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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It was not just Noy’s Porsche that dragged him down

President Noynoy’s net satisfaction rating dropped sharply from +64 last November to +51 early this month, as per the finding of an SWS survey, and the pollster is attributing it mainly to his purchase of a slightly used Porsche (for P4.5 million and termed P-Noy’s “Le Cirque” by naughty media) months back. The survey showed that many citizens regard the purchase as being in poor taste and poor judgment in the wake of widespread poverty and many problems facing the nation.

Indeed many don’t approve of the Porsche purchase, but there’s also the media reports that surfaced soon after about P-Noy’s nocturnal habit of driving that  sports car fast on the highways to Hacienda Luisita, trailed by cars of his security. I’ve heard protests not only about the expense this nocturnal predilection involved, but also the fact that it endangered his safety
As a senator put it, the President’s life, safety and health are matters of public concern and he has no business jeopardizing these.  For instance, recently there were reports that the low-bottomed Porsche was permanently damaged when it hit a large rock on the highway and is now confined to some garage.

Folks don’t like P-Noy’s obsessive campaign vs. Merci

But I suspect that if poll surveys are taken these days, P-Noy’s net satisfaction would plummet some more. This is due to the fact that while a sizable number of citizens agree with the need to subject Ombudsman Merci Gutierrez to a trial, they also do not like the idea of their President making it his obsession to bring this issue to just about every forum.  For many, at the very least he should just let his attack dogs do the demolition job against Merci while he stays presidential and seemingly above the fray.   

But no, he doesn’t. His most recent forums were the baccalaureate ceremonies of the Ateneo University and a distinguished business group, either of which could have been the venue of a high-level policy speech, say, about his economic program in the light of crucial world developments affecting us, such as the possible shortage of oil or the tremendous economic damage to our No. 1 trading partner, Japan; but he chose mainly to campaign against Merci, reinforcing the perception of his paucity in ideas and vision. Even the Senate, whose independence he should respect and uphold, was not free from presidential interference. As one citizen grumbled, kulang na lang mag-kampanya din sa graduation ni Joshua!

Did P-Noy order Lacson to surface for his one vote?

Talking of Merci’s impending trial before the Senate that opens on May 9, no matter how much the administration would deny it, the popular belief is that Sen. Panfilo Lacson was ordered by P-Noy to abandon the life of the fugitive of  14 months and surface, in order to cast another vote against Merci. Lacson’s people had campaigned for candidate Noynoy in the recent elections and people believe they are close enough for P-Noy to order him to surface for his vote.

Will Leila de Lima make good her threat to go after Lacson 'coddlers'?

On the subject of the fugitive senator who’s being given what seems like a hero’s treatment by the media, Anti-Crime crusader Dante Jimenez is absolutely right in denouncing his  “blatant disrespect of the rule of law” in eluding the warrant of arrest issued by the Manila RTC for implication in the Dacer-Orbito double murder case. The mere fact alone that  he headed the PAOCTF when the crimes were committed and was implicated by a once-close aide makes it imperative for him to face the law and defend himself in court. Instead he chose to run; as they say in the police world, he who runs is guilty. One cannot imagine this sort of thing happening in a developed country.

 Let’s hope Secretary Leila de Lima makes good her threat to charge the senator’s “coddlers” in court, as there’s plenty of suspicion that the coddlers include a number of military and police people with plenty of assets and resources in places like Cebu, so that it was so difficult to track him down. It’s reminiscent of the long search for another fugitive from the law, Lacson’s PMA 1971 classmate and buddy, Gringo Honasan, who was also coddled by his comrades-in-arms.

Atienza’s historic protest vs. Lim---now manual

The electoral protest case filed by former Mayor Lito Atienza against Mayor Fred Lim in connection with the former’s allegation of automated fraud committed against him in the May 2010 elections got moving yesterday. It can be considered historic in that the Atienza protest is the first one to be processed by the Comelec among the many local protests filed before it in connection with the first automated elections for the country.  The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) has already begun processing electoral protests from legislative candidates, but the Atienza protest is the first in the local category.

Yesterday, the Comelec asked Atienza’s lawyer, Romy Macalintal, to identify ballot boxes from 200 precincts that they are contesting, to determine if there’s substantial basis to go on with his protest. If there is---and his camp is confident there is---ten revision committees, each headed by a chairman, will go full blast to work eight hours every workday

Advantages of experienced election lawyer as poll body Chief

 The Atienza protest case is also interesting as it comes in the wake of the  mandamus challenge that various IT professional groups, led by the Center for People’s Empowerment and Governance (CenPeg),  filed with the Supreme Court some months back. The IT professionals want the SC to force Comelec to disclose all scanned images of all ballots cast in the recent elections, as they believe this would help in the manual count of protested votes.  Former Chair Jose Melo had stonewalled this demand for manual recount, insisting that PCOS machines be used instead for the poll protests; but the professional groups deemed this insistence unacceptable and even ridiculous, as those very machines were suspected of being the tools for electoral frauds last May.

Happily, in an en banc resolution three weeks ago to be applied nationwide, the Comelec responded quickly under new Chair Sixto Brillantes. It ruled that recounts of all ballots lodged before the Comelec (such as those of candidates for city and provincial posts) and those filed by municipal mayors and other local candidates before RTC judges and by barangay candidates before municipal judges, will from hereon be  manual and exclude use of  the PCOS machines.  

Macalintal and Brillantes are kumpadres often on opposite sides

Not only is the Atienza protest case historic, but there’s also a human interest angle here. Election lawyer Brillantes was the lawyer of Mayor Lim, and in fact he filed the answer to Atienza’s protest on Lim’s behalf, but he had to give up this task when he was appointed Comelec Chair by President Aquino. Yesterday Brillantes was present at the opening conference called by the revisors for the two parties, and today, when the opening of contested ballots begins, is also expected to be on hand.  Macalintal, who’s Brillantes’ kumpadre even as they nearly always represented opposing sides, welcomed the Poll Chief’s interest in the details of the case. As Macalintal opined to this columnist, the advantage of having a seasoned election lawyer like Brillantes as Comelec Chief is that he knows the election laws and procedures, unlike his predecessors  who were limited only to theories.

This protest case against Lim bears watching in the coming weeks.

