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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, November 26, 2015

Interesting facts raised by special Pulse Asia poll of Metro Manila: who’s pulling up, going down and stagnant among the “presidentiables?”


Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte

Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares

Vice President Jejomar Binay
Former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is reported by a major newspaper as leading in a special Metro Manila survey by Pulse Asia, just after his recent announcement that he’s throwing his hat into the ring as presidential candidate of PDP Laban. Report of Duterte’s topping this  survey is interesting from many angles. For one, his declaration is quite controversial as he wants to substitute for Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and former barangay chair Martin Dino, who was about to be declared by the Comelec a nuisance candidate for president.

The whole world already suspected that Dino was just warming the seat for Duterte and that their one-two act was a moro-moro; legal luminaries, notably former UE Law Dean Amado Valdez, are now opining that such substitution is thoroughly open to question inasmuch as Dino was never considered a “serious” candidate. 

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But the fact that while Duterte topped the Metro survey among all the social classes but scored BIGGEST among the ABC classes (38 %), indicates one significant point: people in Metro Manila, ESPECIALLY THE WEALTHIER FOLKS who are getting hurt by the high criminality rate, are upset at the namby-pamby way the administration is responding to it. They find Duterte’s “kamay na bakal” attractive. Note, too, that it’s only Duterte among the presidential candidates who gained points from last September to this month (7 points), whereas all the other candidates lost ground.   

Disenchantment with the administration’s handling of criminality is especially true in the “Laglag Bala” case in NAIA which President Aquino and his subalterns have consistently refused to acknowledge and take responsibility for, despite credible victims presenting strong testimony against it. 

Last night I fetched some relatives at NAIA 1 and I noted that majority of  arriving passengers, who appeared to be mainly OFWs, had their luggages tightly wrapped in plastic bubble. This meant added costs and of course, the OFWs nurse resentment that this scam evades sensible solution UNTIL NOW. 

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Another fact about the recent Pulse Asia survey: Grace Poe’s following dropped from 31% in September to 26% this November. I ascribe this to the united opposition of the three justices sitting in the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), led by SET chair and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, to her emotion-laden argument that foundlings deserve political recognition and opportunity to serve in the highest post, even if no evidence is presented about their being "natural-born;" that deprivation of this privilege to Grace Poe constitutes a grave injustice to all foundlings.

SC Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro, who sits in the nine-member SET, bluntly disputed in her dissenting opinion the majority decision---evidently politically-motivated----of five senators---that seeks to allow foundlings to run for the highest office sans verification of parentage. Said Justice de Castro: “The definition of a natural-born citizen, under Sec. 2, Art. IV of the 1987 Constitution, cannot be met by a foundling even if the disputable presumption is applied, because before the said presumption can operate, the fact of being a foundling must first be established by a legal proceeding, according to RA 9523.” (emphasis BOC's). 

In other words, De Castro argues, the privilege of running for the highest office CANNOT BE AUTOMATIC FOR A FOUNDLING.  

It’s easy to predict that the well-articulated opinion of SC/SET Justices Carpio, De Castro and Arturo Brion on the quo warranto proceedings in the SET would influence the thinking of their colleagues in the SC on the eligibility of Poe to run for President in 2016---especially since she made the mistake of slamming Carpio’s dissenting opinion in the SET in media. 

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Legal luminaries reviewing the arguments of Grace Poe stress, however, that more than the foundling issue, A BIGGER HURDLE for the late movie icon Fernando Poe's daughter is the RESIDENCY issue against her, which is backed up by documented evidence of inaccuracies. As former UE Law Dean Amado Valdez argues, Poe-Llamanzares only renounced her US citizenship in October 2010, so that her move does not answer the 10-year residency requirement of the Constitution for those seeking a senatorial seat or the highest office. Thus, experts point out that Poe will still lack five to six months to overcome the 10-year requirement by the elections of 2016.

I can see a looming disqualification of Sen. Poe from the presidential race, but another complication being whispered about is: how fast will the DQ be handed down? There’s talk that Poe’s strategists are praying for a delay so that come the printing of ballots late next month, her name would still be in those ballots; thus, should she win, it could be argued that it’s “Vox Populi” as well as an “act of God;” the DQ then becomes moot and academic.

