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, December 8, 2017

Duterte at Kapampangan Festival---refraining from cursing, he won audience’s hearts for his deep concern for young Filipino lives being savaged by drugs. Manotoc-Manglapus wedding overshadowed by the prominent grandfathers/political protagonists--Marcos & Manglapus

President Duterte in "Kapampangan Festival" with Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Paoay newly-weds Mike Manotoc and the former Carina Manglapus, with baby Mia
Two lolos, erstwhile political rivals, dominate the wedding of their grandchildren 52 years later.
\The late Sen. Raul Manglapus, Ferdinand Marcos' rival in 1965 presidential elections; now their grandchildren are married. 

Former President and now Pampanga 2nd district Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo invited me to the “Kapampangan Festival” held yesterday, Dec. 07, at the Clark ASEAN Convention Center in Pampanga, for a fabulous culinary experience as only the Kapampangans can render. In celebration of the Foundation Day of Pampanga, chefs and restaurateurs from the CULINARYA PAMPANGA got together to prove to the visitors from various places that Pampanga is indeed the CULINARY CAPITAL OF THE PHILIPPINES. 

Yesterday's banquet of the best dishes of Pampanga was a total experience, complete with Pampango music rendered by a chorale group in beautiful native outfits and an exhibit of ethnic tapestries made from recycled materials.  
But the piece de resistance was President Rodrigo Duterte who came at 6pm. when he was scheduled to arrive at 3pm. Despite his tardiness several hundred Pampango natives and out-of-towners waited---to see and hear him in person, and they were not disappointed. That included this writer who, I must confess, has not been a Duterte believer.


The President was not his usual fire-breathing, cursing self;  instead, he spoke, it seems, straight from the heart, at times tearful and emotional---{“hindi naman ako talagang palamura.”)  I listened intently to his every word and in fact, after his speech my dzRH radio partner, Cecile Alvarez, and I sought to break through the PSG cordon on the stage, and we got through to him after jostling through the thick crowd of fans.

I told Mr. Duterte that I have not been a believer of his, but that “tonight, you spoke from the heart and it hit me right here,” I said, pointing to my own.  He looked pleased, probably chancing upon  my critical writings from time to time, and he took my hand for a mano-po.

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has been Mr. Duterte’s No. 1 patron and whom he addresses as “my boss,” was visibly elated over the success of his appearance at Clark ASEAN.


Discarding his prepared speech, Mr. Duterte extemporized in reasonably good English with a thick Visayan accent, about how “my people” ---soldiers and police--- are being ambushed at the rate of six to eight a day.  Getting emotional, he stressed that “I will hound (the enemies of state)---they can do their worst, threatening me;”  then he added, “I hold it as an article of faith that if there is no law and order in the countryside there can be no real peace.”

Before leaving that topic, he called on his former professor, NDF leader Jose Ma. Sison: “Why don’t you come home, para kayong mga señorito dyan (in the Netherlands).” He also stressed that he will stick “to my promise---no corruption---you better believe it, to my dying day.”


But Mr. Duterte reserved his utmost passion for his fixation: fighting the drug problem. He pledged to finish his war against drugs, stressing that he doesn’t give a damn “kung magka lache-leche ang bayan,” but he will clear the country of drugs. He avowed that “You (the drug lords) are reducing a number of my countrymen to the slavery of drugs,” stressing that he has already lost some 244 policemen in the drug fight that has “contaminated” 42% of our barangays. Then his stunning revelation:  9,000 police are also said to be involved in drugs.

As a parting shot, Mr. Duterte solemnly intoned to the crowd---so hushed that one could hear a pin drop—that he will fight this problem with all he has got.  Afterwards the audience rose to its feet to applaud him. It is obvious that he is so serious about this problem that he won’t budge an inch in this fight. 

It’s also obvious that had he not begun to tackle this menace by the horns, we would already be a narco-state by now. Like him or not, we ought to all be with him in this particular battle.


The wedding a few weeks back of Michael Ferdinand Manotoc and Carina Amelia Manglapus in a plush ceremony in Paoay, Ilocos Norte---grandchildren of two former political protagonists---was billed as a remake of the story of two feuding political families of Verona in Shakespeare’s immortal story of “Romeo and Juliet,” which saw the Capulet and the Montague families torn apart by feuds of generations.  But unlike the tragic tale in Verona where the lovers end up in the other life, the Paoay story has a happy ending.  

Michael Ferdinand Manotoc, the second of three sons of Irene Marcos Manotoc and husband Tommy, married Carina Amelia Manglapus, daughter of Francis and Lynn Manglapus, at the Spanish baroque church of San Agustin in Paoay. The couple has a beautiful 1 ½ year old daughter, Mia. 


There are many interesting facts about the union of Michael and Carina Amelia, whose acquaintance began some years back at a party given by Gina and Gabby Lopez of ABS-CBN. For one, the wedded couple are second cousins, their beauteous grandmothers---Carmen La”O Manotoc and Pacita La’O Manglapus, now both deceased---were sisters.

But the stranger part of the union of the two clans was how the respective pater familias---both long gone---still managed to overshadowed the recent grand wedding in Paoay.  I refer to the late President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, Mike Manotoc’s grandfather, and the late Senator Raul Sevilla Manglapus, Carina’s grandfather, who were contemporaries---and famous political adversaries. Marcos turned 100 this year while Manglapus’ 100th is next year.


