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.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Query from citizens to Sen. Trillanes: why does his SALN not reflect his two new loft units? TeddyBoy Locsin on loose application of standards on SALN, as House members refuse disclosure. CNN makes mixed-bag review on Ph, but new poverty statistics reinforce its “pag-pag” picture. CCT definitely not working.

Last Monday was the deadline for filing SALNs.  But what’s this about the members of the House stubbornly prohibiting public disclosure of their SALNs?  Then too, Sen. Antonio Trillanes, supposedly the “poorest” senator, declared only a net asset of P3 million. Citizens, however, are asking whether he declared his two recently acquired loft units, said to be valued at P7 million each, at a posh condominium building on Shaw Blvd, as radio broadcasters were saying two weeks ago.


With Chief Justice Renato Corona’s trial resuming on Monday at the Senate, the SALN again takes certain stage, with increased pressures from various quarters for him to disclose his new document fully. But with the House members refusing to disclose theirs---not to mention the SC justices who have blocked their own disclosures since 1989, during CJ Marcelo Fernan’s term, through CJs Narvasa, Puno and Panganiban down to the present---one can see the hypocrisy toward this issue.

Former Makati Representative and now TV-radio commentator TeddyBoy Locsin went straight to the heart of the hypocrisy when he wrote in his “teditorial” titled “All SALNs revelant to Corona’s,” March 24, 2012:

“On the part of the Chief Justice, he is entitled to equal protection. If the SALN Law has been consistently applied loosely in the past with never a legal challenge, it is unequal to apply it strictly, for the first time, and only to the Chief Justice. It therefore behooves the Senate court, as Senate President Enrile agreed, to listen to evidence that gross inaccuracies are merely industry practice…which should absolve the Chief Justice as much as it has Pagcor Chairman Naguiat…In the Chief Justice’s case, fudging the SALN is implicitly lawful industry practice since it is done all over government particularly by President Aquino and his friends.

"But should the Chief Justice be held to a higher standard than other officials in government? No. But if so, it is relevant to see the SALNs of all the other justices in the Supreme Court, particularly the one who shared in the bounty of the PIATCO case as one of the Philippine counsel. One of these justices will be Chief one day.  Include as well the SALNs of the Civil Service Commission, which is tasked to enforce the SALN law, yet has never enforced it against anyone else before.  Never.”


What many political pundits had predicted has happened: the US has emphasized to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Volt Gazmin that it will keep its neutrality in territorial disputes such as that involving China and the Philippines in Scarborough Shoal, preferring that contesting countries seek international mediation. To be sure, when there was a lot of consternation over the US hands-off stand, Secretary Hillary Clinton assured us that America would honor its 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with Ph, but she didn’t say when.  As further pa-consuelo, the US pledged to beef up our Navy which now has BRP Gregorio del Pilar in a solitary stand-off with over a dozen Chinese ships at Scarborough.  


 As this blog argued last week as our officials left for Washington, D.C., for their meeting with US counterparts, the US is not about to be drawn into open conflict over Ph with China---not at this time when Barack Obama is seeking reelection, the US economy has not recovered and so many American companies have relocated manufacturing in China and are fighting over the gargantuan Chinese consumer market.

This is the reality, and the problem is not with the Kano, but with us naïve Pinoys. As Sen. Joker Arroyo put it, as a small country we should negotiate quietly, through low-key mediators as they used to do in the first Aquino administration---not to immediately send our two top Cabinet officials there for high-level talks with Clinton and Leon Panetta. That meeting made great photo ops, but nothing else. We’re truly by our lonesome at Panatag.  Nakakapanatag talaga, pero iyan ang katotohanan.


Many folks are upset over the CNN location story running this week about how Filipino children from metro dumps rummage through garbage for discarded left-overs to eat, and how scavengers repack them (after some “pag-pag”) to sell to other poor folks for P20/ pack.  It was a nakedly gutting story (retching even to us Pinoys used to poverty stats, how much more to a US audience that included my former Holy Ghost College classmate based there, Emerita Galian?)  packaged in a series of stories on Ph, titled “Eye on the Philippines,” by CNN with Anna Coren---reportedly for the neat sum of P63 million paid out by the Department of Tourism as part of its new promo campaign to lure tourists here.

