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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Suddenly Mr. Duterte abandons impeach-Leni move---the wise general retreats to fight another day? But he’s still stuck on defense of PH claims in West Philippine Sea, where he can’t just 'hyperbole' with a jet-ski and plant the PH flag. As SC senior justice Carpio warns, China’s planting a radar station on Scarborough Shoal which will complete its radar coverage of entire South China Sea.



President Duterte suddenly took the wind out of the impeachment sail aimed directly against Vice President Leni Robredo by his staunch allies in Congress. Mr. Duterte suddenly was quoted today as saying that "Leni was just exercising her freedom of speech" when she criticized in a six-minute video tape submitted to the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs in Vienna and played last March 16, his anti-illegal drug campaign that has seen more than 7,000 people dead in past months.

With this news that the VP took the anti-drugs and EJK issue to the UN, his leaders were furious.  Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez gathered House leaders to push for her impeachment, while Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III began pressuring the House leadership to send the complaint to his chamber to get the oust-Leni ball rolling.

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Why, even the Department of Foreign Affairs had the temerity to lecture the second highest official of the land---never before has this happened---that "there are limits to freedom of expression," and that this right |comes with the responsibility to ensure that facts are verified, and unfounded allegations from questionable sources are avoided."

Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo reinforced administration allies as she, complained that Veep Leni’s pronouncements before the UN body “make it hard for us to sell the Philippines as a tourist destination.” Secretary Teo also pleaded with the media, “to please tone down reports on EJKs” even as she stressed during the President’s state visit to Thailand that PH is actually “a safe destination”---EXCEPT THAT JOURNALISTS ARE MAKING IT HARD TO SELL PH BECAUSE OF THEIR FOCUS ON DRUG-RELATED KILLINGS. 

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There are several things to point out. One is that jeopardizing the image of the Philippines did not begin with VP Leni, for almost from Day One, President Duterte has displayed the propensity to counter-attack against people who even just gently criticize him---he just cannot brook criticism. Unfortunately, every attack he leveled against foreign leaders would be assiduously reported in foreign media.

 As Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David pointed out the other day, “Who’s the traitor?” Said she: “If speaking out about the country’s problems and failings constitutes ‘treason,’ then the biggest traitor of all is President Duterte himself.” She pointed out that “Many times he has not been afraid to castigate foreign leaders to their face, putting our trade relations with these countries at risk..”

XXX

So why did the President retreated from the certainty of impeaching VP Leni Robredo when his House allies have the numbers? It’s good to remember that IMPEACHMENT IS ALL ABOUT NUMBERS. Thus ---though the House is fully controlled by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and he could get the numbers to impeach Leni, just as he got the votes to ram the death penalty through his chamber (217 pro death penalty, 54 against and one abstention in the House)--- IT'S A DIFFERENT BALLGAME ALTOGETHER IN THE 23-MEMBER SENATE. The LPs have a solid 10 votes there, so it's obvious that no matter what math is resorted to, Mr. Duterte would not get the 2/3 required vote (16 votes) in the Senate to oust Leni Robredo as Veep.  

I suspect that Digong’s conciliatory move toward Leni is very much related to the second impeachment complaint being proposed in the House---this time against  himself, led by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano. I suspect that the President’s most wary of appearing to the world as being impeached---bad for his strongman-image even if that move won’t prosper.  All the turmoil (the impeachment of the two top leaders, albeit by different parties) would also be most hazardous for the country’s image abroad.

So it had to be a QUID PRO QUO: he stops the impeachment of Leni in the House, so that he himself escapes impeachment in the Senate. MR. DUTERTE IS THE WISE GENERAL WHO RETREATS TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY.


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When Senior Associate Justice Antonio told President Duterte recently to “defend” Panatag Shoal, no one in his right mind, most especially this learned jurist, would ever think of involving Filipino troops to fight for it. They’d be killed like flies with a fly-swatter on a summer day. Justice Carpio, who has long been looking into and speaking out on the issue of Chinese incursions into PH territory--- and how the Chinese are building various structures on our ocean islands in an effort to make a more realistic nine-dash line for them--- knew of course that defending the Shoal cannot mean doing it with our troops.

