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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.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

“Coalition of Anti-Pork Advocates” challenges P-Noy to stop using pork barrel for political leverage, and for members of Congress to reject it. But this is like asking for the moon. Pork issue tied up with political dynasty proliferation and kapit-tuko tenacity, argues Movement Against Dynasty (MAD). Recalling heroic Visayan saga of MLQ’s escape to Negros Island and setting up provisional gov't. 71 years ago this month.



A group of prominent citizens that calls itself the “Coalition of Anti-Pork Advocates” has asked President Aquino to stop the existing practice of pork barrel as it is a “root cause” of corruption and the “loss of integrity in our government service.” The Coalition also opined that the pork barrel “frustrates the full implementation of the Local Government Code of 1991” as legislators usurp the functions of the local development councils (LDCs)” ---“thus hindering the empowerment of our people in the barangays to make their own decisions.”

The Coalition of Anti-Pork Advocates called on P-Noy to “be emboldened” by the people’s popular support for him, to stop resorting to this “baluktot na daan.” And just as significantly, it challenged the congressional and senatorial candidates in this May’s midterm elections to “publicly declare their opposition to the continuing pork barrel practice.”

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But just over a month before the May 13 elections, the Coalition's petition for P-Noy to give up using the billions of pesos in pork barrel funds as political leverage, and for  the members of both chambers of Congress to publicly reject this continued pork tradition may be asking for the moon.

For as media have noted, how could P-Noy extract what he wants from Congress, such as the majority votes on CJ Renato Corona’s impeachment and passage of the RH Law in the recent past, if there’s no pork to twist arms with. How can campaigning members of Congress recover the many millions they’re throwing to bag votes if no pork is forthcoming?

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As many citizens have long realized, there’s a very direct connection between existence of the pork barrel (P70 million annually for each member of the House and P200 million for each senator, for a total of over  P24.6 BILLION for both chambers) and the kapit-tuko tenacity of politicos to bag elective local and national posts---THE PHENOMENON OF THE ENDURING POLITICAL DYNASTIES. As the March 7 AIM Forum on political dynasties pointed out and cited by Star columnist Dick Pascual today, 178 dynasties rule 72 out of 80 provinces and as Dick concluded, “they have been reaching farther and wider with their tentacles.”

Political dynasties often will fight to the death in order to hang on to their power precisely because of the gold mine that the pork barrel assures them for generations. As Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo put it, “Kung tanggalin yan, wala nang masyadong tatakbo.”  

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Predictably the Palace’s reaction was that, as spokesperson Abigail Valte stressed, it’s not necessary to abandon the pork barrel “as there are systems in place to ensure transparency in use of pork” and make its spending “efficient.”

Recent horror stories from the Commission on Audit itself, however, cite ghost projects and foundations of a number of members of both chambers of Congress. Moreover it’s no secret that Congress members’ requests for projects are sent by the Budget Department to the “implementing agencies,” and the practice is for senators and congressmen to get a percentage of costs---thus often resulting in sub-standard PW projects, sub-standard medicines and the like.

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Valte also insisted that the Palace’s thrust is “to make sure the PDAF is used in accordance with the purposes set by law” and that there is “no politics” in the recent tightening of its releases to all congressional districts. But last year alone, five members of the opposition in the House, led by Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, failed to get their PDAF.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda zeroed in on the cruel political fate Mitos suffered, exhibiting such unbelievable temerity in admitting thus, “(Mitos Magsaysay) is against the administration, she is against our policies. Our concern is, if you’re not helping us in our programs, in our policies, we might as well go straight to your constituents and help them.” As though the Palace owns the pork when it’s taxpayers’ money!

Like the Movement Against Dynasties (MAD), the Coalition of Anti-Pork Advocates ought to continue battling the pernicious pork, and perhaps citizens would join their patriotic clamor against this contemporary symbol of corruption. Get in touch with them today: antiporkadvocates@gmail.com.

