Friday, October 31, 2008

Conflict Of Interest

Jose Ma. Montelibano

I read recently a news report about the latest impeachment complaint filed in Congress by individuals including Joey de Venecia of the ZTE brouhaha and some members of Congress. When asked why his father, former Speaker Joe de Venecia, did not sign the complaint, Joey replied it would have been a conflict of interest. I assume that Joey meant Joe’s position as a sympathetic and supportive father versus being a member of Congress.

In a country that is known to be the most corrupt in its region, the Philippines witnesses the principle of conflict of interest as wantonly and massive violated. And the violators can only be those in high positions wielding great power and influence for massive violations to remain unchecked. Conflict of interest affecting those holding powerful positions usually mean sacrificing the common good for personal gain. Most gain is monetary, but sometimes, it can simply be bloating one’s pride.

The conflict of interest we know usually refers to what we see - the conflict of position and personal decision, the anomaly committed against the oath of public office for obviously personal gain. Yet, we seldom relate that conflict of interest to the more unseen failure of an individual who struggles unsuccessfully to maintain integrity with higher ethics. The public conflict of interest does start with the private conflict of interest.

How many of us, then, are guilty of private conflict of interest where we sacrifice sacred virtues, fine ethics and revered traditions for less than ideal desires, like comfort and convenience? How many times did we feel insecure, then try to eliminate that insecurity by lowering the bar of ethics, or even throwing it away? Indeed, conflict of interest is first and foremost a private affair, instance after instance when we assault our integrity with rationalized deviations.

Joe de Venecia can sign the impeachment complaint if he believes that Gloria had committed wrongdoing meriting impeachment. His being a father to a complainant is not a conflict of interest, but will be if he signs simply because of the relationship or does not sign simply because of it.

Conflict of interest is to keep quiet when one should speak, or to speak when one is quiet.

Cowardice is conflict of interest, when seeing wrong committed and tolerating that wrong, maybe even justifying it.

Belonging to a family, a club, an organization, and blindly following that group against another in issues when one’s side is wrong and the other correct is conflict of interest, loyalty misused and dishonored.

Compromising the truth as we know it, to save face or to earn more -tThis is conflict of interest, even if it is private and personal.

To criticize or accuse another in order to cover one’s own mistakes or inappropriate behavior is conflict of interest.

Defending one’s pride and position by putting down others is against the truth and is a conflict of interest.

To represent an organization or an advocacy, but to be less faithful to it in order to gain favor, money or fame, this is conflict of interest. When one sits on a board of a corporation for one’s advantage and not always for the highest good of that corporation is a conflict of interest.

There are many more examples can I give but they all point to the same thing - conflict of interest is compromising our higher values for lower needs, compromising the truth because it hurts and adopting what is less than true to claim it is the truth, compromising ethical behavior for one which gains money or pride for us. When we compromise privately, we will end up compromising publicly. When we compromise as private citizens, we will compromise as public officials. When we lower the bar of what is proper, we will do what is improper.

Among the worst of conflict of interest are examples of hypocrisy. One accuses another of wrongdoing when one does exactly the same thing. It takes a thief to catch a thief, it is said. When one applies a different standard for himself or herself but measures and judges others on another, that is conflict of interest. When one says the other has committed worse mistakes, it does not make his or her mistakes correct or justified.

When the Church says that it is wrong for organizations to accept medicine from pharmaceutical companies who make contraceptives but okay to buy medicine from the same company to cure the same illness, that is hypocrisy and a conflict of interest. When the Church condemns gambling but accepts money from gambling, that is likewise hypocrisy and a conflict of interest. When the Church refrains from using its awesome power to push its faithful to feed the hungry but can scream loudly to condemn contraceptives, it negates its own cause and its credibility. All these are conflicts of interest.

When politicians adopt the values of the West to pin the onus of poverty to the poor themselves by virtue of their population growth, they cover and abet the crime of those who truly caused poverty by their greed and corruption. Any effort to deliberately cloud the truth and allow the guilty to go unrecognized for their wrongdoing and even place them on higher ground to accuse others of the very wrong they committed, that is conflict of interest.

When we ask others to solve problems that we ourselves can also solve, that is abdicating our responsibility as citizens and also a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest is more common that we believe. It starts from the inside, from each one of us, before it finds its way to the outside, to public officials and offices. Serious and massive corruption can grow and exist only with tolerance from us.

“In bayanihan, we will be our brother’s keeper and forever shut the door to hunger among ourselves.”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blood on Gloria Arroyo’s Hands


It’s something we dread thinking about, simply because the circumstances and details are so unsettling. We know it’s happening, but we try to push it from our consciousness. Until it occurs to someone we know. Or until such incidents reach a critical mass, and jump to the forefront of our collective awareness , despite all our efforts to turn away. I believe we have reached such a tipping point.

I’m talking about the long-standing and continuing pattern of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and assassinations of the Arroyo regime’s political enemies, real or imagined. I’m as guilty of avoidance and denial as the next guy, even when these occur fairly close to home. Jonas Burgos is a cousin of a sister-in-law. Karen Empeno is a cousin of a fraternity brother.

These enforced disappearances, perpetuated by shadowy groups of the Arroyo government’s most rabid guardians, have reached Marcosian proportions. Every week brings some news of the brutal killing or snatching of persons whose only crime was to oppose Arroyo’s corrupt activities and policies.

At least we knew what we were getting into with Marcos. He declared martial law and made no bones (!) about his intent to unleash a reign of terror. Shit happens during martial law. But we are supposed to be living in a restored democracy, where the so-called rule of law prevails and where the Bill of Rights are supposedly guaranteed. This is what makes President Arroyo’s undeclared “dirty war” so treacherous and frightening.

This past week brought news of the finding of evidence which could prove military involvement in the kidnapping, possible torture or worse, of political activists Karen Empeno and Manuel Merino, both missing for two years and abducted with U.P. student Sherlyn Cadapan. A fellow captive, farmer Raymond Manalo, escaped to tell the tale. He led a team of U.P. anthropologists, members of the human-rights group Karapatan and personnel from the Commission on Human Rights and the Senate Committee on Justice to a remote village in Limay, Bataan where he claims they were held and tortured by Army intelligence agents. Human remains and other evidence backing up Manolo’s charges were found.

And in the same Inquirer issue reporting on the grisly discovery in Bataan, Conrad de Quiros writes of the kidnapping of James Balao, in broad daylight on a main road in La Trinidad, the capital of Benguet province. A founding member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, Mr. Balao has been at the forefront of fighting for the rights of the indigenous folk of the Cordillera region for decades. He has been missing for a month.

This is the flip side of the Arroyo practice of casually setting free her monied and connected friends or allies, however heinous their crimes.

It is not difficult to share De Quiros’ outrage:

UP Baguio names operatives of the Intelligence Security Unit (ISU) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the perpetrators. Since his abduction, I’ve had several friends call, email, and text me vouching for the complete integrity and high-mindedness of this man. Like Jonas Burgos, he is an epic loss to society, or since “society” is an abstraction, he is an epic loss to all of us who dream of a better world to leave to our children.

It’s time we said “Enough!” Enough of the killings, enough of the abductions, enough of the disappearances, enough of the harassment, enough of the surveillance, enough of the sowing of fear, enough of the terrorism, enough of the culture of mayhem, enough of the reign of impunity!