I’m sure, however, that the SC justices are well aware of this possible complication and would not delay resolution of this issue---in fairness to both Sen. Poe and the electorate.

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VP Jojo Binay’s case, according to Pulse Asia's special poll, is interesting on several counts. While he slid down from 26 percent in September to 22 percent this November, it’s evident that Binay continues to enjoy a solid 21% of Class D and a whopping 32% of Class E---the working classes. 

A senator told friends that in a visit to Boracay recently, he made an impromptu survey of the waiters in several resorts and they turned out to be all for Binay. In other words, it’s indisputable that Binay has a lock on the masa vote; but the question is, would the working folks be able to vote on election day? This is where party machinery comes in: does Binay's Partido ng Masang Pilipino have the wherewithal to move the masses to vote?

On the other hand, I hear from some quarters that despite the parade of corruption allegations hurled at the Veep from the perceived as too-biased Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, he seems to be increasingly scoring well, too, with the upper classes (14 percent). This is because the perception among them is that more than the issue of corruption, they want someone WHO CAN TAKE CHARGE OF THE COUNTRY AND RUN AND GOVERN IT.  Binay is perceived as having a better grasp at governance due to his long experience in the executive branch. 

Binay is also seen as having solid backing from organizations he had nurtured, such as the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and the sister-cities relationship across the country, as well as with the OFWs due to self-appointed missions on their behalf that he has undertaken. He is also an indefatigable campaigner: celebrating the anniversary of Yolanda in Tacloban the Veep hopped over next to the tiny municipality of La Paz in Leyte with its 15,000 population! Walang patawad in wakes too.  

XXX

This is the dilemma that haunts the well-endowed Liberal Party. President Aquino’s image has been found wanting on issues of governance and in resolving problems affecting the citizenry's welfare, e.g., mass transport, traffic, the airport mess, etc. Because of his closeness to P-Noy, LP presidential bet Mar Roxas is being affected by this wimpy image of the administration. Ironically, however, when Mar was excluded from the planning and execution of the Mamasapano operation, the citizens were sore at him for not resigning on the spot when it blew up. 

That the Wharton-trained technocrat is in a tight dilemma vis-a-vis the administration is borne out by the Pulse Asia survey that shows him in the cellar, with only 13 percent from the ABC class (Binay even beat him in this class  by 1 percent), 12 percent from the D class and five percent from the E class. Mar also lost two percent between the September and November surveys.

Projection is everything in the elections and Mar just has to project more dynamism and distance himself a bit from the administration. This scion of two wealthy clans also has to find ways to connect more genuinely with the masa.  

(Next, the crucial question: if Digong Duterte’s candidacy is disallowed and Grace Poe is disqualified, who profits from votes of their followers?).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

No untoward incident marred the APEC Summit, which calls for congratulations to 10,000 PNP and AFP personnel who kept foreign dignitaries safe, and to the discipline of rallyists. But social events could have been toned down in deference to great divide between rich and poor in our country, the third-poorest in APEC, and tough plight of ordinary citizens in coping with closure of roads. Special efforts to explain to broad masses APEC goings-on would have helped lessen resentment in those most “APEC-tado.”




  Vehicle snarls and kilometric marches on foot for Metro Manila citizens during APEC Week

       

  President Obama moderating in show featuring Chinese billionaire tycoom Jack Ma and Pinay       salt-powered lamp inventor Aisa Mijeno
                           
                                                 



The last of the attendees at the week-long APEC Summit of Leaders and related events has left and we can only thank the Lord that nothing untoward had happened to anyone of them. Nor has the Summit been marred by any serious violence and disturbance.

Congratulations are in order to 10,000 police and AFP personnel who stood guard for as much as 10 grueling hours each day, many in the heat of the sun and in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations with leftist groups who seemed equally determined to stretch their patience and their peace. Plaudits are in order for the discipline displayed by all the unsung heroes who kept the APEC Summit running smoothly. 

Orchids specially to over-all APEC director Marciano “Jun” Paynor, a former military man later appointed Ambassador to Israel and then Consul-General in LA. Jun Paynor has walked just about every President since FVR though innumerable state visits and events abroad, and at the moment he seems irreplaceable.

