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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.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Honorary law degree from Sophia, recommended by Ateneo prexy Fr.Jett Villarin, doubtless raises eyebrows in international community. Comelec order for 422 elected officials to vacate posts due to failure to submit SOCE meets with derision, as this has never been enforced---except in case of Raul Manglapus in 1966 who allegedly spent beyond P7, 200. Comelec move seeks to divert attention from 9.9M votes missing last May?



President Aquino receiving an honorary doctorate degree
from Sophia University in Tokyo  
The prestigious Sophia University in Tokyo, run by the Jesuits, conferred an honorary doctorate degree in law to President Aquino during his current visit to the Japanese capital to attend the 40th Asean Commemorative Summit. It was noted in various reports from Tokyo that Aquino was decorated by the university for his “significant achievements in the promotion of good governance and peace in the Philippines, which have contributed to the remarkable economic development of the country in recent years.”

This honorary doctorate degree in law is P-Noy’s second in his three and a half years in the presidency, but interestingly enough, these two honorary degrees were both conferred by Jesuit universities---the first being Fordham University in New York City in September 2011, and now Sophia U’s during the centennial of this Tokyo educational institution’s foundation.

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It would appear to many Filipinos that only the Jesuits have been gullible enough to honor P-Noy with such high distinction. The fact that this second honorary degree, in law no less, from Sophia U was recommended by Ateneo de Manila University President Jose Ramon T. Villarin speaks volumes about the continued inexplicable support by the leadership and a good portion of the faculty of our local Jesuit university in Q.C. for P-Noy---despite glaring violations of Philippine laws and principles of good governance, as well as the lack of a semblance of comprehension of real leadership by the President.

Ateneo prexy Fr. Jett Villarin, a contemporary of P-Noy at the Ateneo, has the distinction of being able to communicate directly with the Chief Executive and he is reputed to advise his friend---or criticize his actuations---by text. Media reports say that Fr. Villarin recommended the honorary degree for P-Noy in a letter to Sophia U on Jan. 21 this year. But he should have been the first to realize that in the past year and a half so many things have happened to change public perception of the President---so that such an award by Sophia could raise quizzical eyebrows in the international scene.  

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The fact is that the President’s credibility and acceptance rating with the Filipino people is at its lowest ebb and this is reflected not just in survey ratings but in the social media where he is lampooned day in and day out.

Contributing to this fact was the corruption in the form of unashamed bribery that has marked his relations with members of Congress---particularly to effect the ouster of a sitting Chief Justice and the passage of the RH Law. Then there’s the administration’s gross mishandling of the super-typhoon’s impact and the politicization of relief and rehabilitation---known only too well to the international community, on account of foreign media such as Anderson Cooper’s CNN team.

Poverty statistics have remained dismal despite massaging and the phenomenon of jobless growth. At this moment too, a dozen citizens’ groups are  challenging  the constitutionality of the President’s humongous pork barrel before the Supreme Court and there could be an even chance that it could be struck down if the high magistrates could shed their fear of impeachment and invest in personal integrity.  

Under his watch various institutions have suffered considerable damage in credibility, notably Comelec that has conducted the two worst elections in recent memory, and COA which has been an instrument in Aquino’s highly selective justice.

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The credibility of the administration is such that serious allegations are being raised in media, which notes the panic mode in the Palace about his failing ratings, about a “Palace coup” in the offing to extend President Aquino’s term. Reports insinuate that his minions are making sure that he does not befall the fate of his predecessor GMA.   

An honorary degree in law from Sophia for the President?  The late great Jesuit historian, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, one of two other Filipinos honored similarly by Sophia U in the past (the other being the late UP President Carlos P. Romulo), must be turning in his grave.

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One institution increasingly discredited over time---but more so now with the manipulation of the PCOS machines that resulted in the questionable results of the 2010 presidential elections and some 9.9 million votes unreported in the 2013 congressional and local elections---is the Comelec. Evidence that it’s treated with either cynicism or derision is that there’s almost uniform disbelief about its recent order to 422 winners in last May’s polls to vacate their posts for their failure to submit their Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) within 30 days, as required by RA 7166, or the Synchronized Election Law of 1991. The law mandates that elected officials cannot assume office until they have fulfilled this and other requirements.

Some of the officials under question assert that they have submitted their SOCE but perhaps with inaccurate entries; but many more have not even bothered to submit a SOCE. The problem is that the poll body had never implemented that requirement---the one and only politician ever dismissed for “overspending” was the late Sen. Raul Manglapus in 1966. Now, suddenly, Comelec decides to enforce it but obviously few have complied or did so defectively.

Moreover, as I said above, Comelec has ignored serious complaints by IT experts about the failures of the PCOS system, so one hardly blame politicians if they ignore the SOCE requisite. In fact it's tempting to assert that Sixto Brillantes' Comelec resorted to this vacate move in order to divert the public attention from the 9.9 million missing votes in the May 2013 elections. 

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Sen. Raul Manglapus
This is as good a time as any to recall that episode, as written up by Ed Kuinisala on Feb. 26, 1972,  titled “Constitutional Convention: Nakakahiya!”  As he narrated it, when Raul Manglapus ran for the Senate in 1961, the uniform ceiling for campaign spending for Congress was a total of one year’s salary (as set by the 1935 Constitution), P7,200. The electoral tribunal ruled that Manglapus had in fact under-spent, but also, that a TV contract entered into by some of his supporters, which was never paid as it was written off in the station’s books, was charged to him.

Before Manglapus’ term expired in 1967, he was dismissed in what the press at that time ridiculed as a “hypothetical farce.” Manglapus’ case became a sensation, so that in the following elections he was invited as a common candidate of both the NPs and the LPs, but he declined and chose to run instead in 1970 as delegate to the constitutional convention where his top showing vindicated him.

It was also an admission of his innocence that in the ensuing Senate, the very same senators who voted against him for “over-spending” amended the election laws---so that a candidate may then spend an amount equivalent to the total salary for the senator’s six-year term, instead of for one year.

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Manglapus became a leader of the “Ban-Marcos” movement in the Con-Con of 1971 (President Marcos was elected in 1965, but that early he was clearly out to prolong himself in power). Valiant efforts of this movement undertaken by Tito Guingona, Mary Rose Espeleta, Jesus Barrera and a few others in the “progressive-independent bloc,” were shot down in various committees by staunch pro-Marcos supporters. Thus, the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms which Manglapus chaired,  was thought of as providing the “last hope” to get the “Ban Marcos” move taken up in the committee on transitory provisions, which was to discuss the final items in the proposed charter.

As writer Kuinisala narrated, Marcos supporters realized this early enough, and knowing they couldn’t corrupt Raul, they chose to play dirty by resurrecting an old ghost---they filed a resolution to ban Manglapus from public office “for having violated the election law.” Embattled Raul termed it a gambit to  get  progressives to withdraw their support for the Ban-Marcos movement.

As Kuinisala put it, “The 'Ban-Manglapus' move is a shameless resort to political squid tactics. Its purpose is simply to confuse the issue. The Filipino people are not likely to fall for it. What is saddening is the degeneration of the highest deliberative body of the land into a virtual political convention where issues are decided not on the basis of merit but of political partisanship if not money.

Familiar words.



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