Monday, June 30, 2008

Decisions That Changed the Philippines

By Elfren Sicangco Cruz

The period 1983 to 1987 marked the transition in the Philippines from the terrible days of martial law to the restoration of democracy. And that period was shaped by a number of fateful decisions made by certain personalities

Those decisions that began twenty-five years ago will have lasting consequences during the next twenty-five years (or even longer) of the 21st century in Philippine political, economic and social life. In this column, I have chosen to narrate six of those fateful decisions. Again, I will remind the reader the reader that this is a simple narration.

It would take a whole book to answer related questions like how were those decisions reached? What influences were brought to bear on those persons who had to make the decisions? Were those decisions good for the country? And many other critical questions like those.

Perhaps, other commentators on Philippines history, like Manolo Quezon and Ambeth Ocampo will take up this challenging task .

I am sure not everyone will agree with my choices. But from my own personal perspective and historical analysis, here are six of those fateful decisions.

1. Ninoy Aquino Decides to Return to the Philippines from Exile ( 1983)

There is no question in my mind that Ninoy Aquino's decision to return to his homeland from exile, was the tipping point that started our country's journey to the restoration of its democratic institutions. The events that followed, from his assassination to the defiant demonstrations to the massive participation in the elections were the natural consequences of that heroic decision.

2. Cory Aquino Supports Participation Versus Boycott (1984)

In 1984, the election for the new members of the Batasang Pambansa was going to be held. The big debate was whether the opposition forces would participate in the elections or boycott. There were very strong arguments against participating. The Batasan was considered a Marcos puppet Congress and the administration would use money, violence, and cheating to make their candidates win. The debates threatened to permanently divide the opposition. But when Cory Aquino declared she was supporting participation, the majority decided to follow her lead.

This electoral exercise led to the election of several opposition members. More important, it showed that political parties, like PDP-Laban and UNIDO, could organize in the face of intimidation and bribery. It also became the major testing ground for NAMFREL.

3. Marcos Calls for Snap Elections (1985)

We were watching Marcos being interviewed by a foreign correspondent on television. At that time, there was absolutely no freedom of the press and to hear Marcos being grilled was an intellectual and emotional feast for us.

Suddenly he stated that he was going to call for snap elections. The first reaction was disbelief, followed by suspicion that this was another deceitful ploy. But the 1986 elections was the next high drama that set the stage for the EDSA revolution.

4. Cory Aquino and Doy Laurel agree to Run in a Single Ticket (1986)

There was no question that Cory Aquino had decided to run against Marcos no matter what other events would transpire including the possible candidacy of Doy Laurel. She was already considering other vice-presidentiables including Nene Pimentel.

But after a series of meetings and dialogues, Laurel decided to accept the vice -presidential position. The decision to run together unified the pro-democracy forces. This made it possible for the election to become a choice between democracy and dictatorship.

5. Jaime Cardinal Sin Calls on the People to Go to EDSA (1986)

After being informed of the situation, Cardinal Sin immediately called the people to go and protect the soldiers in Camp Crame literally with their bodies. At that point, even those who were aware of the events that were transpiring, were not clear about what the real story was. After all, just a few days before, people like Enrile were considered as villains by the pro-democracy groups. Going to Camp Crame to protect an Enrile against Marcos sounded like a horror story.

But Cardinal Sin was considered an icon and people responded to his call. If he had decided to delay his call by one day, it would probably have been too late.

6. Constitutional Commission Convened ( 1987)

Before the election of a new Congress in 1987, Cory Aquino was actually exercising dictatorial powers after her assumption of the presidency after the EDSA People Power Revolt.

There was actually tremendous pressure from several groups for then President Aquino to retain her dictatorial powers until there was political stability. The principal debate was whether or not the Philippines was "ready" for democracy. On the other side were those who argued that the whole crusade against Marcos was for the restoration of democracy and not simply a search for a "better" dictator.

The decision to convene a Constitutional Commission and to call for elections, in spite of threats from militarist groups, settled the issue on the side of those who believed in democracy.

The election of the Congress in 1987 brought an end to the transition period and the start of the restoration of democracy to the Philippines. There have been many other tests and fateful decisions during this post-transition period. But, for better or for worst, the majority of the Filipino people continue to adhere to the belief, in spite of all its defects, that there is still no better substitute for democracy.

Elfren S. Cruz
is a professor of Strategic Management at the Ramon del Rosario Sr. Graduate School of Business, De La Salle University—Manila. E-mail comments to

Friday, June 27, 2008

Joy ride to the US


The rewards for political loyalty and friendship to GMA include luxurious trips abroad, expensive wining and dining at posh hotels, stay in the same domicile, in the company of the Madame herself, according to former senator Ernesto Maceda. Maceda pointed out that the US government gave $100,000 assistance for victims of Typhoon Frank but that the cost of the junket incurred for $GMA's entourage must have reached more than $1,500,000 already.

Here is Maceda's breakdown: There were 20 members of the official delegation, that plus all the members of the Arroyo family who went along for the trip the Philippine delegation must have occupied at least 30 rooms at that hotel. With room rates ranging from $500 to $5,000 a night for suites and ordinary rooms the Philippine delegation would have spent anything from 10,000 to 150,000 US dollars a night for hotel stay alone. GMA hosted expensive lunches and dinners there too. Maceda said that the plane fare bill could reach $200,000 to 300,000 US dollars also. The private jet that was used to fly GMA from Fresno, California to Washington could easily have cost $300,000. As in previous US visits, the Security, Malacañang media and DFA support groups would number between 200 to 250 persons. It is normal that the Consul Generals from US and Canadian cities would also be called to Washington. The big delegation also means a big amount to be spent for chauffeured vehicles hired to be used, at a rate of about $800 to $1,000 a day depending on the class of vehicle. Easily $150,000 would be spent for car hires for five days. At least $100,000 would be used for PR and media purposes. It is probable that GMA also gave some pocket money to members of her delegation, including her PAL crew. This, as in the past, has turned out to be quite an expensive trip to the US and we haven't even factored in the cost of junket by those extra loyal congressmen, like you know who, other hanger ons, and the staff members of the cabinet officials that also went along for the joy ride.

Speaker Prospero Nograles said that there is no such list of congresspersons who went along for the US trip. But in the same TV news interview he said that the congressmen whose names were not on any list said that they did not use any public funds to finance their trip to see George Bush (what a waste of good money) and watch the Pacquiao fight. We all know that this is simply too good to be true. Congressmen are given almost 2 million pesos each for travel expenses which they convert to cash according to the government insider Ernesto Maceda.

The Maceda list of government officials who also joined the official delegation to the United states include: Speaker Nograles, Deputy Speaker Raul del Mar of Cebu, Amelita Villarosa of Oriental Mindoro, Mikey Arroyo, Dong Gonzales and Ana Bondoc of Pampanga, women legislators Annie Susano and Nanette Daza of Quezon City, Zenaida Angpin of Manila, Rizalina Seachon Lanete of Masbate, Trinidad Apostol of Leyte, Rachel Arenas of Pangasinan, Mitzi Cajayon of Caloocan and Herminia Ramiro of Misamis Occidental, Monico Puentevella of Bacolod, Antonio Cuenco of Cebu, Danilo Suarez of Quezon, Martin Romualdez of Leyte, Conrado Estrella III of Pangasinan, Junie Cua of Quirino and Hermilando Mandanas of Batangas, Marc Cagas of Davao del Sur, Yevgeny Emano of Misamis Oriental, Anton Lagdameo of Davao del Norte, William Erwin Tieng of Buhay party list, Jose Zubiri III of Bukidnon, Rommel Amatong of Compostela Valley, Rex Gatchalian of Valenzuela, Nelson Dayanghirang of Davao Oriental, Narciso Santiago III of ARC party list, Andres Salvacion of Leyte, Teodoro Coquilla of Eastern Samar, Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. of Cavite, Dato Macapagal of Camarines Sur, Joseph Violago of Nueva Ecija, Marc Mendoza of Batangas and Roman Romulo of Pasig, Bienvenido Abante of Manila, Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte, Albert Garcia of Bulacan, Antonio Diaz of Zambales, Eddie Gullas of Cebu, Amado Bagatsing of Manila, Rosario Rufino Biazon of Muntinglupa, Munir Arbison of Sulu, and Joseph Santiago of Catanduanes. What a shame!

By the way this junket happened at a time when responsible government officials are badly needed back home with our people just beginning to come to terms with the tremendous amount of devastation brought by typhoon Frank.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Lucio Tan Story

By Frank Wenceslao

Imelda Marcos reportedly would testify as another witness of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to recover the late President's 60% equity in each of Lucio Tan's companies. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. previously testified his father told him and his sister, Imee, to familiarize themselves with the operations and management of the companies because they own them.

