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.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Death of 11th-grader Kian de los Santos in Caloocan at the hands of supposed lawmen in civvies causes nationwide outrage and fear that cure is worse than drug malady. Speculation that House "super-majority" abandoned support for left-leaning DSWD Secretary owing to PRRD's disappointment with the Left in Netherlands talks.

Police at crime scene, viewing body of
17-year old Kian Lloyd de los Santos in Caloocan (Manila Standard photo)
Former DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo defending herself before the Commission on Appointments

The ongoing battle of our country against the drug menace goes into a cycle of boom and bust---of paroxysms of anger and then long periods of quiet, as though of surrender to reality. Right now the nation is undergoing extreme paroxysms of anger and outrage over the brutal death of 17-year old Kian Lloyd de los Santos, an 11th grader at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel College in Caloocan City,  last Friday night at the hands of supposed law enforcers. 

The circumstances are truly troubling, for the CCTV cameras in the neighborhood caught the boy as he was being dragged by two men who were not in uniform and then he was shot from behind. The story peddled by the police is that Kian was armed and they were forced to shoot him down. However, as the Inquirer pointed out, the footages showed that the arresting men already had the boy in custody before he was killed. A witness described how Kian was told to run real fast, after which they shot him from the back several times. . 


This most recent segment in the long telenovela of our nation's bloody battle against drugs does not seem credible at all, for the young boy is not an NPA in the hills who would be sporting arms. He has a family. In fact, as the mother, a domestic helper in Saudi who had to rush home upon hearing of her son's ill fate, revealed in tears:  just the night before, Kian had asked her for a bike, which she promised. That doesn't sound like a drug pusher to me. 

Two days ago, the President was quoted in the Manila Times as declaring that the Philippines "has turned into a narco country as policemen in Manila shot dead 25 drug suspects in a series of raids overnight." No one is saying that the rut our country has fallen into as a result of the conspiracy of forces in various administrations is going to be a picnic. But right now many citizens are questioning whether the policy of shooting even just mere suspects involved in drugs---specially young people---WOULD NOT CREATE A CURE WORSE THAN THE MALADY. 


A culture of violence and impunity is enveloping Philippine society, and the sad thing is that in case of an error of the killing machines, life cannot be brought back. WRONG MISTAKE PALA, as the street lingo goes.  I feel especially for the youth being slain, for I sincerely believe in the possibility of REHABILITATION---if only the STATE AND THE COMMUNITY would show the patience and political will---and creative ways of handling rehabilitation. 

AND LASTLY, CITIZENS ARE ASKING: WHY CAN'T THE TRAFFIC IN DRUGS BE STOPPED AT THE SOURCE---FROM ABROAD? The mind-boggling P6.4 billion worth of shabu that passed through Customs from abroad recently was an eye-stopper. Logic dictates that the authorities close the supply faucet before anything else. 


The failure of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo to get the required minimum 13 affirmative votes in the powerful 24-member Commission on Appointments to secure her post may be attributed to a number of reasons.  From reports reaching this blogger from insiders in the House of Representatives, she failed to accommodate the request of House members for her to set aside contingency funds in the DSWD budget for their home provinces. 

According to reports I gathered, members of the "super-majority" in the House wanted Secretary Taguiwalo to just put aside a certain amount in the DSWD yearly budget for EACH OF THE PROVINCES throughout the country---particularly those prone to disasters---so that in case of emergencies, funds would readily be available to them.


Ex-Secretary Taguiwalo was quoted in media as asserting, however,  that the representatives were simply after pork barrel or restoration of the PDAF that members of Congress lost after the Supreme Court RULED THE PORK BARREL FUND UNLAWFUL AND ILLEGAL THREE YEARS AGO. They just want it back,  it's their sense of entitlement over these funds, rued the ex-DSWD Secretary to media after she was sacked.  Her stance was resented by Congress members who decried Taguiwalo’s "one-track mind" about the funds.

I can understand why Taguiwalo would be suspicious about the congressmen’s wanting their pork outright; for members of the House have gotten used to pork barrel as  political entitlement But with the pork barrel outlawed by the Supreme Court, they have had to seek assurance of funds from the DSWD for "contingencies."  . 


