Friday, October 31, 2014

Has Binay gone desperado?

By Perry Diaz
P-Noy and Jojo
P-Noy and Jojo
Whatever Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay’s expectations were, his meeting with President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III didn’t seem to have satisfied them. According to a news report, Binay waited for two and half hours for P-Noy to see him and the meeting lasted only 30 minutes. In essence, Binay was shown the door.
Although Malaca├▒ang was quiet about what transpired at the meeting, the media was rife with speculation. But Inquirer reporter Ramon Tulfo’s claim that a “little birdie” told him details of the meeting indicates that things weren’t going well between P-Noy and Binay.
Makati City Parking Building 2
Makati City Parking Building 2
Supposedly, Binay made two requests. He asked P-Noy to stop the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee from investigating the overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building 2. P-Noy’s response was blunt: “Jojo, I cannot stop the investigation because the Senate is independent. Besides, I have so many problems — the possible spread of the deadly Ebola virus brought by returning overseas workers, the Subic murder case, the evacuation of residents near the Mayon Volcano. Pati ba naman ’yan, poproblemahin ko pa (Do I have to solve your problem)?” Binay should have stopped right there and left.
But Binay pressed on. He then asked P-Noy to go easy on GMA (former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo). P-Noy wasn’t pleased with Binay taking up the cudgels for GMA. If Binay’s meeting with P-Noy was intended to appease him, he achieved the opposite. Tulfo’s “little birdie” told him that after Binay left, P-Noy told his staff: “If there are more cases to be filed against GMA, let’s file them.”
Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Binay should have known better that if there were one person that P-Noy would blame for all the bad things happening in his administration, it was Gloria. Gloria is P-Noy’s ultimate scapegoat, so why kill the goat? For as long as P-Noy is in power, Gloria doesn’t have a spit of a chance to be released from detention. And P-Noy would do everything to keep Gloria alive.
Binay should also know that P-Noy doesn’t have power over the Senate, which is fiercely protective of its autonomy from the Executive Branch. If Binay didn’t know that, then he shouldn’t be running for president. Or could it be that his attempt to ask favors from P-Noy was because he could be heading for a political freefall?
Indeed, he has nobody to blame but himself for building a personal financial empire during the two decades that he and members of his family – wife, son, and two daughters – were in power in Makati, arguably the richest city in the country that is home to financial institutions and large corporations. And with all the revenues earned by the city, the mayorship is by all means the best plum job in the country with little or no interference from other political entities including the country’s Executive and Legislative branches of government. And for as along as you keep your nose clean, nobody is going to bother you. But the moment you’re involved in some kind of anomaly or scandal, then everybody would gang up on you. And that’s precisely what happened to Jojo Binay.
Public opinion
Lord-of-Makati.2With all the allegations of corruption against Binay that spans more than a quarter of a century since the time of the late President Cory Aquino who appointed him as the officer-in-charge (OIC) of Makati City, Binay had left no stone unturned in covering his tracks. He allegedly used dummies for the properties he acquired while in office. With no solid evidence of corruption, Binay is presumed innocent by law. But Binay is facing charges of corruption not in a court of law but in the court of public opinion.
SWS-Survey-Binay-Oct-2014When the Senate opened an investigation into the allegations of corruption against Binay and his family, he refused to appear before the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee, saying that it was a “kangaroo court.” He said that he’d rather go directly to the people to explain his side. But the latest survey of Social Weather Station (SWS) shows that 79% of the respondents want him to face the Senate and address the allegations, which begs the question: Why is Binay scared of appearing before the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee?
Binay's popularity dips
Binay’s popularity dips
While there may be several reasons why Binay is not appearing before the Blue Ribbon subcommittee hearing, one reason might be that by not appearing before the panel he is not going to say something that would haunt him in the 2016 presidential campaign. By not saying anything now, he could tell the people then that he’s a victim of political persecution. He’d just have to keep repeating his innocence. And since he didn’t appear before a Senate hearing, his opponents wouldn’t have any ammunition to disprove his arguments. As Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, once said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Yes, if Binay keeps on denying the corruption charges, the people will eventually believe him… and vote for him. But that’s based on the supposition that his opponents don’t have anything to tie him to corruption. And what if they have an “April surprise” that would rattle skeletons in the closet two weeks before the May 9, 2016 election?
If Binay indeed has secrets about allegations of “unexplained wealth,” then he knows that the probability of his rivals knowing about them is pretty high. He ought to know that in politics, secrets are revealed at a time when it will hurt the most, which makes one wonder: Has Binay gone desperado?

