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, September 15, 2013

Was 2016 very much in the picture in Palace’s disowning of ceasefire supposedly forged by VP Binay and Misuari? Does 2016 figure again in selective disclosure of data on pork scam? Student power kicks off in Katipunan QC rally Sept. 11. Cry in last Friday's Luneta rally shifts from abolition of pork to ‘Resign, P-Noy.’

The peace negotiations with the MILF, like the issue of the PDAF investigations, appear to be caught in the same vortex of political repercussions for 2016.

En route to a party last night I heard news that Vice President  Jojo Binay, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and MNLF Chair Nur Misuari had forged agreement for a ceasefire and the terms of disengagement for the latter’s troops in Zamboanga City. Like all Filipinos I was happy about that development as I feared that the unpalatable alternative would be further escalation of violence there.

But within me lingered a nagging concern: how would the “successful” forging of this ceasefire be received by the President and his allies, considering that it was the "over-eager" Binay, who was Misuari’s seatmate and contemporary at the UP, who had negotiated it. Soon enough, news followed that the ceasefire was unacceptable to the President, followed by Secretary Gazmin's denial of all that was announced last night by the Binay camp.

This morning Binay was attacked by netizens for being “epal.”

Perhaps the President has another picture of the Mindanao situation that we citizens don’t appreciate from our corner, but somehow I couldn’t help but think---is 2016 very much in the picture in the solution of the present crisis there? Can our politicos act out of real concern for the country's welfare?


For that matter, many media commentators have remarked about how the 2016 scenario figures very much in the selective and highly arbitrary manner whereby the PDAF controversy is being carried out in public. COA and the DOJ have obviously succeeded in canalizing media disclosures on the pork barrel scams, and even the Blue Ribbon Committee hearings appear to be a thorough condemnation of opposition senators—inasmuch as data being presented are confined only to years 2007-2009. 

If bits and pieces do come out in media about the pork barrel picture in the Aquino years, these were extracted from the COA website by enterprising media whose sense of justice and fairness doubtless must have been jolted.

But now comes a report that the COA website has been closed down. That was predictable.


Rally at Katipunan, Quezon City Sept. 11, 2013
The presidents of Ateneo University, Miriam College and the UP---namely, Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J., Dr. Rosario O. Lapus and Dr. Alfredo E. Pascual, respectively---issued a joint statement last Sept. 11 that was obviously timed with the first-ever joint rally on Katipunan St., Q.C., that afternoon by students of those institutions, who call themselves the “new katipuneros”. The school executives affirmed their unison with the people’s “voices and demands to OPEN ALL GOVERNMENT RECORDS FOR PUBLIC SCRUTINY AND PUNISH ALL THOSE INVOLVED IN THE MISUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS” (emphasis this blogger’s).

No less than such an openness to ALL PUBLIC RECORDS on the pork barrel would assuage the outrage and fury of the people---and vice versa, what would aggravate it is the perception that Aquino administration sacred cows are being protected by COA, DBM and DOJ. Justice must be even-handed.

In a related note, some friends of mind who attended the rally last Friday afternoon at the Luneta were impressed by two developments: that the students are now all out and shrieking loud, and that they have gone beyond demanding the abolition of the pork. Student power is now demanding outright the resignation of P-Noy. 

The Palace can only ignore this development at its peril. 


For ardent devotees of Blessed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, here’s hot news. If you FB followers recall, earlier this year I posted a tidbit from Vatican sources about the impending canonization of Blessed John Paul II this October, that sent ripples of excitement among faith communities here.

That plan, however, was changed---for good reason: the Vatican wanted two of the best-loved popes of contemporary times, JPII and John XXIII who was declared blessed much earlier than JPII, canonized together. First there were rumors that this epochal canonization would take place on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8 this year. But that was abandoned as it was deemed too cold for what would be the biggest outdoor event ever in Vatican history (one can easily imagine the Poles alone filling the cavernous Square in freezing temperature).

But now comes affirmation from no less than our ambassador to the Vatican, Mercy Tuason, beside whom I had the good fortune to sit at last night’s dinner to celebrate the birthday of my dear friend, Odelia Gregorio-Arroyo, and to honor her appointment as Ambassador of the Sovereign Republic of Malta to the Philippines. Ambassador Mercy confirmed that the joint canonization of the two Blessed Pontiffs will be held on April 27, Feast of the Divine Mercy, next year.


So there you have it, folks, it will be held in crispy spring weather under blue Roman skies;  but this early, Mercy Tuason, now on her fourth year as PH’s envoy to the Vatican, is beset by friends begging her to look for passes for them to be able to enter the fenced-off St. Peter's Square on that memorable day.  I’m afraid Mercy would need all the help of the Divine Mercy to be able to comply with these requests!

Yours truly had been twice blessed to have attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April 2005 and his beatification on May 1, 2011. God willing, I hope to be able to attend the joint canonization of the two popes---a truly block-buster event in St. Peter’s, like no other.


Nora Villanueva Daza
This is an occasion for remembering friends who have gone on to the Great Beyond. Super-culinary guru Nora Villanueva Daza has passed on in her sleep the other evening at age 84. I was a  college student in the late 50s at the UP and Nora was already with the HE Dept. and had begun her radio show on culinary arts. My late friend Mian Chanco-Sison, who attended the UP College of Law and graduated salutatorian in 1964, and I would write radio scripts for Nora, for which we got P20 per script---a lot of spending money in those days.

 Already a ravishing campus beauty at that time, Nora Daza was definitely one of this country’s legendary beauties, in the league of Chona Recto Kasten and Susan Magalona.  I recall one of our later chats where we compared notes about a common love: many-splendored Paris. Nora recalled arriving in Paris one day and aboard a cab she found herself, in her own words, “caressing” its beautiful renaissance buildings with her eyes. 

In an attempt to popularize Pinoy cuisine in Paris, she put up her restaurant called “Aux Iles Philippines.” One day my husband and I tried it, but we found the adobo too stylized and almost unrecognizable.


Former Sol-Gen . Frank Chavez
Another friend I wish to recall here is the late lawyer Frank Chavez, who had served as Solicitor-General in the later Cory administration. Frank and I were among the many friends who had marched tirelessly in the streets vs. Marcos in the years leading to Edsa 1. In later years he always exuded the same colorful bluster and swagger in his impeccable suits and his famous tirante. 

Frank always made good copy for media despite the controversies he was mired in. The last time I heard him in an SC hearing (was it on the postponement of the ARMM elections?) he bristled with the same crackling brilliance. God rest you, Frank.

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