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The Summit organizers strove to project what they interpret as the Filipinos’ best foot forward in terms of glittering elegance that marked the various events, and indeed projected were the exquisite ternos of the Filipino ladies and the impeccably-tailored barong tagalogs by Paul Cabral; the elegant dinner settings at the PICC that brought out Kenneth Cobonpue’s genius at interpreting native themes in furniture, and at the 5-star hotels, the-top-of-the-summit entertainment and cultural fare, etc.

All these glittering scenes duly recorded by  star-struck media were bedazzling to plain folks watching in their TV sets at home,  as the VIPs were unloaded by an awesome fleet of BMWs and Mercedes Benzes. It seemed a cross between the glitzy annual Hollywood Academy Awards in LA and elegant White House happenings of the Kennedy years.

XXX

But behind the aura of fabled elegance there was the other face of Philippine reality: the unforgettable photos of long lines of commuters marching stoically along Roxas Blvd. last Monday and Tuesday, likened to the Capas Death March by some commentators; the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the one lane marked for the hoi polloi on EDSA, vs. two empty lanes reserved for APEC participants and their alalays.

There’s the endless stories of plain folk being stranded that inglorious Monday and how they crept into their homes or work place ten or twelve hours late, etc. There were two instances recorded of women delivering on the road, aided by police elements with some know-how about midwifery, while concerned passers-by shielded the instant mothers with umbrellas for privacy.  One baby was named “Coastal"--another inspired thinking from the unsinkable Pinoys.

Many were also stranded with the cancellation of local and foreign flights.

XXX

There were endless stories from the broad masses somewhat resentful of what was happening in the PICC and the 5-star hotels, and who, in true Filipino genius, handily coined the word “APEC-tado” to sum up their alienation from the temporary reality and their disenchantment with the glittering events---the great class divide at work even then. For the unbearable traffic, they coined a new term: "TRAPEC." 

Kris Aquino’s viralled comment about how she got “sunburned” while touring the APEC leaders’ wives in Intramuros---so that she’s now even with those complaining about walking many kilometers under the sun---didn’t help the broad masses feel better. My manicurista opined that if Kris didn’t wear a terno with a wide-open back, she wouldn’t have burned at all; in the first place, she asked, why should presidential kid sister show up in a terno for that daytime tour, whereas the visiting ladies were all in pants-suits and walking shoes? 

Kris later apologized in her FB page for this spontaneous remark about being burned, which was in order. 

XXX

I think not one Filipino would have been caught wishing the APEC Summit ill; in fact everyone’s relieved that nothing untoward happened, especially in the light of all the tensions stirred by the Paris attacks and now fears of similar imminent attacks on Belgium. But ordinary Filipino folks may have nursed a resentment of the Summit for a number of reasons.

One is that it heightened even more the great divide between rich and poor in this country. In their efforts to project “the best of the Pinoy” to the visiting dignitaries, the organizers managed to rub in that huge chasm. I PERSONALLY FEEL THAT THE APEC EVENTS COULD STILL HAVE BEEN ELEGANT BUT A BIT TONED DOWN, ESPECIALLY SINCE OUR HOST COUNTRY HAPPENS TO BE THE THIRD-POOREST IN APEC and the other countries know about the poverty in our midst. 

What the organizers put on for APEC may be likened to a poor fellow pulling all the stops to entertain visiting rich relatives, out of a deep-seated complex.

XXX

Moreover, while it was necessary to cordon off lanes for visiting leaders and their delegations numbering nearly 10,000 people, the physical great divide during APEC week only rubbed more salt on the daily travails of Metro Manila commuters.

 As physician and medical anthropologist Gideon Lasco put it in an article in Inquirer yesterday, Nov. 21: “If you truly understand what people living in the city are going through, then you will understand that EDSA is a metaphor of the things we have been enduring for far too long; the slow traffic throughout the metropolis, the slow internet, the slow justice system, and everything else in our country that moves so painfully slow.”

I really think the APEC should have been located to Clark Freeport or perhaps Mactan in Cebu, but news items stressed that President Aquino wanted Metro Manila to showcase the progress made here in his term. Metro folks, however, are plainly cynical about this "progress"---given the hideous daily traffic, the poor state of the mass transport system and of the major airport and its scandalous scams.  

