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, October 30, 2011

At height of Moro conflict in the ‘70s, Marcos sent over 40 battalions in Jolo, to no avail; P-Noy should change the officials in charge of peace process

Twelve days after MILF elements brutally slew 19 members of the AFP Special Forces in a nine-hour gun battle in Basilan, the nation is still caught in raging debate on whether government should wage all-out war against the MILF or respect the “cease-fire” and continue the peace process. President Aquino has stoutly maintained that the official policy is not “all-out war” but “all-out justice,” as he cautioned government troops to uphold the peace process even as they captured a major MILF stronghold in Zamboanga Sibugay.   
Just how government will maintain this “all-out justice” remains unclear as it’s seems to be a notion just cooked up in a recent Cabinet meeting. Because the Mindanao strategy is still “work in progress” for the Commander-in-Chief, the AFP’s moves have been quite ad hoc (will Al-Barka be the last “area of temporary stay, or ATS?” Peks man?). 

But “work in progress” being firmed up is better than all-out war which is SHEER NONSENSE and would not bring any good to Mindanao. Recall that in the heyday of Ferdinand Marcos’ all-out war against the predecessors of the present-day Moro warriors, he brought over 40 battalions to Jolo. Nagbabanggaan na ang mga tropa doon sa dami nila, but the government neither decimated the secessionists nor brought peace to Moro land.   
The main problem with all-out war is that rebel warriors intermingle with the population the way NPAs do in the rural areas, and one cannot fully determine where their support comes from;  it’s not hard to guess that there’s a lot of that, as the warriors are their relatives.  Moreover, it’s obvious that the MILF is not homogenous and there are too many rogue elements the MILF leadership has been unable to control from the beginning.

Rather than all-out war which government cannot sustain (it could mean decimating entire populations or ultimately dismembering the republic), the road to REAL PEACE is through negotiation, but its efforts have to continue on dual fronts.  Government has to attack and counter-attack on the war front against rogue elements, but from a position of strength, employing all the time-honored tactics of warfare, especially intelligence building.
 Side by side, it has to patiently summon the MILF leadership to the negotiating table with the help of local officials who have everything to gain from total peace in Mindanao, and international mediators. By sticking to the negotiating table even while warring on rogue elements, government could perhaps shame the MILF leadership to hunt down and surrender its comrades who continuously spurn peace.


Teresita Deles

But continuing negotiations amid the mind-boggling complexity of interwoven issues in this troubled region calls for competent and seasoned representatives of government.  The appointment of Teresita Deles as Presidential Peace Process Adviser was unwise in GMA’s time as it is in P-Noy’s regime, for it is a fact that in the macho Muslim culture women are generally classified as second class. Deles has little stature to speak of and in fact, in the recent hearings in Congress on the P1.8 trillion national budget, media report said she was unable to explain how the P329 million OPAPP budget would be spent for 2012, despite its increase of more than 141.5 percent for next year! Deles also failed to provide guidelines on the government’s “Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan” program which allots P350,000 to each of about 940 conflict-affected communities. Neither does chief government negotiator Marvin Leonen have any stature outside the UP College of Law which he heads.
I realize that P-Noy disdains anyone even remotely tainted with association with GMA, but someone with the experience and stature of, say, former Executive Secretary and Brig. Gen. Eduardo Ermita, whose exposure to the Mindanao peace process antedates even the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, would be far more suitable as presidential peace adviser.  Ermita would disown me as a friend if I even remotely suggest him (he relishes his daily golf in his retirement), but someone with long experience and familiarity with the Muslim mind would be better respected by the other side.


It’s good to remember that PEACE has been won in far bloodier fields on this planet. Earlier I cited former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent essay where he wrote about the recent startling declaration by the Basque separatist ETA that it’s abandoning all violence for good in Spain and suing for peace with the government---breathlessly termed by Blair as “really the end of the last armed confrontation in Europe.”  He also cited the peace that has held up in Northern Ireland for years now, after peace discussions with Britain which he led at the time.
I have been reading up on the Northern Ireland conflict over the years and I remember someone commenting how the two protagonists drawn along religious lines (the mainly Catholic IRA rebels and Protestant opponents backed by British forces), after decades of violence and countless dead and mutilated bodies, finally reached the point of utter exhaustion---so that they both genuinely wanted peace. Sobra na ang kapaguran sa patayan. 
 With international figures descending on Belfast to help push the negotiations, e.g., US President Bill Clinton and Sen. George Mitchell (who recently resigned as President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East), and international media, the peace process was inked on Good Friday, 1998, and despite occasional lapses peace has held up well for over a decade now.  The UK said it would respect the outcome of a future referendum where the people of Northern Ireland would decide where they want to finally be with---Ireland or the UK.

Let’s hope and pray that our country DOESN’T GET to this point of exhaustion and endless piles of dead bodies that include the essence of Filipino manhood, and that both government and the MILF would already genuinely ache for peace and its “dividends” NOW, such as prosperity and a better life for Muslim Mindanao, which remains the poorest in the country. On TV I recently heard a Muslim woman from a relocation site in Zamboanga Sibugay pleading for government to stop the bombardments on the MILF camp, so that the thousands of dislocated families could go back to their homes and pick up their lives again.  
But as I have argued, government must negotiate peace from a position of strength for only this would be respected by the Muslim protagonists.  