For comments/reactions:
Please email polbits@yahoo.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Senate's tough ruling: guilt in one out of six Articles of Impeachment & Merci's out

Some months back, a group of media women met with Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and her assistants at the residence of impresario Beth Tagle, in an effort to learn more about the cases against her that at that time were still up in the air. We soon realized how tough was the task she was up against---especially when investigating virtually untouchable politicians. 

For instance, when we came to talking about the fertilizer scam case, Merci pointed out that she created Task Force Abono in February 2006, just two months after she assumed office, precisely to handle its investigation. But the difficulty causing the delay of the case’s resolution, she said, was the sheer number of respondents and the mind-set of a good number of them.  She noted that of the 178 respondents, 105 were members of Congress, 53 were provincial officials and 23 from various municipalities---all scattered over 17 regions.
Members of Congress benefitted from the fertilizer scam
 It was not difficult to surmise either that many of these government officials were uncooperative, especially the members of Congress who were being investigated for their own chunks of the fertilizer funds.  Congress members tend to  think the good Lord exclusively delegated to them the task of investigating all anomalies, but for themselves to be subjected to questioning and scrutiny on any issue, never!  (witness how no one knows just how much a member of Congress receives in funding, or how it’s spent).  On the other hand, many scam witnesses were either threatened outright by the powerful who didn't want the truth to surface, or were unwilling to testify out of fear, or had disappeared. 
As Gutierrez pointed out, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigations under Sen. Richard Gordon themselves didn’t prosper much, despite a bigger budget and personnel, because of the problems cited above; ultimately the Blue Ribbon's job was turned over to Task Force Abono for resolution.
How many congressmen have cases pending before the Ombudsman?
Last Monday night, as I watched the voting  on Gutierrez’s impeachment, I wondered who among the 105 who had partaken of the fertilizer funds in the 2004 elections to buy votes were still around; I wondered whether they were voting to finish her off, in the hope that she doesn’t get to finally prosecute them before her term ends next year. Fair-minded media should publish the list of legislators with pending cases in the Ombudsman’s office.
Senate complication for Merci
With all eyes on the Senate as trial court, just about every sidewalk philosopher opines that she won’t be convicted inasmuch as she needs the vote of  only seven  senator-judges to be acquitted, whereas a conviction needs at least 16 votes.  That may be true, given the political configuration of that chamber and the fact that the senators, unlike House members, pride themselves in being “independent republics.”
 But there’s a complication that may make Gutierrez’s life difficult.  The House has transmitted six Articles of Impeachment consisting of over 300 pages, and the senator-judges have finished formulating the rules for the trial. One of these rules  maintains that if Gutierrez is adjudged guilty on even just one Article, she would already be considered convicted. The senators, who have agreed to finish trying all six Articles first before holding a final vote, have ruled out any sort of compromise formula, e.g., if she's guilty in two Articles and not guilty in four, then she won't be  guilty in the over-all.  No such thing: the rule is acquittal on all counts or nothing, and the problem is that the basis for conviction could be entirely political, despite the senator-judges' public avowal of being independent or fair. This could be a tough order for Merci.  
It was also proposed by Sen. Vicente Sotto---and the chamber agreed---that the Senate President would be the last to vote; the reasoning is obviously so that he does not unduly influence the other members.   
This new Senate court’s rules are similar to those that governed the Senate trial of former President Joseph Estrada in 2000, except that in his case the senators never came to a vote, as the walkout by the public prosecutors precipitated Edsa 2 that ousted him through people power.
House Impeachment hangover to affect SC?
The House of Representatives, after delivering to P-Noy a staggering  212 votes  to impeach Gutierrez, seems to be suffering from an impeachment hangover, trivializing this most significant means to remove public officials deemed unworthy of the public trust. A number of House members, led by Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, vice-chair of the justice committee and No. 1 in the bar, were quoted as threatening to impeach several members of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Renato Corona, for a number of alleged failings, including issuing the status quo ante order against Gutierrez’s impeachment move by the House, even before reading the petition she filed. Farinas was quoted as saying that the justices could also be impeached for failing to resolve cases  speedily
Ibang usapan na ang impeachment ng SC justices” ---solons
These recent statements by House leaders allied with President Aquino against the High Court do not help to smoothen relations between the two branches, which have been marred since the campaign period, when candidate Noynoy fought against the appointment of Corona by outgoing President GMA.  Soon after, the Executive sought to delay the release of the judiciary’s budget, in clear violation of the Constitution.
I have been getting sensings from House members about the wave of impeachments. While the move against Gutierrez is popular (owing partly to the delivery of PDAF and Saro and an anti-GMA sentiment in the House), a number of solons said, however, that they would draw the line when it comes to impugning the High Court. “Ibang usapan na ang impeachment ng mga justices,” one legislator said, “Kapag ginawa natin yan, sisirain na natin ang isang institution. Walang ibubungang mabuti yan.”  I agree, and I hope it doesn’t reach that point, as there will be no winner here---the country will lose. 

No less than Speaker Belmonte has cautioned the hot-heads like Farinas about going easy on the SC justices.

Big Inter-Faith Prayer Rally vs. RH bill tomorrow, Feast of the Annunciation

The crusade against the RH bill will have a show of force tomorrow, March 25, the Feast of the Annuciation by the Angel Gabriel to Mary of her Divine Motherhood, with a big  “Inter-Faith Prayer Rally” at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta at 5 pm., with mass  at 7 pm.  I find it quite significant that Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, the Archbishop of Manila, has come out openly in a ¾ page ad in major newspapers, exhorting “All Filipinos, unite under God, for Life!”  Until recently the rather shy Cardinal  has shunned all public endorsements of this nature, but now he’s all out. 
Tomorrow’s rally will be interesting, as we shall see House legislators who were united last Monday against Ombudsman Gutierrez, but who are now anti-RH bill, against many of their colleagues.  Among the prominent anti-RH bill and Pro-Lifers in the House are Deputy Speaker Raul Daza, Leyte Rep. Sergio Apostol, Sarangani  Rep. Manny Pacquiao, Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez, and Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Gina de Venecia.  Also prominent pro-Lifers are Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and wife Beng.
News from Tokyo: “Perpetual motion sickness”
From my informal correspondent in Tokyo, my son-in-law Keiichi, an investment manager there:  “My life is back to normal. Water is safe as the radiation level is so minuscule and they will disappear soon, so there’s nothing difficult for me. Having said that, I’m suffering from this sensation of swinging all the time because of the continuous small tremors still rocking Tokyo. It’s like motion sickness. People who live in the suburbs have a tougher time, as they are affected by the rolling black-outs. The land in a Tokyo suburb called Urayasu is all reclaimed and there was severe liquefaction during  the quake, resulting in underground pipes cracking. You can see this clearly on Youtube video, but such difficulties are no comparison to those the people in Tohoku are suffering.”
As you can see from Keiichi's email, optimism is a common disease among the Japanese. We pray that the future brings them relief.  In the meantime, for those who are wondering how my two year old granddaughter, Tamako, is faring, her dad says she’s having a great time in Kobe with her Japanese grandmother, aunt and a cousin.  We all miss her a lot here though.

