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, August 19, 2012

Nation keeps praying for Robredo. Evelio Javier’s widow Precious passes away, to be buried beside her beloved in Antique. Reports from grapevine: Abad to be transition CJ, succeeded by Sereno, or she lands straight in top post. Nene bats for compassion for GMA.

As I write this online column early tonight, news came in that the body of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo was found very near Masbate island, following the crash of his one-engine plane yesterday. And yet, just half an hour later, a friend who keeps close tab of the news said the earlier report was not true---a hoax. At this point the entire nation remains prayerful that somewhere he is alive and will surface eventually, for Jesse Robredo is one of the few unqualifiedly admired in the Cabinet of President Aquino. 

My most recent encounter with him was last year---after a whole-day forum in Makati he came to guest in the radio program Cecile Alvarez and I had run for a good number of years over DZRH. We had a good dialogue about his pet political principle—the participation of people from the broad base, power pushing upwards instead of the common notion of it trickling from above.  Robredo lived this principle as mayor in his native Naga City, which is why he’s so loved there.

Across the nation, Filipinos value his simplicity, naturalness and lack of pomposity; he enjoys high credibility--- so much so that despite the criticisms about how the Cabinet handled its baptism of fire, the Luneta massacre, Robredo escaped its scathing intensity, unlike Rico Puno who had to be shipped to Harvard for a while. May God comfort his loving family in these trying times.


Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile raised a good point when he criticized the security people of Sec. Robredo in making the latter fly in a one-engine light plane at night over water (from Cebu to Naga City, ditching it over Masbate when the plane developed engine trouble). Enrile said this should be a no-no. He can say that again.

I remember when I, then a political reporter for the black-and-white Mr. and Ms. Magazine, flew in one such plane, hardly bigger than a tutubi, with two prominent Jesuits, Fathers James Donelan and Bienvenido Nebres (who both became president of the Ateneo University), to San Jose, Antique, for the funeral of its beloved hero for democracy, Gov. Evelio Javier, at dawn on February 18, 1986. We returned the same day to Manila as dark was approaching.  Fr. Donelan, the pilot, kept the plane hugging the shores, but when we got to San Jose, Sen. John Osmena, who followed us in his twin-engine plane on the cogon-runway, was horrified that I could even think  of flying in that single-engine tutubi.

In the return flight I got so terrified because of what John had said, but Fr. Donelan, his Irish wit ever-flashing, sought to comfort me by saying, “Don’t worry, if we should go down either Fr. Nebres or myself could give you absolution.” Then Fr. Donelan related how once, returning to Manila from Culion Leper Colony where he made regular visits, his engine conked out  over Merville Subdivision;  he simply let it glide to the airport runway. By then I was frozen with fear, but luckily we made it alright.


Reminiscing about Evelio Javier, let me report that his lovely widow, Precious Lotilla-Javier (sister of former Usec Popo Lotilla), passed away a few days ago in California, after a long bout with cancer. Her son Gideon travelled there and will accompany her remains here, to be buried beside her beloved Evelio in San Jose, Antique. Precious had lived in the US for many years.

I recall in one of those gatherings in October 1985 of kindred folks working for the restoration of democracy in our country, Evelio intimated to me about how he longed to see his wife and children in the US. He was full of yearning for them, and Precious sacrificed so much in their being apart. I encouraged Evelio to fly there right away even for a quick visit, but he felt he just couldn’t yet, as the fight here was just beginning to heat up. 

Four months later Evelio was gunned down by henchmen of his political enemy in Antique, as he guarded the ballots of Cory Aquino. Her son Noynoy should never forget how much his family owes to people like Evelio Javier.


The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the national lawyers’ organization set up by law, and the Judicial and Bar Council which is mandated by the Constitution to screen nominees for the judiciary, deserve heartfelt congratulations for standing up to tremendous pressures not to insert the name of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima last minute in the JBC’s short-list for CJ. Had the IBP caved in to pressures to discontinue its investigation of the disbarment cases filed by two lawyers against De Lima, the JBC could have had reason to include her in the short-list, and as the President has stated, he would not have been “disappointed.”  

But because the IBP stood its ground, the JBC couldn’t do anything; despite the stubborn fight Undersecretary Musngi gave on behalf of the Palace to have De Lima’s name in the JBC short-list. There was also tremendous public pressure on these two organizations to respect the rule of law and not alter their rules of engagement.


There’s now a lot of speculation on who’d be the next CJ. Rooters of acting CJ Antonio Carpio, led by the almighty Sigma Rho frat and his media sympathizers, are exerting all kinds of pressure to have him appointed, but they may be in for a disappointment.

From the grapevine, reports say that SC Justice Roberto Abad, who retires in May 2014, may be a transition CJ, after which P-Noy will appoint Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, his first appointee to the SC. But then again, there are persistent reports that he would directly appoint Sereno to the top post. If this happens, and assuming she gets to the retirement age of 70, she’ll not only be the first female CJ, but she’ll figure in four presidencies---part of P-Noy’s, two full succeeding presidencies, and four years of the fourth presidency.


Palace officials are now saying that the state of health of former President Macapagal Arroyo ought to be studied by “independent doctors” after her cardiologist at Makati Medical Center, Dr. Roberto Anastacio, had said in a press conference that GMA’s  blocked esophagus and a coronary artery could lead to “sudden death” if not attended to. Anastacio recommended immediate treatment in either New York City or Austria, where repetitive surgery is practiced well.

But before this, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said that verification should be made whether doctors and health facilities abroad could be brought here to look at GMA. And still earlier, the Palace was quoted as saying that it’s leaving this issue of GMA’s foreign treatment to the courts. 

Kung ano-ano na lang excuse for not letting her leave, which is her right under the International Declaration of Human Rights.  


Every person of note has weighed in on letting GMA leave for foreign treatment. There’s former Sen. Nene Pimentel, a staunch critic of GMA, who argues that “while justice must be served, it should be carried out with compassion.”  Nene stresses that he is not a supporter of GMA, “but in the cases filed against her, there must be compassion because that is the right and moral thing to do.” He added that part of that compassion is making sure her medical needs are properly addressed---and this includes being allowed to seek medical treatment abroad if that is the best option for her.”

But P-Noy seems determined to ignore all the pleas on behalf of GMA and  keep her here at all cost. There should be people who can knock some sense into his head, or better still, knock at his hard heart.

Earlier I argued that even Ferdinand Marcos allowed a convicted and sentenced Ninoy to leave for Texas for his heart by-pass, even though this was already being done here. P-Noy must also remember that Imelda Marcos, who was already being tried at the Sandiganbayan, was allowed to leave for a glaucoma operation abroad. 

For comments/reactions, please email:

1 comment: