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

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Asean’s deafening silence on China’s bullying of Ph. Would Ombudsman Carpio-Morales be daunted to investigate Miro Quimbo’s role in Pag-Ibig fraud with Delfin Lee, given Miro’s spokesperson role in the prosecution? Surprised about Francis Chua’s uncharacteristic “unruly” behavior. Bro. Roly Dizon---a graceful, classy man of the Renaissance type




Kawawa naman ang Pilipinas. China is bullying us by sending ships to Panatag Shoal (internationally known as Scarborough Shoal) and flying planes over our airspace, obviously knowing full well that we have no capability to counter its might and that all we can do at the moment is to run to the US.  Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario and Defense Chief Voltaire Gazmin will meet on Monday with their American counterparts in Washingdon, D.C., and doubtless the Chinese threat at Panatag and Recto Bank will be a top talking point on the agenda, despite efforts by DFA to make it look like just another regular bilateral meeting.

It’s easy to predict that the US would seek to calm down Ph’s nervousness and instead encourage us to bring the issue to the UN for mediation, hinged on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). American Ambassador Harry Thomas’ tearing up of his prepared speech at the close of the Balikatan exercises is indication of US unease as well over the possible challenge of having to enforce the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 (for America, no to opening up another war front, vs. China no less, when US President Barack Obama is seeking re-election and his country’s economic woes remain unabated).

XXX

The Philippines has asked Asean to intervene in our dispute with China, arguing that its unwarranted presence in our waters violates an agreement that our super-neighbor has signed with the regional bloc. But the silence from Asean has been deafening, and one reason doubtless is that most countries in the region trade heavily with this Asian military and economic superpower, not to mention that several Asean countries have claims as well to the Spratlys and don’t want similar intimidations by China.

Everyone’s frightened by China which has shown little qualms about claiming a territory almost 1000 nautical miles from her shores but only 124 nautical miles from Zambales.  On the other hand the Reed Bank, which Ph has renamed Recto Bank, is only 80 nautical miles from Palawan. But as Brig. Gen. Eldon Nemenzo, deputy commander of the Philippine Air Force’s Third Air Division was quoted in Standard as opining, the Spratlys that count with, among others, Recto Bank and Mischief Reef contain a “gold mine of untapped hydrocarbon deposits” estimated at  $26.3 trillion---far bigger than the estimated oil/gas fields of Malampaya which is a joint venture of three countries.

That’s what the possible shooting war in the region---and in fact, around the world--- is all about---the need to corner the energy that turns economies around (wasn't Iraq's oil fields the reason George W. Bush invaded that country?).

XXX

Newspapers report the Court of Appeals’ recent ruling that Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corporation's owner Delfin Lee and his officials should be charged with syndicated estafa (a non-bailable crime) for allegedly having victimized thousands of people through fraudulent housing loans obtained from Pag-Ibig, to the tune of P6.65 billion. It will be recalled that Pasig RTC Judge Pedro Mislang had earlier blocked Lee’s criminal prosecution (for which Mislang is now in trouble himself). The CA has now given the go-signal for the filing of the case, but Lee’s lawyers have appealed it to the SC.


But the equally interesting logic of this case against Delfin Lee is that if he’s going to be prosecuted, so too should the Pag-Ibig executives who connived with him to issue those fraudulent loans be held to task. The DOJ has now referred to the Ombudsman for appropriate investigation complaints against former Pag-Ibig Fund executive and now Marikina Rep. Romero “Miro” Quimbo and his former officials, for possible violation of the Anti-Graft law in accommodating Lee and his ilk.


XXX


Rep.  Quimbo, it will be recalled, has been the most visible among the House prosecution panel’s spokespersons in the impeachment trial of CJ Renato Corona; in fact, he had been quite ruthless in disclosing in media allegations later proved false, such as the 45 properties of CJ here as well as his alleged two US properties.  Rumors about Quimbo's involvement in the Pag-Ibig anomaly have been drowned out by the noise he was making in media on Corona's so-called sins. It would be interesting to see Quimbo try to wiggle out of the Ombudsman's investigation and prosecution.


 But of course, P-Noy owes him a debt of gratitude for being the most obnoxious of the prosecution’s spokespersons. Would Ombudsman Carpio-Morales be daunted? Is the threat of investigation of Quimbo just a moro-moro between DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima and Carpio-Morales? Let's hope not.


XXX


A number of friends have passed on to the Great Beyond in recent weeks and one of them was Brother Rolando Dizon, former President of De La Salle University and DLSU System, and former chair of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).  Bro. Roly, as he was known to everyone, was also quite active in Namfrel, together with Joe Concepcion Jr., and it was in this capacity that I first came to know him as an erudite man with intelligent and well-thought out opinions about issues.


 But I was also privileged to have served with Bro. Roly when he chaired the Edsa People Power Commission during former President GMA’s time (a pro bono job for all of us), and he was always warm and genial and our sessions in Malacanang were always fun-filled work. But he had to cut short his EPPC term when he accepted a professorial task for a year in a leading university in Israel---a shifting of gears he found most challenging and enjoyable.  Bro. Roly battled colon cancer for 10 years, but he never allowed it to take away his enthusiasm for the various tasks he handled for country and people. He was a most graceful and classy man of the Renaissance type.


 May you rest in God’s bosom forever, Bro. Roly.


Next: fond farewell to my dear friend and esteemed media colleague, Raul Contreras.  Also, an encounter with Gani Yambot to square out things a year before he passed away.