Lucio Tan's unknown story is he rose to be one of the richest Filipinos according to Forbes because of Marcos' propensity to partner with Chinese Filipino businessmen including the late Ralph Nubla who's probably the most faithful. Marcos' support for Tan might've included multiple duplication and use of internal revenue stamp on tobacco products that enabled Tan to expand Fortune Tobacco Corp. into Asia Brewery and several other big corporations which probably won't happen had Marcos foreseen San Miguel Corporation would one day be run by Danding Cojuangco.

It's common knowledge in the business community that Marcos' help was essential condition to put up large-scale and capital intensive project that needed government financing and tax incentives. It's likewise known the dictator demanded minimum 60% equity in the proponent company whose head had practically no risk but contribute to Imelda's charities or send gifts on her birthday.

Many behest projects were abandoned after a PNB or DBP loan was granted and the borrower like CDCP's Rudy Cuenca ran laughing all the way to deposit the loan proceeds in a foreign bank. To Tan's and other Chinese Filipinos' credit they implemented and managed well their projects to success. The reason according to some coffeeshop wags was after Dewey Dee got millions of pesos of unsecured loans and ran away Marcos warned that anyone who'd do the same should be prepared for every member of his family to be terminated.

Tan's companies couldn't have been exempted from giving 60% equity to FM in every Marcos-supported company. The best thing Tan should do since he still enjoys influence with the powers that be is to negotiate conversion of Marcos equity into non-voting government-owned preferred stock with guaranteed earnings. The longer Tan fights PCGG there's a danger he would lose all and probably go to jail for corporate corruption under US laws enforcing the UNCAC.

Paper trails when examined by the US Securities and Exchange Commission's inventory system would show that Tan couldn't have legally and statistically raised the funds for the expansions and acquisitions of his family-owned or controlled corporations (FOCCs) to date. This goes for Henry Sy, John Gokongwei and others.

The only explanation is the funds came from the proceeds of corruption defined by FBI as 'income of illegal origin, concealed, disguised, or made to appear legitimate (which is the main objective); and to evade detection, prosecution, seizure, and taxation' and therefore actionable under US laws that pulled the rug under the feet of America's CEOs and foreign officials, e.g. former Ukrainian PM Pavel Lazarenko, now in US jail.

Under post-Marcos administrations Tan has added the Philippine Airlines (PAL) whose profits are siphoned off by his FOCCs. Tan's restaurant has sole catering rights for PAL passengers while another Tan's FOCC leases or purchases planes then leases them to PAL at exorbitant prices.

Tan also acquired the Philippine National Bank which with its merger with Allied Banking Corporation, a product of the Marcos-Tan partnership, would have combined resources making the resulting entity one of the biggest banks in the country.

The corporate corruption perpetrated by Tan and his ilk would make imprisoned American CEOs die of envy such as Worldcom's Bernard Ebbers, Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski, Adelphia's John Rigas, Enron's Jeff Skilling, etc. because their Philippine counterparts have been untouchable to date.

But not for long, thanks to the UNCAC and US laws enforcing it. Pamusa has written Tan and others to step up and negotiate settlement which would be submitted for US court approval; afterwards the records will be sealed from the public and can't be used for future legal action.

Of course, there should be accurate accounting of illicit assets for settlement and which portion would be retained by an offender. This is probably very difficult to accept for Tan and others having enjoyed the powers and perks given them by the media and business community.

They should be assured, though, that US court approved settlements took cognizance of asset-growth that wouldn't have been possible without, say, Tan's business acumen and management skills. These variables can be quantified and credited to Tan and Pamusa would be fair in this regard.

On Pamusa's part we ask for still negotiable amount granted to a whistleblower under US law to enable us to bring to justice the nefariously corrupt such as smugglers, drug traffickers, jueteng lords, gun-for-hire syndicates and organized criminals that can't be defeated as long as they see public and corporate corruption going on everyday and can bribe their way out of dirty policemen and law enforcers.

Tan and his ilk have to hurry up. The reaction from President Arroyo's staff for our proposed reforms to be the centerpiece of her exit strategy is encouraging. It'd give Pamusa access to government evidence on corruption cases on which we can base legal actions in the US pursuant to President Bush's International Initiative to Combat Kleptocracy enforcing the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) with US laws, particularly in reference to this passage, to wit:

"A critical element in our fight against grand corruption is our effort to deny kleptocrats access to fruits of their corruption. The United States has a wide range of mechanisms to prevent, detect, and prosecute grand corruption, and trace and recover the proceeds of such corruption. We employ the full range of our authorities and tools in a comprehensive, strategic way to target assets misappropriated by current and former senior foreign government or political officials, their close associates and immediate family members, or other politically exposed persons (PEPs) ."

PCGG lamentably has barely touched the surface of the estimated $10 to $15 billion Marcos' and cronies' ill-gotten wealth which surely includes equities in companies the dictator favored. Much has been added to said ill-gotten wealth with billions of dollars more stolen by current and former government officials, their close associates and immediate family members, or private individuals and businessmen that colluded with them during the post-Marcos administrations.

Worse, conspiracies between high-level public officials and businessmen led to outright larceny of government assets including foreign aid and loan funds. The proceeds of corruption have expanded businesses, raised equity to acquire control of publicly-traded corporations, and increased investment overseas by which concerned businessmen have acquired tremendous economic and political powers that suit US prosecution under racketeering statute (RICO) which is often used now against corporate corruption.

Send to any information about corruption.

This article is also posted at -- "The globe in perryscope!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Protecting her Flanks

By Antonio C. Abaya
Written on June 23, 2008
For the Standard Today,
June 24 issue

President Arroyo must be throwing up her hands in mock despair, and she must be screaming to anyone within earshot that, "Ay naku. I am gone for less than 10 hours and, almost immediately, one ship with more than 700 people on board capsizes in a typhoon with practically no survivors."

For someone who fervently believes that "the Lord put me here," this tragic turn of events must have reinforced her feelings of indispensability, that without her physical presence, this country of 90 million would go to hell in a kariton..

President Arroyo and her entourage took off from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at about 10:30 pm, Saturday, June 21, for a 10-day visit to the US.

At about this time, the 23,800 ton ferry Princess of the Stars, having weighed anchor at Manila port at 8:00 pm, must have been somewhere between the Batangas coast and Mindoro island, on its way to Cebu

Hours later, buffeted by heavy seas churned up by Typhoon 'Frank" the ship is said to have run aground and its engine to have died died off Sibuyan Island. At about 5:00 am, Sunday morning, the crew sounded the "Abandon ship!" alarm and the ferry listed to port, capsized and sank, with its inverted bow jutting up from the water.

At times like this, when the power is out and there is no TV, I instinctively reach for the radio to find out what is going on. I was able to tune in to 15 AM and 15 FM stations.

The FM stations were totally useless. They were all playing pop music as if there was no national emergency, with some obnoxious deejays actually making dumb and silly noises in an effort to sound funny.

Among the 15 AM stations, only four had any concept of public service as their staffs scrambled to get information from relevant offices like the weather bureau, the coast guard, the Red Cross, Meralco, etc to feed to their publics. These were dzRH, dzMM, dwIZ and Radio Veritas. Most of the rest were nonchalantly playing jungle music, two were airing religious programs. I stayed with dzRH.

It was on this station that I listened to the teleconference at around 10 am, between President Arroyo in San Francisco and the National Disaster Coordinating Council convened somewhere in Metro Manila.

President Arroyo was asking Admiral Querubin if his Coast Guard had issued a warning to all ships not to leave port because of the approaching typhoon. Yes, ma'am, we did. But why was the Princess of the Stars allowed to sail? Because, ma'am, it is 23,800 tons.

So your warning was not directed to ALL ships and boats. It was, ma'am. But you just said that the Princess of the Stars was not warned to stay in port. Yes, ma'am. Why didn't you tell that ship to seek shelter in Batangas port……

At this point, with the president's voice going up in pitch and decibel, no doubt out of sheer frustration, media was told to leave the conference hall…

But why did President Arroyo leave for the US, in the first place, her third visit since 2001? Is she planning to seek shelter soon, just in case..?

According to media reports, President Arroyo is scheduled to have a two-hour meeting with President Bush at the Oval Office on June 24; a "possible meeting" with Sen. Barack Obama in Washington DC on June 25; and a scheduled lunch with Sen. John McCain on June 28 in New York.

There are other scheduled meetings in between, including lunch with permanent representatives to the UN to push for the nomination of Sen. Miriam Santiago to the International Court of Justice; with certain US senators to thank the US Senate for its support for Philippjne war veterans; with business and investment leaders, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, and one official from the Department Of Agriculture; with Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world; etc. She will also strike the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Inquirer, June 21).

