Saturday, November 28, 2009

'Palace knew this could happen in Maguindanao'

By Lilita Balane, Newsbreak | 11/26/2009 7:13 PM

Biazon recalls warning aired by locals 3 months ago

MANILA - The head of the Senate defense committee revealed on Thursday that Malacañang had been warned as early as 3 months ago that bloodshed in Maguindanao would be inevitable if the government failed to address the tension between the warring political clans.

Senator Rodolfo Biazon, in a joint press conference with his son Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon, told reporters that the warning was aired by North Cotabato Vice Governor Manuel Piñol during a meeting with Senate committee members in Zamboanga City on August 28.

"What is the cause of the conflict in Maguindanao right now? It is the feud between Ampatuan, a big political family, and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). And, mind you, I have already forewarned Malacañang of an impending bigger trouble come 2010 elections because the Ampatuans are facing another big family, the Mangudadatus. The Ampatuans are being backed by the military, the government--and that sends the Mangudadatus towards the MILF orbit, and this could spell trouble in Maguindanao in 2010," Piñol was supposed to have said, according to a transcript of the meeting shown by Biazon to reporters.

Pinol said in that meeting in August that he had relayed this message to chief government peace negotiator Rafael Seguis.

More than 50 relatives and supporters of Buluan vice mayor Ismael Mangudadatu, as well as lawyers, journalists, and bystanders were waylaid and killed in Ampatuan town last Monday. They were on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of Mangudadatu, who would be challenging a son of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. in the gubernatorial race next year.

"The Malacanang knew that there is an exploding political violence in Maguindanao," the senator said, adding that Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the alledged mastermind of the massacre, and Mangudadatu are both with the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD party.

Senator Biazon alleged that on the day of the massacre, Malacañang even offered Mangudadatu the post of undersecretary in an unspecified agency, or a board seat in the National Power Corporation in exchange for dropping his plans to challenge an Ampatuan.

The senator also criticized the Palace for treating the Maguinadanao massacre as a political concern and not as a challenge to the rule of law.

He noted that instead of sending Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno to deal with the situation in the province, it instead sent presidential adviser for the peace process Jesus Dureza.

He also scored the statements issued by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and president chief legal adviser Raul Gonzalez, which supposedly sent a message that the government is incapable of handling the situation. Gonzalez had said that the authorities should be cautious in arresting suspects because they might retaliate. Ermita's plea was for suspects to surrender so they could be investigated.

"It is not the rule of law that is in the mind of Malacanang, but it is political accomodation for their political allies in Maguindanao," Biazon said.

Four days after Arroyo issued Proclamation 1946, placing the province under the state of emergency and ordered warrantless arrests of suspects linked to the massacre, Biazon said that no one has been arrested despite the fact that there are witnesses who've named the people behind the killing.

"What is Malacanang afraid of? Is it the physical damage or the skeletons in the closet, the closet of the 2004 and 2007 elections?" Biazon said. The senator was referring to the alleged rigged poll results in the 2004 elections involving Arroyo and former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and the alleged cheating during the mid-term elections in 2007. Investigation into the electoral fraud identified Maguindanao as one of the areas where the cheating operation was done.

The Biazons held the press conference near the Commission on Elections to announce that they would be switching the positions they will seek in 2010. The senator father will run for Muntinlupa congressman, while the congressman son will seek a Senate seat under the Liberal Party. (Newsbreak)

as of 11/26/2009 7:38 PM

Friday, November 27, 2009

An analysis of the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao Massacre

By Jun Mercado, OMI

November 23rd is now etched in the history of the province as the day of shameless ignominy. On that day, a convoy of the women folks of the Mangudadatu clan accompanied by media people and their women lawyers on their way to the Capitol of the Province in Sharif Aguak municipality was stopped by PNP forces with hundreds of armed civilian volunteer organizations (under the command of the PNP) along the national highway in Ampatuan municipality. The convoy was directed to take the farm road leading to a deep hole meant to be the mass grave of the entire members of the convoy and also the other vehicles that happened to follow the convoy.

I am beginning to piece the story of the tragic massacre. It all began about three weeks ago with a COMELEC Resolution directing the transfer of the COMELEC Satellite Office from Cotabato City to the Provincial Capitol in Maguindanao. Then another resolution came directing all candidates in the province to file their certificates of candidacy at the provincial `capitol'. These resolutions looked innocent when read and seen outside the concrete political context in the province.

Anyone in the place knows that the said resolutions follow the logic of the local politics and the control over the COMELEC on the ground. COMELEC cannot feign ignorance of these realities nor washes its hands in the ensuing massacre in Maguindanao. The concrete experiences of 2004 and 2007 elections and the participation of COMELEC in the province are too gross to ignore.

There is a reason and definitely politics in the physical shifting `capitol' sites in the province. There is a need to locate the `capitol' in a place to ensure total control. For this reason, Maguindanao can qualify to put the capitol building on wheels. It began in Cotabato City; then Datu Udtog moved it to Pagalungan; Post Datu Udtog, it was moved back to Cotabato City; then it was moved to Maganoy (Sharif Aguak); Zacaria Candao moved it back to Cotabato City; then he moved it to a new site in Sultan Kudarat. The Ampatuan moved the `capitol' back to Maganoy where it now stands.

The total control of the capitol ensures absolute control over all government machineries in the capitol site, including the COMELEC, PNP and AFP.

Months ago, the buzz in the province and in Cotabato City has been the looming political contest between the Ampatuan clan, the present unquestioned ruler of the Province and the ARMM, and the Mangudadatu clan.

Everybody in town is actually surprised by this challenge coming from the four Mangudadatu young, daring and dazzling brothers (two mayors, one vice mayor and one assemblyman of the Regional Assembly of the ARMM). The leader of the clan and the main challenger is the present Vice Mayor of Buluan, Datu Ismael `Toto' Mangudadatu.

The challenge came as a big surprise, because the Ampatuan clan is `intimately' connected to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the Lakas – Kampi – CMD Party both in 2004 and 2007 national elections. The convergence of the political and electoral agenda of Pres. Arroyo and the Ampatuans is well known both in the national and local levels.

The challenge emerged when talks that the `senior' Ampatuan is no longer qualified to run as Governor of the province. The name of the `junior' Ampatuan has begun to surface as the clan bet for what they thought would be uncontested governorship in the province come May 2010.

This development sparked talks and counter-talks of contesting the governorship thus shifting political alliances, especially with the waning of the star of Malacañang and her official candidates.

The relations between President Arroyo and the Ampatuans hinged on a symbiosis of political and electoral interests and as demonstrated by the `outstanding' delivery capacity of the clan in all electoral exercises held in the province of Maguindanao.

When we speak of captive electorate, I refer to `managed' and `owned' elections. Political parties and candidates also refer to the entire ARMM as `captive' electorate. This is not a simple perception but the `actual ballot' counts' attest to this `winner take all' elections. This fact is known also to the COMELEC.

No doubt, if electoral anomalies happen, the people who manage and secure the elections are equally controlled. In most instances, the teachers and officials of the COMELEC, including the PNP have little or no choices at all. Their lives and their families, as well, are in jeopardy.

The COMELEC resolution transferring its satellite office in Sharif Aguak and the requirement to file the certificates of candidacy in the `capitol' is NOT as innocent as it looks unless COMELEC were born yesterday!

This COMELEC decision has forced the Mangudadatu to go into the heartland of the Ampatuan clan. The Vice Mayor Toto Mangudadatu decided to go and file his certificate of candidacy. But he was prevailed upon by the mother to let the women do the filing. The clan believed that Toto's presence in Aguak may lead to actual bloodshed. The mother and the religious leaders believed that an all-women delegation accompanied by media people and women lawyers would be respected. Islam strongly enjoins believers to respect women and children even during times of war.

As a double insurance for the delegation, the Mangudadatu has asked for police escorts from the PNP Provincial command. It refused to do so. Understanding the perceived partisanship of the Maguindanao PNP, the clan asked for military escort from the 601st Brigade that has an operational responsibility for area. They were told that the AFP does not give escort to politicians. The clan appealed to the highest military command in the region for a security escort for the women. They were assured by the highest military command that the `road is safe and there will be no need to worry'.

With that assurance, the all-women delegation began the trek to Sharif Aguak. At crossing Salman along the national highway in broad daylight in Ampatuan municipality, the convoy was stopped including the other vehicles accidentally passing by that momentous time by hundreds of armed groups believed to be CVOs that included some officials of the PNP in the province and a local mayor positively identified by the Mangudadatu.

The entire convoy where led to an open pit dug by the provincial engineering equipment. There the carnage began with brutality and no mercy for women, children and the members of the media.

The last vehicle in the convoy, delayed by few minutes, saw the whole gang stopping the convoy and made positive identification. It turned back with speed and asked for help. But alas, the help came too late.

