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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.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rules broken in House over ‘substitute RH bill.’ Is there a Catholic vote? Definitely. Lipa Archbishop Arguelles appeals to CBCP colleagues to dedicate their dioceses and people to the Immaculate Conception of Mary on Dec. 8, to counter RH bill. Serendipity over Cardinal Wyszynski and Lech Walesa.




In the House of Representatives one can feel the tension daily over real or imagined showdown between pro-RH and anti-RH legislators---and this is reflected easily in the restiveness of their followers in the gallery. After the Secretariat determines that a quorum (minimum of 142 votes) exists, many thoughts immediately wonder to whether pro-RH advocates would try to push voting on this controversial bill.

Apparently there’s no defined rule of behavior on this issue, despite rules evolved over many Congresses by the Committee on Rules chaired by the Majority Leader.  For instance, last Monday,  Nov. 26,  174 House members showed up in answer to Speaker Belmonte’s plea for quorum and in no time what’s known as the Speaker’s “substitute bill” on RH was voted upon by viva voce (by acclamation of the ayes vs. the nayes), replacing the old bill principally authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman on deck.  

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Many rules were broken in that exercise, one being that a heavily amended bill ought to go back to the committee; instead the "substitute bill" was railroaded  straight to the floor for voting. It’s easy to see why pro-RH solons chose viva voce---shouting one’s vote together with everyone else’s does not give one’s identity away; obviously the pro-RH solons wanted to hide from their bishops, lest the latter rain down fire and brimstone on them come election time.

But when Cebu’s senior solon Pablo Garcia called for nominal voting right after viva voce (which demands that each member stands up to explain his vote), presiding Deputy Speaker Gilbert Remulla quickly banged the gavel and adjourned for lack of quorum daw---even though 174 were present.

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To some observers, the solons’ hiding behind the ayes and nayes vote last Monday confirmed their belief that there is a Catholic vote, despite protestations to the contrary, and that this could affect their standing in the polls in 2013. A veteran Mindanao legislator recounted to me not too long ago, as the two sides began their showdown, how he used to take the pro-RH side. He recalled with a laugh how nearly daily for weeks his parish priest would lambast him for this perceived stand. Today this solon is rabidly anti-RH and swears that there is indeed a Catholic vote---if it chooses to mobilize.  

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If by Catholic vote we mean those sizable chunks of the population who would be swayed by their bishops to vote for a particular candidate because he or she happens to be their friend or patron, this doesn’t apply. But at this stage I personally think there is a Catholic vote indeed on the RH bill which has become a black-or-white issue to many people of faith, despite what the surveys aver. In fact I must confess I have never seen the Catholic Church as united as in these times.

To be sure there are discordant voices here and there, especially among some Church-goers (including some academic faculties of some schools). But by and large, the Catholic bishops appear to be solid---or near-solid---against the RH bill and united to their flock, as they find repugnant the RH imperialism being foisted on this Third World country from abroad. They also feel strongly against the bill’s provisions especially on the morality of abortifacient contraceptives, the sex education of the youth and attempts to control the population.

In other words, this is not campaigning for any one candidate for the bishops, but their taking a strong unequivocal stand on matters of faith and morals; it appears that they are willing to fight those who would advance anything to the contrary.

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In fact in this regard, I’ve heard a couple of church historians opine that the fervor being displayed in some sectors of the faith reminds them of the same ferocity of feeling of the early Christians. Helping to fan the renewed flames of faith among Filipinos were recent events in succession: the canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod, the appointment of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle to the exclusive club of Cardinals and the proclamation of the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization by Benedict XVI.

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Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles
One of the most vocal bishops is 68-year old Lipa Archbishop Ramon Cabrera Arguelles, former vice-chair of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life and a spirited Batangueno whose roots are in Batangas City and Taal. Earlier this week Arguelles hit the headlines when he was quoted exhorting the faithful to use the “Catholic vote” against solons who would vote for the RH bill.  Arguelles’ exhortation drew various reactions, with some fearing it would turn off even Catholic faithful; but there are also those such as Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas, who feel it’s time the battle-lines are drawn.  I’ve heard Ateneo alumni open about “putting their mouths where their conviction is.”

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Earlier this week I also heard that the outspoken Lipa Archbishop, who had former served as military vicar before Lipa, had written fellow bishops exhorting them to dedicate their respective dioceses to the Immaculate Heart of Mary this December 8--- the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a huge annual celebration in the Church. Arguelles, known to be very “Marian,” reportedly has scheduled the dedication of the Archdiocese of Lipa to the Blessed Virgin at the 5:30 pm. mass on Dec. 8 at the Cathedral.

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From what I gathered, Arguelles has long been studying the phenomenon whereby the late Primate of Poland and Archbishop of Warsaw, the iron-willed Stephen Cardinal Wyszynski, had saved his country from communism by dedicating his country and people to the Mother of God.

