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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.

Monday, June 10, 2019

I'm not for capital punishment, but I'm willing to make exception for crooks who absconded PhilHealth funds worth a whopping P154B for bogus dialysis patients, some even already dead! Dynasties continue to bastardize party-list system.

President Duterte was quoted in the Inquirer as ready to order the NBI to arrest the "idiot" who schemed about allocating PhilHealth funds for ghost dialysis patients. The President was quoted as wanting to throw the guy into the Pasig River---though he ultimately relented by asserting that the criminal would be rescued from drowning.

If you ask me, throwing the guy into the Pasig would be too kind a punishment. 

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 I have always taken a stand against death penalty in the belief that human life is sacred and that only our Maker has the right to take it away. Reading about the hideous schemes uncovered by the Inquirer, however---the absconding of PhilHealth funds worth a staggering P154B intended for dialysis patients---I feel that perhaps the only way to scare criminals who deprive poor Filipinos of this very vital health service is to revive the death penalty. 

The question that hurts so much at this point is, Why have our people gone so corrupt? 

With corruption seemingly so inured in the Filipino way of life, perhaps only the death penalty would scare some citizens who have grown so brazen as to pass off patients long dead as continuing to receive dialysis. It's most likely that crooks in both hospital and PhilHealth have long been conniving to steal the funds intended for this procedure for the needy.  

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Dialysis is a means to alleviate malfunctioning of the urinary bladder, and it often hits poorer folk who have an overdose of bagoong and other salty stuff, as well as poor quality hard drinks. But the problem with dialysis is that it's a most expensive medical procedure to cleanse the body's wastes arising from organ malfunctioning.

PhilHealth enables those in the lower-income bracket to utilize this life-saving procedure by footing the bill;  but sadly, a staggering P154B was lost from the PhilHealth funds for bogus dialyses of bogus patients---a good number of them even already dead. 

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Obviously for this kind of racket to prosper in staggering proportions of P154B, there has to be wide and longtime collusion between staff of PhilHealth and personnel of participating clinics and hospitals. The crime has left a paper trail, but what is most unbelievable is how far it has gone and how bold and fearless of the law the corrupt bureaucrats have become!  

Mr. Duterte, who fashions himself as an anti-corrupt President, has to crack the whip as it not only involves staggering amounts of squandered government funds, it also victimizes especially the neediest citizens who need dialysis the most---and who presumably are dearest to the President's heart.  

Yes, I realize that it's unpopular to invoke capital punishment which has already been outlawed in our country. But it seems to be needed in this case, if only to sow fear among very corrupt bureaucrats.

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A week after the elections, my radio partner, Cecile Guidote Alvarez, and I invited to our "Radyo Balintataw" weekly Sunday program over nationwide dzRH Prof. Bobby Tuason, who heads the political science department of UP Manila and is the Executive Director of the Center for People Governance (CENPEG). We asked Prof. Tuason to give us an idea of how the party-list system fared in the recent elections.

True to our fear, he showed us that political dynasties continue to  maintain a tight grip on the party-list system, just as much as on the regular constituency.  Thus, in effect, this dynastic grip noted in various parts of the country bastardizes the innovation supposed to have been provided by R.A. 7941, "The Party List Law." The laudable rationale behind this law is to give proper representation to "Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and under-represented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined constituencies." 

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The aim of the Party List Law as envisioned by our Constitution drafters was noble and democratic, but the result of the recent elections shows that we have a long way to go, to truly democratize Philippine society. Herewith are the overall records to prove it, as furnished by Prof. Bobby Tuason, director of the CENTER FOR PEOPLE EMPOWERMENT AND GOVERNANCE (CenPeg):

SENATE

* Sixteen out of the 24 members of the Senate belong to political dynasties, which means 67% of the Senate members.

* 9 out of the 12 newly-elected senators are members of political dynasties, which means 75% of the newly-elected senators are dynastic in origin. 

* 7 out of 12  "continuing senators" (whose term will end on June 30, 2022) are members of political dynasties. This means that 58% of these "continuing" senators are members of political dynasties.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

* At least 149 out of the 304 new House members come from political dynasties---that's at least 49% of the House.  

* On district representation, at least 129 representatives out of 243 new district representation are members of political dynasties---that represents 53% of the new district representatives.