Rep. Mandanas
Tonight at 8 pm., catch the dzRH program that Cecile Alvarez and I co-host every Sunday night.  Tonight we’ll discuss with Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas his earnest appeal for the national government to return to the LGUs the huge funds  due them as Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), that the Constitution decrees should be ”automatically released to them” (to quote that much-abused phrase these days).  Mandanas asks LGUs to support his advocacy that the national government recognize in 2012 an increase of approximately P500 billion in the IRA for LGUs---which is actually only “IRA backpay” from 1992-2012.
 I agree with Dodo Mandanas that the return of the IRA, which the national government has been hijacking since 1992, will enable LGUs to fully develop. It would be very much part of the LGUs’ growing-up process if they are entrusted with their own funds, so that they would be able to chart their own destinies---but with their constituents assiduously monitoring how these funds are spent.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Tony Blair: Declaration of cessation of violence by Basque separatists and the successful peace in Northern Ireland hold precious lessons for peace efforts everywhere. Even in seething Mindanao?

In the year and a half that President Aquino has been in office, he has displayed such limitation in his vocabulary, probably because he is more adept in Filipino than in English. Recent indication was the fact that in three particularly outrageous episodes involving rebel groups---the NPA attacks on three mining sites in Surigao del Norte, and the killing of 19 Army soldiers in Basilan by supposedly rogue MILF elements and the attacks on combined police and military elements in Zamboanga Sibugay also by MILF elements (rogue again?)---P-Noy’s repeated  adjective to describe the military’s failure to take preventive action was “disappointing.” This term was the verbal equivalent of a very limp slap on the wrist, when the three episodes merited perhaps the verbal knock-out punch in the jaw from an angry Commander-in-Chief.

Anger is obviously quite justified in these episodes as they demonstrate as much the hypocrisy of the dissident groups in waging war while purporting to talk peace, as the breakdown in time-honored practices in the military and police, including that all-important cornerstone of a successful counter-campaign---intelligence-gathering. As a number of military officials themselves admitted, the recent episodes indicated that intelligence and proper troop deployment had bogged down in Basilan.


San Pedro Cathedral in Davao
As a military wife for 36 years in times more idyllic, I cannot but be nostalgic for the peace and tranquility of Mindanao in my husband’s time as commander there----when the only episodes that broke the tranquility were the kidnapping of American bible translator Charles Walton and the bomb that exploded in San Pedro Cathedral in Davao that hurt no one. Now the big island is wracked by both the MILF and the NPAs on the eve of the resumption of talks with the NPAs in Oslo and after P-Noy dramatically flew to Tokyo two months ago to smoke with the MILF Chieftain.

Ramon Tulfo
In the wake of these recent ambushes against government troops, Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo, who has his own sources within the military, recently wrote that the latter seethes with demoralization. The soldiers want to retaliate and avenge the death of their comrades, but they feel prevented from doing so because of the Palace’s orders to concentrate on the peace talks and not to let the recent episodes upset their prospects. Tulfo reports that the soldiers appear to be angry with the President and that respect for him has eroded.


ETA representatives

I can truly sympathize with the soldiers’ frustrations, but as former British Prime Minister and recent Manila visitor Tony Blair, who has become an apostle of peace around the world since stepping down from office in 2007, pointed out in his recent weekend essay in the International Herald Tribune, peace negotiations can be truly hellish---but by some miracle there could be a heavenly result. He commented on perhaps the only real positive news on the world stage these days---the “unconditional declaration by the Basque separatist group ETA (in Northeastern Spain) that after 50 years of violence, during which it killed hundreds and wounded perhaps thousands more,” it was suing for peace at last.

Blair recalled that after the breakdown of peace negotiations with the Spanish government in the early 2000s, the ETA returned with greater violence and launched the horrendous attacks on the Madrid airport in 2005, which the press termed "Spain's 9/11," and other areas. But he noted that even as then Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero never stopped fighting the ETA, “he also never stopped offering the hand of peace”---insisting that “ETA must unilaterally, publicly and unambiguously declare that it was ending the armed struggle for good if there was to be peace.”



Blair drew a parallelism between the Spanish experience with the Basque separatists and the peace negotiations of the UK, with himself as PM at the forefront, with the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland. The IRA story was an even more prolonged struggle marked by the deadliest violence for decades, but for some years now, mercifully, peace has held up in Belfast.

These parallel lessons from the ETA and the peace in once violence-torn Northern Ireland that Tony Blair drew could also hold vital lessons for our own country and armed forces vis-à-vis our home-grown dissidents. Blair spelled out the elements necessary: “ending violence and making peace irreversible requires patience, taking risks, suffering setbacks and a constant commitment. It also requires creativity, generosity and statesmanship.”

Thus, as our AFP officers and soldiers nurse their bruised egos and seek to avenge the brutal death of their comrades, and sincere local Muslim civil leaders continue to sue for peace among the reasonable elements in the MILF, it’s good to ponder the lessons from the Basque ETA and Northern Ireland, and what Blair terms the “dividends” of peace.