For comments/reactions: pls. email: polbits@yahoo.com

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

P-Noy Dangles ‘Twin Popsies’ before the House

The results of the marathon voting in the House of Representatives, that lasted until close to midnight last night, were not unexpected---the majority went for Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez’s impeachment. What was not expected was the overwhelmingly large number that voted for it. In earlier days this blogger had talked to a number of people from different persuasions, who said they were abstaining, for one reason or another. The Opposition allied with former President GMA had counted earlier about 100 members who would vote no to impeachment, but by Monday evening's voting, all resistance had crumbled, and the pro-Merci was down to 46, with four abstentions. 

The crowds in the hall, in turn, attributed the fast downspin of Merci's fortunes to a text message that had circulated among members last weekend, which read, “Favor---kindly disseminate to all reps---LPs and non-LPs. This should be made clear to all. Those who will vote no or absent/abstain on impeachment will get 0 AS IN ZERO. at least walang sisihan that there was no forewarning." 

Rep. Abaya denies ‘0 AS IN ZERO’ text

The text message was attributed to House appropriations chair Joseph Emilio Abaya, who naturally denied it; but Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, valiantly seeking every reason to stop the voting on the floor, not only read the text aloud, but also demanded that a House “committee of the whole” investigate its veracity, only to be told by Majority Leader Boyet Gonzalez that Speaker Feliciano Belmonte had already ordered the investigation at last Sunday’s majority caucus.  The Speaker was told that there was no truth to the “0 AS IN ZERO releases” text, and that according to the Palace, all the members would get their PDAF and Saro releases regardless of how they would vote.
It was obvious, though, that most everyone believed the 'theory of connectivity,' judging from the sudden ballooning of the pro-impeach votes to a number even the LPs didn't expect. One solon opined that the “LP-Mar faction” had circulated it, and though he resented the seeming arrogance of its wording, he gave in to its insolent demand----yes to impeach Merci.

Squeezed between INK pressure and P-Noy order

At about the same time, word got around that a high-ranking Iglesia ni Kristo official had been calling House members not to vote against Gutierrez, and speculation was that this was due to the fact that one of her lawyers  was former SC Justice Serafin Cuevas, a ranking INK leader.  Sighed a lady legislator, “Between the INK’s pro-Mercy vote and P-Noy’s all-out order to get her, we’re really in a squeeze.”  Apparently, with over two years still to the 2013 mid-term elections, P-Noy's  promised PDAF, with the Saro delayed from last year also thrown in,  proved more precious to the members than the INK’s proverbial command votes.  As they say, in these last two days, all that glittered in the House was still the gold. So where's the reform?
One sidelight to Monday night’s main event was that the debate on the RH bill was temporarily shunted aside, especially since the bishops and pro-life groups have been working hard to convince the members to forego voting.  A big indication of this trend, for instance, is the fact that among the five lady legislators from Pangasinan, three are against the RH bill while two are for it. Bishop Soc Villegas can claim credit.

Certified ‘urgent’

The precious PDAF and Saro releases may be likened to ‘twin popsies’ that cool parched summer throats. The vote against Merci and the vote to postpone the ARMM elections scheduled for this August 11, as embodied in House Bill #4146, constituted a package deal and the President has staked his leadership on its passage in the House. As some media reported, in addition to the fund releases estimated up to P190 million per ally,  a P200,000 bonus for every yes vote for Merci's impeachment was reportedly also thrown in, which was why the cavernous Batasan plenary hall was packed as though for a SONA. 

In a lunch meeting in Malacanang the other Sunday, P-Noy reportedly gave out the marching orders to the LP “to impeach that woman,” and yesterday the 22-member NPC followed suit, with former Rep. Mark Cojuangco watching over his members' shoulders up to late evening. 

Earlier this evening it was the turn of HB #4146 proponents to count heads again, after the Ledac made the ARMM synchronization a priority measure and P-Noy certified it as urgent. 192 House members voted for ARMM election postponement, while the 47 who stuck to Merci also stuck to vainly push the election through.  

‘Daang Matuwid’ can’t be straightened with Merci:  Noy allies

It’s easy to understand why P-Noy wants Merci’s head, for as his minions in the House claimed, his campaign promise of the “Daang Matuwid” cannot be straightened out unless she’s replaced by someone who will prosecute GMA and her officials (talk is that if Merci’s convicted by the Senate, the new Ombudsman would be Avelino “Nonong” Cruz).  But it’s difficult to understand why P-Noy is pushing the postponement of the August ARMM elections, to synchronize it with the 2013 mid-term elections, when just about every significant Mindanao leader, be he or she Muslim or Christian, is against it.

A full-page newspaper ad last weekend pushing for postponement of the ARMM elections in August states that the reason for the insistence is “to allow reforms to take place, start a clean slate, and prepare the region and its people for an orderly transfer of power and resources to its duly-elected officials in 2013.”  But the question in many minds in the meantime is, who will handle those resources, estimated to be about P40 billion for the region?

Postponement advocated by nameless, faceless civil society

The pro-postponement ad is signed by a whole slew of “civil society organizations” with nameless and faceless people; this is in direct contrast to those leaders vehemently opposing postponement of the ARMM elections, such as Fr. Eliseo Mercado, former Sen. Nene Pimentel, just about all the Mindanao congressmen such as Rufus Rodriguez and  Marc Douglas Cagas, Gov. Tupay Loong, former Rep. Almarin Tillah and many others. 
 Many of us are already allergic to “civil society organizations” handling resources, owing to the controversial ten-year old P10 billion Peace Bonds, a loan whose interest runs up to a staggering P38 billion, reportedly to be paid this year by the National Treasury.  A number of those Code-NGO folks help run P-Noy’s government, and if you believe Sen. Ernie Maceda, are involved in husbanding its mega-bucks.