There were no survivors! The first count was 21 fatalities in the afternoon of the same day. These were the bodies left on the ground and in the vehicles because of the haste. The second day, the body count reached 46 as investigators began to dig the mass graves. On the third day, the number has reached more than 60. They were all murdered with so much brutality that can only be compared to victims of savage animals in the wild.

The digging continues and the body counts continue to rise. The Mangudadatu can only account for 40 members of their convoy. Beyond that number were innocents passersby who happened to be traveling the same road at that particular moment. These innocent passersby include children!

They buried the whole vehicles with the murdered passengers. Seemingly, the intent was to bury all the vehicles and all the victims in that big hole dug by the Provincial `backhoe'. But there was news that the troops were coming. This made the perpetrators to hurriedly leave the scene without completing their evil intent.

Today, the people of Maguindanao and Cotabato City are in total disbelief for what they are hearing over the radio as the massacre continues to unfold. They are stunned and shocked! The real word is feeling of revulsion for how things stand in the province and the community.

COMELEC has now allowed filing of candidacy in the City and in Sultan Kudarat without filing for an exception. It has also returned the satellite office in the city. COMELEC shares the blame for this massacre. Ignorance can never be an excuse! It is a very costly political decision!

Knowing the close tie between the President Arroyo and the Ampatuan, the Presidency and the national government are directly held accountable! People ask will there be immediate arrests of the identified perpetrators of the massacre? Three days have passed by and there is not a single arrest made yet...! Will there be honest and objective investigation of the massacre?

While we debate over the massacre, the perpetrators and the hundreds of high powered bearing CVOs and the identified leaders of the massacre roam freely and with impunity.

Onli in da Pilipins!

Mrs President, do give the butchers of Maguindao the “Ted Failon” treatment

From the Blog of raissa robles

It’s close to midnight of Day 3 since at least 57 unarmed women and men were murdered in broad daylight and still not one of around 100 suspects have been nabbed and presented to the outraged public. This is despite your declaration of a state of emergency in that area under Proclamation 1946. (By the way, your office has not released the text of this Proclamation. Wonder why.)

Warning: the photos in the blog are graphic.....

Please continue reading on her blogsite....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Violent deaths lay bare Philippines’ politics

Violent deaths lay bare Philippines’ politics

Karl Wilson, Foreign Correspondent

  • Last Updated: November 25. 2009 1:46PM UAE / November 25. 2009 9:46AM GMT

The Philippine president, Gloria Arroyo, left, has received strong electoral support from Andal Ampatuan, second from right. Reny Pampolina, PCPO / AP Photo

MANILA // From Abra in the far north to Mindanao in the south, the political landscape of the Philippines is dominated by family dynasties that have ruled their particular area of influence for decades like feudal landlords through violence, fear and intimidation. They rule with impunity, knowing national political leaders rely on them for support and votes. Political rivals are usually dealt with through the barrel of a gun rather than the election box.

The political dynasties have amassed vast wealth, businesses and influence in a country of 90 million people where more than half live on less than US$2 (Dh7.3) a day.

Monday’s massacre of at least 46 people – including the wife of a candidate running for governor, a number of his relatives and 12 journalists – in Maguindanao on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao was unprecedented even by Philippine standards of political violence.

Marites Vitug, a journalist and author of a number of books on Mindanao, said: “The shear scale of the attack has shocked everyone.

“Even Ferdinand Marcos never did anything on this scale,” she said. Marcos was president from 1965 to 1986. The dictator died in 1989.

As police combed the scene for more bodies yesterday, evidence mounted implicating Andal Ampatuan Jr, son of Maguindanao’s powerful governor, Andal Ampatuan. A number of witnesses who have gone into hiding fearing for their lives have indicated Mr Ampatuan Jr was behind the deaths.

The dilemma facing the president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is that Governor Ampatuan is one of her most ardent supporters and delivers votes. Analysts say the next 48 hours will be crucial to see whether Mrs Arroyo is true to her word that “no one will be spared” during the investigation.

But words and deeds do not necessarily follow, especially in Philippine politics. Vitug said: “One story doing the rounds today is that the killers were high on drugs so they didn’t know what they were doing … it sounds crazy as a defence, but in Philippine politics most things are possible.”

What complicates matters in this case is the fact that the perpetrators and most of the victims were Muslims.

For decades the focus of successive governments in Manila and the international community for that matter has been fixed on the rebellions in Mindanao of Muslims seeking a homeland. Inter-clan warfare or blood feuds, known locally as rido, were largely ignored.

Vitug said: “Mrs Arroyo not only faces a political problem here but the possibility that there may be massive retaliation or rido.

“When it comes to rido, women, children and old people are never touched. But Monday’s atrocity has changed all that.”

In sending his wife and a number of female relatives to the provincial capital to file his nomination papers to run for governor next year, Ismail Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan, believed Muslims would not attack women. Carloads of local journalists followed the convoy as Mr Mangudadatu was challenging the powerful Ampatuan clan and in Maguindanao this was a big story.

The Ampatuan clan has dominated all facets of Maguindanao politics for nearly a decade after effectively “neutralising” the previous ruling family, the Candaos.

Andal Ampatuan defeated Zacaria Candao for governor in 2001 in elections said to have been heavily tainted by fraud. Two years later, Candao’s brother was killed. The family blamed Andal Ampatuan, but no charges were ever laid against him.

Julkipli Wado, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of the Philippines, said the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans were “once very close”.

“The failure to form a political alliance probably led to Monday’s unprecedented attack,” he said.

“Political dynasties have become the reality of Philippine politics.”

Vitug said: “The big question now is whether Mrs Arroyo is willing to forgo the political support of the Ampatuans in order to seek justice for those killed.”

Pete Troilo, a director with Pacific Strategies and Assessments, a political risk consultancy based in Manila, said: “Local power politics have trumped class, gender and religion in this latest case.

“While the targeting of women and journalists is shocking by any standard, the Ampatuan clan’s unremitting show of force since they claimed power over Maguindanao in 2001 and willingness and capacity to strike fear in the community make this event somewhat less surprising,” Mr Troilo said.

“It is characteristic of an elite Philippines political family willing to go to any lengths to hold on to power.”

Mr Troilo said the Ampatuan private army, numbering in the hundreds and well-armed, is the only one of its kind in Maguindanao and perhaps the most formidable force across Mindanao.

The fact that the Ampatuan clan has some support from Mrs Arroyo has, Mr Troilo said, “added to its feelings of local invincibility”.

Governor Ampatuan has thrived on the fact that he can deliver crucial votes to whatever party is in power nationally.

According to the online news magazine NewsBreak, Mr Ampatuan managed to deliver 193,938 votes from Maguindanao’s 27 towns for Mrs Arroyo in the 2004 presidential election while her closest rival, Fernando Poe, a film star, only managed 59,892 despite being widely popular in the province.

In the midterm elections in 2007 he demonstrated his dogged loyalty to the administration when he delivered to the administration a clean sweep in Maguindanao.

“In the same poll, 19 candidates, including members of the opposition, received not a single vote from 20 of Maguindanao’s 22 municipalities,” NewsBreak said.

Under the law Mr Ampatuan, who has served three terms as governor, cannot run for a fourth term, leaving the field open. But he is said to want the dynasty to retain power through his son and not someone outside the family, and in the politics of violence in this country the ends, in many cases, justifies the means.

Mr Ampatuan Jr has yet to file his candidacy papers.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Villar’s Heavy Baggage II

Frankly Speaking
by Frank Wenceslao

Twelve senators reportedly signed the resolution to dismiss the complaint against Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. in connection with the alleged budget insertions and diversion of the C-5 Road Project extension to benefit his real estate companies. Some Pamusa colleagues and I believe the senators missed the main point that should’ve been looked into.

That’s how many insertions Villar made in approved appropriations bills pending in the bicameral conference committee, firstly, for the right-of-ways expropriated from his properties be paid ahead of other landowners similarly situated and, secondly, led to the rise of land values that surely have enriched him.

Let it be stressed he’s a declared presidential aspirant before the case arose. The burning question most objective minds ask is if elected President could Villar resist repeating similar acts to favor his close associates and immediate family members, or private individuals and businessmen to repay their contributions to his victory.

Villar did the same scandalous earmarks of U.S. Congress members to pay for overruns of federal contracts or appropriate funds for projects especially Department of Defense contracts on year-to-year basis. Several U.S. Congress members are now in jail for steering earmarks to contracts of political contributors.

One of the most celebrated cases was that of Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-San Diego) who pleaded guilty on Nov. 28, 2005 to fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and tax evasion. Shortly after entering his plea, Cunningham announced he was immediately resigning his seat. The Associated Press reported that Cunningham admitted he took $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to his favored contractor MZM Inc. headed by Mitchell Wade who had close ties to Cunningham. Cunningham was sentenced to eight years in jail on Feb. 27, 2006.

