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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tolentino should fire MMDA traffic people who disappear during the rains, leaving metropolis hopelessly snarled---symbol of nation's paralysis. Misuari’s Zambo “invasion” failure of intel as much as garbled message from gov’t. Jeanne Napoles: “P-Noy and Mar and my mom were ‘like a family.’

Last night, for the nth time this rainy season, tens of thousands of Metro Manilans were stranded for hours in floods. I tuned in to radio and there were pitiful, frantic calls from commuters in vehicles that were fast running out of gas owing to traffic standstill. The stories were all the same---exasperation and despair. Nasaan ang MMDA?

One of the problems I have personally encountered on rainy flooded night is that police, traffic aides and other personnel of MMDA disappear, leaving traffic hopelessly snarled amidst stalled vehicles and other nightmares. One notorious area is the busy interchange from Osmena Highway coming up to NAIA 3, and on the other side, those coming from Alabang and Laguna. One particularly rainy night, we got stuck there for two hours. No one was directing traffic, but I could see MMDA people on the sidelines, just watching, not eager to get wet.

MMDA boss Francis Tolentino ought to do three things asap: l). Make sure his traffic people have the proper gear of raincoats and rain boots (no overpricing, please, for which MMDA has been notorious for decades); 2). Get out into the streets on such nights (yes, Francis himself) and kick MMDA butts if they’re just standing on sidewalks or seeking refuge in waiting sheds, and 3). Fire them on the spot.


I’m not one given to sentiments of helplessness and hopelessness, but I’m afraid that the hideously snarled traffic on rainy nights are just symbols of the paralysis of the nation as we look all around us at the problems that seem to engulf us---from Metro Manila’s horrendous traffic to the PDAF scams now gnawing at the doorstep of the administration and its allies despite their denials, to the rising prices of rice and basic commodities, to the stand-off in Zamboanga with MNLF forces. 

Parang kay gulo-gulo. What makes it worse is that no one seems to be truly in charge of this nation.

These are dangerous times for the administration and our lead institutions, as increasingly one can hear cries of regime change---that President Noynoy exits together with Congress and the hated pork barrel---as popular disenchantment escalates.


Some pundits have pointed out that the “invasion” of Zamboanga City by Nur Misuari’s forces was provoked by the neglect of the MNLF Chief by the government peace panel, which has effectively sidelined him in the negotiations with rival MILF on the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro.  There is truth to this, for in trying to defuse the Zambo situation, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Ging Deles yesterday sought to assure Misuari’s forces---quite pathetically--- that the MNLF Peace Agreement which the Ramos administration had inked with him in 1996 is still very much alive and that the government will continue to respect it.  

Obviously Misuari is unconvinced as otherwise he wouldn’t have resorted to two recent attention-seeking devices: to declare an independent Bangsamoro Republik a month ago in Davao City, and now his men's unlawful armed incursions into Zambo City, taking innocent hostages. 

In this connection, it should also be noted that Misuari really  knows how to hurt the government: Zamboanga City is the seat of the Western Mindanao Command, no less. Can you imagine the political and military impact of this especially abroad?

Moreover, a likely tie-up, if it's not yet a reality, with another neglected and disgruntled leader, Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram, bears tight monitoring.

Another factor being blamed for the stand-off was failure of intelligence on the AFP’s part, which it stoutly denies---stressing that Misuari’ troop movements were monitored as they made the 45-minute crossing from Basilan in many boats. But I think a large part of Misuari's audacity is due to his thinking that government wouldn’t do anything much to stop him at this point---paralyzed as the Aquino's administration is in its most serious political crisis to date, the pork barrel corruption. 

If I may be permitted to recall, I was visiting my husband, who was then military commander of the entire Mindanao, in Cotabato City in early 1994, when there was news that Misuari would land there with armed troops. This developed even as negotiations were going on for the Peace Accord that was signed two years later between the Ramos government and Misuari, which would lay the basis for his candidacy for governor in the first ARMM elections. 

I recall that the situation in Cotabato was quite tense then, and the military made its own preparations to meet the challenge.  At some point that day my husband called in a couple of OV-Bronco fighter planes to make several fly-bys over the pier---and not too long after Misuari’s forces sailed away. 

