.
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, August 30, 2010

Wanted: a face on the crisis management team

Star business columnist Boo Chanco, the younger brother of my late brilliant lawyer-friend and UP contemporary, Mian Chanco Sison, caught the true essence of what fundamentally went wrong with “Bloody Monday” in one phrase: “there was no face on top of the crisis management team.” Boo stressed from his many years of the management of crisis situations that “the first step is to assure the public that an experienced crisis management team is in control,” and usually it ought to be the “top honcho.” The public, he said, didn’t see this team that Monday---“it was invisible.” Boo stressed that if P-Noy couldn’t display what it takes to handle a hostage-taker of a bus loaded with tourists, he worries now that P-Noy “may have what it takes to handle an even larger crisis situation” such as the terrorist attacks in Bali some years back or a major natural catastrophe like Ondoy.

First, it should be noted that for Boo Chanco to put this sentiment in print, it must have taken a lot of rage in his heart. I recall during the campaign how passionately he was defending candidate Noynoy during an impromptu little debate we had at Rockwell Tent, stressing the latter’s honesty as the missing element in our leadership crisis under President Macapagal Arroyo. Boo is, after all, a ranking official of the Lopez empire that backed Noynoy to the hilt. But he’s only one of a number of fierce backers of the LP candidate in the media who now seem disillusioned with P-Noy. Interestingly, in a number of cases, many media people who were once virulently anti-GMA now seem to miss her. A friend couldn’t believe hearing a DZBB commentator assert after that fateful Monday morning that if it were GMA, she would have immediately convened the crisis team.

                                                                      *  *  *
Chanco’s assertion of a crisis management team needing a “face” was one principle that GMA understood well. Through the various crises that her Palace official, Ricardo Saludo, listed in his Manila Times column recently, such as the Oakwood and Peninsula takeover and the 2007 bus hijacking of 32 day-care pupils, all of which involved no blood-shedding, there was always a face to the management. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was a constant soothing presence on TV, whereas in various crises in the Middle East involving mass evacuations of OFWs, DFA point men such as Rafael Seguis and roving ambassador Roy Cimatu were highly visible, communicating regularly to Manila and assuring their families of their kins’ safety.

                                                                      *  *  *

Media have taken a lot of blame for their blow-by-blow accounts that helped incense the hostage-taker to the point where he began shooting. Experts stress that in a crisis of potential violence, the moment when the first shot is fired usually spells the point of no return. This is why it’s so important to prevent that first shot through negotiations that ought to be prolonged with all kinds of pretexts and tactics. Unfortunately, so many factors pushed Rolando Mendoza to that point, the trigger factor being the handcuffing of his younger brother, which he witnessed fully over the bus TV set; after that it was downhill for the hostage-taker.

Columnist Saludo made a sensible advice to the media, especially to the TV and radio people: keep filming the developments but delay the broadcast or telecast until the crisis is over. Media should harken to this advice.

                                                                      *  *  *

Black Monday and its aftermath consisted of blunder after unbelievable blunder. Informed sources note that many of the DFA’s personnel resent the implication that they didn’t know what they were doing when the plan to send Vice President Jejomar Binay and Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo to Beijing and Hongkong, to help assuage the feelings of the Chinese, was conceived and pushed. Apparently the DFA had little to do with this idea of the high-level Pinoy visit, as it was the Palace group that thought it up. Unfortunately the announcement had already been made in advance by the Palace, whereupon the Chinese authorities thumbed down our VIPs’ visit, saying they prefer to wait for the investigation report. DFA sources say that visits of that nature normally are not announced until all the details are ironed out. But obviously the Palace was trying to score a PR move when the thing to do first was to do a back-channeling in Beijing and HK.

That seems to be the root of P-Noy’s troubles: he’s surrounded by neophytes who pay a premium on image-building, when what they need more is political savvy. There’s actually no one there who fills this bill. Above all, there’s no one who’s hands-on the way GMA was. Moreover, in their inexperience his officials tended to regard the hostage-taking as a local police problem when as it turned out, it had huge international repercussions that impact not only on our tourism but also our security and stability as a country.

                                                                        *  *  *

In the light of the national outrage over Black Monday, opinions abound that some high-level heads must roll. It’s being recalled that during the hanging of Flor Contemplacion in Singapore, that almost brought down the government of Fidel Ramos, timed as it came with the rice crisis, the heads of Foreign Secretary Roberto Romulo and Labor Secretary Nieves Confesor, two very able Cabinet members, were sacrificed. Some opine that in the recent crisis DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and Messaging Secretary Ricky Carandang may have to go, while Manila Mayor Fred Lim, the head of the local management team, ought to be suspended. Only such high-level sacrificial lambs can perhaps assuage the prevailing negative emotions. 

                                                                        *  *  *

My husband and three other former SSS officials have been attacked in the media and by some politicians over the issue of stock option shares offered by Philex Mining Corporation to its board members, including these SSS officials who were in its board at different times. Some politicians insist that these shares should have been returned to SSS as the rightful owner, but the four officials defended themselves by pointing out that they exercised the stock option offered by Philex by using their own personal funds and not the pension firm’s funds and that the stock option plan is non-transferable as provided for by the by-laws of the corporation.

The accusations have hurt our family, but the kindness and concern of friends and relatives who rallied to my husband have been heartwarming. One of them was my brother, novelist and businessman Roger Olivares, who’s now Washington, D.C.---based, who reminded my family, especially our children, that public service brings such trials in its path. Roger’s words found echo in an email sent by our good friend Amador Astudillo, a retired official of the Asian Development Bank who crossed paths with us during my husband’s four-year stint as ambassador to Phnom Penh in the Ramos era. Amading offered the words of the late Philippine Supreme Court Associate Justice George Arthur Malcolm in the American colonial era, who served our High Court for 19 years, penning 3,340 opinions, many of which have a bearing on our jurisprudence until today. The greatest legacy of the Michigan-born Malcolm, however, was his being instrumental in the establishment of the UP College of Law, which, ironically, the UP Board of Regents at that time resisted. When the UP transferred to Diliman from Manila after the war, that law college was renamed Malcolm Hall.

I want to repeat here Justice Malcolm’s words of wisdom, for all those in the bureaucracy who suffer unjustly from false accusations: “Men in public life may suffer from an unjust and hostile accusation, but the wound can be assuaged by the balm of a clear conscience.” How true.



Do you have a comment?
Email Bel Cunanan at
polbits@yahoo.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wanted: clear-cut policy on benefits of GOCCs and GFI execs

One of the most difficult periods in my life came in the past week. My husband was unceremoniously lumped with various other officials of government-owned and controlled corporations and government financial institutions as allegedly having taken advantage of their board seats in private corporations, where they represent the government institutions’equity investments, to enrich themselves. The Senate Committee on Finance, headed by Sen. Franklin Drilon, zeroed in at one time on four former executives of the SSS, including my husband, its former chair, and asserted that that they had availed of stock option shares offered by Philex Mining Corporation for themselves, when these shares properly belonged to the SSS and should have been returned.

*       *       *

The Senate committee’s threat of “malversation” against the government execs apparently stemmed from two erroneous assumptions:

l)     That the Philex stock option shares were FREEBIES to them.
2)    That they made a killing by re-selling them immediately when the price was at a high of P19.20.