Young as I was when these two politicians were at the apex of their careers, I I remember joining many thousands of other young people to attend the rally in Plaza Miranda of Senator Raul Manglapus, then running in the three-cornered presidential race that included re-electionist President Diosdado Macapagal and then Senate President Marcos. Marcos gained notoriety in his UP  days for being accused of murder of a political adversary,  as well as fame for topping the bar.

On the other hand, Manglapus was known as the champion collegiate orator at the Ateneo where he graduated summa cum laude. Marcos was a war hero, but  most of his medals were alleged to have been spurious, as researched by the late Rep. Boni Gillego;  whereas Manglapus was awarded one medal but it was real.


From the start of their political careers,  Marcos was the practical politician, seemingly willing to do anything (guns goons and gold) to gain power, while  Manglapus was a principled politician, a dreamer who advocated democratic reforms and often ended up losing. Marcos topped the 1959 senatorial elections, while Manglapus topped the 1961 senatorial elections.

Marcos believed in an authoritarian form of government for development whereas Manglapus believed in a decentralized democratic government. Marcos was accused of having amassed an incredible fortune while in power while Manglapus lost most of his wealth in politics, particularly during his years in exile in the US with his family.  

Imee Marcos Manotoc was quoted as saying that the Paoay wedding could presage the “unification of the two clans,” and indeed, the wedding party did look like fun, with Raul Manglapus' son, Francis, bussing the late dictator's wife, Imelda, after the ceremony. On the other hand, Bongbong Marcos was caught by the cameras shedding tears of joy at the union. 

But I have my doubts about Imee's "unification" prophesy, for the historical differences have run too deep in both clans.  

Monday, December 4, 2017

Ultimately, CJ Sereno's impeachment will rise or fall on these crucial questions: did her actions constitute "HIGH CRIMES" and "Culpable Violation of the Constitution?" Does the "alphabet soup" of RCAO a.k.a. JDO and Sereno's taking business-class trips abroad constitute impeachable offenses?

Dean Ma. Soledad Derequito Mawis of Lyceum College of Law and President of the Philippine Association of Law Schools
Figures of the hour: House justice committee chair Reynaldo Umali & Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno

House veterans suspect that the impeachment case vs. Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno would be put to a vote before the Christmas recess and trial will commence in the Senate in January. .As it approaches, tension in the House has begun to rise to boiling point.  

At the recent hearing of the Committee on Justice on CJ's  impeachment case, Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, after much behind-the-scenes negotiations, was allowed to sit in the hearing, but not to interpellate the witnesses or participate actively. The grizzled legislator and legal luminary later complained in a statement to the media:   

“ After denying the Chief Justice’s right to have her counsel cross-examine the complainant (lawyer Larry Gadon) and his witnesses, and further barring representatives who are non-members of the committee from participating in its deliberations---which is contrary to established parliamentary practice---the Chair and Super-majority members are now actively monopolizing the proceedings in the so-called “impeachment committee.' ”


Rep. Lagman further stressed that the role of the House Committee on Justice is “to weigh the evidence, NOT TO GATHER EVIDENCE to plug the gaping loopholes in the Gadon impeachment complaint against (CJ) Sereno.” (emphasis mine). He noted further that Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has tasked the justice committee to “continue gathering evidence because the Chief Justice refuses to resign.”

Lagman found this practice highly questionable, for as he pointed out, "the committee’s duty is to determine probable cause principally based on the complaint and evidence adduced by Gadon---and not to build up the case for Gadon."  Lagman reminded his colleagues that  “THE COMMITTEE MUST ACT AS AN IMPARTIAL INVESTIGATOR, NOT AS AN INTREPID SLEUTH” (emphasis this blogger’s). ’

Thus, continued Lagman, "while Gadon is grinning at the sidelines, the committee members are the ones requesting for the appearance of invited witnesses to whom they instantly direct questions, instead of allowing Gadon to first initiate direct examination.” As Lagman pointed out, the accuser sits contentedly in the sidelines as the members of Congress dig up evidence for him. In other words, sinusuerte si Larry Gadon. 


This tendency of the justice committee to seek evidences to support the impeachment case brought by private lawyer Gadon against CJ Sereno is only one of the many peculiarities of this sensational case now pending in the House. 

Recall that the impeachment case brought against Chief Justice Corona by the House justice committee six years back  NEVER HAD A HEARING; instead, it was voted upon right away by the House membership and went straight to the Senate for trial.  The singular argument against CJ Corona, which was totally unfounded, was a defective SALN.

But as then Civil Service Commission Chair Francisco Duque had stressed to the Senate impeachment court, a defective SALN cannot be the basis for impeachment as this could be rectified. But as we know now, the CSC Chair’s admonition went unheeded as DAP funds went into operation to buy impeachment votes against CJ Corona.


Unlike the Corona case, the case against CJ Sereno is undergoing hearings on accusations against her, but effort seems to be more concerned about substantiating the very thin accusations that complainant Gadon raised before the justice committee. As Rep. Lagman noted, that committee seems engaged "in filling the blanks for the complainant."