XXX

Like many people who know business executive Francis Chua personally, including his colleagues in the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce where he has been active, I was quite surprised to read about his “unruly” behavior that led Cathay Pacific to “off-load” him soon after take-off from Manila. 


 According to media reports Chua, who’s a regular on HongKong flights, onH had buckled up his seat belt but asked if he could skip fastening the harness (a belt-like device for the upper part of the torso provided in first-class compartments of some planes, for added protection in accidents), as it induces a claustrophobic reaction in him. The story gave the impression Chua was arrogant and over-bearing as he bandied around his title of special trade envoy and consul and that he tried to barge into the cockpit to confront the pilot after his request about not using the harness was turned down. It said that he had to be subdued and the plane returned to Manila to off-load him.

XXX

In another story giving his side and opinions of his colleagues, Chua was quoted as saying he had been allowed not to use the harness in other previous flights for that same reason, but in that particular flight his request was rejected with a touch of arrogance by the flight supervisor. He also denied that he tried to barge into the cockpit (Chua would certainly have known the consequence of such an act as per the Anti-Terrorism Law). 


As I said, I am quite surprised at Cathay’s story as I know Chua to be a soft-spoken, mild-mannered person with a perpetual smile; being rude and arrogant is quite uncharacteristic of him. Perhaps he truly had a problem with claustrophobia, which is quite common inside planes, but that the airline personnel were less than sensitive to it. 


I submit that if the supervisor were a Filipina, this unfortunate episode might not have happened, for we Pinays have far more TLC than other races.





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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Four victories for the people scored by SC in one day! We need Lagman at Comelec. I don’t believe JPE would be so petty as to ascribe his poor showing in 1987 to Lagman. Surely, JPE recognizes the need for an IT expert at Comelec.



Yesterday, Tuesday, April 24, was a day filled with spectacular victories for the people, courtesy of the Supreme Court. So many people were high over these developments that they clogged the internet!  First, of course, was the SC’s final 14-0 decision to junk Hacienda Luisita’s motion for reconsideration of the SC’s Nov. 22, 2011 ruling that ordered full distribution of its 5,000 hectares to the long-suffering 6,000 farmer-tenants.



XXX



Then came the SC ruling by a tight vote of 8-6 to peg the valuation of Luisita lands to be distributed to the farmers (and to be paid by them for 30 years) at prices of  November 1989. That was the year when the Cory administration, through a series of power  machinations by her officials, succeeded in enticing Luisita’s farmer-tenants to avail of so-called stock options---instead of outright land distribution as provided by the CARP Law that, ironically, was touted as the centerpiece of her administration.

The minority SC bloc of six justices, led by P-Noy appointee Justice Ma.Lourdes Sereno, voted to leave this issue of how much the farmers would compensate the Cojuangcos to the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Solicitor-General to determine. No, insisted the majority bloc of eight SC justices, let’s peg it at 1989 land value which, records bear out, is P40,000 per/ha., or about P196 million total for the Cojuangcos---as against Sereno’s calculation based on 2006 value, which amounts to about P1 million per/ha., or P5 billion for that family.

This issue would predictably be appealed by the Cojuangcos to the SC, and because of the tight vote there could be a TIE or EVEN A REVERSAL. This is where the citizenry’s militancy has to come in. Let's write the eight SC justices, led by CJ Renato Corona, who stood pat on the 1989 valuation as CJ proposed. Let's tell them they have to stand firm on their vote and if possible, persuade their other colleagues to join them.


XXX


In this connection, I find the statement of prosecution spokesperson Juan Edgardo Angara lauding the “independence” of the three P-Noy appointees--- namely, Justices Bienvenido Reyes, Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Estela Perlas-Bernabe---quite inane and self-serving. Angara congratulated them for joining the eleven other magistrates in upholding the distribution of Luisita’s lands, despite their appointment by the President, one of the hacienda owners. But actually, the unanimous 14-0 vote is mere indication that all the magistrates recognize this INEVITABILITY. 

In 1958, the Garcia administration, taking off from its Magsaysay predecessor, authorized GSIS to extend a huge loan to the Cojuangco family and to stamp the republic's sovereign guarantee on their US bank loans, so that the Cojuangcos would be able to purchase the hacienda from Tabacalera. But the government's condition was that after 10 years---in 1968---Luisita's lands would be distributed among its farmer-tenants.

That didn't happen---but yesterday's final SC ruling gives them hope that AFTER 44 YEARS,  the farmers would see their dream come true. The 14-0 vote is also a realization that the alternative to full distribution of Luisita’s  lands could be a terrible unrest reminiscent of the November 2004 massacres at its gates.  

XXX

It’s in the valuation issue that the P-Noy appointees showed slavish fealty to him, as they backed up Sereno’s 2006 formula. What’s more interesting, however, is why three GMA-appointees---namely, Justices Lucas Bersamin (who penned the SC decision that, with an 8-5 vote, paved the way for GMA to appoint CJ Corona in May 2010), Mariano del Castillo (who recently underwent a successful second bypass shortly after being threatened with impeachment even earlier than Corona. He's due for retirement later this year, and therefore probably wishes to avoid any hitch.) and Diosdado Peralta--- joined the three P-Noy appointees in the minority.

 We’ll never know for sure why, as the en banc deliberations in Baguio did not allow even stenographers to be present. But I can guess that the magistrates did a BALANCING ACT. While the distribution decision was an overwhelming 14-0, some of them, perhaps talking among themselves, may have decided to present a tight vote on valuation, para hindi naman masyadong mukhang nagulpe si P-Noy.  



