By Melito Salazar Jr.
The Confederation of ASEAN Senior Golfers’ Associations (CASGA) composed of the Brunei Darussalam Association of Senior Golfers, Indonesian Senior Golfers’ Society, Senior Golfers’ Society of Malaysia, Federation of Philippine Amateur Senior Golfers, Inc., Singapore Senior Golfers’ Society, and Thailand Senior Golfers’ Association held its 2018 Intermediate General Meeting (IGM) in Singapore last week together with the two day Sallehuddin Cup Competition held in the New Tanjong Course of the Sentosa Golf Club and the New Course at the Singapore Island Country Club. The Philippine team captained by Randy Reyla and composed of Lino Magpantay, Munding del Rosario, Ver Raymundo, Bong Joven, and Amba Vidal Querol emerged the winner.
At the IGM which I chaired, the member associations decided to expand the membership from the original six to the present ASEAN ten, with Malaysia agreeing to take care of Laos, Thailand will handle Cambodia, Singapore will help Myanmar, and the Philippines will assist Vietnam. Indonesia also presented plans for the Annual General Meeting and 35th CASGA championships.
As the senior golfers are retired military officers, civil servants, and businessmen, it was inevitable that discussions did not focus only on golf but on a wide range of issues, especially the state of governance and business in each ASEAN member country.
Quite a number expressed admiration for Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, specifically on his ability to empathize with the common people, his campaign to eradicate the drug menace, his no-nonsense management, and his having no cronies. Of course, when comparing the tax regime of the Philippines with theirs, they were surprised how Philippine businessmen were overtaxed and indicated that if the Duterte improved on this area, Philippine progress and prosperity would be assured.
They noted that the language President Duterte uses may not be acceptable in high society circles, but this is what the common people use in their daily life. His populist gestures especially in addressing the concerns of the OFWs (many ASEAN countries, also have OFWs and their welfare is also a major issue) to the point of declaring a ban on countries that do not provide adequate protection was admired. His visiting immediately the victims of calamities and accidents was an action, they wished their country leaders would emulate. They understood the logic behind President Duterte’s special attention to the military and police but believed a focus on the total bureaucracy would be better.
Aware of the criticism from international quarters of President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign but coming from countries where the drug menace is a national concern, they expressed support for the persistent efforts of the President. In some of the countries, the death penalty is meted out even on mere possession of a defined quantity of drugs. However, based on their own countries’ experiences, they thought a purely police action would not work. Considering the drug issue as a medical concern may also be useful.
The destruction of smuggled luxury vehicles drew the most admiration as this was something never done in any ASEAN country. It sent a strong message of zero tolerance and effectively capped the modus operandi of smugglers who would purchase these confiscated vehicles during the public auction. They were of the view that allowing the criminals to use the laws to their advantage encourages continuous criminal behavior.
They were also impressed that unlike previous Philippine administrations, they have not heard of any business groups being close to President Duterte and using such to attain concessions and advantageous benefits from the government bureaucracy. Even the “Build, Build, Build” program which they saw as essential did not seem to favor any Philippine business group. They, however, believed that a more diversified fund source rather than too much reliance on Chinese funding would ultimately be in the best interest of the Philippines.
It was good to hear these views from fellow senior ASEAN golfers and as loyal Filipinos we did not dispute their perceptions. It’s good to be proud to be a Filipino.