XXX

Filipino inventor Aisa Mijeno
To be sure, there were bright moments at the APEC Summit, but again, these were linked precisely to the problem I cited above—the great divide between rich and poor, and how it is being bridged. 

One was the dialogue between Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire-founder of e-commerce giant “Alibaba,”and our very own Aisa Mijeno, the youthful inventor of the salt water-powered lamp. The forum was moderated by no less than US President Barack Obama, who had earlier called Aisa from the White House to appear with him in that forum.  Aisa, an engineer and current faculty member of the Engineering Department of De La Salle University-Lipa, explained in the televised forum how her invention will open our islands and remote mountain areas to light (it was during a trek to the mountains of Kalinga where the concept of her project began). 

Obama and Jack Ma were speechless during Aisa's presentation and when they recovered their wits. they pledged assistance to her project---a step forward for SMEs.

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I myself am thrilled by this young Filipina's pioneering invention as I have visited a lot of remote areas of our country which, with the help of solar powered equipment from the PNOC, were opened up; students could then study together at night in some communal nipa, instead of using candles and kerosene lamps. Once, too, I was in a small island off the coast of Palawan and I watched how solar power was attached to a hut and the entire island brightened up and became a haven of safety for fishermen during storms. 

Aisa’s invention, using even salt water from the sea, is far more revolutionary for our archipelago. Aptly, she calls her project not an idea but "a social movement."  We're proud of you, Engr. Aisa Mijeno. 

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Another bright spot in the APEC Summit was the visit by Japan’s First Lady, Mrs. Akie Abe, to the Payatas dump site in Quezon City where Japanese ladies have been assisting poor families in cottage industries.  Mrs. Abe came dressed very simply, with no jewelry at all, and after being photographed inside the humble shack with a family, she visited the outlet for handicrafts made by these families and purchased items to give as gifts in Japan. Netizens lost no time juxtaposing Akie Abe’s photos in all her simplicity with that of a Kris bedecked with her thick diamonds-studded necklace at the PICC dinner.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Jihadist terrorists knew how to cripple the fabled joie de vivre spirit of the Parisians on that bloody Friday night. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is right: focus on the terrorists, not on Islam. It should not be regarded as a clash of civilizations, but war against a small but fanatical and highly trained terror group.











With the whole world still reeling from the horrors of last Friday’s carnage in Paris, there is understandable tension and worry in our country  over the security of the APEC Summit on Nov. 18-19, that will draw 19 Heads of State, a number of Prime Ministers and other ranking officials to Manila, as well as hundreds of world media. Let us pray that all goes well and that our foreign guests and local participants would be secure and that the Summit would be profitable in terms of mutual understanding and concrete steps toward reducing poverty and exploitation, and securing peoples from terrorism.

Admittedly, however, the level of confidence in the administration is not at its optimum level. As Star columnist Boo Chanco, a most rabid Aquino supporter during the 2010 elections, laments in his recent column, why can’t this administration make heads or tails of even the “Laglag Bala” scam at the NAIA?  Mercifully Boo left out what could have been said in sequence: that failing to check that shameful airport scam, what else can the administration handle?

XXX

News reports said a giant tarpaulin arch welcoming foreign guests in front of the PICC, the venue of the APEC Summit, fell down with the strong winds today, even before the foreign dignitaries could arrive.  Some upset netizens asked how something like this could happen when billions of pesos have been allocated for the Summit; still others immediately held up the tarp incident as “ominous.” I don’t believe in omens, however; rather, I believe in the power of prayer to see us through the security nightmare that the Summit presents. This is one time when we have to be optimistic for our country and the gigantic event it’s hosting.

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It has not been easy to be forgiving and understanding, though, as everywhere tonight one seems to hear only the complaint of citizens who have had to walk home for kilometers on end in light drizzle, as either major roads were closed with little notice, or cab and habal-habal drivers were charging an arm and a leg from desperate commuters.  I know one household staffer who had to shell out P700 for two different rides, just to get home to Taguig. One pregnant woman gave birth on the road, while other trekkers reached their homes at 4 am. today.

