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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Can the senators be trusted to be truly independent, unlike House members who are easily propositioned, considering that a good number of them were involved in PDAF and DAP scams, and De Lima now threatens to file suit against them? P-Noy has never explained why he’s rushing the BBL to be passed by Congress. The time to explain the why of this critical bill to the Filipino people is now, when votes to pass or reject the BBL are still pending in both chambers of Congress, not at the SONA.

Sen. Bongbong Marcos, chair of the Senate Committee on Local Governments 

A friend of mine recently lined up one late afternoon to go to confession at the St. Peter’s Church very near the House of Representatives along Commonwealth Avenue. After waiting quite a while as the queue was long, however, she saw the priest leave to go inside the rectory. Upset, my friend asked a staffer of the Church why the priest left, and injecting a little humor, she asked him, “Papano ngayon, e kung pumunta kami sa impierno dahil hindi kami naka-kumpisal?” Her neighbor in the confessional line overheard her and said, “Hindi ho, doon ho ang impierno,” pointing to the Batasan. “Nandoon po ang mga demonyo.”

My friend was shocked at this remark, for she has followed the controversy surrounding the ad hoc House committee decision to railroad the BBL last week.  “Ang tindi talaga ang init ng tao sa BBL,” she concluded. The heat is also generated by practically all the columnists in mainstream media.


What has incensed people with the House ad hoc committee handling of the draft BBL was that it just threw out the draft it had prepared AFTER 45 COMMITTEE HEARINGS, only to adopt the Palace draft given to committee chair Rufus Rodriguez after President Aquino summoned the members to two meetings in Malacanang the other weekend. That motion only lent credence to the talk that each committee member voting affirmative would get P50 million in projects and P1 million in cash. Transactional politics at its worst.

In fact, House insiders note that there’s already a bee-line to the House Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Davao Rep. Isidro Ungab with assistance of rabid Aquino loyalist and ways and means committee chair Miro Quimbo of Marikina. Sources surmise that the Appropriations Committee is expected to release the first tranche of funds for the solons’ projects in the first quarter of 2016---just in time for the May elections. Talk is that on June 10, the eve of closing of session, the pabaon of P1 million per representative who voted yes to BBL would be expected to be doled out.


With the House ad hoc committee caving in so easily and the on-going plenary vote in the 290-member House failing to raise expectations of a good anti-BBL defense, all eyes are now focused on the Senate. Would the Senate be more independent?

Sen. Bongbong Marcos, who chairs the Senate’s local government committee, opined that the senators may not be able to meet the deadline sought by Malacanang to pass the BBL---June 11, the last session day. Marcos has said that he wants to call to hearings various sectors that claim to have been left out in the Peace Panel’s exclusive negotiations with the MILF, such as the MNLF, the Lumads and various royal houses, including the Sultanate of Sulu.    

The Sultanate fears that with tremendous pressure from Malaysia to seal the BBL pact with the MILF, the government may have agreed to either drop its claim to Sabah (which Malaysia has resisted since then Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez presented our claim in the London talks on Borneo in 1962), or at least go slow on our claim until it’s perhaps forgotten for good.


Sen. Bongbong Marcos initially made the right moves regarding the BBL--- doubtless aware that the nation’s eyes would be on him. Two days ago he was vocal about not caring to meet with President Aquino, who has signified his desire to meet the senators following reports of a possible impasse over the BBL. But tonight Bongbong was reported to have said that he could meet with P-Noy provided there’s no pressure or money politics at play. 

Bongbong, however, should be aware that, as Sen. Serge Osmena, who was campaign manager of P-Noy in 2010, fears, any such meeting with P-Noy at this time could be misinterpreted by the people---that the senators could be perceived as once again opening themselves to bribery, as in the impeachment trial of CJ Renato Corona.

Opposition senators Nancy Binay and JV Ejercito likewise have taken this stand and it’s being prudent---especially in the wake of the terrible backlash the House ad hoc committee suffered after the 50 pro vs. 17 anti-vote on the Palace-drafted BBL, following two weekend meetings with P-Noy.  

Bongbong should be wary about a meeting with P-Noy especially since the Ilocano senator is rumored to be contemplating running for vice-president as an independent in 2016. Instead he ought to prepare well for the bicameral conference committee following the Senate voting on the BBL. Traditionally it's the Senate report that’s usually followed in the bicam committee. 


