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, May 29, 2020

Violence erupts across the US as an African-American with heart condition dies from asphyxiation at hands of white police. Violent protests erupt across US, with more whites joining colored folks to protest police brutality. The battle for equal rights regardless of skin color is being fiercely fought in the streets all over America---and hopefully would be won. Hooray!

The black victim of police torture in Minneapolis---George Floyd. 

Violence erupts in Minneapolis, Minnesotta, in the form of burning of vehicles and looting, after death of police victim.

America has been seething with anger and violence for two days now,  after a tall, massive African-American named George Floyd was killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the US. I caught that episode over CNN and I was truly appalled at it. The black guy was apparently arrested for a small malfeasance. 

Tragically, however, as Floyd sprawled on a street corner, a white police officer continued to nail him to the ground with his knee on the accused's throat---even as the latter kept pleading that "I can't breathe, I can't breathe." 

The police officer refused to lift his knee from the prostrated guy's throat for a good 9 minutes. Soon Floyd's heart, which was said to suffer from some ailment, gave in to the heavy pressure from the policeman's knee and he died. His autopsy confirmed Floyd's heart problem.


This horrible episode involving Floyd was mercilessly caught on film and played again and again on TV, particularly over CNN. It was like an atomic bomb dropped on the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the upper state of Minnesota. Before anyone knew it, violence was exploding all over the twin cities, with protesters---whites, blacks, latinos, asians, etc.---burning the police station and other buildings. The streets began to fill up with angry crowds as evening descended and violence quickly erupted.  

 With the violence came various forms of malfeasance and criminality---e.g., fires, wanton looting of stores, pillbox explosions, screams and other forms of protests. 


The twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul exploded all night and the past three days with violence---with people burning down buildings and attacking police headquarters. Protesters even attacked the CNN HQ in Atlanta. Ultimately, what happened---and this was most interesting--- was that it was no longer a case of whites vs. blacks, for the angry crowds exhibited mixed races. White Americans were outraged by the police brutality as much as the blacks and other ethnic groups. 

Moreover, over the next several days, violent riotings and destruction have spread to various other cities of America, as folks flocked to the streets for various reasons of their own---in addition to commiserating with the late George Floyd . The country is now in flames. 


The psychology of the American people was ripe for violence. Restricted for weeks and even months from socializing because of threats of the Covid 19 pandemic, the people's emotions turned into violent anger over the death of George Floyd and their hatred for his torturers became uncontrollable for the police. 

Thus, President Trump, who, as a re-electionist, would naturally abhor the fast-escalating violence and rampage, was forced to call the National Guard to give succor to Minneapolis and soon to various other US cities all around the country. It's obvious that the local police could no longer cope with the massive destruction of various establishments and the burnings and lootings all night long.


It was something completely unpredictable to anyone who had been following the various issues seriously plaguing the US now, such as the Covid19 pandemic that began to peak once again after lock-downs had eased up with the summer in various states. The US mortality rate now is well above 100,000, the highest in the world. 

This latest conflict---the violence that erupted over the murder of George Floyd---proved to be an eye-opener in the long history of the relationship between white and black Americans.

To be sure, the protesters had the right motivation---to avenge the helpless African American whose heart gave way while undergoing police torture.  But to my mind, this pitiable death of an ethnic guy at the hands of brutal police demonstrate many truths about America---some of them fairly recent and new. 


For one thing, all the mass demonstrations from LA to New York show that prejudice toward the ethnic races in America is far from over.  From time to time, it will rear its ugly head and provoke violence, as what the white policeman did to Floyd. 

Yet, on the other hand, it also shows that in many cases, ethnic lines are already blurring. For the recent mass demonstrations, still hot all across America, show folks of various colors and creeds massing TOGETHER, wrongly ready to create violence in defense of freedoms they value---the color of their skin notwithstanding.  


To be sure, the land of the free and the home of the brave has come a long way from the years when minority Americans----such as Rosa Parks, the African American civil rights activist who refused to yield her seat on a public bus to a white man in the mid-60s, and the great Martin Luther King who led the march on Washington where he delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech"----- had to battle for even the puniest of human rights. 

 But from time to time---though the occasions have gotten fewer---indeed, racism in America still manages to rear its ugly head as what that white cop showed Floyd. Then pandemonium reigns, as what has been happening in Minneapolis and other parts of the US since.    

The plus side of this development is that, as in the case of 
George Floyd, many Americans now appear to be coming together for justice and other human values---regardless of color of skin. Even without the resolution of justice on George Floyd's side, he has already won. 

The battle for equal rights just has to continue and strengthen---hopefully with the least chaos to life and property. .                                              

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Re-electionist President Trump is caught in the vise of enforcing stiff restrictions on social distancing and quarantine, even as he courts votes from Americans already rebelling vs. those restrictions. With 36.5 million Americans losing their jobs in US due to the pandemic, Trump gets crustier by the day as Democrat rival Joe Biden seems to be cherry-picking votes. Tough luck to run for re-election amidst the pandemic.

The two contenders for this November's presidential elections in the US, Donald Trump and Joe Biden

All over the world there seems to be a coronavirus fatigue and there's a lot of pressure internationally to cautiously abandon the lock-down imposed by various governments and open up various  economies and societies. It's a tough balancing act that will be demanded from country leaders as their people have grown tired of staying indoors and practicing social distancing in public places.

Peoples most everywhere in the Western world, it seems, have been  craving for the fun and excitement of the outdoors and the beaches this summer, and in social events where they want to throw social distancing to the winds.   

