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, January 20, 2013

Gwen Garcia’s brinkmanship as she dances in Sinulog. Doc robbed of belongings by bystanders in jeepney side-swiping accident, instead of being helped back to hospital---another case of “What’s happening to our country?” Recalling Paris finale of 2007 Tour de France and Fr. Reuter belting out Ethel Merman at 1990 Catholic Authors Awards.

Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia

Brinkmanship. That’s what suspended Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia engaged in today, when she left the provincial capitol to dance in the Sinulog, as she had been doing for the past eight years. The decision didn’t come easy and in fact, I understand from mutual friends, Gwen labored over it for a whole week. One consideration was that the gates of the Capitol could shut down on her once she left it---ending her month-and a-day protest stakeout there. 

But apparently acting Governor Agnes Almendras Magpale and her LP bosses realized that to lock Gwen out of the Capitol when she returns tonight from dancing in the Sinulog, right on the Feast of Senor Sto. Nino, would be a battle from which they couldn’t win---especially after the morale-boosting visit to Gwen by UNA big-wigs VP Jojo Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, with senatorial aspirants Dick Gordon and Ernesto Maceda in tow. 

If tension is to be reduced in Cebu and further crisis averted, the Court of Appeals’ 12th Division should speedily resolve Gwen’s urgent motion for TRO, even though Presiding Justice Vicente Veloso has insinuated tremendous pressure on the court not to act on it.  Veloso should also engage in brinkmanship---on the side of right.


Last night a former QC neighbor I hadn't heard from for a long time suddenly sent me a query via Facebook: “Bel, what’s happening to our country?” Instantly I was reminded of the same question popped by the late Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez, my boss in the early ‘60s, to then QC Police Chief Tomas Karingal, in the hospital where Pelaez was confined after being wounded in an assassination attempt on his life. “General, what’s happening to our country?”

Our former neighbor Ronnie narrated that his nephew (let’s call him Dr. L.), who had just passed the medical board and is a resident in a big government hospital, crossed the busy street in front of the hospital, to buy sutures for a charity patient he was treating. Suddenly Dr. L., who was in his doctor’s white gown, was sideswiped by a passing jeepney and knocked out for a while. But the bystanders, instead of aiding him and carrying him back to the hospital, robbed him of his two cell phones, wallet, college ring and one or two more belongings.  


Later Dr. L., son of two well-known doctors, managed to struggle back to the hospital by himself, and after initial check-up he was taken by hospital authorities to another hospital for further check-up. Luckily there were no serious injuries, but questions remain.

This robbery episode happened in the heart of the city on a busy hour, not in some remote isolated highway in the wee hours. To Ronnie’s query as to what’s happening to our country, I admit being at a loss for an explanation. Is it the terrible poverty around us or is it the degeneration of our values system as a people? Or both as cause and effect?

Whatever it is, it’s indeed a very sad commentary on our times.


There’s another degeneration that should bring a lot of sadness too, even though it’s not new. This is the practice of athletes of using drug-enhancers --- termed by a writer as “a function of the moral degeneracy of athletes.”

The world is agog with the admission by seven-times cycling champ Lance Armstrong to US TV personality Oprah Winfrey that he resorted to doping to obtain the incredible strength he had displayed in those years of participating in the Tour de France, the century-old sports competition considered the most grueling in the world. What made Armstrong’s amazing feat doubly incredible year after year was that he is a stage 4-cancer survivor.


Doping has surfaced in various sports competitions in the world, and doubtless the International Cycling Union would conduct an investigation into the Armstrong case. But for this online columnist, I can still recall how exciting it was to watch in 2007 the end stage of the three-week Tour de France in the heart of Paris, which had begun weeks back in the French Alps.

The final leg was when perhaps 200 cyclists raced the long loop between the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees and the Louvre Museum on the Rue de Rivoli at the other end---at such breakneck speed and so close to one another.  Watching the race that morning on the Champs Elysees in perhaps twelve-deep crowds (a foreign media guy who had brought a ladder allowed me to climb up for one round), I felt my breath tightening---if even just one cyclist tripped, the whole caboodle would fall like a deck of cards and hurt themselves.

Sadly now Armstrong just tripped himself with his doping admission to Oprah. Down falls another icon.


Dr. Luis Esteban Latorre
Dr. Luis Esteban Latorre, who used to be executive director of the Asian Catholic Publishers, Inc. (ACP), wrote to note that the late, beloved Fr. James Reuter, who passed away at age 96 last New Year’s Eve, was among the awardees of the prestigious “Catholic Authors Awards” established by the ACP, with the late Jaime Cardinal Sin as chair. The Awards program recognized Catholic lay or religious leaders whose lifework represents “a continuing contribution to the propagation of the Christian faith through the print media.”

Fr. Reuter was recognized by the ACP in 1990 for “Drama and Social Communications,” and among his achievements in this corner was founding the Philippine Federation of Catholic Broadcasters. This became  the training ground for future media luminaries such as ace commentator and senior VP for radio operations of GMA-Channel 7 Mike Enriquez (who was once a seminarian).


Fr. James B. Reuter
Dr. Latorre, who now serves as Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas’ chief of staff, recalls that moment of Reuter’s award from Cardinal Sin: “I will never forget his acceptance speech. Instead of going to the mike and delivering a speech like the other awardees, Fr. Reuter went to the nearest piano keyboard and saying, ‘the real reason they’re giving me this award is…’ he then belted out the famous Ethel Merman song: ‘There’s no business like show business…’ How funny, how human, how divine, how Reuter!”

Latorre quoted Reuter writing in another piece: “Every life is a drama. Every soul is filled with love or sorrow, with beauty or pain. Every grey surface is camouflage and deceives the dull. Each child, each man, each old woman is worth our full and prolonged attention, even God’s attention. He does not make us wholesale. He thinks of eternity and then creates each of us separately. And he creates in color. Even you. You are a walking romance or a wheel-chair romance or a bed-ridden romance. You can’t help it. God made you that way. He likes drama.”

Those were beautiful words, clearly showing that Reuter was pro-life, respectful of creation which God does not make “wholesale,” but instead separately, one from the next. Note, pro-RH people.

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