Media sources note that Wyszynsky, whose 30th death anniversary last May 28, 2011 was marked in Poland and the Vatican, was imprisoned in 1953 during the government crackdown on Catholic resistance; he lived for months under house arrest. But as “Clerical Whispers” noted, Cardinal Wyszynski and the Polish Church “endured to celebrate the Millenium of Polish Catholicism in 1966, and later to see the election of his fellow Polish cardinal, Karol Wojtyla, as Pope John Paul II.”

Clerical Whispers said that at his Sunday public audience in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI advised visiting Polish pilgrims to imitate Cardinal Wyszynski, especially his “total abandonment to the Mother of God.” 

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My sources note that Archbishop Arguelles sees this dedication of the Filipino people and dioceses in "total abandonment" to the Mother of God as the surest way to protect them from the evil onslaughts of the RH bill. This second week of Dec. 8 will celebrate not only the Immaculate Conception of Mary but also the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. Both of them are patronesses of the Philippines, with Guadalupe as the special patroness of pregnant women (her image from Juan Diego’s cape portrays her as pregnant).

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By incredible serendipity, as we recall here the heroism of Cardinal Wyszynsky in standing up to communism in Poland, that country’s former President and Nobel Prize winner, Lech Walesa, who was most instrumental in the final overthrow of communism in his country two decades ago, was a visitor to Manila earlier this week. He made a call on President Aquino and addressed various groups.

The 69-year old former Solidarity Leader, said to be a devout Catholic, was quoted in a Star article as opining that couples “should be guided by their conscience, decide for themselves and not be dictated on whether they should use contraceptives.” The item said that Walesa had also opined that “the issue of the (RH) bill in the country should be done through proper consciousness and proper education.”

Walesa was quoted as stressing that “the Polish Church is always conscious of such (responsible motherhood or parenthood) and it is appealing that it is the responsibility and proper education that would lead to proper birth control…It has to come from the conscience and not from imposing condoms or any other items.”

Rightly said, Mr. Solidarity.


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Friday, November 23, 2012

Smartmatic’s super-salesman, Cesar Flores, seeks to reassure Pinoy voters everything will work out in our 2013 automated elections. But should we trust him again, given all that Smartmatic promised in 2010 which it now claims Dominion, the real owner of the automation technology, never delivered? Will it be, in the end, pera-pera lang?


President of Smartmatic Asia-Pacific Cesar Flores
There goes Smartmatic International (SMMT) President for Asia-Pacific Cesar Flores again, seeking to reassure Filipino voters, as quoted in Philippine Star today, that its dispute with Dominion Voting Systems International Corporation “would not affect the country’s mid-term elections in 2013.” Flores was reacting to stories sprouting all over media about the sensational suit and counter-suit the two IT rivals filed against each other before the Delaware Chancery Court in the US, that was triggered by the cancellation by Dominion of its license agreement with SMMT last May 23, 2012.

In the 2010 elections SMMT leased some 82,000 PCOS machines to the Comelec, while Dominion provided the automated election technology which it owned. But the sudden cancellation by Dominion of its license agreement with SMMT---and SMMT’s legal recourse to the Delaware court for breach of contract, and Dominion’s counter-suit vs. SMMT for failure to abide by the 2009 terms of agreement---have placed our 2013 elections in jeopardy.

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SMMT, through Flores, seeks to reassure us Filipinos that his company could still use Dominion’s technology while the Delaware case is pending, and that they are very confident of winning the case vs. Dominion in the end. But Dominion in its counter-suit flatly denies that SMMT could still use that technology as the license to do so has already been withdrawn.  Thus, if SMMT were to resort to Dominion’s intellectual property for our 2013 elections, it would be what local IT experts term “pirated technology” or “contraband technology.” The government could get into trouble for this.

The question in many minds is, why should we fall a second time for SMMT’s claims, which in the light of the celebrated court cases in Delaware between it and Dominion, could indeed be merely a NEW ROUND OF DECEPTIONS. 

For example, it will be recalled that SMMT always said that it had already deposited in escrow the "source code" for the 2010 elections in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. The source code is the heart of the program that operates the automated election system (AES). But in its Delaware suit this year, SMMT finally admitted it was Dominion who held this source code and that it was never turned over to SMMT---and certainly NEVER was held in escrow in BSP.

Parang sira ulo ang mga IT experts natin, demanding to inspect this source code, even to the extent of filing a suit with the Supreme Court---which ordered that SMMT allow the experts to study it. Wala pa talaga dito.

The Philippine government should steer clear of this jeopardy.

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As usual SMMT's prexy Flores is trying to paint a rosy picture for the 2013 automated elections here, as he did in the May 2010 elections, whose results are now being scrutinized and questioned by various sectors. But as Filipino IT experts have warned, our 2013 elections could be caught in the middle of these expensive Delaware lawsuits that could drag on beyond the elections.

Moreover, the accusation of Dominion that SMMT has neglected its duty to test-run the PCOS machines in the 2010 elections is now severely trying the Filipinio people’s faith in the credibility of our AES---as we prepare for 2013.

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As an immediate example of easily understandable poor performance, our local IT experts noted that last July 24-25, 2012, mock elections were conducted during the hearing of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms. The SMMT report clearly showed that the PCOS machines being tested failed to meet the required accuracy rate of 99.995%---attaining only 97.215%.

What does this discrepancy mean? According to the experts, per the project’s terms of reference, “PCOS is only allowed 1 error in 20,000 marks; but the results of those committee mock elections translate to 557 errors in 20,000 marks.”  Stressed the IT experts, “This error rate can make or unmake mayors, governors, congressmen, and the bottom half of councilors, provincial board members, and senators!”

This computation by the IT experts should make the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC), that began looking into the 2010 (AES) only last Wednesday---as co-presided by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr.---sit up and worry.  The error rate of the PCOS machines could make these very members of Congress victims of hocus-picos, to borrow former President Erap’s memorable phrase in 2010.

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This Tuesday, Nov. 27, members of the Filipino IT community, led by the Center for People Empowerment in Government (CenPeg) and the AES Watch, in conjunction with Tanggulang Demokrasya (Tandem), a civic organization led by Victor Barrios that was active as election watchdog in 2010, will co-sponsor a presscon at the CBCP Forum in Intramuros. The IT experts will touch on the lawsuits in the Delaware Chancery Court and their possible repercussions on our AES, particularly its technical vulnerabilities.  

As the Tandem advance statement put it, “The most basic truth that saw the light of day through these events (in Delaware) was: As suspected, there was really something wrong with the 2010 elections, and a number of people lied and connived to conceal what was wrong. With this we arrive at the following conclusion: The upcoming 2013 elections, in its current form that is based on a tainted technology, must not be permitted to push through.”

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Admittedly, the future of our AES in its present form---where the Comelec was  given the green light by the Supreme Court a mere two weeks after the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, to buy from SMMT some 81,000 PCOS machines used in 2010, but now supposedly already upgraded for the 2013 elections---is dark and dingy.

This is because, as the response of Dominion International to SMMT’s complaint in the Delaware Court stated, “On June 14, 2012, Dominion International, through counsel, wrote to Smartmatic International to advise it that, due to the termination of the License Agreement, Smartmatic International has no licensed to provide those 81,000 machines to Comelec, and that Dominion had no obligation to undertake the upgrades.”

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But is there a solution being explored by SMMT?

At last Wednesday’s first hearing at the Senate of the JCOC on the 2010 AES, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes asked to be excused as he was meeting the Canadian Ambassador for lunch, accompanied by newest Commissioner Grace Padaca.  To the uninitiated, that meant just another lunch date, but to IT experts present it meant an entire world.

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This is because there’s rumors going on that to save the day for SMMT International, it plans to appeal to Dominion Canada (which I understand is the mother company of Dominion International) to allow its PCOS technology to be used in the Ph elections of 2013, in the light of the cancellation of the license agreement with SMMT by Dominion International.

There’s talk that during the recent state visit here of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Comelec and Smartmatic officials spoke to him about the Delaware problem as well as the urgency of Ph elections six months away---and a possible rescue solution that could be offered by Dominion Canada.

XXX

There are observers who opine that ultimately the SMMT-Dominion quarrel will just be a question of “pera pera lang:” ---- e.g., SMMT, to avoid loss of face before the international community in the Philippine elections, would agree to negotiate a new “Statement of Work (SOW)” with Dominion to cover the Ph 2013 elections, as Dominion is insisting. Although SMMT and Dominion had preliminary discussions about a possible SOW for future collaborations in Ph, the parties had failed to reach agreement. But now things might have changed.

Was Chairman Brillantes’ and Commissioner Padaca’s lunch with the Canadian Ambassador part of the new solution? Abangan.


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Sunday, November 18, 2012

P-Noy should get complete check-up. Who footed bill at PICC gathering of local business organizations purportedly supporting RH bill? Did manifesto signatories represent their members' sentiments? IMFs’ Christine Lagarde lauds Ph’s ‘young population and fast-growing work force’---contrary to business groups’ stand on population control. But Lagarde stresses need to 'create sufficient productive jobs to absorb new labor force entrants.'


President Benigno Aquino III
Palace spokesperson Abigail Valte says heavy duties of state are taking their toll on President Aquino’s health. Indeed it does seem so. He was taken ill with a bum stomach in Sydney while on a state visit, skipping his after-dinner speech. Valte was again quoted the other day as saying that P-Noy’s stomach was again the culprit when he was forced to cancel a meeting with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde---delegating her briefing to VP Jejomar Binay. Other accounts said P-Noy had colds and the flu.


Whatever it is, P-Noy’s health seems to be suffering and my unsolicited advice, doubtless shared by many citizens, is for him to get a thorough physical check-up.  Health is of primary importance to the Chief Executive. And yes, he should cut down on smoking, if not totally resort to cold turkey---abrupt stopping. Eliminating smoking would certainly improve his health.

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Representatives of various business and professional organizations gathered at the PICC last Thursday in what was billed as the “Summit on Family Planning in the Business Sector.”  It was not clear in media accounts who actually spent for it, but the impression some media got was that the bill was footed by a number of foreign pharmaceutical companies in the manufacture of contraceptives, among other products. The Embassy of the United Kingdom, the United Nations Population Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Planned Parenthood Foundation were also mentioned.

It should be made clear to citizens of this country, however, who footed the huge bill for that PICC gathering, for there are charges of foreign meddling--- or more directly, “RH Imperialism”--- being foisted by a conglomerate of giant pharmaceuticals, certain UN agencies that aim to subject  120 million women from poor countries under their population programs by 2015, and Western countries led by the US and the UK. 

It has been pointed out by various commentators that as early as 1974, the US had already been looking at the direct relation between population control and US security and economic interests overseas---through the highly controversial "National security Study Memorandum 200," more popularly known as the Kissinger Report. 

At the PICC gathering last Thursday British Ambassador Stephen Lilli played a prominent role, as did the UK-originated pharmaceutical firm Zuellig through the Zuellig Foundation chaired by former Foreign Secretary Roberto Romulo.

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Another query that ought to be raised is, when these various business groups signed that manifesto of support for a “national modern family planning program,” did they first put this stand to a vote among their respective memberships, or at least before their respective boards? It’s a fact that the RH issue has divided the country as few others have, and the various groups at PICC doubtless reflect deep division in their ranks. Did the organization reps truly represent consensus?

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At the close of last Thursday’s session, representatives of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, the Makati Business Club, the Management Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Business for Social Progress were also reported to have committed to mobilize investments for family planning and other reproductive health services, and implement family planning programs for the poor as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Obviously the PICC gathering's support for the Aquino administration’s family planning program was meant as added impetus to the Senate push for the RH bill. In the House the counterpart bill has been in the doldrums, owing to failure of its supporters to show up, reportedly because they're already busy campaigning for 2013. 

But there’s also the fact that the bishops and clergy, as well as various Catholic organizations have been quite united in their stiff opposition to the bill. As I said in an earlier blog, I have never seen the Church as united as it is on this issue and its advocates could really make a dent in the coming elections.  

Given this fact in the House, pro-RH groups have been concentrating on the fight in the Senate, where the tactic is to support Sen. Pia Cayetano, the bill’s co-author, and demonize its staunch opponent, Sen. Tito Sotto.

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To my mind, however, the more interesting point is the contradiction between all-out support reportedly of the various business groups for the RH bill, and some pronouncements made by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, who was in Manila at the same time as the PICC gathering.  What do I mean?

Doubtless, it was not lost on the signatory groups that the term “family planning,” as used in the context of the ongoing national debate on the RH Bill in Congress, really refers, as the Bishops stressed in their Nov. 15, 2012 whole-page statement titled “Statements Against the RH Bill Amendments,”  to POPULATION CONTROL. Said the bishops: “Stripped of its bare essentials, THE BILL IS REALLY A POPULATION-CONTROL MEASURE.” 

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It therefore seems to me that the business executives at  PICC had the wrong emphasis. Instead of curbing population drastically through massive use of contraceptives, as the RH bill they're espousing proposes to do, I would think  the business execs would want to conserve this gigantic consumer base and market for their products that the 93 million Filipinos command. The success of the Sy family's SM empire across the nation is glaring testimony to this fact.

I would also think that the business execs would appreciate the fact that the Ph labor force is the envy of virtually the whole world BECAUSE WE HAVE A VIBRANT AND HIGHLY TRAINABLE YOUNG LABOR FORCE (current media age: 23 years old) that our local companies and factories are assured of---instead of their suffering the predicament that Singapore, Japan and various European countries, notably Russia and France,  now have:  an aging population that threatens their economic well-being and social security pension fund. 

No less than the architect of Singapore, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, has stressed the predicament of the tiny but most prosperous island state in SEA: that if its population does not produce more babies, Singapore is in grave danger of EXTINCTION.  Lee has been playing doomsayer for the past few years, but Singaporeans have been so conditioned to population control that they have refused to heed his plea.

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IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde


Various economic commentators here, such as former NEDA Chief and columnist Cielito Habito (rather wryly), have pointed out this enviable phenomenon of Ph's young labor force. 

In his Standard column, former Sen. Kit Tatad noted how the acting president of the African Union boasted that by year 2050, Africa will have the biggest young population, even as ageing afflicts the rest of the world.

 Ironically, here we want to kill that advantage through population control, kung hindi tayo sira ulo. 


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No less than IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde stressed this point here last week, and I quote, as published in a broadsheet last Friday, Nov. 16: “…the Philippines is in the enviable position of having a young population and a fast-growing work force, whereas most advanced countries and even some emerging markets in Asia have populations that are aging rapidly. This provides the potential to maintain or even accelerate growth in the future.”

Lagarde, however, was quick to stress that “realizing the potential from this ‘demographic divided’ requires creating sufficient productive jobs to absorb new labor force entrants.”

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Aye, Lagarde offers the solution that our manifesto-signing business executives should adopt to solve the country’s poverty and supposedly burgeoning population. This is, NOT TO CARPET-BOMB Ph with contraceptives, many of which are abortifacient and dangerous to women’s health, in order to control population growth--- but to provide much-needed training and education for our yearly emergent labor force, SO THEY COULD FIND JOBS.  

Once gainfully employed, they would manage the size of their families ON THEIR OWN, without dictation from an authoritarian government through highly-divisive legislation, but according to the dictates of their conscience.  



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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tito Sotto charged with plagiarism in Senate ethics committee by 37 complainants, whereas they overlook Pia Cayetano’s own case---because Sotto is lead anti-RH while Pia is co-author of RH bill. Ethics chair Alan Peter C. should inhibit in Sotto hearing out of delicadeza. Obama and McCaine confronted with plagiarism during campaign, but US VP Joe Biden takes the cake on this issue.





Senator Tito Sotto

Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto is getting it from various quarters on the issue of plagiarism which he stoutly denies.

A group of pro-RH academics has formally filed a complaint against him in the Senate ethics committee. Then too, from reports, Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late US Attorney General and herself a professed pro-contraceptive advocate, has also lodged a complaint in this committee against Sen. Sotto for allegedly desecrating the memory of her father.

By the way, is it true that Kerry Kennedy was given a distorted picture of the way Sotto allegedly used her father’s quotes in his 1966 South Africa speech titled “Day of Affirmation? I  read that she was made to understand that the Philippine Majority Leader had mangled those RFK quotes badly in his Filipino translation, which therefore drew her negative reaction.

Three US-based writers and bloggers who claim he plagiarized passages from their writings have also filed complaints. So far the ethics committee chaired by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano has received 37 complaints against
him.

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Senator Pia Cayetano
 I have a number of reactions to these developments. But first, quickly, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano should inhibit from chairing the hearings vs. Sotto, as he’s the brother of Sen. Pia Cayetano, co-author of the Senate RH bill. Since the complainants are nearly all staunch supporters of access to contraception and population control, it follows that they support Pia who's Alan Peter’s sister.


For the purpose of these complaints, therefore, it's imperative---out of delicadeza---that Alan Peter yield the chair of the ethics committee to another senator. The most logical to chair the hearings on Sotto would be Senate President Protempore Jinggoy Estrada, who's also an ex-officio member of this committee. 

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A key issue is why Sotto’s being singled out for plagiarism, when it has been pointed out in various media reports that Sen. Pia Cayetano herself was guilty of such wrong-doing.

Media reported that at least two privileges speeches she delivered  contained “paragraphs apparently lifted from sources available online---with no attribution whatsoever.” Critics note that Sen. Pia, who ranked No. 7 in her UP College of Law class and is a member of its honor society, the “Order of the Purple Feather,” delivered a World Environment Day speech with passages lifted without attribution from a UN Environment Program website. Moreover, data on maternal health that Pia used in another occasion were said to have been lifted sans credits from a speech by DOH Undersecretary Mario Villaverde.

These criticisms of Sen. Pia were repeatedly pointed out in social media as well, yet the stout defenders of intellectual honesty who complained against Tito Sotto have chosen to close their eyes on the complaints against Cayetano.  

Clearly the discrepancy in anti-plagiarism standards in the case of these two senators can be attributed to what one US writer terms “politics-based plagiarism scandals.”  Sotto leads the anti-RH campaign in the Senate, whereas Pia is RH bill co-author.

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When we speak of plagiarism, there has to be intended intellectual dishonesty and deliberate theft of an intellectual work by someone else, in order for it to be considered plagiarized.

In the case of Sotto, I think what happened to him is that he perused the sponsorship speech handed to him by his staff---presuming, as all the senators do, that they had done their homework, including proper attributions.  No senator or House member really has enough time to check out every footnote. There just has to be that comfortable trust level in what their people do.

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If you recall, this was also what happened to an associate justice of the SC whose researcher failed to credit proper sources in the ponencia he wrote. This justice, with all decency, simply refused to divulge the name of his researcher, even when he was threatened with impeachment by the House committee on justice.

I don’t think there was malice on the magistrate’s part. His researcher, who had made it to the top ten of the bar exams, just failed to acknowledge sources, arguing that quotes disappeared over several computer revisions. The justice, like the senators, had to assume the submitted work was okay.  

In the UP College of Law, when this issue raged, there were allegations that went unanswered that a number of prominent professors had also disregarded vital footnotes from other sources in their scholarly works. Could anyone ever think this could happen in the UP Law?

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Sotto’s chief of staff, Hector Villacorta, during the heat of the issue against his boss, asserted that it is common practice in the Senate (and doubtless in the House too) for legislators to copy word for word bills authored by their colleagues that failed to be enacted; they just re-introduced them in succeeding congresses as their own.  Just who is plagiarizing who then, argued Villacorta.