I later heard Gen. Cunanan reporting to President Ramos by phone on his decision to call in the fly-by and later he told me that FVR agreed with the carrot and stick tactic.


Incidentally, why isn’t this administration utilizing even informally personalities who could still have some degree of influence over leaders with whom the administration is in conflict? I refer to President FVR who supervised the 1996 Peace Accord with Misuari. 

Then there's former Executive Secretary and Rep. Eddie Ermita who is so familiar with the historical intricacies of the Mindanao problem and had useful connections with the OIC. Ermita served as military aide to the late Rep. Carmelo Barbero in negotiations with the OIC for support for government's peace initiatives in the late Marcos era. This evolved into the 1974 Tripoli Agreement.  

For that matter, during the Scarborough crisis with China, I had proposed in this space that it would be good to harness former Speaker Joe de Venecia for informal back-channeling with China (instead of the novato Sen. Antonio Trillanes who handily bungled that job). I argued that JDV, like FVR, has maintained excellent connections with world leaders through several international organizations of world-politicians that he heads or is active in.

Unfortunately for our ‘student council” president, anyone whom he didn’t have any connection with in the past is automatically off his list.


Jeanne Lim Napoles 
It’s denial time among administration officials and political allies that they had even known Janet Napoles. P-Noy was quoted as saying he might just have said “hi” to her at some point, he really doesn’t recall---prior to Aug. 28 evening when she “surrendered” to him in the Palace Music Room.

But now comes the voluble “glitter shoe-ed and mini-skirted” young Jeanne Napoles, Janet's daughter, who was quoted in a Los Angeles interview aboard her smashing Porsche two days ago, on whether her mother might go to prison for master-minding the web of corruption over the PDAF.

Here’s part of her remarks viraled on the internet:“I think they need (my mom) more than she needs them. They were never enemies, she and the President and Mar Roxas. They were like a family when P-Noy was a congressman-senator, and Mar a senator. There’s no axe to grind against her.” 

Out of the mouth of babes...

As to the Senate media’s query on whether the Liberal Party received the hefty donation from Napoles of P500 million (first cited as P100 million only) for the candidacy of Sen. Noynoy Aquino for president in 2010, and a supposed new donation for the LP war chest in 2013---Senate President Franklin Drilon was quoted as saying that he doesn’t know, as “I was not in charge of party fund-raising.”

Drilon’s denial, however, is as good as admitting that the LP dipped into the Napoles kitty---for no one can be convinced that such hefty funding from this woman who had boasted that she “owned the government,” would not be known to LP stalwart Drilon, its campaign manager in the last elections.

Unfortunately, that alleged funding would be very much a fruit of the poisoned tree, like all the PDAF channeled by senators and representatives to bogus NGOs, from which Napoles built her incredible empire.

For comments/reactions, please email:


  1. Oo nga, sa tuwing malakas ang ulan laging nawawala ang mga traffic enforcers, hindi lang sa MMDA, kundi pati lokal na traffic aides....wala na yatang kapag-a-pag-asa itong bayan nating sawi. Mula itaas hanggang ibaba pati na gitna ay wala ng pakialam sa mundo kundi pansariling kabutihan. Tama nga yata yung tinuran ng isang matalinong tao na----" PARA MABAGO ANG TAKBO NG PILIPINAS AY HAYAANG ANG MABUHAY LAMANG DITO AY YUNG MGA PITONG TAONG GULANG LAMANG! "

  2. Bakit naniniwala pa rin ang mga tao kay PNoy? Obyus na masyadong meron tinatago.

  3. http://www.thewebmagazine.net/2013/08/jean-napoles-reaction-about-her-mom.html

  4. Lito Atienza has comments regarding Tolentino and the MMDA: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=624833320873498&set=a.340030826020417.76960.300781953278638&type=1&theater

  5. Jun Viray, talagang mukhang madilim ang kinabukasan ng bansa natin. Nguni't para sa akin, iisa ang ating bayan at ni minsan hindi ko naisip na manirahan sa ibang bansa. Trabaho lang tayong lahat at sikapin nating maiayos ang mga kaya nating ma-influensiyahan na malapit sa atin. Ganyan naman ang pag-tatayo ng isang bansa, or kahit ang isang gusali o catedral---isa isang bato, patong-patong. Mabuhay ka at huwag tayong mawalan ng pag-asa.