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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The slaying of the Parojinog family in Osamiz City bares a lot of symptoms of the illnesses of the Philippine body politic. Cancer-stricken Republican Sen. John McCain displays his maverick reputation anew as he shows enviable political independence in raging controversy over "Obamacare."

A dawn raid carried out by police forces on the compound of the ruling Parujinogs in Ozamiz City

Arizona Senator John McCain: political maverick

The slaying of Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, Sr., his wife, son and nine others in a dawn raid yesterday, Sunday in Ozamiz City, and the arrest of the mayor's daughter once again focuses national as well as international attention on the brutal anti-drug war of the President. But the raid of the Parojinog compound as well as the slaying of family members and followers constitute only a tiny corner of the local crime world now being shaken to its roots by our President. 

The Parojinogs of Mindanao are said to be the leader of the notorious Kuratong Baleleng crime syndicate associated with strings of criminal incidents such as bank robberies, kidnappings and a rub-out case versus ranking police officers. 

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Sociologists studying this political clan's case would doubtless note a pattern in its rise and fall that's common to a good number of all the dynastic political clans. Statistics show that 74% OF ALL THE SEATS IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ARE OCCUPIED BY MEMBERS OF LOCAL DYNASTIES. To be sure, there are dynasties that have had a non-controversial record of service, even if many of their members have had forgettable achievements in terms of bills authored. 

The other side of the coin, however, shows how a good number of these dynastic families in the country have been linked to big-time crimes and associated with great wealth---that can buy almost everybody in a given locality: public and police officials, rival politicians to desist from running, and voters, etc. On top of it all, however, they manage to unfailingly---and repeatedly---get elected to various offices, including as kingpin of the city or province. 

Sociologists would inevitably conclude that the political dynasties display a perceptible pattern in various localities around the country. They are oftentimes warlords who seek political and social acceptance as honorables but who, in reality, retain all the trappings of warlordism in guns, goons and gold, corrupt trade practices such as drug-dealing, as well as corrupting local and perhaps national officials, and God knows what else. 

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A thoughtful commentary in the Inquirer today by Hermenegildo C.Cruz, former Philippine ambassador to the UN (1984-1986) very timely asserted that while the war on drugs has thus become an obsession of Mr. Duterte in his "Single Issue Presidency," it has been carried out "to the detriment of the two other wars"---namely, the war on poverty and the war vs. terrorism. Ambassador Cruz argues that to alleviate poverty we need foreign assistance in developing our own resources, but in several instances, he asserts, "We have given up foreign assistance due to concerns expressed by donors over human rights violations in our country." 

As the former envoy suggested, all these criminal happenings in our country as well as the warlordism and political dynasties are very much related to the gripping poverty in our midst, especially in the hinterlands of Mindanao. Or should I say, the gripping poverty is very much due to the warlordism and the political dynasty set-up, as well as the proliferation of drugs (as an escape from poverty for users as well as income for pushers). 


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Many Filipinos cotton to corrupt politicians and warlords because of their grinding poverty; with few exceptions, however, the politicians. specially of the warlord variety, want to keep their constituents poor and largely ignorant, so that come election time they can simply buy the poverty-stricken electorate's votes and give out bags of goodies. It's a vicious cycle---with election spending on the up and up each time---and presto! the political clan members get to keep their posts where they can get away with murder---by terrorizing, bribing and whatever else.  

Our political situation is really depressing. How different it is in the more progressive societies where the broad masses are better educated and economically situated---and therefore more independent of their politicians. The solution to less dependence on political warlords is a more-educated and economically-situated electorate. Will that day ever come for this country? 

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I have always been interested in the career of Arizona Sen. John McCain for a number of reasons. He comes from a distinguished American military family that produced two four-star admirals in the US Navy: his grandfather and father. Moreover, John McCain was a classmate at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, of my late brother-in-law, Admiral Carlito Y. Cunanan of the Philippine Navy.  McCain was a war hero imprisoned in North Vietnam for over five years, after his fighter bomber plane was shot down over North Vietnam on his 23rd bombing mission, and he almost drowned in the lake where the plane fell. McCain was badly tortured while in prison, and to this day he cannot lift both arms too high as they were broken by constant beating with a rifle during his imprisonment. 

John McCain ran as the Republican candidate for president in 2008 vs. the Democrats' Barack Obama who won and was subsequently reelected in 2012. The 2008 presidential campaign ran on two opposing themes: a vote for a genuine American war hero vs. the first black American to seek the presidency. More than his youthful age and eloquence, it was primarily the black vote that catapulted Obama to the presidency in 2008, and his reelection four years later. .  

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After his presidential defeat John McCain continued to perform as senior Republican senator from Arizona and earlier last week, he captured the American---and the world's---imagination in the US Congress' deliberations over President Trump's appeal to repeal the "Affordable Care Act"---more popularly known as "ObamaCare"---that was passed during the second Obama administration. Republicans had dreamed for seven years of dismantling that health program and indeed, with unrelenting push from Trump, it seemed destined for Congress' wastebasket---until Sen. McCain suddenly showed up from the dead, as it were.  

McCain had been diagnosed with cancer in the brain--a recurrence from his earlier bout with it some years back. On the day of voting for Obamacare, however, the maverick Republican senator left his hospital bed and dramatically showed up in the session hall. To the total surprise of his fellow Republicans, he voted an emphatic No to Obamacare's repeal!  His argument was that there is still no proposed measure that can assure a better performance for the American people's health care. 

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The entire Senate and the nation were stunned by McCain's move---his Republican colleagues were flabbergasted; what's more, two Republican female senators also turned about and voted no---to the wild applause of the Democrats. Speculation is rife that McCain was just dishing it to Trump for his having assailed the war hero's record in the past and what McCain considered his fellow Republican's disrespect to all American veterans of war.

There could be some truth to this tit-for-tat rumor, and there is no certainty about the future of Obamacare, as the Democrats appear rejuvenated by their unexpected Republican ally. But what it did was to speak volumes about McCain's independence of mind---that for him country comes first before partisan considerations. 

This is something that many Filipino politicians have seldom exhibited. 


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