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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

John Paul II as Rome’s poster boy

Saturday, April 30, 2011 (Rome time)
Rome, Italy----The Italian capital is flooded with photos of the smiling, rather chubby face---under streetlights, plastered on walls everywhere and in myriad shops selling souvenirs of this celebrity. John Paul II is the city of  Rome’s poster boy, his full masculine face beaming down on a shy fair-haired boy or looking at his flock eye to eye, beckoning them to  come try the waters of Christianity and faith. It’s a robust face and figure, captivating and enthralling, bringing back memories for everyone of a much-loved persona, and not the bent, sickly old man bodily rendered wretched by Parkinsons’ disease, that the world commiserated with toward the end of his 27-year reign on the Throne of St. Peter.

 But actually it is the two images---the dynamic and charismatic leader of the world’s Catholics who attracted the youth of the world like a Pied Piper, as well as the bent old man in his ‘80s, devastated by pain and disease, who taught the world how Christian suffering should be a union with Christ on the Cross---that made him one of the best loved Popes of all time. And also one of the fastest to be raised to the altar of the Blessed ---only six years after his passing on April 2, 2005.


The City of Rome is said to have spent 6 million euros for the beatification of JPII tomorrow morning at the gigantic square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Preparations are elaborate for the three-day festivities that will mark this historic event. All over the city information tents went up manned by hired hands dishing out all manner of information to the hordes of pilgrims who have   descended on Rome from land, sea and air. Over the past three days these pilgrims have been moving around, led by leaders with the ubiquitous flag, doing all the holy sites of Christian Rome as a build-up to the big event. For pilgrims and locals who won't be accomodated inside St. Peter's Square tomorrow, the city government has set up many giant TV screens all over the city.

JPII's devotees have gathered at the Square which is dominated by a photo of JPII as tall as a small building. It depicts him deeply tanned and healthy (perhaps taken late into the first decade of his 27-year reign), seemingly looking pensively into the future of a pontificate that would eventually be confronted  with  serious problems. Beneath his gigantic photo,  the pilgrims form long snaking lines to enter the cavernous basilica, braving the increasingly scorching heat of the spring sun.
 Over the past days various churches in this city of a thousand churches have opened their doors to accomodate the continuing streams of people and some have put up their own exhibits of JPII memorabilia. Tonight the churches will keep  all-night vigils in preparation for tomorrow’s momentous event. And in St. Peter”s Square it could be sleepless in Rome for multitudes who will already camp out there in the hope of securing the best spaces for the beatification (behind the Vatican walls, rows and rows of portalets are ready for them).

 But it will be at the Circus Maximus---the huge arena in the ancient part of Rome, which is best remembered for the chariot race between Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd in the all-time classic movie, “Ben Hur”---where the  mammoth crowds, especially the young people from around the world, are expected to keep an all-night candlelit vigil tonight. They'll be praying and giving testimonies of JPII's love and generosity, while the youths will be singing and strumming guitars,  much as they have done in jammings with JPII during his visits around the world. 


But the most exciting part of the beatification rituals in these three days involves JPII's relics. A few days ago, his casket was exhumed from  the papal crypt beneath the cavernous basilica. As the world learned from his funeral, popes are buried in three caskets: a wooden one which is slipped into a bigger lead casket and finally into a third wooden casket.  Starting tomorrow, however, JPII's casket will be transferred to the basilica, in front of the elegant Bernini baldacchino, and after the beatification rites, Pope Benedict and the cardinals and bishops will venerate his remains, followed by the public who will be allowed to file past the bier. In the next few days JPII's casket will be moved to beneath the Altar of Confessions, not far from Michaelangelo's famed Pieta.  Will his remains eventually be exposed to the public, as those of another pope, Blessed John XXIII, are? Only time will tell.

Another ritual tomorrow will be the presentation of a vial of blood from JPII, contained in a precious reliquary and declared as his true relic. It will be presented jointly by a youth, Sr. Tobiana, who had served in JPII's apartments, and Sr. Marie Simone-Pierre, the French nun whose cure from Parkinson's disease is attributed to JPII's intercession. I learned from our longtime family friend, Jesuit "Church historian" Fr. Jose Quilong-quilong that JPII's blood was collected before he died, and in fact another vial is to be sent to his native Poland.  


The frenzied excitement in Rome is understandable, for JPII was the second-longest reigning Pontiff in Church history and perhaps the best loved. Only five years ago, in his funeral attended by over a million people, including his fellow Poles (as well as this blogger, then a columnist of the Inquirer, my dzRH partner Cecile Alvarez and then PMS Chief Cerge Remonde; we tagged along with the small presidential party of President GMA to the funeral) the repeated cry from the vast throngs was “Santo Subito” or immediate sainthood. Pope Benedict XVII, formerly Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, JPII’s closest associate and adviser, who was subsequently elected as JPII’s successor, harkened to the plea of the mammoth throngs.

 In mid-May 2005, just a month after that funeral, Benedict authorized the opening of the investigation into the life of holiness of his predecessor---an indication of the love and regard of the brilliant pope for his former boss.


Over the past five years, as Fr. Quilong-quilong, who has been  assigned as a ranking official of the Jesuit curia here in Rome in the past eleven years, but who will assume rectorship of the Loyola House of Studies in the Ateneo Campus late next month, noted, the path to JPII’s sainthood was laid down surely and unerringly.  In fact,  Quilong-quilong, who has a very keen bent for Church history (and perhaps could be persuaded to teach it as a subject for lay people when he returns to the Ateneo Campus) pointed out that Fr. Slawomir Oder, the postulator of the Holy See office for the cause for sainthood, had submitted six thick volumes that dealt with three aspects: JPII’s early life, his Papacy and its impact on the world (such as his efforts to strengthen dialogue among the various Christian faiths), and the ramifications of his death on the world, including miracles attributed to him.


