Sunday, July 31, 2011

Church triumphs

Business Beat
Manila Bulletin
MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic religion teaches us that after the crucifixion, there was the resurrection. Whatever pain and sufferings we experience in the mortal world will be miniscule compared to the eternal happiness when we finally join our Creator.
We are glad to see that the recent controversy centered on the acceptance of seven bishops of sports utility vehicles (not Pajeros) for use in their social action missions has provided a splendid opportunity for the Church, through its bishops to regain its moral ascendancy and forge forward with greater adherence to its pastoral mission.
Many Catholics recalling the non-support of the bishops during the public outcry to remove former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo began to think that the bishops had been “bought” in light of the widely reported letters sent by bishops to her or to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
They have now regained their faith in their religious leaders. With their explanation in the Senate, it is clear that the bishops, especially Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos who asked for a vehicle as a birthday present from GMA and wrote, “Be assured of my constant support…” were not engaged in a “transactional relationship” with the then beleaguered GMA.
The defining action that made the Church triumph in this episode is the pastoral statement issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines titled, “A Time of Pain, A time of Grace.” There is an acceptance of the effect on the Church – “Our Mother Church has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office that have erupted in the last two weeks.
” There is the apology – “…we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you.” There is the owning up of responsibility – “…the bishops concerned are ready to accept responsibility for their action and to face the consequences if it would be proven unlawful, anomalous, and unconstitutional.” There is the admission of a mistake – “…they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibility lead them.”
There is the promise to reform – “…making sure that pastoral sensibilities are respected and the highest ethical standards are observed.
We shall examine our values in light of our vocation to be disciples of Jesus Christ”. There is the determination to change – “…commit ourselves to the long journey of personal and social transformation required of all disciples of the Lord.”
When I first heard on radio the “I am sorry…” line, it reminded me of GMA’s public statement after the Garci tapes hogged the national media for weeks. Much more, when I heard Bishop Pueblos apologize for a “lapse in judgment” in the Senate hearing.
But as I read the CBCP statement and witnessed the contriteness and humility of the bishops in the Senate hearing and their decision to return the vehicles, I realized the wide difference between the bishops and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
In the case of GMA, after her public apology – “I am sorry,” she did not return what was not hers – the presidency.
Imagine if she had, Philippine society would have regained its moral moorings; there would have been no attempts to tempt people and institutions with power and wealth just for her to remain in office; and today, she and her cohorts would not be facing a litany of corruption cases in the courts or worse already be found guilty in the arena of public opinion.
As the church has triumphed, GMA could also have!
Business Bits. The proposals of Senator Miriam Defensor and Senator Franklin Drilon for the PCSO and Pagcor to be purely regulatory bodies and for the private sector to take over operations, paying the government’s general fund a percentage of gross receipts, is worthy of consideration.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How abduction of Ilonggo editor was foiled