* On party-list representation, at least 20 party-list nominees who will become new members of the House of  Representatives come from political dynasties. 

* They  represent at least 33% of the 61 party-list seats which will be held by nominees who are members of  political dynasties.

* At least 34 out of those 61 Party-list seats were allocated to party-list groups linked to political dynasties.

Many thanks for these data, Prof. Bobby Tuason and the CenPeg secretariat.



Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Why oh why, with all the preparations, did Comelec come up with so many defective VCMs that heightened suspicions of hocus-picos on poll outcome? Recruit a Comelec head with impeccable integrity and professional IT experts to help him. Too many boo-boos in recent exercise---a shame. .



Why oh why did we have so many malfunctioning vote-counting machines (VCMs) in the recent elections when the Comelec had more than sufficient time to put them in order since the 2016 presidential elections?  This was the question on many citizens' minds as election day stretched out last Monday, May 13, and the ugly reality of malfunctioning VCMs came to fore once again across the country.

There were easily 400-600 malfunctioning VCMs that had to be replaced around 2 pm. of election day, and although Comelec officials were quick to assure that it has 10,000 VCMs ready as replacement (!), the question on many minds was:  why couldn't we have had those machines that were working RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING? Why use the ones they were unsure of?


Malfunctioning machines is so THIRD WORLD. WRONG. FIFTH WORLD PA NGA! And it encourages cheating and accusations all over the place.


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Among those who encountered defective VCMs were the camps of former VP Jojo and Nancy Binay,  Grace Poe and Pasig mayoralty candidate and ultimate winner Vico Sotto. It took five hours before the aberration could be fixed in Sotto's case, as at least 35 VCMs were not working in Pasig.  Faulty machines were also recorded in Datu Sinsuat in Maguindanao, the Central School in Jolo, Balabag in Kidapawan City and certain precincts in Marawi City. Many other glitches probably went unreported.


This prompted ACT Teacher party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio to opine that automation's benefit is quick and transparent counting of votes, but "It's beginning to feel like a throwback to the pre-automation era." What a shame before the world!


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The chaos created by malfunctioning machines all across the archipelago invited even minds not normally malicious to suspect and fear that monkey-business was being promoted by Comelec officials. This, in turn, could lead to the avalanche of protest votes which could clog up the work of the poll body---so that it becomes entirely possible that grease money could be coughed up by candidates who wanted their complaints settled fast. 


More than anything, however, it destroys the faith of our people in our elections.

One Comelec official had the temerity to state that technical glitches were just among the many headaches that sprung up during election day. But why? Wasn't there enough time to prepare for the 2019 mid-term elections? Such glitches created the most destructive atmosphere for the recent elections as it prayed on the suspicions of many candidates---and their supporters---that cheating was going to be routine again in these elections. May 13 proceeded under a most unhealthy atmosphere.


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I submit that the administration should endeavor FROM HEREON to put the management of the Comelec in the hands of technical people who fully understand how to run this most important public office in such a way as to eliminate---to the best of their abilities---the technical glitches that spring up every election. Let's look for bureaucrats who will not regard these SYSTEMIC ABERRATIONS always  as an act of God. 


With all due respect, God doesn't favor frauds and stupidities. In the first place, such argument is blasphemous,  for as the story of the Creation tells us, God looked at His work and liked what He saw. He certainly wouldn't like to be blamed for malfunctioning VCMs, which is the realm of stupid and inefficient, perhaps even evil-plotting men.

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One problem with Comelec is that  since time immemorial it has been run either by ex-politicians or ex-jurists, under whom the technical guys work. Politicians such as Ben Abalos and Sheriff Abas have headed Comelec and jurists such as Hilario Davide, Jr., Bernardo Park, Harriet Demetriou, Alfredo Benipayo and Jose Melo were among its top executives.


I submit that we should take the Comelec away from the clutches of ex-politicians and ex-jurists and entrust the poll body---a most critical instrument, PERHAPS THE MOST CRITICAL, in a democracy--- first and foremost, to technical professionals with a reputation for integrity, so as to cure it of its periodic ailments come election time. Recruiting professionals would not only free the poll body from suspicions of partisanship, it would also professionalize the tough job of managing the elections.


