Thursday, December 24, 2009

Talking boobs

Written by Manuel Buencamino / Dispatches from the Enchanted Kingdom

If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?—Will Rogers

St. Luke’s hospital gave Gloria Arroyo a clean bill of health. Her implants were not leaking. But that does not mean Gloria has no problem with her boobs. She does. Her boobs talk. And they say the most embarrassing and damning things.

There was too much speculation on whether Mrs. Arroyo was protecting the Ampatuans, so presidential spokesgirl Lorelei Fajardo decided to set the record straight.

“Just because they’re in this situation doesn’t mean we will already turn our backs on them. It doesn’t mean that they are no longer our friends, if ever they, indeed, committed the crime.”

That was the last statement Lorelei was ever going to make as deputy presidential spokesgirl. She was fired for telling the truth, for putting into context why Mrs. Arroyo had to send her presidential adviser on Mindanao to negotiate a voluntary surrender for the principal suspect in the massacre, to wait for days for the suspect to make up his mind, and to welcome him with a hug and a handshake when he finally gave himself up.

Justice Secretary-designate Agnes Devanadera claimed a rebellion in Maguindanao was preventing the courts from functioning but Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, congressman from Maguindanao and Arroyo ally, showed her up.

“For your information, Branch 15, vacant since death of judge, not filled by Office of the President; Branch 13, 14 it is not true there are no judges; they are on travel with approval of Supreme Court…the other judges are on pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia with approval of Supreme Court. And Supreme Court spokesman belied your assertion justice system not functioning, SC had designated judge who issued commitment order.” (This and the following quotes are lifted from Manuel Quezon III’s live blog report.)

Meanwhile, Rep. Edcel Lagman, congressman from Bicol and staunch Arroyo ally, gave Devanadera a lecture on the law.

“Lagman: To my mind nonfunctioning of civil authorities would be indicative of sedition, not rebellion…. But sedition is not ground for declaring martial law.

“Devanadera: Sedition definitely, is different from rebellion….

“Lagman: My point is, preventing civil authorities from exercising their function is an element of sedition…. Review the report given to us by PNP Caro, there is no mention that prior to December 4 there was public uprising, an armed uprising against the government, so that would negate factual basis of declaration of martial law and suspension of writ.”

Devanadera gave a further demonstration of her expertise in constitutional law when she told Sen. Francis Pangilinan, “Neither arrest nor search warrants required during martial law.”

“Pangilinan: So martial law suspends other parts of Bill of Rights?

“Devanadera: Yes, for charge of rebellion.”

Devanadera’s interpretation of the Constitution is the “get-out-of-jail” card of the Ampatuans. That’s why Gloria’s loudest talking boob, Cerge Remonde, immediately laid the groundwork for finger-pointing in the likely event that the Ampatuans escape conviction.

“They [antimartial-law people] do not say it out loud, but a Supreme Court decision favorable to their cause could nullify the arrest of the suspects and may render the evidence against them inadmissible. So, are they now so concerned about the welfare and well-being of the suspects in this gruesome crime?”

So those opposed to martial law are to be held responsible, if the Supreme Court decides to throw out evidence gathered in search-and-seizure operations not allowed by the Constitution?

In retrospect, Lorelei’s statement must have pushed Gloria to declare martial law. She was forced to proclaim that there is actually something that even she could not tolerate. At the same time, the “mistakes” that would happen under martial law would prove to the Ampatuans that she was doing her damnedest best to help them beat the murder raps. And so everybody is happy.

Merry Christmas to all.

Buencamino is the resident satirist of Action for Economic Reforms (

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Massacre Victims: 65 – Period!

by Patricio P. Diaz
from MindaNews

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 Dec) – Last December 14, MindaNews posted the story I wrote, “November 23 Massacre Victims: 65?” I used the question mark (?) to invite editors to investigate the discrepancy between the “57” consistently used in media reports and the number of names listed in the two reports – the partial list in on November 25 and in the Report of President Arroyo to Congress.

When there are indicators of discrepancy in news stories, journalists are expected to be investigative. I have no way of knowing how the MindaNews item was received. Unless I’m proven wrong, the lists and other relevant media reports positively indicate that the number of victims is 65. Period!

Following is the reprint of the Mindanews item. After that I will discuss the discrepancy, and the logical questions they elicit that no journalist or editor must ignore.

The Item

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, December 9 – A collation of media reports and the report of the President to Congress showed that 65 were massacred on the hillside of Masalay, a sitio of Barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao last November 23. This is not just a statistical probability. All the 65 were identified by names.

President Arroyo’s report named 55 victims; the partial list posted in on November 25 had 47 names. Media reports have consistently mentioned 57 victims of whom 31 were media people.

The victims were in eight vehicles. Five — the UNTV van and four Toyota Grandia vans – comprised the Mangudatu convoy. The three others — one official car of Tacurong City, a red Toyota Vios, one Tamaraw FX, and one Pajero – happened to be with the convoy.

MindaNews (November 29) reported that the Toyota Vios had five passengers and the Tamaraw FX was driven by Anthony Ridao. It did not mention any number of people in the Pajero. A report said Ridao was alone.

The Arroyo report identified 12 Mangudadatu women relatives; two lady lawyers and the father of lawyer Cynthia Oquendo; 29 media people; two drivers; five government employees; and four civilians.

The 12 Magundadatu women in the Arroyo report matched with the report; so did the two lawyers and Mr. Oquendo. These 15 were in the Mangudadatu convoy.

The 29 media people named in the Arroyo report did not include four named in the list. That brought the number of media victims named to 33. They were in the convoy.

The two drivers named in the Arroyo report were in the list. However, four in the list were not in the Arroyo report. That made six the number of drivers. Inquirer reporter Aquiles Zonio, one of the three media men left behind, said in his report (, November 24) there were five drivers in the convoy.

The four civilians named in the Arroyo report were not in the list. One civilian named in the list was not among the four named in the Arroyo report. That made five the number of victims indentified as civilians.

To sum up the collated numbers: 12 Mangudadatu relatives; 3 convoy members (two lawyers and Mr. Oquendo); 33 media people; 6 drivers; 5 government employees; and 5 civilians: Total: 64.

Human Rights Commissioner Leila de Lima (, December 3) said four families were claiming three bodies indicating one victim missing. MindaNews (December 3) said the Momay family of Tacurong City had reported to the CHR that Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay, photographer of Midland Review was still missing. That raised the number of media victims to 34 and the total number of named victims to 65.

Incidentally, Zonio reported on November 24 that the Mangudadatu convoy consisted of 16 women (obviously counting Mr. Oquendo in this number), 37 media people, and five drivers. Since he and two others did not join in the last minute, there were only 34 media people and 55 in the convoy. Not part of the convoy were one driver, five employees and four civilians taking the Toyota Vios, Tamaraw FX and the Pajero.

