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.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

FB reader says, in response to National Transformation Council’s challenge for P-Noy to resign, why not just wait---it’s only 18 months to go. Reasons why it has to be, as Archbishop Arguelles argues, NOW NA. Reminiscing about my days as aspiring writer and Frankie and Tessie Jose’s kindness in accommodating my visits to their home to make incessant phone calls in the late '60s.

National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose receives upgrade of his rank in French L'Ordre des Artes et Lettres Award from French Ambassador Gilles Garachon on Jose' s 90th birthday
(Photo credit from Philstar.com) 

A reader reacted to various posts in FB about the successful assembly of the National Transformation Council in Davao City last Dec. 5 that called on the resignation of President Aquino on account of his administration’s corruption and incompetence---and mobilization of citizens around the country to convert into reality the NTC's vision of a more God-filled, humane and caring, and competent administration.  While discontent over the Aquino administration has grown, however, there is also this reaction such as the reader's above: why not wait 18 months more, malapit na, pagkatapos pwede nang palitan.

The problem with this “wait na lang” reasoning is that the way this administration is going, it would not countenance losing the elections, as it’s already a matter of survival from impending prosecution and possible jail for P-Noy and his DBM Secretary once he leaves office. P-Noy has to ensure by means fair or foul that his completely trusted handpicked candidate wins, and all signs point to that end goal. As Bacolod civic leader Lyn Gamboa points out in a recent post, it would be the same cabal voted into office again.

Hence, as Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles puts it, “Now na.”


To summarize briefly, P-Noy is in total control of a most pliant Congress and casting aside all pretenses of fiscal restraint, the P22 billion supplemental budget for 2014 was passed by the House; and while there is some whimper from the Senate, it looks like a moro-moro only. 

On the other hand, Speaker Sonny Belmonte was reportedly upset that DBM Secretary Florencio Abad quickly sought an addition of P6 billion to this already monstrous supplemental budget , after learning that National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon had testified to the existence of some P38 billion in the Treasury coffers. But let’s see in the next few days if the Speaker would stand his ground and not indulge Abad---haven’t we seen that  scenario before?

In the next 1 ½ years left of this administration, gargantuan amounts of public funds would be needed, hidden in all manner of  LUMP-SUM BUDGETING such as the “Grassroots Participatory Budgeting” for LGUs, to ensure that the country would be flooded with funds for the coming elections. Remember that as lawyer-crusader Greco Belgica, whose anti-pork petition before the Supreme Court was upheld, the pork barrel in the 2013 national budget was P1.1 trillion and P1.2 trillion in the 2014 budget. In the 2015 budget, it will be a far bigger pork lump-sum as it will be "AN ELECTION BUDGET." 

Thus, expect all the pork lump-sums to be thrown in, plus the cranking of the well-oiled LP propaganda machinery, the Senate puppets who would destroy any and all challengers to the LP, and of course, those indispensable PCOS cheating machines.


Note that now even Comelec’s lawyers are against negotiated bidding with Smartmatic for the purchase of additional PCOS machines and refurbishing of those still usable, as the lawyers stressed the need for more transparency in the poll body’s dealings. 

Interestingly, IT experts have slammed Smartmatic for threatening a lawsuit if the Comelec would refurbish those machines with rival technology. As lead IT expert Hermenigildo Estrella snorted, didn’t Comelec pay P1.8 billion to BUY those machines and everything that goes with those for the 2013 elections?  It was a sale, not a lease. But Sixto Brillantes, retiring this February (and reported to be replaced by Jonathan Tenefrancia of the law office of Avelino Cruz, who had handled the protest of Mar Roxas vs. Binay in 2010) seems bent on nailing down the contract bid for Smartmatic as his final contribution to the total demise of credible elections in 2016.

True democracy does not stand a chance with the P-Noy administration in 2016, because he has to be insulated from possible prosecution and a GMA scenario. If one keeps this reality in mind, then it makes sense, as the NTC stresses, that P-Noy be asked now na, and let more competent and honest leaders take over to save this country we all love.