94 votes in House; 16 votes in Senate

As fate would have it, the impeachment and the ARMM election postponement will end up in the Senate and deliberations will start in May. Will the 'twin popsies' P-Noy dangled before the House make the senators salivate too like parched throats in the summer? Let's hope not.

 As the sponsors of the House impeachment resolution emphasized last night, they are not saying Gutierrez is guilty of betrayal of public trust and dereliction of duty---that’s for the Senate to determine. What they kept repeating is that there is “probable cause” and a “strong suspicion” of guilt. Because the House role is lighter, it’s easy to see why the framers of the Constitution also made the requisite number of votes to impeach smaller---94 votes (from 1/3 of the members) are enough to send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate;  whereas the Senate, which has to establish guilt based (we hope) on evidence, needs 2/3 vote of the 23 members, or a total of 16, to convict Gutierrez.
  By contrast she needs only seven votes to go scot-free;  but should she be found guilty by the senator-judges, the punishment would be merciless: removal from office and exclusion from public office for life.

Even Sen. Escudero is against postponement

On the other hand, while the House express train has passed the bill resetting the ARMM elections, against all sane advice of credible Mindanao leaders, to May 2013, it is expected to meet stiff opposition in the Senate where even allies of P-Noy such as Sen. Francis Escudero think postponement is an insane idea.  Hopefully the Senate will again be the bulwark of independence (yours truly, a longtime advocate of a unicameral body, now sees the wisdom of rethinking this idea of a solo chamber, given the political reality of 'twin popsies' being gobbled up in the House from time to time).
Thus, while the UN and NATO debate the legitimacy of the air attacks over Libya and there’s  turmoil in Yemen, continuing problems in Japan’s nuclear reactors,  food security and oil disruption, earthquakes and other natural calamities in the world, etc., come May this country will be assured of an impeachment circus involving a woman official who, as Sen. Joker Arroyo put it, has become P-Noy’s fixation, and pressures to postpone an election that ARMM constituents passionately want to have.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Emotional tangle between 16 municipalities aspiring to be cities and the League of Cities

A text message going around says it all about the way the Japanese people have comported themselves in the midst of their multi-tragedies

Says the text: “Something to admire about the Japanese:  1. Walang pumapapel na mayor at iba pang politico; 2. Walang nagpapanggap na biktima ng mga sakuna; 3. Walang nag-uunahan sa pila at nag-aagawan ng mga relief goods; 4. Walang hadlang na media; walang ‘personal opinion’ ng reporters;  5. Walang pulitikong nagtatapal ng mukha at pangalan sa mga relief goods! Gumising na tayo.”

How  correct. As I said earlier, we can admire the dignity, fortitude and stoicism of the Japanese people, all part of their inner strength in the face of tribulations, as well as their concern for putting the common good above self, as epitomized by the “Fukushima 50.”   We have a lot to learn from them.

Don’t shoot the messenger

Shooting the messenger, instead of the message, was what  Palace spokesperson Abigail Valte did, in complaining about warnings issued by internationally-renowned urban planner/architect Felino Palafox after the magnitude-9 earthquake that struck Japan. It was unfair of Valte to complain that Palafox was an “alarmist” in warning our people about what could possibly happen if a similar disaster---Heaven forbid!--- strikes this country.  She also said the Palace never received any advisory from Palafox prior to the Japanese tragedies, when in truth, as he stressed in text messages, he has been repeating this message about the need for disaster-preparedness since Ondoy struck in September 2009, sending it anew to P-Noy last July. Instead of shooting the messenger, the Palace should be thankful for the message and take it seriously.

Another  message not to be taken seriously

Not to be taken seriously, however, is the tidbit from former Sen. Ernesto Maceda’s Star column linking former Defense Secretary Bert Gonzalez and Fr. Romeo Intengan of the PDSP with the powerhouse bloc of women in the P-Noy administration that’s supposed to be controlling this regime's funds.  I cannot for the life of me see these two gentlemen having any political connection with these powerful women, and I’m sure many share this feeling. It must be an early April Fool's joke  from the former politico who’s closely linked with Vice President Binay.

Tune into dzRH tonight at 8: most interesting

For those of you who have a chance, tune in tonight to the 8 pm. program Cecile Alvarez and I co-host every Sunday evening over dzRH, as we discuss with Rep. Ben Evardone of the lone district of Eastern Samar what has become a most emotional issue. This is the Supreme Court decision of last Feb. 15, upholding the constitutionality of the “Cityhood Laws” creating component cities out of 16 municipalities, some of them well known but others few have heard about around the country.  We guarantee that you’ll find the discussion most interesting---a real “paaralang bayan.”

The 16 municipalities fighting for cityhood are: Borongan, Eastern Samar; Baybay, Leyte;  Bogo, Cebu (the hometown of my late friend, Chief Justice and Senate President Marcelo Fernan); Catbalogan, Samar; Tandag, Surigao del Sur; Tayabas, Quezon; Lamitan, Basilan; Tabuk, Kalinga; Bayugan, Agusan del Sur; Batac, Ilocos Norte; Mati, Davao Oriental; Guihulngan, Negros Oriental; Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte; Carcar, Cebu; El Salvador, Misamis Oriental; and Naga, Cebu.

Nene Pimentel’s fear

Recall that the grant by Congress of cityhood to the 16 municipalities, through separate legislation for each of them, was already controversial more than two years ago, when the 122-member League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), formerly headed by Mandaluyong Mayor Ben-Hur Abalos and now by San Fernando, Pampanga Mayor Oscar Rodriguez, opposed it on two fronts. The LCP, alarmed by the sudden bee-line for cityhood by smaller municipalities, succeeded in getting Congress to pass an amendment to the Local Government Code (Code) authored by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel in 1991. 

It will be recalled that Pimentel's Code had fixed the cities' official annual income to be generated from local sources to P20 million per city; but in June 2001, the LCP maneuvered to get Congress to amend the Code by passing RA 9009, also authored by Sen. Nene Pimentel, which raised the cities' annual revenue ceiling to P100 million a year---thus making it tougher for the smaller municipalities to make it.  Pimentel was quoted during the interpellation in the Senate as saying he feared the day when the nation would be left with only cities and no municipalities at all.