Then there is the issue of Judy Taguiwalo--- a former UP professor from 1992 to 2015 and former faculty regent of the UP Board of Regents for a year---as being leftist, which she does not deny. Her leftist leanings came into play owing to speculation from some leftist House members that President Duterte refused to "sway" his super-majority coalition in the chamber to her side in the CA---because of presidential disgust over the recent bog-down of talks between the government and the Left in The Netherlands. 

In fact, as a senior congressman put it, Mr. Duterte later sort of gave the impression that the congressmen could do what they please with Taguiwalo's fate in the CA, and he wouldn't meddle. . 

The voting in the CA tells it all. If Mr. Duterte wanted to push for the DSWD Secretary, he could have ordered his party, the PDP Laban, WHICH HAS 113 MEMBERS IN THE HOUSE---a clear super-majority---to support Taguiwalo. Consider this huge bloc vs. the NP's 33, the NPC's 29, the LPs' 27, the NUP's 23, Una's 4, Lakas' 3, the LDP's 1 and the Bukidnon Paglaum, 1. Had the President gone full blast for Taguiwalo she doubtless could have squeezed through the CA. 

As it turned out in the final voting on Taguiwalo, of the 13 votes to REJECT her, A FULL 9 VOTES CAME FROM,THE HOUSE AND THE FOUR OTHER VOTES FROM THE SENATE.  Of the 11 votes FOR Taguiwalo, 1 vote came from the leftist Makabayan bloc and the rest from the Senate. But the House vote was enough to oust her.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The current imbroglio between Comelec Chief Andy Bautista and estranged wife Trisha does not follow the traditional pattern, for Andy’s mother-in-law, the glamorous Baby Cruz Vasquez, is his biggest defender. This case is expected to result in an impeachment trial if only to divert public attention away from some of the administration’s deficiencies

The Andres Bautistas and Andy Bau's mom-in-law, the beautous Baby Cruz  Vasquez in happier times

Indeed, nothing like a public tussle between husband and wife to rock the media--- especially if the former is a prominent official and the wife is the aggressive and assertive kind who wants half of the wealth. Last Monday, the Inquirer broke out the story of the on-going dispute between Comelec Chair Andres Bautista and his estranged wife, Patricia Cruz-Bautista, and it has been pecking plate for tri-media---with the audience or the readers following every twist and turn of this melodrama being played out especially on the TV networks.

I feel sad and truly sorry for any marriage break-up, as I subscribe to the belief that a marriage under God is indissoluble except by death. This time I feel sorrier because I know Andy Bautista and his mother-in-law, the ever-glamorous Baby Cruz-Vasquez.  I felt very sad to hear from Andy over TV recently how his sons have stopped going to school because of the shame that front pages of newspapers and prime-time TV of their parents’ very public quarrel have brought them. In any marriage break-up especially of the frightfully acrimonious kind (from Trisha Bautista’s end) the real victims of the word war are the children---more so in this case, as it is so high-profile.  Truly tragic


There are interesting facets to the controversy, such as the query on everyone’s mind after Andy Bautista called for his first press conference  to answer his wife’s allegations about ill-gotten wealth in---of all places---the condo unit of his mother-in-law, Baby Vasquez, and her husband Danny Vasquez.  Both Vasquezes were very visible by his side. The query: bakit kakampi ni Andy Bau (as his friends call him) ang mother-in-law niya, when  by tradition and old wives’ tales, mother-in-law and son or daughter-in-law have little love lost for each other. Here Andy Bau has the full support of his mom-in-law, which doesn’t seem to go by the traditional Pinoy drama script.

In fact, Baby Cruz Vasquez released a statement just now that reads:

“I am greatly saddened by recent events involving my daughter Trisha and her husband Andy. AS a mother, you always wish happiness for your daughter and her family. Sadly, fairy tales sometimes do not always come true.
“It also pains me to see my grandchildren go through this trial that was not of their doing nor their fault.
“I have known Andy for years and I know him to be an honest, upright, God-fearing husband and father. He is a man of unquestioned integrity, the kind of man any mother would entrust her daughter to. THIS IS WHY I CANNOT BELIEVE THE ACCUSATION AGAINST HIM, EVEN IF THEY ARE FROM MY OWN DAUGHTER (emphasis BOC’s).
“I continue to pray for Andy and his family, that they stand fast and find the strength to face this storm. I also pray for my daughter, that she realizes what are truly important in life.”

In turn, Baby, we your friends are praying for strength for you and your family amid this cross that you are carrying.