As my husband stressed in a statement in the media, those stock option shares were not given to the SSS officials free or as bonuses. When they exercised these stock option, they paid for the shares from their own pockets, and absolutely no SSS funds were involved. There cannot be malversation of funds that were their own. Moreover, he stressed, Philex stock option rules provide that these stock shares are “non-transferrable” from the board members to any other entity, and therefore, couldn’t have been passed on to the SSS.

Although it’s really a side issue to the purchase of the shares with his own funds, Gen. Cunanan stressed that he did not make a killing because he was only able to sell 1/3 of the shares when prices were much lower and he decided to hold on to the other 2/3. As shares go, prices could go up or down, a risk investors always take. At the moment it’s P9.20 per share.

*       *       *

It’s difficult to see how the Senate committee could be mistaken about these facts as they are readily verifiable, but a number of media practitioners bought the fallacies and proceeded to attack the former SSS officials as thieves and robbers. In my family’s case, these unfounded attacks come at a most difficult time when we are seeking to nurse my husband’s health in his tough bout with cancer. His reputation is also being unjustly maligned as he brings to a close a long and outstanding career of 46 years in public service---first in the military, where he staunchly defended our democracy a number of times at great risk to his life, and since February 1995 in the civilian sector.
*       *       *
In this light, the recent unsolicited testimonial circulated via email and on the internet by Alfredo B. Parungao, Gen. Cunanan’s close associate first in Philippine National Oil Corporation (where Fred served as Executive Vice President) and then at SSS, about my husband’s “true professionalism” and his “adherence to the highest ethical standards and practices” was a huge comfort to us.


I remember well how my old boss at the Ateneo College of Law, the late Fr. Pacifico Ortiz, who had once served as the youthful chaplain of President Quezon, used to quote the saying, “No man is a hero to his own valet.” Fred Parungao was by no means Gen. Cunanan’s valet, as they dealt as equals and associates, being both accomplished in their own right. Fred himself is highly-regarded in finance, accountancy and business circles as well as in civic and professional organizations, being a top-notch accountant who either chairs or sits in the board of a number of big corporations and associations. Hence his testimonial to my husband’s integrity is so credible to the business community, and fabulous to my family.

*       *       *

But more than just the integrity of my husband, the more important point I wish to stress here is that what’s missing in our midst is a firm and clear-cut policy regarding compensations, bonuses, allowances, stock options, etc. of government execs in private corporations. In the Cory years, there was a ruling about some kind of sharing of benefits between government and its representatives in sequestered corporations. In the Ramos era, before FVR signed the amended SSS Charter into law, he line-vetoed the proposed compensation for the SSS president/CEO and specified the amount of P100,000, which is followed up to now. But the SSS Charter makes no mention whatsoever of guidelines on stock options by private companies, which is one of the top issues in the current controversy on government execs’ benefits.

In 2001, President Macapagal Arroyo issued Memorandum Order 20, which ruled that no heads of GOCCs and GFIs are to receive compensation more than double that of Cabinet secretaries. But as borne out in testimonies at the recent Senate hearings, Memo 20 was just allowed to lie dormant reportedly because of threat of mass resignations from GOCC and GFI officials recruited from the private sector, who felt that there shouldn’t be such great disparity between their salaries in their former offices and in the government posts. After all, they doubtless argued, the GOCCs and GFIs are the giant pillars of our economy who manage many billions of pesos in assets and tremendous expertise is needed to run them.

*       *       *

As things stand today, there are no clear-cut and rational policy rules on compensations and benefits for government execs sitting in private corporations boards. I submit that a judicious sharing between the officials and their GOCCs or GFIs ought to be established, and it’s welcome news that the Palace and various legislators have signaled their intention to define this relationship more clearly. There’s a debate on whether to put a cap on earnings of government reps in private firms. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was quoted recently as opining that this cap might produce negative effects, such as discouraging highly qualified private-sector execs from joining GOCCs and GFIs. He has a point.

The Senate hearings brought out abuses committed by certain government offices that are losing money, such as the cornering by their top executives of fat salaries, allowances and other perks paid out of taxpayers’ money. But this may be due not just to the prevailing culture of corruption in government, but also to the lack of clear-cut, sensible and well-defined policies governing these sticky issues. If the policies are clear and judicious, there’ll be less room for wayward interpretations.

*       *       *

Should it be a 70-30, 60-40 or 50-50 sharing of year-end private corporation bonuses to government reps? How much of a cap should be put on GOCCs’ and GFIs’ salaries and representation? In the case of members of the Social Security Commission, they draw no salaries but only per diems and allowances from the pension firm, as specifically provided for by its Charter. But the Commissioners derive per diems for board meetings in private corporations where they represent the SSS, and a year-end profit-sharing scheme provided in those corporations’ by-laws. How will these benefits be regulated, so as to leave little room for misgivings or malfeasance? How do the GFIs and GOCCs balance the demands of public service, including the moral aspect, and the stiff competition with the private sector in salaries and benefits to its officials? Let all these issues be brought out in the open and deliberated upon sans recriminations.
 Meanwhile, absent these guidelines, it does not do any good to paint all GOCC and GFI executives as thieves and robbers, for the good name of innocent people is being ruined and maligned often without cause.




Do you have a comment?
Email Bel Cunanan at
polbits@yahoo.com



Wanted: clear-cut policy on benefits of GOCCs and GFI execs

One of the most difficult periods in my life came in the past week. My husband was unceremoniously lumped with various other officials of government-owned and controlled corporations and government financial institutions as allegedly having taken advantage of their board seats in private corporations, where they represent the government institutions’equity investments, to enrich themselves. The Senate Committee on Finance, headed by Sen. Franklin Drilon, zeroed in at one time on four former executives of the SSS, including my husband, its former chair, and asserted that that they had availed of stock option shares offered by Philex Mining Corporation for themselves, when these shares properly belonged to the SSS and should have been returned.

XXX

The Senate committee’s threat of “malversation” against the government execs apparently stemmed from two erroneous assumptions: l). that the Philex stock option shares were FREEBIES to them, and 2). that they made a killing by re-selling them immediately when the price was at a high of P19.20. As my husband stressed in a statement in the media, those stock option shares were not given to the SSS officials free or as bonuses. When they exercised these stock option, they paid for the shares from their own pockets, and absolutely no SSS funds were involved. There cannot be malversation of funds that were their own. Moreover, he stressed, Philex stock option rules provide that these stock shares are “non-transferrable” from the board members to any other entity, and therefore, couldn’t have been passed on to the SSS.

Although it’s really a side issue to the purchase of the shares with his own funds, Gen. Cunanan stressed that he did not make a killing because he was only able to sell 1/3 of the shares when prices were much lower and he decided to hold on to the other 2/3. As shares go, prices could go up or down, a risk investors always take. At the moment it’s P9.20 per.

XXX

It’s difficult to see how the Senate committee could be mistaken about these facts as they are readily verifiable, but a number of media practitioners bought the fallacies and proceeded to attack the former SSS officials as thieves and robbers. In my family’s case, these unfounded attacks come at a most difficult time when we are seeking to nurse my husband’s health in his tough bout with cancer. His reputation is also being unjustly maligned as he brings to a close a long and outstanding career of 46 years in public service---first in the military, where he staunchly defended our democracy a number of times at great risk to his life, and since February 1995 in the civilian sector.