By Alex P. Vidal
It has been 21 years since our colleague, former News Express editor Teopisto “Pet” Melliza, escaped from would-be abductors by the skin of the teeth one afternoon on July 6, 1990 outside our editorial office at the Immaculate Concepcion Bldg. on Ledesma St., Iloilo City.
Had it not been for staffwriter Fems Pedregosa’s cleverness and our presence of mind (we call it “grace under pressure”) during the crisis, Atty. Pet Melliza would have been “captured” and God knows what would have happened next.
It was actually a combination of luck, right timing and a little guts on the part of Fems, who bravely faced and confused the pony tailed male visitor we learned later to be one of the hired killers that arrived from Mindanao with task “to abduct the editor of News Express and teach him a lesson (this statement had been confirmed by former Zarraga mayor Orlando Lacson).”
What lesson? Lacson told a small group of “trusted” reporters (he must have trusted me also because I was there) months later in the ballroom of Hotel del Rio that the would-be abductors had been dispatched by a political warlord in the fifth district of Iloilo “in sympathy” with then San Miguel mayor Simeon Suero, who was on warpath with News Express.
According to Lacson, Suero was “fuming mad” when he narrated to the political warlord how News Express had “tarnished my reputation as mayor of San Miguel.”
Suero was referring to a headline story a week before the foiled abduction in the paper’s Hiligayon section entitled “Mayor namago, baylehan naputo” (Benefit dance went bankrupt when mayor didn’t pay) which he claimed had pictured him in bad light.
Even after Marcos fell and President Tita Cory assumed power, extra judicial killings continued unabated victimizing mostly political activists and community journalists.
Lacson admitted he was privy to the plot as he was present when Suero and the political warlord discussed the abduction. In fact, Lacson didn’t oppose the plan, he said, as he also had a score to settle with the newspaper, which had criticized him along with a hard-hitting DYBQ Radyo Budyong anchorman (was it Rani Jangayo?) as protector of illegal gambling in his town.
At this juncture, Jangayo’s colleague, the late broadcaster Tony Laniog, who had one drink too many, berated Lacson. “Yots, ano kamo mamatay taga media? Patyanay na lang ta di ho” (So you want to kill us, mediamen? We might as well start killing each other here). Gus Bacabac, a former Capitol official and friend of both Lacson and some mediamen present, pacified Laniog. “Ton, tama na ina. Hinaya lang tingog mo” (Ton, that’s enough. Just minimize your voice).
The situation became tense when Lacson stopped talking and turned his back like looking for somebody. One Francis Terania later approached and whispered something to Lacson. Bacabac pointed his finger at Terania and ordered him in a loud voice to “Go out! You are not included here.”
Lacson and everyone in the group knew Laniog, then president of Capitol press corps, had a .45 caliber gun tucked in his waist. The atmosphere was so tension-filled that everyone started leaving as soon as silence beckoned. “Upod lang ta ya pre puli a (I will go with you, buddy),” the late Alex Sumagaysay, a colleague of Laniog and Jangayo, told me. No untoward incident happened. We dispersed at past 1 o’clock in the morning.
Atty. Melliza had nothing to do whatsoever with Suero’s supposed agony. It was Fems, in charge of the Hiligaynon page, who wrote the story about the benefit dance after being tipped off by an SK official whose association had hosted the benefit dance.
In the SK official’s allegations, Suero and his bodyguards did not pay when they entered the dance hall. Because many of them were armed, residents who wanted to join the dance, shied away.
The visitor, who was allowed to go upstairs by printing press workers, was looking for Pet. Fems became suspicious when he refused to give details about his purpose, and did not identify himself. She excused herself from the visitor and whispered to me, “Lex, sugataa to si Pet sa dalum e kon e nga indi anay magsaka kay diskompiado gid ko sa tawo nga ini (Lex, go wait for Pet downstairs and tell him not to enter our office yet because I don’t trust this guy here).”
I went downstairs and saw the visitor’s other cohorts some 50 meters away (their vehicle was parked near a barber shop) from the Malones Printing Press. They were restless and looking from one direction to another like fans in a “live” tennis match.
I went back inside and exited through the back door (going to the now Mary Mart Mall) where I met the unsuspecting editor. “Pet, indi ka anay magsaka kay delikado (Pet, don’t go upstairs yet; it’s dangerous),” I told the editor. We left the area.
The thugs had to endure about two to three hours waiting for nothing. They left empty handed.
While we were drinking coffee at Central Market several years later, Suero, who was no longer a mayor, confessed to me his knowledge about the issue. “Wara ron to a. Nadala lang ko to sa emosyon ko” (Let’s forget everything. I was only then carrried by my emotion).
How many journalists have been murdered in cold blood only because the likes of Suero were “only carried by their emotions?”
He was weak and limping. He has died.

Friday, July 29, 2011

‘The land they till is their life’