XXX


The third people’s victory in the SC was the participation of CJ Corona in all the recent deliberations, despite unbelievable pressure from the Aquino administration and its lapdogs in Congress and the media for him to inhibit  because of his impeachment. Instead of inhibiting, however, he loudly proclaimed that the reason for his impeachment last Dec. 12 was the adverse ruling of the SC three weeks earlier on Luisita. This put the administration on the defensive. 
Now we know why CJ was subjected to unsubtle pressures from Palace emissaries to resign soon after his impeachment; when he refused and instead fought back like a true Batangueno, he was subjected to the most ferocious demonizing that veteran media practitioners claim they have never seen before, courtesy of P-Noy’s House and media allies and survey companies with interlocking Cojuangco directorates. Today, just a little over a week before the resumption of the Senate trial, there are reports of all manner of persuasions being extended to senator-judges.

XXX


Because he stuck his neck out for the Luisita farmers, even that yellow newspaper now acknowledges that Corona has become the hero of the underdog farmers, who now regard him as "the champion of agrarian reform."  It’s easy to imagine how voting on the Luisita valuation would have gone had CJ caved in to political bludgeoning and quit the SC.


Today the senator-judges, who will be voting next month on CJ’s fate, would find it extremely difficult to ignore the delirious joy of the farmers  and the Catholic bishops. Note that Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon, who’s hardly political, celebrated mass for the farmer-demonstrators in front of the SC Compound last Tuesday afternoon.



XXX


The fourth victory scored by the SC for the people is the TRO it issued on the P1.8 billion purchase by Comelec of 82,000 PCOS machines from Smartmatic, referred to after the last elections as the “hocus-PCOS" machines. The SC has scheduled oral arguments of both the poll body and anti-Smartmatic petitioners, including former Vice-President Tito Guingona, on  May 2. The IT community has been up in arms since a year ago over this rumored purchase of the PCOS machines, in view of their many glaring defects and those of the automated election system, as borne out even by TeddyBoy Locsin's House committee on electoral reforms in June 2010. Many electoral protests are pending in various levels.

But the original sin was Comelec’s surrender of its “sovereignty” over our 2010 elections to this Venezuelan company with a bad reputation abroad; in 2013 it wants a second surrender. The SC TRO is most welcome, as it would allow the IT community to bring out all its grievances at the May 2 hearing. 

XXX


I find it totally unjustified that P-Noy should fail to push the confirmation of Commissioner Gus Lagman, the only IT expert in the poll body, simply because of reports that he would not pass the Commission on Appointments anyway. This is a cop-out, for DWSD Secretary Dinky Soliman and Peace Process Secretary Ging Deles have repeatedly been rejected by the CA and yet P-Noy keeps re-nominating them, because he is beholden to the Hyatt 10.


Reports say Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is against Lagman because he believes  Namfrel manipulated his dismal performance in the first post-EDSA elections in 1987 and blames Lagman for it. I don’t think JPE is that petty; besides, he should be the first to recognize that Comelec needs an IT expert with an unsullied reputation to safeguard our 2013 automated elections (where his son Jackie would be running for the Senate). I suspect that it’s actually P-Noy’s congressional allies who don’t want Lagman in Comelec as he would be able to detect the anomalies they perpetrated in 2010.  



XXX


In this connection, I don’t buy the argument of outgong Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, that in place of Lagman P-Noy should appoint a person with disability (PWD) as a token of support for PWDs. I agree that we should employ more PWDs who are capable, but at Comelec what we need is AN IT EXPERT.  Besides, the job of commissioner calls for moving around so much, especially during election time, that a PWD might have a tough time. We could use a PWD at DSWD, instead of Soliman, so we could be assured of one at its helm who truly understands the plight of the disabled and marginalized---BUT AT COMELEC WE NEED AN IT EXPERT. 






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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Karen Jimeno deprived of a honeymoon while Rico Paolo Quicho says he’s ready for whatever may come after his CJ defense stint; airline companies excuse delays around the country as due to “heavy air traffic in Manila” but is this borne out by statistics? Another runway imperative.








I flew to Bacolod last Wednesday with two good friends, civic leaders Marietta Cuenco-Cuyegkeng and Lyn Besa-Gamboa, for a two-day stay at Lyn’s beautiful home in Silay City. Our departure via Air Philippines from NAIA and then from Bacolod Airport two days later was much delayed, with the same reason given at both airports: heavy air traffic over Manila. I found this quite curious. Our take-off from Bacolod was scheduled at 1:30 pm., but the turn-around plane from Manila arrived an hour late due to, kuno, heavy air traffic in Manila; but as we finally boarded and awaited take-off, we were told that instruction from Manila was to take off only at 3:15 pm. Then, just when we were already flying over Batangas, it was announced that NAIA was closed for a while for “special ops,” so we had to hover above for 15 minutes more.


XXX

I perfectly understand that the President’s arrival (from Cebu that afternoon) takes priority, but it has to be more than coincidence that the delayed departures of our planes from separate airports and time schedules invoked the same reason---“heavy air traffic in Manila.” It’s obvious that for Ph to be seriously considered as an investment and tourism haven, something has to be done to as elementary a problem as a single-runway airport. We are very third-world in this regard and it’s depressing to think how we have always aspired to be second or even first-world, but we never attended to the construction of a second runway.

I thought, how terrible if one had to catch a connecting flight to somewhere abroad, especially for our OFWs who leave our shores for the first time---how panicky they would be. As for our tourism, would tourists actually think it’s more fun in the Philippines if they sit it out at provincial airports for hours and miss connecting flights due to “heavy air traffic” in Manila? Shouldn’t we fix our airports first and get that much-needed expansion and the imperative second runway done before we go into a full-blast multi-million dollar campaign to attract tourists here?