The list of victims from the collated reports

Magundadatu relatives: Bai Genalin T. Magudadatu, Pinky Balaiman, Bai Eden Magundadatu, Bai Farida Mangudadatu, Rowena Anne Mangudadatu, Mamotavia Magudadatu, Faridah Dabdula, Soraida Vernan (Bernan in list), Raidah Sapalan Abdul, Rahima Puto Palawan, Lailan “Ella” Balayman, and Wahida Ali Kalim.

Two lawyers: Atty. Cynthia Oquendo-Ogano and Atty. Concepcion “Connie” Brizuela.
Atty. Oquendo’s father: Cataleno Oquendo.

Media people: (In GMA Report) Gina dela Cruz, Lea Dalmacio, Marites Cablitas, Marife Montaño, Alejandro “Bong” Reblando, McDelbert “Mac Mac” Areola, Ray Matisco, Bienvenido Jun Lagarta, Napoleon Salaysay, Eugene Depillano, Rossell Morales, Arturo Betia, Noel Decena, John Canibo, Junpee Gatchalian, Victor Nuñez, Andres Teodoro, Romeo Capelo*;

Joy Duhay. Ronnie Perante, Benjie Adolfo, Ian Santiago, Joel Parcon, Robello Bataluna, Linda Lipugan, Ernesto Maravilla, Fernando Razon, Hannibal Cachuela, Henry Araneta; (In list, not in Report) Councilor Razul Daud, Jovy Lagarta, Boyet dela Cruz, Art Mascardo; (Reported missing by family to CHR) Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay.

Drivers: (In GMA Report) Abdila Ayada, Norton “Sidic” Edza; (In list, not in Report) Unto, Eugene, Patrick Pamansag, Chito.

Government Employees: (All in GMA Report) Wilhelm Palabrico, Mercy Palabrico, Anthony Ridao, Eduardo “Nonie” Lechonsito, Daryll Vincent delos Reyes.

Civilians: (In GMA Report) Mariam Calimbol, Jephon C. Cadagdagon, Joellito Evardo, Cecile Lechonsito; (In list) Patricia Palapay.

*[NOTE: There were six names of journalists in the list that I had to reconcile with the names in the Report. One of them was “Romeo Capelo” of “Midland Review”, Tacurong City” that I decided to be “Jimmy Cabello” of “Media/Midland Review” in the list. In the report today (Dece. 17: “Mayor laughed as he gunned down pleading journalist”) the name is “Jimmy Cabillo” of Midland Review.]


As reported – detailed in the MindaNews item above — there were 55 in the 5-vehicle convoy; three vehicles happened to be with the convoy, as found at the massacre site – a red Toyota Vios, an official car with five passengers; a Tamaraw FX owned and driven by Anthony Ridao; and a Pajero. Add: 55 plus 5 plus 1 equals 61 – more than 57. And the Pajero must have at least a driver. The discrepancy was very clear. published a partial list of 46 names with identities but it did not follow this up with a complete list similarly identified. The Arroyo Report to Congress said that of the “57 bodies found in the massacre site” 21 were women and 36 were men and only 55, as listed, “have been identified”. Were the President’s men and women aware of the partial list? Were they aware of facts and figures given in media reports?

Had they been, they could have collated the partial list, which must have come from an official source, and the official list given to them. Had they done this, they could have asked the police or military to verify the 65 names from the collated lists. The President should not report to Congress a tentative number.

Logical, Right

I’m certain, the prevailing thinking is this: “57” has been consistently used, so there were 57 massacre victims. But, between the “57” cumulative and tentative figure and the “65” specifically identified names, which must be correct?

[NOTE: Why is “57” cumulative and tentative? Police reported 46 bodies recovered on November 24 with 28 unidentified.’s partial list on November 25 had 47 identified by names. This must be based on the police findings on the previous day; yet, the police stuck with “46” and on November 26, the number climbed to “57” with the recovery of 11 more. The number should have been “58” considering the list figure of “47” More were expected to be found, the police said, as searches continued. Media reports occasionally used “at least 57”. After the CHR reported Momay to be missing, the number of journalists killed climbed to “31” but the “57” total remained. Related to the partial list, the total should have become “59”. Is the discrepancy just to be ignored?]

The specific “65” corrects the cumulative “57”. If the “65” is wrong, correct it by naming the “57”. This is most logical. Is it necessary to name the “57”? Yes, in the name of justice, right and charity!

Is it right to name “65” as having been massacred but to consistently report “57” as the number of victims? Were eight names among the “65” wrongly entered? If so, identify them. It is not right to report them as dead if they are alive. If they were truly among the victims, it is not right to exclude them by reporting only “57”. In fact, it is also unjust and uncharitable.


It is understandable if official police reports contain discrepancies. But should editors and reporters perpetuate or should they correct the discrepancies? If they are true to their pledge to uphold truth, justice, and rights they must.

What can they do? That means correcting official police reports.

The “65” are named. Editors in Tacurong City, Koronadal City, General Santos City and Davao City should see the families of the named and identified victims from their cities. The Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine Star, the ABS-CBN News, the GMANews-TV and other Manila based newspapers and televisions should do the same through their correspondents.

The main and real purpose is not to prove correct or incorrect the “65” or the “57” but to come out with a true list – the number notwithstanding – of victims correctly named and identified in the name of truth, justice and rights. The “65” or “57” are people, not animals or stones.

(”Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to: make poll losers look like winners

by William Esposo

Reposted in its entirety from the original: “As I Wreck This Chair,” Dec 20 2009, on the Philippine Star.

Confusion and bewilderment followed news reports and commentaries on various media that dominant 2010 presidential candidate, Senator Noynoy Aquino, had slid dramatically in recent surveys.

Is this true, folks wanted to know, that Noynoy had truly lost a lot of ground as some broadcast commentators and tabloid writers had claimed? Is it true that Senator Manny Villar, who has been consistently placing second to Noynoy, albeit a poor second, had finally caught up with Noynoy Aquino?

Many wondered how Noynoy could be overtaken by Villar when there has been nothing dramatic that took place between them to cause such a change in the political landscape. Noynoy, they rightly observed, had not committed a single catastrophic blunder to make him lose a lot of ground. Villar, on the other hand, had not done anything spectacular to make him rise dramatically and erode Noynoy’s position.

Considering the intensity and passion going for Noynoy, it is illogical that the people supporting him will suddenly shift to another presidential candidate for no compelling reason at all. In fact, there is every reason to believe that Noynoy will improve his ratings and lead with the withdrawal of Senator Chiz Escudero from the race. The bulk of Escudero’s supporters are the youth and they will likely gravitate to Noynoy considering that they favor an Opposition presidential candidate who also reflects hope that youth needs and aspirations will be fulfilled.