But my sense is that the real purpose of the visit is the meetings with Bush, Obama and McCain. And she is meeting with these three to protect her flanks. Everything else is mere fluff.

The coordinator of this visit – San Francisco consul general (not Ambassador, as media describe him) Marciano Paynor, Jr. – says he did not see anything wrong with PGMA meeting McCain and Obama ahead of the presidential elections. He said that this was something done by every head of state or government. (Inquirer, June 21)

Really? In the past 60 days, President Bush was visited by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. I do not recall either of them meeting with McCain or Obama or Hillary Clinton.

President Arroyo has been trying to meet with Bush for years. In the APEC Summits in Hanoi and Sydney, her press people talked about 20-minute one-on-ones with George W, which were either cancelled by the Americans or reduced to a seven-minute "pull-over" photo-op, meaning, I presume, that he was pulled over on his way to or from the men's room.

In February 2006, on the 20th anniversary of Edsa I People Power "Revolution", it was suddenly announced that she was leaving for Washington to address the American Press Club (APC), but then, just as suddenly, her trip was cancelled. (See my article GMA to the USA, Feb. 12, 2006)

My interpretation of this little mystery was: Malacanang's PR retainer in Washington DC was able to wangle the speech invitation from the APC, a poorer cousin of the prestigious National Press Club With this speech invitation, the White House was asked for a meeting with Bush, since GMA was going to be in Washington anyway.. When the White House said no, the speech date with APC was cancelled.

President Arroyo is not the favorite "ally" of the Americans that she may think she is, after she withdrew the 51 Filipino policemen from the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq in 2004, and after she signed an agreement with Beijing for the joint exploration for oil in the Spratlys, also in 2004. In 2005, Vice-President Dick Cheney is said to have started moves to remove her from power, starting with the Hello Garci tapes, which, according to my information, were made possible by the US National Security Agency or NSA.

The Americans could not have grown fonder of her after the aborted, corruption-ridden ZTE broadband contract in 2007, which would have given the Chinese total and instant knowledge of all decisions of the Philippine government, including sensitive ones such as on the positioning of US troops and intel assets in Mindanao, Sulu, and Basilan. How could she have been so naïve as to be unaware of the consequences of her actions?

President Arroyo obviously wants to personally explain to Bush (and his successor) why she did what she has done. And perhaps sound them out on a possible declaration of martial law if and when it becomes necessary in 2009 or 2010, given the deteriorating global situation. Or a possible asylum in San Francisco, just in case. But two hours?

Philippine leaders should shed their inferiority complex and realize that their true weight on the world stage is measured, not by the ability of their gofers to pull over the American president from the men's room for a seven-minute photo-op, but by the calibre of those who come and seek an audience with them.

And in the past 60 days, who have come calling in Malacanang? The president of Palau (pop. 20,800 at low tide). And the King of Lesotho, who took along three of his 15 wives. Perhaps he thought his fellow polygamist Erap was still president of the Philippines. *****.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Saga of Joc-Joc Bolante

by Perry Diaz

Seven years ago, Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante never had it so good. He was on top of the world. In my article, "The Joc-Joc Affair is No Joking Matter" (July 28, 2006), I wrote: "He was appointed as Agriculture Undersecretary for Finance and Administration by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001, shortly after she assumed the presidency from deposed president Joseph Estrada. 'Joc-Joc' was 'right' for the job with his impeccable credentials which included membership and various leadership roles in the Rotary International, the prestigious service organization whose motto is 'Service Above Self.' Up to that point in his life, Bolante appears to have done everything right and maintained an unblemished business and professional reputation."

Four years later, in sudden turn of events, his world turned upside down. As Agriculture Undersecretary, Bolante had administrative and "discretionary" authority over the multi-billion peso fertilizer funds. In June 2004 -- following the controversial 2004 re-election of President Arroyo -- former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez filed plunder cases against President Arroyo and several Department of Agriculture officials including Bolante for alleged misuse of the fertilizer funds.

In 2005, the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon) initiated a series of joint public hearings to investigate the alleged fertilizer scam. Consequently, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism conducted its own investigation and discovered that a large portion of the P728-million fertilizer funds was released to fictitious -- or "ghost" -- foundations. In December of 2005, the Senate joint committees chaired by Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. issued a report which concluded that the fertilizer funds intended for farmers were diverted by Undersecretary Bolante for the 2004 electoral campaign of President Arroyo. According to the report, collaborative testimonies from Agriculture officials, 13 farmer groups, Commission on Audit officials, the Budget Secretary, and alleged "runners" of Bolante indicated that the "farmers did not get a single farm input or implement" in 2004.

Soon after the report came out, Bolante disappeared and became a fugitive from justice after failing to appear before the Senate joint committees. Senator Magsaysay said that Bolante was subpoenaed four times but his whereabouts were unknown. On July 7, 2006, Bolante was arrested after he tried to enter the United States with a cancelled visa. Unbeknown to Bolante, Senator Magsaysay had previously requested the US Embassy in Manila to cancel his visa. However, instead of refusing him entry into the US, he was detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of the Department of Homeland Security.

To avoid deportation, Bolante sought political asylum claiming that he would be persecuted if he returned to the Philippines. On June 25, 2007, an Immigration Judge denied his application for asylum and was ordered deported.

Bolante did not waste any time in filing an appeal with the Federal Court of Appeals. His lawyers made their oral arguments before the court last February 11, 2008. The court is expected to make its decision by July. Meanwhile, he is detained at the Kenosha Detention Center in Wisconsin where he is treated like a common criminal. Should the Court of Appeals uphold the lower court's decision, Bolante can still exercise his rights to appeal his case before the U.S. Supreme Court. If he succeeds with his appeal, he would then become a permanent resident.

Recently, a leader in the Filipino-American community in the Midwest notified me of a rumor that has been going around. Accordingly, Bolante is pleading poverty and is also trying to be moved out of detention for health reasons, claiming that he is ill. The Fil-Am leader said that they are opposing his release and a letter-writing campaign was started to make the proper authorities aware of what he has done.

Indeed, the "Fertilizer Scam," of which he was named in the Senate report as the "master architect of the scam," has recently been mentioned as one of the reasons for the poor production of rice; thus forcing the Philippine government to increase its importation of rice. Today, the Philippines is the top importer of rice. According to the testimony of Chavez, the fertilizer funds were disbursed as follows: 25% to Bolante; 30% to a group of 26 mayors, 49 governors and 103 congressmen; 20% to the supplier of farm inputs; and 25% for Bolante's "runners." The biggest chunk for one individual -- a whopping P182 million -- went to Bolante.

With Bolante's deportation almost a certainty, his homecoming could jolt the political landscape and destabilize the Arroyo government. It is anticipated that the Senate would reopen the "Fertilizer Scam" investigation and summon Bolante to give his belated testimony. With nowhere to go, Bolante wouldn't have too many options. The question is: Is he going to sing like a canary and implicate government officials including those in Malacanang? If he would, it could be the mother of all scandals.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Does the Catholic Church recognize its greater crisis?

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
Sunday, June 15, 2008

"We do not deny the fact that we are really in crisis." — Davao Auxiliary Bishop George Rimando was quoted on the front page of the STAR on May 19.

He also said: "We can see now that some of our parishes in the archdiocese are encountering financial instability brought by the crisis that we are experiencing in our country."

Somehow, Bishop Rimando's words give us the impression that he considered money as the greatest of the Church's concern. He did not even recognize what we consider most critical to the Catholic Church â€' conflicting actions of Church leaders with what they preach to the faithful.

The Catholic Church in the Philippines is steadily losing its following and this, not declining revenues, ought to be the Church's greater concern. When the Catholic faithful starts losing faith and trust in the clergy, who can blame them for seeking spiritual alternatives?

Thirty years ago, the Catholic Church got worried over the rise of the Charismatic Movement as many Filipinos became attracted to the more dynamic Charismatics. To them, the Catholic Church seemed too dogmatic, static, irrelevant and had this inclination to preach instead of love, as Christ wanted.

This fear of losing out to the Charismatic Movement resulted in the Catholic Church trying to fight fire with fire, so to speak, by launching its own Charismatic Movement. I believe this was what gave Mike Velarde the opportunity to develop El Shaddai which many view today as another political fiefdom founded on religious pretenses.

From where I sit, wrecking another chair, the Catholic Church reaped a worse problem with Mike Velarde than those Charismatics they originally feared. I can hardly recognize the Christianity I was taught with all the umbrella and handkerchief gimmicks of Mike Velarde. There is also this persistent issue of unaccounted funds of the El Shaddai. If you see Mike Velarde's house in Ayala Alabang, your impression that 'God is good business' will be reinforced.