The CNN package got mixed reviews, as there are those likewise critical of the slant of the “pag-pag” story about population explosion being the root of the poverty problem and how 70 percent of Filipinos support the RH Bill. A typical American line.


But the other side of the package touched on the positive. One segment, titled "Power of Design in Building Communities," featured my niece, interior designer Maja Olivares-Co, walking Coren through the Paco Market that Maja’s group has been working very hard at---an outstanding urban renewal project in the heart of Manila. There were also interviews of prominent Filipino business leaders giving a positive picture of the investment climate here. 

My niece in LA, Tiffany Olivares, was thrilled to see the feature on our various lovely beaches. Viewing them makes us Pinoys realize that our beaches are hands down our best tourist attractions and we should take good care of them, beginning with keeping our waters clean.


Through increase budgeting for promotions, such as its P63 million investment in CNN, it’s obvious that the DOT is all out to improve on the 3.7 million international visitors drawn here last year, representing a 12.7 percent increase over that of 2010. But there are loose ends that have to be tied before we can jack up arrivals and make our country truly competitive, say,with Malaysia which yearly draws 20 million visitors!.

I wrote earlier about huge delays in arrivals and departures especially of local flights at NAIA---due principally to the fact that all these years we only have one runway operating.  This problem has provoked so many complaints that Rep. JV Ejercito has called a hearing that hopefully can enlighten our officials.   

Now comes a plan of the Department of Trade and Industry to cut down on flights of domestic carriers---which admittedly have mushroomed---that are suspected of aggravating the congestion at NAIA by over-booking and then bumping off “late” passengers. Flying to Bacolod recently, for instance, we were told to show up two hours before or lose our seat, when I thought local flights need only one hour’s check-in. But if local flights are to be reduced, where will tourists ride around the country?

Obviously the remedy is to regulate local carriers and check unscrupulous practices, not to reduce flights. And yes, muster the economic and political will to build that second runway.


Interestingly, the CNN series that included garbage scavenging was playing out as the latest SWS poverty survey (March 10-13, 2012) came out. It showed 55 percent of respondents, or 11.1 million families, claiming to be poor, vs. only 45 percent or 9.1 million families in December last year---an increase of about two million families this year. These stats reinforced the grim poverty captured by CNN.

At the same time, however, the administration’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to alleviate poverty through outright dole-out was also being touted as a success and model---in time for the Asian Development Bank’s 45th annual meeting of governors in Pasay City.

But the logical question is, if self-rated poverty has increased, what does it say about the  success---or failure--- of the CCT program? This year the CCT allocated a whopping P39 billion, but it's projected to shoot up to a gargantuan P350 billion by 2015?


Secretary Ricky Carandang was quoted as saying results cannot be expected overnight from the CCT. True, but what’s disquieting about it is that it expanded too rapidly in the past two years, leaving many areas complaining about poor monitoring on the ground, where the CCT is being implemented by a huge cadre of personnel. This set-up alone seems tailor-made for graft and corruption.

 I have tried to keep track of the CCT in various localities. In Pasig, for instance, it seems like a now-you-see-it, now you-don’t program. Last Christmas season the beneficiaries waited for their monthly CCT dole-outs, which they had already programmed into the family funds. but because the CCT funds didn't come, their meager funds went into food expenses and they were unable to pay their electric bills. Since then nothing has been heard about CCT in that locality---and no explanation to the disheartened beneficiaries.

Some critics opine that some portions of the CCT funds were withheld to serve as standby funds for the Corona trial. Totoo kaya ito?

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  1. Will that issue about Sen. Trillanes owning 2 condo units never end? Maybe it's about time that these people who keep bringing this up support it with factual evidence and those who keep believing and spreading such, start straightening their facts... Maawa naman kayo sa sarili ninyo, nagmumukha kayong taong walang bait sa sarili - naniniwala sa sabi-sabi!

    1. being a veteran journalist means spreading rumors? relentless advocate of truth - san po banda?

  2. in answer to your query - http://trillanes.com.ph/index.php?id=news&post=statement-on-the-alleged-purchase-of-condominium-units-at-twin-oaks-shaw-boulevard-mandaluyong-city