The fight has to be carried out ON THE WORLD STAGE. AND IN THE ARENA OF INTERNATIONAL OPINION: PH has to bring this issue to various international forums where its claim has been upheld and seek to get allies to support our stand. Mr. Duterte knows this only too well but perhaps he’s just being stubborn. Neither would it help to hold him to his promise during the presidential campaign: that once-elected he’ll jet-ski to Panatag Shoal and plant the Philippine flag there. 

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The jet-ski bit was Duterte hyperbole at its most colorful, but it clicked with the Filipino voters who gave him an unprecedented 16 million votes to capture Malacanang.  But now that he’s President, Mr. Duterte can no longer hyperbole his way to our China problem’s resolution. He has to build up a consensus among Asian claimants to these China Sea waters and get their support for our cause, as it might someday be theirs too.

First, there is the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, where the Philippine claim to the contested islands in what’s called the "West Philippine Sea" was upheld last year. The logic of the UN Arbitral Court decision is simple: The Panatag Shoal is only 124 nautical miles from our nearest shore in Zambales, whereas it's easily over 250 nautical miles from Beijing. Moreover, these seas have been the traditional fishing grounds of our people since the dawn of civilization.


Let’s build a consensus while PH heads ASEAN this year. Various countries in this regional grouping---e.g. Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar--- have claims as well to some of the islets in the vast ocean around us. PH should try to win them over vs. the big neighborhood bully up north. And perhaps there is more sympathy than we think. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Last Saturday’s mass rallies prevented some folks from attending violinist Chino Gutierrez's beautiful soireé at Intramuros. Looking back at the interminable rallies we held 31 years ago to regain our democratic space, I wonder just how many hordes of folks had we inconvenienced as we marched endlessly up and down Ayala Avenue in those years?