But can the senators be trusted to be truly “independent” of Malacanang? Sen. Osmena insists that the senators are not like the House members, but the essence of their independence will be tested in the coming days. For one thing, there are recent precedents when fat bribes worked their mass magic. 

Moreover, note that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who is herself aspiring to join the Senate in 2016 (and who's now at odds with presidential prospect and Davao mayor Rudy Duterte on the "death squad" issue), is now dangling the possibility of filing cases against more senators involved in PDAF and DAP scams and who are in the so-called “Napolist.”

Interestingly, De Lima’s threat vs. more PDAF/DAP senators comes more than three years after she single-mindedly put three opposition senators behind bars. After the senators have seen what happened to their three colleagues, which of theose involved in these scams would have the courage to go against the BBL?  Magaling talaga ang timing ni Dilemma. 


Another possible delay, however, could stem from the conclusion of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s committee on constitutional amendments, which reported a number of constitutionally-infirm provisions in the draft BBL concerning sovereignty, autonomy and territorial integrity.

The most serious constitutional challenge raised by the Santiago report, to which nine other senators have already affixed their signatures, lies in the fact that the 1987 Constitution in Article X, Sec. 15-21, titled “Autonomous Regions,” had already created an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, so that creating a new one as advocated by the BBL could be entirely questionable.


Prominent lawyers of the IBP and Philconsa as well as former UP Law Dean Merlin Magallona have raised objections about constitutional infirmities of the BBL and in fact a number of them would doubtless run to the SC to stop its implementation, were it to pass the bicameral conference committee and even before the plebiscite mandated to be held in the areas covered by the BBL. In that case, current efforts to pass BBL in Congress could be such a waste of time.

The question is, why is P-Noy rushing the BBL’s passage? He has never explained why, but he would do so in his final SONA on July 27. I submit, however, that the time for him to explain the BBL issue in all its nuances to the Filipino people is NOW NA, when plenary votes of both chambers are pending, not at that SONA.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

House living up to its compleat tuta image vis-a-vis Malacanang in BBL vote. Backlash is that issue is terribly dividing the nation even more. Senate hands note that in a Grace Poe presidency, Chiz Escudero, who was spokesperson of FPJ in 2004 presidential campaign and who had a falling out with VP Binay, would be running the country. Why should choice be BETWEEN honesty and competence---a Scylla and Charibdis scenario? Why not honesty (read: strong moral character) AND competence? Time to implore Oratio Imperata in choice for top post.

Senator Grace Poe

Senator Chiz Escudero

The House of Representatives is living up to its record as the compleat tuta of Malacanang in the way it's handling the BBL deliberations. The 75-member ad hoc committee on the BBL is perceived as surrendering to just about all the Palace demands, including the time-table imposed by President Aquino to pass it---now na, nunc coepi. 

But the backlash is that all the moro-moro exhibited by the ad hoc committee and reports in media of massive buying of votes---reportedly P50 worth of projects and P1 million in cash for each House member voting affirmative for BBL, as well as veiled threats of pursuing the PDAF and DAP issues to turn around negative votes---all these are alienating the people all the more against this concept, touted as the bulwark of lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao.  


First, the House goes through nearly two years of deliberations on the text of the draft BBL, and makes a big play about deleting at least eight provisions that experts deemed unconstitutional---to save it kuno from being marooned on the forbidding shores of the Supreme Court. But after two successive meetings in the Palace last weekend with P-Noy and his bag-man, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the ad hoc committee throws out its draft and distributes for voting and deliberation the draft presented by Malacanang---which deleted only two of the eight amendments deemed constitutionally infirm.  

These deleted provisions were, namely, the necessity of the armed forces to seek permission to enter Bangsamoro territory first, and the so-called "opt-in" provision which allows neighboring territories to propose their inclusion in the Bangsamoro at any time, through a petition of at least 10 percent of its residents. The six other objectionable provisions were reworded in such a way that it would be acceptable to voting solons---with encouragement from Secretary Abad. P-Noy is unyielding about the voting deadline---June 11. 


What is sad is that instead of uniting the people, the actuations of the ad hoc committee on the BBL and Malacanang, as well as the use of money politics and deception once again, as in other issues in the past, are driving a deeper wedge among Filipinos on the issue of autonomy for our Moro brethren. More and more thinking Filipinos are coming out with objections or reservations on aspects of the BBL (the latest being ranking Jesuit Fr. Antonio Samson and an entire group of former diplomats, prominent lawyers, educators, media who held a conference at the Manila Golf Club last Saturday). Unfortunately the House BBL train is already rushing to vote BBL in.  