It’s a cynical war waged by cynical persons to keep their cynical selves in power. It has no other purpose than that. It exists to hide the real threat to this country, which is dictatorship, and to unleash the forces needed to prop it up, which are fear and violence. It’s a cynical war that’s claiming a cynical toll on the innocent.

But more than the innocent, it’s taking its toll on the country’s best and brightest. Jonas Burgos is one of them. James Balao is another. They are people who have been given abundant abilities and endowments. Burgos has the illustrious name of his father to carry and Balao the glorious traditions of his tribe to do so. They could have become “successful” professionals, with enough trophies and testimonials to proclaim the fact. Instead, they chose to serve the people—how powerfully that phrase continues to resonate among those who have internalized it!—conscripting their talents and energies for the benefit of their communities. With only the laughter in the eyes of the children and the gratitude in the faces of their parents to proclaim their successes.
The people aren’t fooled. They know where this trail of blood leads to.

We must heed De Quiros’ call, and recall the poignant warning made by Pastor Martin Neimoller, in a poem which remains valid and resonates all these many decades:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

By The Warrior Lawyer

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The excuse for Cha cha is the best reason to reject it

By William M. Esposo
Thursday, October 16, 2008

Most Filipinos see Charter change or Cha cha as a political maneuver that was designed by congressional allies to extend the hold on power of Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). By shifting to a parliamentary system, GMA can emerge as the Prime Minister of the new system of government.

A Filipino who loves his (or her) country will find it easy to agree with that deduction and will thus likely reject Cha cha. The sooner our country exits from this misrule of GMA, the better the country will be able to get back on track.

The unfolding global financial meltdown, which nobody could assess how bad it will be and how long it will last, all the more mandates that our country should immediately elect a leader we can all believe and support. GMA has long lost our support and you have to be an imbecile to still believe what she says.

The best scenario for the Philippines will be the emergence of a new leadership that is solidly founded on nationalism and will strive to achieve economic self-sufficiency and liberation from the domination and manipulation of superpowers.

We need a leader who is a man for the people and not another lackey representing the interests of the elite. We need a leader who can stand up to superpower pressure and enticements.

We need a leader who will operate with utmost transparency and is truthful and honest. We need a leader who can spell out a vision that Filipinos can accept, internalize and wholeheartedly support. It is only through such a leadership that unites all Filipinos when we will finally attain real sovereignty and economic emancipation.

From her track record, GMA fails to provide all these necessary qualities of leadership that will lift most of our countrymen from deep poverty and free us from foreign domination and manipulation. Sadly, I also have not heard anybody — from the administration and the Opposition — articulate a vision and program that will deliver us into the Promised Land.

What is pathetic with this Cha cha that is being pushed is that it is premised on the very reasons why we ought to reject it. The proponents are trying to bribe the people, as it were, to support Cha cha because of its so-called economic reforms which they claim will bring prosperity.

In reality, the Cha cha proponents only prove that they still continue to worship the Golden Calf, the idol of false redemption. They fail to realize that the Asian countries who made economic headway accomplished their present status because of what they did by themselves and not because of foreign investors.
China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia all got their acts together and clearly defined their path to success while we kept dreaming of luring foreign investors who will save us. If they are now getting large chunks of foreign investments, it is because they first got their act together and not the other way around as our leaders would have us do it.

The Cha cha proponents even want to open land ownership to foreigners. To those who understand the downside of this proposal, it can only be treason!
As it is, Chinese and South Koreans are already buying large chunks of choice real estate under the guise of joint-venture companies filled with willing Filipino dummies (supposedly owning the majority). These land acquisitions by aliens are tolerated by a corrupt regime.

With their money surplus and our current depressed real estate prices, we will wake up one day with all our prime properties already owned by foreigners. Not only that — their buying spree will raise property prices beyond the reach of the average Filipino.

Do we want to have this proposed Constitution? Do we want Philippine land to become no longer affordable for Filipinos? Will these proposed economic reforms emancipate us from foreign domination or bring us more under their yoke?

Sadly, many Filipinos suffer from the Information and Education Gaps and do not realize the potential damage these Cha cha proposals will bring. Many who will reject Cha cha will do so because they do not want GMA around anymore. Propose Cha cha after 2010 and many may even support the so-called economic reforms.

Many Filipinos are no different from the poorest of the poor whose minds can only focus on their immediate problem which is how to source their next meal. Those who suffer from extreme poverty do not focus on the real solutions to their problem — to acquire education and opportunity, the exit mechanism from poverty.

The middle class is supposed to be society’s intellectual upper class. But our middle class fails to provide that light. Just look at what many of our civil society groups are engaged in — the focus on the less important instead of the strategic.

They focus on exposing crooks in government and stopping graft and corruption. Stopping graft and corruption is important but it is not the strategic solution to our nation’s problems. A good justice and police system can ferret out all the crooks past and present in our government.

But the criteria for enlightened leadership that will emancipate us require much more than just eliminating graft and corruption. Even if we manage somehow to finally eliminate graft and corruption, we will hardly move forward if the systemic problem — the oligarchy — is not removed and if we are not rid of foreign domination.
* * *
Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: and

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Confront The Truth

Jose Ma. Montelibano

When I read the latest report of how the Equity Bill for Filipino Veterans
was “dead in the water,” I could not help feel the pain and frustration of
old men and women who fell for the line that serving a foreign master is
equivalent to serving one’s motherland. At one point in time, I would have
felt anger at America. Today, I only feel pity for those who cannot yet
shake off a false reality that the land of milk and honey can often be more
rhetoric than real.

There is no doubt that the United States of America has been a world leader
in promoting a political system called democracy. Its current multi-ethnic
population, which will become even more so as minorities increase their
numbers while Caucasian American depopulate, offers the United States a rare
and radical opportunity to lead the world further away from racism to true
color blindness. Being color blind means a great convergence not only of
blood and skin, but of cultures and ideas that cannot happen in a society
bent on in-breeding.

Racist to libertarian, however, is not a passage of law but a transcendence
of human patterns towards their higher potential. The process is not only
long, which it has to be for total assimilation in several dimensions, but
also quite painful to the once dominant. Racism in different hues has
remained active in human history because societal structures were built
around it and governed from one era to another. It is only in modern times
when a few societies gingerly stepped into unknown territory called
equality, libertyh and fraternity - stumbling every step of the way.

Societies struggle still, very few showing great success but many more in
rigid resistance. As Western European countries slowly tear down walls of
division between each other, ethnic cleansing continues to smear humanity in
several countries in Africa and the Middle East. The spectrum of human
behavior is a shocking reality as the best and the worst collide in a globe
that is definitely growing smaller, once imagined as limitless and now
sometimes seen as a mere village in a vast universe.

Filipinos are caught up with the drama of change as they try to shed off
their colonial past and the destructive consequences that befall a long
conquered people. Facing massive poverty that is inherited more than
created, facing exploitation from the powerful that was once the norm of
colonial masters, and constantly threatened by violence from armed conflict
between government forces and rebels from the Left and Moroland, millions of
Filipinos turn to the rest of the world for opportunity. And they find it.