To shed further light on the Sereno impeachment case now being deliberated in the House justice committee, my radio partner Cecile Alvarez and I invited to our Sunday, 6 pm. DZRH radio program, “Radyo Balintataw,” Atty. Ma. Soledad Dereguito Mawis, UP College of Law, class '88 and now Dean of the Lyceum University College of Law and current president of the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS), which is composed of some 120 member schools all over the country.


We questioned Dean Sol Mawis what to her appears as the basis for the impeachment of the Chief Justice that the House justice committee has been plotting. The lady dean noted, for instance,  the obvious dissension within the Sereno Supreme Court---beginning with Associate Justice Teresita de Castro’s testimony on alleged decisions of the CJ to depart from the consensus of the court on certain issues. 

For instance, Dean Mawis pointed out that the court had earlier passed a resolution creating the Regional Court Administrator's Office (RCAO).  The intention was to decentralize court administration functions over judges, with  RCAO  supposed to be based in Cebu for Region 7's easier administration. 

What happened was that CJ Sereno created instead a new office called the Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO), with essentially the same function---virtually the same dog but with a different collar. It didn't sit well with her colleagues and Sereno has since rescinded that plan and the court reverted to RCAO. 

This particular controversy within the High Court, which I call the "alphabet soup issue," only shows the deep divisions and rifts within the court. But I wonder if this issue constitutes a "high crime" as envisioned by the Constitution framers. 


Pursuing this issue, we questioned Dean Mawis for the basis of the contemplated impeachment of CJ Sereno. She cited, among other things as stated in the Constitution, high crimes committed and culpable violation of the Constitution. Then she went into specifics, such as the accusation by Gadon et al. that Sereno would take business class with her staff whenever she would travel abroad. 

Dean Mawis pointed out that the charge against Sereno on this issue probably stems from an earlier ruling by President Duterte that all government officials and employees from hereon are to ride economy class on trips abroad. Mawis stressed, however, that this order comes from the Executive branch, but since  under the Constitution the three branches of government are co-equal, therefore Mr. Duterte's order cannot apply to the judicial branch. Frankly, I myself don't mind seeing my country's Chief Justice ride business-class as a recognition of her high stature, especially since virtually all the legislators take business-class abroad. . 

Ultimately, the issue of impeachment has to answer the questions: Do the CJ's actions involve High Crimes and has there been Culpable Violations of the Constitution? I don't think so and neither does Atty. Sol Mawis.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Challenge to Harry Roque: how to convince his boss to process thoughts and ideas first before articulating them in public. On CJ Sereno's impending impeachment in House, it's utterly reprehensible to deprive her of right to counsel---her inalienable right as Filipino under the Constitution

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in consultation with President Duterte 
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ma. Lourdes Sereno

Last Friday evening, Nov. 24, my longtime friend, business journalist Tony Lopez, founder of BizNews Asia, celebrated the 16th anniversary of his unsurpassed magazine as well as his 69th birthday at the EDSA Shangri-la Plaza Garden Ballroom. It drew many business and industry moguls, among them Ramon Ang of the flagship San Miguel Corporation, Tessie Sy-Coson of the SM/BDO empire, Helen Yuchengco-Dee of the RCBC Group and many others. Also attending the very successful event were a number of Cabinet members, among them controversial new presidential spokesman Harry Roque and Budget Secretary Ben Diokno.


Harry Roque was tapped to hand out the award trophies to the businessmen being honored, and he obliged folks’ requests for photos. I found Roque, a former human rights lawyer and UP law professor---quite affable despite his initial threat to throw hollow blocks at his boss’ critics and his seeming propensity to draw flak for his various moves.  While we were posing for photos, I managed to advise this controversial official to persuade his boss to subject his thoughts to some badly–needed processing first, before opening his mouth.

If Mr. Duterte's statements could thus be moderated, Roque’s difficulty would be considerably reduced, as it's the President's propensity to shoot off before processing his thoughts and pronouncements that invariably gets him into trouble---and his spokesperson in a furious bind. Unfortunately, judging from Harry Roque’s non-verbal comment on my observation (he just rolled his eyes upward), it seems impossible to even try to straight-jacket the President on his pronouncements.  

The problem with poorly processed presidential utterances is that foreign business prospects could be dampened, as the political picture here projects an unstable climate, to begin with. Mr. Duterte often does verbal political somersaulting---saying something outlandish and then reversing himself and with furious damage control afterwards.  Such impression of political instability is very harmful for business. 


Take the case of the situation in the metropolis and several recent developments. The MRT situation remains a mess, with a whole phalanx of officials from the Aquino administration charged by the Ombudsman for what seems clearly an anomalous situation there. As Buhay Party-list Rep. Joselito Atienza put it in our recent dzRH  “Radyo Balintataw,” it’s wrong trains for the existing tracks, or wrong tracks for the new trains. He follows this with a query: “Could you imagine a father buying a toy train for his son without even testing if the tracks fit?

That’s what happened to the MRT trains, except that that deal cost many billions now wasted. Meanwhile, these trains daily service around half a million people in Metro Manila who suffer daily Calvary because of periodic breakdowns. Passengers walking on the tracks to get back to the street is a frequent but pathetic sight. Once a compartment even disengaged and a female passenger even lost her arm.  So dangerous have those trains become.  