XXX

In this light, the recent unsolicited testimonial circulated in the internet by Alfredo B. Parungao, Gen. Cunanan’s close associate first in PNOC (where Fred served as Executive Vice President) and then at SSS, about my husband’s “true professionalism” and his “adherence to the highest ethical standards and practices” was a huge comfort to us. I remember well how my old boss at the Ateneo College of Law, the late Fr. Pacifico Ortiz, who had once served as the youthful chaplain of President Quezon, used to quote the saying, “No man is a hero to his own valet.” Fred Parungao was by no means Gen. Cunanan’s valet, as they dealt as equals and associates, being both accomplished in their own right. Fred himself is highly-regarded in finance, accountancy and business circles as well as in civic and professional organizations, being a top-notch accountant who either chairs or sits in the board of a number of big corporations and associations. Hence his testimonial to my husband’s integrity is so credible to the business community, and fabulous to my family.

XXX

But more than just the integrity of my husband, the more important point I wish to stress here is that what’s missing in our midst is a firm and clear-cut policy regarding compensations, bonuses, allowances, stock options, etc. of government execs in private corporations. In the Cory years, there was a ruling about some kind of sharing of benefits between government and its representatives in sequestered corporations. In the Ramos era, before FVR signed the amended SSS Charter into law, he line-vetoed the proposed compensation for the SSS president/CEO and specified the amount of P100,000, which is followed up to now. But the SSS Charter makes no mention whatsoever of guidelines on stock options by private companies, which is one of the top issues in the current controversy on government execs’ benefits.

In 2001, President Macapagal Arroyo issued Memorandum Order 20, which ruled that no heads of GOCCs and GFIs are to receive compensation more than double that of Cabinet secretaries. But as borne out in testimonies at the recent Senate hearings, Memo 20 was just allowed to lie dormant reportedly because of threat of mass resignations from GOCC and GFI officials recruited from the private sector, who  felt that there shouldn’t be such great disparity between their salaries in their former offices and in the government posts. After all, they doubtless argued, the GOCCs and GFIs are the giant pillars of our economy who manage many billions of pesos in assets and tremendous expertise is needed to run them.

XXX

As things stand today, there seems to be no clear-cut policy rules on compensations and benefits for government execs sitting in private corporations boards. I submit that a judicious sharing between the officials and their GOCCs or GFIs ought to be established, and it’s welcome news that the Palace and various legislators have signaled their intention to define this relationship more clearly. There’s a debate on whether to put a cap on earnings of government reps in private firms. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was quoted recently as opining that this cap might produce negative effects, such as discouraging highly qualified private-sector execs from joining GOCCs and GFIs. He has a point.

The Senate hearings brought out abuses committed by certain government offices that are losing money, such as the cornering by their top executives of fat salaries, allowances and other perks paid out of taxpayers’ money. But this may be due not just to the prevailing culture of corruption in government, but also to the lack of clear-cut, sensible and well-defined policies governing these sticky issues. If the policies are clear and judicious, there’ll be less room for wayward interpretations.

XXX

Should it be a 70-30, or 60-40 or 50-50 sharing of year-end private corporation bonuses to government reps? How much of a cap should be put on GOCCs’ and GFIs’ salaries and other benefits? In the case of members of the Social Security Commission, they draw no salaries but only per diems and a small allowance from the pension firm, as specifically provided for by its Charter. But they derive per diems for board meetings in private corporations where they represent the SSS and protect its investments, and a year-end profit-sharing scheme as provided in those corporations’ by-laws. How will these benefits be regulated, so as to leave little room for misgivings or malfeasance? How do the GFIs and GOCCs balance the demands of public service, including the morality aspect, with competition with the private sector in salaries and benefits for their officials? Let all these issues be brought out in the open and deliberated upon sans recriminations. Meanwhile, absent these guidelines, it does not do any good to paint all GOCC and GFI executives as thieves and robbers, for the good name of innocent people is being ruined and maligned often without cause.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Open Letter to my Employee, Benigno C. Aquino III

All over the country and around the world, Filipinos continue to express their outrage  over last Monday’s hostage-taking episode at the Luneta, which resulted in the death of the former police officer-hostage taker, Rolando Mendoza, and eight Chinese tourists from Hongkong, and injury to several others. The national agonizing over the carnage continues unabated. Today this column blog decided to give way to a young man named Kim Fernando A. Uy, a political science graduate of the UP, who says he obtained “no honors, just proper education.” Uy, who answers to the nickname “KFAU, “ said he emailed this columnist as “ I have been sleepless since last Monday’s tragedy and I feel that I have not done my part as a Filipino to help out during that crisis.” He said that while “it was practically impossible for me to stop hostage-taker Mendoza from his shooting frenzy,” what pains him more is that “as each day of remorse goes by, I feel deeply that I should do something.” He feels that “we have wasted lives but more importantly, along with the Luneta incident were buried alive our national pride and dignity.”

Below is KFAU’s emotion-wrought open letter to President Noynoy that he wrote “as I burst in tears some 20 hours ago.” He said he wrote it in the belief that PNoy should know what his constituents think. This columnist thinks the letter is a typical reaction from many of our countrymen, especially the young. It’s good for them to let steam out via messages such as the one reprinted here. For the President, reading such reactions should be cathartic:


Dear President Noynoy,

When you were inaugurated as my country's president, you said: KAYO PO ANG BOSS KO. (You are my boss.)

In your first two months in office, you have showed me a very dismal performance. I am disappointed.

I never liked you. I never wanted you to become president. In fact, to vote for you never became a choice. But what is more hateful at this point is that you are giving me all the reasons why I should not regret not liking you, not wanting you to become president, and not voting for you.

Personally, I do not think that I should expect a lot from you since you do not owe me a vote. And hence you will doubtless count my criticism and dissatisfaction as dispensable. But how about the 15 million others? Are theirs as dispensable as mine?

I have a lot of questions. And as your boss, I demand that you answer them. No smirking and no excuses. Just clear-cut answers.

ON YOUR [IN]CAPABILITY

Why did you not save that busload of innocent lives when you have all the power at your disposition to do so? Where were your high officials who could have firmly dealt with the situation,? You served the Committee of Public Order and Safety when you were in Congress. Then why did I see neither public order nor safety last Monday?

Why did you not censure the media when you thought that it needs control? Press freedom, I get that. But eight innocent lives, how do you actually explain?

ON YOUR [AB/PRE]SENCE

Where were you? If you say you were in a closed-door meeting, why did you take so long? If that meeting was really about the situation, why did it still end in such a tragic manner? While your presence did not necessarily guarantee the resolution of the ordeal, your participation in that drama could have made a different ending. Possibly even better.

ON YOUR INDIFFERENCE

Why did you let the rampage result in the bloodbath of 8 Chinese nationals? Are they dispensable to you because you did not get votes from them? Which puts me to thinking, if you can live not rendering the good service deserved by those who voted for you, all the more can you ignore those who did not. So can you definitely ignore those who never will.

