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, September 1, 2012

With brisk sale of mercury-tainted cosmetics a stone’s throw from FDA's office and counterfeit beauty products in Divi, can FDA prevent abortifacient contraceptives if RH bill is passed and there’s carpet-bombing of these from abroad? Mar Roxas good for DILG. Let’s hope Leni Robredo doesn’t make political capital of Jesse’s legacy. If she really has to run, suggest she does in Naga City---to continue where he left off.

Recent news said toxic cosmetics tainted with mercury are being openly traded just a stone’s throw from the Food and Drug Administration premises. On the other hand, a friend who’s a well-known hairdresser also recently recounted how counterfeit beauty products bearing name-brands are all being peddled openly in Divisoria (smuggled mainly from China). Woe to those, he said, who think they’re paying a good price for these products because they’re non-allergenic and good, when they’re actually counterfeit.

These reports got me to thinking: if such lose control is happening right under the nose of FDA and the customs authorities, can we imagine what would happen if the RH bill were to be passed and there would be a “carpet-bombing” of contraceptives from the giant foreign pharmaceutical companies, to push population control here?


 It's well-known that there are contraceptives that may lead to abortion, but pro-RH advocates insist that such drugs won’t penetrate the market here as FDA will screen what’s abortifacient and ban them.  But as illustrated by the proliferation of toxic cosmetics in the market, it may be beyond the control of FDA to even decipher properly what kind of contraceptives will come in (the UN Population Fund is said to distribute $45 million worth of contraceptives to the Third World countries annually).

Moreover, do we honestly think that in the carpet-bombing of contraceptives here---as advocated by the RH bill in order to put the population growth under "tighter control" (even though it’s now only at 1.8 percent annually, as per official UN statistics, or 1.9 percent as per National Statistics Office data)---the health workers at the grassroots would be that scrupulous or just efficient about what they pass on to the “poor women” in the squatter areas?

If we are honest about the above issue, the answer would be No. That’s what the House solons should say to the RH bill: No. We don’t need the RH bill.


I’m relieved that DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas will assume the post of DILG. At this stage, the way the late Jesse Robredo grew bigger in death than in life, anyone who seeks to fill his “tsinelas” would have a tough time. But it’s important that his successor comes to this post with no controversy or a taint of scandal, as otherwise, the memory of Robredo would be desecrated--- and the two weeks of national mourning over his untimely passing and all the incredible tributes would come to naught.

Also positively viewed is Mar's assertion that Usec Rico Puno would be transferred to another post. If Mar is to truly move the DILG he has to have  complete hold of its two branches---unlike the predicament of Robredo who had a lease on the LGUs, but not on the PNP which was conceded to be under the jurisdiction of Puno.  Unfortunately for Puno, while Robredo enjoyed a reputation for antisceptic administration, his undersecretary is quite controversial. 

It’s wise for Mar to consolidate his hold on the entire department---so that he could tackle the worsening peace and order problem, the primary and urgent task of the PNP, posthaste.


Many find it curious that given the crucial importance of the DILG especially in the coming elections, Vice President Jojo Binay chose not to accept appointment to that post. In the first place we don’t know how serious P-Noy was in sounding out Binay on this job. Then too, the Veep himself probably doesn’t want to get that deep an involvement with this administration, given the independent plans of his United Nationalist Alliance; thus he prefers to keep his job as Housing Czar and Presidential Adviser on OFWs where he can operate at the periphery and yet they’re vote-getting.

But the Veep probably didn’t expect that Mar Roxas would bag the DILG job.


Now it’s understandable that the Binay camp would view Mar's new post with some worry for 2016, when a return bout for the two fierce rivals for the country’s top post is anticipated. For the DILG post would bring Mar---born with a silver spoon and who never seemed at ease with the masa---to the grassroots where support for national office has to be solidified and held. In fact the leftist Bayan plainly views his appointment as a “mere election move by P-Noy to consolidate power.”  

An interesting offshoot of this political fact is that Roxas now probably fully understands how the political reality works at the grassroots level. For instance, as can be gauged from his electoral protest still pending before the PET, he knows how the PCOS machines worked against him in May 2010. It’s interesting to see how the fact that now it’s the administration’s Comelec would work for the LP.

Aside from the worsening peace and order problem, Mar's worry at the moment is how to move the LGUs beyond politics, to their vital  role in our disaster and calamity-prone country---to make them combat-ready for climatic emergencies such as earthquakes and floods, as well as to fight the menace of environment diseases such as dengue and leptospirosis.


In this connection, there seems to be a gusot over the current effort of the LP, led by its party chair President Aquino, to draft Secretary Jesse’s widow, Leni, for the Senate under its banner.  Right now party leaders led by P-Noy are pleading and cajoling her to agree to run, and the help of mass-based organizations left and right are being sought.

The comely Leni Robredo, 46, is a lawyer and seems to have a good head on her shoulders;  she won plaudits from a grieving nation for the  sensible and detached manner with which she handled the unprecedented state honors accorded her husband by the administration (“sobra sobra na”)---refusing to be overwhelmed by it all.


But now that Leni Robredo is faced with what to many others is the irresistible allure of a Senate post being served on a silver platter, should she or should she not? I hope she wouldn’t accept it and that she concentrate instead on taking care of her young orphaned family.  Comparison is being made with Cory Aquino but that’s not valid---Cory ran not because she was the widow of Ninoy, but because there was no one who could better unite the people against Marcos in 1986.

If she runs for the Senate, Leni Robredo, though academically prepared (perhaps far better than ¾ of the current crop of senators) would be accused of making political capital of the illustrious memory of her husband, and this could ruin them both.

I concede that if Leni should run at this point, it should be for mayor of Naga City and her best defense is that she wants to continue where her husband left off.


I recall another time when another great man was honored in death---Sen. Ted Kennedy who was regarded as the “Lion of the US Senate,” having served for decades after brothers John and Robert had long passed, and so capably. After his death his widow Vicky Kennedy, a lawyer, was being pushed to run for his Massachusetts Senate seat, but she refused; neither did Kennedy’s eldest son run, even though prospects of victory were great.

I also recall that when JFK’s daughter, the little girl at his funeral, Caroline Kennedy, ran for a New York Senate seat in the 2008 US elections, she lost. The opposition argument was that even JFK’s daughter had to first earn her credentials.

Here a member of Congress reaches his or her constitutional term limit or dies and the spouse or child automatically steps in without question from an unthinking electorate---as though it were a royal title they inherit for life. No wonder the successor acts pretty much like royalty too, often with disdain for the peasantry.

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