I must say I share the deep disappointment of many people in ad hoc chair Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, who did such a magnificent defense of the nation's welfare against the RH bill nearly two years ago---albeit it proved useless against vote-buying by the Palace again. In the BBL deliberations and voting, Rufus is almost unrecognizable from that gallant knight of old. 


It looks like Sen. Grace Poe is hot stuff these days and that DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, until very recently considered the presumptive presidential candidate of the LP in 2016, may be dumped in favor of the neophyte senadora---or that he'd be coaxed to agree to run as Poe’s VP.  Poe’s upward mobility sped with amazing grace after P-Noy summoned her to talk about political prospects that left her tickled pink. P-Noy and Poe are scheduled for another tete-a-tete soon which may cement firmer plans---even as some LP loyalists of Mar still insist that he ought to be presidential candidate and Grace take the No. 2 slot.

The central fact in the coming elections is that P-Noy has to make his anointed candidate win, in order to escape a PGMA scenario of prosecution in retirement and detention by another vindictive administration. P-Noy's problem is that heir presumptive Mar Roxas has not improved in his ratings despite his long stint and experience in government. 

On the other hand, beleaguered VP Jejomar Binay has declared that despite all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that hit him in recent weeks, such as the AMLC investigations ruthlessly made public and his family’s assets frozen by the Court of Appeals for six months, he's willing to go for broke and run for president. 

Given this fact, the LP and P-Noy seem to have little choice but to draft Poe and persuade Mar to take second billing anew.


Questions are shooting up from various directions: would Binay survive the terrible LP-led onslaughts against him in the Senate (more than 21 hearings on his and alleged dummies’ wealth), the AMLC, the DOJ/Ombudsman and all other administration weapons? How is the masa, the mainstay of Binay's political career, taking all the allegations against him? 

What about the entry of neophyte Grace Poe and the principal issue against her of unproven competence and therefore another Noynoy Aquino in the making?  All she has to show in her government service are a brief stint as MTRCB chair and two years in the Senate where she did reasonably well as chair of the Senate committee on public order and safety that conducted investigations on the Mamasapano massacre. Are those stints enough to establish her credentials as the country's prospective leader---given the national trauma over the incompetence of this “student council” administration. 


Already frightened texts are going around seeking God’s deliverance for this nation from another prospective neophyte administration.  The query of many minds is: Is the choice between proven competence with a lot of corruption, as in Binay's case, or honesty with still untested competence, as Poe is perceived in many places?  This is truly a Scylla and Charibdis kind of dilemma for the nation and we may need an Oratio Imperata for deliverance.

What the nation needs is both honesty (read strong moral character) and competence, given the past five years under the current national wrecking crew that's both dishonest and incompetent. NOT AN EITHER OR. 


Interestingly, when Sen. Poe’s name came up persistently as possible top LP candidate, a newspaper bannered, will it be Grace-Chiz or Chiz-Grace? The reference to Sen. Chiz Escudero became louder after Poe was quoted as saying that she would be “comfortable” running with Chiz.

I actually expected this detail to come up, for it is well-known in the Senate that the colleague guiding neophyte Poe all this time has been Escudero, who was FPJ's spokesperson when the actor ran vs. President GMA in the 2004 presidential elections. Senate political lieutenants recount that whenever any document in the chamber comes up for Grace's perusal or if a statement on an issue is drafted for her signature, her first  reaction would be, "Nakita na ba ito ni Chiz?" 

In fact, an old Senate hand notes that should Grace win the 2016 elections, it would be Chiz who would actually be running the country. It's time to scrutinize the record of this looming big shadow that would overpower President Poe.

Friday, May 15, 2015

AMLC comes down hard on Binay, but perceived ruthless political persecution using AMLC and assets freeze could have chilling effect on our banking system and economy. Grace Poe would pull Mar Roxas up as his VP, but she seems tickled pink with P-Noy’s offer. Frustrated over failure to conduct voting last Monday, BBL ad hoc committee will try again this Monday; but too many objections being raised in Congress and outside vs. BBL (e.g., from Zambo City’s feisty Mayor Isabelle Climaco). so that it might be wise to leave BBL’s resolution to succeeding regime.