The harsh truth is that massive poverty remains at the bottom third of the
population and hunger still stalks millions of poor Filipinos. This is a
social anomaly that scoffs at false claims of religious fidelity, whether
Catholic, Muslim or other Christian denominations. The kind of poverty that
shames our society and religions must be confronted as a primary challenge
of government and NGOs, not as a “by the way” concern.

At the same time, individual initiatives of the more determined among less
poor Filipinos to stake family separation for a chance of a better future
for the next generation are making their own impact here and abroad. Foreign
remittances amounting to $14 billion go straight to households who otherwise
will be much poorer and more frustrated. Beyond the money from abroad that
they send, overseas Filipino workers bring a new outlook, new influences
from foreign cultures, new ways of looking at the same old things. All these
slowly but surely lift the common consciousness to paths yet untraveled.
Many social scientists will have a field day reading, monitoring and
interpreting the evolution of a new Filipino mindset.

Which is why I wonder out loud why many first generation Fil-Ams who have
been passionately pushing for the Equity Bill for Filipino veterans of WWII
have the hardest of time discarding the illusion of a compassionate colonial
master who remembers with affection the loyalty and sacrifices of former
subjects. How many years will it take for the United States to remember,
recognize and compensate if it wants to? It does not want to and it is so
humiliating to keep pushing the fate of dying veterans to those who do not
view them as equals.

The shame of poverty and corruption is aggravated by the shame of
mendicancy. In the Philippines are productive citizens and natural resources
of immeasurable value despite the abject poverty of millions. In the United
States are Filipino-Americans by the millions who spend not less than $50
billion annually. How much is being begged from the US Congress for our
remaining and dying Filipino veterans? If we cannot take care of them as a
people of one motherland, why should we expect the United States to be more

To build our nation is to first build our character. Our societal leaders
from government, from business, from religions, from the academe, from civil
society, they have the responsibility of being role models to a people
transitioning from the colonial times to an opportunity of independence.
Abdication or the ineffective application of that responsibility is damaging
to a people’s growth but not the final excuse of not growing nevertheless.
Though difficult, the evolution of higher consciousness and ethics
ultimately redounds to the individual Filipino.

Filipinos must grow even if their formal leaders do not show them the proper
way. In our midst are not only an abundance of neighbors and friends who
have enough character to be good models, but a whole generation of young,
idealistic Filipinos who are raring to make their mark in every society
where there are Filipinos. A global Filipino generation is born and its
growing number will yet give its idealism and nobility the force required
for meaningful and sustainable change.

In each of us, in the generation of our children, is the answer to our
dreams. We must look to ourselves and to our youth to finally win the battle
for a future full of hope.

“In bayanihan, we will be our brother’s keeper and forever shut the door to
hunger among ourselves.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Modus Operandi in Ortigas

Sharing a forwarded mail.

Friends -- please be careful. PLEASE PASS ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW.
Taxi Hold up @ Robinsons Galleria
September 28
730 PM to 830 PM

It is so hard for me to recollect my thoughts and put this into writing. The incident is still fresh in my mind and I haven't got over the shock of the most horrible, traumatic experience in my whole life. Sleep at this early hour of the morning seemed eluding my being.

I decided to put this into writing to let everyone know to be extra careful
in taking a taxi most especially at Ortigas, Robinsons Galleria. Around 730PM my daughter and I, along with some friends left Jollibee, West Avenue Branch after attending the birthday celebration of the daughter of one of my colleagues. We took the MRT from Trinoma towards Ortigas. My daughter and I were already on our own as we alighted the train at Ortigas Station. We left the station and traverse the path going to Robinsons Galleria. Since I am with my daughter and we are quite tired of the long walk, I decided to take a taxi. We hailed a taxi, please take note of this, right in front of Robinsons Galleria that is facing Edsa, I haven't got the plate number since I have no inkling that a terrible thing is about to happen to us.

In my mind,
all I wanted is to go home and take a rest since it would be another hectic week ahead of us. I told the taxi driver "Sa Rosario Pasig ho". He turned right then along Ortigas, but just after a few minutes he told us to sit at the left most portion of the back seat as the tire at the other side is not in a good condition. It happened so fast we were just shocked and surprised when the driver suddenly stopped the car and two men went inside the taxi and begun telling us "hwag kayong mag-ingay kung ayaw nyong masaktan. My daughter (who is only 6 years old) and I panicked and screamed as I was trying to unlock the door. One thing caught my attention the car was dilapidated and there was no lock at the door! So there was no way out but pray for God's mercy. I tried calling my God please spare our lives!

Save us from this very frightful situation. The man sitting next to the driver took my bag and began
searching for my wallet and took the money which is around 2K to 3K. The man sitting at my right took my Sony Erricson cell phone and I requested if he could spare me my SIM card and he obliged.

While the man right next to the driver was searching my bag, I pleaded and beg them to release us saying "please maawa na kayo lalo na sa anak ko hindi po kami mayaman kunin nyo na lahat palabasin nyo lang kami dito." I remember we went around Julia Vargas passing Valle Verde "umiikot kami doon" then we passed along Medical City turning right towards North Edsa . While passing Edsa, that's along Camp Aguinaldo the other man at my right asked me to remove my rings, my wedding ring and the plain band, that's a gift from my husband. He also instructed me to remove my earrings, I told him "peke lang po ito" but he still took it. He also ask for the PIN number of my ATM (PCI) which I readily gave him but warned them that it is a payroll account and no amount was left on that account and I told them again "hindi po kami mayaman wala pong laman yan". Then the driver made a U turn that's driving along Camp Crame and he stopped the car in front of an establishment which I didn't get the chance to take note coz what concerns me is our safety and our escape from this terrifying situation. The man at my right gave me direction pointing to an alley between the business establishments instructing me to go straight without looking back or else we will be gunfired as they have colleagues on convoy. They gave us Php 100 for our fare back home. The possessions that they took from me are my money, atm, sony ericsson cellphone, watch and my jewelries.

Right at this point I am still having cold feet. The incident is still in my nerves. Only at this time I am experiencing the trauma of the whole incident. Surprisingly my whole demeanor during that time was I am in control of myself and the situation we were facing against our abductors but fear was still at the back of my mind. Iniisip ko ang anak ko. That I should be strong for her. Thank God no bladed weapons or guns were pointed on us we left physically unscathed. I thank God for giving us the chance to live again.

And another one….
Dear friends,

I'd like to share a story of what happened to me last Monday, October 6, which appears to be a modus operandi done by people with criminal intentions.

My purpose for sharing this with you is to forewarn you of such incidents so that you may keep yourselves safe.

At about a quarter to 7 in the evening, last Monday, I left the office and walked out of Tektite building towards San Miguel Avenue, Ortigas, to ride a cab. It was just right after a brief drizzle, so the roads were almost empty of cars and people, although it was still a bit early. I'm accustomed to going home by myself if I feel like it, and riding cabs without any problems for the longest time.

I was walking along Exchange Road in front of our building, and have already crossed Pearl Drive , when I saw a cab slowly cruising along Exchange Road from San Miguel Avenue . It was an old, a bit dilapidated, white (seemingly) Toyota Corolla, with a yellow-lighted "taxi" on the roof, with black scrawl of the taxi's "name" on the side (I didn't notice the name written there). It didn't have any passengers on board and I thought it a bit odd that a passenger-less cab would be coming from San Miguel Avenue towards Tektite at a time when taxis are supposedly full. I was more accustomed to seeing taxis with no passengers coming from Pearl Drive towards Tektite on its way out back towards EDSA or in the oppposite direction of C-5. But it didn't quite get to me. I was tired and needed to go home to rest. I just thought that the driver was trying to get passengers.

