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, March 15, 2014

Sen. Grace Poe and Rep. Leni Robredo on political pundits’ radar screens as leaders for 2016. Though not bereft of merits, these lady solons reflect more the voters’ desperation with corrupt male politicos. P-Noy claims he’s “honest and not corrupt.” Perhaps he is, in the old sense of the word. But to use public funds to bribe senators to convict a sitting CJ is serious corruption too---for it robs them of grave moral judgment they are sworn to make.

Neophyte Sen. Grace Poe
captivates political pundits.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago holds the belief that inasmuch as the postwar history of the Philippines shows that male presidents have ruled over this country in preponderance over female presidents, it’s time to have a female president in 2016. And Sen. Santiago points to her four female colleagues, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe, anyone of whom, she said, could very well lead the country. The lady senadora quickly excused herself from the “race,” by saying that a job has already long awaited her as justice in the International Criminal Court in Den Hague.

Mukhang nagpapa-coy lang si Maid Miriam. Actually, she has long ambitioned for that job---except that while she has hordes of admirers who go gaga over her flashes of wit and brilliance, her inability to control her temper is a negative that scares people to death.  


But having said this, I want to relate a recent conversation with some young intelligent political observers who actually feel that male politicians stink and they are now looking at two women legislators. One is Sen. Grace Poe who heads the committee on public information in the Senate that navigated the Freedom of Information Act in that chamber.  Many folks find Poe’s pronouncements sensible and in fact, someone opined that if the FOI bill could be passed into law, Poe is certain to win the presidency, as this is a bill where P-Noy reneged on support once he became president.


To continue my story on lady legislators, last week a small group of media women actively involved in the EDSA Revolution gathered at the home of Inquirer editor-in-chief Letty Jimenez Magsanoc to celebrate its 28th anniversary. Letty actually feels that we media in that epochal period should meet periodically and record our memories of EDSA fast, before Alzheimer’s gets the better of us all. I wholeheartedly agree---in fact my brother, US-based novelist Roger Olivares, keeps egging me to write my own reminiscences of that historic epoch and publish it; but I simply cannot get to sit down and hammer away.

But later, as we media girls rambled over many other issues, those present that evening (except for myself) felt it’s time to have a male-female presidential tandem or vice-versa, but that the country is not ready for an all-female leadership team-up.  

I am actually surprised at the steam of Poe---but the more I think about it I come to the conclusion that it’s less her attributes and more the desperation of the electorate over the predominantly male politicians who have lorded over the scene. Many folks welcome the fresh faces of neophytes Poe and in a lesser degree, Robredo. 

But I actually don’t think we should stress gender politics here. The important thing is whether those running for the highest offices of the land have the intelligence, integrity and leadership to navigate our pitiful country through to the brighter tomorrows our people deserve.  Neither sex can claim a monopoly of these qualities. 

Besides, it’s the SYSTEM that we have to change and our star-struck masses have to be better educated politically.


In the House of Representatives, Naga City Rep. Leni Robredo, a comely lawyer, has also caught the fancy of a number of political observers. I heard her privilege speech on women’s rights during the Women’s Day Observance in the House last March 3,  and I must say that she does cut an attractive figure and her speech was well-researched. But I always tell folks eager to push her in the public eye: let’s not repeat the syndrome whereby a relation dies and the son or wife or daughter gets elected and people are ready to vote him or her into a higher office even sans qualifications.

This is not to say that Grace Poe and Leny Robredo have no merits. They have a lot, but let’s give them time to ripen and mature into the body politic. Grace’s mom Susan Roces is said to have advised her daughter to take it easy first, and not to get razzle-dazzled. Sensible advice.