After over 20 hearings in the Senate on VP Jejomar Binay’s alleged wealth, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) follows through by throwing the kitchen sink at him with allegations of riches stashed here and abroad in the billions, and the Court of Appeals freezing his family's assets for six months. VP Binay is truly dejado in this game and in fact at various social gatherings the talk is whether he could survive the deluge of accusations against him. 

What worries me more than VP Binay’s fate, however, is that what’s perceived as a legitimate weapon against drug lords and corruption syndicates, the AMLC, is now being used as a tool for political persecution of Malacanang’s opponent---all in an effort to keep the possible new tenant in 2016 WITHIN the LP stables AND THUS PROTECT THE INCUMBENT FROM POLITICAL CHARGES LATER ON.   

What chilling effect would the employment of the AMLC for such perceived political persecution have on the banking system and the economy? The President shrugs his shoulders and says, “Don’t look at me,” regarding AMLC’s crushing down on the Binay dynasty, but no one would believe that the Palace has nothing to do with it. 

This is because the AMLC, which is supposed to uphold absolute secrecy about foreign bank accounts, has been used once too often to harass political enemies. Remember Renato Corona? The open use of the AMLC for political harassment makes this country look so fifth-world!


I was at the first death anniversary of the late much-loved Azucena “Mama Nene” Vera Perez a couple of days ago at the family-owned swanky Sampaguita Gardens and I saw how crowds zeroed in on Sen. Grace Poe like bees around a flower. Folks milled around her for photos, which seemed to amuse mom Susan Roces watching from the sidelines. A year ago Grace Poe was not interested at all in higher office and mom Susan flatly discouraged her. But now that P-Noy has talked to her and openly says that she’d be able to continue his (?) reforms, she seems tickled pink. News reports quote her as querying aloud if P-Noy would still support her if she ran as an independent.

Mar Roxas’ allies in the LP are trying to persuade Grace to run as his VP, and she’d decidedly be able to pull him up if she did. But at this point, she seems tickled enough to be at the forefront of the race. I wish, however, she wouldn’t run now but stay in the Senate to season further and mature politically. Grace is too inexperienced to run this hapless country that by 2016 WOULD PREDICTABLY BE IN NEAR-TOTAL WRECK.  Grace has time on her hands; how I wish she’d wait.


Last Monday noon, I went to Farmers’ Market in Cubao, Q.C., to buy veggies and fish but the parking lot was full of cars sporting No. 8 and guards said it was closed to outsiders. I figured that members of the House of Representatives must be holding their crucial lunch-caucus at the Balay, the old seafood place of the family of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, regarding voting in the ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) scheduled for that afternoon. 

But apparently business couldn't be finished and the 75 ad hoc committee members led by chair Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro continued their caucus in the House, adjourning at around 4 pm. With many issues still unresolved, later that evening Speaker Sonny Belmonte called an all-party dinner caucus in his office upstairs where, from what I gathered, voices would be raised in heated arguments from time to time, led by the militant party-list solons. 


Originally the idea floated was for the ad hoc committee to conduct voting IN SECRET, but that was thumbed down for fear that public opinion would  roar disapproval of clandestine voting on this crucial issue of autonomy for Bangsamoro. Pressure from Malacanang has intensified to pass the BBL by at the latest the adjournment of session on June 12. But because there are many issues in the draft law that are debatable, voting scheduled originally for last Monday and Tuesday at committee level had to be postponed to this Monday and Tuesday, May 18 and 19.

Interestingly, the seating for this Monday’s ad hoc caucus at the House South Wing was arranged like a classroom and veteran observers know what that would mean: voting among the committee members would be by shouts of ayes and nayes only; a viva voce vote would be possible only during the plenary voting where House members are to explain their vote to the nation.


Given the heat of the controversy surrounding the BBL, however, it’s doubtful if acclamation would be possible this Monday---or if plenary voting is possible at all before President Aquino’s very last SONA on July 27. In fact despite every conceivable push by Malacanang, including persistent buzz that projects are being dangled for the BBL’s passage, the anti-BBL side seems to be gaining ground.