It's truly tough and this is true all over the world, be it in the US, in Europe, and in South America.  In the temperate countries that are counting spring days moving into summer's warmth, especially in a society as free as the US, it could take armies to stop people from going to the beaches and holding pre-summer parties and picnics, as well as concerts in the parks. Those perks have been their way of life for generations. 

 It is estimated that at least 10,000 more Americans could lose their lives in this re-opening of communities.  The tragedy, however, is that there seems to be a full-blown rebellion in America against any and all restrictions---it's the we-don't-care rebellion. 


In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is ready to throw up her hands as her constituents threaten to rebel if she doesn't lighten up on rules and regulations governing gatherings and beach sorties. The same pressures are found in Spain and Italy. 

 In the United Kingdom spring weather is warming up and folks are just as restless indoors, despite all the warnings about social distancing and slowing down on opening such places as barbershops and nail salons, to avoid spiking up the virus. 

The problem is that all the late spring and early summer activities could shoot up to new highs in the world-wide battle vs. Covid 19.  A second wave could bring more than a million stricken and tens of thousands of new deaths in the Western Hemisphere. 


What complicates things for the US President and his team is that national presidential elections will be held this November and he is running for reelection in what's becoming a very unpopular contest for him vs. Democrat Joe Biden---the guy who has nothing to do with limiting public gatherings and enforcing social distancing. 

As Trump becomes increasingly caustic and sarcastic with the media, Biden is pulling away, as per election polls.  Due to all the pressures on the poor fellow to allow restless Americans to have their annual fun at the beaches, President Trump has become increasingly unpopular---as daily statistics show his Democratic opponent sprinting ahead of him in the popular polls.  

Trump's increasingly poor performance at the polls is, in turn, reflected in his increasingly caustic attitude toward the media---with CNN as the lead battering ram vs. Trump.


Democratic candidate Joe Biden faces the issue of having allegedly molested a woman staffer in the past, which he stoutly denies;  the allegation, however, does not seem to dent his campaign---simply because the lock-down is damaging Trump.  Joe Biden, in fact, does not even have to campaign, it seems, as all the pent-up frustrations of the American people against the coronavirus appear to be vent upon the haplessTrump. 

The more vexed, sullen and fretful the Republican candidate appears each day towards the American people and the media, the more he loses support and votes.  Indeed, Trump has been pretty crusty these past days, especially to the media---with CNN appearing all out to get him.    

As a reelectionist president, Donald Trump has every reason to deplore the various economic stats. The prevailing unemployment rate in the US today of 14.7% of the population---which means that an estimated 36.5 million Americans lost their jobs as of this month of May, six months into November's elections---is regarded as the worst since the Great Depression.  


There is a big contrast between the American and the Filipino public in relation to Covid 19.  While the Americans are fretting and even rebelling in many cases against the strict lock-downs and rigid rules and regulations governing social conduct in these present times, Filipinos appear far more obedient as a people---readily conforming to the stiff measures set by the Duterte administration in these pandemic times.

The Duterte administration has virtually shut down people in their own homes and villages, enforcing the use of face masks and threatening to arrest elderly folks found wandering around. The administration has, except in few place, enforced social distancing in normally crowded places. It is interesting to note that Filipinos are themselves most cooperative in this regard---unlike the rebellious Americans who outpace the Europeans in this trait.


It appears that the good behavior of the Pinoys stem from fear of contracting the deadly virus itself, as well as fear of contradicting the President who is known to get quite rough when he needs to. In this case, however, Mr. Duterte has reaped more obedience than sullen reactions, because the Pinoys are realistic about what could happen to them if the pandemic hits them hard---which, thank God,  hasn't because of the stiff lock-downs and other measures being strictly enforced here. 

The number of Filipinos afflicted with Covid 19 has spiked, but compared to how it has  gone haywire in Europe and the US, we are still alright and those afflicted count for quite low. Let's keep it that way. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Americans, vexed at tight social restrictions, frantically seek to open up as summer approaches. Throw in November's US presidential elections and Russia's current 93,000 virus cases, and new spikes could afflict the world. Was Covid19 cooked up in Wuhan chem lab, not derived from wild animals as China claims? PRESIDENT TRUMP APPEARS CONVINCED THAT THE LAB THEORY IS IT . Or is it?

As of today, statistics from CNN stated that over 3 million cases of the Coronavirus have been reported worldwide, of which some 211, 350 were deaths from various parts of the world. Of the total affected, more than one million virus afflictions have hit the  US, plus some 58,365 deaths. Even Russia reports some 93,000 ill cases. A pandemic alright. 

The interesting thing about these figures is that  even as they appear to be growing, there's a restlessness in the US---the country that has been affected the most also because it's the largest in the world. With summer approaching, there's tremendous pressure from US citizens themselves to loosen up on restrictions earlier imposed. 


For one thing, weather in the Western Hemisphere is improving as spring has turned the corner, working into summer in a few weeks. While virus afflictions continue to result in either illness or death, figures are plateauing in an entire continent that has grappled with this virus for many months now. It's obvious from interviews that Americans are plainly tired of lock-downs and restrictions, and are ready to cautiously junk their protective gear and enjoy the beaches and the outdoors.

The question is, how much to open up and throw caution to the wind?  I was listening to CNN earlier tonight and an American official was discussing with the emcee about the possibility of beaches opening up, though with proper social distancing. As he spoke, photos of beach scenes that looked kinda crowded appeared on the screen, and it was obvious that distancing would be the  toughest thing to impose among the gregarious Americans---after a terrible locked-down winter dominated by the virus. 


The official also spoke about the need to jump-start other activities such as sports and shopping malls, as closure of so many business outlets has hurt the economy so much. It is said that some 26.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the last five weeks---a phenomenon never seen before even in the Great Depression. Thus, this plan to reopen America seems to have become imperative. 

Reopening the economy, however, has to be done with a lot of care and caution, and we can only wish the American people good luck. We know how the virus can be so contagious, and super-gregarious Americans are given to hugging and kissing---all too often defiant of social distancing. But it's not only the Americans who will open up but also the Europeans and the Australians, as the weather warms up a bit. 

At this point, state authorities could try to still impose social distancing, but for folks who have been restricted so much, this is like holding back waters from a huge damn whose floodgates have broken loose. How will the virus behave when social distancing is thrown to the winds? Virologists are warning of spikes as much as 78,000 cases next winter. 


THERE IS ANOTHER COMPLICATING PROBLEM:  the presidential elections are coming up in November---with Republic President Trump vying vs. Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden. The elections will, of course, trigger feverish political  campaigning---goodbye to social distancing, throw caution to the winds. 

The campaign season has unofficially began---with former First Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton just recently having endorsed Joe Biden for president.


Another issue: did  the coronavirus that has killed nearly three million people and afflicted another million really come from "host species" among wild animals such as the pangolin and wild bats---as China insists?  Or was the virus "synthesized" by theWuhan Institute of Viriology (WIV), where the disease was first identified and then inflicted upon the world?

A French and a Japanese scientist who were awardees of world-renowned scientific honors were earlier also quoted as expressing some doubt about the Covid 19 virus as originating from wild animals, Some scientists have also noted that this virus shares "an uncanny similarity with HIV."


Thus, doubts and counter-doubts have persisted in the past week about the nature of this virus that has wreaked such terrible havoc on the world. President Trump HAS COME TO ASSERT that the probability is high that the virus has originated from that Wuhan laboratory, which China is expected to deny vigorously. 

And so the plot thickens, even as worries are stirred anew about how social distancing could be practiced in various beaches, social clubs and theaters in the summer in Europe and America, and amidst the furious political campaigning for the fall national elections in the US. Will all these happenings spike new highs in this pandemic? 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The tragedy in our midst from the deadly virus---as dished out in ever-growing statistics by competing media orgs---quite heart-breaking and most worrisome for the world's population.

Because of the Covid 19 virus, the world has become captive to the huge media outlets for the latest statistics. 

Everyday for the past two weeks, I have been tuning on, rather obsessively, I must admit, to this Covid 19 pandemic that is upon us, and though I have lived long enough on this earth, so that I should no longer be overwhelmed by anything at all---I cannot help but be just that. 

I am simply overwhelmed by the magnitude of this pandemic that started from a hitherto unknown virus that came from a couple of wild animals in the small, obscure city of Wuhan in China's central province of Hubei. This virus has now victimized over a million dead people, and nearly as many are hovering in the twilight zone.


Among those who are quite ill are very close friends of mine:  former Senator Sonny Alvarez and my radio partner, Cecile Alvarez. They are fighting for their lives in a hospital in Manila and I'd like to implore prayers for these two most patriotic citizens.

I have cried enough, especially since my only surviving sister also finally left this world after many weeks in the hospital---with tubes inserted into her throat to aide her breathing---right at the height of Covid19.


Over the past days I have been transfixed before the TV, listening to all the heart-wrenching stories of families from around the world who are afflicted by this virus, and the bravery and stoicism with which they have put up with it among families and friends.

What overwhelms me is the magnitude of the pandemic and the innumerable lives that it has afflicted in a most terrible way all around the world---either very ill or dead---and how their surviving loved ones have had to deal with these grim realities, despite their being in constant threat of contamination. 


As a result of this pandemic, we who have led relatively easy and rewarding lives will never be the same again ---even if we survive this virus. Our parents and grandparents have had to live with their own pandemic challenges in their time, and now we are going through the same cycle.

Our parents and grandparents have had to confront epidemics which easily turned pandemic in those times of smaller populations and less mobility---as well as far less developed medical science (no antibiotics as yet). Among those were the cholera and influenza epidemics of the late 1800s, and much earlier, the smallpox and the bubonic plague (termed the "Black Plague" ). 

So gripping were these mass plagues in those earlier eras that  famed French-Algerian novelist Albert Camus was encouraged to write his classic work, "The Plague," in 1947. This work won Camus the Nobel Prize in 1957, when he was 44 years old.


Over the past days, as I would shift from one international TV news channel to another, at first I was merely the jaded media person listening to all the stories and the flood of statistics of afflictions from one country to another, and so on. Eventually, what I found intriguing was the inevitable blame-game among various  people. 

But over the past few days I began to be very affected by all the dire broadcasts, especially when I couldn't even say goodbye to my own dying sister as a result of this pandemic. This physical distancing was understandably dictated by the virus, but it didn't also give much allowance at all for emotional distancing---my sister had to be cremated right away before we relatives could gather.  

Since that episode--- where I couldn't even say goodbye to my sister because of the need to keep physical as well as emotional distance---I began to sense that something in me was being transformed. 


It was not only my sister's passing, as that was expected: she had been confined in St. Luke's Hospital in Quezon City for as long as four months. I think it was more like I was drowning in the grim statistics that I was feeding on from the various international news channels day after day---about how people were dying like flies in various parts of the world---most especially in the most advanced countries. They were dying because of the vicious coronavirus and how fearful the peoples of the world have all become, because of it! 

What a time we are living in! Simply unforgettable. This pandemic has changed our world and our lives more than we will ever know or imagine or care to admit.


Each generation manages to live through an epidemic or even a pandemic of sorts. I heard all about the past happenings from my parents as I grew up and in my history studies at the UP.  

 But living through one actual pandemic now---the corona virus --- amid the tireless news about its pandemic nature, as brought into our homes and workplaces every hour on the hour by various highly competitive international media channels--- has assured me of the reality of pandemics, where before these used to be mere stories from my parents and elder siblings.


The super-stiff competition among the huge media channels for thorough coverage of the Covid 19 pandemic has assured us of all the news we want to hear---every hour on the hour. But I'm afraid that it has also produced such a numbing effect on many of us human beings. For many folks around the world, it has fast become just one of those everyday occurrences in the world, cold statistics on who, where, when, etc. 

This is what a pandemic produces in the ultimate---most worrisome, most frightening. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

With COVID19 afflicting world leaders & personalities as well as tens of thousands of ordinary folks all over the globe, there's tremendous clamor to postpone for next year the Tokyo Summer Olympics & Paralympics---originally scheduled for this July to September at a whopping $1.4B.

Everywhere in the world the sense of urgency about the coronavirus is so palpable and one reason, aside from its pandemic proportions, is that it has become a celebrity affliction. Famous folks are being downed by it all over the globe. 

Consider, for instance, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 65, had to be quarantined after having been exposed to the virus from her doctor who had been giving her injections for an illness.  Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife were afflicted and so were Spanish Ministers Irene Montero and Pablo Iglesias. Top Iranian leaders were also stricken. 

On the other hand, erstwhile disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was diagnosed with Covid19, as were US Senator Mitt Romney, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, among the prominent folks in the US. 70-year old New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond has also tested positive for the virus.

Here in our country a number of prominent people have also shown up positive for the virus. 


But it's not just celebrity folks who are being afflicted--even businesses that cater to the broad masses are being affected. All McDonald's outlets in the United Kingdom and Ireland will be closed to protect their customers, as well as their staff who number some 130,000 in both countries. 

As expected, world travel is the worst-hit industry. Reports indicate that planes from Europe, where the virus appears to be more widespread, are banned from flying to the US. 


On the other hand, some 70 million to as many as 180 million Chinese tourists have been banned by their government from travelling abroad. This ban will definitely affect world tourism, e.g, airlines, hotels, restaurants where the world's new-affluent Chinese have been roaming the world and wowing it with their seemingly bottomless wealth over the past decade. 

Interestingly, China now wants to insulate itself from the very scourge that it has infected the world with---the virus that started from a species of wild birds in a little city in Central China called Wuhan. 


But perhaps the biggest seismic quake in the tourism business, due to the pandemic, is the fact that the Tokyo Summer Olympics 2020, scheduled from July 24-Aug 09 this year, as well as the Tokyo Paralympics that will run from Aug. 25-Sept. 06, have a very fat chance to be postponed. Already a couple of countries have withdrawn from participating, owing to the virus that has stricken their sports people.  

Recall that this Olympic event will be the first in Tokyo since it hosted a similar event in 1964. This 2020 World Olympics was hard-fought by the Japanese government, with Madrid and Istanbul in tight competition in 2013.


Now plans are all set---with a beautiful Olympic stadium designed by famed Japanese architect Kenzo Kuma already in the finishing stage---despite running into high-profile criticism especially over spiraling costs. 

The fabulous stadium is said to have involved 70,000 cubic feet of timber from each of the 46 prefectures of Japan, and can seat 68,000 spectators for the opening and closing ceremonies. 

Olympic facilities in Tokyo are said to be budgeted at a whopping $1.4B!


Write-ups about the fabulous Olympic Village in the outskirts of Tokyo spoke of "capturing people's thoughts on the environment or the Earth at the time." Athletes competing in the games are supposed to sleep on bed frames made of cardboard and mattresses made of plastic---"to reduce the event's carbon footprint."

With the COVID 19 assuming pandemic proportions, however, there's increasing pressure from various countries that the Tokyo  Olympics be postponed, as the COVID 19 could still be in its fullest rage by opening week.  A number of countries have already indicated their stand for postponing for next year. 

Will the pandemic be the huge spoiler to the much-touted Tokyo Summer Olympics? 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Well Worth Your While to Watch the Netflix series on “The Crown”

Like perhaps tens of thousands  around the world, I have been watching the fascinating series on the British Royalty in the Netflix film titled “The Crown,” now on its second season, and I have found the series so riveting and entertaining. 

One reason may be because I have been fascinated with the British Royals since my late high-school days, when the romance of Princess Margaret---the  younger of the two daughters of then King George VI and Queen Mother Elizabeth---with Group Capt. Peter Townsend of the Royal Air Force had to be broken up on orders of the Crown.  

The reason was that Capt. Townsend was a divorcee and the Anglican Church, headed by the English Sovereign, did not allow marriage between divorcees. Recall too, that King Edward VIII, uncle of Queen Elizabeth, was forced to abdicate the throne a decade earlier, because of his marriage to the French-American divorcee Wallace Simpson. To help out the former king, who was 
Queen Elizabeth's favorite uncle, she bestowed on him the title of  “Duke of Windsor” so he could at least live in style in Paris. 


 I remember how, like perhaps tens of thousands of young girls in those days, I wept buckets over the sad ending of that royal romance between the pretty Princess Margaret, the socialite younger sister of the Queen, and the dashing RAF captain.

I found that forbidden marriage, however, a paradox of sorts, for precisely, a century earlier, King Henry VIII was refused marriage to his paramour, Ann Boleyn, by the Catholic Church because the sovereign was already married to Queen Catherine at that time. Henry VIII decided to break away from the Catholic Church and found his own church, the Church of England, a.k.a. the Anglican Church, which is the institution behind the Crown until the present.


Queen Elizabeth II, the major figure in the Netflix series and Britain’s longest reigning monarch, was very powerfully portrayed here, and it did justice to her as she faced crisis after crisis with queenly calm. Not the least of these crises was the controversy over her younger sister’s love and proposed marriage to the divorced RAF Capt. Peter Townsend, which Elizabeth, as head of the Church of England, had refused to allow. This led her younger sister to a life of drift and despondency for a while---finally settling down with  a society photographer, Anthony Armstrong-Jones, who became Lord Snowdown, in a loveless relationship.

Through all the vicissitudes of royal life in contemporary English history,  Queen Elizabeth proved to be the epitome of strength and grace, as she ruled over the succession of Prime Ministers---especially in the crisis years of Britain during World War II and  its subsequent post-war economic turmoil. During the war years the two royal princesses would be photographed in army uniforms, driving military jeeps. London saw the fiercest dog-fights in the air between the RAF and German invaders. 


 It was Queen Elizabeth’s luck that she found support most notably during the long incumbency of Prime Minister Winston Churchill at No. 10 Downing St.  Two actresses actually portrayed the Queen:  the lovely Claire Foy as the young Elizabeth in the first series, and the stately Olivia Colman as the more mature Queen, in the second series, whose face had somewhat hardened, due to the numerous pressures on the Crown.

I adored the characterization of Prince Philip as the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen’s consort,  who in real life had belonged to Greek royalty. In the film series, Prince Philip was often just seen and not heard, and yet he was the pillar of strength for the Queen, with his great sense of humor and constant support.  


Unflattering in the beginning was the portrayal of a teen-aged Prince Charles who was enrolled in a school in Wales, preparatory to his assuming of his official title as the “Prince of Wales.” The film series portrays him as the typical teenage boy living in the shadow of an over-powerful mother who was also queen of the realm, and feeling quite lost in his new surroundings.

Charles’ wedding to the beautiful Lady Diana Spencer was no longer covered in the film, but history recalls that that marriage appeared doomed from the start. Princess Diana was later killed in a car crash with her French beau in a little street tunnel in Paris --- the Place de L’Alma---as they tried to escape from the odious paparazzi. At that tragic episode, Queen Elizabeth sought refuge within the Palace walls, but British public opinion demanded that she share her grief over her daughter-in-law's misfortune with her people. She then sauntered out and was seen shopping for flowers and chatting with people from all walks of life.


Watching the series of ”The Crown” amid all the splendors of various palaces and country homes of the Royal Family, the question on my mind, doubtless shared by millions of viewers is:  was the film series actually filmed in Buckingham Palace and the various other residences of the Royals? The answer was provided in the film series’ background literature: various nobles’ homes and palaces were RECREATED to look like the real palaces of the Royals----  among them the Wilton House in Wilton, Salisbury, that was home to the Earls of Pembroke for 450 years.

On the other hand, the weddings of the Royals and Elizabeth’s coronation were recreated inside Ely Cathedral, an 11th century Romanesque church in Cambridgeshire, and passed off as Westminster Abbey.

This long-playing series on “The Crown” did not spare funds to produce, what with each episode costing US$13 M each, and there were perhaps 15 such episodes. I also found it fascinating that so many vintage Rolls Royce cars were still running and featured in this modern-day TV series. One also got a glimpse of  Her Majesty's yacht, the Britannia, during the Duke of Edinburgh’s ocean voyage aboard it. 

Everything in this film series is grand in scale---be it the upside or the downside of history. Well worth your time watching this series on “The Crown.”  

Friday, February 28, 2020

Ph attracting the wrong kind of Chinese lately.

A few nights back I was in a taxi coming from dzRH where my radio partner, Magsaysay Award-winning thespian Cecile Guidote Alvarez, and I had just finished our weekly Sunday 6-7 pm. broadcast, "Radyo Balintataw."  As is my wont whenever I'm in a cab, I would chat with the driver to get the feel of the broad masses of our people on the issues of the day.

The cabbie narrated that one evening, a Chinese guy, drunk to the hilt, and his Filipino companion boarded his cab. The drunken Chinese slumped in the backseat while the Pinoy sat beside the driver. Pretty soon the Chinese fellow began kicking the side window of the cab and the  driver, fearing that the guy might break it, told the Pinoy, "You better control your companion or I'll yank him out and smash his face." 

I could believe the Pinoy cabbie for he was really a big stocky guy, who was also very furious with his drunken passenger.


Fortunately the Chinese guy stopped kicking the window and soon fell asleep. As the cab driver recalled the incident to me, he didn't care to hide his intense dislike for his passenger, and this seems to be the growing sentiment among Filipinos---how they dislike unruly Chinese in our midst.  This is unfortunate, for which Filipino does not have Chinese blood in his veins over centuries of interaction with them.

Our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, had a lot of Chinese blood and so did former President Sergio OsmeƱa. A lot of our business leaders who have controlled vital industries, particularly the banking sector,  boast of ancestors from China, and these taipans have contributed immensely to the growth and prosperity of our country. Outstanding Chinese-descended Filipino entrepreneurs such as Ramon Ang, Henry Sy, Al Yuchengco, Albino and Washington Sycip, Helen Dee, George Yang---one could go on and on in this hall of fame.