Sen. Sotto is not alone in his predicament. During the height of the 2008 US presidential campaign, Sen. Barrack Obama was accused of plagiarizing his longtime friend Deval Patrick, while Republican rival John McCaine was also accused of plagiarizing from Wikipedia.

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US Vice President  Joe Biden
But recently re-elected US Vice President Joe Biden takes the cake. US media accounts say he has had a long history of the plagiarism plague---beginning from his Syracuse Law School days when he wrote a 15-page school paper, of which five pages allegedly were copied from somewhere else. According to accounts then, he “pleaded ignorance, saying he did not know how he was supposed to properly cite his sources.”


The plagiarism controversy was to hound Biden through his political career---which his aides termed a classic example of “YouTube politics” before the Web even existed. While campaigning in Iowa, then Delaware Sen. Biden was reported to have used a series of phrases that closely mirrored a previous speech by British Labour Party politician Neal Kinnock, which went un-sourced. Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis was said to have created an “attack video” that spliced together Biden’s and Kinnock’s passages---and the Kinnock trick knocked Biden out of that presidential primary race.

In his defense, Biden was quoted by media as saying he had “routinely” credited Kinnock except that he had simply forgotten to do so during the (Iowa) stump speech from which Dukakis’ attack tape was made. Malas  lang daw talaga. Media said Biden has also been accused of lifting speeches from other sources, including Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey.

Interestingly, though, he was twice elected as President Obama’s vice-president and in the after-glow of their recent victory, he’s now being mentioned as possible presidential successor in 2016.

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Chief Negotiator Marvic Leonen
News reports said that President Aquino wants to appoint chief government peace negotiator Marvic Leonen, who negotiated the Framework Agreement for the creation of the Bangsamoro with the MILF, to the lone vacancy in the Supreme Court. In fact reports say P-Noy himself asked former UP Law Dean Leonen to apply for the associate justice post and that he topped the search of the JBC.

But the question is, why appoint him when, as P-Noy himself and Dean Leonen have stressed over and over, the Framework Agreement is the first step in the journey of a thousand steps toward the coveted peace in Mindanao---and it would conceivably be fraught with all kinds of obstacles along the way.

If this so, why not keep Leonen in the negotiation panel as he is the Framework Agreement's architect and the MILF apparently is comfortable with him? P-Noy can always appoint another person from among the six other JBC nominees to the SC. He should keep Leonon where he seems to be doing okay.



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Friday, November 9, 2012

US “jaggedly split down the middle on the presidency and torn over much else.” Now comes the reality check as Obama's second administration tackles the 'fiscal cliff.' After the victory champagne, US companies begin lay-offs. Recalling Dick Gordon’s moves to blueprint Subic Freeport---long before the Senate vote on non-renewal of the bases treaty.






The US presidential elections are over and Barack Obama was given a second mandate by the American people, amid a truly startling fact: that no US president has been reelected since Ronald Reagan with the national unemployment rate above 7%. In the week of the recent elections, official statistics point to a 7.9% unemployment rate, and yet the American people ignored this and voted Obama. But lest the Democrats gloat over this fact, political pundits in America and elsewhere are also falling all over in stressing that the 2012 elections saw the tightest-ever popular vote (50.2% for Obama vs. 48.6% for Romney)--- less than two percent margin between them.  

As an AP story put it, “The election laid bare a dual---and dueling nation, politically speaking, jaggedly split down the middle on the presidency and torn over much else.  It seems you can please only half of the people nearly all of the time.” In fact, the AP story cited that “Half of the country is thrilled that (President) Obama won, but the other half is in a very sour mood.” It cited a Cincinnati lawyer who noted how his co-workers “feel like the vast majority wanted Romney, and the East and the West coasts wanted Obama.”

XXX

Nowhere is this jagged split more reflected than in the battleground states.  Florida finally went for Obama at 49.9%, vs. Mitt Romney’s 49.24%, or a margin of only 55, 825 votes!  Note too how close was the margin was in other battleground states that  Obama swept, such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and others in America’s industrial heartland.

In fact, even in California, a traditionally Democratic stronghold, I noted that the difference was closer than in other elections.

XXX

But after all the celebration comes the reality check for America---and the world. The major issue is how to heal the wounds of this badly split-up nation, amid the frightening problems it faces---principally the skyrocketing fiscal deficit on the one hand (over $16 trillion public debt that Obama hopes to drive down by taxing even small businesses, but which the Republicans who control the 435-member House of Representatives strongly object to) and the imperative on the administration to cut down on public spending, on the other hand.

XXX

Because the two chambers of the US Congress remain, as before the elections, in separate hands (the 100-member Senate is controlled by the Democrats), the congressional impasse that triggered a near-crisis two years ago could continue. Thus, there is the fear that the nation may be staring at the worst recession since the Great Depression of the late 20s. Already this nervousness was indicated by the fall of stock market prices in the US the day after the elections. After the victory champagne the lay-offs began in some US companies.

A recession would affect the whole world, especially given the distressed state of the European economy, as seen in the massive public outcry against a new round of austerity measures in Greece.
Indeed, Obama needs prayers.


