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, January 5, 2013

Who’s going to dance with the people in the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City on Jan. 19? The Court of Appeals’ 12th Division should have addressed Gwen Garcia’s TRO fast. LP still has time to get out of the huge mess it created. Recalling Fr. Jim Reuter’s feats, such as swimming from island to island around Culion, oblivious of the sharks.

From sources we gather that there has been tremendous pressure on the Court of Appeals’ 12th Division to take its sweet time about the TRO petitioned by embattled Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia regarding her suspension by President Aquino last Dec. 21.  Garcia filed the urgent TRO petition before the CA last Dec. 26---following the superb timing by the DILG in executing P-Noy’s order right smack into the heart of the Christmas season, when the Court was in recess. 

After the New Year, the CA's 12th division scheduled oral arguments for Jan. 10, instead of ruling fast on Gwen's TRO petition---as another CA division had ruled in then Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay’s case back in 2008. This latest posture by the CA in Gwen's case is truly unfortunate, given the considerable tensions prevailing in Cebu over the past two weeks.


I wholeheartedly agree with Star columnist Ernesto Maceda who argues that this TRO petition should have been resolved fast, considering the standoff and tension and the fact that there are only two legal issues involved here.

These are:  whether the suspension of Garcia is illegal (which it is, as it comes 474 days after the charge of usurpation of authority was filed by her protagonist, then Vice-Governor Gregorio Sanchez, when the Local Government Code clearly makes resolution of a case imperative within 120 days), and whether the death of complainant Sanchez last year resulted in a dismissal of his case against Garcia.

Heaven knows when the CA decision would be handed down, given the pressures on the Court. Now acting Gov. Magpale is threatening to cut off power and water in the provincial Capitol where the feisty Gov. Gwen has staked out since Dec. 21---sleeping on the floor and taking tabo-tabo showers. Should Magpale make good her threat, however, it could be the igniting force that would move the Cebuanos, who are plainly outraged at what they perceive to be a power grab by the LPs, to resort to people power.


That the suspension was resorted to at the height of the Christmas season was crass and impolitic enough. But another complication is fast coming up. On Jan. 19 the entire province of Cebu celebrates the Feast of the much-revered Senor Sto. Nino, during which many thousands of pilgrims descend on Cebu City from all over the country for the traditional Sinulog Festival---a tourism highlight celebrated by colorful dancing in the streets of Cebu City.

By tradition, the Governor of Cebu dances with the people, but as far as the Cebuanos are concerned, Magpale is not their governor. It’s Gwen who was mandated by them in 2010.

The CA should resolve the petition of Gwen asap.


The LP is taking a beating in this suspension move against Gov. Garcia, which is being viewed in the light of another celebrated case---the jueteng case against Gov.Amado T. Espino, Jr. of Pangasinan, who claims to have the support of 38 out of 44 mayors of the province.  Espino is a leading light of the NPC, the major coalition partner of the LP, which counts with 45 members in the House of Representatives, quite apart from several hundred local officials across the country.

The move against Espino virtually signals the breakup of the LP coalition and I can see the NPC drifting toward UNA.  

The LP got into a huge jam in the two most populous provinces of the country, which boast of 2.4 million voters in Cebu and 1.6 million in Pangasinan. The LP would be in serious trouble in the 2013 elections if it doesn’t find a way out of the mess in those provinces. 

One sensible way out for the LP: recall the suspension of Gwen Garcia, just like what happened in the case of LP Mayor Enrico "Recom" Echeverri of Caloocan, who was charged earlier by the Ombudsman and ordered suspended by the DILG for failing to pay GSIS premiums of City Hall employees in the millions of pesos. His suspension was recalled after a month. Contrast this treatment of LP's Echeverri with the six months slapped on opposition leader Gwen Garcia. 


Fr. James Reuter
The funeral mass for the late and much-loved Jesuit priest, Fr. James B. Reuter, S.J., yesterday morning at the Church of the Gesu at the Ateneo Loyola campus ended with a standing ovation for him.