Fr. Quilong-quilong pointed out that indeed JPII’s beatification tomorrow has broken many records in an institution heavy with millennia of history (hence the justification for all the hyping over him---BOC). JPII is the first pope in a thousand years in the Church to be beatified by his immediate successor, says Fr. Quilong-quilong, but as Blessed, he will be only one of ten popes declared as such in the past 500 years, while only two popes have become Saints in these 500 years, namely Popes Pius VI and Pius X (the latter was the pope who proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

JPII's beatification was criticized in some quarters as "too fast, too soon" but critics also ascribed it as the handiwork of his former closest adviser, now Benedict XVI. In other words, in JPII's case it was favoritism. But Benedict chose to ignore the critics and went ahead with his desire to beatify JPII, stressing the latter's  life of holiness. To become a saint, Blessed John Paul II needs another indisputable miracle. Who knows, says Fr. Quilong-quilong, perhaps we might have a canonization next year.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Call it “Libingan ng Bayan” if Marcos is to be accomodated

It seems that never before has the nation been as divided as today. Just think:  people as well as various religious organizations, are currently divided over the RH bill; they are now also debating the question of whether the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos ought to be buried in the nation’s most hallowed grounds, the Libingan ng mga Bayani or not. There’s argument about whether there should be a total mining ban in the country or not, in the aftermath of the collapse of mine tunnels in Compostela Valley that buried 17 small-scale miners. There are pro and contrary opinions about the impending impeachment trial of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez,  the showman Willie Revillame, the merits of fuel subsidy and the postponement to 2013 of the ARMM elections, ad nauseum.
The debate over these issues and many more furiously rages over the tri-media daily. About the only issues where the people seem to be truly united are the realities of spiralling prices of basic commodities, the lack of employment and President Aquino’s plunging acceptance ratings.

Population issue as scapegoat for bad governance

It’s sad that the various religious groups are now torn apart over the RH bill. For when one analyzes it, there really is no need to wrench up the nation had the RH proponents not made population a scapegoat or whipping boy for the ills confronting the nation, such as the lack of employment opportunities and food security.
Columnist Dick Pascual so aptly put it when he asked recently why the need to pass a bill on the use of contraceptives when ours is a “cafeteria-style society” where a whole slew of options for ensuring “safe sex” and terminating unwanted pregnancies are available. The question is, why make it difficult for Catholics who do not agree to teaching safe sex to their children in school?  Why the emphasis on safe sex when they should be taught the right values, to begin with?
Anti RH-bill people such as a good number of members of the Partidong Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP) feel quite strongly that the RH bill as presently constituted could lead to the erosion of the freedom of conscience that’s guaranteed by the Constitution.

Development would make population issue lose currency

The myth of over-population is being whipped out of proportion. Indeed there’s over-population in the mega-cities that are bursting at the seams, but in the countryside there’s scant population and one can drive for hours hardly running into people, especially in Mindanao and many parts of the Visayas. The mega-cities explosion is caused in turn by bad economics and worse governance. I submit that if our economic planners stimulate the economy in the countryside with the right infrastructure and business opportunities, the population issue will lose a lot of its currency.  This was the experience of South Korea---when the economy prospered, couples engaged in cottage industries other than the making of babies, that the population rate simply went down without divisive control.
                                   Church as 'soft target'

President Noynoy was quoted as opining that he’s for responsible parenthood,  and therefore is pushing the RH bill even at the risk of being excommunicated. But as a pundit noted, P-Noy didn’t mind making that statement on excommunication because the Church is a “soft target” and he’s aware that it won’t move in that direction. Whereas, on the issue of the Marcos burial in Libingan, he continues to remain quiet. The reason, opines this pundit, is the Marcoses have recovered their clout and he’s afraid to go against them, especially now that he needs Bongbong’s vote in the Senate impeachment of Merci. It’s obvious.
The debate continues over the proposal to bury Marcos in Libingan. I’ve heard a  prominent and insightful ex-politician from the North argue that he doesn’t mind the dictator’s burial in Libingan, “but just strike out the word 'Bayani' as FM was farthest from being a Bayani.” I agree---if Marcos does end up in Libingan, let’s drop the Bayani and just call it “Libingan ng Bayan.” Except that in that case, what’s to distinguish it from the North Cemetery or the various memorial parks?
The solution to to avoiding another seismic split of the people is if the Marcoses were to be satisfied with burial of FM in Batac or Paoay amid all the pomp and splendor. Why not indeed?

                      Reactions to Gilbert Teodoro's rumored Senate run

The reaction to my recent query here, which was in turn premised on Buddy Cunanan’s Manila Times recent column, on whether Lakas presidential candidate  Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, should run for the Senate in the 2013 mid-term elections was not surprising---there was total agreement among his followers among the “Gibonians” or the “Green Team,” as they call themselves.  Let me reprint three separate reactions:

One reaction:

“The response to your query has been all positive----now, if only we can convince Gibo Teodoro to run for national office again. We need men and women of vision, action, competence and character in governance. But we should caution him not to rely too much on inexperienced volunteers who do not know the first thing about running a campaign and are de campanilla campaigners.
“Secondly, he should also not rely on traditional politicians who betrayed him at the last minute---he knows who they are…
“Thirdly, he should run a tight ship and trust only very few proven men and women of integrity with the money, as there were many in the last campaign who were just out to earn a fast buck. I had the unpleasant experience in dealing with a few, it was so disgusting.
Actually, Lakas did not deliver---that was the bottom line---despite their much-vaunted resources and so-called organization, its leaders were a flop and he trusted them!!!”