In addition, the LCP challenged the legality of the 16 municipalities’ cityhood application before the SC, where high-powered lawyers faced off:  Estelito Mendoza for the 16 and the Puno Law Offices for the LCP. But the issue escalated into a full-blown  controversy when the SC began to “flip-flop,”  to use media’s favorite term, on this issue---a trail of first disapproving and then approving the municipalities' cityhood conversion. 

SC’s “flip-flopping”

Initially the SC, in a decision penned by Justice Antonio Carpio, dis-allowed the 16 towns’ conversion into cities on Nov. 18, 2008, and  the Court also twice struck down their motion for reconsideration. On Dec. 21, 2009, however, the Court en banc, in a 6-4 decision penned by Justice Presbitero Velasco, declared the Cityhood Laws for the 16 applicants constitutional; but on Aug. 24, 2010, the Court en banc, in a resolution penned by original ponente Carpio, reinstated the Nov. 18, 2008 decision that had denied cityhood to the 16 municipal applicants

But the Obstinate 16 refused to take the Carpio resolution sitting down and  challenged it before the SC. This resulted  last Feb. 15 with the 7-6 majority decision penned by Justice Lucas Bersamin, that rendered “favorable action” on the 16 Cityhood petition on the basis of some “cogent points.” Rep. Ben Evardone, in our program,  explained the periodic changing of the magistrates' position on this issue by saying that over the years the Court's composition had changed, so that new justices tended to view things in another light. To this blogger, however, the history of the Cityhood issue seems more like a microcosm of the existing great political divide in the Corona Court.

The 7-6 vote reversal by the Bersamin ponencia of the Carpio-penned SC resolution of Aug. 24 caught the LP-dominated House quite by surprise, and some members itching for the impeachment of Ombusdman Merceditas Gutierrez have publicly threatened that the SC’s “flip-flopping” is ground for the justices’ impeachment too---but after Merci.


 Justice Bersamin argued that the 16 separate Cityhood bills did not violate Art. X, Sec. 10 of the Constitution as they were well within criteria defined by the Code,  and approved by a majority of votes cast in plebiscites in the 16 municipalities.  He also stressed that the enactment of the Cityhood Laws is an exercise of Congress of its legislative power, and that if the Code is a creation of Congress, it has the power to alter or modify the Code as it did when it enacted RA 9009;  pushing this argument further, Bersamin said that “such power of amendment of laws was again exercised when Congress enacted the Cityhood Laws” for each of the 16 applicant municipalities, and granted them an exemption from the P100 million annual revenue ceiling. Thus, he argued, by syllogism those separate Cityhood laws effectively amended the Code itself.

The Moral Argument

In our program Rep. Ben Evardone, the spokesman of the “Obstinate 16,” after citing the legal arguments of Bersamin, dwelt on the “moral aspects” of the issue. Evardone, a former newspaperman and two-term governor of Eastern Samar before running for its lone congressional district, feels that the LCP members should not be so restrictive about membership, for after all their Internal Revenue Allotment has not decreased with the temporary conversion of the 16 municipalities to cities; moreover, he argued, the 16 ought to be given every opportunity to also develop and become effective engines of economic growth for their regions, following the Code’s principle of decentralization of powers.

 Evardone cited an eye-popping line from Justice Bersamin in the SC decision upholding the constitutionality of the new cities:  “…It is like the elder siblings (old cities) wanting to kill the newly-born so that their inheritance would not be diminished.”

To this blogger, the most powerful arguments for the 16 municipal applicants for cityhood are that the 16 separate laws creating them into cities were all passed by Congress itself, and perhaps more importantly, the constituents of these areas approved their conversion into cities in separate plebiscites. Vox populi, vox Dei.

                                  For comments/reactions, pls. email: polbits@yahoo.com

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Business leaders against impeachment

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman was quoted as saying that people may be in for a surprise when the chamber finally votes in plenary on the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Lagman opined that while the majority party and allies may be able to get the minimum 94 votes needed to send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate (especially if there's PDAF envelops preceding the voting), there may be quite a small margin between the yes and the no votes. 

I agree with Edcel on this point, just as I too believe that it's highly doubtful if the House could get a plenary vote this Monday, just three days before the Holy Week recess, given recent adverse developments in Japan and the Middle East. As Cagayan Rep. Jackie Ponce Enrile (who's only the son of the Senate President who would be presiding over Gutierrez's trial in the Senate) recently argued, the House members would look so callous if they push the voting on Gutierrez ahead of taking care of our OFWs' welfare in troubled regions abroad (such as Libya where UN nations are very serious about enforcing the "no fly zone," which could only mean a bigger conflict in that area)

In addition, many LPs themselves feel that the cases against Gutierrez need more work, as some parts are quite weak. They probably are taking Sen. Joker Arroyo's warning about not wasting the senator-judges' time with ill-prepared cases. 

Prominent law firm after Ombudsman's post?

Other factors are weighing in too. It's rumored that a politically influential religious group is working hard to discourage House members from voting against Gutierrez. Then too, the hesitation of big-time business leaders to push the impeachment circus at this time is understandable, as they fear it would divert our nation’s attention from more imperative undertakings at this time, such as checking out our own country’s disaster preparedness, and assessing the impact on our economy of the dim recovery prospects for Japan, our second largest trading partner, in the near future (many local institutions are quite dependent on Japanese aid, which may have to be held in abeyance or at least minimized, pending that country's recovery)

In fact, a very influential business leader whose company is well-diversified has been saying, why not leave Gutierrez to finish her term, which is after all, only a year more. Indeed, why not?

By the way, the persistent rumor is that a powerful and influential law-firm has been actively pushing Gutierrez’s impeachment as it’s interested to have one of its prominent partners assume the Ombudsman's post.  The candidate is a former GMA Cabinet member.