XXX

Some commentators advocate moving the international airport to Clark to decongest Manila and take advantage of Clark’s superior facilities. Unfortunately moving passengers and airline operations there is not that simple, for it involves tremendous work and logistics---far more than expropriating lands around NAIA and constructing a second runway. For moving to Clark would involve building an efficient mass transport system of trains, buses and cargo trucks to and from Metro Manila to Clark, and de-clogging horrendous traffic in the metropolis so that one can get to Clark on time. The first problem really is the horrendous traffic coming into Metro Manila.

XXX

I have talked to a number of people about my experience to and from Bacolod regarding the “heavy air traffic over Manila.” Someone else was stuck in Marinduque for four hours. My brother Danny, who flies to Cagayan de Oro regularly, experiences the same delays every time. We all found it curious, however, that the same excuse would be invoked everywhere---when we are agreed that there's less air traffic now than before. In fact it was noted that the last European carrier with direct flights to Manila, KLM, ceased operation here some weeks back due to heavy taxation by the government.

What’s causing all these delayed flights and what can be done to alleviate the sufferings of air passengers? News reports say NAIA 3 should be fully operational by 2014, but would this solve the delays in flights? I doubt, as it seems  that the major solution to this problem is the construction of another runway. Paging Secretary Mar Roxas.

XXX

I was in Bacolod at the invitation of friends to cover a media forum organized by business executive Ricky Monfort and the Green Team of this city. Two defense lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona, namely, Rico Paolo Quicho and Karen Jimeno, updated the Negrenses on the status of the Senate impeachment trial against him. The forum, moderated by veteran journalist Gil Severino, was well attended not just by Negros multi-media but by local citizens who shot some tough questions to the two lawyers. Afterwards Karen and Rico had a TV interview by lawyer-journalist Bong Dilag in his “On the Spot” show as well as  by Radio Veritas.

XXX

For those of you who have been following my blog on CJ’s impeachment over the last four months since the filing by the notorious House 188, all the issues raised at the Senate trial should be familiar as I chronicle them faithfully here. For now I’d like to talk about the two admirable young lawyers who, like their colleagues in the defense team, render their services pro bono to defend CJ;  but the larger picture for them, as they stressed in Bacolod, is to defend the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.


XXX

That porcelain beauty and “crush ng bayan,” Karen JImeno, 31, is a UP law cum laude graduate with a master’s degree in law from Harvard University, daughter of two well-known lawyers, the equally beauteous UP-trained Rita Linda Ventura-Jimeno, and Nicanor B. Jimeno (from the latter’s Chinese-descended mom, Karen inherited her beguiling slant eyes). Last Jan. 7, less than two weeks before the Senate impeachment trial opened, Karen married in Manila a good-looking Harvard-trained American investment banker named Evan McBride, whom she had met here.

Right after the wedding, however, came the invitation for Karen to join the defense team. Actually CJ had invited Rita Linda, but she begged off due to pressure of work and  suggested instead her newly-married daughter. Evan McBride thought it was a good idea for his bride to join the defense team, even though it would deprive them of a honeymoon and the Boston wedding reception that Evan’s mother wanted, so they could met US relatives and friends. The impeachment show was a go and the new bride plunged right into the defense case as spokesperson.

XXX


Actually, Karen was among a number of lawyers such as Fr. Joaquin Bernas and Ronald B. Inting, national executive director for administration of the IBP, who had originally objected to the appointment of Associate Justice Renato Corona to the SC's top post, as they regarded it as a midnight appointment.
 But as she explained in Negros, the SC ruled in a 8-5 decision penned by Justice Lucas Bersamin on the constitutionality of an outgoing President appointing a CJ (a decision which GMA awaited before issuing the actual appointment of Corona). Hence, Karen, like many other lawyers, accepted it because “that’s what we're trained to do as lawyers---to accept the SC’s decision on constitutional matters."
Reading the impeachment complaint that challenged several collegial decisions of the SC, Karen said she realized that the independence of the judiciary was at stake. For her it boils down to the question, do we want an SC that will kowtow to every wish of the President?

How does Mr. McBride find the proceedings in the Senate? Karen laughed and said that he finds the prosecution’s blunders hilarious, "like a circus."

XXX


33-year old defense lawyer Rico Paolo Quicho of Orion, Bataan, a litigation lawyer known to handle "controversial cases," is an Ateneo law 2003 graduate who began his career with the prominent law office of Siguion Reyna, Montecillo and Ongsiako. But in the last few years he struck out on his own in the Quicho and Angeles Law Office,  where he's the managing partner, although his lawyer-wife , Elita Joy Quicho, remains with Siguion Reyna.


Rico, a genial, soft-spoken fellow who reminded the Bacolod crowd of their favorite candidate in 2010, Gilbert Teodoro, made a lengthy presentation that impressed the audience. 
He stressed two “threshold issues” that he feels the senator-judges should weigh for themselves in their vote: l). because impeachment is akin to a criminal case if only for the gravity of the consequences to the accused in case of conviction, the quantum of evidence presented by the prosecution against CJ must be beyond reasonable doubt, and not confined to stories about the "little lady" and docus left at the gate, and 2). whether the accusations constitute impeachable offense as defined by the Constitution.

XXX


Quicho related that soon after the impeachment complaint was filed last Dec. 12, he and a fellow lawyer attended the huge rally at the SC Quadrangle where they listened as CJ vowed to fight the case against him to the finish, stressing that it was already "beyond Renato Corona, but rather, to protect and defend the rule of law and the judiciary as an institution."