XXX


But as I wrote in my FB, one thing so marvelous about the American system is how their leaders close ranks after it’s all over, how the defeated call on all their followers to support the choice of the people in view of the country’s huge problems. In his concession speech Mitt Romney asked his weeping supporters to pray for the President and he returned the gesture by saying he’d seek ways to confer with his erstwhile adversary on solutions.

No matter if the candidates’ post-election pronouncements are viewed by cynics as insincere; the fact is that this is a beautiful practice in America. And how different from what we have here, where our President continues to rile away at his predecessor GMA, attacking her even in his forums with overseas Filipinos---despite the fact that the courts have already taken jurisdiction over cases against her. P-Noy should just leave GMA’s cases to the courts and attend to our equally numerous problems.


Bayan senatorial candidate Teddy Casino
Speaking of cases vs. GMA, Bayan Muna candidate Teddy Casiño has openly acknowledged that his case against her in the ZTE corruption issue was based on mere hearsay evidence. I’m suddenly reminded of what a former high-ranking SC magistrate who retired a few years back told me. In his opinion the cases against GMA would not be able to stand in court because of lack of solid evidence. It’s already coming to pass.

XXX

Pollster Ed Malay reports that UNA senatorial candidate Dick Gordon is topping the on-line polls, followed by Migs Zubiri and Mitos Magsaysay. This reminds me of what lawyer Rodolfo "Inky" Orlina Reyes, who had worked with Dick on the Subic concept recalled to me recently about Dick. It also shows the kind of foresight and action Dick is associated with---which we need in the Senate.

Former SBMA Chair Dick Gordon, now UNA senatorial candidate

Recalled Inky Reyes:
“Dick first came out with the concept of a Freeport in Subic Naval Base when he saw the Americans leave Sangley Point. Just like any other military base or mining operation that closes, especially in the U.S., the town it leaves behind "dies" a natural death because its economic umbilical cord is severed. Such was the case of Sangley Point in Cavite where many Filipinos found themselves out of a job when it closed. Many even flocked to Subic and Clark.

“Back in 1971 or 1972, already anticipating the prospect of the Americans leaving or the RP-US Bases Treaty not being renewed, he presented the Freeport blueprint to President Marcos and Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. Initially, he conceived of it being named the Autonomous Region of Greater Olongapo, or ARGO (which he joked also stood for Atty. Richard Gordon of Olongapo).

“When the Senate rejected the Treaty’s renewal in 1991, Dick pushed for the Freeport.  He roused me from sleep at 1:30 am. on January 3, 1992 and said "Brod, my people need your help." (Dick and I are fraternity brothers in the U.P. Upsilon Sigma Phi).  He asked to meet me that morning at Annabel's Restaurant in QC, and he was with former Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor, now DPWH Secretary Rogelio "Babes" Singson and former BCDA Director Francis Elum.

“After hearing Melchor's plan for Subic, he gave them his idea. Realizing that the Cory Administration may not push for the Freeport concept he presented, Dick invited me to go to Olongapo that very afternoon where we drafted what is now Section 12 of the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992 (R.A. 7227). It essentially created the Subic Bay Special Economic Zone and Freeport and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

“We called Atty. Luis "Chito" Vera Cruz of the ACCRA Law Offices (where Dick and I started our legal careers) for some advice. We also called my father, the late Ambassador Vicente G. Reyes who served as Consul General to Hong Kong from 1986-1989, because Dick wanted to make Subic the next HK.

“After coming up with the Subic Freeport provisions that he wanted to introduce into the bill, he instructed me to attend the next hearing of the Technical Committee headed by the BCDA bill’s sponsor, Sen. Leticia Shahani. After some cajoling, Sen. Shahani agreed to help Dick and introduced his proposed amendments to the bill.

“Then Dick asked for volunteers from Olongapo to accompany him to the Senate to lobby for the bill. Victory Liner owners offered their buses and hundreds of people from Olongapo came---vendors, jeepney drivers, barangay tanods, etc. ---the common tao---to lobby for the bill. He invited the senators to come outside to dialogue with them, among them Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Edgardo Angara, Leticia Shahani, Teofisto Guingona, Sotero Laurel, Neptali Gonzales, Ernesto Maceda, and they gave their support to the bill.

“In the House Rep. Kate Gordon, Dick’s wife led her colleagues to approve the SBMA counterpart bill. Both houses of Congress approved the bill before they adjourned sine die in February 1992.  President Cory Aquino signed the bill into law on March 13, 1992. The rest is history.”



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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dead-heat for Obama and Romney as elections in US get underway. Fantastic, unprecedented nail-biting exercise not just for Americans but the world over.




More than an on-line column, this blog tonight is more like notes I’m jotting down fast as I sit up to watch the current elections in the US.


Like so many people around the globe, I have been fixated for weeks now with the US presidential elections, which tonight are already underway in 36 states in the US, starting with the East Coast states that’s 12 hours later than Manila. They will continue across the various time zones in the US all the way to the West Coast that’s 16 hours later than us here.