The incredulity increases when you factor that Noynoy had performed very well in the December 2, 2009 ANC “Harapan” Presidential Debate which was held at the University of Santo Tomas Auditorium. The ANC panel composed of veteran communications pro Emily Abrera, Pulse Asia president Dr. Ronald Homes, ABS-CBN website editor-in-chief Maritess Vitug and PPCRV legal counsel Atty. Howard Calleja and moderated by Ricky Carandang felt that Noynoy was among the top three debaters of that forum. An online ANC poll rated Noynoy as the most believed with Gilbert Teodoro, the supposed “competent and talented” presidential candidate, as his ads project him, coming in second.

Up to the second week of December, there was no questioning if Noynoy was maintaining his domination of the presidential race. An SWS nationwide “Single Choice” survey (conducted November 4 to 8 with a base of 1,200 respondents) commissioned by Mayor Edward Hagedorn showed Noynoy rating 47% followed by Villar with 20%, Escudero and Joseph Estrada in 3rd and 4th place with 12% each and Gilbert Teodoro with 3%.

The confusion happened when the other part of the same SWS survey commissioned by Mayor Hagedorn was released last Monday — a multiple choice survey where as many as three could be named. It showed Noynoy rating 59%, Villar with 45%, Escudero with 27%, Estrada with 18% and Teodoro with 8%. The spin masters went to town announcing that Villar had caught up with Noynoy’s big numbers — conveniently omitting to clarify the difference between the “Multiple Choice” and the “Single Choice” surveys.

For the uninitiated, the multiple choice survey is useful in showing if a candidate is not what is called OUT OF SIGHT and OUT OF MIND. For Villar, the multiple choice results are encouraging in that he is not out of sight and out of mind. There are 45% who still think of him as a possible choice for president.

But the single choice survey is the real deal. The single choice survey is what separates the sold from the unsold. In the Single Choice SWS survey, Noynoy’s 47% rating gave him a 27% lead over Villar which was bigger than Villar’s 20% rating.

Then, another one of these instant survey firms that sprout during elections once again resurfaced and produced poll results that are glaringly different from the results of the credible SWS and Pulse Asia surveys. The Center (Issues and Advocacy Center) of PR man Ed Malay (who works for Fidel V. Ramos who in turn has been praising Gilbert Teodoro lately) also released their nationwide survey with a claimed base of 1,200 respondents.

The Center posed this question to their respondents: “Who would you vote for from among the list of nine presidential aspirants (Noynoy Aquino, Manny Villar, Erap Estrada, Gibo Teodoro, Dick Gordon, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, JC de los Reyes, Jamby Madrigal and Nicky Perlas) if elections were to be held today?” It was obviously a single choice survey which claimed to have been conducted from December 2 to 6.

Lo and behold, in The Center survey Noynoy was doing what Malay called a “stationary dive” of 31%. Villar was described as reducing Noynoy’s lead to only 7% with a rating of 24%. If one follows the drift of Malay, the big winner in The Center survey was — don’t hold your breath – Gilbert Teodoro who suddenly climbed to double digit with a rating of 10%. Teodoro was doing 3% in the SWS November 4 – 8 Single Choice survey.

That survey of The Center appeared to have been designed to bring down Noynoy’s ratings and reflect a big jump in the ratings of Gilbert Teodoro. To explain his radically different survey results, Malay said a mouthful in the December 14 STAR story.

Malay claimed that:

  1. Teodoro rose because of his supposed “positive reviews from the debates” and his “handling of the Maguindanao massacre even if he was no longer Defense Secretary.”
  2. In the wake of the Maguindanao massacre, Filipinos “have begun to look not only at the qualifications of the presidential aspirants but also at the experience and capability of each to lead the country in 2010 and beyond.”

Contrary to what the ANC panel and online poll respondents concluded, Malay was quoted by the STAR as saying that: “The debates were most harmful to Noynoy.” He added: “(They) exposed the weakness and lack of depth on the basic issues by the neophyte senator when ranged against a more knowledgeable and experienced candidate such as Teodoro who topped the 1989 bar exams.”

Really, Malay’s assertions look more like a PR program for Teodoro instead of a survey report. He dared to cite clearly unproved conditions like Teodoro’s establishing superiority over Noynoy in the debates and performing “heroically” in Maguindanao.

Ed Malay of The Center should stop selling incredible polls and just write for Gilbert Teodoro the equivalent of the Marcos book “For every tear a victory” (written by Hartzell Spence) which was launched in time for the 1965 presidential campaign. Then he can at least gain credibility, especially if he categorizes the book as fiction.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gilbert Teodoro must account for

by William M. Esposo
from The Philippine Star

Perhaps conditioned by the experience of the Ferdinand E. Marcos national nightmare from 1965 to 1986, your Chair Wrecker has become very wary every time a candidate for the highest executive post in the land postures as God’s gift to the people owing to his talent and skills.

“This nation can be great again” was the proud boast of Marcos when he ran for president in 1965 against incumbent Diosdado Macapagal. Marcos was never coy about his “greatness” as seen by how he was packaged during the 1965 campaign.

In the 1956 campaign, Marcos projected that:

1. He was a destined (Iginuhit ng Tadhana which means predestined) leader of his people.

2. He was a brilliant man who possesses a photographic memory.

3. He was an extraordinary war hero who won a string of medals for battlefield bravery.

4. He was an exceptional lawyer who won his own acquittal in the Supreme Court over an earlier conviction for the murder of Julio Nalundasan.

5. He was the leader who would clean government corruption and bring the Philippines to its greatest heights.

As it turned out, the Marcos medals were pure myth, Marcos era corruption far exceeded that of all other previous presidencies and Marcos was simply destined to bring the country to its most traumatic post-World War II period which to this day affects the psyche of many Filipinos and had set dangerous precedents for other Marcos wannabes to ape.

Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) had anointed former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro as the administration official presidential candidate. Teodoro, to his credit, acknowledges his debt of gratitude to GMA even if we all know that to be associated with her is to suffer the kiss of death. He even vowed to continue the “good” policies of the GMA regime and pursue Charter Change which reinforces people’s perception that he will simply be a GMA clone or a facilitator of a GMA resurrection under a parliamentary system.

Teodoro is projecting himself as the epitome of galing at talino (competence and talent). Teodoro runs a clever campaign by sounding more of a reformist than the real reformist — the dominant presidential candidate, Senator Noynoy Aquino — when in truth and by his own admission he plans to pursue the policies of GMA, including the distrusted Charter Change.

Undeniably bright and articulate — like Marcos — Teodoro mesmerizes some people. They are attracted to his promises of change and reform despite his plans to pursue GMA policies and call for Charter Change. Sweet nothings from the mouths of skillful gigolos have succeeded in separating innocent virgins from their precious hymens.