Rico said “I felt CJ’s sincerity and the threat to the Judiciary” and he signed up with the defense team. Like other lawyers he had to first square out with himself the question of the CJ’s “midnight appointment” and as he put it, “It was moral and legal for CJ to accept it.”

I asked Rico what the implication of a CJ conviction could be on his young career and his family (he and Elita have three children), given the vengefulness of this administration. He said he and his wife are ready for anything, and that defending the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary is paramount to them.

May pag-asa pa ang bayan natin, given these young lawyers' idealism, right, folks?


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Sunday, April 15, 2012

FB contributor worries about seamy implication of DOT’s unimaginative and copied new slogan. A senator buys two loft units in plush Mandaluyong condo. Will ABS-CBN America's Nadia Trinidad’s investigation into Charina’s Roseville apartment get same prominence as Raissa’s claim? Pundits agog over Binay’s quick seize of prospective 2013 candidates.



The reaction to the recent Mindanao Summit was one of general disappointment. This text going around pretty much summarizes that feeling:
 "Gumastos at nag-aksaya ng oras sa Energy Summit---may desisyon na pala bago pa mag-umpisa. Another drama-publicity ni P-Noy! Parang kinagalitan at tinakot pa ang mga taga Mindanao: KUNG GUSTO NINYONG WALANG BROWN-OUT, MAGBAYAD KAYO NG MALAKI!! Kaya nga nag-summit, para humanap ng solusyon, para ma-resolba ang krisis at makatulong ang gobyerno. MALIWANAG NA TAMAD MAG-ISIP O WALANG ISIP."


XXX


An assiduous contributor to my FB page, US-based Lino Celle, recently commented on a photo of Filipino women in various states of provocative undress being posted in the internet. Said Lino: “Is this how the Philippines attract ‘foreign tourists?’ If it’s ‘Fun in the Philippines,’ then LOL!” Then he follows this up with the query, “what does Gabriela have to say to P-Noy (about this?).”

Lino is obviously worried about the seamy implication of this slogan--- which I share. To begin with, the Department of Tourism’s launch four months ago, under new Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, of the search for a slogan to replace the plagiarized slogan of the first DOT administration under President Noynoy , yielded something which also was frightfully unimaginative and lacks originality--- it was merely recycled from a 1951 slogan of Switzerland! Why a people world-famous for creative and imaginative outputs have to copy a 1951 slogan from another country beats me.

XXX

But my bigger objection, which Lino Celle shares, is that this new slogan could rake up once again an image of the Philippines we’d rather put away for good, such as what prevailed in the era of US soldiers on R and R in Olongapo and Angeles, of Japayukis in Tokyo bars and brothels, sex tours catering to Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese farmer-tourists---fun girls, in other words. Recall that Ambassador Henry Thomas not too long ago talked about such type of tours that Ph has come to be known for. Some of us took  offense at  his  startlingly frank observation and raked him over the coals for it, but still there was truth to what he said, as it did conjure  unsavory reputations earned.

The question is, why reinforce that undesired perception with an official DOT slogan, when there are so many wholesome tourist spots in our country that can compete with the best that other countries have to offer---and deserve to be projected by a catchier slogan.

XXX

 A senator who’s generally quiet in deliberations in the chamber and perceived to be sympathetic to the administration was reported to have recently purchased two loft units in a prime condominium building on Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong, developed by Greenfield, for the pricey amount of P7 million each. The question folks are asking is, where did he get the money to buy these, when the monthly salary of a senator is P25,000.  Mukhang maraming pera ang senador na ito. The question is, are his funds part of the slush money in the impeachment case of CJ Renato Corona? 

XXX

Recent news about the formation of the political umbrella organization called United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), spearheaded by Vice-President Jejomar Binay with the PDP-Laban that he chairs and the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) of former President Joseph Estrada as major lynchpins, has electrified various political groups and keeps political pundits engaged in continuous scenarios, as the mid-term elections loom next year.

 For instance, I had the chance to speak briefly to Lakas-CMD President Ramon Revilla Jr. at the birthday lunch organized by family and friends of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at her Veterans hospital room early last week. I queried the senator about a report in the Manila Times that Lakas will join the umbrella of UNA for the coming elections. He denied this, stressing that his party will remain a distinct entity from UNA but it will support its candidates who will be recruited by UNA into its powerhouse senatorial slate.

XXX

Various political observers agree with me that VP Binay was very smart in moving fast to lure many political heavyweights into his alliance, so that now the Liberal Party of the administration appears to be increasingly isolated.  One reason for the ease with which he was able to recruit these pols is the LP’s arrogance and heavy-handed use of vindictive power---mainly through the selective tightening of the PDAF against representatives in the opposition. 

XXX

A number of political pundits concede that at this stage it does appear now to be impossible for President Aquino to get his coveted 16 votes to convict CJ Corona, and that his expected acquittal would further cement the formation of the grand alliance against the LP and P-Noy for the 2013 elections---preparatory to the 2016 presidential elections. Of course, the Palace could still flood the Senate with huge slush funds (from the P39 billion CCT funds for 2012?) that could prove irresistible to some senators running for reelection; but the other side of the coin is the lure of Binay’s UNA and---perhaps the key factor---the support of the Iglesia ni Cristo for CJ Corona which national and local candidates can only ignore at their political peril.