Their poor condition has become the butt of jokes---the Filipino way of coping indeed. At BizNews Asia’s Anniversary, guests at our table compared notes on how long it took them to EDSA Plaza. On my way there I saw incredibly long queues for trains at the Shaw Blvd. MRT station crossing. It is hard to see the silver lining here, as shutting down the MRT for repairs, as is being proposed, could bring even more monstrous problems. 


In the House of Representatives, the impeachment move against Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno appears to gain enough momentum. Should SC Associate Justice Teresita de Castro and reportedly also Justice Francis Jardaleza appear before the House to testify on the complaint against the CJ, this could clinch the move to impeach her. The trial in the Senate, however, would result in a big telenovela that would grip the nation anew and divide the people.  

There has been a move brewing for some time now to also impeach Ombudsman Conchita Morales, although this does not seem to gain as much support as the move vs. CJ Sereno. Some House members, however, are AGAINST impeaching the two women, and among them is Buhay Party-list Rep. Joselito Atienza. He maintains that the emotional costs to the nation of impeaching such high officials would be so great that it could be a “pyrrhic victory for either side.” No winners.  I agree.


CJ Lourdes Sereno is being accused of a number of impeachable offenses, which would be left to the impeachment  court---the Senate---to determine, should the House impeach move prevail. In this connection, court insiders note that there seems to be a big difference between the attitude of Supreme Court officers and personnel toward the late CJ Renato Corona, who was impeached and convicted in 2011, and toward CJ Sereno now. 

They point out that in the process of obtaining records and documents pertaining to supposed charges against the high magistrate on the carpet, it was far more difficult to obtain such records in the case of Corona, than it is now in the case of CJ Sereno.


This would seem to point out that the late CJ Corona was more popular with court personnel than the current chief. Be that as it may, I personally find it condemnable that CJ Sereno is being deprived by the House leadership of her constitutional right to counsel, in the prospect of an impeachment. 

The Constitution guarantees the right of every Filipino to counsel, and Lourdes Sereno should be no exception. With Justices de Castro and Jardeleza being bruited about as possibly appearing in the House to testify against Sereno, it would obviously be outright demeaning to the Chief Justice's office for her to directly cross-examine either or both of her colleagues on their testimonies against her, as her accusers are demanding.

LIke every Filipino, CJ Sereno should be given her constitutional right to be represented by counsel. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Photos of "Haggle" at ASEAN@50 both amusing and ominous. EJK issue avoided by all the conferees, except that "crush ng bayan," Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, who was as brave as he's handsome. Digong was for the most part statesmanlike, except for verbal jab at Obama, his murder-at-age 16 spin and now his tirade vs.Trudeau.

US President Donald Trump at first couldn't handle the famous "Haggle", as he tried to grab the hand of Vietnamese Prime Nguyen Xuan Phuc, thus leaving President Duterte's hang hanging in the air. 

Finally, voila, Donald Trump caught the hang of it, grabs President Digong's right hand, to the great amusement of the Vietnamese PM at his right. It was apparently too complicated a maneuver for the US' Big Guy.

The 50th Anniversary of ASEAN, with President Duterte hosting this mega-milestone back to back with the 31st ASEAN Summit of Leaders that he chaired, is now history. Regional and world leaders who attended these twin events have all flown home with their happy memories of camaraderie and banquets, dazzling shows put up by our host people and conferences among political and business leaders, tea among the state leaders' spouses, etc.  

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and among the most amusing shots of ASEAN@50 was that of US President Trump trying to master the complications of the "Haggle."  First he grabbed the left hand of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc with both his hands, looking awfully confused---thereby leaving the right hand of Mr. Duterte hanging in the air. That was a fantastic shot of Trump in confusion, and to my mind, highly symbolic of the disconnect between the two presidents---despite media hyping about how famously they got along. 


But after the conferees get home and report to their constituents, what's there to remember? What are the summit issues that left strong impressions on the leaders and their aides?  What do the Filipino people remember of those historic back-to-back events, aside from the dazzling entertainment program for state dignitaries at the SMX they saw on TV?  No school the whole week, restricted ASEAN lanes and "locked-down" areas. Would that the metropolis would be that orderly forever!  

The most significant development within the back-to-back events is the way certain issues that have tremendous bearing on the life of nations and peoples have been skirted around---the biggest of them all the state of human rights in ASEAN. 


Before President Trump left for Asia, Republican Rep.Randy Hultgren of Illinois and Democrat Rep. James McGovern of Massachussetts wrote him to stress the need to take up the human rights issue with President Duterte. In addition, various rights groups,

Canadian PM invades a Jollibee outlet in Tondo to grab a hamburger, and is instantly rewarded by this photo op

Justin Trudeau takes a selfie with the Jollibee folks at lunch, showing that he really was the "Crush ng Bayan"

most notably Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, exerted pressure for concrete results. As he put it, "...surely someone from among the 20 world leaders at these summits can confront President (Rodrigo) Duterte about his horrific and unprecedented 'drug war killings." 

Because of the hyping, all eyes seemed focused on the one-on-one session between Messrs. Trump and Duterte, but unfortunately nothing like that was taken up between them.  Mr. Duterte relished with media the one sentence from the US President that to his mind referred to the rights issue in a rather oblique but approving manner. He quoted Trump's reported verdict:  "You are doing well." 


