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, October 6, 2017

In his address before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Davao Chapter, President Duterte was caustic and angry one moment, and philosophical and musing the next. He invited Morales and Sereno to resign with him, next moment he stressed that it will have to be the army/PNP to cause him to resign or stay.

President Duterte applauding a number at the IBP Davao Chapter oath-taking last Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017

I stayed up late a few nights ago listening to a re-broadcast of President Duterte in a long rambling speech at the Davao SMX Convention Center, during the oath-taking of new members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Davao Chapter.  He ranted and raved in a monologue for what seemed like two hours, during which the lawyers about to take their oath were largely stony silent---not knowing how to react perhaps to some of the things he was saying.  Just stony silence, punctuated once in a rare while by some applause.

To be sure, Mr. Duterte had eloquent passages, such as when he quoted the saying, “I only pass through this world but once, so all the good I can do, let me do it now.” Also, the oft-quote from Ecclesiastes about a time to live and a time to die. At some point he mused that “If God is perfect, why is there so much imperfection.” And how “life is so incongruous by itself...but that it depends on you”  and “A thousand lies run everyday acquires the semblance of truth.”


But most of the time, the President was caustic and angry about how two or three policemen are being killed every day in the drug war, and how “people take so lightly the addiction that has now run into four million people involved.”  He said he would not take the drug war sitting down---“if you indulge in it, it will bring out the worst in me” and “I can match your insanity also.”

Mr. Duterte peppered his ramblings with the usual curses, which the broadcasters sought to soften by papering it over with some visual effects or  rendering some utterances garbled;  hence that night the studio technicians were the busiest folks in Davao City. 


What seemed to irritate the President most---quite understandably---was an earlier suggestion from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and upheld  by IBP National President Abdiel den Elijah Fajardo, that Mr. Duterte should not be “onion-skinned.” It's interesting to note that the Ombudsman is the sister of Mr. Duterte’s "balae" (the father-in-law of Davao Mayor Sara Duterte). 

Thus, Morales' admonition to the President not to be "onion-skinned" must be  particularly irritating, considering that they are really just one family. Mr. Duterte vehemently objected to the allegations raised by Morales about possible bank accounts here and abroad owned by the Duterte family.


But Mr. Duterte’s arch-critic, Sen. Antonio Trillanes, had hurled the challenge to the Ombudsman to scrutinize those supposed accounts, and under the rules of her office, she was duty-bound to look into these allegations of hidden wealth. But the President stressed that he will not submit to the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman.

Mr. Duterte has admitted that he probably stored up some P40 million maximum in banks---“lifetime savings”---and he exhorts Land Bank in the process to come up with the right figures about his salaries over many years of public service, beginning with his 22 years as mayor of Davao.  He has accused the Ombudsman of fabricating evidence “illegally obtained,” in order to make it appear that he has hundreds of millions in banks. The accusations, said, he, “are pulling down and eroding his leadership,” “an attack on my honor,” adding that “What happened to (the late Chief Justice Renato) Corona is happening to me.”

The President stressed that all that’s being raised about hundreds of millions of pesos allegedly in his bank accounts are pure lies.


It was at this point that the President raised the proposition that the three of them RESIGN together, simultaneously---he, the Ombudsman and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.  He challenged the two highest women officials to go to Congress---“the three of us---and let us sign letters of resignation." Mr. Duterte stressed that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has denied releasing any documents about his funds; hence, he said, the figures being bandied around by Morales and her staff were pure fabrication.

Here Mr. Duterte seems to reserve his biggest ire for Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, who, he asserted, has given the Filipino public the impression that the AMLC had shared pertinent documents about his alleged bank accounts, when, in fact, thundered Mr. Duterte, Carandang, under tremendous duress, later admitted that he got the figures only from media.


A while longer into the presidential monologue in the Davao SMX Convention, he retracted his earlier offer to the two most powerful women he was at odds with, to resign with him. “I will not resign,” he said categorically. But who will decide on the issue of the leadership of the country? Duterte said without hesitation: it will have to be the Police and the Armed Forces.

And to Deputy Ombudsman Carandang he had a parting shot: "Pag nagka-leche leche ang Pilipinas, uunahin kita (If something happens to the Philippines, I will make sure I’ll get you first).”  And as though for emphasis, Mr. Duterte said: Ilang pulis dito ang binimbang ko, ang ilan ay sinampal ko.

He did not spare the family that had owned the Inquirer for some 25 years.  Said the President: Any amount collected from government property should be surrendered to the government. "Kayo pala ang magnanakaw, i-surender na ninyo ang property na yan at gagawaan ko ng bahay iyon para sa mga mahihirap."

His parting shot to the Inquirer owners: You who have enjoyed the fat of the land, time to go.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

What turns youths studying law into brutes who maim and kill co-fratmen? Recalling short story by US author William Carlos Williams, “The Use of Force,” where doctor treating a child’s diphtheria transitions from “cool professional” to “animalistic assailant.” Was this what happened to Tau Gamma fratmen in Castillo case?

Hazing victim Horacio "Atio" Castillo III and the emblem of the fraternity he dreamt of joining

When I was entering the UP’s Liberal Arts College decades ago, the university was rocked by the death by hazing of a scion of a prominent family, as well as by wars between the Upsilon and Sigma Rho fraternities. That was my first exposure to the terrible reality of hazing.  Congress was up in arms and efforts were made to prevent its recurrence.

Since that time, however, and up to now, the evil of hazing, conducted in utmost secrecy under the iron-clad oath of “Omerta,”  has reared its ugly head from time to time---such as what happened to freshman Horacio “Atio” Tomas Castillo III of the UST Law fraternity, the “Aegis Juris” who died from violent hazing, and who had dreamt of being a lawyer. Unfortunately, however, the uproar and the national breast-beating subsides---until another victim dies.  

Police investigations reveal that Horacio Castillo died from a heart attack after severe beatings with thick wooden paddles on his body. At the funeral mass at the Santuario de San Antonio Church yesterday, the mass presider,  Fr. Winston Cabading, stressed that “A brotherhood that seeks to harm does not come from God, but from the devil.”  Calling on the young victim’s man’s parents and friends,  he begged them “not to be buried in darkness when we are filled with anger and hatred.” Fr. Cabading admitted, however, that to the question of the meaning of young “Atio” Castillo’s death, “There is no easy answer.”


When I was a literature student at the UP long ago, we studied a short story titled, “The Use of Force” by American author William Carlos Williams, which narrated in first-person how a doctor, treating a young  child of suspected diphtheria, sought to get some specimen from its mouth. When the child resisted, the struggle became rather ugly, with the doctor this time inserting a spoon into its mouth with more force than seemed needed and still the child refused to cooperate.  At that point, author Williams, himself a doctor, clearly portrayed how the doctor in the story (was it Williams himself?) transformed “from cool professional to animalistic assailant.”

In seeking to make sense of the various hazing episodes that resulted in unintended deaths, should we theorize that there is perhaps this same element, whereby, even among friends, there is transformation from being friends to being “animalistic assailants” who lose control of themselves.

This could be the case especially if the hazing rituals are conducted under the influence of liquor and very likely even drugs in isolated places like a remote beach resort---plus very little supervision from the frat's elders and the school.


Consider all the accidents from hazing:

* State-run military academies such as the elite Philippine Military  Academy in Baguio, the Philippine Marine Academy and the Philippine National Police Academy all had their past share of hazing victims. At PMA, plebe Monico de Guzman was believed to have died from “beat attack” upon seeking entrance in the boot camp. The premiere military academy continued with hazing in secrecy.

* In some secular schools, hazing continued to take place as well, and what focused national attention in February 1995 was the death of a neophyte of the Aquila Legis Fraternity at the Ateneo Law School named Lenny Villa. His mother carried a brave campaign against hazing from then on.  

* It should be noted, however, that brutal hazing occurs too in the Ivy League schools in the US. I read an account by a student of Dartmouth University who spoke not of physical brutality, but of being sadistically forced to imbibe excrement of all sorts during hazing.


The rash of deadly violence due to hazing prodded Congress to react in the '90s.  Following the huge uproar over the death of law student Lenny Villa in initiation rites, Sen. Joey Lina, then chair of the Senate Committee on Youth and Sports,  authored R.A. 8049, “An Act Regulating Hazing and other forms of initiation rites in Fraternities, Sororities and other organizations, and providing penalties thereof.”  Prior to the passage of R.A. 8049 what was operative on student organizations was the Revised Penal Code.

 As former Sen.Lina  recounted to Cecile Alvarez and myself during our dzRH program, “Radyo Balintataw” last Sunday, hazing is absolutely forbidden under Sec. 2 of RA 8049, the Anti-Hazing Law.  In fact, MERE PRESENCE at such forbidden rituals is enough to implicate a person as an accomplice to the crime. Punishment includes life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua;  reclusion temporal (17-20 years) and the lightest, 4 years and one day imprisonment for mere presence at such ritual.

The Supreme Court upheld circumstantial evidence as stiff in its landmark decision in Dungo vs. People of the Philippines 2015, raising  punishment to nine years.


Obviously, however, the current law punishing hazing is still deemed very weak, as physical violations continue to exist. There is now a clamor to enforce more safeguards in fraternity initiations, to ensure that physical violence is not resorted to, and elements of the community, the police, the fiscal’s office and the courts are enjoined to attend and monitor fraternity activities closely. Cecile Alvarez and I opined that officials of the school where the fraternity members are enrolled have to be present at initiation rites.