When you were inaugurated, 81 countries were represented, with China’s delegation led by National People’s Congress Vice Chairman Yan Junqi. Now tell me, can you still say that you were worthy of attention? If you have been indifferent to a country as big as China, how about the 80 others?

ON YOUR [IN]ACTION

Why did you not take HK CE Donald Tsang's call? What is too difficult in answering the mobile phone of the leader of the aggrieved territory? Or at the very least, what is too difficult in ordering one of your chessboard pawns to assure Mr. Tsang that you will do everything to rescue his constituents from harm’s way, so he does not have to find out from your nosy media men who reported the events blow-by-blow and who must share the blame.

At close to midnight, you finally acted. You showed yourself in front of the entire Philippines and the world and excused your incapable police. Lack of guns. Lack of tactics. But you did not admit your lack of action. On August 24, you declared the next day [August 25] as National Day of Mourning. Why only then? Because HK had already done theirs? To show that "at least" we did commiserate?

ON YOUR ‘A FOOL-OGY’


You said you were sorry for what has happened. But what reduced it to the worst scenario in the first place? Was it not partly your incapability to delegate your people and employ your powers as president? With a smirk or two you said you were sorry for what happened. But where was sincerity? I didn’t detect it in your pronouncements or in your actions.

You made yourself, your people and the nation look like fools. Now we are the laughing stock of the world. They have called us monkeys, they have called us subservient dogs. But all you do is give them reasons to continue doing so. .

When I was in the UP, I came to know who Plato is. Do you know him? He said:

“Justice means keeping a just order. Everybody should do what he does best and stay out of everybody else’s business. If every citizen does what he is assigned to do, not because he is ordered to do it, but because he enjoys doing it, justice will reign. Citizens won’t harm each other and the state will flourish because, on the one hand, justice leads to harmony and unity, while injustice, on the other hand, leads to sedition and revolution.”

Have you been giving us the justice that we deserve? Are you doing what you do best and staying out of everybody else's business? Are you doing your job as a president not because you are ordered to do it but because you enjoy doing it? If so, then why are people harming each other and the state is not flourishing? Why is there no justice and unity?

Do not get me wrong. I love you as a person (read: I love all persons) because I have been taught to love and not to hate. But to love you as a president is something that is difficult for me to do. I love you as a person so I want you to do something that you do best, something that you will enjoy doing. And being president, it seems, is not what it is.

Do not get me wrong. I love my country because I have been taught to love my family and my neighbors. But to love my country with you heading it is something that is difficult for me to do. I love my country, that is why I am doing this. I am saving it, at least its face, if there is even something left for me to save. I am starting to fear the day when the only reason why I love my country is because this is my country and there’s nothing else.

When you were elected--- let me just remind you--- you embodied hope. With and from the 7,107 islands of this archipelago, you embodied unity. And that is why 15 million voted for you. Have they voted wrongly? Or have the 20 million others who did not choose you voted rightly? Only you can say. But we need not another word from you; we need a lot of [pragmatic] actions.

My last request: Use your position wisely. With that, I mean you should act with the deepest understanding of things--- because when you do not understand what you are doing, that’s when things go astray. If you have to take extra time for that, then do so. Why should not you? You are the person tasked to do that. Just as we had expected the policemen to do police work because that is what they have been assigned to do.

Let not our 7,107 islands remain a mere archipelagic territory they call ‘monkey country.’ Make it a human nation. Let not our 90 million citizens remain subservient citizens. Make them proud and dignified nationals.

Never settle for what is "least" and never excuse yourself by saying "we cannot do anything anymore". A lot of us are already contemplating on what our being Filipino means. Please be reminded that in order for us to live, we need not only the basic food, clothing, shelter, and water.  

WE ALSO NEED OUR DIGNITY AND OUR SENSE OF BEING PEOPLE. Unite us. After all, that was the only thing that I know you promised to do.

I never liked you. I never wanted you to become president. In fact, to vote for you never became a choice for me. But please, prove me and 20 million others wrong. Why? Kasi KAMI ANG BOSS MO (We are your boss).

With all due respect,

KFAU

26.08.2010

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As an aside to this columnist, KFAU wrote in his email:. ''Am I being anti-Noy or am I just being who I wanted to be---a citizen demanding the service my country deserves? Some people say I’m being overly critical and employ super-high standards. My take on this is that such reasoning is one crippling reason why we never moved forward: we always settle for what is mediocre, always content with what is 'least' (at least may buhay pa) and to move forward, forgetting the past as we say "we cannot do anything about it anymore" (tapos na eh, past is past, let's move on)."


If you folks out there want to communicate your reactions to KFAU’s letter to P-Noy, 
email him at: kimboyobmik@yahoo.com and send me a copy in my email. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hospitals should rotate vacations among doctors

Like all Filipinos and our fellow Asians from Hongkong and China, we  lament and mourn the loss of lives of the ex-police officer-hostage-taker and eight of his victims, all of them Hongkong Chinese. But alas, the bloody shooting at the Luneta will also victimize our growing tourism. The Hongkong government has issued a  “top-level black travel alert” to its citizens, which means no travel to the Philippines for the moment. But obviously this reaction will not be limited to HongKong; China and perhaps the rest of the world would be wary of the security situation here for some time.

                                                                   *  *  *
Since former Tourism Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan signed a MOA with his Chinese counterpart in September 2004, to mutually promote tourism between our two countries and open a DOT office in Beijing, our Chinese market for tourists has grown by leaps and bounds.  In fact the Chinese have become prime targets for tourism the world over because of their rising affluence in recent years.  I personally have seen them in various countries over the years, moving around in big groups attired in leather jackets and with cameras slung on their shoulders. In fact, with the long and deep Japanese recession the Chinese have replaced them as the most popular Asian tourist group abroad.

I spoke on the phone with Tourism Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon, Jr., who acts as DOT spokesperson in the hostage crisis, and he pointed out that China is now our 4th largest tourism market, with around 170,000 tourists last year, as per the 2009 figures, while Hongkong, our 6th market, sent in last year about 122,000 tourists --- and the figures keep growing. Bengzon sighed when queried about how much damage control DOT would do in this crisis, but he stressed that President Noynoy designated DOT as the lead agency in coordinating with Hongkong authorities, who arrived on a chartered flight yesterday morning.  Bengzon said that  DOT’s main concern at the moment is to see to it that the tourist victims are taken care of and comfortable and their families are assisted in every way (of the 21 foreign tourists, ten have survived and three injured, while eight perished).  





*   *   *


What happened at the Luneta could happen anywhere in the world, but the problem is that our global world has become so small. Because the Luneta episode was carried by international TV networks, it was viewed yesterday by millions around the world and the memory of the horror of that carnage is bound to stick for some time. I remember that when we were in Egypt a few years ago, once we got to to Luxor, we immediately recalled the deadly terrorist attack on a busload of European tourists a few years before. 
Our tourism people will just have to work doubly hard to erase the picture of instability and lack of security if foreigners in our country.