Look at how the Church today cannot even take a united stand in guiding its flock to fight the evil in their midst. An evil regime continues to destroy our democracy and our value system. Some Bishops recognize and fight the evil while some even defend it.

Look at the different position the heads of the Council of the Laity in the Philippines and at the Vatican adopted over the Frank Padilla induced issues against Gawad Kalinga (GK) — against the stand of the majority of the Bishops who supported GK on the same issues.

Look at the vast tracts of land held by some Bishops where not a portion has been devoted to provide a dignified domicile for the least of our people. Many Catholics are scandalized by it.

Is this rooted to Catholicism having been imposed on Filipinos as a tool of conquest and subjugation, rather than a path to spiritual salvation? The cross and the sword were part of Spain's grand strategy to achieve its imperial ambition.

This is not to discredit the good number of well-meaning priests and nuns who came here with a pure heart and sincere purpose. But the despicable reputation of Spanish friars cannot be denied. These friars fathered children, lived lives of depravity and decadence and worse of all — they served as collaborators in effectively subverting Filipino nationalism.

Let us not forget our past because up to this day, Filipinos are plagued by the same formula of psychic subjugation — applied since 1521 and now maintained by the new generation of profiteers and exploiters. It is no wonder that some so-called spiritual leaders in this country are able to develop what are clearly political bases (more than spiritual communities) — where they could best take advantage of the unwitting flock, use them as political leverage.

We cannot overlook the inconsistency of the Catholic Church in our political affairs. To a foreigner, the events of the last 25 years alone raise questions as to where the Catholic Church in the Philippines really stands, what the real core values of the Catholic Church leaders are.

How does one reconcile the role Jaime Cardinal Sin played in leading the removal of the Marcos regime in 1986 with today's two Cardinals — Cardinals Gaudencio Rosales and Ricardo Vidal — who support an evil regime?

One can only conclude that either Cardinal Sin is a champion of freedom and democracy and that Cardinals Rosales and Vidal are siding with evil, or vise versa.

This is not to suggest that the Catholic Church should be totally removed from politics. This will be going against Christian spirituality which asks each one to take up the cudgels for the poor and the oppressed. By all means, the Catholic Church, just as the late Pope Paul II led the world in fighting the Communist oppression, must and should take a stand whenever evil rules the land.

The Catholic flock is disillusioned when Church leaders support largely perceived evil rulers, when these Church leaders appear to be rationalizing and sanitizing evil. This is so reminiscent of Cardinal Richelieu, who effectively utilized his Church title to consolidate royal power as King Louis XIII's designated Chief Minister.

If we want to ferret out the cancer in our society, we must not confine ourselves to guilty lay persons. As a matter of fact, spiritual leaders, who have the virtual license to strike fear and awe in the minds of worshippers, can do more harm to the country in perpetrating attitudes that foster a worse form of social cancer. They can transform simple political choices into complicating matters of faith and conscience.

Note how religious wars and animosities pass on from generation to generation. Filipinos once hated the Japanese for the brutality they inflicted here during World War II. But all that is now forgotten. In just 20 years, Filipinos transformed from Japanese haters to Japanese admirers and patrons of products that were made in Japan.

In contrast, how come Filipino Christians and Muslims continue to distrust each other and engage in conflict to this day? That is what a religious element brings into a conflict.

Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: and

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sulu and our Tausug Brothers

Jose Ma. Montelibano

After three weeks in the United States, I thought it was basically the weather and the infrastructure that made the basic difference between here and there. I quickly realized it was not just the heat, or the old airport, that reminded me I was home. It was also the news of the kidnapping of Ces Drilon and her crew.

It upset me so to keep reading about the sad news of Ces. Only five weeks ago, I had been to Sulu with co-workers from Gawad Kalinga (GK) to attend groundbreaking rites of our first village in Patikul. I remembered our courtesy call to the governor at his office, how he had expressed his deep wish for the return of normalcy to the province, and how he hoped that groups and projects like Gawad Kalinga could facilitate the process of peace and break the image of violence associated with Sulu.

In truth, Sulu has been enjoying relative peace for the last few years. While violent clashes between renegade MNLF or Abu Sayyaf terrorists have broken out intermittently, the conflict that had characterized Sulu since the early days of martial law had long given way to consistent efforts for peace. Unfortunately, much blood and resentment had flowed between Muslims and the military, and ill will persisted way beyond actual fighting.

The military stood as the main representative of a government that is basically comprised of Christians, reviving a historical Muslim-Christian conflict that had started more than a thousand years ago. There are very few Christians left in Sulu, and they are a very careful and quiet minority. Even the Catholic Church is a meek institution in Sulu, quite mute actually. Perhaps, the slaying of a bishop some years ago has taught the present one that prudence is the better part of valor.

Three years ago, the former governor of Sulu asked Gawad Kalinga to establish its presence in the province just as GK had in several towns and provinces in Muslim Mindanao. The leadership of GK did not hesitate to agree, yet it had taken three years of waiting before the first model house now stands in Patikul. In between, there were a few "almost there" situations which eventually were aborted by recurring armed conflict on the ground.

When I traveled around a few places in Sulu, I was struck by the sheer natural beauty of an island blessed with the clearest and cleanest shorelines I had ever seen. I wish there were more people smiling to depict typical Filipino friendliness, but I did not sense hostility either. There were a lot of curious faces, though. It seemed that Sulu was not used to strangers anymore, especially Christian strangers.

I must admit that my co-workers and I felt apprehension even though we tried so hard to hide it. We went as far as to avoid talking about our fears; perhaps, we felt that it was not time to allow these fears to surface but instead manifest our deeper wishes for the return of friendship and cooperation between brothers of the same homeland. It helped so much that mutual friends sharing a common dream for Sulu gave us so much moral support, allowing us to be recipients of the cooperation of the governor of the province and the mayor of Patikul.

There are so many other individuals and groups who had never deserted their dream for the renaissance of a jewel of Philippine history. The sultanates of Sulu are a historical pride of Filipinos, evidence of a refined civilization that preceded the accidental encounter of Magellan and our native shores. There is cause for resentment among Tausugs. They lost so much in four hundred years, not just lives sacrificed for honor but also wealth, dignity and an illustrious history.

My sympathy for a people who lost so much is the same sympathy for the rest of Filipinos who lost just as much. While the sultanates of Sulu had their pomp and glory, the status of national leaders recognized by leaders of other nations, the natives of the north built and landscaped mountains to become the sculptured rice terraces complete with agricultural engineering and irrigation facilities far superior than most cultures could imagine a few thousand years ago.

When proud Tausugs were horrified at how their rights and control over their lands and natural resources were grabbed by force, and how they fought to keep what they had, gentle brothers of the same blood were brought to submission, also by force, and suffered the shame of being stripped of possession and dignity. The wholesale confiscation of land not only deprived Filipinos of their entrepreneurship, it gave birth to the millions of squatter families today who still cry for the return of their birthright.

The Tausugs and other Muslim tribes lost Moroland just as the vast majority of Filipinos lost their lupang hinirang. The big difference is that Moros kept fighting for Moroland while most other Filipinos took defeat and dispossession as painful facts of life and then tried to live with it. The great irony is that Muslims became rebels for fighting a just cause. The great shame is that the rest of the Filipino people chose to remain slaves of an unjust history. The great scandal is that foreign masters have left our shores but confiscated lands have never been returned.

The collaboration of power players, mainly the State and the Church, has extended a historical anomaly that begs to be corrected. While both State and Church began with no land, they ended up with so much. While natives of our lupang hinirang once owned everything, they are mostly left with nothing, not even their memories. Except the Moros, except the Tausugs. For remembering, they have become outcasts and rebels.

We cannot keep crying over spilt milk, but we have no greater power than those who rule today and who have not felt the compunction to correct the wrongs of yesterday. What is left in us is a dream that cannot die, that must not die. While we are not sure how justice can be attained in peace, we cannot foster conflict, death and destruction either. What is clear, however, is that Muslims and Christians are brothers, that Muslims and Christians are victims, and that Muslims and Christians must seek friendship and cooperation. That is the only way for a future full of hope.***

Thursday, June 19, 2008

La Gloria's U.S. Junket

by Perry Diaz

Six months ago, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo went on a three-country European junket with an entourage of 192 which included the entire First Family (nine persons), 34 congressmen and their spouses, and 50 business cronies. By the end of 2007, Arroyo had traveled to 18 countries -- one every 20 days! -- and spent P588.5 million. In 2006, she traveled to 13 countries and spent P398 million. In 2005, she traveled to four countries and spent P154 million. This year, the cost of her travels continue to rack up millions of taxpayers' money.