LP Sen. Serge Osmena III, annoyed at
Noynoying of P-Noy on PH's problems.
What happened with P-Noy was that his mother’s cancer illness was played up by the major networks for a whole month and by the time she passed away, national sympathy was so whipped up that candidate Noynoy had to be drafted and Mar Roxas had to give way. All the LP politicians, including Sen. Serge Osmena, P-Noy’s campaign manager in 2010 and who’s now critical of his “awful” lack of management skills, capitalized on the bandwagon. Now they’re beginning to sound really sorry for making the wrong choice---but at least P-Noy had the decency to apologize to young Tacloban students now studying in Manila for the slow handling of relief for Yolanda victims.

The moral of the story here is, as President Aquino warns the electorate, not to   vote an “ampaw” president for 2016;  but as Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan was quoted, was P-Noy talking of himself?


There’s an interesting topic that P-Noy keeps harping on: “I may not be a perfect leader, but at least I am not corrupt.” Obviously he regards corruption only in the old sense of the word: someone who puts public funds into his pocket and buys all the trappings of wealth with it. There is as yet no evidence of this, but one thing we know is that P-Noy doesn’t hesitate to bribe people, especially law-makers, to vote on issues he’s espousing, WITH PUBLIC FUNDS.

There is on record, as per admission of senators themselves and by the DBM, that public funds in the form of the “Disbursement Acceleration Program” (DAP) were used to bribe the senators into convicting a sitting Chief Justice. Evidently there was doubt in many senators’ minds about the punishable guilt of CJ Renato Corona, so public funds were used to convince them once and for all (the constitutionality of the transfer of such funds from the executive to the legislative branch is now pending before the SC).

As political commentator Ado Paglinawan put it, “Pag ginagamit mo ang pera ng bayan para bilhin ang impeachment ng isang Chief Justice, anong tawag mo dyan, Charity?”  This is corruption, for each senator’s vote was supposed to be a grave moral judgment, but their votes were stolen.


There is something quirky about the way this administration works, and it can be readily appreciated in the way ranking personnel in two agencies involved with national security are unhappy and sought to air their gripes before the bar of public opinion and even the highest court of the land. From the way the cases of the two NBI Deputy Directors and the PNP Senior Supt. have been handled, there seems to be an attempt by the administration to hide some facts, or distort them---facts about Janet Napoles or Delfin Lee, both of whom appear to have links to the administration.


Take the case of PNP Senior Supt. Conrad Capa who headed the team that finally arrested syndicated estafa accused Delfin Lee after he managed to elude the authorities for two years. But instead of being promoted, Capa is suddenly directed to a new assignment in Cebu, without even consulting him, as is normal in the military or police. How would Capa’s sudden transfer look to the public? Definitely it does seem that he’s being punished for pursuing Lee to the end, whereas some administration allies may feel safer if this businessman were away from the clutches of the law. 

Senior Supt. Capa, a member of PMA’s class ’85, couldn’t contain his anger as he took his case to media when news broke out that he was being transferred to Cebu. Now the Palace swears to high heavens that Capa’s transfer is a promotion, but who will believe Malacanang?  It makes one wonder if DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, who has jurisdiction over the PNP, was ever consulted in Capa’s sudden transfer.


Then there’s the case of NBI Deputy Directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala who found themselves dismissed from their posts with the appointment of four new NBI deputy directors---again a surprise dismissal. Esmeralda and Lasala denied allegations linking them to pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles, as they averred that on the contrary, they have evidence to prove that it is two other ranking NBI officials close to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who were the ones close to Napoles.

The accused NBI deputy directors say they have witnesses and a CCTV footage of a meeting between these officials and Napoles.  Protesting that they cannot just be summarily fired by Malacanang as they are career officials who can only be removed for just cause, Esmeralda and Lasala told the media that they will raise their case to the Supreme Court.

The interesting thing is that pressed by media to categorically state whether she has the goods on these two deputy directors, De Lima said she does not, but that their irregularity is a common perception in her department. Apparently this is again a case of De Lima playing favorites in her department, but her moves are definitely eroding confidence in the administration.                                  

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