the constitutional right of the people to information in the event of the serious illness of the President.

Last week, our good friend and former senator, Kit Tatad, wrote a new twist to the said subjects in his Manila Times column. He pointed out that over the New Year holiday period,  Pres. Duterte vanished from public view for what Kit describes as a “seven-day hiatus.”

Official statements claim that the President spent his holidays in Davao, with his family and friends for a pure “me time” that “he rightly deserves.” Kit writes that Pres. Duterte may not have been in Davao after all.

Kit claims that Pres. Duterte left Davao on board a private executive plane that flew him to China for a meeting with doctors at the world-famous FUDA Cancer Hospital in Guangzhou, Guandong Province. Kit hints that the trip was for treatment of his “galore” of illnesses (Barretts’s esophagus, Buerger’s disease, etc.) which may include cancer.

This is interesting although Kit himself says he is “not prepared to endorse the complete veracity” of the report but asserts that his sources are reliable and the report has been separately confirmed to him by people in the know. The report was quickly denied by Special Presidential Assistant Christopher Co.

We are always apprehensive when it is Kit who makes announcements. That is because indelibly engraved in our memory was when he made that dreaded TV appearance as Press Secretary of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, and almost nonchalantly announced the declaration of Martial Law. Difficult years would thereafter follow.

To his credit, Kit, after breaking away from the Marcos regime in 1980, did report that Marcos had a kidney transplant. While his report was then flatly denied by Malacañang, events would later prove that Marcos had a first transplant that failed, and then a second one that was more successful. Kit was correct, after all.

Whether we agree with what Pres. Duterte has done, or failed to do, in the first six months of his administration, his health is vital to all of us. This is because the physical and mental health of a chief executive always has a great impact and bearing on the health of the nation.

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The administration’s final choice of a preferred partner, between China and the U.S., may come sooner than we think. Pres. Duterte has cozied up to China, and keeps mouthing anti-U.S. rhetoric. But his men say that U.S.-PH relations will continue.

The balancing act between U.S. and China may come to a head if Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Tillerson is of the view that China’s island building in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) is “illegal” and wants to deny China access to the area.

Sooner than later, we must decide. Sino talaga? U.S. or China?

If it is of any relevance, the latest Pulse Asia poll found that 76 percent of adult respondents trust the United States, while 23 percent expressed distrust and one percent were undecided.

Sixty-one percent distrust China, while 38 percent expressed trust and one percent, undecided.

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