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

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Merci at peace, paints portrait of Don Bosco as House sizzles with her impeachment

I called up my co-alumna, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez this morning to find out how she was taking reports of a planned impeachment by the House Justice Committee, even before the Supreme Court could make a final ruling on her motion for reconsideration. To my surprise she seemed very serene and  said her BP was very normal and that she was in the middle of painting a portrait of Don Bosco (she said she paints regularly as a form of release from tensions). The embattled Ombudsman said she’s at peace because her conscience is clear, stressing that in her 40 years of public service she has done nothing wrong nor did she betray the lofty goals of her office.

This Tuesday, according to reports, the  Justice Committee will submit its report on the two impeachment complaints filed by two activist party-list groups, to the plenary which is expected to vote on the complaints. A plenary vote of 1/3 or 94 votes will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for her trial. As I expected, this lady warrior won’t resign but will fight it all the way to the Senate, where she’s more confident of getting justice than from the House. She’s banking on the fact that many senators are more independent-minded and may be able to appreciate her defense arguments. She is also quite aware that in the House it’s a proxy fight---that its real target is GMA.

                        About 50 representatives have pending cases before Ombudsman

The prospects of impeachment have drawn out the long knives---about 50 representatives have pending cases before the Ombudsman and they are expected to push against Gutierrez, when the decent thing is for them to inhibit themselves from voting (what's the House ethics committee doing?). Justice committee chief Rep.Neil Tupas Jr. himself as well as his father, former Iloilo Governor Neil Tupas Sr., have pending cases before the Ombudsman too (the latter in connection with alleged corruption cases in the Sta. Barbara airport construction which reportedly involves a number of other prominent leaders from that region). Rep. Tupas Jr. , however, has refused to inhibit himself. This is a sad time for ethics and delicadeza in public service.

                              P-Noy favors postponement of ARMM elections

President Aquino favors postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) scheduled for this August, and instead is batting for synchronizing them with the midterm elections in 2013. But unlike some pro-postponement leaders who want the current crop of officials to continue in a hold-over capacity until 2013, P-Noy and his key LP leaders want to appoint an entirely new batch of leaders for ARMM. Palace spokesperson Ricky Carandang was quoted as saying that P-Noy wants new officials to ensure that the region undergoes reform. But the question is, who is to decide who will lead the people of ARMM and what reforms they want? Should it be the Palace or the people themselves?  Merely Appointing a new batch of officials could set a dangerous and unwise precedent, and as Tingting Cojuangco argues, it is unconstitutional..

                                Malicious insinuations about gargantuan ARMM funds

The Palace should be careful on this postponement issue, as already there are some malicious insinuations that the administration is eyeing the gargantuan allocation of ARMM (P11billion annually, of which some P300 million goes to the governor as discretionary fund, which is bigger than the combined pork barrel of a senator and a House member) as campaign funds for the midterm elections.

The Palace seems to be stonewalling the opposition to postponement, but it’s very real not just among the Muslim populace but also among Christian leaders. I was at a gathering of Edsa originals that Inquirer editor-in-chief Letty Magsanoc held at her residence last Feb. 28 in honor of visiting former AP bureau chief Dave Briscoe and his wife Norrie as well as Time star writer Seth Mydans. Interestingly, both former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel and Sen. Joker Arroyo were vigorously against postponement, and in fact Pimentel is one of the key leaders of a multi-sectoral group of Mindanaoans, including prominent Muslim leaders like Tupay Loong and Al Tillah, who are all against postponement. Joker argued, "Let the people of ARMM decide."

The latest to weigh in against postponement is Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV, who warns of the possibility of unrest in ARMM if "centrist Manila once again seeks to foist upon Mindanaoans leaders whom they did not vote for." Cagas said the right remedy is to ensure clean and honest elections in ARMM, so that the true leaders of their choice are elected, and to pour more resources for its development, as it 's one of the country's poorest regions.