At this time it’s tempting to cite the earlier suggestion of former President Fidel Ramos to President Aquino to hold the APEC Summit instead in Clark as the metropolis cannot handle even its own hideous daily traffic---let alone the criss-crossing retinue of hundreds of Summit staffers, plus the myriad battalions of AFP and PNP personnel out to secure the visitors.  

Clark would have been far easier to manage, especially security-wise, as was Subic, the site of the first PH-hosted APEC Summit in 1996 in Ramos' presidency. Clark also boasts of world-class airport facilities as well as reasonably okay hotels. Had the venue been Clark, schools and offices as well as hundreds of flights wouldn't have been disrupted in Metro Manila.  

But then, where would the agony and the ecstasy of the capital be?

XXX

An editorial in a US newspaper---I don’t remember which, as I read a whole lot over the weekend about the Paris slaughters---pointed out that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, now shortened to just IS) jihadist fanatics knew exactly where and how to attack the City of Light: in the joie de vivre haunts that Parisians, with their fabled lifestyle, typically flock to on a fun and relaxing Friday night,  a prelude to the “bon weekend” they treasure so much.

There was the crowded concert at the Bataclan Concert Hall in Eastern Paris, with 1,500 spectators regaling to a visiting American rock band called the “Eagles of Death Metal.” Some concert-goers thought the shootings were an initial part of the repertoire, until grim reality set in. Then there was the friendly football game at the Stade de France between France and Germany, both football-crazed countries, witnessed by no less than French President Francois Hollande. An alert security detected the suicide vest of a female terrorist before she could get into the stadium but she simply detonated it, killing herself and others outside. As accounts noted, it would have been a worse carnage had the terrorists been able to enter the stadium. 

There were also the assaults on a bar and several restaurants, including two Asian eateries and a pizzeria that Parisians of all walks of life patronize on a carefree night like last Friday.

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The horrible string of assaults undertaken by eight black-clad gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris is considered the worst in French peacetime history, as it left over 120 people killed and over 200 wounded (as of this evening, Nov. 18, the number of wounded had climbed to 400, with 221 still confined in hospitals, 57 of them in intensive care). The entire world mourned with the French people, with iconic world monuments, including our own Luneta Shrine of Dr. Jose Rizal, bathed in the French tricolor and flowers flooding Paris' streets. World leaders led by Pope Francis asked for prayers for those who perished in the mass terrorism.

But as experts have pointed out, what is even more horrifying is that the attackers were young males (between the ages of 20 and 25) who were “radicalized Muslims returned from war zones, battle-hardened and well-trained.” So radicalized, in fact, that some of them, including a female terrorist, didn't have any compunction to activate their “suicide vests” and blow themselves into smithereens when cornered. French police identified at least six jihadists who committed suicide in this manner in the Paris assaults. 

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One has to ask what it is that empowers these young jihadist radicals to seemingly have no fear to commit suicide, in order to carry out their mission of hatred and violent destruction. 

From the other side of the spectrum, Christianity over the centuries has produced martyrs for the Faith, who have had little or no hesitation to accept torture and death---in the knowledge that they would meet their Creator in the next life and reap the rewards of glorious martyrdom. The Muslim radicals seem to operate on the same plane, but the difference is that they are obviously fueled by deep hatred for those they seek to destroy, whereas martyrs for the Faith drew others to the Supreme Being through the testimony of dedicated lives and heroic deaths.  

Like the Christian martyrs for the Faith, however, these jihadists share the belief that a glorious eternity  awaits them if they lose their life for the cause. Tragically, however, it's the wrong cause. 

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Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is correct when she stressed in the recent second Democratic debate that the rallying action of a united world should focus on the IS, which, she stressed, is "a barbaric, ruthless, violent Jihadi terrorist group"---not on the Muslims as a whole. Clinton is right: in fact, the rest of the orthodox Muslim world appear to be condemning of the IS and its brutal ways, and sympathize with the Parisians over their tragedy. 