Another reaction:
”Actually I’ve always believed that Gibo should have gunned for a Senate seat first, shine in it (as he surely will, given the low caliber of the present nincompoops there), then take a crack at the presidency. He’s the best president we will ever have, but timing is the key! I’m all for it. Count me in.”

Yet another reaction:
“A look at the Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro fan page on Face Book, which has 550,000 members and growing, convincingly shows there is indeed a clamor for him to serve. Despite the fact that he has not said a word about this, his supporters remain loyal. Evidently there will be greater and wider support if and when he does make
a statement. Everyone is just waiting for his word.
“A caveat: He should learn from mistakes of the last election and strengthen and widen his organization by getting experienced and committed people, instead of just trusting the Lakas machinery which obviously did not deliver as he and everyone expected."

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Easter people just as much as a Christmas people

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Happy Easter to all my readers!  Easter is such a joyous occasion that even Mother Nature celebrates it. In our country, with its searing temperatures during the Holy Week, the hope is that the succeeding days after Lent would bring cooler weather. In the temperate countries the change is more dramatic, as Easter Sunday always occurs after the first full moon in spring.  In this new season of the year nature ushers in its renewal in the greening of shrubs and bursting of flowers, after a dark season of long hoary nights and shrubbery laid fallow.  While winter generally depresses a lot of people, they feel good and upbeat in the spring with its cool nippy weather. In fact in New York City, the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue is an iconic event held every year, where the ladies don fancy hats of all sizes and shapes and gay apparel and enjoy one another’s company as they parade down in the springtime. 

Deeper meaning of Easter

But it's in the spiritual sphere is where the deeper meaning of Easter lies. Recently a survey came out here which showed that the Filipino people value Christmas more than Easter---true to the observation that we are more of a “Christmas people than an Easter people.” Proof is that while in the temperate countries families fly from various points just to get together for the Easter break, perhaps more than the Christmas celebration, in the Philippines, our loved ones fly or sail in from different directions to reunite with the family at Christmastime.

Perhaps we appreciate Christmas more than Easter because it’s easier to identify with, especially given the Pinoy’s penchant for children. Christmas is the Christ Child born in the manger, and as I’ve heard argued in the simplicity of the minds of local folk, if Christ had not been born as a human being, there would have been no Christianity.  Easter, however, is more abstract. Our faith tells us that Christ suffered and died on the Cross, but on the third day He rose from the dead; thus, truly, if he did not triumph over death, then He wouldn’t be the God deserving of our worship.

Christ was ushered into the world in a little stable in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph on that midnight the world now celebrates as Christmas, to begin the process of redemption that culminated on His paying the ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. But as was noted by civic leader and intense Pro-Life advocate Ma. Luisa Fatima Nebrida-Ballesty on our dzRH Easter Sunday show, it was His glorious Resurrection on that first Easter that firmly established His Divinity.

The story of Easter as told by Matthew

The New Testament relates in St. Matthew, 28: 1-10, that late into the night of the Sabbath going into the third morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the sepulcher owned by Joseph of Arimathea, where the Master was laid to rest after his crucifixion.  After a great earthquake an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and drawing near, he rolled back the stone of the sepulcher and sat upon it. The angel, whose “countenance was like lightning, and his raiment like snow,” told the women after the terrified guards had fled, that Jesus whom they sought “has risen even as he said.” The angel took them to see the now-empty tomb and bade them to “go quickly, tell his disciples that he has risen; and behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see him.”  

And as the two women departed quickly from the tomb “in fear and great joy,” lo and behold! Jesus met them, saying “Hail” and “they came up and embraced his feet and worshipped him.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go, take word to my brethren that they are to set out for Galilee; there they shall see me.” Days later He appeared to two disciplines on their way to Emmaus and later to the Apostles assembled in Galilee.

This is the significance of Easter Sunday which the whole Christendom celebrates today---it’s the remembrance of His conquest of death and sin that firmly established His divinity.

Experience of a Lifetime

One of my most treasured experiences in life was my entire family’s trip to the Holy Land in Holy Year 2000, where we retraced with several dozen other pilgrims, organized by Arlina Onglao of “Journeys of Faith” the footsteps of Our Lord from the Annuciation of Mary’s motherhood, to Christ’s birth and ministry, and His bitter passion and death on the Cross.  For me our trip’s climax was the visit to the gigantic Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, wherein is housed under one roof the mount of Calvary where he was nailed on the Cross, the tomb where He was interred and nearby the tomb of the rich faithful disciple Joseph of Arimathea

We climbed up a wooden platform on Calvary where Church authorities have reconstructed three huge crosses with life-size statues of  Christ and the two thieves. Interestingly, as we meditated on the Calvary scene, a Franciscan priest beckoned to me to follow him to a room at the rear where he  showed me the deep hole which had once held one end of the True Cross;  my mind raced at the thought that Christ’s precious blood had poured into that hole.  

As we filed past the Holy Sepulchre and the long granite slab where Christ’s sacred body was lain after it was taken down from the Cross, the details of the Passion and Crucifixion became so vivid and the solemnity of these religious monuments engulfed us all.  I sat by the granite slab for so long, just imagining how He lay there. Afterwards, we were allowed to walk around the cavernous church and I imagined how Christ met the two Marys that early dawn of Easter, after their terrified encounter with the angel who first delivered to them the message that Christ had risen.

Indeed I would recommend a visit to the Holy Land for anyone---it’s guaranteed to be your experience of a lifetime.

