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, November 24, 2013

In Pacquiao’s splendid victory over Rios, parallelism with plight of our hapless land couldn’t be lost on Filipinos everywhere. Our Champ knew he had to rout Rios or stay out of ring for good. Despite all deserved criticism and skepticism about rehab plans for Visayas---given administration’s incompetence in Yolanda’s aftermath---we Filipinos know we have to prevail---and get it right.

Tacloban City rooting for Manny Pacquiao,
as published by Philippine Star
Today Manny Pacquiao fought not only to keep himself alive professionally, but to be able to stage a comeback after his disastrous, nationally devastating KO by Juan Manuel Marquez last year. Today he handily won over Brandon Rios for the WBO international welterweight title in a unanimous decision---which means he'll go on to fight other bouts for some time.

Had he succumbed to one of Rios’ long power jabs, it would have spelled the end of Pacquiao’s illustrious boxing career. But he overcame the odds by means of his legendary speed as the Yolanda of the Ring, vs. the taller, heavier but slower Mexican opponent, and just as important, serious, disciplined training as the Champ has not exhibited before.


Like Pacman who overcame and prevailed, the Philippines, devastated by a super-typhoon of unparalleled destruction in the Visayas, faces grave uncertainty about how this region could be reconstructed and rehabilitated. Many political pundits are plainly questioning what the administration proposes to do about the mind-boggling problems there---given the colossal incompetence it had shown in the post-typhoon rescue and relief.

But the good thing is that like the Champ, there are enough Filipinos determined to pull up from the calamity, with the help and support of all our friends from around the world, including our latest rah-rah boy, one-time James Bond Roger Moore. After the devastation, as the whole world watched how our country had to struggle to its feet in the face of our Third World (or is it Fourth World?) unpreparedness, we Filipinos want to get the recovery right. 

Pacquiao’s victory serves as inspiration for our national struggle.  

It also comes after two Christmas victories for the Filipino people: the Supreme Court's striking down legislators' pork barrel as unconstitutional, and the House committee on suffrage and electoral reform's passing the anti-dynasty bill---the first time this happened since the 1987 Constitution was passed. The bill may never squeeze into law, but it's victory alright. Now we await the SC's ruling out of presidential pork.


World leaders have assured President Aquino that all he has to do is ask for help. But such help cannot be infinite, for the administration has to show as well that it has the determination and competence to plan and execute the reconstruction and rehabilitation of devastated Visayas---beyond the relief goods stage.

As Star columnist Babe Romualdez put it, “Yolanda aftermath: what do we do next?” Or as Chit Pedrosa queried: “Where do we go from here?”

World nations and international agencies have put together a relief and reconstruction fund unprecedented in history---touched by the unbreakable spirit of the Filipino under adversity. The World Bank alone has offered nearly $1 billion in financial aid package and it’s helping put together a program for reconstruction.


Given unprecedented world generosity, the Aquino administration has to show two things. One is that these huge funds will not be squandered through corruption and meaningless and ineffective projects. P-Noy promises to give full accounting of all contributed funds, and well this should be to the last centavo---given the terrible reputation for corruption and wastage that government has become notorious for.

Second, there ought to be a national blueprint for immediate as well as long-term recovery, as otherwise, efforts would be helter-skelter.


To meet the demand for effective and meaningful projects to be funded by foreign aid, there’s need to fill up the wish-list of crucial equipment this nation that's in a seemingly perpetual state of natural calamity ought to have, but doesn’t---and that Yolanda exposed to the max.  

Over the two weeks that relief and rescue effort got slowly underway, I listed some things that can be purchased with foreign aid. This include additional C-130s to the three the government has now, to ferry troops, equipment and relief goods, and evacuate local folks; more helicopters to fly mercy missions from one isolated town to another; Pag-Asa equipment for measuring super-typhoons (the lack of it explains why information was sketchy, contributing to the unpreparedness of local officials and people); generators as well as at least one satellite phone for each of the critical municipalities (such phones cost about P30T each); solar-energy equipment kits for as low as P1,200 a set, all locally available, in each barangay, so that there could be some light in prevailing disaster darkness, etc. etc.


With the help of foreign funds we need to equip the Engineer Corps of the AFP, so that with training and full support they would be the first organized group to move into calamity areas---to clear blocked roads and airports and connect towns.  And if you want to push this wish-list to the max, we can dream of a hospital ship---perhaps not as sophisticated as the Peace Ark of China or the USS Mercy, but something that can rush to devastated areas to perform basic operations when local hospitals conk out.

Many of these wish-list items pitiably failed to get funding as political corruption swung full-scale in various administrations. With the abolition by the SC of the P25 billion PDAF in the 2014 budget---and hopefully, the presidential pork by next month or early January---many of these critical items could be attainable, while big-ticket items could be gotten with foreign funding (let’s test world leaders’ promise to help).  


As to the master blueprint for reconstruction and rehab, the Cabinet of P=Noy by itself cannot be entrusted with drawing this up as it had failed to prepare for the super-storm. I suggest that P-Noy call a quick, two-day summit on the Visayas crisis---where the Cabinet would be joined by the best management, economic, financial and engineering minds in the private sector.

The summiteers could be sequestered for two days in, say, the Development Academy of the Philippines in Tagaytay City where they could throw ideas around toward a master-plan for rehab and reconstruction. The main question they'll wrestle with is how folks in devastated areas can go beyond the "naka nga-nga" stage and be able to stand on their own feet economically---amid the wiped-out agriculture and fishing. The idea of rebuilding houses with paid local labor is an enlightened first step.  

Without this master plan the administration would be worse off than local folks without power in the Visayas. In fact this blog has early on repeatedly proposed the appointment of a Reconstruction Czar for the Visayas, preferably from the private sector, and readers have proposed a combination of engineering and management skills for this enormous job.

I read somewhere that DPWH Secretary Babe Singson was appointed recently to handle this super-job, though the report is unconfirmed. Singson has a better reputation than most of his colleagues in the Cabinet, but I still think it's better to have a private-sector person in that post, as there seems to be a paralysis in the Cabinet.


Unfortunately, politics will always rear its ugly head. Rght now, the race for 2016 appears to be affecting the rehab process, with the administration keen only in putting its party people in the forefront and local opposition officials are complaining of being kept out of the relief/rehab loop.

Toddler carries an even smaller boy
 out of harm's way
  during  Zamboanga Siege
How I wish politicos could put aside their ambitions and act like the toddler shown in this ABS-CBN photo, who carried a smaller toddler, virtually a baby, to safety with these words:  "Hindi ko po siya kapatid. Baka po siya mawala o masaktan kasi madaming tao sa linya. Kukuha na lang po ako ng para sa kanya." 

As the person who posted this photo on FB put it, the toddler’s parents “must be truly good, loving and caring parents and evidently, this helpful boy got their virtues of generosity, love, and selflessness. God bless them both!”

For comments/reactions, please email:


  1. them words of promises as we all know is just words....Noynoy does not and never intends to govern.....the promise of full accountability is another big..fat lie---we all have witness what he does and how pass and ignore important issues .we have seen how he deflect distort and evade everything-and that is all he has been doing all thruout his political career.....it should be obvious by now, that noynoys only agenda is to install someone that will protect him.his families,the oligarch,his KKK and the flying lapdogs... as soon as they loose all the power of the govenrment...

    his only job now is to paved the way ...secure and install animals in key position that will assure the yellow crime syndicate that Sen BongBong Marcos does not get to malacanang,at all cost......because if that ever happpens. ???...it will be the end of the oligarch as we know it..