Judging from public reaction of friends and people I know, the sympathy seems to be tilting toward Andy Bau especially after he appeared on TV a second time with his eyes swollen and he spoke about his sons.  The good feeling toward him comes from the fellow’s easy friendly manners even with media, but I also gather the same sentiment from people who know him well.

For instance, Dr. Jason Roland Valdez, son of SSS Chair Amado Valdez, narrates that when his grandmother died, Andy Bau was the first one to arrive at the funeral parlor---ahead of the Valdezes and even of the corpse in the viewing room---to condole with the bereaved family. J.R. Valdez asserts that he would never forget this episode about their family friend.


Actually the friendship among three former deans of law schools is indicative of Andy Bau’s easy manners and nice-guy image. Andy was dean of the FEU College of Law, while Amado Valdez was dean of the UE College of Law, and Nilo Divina the current dean of the UST College of Law. The three men were once very active in the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS).

This friendship between Bautista and Nilo Divina has come into play in the current controversy, as Trisha Bautista's allegation is that Andy Bau was receiving what amounts to “lagay” for referring PCGG cases to Nilo’s office, and the sums are alleged by Trisha as part of monies stacked up in Bautista’s numerous bank accounts here and abroad---which wealth, as the stories go, she wants to be divided evenly between them.


With the allegations against Andy Bau hurled by Trisha before President Duterte in Malacanang earlier, and later in a press conference that she held, talk of impeachment---the only manner in the Constitution whereby the chair of a constitutional commission such as the Comelec could be removed for cause---has surfaced.  As per the Constitution, the resolution to impeach a public servant comes from the House of Representatives and if the sufficient votes are secured, the case goes to the Senate for open and frequently bloody trial, as in the case of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Because Bautista was an appointee of ex-President Aquino, President 
Duterte’s men in both chambers of Congress may be expected to get into full throttle on the trial. Moreover, as Comelec chair, Bautista doubtless has left one political party or the other aggrieved in the elections.  An impeachment trial  is also a way of diverting attention from the problems bedeviling the administration such as the increasingly sluggish economy, the insurgency war and the bog-down of the peace talks with the Left, the still unresolved trouble in Marawi and environs, and the insufficient budget needs for big-ticket items such as implementing free tuition in State Universities & Colleges, that has recently been passed into law.

Aside from the trials and tribulations of a contemporary marriage in the elite class, what’s happening to Comelec Chair Bautista is enough to frighten any thinking citizen about entering public service.  I join his mom-in-law, Baby Cruz Vasquez, in praying for enlightenment for the estranged couple. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

The slaying of the Parojinog family in Osamiz City bares a lot of symptoms of the illnesses of the Philippine body politic. Cancer-stricken Republican Sen. John McCain displays his maverick reputation anew as he shows enviable political independence in raging controversy over "Obamacare."

A dawn raid carried out by police forces on the compound of the ruling Parujinogs in Ozamiz City

Arizona Senator John McCain: political maverick

The slaying of Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, Sr., his wife, son and nine others in a dawn raid yesterday, Sunday in Ozamiz City, and the arrest of the mayor's daughter once again focuses national as well as international attention on the brutal anti-drug war of the President. But the raid of the Parojinog compound as well as the slaying of family members and followers constitute only a tiny corner of the local crime world now being shaken to its roots by our President. 

The Parojinogs of Mindanao are said to be the leader of the notorious Kuratong Baleleng crime syndicate associated with strings of criminal incidents such as bank robberies, kidnappings and a rub-out case versus ranking police officers. 


Sociologists studying this political clan's case would doubtless note a pattern in its rise and fall that's common to a good number of all the dynastic political clans. Statistics show that 74% OF ALL THE SEATS IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ARE OCCUPIED BY MEMBERS OF LOCAL DYNASTIES. To be sure, there are dynasties that have had a non-controversial record of service, even if many of their members have had forgettable achievements in terms of bills authored. 

The other side of the coin, however, shows how a good number of these dynastic families in the country have been linked to big-time crimes and associated with great wealth---that can buy almost everybody in a given locality: public and police officials, rival politicians to desist from running, and voters, etc. On top of it all, however, they manage to unfailingly---and repeatedly---get elected to various offices, including as kingpin of the city or province. 