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In my recent visit to the Heritage town of Vallehermoso in Negros Oriental, at the foot of Mt. Kanlaon, hosted by civic leader Tess Lopez, I learned about the historic escape of President Manuel L. Quezon and his family from Corregidor to the Visayas, weeks before that island bastion’s fall to Japanese invaders in May 1942. I was particularly curious because a member of MLQ’s party was his then youthful chaplain, Fr. Pacifico A. Ortiz, who later was my boss at the Ateneo de Manila College of Law in the early ‘60s, where he was its Regent.

The Vallehermoso account of Quezon’s trip to Negros Island, condensed from “The Zero Hour: The Personal War of Basilio Valdes” by Ruel. S. de Vera (as edited by Jose Ma. Lorenzo and Rene Javellana, S.J) helps us commemorate that danger-fraught escape of MLQ to the Visayas, where together with Gen. Douglas MacArthur he set up a provisional Commonwealth government,  and his onward airlift to Australia to help coordinate the allied forces’ counter-attack on the Philippines.

This is only fitting and proper, as this Visayan saga of multiple local heroisms in protecting our highest leadership at that time happened exactly 71 YEARS AGO THIS MONTH OF MARCH. 

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As Ruel de Vera narrated, in 1942, with the threat of Japanese conquest imminent as Corregidor’s defense fast deteriorated, the top US- Philippine leadership decided to move the seat of government to the Visayas, by then under control of USAFFE forces. MLQ and family quietly boarded the US submarine “Swordfish” in a super-secret operation together with Gen. Basilio Valdes, Manuel Nieto, Vice President Sergio Osmeña, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos and Fr. Ortiz, arriving in Antique on Feb. 22, 1942.  From there they sailed to Iloilo aboard the SS Don Esteban, where MLQ was housed by the Lopez family and he met prominent citizens there. He then proceeded to Guimaras.

Meanwhile intel reports said the Japanese had discovered Quezon’s escape and were in hot pursuit, compelling him and his party to move to Bacolod in next-door Negros Occidental, aboard the SS Princess of Negros. There he was hosted by Manuel and Letty del Rosario, after which they moved to Isabela, lodging in the house of Enrique Montilla, his wife and his mother-in-law Jesusa Lacson vda. de Arroyo.

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Pres. Manuel L. Quezon
De Vera continued narration that from Isabela MLQ made a brief stop at Panubigan (then a part of Vallehermoso) en route to San Carlos where he stayed in Hacienda Fortuna of Don Juanito Ledesma. Gen. Basilio Valdes made an official visit to a certain Gen. Villanueva and with MLQ they assessed the situation in Negros Occidental.


On Feb. 28, 1942, MLQ arrived in Bais in neighboring Negros Oriental, staying at the headquarters of Bais Sugar Central. On March 2, his party headed for Buenos Aires in this province, where after a few days’ rest they arrived at Hacienda Panubigan owned by Luis Perez Samarillo. By this time, narrates De Vera, Quezon’s health was failing, “but another threat was looming”---the Japanese were closing in on Negros Island.


While MLQ sought to recuperate in Panubigan, enemy destroyers were spotted along Tañon Strait (between Negros and Cebu, where last year an earthquake fault wrought havoc in Guihulngan, Negros Or.) and enemy planes hovered overhead. Gen. Valdes and Vice President Osmeña decided to go to Cebu via San Carlos, proceeding first to Vallehermoso to confer with a certain Col. Ballesteros on latest intel reports on the Japanese. He informed them that an enemy vessel was in the Strait and that he Princess of Negros was forced to hide in Refugio Island, thus unable to ferry them to Cebu.


Vice Pres. Sergio Osmeña Sr.
As narrated by De Vera, Valdes and Osmeña returned to Panubigan and on March 16, 1942, President Quezon and his party departed for Bais, then proceeded to Dumaguete and Zamboangita where he was immediately shuttled off to Mindanao by PT boats under the command of Capt. John D. Bulkeley. On March 26, 1942, exactly 71 years ago tomorrow, President Quezon was safely airlifted to Australia.







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