Unfortunately, many of the Chinese who have lately been allowed into our country appear to be coming  from the wrong side of the historical tracks.---and there's increasing resentment about them, especially from Pinoys from the working classes.  Recently Sen. Risa Hontiveros exposed in the Senate how the wrong Chinese elements have been allowed into the country with quick-facilitated visas--by corrupting unscrupulous immigration personnel. Sen. Risa revealed that the grease funds are called "pastillas" -- in that they are neatly folded and wrapped, like the sugar-and-milk delicacy we love.  

"Pastillas" refers to the massive bribery going on at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by Chinese elements who are being allowed illegal entry by corrupt and unscrupulous immigration officials--- in order to work for Philippine offshore gambling operations (Pogos) that have now proliferated like mushrooms in various parts of this  country. 

As Sen. Hontiveros asserted, a good number of these foreign workers were able to enter the country without the necessary permits, by bribing their way in---the bigger the bribe the more foreign personnel can come in. According to the Inquirer story, Hontiveros claims that as much as P10B has changed hands in this "pastillas" deal involving corrupt immigration personnel and Chinese without legal papers.


The tragedy is that, according to reports, nine out of every 10 immigration personnel were involved in the bribery racket, Last week Immigration Chief Jaime Morente was sacked---perhaps not for direct involvement in this racket, but for gross negligence.  As one can imagine, along with the rampant bribery at immigration come sister vices such as prostitution and DRUGS. In a recent interview Cecile Alvarez and I had with some prominent media personalities, the latter spoke about prostitution in the New Bilibid Prisons, with inmates paying far more for "imported tilapia," i.e., foreign women, than the "locals."  

Many thinking Filipinos feel that it's an insult to the integrity of our country and people that such gambling outfits are allowed to operate here---whereas they are supposed to be prohibited in China.  The Inquirer report assert that nine out of 10 immigration officials are involved in the visa racket and that bribes to fast-track visas for the Chinese run from P1,000 to P2,000. Thus the bribed Filipino airport customs personnel net anywhere from P8,000 to P20,000 extra weekly, from these corruption deals.


I must confess that I felt quite disturbed when President Duterte approved the POGO outlets to operate here, WHEREAS SUCH OPERATION IS OUTLAWED IN CHINA.  I'm sure majority of our people don't like this arrangement either.  For one thing, I do not approve of gambling. Then too, its easy to predict how bribery would flourish, given the propensity of some of our compatriots to graft and corruption.  Moreover, with gambling come the usual seamy suspects---prostitution, drugs, etc. 

To top it all, recent news reports indicate that the POGO outlets have been evading payment of taxes---thus adding insult to injury.

Lately, there's been talk in the news about an estimated 3,000 Chinese soldiers, disguised as "workers," who have been in the country for some time now, and from news outlets, their number keeps growing. What are they doing here?  Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP Chief, and some officials of the Armed Forces and the Defense Department have become truly alarmed, and they should be.


On the other hand, the massive "Chinese invasion" has driven up rentals of houses and building spaces, salaries of domestic personnel such as housemaids and drivers. I hear that the once snooty subdivisions such as Ayala Alabang, Corinthian, etc., as well as office spaces especially in Macapagal Avenue alongside the Bay are now teeming with Chinese lessors. 

On Macapagal Avenue, restaurants bear only Chinese names, and around 5pm. Chinese employees from the various buildings come down to take some snacks.  Thus, one would think he's somewhere in downtown China, because of the sheer number of predominantly youthful Chinese sauntering around!

I do hope that the Duterte administration rethinks its policy as it's not winning points for him in this regard. Moreover, it's easy to see how drugs, prostitution and various crimes would continue to proliferate in our midst. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

At our Radyo Balintataw weekly Sunday evening program, we tackled with CDO Rep. Rufus Rodriguez two crucial issues pending in Congress: the Visiting Forces Agreement that was unilaterally discarded by the President, and the fate of giant TV-radio network ABS-CBN

At the recent "Radyo Balintataw" program over nationwide dzRH, which Cecile Alvarez and I co-host every Sunday, 6-7pm., we invited 4th term representative of Cagayan de Oro Rufus Rodriguez as our guest. Rep. Rodriguez chairs the Constitutional Committee in the House and is also vice-chair of the House Committee on Justice, as well as a law professor in the San Sebastian College of Law.

Cecile and I focused on the two burning issues of the day: the recent, unilateral abrogation by President Duterte of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN, whose fate is now pending in the House of Representatives committee on franchises.


At the moment there are only 180 days left in the House session,  to reconsider the status of the VFA between the US and the Philippines. This has prompted moves in both chambers of Congress to challenge the VFA issue---which goes to the very heart of the long-standing US-Philippine relations---before the Supreme Court, which has constitutional authority to review our treaties with foreign countries.

The move to raise the VFA issue to the SC has predictably drawn support from both chambers of Congress. Leading the move in the  Senate to raise this burning issue to the SC is Sen. Panfilo Lacson. In the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel  has filed a resolution urging the DFA not to abrogate our standing treaty with the US.

Not lost on political observers is the fact that this issue of the sudden proposed VFA abrogation came about in a moment of strong presidential pique. The President was enraged by the refusal of the US to renew the visa of his close friend and ally, Sen. Ronald "Bato" de la Rosa, on the grounds of the latter's less than desirable record on human rights.  Mr. Duterte may be credited for being a most loyal friend, but he certainly is acting less presidential than he should on this issue.