Gina de Venecia emerges from Speaker JDV's shadow

What was former Speaker Jose de Venecia doing in the House plenary hall last Monday afternoon?  Giving support to wife Gina, that’s what. Rep. Gina de Venecia, who now holds the 4th District of Pangasinan seat JDV had occupied  for numerous terms, and which became his springboard for his unbroken record as Speaker for five terms, presided over the House plenary session for one day, as president of the Association of Lady Legislators (ALL), in observance of International Women’s Day lasst Tuesday, March 8. If Gina, in a pink Maria Clara outfit, was nervous at the start, she looked like a veteran on the Speaker’s podium, as she assigned bills to committees. Gina has indeed come a long way from her all-out supporting role to her husband’s ambition, including his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1998

 Given her intelligence and street smarts, her common touch and her organizational ability, proven during her five terms as president of the Spouses’ Foundation, when it put up havens for battered women, drug-addicted youths and the elderly across the nation (in cooperation with the DSWD), it’s easy to see that GDV could go a long way in politics.

Fetching Lady Legislators as Assistants

 Assisting Gina was a bevy of equally fetching lady legislators in their Filipiniana outfits, namely, Kimi Cojuangco of Pangasinan, Josie Joson of Nueva Ecija and party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy as Deputy Speakers, Angel Amante Matba of Agusan del Norte as Majority Leader and Fatima Aliah Dimaporo of Lanao Norte as Minority Leader. Several lady legislators delivered speeches on vital women’s issues, and my favorite was that of Rep. Linabelle Ruth R. Villarica of Bulacan, who decried the degrading exploitation of women’s bodies in bold and huge advertising billboards. I quite agree---just take a look at the Guadalupe Bridge area in Makati, which looks like one giant Playboy Magazine

The lady legislators have come a long way from when there were only 24 of them in Speaker JDV’s earlier term, which increased to 42 in the 14th Congress. In this 15th Congress there are 64 of them, and many are smart, intelligent and accomplished, aside from good-looking, such as Lucy Torres and Lani Mercado Revilla.

Easily the media darling: Aliah Dimaporo

In celebration of the International Women's Day,  Gina de Venecia brought a dozen lady legislators to the  Bulong-Pulungan forum headed by Bulletin’s Deedee Siytangco, last March 8 at Sofitel Hotel. Easily the media's darling was the good-looking 30-year old Fatima Aliah Dimaporo (daughter of Gov. Imelda Dimaporo, also a looker),  who received her high school education at Brent School (which explains her clipped accent) and her college degree from Mindanao State University.

The story goes that her father  Bobby Dimaporo tried to arrange in true Muslim fashion a marriage for her when she was 25, but his spirited daughter ran away to the US and worked there until she felt comfortable enough to come home.  Aliah told this blogger that she’s enjoying her stint in the House, where she hopes to push laws that will guarantee equality for women in the Muslim world;  but the interesting thing is that, according to rumors, she’s dating a good-looking first-term municipal mayor from Bulacan.

 Could this be a good sample of inter-faith dialogue in the House, Speaker JDV?
Tamako in Kobe

For those of you who have been following my blog on Japan's killer earthquake and tsunami, you’ll recall my little anecdote about how my two-year old granddaughter Tamako, child of my daughter Christine and my Tokyo-based investment banker  son-in-law Keiichi Miki, got under the table with her visiting baby-sitter, at the height of the tremors, and how she  kept giggling and laughing all the time, thinking it was one of those horsey-horsey games she likes to play. Well, in the next few days, as the Japanese nuclear authorities struggled to contain the radio-activity emanating from three damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima, the fear of a core meltdown poisoning the atmosphere as far as Tokyo became very real.  

Apparently to ease the anxiety on every one's part (including this frightened grandma in Manila),  Keiichi sent Tamako and the baby sitter by bullet train to the safety of Kobe in the south, where his mother Keiko and his sister Mari  maintain homes.  Keiichi related that his unsinkable daughter found a six-month old baby on the train who became the object of her fancy, so that she wasn’t bored at all during the three-hour ride. From photos the Mikis have been sending us by email, Tamako is having a ball bonding with her Kobe relatives.

This  decision left me greatly relieved about Tamako,  but of course I continue to worry for Keiichi in Tokyo, who cannot leave as he has to look after his company and people. He emailed that he has launched a “stay-home policy” for his people during the nuclear crisis, although there is a skeletal force of 10-15 people at any time in the office to get things done; thus, for as long as there are people in the office, he has to be in Tokyo, though he plans to take a breather and join his family in Kobe for the weekend.

Japanese discipline and fortitude

I admire my son-in-law’s dedication to duty, which, to my mind, epitomizes somewhat the fantastic discipline and fortitude of the Japanese people which have fared them well in various tragedies since World War II. It has been noted how there has been virtually zero looting. Then there's the incredible heroism of the "Fukushima 50"---those nuclear reactor workers who have risked their lives to prevent a meltdown, encouraged perhaps by the grave concern expressed by their revered Emperor about radiation fallout---that's now touted around the world.

 I also note the stoicism and dignity of the Japanese people in the midst of all the adversities. These traits are revealed by the fact that while the outside world wants to help with all manner of aid, the Japanese have not asked for help;  in fact, the query abroad is, where do we send aid?  The Japanese have, for the most part, relied on their inner strength in tackling their problems, so that there is little doubt in the minds of people abroad that the Japanese nation would in no time overcome the worst of its problems.

All these virtues the world now praises in the Japanese, in turn, stem from generations of enlightened reforms dating to the Meiji era in the early 19th century, in  the realm of politics, education, and the inculcation of values of the ordinary folk, such as nationalism,  discipline, dignity, hard work, pride in themselves but concern for the welfare of others above self. We could learn a lot from the Japanese indeed

For reactions/comments, pls. email: polbits@yahoo.com

Monday, March 14, 2011

Amid fears of a meltdown, tolerance for nuke power melting among Japanese


From Tokyo, this blog’s “informal correspondent,” my son-in-law, Keiichi Miki, an investment banker based in the Japanese capital and married to my daughter Christine, emailed today on the situation there. Part of his email is as follows:

“The real impact of the tsunami is now being revealed. Historically, the coastal areas in Tohoku have often been hit by tsunamis and they had always been well prepared in the past. But the size of last Friday’s killer quake was just so big---magnitude 9.0 is the biggest in modern history and such a quake only happens once in 1,000 years (the last one as big as this was in A.D. 860). The quake spread over 400 km of the sea bed area and it hit the coast so fast, just 30 mins after the quake. The size of the tsunami was as much as 30 feet, which was beyond any imagination. A coastal town called Minami Sanriku is worst hit. The whole town was completely swept away and of the 18,000 population, some 10,000 are still missing.