Prior to his political career, he was an officer in the U.S. Navy for 20 years during which time he became a flying ace for actions during the Vietnam War which made his conviction more shocking to Americans.

Thus, the Senate would allow Villar to escape probable criminal charges because the insertions have surely enriched him. On top of it, the Senate would turn loose a man who could be President and commit illegal acts he did while a member of Congress which are heavy baggage.

Many Filipinos emailed me that Villar hasn’t achieved something spectacular, for instance, a fraction of the international honor gained for the Philippines by Manny Pacquiao or Tony Meloto and Gawad Kalinga’s low cost housing program for him to be a serious candidate for the presidency.

Neither can Villar claim any achievement in Congress not beclouded with how he built up a one-billion-dollar enterprise which only made a rocket-take off after he’s elected congressman, Speaker, senator and Senate President entirely different from other businessmen with undeniable rags-to-riches stories.

Could there be any doubt therefore the growth of his business is beyond the realm of statistical probability and wouldn’t have been possible without his government positions serving like the “wind beneath his wings”?

I hasten to add an email of Loida Nicolas Lewis, the most recognized Filipino leader in America on my suggestion that Villar withdraws from running for President and leave the field to Noynoy Aquino and Gilbert Teodoro to narrow down the people’s choice because as sang by Madonna, each is like a virgin as far as graft and corruption is concerned, to wit:

“WOW! It may just work! Or at least, alert every voting Filipino ’something is rotten in Denmark!’ – Loida.”

It’s but logical people will ask how Villar can fight graft and corruption — the most debilitating national problem — when he might’ve enriched himself engaging in it. He’ll be like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who has refused Pamusa’s requests for the Ombudsman, PCGG and PACG to share evidence of graft and corruption we can submit to the FBI and USDOJ to take legal action against government corruption pursuant to the UNCAC enforced by U.S. laws obviously for fear she, her husband, close associates and immediate family members will be targeted by Pamusa.

By withdrawing, it’ll be Villar’s greatest service to the nation so the 2010 elections will be a transformational process and cleanse the national spirit like a sinner. Perhaps, this should be considered by VP De Castro, Ping Lacson, President Estrada, Bayani Fernando and Chiz Escudero to renounce presidential ambitions.

Meanwhile, to rebut my first “Villar’s Heavy Baggage” column on, Jimmy Cura in apparent defense of Villar threw everything at me including the proverbial kitchen sink. My rejoinder is instead of Cura’s ad hominem accusations why doesn’t Villar simply answer the following questions:

1. Is it true or not he had a hand in the insertion (whether PhP200M or PhP400M) in the 2008 national budget charged by Sens. Madrigal and Lacson which was not in the appropriations bill pending with the bicameral conference committee?

2. Was the insertion so the right-of-ways expropriated from his properties would be paid ahead which will also benefited by the rise of land values that will enrich him denied other landowners in similar situation?

3. For the sake of transparency for people to know if Villar is fit to be President, would he agree to an audit and comparison of his current assets, liabilities and net worth vis-a-vis the statement of his financial conditions the year prior to his election to the House?

4. Would Villar agree to an asset-search hired by Pamusa to dig up bank accounts and investments in the U.S. and other countries in the names of Mr. and Mrs. Villar, their children and close associates especially the top executives of Villar’s owned or controlled corporations?

5. If Pamusa finds what the USDOJ considers “assets that came from a process or series of actions through which income of illegal origin is concealed, disguised, or made to appear legitimate (main objective); and to evade detection, prosecution, seizure, and taxation,” would Villar and his wife turn over to the Philippine Government their inexplicable assets over what an ordinary businessman can build up under the most favorable conditions?”

Pamusa, of course, reserves the option to sue Villar and wife civilly to recover for the government their ill-gotten wealth with evidence the FBI, IRS, etc. may dig up to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court which will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption whether the action is in the U.S., another foreign nation, or the Philippines (UNCAC international cooperation provisions).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pound for pound

Theres The Rub
y Conrado de Quiros
from Philippine Daily Inquirer

YOU CAN’T PRAISE THE GUY ENOUGH. That’s not Manny Pacquiao, that’s Efren Peñaflorida. He’s not as famous as Pacquiao, but he has done something just as grand, if not grander. He has taken on a bigger, scarier, and more formidable adversary, and if he has not overpowered it, he has at least given it the fight of its life. That adversary is ignorance and benightedness.

Peñaflorida has already been chosen one of CNN’s 10 heroes this year. He could become top dog, or Hero of the Year, if he gets enough votes online. This is one time I don’t mind that system (I’ve always thought it sucked, a thing invented to drum up viewership for things like “American Idol”) and don’t mind cajoling every self-respecting Filipino to stand up and be counted in the CNN poll site.

Peñaflorida’s story is wondrously uplifting. The son of a tricycle driver and vendor who lived near a garbage dump, he refused to be defeated by his circumstances. While in high school, he refused to join a gang. He instead formed a group that would help stop kids from joining gangs. Using a kareton for classroom, the group taught impoverished kids how to read and write in cemeteries—talk of waking up the dead!—and dumps. If Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, the mountain would go to Mohammed.

The group has grown considerably and supports its cause of rescuing scrappy kids who have been abandoned by society to their (vacant) lot in life by recycling scrappy things that have been discarded by their users in the dumps of the metropolis. Or the dump that is the metropolis.

We do not lack for people who overcame poverty, sometimes more grinding than the one Peñaflorida knew. Politics is full of those who claim to have done so, among them Ramon Mitra, Noli de Castro and Manny Villar. I’ve always thought one might paraphrase Mark Twain’s famous aphorism, “There are three kinds of lies—big lies, little lies, and statistics” by saying, “There are three kinds of lies—grand lies, petty lies, and politics.” Business is full of them, too, particularly those who claim to be self-made men, like Lucio Tan who leapfrogged from bote-dyaryo to tycoon by reposing his hope in Hope and Ferdinand Marcos. Who was it who said self-made men often have the worst authors?

We do not lack for people who overcame grinding poverty. What we lack are people who overcame grinding poverty and hunkered down to helping others do the same thing. More often than not, self-made men distinguish themselves for being selfish rather than selfless. Stands to reason: The last thing they want is to go back, or be reminded of, where they came from. The philanthropy is just for the tax deduction.

There was quite an epidemic of the Peñaflorida types in my time, but for quite unique and extraordinary reasons. That was the time of student activism, when scholars, who by definition came from poor families and were bright enough to have a bright future, devoted themselves instead to uplifting the lot of the downtrodden. Many gave their entire lives to it, their entire lives being all too brief.

But hard as that choice was, it’s easier compared to the one taken by Peñaflorida. That is because then it had cultural reinforcement or the encouragement of peers. No such luck today. Today, you come from the ranks of the poor and decide to “sacrifice your future” (that is the way it is seen), you are not quixotic, you are mad. The line between the two has always been thin anyway.

Peñaflorida is a true hero in the same way that Tony Meloto, who founded Gawad Kalinga, is a true hero. Both are people who could have looked out for Number One, given their many talents and opportunities, but who chose instead to look out for the teeming and nameless numbers. To live a life helping the poor, that is awesome. To do so after rising from the ranks of the poor, that is Christmas, a Pacquiao victory, and GMA gone forever rolled into one.

Peñaflorida has done so moreover completely quietly, completely unobtrusively. That is the even more wondrous thing. He has done so, just as those who rose as one to distribute relief goods in the aftermath of “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” did, without fanfare, without calling attention to himself, without thought of reward or renown. He has done so for no other reason than that it is the right thing to do. That’s what people of destiny do.

I find Peñaflorida all the more admirable for having done something that’s dear to my heart. That is to educate people. That is to bring the light of learning in dark minds. That is to teach the kids how to read and write.

I don’t know how anyone of us can see the army of children in the streets importuning, cajoling, badgering drivers without wondering what future lies in store for them, what future lies in store for us, for the country. The United Nation talks of a “lost generation,” the poor kids in the poor countries who, as a result of debt payments, have had their brains warped by malnutrition, lack of education, and the unrelenting violence around them. You look around and you wonder if we have not produced our own “lost generation” because of corruption, a generation of children who will grow up afflicted, conflicted, and perverted, ever widening the gap between rich and poor, ever bringing the present to have no future.

Peñaflorida hasn’t just wondered, he has acted. He has acted to try to recover that lost generation, to try to bring it to find its way. What he has done indicts government more implacably than any ranting against it, exposing its crime for all to see. What he has done may seem trifling, but the greatest things often have the most trifling beginnings. He has taken the road not taken, and it has made all the difference.