Morerover, I proposed more creative ways to undertake initiation rites such as for example, making neophytes dress like garbage collectors and actually sweep trash in the Luneta or by Manila Bay, or have them garbed in beggar’s clothes and actually beg by Quiapo Church, the begging proceeds to be donated for soup kitchens.

Any initiation ritual except violence which kills.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The question on everyone's mind, including Sen. J. V. Ejercito's: why can't PH protest in stronger terms the drug-trafficking from China? PH reputed to already becoming a drug-transshipment point for other continents



In a recent weekly radio program Cecile Alvarez and I conducted over dzRH we raised with six-termer representative and former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez that even as the administration wars on drugs---with a number of young people getting killed in the process---the bigger issue ought to be how to close the faucet on drugs from China and in our southern borders---before these drugs destroy our youth further. 

Last Saturday, Senator J. V. Ejercito went on record in the Inquirer as suspecting that "China is purposely turning a blind eye to shipments of illegal drugs to the Philippines." Sen. Ejercito likened our current situation to the Opium Wars in the 18th century, when China's Qing dynasty battled opium-trafficking by foreign traders, mostly British." Unfortunately, the drug situation appears to have progressed and knowledgeable officials now intimate that the Philippines is becoming a transshipment point in Asia and on to other continents.


Reports from US sources indicate that 70% of drugs into our country come from China, but there is also the production of the prohibited drug in Sabah, with repacking done in Mindanao. Reports further say that some Sulu leaders are involved as importers as well as "runners"---with a flourishing drug trade going on in places such as the National Penitentiary, through some gangs. 

Report about drug shipments through our porous southern backdoor gained credence when it will be recalled that earlier in the still on-going war in Marawi, so much drugs were captured by Philippine Army troopers from the retreating enemy (whatever happened to those captured drugs? Were they destroyed?). This was apparently how the war in the south was partly financed. 

And of course, how can we forget the whopping P6.4 billion worth of drugs that cleared the Bureau of Customs (BOC)? Until now nobody knows for sure who facilitated it. It looks like the BOC is beyond redemption. 


In his recent musing on this issue, President Duterte claimed that there are "malignant forces" out to sabotage his administration by attributing the recent killings of youths allegedly into drugs, to the police force which is directly under the Chief Executive. Mr. Duterte last Friday instructed PNP Director-General Bato de la Rosa to look into these "conspirators," opining that the series of murders of minors during police crackdowns on narcotics are being  done "intentionally," to disgrace his administration. 

To date there are said to be some 54 youths who have been killed under the supposed police anti-drug war---quite apart  from the more celebrated cases involving the murder of Kian de los Santos, 17, Carl Arnaiz, 19 and Reynaldo de Guzman, 14 (police claim that the DNA of this youth found floating in the river in Nueva Ecija does not match those of his supposed parents).  Yet Mr. Duterte thinks that all this could be a series of sabotage moves against his administration---to whip up vehement anger against it.


To be sure, in our murky politics these days, such allegation is not an impossible claim, but it does seem quite remote inasmuch as the President's opponents in the LP no longer control the state security forces. On the contrary, he appears to have developed a warm relationship with them in his 14-month presidency.

What may have greatly influenced all the recent killings could have been the directives from the President to the police in months past to exterminate drug-addicts, coupled with his assurance that the executing lawmen would get presidential pardon right away. Mr. Duterte could actually have been playing with fire in this regard. According to the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center, some 54 youths have already perished in the drug war, in addition to the three young people who were recently murdered. There is now so much public uproar over these killings.


The churches have come out denouncing the brutal campaign against drugs. Caloocan Bishop Virgilio David, in whose diocese the slaying of Kian de los Santos occurred, was quite emphatic in protesting the direction of the anti-drug campaign. Then too, in a recent uncharacteristically strong pastoral letter, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle  stressed that "We cannot allow the destruction of lives to become normal. We cannot govern the nation by killing. We cannot foster a humane and devout Filipino culture by killings."

The latest cleric to weigh in on recent killings was Archbishop Florentino Lavarias of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga, who urged the faithful last Sept. 8, Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to pray for the poor as well as for officials and policemen under attack for the bloody war on drugs.


Complicating the problem is the fact that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an agency established by the Constitution to be imbued with sufficient independence, seems to be on the way to being emasculated by the Duterte administration, which treats it with ill-disguised contempt.  The administration has refused access of the CHR under Chair Chito Gascon, a P-Noy appointee, to records of recent slayings. The police argue that they need authority from the President---but at this point he doesn't seem disposed to granting it. 

This is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution that assure political independence to constitutional commissions such as the CHR.

One hopeful indication, though, that the Palace might be seeing the light regarding the country's serious drug problem is the statement of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella---that the government is doing a "MAJOR RETHINKING" of its war on drugs, after the death of the three minors allegedly implicated in drugs. 