But there are questions hounding Gilbert Teodoro that must be asked if we are to concede that indeed he is competent and talented. Here are a few which pertain to recent developments.

1. How come when he was still National Defense Secretary, Teodoro never raised the alarm about private armies, especially the atrocities that were happening in Maguindanao? Does this not make him equally accountable for the Maguindanao massacre as GMA who coddled and nurtured the Ampatuans, the prime suspects behind the heinous crimes?

2. How come Teodoro never acted on the weapons hoard of the Ampatuans when in fact these were mostly supplied by the military which was under him?

3. How come a bar topnotcher like Teodoro was willing to give GMA the benefit of the doubt on the imposition of PP 1959 (Maguindanao martial law) when former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban asserts that the Constitutional violations of PP 1959 are very glaring and are easily spotted by a freshman law student?

4. How come Teodoro failed to anticipate the Ondoy devastation (and properly react) when we all knew that Climate Change was triggering more rainfall and worse floods?

5. How come Teodoro panders to the US “Terror” line, the predicate for pursuing the big US agenda in Mindanao?

In two presidential debates, Teodoro asserted that he will prioritize the creation of a bigger military and police force. Now, that is as way off from seeing the real solutions to our biggest national security and peace and order problems as the old assessment of navigators that the world was flat.

Going by that thinking, Teodoro will forever be engaged in expanding our military and police because he failed to recognize that the real solution was to address poverty and the lack of social justice by bridging the Information, Education, Opportunity and Wealth Gaps in our society. Going by Teodoro’s solution, money that should go for health, education and providing livelihood will instead go to fund a forever increasing military and police force.

Going by Teodoro’s solution of a bigger military and police force, the result will be a garrison state which history tells us never solved a social justice problem. Because military and police expansion prevented the addressing of the health, education, livelihood problems, expect the insurgency and rebellions to prosper just as it did during the Marcos era.

Just as Marcos succeeded Diosdado Macapagal, if you know what is good for you — Teodoro should not be allowed to succeed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

* * *

Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: and

Saturday, December 19, 2009

GMA in the House

When Congressman Gloria Arroyo starts working in the House, she will run into strange rules, rituals and personalities. The House is a big change from Malacañang, where she called the shots and steered the fate of the nation.
She would be among a big batch of professional politicians and freshmen. Many have difficulty remembering names and often greet each other with “Hoy,” “Hello there” and “Kumusta na”?

She may have to compete for a suitable room that she would share with her staff, entertain guests and give her constituents a shoulder to cry on.

A number 8 license plate is a big descent from No. 1. Parking will not be a problem but premium space may not be available.

Occasionally, especially when she is in the session hall, she may have to share the ladies room with fellow congresswomen.

She will discover that she cannot speak on the floor unless she is recognized by the presiding officer.
She will no longer be called “Your Excellency” or “Commander in Chief” but “Your honor” or “the Gentlelady from the Second District of Pampanga.” News headlines will refer to her as “solon.”

Rep. Macapagal-Arroyo will miss delivering the State of the Nation Address, presiding over the Ledac (Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council) and signing major bills at the Palace with fawning lawmakers looking on.
But she will soon discover new perks, privileges and benefits that make membership in the House worthwhile.

Since she has not taken a vacation in her nine years in office, she will welcome the frequent recess and no-working days for lack of quorum.

The pork barrel money (countrywide development fund) will help her build, repair or renovate infrastructure in her district.

She can run for reelection twice, each term lasting three years.

A privileged speech, membership in the Commission on Appointments and participation in a congressional probe are some weapons to use against Malacañang/Cabinet abuses.

Would she like to attend this or that world conference? Junkets (foreign travel) are popular among congressmen.

She could have the satisfaction of initiating an impeachment case against a president, one of the exclusive powers of the House.

Of course she could push her bills or advocacies, such as the national ID system for Filipinos. Or a bill subjecting journalists to government test and licensing.

Dropping from president to representative isn’t really that bad. GMA could make a difference. She could be the only solon to mark her first 100 days.

And here’s a thought: If she is elected Speaker, she would have a shot at Malacañang. The Speaker is fourth in the line of presidential succession.

* * * *

BFO in the Pantheon

The family and friends of the late statesman Blas F. Ople will gather tomorrow morning at his gravesite at the Libingan ng mga Bayani to honor his memory on his sixth death anniversary.

Ople was on a flight from Japan to Bahrain on December 14, 2003, when he was seized by a heart attack. The plane made an emergency landing in Taiwan in a heroic attempt to save his life, but he died upon arrival at a Taiwan hospital.

His body, frail from a stroke many years earlier, had been taxed by frequent foreign travels to represent his country in world conferences and to meet with foreign leaders.

He was nursing a fever when he attended one such conference in Japan but he set out for Bahrain for another important meeting.

Ople was the exemplar of the self-made man. From his humble roots in Hagonoy, Bulacan, he rose to national eminence through hard work and perpetual self study. He had worked as a pier hand when the times were hard. He became an editor at the Daily Mirror, sister publication of The Manila Times, after passing a rewrite test with ease.

His erudition, nurtured by his passion for books, brought him high positions in government. In succession, he became labor secretary, member of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, senator, Senate president and foreign secretary.

Trustful of his counsel, President Gloria Arroyo held weekly one-on-one meetings with him at the Palace.
Ople was not the first to scale the heights from relative obscurity but he was different from the others in that he endeavored to live a life of simplicity, combined with a strong humanity and moral responsibility. He remained poor despite his power and influence.

From the labor department, the Senate, to the foreign ministry, he consistently championed the protection of workers, the upliftment of the poor, and the advancement of social justice, democracy and human rights.

His epitaph, written in gold on his grave, summarizes his life and work:
“And now, looking at the sun tilted to the west, I am confident that I have lived up to the public trust and to the demands of my own conscience.”

Friday, December 18, 2009

Romulo et al., respondents

by Rey O. Arcilla

‘Romulo had not lifted a finger to stop the planned sale of the Fujimi property in Tokyo.’

Ambassador Jose Macario Laurel IV, president of the Philippine Ambassadors Foundation, Inc. (PAFI), and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. have filed a case with the Supreme Court against Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, Finance Undersectary Estela Sales, Deputy Executive Secretary Natividad Dizon, Budget Undersecretary Laura Pascua, Public Works Undersecretary Bashi Rasuman, Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras III and Foreign Underscretary Franklin Ebdalin.

The petitioners are asking the high court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order on the bidding on the historic Fujimi property in Tokyo where the Philippine ambassador’s residence is located. (The Department of Finance has since postponed the bidding due to a “technical matter.”)

That Romulo and Ebdalin are among the respondents gives the impression that they are for the sale of the property. Are they or aren’t they?