*   *   *


A debate is raging in the media about whether the police acted too precipitately in handling the hostage-taking. Some quarters now assert that it was the hauling of the hostage-taker’s brother into the police van which triggered the violent reaction from the hostage-taker, who was in close communication with his family and apparently cared so much for his brother.  It’s always easy to do Monday-morning quarter-backing after a violent episode and blame the police authorities who are trying to enforce law and order.  But in the Luneta incident there appears to be some ground for this accusation. Why haul the SPO-brother at that time when police action against him could have been delayed without serious repercussions (the police knows the man’s whereabouts anyway). The police could have striven first to buy time and prolong the negotiations with the hostage-taker. Instead, they seemed so obsessed with applying the full force of the law against his brother at the wrong moment---forcing the hostage-taker to flip.

There was also a lot of bungling by the police and some media, notably Erwin Tulfo, kept stressing that it was short of vital equipment such as powerful cutters of the shatter-proof bus windows, and even tear gas canisters were not readily available (was it because there have been no mass actions and demos in recent times?). Our authorities just have to constantly undertake training in counter-terrorism, including hostage-taking, for our police and armed forces.





*   *   *


Last Saturday, Aug. 21, my husband's cold and coughs took a turn for the worse so  I decided to take him to the hospital for a check-up. His cough, which had bothered him in the past ten days, appeared to have greatly deteriorated because he had been busy the whole of last week attending to winding up his term at the SSS and moving out his personal effects in his office in preparation for its turn- over of his office to his new successor, Johnny Santos, former Trade Secretary and former president of Nestle Philippines. At Medical City one of his urologists took one look and immediately ordered his confinement for pneumonia, as the doctor feared it could be further affect my husband's immune system that has been complicated by his cancer.
  I was shocked at the condition of the hospital’s emergency unit: it was so packed with masked patients, most of them howling with cough. Many already lay in emergency beds in the corridors, but more patients were being disgorged by vehicle after vehicle. All the doctors and attendants were harassed. It looked like one of those field hospital units one sees only in movies about the American civil war or something. We stayed in the emergency for several hours, with my husband on a nebulizer, and were able to get a room only after 10 pm.





*   *   *


I queried the staffer who was directing the patients to diagnosing doctors’ desks why the avalanche.  For one thing, it’s flu season  (note that new Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is also down with pneumonia). So many children were afflicted with dengue too. But he also explained that all the doctors' clinics, which occupy the 19 floors of the hospital, were closed as it was a holiday, so everyone flocked to the emergency. I imagine that the other hospitals had the same dilemma last Saturday. So what’s a rational way to handle such emergencies?  Some people suggested that the hospitals should leave allowance for illness or disaster seasons and perhaps rotate doctors’ vacations to make sure that not all the clinics are closed. But then, someone argued that the doctors, like everyone else, want to get away during holidays. I hope the Hospital Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Medical Association could take up this point.





*   *   *


Earlier I mentioned former Tourism Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan’s  negotiation with the Chinese government to open a tourism foothold in economically burgeoning China in September 2004. During our conversation Obet also pointed out that he’s running in a special election scheduled this Oct. 2 in Bulacan’s First District. In the tail-end of the recent campaign season he was declared winner of his two-year electoral protest in the 2007 gubernatorial fight against Gov. JonJon Mendoza, but apparently the Comelec had no time to resolve other related issues. But even as he won his gubernatorial protest, in last May's elections Obet also declared his candidacy for congressman for the First District against former Rep. Marivic Alvarado. But last February the Supreme Court ordered a re-scheduling of that contest to this October. The reason was that last year’s law creating Malolos as a separate lone congressional district was declared by the High Court as unconstitutional, as that city failed to meet all the cityhood requirements.   Thus, Malolos reverted to the First District and the October 2 special election will involve it and the district’s five towns.






Do you have a comment?
Email Bel Cunanan at
polbits@yahoo.com



Sunday, August 22, 2010

P-Noy could learn lessons from Yudhoyono on fighting corruption

From the Philippine Star
I can see the dilemma of President Noynoy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the case of Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue, former chief of the NCR Command. Not too long ago, it was announced that Angue was being transferred from the NCR, a plum post with three-star rank, to the two-star Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command. The officer had been viewed by his peers as once among the fair-haired boys of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, having gotten his NCR post just before the March 9 ban.
 With the announced reassignment to the Mindanao Command, Angue began to publicly air his disgruntlement over his “demotion.” He also accused the AFP command of punishing him for speaking out on the alleged politicking of top officers close to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in the last elections, and how they helped LP candidate Noynoy Aquino. One of those alleged officers he cited to media is Maj.Gen.Gaudencio Pangilinan, a former intelligence officer and comptroller of Gen. Gazmin when he was still in the active service. Pangilinan replaced new AFP Chief of Staff Ricardo David as Chief of the Northern Luzon Command, a three-star position; the problem is that this two-star officer turned 55 last July and retires next July; but there is a law dating from the mid-90s that decrees that an officer with less than a year in service cannot be promoted. Media focus is now on Pangilinan---whether this law would be bent for him and he'll be accorded his third star, given his alleged role in the Aquino campaign.

                                                  *    *     *

 But back to Admiral Angue. The President, doubtless remembering how his mother was unable to handle military insubordination, which led to several coup attempts, has asserted civilian supremacy forcefully by ordering  Angue to “shut up.” The AFP High Command took the cue by withdrawing the Mindanao assignment and putting the Navy officer on floating status, which further complicates matters.
Perhaps the Angue case is an isolated one, given the current popularity of P-Noy, and not a resurgent trend toward military restiveness, such as what Cory Aquino and GMA have had to contend with. But it's good to remember that ever since EDSA this restiveness has simmered, with just a brief respite provided during the rule of Fidel Ramos because he sprang from their ranks. The problem is that politicking among the AFP corps is real and one reason is that some politicos cultivate their favor during election time, and then reward them after victory is obtained, often at some cost to the career of other officers not in the privileged loop. In GMA’s time the bata-bata system became evident, and now, less than 100 days in the Noynoy administration,  it's the topic again in the cases of Admiral Angue and Maj.Gen. Pangilinan. But also real is the problem that disgruntled elements in the AFP feel they are not given the proper forum---a sentiment that Angue obviously entertains.
 AFP Chief Gen. Ricardo David has to handle both controversial cases judiciously. 






*   *   *


President of Indonesia
There’s news that President Noynoy Aquino will visit Indonesia and then Vietnam first before going to the United States and the UN General Assembly in September. Reports say this is the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs, but I suspect he was also encouraged by economist Bernardo Villegas. In an interview over our dzRH program, Dr. Villegas opined that the President should make our huge Asean neighbor the object of his first foreign trip as this would accomplish a number of things. For one thing, he said, the Indonesian economy is very strong and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration is looked upon as a model of governance in the region, having reduced corruption to a substantial degree in a country once notorious for this, especially in the 20-year Suharto regime.

I quite agree that it’s a good idea for P-Noy to visit Indonesia first because of our deep historical and cultural ties with this largest Muslim democracy in the world. It would please our Muslim brothers in the South, especially since Indonesia is being encouraged to facilitate the talks with the MILF, a role that Malaysia did not play too successfully. In addition, if P-Noy is really serious about eradicating corruption as he pledged in his campaign, he could learn a lesson or two from Yudhoyono, the former Army general turned politico, who has made fighting corruption a pillar of his administration.