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What the administration and the Comelec leadership seem to want the electorate to accept is the reality that our elections will always have such glitches and we just have to learn to live with them. This is a very Third World attitude which is shameful. In addition, it is most unhealthy, as those glitches give rise to election disputes arising from suspicions of cheating, which often ends up with violence.


Such machine aberrations condition the Filipino people to accept elections as always dirty and malfunctioning, and this attitude---accepting the incompetence and the corruption---is most unhealthy for our people, who should be exposed to excellence in every endeavor.  This is also grave injustice to our heroes, such as Jose Rizal who died so that we may all see the dawn.


Let's have free, clean and glitches-free elections we can be proud of to the world.




Friday, May 17, 2019

Political pundits are tripping all over, trying to analyze the mystique of Rodrigo Duterte that impacted the recent elections. Here's one more try.





Folks have been trying to analyze where the tremendous appeal of President Duterte is coming from. I submit that it's coming from various directions---like a blitzkrieg.

There is his folksiness combined with a penchant for bawdiness. For the first time in years we don't have a president who looks elitist. Mr. Duterte's craggy features tell of grassroots origin, a face that millions of rural Filipinos could identify with, and he speaks with a heavy Visayan accent, like typical rural folk.

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Contrast this, for instance, with one-time presidential candidate Joe de Venecia in the late 80's, who always spoke in English and above the heads of the masses. JDV would have been great as a super-diplomat to the UN or to the world banking community, but not to lead the rural Filipinos who comprise perhaps 70% of our country's population.


This is why JDV failed rather miserably in his presidential bid three presidential campaigns ago against Joseph Estrada---even though JDV would have made a brilliant president who could have put us on the world map in no time.

XXX


By contrast, all JDV's opponent then, Joseph Estrada, had to do on stage was to grunt and groan, but he ran away with the elections.


Erap was awfully folksy and a hit in the rural areas, but he didn't have the brains of another folksy character named Rodrigo Duterte, which is why his administration didn't succeed much. In no time he was booted out by the second People Power and in the elections just concluded, the Estrada clan was virtually wiped out in several places.


XXX


Other past candidates for the presidency had their own mystique worth weighing. For instance, there was Gilbert Teodoro who ran two presidential campaigns ago.


Tall, good-looking and scion of wealthy clans (the Cojuangcos on his mother's side and the Teodoros on his dad's side), a Harvard-trained bar-topnotcher lawyer, Gibo Teodoro fascinated the educated class (I campaigned very hard for him).

Gibo failed to make a dent, however, on the lower-income groups who comprise the vast majority of our electorate---because he looked too sleek and classy. Instead they voted overwhelmingly for his third-degree cousin, Noynoy Aquino, who looked every bit folksy and son of two political icons.

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Gibo was masyadong malinis, flying his own plane and with a beautiful model-like wife to boot. His campaign strategy for the presidency featured himself as a 747 pilot at the helm of Team Philippines---but a 747 was something 95% of the Filipinos have never ridden in.

By contrast, Noynoy Aquino, who won that same election, looked folksy, even though he was an hacendero and probably wealthier than cousin Gilbert Teodoro. Moreover, folks could identify with Noynoy, especially since his parents, Ninoy and Cory Aquino, were considered hero and heroine.


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Following the same line, Mr. Duterte not only looks very masa, he does sound like one with his thick Visayan accent. Couple this with his penchant for bawdy jokes and you've got an unbeatable tantalizer from the stage, for the Filipino audience---the masa out there who comprise 78% of the electorate.
Digong's bawdy jokes were a big hit in the recent campaign. Recall his line while on a campaign stage in Bohol, about his wanting to pull the panty garters of a good-looking lady mayor who chose to dress in a miniskirt on stage---so that she couldn't run away from him, smitten as he was with her beauty. How the townfolk lapped it all up!

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Foreseeable in the near-future is the readiness of Sara Duterte and her true believers, for her to succeed to her father's post. She is absolutely fascinating, with her steely looks and manners that remind one instantly of her Germanic roots on the side of her mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman.

Where Mr. Duterte is folksy and spontaneous with his remarks and mannerisms, Inday Sara comes across as quite cold and calculating, with a highly intelligent mind and good organizational ability. Truly, she will be a force to reckon with in the near future.