I have been watching US elections over the many years that I have been a journalist and most especially in the past three elections that took place between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000, between  Barack Obama and John McCaine in 2004 and now between Obama and Mitt Romney.


I also closely followed the primary race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the presidential candidacy of the Democratic Party in 2007.  In 1976, I was in the US for the presidential elections between Gerard Ford and
Jimmy Carter, which the latter won.


What’s bearing down hard on Barack Obama in these current elections is the fact that he’s  for reelection and as CNN commentators have noted, in US history there have been only four incumbent presidents who failed to be reelected.


Some analysts note a tiny lead for Obama, but should he lose this one, it will be double tragedy for him, especially since he rode into the presidency four years ago on such a high crest of public adulation and even mass hysteria. Everywhere he campaigned, Obama drew unprecedentedly record crowds everywhere.  


The main reason he got elected was that he was the very first black man to win the White House in this nation of white supremacy. It was a truly  remarkable feat for a candidate then with only a two-year record as a junior senator and who, before that, had spent his time as a community organizer in a low-income area in Chicago.


Commentators have noted, however, that while Obama still stirs up people with his eloquence and delivery, his crowds this year have greatly shrunk from those of 2008 and the much of the political frenzy over him has frayed---largely because of some failed policies and target economic goals. 

As an analyst noted, where in 2008 Obama campaigned on the “Yes, we can!” theme, this year it morphed to “Yes, we should.” Expectedly he's now on a more defensive note.


By contrast Mitt Romney was Mitt Who? at the start of the campaign, lagging behind for months---until the first debate jumpstarted his campaign. It’s truly remarkable that now he’s running neck-to-neck with Obama, after having been out of office for so long (his one and only public stint was as four-year Massachussetts governor). This speaks less for Romney's strength than for Obama's weakness now. 

One thing going for Romney, and a nightmare for Obama, as I had said last week, is the laggard economy---the key issue will still be jobs and more jobs.  It's unfortunate for the President that updated official report places the  jobless at 7.9 percent. As analysts point out, Republican Ronald Reagan was the only recent incumbent president with a jobless rate above 7 percent, who managed to get re-elected (due to his being the Great Communicator). 


Moreover, there's the "fiscal cliff," as economists put it, that will have to be hurdled by whoever wins tomorrow---the US' staggering $16 trillion public debt, which had increased by $5.5 trillion in Obama's term.


The extra-high fever pitch of this year’s elections is reflected by the long lines of voters even before the polling places opened. This is more  remarkable owing to the fact that in the US, unlike in the Philippines, election day is NOT a holiday---people go to the polls early because majority of them have to report for work later.


As political pundits in the US have opined in the past two or three weeks, I must say I have never seen any US elections the way they have played out in 2012.  The elections are so unbelievably tight that tonight the United States remains clearly divided DOWN THE LINE, split right in the middle---so much so that no serious political analyst in the US or abroad would  hazard prediction of victory for either of them.  


As a US analyst put it, the American people are right now so bitterly split along party, ideological, racial, gender and just about every criterion. No doubt about it, the nation is so divided, but to this spectator, what is most notable is what I’ll call the socio-ideological divide, for lack of a better term right now as I jot these observations.

Traditionally, the Republican Party is thought of as the conservative party and the Democratic Party the more liberal (more swinging, if you will). It could be argued that these differences may be more clichés than anything else, but in the 2012 elections this is the perception we from outside the US are getting in a firmer way.

One reason could be that Mitt Romney is of the Mormon faith, which appears to be quite conservative in its adherence (I understand that this faith had given up allowing plural spouses decades back). But it appears that Romney has rallied to his side a lot of the other faiths because of his strong, clear-cut stand on life vs. abortion, single-spouse, man-woman marriage vs. same-sex marriage, divorce and other liberal tendencies.

By contrast, President Obama is perceived as leaning quite liberal. In other words, Obama appeals to the liberal strongholds of America, e.g., New York and the East, California and the big cities, whereas Romney is perceived as standing for the various faiths and the conservative Midwest, the so-called Bible Belt of America.

On CNN Cecille Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, came out endorsing Obama, and it was noted that the organization she heads received a total of $2 billion in Obama's four- year term for its advocacies in that direction.

An American listener was quoted as saying, in reaction, that he certainly does not want to have his hard-earned taxpayer's money to support contraceptives and abortion of people who should fund their own such advocacies.

The two candidates’ stand on the above related issues was played out quite well in the 2012 US elections: Mitt Romney projecting pro-life vs. the liberal Obama.

It’s also the most expensive presidential elections in US history---it’s estimated to have cost $4.2 billion, but probably it'll spill over even more when the whole exercise is all over. I was listening to one CNN broadcast and the commentator noted that in so many states in the last few days, the TV channels carried nothing but political ads.   


Don’t forget, too, that there could be frightful legal tussles all around over voting machines that didn’t work. Now, doesn’t that possible come closer to home, Pinoy voters?




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