By Satur C. Ocampo 
The Philippine Star
What will happen next in the Hacienda Luisita land dispute?
This is the question tossed to me by various friends, following the strong reactions to the confusing Supreme Court ruling last July 5. Voting 6-4, the tribunal upheld the revocation of the stock distribution option (SDO) yet ordered a new referendum among the original 6,296 Luisita farm-worker beneficiaries to determine if they wish to get the land due them or stay with the SDO.
I’ll try to answer the question by looking into the expected actions of the parties in the dispute and the probable responses by the Supreme Court justices, and analyzing their implications.
Let us not forget: The overarching issue that should be resolved is whether social justice the Filipino peasants’ centuries-long quest, the very rationale of agrarian reform will prevail or not.
1. There won’t be any referendum within six months as required by the SC ruling. Why? Because the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Office of the Solicitor General, the lawyer of the government, will file a motion for reconsideration over this aspect of the ruling. They will ask the SC to order the distribution of 5,000 hectares of land to the farm-worker beneficiaries in strict compliance with RA 6657, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Act (CARP).
A similar motion will be filed by the farm-worker beneficiaries, represented by the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), who had earlier declared they would boycott the referendum if it would be held.
(Ambala and ULWU, along with Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the Catholic Church’s national social action center, and various support groups, will converge at Liwasang Bonifacio on July 22 to dramatize their objection to the referendum order, their basic rejection of the SDO, and their demand for land distribution.)
2. The DAR-OSG motion for reconsideration will anchor on Section 31 of RA 6657, which provides that “the agricultural land of the corporate owners or the corporation shall be subject to the compulsory coverage of this Act” if within two years of the CARP approval the SDO is not realized.
“Following this provision,” Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz argues, “the (HLI) land should have been distributed to the farmers in 1990.” So why wasn’t that done in 1990?
Apparently the DAR failed in its duty to monitor the SDO implementation. It recommended revocation only in 2005 16 years late! after the farm-worker beneficiaries petitioned to junk the plan because it had failed to improve their lives.
3. How will the justices respond to the motion for reconsideration? Normally, the SC entertains such a motion if the mover presents a substantially new argument. This is one such instance. Oddly, the two-year period required to implement the SDO was never cited during the oral arguments in August last year; nowhere was it cited in the elucidations of either the majority or minority of the justices.
The motions for reconsideration will give the justices time to dwell and decide on this question.
4. If two of the six justices in the majority are persuaded to change their stand, the referendum order would be dropped. If only one shifts, the vote would become 5-5, and Chief Justice Corona’s vote could break it to junk the referendum.
5. A tie vote would enable Corona to reconstruct his well-argued, but at the end weakened, argument in favor of land distribution. He wrote: “Unless there is land distribution, there can be no agrarian reform… A program that gives qualified beneficiaries stock certificates instead of land is not agrarian reform.” Yet he conceded that, in “consideration of fairness and equity, qualified farm-worker beneficiaries may waive their right to actually own the lands they till and stay as stockholders of petitioners (HLI).”
6. Notable was Corona’s assertion that, in pursuit of social justice, the HLI land should have been turned over to the farmers in 1967 44 years ago rather than in 1990 in accordance with the CARP.
He recalled that the Jose Cojuangco family had acquired the 6,000-hectare estate from the Spanish firm Tabacalera in 1957 with government financial backing. The land’s turnover to the farmers after 10 years was the condition, Corona emphasizes, for the grant of such financial assistance.
But the Cojuangcos did not comply.
“History will be the unforgiving judge of this Court,” Corona warned his associate justices, adding: “We cannot correct a historical anomaly and prevent the eruption of a social volcano by fancy legal arguments and impressively crafted devices for corporate control.”
He urged the magistrates to “take judicial cognizance of the violent incidents that intermittently occur in Hacienda Luisita, solely because of the agrarian problem there.” (Indeed, the original sale by Tabacalera was a response to continuing agrarian unrest in Central Luzon.) The HLI case “proves that for landless farmers and farm workers,” said Corona, “the land they till is their life.”
Clearly, the Cojuangcos cheated the farmers in 1967; they cheated them again in 1990, under the CARP. Will the majority, if not the entire Corona court, realize their bounden duty to render social justice?
* * *
E-mail to:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