I flagged down the slow moving taxi and got in. I said I was going towards EDSA, so the cab went its usual familiar route of rounding the one-way Exchange Road , out to San Miguel Avenue , left to Megamall, and right towards EDSA. I normally would text Tony of the plate number of the taxi, but at that time, I didn't. I normally would check the locks of the car doors, but this time, I only locked the ones on the front and back passenger seats (right side, because I saw that the left side door was locked). Everything was normal, except that it was still going its slow pace. The driver was a slim-built, middle-aged man, with balding head (some hairs on the side), wore a baseball cap and a worn-out but decent white polo jacket.

Near the foot of the flyover towards Ortigas Avenue and EDSA, he requested me in a kindly manner to please move to the other end of the passenger seat because "ma-fla-flat na po yung gulong ko. Spare lang yan e." where I was sitting. I was sitting at the right side of the passenger seat at the back, and promptly moved to the left side. I was even able to converse with him, saying "a ganun ba? Hindi ba delikado yun na tumatakbo tayo sa EDSA na pa-flat na gulong n'yo?" "Hindi po, malapit lang naman po kayo, di ba? Kaya pa po yun," he smilingly said. And, all along, we were slowly moving across the flyover at EDSA. After the flyover, he slowly veered towards the inner side of the yellow lane, but I thought it was because "inaalalayan niya yung sasakyan."

When the taxi crossed the gate of Corinthian Gardens , it further slowed down, and I saw from afar two men seemingly waiting for a bus. When the taxi neared the two men, they gestured towards the taxi, and it suddenly dawned on me that this could be a hold-up. I initially tried getting the lock of the door to my
side open, and was stricken by horror that it didn't budge. It seemed to be jammed (or perhaps child-locked, on hindsight). And the horror of horrors happened. The taxi stopped by the two men, and the driver announced, "'wag ka gagawa ng iskandalo, hold-up 'to," and promptly opened the locked doors on the right side doors of the front and back passenger seats. Everything went fast. The two men briskly went in, one at the front passenger seat, the other beside me on my right. I thought in horror "this can't be happening to me!" All I can scream was "ay! ay! Diyos ko! Diyos ko!" The driver said to the two men, "wag n'yong sasaktan 'yan, mabait si ma'am." And, to me, "pera lang ang kailangan namin. Hindi ka masasaktan kung susundin mo kami." One of the two men was also middle-aged, slim-built, with balding hair. The other was younger, about in his mid- to late-twenties, gaunt-looking, with high cheek bones, with a thick head of hair. He struck me as someone who was taking drugs.

The next two hours were a gruelling ordeal. They rummaged through my bag and got my money, ATM and credit cards, cellphones, and my jewelry, including my wedding ring. They gave back my bag and wallet, though, but without the money and the cards. We spent the hours going around EDSA from Kamuning to Quezon Avenue, stopping at banks where one of the men went to the ATM machines to try and get cash from my savings ATM and credit cards. They didn't let me out of the taxi to do the transactions. While one man did the transactions at the ATMs, the taxi kept going round and round the Kamuning and Quezon Avenue u-turns. They took away my glasses so that I can't see where we're going. But I was familiar with the places we passed - Timog Avenue, Agham Road , near the Napocor area, and back again to EDSA to go to the ATMs for transactions. They pressed me for the PIN of the credit cards, but I didn't memorize them, but gave them some numbers that I'm not even sure of.

Towards the end, they were pissed off because they couldn't get through the credit cards, and I was afraid that they'd do me in. But, in the end, they let me go, the driver warning me sternly, "wag kang lilingon sa kaliwa o kanan. Dire-direcho lang, kung hindi, babarilin talaga kita." They gave a 100 peso bill "pamasahe para makauwi." They dropped me off at Agham Road , near the Philippine Children's Medical Center (formerly Lungsod ng Kabataan) at about 9:30 p.m. There was no one in sight, another light drizzle has already passed.
One of the men accompanied me out of the taxi, pushed me forward, and ran back to the taxi. That's when I ran and ran towards Quezon Avenue until I boarded a jeepney at a stop light. The kindly jeepney driver motioned me to a mobile police patrol when we passed by one, and I finally came to the police precinct
at Kamuning EDSA to tell my tale. I didn't even get to see the taxi's plate number.

They informed me there that that has been a modus operandi of these criminal elements, plying the route of Quezon Avenue , Timog, Agham, even Kamuning areas. They also would give some money for "pamasahe." They would say it's for a sick wife, etc.

I have talked to some employees of a company in the Ortigas area who fell victim to the same modus operandi. Same taxi, same description of the driver, same alibi about a flat tire, requesting the passenger to move to the left side of the passenger seat, where the door's lock is jammed. Same giving of the 100 peso bill at the end of the hold-up. Last December, an employee rode the dubious taxi at SM Megamall at about 9 p.m. and the hold-up was announced when some men boarded the taxi at Star Mall. The person was held-up until 11 p.m. The other, with the person's 6-year old child, boarded the taxi at the Robinson's Galleria and was also held-up by men who went inside the taxi. I myself, boarded the taxi near where I work, imagine that. And, the security guards were just a few meters away.

Please be forewarned of this modus operandi. We're facing harder times, and December is nearing. Take extra care, friends. As for me, I believe it was the prayers that helped me. All throughout the ordeal, my Savior was there, guiding me in what to say or do so as not to aggravate the situation until freedom came. They didn't touch or harm me. Praise God!

God bless us,


Rodel E. Rodis, October 7, 2008

This has been a terrible year for Filipino Americans running for public office.

On September 22, Hawaii State Senator Ron Menor lost his re-election bid by just 123 votes to little known challenger Michelle Kidani, ending his distinguished 22-year career in state politics. In another contested primary race in Hawaii , House Rep. Alex Sonson lost his bid to unseat State Sen. Clarence Nishihara in a heavily Filipino district, in the process forfeiting his state
house seat.

State Sen. Menor had handily won his Waipahu seat in previous elections until he was arrested on April 22 this year for driving under the influence. His opponent made his DUI arrest the major issue of the campaign. Menor´s father, the late Benjamin Menor, was Hawaii´s first and only Filipino American Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court.

In the June California primaries, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon lost his bid to be the first Filipino American member of the California Legislature, losing to Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada. In the same California primary, Sweetwater Union High School District President Arlene Ricasa also lost her assembly bid to San Diego Community College Trustee Marty Block.

In the same June 3 primary race, Milpitas Mayor Joe Esteves lost his race for county supervisor to San Jose vice mayor Dan Cortese.

In the November 2007 elections, Seattle City Councilman David Della, a keynote speaker at the Third Global Filipino Networking Convention in Cebu City in 2005, lost to former Seattle police officer Tim Burgess who was heavily supported by Seattle ´s firefighters union which sought to punish Della for failing to secure council approval for a particular program they backed. With
the union´s financial ($50,000) and manpower support, Burgess won 66% of the vote, depriving Washington state of its only Filipino in elected office.

The only notable Filipino candidate to win recently is Jess Diaz who won a seat in the Blacktown City Council. But Jess is not a Filipino American and Blacktown City is located in New South Wales, Australia.