On the other hand, as Rep. Rufus Rodriguez explained during our dzRH program last Sunday, the matter of franchises, which directly affects the fate of media giant ABS-CBN, is exclusive to the House of Representatives.

At the moment, as Rep. Rufus pointed out, there are already 13 members of the House who are for extending ABS-CBN's franchise and this number is expected to swell---a clear indication of the power and force of the media giant, among other considerations.


Rufus Rodriguez stressed the particular interest of the Filipino people in these two burning issues of the day---the move of President Duterte to unilaterally terminate the VFA  and to close down media giant ABS-CBN.  The people's reaction to these two issues can be measured in the recent SWS survey.

As Rodriguez noted, according to the SWS survey, a whopping 93% of the Filipino people want to recover Mischief Reef, while a full 87% feel that the Philippines should assert its victory on this issue. This issue was embodied in the favorable ruling by the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino a few years back---which recognized  and continues to uphold our country's rightful position vs. China's claim to these islands in the West Philippine Sea.


This large percentage of the Filipino people backing up our victory in the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague, in turn, Rodriguez stressed, shows the large percentage of Filipinos' trust in America (78%), vs. 12% who are distrustful.

To the great frustration of many of our people, however, this sentiment appears to be ignored by the Duterte administration, in its pivot to our big aggressive neighbor to the North.  The administration's current closeness to China is being viewed as Mr. Duterte's protest over the US' refusal to renew the visa of his closest ally, Sen. Ronald "Bato" de la Rosa.

Recall that this US refusal on Sen. De la Rosa's visa renewal comes on the heels of allegation that the latter was a notorious human rights violator during his days as PNP Chief---when he launched a brutal crusade vs. alleged drug dealers, most of them minors.


Rep. Rufus Rodriguez pointed out that the issue of the franchise renewal of the giant network ABS-CBN, lies within the domain of Congress and not of the Supreme Court,  but that a hearing has yet to be scheduled by the Committee on Legislative Franchise, which is headed by Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez. Rodriguez noted that the giant network has 11,000 employees and that its franchise expires by March 30 next year. 

This reality, Rodriguez said,  has prompted him to ask Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to start hearings on the ABS-CBN issue, perhaps in concurrence with the counterpart Senate committee headed by Sen. Grace Poe.

Very much involved in the Administration's battle against the giant network, the country's No. 1 radio-TV network,  is the constitutional provision on freedom of expression and of the press.  As Rep. Rufus Rodriguez pointed out, tremendous uncertainties spawned by a non-renewal of its franchise to operate would be very bad for the country in the eyes of the world. Moreover, Rufus stressed that the BIR has certified that the giant network has paid all its taxes.

So, what gives, other than immense presidential pique at this giant network?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Coronavirus now in 27 countries around the world---and counting. The Duterte administration has to come down hard on those who allow Chinese tourists to enter our country indiscriminately during this crisis period.

Statistics from the New Coronavirus (NCov) are simply staggering, showing how tough it is--- and would continue to be---to control this new epidemic upon the world. In fact there is fear among scientists that this coronavirus could be fast reaching pandemic proportions that recall those scourges in the Middle Ages which slew thousands upon thousands of people all over the world.

 Starting as a virus in a market of wild animals and bird species in the city of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province in central China, the NCov has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), due to the fact that there are now more than 27 countries around the world that have confirmed cases of the virus. This includes the Philippines, where one death was reported last week---a person who had been in direct contact with an ailing someone in Wuhan.

Soon after, a second case involving a Filipino surfaced, and today, the Inquirer reported of a 60-year old woman from Wuhan, who arrived in Cebu via Hongkong last Jan. 20 and went straight to Bohol. Two days later, she came down with fever  and colds and was admitted to a hospital there.


The whirlwind development that ensued with the virus, in turn, prompted many governments to prohibit travel to and from China,  with the epicenter of the virus, Hubei province in Central China, in total lock-down of its more than 50 million inhabitants. Just the thought of feeding these 50 million people locked in Hubei daily is already a huge nightmare for the Chinese government.

Unfortunately, however, there's no  such thing as total isolation of the deadly virus, for Wuhan is only 175 kilometers southwest of the very large city of Shanghai, China's financial hub, and the latter city has already reported more than 200 cases, including one death.  As of today, Thursday, Feb 06. 2020, China has confirmed some 28,049 cases of the virus, with deaths nearing 500 and 3,850 reported to be severe. 

Wuhan alone is said to have some 25,000 people ill with NCov as of this day. 


The NCov that's upon a broad part of the world, however, does not seem to have assumed pandemic status as yet at this point, for as of last Feb 04. some 15 countries around the world have tested negative. Russia was perhaps the first to close its long border with China. Other countries that tested negative of the NCov are the Czech Republic, Peru, Myanmar, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Austria, Mexico, New Zealand, Cyprus, Croatia, Switzerland, Greece, Denmark and Ireland. 

The Czech Republic has come up with a monofibre technology that could manufacture face masks that would limit the virus spread. This protective mask should be manufactured in bulk and scattered by governments around the world. 


Our country is trying its best to cope with the deadly virus and one key to containing it is to follow government regulations strictly. It is troubling, however, that such cooperation does not happen too often. For one thing, the Duterte administration did dilly-dally a bit in shutting down travel to and from Wuhan, despite early pressures to do so as the virus became more menacing.

But even when the Philippine government had already ordered a shut-down of travel to and from Hubei province---the airlines that used to travel to China have been grounded--- the Inquirer today reported that Chinese tourists continue to stream into Boracay despite the ban on planes to and from China.   How some unscrupulous folks manage to get those tourists to defy the ban is the million $ question. 