Ebdalin was included because he is a member of the Bids and Awards Committee for the Government Properties in Japan (BAC-Japan). Romulo is not.

So what was the role of the future ex-foreign secretary in the planned sale of the property? Many times, PAFI officers sought an appointment with him to discuss the matter and seek clarification. Many times, he didn’t oblige them.

Then, after the filing of the case, he suddenly found the time to receive the PAFI officers. Too late! Why should they now “honor” him with their presence at his sanctum sanctorum in the DFA?

As far as can be determined, Romulo had not lifted a finger to stop the planned sale of the historic property. He did not even bother to take any action on a letter from Ambassador Domingo Siazon recommending that the property not be sold.

Was he in on the plan from the very beginning? As foreign secretary, he should have been among the first to object to the planned sale, instead of being a respondent in the case. Why did he not?

I suppose these are some of the questions he would have to touch upon when the Supreme Court asks the respondents in the case to comment on the PAFI petition.


The president of the DFA Union of Foreign Service Officers, Ambassador Victoria Bataclan, recently wrote another letter (which was also signed by almost 100 officers) to Ms. Arroyo protesting the appointment of Congressman Antonio Cuenco and Ambassador Francisco Benedicto as (political) ambassadors to Italy and China, respectively, to wit:


“The last time I wrote you on 1 October 2009, regarding the concern of the career foreign service officers on the increasing level of political ambassadors, you gave our letter a welcome response of no longer issuing the questioned appointment. On behalf of your foreign service corps, I thank you for your willingness to listen to reason from those who kept faith with you.

“I have been requested again to convey the sentiments of the foreign service corps regarding the appointments of Representative Antonio V. Cuenco as Philippine Ambassador to Italy and of Ambassador Franciso L. Benedicto as Philippine Ambassador to China.

“There are two fundamental concerns regarding their appointments. First, if ever the appointment of any of these persons is confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, the said appointee would only be able to serve as ambassador for less than six (6) months. Such duration in our view does not justify the additional expense for their deployment or transfer. Second, we share anew our considered view that the appointment of a person beyond the age of 65 violates both the clear letter and spirit of Section 23 of the Foreign Service Act.

“We hope that Your Excellency will reconsider the appointments of Messrs. Cuenco and Benedicto given the above considerations. If it is truly the desire of the President to replace ambassadors at this time, we remain hopeful that the President would prioritize the appointment of career officials in the interest of maintaining the professionalization of the foreign service and ensuring continuity of service.”

A copy of the letter was sent to Romulo. As DFA head who claims to have the welfare of the career corps at heart, the least he could have done was to endorse it favorably to his mistress squatting in Malacanang. He allegedly did not. No wonder DFA personnel can hardly wait for him to leave for good, abroad or otherwise.


Belated though it may be, I wish to applaud the US Embassy for its statement on the gruesome massacre in Maguindanao, thus:

“Such barbaric acts violate the most fundamental principles of human rights and democracy. We strongly believe that a thorough, rapid, and transparent investigation must be conducted, and those responsible must be brought to swift justice.”

But did you notice how eerily quiet the Americans were on the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao?

If memory serves and I think it does, martial law has always been anathema to the Americans. One exception would be when the late President Ferdinand Marcos imposed it on the country in 1972.

And that is precisely why I found the Americans’ deafening silence on the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao rather strange and unsettling.

Could it have something to do with the ongoing peace talks with the MILF? Reports said that the martial rule in Maguindanao did not apply to the MILF strongholds in that province. Are those enclaves not parts of the province?

Worse, military and police units were supposed to seek permission from the MILF before conducting any operations in those enclaves in pursuit of their mandate under martial law

Strange. Really strange.


There was a news report that said police arrested eight persons carrying placards assailing martial law in Maguindanao. They were part of a demonstration held during Ms. Arroyo’s recent visit to Calamba City, Laguna.

The Calamba police chief said that the eight protesters were detained at the local police station pending a decision by the local prosecutor’s office.

Since when has holding up protest signs or placards become a crime?


Quote of the week: “The joke is on us. That little girl must be amused after tormenting us legislators and petitioners.” – Senator Joker Arroyo on the lifting of martial by his namesake.


There are 197 days left before the end on 30 June 2010 of the stolen presidency of Ms. Arroyo, courtesy of “Garci”, et al.


Today is the 224th day of the third year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.



Thursday, December 17, 2009

An effective counter-punch

by Val G. Abelgas

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been undefeated in the ring because he has mastered the art of hit-and-run. He stings his opponents with power jabs and a few solid punches then moves back. His footwork is so fast, he can deliver a few punches and move out before his opponent could counter-punch. He does this repeatedly until the opposing boxer gets tired or gets so frustrated that he drops his guard or becomes careless. That’s when he delivers his knockout punch.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has mastered the same trick. She cheats her opponent and when caught on tape speaking with a Comelec commissioner in the infamous “Hello Garci” controversy, she steps back and said “I…am…sorry.” When protest rallies threatened to escalate in the controversy’s aftermath, she struck again with a policy called CPR or calibrated preemptive response where policemen were ordered to break up mass actions.

When the opposition mounted protests and media intensified its criticism of her administration and pressuring her to resign, she delivered a stunning blow with a declaration of a state of emergency in February 2006 and arrested leading oppositionists and raided critical media outfits. After these acts of intimidation, she steps back a week later and lifted the declaration. By then, she had doused cold water on growing protest actions that could have led to another EDSA uprising by prohibiting protests and demonstrations and threatening to detain anyone without arrest warrant.

Many times, she tried to force charter change and stepped back when the opposition to her attempts grew.

When a convoy of civilians and media men were ambushed and executed by the militia of her political allies in Maguindanao while on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of the Ampatuans’ political rival, she saw it as an opportunity to take a swing again with a declaration of a state of emergency, and subsequently an imposition of martial law in the province.

Before Congress could deliberate and vote on its continuation or revocation, and before the Supreme Court could decide on the petitions against the proclamation, Arroyo smartly lifted the order, leaving the oppositionists with nothing to punch but air.

Is the fight over yet? Arroyo has not even started. Like Mayweather, she is probably just tiring the people to submission and testing how far her opponents can still go before delivering the possible knockout punch – a martial law imposition just before the May 10 elections.

An unlikely scenario? Not at the pace she has been trying to remain in power beyond 2010. Not at the rate she has been undermining constitutional and legal processes since her assumption to power by unconstitutional means in 2001.

Have the people grown tired and apathetic to resist the knockout punch? Let’s hope not. The more the people should muster the courage and the strength to fight back, to deliver their own counter-punch and hopefully put Arroyo down on the canvas for the final count.

The senators are right in passing the resolution declaring the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao as unconstitutional even if Arroyo had lifted the order. Former Sen. Jovito Salonga and his group are right in urging the Supreme Court to deliberate and rule on its legality despite the government claim that the issue is “moot and academic.”