XXX

 Looking back on the impeachment, the LPs now doubtless realize that it was a mistake to have filed the case against CJ Corona in the House, but the bigger mistake was for P-Noy to have made it the centerpiece of his “reform agenda,” staking his immense political capital on Corona’s conviction. For as the  prosecution’s presentation of evidence came to a close, it became obvious that the prosecutors had little evidence to back up their eight Articles of Impeachment, necessitating the dropping of five of those, prompting columnist Rigoberto Tiglao to assert that “the prosecution 's evidence had collapsed.”

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The malicious fiasco of the erroneous list of 45 properties submitted by Land Registration Authority Administrator and P-Noy classmate Eulalio Diaz III saw the prosecution reap the senators’ wrath at their being fooled outright. Then came the repudiation of Raissa Robles who had earlier spun the allegation that CJ owned two properties in the US.

US-based ABS-CBN America reporter Nadia Trinidad personally visited the Roseville, California, neighborhood where CJ’s daughter Charina Corona has an apartment that Robles had reported (and fast spun by yellow media here) to have been a “luxurious” one. Rep. Miro Quimbo, whose lies are now as numerous as the gelled streaks on his head, spun Robles' report and quickly computed that Charina couldn’t have bought that Roseville property just 22 days after she bought the McKinley Hill condominium. Meaning, that Charina was dummying for her father. 


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But Nadia found instead a “starter home” in a humble neighborhood once hard-hit by the real estate mega-disaster of 2006-2008, which Charina, a physical therapist earning P185,000 a year, could obviously afford to buy on 30-year installment.

 Boking na naman si Raissa and the prosecution, because, as in the case of the 45 properties courtesy of Diaz, there was no due diligence but a lot of malice on the prosecution’s part. The question is, will ABS-CBN here give Nadia’s story the same prominence it gave to Raissa’s?

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For some weeks, the prosecutors rode high on “evidences” they presented during their turn, and they seemed to gain the upper hand, especially if one believes the survey companies owned by Aquino-Cojuangco relatives in interlocking directorates that said that 47 percent believe CJ is guilty. But apparently the tide may be turning for the beleaguered Chief Magistrate, and clear evidence is that his defense lawyers are heaped invitations for speaking engagements all around (especially that crush ng bayan, Harvard-trained young lawyer Karen Jimeno, who’s married to a good-looking American Harvard guy).


By contrast, have you heard any organization inviting lead prosecutor Niel Tupas?




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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Binay upset over administration’s loyalty check; LPs perceived as too arrogant and obsessed with destroying enemies, unlike UNA which has an 'open-skies' policy; there’s talk that if CJ Corona's acquitted, Mar Roxas would run for the House in 2013 and seek to capture Speakership as stepping-stone to 2016; but if CJ's convicted, he stays in Cabinet perhaps in hope that with changing of guard at SC, his protest case vs. Binay at PET would prosper. Nelson Navarro finishing Binay biography for launch next month.

VP Jejomar Binay has every right to be upset over the administration’s ultimatum that he reveal where he stands on GMA and the Corona impeachment---which, in effect,  serves as a loyalty check. This ultimatim is not unexpected--for as President Noynoy's popularity is beginning to nosedive, the administration understandably has to crack the whip among Cabinet members. But it's also being read as a sign that the Liberal Party is panicking over the recent formation of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) under the aegis of the Veep.

For as Sen. Antonio Trillanes pointed out, if the UNA is now drawing the biggest names in Philippine politics for a team-up for the 2013 elections, it’s due to the fact that the LP has been quite slow in gearing up for 2013. Trillanes has warned that the ruling party, with which he is allied, could lose the Senate to the opposition in those elections. In fact, at the rate the LP's going, it would not surprise anyone if Trillanes himself would seek shelter under the UNA umbrella, for already it's creating a bandwagon.
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The pressure on Binay, while not unexpected, is unrealistic. In the first place, he does not owe his election to the LP; in fact his political group helped candidate Noynoy get the runaway majority he claims to have won (which is being disputed by groups opposing the Comelec’s proposed purchase of the notorious PCOS machines of 2010)---not the other way around.  In a Cabinet composed of a lot of non-performers, the VP is perceived as a doer---e.g., to a public already accustomed to waiting for days for P-Noy to arrive at a disaster area with all kinds of excuses for his tardiness, Binay never fails to amaze by showing up the day after the calamity, with trucks of relief goods and even a brass band.  
Aside from his plebeian looks that strike a sympathetic chord with the masa, Binay enjoys a steady acceptance rating hovering at around 84 percent, unlike P-Noy who suffers from a perception of rudderless leadership. As Binay’s rah-rah boys put it, “Binaying” is synonymous with performance, in contrast to “Noynoying” which means doing nothing. 
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   A news item earlier reported that the LP is ready to coalesce with the Binay forces for the  mid-term elections, but this may be like closing the barn door after the horses have fled. For in contrast to the UNA whose senatorial slate seems getting more crowded with heavy-weights by the day, the LP seems lonelier and lonelier.  The LP list floated today carried names of some Aquino Cabinet members, Corona impeachment prosecutors notorious for arrogance and self-righteousness, and a couple of candidates defeated in the last elections.
 There are many reasons for the seeming UNA bandwagon, aside from the perception that Binay is a sure candidate for 2016.  For one, the LP seems to have become quite arrogant; and despite its favorite word these days, it's not “inclusive” but divisive, unlike the Binay camp that seems to be opening its doors wide.  Then the LP has been quite vindictive toward those who defy its orders, such as the representatives who refused to sign the impeachment complaint against Corona (e.g. administration Reps. Toby Tiangco and  Hermilando Mandanas), as well as minority representatives such as Dato Arroyo and Mitos Magsaysay whose PDAFs have been withheld for many months.
 As LP field marshal Butch Abad put it, the ruling party has chosen to channel pork barrel funds directly to the constituents of certain opposition representatives, in order daw to ensure more judicious control over these funds. Yet Abad himself justified the over P800 million he allocated in the past two years to his powerful wife’s tiny province of Batanes, which has only 5,000 voters.
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In contrast to tightening on the administration’s opponents, the LPs poured seemingly limitless funding, borrowed from foreign sources which we taxpayers will be paying over a generation, into the Conditional Cash Transfer program---a gargantuan dole-out (P39 BILLION this year and P350 BILLION by 2015) that’s targeting, kuno, the poorest of the poor.  But the super-fast expansion of the CCT has encouraged corruption at both the higher and lower levels of the administering agency, the DSWD, and today at least in many parts of Metro Manila, the CCT has remained suspended since last December, with no explanations.  Apparently it has been a failure in its two years under the P-Noy administration, for as the SWS survey last quarter noted, the percentage of our people who consider themselves poor has jumped from 48 percent in September 2010 to 51 percent.
There is widespread fear, in fact, that these huge CCT funds, which were allocated even as the budgets of government hospitals and state colleges and universities were slashed, would be used by the LPs for the 2013 and 2016 elections.
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There’s also the way this administration went after former President GMA and CJ Corona.  As I stated here, there are ways to hold accountable former and current officials accused of  wrongdoing; but the way this administration subjected GMA to such inhumane treatment even before her trial has started and demonized Corona and his family has sown fear and doubtless even hatred in a good number of politicians.  For the final phase of the CJ’s trial, the administration has organized a well-funded campaign by loyalist groups  to dish out anti-Corona propaganda materials in busy districts, apart from stepping up the carpet-bombing in the yellow media.