Her forthcoming "working" visit to the United States on June 23 to 29 once again manifests her high-flying addiction to junketing. Arroyo will meet with President George W. Bush at the Oval Office to thank him for "all the help he gave to the Philippines during the eight years of his term." The two leaders are also going to discuss ways of "strengthening" U.S.-Philippines relations. It seems to me that that is always the reason for a Philippine President to visit the White House. I wonder if Arroyo realized that Bush is now a lame duck President and will be out of office next January. Shouldn't she wait until John McCain or Barack Obama becomes President? Of course, that would be another opportunity for her to come back next year.

While in the U.S., Arroyo is also going to attend a dinner organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the ASEAN-U.S. Business Council. It will cost Arroyo $8,000 for a table for ten. As to how many of her retinue of politicians, government officials, and their spouses would attend, I wouldn't be surprised if all of them would want to go to the dinner. Of course, Gloria will pick up the tab which will eventually be paid for by poor Juan de la Cruz.

Arroyo's junkets and her other expenses have cost Juan de la Cruz a lot of money. A recent report by the Commission on Audit (COA) showed that in 2007 Arroyo's foreign and domestic travels totaled P622.6 million. That's 239% more than the all the salaries of the employees in the Office of the President which would include all executive offices, agencies, commissions, and committees under her.

In addition, the COA report showed that P618.6 million were disbursed as "donations" to unknown beneficiaries. And add to that another P531.9 million for all types of expenses such as confidential expenses, consultancy expenses, extraordinary expenses, representation expenses and allowances, other personal benefits, year-end bonuses, "cash gifts," and honoraria. The sum is a whopping P1.8 billion. That's a lot of moolah -- enough to build 36,000 Gawad Kalinga homes.

During the 110th Independence Day last June12, Arroyo cut the cost of the Independence Day program at the Rizal Park to show the people that she's willing to conserve money at a time of rising food prices. However, on the night of June12, Arroyo hosted a glitzy reception at the Malacanang Palace for the diplomatic corps and the country's elite.

What is appalling was the ostentatious display of pomp at the Malacanang reception, especially the revival of the elitist dance, the "rigodon de honor." Arroyo handpicked the 20 couples -- the country's rich and famous or, I might say, the cream of Gloria's "Enchanted Kingdom" -- who participated in the rigodon.

It is interesting to note that the last time the rigodon was performed in Malacanang was on June 30, 1981 during the third inauguration of President Ferdinand Marcos. When Cory Aquino ascended to the presidency after Marcos was overthrown in 1987, she prohibited the rigodon from being performed in all official functions, an oblique rejection of a dance considered to be fitting only for the high and mighty ruling elite. After 27 years of not performing this unnecessary display of power and affluence, Gloria revived the rigodon at a time when the people are in dire need and impoverished.

After all the speeches at the June 12th reception had ended, the media people were unceremoniously told to leave. Thus, nobody from the media witnessed the "rigodon de honor" except one -- outgoing Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye. Bunye disclosed and described the rigodon in detail -- including the names of the participants -- in his weekly newspaper column. Arroyo should have told him to leave the reception too.

Arroyo's junkets and high-maintenance lifestyle make a lot of people wonder if she realized that the country is in a state of chaos and decay. Recent polls show that seven out of 10 Filipinos cannot afford to buy food nor pay their electric bills. With the price of rice going up as high as P50 per kilo today, how can a family of five survive on a daily wage of P70? Yet, we have the country's leader squandering money left and right that could otherwise be used to provide shelter and food for the powerless poor. Is she likened to a modern-day equivalent of Nero who fiddled while Rome was burning?


Friday, June 13, 2008

The Hydrogen Future

By Antonio C. Abaya
Written on June 11, 2008
For the Standard Today,
June 12 issue

According to a recent story from Agence France Presse (AFP), published in the June 04 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, some 3,000 households in Japan, including the official residence of the Prime Minister, are now equipped with hydrogen fuel cells – the size of a cupboard, according to AFP - to light, heat and energize the homes.

Ever since I was invited to a demonstration and briefing on fuel cells in 1995, at the Hyatt Jamboree Hotel in Irvine, southern California – by the company that supplies NASA with fuel cells for its space ships - I have been the number one advocate of hydrogen fuel cells in this country. I wrote then, as I write now, that hydrogen is the fuel of the future. And the future is now. (See my article Hydrogen Economy, Dec. 26, 2004).

In an operating fuel cell, oxygen from the air and hydrogen (from natural gas or from water) are combined in an acidic solution to produce electricity. There is no noise, virtually no pollution, and the exhaust is nothing more noxious than water vapor.

If the hydrogen is extracted (by electrolysis) from water, as I have also been advocating, there is no pollution at all.

In the Hyatt Jamboree Hotel, the fuel cell is less than half the size of a tennis court, and its exhaust of water vapor is condensed as hot water, which is used by the hotel's laundry.

In 1995, the price of oil was probably around $20 a barrel. The per kilowatt price of power generated by fuel cells then was about ten times that of power generated by coal or diesel fuel.

But with the price of oil now at $134 a barrel and climbing, the price differential is becoming minimal, especially if one were to factor in the medical and hospitalization expenses incurred by millions of people from the pollution, plus the damage to the environment in the way of more extreme floods, droughts and desertification blamed on global warming .

In 2002, the government of Iceland was the first in the world to declare an official policy to move away from a carbon to a hydrogen economy. Iceland is lucky because it has substantial geothermal resources that it uses to energize the homes and commercial and industrial enterprises of its 300,000 people. But it needs and is using hydrogen fuel cells to power its fleet of buses, lorries and automobiles, as well as its vital fishing industry. (See my article Learn from Iceland, Aug. 14, 2005)

Since then, the governments of Norway, Sweden, New Zealand and Costa Rica have declared an official policy of achieving a "carbon-neutral" economy. By this, I surmise, these countries scrutinize their carbon-energy usages and balance those with non-carbon initiatives, until they reach a level of equilibrium between the two energy sources. And to achieve that, they have to increase the use of non-carbon energy alternatives such as hydro-electric, geothermal, wind, solar and hydrogen fuel cells.

Again, it can be said that Norway, Sweden and New Zealand have vast hydro-electric resources - New Zealand also has substantial geothermal assets - so it is relatively easy for them to reduce dependency on carbon fuels.

But Israel – which has no oil, and very meager hydro resources – announced about two weeks ago that it was building a network of hydrogen service stations around the country. This is obviously in preparation for the coming of automobiles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, and the logical assumption is that few people will buy hydrogen cars if there are no hydrogen service stations where they can conveniently re-fuel their vehicles.

As far as I know, three major automakers – Honda of Japan, and BMW and Daimler of Germany – have announced that they will start mass-producing hydrogen fuel-cell-powered cars in the next three years. Can the other automakers be far behind? (See my article High on Hydrogen, Jan. 23, 2007)

(Whenever I wrote an article on hydrogen, a Filipino reader would always douse my enthusiasm, saying that hydrogen was only what he called a "storage medium" and can never be a primary source of energy. And I would always argue back that hydrogen was the most abundant element in the universe and was the mother of all energies.

(It is the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium atoms that is the source of the heat and light of the Sun and other stars. It is, in turn, the heat and radiation of the Sun that creates the solar and wind energies that we know. The Sun also evaporates sea water into the atmosphere which comes down as rain and turns the turbines of hydro-electric power plants. The oil and gas that we extract are residues of plant life that existed hundreds of million years ago, thanks to the photosynthesis provided by the Sun. What can be more primary than that? But he never accepted my argument. Nor I his.)

By far the most ambitious hydrogen project that I am aware of is Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This city, intended for 75,000 residents, is taking shape in the desert, designed by a British architect, and the most notable thing about it is that it will be totally energized by hydrogen, despite the fact that it sits on a sea of oil and gas.

All its residences and office towers will be energized by hydrogen fuel cells. All its industries will be powered by hydrogen fuel-cells. All its motor vehicles will run on hydrogen fuel cells. It will truly be the City of the Future, and the fact that it will be turning its back, almost, on its own abundant natural resource makes it doubly significant. (More about Masdar City in a future article.)

I say 'almost' because it will use its vast reserves of natural gas to supply the hydrogen that it will feed into its fuel cells. So there will still be some pollution, but it will be only a fraction of the pollution that is generated when burning carbonl fuels directly.

(Natural gas is mainly methane, butane and propane, which are hydrocarbons rich in hydrogen. The methane molecule, for example, has one atom of carbon and four atoms of hydrogen; propane, three atoms of carbon and eight atoms of hydrogen; butane, four atoms of carbon and 10 atoms of hydrogen.. To extract the hydrogen, it is necessary to tie down the carbon with oxygen, hence the inevitable by-product of carbon dioxide.)

