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 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.

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