“This is a milestone for Filipino-Australians towards political empowerment and a win for all Filipinos. By making a significant contribution to the mainstream society, Filipinos can earn the respect, raise the esteem and inculcate pride in ourselves,” Diaz said.

Carlos Villadiego, a Blacktown resident, said: “Jess is now our new voice. We finally have someone who will really represent us and make our voices heard.”

Undeterred by the rash of Filipino losses in the United States, I am campaigning vigorously to retain my seat in the San Francisco Community College Board in the November elections. Even though I have a solid record of accomplishments, which include three terms as president of the board, I cannot take this election for granted.

Last weekend, while I was handing out campaign flyers at the corner of Mission and 6th Street, Manong Bert, who lived at a nearby hotel for seniors, came by to help me distribute my literature. In the course of handing out the flyers, Manong Bert asked me if I could do something about the young Filipino girls (”maybe 12, 13 or 14 years old”, he said) who were selling their bodies right there at 6th and Mission at night.

Manong Bert told me that he has seen these young Pinays for some time now and it breaks his heart each time as these young girls could be his “apo” (grandchildren). He learned from striking up conversations with them that they are hooked on drugs and that their pimps are out there forcing them to sell their bodies just for shabu (methamphetamine) or cocaine.

Manong Bert inquired from the girls if their parents knew what they were doing at night. Definitely not, they said. Their parents were too busy working two low-paying jobs each just to make ends meet, they said, so they have no time to spend with their kids.

There are no elected Filipino supervisors in San Francisco who can direct the city´s resources and funds to deal with the problems of the Filipino community, the kind of problems that require intervention. Myrna Viray Lim is running for Supervisor in District 11, the heavily-Filipino Excelsior District where the parishes of Epiphany and Corpus Christi are located. Myrna deserves our community´s support because if she is elected, she can focus the city´s
attention on teenage prostitution, among other issues.

We, at City College, are proud of what we have done and continue to do for the Filipino community. We have about 4,000 Filipino students enrolled at City College and we offer 21 Philippine Studies courses. We have 48 Filipino American teachers and a Tagalog-speaking counselor at our Asian Pacific American Students Success (APASS) Center. We just recently set up a Tulay (bridge) program to offer tutorial services in math to our Filipino students. We have
an Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) that provide at-risk students with free tuition, free lunch, free books and free bus passes. Those enrolled in the EOP have the highest enrollment success rate at City College.

But what about those who don´t make it to college?

As I wrote in last week´s column, Filipinos have the highest drop-out rate in San Francisco´s public schools. Many of the drop-outs fall into gangs. Others settle for low-paying jobs which require them to work two jobs even when they have families and kids they badly need to spend time with. Still others join the military and are dispatched to Iraq or Afghanistan .

Apparently, they´re the lucky ones.

The hard luck ones sell their bodies for shabu and crack on the streets of
San Francisco.

(Please send your comments to

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Does GMA want to take over sports?

By William M. Esposo

I’ve known Jose “Peping” Cojuangco since 1983 — the year when I decided to get involved in the fight to remove the Marcos dictatorship.

Peping was the silent unsung hero who organized the Cory Aquino for President Campaign. It was also Peping who invited me to organize and head the Cory Media Bureau which my friend, the late Louie Beltran, described as “the team of volunteers that forced the Marcos media monopoly to a standstill.”

During the Aquino administration, when the anti-Cory forces were waging their smear campaign, Peping became a favorite target mainly because of historical precedence. Because the previous Marcos regime was notorious for plundering relatives, the public mind became prone to believing that all presidential relatives were plunderers.

Unlike his cousin Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco — who has San Miguel Corporation because of his fealty to Marcos — Peping has nothing to show. I challenged those who accused Peping of personally benefiting from Cory’s term to cite a similar plum that Peping acquired from 1986 to 1992. To this day, nobody could name me such booty.
I am not suggesting that Peping is a saint but just as I called to task Senator Panfilo Lacson for his unfounded tirades against Senate President Manny Villar, it is only right to question the basis of serious charges being peddled by shadowy demolition teams. To do otherwise is to further promote the anarchy and Information Gap that facilitates the exploitation in our society.

I was surprised to hear that Art Macapagal, the half-brother of Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), is now running for the post that Peping holds — Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President. Up to this point when Art entered the scene, it was Cito Dayrit who the anti-Peping forces were peddling to replace the current POC president.

My ever-reliable Palace source provided me with a low-down on what has been happening in the forthcoming POC elections. Per my ever-reliable Palace source, there are three people who are conspiring to oust Peping Cojuangco as POC president. They are:

1. Cito Dayrit — a former president of the POC who is said to be facing charges in the POC Ethics Commission and was said to be also involved in the North Golf Club that sold shares costing around P500,000 but never put up the golf course.

2. Harry Angping — a former Congressman, a member of the board of the POC, but was reportedly absent in over 90% of its meetings. Angping is now aspiring to run for first vice president. He has reportedly received P300,000 from the PSC but never fully accounted for it.

3. Francis Chan — a contractor with the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission).
My ever-reliable Palace source revealed that the three conspirators then decided to butter up to the First Gentleman (FG). They then allegedly spread the word that the FG did not like Peping and was out to remove him as POC president.

They originally started to campaign for Dayrit as president and Angping for vice president. But when they saw that they could not muster enough votes and then the violation of the Code of Ethics by Dayrit reached the ears of many POC members — they then worked and succeeded to convince Art Macapagal to run for POC president.
That the candidacy of Dayrit did not fly comes as no surprise. Dayrit’s POC term was marked by controversies and lackluster performance. But that is not enough to deter Peping’s intriguers, per my ever-reliable Palace source. They worked to immediately replace Dayrit with Art Macapagal.

Being GMA’s half-brother, Art Macapagal naturally gets the support of his half-sister. Unable to find a suitable candidate to oust Peping Cojuangco as POC president, the conspirators imported a force outside of sports — GMA.

I’ve only met Art Macapagal a couple of times but the few times that I’ve had contact with him — he struck me as a good and decent man. Up to this time, Art has never been associated with any of the many scandals that have hounded half-sister Gloria.

My sports contacts tell me that it was not even in the plans of Art Macapagal to run for POC president. As president of Shooting, Art was said to be thinking of turning over Shooting to others because he did not have time for it.

So, why all of a sudden is Art running for POC president? This is quite puzzling because the president of POC has to spend all his time, 24/7, if he is to do a good job.

Another question is: Why would GMA and the FG want to remove Peping Cojuangco as POC president? Peping is a Kampi co-founder and has remained a GMA ally all these years. Other than that — Peping’s term as POC president is marked by solid achievements.
In 2005, we won the overall championship of the SEA GAMES, the first time ever that the Philippines won top honors in the SEA GAMES. In 2006, the Philippines made its best performance in the Asian Games over the last 40 years.

In the 2007 SEA GAMES, despite having a smaller contingent compared to those of other countries, the Philippines won the second most number of medals, second only to host Thailand. Many of the 91 silver medals the Philippines won could have been gold if not for unfair officiating. About 60% of our athletes that went to the 24th SEA GAMES won medals. In 2008, in Beijing, half of our athletes improved on their personal records.