Salonga said Arroyo should be made accountable for grave violation of the Constitution when she placed Maguindanao under martial law despite the total absence of an invasion or rebellion, the two grounds warranting the declaration of martial law.

“Respondent Macapagal-Arroyo’s action is capable of repetition yet evading review. There is a high probability that Arroyo might again place Maguindanao province and even the whole island of Mindanao under martial law due to a perceived notion on the part of the Executive that there is a looming rebellion. Hence, for the strict constitutional guidance of the Executive, there is an urgent need to adjudicate on the fundamental constitutional issues raised by the instant petition,” the motion said.

The Senate declared its stand on the martial law imposition by stating its sense that Arroyo’s act was contrary to the provisions of the 1987 Constitution. But the Senate and the House as a joint body adjourned without making a vote on Proclamation 1959. It is now left again to the Supreme Court to make its stand.

The people should continue pressing the Supreme Court to act on the Salonga group’s motion for a ruling on the constitutionality of Arroyo’s martial law declaration. If the Supreme Court follows the steps of an inutile Congress, Arroyo would be emboldened to declare an expanded martial rule that would pave the way for his continued stay in power beyond her constitutionally mandated end of term on June 30, 2010.

Failing that, there is sufficient reason for the spirit of EDSA to rise again and do what democratic institutions shall have failed to do – to stop a tyrant. That is the most effective counter-punch to a shrewd and scheming hit-and-run fighter.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Evil of GMA’s Congressional Bid

Post-presidential involvement in politics is not something new. We know, for example, that the late Corazon Aquino continued to involve herself in politics long after she ceased being president, as did Fidel Ramos and Joseph  Erap Estrada. In the US, from which we copied our presidential system of government, many former US Presidents continued to be active in politics long after they have stepped down from office.

It is also not a new phenomenon for a former president to run for or be appointed to a public office after completing his term. John Quincy Adams, after serving as the 6th president of the US, was elected as a member of the US House of Representatives. Now contrary to what the critics say, this would not necessarily cheapen or demean the presidency. John Quincy Adams s incumbency as congressman for 17 years was served well in championing civil and political rights that eventually led to the removal of the prohibition on introducing legislations against slavery.

Of course GMA s candidacy for Congress is unprecedented in the Philippines. What leaves a bad taste in the mouth about it, as described by Sen. Chiz Escudero, has something to do less with demeaning the presidency than with GMA s nine years of presidency being characterized by corruption and abuse of power, and a nagging question about the legitimacy of her ascendancy to power. During her incumbency, GMA s administration has been beset by scandal after scandal, such as the $329-million NBN-ZTE broadband network deal, $14-million IMPSA power plant project, P728-million fertilizer fund scam, P321-million Jose Pidal accounts, and, not least of all, the  Hello Garci scandal  our very own version of Watergate which should have brought down GMA s presidency as it did Nixon s. To this day, however, not one has been put behind bars despite these egregious scandals of brobdingnagian proportion.

The opposition have raised fears of GMA maneuvering her way into power again in running for a congressional seat. The theories range from her gaining the House Speakership, directing a charter change toward a parliamentary government that would make her prime minister, to acquiring immunity from prosecution. But the message that should be stressed is the evil of electing someone whose governance has been tainted with corruption, official wrongdoing, scandals, abuses of power and electoral fraud.

To be sure, GMA being back at the helm is a distasteful proposition. Reprehensible even. But for now this is conjectural and may not happen at all. The opposition should come out strong and emphasize the evils that lurked under GMA s tenure in decrying her return to politics, instead of harping on conjectures about her return odyssey to power. While it is true that none of the charges against GMA have yet been proven  at least in a court of law  there is no denying, however, that these scandals and official malfeasances did take place. And they took place under her watch, which speaks volumes about her competence and effectiveness as a leader. Even worse, the public have yet to see the hand of the law reaching the guilty, while GMA thwarted, under the guise of executive privilege, every effort to bring to light the facts and circumstances surrounding these scandals.

The candidacy of GMA will ultimately be a referendum on her presidency. Her election as a Pampanga representative come May 2010 will put a stamp of approval on all that she represented under her nine years of incumbency as president  something every Pampangueo should seriously ponder before doing.

(For comments and other articles by Jun Bautista, e-mail him at or visit his  The Right to Speak blog at )

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Second Coming of Gloria

by Perry Diaz

arroyo-prayingIs the Philippines ready for the second coming of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? After a tumultuous nine-year reign during her first coming, there are signs that bode Gloria’s second coming.

The First Coming

Gloria’s first coming was on Jan 20, 2001 when she ascended into the presidency when then President Joseph Estrada was deposed during the EDSA 2 people power revolution. During her speech at the inauguration of the Batasan Pambansa Complex Annex Building on February 7, 2001, she said: “Through EDSA People Power 2, we have shown the world that, with the guidance and blessing of Divine Providence, we can unite and shape our country’s destiny.” Indeed, Gloria shaped the country’s “destiny” when it was revealed that the first major corruption case — involving no less than her newly appointed Secretary of Justice — was done within four days of her ascension to the presidency.

On her birthday on April 5, 2001, Gloria declared: “I do not plan my life. I leave it up to God.” It makes one wonder if Gloria really believed that her actions were guided by Divine Providence. Or was it megalomaniac illusions that guided her?

Midway through her presidency, Gloria told the nation that she decided not to seek the presidency in the 2004 elections. However, in December 2003, she announced that she was running for president because God told her to run. “Divine Providence put me here. The Lord is a very good Manager of my career,” she said.

Conversations with the Almighty

Gloria was elected to a second term in May 2004. On October 27, 2004, a newspaper reported: “ARROYO CLAIMS RECEIVING ‘DIVINE’ INSPIRATION.” It says, “President Gloria Arroyo said yesterday ‘her conversations with the Almighty’ have provided her with ‘the discernment to call for the formation of a Constitutional Convention’. In a breakfast forum with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Arroyo said: ‘I do what I believe is right. How do I know what is right? I am a person who prays. There is discernment of God’s will in my actions. I try to look for the will of God in every situation,’ Arroyo explained. She also said that she has asked her Cabinet members to undergo sessions on discernment, adding that she wanted them to be like her, ‘(who has) a lot of focus by Providence’.”

Gloria’s second term was enmeshed in corruption scandals. She also tried to amend the constitution to change the form of government to a parliamentary system. She succeeded in gathering enough signatures for a “people’s initiative” for Charter change. However, it was rejected by the Supreme Court; thus, thwarting her goal of staying in power. It was a severe setback that forced her to devise other means to achieve her goal.

