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Bank Fraud, Staged Garbage Cleanup, President's SONA: Talk of the Town

Shocking, outrageous, worrying, and odd, these are perfect little conversation starters you can use at your next social gathering.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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What do the Metrobank fraud, the Manila Bay cleanup, and the 2017 SONA have in common? They were all planned and premeditated, one better than the other. 

The Shocking: Internal Fraud at Metrobank

Last week, we were surprised to learn of the P900-million peso fraud orchestrated by one of Metrobank’s top executives for her own gain. The news dampened the shares of Metrobank at the stock market as it slashed off P15.2 billion from its stocks’ value, and cast another cloud of doubt on the trustworthiness of our banking industry. We recall the $81 million money laundering scandal in RCBC in 2016 and the recent internal glitches that sent BPI’s online system haywire.

The Philippines has been touted as having one of the best and most stringent banking practices in the world, thanks to former Central Bank governor Amando Tetangco, Jr. It is in part because of these banking policies formulated by Tetangco that the Philippines remained the only other country in Asia that did not experience a recession in 2008.

Amid the controversy, Metrobank sought to allay our fears by reminding us that it sits atop a P1.9-trillion financial resource, and it will operate business as usual.

The Outrageous: The Staged Cleanup of Manila Bay

On Friday, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada led a group of reporters to Manila Bay, where he rode a boat and tackled a pile of garbage that he was pictured removing from the bay’s waters. He lamented the people’s lack of cooperation in conserving the bay’s ecology. “We have not received the public’s complete cooperation in our initiatives to clean up this waterway,” said Estrada. “But I have not lost hope, that someday, we will be able to bring back the cleanliness and beauty of Manila Bay.”

However, reporters revealed the entire cleanup was staged. They had earlier spotted crew members adding trash to the bay for the former president to be photographed cleaning up. The cleanup drive was organized by a private entity, the Rizal Park Hotel, as part of its corporate social responsibility.

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More than cleanup drives, we need a government that can institutionalize caring for the environment. If anything, cleanup drives are symptoms of poorly implemented environmental laws. Mayor Estrada can help by investing in policing the public and implementing existing laws, not by being a mascot in staged publicity acts.

The Worrying: SONA 2017

A State of the Nation Address is an annual report on the status of the Philippines in various aspects: the economy, infrastructure, poverty reduction, and more. Here and there are usually a few promises in the form of targets for the next year: more jobs, less crime, more roads, less hunger.

President Duterte spent a good majority of his SONA ranting about the same government he is running. It’s disturbing because as the president, it is his duty to address those problems, and as citizens, it is our duty to call the government out for it. The President mirrored the same grievances that ordinary Filipinos complain about, showing he understands their grievances, hence, his popularity. The SONA gave us the impression that the President wants to reinforce his image as a maverick statesman who does not play by the usual rules like the rest of other politicians.

BONUS

The Odd: Singapore’s National Family Feud

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s forefather who forged the tiny city-state and turned it into an international hub for business, finance, and trade after its separation from Malaysia in 1965, was known around the world as a great statesman respected by world leaders, and served as Singapore’s first prime minister until 1990. He passed away in 2015. Such is the legacy he left behind that his sons, one happening to be the current prime minister of Singapore, are battling it out in public about the house their father left behind. 

Lee Hsien Loong, the current prime minister of Singapore, is being accused by his brother, Lee Hsien Yang, of deceiving their father into believing that the government had declared the house a heritage site. By doing so, it would be illegal to demolish the house, which is what Lee Kuan Yew allegedly wanted. The younger Lee is also accusing his prime minister brother of using the house as leverage and a symbol to boost his political capital among Singaporeans. Because of all the drama, Lee Hsien Loong had to address the issues in a legislative debate that drew national attention over the weekend. In a nutshell, one brother wants to preserve the house and declare it a national heritage site, and another brother wants it demolished because it is the will of their father.

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