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.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Blame game over Torre de Manila a preview of bitter mayoral fight in Manila. Instead of coming down hard on BBL opponents P-Noy should teach Iqbal et al a basic lesson in Politics 101---that Congress is not an adjunct of Malacanang. But given massive bribery in past in passing controversial bills and convicting a sitting CJ, Iqbal et al might find that hard to believe.

Members of the Philippine Constitution Association (from left) former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Bishop Romulo dela Cruz, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, former senator Francisco Tatad, Archbishop Fernando Capalla and retired justice Manuel Lazaro show their copies of the petition they filed with the Supreme Court. PHOTO BY MELYN ACOSTA and manilatimes.net

It is a sad commentary on the state of the nation that as we commemorate the 154th birth anniversary of our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and predecessor Alfredo Lim are embroiled in a blame-game in media over whose fault it is that the 46-storey Torre de Manila has become the hideous backdrop to Dr. Rizal’s revered monument at the Luneta. Elections are just around the corner and this about-to-be-finished Luneta monstrosity promises to be the burning issue between the two bitter rivals in their return bout in 2016.  

The Rizal Park is hallowed ground as it was where our National Hero was shot in the back, and turning around, he looked heavenward as he closed his eyes in death, offering his life for his country and people. It is here where his mortal remains are buried, so that top government officials yearly go through the motions of flag-raising and state visitors offer wreaths to his memory.  It is within stone’s throw of the Rizal shrine that our presidents take their oath of office and three  popes have gathered unprecedented crowds of the faithful.

Yet today, this horrible skyscraper completely dwarfs Rizal’s monument, debasing the entire surroundings. Some folks in social media tried to make us Filipinos feel a little good by lighting up the building in patriotic red, white and blue, but this only leaves a worse taste in the mouth.


Actually, both Mayors Lim and Estrada are guilty---the first executive for having allowed the building to be constructed, defying regulations, while the second was too busy probably fighting for political survival of his family that he overlooked its rise completely (how this is possible considering that he passes it daily in getting to City Hall is beyond imagination). Perhaps if both mayors were more patriotic they ought to declare a mea culpa publicly at Bagumbayan (I didn’t say they ought to  be shot there)--- along with officials of the National Historical Commission and others involved in preserving culture and patrimony who were all derelict in failing to stop this monstrosity strongly enough. 

At the first indication of a construction, these officials should have already raised the red flag and brought the builder to court, but like the proverbial monkey they saw no evil.  

Could anyone imagine anything like this happening at the Washington Mall or in the environs of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris where foreign dignitaries are met by uniformed escorts on stately white horses?

Only in da Pilipins. Masakit, Kuya Eddie.


On the decommissioning of 145 MILF combatants and 75 assorted firearms, including a couple of “crew-served” heavy weapons, there is tremendous disappointment that after the huge build-up of the event at Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao several days ago, attended by no less than President Aquino, not even 1 percent of the 12,000 to 15,000 supposed combatants surrendered (as per the math of Chiz Escudero), while the number of firearms surrendered cannot even figure as a blip because no one really has any idea how huge is the MILF arsenal. But be that as it may---as chief negotiator Miriam Coronel put it, it’s a start, the first step in an arduous journey toward peace in the Muslim region.

The Filipino people long for peace in that part of our country, but what rankles sensible folks is the way MILF counterpart negotiator Mohagher Iqbal has threatened that if the BBL fails to pass in Congress, there would be no more decommissioning of arms and men. This rankles because Mr. Iqbal, or as Fr. Rannie Aquino put it, “whatever his name is,” has the temerity to talk big and demand terms even as he comes to the bargaining table NEARLY EMPTY-HANDED.


P-Noy’s reaction, however, is even more upsetting. He lambasts the critics over the delay in the passage of the BBL and the Palace boys throw ill-disguised overtures about a re-organization in the Senate that’s viewed as the obstructionist chamber, in contrast to the super-pliant House. The target of reorganization is obviously Sen. Bongbong Marcos, chair of local governments, who has single-handedly opposed the Palace draft BBL and insists on his own version that he’ll present after the SONA.  Marcos is unfazed by the threat as he knows that as much as 2/3 of the nation perhaps are against the BBL in its present form, and he asserts that there would be “chaos” in a Senate musical chairs. Senate President Franklin Drilon could also be endangered species or collateral damage.  


Instead of threatening oppositionists to the BBL about reaping historical blame for renewed fighting in Mindanao---thereby reinforcing the Murad/Iqbal group’s craving for power over a generous swath of the big island--- Aquino should convince the Muslim faction that even as he’s sympathetic to their aspirations, they ought to understand how a presidential/ republican democracy works. In fact P-Noy should teach them the basics of Political Science 101---that Congress is a separate and independent body, not Malacanang’s adjunct;  and while political maneuvering and lobbying is legit, the actions of Congress ought to be respected.

But the problem may be that because of all the bribery P-Noy has resorted to in seeking to pass controversial bills and in the impeachment of a sitting Chief Justice, it may not be that easy now to make the MILF believe that he does not really own Congress. 

Earlier I wrote that of the 24 bishops of Mindanao, as many as 19 are against the BBL in its present form and of the five for it, two bishops are said to have their own reservations about certain aspects. The fissures may have widen, for informed sources said that while Orlando Cardinal Quevedo supports the BBL, nearly all his priests in Cotabato are against it.

This morning, Friday, June 19, a group composed of Archbishop Emeritus of Davao Fernando Capalla, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles and Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez in his capacity as president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), former Sen. Francisco Tatad and former and National Security Adviser and Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzalez filed a petition before the Supreme Court--- seeking to nullify the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which is the basic document from which the BBL is sourced, on the ground of CAB’s constitutional infirmities. 

Respondents in their petition are former GRP chief negotiator and now SC Justice Marvic Leonen, Leonen's successor negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and a “self-styled entity represented by Mohagher Iqbal, using alias name.”


The preamble of the Philconsa petition seeks recourse in the majesty of the law as embodied in the Constitution. Read and be ennobled:

“The Court once warned--- ‘Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.’ (Mappv.Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 1961).

“No matter how noble and worthy of admiration the purpose of an act, but if the means to be employed in accomplishing it is simply irreconcilable with constitutional parameters, then it cannot still be allowed. The Constitution cannot just turn a blind eye and simply let it pass…

“The Constitution must ever remain supreme. All must bow to the mandate of this law. Expediency must not be allowed to sap its strength nor greed for power debase its rectitude.”  (Biraogo vs. The Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 (Dec. 7, 2010).

Let's harken to this reminder. 

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