John Paul’s intercession

My good friend Mely Parungao of Ayala Alabang recently told me that these days many of her friends are recounting their experiences with Pope John Paul II, who, it seems, has been showering his devotees with intercession graces these days, in the run-up to his beatification in Rome on May 1. I do not doubt the shower of graces through JPII’s mediation, for just as Catholics believe that God sees to it that the hands of a newly-ordained priest are a source of many blessings, JPII’s coming big event should be far richer in intercessions. For those who would want to take advantage of special graces through his intercession, allow me to reprint here the official prayer for private devotion to Blessed John Paul II:

“O Blessed Trinity, we thank you for having graced the Church with Pope John Paul II, and for allowing the tenderness of your Fatherly care, the glory of the Cross of Christ, and the splendor of the Spirit of Love, to shine through him. Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of communion with You. Grant us, by his intercession, and according to your will, the graces we implore, hoping that he would soon be numbered among your saints. Amen”

Kanapi family draws consolation from Easter

By the way, my good friend from our Camp Aguinaldo days, Erlinda Lopez-Kanapi and her children laid to rest this Easter morning the cremated remains of her husband, Brig. Gen. Angel G. Kanapi (ret.), former PMA Superintendent and later Chief of Toyota Philippines, who died after a painful bout with cancer.  It’s doubly painful for Linda as they have been married for 52 long happy years; she asked her widowed friends how they cope with such passing of a loved partner.  I can only think of how her burying him today brought the message of Christ’s Resurrection into sharper focus and a deep consolation for bereaved families: how for us Christians the immortal souls of our loved ones pass on to a new life of hope with the Heavenly Father. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lenten thoughts

The Lenten Season is a time when the Christian world grinds to a halt and confronts the recurring theme of the redemption of mankind through the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ this Holy Week, and His glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday.  The story of the Passion and Resurrection impacts on us individually, as we reflect on our human sinfulness, but also on our faith in the boundless mercy of God’s redeeming love.  

In a very real way, the story of the Passion and Death of Christ and His glorious resurrection may be said to be reflected as well in the story of our people and nation, as we agonize through our various problems---in the everlasting hope that we would eventually triumph over them and see our country claim its rightful place among the developed nations.  

Gibo to run for the Senate?

Buddy Cunanan recently wrote in his Manila Times column that a “welcome news” is that former Lakas presidential candidate Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro may be seriously planning a run for the Senate in 2013. He said he heard of this rumor in a recent gathering of Gibo supporters. I agree that if true, Gibo’s planned Senate run would indeed be welcome news, for he will certainly enhance the caliber of the Senate---which is now in the doldrums due to the excess of noise over competence, form over substance.

Hordes of ‘Gibonians’ refuse to disband

Buddy also said that two things are going for Gibo. One, that as the ratings of President Noynoy Aquino are on a downward spiral (due to the vacuum in leadership), Gibo is beginning to be missed more and more as the guy who should have won the presidency in May 2010. Moreover, he said, what’s truly amazing is that despite the nearly one year since Gibo ended up a poor 4th in the presidential race, his hordes of supporters of college age and young professionals have refused to disband.
The latter observation is very true---the “Gibonians,” or “greenies,” as they call themselves, are as intact today as they were during the 2010 campaign, and it seems they have adopted various  advocacies just to stay together, such as protecting the environment and following the “hocus-PCOS” issue in various electoral protests. It is a phenomenon indeed, considering that their idol has not been heard from, and I doubt if he is truly in contact with them. Definitely these followers are not mercenaries out to milk what they can of their candidate.

Gibo still generates electricity in rare public appearance

To quote Buddy, Gilbert Teodoro has completely hibernated in the past year, perhaps still licking his political wounds. But another phenomenal thing in addition to his band of supporters staying intact, is Gibo’s continuing crowd appeal. I saw this for myself last January when Gibo walked into the Heritage funeral home on the last evening of the four-day wake for my late husband.  Of the myriad political personalities who showed up during the wake, it was he who attracted the most attention.
 Suddenly there was electricity in the huge hall as people---generals’ wives, middle-aged matrons, fathers of swooning teenagers and balikbayans---sauntered up to him and asked him to pose for photos with them.  Gibo was hesitant to engage the swooning crowd, telling me, “Ma’am, nakakahiya naman ki Sir,” pointing to my husband’s coffin.  I told him it was the people who were pulling him.  After a few minutes he  chose to disappear quietly out of embarrassment.

If not president, why not a great senator?

I quite agree that Gibo, a bar topnotcher, Dean’s awardee for academic excellence at the UP and a Harvard master’s degree graduate, should make a run for the Senate and concentrate on being a good, productive senator.  The presidency is a matter of destiny, and if it’s not in his stars to be president, he could still leave his mark as a good and even a great senator.  How many Filipinos ended up being just that---great senators. We can easily recall Jovito Salonga, Lorenzo Tanada, Claro M. Recto, Jose W. Diokno, Emmanuel Pelaez and many others---brilliant minds (some of them No. 1 in the bar exams too, like Gibo) who never made it to President, but whose names are seared into the annals of our history forever as great parliamentarians. 

 At this moment of our history, when there’s such a paucity of brains and vision in public service, we need all hands on deck. Gibo, who captivated intelligent voters during the campaign with his keen and deep grasp of the problems of the nation, should answer the summons to serve in the Senate.

Villar and Gordon would have been competent presidents

Actually, Noynoy Aquino was the least prepared of the presidential candidates in the last elections. Aside from Gibo Teodoro, who successfully ran the Department of National Defense that oversees the government's largest bureau, the Arned Forces, for nearly three years, Manny Villar and Richard Gordon would also have made competent presidents

Manny Villar has had vast experience as an entrepreneur and self-made real estate magnate, and his long congressional stint has been enhanced by his management skills in terms of the laws he had filed. Villar told me at an informal gathering some months back that despite his having financed an expensive presidential campaign, public offerings of his companies these days command better prices  than ever before, so that his business empire is in a healthy state once again. Queried why, he said with a grin that investors obviously believe he will have more time to run them now. A question of confidence, he said (the very element missing from the current administration---BOC).