In my article, “Gloria’s Gambit” (May 2009), I wrote, “With the Cha-cha train derailed, is Gloria going to pursue another elective political office in the 2010 elections? If she does, then we know what she is up to. I doubt, however, that she would admit it at this time. However, many people believe that she is going to run as congresswoman of her Pampanga district which is currently represented by her son, Mikey Arroyo.

“If that would be the case, Gloria would make sure that Lakas-Kampi-CMD will emerge from the 2010 elections with absolute control of the House of Representatives. As a congresswoman,Gloria could easily muster enough support to become the Speaker of the House. She could then maneuver to pass a resolution to convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-ass) or Constitutional Convention (Con-con) to amend the constitution to adopt a parliamentary form of government.”

Martial Law

Indeed, that’s exactly what Gloria did when she decided to run for Congress next year. But there is a twist to her perceived agenda. Instead of taking the circuitous road to changing the constitution and become Prime Minister, recent events seem to indicate that she is pursuing a drastic and less tedious way to retain power.

Seemingly, the Maguindanao massacre provided Gloria with an opportunity to impose martial law in the province of Maguindanao, an act that has been widely criticized by leaders of civil society, the media, the Catholic Church, and the opposition parties. The rationale for opposing martial law is that “state of emergency” — which Gloria imposed a few days earlier in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat — is sufficient to maintain law and order, and prosecute the perpetrators of the mass murders. According to the 1987 constitution, martial law can only be imposed in the event of an invasion or rebellion. Was the Maguindanao massacre an act of invasion or rebellion? Absolutely not!

“Gloria in excelsis Arroyo”

But why then? A wicked scenario has been postulated by several columnists and analysts. With the support of the generals — particularly the Class of ‘78 — Gloria can, in six little steps, perpetuate herself in power, to wit: (1) She expands the martial law to cover several other provinces or, better, the entire island of Mindanao; (2) As a result, armed confrontation between clan factions and government forces would ensue (the first clash between Ampatuan loyalists and government forces has already been reported); (3) The elections in the provinces under martial law would be “suspended” due to the breakdown of law and order; (4) Since there would be no elections in these provinces, there would be no proclamation of president, vice president, and 12 senators because of the incomplete election results for candidates running for national office; (5) She would handily win her congressional seat in Pampanga and vies for the speakership of the new Congress, which she could easily achieve because her party, the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, would have absolute control of the House of Representatives; and (6) Since the offices of the President, Vice President, and Senate President would be vacant, Speaker Gloria Arroyo would be next in line to assume the presidency in an acting capacity until national elections for President, Vice President, and 12 Senators are held… at the pleasure of Gloria.

The Second Coming

The second coming of Gloria would signify the beginning of Gloria’s “enchanted kingdom” — a dream realized through Machiavellian machinations. It makes one wonder if her second coming would bring peace and prosperity. Or would it perpetuate the misery of the people that have long suffered under the reign of Gloria?

Quo vadis, Filipinas?


Monday, December 14, 2009

Foreign service officers protest midnight appointments

While everybody was busy with preparation for the 2010 elections, Maguindanao massacre, and Martial Law, two opportunists were able to wangle midnight appointments from Gloria Arroyo which will further undermine the country s foreign service.

Last week, the 300-strong Union of Foreign Service Officers wrote Arroyo, through their president Vicky Bataclan, protesting the appointment of two Rep. Antonio Cuenco as ambassador to Italy and Ambassador Francisco Benedicto as ambassador to China.

Unifors said they have two fundamental concerns about the appointments of Cuenco and Benedicto, both Cebuanos:

 First, if ever the appointment of these persons is confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, the appointee will only be able to serve as ambassador for less than six months. Such duration in our view does not justify the additional expense for their deployment and transfer.

 Second, we share anew our considered view that the appointment of a person beyond the age of 65 violates both the clear letter and spirit of Sec. 23 of the Foreign Service Act.

Last October, when Unifors blocked the appointment of Foreign Undersecretary for Migrant Affairs Esteban Conejos as permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, they pointed out the insensitivity of spending some US$70,000 for an appointee who will stay less than e

Foreign service officers protest midnight appointments

ight months in a post considering the financial severity that the country is going through after the recent typhoons that devastated large parts of the country and ruined thousands of lives.

Arroyo listened and they were thankful to her for recognizing the wisdom of their argument.

But the cases of Cuenco and Benedicto are much worse because if their appointments are confirmed by the CA on Wednesday, the earliest that they could assume their posts would be in February. There would only be five months left in the Arroyo administration.

It is assumed that the two would move heaven and earth to get a new appointment from the next administration (Cuenco has already said he is supporting Liberal party presidential bet Benigno Aquino, Jr.).

This is brazenness in several aspect. Brazen on the part of Arroyo to make midnight appointments instead of allowing her successor to have a free hand in the choice of his ambassadors. Brazen on the part of Cuenco and Benedicto in pushing for their appointment in the last six months of an outgoing administration.

The Unifors cited the age limitation that the Cuenco and Benedicto appointments would be violating. Sec. 23 of the Foreign Service Act (RA 7157) states that  All officers and employees of the Department who have reached the age of sixty-five (65) shall be compulsorily and automatically retired from the Service: Provided, however, That all incumbent non-career chiefs of mission who are seventy (70) years old and above shall continue to hold office until June 30, 1992 unless sooner removed by the appointing authority. 

Also, section 86 of the Implementing rules and regulations of RA7157 is very clear that  No foreign service officer, staff officer or employee who is over 62 years of age shall be considered for foreign assignment.

Cuenco is 73 and Benedicto is 69 years old.

Benedicto was a businessman before he was tapped into the diplomatic service. He is nice person. Not so brilliant as a diplomat but he has had able support from career officers in his previous postings (Singapore, South Korea, Brazil, Canada). He is currently ambassador to India, a post which he has held for less than a year. What then is the rationale in transferring him to Beijing now?

China is one of the toughest assignments in foreign service. Currently, the ambassador there is the very competent Sonia Brady who has actually reached retirement age.

The business side of the relationship with China is ably handled by economic officers representatives from the Department of Trade and Investments. What s important is a chief of mission that has deep policy background because he would be managing volatile issues like the Kalayaan/Spratlys Islands, Asian regional security, Korean Peninsula denuclearization and many more.

The Unifors asked Arroyo to reconsider the appointments of Cuenco and Benedicto and  prioritize the appointment of career officials in the interest of maintaining professionalization of the foreign service and ensuring continuity of service. For the country s sake.

‘Martial law prevented Ampatuans from telling all about Arroyo’

The imposition of martial law in Maguindanao has enabled the administration to prevent members of the Ampatuan clan from revealing their role in the alleged electoral fraud in 2004 which gave President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo six years in Malacaang, an academic who has long studied the politics in the province said Wednesday.