One such dividend is the possibility of re-channeling scarce resources from funding war to financing the fruits of better lives in the deep recesses of Mindanao, where poverty is at its highest incidence. How to convert high-powered weaponry into plowshares. It boggles the mind to think how the tens of billions of pesos that went into coping with the armed rebellion in that region since Marcos' time could have given tens of thousands of Filipinos over the generations the quality of life Allah had meant them to have. Our local officials ought to make it their lifelong mission to help bring real and lasting peace to the big island.

At the moment this dream doesn't seem possible, given the passions running high over the death of scores of military in recent days, and continuing until now. But the lessons of the ETA and Northern Ireland dwell precisely on this impossible dream--- that at the moment when every peace prospect seems lost and the only option seems to be all-out war, folks on both sides can get just truly sick of violence and suddenly yield to peace. As Blair put it, let's not give up on peace, no matter how high the cost. Let's appeal to the better reason of our Muslim brothers.


 The Liberal Party-dominated Senate was quoted as saying that it will “respect” the fiscal autonomy of the Supreme Court and the “constitutional commissions” that are guaranteed automatic appropriation of their budgets in the Constitution, and that these funds would be released soon. This sounds like sudden magnanimity and biblical-type revelation on the part of the LP, but in reality it’s obviously just relenting under the barrage of public criticism over its mindless move to throw the unspent budgets of the SC and the constitutional commissions into the collective fund appropriated by the Palace under the “miscellaneous personnel benefit fund” (MPBF).


The constitutional commissions refer to those specifically established by the Constitution, namely, the Commissions on Audit, Civil Service and the Comelec, as well as the Office of the Ombudsman. The guarantee of automatic release of funds to these constitutional agencies was obviously devised by our Charter framers to safeguard them from undue interference by the Executive Department. But sadly this rule is now honored more in the breach than in the observance.

For instance, the Palace has withheld from the SC alone some P4.97 billion in unspent funds that should go into the hiring of several thousand new judges. But the Palace chose to rub more salt on the SC’s wounds when it stressed that the Court’s unspent funds would be released only as judicial appointments are made.


 The withholding of SC funds, which, as Sen. Joker Arroyo noted, is illegal and had never happened in the past, drew bitter reaction from Chief Justice Renato Corona. In a public statement before an assembly of judges from around the country two weeks ago, Corona lamented the “lack of civility and respect” toward the Court--- in obvious reference to the Palace’s arrogation of the unspent judiciary funds. What's interesting, however, is that under the Constitution the President is the appointing power for members of the judiciary, based on recommendations by the Judicial and Bar Council chaired by the Chief Justice. Thus, when P-Noy and his budget secretary seek to punish the High Court by withholding unspent funds for judges’ salaries, shouldn’t the Palace blame itself for this non-action?

I understand there is such a dearth in court appointments that the judges are all so overloaded with work; the current practice is to merely compensate them with overtime pay, which is unhealthy. Grapevine talk is that P-Noy is hesitant to appoint more judges, lest they be “tainted” by association with the former GMA era. Yet P-Noy did not hesitate to appoint recently to the SC his own close associate in the investigation and security agency that he founded in the early Cory years, with PCGG sequestered companies as its clients.
There’s a wealth of jurisprudence as well as the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 that emphasize the importance of fiscal autonomy as the lynchpin of true independence for the Court and the Constitutional Commissions. I shall mine this wealth of material in my next blog.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

If as alleged by Comelec/DOJ investigating panel, massive cheatings marred the manual 2004 and 2007 elections, it’s not difficult to see that the May 2010 automated elections were easier to cheat

In the last two days, a citizens’ group answering to the name of Tanggulang Demokrasya (or TanDem for short) and professing non-partisanship, held a two-day seminar/workshop for interested parties, that focused on the “clear and unmistakable failures of Smartmatic and Comelec to comply with the safeguards for automated elections prescribed by the Automation Law.” TanDem said it aims to focus on the 2010 national and local elections’ shortcomings in order to avoid their repetition in the 2013 and 2016 elections. It stressed the need inasmuch as the Comelec has merely “noted” its petition to investigate the 2010 elections---preferring instead to rake up allegations of anomalies in the 2004 and 2007 elections in a clear effort to nail down former President Macapagal Arroyo and former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and put them behind bars.
In a democratic setting, investigations into violations of election laws ought to be conducted and guilty parties prosecuted, and there are prescribed processes for such action. But obviously TanDem fears, as many others do, that there has been too much emphasis on investigations into 2004 and 2007 elections, when the 2010 elections---the country’s very first experiment in automated national elections---were too riddled with flaws that are bound to be repeated in the coming automated elections. The citizens’ group now seeks to pressure Comelec into conducting an honest-to-goodness investigation into the 2010 elections and let the political chips fall where they may---if we are to protect the results of the 2013 and 2016 elections.

Actually, the allegations of massive frauds committed in the 2004 and 2007 elections being brought out by the Comelec under new chair Sixto Brillantes can be very useful in investigating the 2010 election frauds.  TanDem’s logic here is that if, as is being alleged by former Maguindanao administrator Norie Unas, there were such massive frauds in those two earlier elections which were conducted, tabulated and canvassed manually, all the more it would be easier to cheat in automated elections, as this involves only the pushing of buttons and transmissions by electronic system.