The Duterte government should come down hard on errant travel agencies involved in the trafficking of Chinese tourists, as they are jeopardizing the Filipino people's health for the sake of more business. 


What further aggravates matters for our country is that we host a tremendous lot of Chinese workers, young ones too and found mainly in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Offices (POGO). This makes it very tough for our government security to check these workers' movements in and out of our country. In addition, these Chinese workers frequently live in enclaves all over the metropolis that are shut off from the local authorities.

Recently there was news about Chinese women of ill-repute who come in and out of our country. It's easy to see that apart from the danger to our people's morals, they could also be harbingers of various diseases.


The government just has to be strict about regulations affecting public welfare and come down hard on those who disobey our laws. Otherwise we'll reap ill winds and hell's to pay for our laxity. Awaiting the Duterte administration is the tough task of bringing home Filipinos mainly from China, where the virus epicenter is located. 

Planes have been mobilized to bring the Pinoys back from the stricken Chinese cities, and the plan is to quarantine them first in the Athletes' Village in "New Clark City," the recent site of the ASEAN SEAGAMES. Such mass evacuation will entail tremendous effort on the Duterte administration as well as enormous expenses, but all these would be well-worth it, as tens of thousands of Filipino lives are at stake. 

The least we citizens could all do is to cooperate with the government.  


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Creation of the Department of Disaster Management, as proposed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, is most sensible---in fact, ASAP PLEASE. In the light of continuous terrible abuses of our Filipino domestics in Kuwait, let's impose A TOTAL BAN vs. Kuwait and not just a partial ban, Secretary Bello.

Trust the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Filipinos in the face of disaster.  Take the ongoing quakes that continue to shake the towns around Taal Volcano since a few days ago. When news first burst in media about these quakes shooting up deadly magma and victimizing surrounding towns around the lake, which could possibly affect towns and cities as far away as Metro Manila, folks all rushed to stores to buy face masks to protect them from the deadly volcanic fumes. Pretty soon these stocks ran out and here is where the latent ingenuity of the Pinoy came shining through once again.

Women all over Metro Manila and environs searched their aparadors for old brassieres and even panties, cut them up and used them as improvised gas masks, or for the panties to at least filter out volcanic ash. In fact, news came that even some churches were  recommending using these bra cups. Photojournalist Mandy Navasero became the poster girl for the improvised gas mask.

Ah, Pinoys, we will never be helpless.


Sen. Panfilo Lacson has made a most sensible and timely proposal: let's create a department dedicated primarily and exclusively to handling DISASTER MANAGEMENT.  It will be recalled that Lacson had directed the rehabilitation plan for communities affected by supertyphoon "Yolanda" in 2013. His idea is to create a permanent office under the Office of the President, that would handle IMMEDIATE AND SUSTAINED DISASTER RESPONSE.  

As he argues, right now the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) does not seem to be that effective, precisely because too many offices are involved---mainly chaired and composed of Cabinet secretaries who are not focused full-time on disaster and rehabilitation.


I thoroughly agree with Sen. Lacson about the urgent need for A DEPARTMENT DEDICATED EXCLUSIVELY TO DISASTER MANAGEMENT.  At the rate our country is being hit by disasters that are natural, not political, in various forms every year, response has been helter-skelter. Recall that until now, the destruction of Marawi City has not yet been fully addressed and it's far from being rehabilitated. Recall too, that there have been a number of strong earthquakes that have rocked Mindanao in the past two months that have ruined buildings and homes. Even the havoc created by Yolanda nearly seven years ago has not yet been fully addressed.

Sen. Grace Poe supports Lacson's idea of a separate Disaster Management Department, as she noted that until now, relocation of families in danger zones from past calamities has not been fully implemented. She also noted---and I totally agree---that the NDRRMC is just a COORDINATING body which does not have sufficient powers to complete the job of rehabilitation. 

The two senators should file an urgent motion to create such a Department of Disaster Management.


The Duterte administration has imposed a PARTIAL BAN on the deployment of Filpino maids to Kuwait. I say---and I'm sure a lot of our countrymen will agree with me---that we should have a TOTAL BAN on sending our Filipino women to that country to work as maids. Recall how a Filipino maid named Ofelia Dimapilis was mercilessly killed and frozen in a refrigerator FOR ONE WHOLE YEAR by her evil employer. While the employer was arrested and jailed, still, this was murder of a Filipino in the most gruesome way imaginable.

Then recall in very recent times a Filipino housemaid who jumped to her death from a tall building in Kuwait, to escape molestation by her employer. Then, just weeks ago, another Filipino maid named Jeanelyn Villavende came home in a box, with her skull cracked.


Of all the Middle Eastern countries, Kuwait seems the most abusive of our women. The ban on deployment of our women to that country should not just be partial, but TOTAL  It is no longer just a mere matter of economics, but sheer national honor and dignity crying to high heavens for justice---not just for the housemaids who had died but for the entire Filipino people. 

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said the government is imposing a PARTIAL BAN which should serve as a "clear message" to the Kuwaiti authorities. I maintain that this ban is not good enough, Sec Bebot Bello, let's COMPLETELY STOP SENDING OUR WOMEN TO THAT AWFUL COUNTRY.  Better still, let us manage our economy well and eliminate corruption in government, so that we would be self-sufficient and not needing to sacrifice our women's honor and dignity at the altar of foreign labor. Let's train our women in dignified work and employment right here in our homeland.