                                    A region has to have credible and regular elections

In our dzRH show tonight at 8 pm., Telibert Laoc, former Namfrel executive-director and currently a member of its national council, stressed, among other things, that international standards adhered to by citizens’ watchdog organizations the world over maintain that there has to be credible and regular elections in a given region. He argues that the ARMM election shouldn’t be postponed any longer as there have been too many postponements there since 1996, which does not help that area’s stability. The people of ARMM want to have the elections.

Telibert pointed out that among the ostensible reasons to justify the the ARMM postponement are that two Comelec commissioners still have to be appointed and that the voters’ lists have to be cleaned. It has been noted that from the 2007 midterm elections to the 2010 national elections, for instance, Lanao del Sur, one of the ARMM provinces, registered an 80 percent increase in voter registration. But as Telibert pointed out, even with just four existing commissioners and the newly appointed chair Sixto Brilliantes, the Comelec has a quorum to do business; moreover, using the bloated voters’ list as an excuse for postponement is “lumang tugtugin” already, as the Omnibus Election Code provides for continuing registration and there is time to clean up the lists if Comelec so wills it.

                                          Villar: Del Rosario's place is right here

A reader of this blog who refused to give his full name reacted badly to my criticism about acting Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario’s decision to travel for six hours through the war-torn deserts of Libya to the capital of Tripoli, to rescue some 400 OFWs stranded there. I had argued that while Del Rosario doubtless meant well and sought to show concern for the OFWs, his move was reckless and irresponsible, inasmuch as it could have placed him in grave danger that could have jeopardized the rescue effort itself. This reader turned personal and insulting even to my late husband, but his insults will not hide the fact that a good number of people feel the same way. Sen. Manny Villar, for instance,diplomatically termed Del Rosario’s move “courageous” but he also stressed that the Secretary's place was right here where he would be in a far better position to help our OFWs.

                                          Palafox is right about double-whammy crises

My Washington, D.C. based nephew, financial analyst Ramon Luis “Buster” Olivares, a Wharton graduate, emailed to say he agrees with renowned architect and urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox’s warning cited here, that the government should seriously turn its attention to the crises that could aggravate due to the political turmoil sweeping the Arab world. Palafox, who was recently inaugurated as the first non-business and non-lawyer president of the People Management Association of the Philippines, had warned that RP could suffer from the double whammy of scarcity and price spiraling of oil as well as the overabundance of Filipino labor here as our OFWs return from the troubled regions.

Palafox’s prediction about the oil crisis is already upon us, as oil prices ended this week at a 29-month high. The government assures us that there’s a one-month local oil inventory, but the way the situation abroad goes, how long this can be sustained is anyone’s guess. It’s also easy to see that our local labor market will shrink all the more, as OFWs return and tens of thousands of young graduates will start looking for jobs next month.

                                          Another worrisome angle: Food Security

But Buster Olivares opened another worrisome angle. He wrote: “Food security is a very big issue facing our country. We are one of the biggest rice importers in the world and a lot of our food---from meat, dairy products, etc.---are imported.” He also stressed that “there are forecasts that the price of rice is set to rise by 50 percent this year because of reduced plantings in Louisiana (owing to a series of natural calamities that hit that area in the past year---BOC), poor harvests worldwide, and the fact that commodities prices in general are pegged to the dollar. Rice Futures prices are predicting that the price of rough rice is set to rise from $16 to as much as $23 to $25 (the all-time high in 2008).” Buster fears that “food riots could break out in the Philippines, China and other parts of Asia."

I quite agree with my nephew that we have to turn our attention to food production, as food supply abroad is severely affected by natural and man-made disasters. Our local governments ought to push food production aggressively, but sadly the nation will soon be embroiled in a new political circus--- impeachment in Congress.

                                           John Paul Olivares' 10th solo exhibit

Another nephew, painter John Paul Tanedo Olivares, launched his 10th solo exhibit of paintings, titled “Sacred Journey,” at the Galerie Y, 4th Floor, SM Megamall Artwalk, last Feb. 28, and it continues until March 14, with cocktails last Friday, March 4. John, assistant dean and professor at the FEU Fine Arts Department, confesses that his works reflect his own spiritual journey. Congratulations, John, and more power to your incredible art.

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