On the other hand, Dick Gordon ran the town of Olongapo as its mayor pretty systematically and efficiently, and cleaned it up of its honky-tonk image to be a model in local government. He also successfully managed Subic Freeport in its most difficult adjustment period in the post-American era, climaxed by the landmark APEC Summit there in 1996.  Over the many years Gordon has also chaired the Philippine Red Cross. As senator he was effective and projected well. Dick would have made a decisive president for this country.

Noynoy targets OMG at commencement speeches

By contrast, Noynoy Aquino lived a charmed life characterized mainly by love of target-shooting and cars, and his three terms in the House and three years in the Senate were unremarkable, with his voice hardly heard on vital issues. Noynoy had never managed anything in his life, not even his own household, and suddenly, by dint of destiny and incredible image-building, he found himself the top manager for the nation. 

The struggle shows.  Now that he’s president, the most passionate idea he put forth as guest speaker in the commencement exercises of the two most significant educational institutions in this country, the UP and the Ateneo, was to rally the graduates to support his anti-Merci campaign. Oh yes, he also offered to teach government prosecutors how to handle a gun to protect themselves.  Unfortunately these gimmicks are not the elements of leadership needed for our times. No wonder everyone these days is jumping on the theme of the vacuum in leadership.

Disgruntled cab drivers

The nation is going through a most difficult era, when prices of basic commodities are going up and jobs are painfully needed but woefully inadequate. But there’s nothing in the horizon to give the people confidence that the government knows what it’s doing to help them cope with high prices and the lack of jobs. And as the Political and Economic Risk Consultants (PERC)'s recent survey showed, foreign investors would rather go to Burma and Cambodia than to the Philippines. Why? 

The indices of discontent are anecdotal, but that’s how they register. Sports columnist Recah Trinidad today wrote about having ridden in recently days in four taxis, and all the cabbies invariably grumbled about the situation today.  One day, while caught in traffic, I saw an able-bodied young man weaving through the stopped vehicles, peddling three small bottles of cold water in the stifling summer heat. It wrenched my heart as I thought of the pittance that that young man may be making from those three small bottles of water (doubtless consigned to him), whereas in another setting abroad he would likely have acquired the needed skills training and would be working in a factory, and earning so much more

P-Noy could help usher in the resurrection of our beloved land, but he has to do much more than what he's accustomed to do in his ersthwhile charmed life. The presidency is only for the tough of heart, mind and character.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

P-Noy has little room for maneuver on ‘Libingan’ issue

Definitely an issue that threatens to wrench the nation in coming weeks, much more than the Senate trial of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, is the move by pro-Marcos elements to have the late President Ferdinand Marcos accorded a hero’s burial at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, which was established as the "Rizal Memorial Cemetery" by presidential edict in 1947. Various groups are coming out against this move being pushed by some 200 or so members of the House of Representatives.
President Aquino has to come out openly on where he stands on this issue, as otherwise he will disillusion---as he already is with his pregnant silence---his horde of followers whose loyalty to his family dates back to EDSA and what the Aquino legacy stands for. At this point P-Noy may truly be searching for the “politically correct” position on the proposed Marcos burial in Libingan, particularly since the Marcoses have staged an incredible comeback and appear to be targetting the re-capture of Malacanang in 2016. But I’m afraid P-Noy has little room for maneuver here. He has to tell the Filipino people where he stands.

Noynoy the child of Edsa
The fact is that his illustrious parents found their niche in history because of their courageous stand against Marcos, with Ninoy paying the ultimate price. Noynoy himself is the child of Edsa, and he won the presidency not on any other merit but that. P-Noy has to join the big number of Filipinos who are resolutely against a Marcos burial in the nation's most hallowed ground, as allowing it is to make a mockery of Edsa and all that it has stood for in this country and in the world for the past 25 years.

By the way, I have it on good authority that his sister, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, is against a Marcos burial in Libingan, but she has kept this sentiment close to her chest so far. Hope she speaks out.

Continuing indignation
Recall that a few weeks back the purported illegitimate child of President Marcos in Australia with a former model was removed from her job in Sydney when the producers of her show learned about her alleged paternity. It’s indication of the continuing indignation some sectors of the world still feel about the former strongman who was driven out of Malacanang in 1986 by people power and who died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. Contrast the Aussies' reaction to how some of our countrymen, led by the 200 infamous representatives, have developed what Cecile Alvarez likes to call Alzheimer's disease on Marcos. 

Recall too, how Marcos’ so-called war exploits were torn to shreds first by former Rep. Bonifacio Gillego and later by foreign authors, led by Alfred McCoy, in a series of damaging articles published by the New York Times.
The Marcos era has been judged by history of human rights violations,  crony capitalism, corruption, destroying democratic institutions and other misdeed against the Filipino people. If Marcos, deemed a fake hero, is accorded a hero’s burial in the nation’s cemetery of heroes, martyrs and prominent leaders, we Filipinos would become the laughing stock of the world. It's something we cannot recover from easily.
Binay's office---E for efficiency 
News reports say President Noynoy has delegated to Vice President Jejomar Binay the resolution of this issue;  I hope the delegation is just for VP Binay to study the matter and get a sense of how the people and various groups and institutions feel about it. 