Mr. Duterte appears not to have elicited more specifics beyond this one-liner,  but this should not surprise anyone---for the US President is facing his own enormous problems back home and has even less moral authority to lecture to Mr. Duterte. Recall that very senior officials of the US intelligence agencies had testified before the US Congress and in media about the supposed manipulative role of Russia in the November 2016 US elections---which allegedly ensured the victory of Trump over Hillary Clinton. 

In addition, the less than a year old Trump administration has seen eleven very senior officials either fired or resigned--- including his chief strategist and communications director. Moreover, as Manila Times columnist Marlen Ronquillo pointed out in his "Sunday Stories," Mr. Trump's approval rating has plunged to an all-time low in the US of only 37%; in fact, only 40% of US voters say they will vote for him in a reelection. 

Deprived thus of any moral authority, the US President couldn't very well lecture Mr. Duterte on human rights or anything else. 


The other pressing issue expected to be raised at the ASEAN Summit is the crisis in Myanmar involving the minority Rohingya Muslims---more than 600,000 of whom have been reportedly forced to flee from Buddhist Myanmar to Bangladesh. The Rohingya crisis, dubbed Myanmar's "ethnic cleansing," where army elements are reported to have brutally cracked down and slain thousands, has been labelled by Human Rights Watch as "among the worst human rights catastrophes in Asia in years and demands concerted global action." 

Reports of brutal slayings of this tribal group by Myanmar's military have resulted in international pressure on the country's leader and foreign minister, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Au San Suu Kyi (she with the perpetual flower in her hair). The Rohingya crisis has threatened her rule, not to mention her celebrated peace prize.

All that seems possible at the moment from ASEAN, however, is a pledge from Suu Kyi's fellow leaders that they would prod the Myanmar military to help this ethnic group find its rightful place in the sun---a response that sounds so weak, and typically Asian.  


To the credit of Mr. Duterte, he behaved quite statesmanlike at the Summit and coped well with all the rigorous demands on his office and person by such this  huge PR milestone event---except in one or two occasions which, unfortunately, went viral. One was when he started pouncing on the absent Barack Obama for calling down Mr. Duterte's checkered record on human rights. The Philippine leader certainly dished it back to Obama, never mind if he is already ancien regime. 

The other instance was when Mr. Duterte admitted before foreign media that he had already killed someone by the time he was 16 years old---stabbing his protagonist to death. That remark was truly a sorry one which merely reinforced perceived notions about our leader.  


If there was a vote for "Crush ng Bayan" Canada's youthful, handsome and absolutely charming PM Justin Trudeau would win hands down. Son of the former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau, he has a big constituency of Filipino immigrants in Canada.  This fact is important to note, as young Trudeau acted so much like he was campaigning in his backyard---pumping hands, kissing and holding up babies; then feeling suddenly hungry, he drops in at the first Jollibee he comes across. 

That sudden visit by the Canadian PM caused pandemonium among the resto staff and they all came out for a selfie with rock-star politico from across the seas. But being handsome and personable aren't Justin Trudeau's only attributes: of all the leaders who gathered in Manila for ASEAN@50 and the 31st ASEAN Summit, Trudeau was the only foreign leader who had the nerve and the verve to directly address Mr. Duterte on the EJK killings by the PNP. 

In return, the youthful Canadian PM reaped a mouthful of verbal attacks from Mr. Duterte at the close of the Summit. He told media that Trudeau's raising the human rights issue with him was "a personal and official insult" to him, stressing, as the Manila Standard reported, that he would only answer to a Filipino and not "any bullshit foreigner." 

From across the seas came Trudeau's posit: 

"As I mentioned to President Duterte, we are concerned with human rights, with the extrajudicial killings, and we impressed upon him the need for respect for the rule of law and as always, we offered Canada's support and help as a friend---to help move forward on what is the real challenge. This is the way we engage with the world. This is the way we always will."


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The “Field Marshal” of the ASEAN@50 celebration is a seasoned diplomat, but an even more seasoned events organizer and military-trained strategist---Ambassador Marciano “Jun” Paynor of PMA Class '71. Since the time of FVR he has walked Philippine presidents through their state visits abroad.

Ambassador Marciano "Jun" Paynor

In two or three days’ time will begin the “lock down” of areas of  the metropolis where 21 heads of state from three continents will converge for the 31st ASEAN SUMMIT in Manila---that also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the birth of the regional grouping in our part of the world.  

At 50 ASEAN is middle-aged and has all the agony and the ecstasy of glorious mid-life.  On hand to prevent this mid-life stage of the regional bloc from becoming a MIDLIFE CRISIS are the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police which will doubtless enforce the tightest security ever in the history of this country.

Consider, for instance, that Manila Bay would be a “No sail zone” and that the expressways will enforce a truck ban as all the foreign dignitaries will be flying in through Clark Airport. Consider too, that a lock-down of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex would mean that personnel of all the establishments within it would also be locked in from Nov. 12-15.  For instance, personnel of station dzRH in the Manila Broadcasting Company beside the CCP will be sequestered in the building for three days---sleeping in portable bunk beds with food already brought inside. 