Right now, he’s the best pound-for-pound fighter we have.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pacquiao can still win 8th world title if he fights in 147-lb division

by Alex P. Vidal

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – If any other world boxing body will offer Manny Pacquiao a title shot at the 147-lb division and he will win, he can become the first human being to pocket eight world titles in eight different divisions, technically speaking.

This hypothesis is supported by the fact that when he recently battled Miguel Angel Cotto and knocked him out in the 12th stanza, they disputed the 145 lbs “catch weight.”

Even if the World Boxing Organization (WBO) recognized the win as a “welterweight” championship, Pacquiao can still pocket the legitimate “welterweight” crown in the World Boxing Foundation (WBF), International Boxing Association (IBA), World Boxing Union (WBU), or World Boxing Association (WBA), the only remaining world boxing bodies that have not sanctioned a world title fight involving the 30-year-old Filipino prizefighter.
A promoter cannot officially add any weight category in boxing.

In professional boxing, there are only 17 weight categories –from mini flyweight or straw weight to heavyweight—and each weight has its numerical emphasis. A 140-lb or 63.5 kg is super lightweight, junior welterweight or light welterweight.

Next is 147 lbs or 66.7 kg and is called welterweight.

Pacquiao has won world championship belts in the following divisions: flyweight (WBC against Chatchai Sasakul), super bantamweight (IBF against Lehlohono Ledwaba), featherweight (WBC against Erik Morales), super featherweight (WBC against Juan Manuel Marquez), lightweight (WBC against David Diaz), light welterweight (IBO against Ricky Hatton), and recently welterweight (WBO against Cotto).

The WBF welterweight division is now vacant and the number one contender is Floyd Mayweather Jr. while the number two contender is Shane Mosley.

If Pacquiao will fight for the WBF title either against Mayweather or Mosely and win, he will become unreachable in as far as record in the number of world titles won is concerned.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

‘Political prostitution’

by Ellen Tordesillas

Loren LegardaLoren Legarda

The sordid description was supposed to refer to the votes of the 12 senators who cleared Sen. Manny Villar wrongdoing in the C-5 road extension project but Senator Jamby Villar zeroed in on colleague Loren Legarda who announced today her team-up with Villar for the 2010 elections.

“I congratulate Mr. Villar for his fantastic lobbying in turning someone like Senator [Loren] Legarda, who was rabidly against him into his girl Friday. As they say, Manny talks and money talk louder,” said Madrigal in a statement sent from Europe.

Added Madrigal: “I will not subscribe to political prostitution when the country’s interest is at stake. Public service is not a numbers game.”

Legarda was among the 12 senators (Aquilino Pimentel, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid, Gregoriio Honasan, Joker Arroyo, Miriam Santiago, Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, Loren Legarda, Francis Pangilinan and Villar) who signed the resolution, expressing the sense of the Senate to dismiss the complaint and clear Villar of alleged acts of disorderly behavior.

The signing by Legarda of the resolution was a complete turnabout because she had supported the Senate investigation into the controversy.

Legarda also voted for the ouster of Villar as senate president. Yesterday, she said, ““In this afternoon, on this glorious afternoon, I cast my lot with Manny Villar. I believe our partnership will ensure a new beginning for all the Filipino people.”

Asked about reports that Villar must have given her the amount of P300 million to P500 million that she asked but failed to get from Nationalist People’s Coalition colleague Sen. Francis Escudero before he bolted the party, Legarda said her choice of Villar was based on “common platforms.”

“We believe we can make a difference in the lives of Filipinos. That is why today, in declaring my intention to vie for vice presidency in May 2010, I offer myself to the Filipino people as other half to the tandem that seeks a new beginning for the Filipino nation,” Legarda said.

Legarda who belongs to the Nationalist People’s Coalition made the announcement at Nacionalista Party’s headquarters, the old Laurel house in Shaw Blvd, Mandaluyong.

For his part, Villar said the partnership was not politics-driven but was motivated by “a common vision for the country.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

California appoints Pinay as lieutenant governor

Filipino-American Mona Pasquil was formally appointed interim lieutenant governor of California, the first woman to be ever named to that position. Pasquil, a former political director in charge of the West Coast during the Bill Clinton administration, assumed the top state position Thursday on the strength of the California State Constitution’s provision, which states that the chief of staff of the incumbent lieutenant governor may immediately assume the office in the event of a vacancy.

In Tuesday’s elections, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi won the congressional seat vacated by Ellen Tauscher, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as undersecretary in the State Department.
Garamendi’s term as lieutenant governor ends November next year.

“I am deeply honored and humbled by this appointment,” Pasquil said by phone. “And I thank Congressman John Garamendi for appointing me because I was told that I am the first Filipina and first woman lieutenant governor of California.”

Pasquil—45, who was born in this capital city and now lives in nearby Walnut Grove—is the first Filipino to rise to, symbolically, to the second highest position in California government, but also as the state’s first woman lieutenant governor.

She will serve in a temporary capacity until the majority of both the California Senate and the Assembly confirms, or rescinds, her appointment during a regular session in January 2010.
Alice Bulos, the “Grand Old Dame of Filipino-American politics,” was ecstatic about Pasquil’s feat.

“The Filipino-American community is very proud of the appointment of Mona, who is highly deserving of her new position,” said Bulos, a former sociology professor at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
“I personally know Mona since way back as a very hardworking public servant and very intelligent person,” Bulos, noting that Pasquil was formerly western political director in the Clinton White House, one of numerous important positions she has held in her illustrious career.

Pasquil continues to be a ranking member of the Democratic National Committee.
California State Senator Leland Yee, a long-time friend of the Bay Area Filipino American community, also lauded Pasquil’s appointment.

“I have no doubt that Mona will do well in her temporary role as lieutenant governor. Her previous responsibilities in the Clinton administration, other governments, and serving as Garamendi’s chief of staff will give her the support and knowledge needed for this new position. This is another great accomplishment for Filipino Americans in California,” the senator said in a statement.

As lieutenant governor and president of the State Senate, Pasquil is authorized to preside over the business of the Golden State’s upper chamber.

She will also sit on the Board of Regents of the University of California system and the California State University Board of Trustees.

Pasquil will also serve as chair of the powerful State Lands Commission, chair of the Commission for Economic Development, and member of the California Emergency Council and the Ocean Protection Council, among other positions.

--Jun Medina

The Manila Times

Monday, November 16, 2009

Villar’s Heavy Baggage

Frankly Speaking
Frank Wenceslao

Since certificate of candidacy filing is fast approaching, Sen. Manny Villar must answer questions about his political baggage because it’s as heavy as Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s before the 2004 elections. Thus, he must clear the air he’s fit to be President.

He can’t simply deny the accusations of obtaining unwarranted benefits from his government positions and dismiss reports as lies that his property development companies have greatly benefited from his political clout.

Villar was Senate President when the body ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in Nov. 2007. The convention resulted from worldwide indignation against government corruption when over $23 trillion the rich have poured to poor nations were stolen by their leaders since the end of WW II.

The Philippines is an example of what happens when governance is infected by corruption with the highest leadership to the lowest level of bureaucracy mired in graft to steal scarce government resources and deny the people’s minimum needs.

That’s why a presidential candidate like Villar shouldn’t be another corruption-tainted politician. His public statements to spend billions of own money with implication he’d recover it after his victory disqualified him because the Philippines doesn’t need his wealth-creating ability. He should renounce presidential ambition and leave the filed to Nonoy Aquino and Gilbert Teodoro to let our people choose between two untainted candidates.

For starters, Pamusa’s organizers, supporters and volunteers around the world ask Villar to answer the charges of Senators Jamby Madrigal and Ping Lacson of the “double insertion of PhP200 million” in the 2008 national budget for the C-5 Road Project.

Sen. Mar Roxas earlier questioned why two-thirds of Villar’s pork barrel was wholly allotted to C-5 extension when the project already had P200 million in the budget. Would Villar just dismiss the charges and stonewall that the insertion didn’t lead to his owned or controlled corporations (OCCs) being paid ahead for right-of-ways (ROWs) and, more importantly, raised the market values of his surrounding properties?

The question Villar must answer is this: Would an ordinary businessman be able to insert such an allocation for C-5 project, collect ROW payment ahead of other landowners similarly situated and increase the loan amounts of the same collaterals; then turn around to use the additional funds to speed up housing construction, sell finished units to improve cash flow while giving away some houses to the poor and appear charitable?

A Manila lawyer who sent me the details of Villar’s modus operandi opined he’s probably guilty of at least two serious infractions of the law. First is abuse of office in inserting allotment for C-5 regardless if it were PhP200M or PhP400M when it wasn’t in the House- and Senate-approved budget and, secondly, getting unwarranted benefits for his OCCs being fully paid for ROWs and gaining undue advantages from the rise of property values by instigating government action other landowners in similar situation weren’t favored.