The Liberal Party came out with a statement backing up the CHR investigations: Said the LP: "if the government is serious about solving (the drug-related killings), then it should allow an independent, impartial body---the Commission on Human Rights---which is constitutionally mandated to conduct investigation of these killings, so as to be more credible to the public." 

During the Senate hearings on Kian de los Santos' murder, the PNP, probably reacting to public outrage, initially promised to turn over the records on Kian to the CHR, but to date Malacanang still has to give the go-signal. 

On the other hand, Senator Grace Poe is in the right direction in filing a resolution before the Senate seeking an investigation into the recent "gruesome deaths" of the three teenagers. and into the PNP modus operandi. This inquiry, especially into the workings of the PNP regarding drug control, is badly needed indeed.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

There's a close relationship between poverty, the thriving drug trade and political dynasties---only in "da Pilipins." Solutions include a more upright police force and free education in SUCs that would create better-educated citizens who will be politically and economically independent, not easily seduced or mesmerized by politicians.

The de los Santos couple, parents of the murdered Kian, at dinner in Malacanang with the President

President Duterte's bloody war on drugs was convulsed anew by the brutal murder of 17-year old Kian Loyd de los Santos by three policemen in a dark alley near his home in Caloocan. Outrage gripped the nation and once again the Filipino people are united in grief over this senseless killing. Everyone but everyone has his own analysis of the whys and wherefores of the drug war in our midst---that has triggered renewed attention from the world. 

UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial killings Agnes Callamard weighed in, as expected, deploring the brutality of Kian's slaying, to which President Duterte replied in typical fashion with expletives aimed at her.

The drug problem has been with us for a long time and seemingly increasing in severity---but it had to take the murder of a helpless teenager at the hands of three law-enforcers to drive home once and for all  the gravity of this problem.  But there is also the fact that it is interrelated with so many other problems facing the nation. Easily there’s the widespread poverty and the corresponding fleeting escape from reality that drugs offer, particularly to the youth.

To be sure, drugs affect both the rich and the poor, but the drug problem of the rich is hidden behind the high walls of affluent villages where pot sessions take place, whereas the drug victims among the poor are more visible to roaming police and easier to collar---and slay.  This is the answer to the query: why is it that only the poor are caught and punished?

A psychiatrist recently spoke to me about multi-tiered homes of the affluent where in one level are the parents and their guests busy playing poker or mahjong, while in another level are the children and their friends lost in shabu---the stuff carefully hidden from the cleaning maid behind the mirror in the bathroom.

All too often, children of the poor who indulge in drugs come from families where one or both parents work abroad as domestics, construction workers or seamen---in order to earn money to send their children to school and ensure a better future for them. In the process, however, the lonely youngsters more often than not cannot hack it by themselves.

Note that Kian’s mother, Lorenza, had worked in the Middle East as a domestic for three years and hadn’t seen her son until she had to come home when he was killed. Kian's concern that night when the police accosted him was his test in class the next morning, and his ambition, ironically, was to become a policeman. He was an exception because he was not high on drugs, as the tests showed. All  too often, kids of OFW parents  live with grandparents who are too old to supervise their grandchildren’s activities. Thus, the drug problem is often coupled with teenage pregnancies, dropping out of school as well as activities that run afoul of the law.

Poverty is a basic reason for resorting to drugs, as the substance helps abate the sense of drift and hopelessness and the neglect of society. And to indulge in this prohibitive and prohibited substance, young people are often enticed to be drug couriers as well. 

But what about the drug lords?  Their problem is tied up with the politics of the area and the fact that selling one’s vote has become a political way of life in our country. Some politicians turn to the drug trade or allow it in order to accumulate funds they will use to buy votes come election time. In turn, people sell their votes due to the poverty of their station and as a form of revenge on their politicians---for the latter's neglect of their constituents throughout their terms. 

It seems that vote-buying becomes steeper and steeper as elections come.  To buy votes for the elections, politicos used to get funds from the DAP and PDAF of old, but since these lump-sum public funds have been outlawed by the Supreme Court, the politicos have to get them from other sources.

 As we have seen in the case of slain Mayor Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte and the Parojinog dynasty of Ozamiz City in Mindanao, they had to resort to the drug trade to accumulate funds with which to buy votes. Hand-in-hand with this practice is ensuring the perpetuation of the dynasty such as the Parojinogs’---something possible only through massive vote-buying and favors on select followers. 

This is where funds illegally raised from drug trafficking and the dynamics of local politics intersect.

In the recent slaying of Mayor Espinosa and the Parojinogs en masse, a police official named Jovie Espenido figured in both episodes. Now President Duterte has assigned this same police official to Iloilo City where Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog is said to be allegedly involved in drug trafficking---a charge that the mayor and his cousin, Senate Minority (LP) Leader Franklin Drilon, have vigorously denied.  