Moreover, as was stressed in the two-day conference/workshop sponsored by TanDem, the Melo-chaired Comelec decided to disregard safeguards in the Automation Law that would have helped guarantee clean and honest elections. As this blog stressed the other day, these included discarding the UV lamps that would have checked ballot authenticity, and throwing out the digital signatures of  each of the PCOS machines as well as the digital signatures of the chiefs of the board of election inspectors (BEIs) in every precinct across the country. Moreover, the Melo Comelec had consistently refused to make available to Filipino  computer experts the AES source code as provided by Smartmatic, the vendor of the PCOS machines. The source code is the bible of the automated elections.   
 Indeed, as TanDem stalwart Bobby Hilado opines, it had seemed like a total “surrender of control” of the 2010 elections by Comelec to Smartmatic.  Hence the need for the Brillantes-chaired Comelec to truly go deep into the allegations of frauds in 2010;  so far, however, it has given no indication whatsoever as to its intentions, beyond “noting” TanDem’s petition for investigation.


The hearings conducted by the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms in the previous Congress, as chaired by former Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin, brought out so many serious failings of the May 2010 elections, which  he himself had acknowledged in his final committee report to the House. It was also around that time that a man wearing a ski mask surfaced in a press conference to expose alleged machinations of election results of 2010 through a conspiracy between Comelec personnel and outside technical “interventionists” manipulating the PCOS machines, to favor certain local and national candidates. Because of the man’s odd appearance, Locsin nicknamed him “Koala Boy” which exposed him to derision; it was also unfortunate that the accuser refused to divulge his identity, doubtless fearing reprisals on his life. But anyone listening to him realized that the masked guy knew a great deal about conspiratorial high-tech frauds and shenanigans and certain unexpected results bore out his assertions.

In various electoral protests filed by losing candidates such as Glenn Chiong of Biliran and former North Cotabato Gov. Emmanual “Manny” Pinol after the 2010 elections, common patterns of fraud emerged---which Comelec should be taking heed of seriously, if only it’s not too obsessed to nail down GMA for alleged frauds in earlier elections. For instance, this blogger cited the incredible appearance of election results from Colombia, South America, in a compact flash (CF) card used in a precinct in the municipality of Pikit, North Cotabato, where Pinol, who held the governorship FOR THREE STRAIGHT TERMS before moving down as vice-governor, lost by almost 20,000 votes!  His defeat was cited by political analysts as one of the biggest upsets in the 2010 elections.
Pinol’s lawyers also cited innumerable discrepancies such as ballots actually used that were shorter by an inch than the Comelec-issued ones (how were they read by the machines?), mislabeled ballot boxes, missing ER copies, statement of votes and minutes of voting, etc, etc.

All across the country election protests were filed with similar patterns of discrepancy as in the Pinol case, and yet the Comelec has not acted on these protests. Instead it concentrates on the 2004 and 2007 elections, perhaps because the administration script calls for former President GMA’s jailing before Christmas! TanDem is on the correct path---the citizens have to pressure the poll body to act now on the failings of the 2010 elections, as otherwise we won’t have real elections in 2013 and 2016 and our democracy would be in grave peril. This is because politicians need only resort to buying victory from the conspirators of 2010---if nothing is done to seriously investigate the frauds in those elections.

As TanDem put it in its manifesto, titled “We Rise in Defense of Democracy,” issued at its May 26, 2011 launch, “”The focused objective of TanDem is to bring to the people’s attention the serious electoral crimes; to demand accountability, and to seek an immediate rectification of the corrupted Automated Electoral System before any other automated elections are held.” All of these, stressed TanDem, “are in the pursuit of unblemished democracy...Shall we idly sit without even being aware of the piracy of our suffrage? But realizing the daylight piracy, shall we allow ourselves to be robbed of our most cherished democratic rights? Or shall we rise in defense of democracy?”
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tandem conference/workshop seeks to unlock “secrets” of 2010 elections

The camp of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has protested the obvious bias of newly confirmed Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes against her and has called on him to resign from his post. The Arroyo camp was referring to the “suggestion” by Brillantes that GMA and husband Mike Arroyo would be spending Christmas in jail, following the wrapping up by the joint panel of the Department of Justice and the Comelec of its investigation into the alleged massive poll fraud in 2004 and 2007. During the investigation, former Maguindanao administrator Norie Unas had alleged that the former First Couple had instructed him to cheat to ensure the straight victory of the administration’s twelve senatorial candidates. Brillantes had earlier opined that this was the first direct accusation that links the Arroyos, so that this could constitute probable cause that could send them to jail around Christmas time.
The Arroyos, through lawyer Innocencio Ferrer and legal spokesperson Raul Lambino, strongly protested first of all the “obvious bias” and “conflict of interest” of the Comelec Chief who, together with co-panelist Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, had been lawyers for Arroyo’s opponent in 2004, defeated candidate FPJ. The lawyers also said Brillantes was conditioning the minds of his commissioners into accepting what still had to be proved as truthful.


I can see the conflict of interest in this situation involving Brillantes and De Lima, who had established their reputation as private lawyers defending opposition candidates before their official appointments. What makes it quite distasteful even for citizens trying to be objective here is the fact that both officials have been quite vocal in ruling against the Arroyos even before fact could be established (recall De Lima presenting to the public the police character who alleged a break-in at the Batasan to plant tampered election returns in 2004, even before the latter had executed a sworn statement).  Now comes Brillantes calling on alleged collaborators of Unas, who may wish to have a change of heart, to come out in the open about the fraud---he’s giving no quarters for possible innocence here of the people accused by Unas, himself a shady character.
The behavior of the two top officials has made the investigation into the 2004 and 2007 elections kangaroo style and obviously following the administration’s script of putting away the Arroyos at the earliest instance---to doubtless help take away the heat from its poor handling of the massive floodings in Central Luzon.