It's good to remember that the recent bloodbath in Paris does not represent a "clash of civilizations," as the terrorists want the world to look at it, but the brutal handiwork of a comparatively small group of wayward, frightfully radicalized Muslims, against which the rest of the world should unite. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The chief of CBCP's Commission on Migrant and Itinerant People, Bishop Ruperto Santos, advises OFWs not to vote for candidates “insensitive and indifferent to ‘tanim-bala.’ " Did LP bet Mar Roxas really say, “I really don’t need the OFWs' vote? Public Attorney Persida Acosta and private lawyer Alice Risos Vidal, two no-nonsense lady lawyers, assure help for harassed OFWs. Instead of cancelling over 200 flights to help decongest air traffic for APEC Summit, PAL advised to transfer them to Clark---sensible idea even post-APEC for under-utilized Clark.





The Aquino administration has bungled handling the “Laglag Bala” or “Tanim Bala” scam at NAIA through a series of stupid moves. First it pooh-poohed what was happening as isolated instances---a tiny drop in the sea of millions of airport departures and arrivals;  then there's the theory that these bullets are actually used by passengers as amulets to ward off evil spirits, or were supposedly carried by passengers straight from the shooting ranges. All these rationalizations, despite tearful protests from scam victims, including elderly OFWs and an American missionary bound for Mindanao.  


Aquino officials met these episodes with their own protests, with DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya sticking to his statistics and Airport Chief Jose Angel Honrado playing tough about snowballing calls for his resignation. Then the statement attributed to LP presidential candidate Mar Roxas: “I really don’t need the vote of the OFWs.”  It’s hard to believe a rational man would pooh- pooh the 11 million OFWs,  but there has been no denial from Mar's camp. 

XXX

All these episodes on ”Laglag Bala” and “Tanim Bala” kept local and international media spinning, earning PH new notoriety abroad. But the worst repercussions are among the OFWs, to whom the P-Noy administration appeared quite uncaring and insensitive. This was reflected in recent statements of  Balanga  Bishop  Ruperto C. Santos, who heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s Episcopal Commission on Migrant and Itinerant People.


Balanga Bishop and head of CBCP's Commission on Migrant and Itinerant People  Ruperto C. Santos (Photo courtesy of Mar T. Supnad)



In a news release, Bishop Santos admonished OFWs not to vote “for candidates who are insensitive and indifferent to the ‘tanim-bala’ problem” and "who are not compassionate to those who had been victimized particularly overseas Filipino workers as well as tourists.” Santos urged the public “to take a united action against the scam” and adopt a “strong voice in displaying indignation against the issue of ‘tanim-bala’ at the country’s airports.”

Bishop Santos said over Radio Veritas, in reference to political candidates who seem to be indifferent to this issue, “Mahalaga sa atin na may boses tayo. May malakas na boses kaya gumawa ng paraan na ipakita sa kanila ang ating pagkakaisa. Kung may laglag-bala, ipakita natin sa kanila na ilalaglag din natin sila sa balota.”

The OFWs, already incensed about earlier attempt of Customs Chief Bert Lina to subject balikbayan boxes to open inspection, are susceptible to Bishop Santos’ exhortation which, in turn, could affect  Mar Roxas's candidacy.

XXX

The Bishop also decried the slow government response to the ‘tanim-bala’ issue, complaining that “We released a letter on the problem as early as September and to this day, no one has been apprehended. There are no leads as to who the perpetrators might be.” To Santos this simply shows “the lack of compassion and sense of urgency, and insensitivity of concerned individuals who are remiss in their duty to protect and serve the public.”  

In view of the denial mode and lack of clear idea from the authorities on how to handle this internationally embarrassing problem, Bishop Santos  urged airport personnel to just confiscate the bullet---just like what's routinely done with knives, pointed objects, and other prohibited liquids and chemicals when found in the possession of a passenger---and let him go.

This same stand has been echoed by various people, such as former Rep. Roilo Golez and TeddyBoy Locsin, but until now confusion reigns at the airport on what to do---scaring OFWs about possible arrests at NAIA this December. This has prompted Public Attorney Persida Acosta to stand watch over the OFWs (Persida reminds me of the Statue of Liberty at the mouth of New York Harbor, offering solace to migrants from the Old World) and private lawyers like Alice Risos-Vidal to offer their services free to harrassed OFWs.