To me there were two high points of that mass, aside from the Eucharistic celebration by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. One was the singing by Sr. Sarah Manapol, at the request of Jesuit Provincial Jojo Magadia, of “Mary’s child forever,” which she was singing to Fr. Jim as he was passing on to Eternity last December 31st noon. Sr. Sarah, who had taken care of him at the Our Lady of Peace Hospital in Paranaque City in his old age and lingering illness, has a beautiful singing voice and the words of her song, “Mary’s child forever…Mary’s Child forever,” repeated over and over into her dying ward's ear, left not an eye dry at Gesu.

Sr. Sarah also narrated how she was having a brunch at her room last Jan. 2, when suddenly she was blinded by a very bright light. She seemed to see Fr. Jim in his white sutana, climbing up a silver staircase, while cheered on by his parents and relatives. “C’mon, Jim, c’mon,” she seemed to hear them.

Quipped Fr. Magadia, “That was Fr. Jim, dramatic to the end, climbing up Nathaniel’s or Jacob’s ladder, cheered on by his relatives.”


There have been so many stories offered in the media and at the wake about the long multi-faceted life of Fr. Jim who died at 96. But Fr. Ben Nebres, former Ateneo President, who spoke at the funeral mass, offered a few insights that perhaps are not known. Fr. Jim, though not very tall, had the strapping build of an athlete---he was into football, basketball, swimming, etc.--- which accounted for his boundless energies.

In earlier years at La Ignaciana in Sta. Ana, Manila, he used to jog regularly around the Sta. Ana Racetrack about 4 am. One day he came home bloodied up---having run into a tricycle in the dark. He told his colleagues it was nothing to worry about; but what happened to the tricycle, they wanted to know.

Assigned to Culion Leper Colony in earlier years, Fr. Jim would swim from island to island in the open sea, apparently not realizing those waters were shark-infested. But as Fr. Nebres quipped, perhaps the sharks were afraid of him.  


Fr. Nebres, culling from Fr. Jim’s writings and people’s accounts, spoke of how Fr. Jim devoted the same athletic energies to bringing God to the people and the people to God. As a scholastic interned at Los Banos with other Jesuits and civilians toward the end of World War II, he wrote in his diaries that hunger and deprivation were blessings, for it's when one is hungry that everything looks so good and beautiful. In those months at the Los Banos camp he wrote plays about heroic lives there;  later, in the program Sta. Zita and Mary Rose that he put up over radio-TV and stage with Fr. Walter Hogan, he wrote of the dignity of labor and of the poor. Yes, Fr. Jim was very much pro-Life.


In his 96 years Fr. Reuter unbelievably touched innumerable lives, and among them was former SSS Commissioner Sonny Matula, who heads the Federation of Free Workers. But in today’s funeral mass I sat near GMA-Channel 7’s ace broadcaster/commentator Mike Enriquez and queried him whether he was also one of the countless young people assisting Fr. Jim, who came to be known as the “Reuter Babies.” Mike recalled with pride that he was associated with Fr. Jim in the Federation of Catholic Broadcasters which the latter had organized, with the initial 48 Catholic radio stations of Radio Veritas across the country as the backbone.  

Since 1961 Fr. Reuter’s apostolate had been the media, and those Catholic stations were quietly mobilized against martial law and during the snap elections of February 1986. Of course everyone knows how he converted Radio Veritas when it conked out during the EDSA Revolution into Radyo Bandido---working with June Keithley, Gabe Mercado and a few others. Reuter was to later claim that it was “an accidental role,” but perhaps the mammoth crowds at EDSA that protected the dissident military could be credited to a large extent to that subversive lonely radio.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm a Cebuano, and most of my colleagues in my workplace wants Gwen to step down. We are ashamed on the defiance of Gwen not respecting the decision from her superior. No vote for the Garcias this coming election and to Binay on 2016.