Countries with very little or no gas deposits can still use hydrogen fuel cells. The hydrogen can be extracted from water – rainwater, tap water, river water – by electrolysis, using either solar energy or wind energy to electrolyze the water, meaning to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen, which is one the first experiments that we perform in high school Science class.

I am in touch with two entrepreneurs in the US - one in New Jersey, the other in Washington state – who do precisely that. One uses wind energy, the other uses solar energy, to extract hydrogen from water through electrolysis. They then feed the hydrogen into their fuel cells, which energize their entire houses, including the air-conditioners during summer, as well as their motor vehicles. These are really the houses of the future, just as Masdar City will be the City of the Future.

In the Hydrogen Future, there will be no big power plants anywhere, connected to millions of users by miles and miles of transmission lines. Instead, there will be thousands of stand-alone hydrogen fuel cells generating power for neighborhoods, communities, residential condos, office condos, industrial complexes, university campuses, government offices, military camps, shopping malls, hospitals, hotels, etc.. In 1995, fuel cells had a maximum capacity of 250 kw, stackable up to one mw. In the Hydrogen Future, there will be little or no use for TransCo.

What about the Philippines? In 1995, after I wrote my first articles on hydrogen fuel cells (in my column in the Philippine Star), I received an unsolicited letter from the Department of Energy informing me that the DoE was forming an eight-man group to visit manufacturers of fuel cells. But that was the last I heard of it. I do not know if that group ever took off or, if they did, what their recommendations were to President Ramos.

I doubt if President Estrada or President Arroyo, or their bureaucrats, were/are even aware of fuel cells and what they mean for the future. In the recently concluded Energy Summit, not a word seems to have been spoken about hydrogen fuel cells.

It is our continuing misfortune that the leaders whom we elect, and the bureaucrats whom they appoint, cannot see the future beyond the next elections. *****

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Joke Time: Basahin at Tumawa

Street Vendor : "bili na kayo ng relo! gold watch ito!
pag namuti, white gold!
pag huminto stopwatch!"

gf : hu hu hu hu bakit natin ginawa ito? hindi na ako
virgin at dalawang
beses pa natin ginawa!
bf : ano? isa lang ah?!
gf : bakit, hindi na ba natin uulitin mamaya?!

Couple talking:
wife : hon, paki fix naman ilaw sa labas.
husband : hello!? electrician ba ako?
wife : eh di pkigawa na lang hagdan natin.
husband : hello!? karpintero ba ako?
umalis c husband, pagbalik gawa na lahat ng sira sa bahay.
tinanong niya wife kung sino gumawa ng trabaho.
wife : kasi kanina a man saw me crying, sabi ko dami sira
dito sa bahay. so he offered to help in exhange of either sex or bake ako
ng cake.
husband : so pnag-bake mo siya ng cake?
wife : hello?! baker ba ako?!

May isang intsik na sa sobrang hilig sa karaoke ay inabot ng 5 am.
Dahil sa takot mabugbog ni misis, nag-text ng:

Husband: "Paratina lang tayo away! Maghiwalay na lang > tayo!"
Wife: "Sige, maghati tayo ng mga anak!"
Husband: "Akin ang mga guwapo at maganda!"
Wife: "Sus! Pinili pa yung hindi kanya!"

Sa harap ng nursery window;
Friend: Pare, pag laki ng anak mo, am sure magaling
Dad: Bakit, pare, malaki ba ang kamay?
Friend: Hindi. Kasi kamukha siya ng driver ninyo!

Husband came home from church, suddenly lifted his wife and
carried her.
Wife: Why? Did the Pastor tell you to be romantic like this?
Husband: No! He told me to carry my cross!

Friend: "Wow, pare, ganda ng sapatos mo, ah!"
Husband: "Oo. Surprise gift ng kumare mo!"
Friend: "Surprise? Ano occassion?"
Husband: "Wala. Nakita ko na lang sa ilalim ng kama
namin kagabi!"

Health Advisory: "Beer contains female hormones, and
can turn men into women.
After 5 pints.... men become talkative, unreasonable,
irritable, cry for nothing, and urinate while sitting!"

WIFE: I'm warning you! Parating na husband ko in 1 hour!
HANDSOME VISITOR: Wala naman akong ginawang masama ah?
WIFE: kaya nga! kung may balak ka, GAWIN MONA!!!

WIFE: Himala! aga mong umuwi ngayon.
HUSBAND: Sunod ko lang utos ng boss ko. Sabi nya "GO
TO HELL", kaya ito uwi agad ako..

Wife: Lab, may taning na ang buhay ko. Huling gabi ko na
to, let's make love.
Husband: Heh! tumigil ka nga. Maaga pa akong gigising
bukas, buti ikaw, hindi na.
HE HE HE HE !!!!

Population policies of countries:
China : Stop at 1 child.
Singapore : Stop at 2 children
Phil: STOP AT 4 A.M.!

RUSSIAN: we're 1st in space
USA : we're 1st in the moon
ERAP: we'll be the 1st in the sun
USA: you can't go there, you'll burn
ERAP: we're not stupid, we'll go there at NIGHT!

Ano kadalasan ang sinasabi kapag nautot?
American: Excuse me.
British: Pardon me.
Pinoy: NOT ME!

Hindi na makakatikim ng napakasarap na 'Sex' ang
huling bumasa nito!
Ayos safe na ako...papayag ka bang IKAW ang huling babasa
Ipagkalat mo agad ang mga joke nato!

From a forwarded e-mail

Tuesday, June 10, 2008



Since President Gloria Arroyo and her army of apologists have been talking about the legacy she intends to leave for our country, allow me to post a number of GMA's legacy then, and see for yourself if it makes you happy or angry.

2. NAIA-3
3. PEA-Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard
4. PCSO ads
5. SBMA smuggling operations
6. BCDA loss of AFP modernization funds
7. Camp John Hay rentals
8. Poro Point revenues
9. PhilHealth cards
10. Joc-Joc Bolante fertilizer scam
11. OWWA fund diversion
12. PAGCOR deals with the clergy and media
13. DPWH contracts including the road-users' tax
14. ZTE-NBN mess
15. North Rail
16. South Rail
17. DOTC contracts including RORO ports and local airports
18. Transco bidding
19. NFA rice
20. DSWD cards
21. Spratlys deal
22. 'Hello Garci' scandal

These are only some of GMA's legacy projects. Want more? Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Aspiration Versus Despair

Jose Ma. Montelibano

I am at the last leg of a three-week visit to the United States, a trip that has affirmed in a big way the most optimistic view of Filipino-Americans who are on the verge of going beyond nostalgia for the home land to actually building a better one. There is no doubt that divisiveness has kept Fil-Ams from enjoying the influence of a population segment with a voice that government listens to, with an identity that draws respect, and with a character that has honor. That divisiveness has managed to make utterly useless the massive numbers of Filipinos, and to deny it is simply avoiding an honest look and assessment of ourselves.

At the same time, it is utterly refreshing to discover that second and third generation Fil-Ams are discovering a new attraction to the home land, and just in time, it seems. The first generation are slowly fading away and it seemed for some time that efforts to inculcate patriotism to their children did not bring the results they hoped for. I myself believed the bad news about divisiveness among Fil-Ams, but I had to discover for myself that the future is much brighter that what many had described.

Several personal encounters with second and third generation Fil-Ams in this trip always led to small group discussions about the situation in the motherland. Since they were born and raised in the United States, many of never witnessed poverty up close. And in their desire to help, many are frustrated by a local context which defies proven development formula. Inevitably, I am asked why many initiatives for reform or for development fail despite their being fully funded. Consistently, I have always referred to the contrast between aspiration and despair.

When a human being has aspiration as his or her foundation, there is only one direction - up. When another human being is anchored on survival, there is only one purpose - stay alive. The starting point determines the direction of life - up or just to stay alive. The first seeks to transcend, to transform the present to a higher state; the second clings to the present, which means to live, and afraid of any other future, which may only lead to death.

A now famous author says that we have purpose-driven lives. If purpose to him means a higher calling, then survival is not a purpose, only an instinct. Human beings who are forced to fight for survival are demeaned by evil superstructures who allow them only the struggle for survival instead of their divine potential. Poverty, then, is the evil superstructure that denies its victims their divine birthright.

To dismantle the grip of poverty over the Filipino people means that the poor must shift from survival to aspiration. History has shown that most of those who done so went through very violent stages of exploitation and rebellion throughout centuries. From their internal experience, they brought the same to other countries and to the world through colonialism. Among the most developed nations today, all have crossed their borders to expand territories and avail of the resources of lands and peoples they had conquered.