Where will this all end? Until we can produce a truly educated and economically independent populace, the cycle of boom and bust with regard to drugs and political dynasties won’t end.  It is a truism that a well-educated Filipino would undoubtedly manage to be economically---and politically---independent.

Last Aug. 3, 2017, Congress managed to pass an enlightened legislation, RA 10931, “The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act,” to take effect in school-year 2018-2019. Under this new law, free tuition and other miscellaneous fees for students are guaranteed for some 112 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) across the country. The Department of Budget and Management initially estimated that this new law would require P100 billion to put into operation, but skeptics feel that it would be come unsustainable over time.

This bill that guarantees free education in SUCs is our only hope to free many financially challenged among our people from the lack of education, which, in turn, spells fewer meaningful work opportunities. This is the sorry lot of the majority of our people. By contrast, a well-educated and economically independent populace, such as is found in the more developed countries, constitute the bulwark of stability there.  No other way to alleviate the plight of poorer Filipinos except to guarantee them free education in the SUCs.

If there are no sufficient funds to jump-start this new law, by all means, let's slash some of the generous “earnmarks” and “allocations” for members of Congress---euphemisms that used to be called "pork barrel" until the SC abolished it. To operationalize RA 10931 for SY 2018-2019 is a must if this country is to stabilize and progress economically and politically.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Lacson accuses Faeldon as having been “eaten by the system” but is there really a sustained way out of the corruption in Customs? Picture of Cardinal Tagle and a President Duterte listening intently, chin cupped in hand, speaks of the Holy Spirit in action.

President Duterte and Cardinal Tagle meet in the Palace to discuss the need for a summit on the drug problem
Resigned Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon and Senator Panfilo Lacson when they were still talking

The picture is not pretty at all. By some maneuverings within the administration, former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon was forced to submit his resignation two weeks ago amid allegations of corruption in his one year in office. Isidro Lapeña was installed in his place. 

The woes inside the Bureau of Customs, however, are far from over despite the changing of the guard, as allegations and counter-allegations of wrong-doing flew thick and fast between resigned Commissioner Faeldon and the senator who provoked his resignation, Panfilo Lacson.

Lacson had accused Faeldon of receiving a P100 million “pasalubong,” the customary welcoming money when a  new chief comes in, labeling it as part of the “systemic corruption” in the BOC. Faeldon, asserted Lacson, instead of fighting the system, “was eaten up by the system.”


Faeldon, an ex-military man, however, is not one to take Lacson’s attack sitting down. He has accused the senator’s son and namesake, Panfilo Lacson Jr., of smuggling through the BOC billions of pesos worth of imported cement in 67 shipments, that led to huge loss of revenues for government. Faeldon asserted that the younger Lacson’s company, “Bonjourno,"  which he claims has a measly capitalization of P20,000, has been labeled by the Cement Manufacturers of the Philippines as the “alleged top smuggler of cement.”

Actually few would be surprised at the slinging and counter-slinging of mud between the resigned BOC Chief and the Senator who seeks to protect his son from charges of smuggling. Lacson is buoyed by moral support from his colleagues in the Senate, including Senate President Koko Pimentel.

These accusations and counter-accusations between Lacson and Faeldon remain to be investigated, but exactly in what forum hearings on these hot issues could be taken up remains a big question mark. 


What's fact is that the Customs Bureau has always been a hotbed of corruption in every administration. The cleanest administration of the BOC I can remember was that of Wigberto Tañada, but eventually word was out that Bobby had become ineffective---thanks to the mafia inside. 

I have long wondered how to rescue that crucial office from corruption, but every time I discuss it with knowledgeable persons, they would simply roll their eyes heavenward. It’s a given---Customs will always be corrupt. 


Many studies have been made about computerizing Customs transactions and payments in this computer age---so that direct personal dealings where the arreglohan takes place between the bureau's staff and its clients would be minimized. Moreover, there is the daunting fear that computers do leave paper trails---lest those indulging in shenanigans be caught. 

But, you guessed it, computerization has not been effected---as politicians have understandably objected to this arrangement.

 Another resource person I spoke with about the continuing corruption in Customs theorized that the best way is to PRIVATIZE that bureau and let it just pay the proper dues to government. But since that office is such a gold mine for funds for politicos running for office, it is doubtful whether those in power would allow this bureau to slip from their fingers. 

I have also wondered how the more advanced countries deal with their customs office, and I will try to look into this issue.


What do we make of the recent historic meeting between Cardinal Tagle and President Duterte---if not inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The murder of Kian de los Santos at the hands of two policemen--which has become the purgation of the nation---has to bear good fruit so that he did not die in vain. 