It’s not for lack of support for the BBL which, in fairness to the ad hoc committee led by Rodriguez, has already pledged to delete or amend as many as 60 provisions (many of them contributed by Davao del Norte Rep. Anton del Rosario, who's said to have a coterie of some 20 congressmen with him). Orlando Cardinal Quevedo of Cotabato City visited the House last Monday to rally support for BBL, while Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma is also very much for it. 


Mayor Isabelle Climaco of Zamboanga City

But the fact is that more significant voices are being raised AGAINST the BBL, notably that of former SC Justice Florentino Feliciano who argued that dealing with insurgents could be treasonous;  former UP Law Dean Merlin Magallona and prominent members of the IBP---plus feisty Mayor Isabelle Climaco of Zamboanga City who argues that "Zamboanga Hermosa" would never be part of the BBL--- not in the past ARRM, not now nor in the future; also against it are the people of Isabela City in Basilan.

The BBL issue is so hot to handle especially with the elections approaching, so that solons are caught in a squeeze between P-Noy and possible backlash from their constituents. The solons want to correctly gauge the pulse of the electorate and their reading now is that this issue is unpopular even in Mindanao.

Given the controversy this draft law is kicking up, I think it would be most wise for the P-Noy administration to leave its resolution to its successor regime. There are just too many kinks that would be left unresolved, which could blow up into huge problems in Mindanao.  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

P-Noy administration pushes voting on BBL in House committee, followed by plenary vote. Militants and Bongbong promise good fight vs. BBL, but with elections coming up defenses may crumble. Former DND Secretary/National Adviser Norberto Gonzalez insists that government retain initiative in peace efforts in Mindanao, but it looks more like surrender. Unknown Comelec appointee Abas to ensure win in BBL plebiscite and parliamentary vote in Muslim Mindanao?. How will he fare in CA?

The House of Representatives has set voting on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at committee level tomorrow, Monday, and in plenary  on Tuesday, as President Aquino wants this law dusted and polished in time for his valedictory address to the nation, his last SONA on July 27. Militant party-list House members predict that voting tomorrow would not produce sufficient votes to pass in that chamber; on the other hand, Sen. Bongbong Marcos has promised to lead stiff resistance in the Senate.

But because elections are coming up, politicians cannot be relied to really put up a keen fight, so that no one would be surprised if Congress garnishes P-Noy’s SONA with the BBL as main dish. As a media guy put it, P-Noy is looking for a legacy to make his lackluster six years look like it has achieved something, and this has to be peace in Mindanao via the Bangsamoro. He has not given up on his dream of a Nobel Peace Prize.  

According to media sources funds are being distributed to gain votes for the BBL (reportedly as much as P50M down on pre-voting and double when it passes). And judging by past incidents such as the generous distribution of the now unconstitutional DAP to clinch the impeachment and conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012, this is entirely feasible in the BBL voting whose implications are far bigger.


What surprises me and millions of other Filipinos are the blatant moves being made to pass the BBL. What's with P-Noy that he has become so obsessed with passing it by hook or by crook, post-haste and insisting on zero amendment and no watering down of the 122-page  draft law. This, even when former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, one of the members of the BBL Peace Council, has opined under questioning by the Senate that “constitutional issues need to be refined.”  Davide cited among these questionable issues the possible confusion between the “parliamentary” description of the Bangsamoro government and its “ministerial” nature. Many observers also feel quizzy about the unclear relationship between the President and the elective Chief Minister of Bangsamoro. 

It’s easy to see that rush voting in Congress under “financial duress” would endanger the success of the BBL because it would open itself to outright challenge by itching IBP lawyers before the SC.  


Consider too a number of other developments.  A total unknown and lightweight lawyer named Sheriff Abas was appointed to the Comelec just recently and it turns out that he is the nephew of Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator operating on an alias. So unknown is Sheriff Abas that even the Muslim Lawyers Association led by Sultan Firdausi Abbas does not know him nor has heard of him.

Why was this insignificant lawyer appointed to the Comelec, whose members enjoy fixed tenure and who will assume office at a time when the automated electoral system is so frightfully under question because of Smartmatic’s many delinquencies in the two past elections? It would appear to many---and can one blame them?---that Sheriff  Abas is being appointed to ensure that the plebiscite in the five Muslim provinces that will be placed under the Bangsamoro would vote favorably for the BBL.  Moreover, the parliamentary elections in this new entity also has to be taken care of.