In the minds of many citizens, including this blogger, justice ought to be rendered without bias or conflict of interest. If there is clear evidence of tampering of votes in elections then the cheaters ought to pay for their crime. To my mind, however, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the over-emphasis on the 2004 and 2007 elections is being carried out in order to divert attention from more pressing problems involving the nation.
But what is important to establish at this point,  more than whether the 2004 and the 2007 elections were truly tainted, is to look into serious allegations of ELECTORAL FRAUDS committed in the May 2010 elections---the nation’s first automated election system (AES).  Since the 2010 elections many local protest cases have been brought before the Comelec (among the leading ones is the protest case filed by former Secretary Lito Atienza against Manila Mayor Lim, which is now into its second round)as well as before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (the protest of LP VP candidate Mar Roxas against VP Jejomar Binay) and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), but nothing much has moved.


One big reason is the obsession of the Comelec to investigate the 2004 and 2007 elections, but as computer expert Edmundo “Toti” Casino has noted in various forums, these two past elections should not count as much anymore as the 2010 elections, for several reasons. One is that the chief protagonist against GMA in 2004 is already deceased. But the more important reason, asserts Casino, is that unlike the 2004 and 2007 elections which were conducted and counted manually, the elections in 2013 and 2016 will be automated, if the Automation Law of 2009 is to be followed. Hence, argues Casino, all the problems brought about by the AES in 2010 are bound to rear their ugly head again---unless they are rectified.
But Brillantes, perhaps in his desperation to be confirmed by the LP-controlled Commission on Appointments, has chosen to resurrect the ghosts of the 2004 and 2007 elections---to nail down Arroyo, as per the much-touted plan of President NoyNoy---instead of paying attention to the 2010 AES problems.


A group of citizens from various professions which professes to be non-political and calls itself the “Tanggulang Demokrasya”(or “Tandem” for short), has banded together to bring to the nation’s and officialdom’s consciousness the problems of the 2010 elections in the hope that these won’t be repeated in the coming  elections. Tandem has raised two highly objective reports. One was prepared by the Philippine Computer Society that comprises the country’s most prestigious computer experts, that revealed what it alleges to be the “clear and unmistakable failures” of Smartmatic, the vendor of the PCOS machines in 2010, and of the Comelec.
One of the most serious “failures,” said its Technical Working Group, was the total disregard by Comelec of essential safeguards in the 2010 elections as prescribed by the Automation Law.  These included the failure to use the already-bought UV lamps to detect fake ballots and to employ the crucial digital signatures both of each of the 42,000 PCOS machines and by the chief of each of the board of election inspectors (BEIs) in the country's various precincts. The digital signatures of the PCOS machines and of BEIs would have authenticated election returns. Moreover, the random manual audit that ought to have been conducted by a triumvirate group headed by the PPCRV WITHIN 12 HOURS from the close of polling precincts in SELECT PRECINCTS across the country materialized only in a very spotty manner TWO MONTHS after the elections.

There were horror stories of PCOS machine results that were ante-dated, such as those in Manila City Hall as Atienza stressed in his protest, or spewed results of elections FROM COLOMBIA, South America but found in a precinct in Pikit, North Cotabato (former Gov. Manny Pinol included this fact in his gubernatorial electoral protest against former Rep. Emmylou Talino-Santos). More intriguingly, the Comelec and Smartmatic consistently refused to make public or available to the local computer experts the source code, which is the bible of operations of the PCOS system.  
Another group that raised the alarm for 2013 and 2016 is the Global Filipino Nation Election Observers, which submitted a separate report reflecting onsite monitoring by a team of overseas Filipino and foreign professionals. Their report exposed the existence of a systematic mechanism for perpetuating electoral fraud, woven into the structure of the AES.  This group has challenged in strongly worded terms the LEGITIMACY of the May 2010 results.


Months ago Tandem submitted to Comelec a petition to take serious cognizance of the problems Filipino computer experts and professional groups have raised concerning the 2010 elections, but Comelec, still preferring to pursue ghosts of the distant past, has just marked it “Noted.”  Now sufficiently alarmed, Tandem has taken it upon itself to organize a two-day conference/workshop tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 14 up to Saturday, Oct. 15, entitled “Unlocking the Secrets of the 2010 Elections,” to be held at the East Greenhills Association Conference Room, East Greenhills Subdivision, San Juan, Metro Manila, across from the Santuario de San Jose Church (pass through Gate 3 along Connecticut St., East Greenhills). Admission is free, but donations of any amount will be accepted. Noted computer experts will conduct the seminar. Let’s hope the media will cover this crucial conference/workshop.   