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, outgoing President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a very strong condemnation of the heinous murder of the 17-year old boy---as his position called for. The Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan was quoted in media as assailing President Duterte’s “selective brand of justice,” whereby “the official who was able to kill will be honored. The blame is on the dead victim.” The top prelate lamented further that “Corpses cannot explain or defend themselves from the accusations against them.” 


Kian's death roused the nation as few issues in contemporary times have (my FB page suffered an overload of entries, overwhelmingly very angry). The guilty police elements were purged, but the Holy Spirit was not satisfied, it seemed, as He moved to inspire Luis Cardinal Tagle to meet with President Duterte on the recent tragedy. 

Unlike Archbishop Soc who is head of all the Catholic bishops and clergy in the Philippines, Cardinal Tagle is not directly in the church hierarchy, and so he could speak his mind as a private citizen. Besides, he has a perpetual smile that sews up his chinky eyes and he could look very amiable indeed. 

That photo of the Cardinal and Mr. Duterte with the latter's jaw propped in his hands as he listened in rapt attention tells it all.


Church and State chose to meet on this drug/killing issue before it became a truly runaway problem. Cardinal Tagle was smiling and for once President Duterte wasn't snarling. Their thrust is to call a wide conference of the elements involved in this problem and look for earnest solutions; but before solutions could be found, the problem has to be defined in all its angles.

Included here are police abuses, triggered in part by President Duterte's loose bravado in the past, that mistook the culture of impunity for the rule of law. What is being pondered upon between Mr. Duterte and his eminent visitor, according to news, is a multi-sectoral summit on the drug problem, with all the stakeholders to discuss this gargantuan problem and look for solutions.


This is more typically the Pinoy approach to a problem---a meeting of minds and hearts, not the shooting of innocent 17-year olds. We Filipinos talk and gesticulate a lot. Let's all weigh in in this proposed summit on the drug problem---all stakeholders, and even the estambys' representatives ought to be invited. No holds barred, patience and tolerance ought to be the rule. 

Amid the national despair that we have fallen into as a people---owing to the dastardly deaths before Kian, but especially OF Kian---the Holy Spirit guided Cardinal Tagle to call on President Duterte and a new game is on.


Not a game of quota killings, but a way to truly eradicate or at least mitigate the effects of this menace in our midst---through a combination of the police force humbled by its inadequacy to handle human frailty, but willing to reform and learn; a bureaucracy that pledges to shun corruption (this is perhaps the toughest bill to fill); a President who reveals his soft side after all; civil leaders seeking redemption from their guilt over the menace gone berserk, and beating their breasts in a new resolve; parents advised to play their role with renewed sense of responsibility; and schools that have been less than vigilant with their wards, now more enlightened about their mission.

It will be a national mea culpa but with a resolve to rise from the destitution of spirit. Talking it over is the Filipino way of solving problems and now, after the shock of Kian's death has ebbed somewhat, we must resolve that our beloved country won't ever sink into a narco state, and we recognize that that resolve is in our power to fulfill. 

Each and every Filipino has this obligation to himself and his family, to get involved in this issue of winning the battle vs. the pernicious drugs. Invoking God's mercy and grace, let us work to triumph over the perfidy of drugs and corruption May God bless us all..

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Death of 11th-grader Kian de los Santos in Caloocan at the hands of supposed lawmen in civvies causes nationwide outrage and fear that cure is worse than drug malady. Speculation that House "super-majority" abandoned support for left-leaning DSWD Secretary owing to PRRD's disappointment with the Left in Netherlands talks.

Police at crime scene, viewing body of
17-year old Kian Lloyd de los Santos in Caloocan (Manila Standard photo)
Former DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo defending herself before the Commission on Appointments

The ongoing battle of our country against the drug menace goes into a cycle of boom and bust---of paroxysms of anger and then long periods of quiet, as though of surrender to reality. Right now the nation is undergoing extreme paroxysms of anger and outrage over the brutal death of 17-year old Kian Lloyd de los Santos, an 11th grader at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel College in Caloocan City,  last Friday night at the hands of supposed law enforcers. 

The circumstances are truly troubling, for the CCTV cameras in the neighborhood caught the boy as he was being dragged by two men who were not in uniform and then he was shot from behind. The story peddled by the police is that Kian was armed and they were forced to shoot him down. However, as the Inquirer pointed out, the footages showed that the arresting men already had the boy in custody before he was killed. A witness described how Kian was told to run real fast, after which they shot him from the back several times. . 


This most recent segment in the long telenovela of our nation's bloody battle against drugs does not seem credible at all, for the young boy is not an NPA in the hills who would be sporting arms. He has a family. In fact, as the mother, a domestic helper in Saudi who had to rush home upon hearing of her son's ill fate, revealed in tears:  just the night before, Kian had asked her for a bike, which she promised. That doesn't sound like a drug pusher to me. 

