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, February 15, 2014

17 year old Michael Martinez’s incredible feat was honed in Manila malls. He, young classical violinist Chino Gutierrez and other exceptional Pinoy talents ought to be supported by the State and “Forbes tycoons,” the way South Korea’s government and chaebols lionize their own. Lack of support becomes particularly disgusting in light of murderous squander of PDAF and DAP in fake NGOs. SC Justice Art Brion corners DBM’s Abad into admitting that budget circular was not drafted by neophytes.

Michael Christian Martinez
The triumph of 17-year old Michael Christian Martinez in the men’s figure-skating category Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia---where he was able to make it to the tough finals and bag 19th place out of 30 finalist-participants, with a total of 184.25 points for the two-day competition---is cause for great rejoicing among us Pinoys for a number of reasons.

One is that Michael is not only the first Filipino, but also the first Southeast Asian ever to battle in this frightfully tough competition involving a decidedly non-tropical sport deep inside Russia.

Second, this once asthmatic young man was able to hone his sport to perfection mainly in the ice-skating rinks of Manila’s malls---so much so that an African poet and Guggenheim fellow named Kwame Dawes was so moved by Michael’s artistry, grace and skill that he create a poem exclusively for him (“such painful, painful beauty”) that brought out, among other facts, that there’s more to malling in Manila than mindless consumer spending or noynoying.

Wrote Dawes in part:  “Here in these humid islands, the mall owner is kind to build a rink, but he thinks the ice is smooth as glass, slick even. He would not know…” Dawes is awed by this feat as he’s from Ghana---an equally hot and humid country.

How we Pinoys need this shot in the arm nowadays when media are full of scams and scandals!


That Japan’s contestant bagged the gold medal with a score of 280.09 is not surprising, for the Japanese demonstrate their passion for thoroughness in everything they do---in direct contrast to how we Pinoys ordinarily do things. We should learn from them. I recall how I was in Tokyo some years back when the Olympic games were being held in Greece and there was a story about how the Japanese team prepared---one is almost tempted to say ‘ruthlessly’---for the 400 m. marathon event which their female star athlete won.

Aside from thoroughness, Japan, like other major economies, planks down a lot of funds on its exceptional talents, be they athletes or artists. Not too long ago I attended a concert at CCP’s Little Theater sponsored by the Japanese Embassy and staged by visiting Japanese ethnic musicians who played with an incredible array of interesting native instruments. What struck me was how their ethnic music from various regions is so alive and thriving over centuries and obviously so well supported.

 I thought of poor Joey Ayala’s band struggling to recover the music of our colorful past and ethnic roots, sans consistent state support. We can also ask indefatigable soprano Karla Gutierrez, whose Philippine Opera Company has been tirelessly promoting Philippine music through the years---completely without state support.


Media report about how Michael’s mother, Ma. Teresa Martinez, had to resort to mortgaging their house just to fund his training. Government and sports organization detractors are trying to minimize this story, but it’s obvious that the boy persisted despite very little funds over months and years perhaps. 

While reading about Michael I kept thinking of another Filipino youth, 23-year old classical Filipino violinist Chino Gutierrez who was forced to drop out of training in Munich, Germany, twice---once in 2006 and again in 2012, despite the fact that his renowned professor had sized him years back up as a “major talent of the violin”--- because his family couldn’t afford the expensive education and training that will ultimately benefit the country. 

If Chino and Michael were in Japan or South Korea (the new mecca for the arts) their government and private corporations would be tripping all over to take care of their training needs---they just have to continue being brilliant. Luckily, common to these two talented young guys is their never-say-die spirit and persistence in serving their craft despite setbacks.   


We’ve only seen the beginning for Michael in Olympic figure-skating---the boy will be back and win it. As for Chino, he’s determined to return to Munich next month so that he can finish two more years of bachelor of music studies at the prestigious but tough Munich State Academy  for Music and Theater---and one day take a crack at the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium music competitions, considered the Nobel Prize for music, which no Filipino has won so far. As Star art critic Rosalinda Orosa wrote after virtuoso Gilopez Kabayao detailed all the bare-bones needs of Chino in Munich, “calling on our ‘Forbes List tycoons.’ ”  

I shall be writing a series on the problems of exceptional but needy artists for the Manila Times soon, as I promised publisher Dante Ang.  


The financial predicament of these youthful but incredible Filipino talents becomes almost comical when one considers how much public funds are being squandered by our politicians. As commentator and media forum host Melo Acuna wrote in FB when Michael’s money problems surfaced prior to his departure for Russia, “his mother should have written Napoles and Tuason.”

Indeed, after the fake NGO scams hit the headlines, Napoles could have underwritten both Chino and Michael from just one big bag of moolah, as Ruby Tuazon was describing in the recent Senate hearing how many millions a big bag would contain.

But now, after the issue of senators’ and representatives’ PDAFs that were siphoned off to Janet Napoles NGOs and 74 other “non-JLN” NGOs, comes yesterday’s report by GMA-7 Network about how senators voting in the Corona impeachment trial in May 2012 were able to channel many millions of pesos from what’s euphemistically termed by DBM Secretary Butch Abad the “Disbursement Acceleration Program” (DAP) into fake NGOs of Napoles.  This means double-double violations. 


The list obtained by GMA-7 used senators’ “aliases, “e.g., Pogi with P150 million in DAP, Sexy Protempt P150 million, Tanda P100 million, Bigote P55 million, Bongets P100 million, Dahon P50 million and AAK (P12 million). This list is incomplete, as it will be recalled that months ago around 20 senators received DAP funds over and above their PDAF; what’s new is that in the above list of aliases, the senators were still able to siphon off their DAP to Napoles’ fake NGOs. Indeed, bad habits die hard.

To think that Solicitor-General Arthur Jardeleza and DBM Secretary Abad were quick to argue before the SC two weeks ago that the DAP for the senators, authorized by the President himself, has already been written off---kaput---hence no more liability by the Executive.


Justice Arturo Brion, one of the brighter lights in the SC (top-notcher of his 1974 batch of bar examinees), asked Secretary Abad during the DAP hearing two weeks whether his department used terms such as savings, unobligated allotments  and ‘augment’ within their technical meaning, as stated in the DBM’s National Budget Circular (NBC). Abad affirmed it.

Hence, concluded Brion, that document was “not drafted by neophytes and you also have at the back of your mind all the constitutional and statutory limitations in budgeting.  So every word, every phrase in the NBC was intended for what it wanted to convey or achieve. And what you wanted was expedited spending.”


At this direct interrogation Abad didn’t have a chance to deny anything. As FB habitué Marissa Mahinay put it, the DBM’s move was “premeditated, knowing, willful.” The Executive Branch obviously thought it could get away with this unconstitutional gimmick to bribe the senators to convict CJ Renato Corona.

Another hearing is scheduled next week and voting is reported to be tight---what with CJ Ma. Lourdes Sereno said to be personally campaigning among her colleagues to rule DAP constitutional. Tempers are flaring. 

Let’s pray that majority of the justices would find the courage to strike down DAP.

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