Conquerors had more options than the conquered, and again, history shows that conquerors took them. Their societies evolved faster as their understanding and ways refined, especially their technology. Their development, though, was aided by the exploitation of people and resources of other lands. Expansion and governance by force marked spectacular stages of growth by the more powerful, whether in internal intramurals by European countries or in their colonization of the rest of the world. Africa, the Americas, Asia and Australia were invaded and exploited to drive the development of their masters.

As conquerors aspired, the conquered tried to survive. As a few raised the quality of their lives in an atmosphere of opportunity, many struggled in environments of deprivation. Later, much, much later, a global understanding was reached among the countries of the world to level the playing field - but only after centuries of colonial experience.

In particular countries, the cycle of exploitation and deprivation has been played out in local settings, of natives doing the same to fellow natives. The lessons of colonial rule were learned - that the powerful can exploit others and develop much faster using the labor and resources of the weak. Corruption was institutionalized, first by colonialism, then from the example of colonialism. Independence from colonial rule did not immediately translate to the emergence of egalitarian societies; on the contrary, the cycle of exploitation and revolution was extended by the locals themselves.

Each people who went through the last five hundred years as a conquered race tried to play catch-up once they found freedom. Some succeeded faster than others. Others deteriorated even more with local conquerors turning out more brutal than their former foreign masters. Indeed, the temptation to exploit is a powerful one, the opportunity to grow at the expense of others a human pattern too strong to simply transcend, and the vision of equality, liberty and fraternity too refined a dream for many to quickly grasp and pursue.

It is too late for historical victims to undo their past. While many try to hold on to memories no matter how painful they may be, the challenge to the present is simply to learn and then aspire. For those who have gone ahead by exploiting others, the next centuries can be their moment of atonement, their opportunity to extend proportional generosity. Indeed, many now do so. Global philanthropy was born from societies who once exploited the most.

Exploitation will always have many expressions. It does not disappear just because colonial times are gone. The ever changing laws of nations try to curb new expressions of exploitation. The quest for higher societal ethics remains a challenge for all but especially for the most developed. And among the most developed, the United States and the millions of Fil-Ams who reside there will play a major role in the evolution of democracy in the Philippines

Fil-Ams have become quite sensitive to the ugly faces of poverty and corruption because these cause shame. At the same time, these faces can be transformed if Filipinos are truly determined to build new patterns of solidarity, integrity and diligence. Fil-Ams especially are motivated to show that Filipinos need not extend their historical shame. Solidarity for common causes is such a powerful way to begin exorcising a conditioned mindset. I believe that the moment is here, the space is here, but the ultimate battlefield is in the home land. Let us all promise to meet there and win the war.###

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Desperate Housewife? I Beg To Disagree

by Adolfo Paglinawan

Gloria Arroyo is really a Doctor of Economics. She is so incorrigible, first Asian economist kuno she started buying the election to circulate the currency that was not even hers but the farmers'. Second, she is so incompetent that she cannot improve the economy, so she began doctoring economic statistics to provde cosmetics for her dwindling governance.

She is not even original. When Tony Meloto started proclaiming that through Gawad Kalinga the Philippines can be a first-world country, she also said the Philippines can be a first world country in twenty years. The caveat of course is ought to be the chief executive for all the years on the road to that Utopia.

Now she is again poised to copy President Bush's stimulus package by doling out money. And do you really believe she will give all of that to the poor? Pahinog tayong lahat. This woman is inventing all kinds of transactions because she is again raising money for her retirement in Muntinglupa. She knows she will eventually be donning the orange T-shirt (sorry walang orange jumpsuit sa pinas), so nagla-last minute fundraising na siya.

At talagang plagiarist! "Ahon" was first used by the late Marilen Dinglasan who launched after 1998 the "Ahon Bata Lansangan" project to assist Gloria when she was Vice President. That "Ahon" took care of streetchildren on a community basis. It was so successful in Manila that Marilen began raising funds to export the program to Cebu and other streechildren-stricken urban areas.

One of the donors was Mark Jimenez, who later became congressman of a Manila district and also incarcerated in the for violating US laws on campaign finance related to former President Clinton. Unfortunately, the P5 million Jimenez gave never got to that "Ahon". When verified later where the money went to, the account it was deposited to belong to "Miguel Arroyo", yazzzirrrreee the First Gentleman! That was the first time we started calling the First Couple, the "First Kotong".

Anyway when Gloria became President, the check became to hot to handle because Mark Jimenez (up to now) kept the original returned check with the incriminating markings at the back, so she appointed Marilen to the MTRCB, the official film censor of the country. Marilen got so busy with that, "Ahon" virtually decelerated.

Then Marilen discovered graft and corruption at the films board but the grafters outdrew her and instead she was the one who ended up with graft charges. Despite the fact that she was clearly conned and innocent, Gloria removed her unceremoniously. Marilen and Gloria were best friends and classmates since grade one. Because of this, she went into depression that was not too good for a cancer survivor that she eventually died, heartbroken on how Gloria treated her like trash.

(The thing happened to another classmate and best friend of theirs - Bing Rodrigo, who for a time acted as Gloria's Social Secretary. But when she exposed graft involving the first Gentleman and a telecom firm, Gloria also treated her like trash and dismissed her. She also eventually died.)

This woman, Gloria surely is a viper. Sure death awaits her collaborators because she stings them before they start talking. The closer you get the more lethal the venom applies.

Of course, after the Hyatt 10 left her cabinet, all that are left are bunch of scoundrels, liars or just plain hangers on. She has sent the deadly message for those who after truly seeing what she is, leaves her. The latest is of course Secretary Neri. Ever wondered why he cannot budge? Because dead men tell no tales. Her agenda is nothing but survival. for herself and her family. Not just political survival, but first and foremost, financial.

Desperate housewife? I beg to disagree. She is laughing at all of us, on her way to the bank!

I just hope that what eventually happened to the Romanovs of Russia does not repeat with the Arroyos of the Philippines. To all of you, you do not know what that means - Czar Nicolas and her entire family's last photo opportunity was before a firing squad.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


When I was little, I wanted what many Filipino children all over the country wanted. I wanted to be blond, blue-eyed, and white.

I thought -- if I just wished hard enough and was good enough, I'd wake upon Christmas morning with snow outside my window and freckles across my nose!

More than four centuries under western domination does that to you. I have sixteen cousins. In a couple of years, there will just be five of us left in the Philippines, the rest will have gone abroad in search of "greener pastures." It's not just an anomaly; it's a trend; the Filipino Diaspora. Today, about eight million Filipinos are scattered around the world.

There are those who disapprove of Filipinos who choose to leave. I used to. Maybe this is a natural reaction of someone who was left behind, smiling for family pictures that get emptier with each succeeding year. Desertion, I called it. My country is a land that has perpetually fought for the freedom to be itself. Our heroes offered their lives in the struggle against the Spanish, the Japanese, the Americans. To pack up and deny that identity is tantamount to spitting on that sacrifice.

Or is it? I don't think so, not anymore. True, there is no denying this phenomenon, aided by the fact that what was once the other side of the world is now a twelve-hour plane ride away. But this is a borderless world, where no individual can claim to be purely from where he is now. My mother is of Chinese descent, my father is a quarter Spanish, and I call myself a pure Filipino-a hybrid of sorts resulting from a combination of cultures.

Each square mile anywhere in the world is made up of people of different ethnicities, with national identities and individual personalities. Because of this, each square mile is already a microcosm of the world. In as much as this blessed spot that is England is the world, so is my neighborhood back home.

Seen this way, the Filipino Diaspora, or any sort of dispersal of populations, is not as ominous as so many claim. It must be understood. I come from a Third World country, one that is still trying mightily to get back on its feet after many years of dictatorship. But we shall make it, given more time. Especially now, when we have thousands of eager young minds who graduate from college every year. They have skills. They need jobs. We cannot absorb them all.

A borderless world presents a bigger opportunity, yet one that is not so much abandonment but an extension of identity . Even as we take, we give back. We are the 40,000 skilled nurses who support the UK's National Health Service. We are the quarter-of-a-million seafarers manning most of the world's commercial ships. We are your software engineers in Ireland, your construction workers in the Middle East, your doctors and caregivers in North America, and, your musical artists in London's West End.

Nationalism isn't bound by time or place. People from other nations migrate to create new nations, yet still remain essentially who they are. British society is itself an example of a multi-cultural nation, a melting pot of races, religions, arts and cultures. We are indeed, in a borderless world!

Leaving sometimes isn't a matter of choice. It's coming back that is. The Hobbits of the shire travelled all over Middle-Earth, but they chose to come home, richer in every sense of the word. We call people like these balikbayans or the returnees' -- those who followed their dream, yet chose to return and share their mature talents and good fortune.