But the biggest question is: Why must GMA get involved in a purely sports affair? Has it not been denounced many times already — keep politics out of sports? Does she not have enough problems already? Why must she try to fix what ain’t broke?
* * *

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Our Sons And Daughters

Jose Ma. Montelibano

While I have been critical of what is happening in the Philippines, I do see
that many other countries, including the United States, are also in need of
leaderships who authentically have the people’s issues at heart. However,
the misery of others is not consolation to our poor who suffer daily and the
whole citizenry who are deprived of role models. Worse, Filipinos cannot
escape a fate proportional to the learning required to transcend a pattern
of corruption, poverty and violence.

As a writer, I have taken two tracks; 1) to instill fear at the consequences
of the wrongdoing we do, or the wrongdoing we tolerate, and 2) to spark
inspiration by the good we do and the good that others do. I do this
because, as a writer, I know of no other way to touch hearts and minds away
from what is wrong and towards what is right.

As a concerned citizen, I have participated in advocacies and organizations
that consistently, to my judgment, discourage wrongdoing and encourage
pathways to societal reform and transformation. My life in Gawad Kalinga is
an example of such participation, and I remain open to contributing in other
ways and to other individuals/groups whose views and sentiments parallel

My continuing journey is becoming more optimistic despite clearer eyes that
can discern more quickly the shenanigans of thieves, liars, and manipulators
- even at the highest levels of governance or from the elite of nations. I
grow more optimistic because of the nobility that beats in the hearts of our
young, of the guarantee of idealism by creation itself embedded in the soul
of each emerging generation.

I had seen the idealism of our own generation. I had seen in the 1960’s how
the young poured into the streets to decry what they saw as poison to the
nobility of equality, fraternity and liberty. I saw how the government,
riding on the paranoia of the West against Communism, used force to suppress
the first expressions of idealism and then use fear to extend a rule without
laws except those coming from a dictator. Many resisted, but in the end, our
generation succumbed. And those who could not take a life without hope or
ethics at home chose to leave for foreign shores.

Many question if 14 years of martial law and a conjugal dictator were enough
to corrupt a whole people into accepting or tolerating wrongdoing. By
themselves, the conjugal dictatorship and a pliant military would not have
been enough to subvert a value system from good to bad. They had help,
however, from a global environment that was in the midst of a Cold War and a
not so distant colonial history that made it easier for a people to re-adopt
submission. With many families unable to resist the benefits of an
environment rife with exploitative opportunities, Filipinos gave in to
relative peace without freedom rather than harsh strife in insistence of

For 14 years, therefore, a people reverted to colonial times and habits, a
few exploiting and many submitting. Thus, it was not only about 14 years, it
was also the revival of the last four centuries. Old habits returned rather
than new habits developing. When, finally, higher aspirations overcame fear
and people-powered revolutions overthrew discredited leaderships, a lack of
what to do made it impossible to sustain the struggle against greed and

It is now obvious from our own recent history that an overflow of anger
against what should not be is, indeed, enough to overthrow but not enough to
build a new culture and establish higher ethics in Philippine society. In
other words, anger is not a pathway to development but a simple trigger of
opportunity to break the hold of evil. We need the anger, but we need much
more than that to sustain efforts towards meaningful change, towards new
lifestyles and higher values.

Filipinos need a vision and visionary leaders, new pathways of development
which address the cancers of poverty, corruption and violence, good role
models of proper and effective leaderships in every level and dimension of
societal life. Lacking these, we can remove bad governments but cannot build
good replacements.

We have the first requirement – recognition of wrongdoing and resentment
against it. That resentment is not only among tens of millions home-based
Filipinos but now even more so among millions of Filipinos abroad. It will
take very little for this resentment to converge in a concerted action, but
it is that little which is still missing in the minds of most.

What is that vision which the disillusioned and discontented will accept and
follow? Who are its chosen messengers, the new Filipino leaders in
possession of virtues, values, and expertise to lead and achieve?

I have seen the vision of Gawad Kalinga and know it is enough to be the
heart of a national development program for at least one generation. Gawad
Kalinga means “to give care” and is kind to historical victims, committed to
correct a historical anomaly, determined to build a work and community
living ethic that empowers the least and leads them towards responsibility
and accountability. Gawad Kalinga also honors the accomplishment of the more
successful, of the more aggressive and established in society, and precisely
invites them to lend their superior expertise and greater resources to spark
an economic renaissance.

What is more important is that Gawad Kalinga believes it is only a
repository of the best in every Filipino, our higher aspirations, our nobler
dreams. It invites, it welcomes, is not afraid to change, to move upwards
and to bring others with it, and sworn not leave the poor and the weak
behind. In other words, Gawad Kalinga is a spirit of caring, healing, and
transformation. It is that part of us which we have denied, or forced by
circumstance to deny. It is that part of us which seeks the light and wants
to race towards it.

Among the youth more popularly known as the Y generation, I have sensed a
palpable desire to live out those higher ethics, to build integrity among
themselves, to live a lifestyle that honors the best of our culture. They
have aspirations which want the best but not laced with greed, which want
the highest but not laced with discrimination. I have seen the future full
of hope. The Knights of our Round Table have arrived. The sons and daughters
of the motherland prepare to build our Camelot.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Like Filipinos, Americans are also fooled by showbiztocracy

By William M. Esposo
Sunday, October 12, 2008

It is not only Filipinos who are fooled by showbiztocracy (a term your Chair Wrecker coined in 2004) but Americans as well. Although American voters are some of the best informed in the world, they too are known to succumb to the techniques of showbiztocracy.

Showbiztocracy is not just the intrusion of showbiz personalities into politics, especially national politics where they are found most wanting. In its broader sense, showbiztocracy is all about the insidious utilization of showbiz techniques in order to project the unreal as real, the untrue as true.

Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) did not come from showbiz but she is showbiztocracy personified. Her carefully crafted videos and staged appearances are showbiz stuff. Her touted ‘achievements’ demonstrate how the unreal is made to appear as real.

Republican Party vice presidential candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, is a good case in point of how many Americans are also impressed and fooled by showbiztocracy.

Though most viewers of the October 2 Veep Debate felt that Democrat Joseph Biden won it (by a margin of 51 — 36%), still the number of those who were impressed by Palin’s inanities can be quite unsettling. It is unsettling because she could become US President and will thus have the power to wage world war and nuclear war.

How voters can find someone who has been the favorite topic of jokes of US late night talk show hosts as ‘impressive’ demonstrates the shallowness of people’s discernment when it comes to choosing their leaders.

Let me share with you the following jokes that famous late night show hosts Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno have cracked about Sarah Palin (which is sourced from Daniel Kurtzman’s newsletter on Political Jokes).