The Inquirer headlined last Sunday a “Nation Divided” as it showed two rallies that simultaneously went on in the capital city. One was the remembrance of the EDSA “People Power Revolution” of 31 years ago that brought down the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the other rally, a gigantic one clear across at the Luneta, was Pro-Duterte and an impressive counter to the EDSA rally.
 Over three decades later the nation is still debating in various forums the relevance of the EDSA Revolution and there’s palpable effort to rewrite history---historical revisionism---and burnish the tarnished image of the dictator and his heir. To the simple folk the mass rallies were daunting as they coped with traffic and the inconvenience reminiscent of all the mass movements 31 years ago.
XXX
A good number of people were at that very moment on their way to attend the soireé of Spanish romantic-era music and kundimans, rendered at the Bayleaf, a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of old Intramuros, by young classical violinist Joaquin “Chino” Gutierrez and his renowned accompanist,  Mary Anne Espina. A number of those who had planned to attend the soireé worried about the mass pro-Duterte build-up at the Luneta and they stayed away. 
I left early for the music event, passing through Buendia Avenue where I saw folks in groups marching toward Roxas Boulevard en route to the Luneta, so  I decided to turn right into Taft Avenue which proved relatively free and easy. I guided friends coming from Ayala Avenue to Taft and they made it to the Bay- leaf, but former SBMA Chair Felicito “Tong” Payumo and wife Daisy were not as lucky.  They waded right into Luneta and got stuck there, and all Tong could do was text me of their sad fate.  They missed a beautiful evening of enchanting music indeed.
Thinking about our mass movements 31 years ago as we tirelessly marched up and down Ayala Avenue every Friday afternoon--amid all the confetti shredded from innumerable yellow pages of phone directories raining down from the buildings, in our herculean attempt to bring down the dictator---I realized how the yellow crowd then had inconvenienced so many people and establishments.  Now the shoe is in the other foot.
XXX
In an earlier post in Facebook I recounted how revolutions inevitably devour its children. As a thoughtful reader posited to my FB post, our case mirrors that of many other prior revolutions, most notably the French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions.
Earlier, a  number of  FB readers pointed out that the arrest of  Sen. Leila de Lima is KARMA indeed, after her persecution of President GMA and CJ Renato Corona. To my mind, however, looking at the broader picture, it's not just karma. It's also yet another case of the popular saying that "REVOLUTION DEVOURS ITS CHILDREN." This thought came to me on the eve of our EDSA REVOLUTION which culminated on Feb. 25, 1986.  Our revolution continues to the present---a revolution cycle---and it continues to devour its children from various angles of the political spectrum. The question is, WHEN WILL THE CYCLE END? When will our country settle down and discard this karmic BOOM AND BUST CYCLE?
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Consider: The EDSA Revolution devoured Ferdinand Marcos, but the lead perpetrator of that revolution, Juan Ponce Enrile, was in turn devoured in his own time, ending in prison until he was released for humanitarian reasons.In a way EDSA Heroine Cory Aquino was devoured too, because she lost a lot of her own following due to the gross mistakes of her son Benigno Aquino III. Then the Revolution devoured Joseph "Erap" Estrada over the "second envelop" drama after three years at Malacanang, and Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ascended to power and stayed for nine years. But soon after finishing her second term PGMA was arrested by the vengeful regime of President Aquino III and placed under hospital arrest for the next five years--- though at mid-year of 2016 she was acquitted of the charges against her and is now gloriously resurrected as Deputy Speaker of the House.
PGMA's Chief Justice, Renato Corona, was devoured too, succumbing to the vengeance of Benigno Aquino III on the Hacienda Luisita issue, with Leila de Lima as Aquino's hatchet woman. Now De Lima is herself devoured and there's speculation about Noynoy Aquino reaping the same fate as his Justice Secretary for his illegal use of DAP---to bribe senators during the trial of CJ Corona---and P-Noy's culpability in the Mamasapano tragedy.
XXX
Will the Revolution ultimately devour the man in Malacanang, Rodrigo Duterte, as wild speculation is going about a "destabilization plot?" Or will the political boom and bust cycle end here and now---and we enter a glorious age of peace and stability which we so ardently long for our children and children's children, and which we pray for to the Lord of History?
Indeed we long for peaceful transitions into power, where past officials gracefully yield to the incoming officials sans the sense of vengeance in their heart and WHERE THE RULE OF LAW PREVAILS ABOVE ALL---giving us citizens the enviable sense of pride in our country and leaders that other peoples have in theirs (exempting, of course, what majority of the Americans feel right now toward their new president), and in our maturity as a people. ALL THESE, INSTEAD OF WHAT MANY OF US FEEL IN INTERMITTENT INTERVALS---THE DESIRE TO SATISFY  OUR LUST FOR VENGEANCE.
When oh When, pray tell? Like Mark Anthony at the bier of Caesar, let us weep until we find the answer and our beloved Philippines rises gloriously from the ashes of ruins.
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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Saturday’s mass rallies kept some folks away from violinist Chino Gutierrez's soireé in Intramuros. Reminiscing on our interminable rallies up and down Ayala Ave. 31 years ago, how many hordes had we inconvenienced? Since 1986 our revolution has been devouring its children. When will our political boom-and-bust cycle end?.

Classical violinist Joaquin "Chino" Gutierrez and piano accompanist Mary Anne Espina at Bayleaf soireé
Massive pro-Duterte rally at the Luneta Feb. 25 evening



Smaller rally commemorating the EDSA People Power on Feb. 25



The Inquirer headlined last Sunday a “Nation Divided” as it showed two rallies simultaneously held in the capital. One was the commemoration at the EDSA Shrine of the “People Power Revolution” of 31 years ago that brought down dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the other a gigantic rally at the Luneta, Pro-Duterte and an impressive counter to the EDSA rally.

Three decades later the nation is still debating in various forums the relevance of the EDSA Revolution and there’s palpable effort to rewrite history---historical revisionism---and to burnish the tarnished image of the dictator and his heir. To the simple folk, however, last Saturday's mass rallies were daunting and trying, as they coped with the monstrous traffic and the inconvenience the rallies brought---reminiscent of all the mass movements of 31 years ago.

XXX

A good number of people were at that very moment on their way to attend the soireé of Spanish romantic-era music and kundimans, tendered at the Bayleaf, a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of Intramuros, by Europe-trained young classical violinist Joaquin “Chino” Gutierrez and his piano accompanist,  Mary Anne Espina. Some, however, worried about the massive pro-Duterte build-up at the Luneta, were daunted and decided to stay away.   