 Many politicians are quite disturbed at these recent developments, for they realize that if the Chief Magistrate could be savaged as never before for his stand against Hacienda Luisita, what could prevent them from being harrassed too in this manner?    
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P-Noy is widely believed to back up his  2010 runningmate, now Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas, who lost the elections, ironically,  due to, among other reasons, the support for his opponent Binay by some close relatives of Noynoy (this was the beginning of the rift between the Balay and Samar groups within the administration). The Wharton-trained  Roxas, who's perceived as bright, competent and prepared for the presidency, is said to be carefully weighing his options these days in the light of Corona’s impeachment trial. Note that Roxas had filed a protest case against Binay over the 2010 vice-presidential elections before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal that’s composed of the 15 SC magistrates, chaired by CJ Corona---doubtless encouraged by the fact that Binay’s lead over him is just over 700,000 votes.  
Talk is that if CJ is acquitted, Roxas would quit the Cabinet and run in 2013 for the House of Representatives and seek, with P-Noy’s full backing, the Speakership---the better to position himself for 2016, instead of waiting for his protest case that may never be resolved favorably.  But if CJ is convicted, talk is that Roxas would stay with the administration, presumably on the assumption that with a friendlier chief magistrate, he stands a fat chance of winning his protest vs. Binay and become VP, and then run for President in 2016.
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This brings us back to the question of whether Binay would, as challenged by the P-Noy administration, be a good subordinate and back up his President against Corona, or chart a more independent course, which includes campaigning among his allies in the Senate for CJ. In a speech before an association of judges nationwide last month, the VP, a lawyer, unequivocably stated that he is for the Rule of Law and exhorted his audience to uphold and guard the independence of the Judiciary. 
By the way, noted writer Nelson Navarro, who has carved out a reputation as the biographer of renowned Filipino politicians, is finishing his biography of Jejomar Binay, for launch at the end of May. Expect more political missiles in the Veep’s direction.      


  



Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter, the Church’s most significant feast, celebrates Christ’s triumph over death, without which our faith “comes to no gain.” CJ Corona cites sufferings of Son of Man in his Lenten message, amid his own vicious and savage persecution (but Valte says why the CJ’s message?). Sen. Gringo Honasan says CJ’s family “should have been spared of agony of impeachment, had the prosecution been a little kinder, more considerate.”



 Blessed Easter to one and all. May the Risen Lord shower our country and people with abundant blessings to withstand all the trials and tribulations that may come our way and unite us all in pursuit of the common good.

In the physical world, Easter Sunday comes after the first full moon in spring, and as we saw last night, a painfully beautiful moon sailed across the breathtakingly clear sky. In temperate countries, this is the season when the first re-stirrings of nature are seen in the shrubbery after the harsh winter, and people are moved to heady emotions. Note the annual Easter Parade in New York City, where women don the fanciest hats and attires as they march down Manhattan in full gaiety, as though to shackle off the straight-jacket of winter. 

In the spiritual world, however, Easter Sunday is when we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord, His glorious triumph over death. This is the most significant event in the Church calendar (yes, more significant than Christmas, although we Pinoys are more a Christmas people than an Easter people), for  as St. Paul tells us, without the Resurrection our faith comes to no gain.

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As I wrote in my Holy Thursday blog, I decided this year to spend Holy Week in the city, instead of going off to the beach or to traditional vacation spots.  My late husband of 45 years was an indefatigable traveler and a couple of times he bundled the whole family for a drive through the Cagayan Valley, visiting its beautiful churches; at another time it was the churches of the Ilocos. 