“Political experts are saying that to succeed in the vice presidential debate, Sarah Palin needs to show that she has the same concerns as everyday Americans. For instance, Palin planned to start the debate by saying she’s really troubled by John McCain’s choice for vice president.” — Conan O’Brien

“Sarah Palin, she’s getting ready for tomorrow’s debate. I understand she now knows all three branches of government.” — Jay Leno

”Republicans are blaming Nancy Pelosi for the bailout not going through. Democrats are blaming it on an incomplete proposal by the Republicans. John McCain is blaming Barack Obama. Barack Obama is blaming John McCain. And Sarah Palin is praying nobody asks her what’s going on.” — Jay Leno

“Hugh Hefner is entering the fray. Hugh Hefner has asked Sarah Palin to pose nude for Playboy magazine. Yeah, and Palin said she’d agree to pose for Playboy as long as there’s no interview.” — Conan O’Brien

“John McCain wants to suspend his debate with Barack Obama until the economic crisis is over. And Sarah Palin wants to suspend her debate with Joe Biden until she can find Europe on a map.” — Jay Leno

“And all this week, the McCain campaign is trying to prevent Sarah Palin from talking to reporters covering the news, you know? They said, ‘you can take her picture, but you can’t ask her any questions.’ What is she running for, vice president or ‘America’s Next Top Model’?” — Jay Leno

“Earlier today, Governor Sarah Palin held a meeting with several leaders from other countries to showcase her foreign policy expertise. That’s right, yeah. Experts say the meeting took 90 seconds.” — Conan O’Brien

Do these not remind you of the Erap jokes? We enjoyed those Erap jokes — only to wake on June 1, 1998 to the nightmare that the joke was on us. Joseph Estrada became president and our country was never the same again.

Really, when you think about it seriously, the communications teams of these candidates and the media that allow the promotion of unfit leaders should have a lot to account for when their time is up to meet their Maker. They have willfully lent their communications skills and access to people (in the case of media) to promote those who can harm their country.

They are no different from lawyers who know that their clients are murderers or plunderers and they still lend their skills to get them acquitted. The legal system may allow them to do these but when they meet their Maker they will have to account for it.

Their cop out is that it is just a job, a contracted service which is allowed by the laws of the land. They rationalize their acts on the basis of the law that allows the unfit to avail of services that can make them fool the people and win an election.

In our country, the very root of the Wealth Gap is the Information Gap. This Information Gap is what these communicators and media factors help perpetuate. They have actively promoted the exploitation of the ignorance of the masses and allowed them to be manipulated to elect the very leaders who will make life more miserable for them.

Serving the cause of unfit and/or corrupt candidates is no different from promoting melamine-laced milk over healthy pure cows’ milk. The laws of man may not be able to craft the legislation to correct the malpractice of promoting unfit candidates. But God’s justice will not fail to make the sinner account when the time comes.

In another place and time, a Propaganda Minister of a world-class tyrant committed suicide because he feared that he would be made to account for the tyranny that his communications skills promoted. I refer to Joseph Goebbels, Propaganda Minister of Nazi Germany.

Germany in April 1945 was about to be overrun by the allies. The Russians were entering Berlin from the east while the Americans and the British were attacking from the west. In their Berlin bunker, hours before the fall, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels committed suicide along with their loved ones.

Joseph Goebbels did not command any fighting units in the battlefield. He did not order the genocide of the Jews and the other so-called inferior races. He merely played with concepts, images and words. But his conscience must have convinced him that he is just as accountable for the atrocities of World War II in Europe as Hitler, Himmler and those other Nazi brutes.
* * *

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gloria and the Lilliputs

By Antonio C. Abaya

This was the most bizarre presidential trip by any president of any country that I am familiar with.

After canceling the trip to New York last August, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo suddenly left on Sept. 22 for New York, suspiciously after the American International Group was nationalized by the US government, ostensibly to address the General Assembly of the United Nations, to meet the secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and to promote the candidacy of Sen. Miriam Santiago for a seat in the International Court of Justice.

But here is the bizarre part. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer of Sept. 23, “…..Ms. Arroyo will also have meetings with St. Vincent and Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda, all from the popular tourist destination Caribbean group of islands. She will also meet with leaders from Andorra and San Marino, which are among the six smallest nations in Europe.

“On Thursday, she will hold bilateral meetings with Senegal, Cyprus and Antighua (sic) and Barabadu (sic)…..”

In the electronic edition of my article Deeper in Corruption of Sept. 23, I inserted this tidbit and wondered why she was meeting with the leaders of these tiny countries, which are best called Lilliput countries, and I asked out loud if she was doing so to mask meetings with people from those other Caribbean Lilliput islands, Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, well known havens for laundering illicit money.

So, not counting Antighua and Barabadu, President Arroyo was meeting the heads of state, heads-of-governments or, at the very least, the chefs de mission of five Lilliput countries and two real ones..
In the Philippine Daily Inquirer of Sept. 25, apparently in an oblique rebuttal to my speculation, Malacanang added Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea. Slovenia, Comoros, Iceland and Belgium. “She will also attend an art exhibit hosted by the President of Argentina, and dinners hosted by the President of Costa Rica and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. She will also receive the foreign ministers of Russia, Norway and Libya…….”

That adds up to seven Lilliput countries and eleven real countries. But note that the above sentences are all in the future tense. So we can only assume that, but we do not really know if, she actually met with the heads- of-state or of-government, or chefs de mission of 18 sovereign countries in the two days that she had in New York (Sept. 24 and 25) before she had to take the evening flight to arrive in NAIA early dawn of Sept. 27, international date line inputted

But wait, that’s not all. In the Sept. 27 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, more countries were added by Malacanang to President Arroyo’s list of alleged conferees: the “representatives of Afghanistan, Iraq, Gabon, Greece, Yemen, Pakistan, South Africa and Panama. That makes it seven Lilliput countries and 19 real countries….all .in the space of two days or 48 hours.

If one were to remove 14 hours for sleeping two nights, six hours for eating two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners, and another four hours for putting on make-up twice and choosing the matching shoes, dresses and handbags twice, that would leave about 24 hours for meeting the heads-of-state or of-government, or the chefs de mission, of 26 countries, including seven Lilliputs.

Or an average of about 55 minutes per country, assuming that everyone was efficiently lined up outside President Arroyo’s hotel suite and each one stepped in immediately after the previous one stepped out.

No wonder Press Secretary Jesus Dureza fell ill and had to be hospitalized in New York. He was probably stressed out because he could not remember who was from where..

That must be a world’s record in international relations. Sarah Palin could use a tutorial session with President Arroyo on how to meet with 26 heads-of-state and of-government, and chefs de mission in 24 hours.

In her visit to the United Nations last week, Palin met only Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in his Captain Marvel costume, and that dirty old man, Henry Kissinger, who could not get up from his seat after he was bussed on both cheeks by sexy Sarah.

But why would President Arroyo want to meet with so many foreign officials in such a short time? The answer may be in the photo (credited to one Rey Banquet) that appeared on the front page of the Sept. 25 issue of the Standard Today. It is a photo of the plenary hall of the General Assembly while President Arroyo was making her speech.

It is impossible to make out the diminutive President Arroyo in the photo, but you know it is she speaking because the two giant screens above the podium show someone who looks like her. But the notable thing about this photo is that it showed that one fourth to one third of the seats were empty.

Malacanang made a fuss of the fact that President Arroyo was scheduled to speak right after President George W. Bush and French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Unfortunately, after the two heavyweights were done, one fourth to one third of the audience stepped out of the hall…. to smoke, to empty their bladders, to stretch their legs, to call their boy friends or girl friends, to order pizza for lunch or dinner…and did not bother to return and listen to the perceived lightweight who followed.

They apparently realized their mistake moments later, which is why they conceivably lined up outside President Arroyo’s suite and took turns seeking their 55 minutes of enlightenment on geopolitics and governance..