*   *   *


In April last year, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) ran a story about how the Indonesian Supreme Court, whose new set of judges have hardly any links to the Suharto regime, reversed a libel judgment won by the former strongman’s family against Time Magazine in 2007, for its 1999 cover story on how the fabled family allegedly used political influence to acquire is vast wealth. WSJ recalled how two courts had ruled in Time’s favor earlier, but the Suharto family appealed to the Supreme Court where one of the judges, a former general, had been appointed by Suharto---a clear conflict of interest. The SC ruled a favorable judgment for the Suhartos which included damages of a gargantuan one trillion-rupiah ($107 million) from Time---deemed the largest libel judgment in history.
But two years later, under the new Yudhoyono regime, the new SC reversed that libel judgment, sending the message that, as WSJ put it, libel disputes should be judged according to Indonesia’s Press Law which accords wide protection for journalists. WSJ also cited prominent anti-corruption victories in recent years by the Yudhoyono government, including the conviction of the former CEO of the country’s largest bank, a former central bank governor and several politicians.

                                               *    *      *


But there also another reason why P-Noy should visit Indonesia first: by so doing, he would beat US President Obama to the draw. Recall that Obama was born in Hawaii but he spent about seven years in Indonesia as a young boy. Twice, I believe, a trip to that country of his formative years was planned from Washington, but they haven’t materialized until now, reportedly to the great frustration of the Indons who have prepared elaborate welcome receptions for him. P-Noy could well beat him to it.






*   *   *


Early last month, former Speaker Jose de Venecia and French Ambassador Thierry Borja de Mozota flew out of Manila at 5 am. aboard a small plane bound for Tawi-Tawi. There they inaugurated a mosque that the French Legion of Honor and the National Order of Merit Association, of which they are co-presidents, had rebuilt. In announcing the completion of the rehabilitation, the two gentlemen called the structure “a modest Mosque project that symbolizes Christian-Muslim solidarity in a strategic isle of the Sulu Sea, where Islam began” in the Philippines.

But actually the mosque is far from being "modest," as it was first built in the year 1380, or 141 years before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers here, led by Ferdinand Magellan---thus a key witness to the thriving of Muslim culture and religion in our South that early. Over the centuries the mosque had suffered deterioration, but with the cooperation of other officers of the two prestigious French organizations, Ambassador Thierry and former Speaker De Venecia designated French business leader Heussaff to coordinate its rehabilitation with the National Historical Institute, headed by Ludovico Badoy, the Makdum Mosque Foundation under its president, M.A. Bayo, and local officials led by Gov. Sadikul Sahali and Rep. Nur Jaafar. De Venecia’s endeavor to rehabilitate the mosque is very much in line with his advocacy for Interfaith and a Christian-Muslim dialogue which was approved by the UN in 2004.

The Legion of Honor and the National Order of Merit, the highest awards of the French government, were founded by the Emperor Napoleon himself, and given to individuals of distinction, who have promoted French culture assiduously. Its awardees include quite a number of Filipinos, among them Fr. Pierre Tritz, the 96-year old founder of the Erda Foundation for streetchildren and my feisty sister-in-law, Daily Tribune publisher and editor-in-chief Ninez Cacho-Olivares. The Association of Merit Awardees was founded only in 2007.

Do you have a comment?
Email Bel Cunanan at
polbits@yahoo.com



Friday, August 20, 2010

'Mi Ultimo Adios' saves the day for Rep. Cooper

In my chosen profession I get books and books galore from publishers and authors. But one book has impressed me with the labor of love that went into it. This is the recently launched work titled “Constitutions of the Philippines and Basic Documents,” authored by former three-term Congressman and former Mayor of Cagayan de Oro Constantino G. Jaraula, who belongs to the UP College of Law, class ’60, that’s celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year. Now, you readers might say that sounds like a boring book, but I assure you that it’s far from boring. In fact, once you begin thumbing through it you can’t put it down.

It’s interesting to note that lawyer Jaraula deliberately did not run for the House of Representatives in the recent elections, even though he would have had no opponent, as he wants to concentrate on promoting and campaigning for charter change now. Hence, this book, which I like to call the “encyclopedia of Philippine constitutions and basic documents,” must be something so close to his heart and was put together to convince us Filipinos that we deserve the best basic charter in all the world. For one thing, I didn’t realize that aside from the landmark constitutions we have had---the Malolos Constitution, the 1935 Constitution, the Constitution of the Second Philippine Republic under Jose P. Laurel, the 1973 Constitution, Cory Aquino's Freedom Constitution and her 1987 Constitution---there were so many constitutions drawn up by our individual heroes such as Emilio Jacinto and Francisco Makabulos, and most notably, the paralytic Apolinario Mabini, known as the "Brains of the Revolution." There were also the constitutions proposed by various provinces that carried the fight against Spain even after the exile of Emilio Aguinaldo to Hongkong, such as Laguna, Negros and Central Luzon (this makes me mighty proud of the province of my father, Laguna).


*   *   *


Lawyer Jaraula, who also taught at the Xavier University and the Liceo de Cagayan, regards all the basic documents he dug up and put together in the book---such as the “Kartilla” or teachings of the Katipunan, the Declaration of Philippine Independence, and even the Treaty of Paris by which Spain ceded our country (and Cuba) to the Americans---as contributing to the political development of the Filipino people. Much like the building of the cathedral of our people’s dreams and aspirations---step by step, stone by stone. I suggest that no school library, especially of the law colleges, should be without Jaraula’s book, if only because one can read all those documents there. There's even a section on how to go about the revision or amendment of the Constitution.

But what I like more than the cut-and-dried documents are his commentaries on each of them, which are refresher courses in Philippine history in themselves. It was evident from even a cursory look at Jaraula's book that our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, dominated and inspired so much of the revolutionary activities of our forebears around the turn of the 19th century through his thoughts and writings, and long after he was shot through the heart at the Luneta on Dec. 30, 1896. That fact inspired Jaraula to first launch his book during the centennial of Rizal’s martyrdom in 1996 (my brother Roger Olivares, who boldly recast the characters of Rizal’s "Noli Me Tangere" in our contemporary times, in a book he titled "Noli Me Tangere 2,” would be delighted to get hold of Jaraula's book).






*   *   *



Jaraula’s book easily shows how politically and legally sophisticated our forefathers already were even before the turn of the 19th century, displaying a keen familiarity with the tenets of the European Enlightenment across the seas. But there’s an anecdote that Atty. Jaraula cited that ran contrary to what we know of that political sophistication. In fact American congressmen and the US public appeared to have such terrible impressions of the Filipinos at the time when our heroes were writing their own versions of the Constitution. The redeemer proved to be Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios,” the immortal poem that has been translated into no less than 100 versions, with the first known Tagalog version supposedly written by Andres Bonifacio. This episode stands out in Jaraula’s book and I want to share it with every Filipino.

He recalls that in the early years of American occupation, there was a huge debate in the US Congress and among the American people as to whether it was wise for the US, as President William McKinley wanted to do as his “manifest destiny,” to colonize the group of islands in the Pacific so far away and populated by a people with a terrible reputation for barbarism and extreme backwardness (recall the ditty about the “monkeys without tails” in Zamboanga?). Congressman Henry Allen Cooper of Wisconsin, chair of the Committee on Insular Affairs, had sponsored the bill which was to extend to the Philippine Islands basic and fundamental constitutional rights and establish a popular assembly. Referred to popularly as the “Cooper Bill,” its formal name was to be the “Philippine Bill of 1902 and later the “Organic Act of the Philippine Islands.”