According to the lawyer, there’s also a 6,155-sqm property given ROW funding of PhP15,000 per sqm for a Villar-OCC, Britanny Corporation’s 22,543 sqm property whose assessed market value was PhP47 million, roughly PhP2,000 per sqm.

Based on a copy of the Deed of Absolute Sale between Brittany president Jerry M. Navarette and the Toll Regulatory Board executive director Mariano E. Benedicto II Brittany was paid PhP92.33 million for the 6,155 sqm ROW of the 2.1-kilometer C-5 extension to link the Coastal Road with the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). The extension had a budget of PhP100-million for ROW and PhP400 million for civil works “fully funded under special release,” the lawyer said.

This brings me to what I learned about ROW accounts as consultant to Bayani Fernando who succeeded Simeon Datumanong as Department of Public Works and Highways secretary. I got to know landowners waiting for payment since 1963 of ROWs for the NLEX first constructed by CDCP. Some depended on farming for livelihood with their lands virtually confiscated during martial law at arbitrary prices and still unpaid up to that year (2002).

On the other hand, community properties turned into a maze after ROWs were removed with the owners fighting in court to get whatever productive portions were left. For lands eaten up by ROWs including projects in the Visayas and Mindanao, people depending on farming had their lives turned upside down waiting for payment.

To remedy the problem since limited funds were appropriated annually for ROWs, the DBM resorted to rationing payments for accounts payable. A story I couldn’t verify was when Datumanong became DPWH secretary, ROW claims in Region 12 doubled the department’s accounts payable from less than PhP3 billion to close to PhP6 billion. Since I left the DPWH before it could be verified, I relied on land inspectors’ information that hundreds of hectares of ROW claims might be under Lake Lanao.

Of course, “palakasan” plays a big role which landowners get paid ahead. If Villar’s “insertions” enabled his OCCs be paid ahead of those waiting for decades, this makes him guilty of using government position to the detriment of small landowners.

Of greater interest to Pamusa and the Filipino people naturally is how Villar built up his one billion-dollar enterprise (almost equal to John Gokongwei’s) which he did not deny in his question-and-answer session with the MOPC last Oct. 29. Using his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth the year before his election to the House of Representatives as baseline, it appears Villar-OCCs and personal net worth grew by geometric progression and beyond the realm of statistical probability.

The next question for Villar is this: Does the Villar family have investments in the States or elsewhere abroad such as in real properties, securities and other holdings the FBI and cooperating international law enforcers can dig up and prove that the funds used were not included in Villar-OCCs’ financial reports and tax declarations including his own?

If this is the case, Villar and his wife are probably actionable under U.S. laws enforcing the UNCAC such as mail/wire fraud (foreign transfer of illegally earned income), money laundering (depositing illegal funds in U.S. banking system), racketeering (violation of RICO) and violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Using speed and smarts, Pacquiao beats bigger Cotto

Outsmarting a taller and heavier opponent, Manny Pacquiao needed 12 rounds to win by technical knockout (TKO) over a bloodied Miguel Cotto in their “Firepower" match Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Many Pacquiao whoops it up with assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez after hacking out a 12th round TKO win over Miguel Cotto Saturday in Las Vegas. AP

Earning his seventh weight division title and still peaking at age 30, the national icon cemented his status as one of the greatest boxers ever.

Referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight 55 seconds of the 12th round after seeing Cotto being pummeled by Pacquiao at the ropes.

"Miguel Cotto is one tough opponent. He took a lot of punches but still wouldn't go down that easily," said Pacquiao, who suffered a right swollen ear, after the fight.

Pacquiao collected his seventh world title with the win as he snatched Cotto’s World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight crown and the diamond-studded World Boxing Council (WBC) Diamond Belt, an honorary championship given for elite boxers.

The General Santos City native Pacquiao – who started fighting as a 106-lb in the strawweight division – also holds the International Boxing Organization (IBO) light welterweight crown. He previously ruled the WBC light weight, WBC super featherweight, International Boxing Federation (IBF) super bantamweight, WBC flyweight and RING Magazine’s featherweight divisions. divisions.

He, however, declined to give a glimpse of his future. “I’m not yet thinking of my next fight. I just want to enjoy this win first," added Pacquiao, who now holds a record of 50 wins, three losses and two draws.

For Pacquiao’s long-time trainer and coach Freddie Roach, the only one left out there to challenge is Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Referee Kenny Bayless directs Manny Pacquiao to his corner after knocking down Miguel Cotto in the 4th round of their WBO welterweight title fight in Las Vegas. AP
Cotto, his face bloodied and swollen, dropped to 34-2 becoming Pacquiao’s 38th KO victim. “Manny is really one of the best," he said.

It was also the first loss for the Puerto Rican since absorbing an 11th round TKO loss against Antonio Margarito last year.

Pacquiao’s recent triumph also extended his winning streak to 11 fights after suffering from a 12-round decision setback to Erik Morales on March 19, 2005.

Cotto was the aggressor in the match having a good first round by dictating the tempo of the match to somehow contain Pacquiao’s opening attacks.

But Pacquiao stuck with his game plan and seemed unfazed by Cotto’s power quickly adjusting in the second round that resulted in several fierce exchanges between the two fighters.

Cotto’s game plan seemed to work in the early rounds as he kept Pacquiao busy looking for better angles and openings.

Pacquiao, like a diesel engine that needs to warm up, went to work in the third with a left-right combination dropping Cotto on his knees and was later given a standing eight count by referee Bayless.

That did not rattle Cotto and the Puerto Rican retaliated with his own a 1-2-3 combo before the end of the third.

Pacquiao then pressed on with his attack in the fourth, targeting Cotto’s body and unleashing a several powerful combos that the deposed champion managed to endure.

Moments later, Cotto was once again down on his knees.

After the fourth, Cotto’s offense and game plan was no longer existent as Pacquiao continued with his relentless onslaught aiming for the deposed champion’s face that started to swell that opened up several cuts around his eyes.

Cotto trainer Joe Santiago seemed ready to throw in the towel at the end of the 11th but Bayless and ring side physician James Gane talked for a while and decided to let the deposed champion continue with the fight.

Pacquiao, sensing his imminent victory and the downfall of his opponent, poured it all in the 12th catching Cotto near the corner.

Seeing enough of the carnage, Bayless stepped in and signaled the stop of the fight as jubilation erupted in Pacquiao’s corner with assistant trainer and long-time buddy Buboy Fernandez giving the Filipino boxing icon a well-deserved victory ride. – GMANews.TV

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cotto is biggest obstacle in Pacquiao’s ring career–Arum

by Alex P. Vidal

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Top Rank chief Bob Arum has described World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion Miguel Angel Cotto as “the biggest obstacle in (Manny) Pacquiao’s ring career” during the final press conference for the “Pacquiao vs Cotto: Firepower” at the Hollywood Theater in MGM Grand, here, November 11 afternoon.

“Cotto has a heart as big as this room,” the 77-year-old prominent promoter enthused as he moderated the three-hour media forum attended by members of coaching staff from both camps.

Cotto (34-1, 27 KOs) was paraded in the conference ahead of Pacquiao towed by his father, Miguel Sr. and trainer, Joe Santiago.

“I trained a lot like never been before for this fight and we have created a game plan on how to beat Pacquiao,” Cotto, who turned 29 last October 29, remarked in a brief speech. “I dedicated this fight for the glory of all the Hispanics.”

Cotto wished the 30-year-old Pacquiao “the best of luck” because he said, “he needs it most on Saturday (Nov. 11).”

There was neither enmity nor animosity as both camps elected to use good words between each other.

Santiago, who impressed the crowd with his gesture of goodwill towards Team Pacquiao, confirmed that “Cotto is in the best shape of his career.”
Santiago believed that after the fight, the WBO belt would still be strapped around his ward’s waist.

Arum also confirmed that the 12-round duel for Cotto’s title on November 14 “is the most important fight of Pacquiao’s career” as he is gunning for a record seventh world crown since he annexed Chatchai Sasakul’s World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight diadem on a shock 8th round knockout at Phuttamonthon, Thailand on December 4, 1998.

“The Cotto camp has been very good,” beamed Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs), who flashed a smile most of the time in a show of confidence. “There is no reason (for me) not to put up a good showing on Saturday because this is the most important fight of my career. After this fight, there will be a lot of excitement in my country.”

Pacquiao was accompanied by trainer Freddie Roach, fight conditioner Alex Ariza, legman Michael Koncz, and assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez.
Before the start of the press conference, Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman awarded both Cotto and Pacquiao with symbolic key each “with a great deal of affection” saying he is “the happiest mayor in the world” for having welcomed two of the greatest fighters in the world.

Arum described Goodman as “the greatest mayor of the greatest city in the world.”