This blogger joins the entire Filipino people in wishing the ASEAN Summit in Manila huge success, and let us all pray that everything would work out smooth as silk and that all the leaders from all over the world would be safe here.


Fifty years ago Asian unity was just an ambitious glimmer in the eyes of five Asian foreign ministers with remarkable foresight and determination.  These were Narciso Ramos of the Philippines, Adam Malik of Indonesia, Thanat Khoman of Thailand, Tun Abdul Razak of Malaysia and S. Rajaratnam of Singapore. On Aug. 9, 1967, the Asean Declaration was signed in Bangkok by the heads of state of those five countries .

Today ASEAN has become a formidable regional bloc of ten countries that includes Brunei, former war-torn Cambodia and Vietnam, and Myanmar and Laos---with a combined population exceeding 650 million. ASEAN has turned out to be a real economic and political powerhouse regional bloc,  with a combined gross domestic product in 2015 of $2.5 trillion---making it the sixth largest economy in the world and the third largest in Asia. By now, 2017, that growth doubtless has leaped even more.  


Indication of its economic significance as a region is the fact that eleven leaders from East and South Asia (China, Japan and South Korea, as well as India), Europe (Russia) and North America (the US' Donald Trump and Canada's PM Justin Trudeau) are attending as dialogue partners. The Summit will also see world leaders Donald Tusk, President of the European Council and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterrez in attendance. .

Regional blocs demonstrate the old adage about strength in unity. In another part of the world, the EU bloc is demonstrating its strength in the current imbroglio between the monarchic faction in Spain and the separatist bloc in Cataluña in the northern part of that country. What appears to have thwarted the separatists’ move---at least for the moment---is the fact that the biggest nations in the EU---France, Italy and Germany, threw their collective support for Spain and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, not with the rebel leader Carlos Puigdemont who has since sought refuge in Belgium. 

The major EU members threw their support for Spain's monarchic government after the disastrous exit of Britain (Brexit) a year ago. A new region-wide Catalan referendum toward the end of this month could be the make or break for the region. 


In the ASEAN@50 Summit, confronting the ten members and their dialogue partners is the erraticism of young North Korean Premier Kim-Jong-Un who likes to tell the world that his itchy fingers are on his nuclear bombs that can obliterate New York City. Then there is the continuing dispute between China and ASEAN countries, led by the Philippines, about their claims to the vast seas all around us, which China calls the South China Sea, but which we insist on calling the West Philippine Sea. 

Then there are the pesky human rights issues bedeviling so many ASEAN countries, including our own, that are related to the drug problem in the region, as well as the Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar that refuses to get off Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's back. . 


The host to this gigantic undertaking of ASEAN@50 is President Duterte, but behind the success of its mid-century celebration is its field marshal, no other than Ambassador Marciano “Jun” Paynor, who is calling the shots behind the scenes. Even generals and admirals as well as politicians and diplomats defer to Jun Paynor's judgment in handling the top events for the country in the next week.

Last August 2016, newly installed President Duterte appointed  Jun Paynor ambassador to the US, where he had served as Consul-General in San Francisco a few years back. But Paynor’s assumption of the ambassadorship to Washington had to be put on hold because of the ASEAN Summit---which is President Digong’s debut in international politics.  And with reason:  Paynor has been walking Philippine Presidents through their various state visits abroad since Fidel Ramos’ time, and through the presidencies of  Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III and now Rodrigo Duterte. IN 2015, he was head organizer of the APEC event in Manila.


The Baguio-born mild-mannered military officer-turned-diplomat was a member of the Philippine Military Academy’s Class of 1971, and for a while he was managing director of external and government relations for Ayala Corporation.  From the private sector he catapulted to the diplomatic world and became ambassador to Israel and Cyprus, with his wife Teresita and their three daughters joining him. 

It was in Jerusalem during Holy Year 2000 where he saw me and my husband off at the airport as our pilgrim group was leaving for Rome to continue our pilgrimage. I entrusted my two teenage sons to his care, as they awaited their separate flight to Rome. As we were leaving Israel that time the political situation was deteriorating with the “Intifada,” but Ambassador Paynor was  securely in charge of the Filipino community.

In this most significant event for the Philippines of ASEAN 50 we pray that everything would go well and it truly helps that someone various presidents have trusted is on top of the preparations: Marciano Paynor, Jr.---ambassador par excellence. God bless you, Jun Paynor, and God bless our country and nation.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A great plus for President Digong if he appoints Glenn Chong to the Comelec top post, as this would restore confidence in the poll body. The urban warfare that our marines---trained in jungle warfare---fought in Marawi exacted a high toll in their ranks---36 dead and 353 wounded. But the Marines delivered.

Scene of utter destruction in Marawi City, with the famous minaret in the background (photo by David Santos, CNN Phil.)

The post of Comelec Chair became vacant with the resignation of Chairman Andres Bautista, which was virtually forced on him as the only option---so that he does not face a bruising trial in the Senate and certain conviction, after being impeached by the House of Representatives. The question now is: who will assume the top Comelec post?  While a few names are being tossed around, one seems to be dominant, invoking confidence from various sectors: lawyer and former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong.