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fired at age 30 by the very company he founded and built up, Steve Jobs refused to be devastated

A friend of mine, trying to keep track of all that has been said in print and TV media about the visionary founder of Apple, Steven P. Jobs, was just amazed that his death last Wednesday at the young age of 56 was being treated like the passing of a Pope or a President.  My friend can hardly be called “techie” and so it was understandable that he couldn’t understand the impact of Jobs’ passing on the world of computer technology.  I’m perhaps just a notch higher than he is in being “techie” and though I limit myself to the use of the computer in my line of work, I can see how my family and friends have come to live with various innovations that Steve Jobs has introduced beyond the computer---to change the lifestyle of modern people, especially the young.

But as a writer and observer of human nature I am truly impressed not so much by the breath of Steve Jobs’ genius and the way he pushed and harnessed his vision, but by the way he was never daunted by the vicissitudes of life that we humans are heir to. Steve was raised by foster parents who were kind enough to give him the love he didn’t have from his biological parents. Entering Reed College at a young age, he dropped out after six months as he “couldn’t see the value in it.” In 2005 this college drop-out was invited by Stanford University to be its  commencement speaker and guest of honor and what he told the students was a classic in recollection of a youthful life that seemed a-drift.
Said Jobs:  “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out.” And worse, he was spending money his parents had saved their entire life.  So he dropped out of school and after spending some time tinkering around with spare parts here and there, Jobs and his high school friend Stephen Wozniak started Apple in 1976 in a suburban California garage. In ten years he had built it up into a $2 billion company employing 4,000 people.
But as life would have it for some of us ordinary folk as well as for geniuses like Steve Jobs, a blow comes that’s ready to devastate us---if we allow it. A year after Apple successfully released what he terms “our finest creation---the Macintosh— he recalled to the Stanford grads, a diverging point of view in the Apple Board resulted in a row that ended with him suddenly fired. “How can you get fired from a company you started? he asked the grads rhetorically. But he was fired---“at age 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone and it was devastating.”
It could have destroyed a lesser man---even a genius like Jobs. But as he told the Stanford grads, “But something slowly began to dawn on me---I still loved what I did…I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.”  Jobs told them that “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.” The only thing he was sure of at that bleak time in his life, he recalled, was his faith. 
As Steve Jobs put it, “I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.” He admonished them to “find what you love and that is true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it.” What happened to him, Jobs told the young graduates, “freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
And indeed the restless genius in him began to howl and jump again. Out of Apple, he turned out innovative electronic gadgets that were clearly ahead of their time, such as the iTunes, iPod, iPhone, MacBook & iPad. He  became so successful at making these gadgets indispensable to modern folks that as Apple began to founder in the face of competition, this company he founded and that had earlier rejected him took him in again in 1996 as adviser;  then in 2000 he finally got back his old position as CEO.
But all along, as he rebuilt the corporation that he had founded and loved, Steve Jobs also began his biggest battle---with the Big C. He underwent surgery in 2004, received a liver transplant in 2009 and took three medical leaves of absence as Apple’s chief executive before finally stepping down in August, and turning over the top post to Timothy D. Cook, his COO. He had written his employees earlier that “I have always said that if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know.” And unfortunately, he said, “that day has come.”
Steve Jobs confronted death like other challenges---head on. At Stanford in 2005, after his surgery he said plainly that “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything----all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure---these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Reminding the Stanford graduates that “death is the destination we all share,” he nevertheless comforted them by stressing that “Death is very likely the single biggest invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” Right now, he told the graduates, “the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. “
Thus, Jobs reminded the young people, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it by living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma---which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart  and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Every else is secondary.”
Then he ended his commencement speech: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish…I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

With P-Noy’s laid-back style, even yellow media now hint of nostalgia for GMA’s hands-on management; flying on a ‘zip line’ over Lake Sebu (in my dreams!)

I didn’t think I’d see this happening.  In view of the “disappearing act” of President Aquino when the massive floods hit Central Luzon, I detect a slight hint of nostalgia nowadays even from rabidly yellow media for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s hands-on style in crisis. In fact I was at a gathering recently and some people recalled how she virtually pitched tent at Camp Aguinaldo during Ondoy’s onslaughts last Sept. 26, 2009 and in succeeding days.
I remember that episode well because the late Press Secretary Cerge Remonde recalled to Cecile Alvarez and me later in our dzRh program that when he arrived at the Palace that morning as Ondoy raged, he learned that GMA had already hurriedly left to catch the MRT to Cubao with just an aide---before the swirling currents on EDSA would forbid any form of travel.  Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro fetched her from the station in an Army 6X6 truck and took her to the National Disaster Control Center in Aguinaldo where she and Cabinet members were to camp out.  
Cerge recalled that after GMA’s visit to Marikina at around midnight of Sept. 26, he called up Secretary Teodoro’s wife, Nikki, to ask if she could send food as they were all roaring hungry---and Nikki managed to get it through.  In succeeding days the DSWD was well-prepared to cope with the magnitude of Ondoy, whose half a day’s rainfall was equivalent to that of five years!  Secretary Espie Cabral’s DSWD bodegas were able to more than cope as far as Northern Luzon. 


In our dzRH program last Oct. 2, Cecile Alvarez and I wanted to know from Dr. Carlo Arcilla, director of the UP’s National Institute of Geological Sciences, how the mining industry can assuage the concern articulated by former Sen. Nene Pimentel. Not too long ago, in answer to my query, Pimentel said, “I’m not anti-mining, but I want to know why some foreign companies cease to be good corporate citizens when they get here.” My first instinct when I heard Nene was to say, e kasi baka medaling ma-corrupt ang law-enforcement agencies ditto.” 