As for the Lilliput countries whose heads-of-state President Arroyo apparently chose to seek out even before she got to New York, here are some background information. As a former avid stamp collector (from age 11 to 26), I have some familiarity with these far-away places with strange-sounding names, but I dug up more data about them from the 2008 World Almanac and Book of Facts, as well as from Wikipedia.

St. Kitts and Nevis (Pop. 39,349, .281 sq kms, slightly smaller than the 300 sq kms of Lubang Island off the mouth of Manila Bay).Caribbean. Reached by Columbus in 1493, settled by the Brits in 1623, became independent in 1983.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Pop 118,149, 389 sq kms, slightly larger than the 343.5 sq kms of Siquijor Island-Province.) Caribbean. Visited by Columbus in 1489, claimed by the British and the French in the 17th century, ceded to Britain in 1783, became independent in 1979.

Antigua and Barbuda. (Pop. 69,491, 443 sq kms, or almost exactly the same as the 445 sq kms of Sibuyan Island, located between Masbate and Romblon) Caribbean. Reached by Columbus in 1493, British colony since 1632, became independent in 1981.

Comoros Islands. (Pop, 711,000, 2,170 sq kms, slightly bigger than the 2,125 sq kms of Pampanga Province.) Indian Ocean. French colony since 1841, became independent in 1975

Cape Verde Islands. (Pop. 423,613, 4,033 sq kms, smaller than the 4,468 sq kms of Cebu Island-Province.) Atlantic Ocean. Portuguese colony since 1462, became independent in 1975.

San Marino. (Pop. 29,615, 61 sq kms, smaller than the 71 sq kms of Mactan Island.) Europe, in the middle of Italy. Founded in the 4th century, claims to be the oldest state in Europe. Not true that it was almost accidentally bulldozed into oblivion by Mafia casino developers.

Andorra. (Pop 71,822, 488 sq kms, slightly bigger than Sibuyan Island.) Europe, between France and Spain. A co-principality with joint sovereignty under France and the Bishop of Urgel, 1278 to 1993.

(Personal note. There are two easy overland ways to go from France to Spain: along the Atlantic coast or along the Mediterranean coast. And one hard way: over the Pyrenees through Andorra. When I toured Europe by Vespa motor scooter in 1961, I chose the hard way. As a stamp collector I wanted to mail postcards to myself affixed with Andorran stamps Did the same in Liechtenstein, Vatican City and Monaco.

(I also wanted to reach the highest pass in the Pyrenees: Puerta de Envalira, 2,407 meters above sea level, in Andorra. If Burnham Park in Baguio is one mile or 1.6 kilometers above sea level, Envalira would be a point straight up in space 800 meters above Burnham. Cross-country in Andorra is all of 41 kilometers.)

Why President Arroyo wanted to meet with the top officials of these seven Lilliput countries is beyond me. Has she started to collect stamps? Is she losing her marbles? Or was she using these publicized meetings to hide (from the CIA and the NSA) clandestine meetings with gnomes from those other Lilliput places: Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands? Bizarre!. *****

Reactions to Other articles in Tony on YouTube in

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The world now suffers from SinoFOODbia

By William M. Esposo

Sinophobia is described as the intense fear or dislike of China, its people and its culture. Sinophobia took its roots from the influx of Chinese immigrants in Europe and North America. Even fellow Asians suffered from Sinophobia when the Chinese sought Asian havens after the Communist takeover in China.

Sinophobia took another dimension after World War II when the US and its allies were overrun by Chinese forces during the Korean War and were driven back to the south of the 38th Parallel, the boundary of North and South Korea.

General Douglas MacArthur wanted to drop atomic bombs at the North Korea and China border in order to cut off the North Koreans from China.

The world was lucky that the US had a wise president at the time – Harry Truman – who recognized the danger of a 3rd World War erupting with the prospects of Russia and China ranged against the US and its allies. Truman knew that it was Russia who broke the back of the German Army during World War II and the US feared that Russia also possessed the atom bomb.

The Russians lost more than 20 million people in fighting Hitler in World War II. The US cannot hope to match up with an enemy that is not deterred by 20 million casualties in war.

After its setback in Korea, the US started fearing a Chinese export of Communism all over Asia. Here in the Philippines, we were especially primed to be ever watchful of Chinese infiltration. The illegal Chinese migrants then were notorious for adopting the identities of dead persons.
Nowadays, the Philippines and the rest of the world are again suffering from yet another dimension of Sinophobia – this one I’d like to call SinoFOODbia. It is the new fear of anything ingestible that is made in China.

SinoFOODbia here took its roots from White Rabbit China-made candies that were discovered to pose health hazards last year. That discovery gave many folks the idea that the great rush to instant wealth that has characterized the Chinese economic boom during the last two decades may have reached that stage of GREEDY COMMERCE. When greedy commerce reigns, ethical standards are overlooked in the drive for a bigger share of the filthy lucre.

To compound the bad image that this health hazard had spawned, the US discovered that the material used for China-made toys also posed health hazards to children. You can just imagine what fears are now playing in peoples minds when toys that are not even ingested can still pose health hazards!

Here comes the whopper – China-made milk products can actually kill due to melamine content. Melamine is a chemical which an unscrupulous milk manufacturer adds in order to raise the protein rating of the milk product. Babies have started getting sick, some have actually died.
This set off a global panic and it is only right to panic when it comes to babies’ food. It is not just the China-made milk we drink that we have to watch out for. There are many products that are prepared with China-made milk and in the absence of any definitive finding on the exact dimensions of the threat to health – it is best to stop consuming all China-made milk products.

The SinoFOODbia is easier to contain in developed countries where people buy branded products. Branded products are easily categorized according to its safety or threat to health.
Not quite so when these milk products are bought by traders in bulk and then repacked into small affordable portions that cater to Philippine society’s tingi (retailed in the smallest packages) purchasing idiosyncrasy (that is largely dictated by limited household budgets). Repacked, there is now the problem of determining if the milk is made in China.

To be on the safe side, the DoH (Department of Health) decided to initially ban all China-made milk products as well as products that may have China-made milk in its composition. An initial list of 54 products was banned until the BFAD (Bureau of Food and Drugs) can ascertain the safety standards of these products.

Being looked into now are other food products from China as an independent lab was able to find melamine in popularly patronized China-made meat products. Even China-made cosmetics are now being analyzed.

Even the Chinese leader was quoted on television as saying that Chinese commerce has become greedy and lost its sense of morality. Knowing the severity of Chinese justice, I shudder to think what will be the penalty for the people who will be held to account for this milk mess.

Their crime is not just the deaths and ailments that babies suffered. There is a greater crime that the Chinese regime could attach to this – that of economic sabotage – which, per Chinese penal laws, can easily fetch the guilty parties a date with the executioner. Who would feel safe buying Chinese food products after this?

Chinese justice, known to be fast and severe, can mean a bullet shot point blank through the medulla oblongata.

Putting the Chinese experience in proper perspective, why shouldn’t the heads of those financial institutions in the US that dragged the world into the current financial meltdown also be meted a similar penalty? US justice may be less severe compared to Chinese justice but shouldn’t those heads of financial institutions that recklessly plunged into sub-prime be charged for negligence and also for economic sabotage?

The Chinese experience with lethal milk and the US experience with the financial meltdown are the products of unbridled capitalism. Unbridled capitalism promotes unbridled greed.