Also present during the press conference attended by journalists from the Philippines, United States and Puerto Rico were Nevada State Athletic Commission executive Keith Kizer, HBO head Mark Tafffet, Richard Sturm. Tecate executive Marcelo Salina, and WBC executive director Mauricio Sulaiman who presented the WBC diamond championship belt that will go the winner.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pacquiao’s other ‘Father’ says Cotto will fall in 6th round

by Alex P. Vidal

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – The man who once adopted Manny Paquiao as a skinny “stow away” amateur boxer in the said he saw the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight crown fall from the head of champion Miguel Angel Cotto when the two clash in a 12-round championship fight dubbed “Firepower” at the MGM Grand, here, on November 14.

“Sa nakita ko sa insayo nia kahapon, may pagkalalagyan si Cotto baka hanggang sixth round lang sia (Based on what I saw during Pacquiao’s training yesterday, I can see that Cotto might last only for six rounds),” volunteered Mario “Mar” Sumalinog, Pacquiao’s former coach in Team Davao del Sur in 1988 to 1989.

Sumalinog, 48, who considers Pacquiao as his adopted son, was the coach of the fabled Team Davao del Sur that consisted of the then 14-year-old Pacquiao, future Philippine champion Roberto Moreno, Sonny Panding, Dennis Sabsal, Renato Moreno, Aldy Nut, Bobong Escalicas, future WBC international titlist Abner Cordero, and future WBO international champion Vernie Torres, who now acts as one of Team Pacquiao’s field men in the United States.

He considers Pacquiao’s speed and force as “the most deadly” among all the welterweights in the world today and that Cotto can never withstand them, he said.

Sumalinog is a former Philippine bantamweight champion. He came to the United States last year for Pacquiao’s duel with Oscar De La Hoya on December 5, his first-ever international trip.

“It was Manny who helped facilitate my travel documents,” sighed Sumalinog, whose four of five children—Michael, 23; Melvin, 22; Marjun, 20; and Mar Francis, 18–are all boxers and gold medalists in the Batang Pinoy”, a national amateur slugfest introduced in the 90’s by the Philippine Sports Commission.

Speaking in vernacular, Sumalinog said when Pacquiao invited him to watch his fight in the United States last year, he was first adamant to accept it “because I don’t know how to operate the elevators and I am not good in English as I have no formal college degree.”

He agreed to fly to the United States when he was accompanied by lawyer Luciano Camiros, who looks into Pacquiao’s legal documents in Digos, Davao del Sur.

Sumalinog, employee of the construction maintenance office of Davao del Sur capitol under Gov. Dodo Cagas, described Pacquiao as “generous “ and “with a good heart.” He discovered Pacquiao’s qualities when the young boxer trained under his tutelage and stayed at his house while fighting as a simon-pure, he said.

When Pacquiao decided to try his luck in Manila as a prizefighter in 1994 accompanied by boxing impresario Nanay Parcon, he and Sumalinog parted ways. After making a name and racking up victories in the “Blow by Blow” promotion of future business manager Rod Nazario and Lito Mondejar in Mandaluyong City, Sumalinog said Pacquiao paid him a surprise visit at his house in Brgy. Tagabuli, Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur.

“He came with no bodyguards and was alone,” recalled Sumalinog. “It was a tearful meeting because I chided him about the negative things I heard about him starting when he campaigned in Metro Manila.”

Sumalinog said he reminded Pacquiao about the sacrifices they made during his amateur days and their vow to place God at the center of their lives. He said Pacquiao told him, “Coach, I will never forget you for the rest of my life.”

He said Pacquiao invited him to watch his Oriental Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) title duel with Thailand’s 3K Battery in Mandaluyong City and his world title match against Erik Morales in Manila.

“And that’s how we became connected again,” he chortled.

Sumalinog credited Pacquiao’s original spiritual adviser, Fr. Elieser D. Capuyan, DCD of St. Jospeh The Worker Parish in Santa Cruz, for his and Pacquiao’s devotion to God.

“Hindi nakalimot yan sa Diyos. Kun ano man ang biyaya na nakamit niya ngayon at dahil sa pagmamahal nia sa Diyos at ordinaryong tao (He loves God and ordinary people),” Sumalinog concluded.

‘Like Michael Jackson, Manny is helping heal the world’

by Alex P. Vidal

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – A priest from Davao del Sur in the Philippines has compared Manny Pacquiao’s penchant to spread the gospel of God to the late Michael Jackson’ passion to “heal the world” saying “God can use even a boxer to preach evangelism in a massive scale.”

Fr. Elieser D. Capuyan, DCD of St. Joseph The Worker Parish in Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur, said most international celebrities like the dead pop star and the boxing superstar “are using their focus and opportunity not just to anoint themselves but to spread the gospel of the Lord in a global stage.”

In Michael Jackson, Capuyan was referring to the same title of song that the late pop icon had popularized where it conveyed a message of love to “heal the world and make it a better place” for all regardless of sex, age, nationality, political and religious affiliations.

“Without him knowing it, Manny challenges everyone to show the faith in God because that is our vocation,” said Capuyan, who joined Team Pacquiao in early morning jog November 11.

The priest revealed he was surprised when during their arrival prayer inside Pacquiao’s posh room at The Hotel on the 63rd floor evening of November 9, it was the best boxer in the world pound-for-pound who led the praying of rosary.

“I thought that since I was invited to join the prayer together with a small group, I would be the one to lead the prayer as a priest,” Capuyan chortled. “Manny showed the basic principle of being a Christian to preach the evangelism and he is responding to his calling.”

As a priest, Capuyan said he knows that his capacity to preach the gospel of God is limited within his church. “Manny has all the world (listening) to hear his message,” he added.

More than his skills as a prizefighter, Capuyan said he admired the 30-year-old Pacquiao’s “religiosity, his faith in God and his humility because he always attributes everything as coming from God.”

Capuyan admitted it was his first meeting with Pacquiao in the United States although he already knew him way back in Mindanao where Pacquiao originally came from.

He refused to comment about Pacquiao’s chances to dethrone Miguel Angel Cotto for the Puerto Rican’s World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight bauble when the two tangle for 12 rounds in a title fight dubbed “Pacquiao vs Cotto: Firepower” at the Event Center of MGM Grand here on November 14.

Like Pacquiao, Cotto is also reportedly a devout Christian and is also preaching the gospel of God in his own way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Greatness, sort of

Theres The Rub
by Conrado de Quiros
from Philippine Daily Inquirer

ONE is tempted to say Manny Pacquiao can do without any additional pressure put on his shoulders. And to say that landing on the cover of Time is a pressure is like saying Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a minor irritation. It is huge. It makes winning his fight against Miguel Cotto this Sunday an absolute must. But I don’t know that Pacquiao’s shoulders aren’t up to it. That in fact is one of the reasons he deserves to be on that magazine’s cover. He’s one of those amazing sports personalities who actually thrive on pressure, who court pressure as a chance to show the stuff he’s made of. He’s awed by the honor the magazine has just conferred on him, but he is not cowed by it. Look at the way he’s looking forward to the fight against Cotto. Without lapsing into trash talk—his culture frowns on it—indeed while completely respecting his opponent—he seems in little doubt about its outcome. He is going to win. It’s not just that losing is not an option, it’s that it’s simply not on his horizon.

Heaven forbid he does. That too is not just not an option for the country, it simply doesn’t loom on our horizon.

I myself am a little ambivalent about Time’s accolade.

On one side, it is of course a signal honor, a deep source of pride, for us. Only Corazon Aquino has done it before, and doubly so, a feat unlikely to be duplicated in the near future. Being put on Time’s cover thrusts Pacquiao into the ranks of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, sports figures whose impact on the games they play has been vast. Pacquiao himself has done the unprecedented feat of winning in several weight classes. Sugar Ray Leonard is right to say people do not seem to fully appreciate it when it is nothing short of spectacular. He himself, Leonard says, hasn’t done it. No boxer has done it. Pacquiao isn’t just demolishing adversaries, he is demolishing boundaries.

More than Jordan and Woods, Pacquiao has impacted not just on the game he plays but on the games other people play. That is to say, his impact has gone beyond sports. He isn’t just the hero of this country, he is the savior of this country. This country reposes its hope, its future, its destiny on him every time he fights. As news reports have pointed out, the crime rate in this country drops to near-zero when he fights as no respectable bank robber would be found plying his trade at that sacred hour. Less reported is that he unites Filipinos in more ways than one. When he fights, Filipinos forget that he has sung the praises of Malacañang and that his victories are likely to redound to the benefit of its occupants and root for him anyway, man and woman, young and old, two-legged and four.

But Pacquiao’s landing in Time is not without its disquieting aspects too. He himself says that he wants to prove that he represents a small but mighty country. That’s probably the last thing he will. All that his successes have highlighted in fact is that his country is a puny one. All they have done is etch in stark relief the epic contrast between the heights he has reached and the depths his country has sunk to.