“ I felt so sorry to see people on TV who lost family, friends, home, their town and jobs. I’m hopeful to see rescue operation taking place now, with 35 countries sending rescue teams to Japan, including the Philippines through ASEAN. Some of our friends overseas are offering support through donation and my company, Lazard, and I will also do our part. The search of people under the rubbles has started and many are now being rescued. This will take days and weeks, and, they need many more helicopters. Current death/missing toll is 2,500 and it will likely continue to increase.

“The situation of the nuke plant seems to have improved, and  I think the worst case scenario has been avoided (which is a total meltdown---BOC). Given that the degree of calamity is beyond expectation, I think  the nuclear plant officials have done a good job minimizing the damage. Media, however, is so hysterical and they attack the government, which is not constructive, for what people need is collective support.

" To me, one offshoot of the problems caused by the Magnitude-9 earthquake in the nuke plants is that the Japanese will become much less tolerant about building nuke power plants, when this is, in fact, much needed to keep the energy costs low in the face of the rise in oil price.”

Japan operates 55 nuke plants

 Keiichi and I have had conversations about nuclear energy in the past, and he has always supported popularizing its use even for the Philippines as it industrializes, arguing about the rising cost of imported fossil fuels as supply declines.  For a highly industrial like Japan which does not have oil, there may seem little choice indeed but to promote nuke energy; right now, including the six that have problems due to the killer quake, Japan operates 55 nuclear plants all around the country. With the problems in those six crippled plants, however, Japanese economic recovery from the ravages of the killer quake and tsunami, conservatively estimated at the moment at around $100 billion, may be severely hampered.

                                      Collateral Damage

Keiichi is right, though: with the terror spawned by the “partial” meltdown which could still deteriorate to a total meltdown (meaning, scattering radio-active material into the atmosphere over God knows how large a territory, depending on the wind factor), one collateral damage of the killer quake is the decrease in the tolerance of the Japanese people for nuclear power (to put it understatedly).

. In fact I suspect that it’s not only the Japanese, but also the Americans, the world's leading users of nuclear energy (despite the notorious San Andreas Fault), the French who rank next to the Japanese as the third-biggest users with their 42 plants, and the Chinese who operate about 30 nuclear plants, who would be assiduously studying how the Japanese cope with the potential for meltdown. The whole world, in fact, will be studiously   re-appraising nuclear power and its frightening risks from hereon. 

This grandma hopes and prays, especially for the sake of her little family there, which includes her son-in-law Keiichi and her two-year old grand-daughter, Tamako, and the greatly suffering Japanese people that it doesn’t have to come to such a catastrophe as a nuclear meltdown.

Involvement in anti-nuke group here

 This blogger, then a political reporter for the Mr. & Ms. magazine of the "mosquito press," was very much involved in the efforts of the second-generation of oppositors to stop the opening of the Marcos-constructed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the mid-‘80s. Our group included the late Raffy Recto, Sr.Aida Velasquez, Tito Guingona, Jimmy Guerrero, Nene Pimentel, Bert Romulo and one or two others. We were all against the BNPP for many reasons (e.g., it was built astride a fault line and was shot through with so many defects, perhaps because the American builders had already paid the fat commissions ahead to the Marcos administration and were no longer as careful about ensuring safety standards). 

           Not anti nuke per se, but Pinoys not ready for it

But even then, my involvement didn't mean that I was against nuclear energy per se. In various columns in the Inquirer over the years, I recognized the finiteness of fossil fuels and I often felt uncomfortable about the way the Arab countries wielded power in the world geo-political scene because of their dominance in oil.  But I also stressed---and continue to stress---that perhaps we Filipinos are not ready for nuke plant operation, given our laxity in operational procedures and enforcement of regulatory functions, which in turn stems from our “bahala na” and "pwede na" attitude toward life and our obvious lack of discipline as a people. 

 This realization struck me with some impact after the big typhoons that hit Pangasinan a year and a half ago, when it was shown in congressional hearings that our officials couldn’t even make sure  that the huge San Roque dam there could release its excess water at the critical time. There was also a  much-publicized airport incident outside Manila, where traffic controllers failed to report to work on time because of the long holidays and nearly caused traffic accidents.  If we can't handle dams and airport control towers, how can we handle nuke plants? 

  Moreover, nuclear energy is so expensive and disposal of wastes remains a problem for nation-users.

Japan's quake may have rendered BNPP irrelevant

In the 14th Congress, Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco tried to push the operation of the BNPP which was ordered shut down by the Supreme Court, then headed by Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, in the mid-80s, due to manifestastions by our group about numerous defects in the plant's construction. In the Cory administration, the BNPP had absolutely no chance to operate since she was surrounded by first-generation anti-nuke advocates like Joker Arroyo and Rene Saguisag, and Sen. Lorenzo Tanada, their guru, was then still alive. Mark . Cojuangco won a number of adherents in the House, but his campaign to open the BNPP failed to take off because of too much resistance to the “Monster of Morong.”

In this new 15th Congress, his wife, Carmen "Kimi" Cojuangco, who had gotten elected to Mark’s old seat last May, has sought to carry on his crusade. Just before the Japanese killer quake struck, in fact, Rep. Kimi was pressing the Energy Committee, chaired by Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, to already calendar the BNPP issue in the House agenda. Unfortunately that killer quake may have rendered the nuke plant that squats on a fault line in Bataan irrelevant forever.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lessons from Japan’s big quake

The Japanese have accepted the reality of earthquakes perhaps like no other people on earth;  it is said that earthquakes occur every five minutes in that country in varying intensities. Hence, last Wednesday, when I emailed my son-in-law, Keiichi, an investment banker based in Tokyo, that I was worried about the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit 380 kms. northeast of Tokyo earlier that day, he emailed back and said not to worry, as “it was a minor quake for Japan.”  He related that he felt it while lunching in his office, but that his wife Christine, their daughter Tamako and a visiting cousin of his, all across the city, didn’t feel it at all.   In other words, quakes in the vicinity of 7 plus magnitude are no big deal to the Japanese.
 The big ‘scary’ quake

But the 8.9 quake that hit the eastern coast of Japan, some 2,100 km. away from Tokyo,  earlier this afternoon was something else. It was, as my son-in-law described it understatedly, “BIG.” But perhaps so as not to alarm his mother-in-law in Manila whom he could sense was already getting hysterical in her emails, Keiichi also later added that "it was scary but we are all fine here." He thoughtfully kept up the emails to me through the evening, narrating in one that Tamako and Keiichi's cousin, whom he left to baby-sit her, hid under the table during the seemingly interminable quake. The consoling part was that every time the apartment shook, my  half-Japanese, half-Filipino grand-daughter, whom we fondly call "Tam-Tam," would laugh and laugh under the table, thinking perhaps it was another one of those horsy-horsy games she'd often play even with her Pinay lola (bless the innocence of children!).  