Text messages going around from Binay’s office to people’s cell phones, however, (how does his office manage to get everyone’s cell numbers? One has to hand it to the VP’s office for efficiency---how his people have such access not only to the air lanes but the internet as well! Shades of Big Brother, as some observers have put it) are asking citizens to text back their stand on this issue, purportedly before he “resolves” it.
But the resolution of the Marcos burial in Libingan cannot be left in the hands of the VP (who is likely to exploit it to his political advantage in his drive toward Malacanang, with the help of P-Noy officials who want to ensure their place in a Binay presidency) nor even of P-Noy. The Marcos burial is a highly symbolic but most crucial national issue that has to involve the entire Filipino people; each and every Filipino has to come out and express his sentiments on it---most especially our President. The world will watch how we resolve it. 
Irreconcilable parting of ways among SocDems?
News from the political grapevine is that in the world of the “Social Democrats” (Socdems) there may be an irreconcilable parting of the ways between the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP), led by chair Norberto Gonzalez and Fr. Archie Intengan, chief of the education committee, and the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) led by Chair Beth Angsiongco. Apparently the trigger factor in this “final” split is the issue of "Reproductive Health" or RH bills being discussed in Congress, including consolidated House Bill 4244.

Differences on various issues, especially on RH 
It is interesting to note that in earlier times the DSWP constituted the women’s group of PDSP, but two groups began drifting away from each other in 2009, when DSWP decided to withdraw and form itself into a party---a move that PDSP accepted.
One of the reasons for this withdrawal by DSWP from the PDSP and the latter’s acceptance of that move was precisely the support of the DSWP for the previous versions of the RH bills, first introduced in the 13th Congress. But now that lines are drawn more firmly on this controversial issue, the parting between the two Socdem groups has become irreconcilable. There were other differences, such as the fact that in the last elections, the DSWP reportedly went all out for candidate Noynoy Aquino, while most PDSP members supported Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro. But the most serious difference centered on the RH issue.
It’s also significant to stress that majority of the female members of the PDSP were not in DSWP and have remained with PDSP to date.
PDSP: let's understand various nuances of RH issue
From what I gather, the PDSP is opposed to the RH bills especially in various aspects, whereas the DSWP has been strongly supportive of these bills, and vehement in criticizing those who oppose or have reservations about themI can see where the irreconcilable parting would come in.  
From all indications, PDSP is committed to women's and children's health and to gender equality and justice, and in fact it sides with the citizenry in deciding freely on the basis of correct and adequate information.  PDSP is also convinced of the need to understand the demographic situation and prospects of our nation, with its nuances in terms of socio-economic class, and also the need to address this demographic situation and prospects in manner both ethical and effective and in conformity with the law, especially the Constitution.

No to birth regulation means that are abortifacient 

Given this background, it’s easy to see that PDSP cannot support the RH bills because, according to its thinking, even in their present amended and attenuated versions, these bills still leave room for the use of means of birth regulation that are abortifacient at least some of the time.  These means include intrauterine devices, low-dose progestins, and "emergency contraceptives" widely referred to as "morning-after pills."  

This posture is founded on its belief that scientific data and the correct philosophical interpretation thereof would indicate that human life begins at fertilization, and that any attribution of personhood and proportionate attribution of personal rights to the product of conception beyond contraception is arbitrary and indefensible.
Not sufficiently protective of freedom of conscience

Moreover, to many people, including the PDSP membership, the present versions of the RH bill remain problematic in terms of freedom of conscience, because it requires the use of the same curriculum for sexuality education in both public and private basic education schools or units, in which the use of contraceptives such as condoms will be proposed, and probably even the abortifacients mentioned above. PDSP notes that the only way to avoid having one's child taught such modules, under the proposed bill is to apply for individual exemption, which it says it cannot support. 

Whether they agree with the teaching of the Catholic Christian Church (and other like-minded religious groups who joined the 25 March rally at the Luneta) on contraceptives, PDSP members I’ve spoken to have stressed that requiring Catholic Christian and other dissenting schools to teach such a curriculum and only allowing individual rather than corporate exemption is violative of freedom of conscience, or at least it’s not sufficiently protective of freedom of conscience.

I agree with the PDSP stand on the various aspects of the RH controversy, most especially on the aspect of the violation of the freedom of conscience.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Had the SC not lowered passing grade, only 11 percent would have made it

Of the 5,000 who took the recent bar exams, only 19 percent passed. But do you know that had the regular passing grade of 75 percent not been lowered by the Supreme Court to 72 percent, only 11 percent of them would have passed?  Of course the excuse of those who failed is that the exams this time were perhaps among the toughest in recent history, but nonetheless we pity the 81 percent  who failed and commiserate with the immense sacrifices their families, especially the economically hard-up, have put up to enable them to study law and graduate.

Something’s definitely wrong with our legal education if only such a tiny percentage passes. It’s time to examine the system.

Japan on my mind

Japan is very much on everyone’s mind these days, especially after the alert level over the nuclear fallout has been pushed to the highest today by the authorities there.  I am, however, more concerned than perhaps most people because I have family there---my son-in-law, who’s with an asset investment firm, remains in Tokyo---a true corporate warrior--- and no day passes that I don’t pray for his safety and welfare.

Japanese repair destroyed street in quake area in six days

The tragedies that the Japanese have endured in recent weeks, their worst  since World War II, have only managed to win admiration from the rest of the world for the way they are bearing up. For instance, columnist Ciel Habito lamented how there’s so much pushing and shoving that his daughter undergoes in our LRT trains daily even in the women’s section. One can’t help but contrast this with reports about how the Japanese filed out of the crowded trains in orderly fashion after the magnitude-9 earthquake hit more than a month ago.  Even in supermarkets with their dwindling supplies the Japanese line up.

Then too, commuters who had to endure many months of road construction in the very short Lawton Avenue in Taguig City, in front of McKinley Hill, cannot help but marvel at how the Japanese in quake-stricken Sendai in the northeast were able to repair within six days a road left with a huge yawning gap by the killer quake!

Tokyo Gov wants to compete for 2020 Olympics!