In the minds of many observers, the appointment of Sheriff Abas, Iqbal's nephew, is a little too brazen even for an administration whose many acts of impunity take one’s breath away. What's the desperation that guides its actions? 

Sheriff Abas would be subjected to the Commission on Appointments. Can we be optimistic about the CA's handling of this hot potato. Appointing Iqbal's nephew to such a sensitive position is not a confidence-building measure.


Then too, consider how the AFP command was forced to do a turn-around to put the MILF in a good light for the BBL voting.  I refer to the killing of the late terrorist Marwan’s sidekick, Basit Usman, which was claimed earlier by no less than AFP Chief Gregorio Catapang, and this was probably true.  Later, however, as the Daily Tribune pointed out, the AFP rewrote the script and crdited the MILF for Usman’s slaying. 

The idea obviously is to make the MILF look less like the monster that slew the 44 SAF heroes and more like the slayer of a terrorist, and therefore more acceptable to the peace-loving Filipinos on the eve of the BBL voting in Congress.

Another aim was to counter the image of Mindanao as the breeding ground of terrorism in the Asia-Pacific region. But this strategy ought to be properly handled. Former Ambassador to Jakarta Vidal Querol, a former PNP general, stressed a good point in his Facebook entry. He noted that the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM), or the "Free Aceh Movement," the rebel separatist group in Aceh, northern Sumatra, Indonesia, for around three decades, LAID DOWN ITS ARMS IN THE 2005 PEACE AGREEMENT SIGNED IN HELSINKI, FINLAND, BEFORE PEACE COULD BE ATTAINED. 

In fact, noted Querol, GAM was not allowed to participate as a political party until it first laid down all its firearms, which it did--- so that in fact, the two top former rebel leaders of Aceh now occupy the top two elective posts in that province: Gov. Zaini Abdullah and Deputy Gov. Myakier Massaf. 

Querol also stressed that a peace agreement with the MILF ought to involve the surrender of “real guns, not old dilapidated ones.” Otherwise, he argued correctly, other political parties would be threatened and there would be no genuine elections in Muslim Mindanao. Note that the MILF proposes to convert itself into a political party to participate in the first parliamentary elections in the political entity that's the Bangsamoro, BUT IT REFUSES TO SURRENDER ITS HIGH-POWERED FIREARMS, nor those seized from the SAF 44 heroes.


Everything is indeed being made to deodorize the passage of the BBL in Congress and remove the people’s running suspicion against this law and the entity it would be creating. Why? What does the administration stand to gain from its passage? Malaysia has come in very strong on this issue in the past two years and is backing the MILF to the hilt.

Thus, it is conceivable that this rich neighbor of ours would pour tremendous resources into the Bangsamoro and make it a model of development, with the help of some OIC countries. In return, among other concessions, the PH government would conceivably soften up on its claim to Sabah which Malaysia is bent on retaining as its territory because of Sabah's rich natural resources.


The problem is that, as the former National Security Adviser and Defense Secretary in the Arroyo administration, Norberto B. Gonzales, noted in his excellent paper serialized recently in the Manila Times, titled "Some Helpful Insights into our National Security Situation," the PH government seems to have lost the initiative in the peace effort in Mindanao.

To paraphrase a commentator on the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight last week (“ Pacquiao has brought the fight to Mayweather in the first four rounds”), the PH government, Gonzales stresses, “must retain the initiative in the peace effort” in the big island. It cannot allow a single group, armed or otherwise, and especially armed, to monopolize political power or to seize the initiative of defining the future and well-being of Mindanao. It is the government’s duty to provide an atmosphere of freedom for all the peoples of Mindanao to collectively define the course of their lives.”


Like every Filipino, this blogger prays for a peaceful and meaningful solution to the longstanding conflict in Muslim Mindanao. I have gone around that big island extensively in the mid-90s when my husband was commander of all of Mindanao, and I have seen the beauty and tremendous potential of islands like Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Basilan, as well as the Muslim mainland.  I realize that only by truly guaranteeing peace in Mindanao can its full development materialize.  

But it cannot be the way the P-Noy government has been conducting its affairs vis-à-vis the major armed group there that promises better behavior under certain conditions it's dictating---and which the administration is only too happy to yield to. (more on Norberto Gonzales' paper on national security concerns).