In a few years, I may take advantage of whatever opportunities come my way. But I will come home. A borderless world doesn't preclude the idea of a home. I'm a Filipino, and I'll always be one. It isn't about just geography; it isn't about boundaries. It's about giving back to the country that shaped me.

And that's going to be more important to me than seeing snow outside my windows on a bright Christmas morning.

Mabuhay and Thank you.

So, be proud, you are a Filipino,...

From a forwarded e-mail

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Is History Repeating Itself in China?

by Perry Diaz

In 1402, when Zhu Di became the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty, China embarked on an ambitious mission to extend its empire around the world. Zhu Di, who became to be known as Emperor Yong Le (or Yung Lo) -- "Perpetually Jubilant" -- built an armada of more than 3,500 ships including 250 humongous nine-masted "treasure ships," each measuring 400 feet long and 150 feet wide. By comparison, Columbus' Santa Maria only measured 90 feet long and 30 feet wide.

Yong Le divided his armada into several fleets and sent them in different directions around the world in an attempt to control the trade routes which at that time were dominated by the Arabs, Persians, and Indians. The most popular of these fleets was commanded by Admiral Zheng He who led seven expeditions into the Indian Ocean by way of the South China Sea through the Strait of Malacca. Beginning in 1405, Zheng He's expeditions went as far as India, Madagascar, and southward along the east coast of Africa. He returned from his last expedition in 1423.

Yong Le's goal was to chart the world and enforce China's "tribute system" among the countries of the world. In other words, Yong le wanted China to become the world's first superpower. In return for paying tribute to China, China would extend trading privileges and protect its trading partners from their enemies. Through these "bilateral trade agreements," China would also provide "soft loans"; thus, making its trading partners perpetually indebted to China.

It is interesting to note that China's tribute system was also extended to several regions in the Philippines including Luzon and the Sultanate of Sulu. In 1405, Yong Le claimed the island of Luzon -- they called it "Lusong" from the Chinese characters "Lui Sung" -- and placed it under the protection of his empire. The biggest settlement of Chinese was in Lingayen in Pangasinan. Lingayen became the seat of the Chinese colonial government in Luzon. When Yung Lo died in 1424, the Chinese colonial government was dissolved. However, the Chinese settlers -- known as "sangleys" -- remained and prospered.

On Chinese New Year's Day, February 2, 1421, a spectacular event -- never seen anywhere in the world before -- was held in Beijing, the new capital of Yong Le's empire. More than 28 heads of state and their ambassadors from all over Asia, Africa, Arabia, and the Indian Ocean assembled to pay homage to Emperor Yong Le and to celebrate the inauguration of his empire's seat of power, the Forbidden City. Indeed, China had finally reached the apex of world primacy. Yong Le was on top of the world.

Three months later, on May 9, 1421, the Forbidden City was struck by a thunderbolt. The newly constructed palace took a direct hit and Yong Le's throne was razed to the ground and a deadly conflagration followed. Meanwhile, an epidemic of unknown disease that had been raging in southern China for two years spread and killed several hundred thousand people. Yong Le believed that the catastrophe was an omen telling him that the gods were angry at him. He then temporarily handed the throne to his son, Zhu Gaozhi. On August 12, 1424, Yong Le died a broken man. Upon ascension to the throne, Zhu Gaozhi issued a decree stopping all voyages of the treasure ships. All foreign ambassadors were sent home and all Chinese officials who were abroad were ordered to come home.

Zhu Gaozhi ruled for only a year. His son, Zhu Zhanji succeeded him in 1425 and ruled for the next 10 years. After Zhu Zhanji's death, his successor issued edicts banning all foreign trade and travel. China closed it doors. Piracy and smuggling -- criminal offenses punishable by death -- were the only means of trade. For more than 100 years, China isolated itself from the outside world. It was during this time that the pirate Limahong ruled the South China Sea.

Today, after more than five centuries of self-isolation, China is once again emerging as a superpower. Its trade with the outside world has taken a new level of intensity and aggressiveness. State-owned Chinese companies have established trade and other commercial activities in every continent. It is predicted that China would be the number one economic power within 20 years; however, some economic experts say five to 10 years.

In August of this year, China will host the Summer Olympics in Beijing. It will be one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- events in China since the inauguration of the Forbidden City in 1421. Leaders from countries around the world are expected to attend in what is billed as the most spectacular Olympic Games opening ceremonies in history.

Last May 12, 2008, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake hit central China killing almost 70,000 people and left more than 15 million homeless. Aftershocks continue to take their toll in human lives and property. Internal politics as well as external conflicts -- including the Tibet issue -- were placed in the back burner. Right now, the number priority is to deal with the devastation caused by the earthquake.

China's communist leaders might see the earthquake and the devastation that followed as an ominous sign similar to the thunderbolt and conflagration that occurred in 1421. The Chinese people are very superstitious and I won't be surprised if China would back track once again in its quest for global economic dominance like it did in 1421. But would they forego the notion that by doing so, their 600-year dream of world primacy would once again fade into oblivion.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Arroyo's spending spree: Travel, 'donations' top Palace expenses

In 2007, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's presidency spent a total of P249.5 million to pay the salaries and wages of its regular employees, and P10.7 million to pay casual and contractual employees.

Combined, that means P260.2 million to pay the rank and file of the Office of the President and 58 other executive offices, agencies, commissions, and committees under Mrs. Arroyo.

But in the same year, Mrs. Arroyo spent more than double that amount for her foreign and domestic travels, which totaled P588.5 million and P34.1 million, respectively, according to the Commission on Audit's report on the 2007 financial transactions of Malacañang.

In fact, she spent much more – P618.6 million – in "donations" to yet unknown beneficiaries, the COA report revealed.

Malacañang, the COA report showed, spent similarly big amounts for broad, discretionary, and seemingly identical accounts, including:

• "Confidential expenses," P149 million;

• "Consultancy services," P59.6 million;

• "Representation expenses," P56.8 million;

• "Representation allowance," P14.5 million;

• "Other bonuses and allowance," P28.8 million;

• "Transportation allowance," P10.3 million;

• "Advertising expenses," P6.9 million;

• "Additional compensation (ADCOM)," P24.8 million;

• "Extraordinary expenses," P6.64 million;

• "Miscellaneous expenses," P5.4 million;

• "Other personnel benefits," P119.8 million; and

• "Subsidy to Regional Offices/Staff Bureaus/Branch Offices," P46.6 million.

The COA report showed that apart from these amounts, the Office of the President had paid out in 2007 P21 million in "yearend bonus," P7.1 million in "cash gift," and P651,000 in "honoraria."

The President was also revealed to have kept a high-maintenance household, which may be in keeping with her role as chief executive and fount of power in the land. Yet the COA report showed that what Malacañang spends on the usual costs like food, communication, utilities, office and other supplies, gasoline, security, among others, could cause taxpayers sleepless nights.

For her 2007 foreign travel alone, Arroyo spent an average of P49.04 million per month. In addition, she spent P2.84 million on local travel per month. Combined, that means a monthly bill of P51.8 million for the peripatetic president.

By most expense entries enrolled in the COA report, Arroyo's official household is hardly a pauper's palace. Malacañang spends like it is a real profligate's paradise. In 2007, the presidency billed the following expenses to taxpayers:

• Food supplies expenses, P55.7 million or P4.6 million a month;

• Electricity, P54.5 million or an average of P4.5 million a month;

• Gasoline, oil and lubricants, P27.9 million or P2.3 million a month;

• Water, P25.4 million or P2.1 million a month;

• Security services, P13 million or P1.08 million a month;

• Janitorial services, P4.8 million or P400,000 a month;

• Telephone, landline, P13.5 million or P1.1 million a month;

• Telephone, mobile, P9.07 million or P755,000 a month;

• Office supplies, P13.5 million or P1.1 million a month;

• "Other supplies," P19.4 million or P1.6 million a month;

• Subscription expenses, P1.04 million or P86,000 a month;

• Cooking gas, P892,000 or P74,000 a month

• Internet, P332,597 or P27,716 a month; and

• Cable, satellite, telegraph and radio, P300,955 or P25,079 a month.

Arroyo's household disbursed more millions for "repair and maintenance" expenses, including P94.89 million for aircraft and aircraft ground equipment; P7.1 million for motor vehicles; P4.2 million for furniture and fixtures; P1.02 million for office equipment; and P1.09 million for other machinery and equipment.

In contrast to the millions splurged on these expenses, the presidency scrimped on other seemingly important expense items.

For instance, it disbursed only P433,915 for the whole of 2007 in "training expenses," and reported zero spending on "textbooks and instructional materials," "storage expenses," "military and police supplies," "medical, dental and laboratory supplies," "awards and indemnities," and "hazard pay." – Malou Mangahas, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.