There’s always something disquieting when a country pins its hopes, its future and its destiny on the outcome of a sports event. I know other countries do that with football. A player from Argentina was gunned down by underworld thugs for the unforgivable crime of accidentally kicking the ball into his own goal, thereby kicking Argentina out of the World Cup. And as everyone knows football is not a game in Brazil, it is a religion.

But it goes well beyond even that in this country. Pacquiao rose to fame by unmitigated grit at the very time his country fell into infamy by unmitigated gall. Pacquiao attained his glory at the very time Gloria attained her ingloriousness. The heaven the country felt with Pacquiao’s ascent to boxing Valhalla came alongside the hell it experienced with its government’s descent to political depravity. The Philippines came to be known the world over as the home of the best pound-for-pound fighter living today. But it also came to be known as the home of the worst peso-for-peso thieves living today. Pacquiao went on to become the most fearsome fighter in the ring, the Philippines went on to become the most corrupt country in the globe.

The reason this country worships Pacquiao the way humankind’s ancestors worshipped the sun is out of sheer need. The reason this country grinds to a halt every time Pacquiao fights is out of sheer hope. Having nothing to be proud of, having indeed everything to be ashamed of, we look up to Pacquiao’s fights as something to prop us up, as a source of replenishment. His victories aren’t just our victories, they are our very survival. Man does not live by bread alone, he lives by circuses too. Lacking the one, we make do with the other.

Truly, heaven forbid Pacquiao loses.

I am proud of Pacquiao being on the Time cover. But I am also bothered by the thought that it represents a decline in the national stature, driven home by the fact that not too long ago a Filipino did so as well for a far more epic achievement. That was Corazon Aquino who made it there twice for having fashioned stouter wings than Icarus in the form of People Power. It’s not just that boxing is a lesser achievement compared to the liberation of a country. Tiger Woods will never be Martin Luther King. It’s also that Cory’s achievement enriches the people rather than pauperizes them by contrast. It is Cory’s achievement that shows the country to be a small but mighty one, a country whose people are capable of breaking their chains, not least inside themselves, not least their penchant for mediocrity, and rise to breathtaking heights.

That is greatness. The other is just, well, sort of.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gloria’s Game Plan

by Perry Diaz

A series of unexpected events in the past several years have caused disruptions in the way President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wanted things to happen. And now Gloria is faced with a dilemma. What’s her game plan?

In my article, Judicial Independence (November 2006), I wrote: “The recent decision of the Philippine Supreme Court to dismiss the petition for a people’s initiative to amend the constitution to replace the presidential system with a parliamentary form of government has created a political storm. With a bare 8-7 majority, the decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio caught a lot of people by surprise. People close to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo were expecting the Supreme Court to vote in favor of the petition by at least a 9-6 majority.” It was a devastating setback for Gloria.

Had the Supreme Court voted in favor of the “people’s initiative,” Gloria would have been the country’s Prime Minister by now with an open-ended term of office. That is, as long as her political allies in Parliament would support her, she’d remain in power… indefinitely.

But having failed in her first attempt to stay in power beyond her presidential term, Gloria pursued other avenues to perpetuate herself in power. On February 24, 2006, on the eve of the anniversary of the “People Power” revolution of 1986, Gloria declared a “state of national emergency.” She banned all rallies and public gatherings. Her government seized TV networks, radio stations, and news media. All electronic mail and Internet communications were “frozen.” And she rounded up the “usual suspects” including leaders of left-wing and communist organizations. It was a anti-communist witch-hunt similar to the events preceding the declaration of martial law by Marcos in 1972. However, many people believed that her real reason was to prevent a massive demonstration the following day which could trigger another “People Power” revolution… and topple her. A week later, on March 3, Gloria lifted the “state of emergency,” but only after instituting repressive measures.

On August 13, 2009, a Philippine Daily Inquirer article said: “On July 9, Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia told the Rotary Club of Manila that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could declare martial law should the campaign for Charter change fail.” De Venecia was quoted as saying, “If they are unable to get the three-fourths vote necessary to amend the Constitution, their … fallback position is to declare martial law.” He also said that the plan to declare martial law was “was broached in 2005 at the height of the national crisis triggered by the ‘Hello Garci’ election fraud scandal.” De Venecia at that time was Gloria’s most trusted ally in Congress. They did a lot of things together.

The same article also mentioned that on July 22, former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, speaking before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, said that De Venecia indeed has “intimate knowledge of these events.” He was Gloria’s Secretary of Defense from 2004 to 2006 so he would have been privy to it.

On the same day, August 13, 2009, former Ambassador to the U.S. Albert Del Rosario (2001-2006) wrote an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, to wit: “It was in 2005 during the ‘Hello Garci’ controversy that the then Speaker of the House, Jose de Venecia Jr., came to Washington. He indicated that the Palace had empowered him to ask if we could defend for them the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.”

Del Rosario said that he was taken aback and asked why. De Venecia responded that “it was to be used against certain members of the political opposition.” Del Rosario told De Venecia that “the plan was not defensible… and that we could not defend it.” In June 2006, Del Rosario was recalled from his post in Washington, DC. Evidently, Gloria had lost her confidence in Del Rosario as a “team player”; thus, the “recall” or “firing” as a lot of people believed.

After being rebuffed by her own ambassador to the U.S., Gloria tried another attempt to revive Charter change (Cha-cha). This time, her allies in the House of Representatives filed several House resolutions to either convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) or Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) to amend the constitution.

But first, Gloria had to consolidate her power in the House of Representatives with the merger of Lakas-CMD and Kampi into a “powerhouse” party. On May 28, 2009, the merger was achieved with Gloria as its Chairman. Gloria was ready to roll.

A few days later, in the late hours of June 2, 2009, the House of Representatives — by voice vote — railroaded the controversial House Resolution 1109 which calls on the House of Representatives to convene into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) to amend the 1987 constitution without Senate participation. This time, Gloria couldn’t go wrong with her virtual absolute control of the House of Representatives. Finally, her ultimate goal was within reach.

But once again, Gloria’s attempt to change the constitution was thwarted when former President Cory Aquino passed away on August 1, 2009. In 1987, Cory changed the constitution to make sure that martial law will not happen again. The 1987 constitution is sometimes referred to as “Cory constitution.” It did not come as surprise then that Cory made a wish prior to he death not to change the 1987 constitution. With her passing, the move by Gloria’s allies in House of Representatives to pursue Cha-cha disintegrated.

With Cha-cha derailed, Gloria’s allies pursued another avenue — they’re pushing her to run for Congress. However, some people believe that Gloria’s plan to run for Congress had been in the works for sometime as a contingency plan in the event that all of her options — except martial law — were no longer doable. As an indication that Gloria was preparing to run for a congressional seat, Gloria has visited her district — doling out “goodies” — at least 47 times this year.

In my article, Gloria’s Gambit (May 2009), I wrote: “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.” Now, it seems like that’s her only viable option to regain power after her presidency ends in June 2010.

Lately, rumors started circulating that Gloria is going to run for vice president. But what would she gain by becoming vice president? I doubt if she would even win. As each day passes, Gloria’s game plan becomes clearer.

The deadline for filing her certificate of candidacy is December 1, 2009. If, for any reason, Gloria will not run for Congress or vice president, she will have two options left — retire from politics or stay in power by all means. Which one will it be?

Monday, November 9, 2009

David vs. Gloriath

Balitang Kutsero
by Perry Diaz

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — daughter of Diosdado Macapagal, the “poor boy from Lubao,” who became president in 1961 — is rumored to be going back to her roots. She built a 400-square-meter house in Lubao and it looks like she’s going to run for the congressional district seat currently occupied by her son, Mikey. I wonder how Mikey feels being told by his mama to “scoot over”? He should move to California and live in his beach front mansion and hang out in karaoke joints and juice bars. That’s better than living in the “Disenchanted Kingdom” of his mama.

But mama Gloria’s run for Congress is not going to be a piece of cake. Popular professor and columnist Randy David is going to run against her and give her a run for her money. Or is it the people’s money? Well folks, it’s going to be a battle royale between David and Gloriath.

But why would Gloriath want to run for Congress? My investigative reporter James Macaquecquec did some sleuthing in Lubao — the capital of Jueteng Land — and heard an interesting story. The story goes: Gloria and Mike were sleeping in their big house in Lubao when Mike was awakened by a noise. “Wake up, darling,” he whispered to Gloria. “there are thieves in the house.” “Don’t worry about them, go back to sleep,” Gloria told Mike. “But I’m scared, darling,” Mike whispered, “the thieves might hurt us and take all our money.” “Don’t worry, sweetheart, the thieves in the House will not hurt us. They’re all my friends and that’s the reason why I’m running for the House of Thieves next year. They promised that they’ll elect me as their next Speaker of the House.” Hail Gloria! The House of Thieves will never be the same again.