Former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong, whom IT experts are endorsing for Comelec Chair

It is highly significant that among those endorsing Glenn Chong are leading members of the Philippine IT profession and various associations connected with it. Among his most vocal endorsers are outstanding IT professionals such as Nelson Celis, Edmundo Casiño, past president of the Philippine Computer Society, Ernesto del Rosario, Leo Querubin and their respective IT groups. Another hearty endorser of Glenn Chong is the active citizens' group Tanggulang Demokrasya, led by civic leader Evelyn Kilayko and lawyer Dindo Donato as its general counsel.

Citizens from various walks of life who have heard the presentations of Glenn Chong have been impressed with his deep knowledge of the workings of our electoral system as well as the frauds that have infected it over time. I find the endorsement of leading IT practitioners most significant, however, since they know that Glenn Chong knows the business of elections like the back of his hand and cannot be fooled by professional cheaters inside the Comelec.


As for the reservation of Manila Times columnist Bobi Tiglao that he is a Liberal Party man, that does not hold water at all. While Glenn ran under the LP in 2007, he bolted it after the near-assassination of his father which was ascribed to LP elements. In 2010 he ran for reelection in his native Biliran under Lakas-NUCD, supporting presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro, but Glenn was cheated out of victory.  His defeat due to cheating, however, proved to be a blessing for the country, for since then Glenn has singularly campaigned for clean and honest elections, and has studied all the intricacies of electronic voting and counting, so that he could outwit the deeply embedded cheaters in the Comelec.

If President Duterte needs a vote of confidence in his administration, the best way is to recruit a young, idealistic and cheating-savvy guy like Glenn Chong to the Comelec where he could be expected to slay all the dragons there. Mr. Duterte, Glenn Chong is the best we have to clean out the Comelec. He will be a big plus to your administration. 


Earlier today my radio partner, Magsaysay Awardee for Theater Cecile Guidote Alvarez and I featured brave Marines in our weekly “Radyo Balintataw” over dzRH---to hear about their brave battles against ISIS terrorists who laid siege to the country’s Islamic City of Marawi.

In the retaking of Marawi, elements from the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines have been  involved---the Army, the PNP Special Action Forces, Marines from the Navy as well as the Air Force support system that has undertaken delivery of badly needed logistics and supplies and transporting the wounded to various military hospitals such as Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro and in  Zamboanga as well as to V. Luna Hospital.   


The grand design of terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon, head of the Abu Sayyaf,  and the brothers Maute---to establish a Caliphate in Mindanao from where radical Islam could spread through Southeast Asia---had to be thwarted by the AFP with the ready support of the Filipino people. The bloody recapture effort of nearly five months---that had involved thousands of men and women of the AFP---meant logistics running to many billions of pesos that could have been put to more profitable ways for the Filipino people---such as battling the more persistent war against poverty.

 But the urgency of the moment was there, and Team AFP did not shirk from its bounden duty, even at the cost of hundreds of lives lost or wounded. The battle for Marawi, which began on May 23, took our fighting troops almost five months to finish, but it also exacted a heavy toll from them:  a total of 165 soldiers perished in the nearly five months of battle and scores wounded. Of this total death toll, 36 were from the three Marine battalions which also saw 353 of its soldiers wounded in action.  


In our dzRH interview, most interesting was the viewpoint offered by Marine 1st Lt. Cris Jay Billano, a graduate of the Naval Officer Candidate School of the Philippine Navy, in that the reconquest of Marawi proved quite tough as it involved URBAN WARFARE---something the Marine batallions were unaccustomed to, as they are trained primarily in JUNGLE WARFARE. The Marine Command had been involved in urban warfare only  once before---in the battle to defend Zamboanga City from some 200 MNLF warriors in 2013. 

Cecile Alvarez and I brought before the nation over dzRH fascinating stories of urban warfare from the Marines---this time not like in the movies but in actual battles where people lived or died. The battle for Marawi meant retaking house after house, building after building, shrine after shrine---and by the end of nearly five months of battle, the once beautiful idyllic city by Lake Lanao was utterly destroyed.

People in the construction and design business, led by world-renowned architect and urban planner Felino Palafox, estimate that it would cost no less than P50 billion to reconstruct Marawi. In fact the floating of a Marshall Plan type of bonds is being talked about to fund this most daunting, urgent job. 


Marine Sgt. Nestor Pulga narrated that in the nearly five-month battle,  at times  only a wall divided the warring troops, and the terrorists would bore holes into the walls just big enough to insert the nose of their rifles. At times the dividing line would be only some sack cloth or drapery and sorry na lang for the protagonist on the other side.

Sgt. Pulga narrated how in one building, the terrorists had dug into the basement, so that the marines climbed up to the second floor and tried to work their way down.  The enemy, however, started a fire to burn the upper floors, prompting the marines to jump out the windows, resulting in some broken bones.  

Marine Sgt. Richard Anding of the 10th Company Special Operation Platoon narrated how his group of 23 troopers went over the Mapanji Bridge, the first bridge over the Agus River in Marawi, by following on foot an advancing tank that was firing across at enemy positions. But being on the bridge also exposed the marines on both sides of the enemy lines.