                  Christine sleeps on Narita's floor in JAL sleeping bag

On the other hand, my daughter Christine, who publishes the beautiful glossy travel magazine TraveLife in Manila was on an airport bus enroute to Narita airport to take the plane to Manila;  when the quake began to rattle like mad, the bus was perched atop a bridge and Christine emailed later that she thought she was going to die at that moment. 

My son-in-law managed to get home after seeing everyone else in his office safely enroute for home or staying in someone's place, and braving four hours of horrendous traffic (there were no subway trains running and power was out). Keiichi had a good dinner and a relatively uneventful sleep with his baby daughter and his cousin, while Christine was able to proceed to Narita, where she spent the night on a sleeping bag on the terminal floor, courtesy of Japan Air Lines, until flights could resume. 

I thanked the Lord that our little family in Tokyo was okay even as I extend my family's heartfelt sympathies to all our Japanese friends for this terrible tragedy that hit their country and people.

Sheepish Pinoy family returns to apartment

The Japanese indeed are so used to earthquakes that it doesn’t frighten them at all, unless it’s in the category of what Keiichi terms “BIG.”  In fact, I cannot forget an episode many years ago, when my daughter, by then still single, lived in an apartment not too far from the Philippine Embassy where she worked as press relations officer, and my husband and I and our two sons were visiting with her. One evening after dinner, the apartment building began to rattle and shake.  I got alarmed and told my husband that perhaps we better get out of the building. I could sense that he wasn’t too convinced about moving out, but when a  siren blared out into the night,  I quickly construed it as a signal to evacuate the premises;  the five of us hurriedly put on our coats and my husband picked up his small attaché case containing our passports and money and we all scampered down the stairs to the street below.

But soon we began to realize that we were the only ones in the street in the middle of the night, and that the neighbors were looking out of their windows at us, as they tidied up  their kitchen after dinner. The earthquake was absolutely a non-event to the Japanese. Sheepishly we Filipinos moved back to the apartment to get some sleep.

 Japan’s Friday’s quake its biggest in 1 ½  centuries

But the quake earlier this afternoon was the biggest to hit Japan in one and a half centuries, in fact since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s; it’s also said to be one of the strongest ever recorded in the world, with its effects felt as far as Russia and even Latin America.  Today’s quake, which triggered a devastating 23-foot tsunami, surpassed the Great Kanto earthquake of Sept. 1 , 1923, an 8.3 magnitude killer that snuffed the lives of 143,000 people, as well as the 7.2 magnitude quake that hit the port city of Kobe in 1995 and caused a $100 billion damage, making it the most expensive natural disaster in history. My son-in-law’s mother, Keiko, hails from Kobe, and when we visited there three years ago, her husband, Osamu, then still alive, took us to the Earthquake Museum in Kobe, where the horrors of that 1995 killer quake were so faithfully reproduced by modern technology, as though one were right there. It’s the only one of its kind in the world.
Lessons we Pinoys should learn from the Japanese crisis

The enormous devastation wrought by today’s 8.9 magnitude quake in northern Japan was caught on world TV, where huge boats, light planes, trucks and cars were tossed about like little toys in a kiddie pool by gigantic tsunami packing the speed of a jumbo jet; the usually stoic Japanese people were terribly frightened. 

But the lesson is clear to nations in the “Ring of Fire,” such as our country,  that urban planner and architect Felino Palafox and Phivolcs director Dr. Renato Solidum have  grown hoarse warning about:  we have to prepare for the worst eventuality, for our own big one.  If technologically advanced Japan, a First World country, can be so devastated (its latest crisis involves radiation leaks and the possible meltdown of a big nuclear power facility in Fukushima in the North, one of five troubled nuclear plants there owing to the quake), think of how our poor Third World country would fare if faced with such a big one. 

The prospect of a big quake is, of course, only one of the many crises our nation faces, which also include the possibility of oil scarcity and their skyrocketing prices owing to the political turmoil in the Arab world, the repatriation of millions of our OFWs from the troubled areas and their reintegration into the local labor force  already strained by the unemployed and underemployed, our food security problem owing to natural calamities here and abroad, the rising criminality in our midst, etc.

Our leaders should stop their political games in crisis times

Very much a part of this preparedness is getting our local government officials to seriously undertake continuous earthquake and fire drills among their constituents, especially in schools and hospitals, and getting local rescue operations ready. Part of it too, is to make sure that our national leaders truly lead us through the urgent preparations, and not divert our attention to the political games they like to play.

For instance, today the newspapers reported the Palace and the Senate as urging embattled Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to resign, so as “to spare the country of the pain of impeachment.” Given all the crises our nation faces, we need the impeachment circus like a hole in the head. But Gutierrez has repeatedly said that she will not resign, but prefers to submit to a trial before the Senate, as she claims that her conscience is clear about her having done her job judiciously.

  Many people are now asking:  what is so urgent about impeachment now, in the light of all the problems this country---and the world---face?  The growing feeling is that the politicians are just looking for another forum to grandstand, a circus to divert the people from the real as well as the potential crises our nation faces.

               Yes to crises solutions, no to political grandstanding

This realization is now dawning on an increasing number of people.  Reports from the House of Representatives indicate that a good number of members from various political groups are planning to abstain in the coming vote on Merceditas Gutierrez.  It’s only the LPs who are marching to their boss’ order and the militant  party-list reps who are obsessed with impeachment---for their own agenda.  The churches, civic organizations, student groups and other influential organizations should weigh in on this issue: yes to crises solutions; no to political grandstanding. 

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