I left early for Chino's soireé, passing through Buendia Avenue where plenty of folks were marching in groups toward Roxas Boulevard en route to the Luneta, so I decided to turn into Taft Avenue which proved relatively free and easy. I guided friends coming from Ayala Avenue to take Taft and they made it to the soireé, but former SBMA Chair Felicito “Tong” Payumo and wife Daisy waded right into Luneta and got stuck there, and all Tong could do was text me about their sad fate. They missed an enchanting evening indeed.

XXX

With news about folks stranded by the massive rallies as they sought to go about their lives, my thoughts raced back to our own gigantic anti-Marcos movements of 31 years ago. We tirelessly marched up and down Ayala Avenue every Friday afternoon, amid all the confetti shredded from innumerable yellow pages of phone books raining down from the buildings there---in our herculean attempt to bring down the dictator. 

Fast forward, I realize now how the yellow crowd then must have inconvenienced in such a hideous way so many people and establishments. 

Now the shoe is in the other foot.

XXX

In my Facebook post last Feb. 25,  I recounted how, as the saying goes, REVOLUTIONS DEVOUR THEIR CHILDREN. A thoughtful reader posited in reaction that in fact, our case mirrors that of many other earlier revolutions, notably the French, Russian and Chinese uprisings.   

My write-up about revolutions devouring their children was my reaction to FB readers who had asserted that the arrest of Sen. Leila de Lima is KARMA indeed, after her persecution of President GMA and CJ Renato Corona. Looking at the broader picture as we celebrate our EDSA Revolution, I maintain that it's not just karma, but yet another case of our continuing revolution devouring its children---a revolution cycle---from various angles of the political spectrum. 

The question is, WHEN WILL THE CYCLE END? When will our country settle down and discard this karmic BOOM-AND BUST-CYCLE?

XXX

Consider: The EDSA Revolution devoured Ferdinand Marcos, but its lead perpetrator, former Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, was in turn devoured as senator, ending in prison until he was released for humanitarian reasons. In a way EDSA Heroine Cory Aquino was devoured too, because she lost a lot of her following with the gross mistakes of her son, President Benigno Aquino III. 

Then the Revolution devoured Joseph "Erap" Estrada over the "second envelop" drama after three years in Malacanang, and Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ascended to power and stayed for nine years. But soon after finishing her second term PGMA, was arrested by the vengeful regime of President Noynoy Aquino and detained under hospital arrest for the next five years--- though at mid-year of 2016 she was eventually acquitted of the charges against her and is now resurrected as Deputy Speaker of the House.

PGMA's Chief Justice, Renato Corona, was devoured too, succumbing to the vengeance of Noynoy Aquino on the Hacienda Luisita issue, with Leila de Lima as his hatchet woman. Now De Lima is herself devoured and there's speculation about Noynoy Aquino reaping the same fate for his illegal use of DAP to bribe the senators during the trial of CJ Corona, and P-Noy's culpability in the Mamasapano tragedy.

XXX

Will the Revolution ultimately devour President Rodrigo Duterte, as wild talk abound on a "destabilization plot" against him? Or will the political boom-and-bust cycle end here and now---and we enter into a glorious age of peace and stability which we so long for our children and children's children---and which we pray for ardently to the Lord of History?
Indeed we long for peaceful transitions to power, where past officials gracefully yield to their successors sans the lust for vengeance in their heart and WHERE THE RULE OF LAW PREVAILS ABOVE ALL---giving us citizens an enviable pride in our country and our leaders that some other peoples have in theirs (exempting what majority of the Americans feel right now toward their new president). Where leaders are moral and God-fearing and the bureaucracy is by and large incorruptible, except for outstanding scalawags who get their just desserts.  

The state of our democracy at present leaves so much to be desired---with many of our institutions weak and grovelling, and many of us Filipinos still so immature and naive as well as so poor as to become easy prey for demagogues and scheming politicians. We who have had the benefit of better education and political formation have a lot to play in shaping our hapless nation.
When oh when, pray tell, will we see the dawn of greatness of our beautiful country? Like Mark Anthony at the bier of Caesar, let us weep until we find the answers and our beloved Philippines rises gloriously from the ashes of ruins.
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