The untold hardships and sacrifice of lives and limbs of Team AFP reaped enormous support from a grateful nation. As Marine Capt. Maria Rowena Dalmacio pointed out in our radio program, the troopers sounded an appeal for socks and blankets and citizens flooded the camps with these items. Mabuhay ang Team AFP!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Renowned architect Felino Palafox proposes to keep Marawi---now a huge heap of rubble after five months of ferocious fighting---as WAR MEMORIAL and construct a new city elsewhere. But restoring Marawi to pre-jihadist glory would not only be a triumph of technological skills but also a symbol of Filipino indomitable spirit. Alay sa Kawal Foundation faces huge financial strain from Marawi fighting

World-renowned Architect and Urban Planner Felino "Jun" Palafox
Faced with the daunting task of rebuilding once-beautiful and idyllic Marawi City which nestles by scenic Lake Lanao, President Duterte recently brought world-renowned Filipino architect-urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox there---even as the smoke of battle still rises from the vast heap of destruction in the bloody urban warfare the city has undergone.  

Already, at this point, talk is bruited about massive reconstruction and restoration effort for Marawi City that’s akin to the gigantic Marshall Plan to rebuild the destroyed cities and economies of Western Europe in the aftermath of  World War II.

Architect Jun Palafox has offered to undertake Marawi's reconstruction and no one is better qualified for this daunting task than he, as he has gained vast international reputation as a hot-shot architect and urban planner.  But just as important, Jun Palafox has the heart and patriotism to restore this city to what was once the country’s Islamic citadel by the shores of Lake Lanao.


That said, I also read that Architect Palafox is toying with the idea of recommending preservation of  Marawi city in its current state of total ruin--- and instead build an entirely new city further up the shores of Lake Lanao. From what I gather, Jun Palafox’s idea is to make the heart of the city---now in total ruins---into a WAR MEMORIAL  and just create a new Marawi elsewhere. 

I can understand where Jun is coming from:  as a memorial to man’s folly, downtown Marawi, where fiercest fighting had taken place for five months, would have few equals in the world in its ruinous state. But a memorial is just that: a memorial.  I personally would prefer to see that our most famous Islamic city rise again from the ashes of war---and through the collective effort of all who had loved and rhapsodized her in past eras, recapture her beauty.

Restoring Marawi to her glorious past would not only be a show-piece of architectural and urban skills, but more importantly, A TRIUMPH OF THE FILIPINO’S INDOMITABLE SPIRIT.

Alay sa Kawal Foundation officials, led by its Chair, former VP Jejomar Binay, meeting last Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, with widows and parents of AFP enlisted personnel killed in action in various encounters with dissidents.

Yesterday morning, Oct. 19,  the Alay sa Kawal (ASK) Foundation, which I founded 30 years ago after my husband was badly wounded in an encounter with the NPAs in Cagayan Valley, awarded cash assistance to 30 spouses or parents of AFP enlisted personnel killed in various encounters with enemies of the state around the country.

I was inspired to found ASK in 1987, after I realized from the example of soldiers who had perished or were badly wounded in that encounter with my husband,  how much their widows  needed financial assistance to raise very young children orphaned by their soldier-fathers.  

Since then the Foundation, led for some years now by our chair, former Vice President Jejomar Binay, has continued with its checks to the widows or parents of soldiers who have perished all over the country.  In the scheme of things, the checks ASK gives out are small (P30,000 per family) and to date ASK has helped  some 5,500 soldiers’ families already.

The donations, small as they are, however, must be viewed as a token of civilian concern for our men in uniform---the ordinary soldiers---raised from the civilian sector to help alleviate in a small way the plight of their widows and orphans.


At yesterday’s ASK donation awards, I realized how pitifully young are most of the wives who were left behind by their soldier-husbands, and how the burden of rearing children orphaned by fathers would be such a burden to these young mothers.  I also realized that with the war in Marawi against jihadist elements over the past five months, the list of our soldier-beneficiaries will be increasing.

At latest count some 162 soldiers of the state have lost their lives in fighting hundreds of jihadists who had invaded and sought to conquer Marawi for ISIS.


This means more efforts on the part of the Alay sa Kawal Foundation to raise funds for these new families recently orphaned.  It should be pointed out, however, that never before have the Filipino people regarded their soldiers with so much affection and respect as in the battle for the re-conquest of Marawi from jihadist terrorists.  

That saga has brought about untold heroisms, but alas, it has also brought so much suffering among families that have been orphaned of fathers, brothers and sons. How these families are now deprived of love and care because of the senseless war among fellow Filipinos, instigated by a few jihadist foreigners.


Our cash donations for widows of ordinary Filipino soldiers killed in action have continued since 1987, as fund-raising has been conducted through the years  by a board of professionals. Aside from former VP Binay,  they include lawyer Ramon Pedrosa, former Postmaster General Cesar Sarino, businessman Hermie Esguerra, Alfonso “Boy” Reyno of the Manila Jockey Club and others---who are  dedicated to honoring our heroes who have fought against jihadists and leftist elements.  We hope that the Alay sa Kawal Foundation would continue to be supported in its fund-raising by our fellow Filipino citizens.

But more than cash donations, we hope and pray for peace to descend on our beloved country, so that Filipinos need not kill fellow Filipinos. Instead, we pray that we could all unite to make our country ever more progressive---assuring each and every Filipino of a just and peaceful existence, where families can rear and educate their children for a bright future.