Dr. Arcilla had a more scientific answer.  He said that enforcement of mining laws and regulations can be done, and the primary agency is the Mines & Geosciences Bureau (MGB), whose people are the “police of mining in the same way that foresters are the police of the forestry sector.” He lamented, however, that government geologists are paid salaries that are only 1/5 or 1/10 of those employed by private mining firms, so they end up being pirated. In fact, he noted that there’s only one MGB official in Surigao and he gives orders to himself, as there’s no one else.
Arcilla also cited that geology as a degree course is hugely underrated, as it produces only about 30-40 people, compared to 30,000 nurses every year, when ironically Filipino geologists are grabbed right away abroad because of their good training and command of English.  He stressed that there’s a bright future for geologists and that once the mining industry picks up here full-scale, graduates would be quickly absorbed.

Dr. Arcilla noted the bright future of mining, citing as example that if every family in China were to be furnished a kitchen sink, the world’s production of nickel would have to double right away---and Ph is the closest source of nickel to China.  He also stressed that 100 years ago Sweden, Canada and Australia were far poorer than Ph, but now they are so prosperous, but also enforcing mining laws strictly, and that Chile’s poverty is only 8 percent now due to its mines. I noted, however, that despite the bright prospects for mining here the industry is meeting resistance from some sectors. So how does it propose to solve this problem?
Arcilla said he does not believe that, as oppositionists put it, it’s “Mining or Food.”  To him it should be “Mining AND Food”---let mining pay for food, health, education, etc., adding that to establish credibility the mining companies have to police themselves and throw out their bad eggs. Then too, he stressed, as we noted in the recent dialogue on Sagittarius Mines’ application in Koronadal called by Gov. Arthur Pingoy, scientists are not good communicators, compared to those opposing such activities.  And what’s worse, he quipped, is that “hindi namin alam na hindi namin alam.”

In mid-1994, just before my husband retired as commander of all Mindanao, I was able to join him in a 20-day trip that started from the SouthCom headquarters in Zamboanga City and circled all around Mindanao---from Davao to the Pacific coast to the Surigaos and Agusan and then north through Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan and down the Zamboangas.  In those days Mindanao was still so peaceful and the most disturbing episode was the kidnap of American bible translator Charles Walton in Basilan by Muslim elements. But we were not able to go through Cotabato, so I was quite glad to join other media for a visit to South Cotabato for that multisectoral dialogue on mining. The Socsargen area (SC, Sarangani and General Santos City) is so progressive, thanks to Dole Plantation, the largest pineapple plantation in the world, in the shadow of Mt. Matutum in Polomolok, and the thriving Fish Port in GenSan where one can see  huge tuna fish coming in on the shoulders of robust pier hands and witness fun haggling among buyers.


Gen. Cunanan had meant to take me to Lake Sebu while he was SouthCom Commander, but he never got around to it, so that when SC’s pretty first lady, Annabelle Garcia-Pingoy, invited media to visit it with her, we jumped at it. Lake Sebu is just beautiful and still so pristine with its verdant forests, calm lakes and seven waterfalls. In my younger days I would have probably dared to try the fun thing at Lake Sebu---the “zip line”--- where you’re strapped onto a seat dangling on a metal wire 182 meters from the riverbed and you zoom with lightning speed above the various waterfalls (P300 per ride) to the other side of the lake.

Another must at Lake Sebu is to try its grilled tilapia (I’m not a tilapia eater, but there I finished everything! That’s how good it was).  My only hope is that the local government would be able to restrict the proliferation of fish pens growing it on the lake. Annabelle Pingoy also related how a katutubo one day came around with this strange little animal with bulging eyes that he had never seen before;  the next day he came around with two more, and this was how SC’s tarsiers were discovered (move over, Bohol!). Today there’s a breeding station for them in the forests, says Annabelle, and one day perhaps they’d make their debut for the tourists.

South Cotabato is so rich not only in God-given minerals but also in various  indigenous cultures that are still well-preserved, such as those of the T’boli and the B’laan tribes. I was happy to note from Dr. Glenn Bisnar, DepEd’s Program Supervisor for Region XII, that indigenous T’boli weaving of its tinalak remains very much a living art (also the cultural emblem of the province) and being imparted to younger generations by no less than Lang Dulay, the National Living Treasure Awardee, and haute couture designer Randy Ortiz, Manila-based but proudly born in SC,  who fashions the fabled tinalak into modern creations. 

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

People need to know that P-Noy understands their problems; Ph should re-examine peace talks direction in light of attacks on Surigao mines

The Palace went into all kinds of justifications for what media term the “disappearing act” of the “invisible President” last week. Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a Palace press conference that President Aquino did not show up in public in the first days in the aftermath of Pedring’s onslaught, after his arrival from Tokyo last Wednesday, Sept. 28, because he did not want to take away the focus of officials as well as facilities such as helicopters from relief and rescue operations. But Valte stressed that P-Noy was closely monitoring developments behind the scene with governors of the affected provinces.