Two days ago, the President was quoted in the Manila Times as declaring that the Philippines "has turned into a narco country as policemen in Manila shot dead 25 drug suspects in a series of raids overnight." No one is saying that the rut our country has fallen into as a result of the conspiracy of forces in various administrations is going to be a picnic. But right now many citizens are questioning whether the policy of shooting even just mere suspects involved in drugs---specially young people---WOULD NOT CREATE A CURE WORSE THAN THE MALADY. 


A culture of violence and impunity is enveloping Philippine society, and the sad thing is that in case of an error of the killing machines, life cannot be brought back. WRONG MISTAKE PALA, as the street lingo goes.  I feel especially for the youth being slain, for I sincerely believe in the possibility of REHABILITATION---if only the STATE AND THE COMMUNITY would show the patience and political will---and creative ways of handling rehabilitation. 

AND LASTLY, CITIZENS ARE ASKING: WHY CAN'T THE TRAFFIC IN DRUGS BE STOPPED AT THE SOURCE---FROM ABROAD? The mind-boggling P6.4 billion worth of shabu that passed through Customs from abroad recently was an eye-stopper. Logic dictates that the authorities close the supply faucet before anything else. 


The failure of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo to get the required minimum 13 affirmative votes in the powerful 24-member Commission on Appointments to secure her post may be attributed to a number of reasons.  From reports reaching this blogger from insiders in the House of Representatives, she failed to accommodate the request of House members for her to set aside contingency funds in the DSWD budget for their home provinces. 

According to reports I gathered, members of the "super-majority" in the House wanted Secretary Taguiwalo to just put aside a certain amount in the DSWD yearly budget for EACH OF THE PROVINCES throughout the country---particularly those prone to disasters---so that in case of emergencies, funds would readily be available to them.


Ex-Secretary Taguiwalo was quoted in media as asserting, however,  that the representatives were simply after pork barrel or restoration of the PDAF that members of Congress lost after the Supreme Court RULED THE PORK BARREL FUND UNLAWFUL AND ILLEGAL THREE YEARS AGO. They just want it back,  it's their sense of entitlement over these funds, rued the ex-DSWD Secretary to media after she was sacked.  Her stance was resented by Congress members who decried Taguiwalo’s "one-track mind" about the funds.

I can understand why Taguiwalo would be suspicious about the congressmen’s wanting their pork outright; for members of the House have gotten used to pork barrel as  political entitlement But with the pork barrel outlawed by the Supreme Court, they have had to seek assurance of funds from the DSWD for "contingencies."  . 


Then there is the issue of Judy Taguiwalo--- a former UP professor from 1992 to 2015 and former faculty regent of the UP Board of Regents for a year---as being leftist, which she does not deny. Her leftist leanings came into play owing to speculation from some leftist House members that President Duterte refused to "sway" his super-majority coalition in the chamber to her side in the CA---because of presidential disgust over the recent bog-down of talks between the government and the Left in The Netherlands. 

In fact, as a senior congressman put it, Mr. Duterte later sort of gave the impression that the congressmen could do what they please with Taguiwalo's fate in the CA, and he wouldn't meddle. . 

The voting in the CA tells it all. If Mr. Duterte wanted to push for the DSWD Secretary, he could have ordered his party, the PDP Laban, WHICH HAS 113 MEMBERS IN THE HOUSE---a clear super-majority---to support Taguiwalo. Consider this huge bloc vs. the NP's 33, the NPC's 29, the LPs' 27, the NUP's 23, Una's 4, Lakas' 3, the LDP's 1 and the Bukidnon Paglaum, 1. Had the President gone full blast for Taguiwalo she doubtless could have squeezed through the CA. 

As it turned out in the final voting on Taguiwalo, of the 13 votes to REJECT her, A FULL 9 VOTES CAME FROM,THE HOUSE AND THE FOUR OTHER VOTES FROM THE SENATE.  Of the 11 votes FOR Taguiwalo, 1 vote came from the leftist Makabayan bloc and the rest from the Senate. But the House vote was enough to oust her.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The current imbroglio between Comelec Chief Andy Bautista and estranged wife Trisha does not follow the traditional pattern, for Andy’s mother-in-law, the glamorous Baby Cruz Vasquez, is his biggest defender. This case is expected to result in an impeachment trial if only to divert public attention away from some of the administration’s deficiencies

The Andres Bautistas and Andy Bau's mom-in-law, the beautous Baby Cruz  Vasquez in happier times

Indeed, nothing like a public tussle between husband and wife to rock the media--- especially if the former is a prominent official and the wife is the aggressive and assertive kind who wants half of the wealth. Last Monday, the Inquirer broke out the story of the on-going dispute between Comelec Chair Andres Bautista and his estranged wife, Patricia Cruz-Bautista, and it has been pecking plate for tri-media---with the audience or the readers following every twist and turn of this melodrama being played out especially on the TV networks.

