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Crime of the crop.

Byline: Conrado Banal III

TO THE business sector, at least based on the consensus in numerous conferences and conventions and what have you, economic policy could easily trump other national issues in the elections this May.

Or at least it should! And the business community might have a compelling point.

A survey done by media, for instance, maintained that the top issue among voters in the forthcoming May elections would be poverty.

By the way, also according to the Laylo survey, poverty already displaced corruption and crime as the top concerns of the public.

For whether our politicos like it or not, poverty has always been the offshoot of economic policies, while the high incidence of crimes has mainly been the result of poverty.

Now, whether by sheer perception or by shock appeal, one of the strongest presidential candidates surely is Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte-no question about it.

From what I gathered in social media, his support seemed to take root in his reputation for iron fist rule, meaning, he could perhaps give us clean government and crime-free communities by scaring the pants out of everybody.

In other words, the mayor could have stirred the sense of hope among the people.

Pity this country, nevertheless, if his platform would simply start and end there-the iron fist rule-although it was precisely his trademark in all those years as city mayor.

This time, however, the good mayor chose to run for the presidency, which might call for more than just the usual tough guy stance against everything.

After all, at stake here would not just be a city, no matter how troubled or chaotic it was before the mayor fixed it, because the presidency should be about the entire country.

Business thus eagerly looked forward to the series of presidential debates, sponsored by media outfits and the Comelec.

Duterte perhaps could finally have the chance to expound on what, all along, was missing in his sudden rise to prominence in national politics.

That would be a clear comprehensive economic platform. You know-something close to the stomach like jobs, livelihood, or purchasing power, what he would do to solve the problem of poverty.

Threatening to kill criminals, in my view, could hardly address what the survey concluded as the top concern of the public-the very same poverty that was the root of rising criminality and even the drug menace.

Besides, there would be the question of what would the so-called extrajudicial measure do to our already weak and corrupt judicial system.

In a way, as his adviser already pointed out, the good mayor's style of campaigning could be effective at the start, mainly because it could be rather entertaining.

Still, many found it disturbing for him to send the wrong signal that everything would be fine just to kill criminals.

Last year, for instance, the Commission on Human Rights reported that at least 19 of 206 unresolved murder cases in Davao involved teenagers, whose records showed they were involved in petty theft.

All right, my contacts in the camp of Duterte insisted he had nothing but good intentions in applying the iron fist rule on criminals both as mayor and as president.

But other sectors would certainly argue that intentions-whether noble or barbaric -could hardly pass for the rule of law.

That was the reason why the business sector had wanted to hear some economic issues being discussed in the political theater of today.

How could the next administration surpass the GDP growth rates in the past few years-deemed by economists as one of the best showings of the country in recent history?

Really, growth rates would sound to be more of a presidential discourse than extrajudicial killings.

To be sure, the top presidential candidates, the creme de la creme, at the top of their games, could easily attract votes purely from the political personalities that they would project in the campaign.

What with their diverse public images, from tough guy to man of the masses to poor abandoned person!

But it should still be best if the public could really choose between, on the one hand, bombastic public image and, on the other, full substance.

Some 14 years ago in 2002, the Philippine government put out a set of rules (Administrative Order 8-2002) allowing the importation of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, such as soybeans used for making animal feed.

All of a sudden last December, after all those 14 years or so, the Supreme Court ruled to strike down those rules.

The Supreme Court in effect imposed a ban on the importation of GMOs that the local feed making industries have been using all along.

The ruling of course was another claim of win by so-called NGOs, particularly the Greenpeace (Philippines), which in 2012, together with other groups, asked the lower courts for the so-called Writ of Kalikasan against the GMO importation.

Of course the Writ of Kalikasan is the only one of its kind in the world, introduced by our very own Supreme Court just a few years ago.

The NGOs thus saw a chance in that particular special writ to ask the Supreme Court to impose the ban-some 10 years after the government allowed the importation.

Anyway, right after the Supreme Court ruling came out, the scientific community in the country, including the academe and other environmentalist groups, reacted with warnings of runaway increases in the prices of meat as a result of the ruling.

They asked the government to issue a new set of guidelines on GMO importation, because the Supreme Court in effect just trashed the 14-year old rules-and not really the whole idea of GMO importation.

Still, in other parts of the world, Greenpeace-as an environmental activist group -hammered the possibility that GMOs could have unforeseen health hazards.

The local scientific groups nevertheless noted that the flip side to such unforeseen ill effects would be certain hunger, if not starvation, in the country.

You see, the Supreme Court ruling imposed a temporary ban on GMO, or until the Aquino (Part II) administration could come up with new rules.

The ruling would thus stop the importation of soybean meal, for instance, which local industries use mainly to make animal feeds.

As of last count, the country imported some 2 million tons of soybean meal yearly, mainly from the United States and partly from Argentina, which were genetically modified.

The local livestock, poultry and aquaculture industries all use animal feed using soybean meal from the US and Argentina, which was cheaper that the non-GMO variety, even if big supplies of it would be available.

The Supreme Court ruling would also affect the GMO corn production in the country that has also been a main raw material for animal feed.

In the past 12 years or so, local yellow corn production saw a robust growth, as it neared the self-sufficiency level of 8 million metric tons last year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Local farmers used GMO corn seeds, which were made resistant to the bane of corn plants-the dreaded corn-borer.

At the same time, the activist NGOs shifted the fight to the new rules being formulated by the administration, accusing the government of railroading them in favor of GMOs.

Nobody was saying that, perhaps, this country must also try to avert the food crisis.

The Philippine Association of Feed Millers Inc., or Pafmil, thus warned of an impending food crisis, because of the higher prices of pork, beef, chicken meat, eggs, and even fish.

That would be the crime. Who could afford chicken at P800 per kilo?
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Feb 15, 2016
Words:1261
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