*   *   *


Cooper’s bill was meeting with congressional fire and brimstone, especially from constituencies where American fathers and mothers had lost sons in the far-away Filipino-American War. As Jaraula noted, the Anti-Imperialist League fanned the flames of opposition. Whereupon Cooper saw it fit to deliver before the US Congress the English version of Dr. Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios” and, as Jaraula narrated it, “at the end of the recital, and shaking with emotion,” the Wisconsin congressman rhetorically asked:

Pirates, Barbarians, Savages, Incapable of Civilization!” ‘ How many of the civilized slanderers of his race could ever be capable of thoughts like these…Search the long and bloody roll of the world’s martyred dead and where---of what soil, under what sky---did Tyranny ever claim a nobler victim...It has been said that if American institutions had done nothing else than furnish to the world the character of George Washington, that alone would entitle them to the respect of mankind. So, Sir, I say to all those who denounce the Filipinos indiscriminately as barbarians and savages, without possibility of a civilized future, that this despised race proved itself entitled to their respect and to the respect of mankind when it furnished to the world the character of Jose Rizal.

In our radio program, Atty Jaruala asked Cecille Alvarez, the Magsaysay Awardee for Theater, to read that dramatic speech of  Cooper praising Rizal's genius. I must confess that though it has been 108 years since the Wisconsin legislator recited that ode before his US colleagues, it was still music to our ears.

Dr. Nicolas Zafra pointed out in his “Jose Rizal: Historical Studies, 1977,” that the Cooper bill was approved on July 1, 1902. Doubtless the delicious lyricism of “Mi Ultimo Adios” proved to be a wise strategy for Rep. Cooper. As our country works its way to the second centenary of Dr. Rizal’s martyrdom, it behooves us Filipinos to nurture and maintain the respect of mankind that he so gloriously earned for us with his blood and his pen.






Do you have a comment?
Email Bel Cunanan at
polbits@yahoo.com



Thursday, August 19, 2010

LP: from ‘taxi party’ to filling up the Araneta Coliseum floor

President Noynoy has disallowed use of his name, photo and other means of identification in various government projects. As he reasoned, it’s not he who’s paying for those projects but we the taxpayers. This is most commendable of P-Noy. In fact, there are those who want to push his idea farther by publicizing alongside the public works projects in each locality, not the name of the “politician-sponsor” but details that satisfy the public clamor for greater transparency, such as the total allocation cost, the actual project cost and the name of the contractor company.

*   *   *


But this idea of deleting the name of the “politician-sponsor”  and publicizing instead the project costs and contractor’s name is already running foul with a number of politicians at various levels. They’re objecting because they feel that the narcissistic exercise of plastering their names and photos on projects helps to ensure their reelection. Moreover, they argue that exposing their contractors’ names would make the latter targets for the NPAs’ taxation, but I suspect that the likelier reason is that the publicity would open the contractors to pesky queries about profit-sharing deals with the politicos.

One has only to drive around the country to see stadiums, amphitheaters and convention halls named after these politicians, as though they paid for those projects. Not even waiting sheds and basketball courts are spared. This is certainly true in Rizal province, where the Ynareses have ruled for so many terms now---every place bears the Ynares name. In Laguna it’s the same, as well as in many other parts of the country.






*   *   *


Cecile Alvarez and I had a chance to talk about the new 15th Congress with Deputy Speaker Raul Daza of Northern Samar the other Sunday evening in our regular 8 pm. dzRH program. Daza stressed that the mood of Congress is for tackling corruption and poverty with the view to alleviating the insurgency in the countryside. He said that Speaker Feliciano Belmonte wants a “more judicious use of resources” since government finances are quite scarce, which means less “frivolities” in pork barrel projects and greater transparency in the bidding process.  This should fall well within what P-Noy wants as mentioned above, if it can be implemented by a Congress that’s quite used to lavish pork and even more lavish windfall from public works projects.






*   *   *


In an earlier interview Cecile and I had with economist Dr. Bernardo Villegas, he pointed out that P400 billion is yearly lost to corruption: P200 billion lost in tax evasion and another P200 billion lost in government resources used unproductively. Following this reasoning, it’s obvious that both chambers of the 15th Congress have a huge role to play in marshalling scarce government resources more judiciously toward genuine alleviation of poverty and corruption; but would they cooperate with the new regime, or is it business as usual? P-noy, with his still sizable political capital, should try to be more persuasive in securing their cooperation with his reform programs. Maybe he might appeal to the composition of this new Congress.

Deputy Speaker Daza pointed out that of the 261 current members, there are about 109 first-termers as well as 41 “recycled” or returnees after the mandatory  one-term to sit it out. Perhaps many of these neophytes entered the institution with glowing idealism and could be persuaded to put more emphasis on genuine public service, rather than making their term a means to get rich quick through substandard public works projects and other malpractices in Congress.






*   *   *


Daza also noted that Speaker Belmonte has instituted a departure from the traditional leadership structure in the House. In the 9th Congress of the Cory years, he noted, there was only one deputy speaker, called the Speaker Protempore. In the 10th Congress, so many LDPs moved to the ruling Lakas-NUCD.  Moreover, to reflect the oneness of the country at a time when peace initiatives with the MNLF were being pushed,  Speaker Jose de Venecia created three deputy speakers representing the three major regions, namely, Hernando Perez for Luzon, Raul Daza for the Visayas and Simeon Datumanong for Mindanao.

In today’s Congress, Belmonte apparently wanted the House to reflect no longer the regional divisions, but the new political reality of an administration ushered into power by a large coalition of political groups, including a faction of the former ruling party. Thus, he created six deputy speakers from the following coalition: three from the LP, namely, Raul Daza, Erin Tanada of Quezon and Beng Climaco of Zamboanga City; one NP, Boying Remulla of Cavite; one NPC, former Speaker Noli Fuentebella of Sorsogon, and one from the Lakas faction that supported Noynoy Aquino, Pablo Garcia of Cebu. The House Majority Leader is Neptali Gonzales Jr. of Mandaluyong, who deserted Lakas in the middle of the campaign to join Noynoy’s LP, while the articulate Minority Leader is Edcel Lagman, who had vied with Belmonte for Speaker (29 members voted for Lagman).






*   *   *


Rep. Daza and we had a good laugh over his recollection of how this columnist used to tease him that his LP in the old days of Lakas’ supremacy could fit into a taxi. Now it has grown so large with defections from Lakas that the LP can now fit into the center orchestra floor of the Araneta Coliseum! With his party having grown so large so fast, it should be a great help for P-Noy to get his pet bills passed quickly. But one problem I can foresee is how he would help fund the candidacies of these House allies come the midterm elections in 2013. Everyone will be trooping to him for the fat envelops, as they did with GMA. If P-Noy would be true to his campaign promise to be corruption-free, would his allies be content with a pat on the back come election time?






