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.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pundits note P-Noy’s earlier discomfort with Robredo’s style in DILG, which could explain CA’s failure to confirm him. Was MMC pressured to distance from position of GMA’s cardiologist? House solons spooked by recent events impacting on RH battle. Fr. Villarin assures Ateneo support for CBCP position on RH.

Someone in FB pointed out that in the unceasing avalanche of tributes to the late Secretary Jesse Robredo, one of the finest came from Camarines Sur opposition Rep. Dato Arroyo.  Dato was quoted as saying that Jesse so seldom wore that yellow ribbon on his shirt---meaning, he didn’t seem to want to capitalize on the fact that he’s with the administration (the way many other officials serving P-Noy always do) while lumping others on the OTHER SIDE.

As the FB entry put it, he seemed to just want to serve the entire Filipino people. That’s probably why, at this time of great divisiveness over many issues, it was Robredo’s tragic passing that---for one single moment in our time--- united our people regardless of political ideology.


The Makati Medical Center startled a lot of people, especially its patrons of decades, when it issued a disclaimer that the views expressed by cardiologist Roberto Anastacio on former President GMA’s medical problem is his alone and not the MMC’s. Dr. Anastacio said at a recent press con that the blockage of CGMA’s esophagus arising from a displaced titanium plate and a blocked coronary artery could lead to her “sudden death.” He recommended immediate repetitive surgery in either NYC or Austria, the only two places where this is done skillfully.

The MMC denied that Anastacio’s views reflect the hospital’s stand---something I cannot recall it doing before to a doctor in its roster. This shows how political the issue of CGMA’s foreign treatment has become and the power-politics being played on it. Let's call on Speaker Sonny Belmonte as the leader of the House to weigh in on this issue.  


Several political pundits and FB subscribers have queried why the Palace had tarried in submitting to the Commission on Appointments Jesse Robredo’s appointment papers for the DILG post---which apparently was a direct reason why the CA had failed to confirm him in over two years. Given the President's tight grip on Congress, as demonstrated by the impeachment trial of CJ Corona, it was unthinkable that Robredo would fail to be confirmed. 

Pundits traced this to the fact that P-Noy seemed uncertain about how he felt about his Cabinet official and their differences in the “style" of doing things;  how, finally, in December 2011, P-Noy was able to reconcile himself to it and Robredo's appointment papers landed in the CA. Certainly Robredo had a firm grip on the LGUs which he understood very well, having been six-term mayor of Naga City. But it was no secret that he did not have a tight hold on the PNP, its jurisdiction having been left more to Undersecretary Rico Puno.

Thus the public manifestation of grief by P-Noy and his Cabinet over Robredo’s tragic accident could be a way of ASSUAGING THEIR CONSCIENCE over their late appreciation of their fallen colleague.  But never  mind: the Filiipino people already “confirmed “Secretary Jesse with their tremendous outpouring of grief over his passing. Looking back at events, it’s not easy to think who could have been mourned as much in current officialdom.


The battle over the RH bill---which is bitterly dividing the nation as few issues have---is being fought with heated arguments as well as intimations into the  “supernatural.”  Last Aug. 6, while viva voce voting in the House on whether or not to terminate the debates over this bill was being pushed by its proponents (after 180 members returned from the Palace luncheon where P-Noy exhorted them to vote one day ahead of the agreed-upon schedule---to the protestations of the bishops later), tremendous rains were being poured by the habagat into the metropolis and surrounding provinces. The deluge---still unexplained to this day---caused massive evacuations. 

Then, in the wee hours of Aug. 7, the co-sponsor of the RH bill, Rep. Sonny Escudero of Sorsogon, died in his sleep after a long bout with cancer. Later that same afternoon, as the House prepared for debates on RH amendments, the Ms. Cecilia Lagman, mother of the bill's principal sponsor, Rep. Edcel Lagman, also died (it’s a testimony to Edcel’s determination that he stayed on in the chamber, keenly watching developments). That night the import of those recent events was discussed in hushed whispers among House members.


Next day, Rep. Roilo Golez of Paranaque, an anti-RH advocate, stood up on personal privilege to propose that instead of debating the RH bill, the House ought to look into the vast swathe of devastation in the metropolis, and showed slides to drive his point. When Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin tried to shut up Golez after 45 minutes, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez grabbed the mike to second Golez's motion to adjourn. Deputy Speaker Crispin Remulla had no choice but to bang the gavel and re-set the House session to Aug. 28, when this “live” motion will have to be taken up again.

This time it was the pro-RH’s turn to complain of railroading, but they did not have the numbers to rebut the quorum challenge of the anti-RH. Expect fireworks on Aug. 28.


Since that fateful Aug. 7, it became noticeable that many pro-RH solons had begun to stay away from session. Some were said to have started early election campaigning, but some colleagues whispered that  the absentees were simply spooked by the hair-raising train of events since the habagat floods. Then last  Aug. 18, the one-engine plane carrying Secretary Robredo went missing, and the long agonizing search for him and the pilots transfixed the nation. Then a Navy chopper, part of the Robredo rescue mobilization, plunged into the sea in Sorsogon.

All these recent developments have provoked questions in many solons’ minds---as well as the public: e.g., why push this bill that has become so divisive, when so many problems are facing the nation?  Shouldn’t P-Noy seek to decipher the import of all these events? 

In the realm of the rational, debates could go on, but when it comes to the meaning behind events, fears take over.  The House seems spooked enough to archive the bill.


In the level of the rational, a big debate is going on, spearheaded by CBCP President and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma. Some 160 professors of the Ateneo University recently signed a manifesto urging passage of the RH bill to uplift the plight of underprivileged women who allegedly suffer from too many pregnancies and poor health care (I later learned that a number of the signatories are students and admin personnel).  

Archbishop Palma challenged the signatories to resign from this Catholic institution of higher learning and teach in sectarian schools instead, if they don't want to teach the Church position. He also asked the Ateneo to state its position vis-à-vis that of the Church on the RH issue (news accounts spoke of Catholic schools abroad that had lost their “pontifical” status owing to open disagreements with Church positions).

Staunch pro-lifer and professor Rosemarie Pasimio-Padre quickly supported Palma’s challenge to the Ateneo signatories, while a group of alumni-parents applied the squeeze on the school’s youthful president, Fr. Jett Villarin, and the Jesuit Order. They asserted that they had entrusted their children to the Ateneo in the expectation that the latter would imbibe Catholic views on issues; they protested the stand of the professors.   


Villarin replied to the alumni parents by declaring openly Ateneo’s support for the Church’s anti-RH stand, even as he said the school respects the academic freedom of the dissenters and appealed to them to work for "more discernment." It remains to be seen whether the parents and the bishops would find his response satisfactory, and how this issue would impact on other Catholic institutions. One school that could be caught in the vise is De La Salle University whose former president, Bro. Armin Luistro, is now Secretary of Education. 

The bishops appear to be REVITALIZED by the challenge of the RH issue;  far from shirking, they seem to be in fighting form not seen since the end of the Marcos era. But this issue could also create a fissure in our political and moral society that could profoundly impact on values and direction.

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