On the other hand, newspapers quoted the “nationalistic” governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, who was reelected last Sunday, as saying his city would bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics as part of efforts to boost recovery.  Ishihara said Tokyo, which lost out to Rio de Janeiro in the race to host the 2016 Olympics, “can start ‘raising’ our hand now” for the 2016 Games. Recall that only this morning Tokyo was again rocked by powerful aftershocks, and Japan has enlarged the perimeter of evacuation in the north due to heightened alert from the nuclear fallout.  Yet the governor is raising his hand to compete for the 2020 Olympics!

Was this just a politician’s typical braggadocio? Perhaps, but then again, perhaps it’s not. Rather, it is the determination of this admirable people to never say die; to pull themselves from their bootstraps with stoicism and quiet dignity.  We see this over and over again in these times of crises for Japan.

Bushido Code as society’s glue

In our dzRH program two weeks ago, Cecile Alvarez and I discussed with clinical psychologist Dr. Francis Sta. Maria, who obtained his Ph.D from the University of London, just what makes the Japanese behave the way they do (and why we Filipinos are a far cry from them even in times of non-crisis).  He said the Japanese's behavior did not develop overnight, but has been inculcated into their society as a code of conduct in the “Bushido Code,” also known as the “Way of the Warrior. This code has been adhered to by the samurai class since the feudal times, Sta. Maria stressed, but over centuries this has also been “the glue to their society.”

Included in the Bushido Code, which has been influenced by the teachings of Zen Buddhism and Confucianism, are the seven virtues: namely, rectitude, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor and loyalty, while “associate virtues” are filial piety, wisdom and care for the aged. All these virtues demonstrate a concern for others, whereas, by contrast, said Sta. Maria, we Filipinos tend to think only of ourselves and our families.

Missing element

In the course of looking at Japanese behavior in crisis, I did some research of my own, and noted from a resource document that while the Bushido Code disseminated moral virtues and the moral edification of Japanese society, the Japanese, however, would perhaps be the first to admit that its enduring influence into the modern Japanese period has at times led to extremes, such as the suicide ritual (seppuku) and loyalty even to despotic rulers.  In fact, noted another paper, modern Japanese Christian writers, searching for a link between Christianity and the warrior’s code have stressed that lacking the “moderating qualities” of Christianity such as the “ethic of forgiveness and compassion toward one’s enemy,”  Bushido may, in fact, have led Japan to militarism and its abhorrent treatment of prisoners of war during World War II.

This is an interesting sidelight which some Japanese would probably dispute, but for the moment, the virtues drummed up by the Bushido Code in their psyche over time appears to be effectively working as the “glue” to the society, holding it together at a time of untold sufferings, to the admiration of the world.
We Pinoys saw our nation "glued together" for a a fleeting moment in our history by EDSA 1, but we all realized soon enough that it would take much more to forge nationhood. Recent efforts by some politicians to have Ferdinand Marcos resurrected as a "hero" threaten to drive an even deeper wedge among us again. We should stop this nonsense.

 The drug situation local and international

Last Sunday night  Cecile and I had another interesting dialogue over dzRH, this time program with the former chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), retired General Dionisio Santiago (a PMA class ’70 graduate,  a former Chief of Staff in the Arroyo administration and former executive director of the Dangerous Drugs Board), who talked about the drug situation in our country and abroad, especially in the light of the recent execution of three Filipino “drug mules” in China.  The information tidbits he offered were simply eye-popping, as he acknowledged that in his 45 years in government service, “sa PDEA ako nangayayat at nakalbo.”

 For instance, Santiago revealed that over 700 Filipinos are imprisoned  around the world because of drug-trafficking, although there are also nationals from other neighboring countries, including Japan.  To show that China is dead-serious (no pun intended) about licking this problem, he said it has executed over 20,000 of its own citizens for drug involvement.  Santiago also stressed that in the battle against drug-trafficking in the region, there is cooperation between China, RP, Thailand and Malaysia, although the latter two are considered the “melting pot.”  Cocaine is shipped worldwide from West Africa but as if to throw off international authorities, it is often made to pass through Schipol Airport in Amsterdam despite strict controls, before it ends up in big Asian cities. 
Swallowing drug packet the size of a carrot slice in chopseuy

We queried how the syndicates that prey on Filipinos operate.  Santiago opined that people are enticed from the provinces by syndicate members who sometimes pretend to be bible-toting missionaries or suitors of our women.  He noted that Filipinas are preferred as drug carriers because of their communication skills (including IT) and innate charm, and while some are indeed innocent of the crime as they are just victims of the “padala-padala system” that’s so innately Pinoy, most are more than willing to engage in drug-trafficking for the money of it.  How do they carry the drugs?  In various ways, including swallowing them in packets as slim as carrot slices in the chopseuy, said Santiago, who added that these practices are carefully rehearsed.

He stressed that the job of apprehension is made difficult by a number of factors, not the least of them the interference of some politicians, including some “super-big” ones as well as of police agents themselves (“why is it that lots of apprehensions are near police stations?”).  Santiago noted that drug trafficking surges when there’s a crackdown on gambling and vice-versa, and he called on local authorities as well as institutions such as the Church, the families and schools to be on the constant watch, as exclusive schools and even call centers have become targets of infiltration by drug rings. If we can maintain vigilance, he said, then our three kababayans who were executed in China would not have died in vain.  I agree---we cannot be too careful.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

TV networks share blame for degrading shows

The Palace insists no pressure was applied on Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Mark Jalandoni to resign over numerous complaints filed against him in the Office of the President. Interestingly, those complaints, which Jalandoni insists have no basis, were filed just soon after Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez was fired by the President for alleged wrong-doings. Gonzalez, unlike Jalandoni, refuses to accept the dismissal order and will fight it in court, but it’s easy to see that all support is being cut off systematically by the Palace from embattled Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who will face a Senate trial next month. The Palace is indulging in over-kill and obviously wants to divert national attention to her trial, away from the many problems it’s facing---but it’s making such an underdog of Merci that it's already turning off some senators.

Violence continues

Last week I wrote about how a friend was accosted by a burglar in her home in a respectable subdivision in Quezon City who broke the bones of her face so badly she has to undergo surgery for them. Reports of violence continue that the government ---and P-Noy---cannot ignore.

For instance, a doctor-friend whose clinic I visited recently mourned the murders of two people close to his family: a lawyer who was shot dead by a helmeted and masked man aboard a motorcycle, while he was filling up at the Shell station in Katipunan; and a 21-year old scion of a prominent family who was also shot dead by a burglar in the family home in Laguna, while the rest of the family was vacationing abroad.

My doctor-friend, still quite shaken by these episodes, raised this query in this Lenten season, reminiscent of another era: “What’s happening to our country?” Law-enforcement authorities, please do your job.

Soul-searching for Willie

Showman Willie Revillame is suspending his popular “Willing Willie” show over TV-5 for two weeks and has even hinted that he may pull it out altogether,  owing to the huge controversy he stirred when he encouraged the sexy dance of a six-year old boy for the money of it, even as the latter was crying probably from shame. A number of sponsors have pulled out or suspended their ads while public regulatory agencies have weighed in on the episode. Initially Revillame was quoted as defiantly saying he could sustain the show even without the sponsors, but now he seems to have become more penitent and humble. 

Which is as it should be, for this is a perfect time for Revillame to do some intense soul-searching as he comes to the second big black-eye episode in his career, after the stampede in Pasig years ago that killed a lot of people.

List of network 'abuses'

But as actress Monique Wilson wrote in her blog recently, the debate over Revillame’s show is no longer whether it was child abuse or not.” The question is, she continues, “how we as Filipinos, as artists involved in the same industry that created Willy and shows like his, could have allowed this to go on for as long as it has,” and “what is our individual and collective participation in it?” Then she correctly zeroes in on other TV networks (“But wasn’t Channel 2 guilty of the very same thing?”) who are equally “propelled by greed---ratings, money?” Monique went on to narrate the “sins” of the local TV industry: “…news reports that are horrifyingly biased and sensationalist...noon-time variety shows that exploit women and insult our intelligence…talk shows that are intrusive, subjective and tasteless…”

As she put it, “the list goes on and on” but the bad thing is that apart from these “sins,” these programs draw what she terms “demarcation lines” between the social classes: the A and B classes who seem to be entitled to some measure of decency and good taste, and classes C, D and E, who are constantly harangued with extremely bad and vulgar shows.

Is ABS-CBN getting even with Willie?

I agree perfectly with Monique Wilson that the holier-than-thou attitude of Channel 2, which has had a long-running feud with Revillame over his contract with that channel and which now seems bent on exploiting his current plight as long-delayed revenge, won’t do. For the leading channel has little to boast of either, especially in its mass-oriented shows. In fact, Victor Agustin’s “Cocktales” column in Manila Standard recently spoke about TV-5’s claim that it has dug up ABS-CBN’s programs showing Korina Sanchez clapping heartily as very young boys sexily gyrate in macho dances.

Some TV programs devoid of taste

So, do these revelations make the TV networks about even in pushing tasteless and vulgar and even de-humanizing shows? In earlier columns in the Inquirer, before Channel 5 was set up, I had decried the low caliber of noontime shows of ABS-CBN and its staunch rival GMA Network, as they paraded near-naked women and displayed  gimmicks devoid of taste at times. For instance, once I was appalled to see at a Channel 2 noontime show two male hosts egging a teenage girl to continue stuffing her mouth with food until she looked so much like a pig. After some time, all on nationwide TV, she was reduced to tears as she fought hard the urge to throw out the contents of her mouth, presumably in order to win some much-needed money. Ultimately the poor girl did splatter them all out on nationwide TV, as tears and mucus ran down her face; but the terrible thing was that the hosts just continued laughing and the masa audience seemed to enjoy the spectacle too!

Giant networks should help bridge sociological divide 

In my columns, I noted that the giant networks periodically release data on the billions they earn, in an effort to beat their rivals and please their stockholders. But the question decent Filipinos can and should ask is, can’t they start thinking for a change of the people’s welfare? Can’t they raise the level of culture and refinement of the masa, so that the great sociological divide between rich and poor can be bridged somewhat?

Cecile and I have kept faith in mass media

In this regard, I am proud to say that the Sunday 8 pm. 45-minute radio program that Cecile Alvarez and I have been running over the powerful dzRH has kept faith with our firm belief that mass media can be an effective tool for education, edification and inspiration. We have been running our program as a regular paaralang bayan for years now (in Pilipino too, as much as we can help it, and in her mastery of this language Cecile is simply awesome), and our audience can be sure that after 45 minutes with us, they would learn something about the burning issues of the day. We have never underestimated the capacity and the yearning of the masa, who probably constitute the greater bulk of our audience, to understand and learn.

Tonight at 8, for instance, you’ll hear the former chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Gen. Dionisio Santiago (ret.) talk about the drug problem from the local and international standpoint, the pathetic plight of the “drug mules” and the problems encountered by efforts to control the drug-trafficking, and how parents, schools, the Church and other institutions can help save our children from this horrible menace.

Encounter with Shalani

Speaking of Willy’s show, some months ago, I happened to be in the same flight with his show partner Shalani Soledad from Guangzhou to Manila and I went up to speak to her while waiting for our baggage. She’s actually lovelier in person, sans make-up and very simply attired in sweater and jeans, than on TV. I told her that in the times I’ve watched “Willing Willie,” I felt uncomfortable about the way they make the people, including a lot of elder folk, swing and dance to fast music non-stop for long periods. I told Shalani that it’s not remote that one or two of those could be stricken with a heart attack and the show would get into trouble. She appreciated my input and said she would tell the producers.