Well, I hope Gloria realizes that she won’t be a shoo-in for Mikey’s congressional seat. My other investigative reporter from Northern California heard another scuttlebutt going around in Gloria’s inner circle. It goes: Gloria’s executive secretary said, “Ma’am, why don’t you run for vice president like what you did in 1998 when Erap Estrada ran for president. He was a sure winner then and this time he has a very good chance of beating all his opponents including your ‘manok,’ Gibo Teodoro.” “Hmmm… if Erap wins and I win too, history might be repeated again,” Gloria said. “Bingo!” her legal secretary shouted. “Honey, that means that you can oust Erap again,” the First Gentleman interjected. “Happy days are here again, gang!” “Quiet!” Gloria told her husband and then turned to her political adviser, “Why don’t you get someone to nominate me for vice president at our party’s national convention. And make sure I get nominated, okay?”

News Item: Gloria’s supporters were saying that Gloria would be an “asset” to anyone who is elected president. Now, don’t tell that to Erap. After Gloria grabbed the presidency from Erap in 2001, Erap sees her as an “ace in the hole,” if you know what I mean.

The question is: Would Gloria take the risk of running and losing in the vice presidential race when her popularity rating has reached rock bottom? Gloria may be dumb but she’s not stupid. Did I say that right? Or should I say, Gloria may be stupid but she’s not dumb.

My take is that Gloria would rather run for Mikey’s congressional seat. She has a better chance of cheating… errr, winning in a district election than in a national election. Besides, Gloria is a hands-on person. Yep, she wants her hands in all the cookie jars she could find. And there’s a lot of cookie jars in Jueteng Land.

The vice presidential merry-go-round is turning out to be a circus. Presidential wannabes Manny Villar and Gibo Teodoro are still without VP running mates, and vice presidential wannabe Loren Legarda is still without a presidential running mate. And after Chiz Escudero bolted Danding’s NPC, Chiz realized that he doesn’t have a campaign machine and, worst, he doesn’t have money to buy votes. Now, that’s not only dumb, that’s stupid.

Look at Erap, it didn’t take him long to pick Jejomar Binay as his VP running mate. Binay may not be “winnable” but Erap couldn’t care less… as long as he wins the presidency. Erap is neither dumb nor stupid.

Erap’s secret weapon has always been his acting ability. He’s good whether he’s acting on the screen or acting as president. The only problem is that he can’t tell the difference.

When Erap announced his presidential bid, he told his 9,000 cheering fans that it’s going to be his “last performance.” What he didn’t tell them was that he was referring to a movie — a comedy — which will be released in December. It features him, comedienne Ai-Ai de las Alas, and Dionisia — Manny Pacquiao’s mama — in her screen debut. Yep, Erap’s “last performance” would be similar to his “first performance” as president of the country — a comedy.

With Gibo Teodoro’s failure to attract a vice presidential running mate, he’s trying again to get former actor and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. as his running mate. The first time Gibo asked Bong to be his running mate, Bong told him that he had to ask his dad, former Sen. Ramon Revilla Sr., for his blessing. His dad told him not to run. Bong should have asked his more than 80 brothers and sisters — fathered by his dad with different women — for support. I’m pretty sure that they’d be more supportive of Bong. Sometimes being a sibling of a high government official would open windows of opportunity — the higher the position the bigger the opportunity. Ask the Lion King.

Meanwhile, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. confirmed that he’s going to run for senator in Erap’s slate. The other day, Bongbong’s mama, Imelda Marcos, was heard cheering for his son, “Go, Bongbong, go! Be like your dad.” Oops! I don’t think the voters would buy that.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quo Vadis, Chiz?

by Perry Diaz

On October 28, 2009, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero dropped a bombshell when he announced that he was bolting the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). It was stunning and unexpected. He was supposed to make his presidential bid official but instead he said that he is still undecided on what to do next.

However, his campaign manager, Lito Banayo, said: “He was running as himself, not as one bound by the party’s interests. He did not want to be ‘chained’ to party interests, and in an unusually bold statement, virtually made a declaration of independence from party politics, and embraced ‘people politics’. One who desires the presidency, he said, must forswear narrow party interests in favour of the larger interest of people and nation. In Pilipino, he was saying, ‘the people must be one’s party’.”

Banayo further said: “It was a ‘revolt’ against the political system we have become accustomed to, one where the landed elite, the billionaire class, the oligarchy always held sway. It was a polity dominated by economic interests of the few who ‘own’ the wealth of the nation, not always to the long-lasting benefit of the many, the teeming many, who own so little.”

Chiz says it all when he declared: “Hindi ako heredero, hindi ako haciendero, at lalong hindi ako bilyonaryo.” (I am not an heir, I am not a plantation landlord, and most of all I am not a billionaire). It was a defiant declaration of independence from the political warlords, oligarchs, and kingmakers. It was like the “Cry of Balintawak” of 1896 when Andres Bonifacio and his fellow “katipuneros” tore their “cedulas” (residence certificates) in a bold act of rebellion against the corrupt Spanish colonial masters.

The only difference is: Chiz is alone. But for how long? Would he be able to inspire the people who are sick and tired of the corrupt political system controlled by the powerful oligarchs? Or is he just a drift in the air densely polluted with the stench of a decadent socio-political culture?

Are the people content with just being on a “survival mode,” where just being alive is in itself… considered a “success”? Do people see politicians as “birds of the same feather” and corrupt to the bone? It is not uncommon to hear people say, “they’re all corrupt, I might as well get the most of what they would give me.” In other words, they would accept money from politicians who will buy their votes. But worst of all, it’s an acceptance of the notion that the status quo is irreversible… and beyond redemption.

It is interesting to note that Rep. Jack Duavit, NPC secretary general, said prior the Chiz’s resignation, “We have more than enough funds for nationwide campaign political ads,” he said, “but what we do not have are funds to buy votes.” Somebody finally admitted that “vote buying” is necessary to win elections. It came as no surprise then that one of the reasons mentioned about Chiz’s departure from NPC is that Danding Cojuangco — the founder and power behind NPC — was hesitant to fund Chiz’s campaign, which would require at least P2 billion to bankroll. And without a war chest of that size, Chiz wouldn’t be able to compete with billionaire Manny Villar, Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro who is backed by Gloria’s money-loaded administration party, and Noynoy Aquino whose wealthy family wouldn’t have any problem funding his campaign.

The media is abound with rumors that Danding is about to support either one of his two nephews — Gibo and Noynoy. Chiz probably was aware of that and beat Danding to the punch by bolting NPC. Had Danding beat Chiz to the punch first, that would have been a devastating knock-out blow for Chiz. And that would have ended Chiz’s presidential ambitions next year.

Now that Chiz has the upper hand — albeit lacking the financial means to wage an effective presidential campaign — what is he going to do now? Quo vadis, Chiz?

What are his options? If Chiz were going to run for president, he would have to bite the bullet and file his certificate of candidacy as an independent presidential candidate, unless he can muster enough support to form a political party or join an existing party. With barely a month left to file his certificate of candidacy, Chiz is under the gun to make his move. But he needs a campaign machine and a war chest. He doesn’t have both.

His second option is to run for vice president as the running mate of Villar or Teodoro. However, to do so would invite criticisms — and ruin his credibility — because he had made statements not too long ago that he’ll remain in the opposition; thus, eliminating any team up with Gibo. He also said that “there was zero probability of him teaming up with Villar due to the C-5 double funding controversy the former Senate president was embroiled in.” This option is out.

His third option is not to run for higher office and instead serve out his remaining three years in the Senate. This would give him time to build a political party — or a movement — to pursue the reforms he wants. He can then run for re-election as senator in 2013 under his new party, together with a full slate of reform-minded senatorial candidates, congressional candidates, and candidates for local offices. Then he can run for president in 2016 as the “people’s candidate.” But can he wait?

I mentioned “people’s candidate” because there is likelihood that the other presidential candidates, with the exception of Estrada, would be backed by the establishment including the powerful oligarchs who would get behind Manny, Gibo, and Noynoy. I mentioned Noynoy because should his uncle Danding decide to support him instead of his cousin Gibo, then Noynoy’s “reformist” agenda could easily fall to pieces.

It is very likely then that the next administration would be no different — if not worse — from the Arroyo administration. And it could also be that Gloria and virtually all of the country’s wealthy and powerful oligarchs would continue to control the political system. If so, it could set the country back 40 years.

What the country needs today is someone who would step up to the plate, resist pressure from the oligarchs, and institute true reforms in governance. And who would that person be: Chiz or Noynoy… or none?

The next couple of weeks should provide us an insight on where Chiz and Noynoy are going. And it would all depend on who’s going to get behind them.