The Palace missed the whole point. When the flood waters in Central Luzon began to rise perilously last week until in many places they were above the heads of people, THAT WAS THE TIME the increasingly desperate folks---by then being evacuated in the thousands from their rooftops---needed to feel the reassuring presence of the father and leader of the nation. They needed to know that P-Noy knew what they were going through as they shivered in the rain  and the dirty flood waters, without food and power and many sick of diarrhea and respiratory diseases. They needed to know that he was in command of the situation.


But it took him only last Sunday, Oct. 2, or five days from his arrival from Tokyo, to attend the command conference at the National Disaster Risk-Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC). It was only today that he choppered to several places in Central Luzon.  In hindsight what he should have done was to proceed to Aguinaldo straight from the airport last  Sept. 28.

P-Noy is undergoing a severe test of leadership---something he never exercised before in his life and the inexperience is taking a toll on him---and the nation.  People certainly didn’t expect him to wade through the head-high waters and risk leptospirosis, but his advisers could have counseled him to perhaps call a conference early on at key points in the region, such as Malolos and San Fernando and get briefings from civil and military/police officials---which was what he did ONLY TODAY. But such is the demand of leadership that when the top gun is “missing in action,” as even ABS-CBN began to taunt  him to be, the lesser lights cease to be effective. 


Criticisms flew thick and fast from media and the public about how inept and inadequate the response of the government has been to the crisis---P-Noy himself was the first to acknowledge this. The political opposition was quick to attribute it to his having scrapped the budget for training of new disaster relief personnel last year, in an effort to save on his calamity funds, which have ballooned to nearly P20 billion in the 2012 budget. This is another lesson learned for incoming administrations: such critical personnel should not be replaced just because they were employed by the previous administration.

As it turned out in succeeding days, there were yawning gaps in rescue and rehab and some people in the calamity areas sarcastically told P-Noy over TV to stay away and just send food and water.  But today, many were happy enough to hear that he made a fly-by or a "windshield visit" in their areas---as we say, mababaw talaga ang kaligayahan ng Pinoy. Gusto lang nilang makita kahit anino lang ng Pangulo.

P-Noy was clearly super-piqued by all the batikos, but perhaps this was needed to rouse him from his stupor and laid-back style of governance. He will have to confront the magnitude of the rehabilitation and reconstruction needed if this country is ever to go BEYOND coping with the 20 typhoons each year ---it’s simply mind-boggling.  The question that crops up, more and more now, is, is P-Noy up to this herculean task? 


Dr. Carlo Arcilla
Cecile Alvarez and I followed up on the mines issue we had featured over dzRH the week earlier with Sagittarius Mines Inc.(SMI) communications executive John Arnaldo and Star columnist Chit Pedrosa. This was spurred by our visit to South Cotabato for the multi-sectoral dialogue on SMI’s application for a permit, called by Gov. Arthur Pingoy. For our radio program last Sunday we invited Dr. Carlo Arcilla, director of the UP College of Sciences’ National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS), to give us an over-view of the country’s wealth in  minerals and the state of the mining industry here. Stressing that Ph is the fifth or sixth most mineralized country in the world, Arcilla cited as prime example the nickel deposits in the Surigao provinces which are among the richest in the world, and how, in many areas, gold and copper can be found beneath these nickel deposits.  

Imagine our dismay when we heard of the NPA attacks on three mining firms in Surigao the very next day---where they burned mining equipment and facilities and briefly hostaged some personnel in what was labeled the “Pearl Harbor” of the mining industry. It’s obvious the rebels knew the damage they’d wreak on the industry and Ph's prospects for foreign investments, at a time when the nation is reeling from environmental disasters and in bad need of gargantuan funds for the imperative rehabilitation and reconstruction of Central and Northern Luzon. 


NDF Chief Luis Jalandoni was quoted justifying the attacks as “retaliation” for what he claimed was the mining industry’s ravages on the environment which were “anti-people.”  But as media have pointed it, it’s the NPA’s attacks that are clearly anti-people, for they now jeopardize the firms' operations, which could mean the loss of easily a thousand jobs in a given area, not to mention billions in badly needed revenues for government.

These attacks are indication of the rebel group’s insincerity and perhaps it’s best for the government, which is supposed to reopen the peace talks with them later this month in Norway, to re-examine its course of action first. 


Dr. Arcilla stressed a point often lost on critics of big-scale joint mining ventures between Filipino and foreign capital. He said that except for isolated environmental degradations in the past (the most notable in recent memory were those of Marcopper in Marinduque---BOC), the multinational firms conform to established regulations. By contrast, he said, it’s the small-scale miners whose activities are difficult to monitor or regulate, one reason being that they need only seek the local government’s approval (perhaps dealing with just one person), whereas the big-scale corporations have to get it from the national government, with its several agencies. Arcilla said 70 percent of our miners are small-scale.

One big drawback in the case of small miners is that they use mercury which is super-toxic and pollutes our waterways, killing the fish, he said, whereas the big firms do not resort to it.  Arcilla stressed that this is what’s happening in Mt. Diwalwal in the Compostela Valley, which contains "world-class gold deposits"---use of mercury is rampant. In fact, he said there’s fear in the industry that should the government fail to grant a permit to the SMI for its proposed copper-gold project in Tampakan, South Cotabato, the vast mineral resources there would be left to small miners to exploit. "Kakahuyin nila ito," he said.  

(Next: big mining companies should police themselves) 

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