Sociologists would inevitably conclude that the political dynasties display a perceptible pattern in various localities around the country. They are oftentimes warlords who seek political and social acceptance as honorables but who, in reality, retain all the trappings of warlordism in guns, goons and gold, corrupt trade practices such as drug-dealing, as well as corrupting local and perhaps national officials, and God knows what else. 


A thoughtful commentary in the Inquirer today by Hermenegildo C.Cruz, former Philippine ambassador to the UN (1984-1986) very timely asserted that while the war on drugs has thus become an obsession of Mr. Duterte in his "Single Issue Presidency," it has been carried out "to the detriment of the two other wars"---namely, the war on poverty and the war vs. terrorism. Ambassador Cruz argues that to alleviate poverty we need foreign assistance in developing our own resources, but in several instances, he asserts, "We have given up foreign assistance due to concerns expressed by donors over human rights violations in our country." 

As the former envoy suggested, all these criminal happenings in our country as well as the warlordism and political dynasties are very much related to the gripping poverty in our midst, especially in the hinterlands of Mindanao. Or should I say, the gripping poverty is very much due to the warlordism and the political dynasty set-up, as well as the proliferation of drugs (as an escape from poverty for users as well as income for pushers). 


Many Filipinos cotton to corrupt politicians and warlords because of their grinding poverty; with few exceptions, however, the politicians. specially of the warlord variety, want to keep their constituents poor and largely ignorant, so that come election time they can simply buy the poverty-stricken electorate's votes and give out bags of goodies. It's a vicious cycle---with election spending on the up and up each time---and presto! the political clan members get to keep their posts where they can get away with murder---by terrorizing, bribing and whatever else.  

Our political situation is really depressing. How different it is in the more progressive societies where the broad masses are better educated and economically situated---and therefore more independent of their politicians. The solution to less dependence on political warlords is a more-educated and economically-situated electorate. Will that day ever come for this country? 


I have always been interested in the career of Arizona Sen. John McCain for a number of reasons. He comes from a distinguished American military family that produced two four-star admirals in the US Navy: his grandfather and father. Moreover, John McCain was a classmate at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, of my late brother-in-law, Admiral Carlito Y. Cunanan of the Philippine Navy.  McCain was a war hero imprisoned in North Vietnam for over five years, after his fighter bomber plane was shot down over North Vietnam on his 23rd bombing mission, and he almost drowned in the lake where the plane fell. McCain was badly tortured while in prison, and to this day he cannot lift both arms too high as they were broken by constant beating with a rifle during his imprisonment. 

John McCain ran as the Republican candidate for president in 2008 vs. the Democrats' Barack Obama who won and was subsequently reelected in 2012. The 2008 presidential campaign ran on two opposing themes: a vote for a genuine American war hero vs. the first black American to seek the presidency. More than his youthful age and eloquence, it was primarily the black vote that catapulted Obama to the presidency in 2008, and his reelection four years later. .  


After his presidential defeat John McCain continued to perform as senior Republican senator from Arizona and earlier last week, he captured the American---and the world's---imagination in the US Congress' deliberations over President Trump's appeal to repeal the "Affordable Care Act"---more popularly known as "ObamaCare"---that was passed during the second Obama administration. Republicans had dreamed for seven years of dismantling that health program and indeed, with unrelenting push from Trump, it seemed destined for Congress' wastebasket---until Sen. McCain suddenly showed up from the dead, as it were.  

McCain had been diagnosed with cancer in the brain--a recurrence from his earlier bout with it some years back. On the day of voting for Obamacare, however, the maverick Republican senator left his hospital bed and dramatically showed up in the session hall. To the total surprise of his fellow Republicans, he voted an emphatic No to Obamacare's repeal!  His argument was that there is still no proposed measure that can assure a better performance for the American people's health care. 


The entire Senate and the nation were stunned by McCain's move---his Republican colleagues were flabbergasted; what's more, two Republican female senators also turned about and voted no---to the wild applause of the Democrats. Speculation is rife that McCain was just dishing it to Trump for his having assailed the war hero's record in the past and what McCain considered his fellow Republican's disrespect to all American veterans of war.

There could be some truth to this tit-for-tat rumor, and there is no certainty about the future of Obamacare, as the Democrats appear rejuvenated by their unexpected Republican ally. But what it did was to speak volumes about McCain's independence of mind---that for him country comes first before partisan considerations. 

This is something that many Filipino politicians have seldom exhibited.