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Poor Mayweather: after sweating out 12 rounds with Manny he had to defend himself from instantaneous booing throughout cavernous MGM Grand, from fans who paid great deal of mullah to watch "boxing bout of the century," not his version of TNT (takbo ng takbo!). Manny too polite when asked why his punches failed to deliver, saying, “Floyd was always moving outside.” Roach more sarcastic: “I thought Floyd ran very well.” Miriam congratulates Floyd for "winning the 3K Fun Run."

Floyd Mayweather, defending his new victory before MGM Grand crowd that rang out with prolonged booings
 (Photo credit: rappler.com)

Floyd Mayweather, adjudged the best fighter in the world of his generation, stood on a stool inside the boxing ring in MGM Grand to greet fans and collect what he felt he deserved after his victory over PH champ Manny Pacquiao---loud hurrahs and whistles. Instead he reaped boos from all over the over 16,000 seat amphitheater, so that for some moments Floyd looked so perplexed and later angry, asking, Why, did I not win?  By contrast, Manny, greeting the crowds, got wild cheerings and he threw kisses to them.

Discussing this interesting turn of events at my place earlier today, where my son and his barkada and their families gathered to a pot-luck lunch to watch the uninterrupted pay-per-fight, I ventured that the booing must have come from the many Pinoys inside the arena. But my son’s friend, businessman Bobby Miralles, shot back, “Ma’am, it couldn’t have been just Filipinos. They couldn’t have filled that cavernous arena by themselves.” He is right: the booing ran out loud and clear all around, and persisted for a long while.


The booing was actually articulating keen FRUSTRATIONS and Mayweather got so angry at the crowds, gesticulating wildly and shouting as if to reassure himself that “I’m the champ.”  People were obviously unhappy about the way he kept running and running away from his opponent, INSTEAD OF GIVING THEM THE BOXING FIGHT THEY HAD WAITED FOR. FOR FIVE LONG YEARS, and paid so much for---from $1,500 up to $7,500, and double from scalpers. 

Pacman, when interviewed, after the fight, asserted that “I thought I won,” and when pressed further on why his punches didn’t land on target, he complained Pinoy style (polite, diplomatic and even hesitantly), “He kept moving outside,” when the truthful thing to say was that Floyd kept running and running, or embracing his opponent tightly when cornered. Freddie Roach, Manny’s trainer, didn’t mince words, though: “I thought Floyd ran very well.”  

Facebook exploded with all kinds of jokes about Floyd's tactic. Lawyer Mariz Manalo termed it the “Fun Run of the Century brought to you by Mayweather.” Another wisecracked that “Ibang klaseng TNT ang practice ni Mayweather: Takbo ng takbo.” Another said, echoing Forrest Gump, "Run, Floyd, Run." Still another dubbed the champ :Flight Maryweather." Senator Miriam Santiago congratulated Floyd for "winning the 3K Fun Run."

Actually, Floyd is no newcomer to controversy in his personal life as well as in his colorful career where he's known as a "dirty player." Various bouts of his were invariably sprinkled with booing at the end, but of course, lest we forget, Floyd emerges from this controversial win with easily an estimated net $180 million.  


This blogger is no boxing analyst, but it’s easy to discern some points. Both boxers got no bruising blows or ugly cuts in their face and neither was knocked out. Freddie Roach, who had promised a TKO of Floyd in Round 9, had trumped that his boxer’s “killer instinct” is back, but many of us watching Manny were quite puzzled as to why, in the series of blows that he managed to inflict on the cornered Floyd especially in Rounds 4 up to 7, he would then walk away instead of delivering perhaps the fatal one. Manny shot lightning punches, any one of which could have damaged Floyd, but our champ also obviously dreaded the strength of Floyd’s longer and powerful arm (perhaps Manny was still traumatized by his two-minute knock out a couple of years back).  

I don’t blame Manny whose dread was obvious in the first three rounds---the powerfully built Floyd just looked so menacing while Manny looked so lean beside him. But by Round 4 our boxer from Saranggani found his courage and he put on a spectacular show in the next three rounds---aggressive and sure of his blows.  


On the other hand, TV viewers could hear Mayweather’s father, Floyd M. Sr., scolding his son after the 8th round, on why he failed to deliver his punches. Floyd Sr. was reacting to the fact that as a US commentator put it, up to Round 7 “it was Manny Pacquiao who was bringing the fight to Floyd Mayweather.” From Round 9 to the end, however, the Mayweather camp changed tactics. 