I feel sad and truly sorry for any marriage break-up, as I subscribe to the belief that a marriage under God is indissoluble except by death. This time I feel sorrier because I know Andy Bautista and his mother-in-law, the ever-glamorous Baby Cruz-Vasquez.  I felt very sad to hear from Andy over TV recently how his sons have stopped going to school because of the shame that front pages of newspapers and prime-time TV of their parents’ very public quarrel have brought them. In any marriage break-up especially of the frightfully acrimonious kind (from Trisha Bautista’s end) the real victims of the word war are the children---more so in this case, as it is so high-profile.  Truly tragic


There are interesting facets to the controversy, such as the query on everyone’s mind after Andy Bautista called for his first press conference  to answer his wife’s allegations about ill-gotten wealth in---of all places---the condo unit of his mother-in-law, Baby Vasquez, and her husband Danny Vasquez.  Both Vasquezes were very visible by his side. The query: bakit kakampi ni Andy Bau (as his friends call him) ang mother-in-law niya, when  by tradition and old wives’ tales, mother-in-law and son or daughter-in-law have little love lost for each other. Here Andy Bau has the full support of his mom-in-law, which doesn’t seem to go by the traditional Pinoy drama script.

In fact, Baby Cruz Vasquez released a statement just now that reads:

“I am greatly saddened by recent events involving my daughter Trisha and her husband Andy. AS a mother, you always wish happiness for your daughter and her family. Sadly, fairy tales sometimes do not always come true.
“It also pains me to see my grandchildren go through this trial that was not of their doing nor their fault.
“I have known Andy for years and I know him to be an honest, upright, God-fearing husband and father. He is a man of unquestioned integrity, the kind of man any mother would entrust her daughter to. THIS IS WHY I CANNOT BELIEVE THE ACCUSATION AGAINST HIM, EVEN IF THEY ARE FROM MY OWN DAUGHTER (emphasis BOC’s).
“I continue to pray for Andy and his family, that they stand fast and find the strength to face this storm. I also pray for my daughter, that she realizes what are truly important in life.”

In turn, Baby, we your friends are praying for strength for you and your family amid this cross that you are carrying.


Judging from public reaction of friends and people I know, the sympathy seems to be tilting toward Andy Bau especially after he appeared on TV a second time with his eyes swollen and he spoke about his sons.  The good feeling toward him comes from the fellow’s easy friendly manners even with media, but I also gather the same sentiment from people who know him well.

For instance, Dr. Jason Roland Valdez, son of SSS Chair Amado Valdez, narrates that when his grandmother died, Andy Bau was the first one to arrive at the funeral parlor---ahead of the Valdezes and even of the corpse in the viewing room---to condole with the bereaved family. J.R. Valdez asserts that he would never forget this episode about their family friend.


Actually the friendship among three former deans of law schools is indicative of Andy Bau’s easy manners and nice-guy image. Andy was dean of the FEU College of Law, while Amado Valdez was dean of the UE College of Law, and Nilo Divina the current dean of the UST College of Law. The three men were once very active in the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS).

This friendship between Bautista and Nilo Divina has come into play in the current controversy, as Trisha Bautista's allegation is that Andy Bau was receiving what amounts to “lagay” for referring PCGG cases to Nilo’s office, and the sums are alleged by Trisha as part of monies stacked up in Bautista’s numerous bank accounts here and abroad---which wealth, as the stories go, she wants to be divided evenly between them.


With the allegations against Andy Bau hurled by Trisha before President Duterte in Malacanang earlier, and later in a press conference that she held, talk of impeachment---the only manner in the Constitution whereby the chair of a constitutional commission such as the Comelec could be removed for cause---has surfaced.  As per the Constitution, the resolution to impeach a public servant comes from the House of Representatives and if the sufficient votes are secured, the case goes to the Senate for open and frequently bloody trial, as in the case of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Because Bautista was an appointee of ex-President Aquino, President 
Duterte’s men in both chambers of Congress may be expected to get into full throttle on the trial. Moreover, as Comelec chair, Bautista doubtless has left one political party or the other aggrieved in the elections.  An impeachment trial  is also a way of diverting attention from the problems bedeviling the administration such as the increasingly sluggish economy, the insurgency war and the bog-down of the peace talks with the Left, the still unresolved trouble in Marawi and environs, and the insufficient budget needs for big-ticket items such as implementing free tuition in State Universities & Colleges, that has recently been passed into law.

Aside from the trials and tribulations of a contemporary marriage in the elite class, what’s happening to Comelec Chair Bautista is enough to frighten any thinking citizen about entering public service.  I join his mom-in-law, Baby Cruz Vasquez, in praying for enlightenment for the estranged couple.