Francisco Lara, a research associate from the London School of Economics, said that martial law in Maguindanao has successfully prevented a potential  explosion" of information from the Ampatuans regarding the electoral fraud in 2004.

 One of the side effects of the rupture of this alliance would be someone in the know would turn from concealing to revealing what actually happened. Martial law actually enabled the forces of the state to isolate the leaders of the clan and enter into negotiations with them," he said in a forum in Quezon City Wednesday.

 These negotiations are of course outside the (eyes) of the people. We will still find out in the next weeks what will come out of those negotiations," he added.

Lara, however, pointed out that the dismantling of the Ampatuan clan also brought a problem to the administration, especially in the coming 2010 elections.

 The big problem now of the administration is who will operate for them in Muslim Mindanao in 2010? The Ampatuans facilitated their  operations there in 2004. Now, they have to restructure their system of electoral fraud there," he said.

Arroyo has been alleged as rigging the 2004 elections, made public by the  Hello Garci" scandal. The  Hello, Garci Tapes" refer to wiretapped phone conversations between a man, believed to be former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, and a woman, believed to be President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The Ampatuan clan is said to have been instrumental in delivering votes from the provinces of Muslim Mindanao to Arroyo in 2004.

Lara said the administration may already be conducting  discussions" with other political clans in the region following the fall of the Ampatuans to make sure votes from Muslim Mindanao would favor the administration bets in 2010. - JV/GMANews.TV

From GMA News:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oplan Alpha

Oplan Alpha, an alleged plot to declare martial law in the Philippines, was planned a week after Defense secretary Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro agreed to become Lakas-KAMPI CMD presidential bet. The plot involves heightening tensions in Mindanao leading to a situation where it is untenable for the government not to declare martial law in the region.

Oplan Alpha, a source says, also aims to suspend the conduct of the elections in May 10, 2010 and extend the term of the President for two years.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Something’s gotta give

Theres The Rub
by Conrado de Quiros
from Philippine Daily Inquirer

Before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared martial law in Maguindanao, a couple of people called me. They had been to different forums at the University of the Philippines, one on the Maguindanao massacre and the other on Arroyo’s decision to run for Congress. They had the same thing to tell me: People were furious.

The first was understandable because it was attended by the kin of some of the victims. Their lamentations, apart from their curses, could be heard from UP to Mindanao State University. “Monsters,” “animals,” “savages,” were just some of the words spat out there. Words that had the virtue of conveying revulsion but which had my friend worrying that by suggesting an inhuman provenance to the atrocity, they put it past the realm of secular understanding.

The second brought no weeping, just gnashing of teeth. The idea of Arroyo refusing to give up power, even if she had to drag herself down the gutter in an attempt to bring back the stench to everything through the backdoor was astounding even for those who had warned so.

“Sugapa” was the least of what was said, the other expostulations destined never to see the light of print. It had my other friend shaking his head in wondrous disbelief: “Iba na, bok, things have changed. I have not seen this kind of anger in a long time.”

UP is arguably just one school. But the sudden hiss of fire-and-brimstone wrath, like steam from a parched earth at the first pelting of rain, can be seen elsewhere. In schools, in Facebook and Twitter, in media, in the pulpits, in the markets, in the alleys, in the fields, in the forests, in the streets. It’s a deep-throated rumble from the bowels of this earth that truly hasn’t been heard in a long time.

This was before Pulse Asia came out with a survey that said 79 percent of Filipino voters will not vote for anyone Arroyo endorses, which pretty much dooms Gilbert Teodoro’s campaign, however he twists and turns and trots out a brave front. It’s now just an exercise in masochism, in banging one’s head against a wall and loving it.

When Pulse Asia did the survey, the Ampatuans had not yet gone on a Manson-type spree of mayhem, a thing that has met with boundless revulsion. When Pulse Asia did the survey, Arroyo had not yet declared her decision to run for Congress, a thing that was met with boundless contempt. When Pulse Asia did the survey, Arroyo had not yet declared martial law in Maguindanao, a thing that has met with violent condemnation. You can just imagine what the next survey will say—if she is still around to appreciate it.

That’s the thing to worry about. Not the silly notion that by turning congresswoman, Arroyo can become House speaker, impeach the new president, mount Charter change, and become prime minister. Which, quite incidentally, Raul Gonzalez posits. Obviously Gonzalez does not know his politics any more than his law. Even if Lakas-Kampi overwhelms Congress, why should it remain loyal to a former, and much depleted, benefactor when it can always, as has always happened in the past, fly to a new one?

A sea change has swept over the landscape since Aug. 5. Arroyo has fallen from seemingly unreachable heights, a fall so precipitous you can hear the thud from here to Timbuktu. The days when she could spit iniquity on the face of the citizens, daring them to do something about it—e, ano ngayon, ano’ng magagawa n’yo?—are over. It’s not just that the nature of the beast makes an Arroyo comeback via the congressional route impossible, it is that her unbridled unpopularity, to say the least, makes her very hold on office tenuous.

That is the mother of all ironies. That is a twist of fate to drown all twists of fate. The one thing I’ve wished for devoutly these past several years is the one thing I’m deathly scared of now. That is that Arroyo might not last till Election Day. That is that Arroyo might be ousted by People Power.

The size and depth of the anger are unusual, and there are a couple of factors that could push the citizens to the brink. The first is the trial of the Ampatuans. It puts Arroyo in a bind. On one hand, she gives up the Ampatuans, the Ampatuans give her up. Pushed to the brink, they could sing louder than drunks at a karaoke, confessing all the things they did for her in 2004. On the other hand, she foot-drags or removes the case from sight or sound, she enrages the citizenry even more. Either way, given the state of her unpopularity right now, the results could be catastrophic.

The second is that Edsa 2 is just a month away. Traditionally, politics winds down in December, when people forget their enmities and gather around the hearth for some Christmas cheer. However there is little to cheer about this year of absolute disaster. Traditionally as well however, politics winds up in January, when people buckle down to reality, or have reality splashed like ice water on their hung-over faces, when people wake up broke after the season’s carousing. Come January, people are in a foul mood.

Edsa 2 in particular comes at the opening of the year. That’s the one thing Arroyo has been exceptionally anxious not to celebrate, the thing that brought her to power being the very thing that could get her out of it. The last couple of years have seen her deriding it viciously, telling the world this country has matured enough to let tyrants well enough alone. Given the length and width and height of loathing she has inspired of late, you never know what can happen when Edsa 2 is given the attention it deserves, and when the magical gift it gave Arroyo, which she repaid like a cur, is recalled. It’s a combustible mix, and combustible mixes have a way of combusting spontaneously. Something triggers it, and I doubt that even Noynoy Aquino, who holds the franchise on Edsa, can stop it.

Don’t you have a sense that before long something’s gotta give?