Eight or nine years ago my husband and I and one of our sons were able to spend Holy Week in Paris. On the advice of our Paris-based friends Aquilino and Lilia Opena we lined up on Good Friday with hordes of tourists at the famed Notre Dame Cathedral for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of viewing the glass-encased Crown of Thorns of Jesus Christ, which is displayed to the public only on that day each year. 

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I didn’t regret staying in town this week, as I was able to attend practically all the Lenten rituals, which the Church, steeped in traditions of centuries, is so rich in. I was like a little child reveling in Lenten minutiae, e.g., on Holy Thursday's mass the Holy Host distributed was dipped in the Blood of Christ (under the appearance of wine), so that the faithful could not receive it in his hand but straight to his lips. But on Good Friday, the mass was abbreviated, without the bells and the final blessing (which was given at the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday night); but to make up for it our parish staged the senaculo, complete with the “crucifixion” of Christ and the two thieves, acted out by committed young people.

The ritual attending the transfer of the Eucharist to the special altar of adoration on Holy Thursday is also well-pronounced and that night I did a couple of visits to churches around the Makati-Bonifacio area where devotees streamed in and out. The visita iglesia is alive and well, and in fact, a number of youngsters I know were part of the horde that trekked all night on Holy Thursday and early Good Friday to Antipolo as part of their yearly panata.

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As I had written earlier, Holy Week was also an occasion to ponder on the fate of personalities who had gone or are undergoing their own personal version of Calvary and the crucifixion.

 This week much of my thoughts were with Chief Justice Renato Corona, his wife Cristina and their family, and what they are undergoing. Early last December the demonizing of CJ by the Aquino administration began, a week or so after the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision (with only Associate Justice Antonio Carpio abstaining) ordering the distribution of the Hacienda Luisita lands to the farmer-tenants. What angered President Aquino apparently was the fact that Corona, in heated en banc discussions, batted to compensate the Cojuangcos based on 1989 prices, which was so remote from the P10 billion based on 2006 valuation that another justice was insisting on.

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After a series of direct attacks by P-Noy of CJ in public forums, the House of Representatives rushed bullet-train fashion Corona’s impeachment with 188 votes last Dec. 12, and Senate trial commenced within a month.  Since then all agencies of government have been mobilized to persecute CJ and his family. Simultaneous with the trial, the BIR hit them with investigations of their income, but investigation of his bank accounts appeared to have been conducted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council as early as the first semester of this administration.

False accusations were made about CJ’s alleged 45 properties here and alleged two in the US, with nary an apology when most of these were disproved. Only five properties here and not even one abroad, Corona insisted; but the falsehoods were already trumpeted by various pro-Aquino media eager to conduct the more effective trial outside the courtroom---a trial by publicity---whereas the prosecution’s case had collapsed inside (from eight Articles of Impeachment it was forced to shrink them to only three, a clear sign that it had little solid evidence).   

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Those of us in media who are by now veterans of impeachment proceedings  have been aghast at the viciousness and savagery of the persecution that CJ and his family have been subjected to. I covered the Estrada impeachment trial that was aborted after three weeks, but I know for a fact that the prosecution then was far more humane to impeached President Estrada, and the House members sought the truth by buttressing their evidence and adhering to defined rules of engagement. For instance, when Citibank said it could not disclose Erap's foreign accounts because of the law prohibiting unauthorized disclosures, the prosecution respected it.

 But the prosecution in CJ’s case is different: it has no qualms in resorting to fairy tales about a “little lady” and “an envelop left at a gate” and stealing bank documents, to bring out in yellow media what couldn’t be done legally in the trial court. It's easy to see terrorized the other SC magistrates could be,  seeing how their Chief is being persecuted.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan rightly put it when he said, “The family of Chief Justice Renato Corona, especially his children, should have been spared from the agony of his impeachment trial if his critics had been kinder, more considerate and compassionate.”  Perhaps in a impeachment such virtues can be extravagance, but definitely truth should be served, not fairy tales nor naked distortions of evidence.

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CJ Corona himself couldn’t fail to see a parallelism between his own agony and that of the Man on the Cross.  In his Easter message (which presidential loudspeaker Abigail Valte was quick to decry by arrogantly saying “We’re not aware that the Chief Justice traditionally releases an Easter message.” The poor nitwit soon realized her stupidity and later resorted to  “no comment.”), Corona said: “Easter is a story of penitence, perseverance and faith. It began when the chief priests and other leaders plotted against the Son of God, leading to His arrest, mockery, trial and crucifixion.”

CJ noted that Christ’s persecution reflects what people go through nowadays “where the temple of justice is shaken by tectonic plates of political expediency, and in a government where leaders take away the rights of others to give in to the demands of the mob.”

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He continued: “The sufferings caused by such injustice by complicity, trial by publicity and conviction by popular opinion seem like dark thunderstorm clouds. But in the end, it will still be between us and our Creator, just like the time of the Son of Man when He called on His Heavenly Father. The sacrifice of Christ is a timely reminder to value our ideals and principles to the point of risking everything for them.”

Said CJ: “The message of a Risen Christ gives us strength, hope and solace. This occasion, therefore, is a welcome opportunity for us to reaffirm our courage and thank the Almighty for His unceasing grace as we face an unknown tomorrow and uncertain future.” Corona continued that the promise of Easter gives the people the resolve “to overcome hate and division and help us tread the path of peace and faith towards a society free from poverty, violence and injustice.”

Amen to this prayer. May the Lord of Justice and History impart on the Senate trial, that will resume on May 7, the wisdom and discernment to sift through the untruths and demagoguery being generously dished out in media and in manipulated surveys, in order that it may arrive at a just and fair decision toward the accused.



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