This must have come from the realization that both boxers were so sturdy that there would be no KO, and instead it will be a DECISION FIGHT.  Hence, Floyd Jr. obeyed his irate father by becoming more aggressive and throwing a few more punches (to satisfy the three judges?);  but the BIGGER PART OF THAT TACTICAL SHIFT was to put in more “Takbo ng Takbo” until the final bell rang. Truly frustrating for boxing fans.


For many weeks as the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight drew near, the whole nation was caught up in Pacquiao Mania as he was clearly the underdog in this fight. Many cities across the nation put up “pay-per-view” shows in various places, such as the big screen in Plaza Miranda across from Quiapo Church, which offered simultaneous and uninterrupted boxing.

But it’s not only Filipinos here but also from all over the world, as well as foreign communities that has been hyped up Hollywood style in the much-ballyhooed "Battle of the Century," so that today’s fight in Las Vegas drew a number of the world’s greatest boxers as well as so many Hollywood stars, that it looked like Academy Awards night.


Here at home, the Filipino nation was united by prayer power for our boxing champ who declared to all the world that he’s “going to fight for the Filipinos.” Only a few days ago, the entire nation was caught up in a massive prayer campaign for Mary Jane Veloso, who would have been executed by a firing squad in Indonesia were it not for an eleventh hour reprieve.

Power power is the strength of our nation and this was again been marshaled for Manny Pacquiao. We needed this fight like heck---win or lose---if only because, for one brief shining moment we were united as a people. It would have been great if Manny had won, but he put up a good and honorable fight that won the respect of the world, while his pponent reaped all the boos. 


Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is at it again. After jailing three opposition  senators 19 months ago on charges of channeling their PDAF to Janet Napoles’ bogus NGOs in years 2007-2009, she now says that PDAF cases from 2010 to 2013, the  Noynoy Aquino years, are “no longer a priority” because this administration is now engaged in preparations for the elections, etc. Also shelved is the second batch of cases involving anomalies in the Malampaya Fund. Actually there’s speculation that this third batch of PDAF cases channeled to fake NGOs involves a good number of Aquino allies, some of whom will be running in the 2016 elections.

Predictably De Lima’s statement drew loud howls of protest from incarcerated Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) through Secretary-General and spokesman Rep. Toby Tiangco of Navotas.

Significantly, even a close ally of P-Noy, Sen. Fracis Escudero, decried this bit-by-bit release of investigation results on the PDAF. Escudero pointed ou that the COA special audit of congressional pork barrel reported that more than P6 BILLION of these funds were channeled into ghost projects of fake NGOs and LGUs. Of these over P6 billion PDAF for legislators, only about P2 billion were funnelled to Janet Napoles' bogus NGOs. Just where did the biggest balance of over P4 billion go? queried the senator from Sorsogon. 


I can understand their frustration at the selective justice system that Leila de Lima did a fabulous job of enshrining in the Noynoy administration (it’s this same De Lima who argued that there is no command responsibility in the PNP, thus exonerating President Aquino in the Mamasapano mass tragedy). Recall how earlier then COA Chief Grace Pulido Tan and De Lima were quoted as saying they’re working on the third batch; but now that’s no longer priority, neither does the Ombudsman appear eager to press action.

The howls of protest from UNA and Senators Estrada and Escudero prompted the Palace to assure the public that cases vs. the third batch of suspects would be filed, “so long as strong evidence exists.” No discrimination, assures Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma. That colatilla about strong evidence needed to file cases should be unnecessary as the evidence in black and white is so overwhelming, and from COA itself; but the Palace will stick to this alibi to protect allies who are running in 2016. 

Besides, De Lima appears to be bitten by the election bug herself and she wouldn’t want to antagonize local and national politicians who are in that third batch of cases. 


The extent of involvement of P-Noy’s allies may be gleaned from the fact that corruption charges have been filed against Oriental Mindoro Gov. Umali, president of the League of Governors; on the other hand, reports indicate that alleged misuse of PDAF allocations by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and LGUs includes Javier town in Leyte, whose mayor, Leonardo Javier Jr., heads the League of Mayors of the Philippines. Both Leagues , which play such a huge role in elections, cannot be headed by anyone who’s not super-close to the President.

By the way, talk on the ground is strong that someone bigger than Napoles will surface with more interesting revelations. Abangan.