XXX

In the Aquino administration’s thinking, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program---which has already spent some P75 billion in monthly dole-outs to some 4.4 million families (roughly some 20 million Filipinos)---is crucial because it alleviates the plight of very poor families while keeping their children in school. One condition for the dole-out is that the children attend school. But expert opinion holds that, in fact, poverty has worsened. As shown by the recent SWS surveys, the latest hunger figure is three points up from the 12.7 percent (2.8 million families) recorded in the preceding quarter;  that in fact it was the highest since December 2014’s data of 17.2 percent.

I have never been a believer in the CCT program as one of its toughest aspects is THE DIFFICULTY OF HANDLING AND MONITORING ON THE GROUND SUCH GARGANTUAN FUNDS. So much is left to the discretion of ground handlers of Dinky Soliman, and I know from personal testimonies by my house-helpers over the years that the funds that finally get to their families are irregular and incomplete. This was what led the Arroyo administration to give up the CCT after an initial try. 

This is not to mention the dole-out mentality that CCT inculcates among the poor and its use for political patronage especially during this campaign period. Rather than CCT, what should be done is to establish branches of TESDA (corruption-free) in strategic regions of the country, where able-bodied citizens of both sexes could be trained in various technical skills to supplement the yawning lack of formal education in the grassroots

XXX

Archbishop Emeritus Oscar V. Cruz, writing in Daily Tribune recently, quoted the price tag of over P400 million to be forked out by the Philippine government in hosting the APEC Summit from Nov. 17-20, 2015. It’s a far cry, he says, from the under P100 million the government spent in 1996, when it hosted the first APEC Conference in Subic Freeport in President Ramos’ time. But with all due respect to the militant bishop, this jump is understandable, given that it has been nearly 20 years ago and that the first APEC Summit took place in a small and highly controlled environment; whereas, this second conference in Manila has to meet head-on the gargantuan problems of securing 20 world leaders, traffic congestion on land and air, containing at manageable levels the presence of the poor and many other urban problems that will bedevil it.

XXX

As a citizen I feel there’s nothing better we can do as a people than to pray that the many problems of APEC 2 would be overcome; that our foreign heads of state guests and their respective entourage would be safe here, and that the summit proceeds and concludes smoothly and profitably for all participants, including our country. We cannot at this point count the costs in terms of pesos and centavos as the prestige of our country as  host is at stake.

Already the country’s reputation has been terribly tarnished by the “Laglag Bala” airport bullet scam, with all the bad publicity it has reaped in various foreign lands. Its timing on the eve of this APEC Summit is so unfortunate, and God knows when we could recover from it. The least we can do is to make the Summit as smooth as possible.

XXX

But one economic cost that will affect so many people involves the cancellation by Philippine Airlines of over 200 flights 14 days prior to the APEC Summit of Nov. 17-20.  The idea is to decongest air traffic and allow smooth flights of all the international VIPs. PAL releases spoke of the difficulty that many of its passengers, who had booked and paid in advance for flights to Manila especially with the onset of the Christmas season, are encountering with these cancellations. The dislocation of many thousands of passengers locally and in various foreign destinations is a nightmare in itself.

In this connection the Center for Strategic Initiatives (CSI), a leading think-tank, gave unsolicited advice to the Department of Transportation and Communication not to cancel these PAL flights but TO TRANSFER THEM to Clark International Airport in Angeles City during the pendency of the Summit. In fact the CIS recommends the transfer not only of APEC-related flights but other flights local and international from Manila  to Clark, as the latter has the suitable runway and equipment to handle them. The only thing needed is to provide shuttle buses to and from Clark to Manila and various points.

XXX

Utilizing Clark as an alternative to NAIA is most sensible and I myself am witness to how easy and convenient taking off and landing there is; in fact, given the congestion at NAIA I have come to prefer Clark for trips to Europe. Clark has also been providing safe haven for planes running low on fuel as a result of the traffic congestion at NAIA.  

Metro Manilans can take the shuttle bus to Clark free of charge from Resorts World in Pasay City in front of NAIA 3, and for Quezon City and Caloocan dwellers, from Trinoma Center on Quezon Avenue. Return trip to Metro Manila from Clark is also provided by shuttle buses free of charge.

Clark Airport with its long, superb runway built by the Americans is safer, and congestion and hassle-free than NAIA.