2004 cheating

By Ernesto M. Maceda 
The Philippine Star
Zaldy Ampatuan and Lintang Bedol have confirmed that the 12-0 result in favor of Lakas Team Unity candidates in the 2007 senatorial elections was a manufactured result. They also confirmed that no less than President Gloria M. Arroyo ordered that 3 Senators – Ping Lacson, Alan Peter Cayetano and Noynoy Aquino be given zero votes.
Well, it happened too, in 2004. That time, Sonny Osmeña, Kit Tatad and your columnist were targetted by FG to be pushed out of the top 12. While I have gotten over 100,000 votes in Maguindanao in 1971, 1987 and 1992 senatorial elections, I was given only 15,000 votes in 2004, something unbelievable.
The same unbelievable result was recorded in Cebu, Pampanga, Sultan Kudarat and Bohol where we lost to Administration candidates 4 to 1. In Cebu, for example, Administration candidates averaged 400,000 votes each while Tatad, Osmeña and I averaged 100,000 and came out 15-20th place. Recall that Sonny Osmeña filed a protest because he could not accept his low placing in his native Cebu.
Bedol has now confirmed cheating thru dagdag-bawas in the 2004 Presidential elections in favor of GMA over FPJ.
Recall too, that GMA and her Lakas ticket got an incredible 90 percent of the votes cast, with GMA winning the elections because she got a 1.2 million lead in the Cebu Certificate of Canvass.
Note that the Certificate of Canvass form carries the names of presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates in one long page. So, if you manufacture the votes for President at the top of the page, it is easy to manufacture results from top to bottom.
* * *
BEDOL’S CONFIRMATION. . . Fugitive Atty. Lintang Bedol, Comelec Registrar of Maguindanao, has surfaced to confirm the fraud perpetrated in that province in the 2007 senatorial elections.
What is significant in his admission to ABS-CBN reporter Anthony Taberna is the use of fake election returns and ballots which has long been talked about. The security measure to prevent the use of fake election returns and ballots is to assign them serial numbers for every province, city and municipality. But this numbering system is rendered useless when the Board of Canvassers and Comelec officials count the election returns even when they don’t have the right serial numbers. This proves that the members of the Board of Canvassers and the Comelec officers are part of the cheating scheme. Bedol admitted that the accountable forms sent to Maguindanao did not carry the correct serial numbers.
And on national level, since the Comelec en banc is the national Board of Canvassers, they become part of a grand conspiracy when they allow Certificates of Canvass based on fake election returns to be counted.
Yes, Yes, Yes. In all previous elections, the Comelec has been part of all cheating cases.
* * *
BCDA-MNTC AGREEMENT. . . BCDA Chairman Felicito “Tong” Payumo reports that he has secured a revision of the MNTC contract to operate the Subic Clark Expressway (SCTex).
“Under this new arrangement, BCDA is provided by MNTC sufficient funds to meet its P34-billion debt obligations through revenue sharing and advances during shortfalls. In other words, by virtue of this agreement, the SCTex can be considered as having been built at no cost to the Government for the infrastructure needed by the country.”
Good job, Chairman Payumo!
* * *
BISHOPS CLEARED. . . Ambassador Tita de Villa, a long time Catholic leader, shed tears when she saw 7 bishops stand up to take an oath to tell the truth. She said she felt it was demeaning for the bishops.
However, it is good that they trooped to the Senate supported by outgoing CBCP President Nereo Odchimar, incoming CBCP president Jose Palma, Senior Bishop Gabriel Reyes of Antipolo, Pro-Life leaders Kit Tatad and Lito Atienza which resulted in a unanimous opinion of Blue Ribbon chairman TG Guingona, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, senior Sen. Miriam Santiago, Sen. Tito Sotto and others that the bishops did not do anything illegal or unconstitutional.
What is clear too, is that except for Bishop Juan Pueblos de Dios of Butuan, the other bishops were given encouragement by Malacañang functionaries to apply for assistance.
But Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato in a statement admitted their lapse of judgment and to clear the air said the bishops were returning the 7 vehicles.
Yes, bishops henceforth, should be careful to accept donations from offices or persons engaged in gambling.
They should now wage an active campaign against gambling by objecting to new casinos, lotteries, daily horse races and cockfights, poker clubs and, of course, jueteng.
* * *
TIDBITS. . . Here are the top absentees in the House of Representatives 1) Rep. Mikey Arroyo (Ang Galing Pinoy party list); 2) Rep. Joy Bernos (LP, Abra, lone district); 3) Rep. Iggy Arroyo (Lakas, Negros Occidental, 5th dist.); 4) Rep. Manny Pacquiao (LP, Sarangani, lone dist.) and Rep. Jules Ledesma (NPC, Negros Occidental, 1st dist.). It’s time for Speaker Belmonte to deduct portions of their salaries for absences.
Camiguin Governor J.J. Romualdo should be commended for securing a P406 million Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) grant to implement a flood and disaster mitigation project.
With so many Japanese settlers in Davao, Davao City and Cotabato City, Davao and Cotabato provinces should be as resourceful as Gov. Romualdo to get foreign grants. Don’t be Juan Tamad waiting for the coconut to fall from Malacañang.
After Davao and Cotabato, floods have hit General Santos and Koronadal cities. Definitely, there is need for more flood control projects.
Traders Joe Batronel and his wife Jocelyn of Zamboanga City were abducted by 5 armed men in Jolo, Sulu. Former Fiscal Arsenio Villalobos was bludgeoned to death inside his house in Jaro, Iloilo.
Mariano Marcos II, a cousin of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., lost his sport utility vehicle (SUV) while it was parked in Malate, Manila Wednesday.