Last Wednesday, Dec. 3, the 90th birthday celebration of National Artist for Literature Francisco Sionil Jose, was rain-swept but still a glittering gathering of the cultural who's who of the country and it couldn’t have been in a more auspicious place than in the main lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Except for Sen. Loren Legarda, who was the only active politician, and former President Fidel Ramos, Frankie’s fellow Pangasinense, it was just friends and associates of the National Artist, whose family, led by his devoted wife, the former Tessie Jovellanos, and several of his seven children who made it to Manila, helped meet the guests. It was a fun night, and a reunion of artists of all sorts as well as those from the intellectual community who hadn’t seen one another in a while, and whom perhaps only Frankie could draw together.  

National Artist Ben Cabrera enjoyed taking photos of the Joses for posterity, and French Ambassador Gilles Garachon upgraded Frankie's earlier ranking in the prestigious French L'Ordre des Artes et Lettres award from "chevalier" (knight) to "officier” (officer). Singer Celeste Legaspi-Gallardo, daughter of National Artist Cesar Legaspi, now sporting a becoming short blonde hairdo, was still suffering from jet lag and forgot the opening lines of “Gaano Kita Kamahal” by National Artists Ernani Cuenco and Levi Celerio, but gamely carried on to much applause. At one point I enjoyed the sight of three nonagenarians sitting together: Frankie Sionil Jose, Inquirer Founder Eggie Apostol who turned 94 last September, and irrepressible Larry Henares who turned 90 last May.  

Writer Gilda Cordero Fernando, who terms herself a contemporary of Frankie, silver-haired and draped with a silvery shawl, held court in one area, still looking great. I enjoyed chats with power couple Satur Ocampo, looking statesmanlike in his grey barong, and Carolina “Bobi” Malay, who has allowed her hair to now grow all silver, reminding me so much of her lovely mother Paula Carolina, Nelson Navarro and Sara Soliven de Guzman of Star.  I was particularly happy to see once again Pepe and Coring Abueva and Michael and Lourdes Mastura.


I have my own fond recollections of Frankie and Tessie Jose. Back in the second half of the 60s I was a young bride whom my West Point-educated husband brought to live in a small unfinished house owned by his elder brother in GSIS Village, which was next door to middle-class Project 8 subdivision.  At that time the house we moved into had no light and water, and it was obviously only love sustaining us (my mother was aghast at first that this young second lieutenant had the temerity to propose marriage with his P180 a month salary, whereas upon marriage I had to quit my job at Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation where I was special projects officer earning about a thousand pesos a month!). Eventually the basic comforts of civilization crept into our little home and I raised the first of several babies there.

As an aspiring writer then, I wrote regularly for Eggie Apostol’s “Woman and the Home” magazine in Manila Chronicle, and I’d research in the UP Library or do interviews---pregnant and all, clinging to buses or jeepneys to get back to GSIS Village. I was also selling life insurance to my UP co-graduates for extra and easy money.

If our love-nest had no light and water in those early months, having a telephone was as remote as the moon. For this absolute necessity of contacting the editor and insurance prospects, I’d go to the home of Frankie and Tessie Jose in next-door Project 8 and make calls there. Their phone was in the book-lined library and I’d see Frankie working quietly; they were very nice and hospitable to my sudden appearances in their home for incessant phone calls in those years, until we moved to another part of Quezon City.  


Over the years I would also frequent the Joses’ pioneering bookstore, Solidaridad (now celebrating its 50th year), on Padre Faura St. in Manila, which, in my formal working days, had been my haunt.  Prior to my marriage, I had worked as assistant to the Regent of the Ateneo College of Law, the famous Fr. Pacifico A. Ortiz, S.J., who made history as President Quezon’s personal chaplain in the war years (escaping from Corregidor with the Quezons and General MacArthur to Mindanao and Australia and later on to New York City where MLQ was confined for his tuberculosis).  Fr. Ortiz had been our chaplain at the UPSCA in UP and he and Humanities Professor Josefina D. Constantino (later to become Sr. Teresa of the Gilmore Carmelites) were to have a profound influence in my life.

It was in Fr. Ortiz’ office where I met and would become close to some of the great politicians of the next two decades, among them Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez, Sen. Raul Manglapus and Sen. Manny Manahan, as well as labor leader Jeremias Montemayor, who was then Ateneo Law Dean. 

Recollecting about the hospitable Frankie Sionil Jose made me also realize how much I miss the Padre Faura of old, in a city that has grown so tragically inhospitable to historic landmarks. 

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