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, 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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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."


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.


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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