*   *   *


As the ruling party in the House, the LP has resolved to meet every Tuesday at 3 pm. Two Tuesdays ago it called a caucus to take up the lack of quorum (Daza pointed out that the LPs are always present in each session; so who are those habitually absent?). Last Tuesday it took up the barangay elections scheduled for this October, but the problem noted was that these elections will again take up so much money (estimated from P2billion to P3 billion) while the government claims to be broke (note the taxes, taxes everywhere, including the VAT intended to be slapped on the SLEX, which the Supreme Court recently TROed).  Several bills have been filed seeking to postpone these elections from one to two years, while others want them synchronized with the 2013 mid-term national and local elections. Also on deck is the proposal to increase salaries for local government officials, to which the League of Governors, headed by Mindoro Oriental Gov. Boy Umali is said to be amenable. All these caucus issues will involve money and more money.








Do you have a comment?
Email Bel Cunanan at
polbits@yahoo.com



Monday, August 16, 2010

The sociology of Pinoy families in crisis

Sociologists like to point out that one gets to understand and appreciate the strength of Filipino family ties in times of crisis or festive occasions. The best places to see this strength and resilience at work are in the hospitals where families gather to comfort one another over a sick relation, or at the airport where an entire barangay would accompany an OFW out to try his luck in Saudi or Dubai.  One sees these family ties operating also at weddings or at wakes---no matter how hard-up the family is, its members would come in droves to celebrate a union of hearts, or sympathize with the death of a loved one. This is especially true in the provinces and Manila employers can only wring their hands when a house help asks to be allowed to go home to attend a relative’s funeral. It usually means two weeks’ absence.










*   *   *


I saw this sociological reality up close when the family of my brother, Luis “Totit” Olivares, Jr., underwent a crisis in the past three weeks. His wife, Rosario “Nena” Magsaysay Barretto Olivares, who had been undergoing regular dialysis for about five years, had a heart attack four Saturdays ago.  Rushed by house-helpers to Medical City (no one else was at home at the time) she stayed in the intensive care unit for nearly three weeks, slowly drifting back from unconsciousness and undergoing various procedures to strengthen her heart and lung activities. Four of the Olivareses’ six children live and work abroad and they came home regularly to visit their parents, especially when their mother’s condition began to worsen. In her final crisis, they rushed home with their spouses and children.










*   *   *


Totit and Nena met in the US when both were students, he as a scholar at the Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York, taking up his master’s in Economics after graduation from the Ateneo University, and she as a Smith-Mundt Fulbright scholar in Southeast Asian Economics at Cornell University in upstate New York, where she worked with the eminent expert on SEA, Prof. Frank Goulay.  Nena combined a dresden-china beauty and brains: she was valedictorian in high school and college at the old Holy Ghost College near Malacanang, where she also obtained her BS Commerce, major in accounting, summa cum laude.  They were married in the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius on Park Avenue and 84th St. and worked in prestigious firms abroad before returning to their home country. Totit joined Bancom and later set up his own consultancy here, while Nena went on to become president of "Phil. Journalists, Inc." and of "News Today". .










*   *   *

Through the 49 and a half years of their marriage, the family remained remarkably closely-knit even though globalization had kept them apart, with four of their six children living and working in various parts of the world as accomplished professionals. The sociology of the Pinoy family in crisis was at work during Nena’s 20-day confinement at the ICU, when they all rushed to their mother's side.  Ivee Olivares, a well-known  artist, flew in from Chichester, three hours by train from London, while Gina and Ramon Jocson flew in from Singapore where he’s vice-president of IBM for the Asian region, with their two children; Buster, a Wharton graduate connected with a financial consulting firm, and his daughter Bea flew in from Washington, D.C. (wife Riza, an emergency nurse at the Georgetown University Hospital, stayed behind).  Tricee and husband David Loeb, live in New York City where she is a ranking PepsiCo executive, while he’s an investment banker. Tricee had just landed in New York from a business trip in Shanghai when she got the call about her mother’s heart attack. She took the next plane out and got to Manila more than 40 hours after leaving Shanghai. David followed two days later.  On hand to meet their various siblings were the two Manila-based kids, Chuck Olivares, who’s into stocks, and his wife Ginger, and Peachie Olivares-Motus, who works for an American consulting firm here, and husband Ronald, who runs an outdoor advertising firm. 










*   *   *


Nena’s husband, Totit, faithfully kept vigil in the ICU waiting lounge during the day, and in fact the way he took care of his wife in her deteriorating kidney condition over the years, including taking her on her twice-weekly dialysis without fail for about five years, is now legend in our family. Two years ago Nena expressed a wish to see Boracay, and so Totit’s siblings planned a trip there. Totit brought all the paraphernalia he needed to check on her health, and while waiting at Caticlan for the boat to take us to the island, he was taking her blood pressure and making sure she was comfortable.  He had the list of various clinics in Kalibo where she could have an emergency dialysis. He had been planning for their golden wedding anniversary next June, but God wanted Nena home ahead.  









*   *   *


As the children flew in from abroad in this recent illness of their mom, they would send their father home in the evenings to get a good rest, and they took turns, couple by couple, to sleep in the hospital in case an emergency developed.  The problem was, there is no place for watchers to wait, much less sleep, except in the ICU lounge which is full of visitors in the daytime, but mercifully not as crowded at night.  The hospital discourages ICU patients’ relatives from converting its rooms into what really amounts to hotel rooms.

What the Olivares siblings did to solve that problem was to pack a small suitcase with beddings and some pillows and tuck it under the row of chairs they occupied in the daytime; at night they’d pull two of these rows of chairs and convert them into some kind of barrier around a four by four feet floor space they claimed for  sleeping quarters, to set it apart from other spaces claimed by other families. They nicknamed the commandeered space the “Medical City Hilton.”










*   *   *


One of those who took his turn at sleeping on the floor was David Loeb, the Jewish American investment banker. In one of my visits Triccie recounted with a big laugh how David slept in the “Hilton” quite well.  In fact, she said with a wry smile, so comfortable were they that she noticed that they were made to sleep there more often than the other family members.  In a chat, David related to me how for him the “Hilton” stint was an entirely new and unique experience; he’s sure he’d never encounter it anywhere else in the world---especially not in New York.  Nor in Singapore, said Gina Jocson. David recounted that when his grandmother fell ill and was confined in a New York hospital, they couldn’t stay beyond visiting hours;  the best they could do was to leave their cellphone number at the nurses’ station.  The Olivareses got to crack a lot of jokes about the “Hilton,” such as how they now know what it feels like to be bed-spacers, or even homeless.

David shared everything the family did, including visiting the Padre Pio Shrine, near Eastwood  to pray for a miracle for their mother.  He and Tricee had been married for just over a year, so many aspects of Pinoy culture were still quite new to him. But the sleeping-on-the-hospital floor togetherness that sociologists love to cite is definitely so Pinoy---difficult to handle, but also the constant source of our strength as a people.










*   *   *


Last Wednesday at close to midnight, Nena’s family crowded into the tiny ICU cubicle as her heart flattened out on the screen. They stayed with her for the next two hours. Toward noon the following morning, as rains fell gently over Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina, her remains were cremated there and a wake was held at the Church of Sta. Maria della Strada.  As her husband and children bade Nena a final teary goodbye before the crematorium door shut, the other relatives chose to stay in the room outside.  No one wanted to intrude on their togetherness.











Do you have a comment?
Email Bel Cunanan at
polbits@yahoo.com