‘Binay: Kulay-mahirap, asal-mahirap’—Trillanes

Of course Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th would blow his top. Why, a shabby-looking security guard in some rural area refused him entry into the Batangas estate! Why, a Chinese-Filipino businessman had a Senator of the Republic wait under the sun!
There’s nothing like a man’s huge ego pricked for him to reveal his true colors. Trillanes was so livid he blurted out his repressed world-view. He was mad waiting outside the gates of an agro-tourism park he was insisting was Vice President Jejomar Binay’s, and barked: “Kulay-mahirap si Binay, asal-mahirap.”
Those terms are really a bit difficult to translate in its nuances, and the best I could do would be: “He’s got not only a poor-man’s skin color, but a poor-man’s behavior.”
Translated, that’s certainly shocking. If Trillanes were in some other nation and said a similar thing, he’d be booted out of office in a week’s time for a racist, bigoted remark.
Trillanes expectedly got slammed in social media:
From left clockwise: Barreto, “Kutis-mayaman”, Binay, “ kulay-mahirap”, Trillanes, the brown-skinned accuser, Roxas in an “asal-mahirap” role.
From left clockwise: Barreto, “Kutis-mayaman”, Binay, “ kulay-mahirap”, Trillanes, the brown-skinned accuser, Roxas in an “asal-mahirap” role.
“Being poor is nothing to be ashamed of. However, Sen. Trillanes’ comment re kulay mahirap suddenly seemed so offensive.,” one posted in Twitter. Another netizen asked: “Pag maitim ba mahirap na agad? [Does being dark mean being poor?] Respeto naman Senator Trillanes.” “Just because you have brown-skin kulay mahirap na? Hiyang-hiya naman sayo ang mga pinoy, Sen. Trillanes!” a Tweeter said.
A blogger also asked: “Asal mahirap, kulay mahirap, hiyang hiya naman ako sa sinabi ni Trillanes. Siya kaya? Asal mayaman? At kulay mayaman?”
Although I haven’t heard nor read the “kulay-mahirap” term used publicly, it undoubtedly represents a common notion in Philippine society. One’s skin color is perceived, with exceptions of course, as an indelible marker which socio-economic class one belongs to. There is even a gradation: the elite have pinkish-white skin color, the middle class (using that term loosely) “Malay” brown, and the darkest brown for the poorest.
Trillanes is right, though, to some extent. Color tone in our country is the result of our colonial history, as it is in most countries colonized by Spain. The white-skinned Spanish colonizers conquered the brown-skinned Malays six centuries ago, and their progeny, more accurately the descendants of the conquistadores’ business-minded hangers-on, became the Ayalas, Sorianos and Aboitizes of today. A few—many actually from the friars—intermarried with the Malay native population and with the Chinese trading class (or forcibly sired children in the case of the clerics) to produce the mestizos of today, such as the Cojuangcos, Romualdezes and Aranetas.
This is the reason why more people are mestizos in provinces where the Spaniards and the Chinese had their colonial agricultural businesses, mainly sugar—for instance in Central Luzon and the Negros provinces—compared for instance to the northern provinces such as Isabela where Binay’s mother comes from and the Marcoses’ Ilocos provinces that were nearly inaccessible frontiers in the 19th century.
Dark-skinned became to be entrenched in our minds as being poor, since the poorest in our country are farmers and fishermen who spend most of their days under the sun that further tans their skin. (A noticeable rise in fair-skinned Filipinos among the lower-class, one observer noted, could be the result of out-of-wedlock children by rich mestizos and lower-class Filipinas.)
The closest that Trillanes’ term “kulay-mahirap” had been used publicly, but in reverse, was a skin-whitening cream’s commercial that had socialite Gretchen Barreto as a model, with the ad copy “kutis mayaman” (complexion of the rich). Its huge billboards along SLEX always had me irritated, with my socialist predilections, to no end.
Barreto’s ad represents the sad evolution of our world-view: Fair-skinned not just means the rich; it means beauty. Rather than due to women’s striving to be identified as rich, the booming skin-whitener industry here (and also in India and Southeast Asia) is based on the notion deeply entrenched now that beauty means fair-skinned.
It has become such a craze here that probably a third of media advertising now is for those skin-whiteners. It has become a billion-dollar industry after multinationals rushed only in the past decade to formulate and sell these mostly glutathione-based medications that before had been used solely to treat abnormal skin conditions. Several aisles in drug stores and supermarkets are now devoted to skin-whitening brands. In a Mercury Drug store in the town I live in, I’ve seen obviously poor young women buy skin-whitening products, in sachets which they can afford at a time.
There seems to be a regression in our notions of beauty. In the 1970s, getting some traction was the view of the beautiful brown-skinned Filipina morena, with such icons as singer/actress Nora Aunor and beauty queen Gloria Diaz. There are no counterparts of Aunor and Diaz today. Or was that merely our aping of the Black-is-Beautiful craze in the US in that period?
I haven’t heard nor read anybody though using Trillanes’ term “asal-mahirap” (poor-man’s behavior), and I’m puzzled what he was referring to. One interpretation would be that he thinks Binay is acting like a poor man, which I disagree with. It is rather Mar Roxas’ photo-ops as a tricycle driver, as a cargador and as a carpenter which I think are gimmickry to behave like a poor man, a desperate attempt to shed his indelible haciendero label.
Binay may indeed, as one columnist claimed, be “playing the class card.” But was there ever an election in our impoverished country where the poor make up 80 percent of voters, in which candidates didn’t use the “class card,” even if they really couldn’t and really wouldn’t deal it?
If that’s what Binay is doing, he is doing the right thing, politically, and Trillanes is even helping him.


FILIPINOS do not ask much from the government, results of EON’s Philippines Trust Index survey this year showed.
All they want is that their government “not be corrupt.”
Cora P. Guidote, SM Investment Corporation senior vice president for investor relations, took note of that saying that normally, one says he wants an honest leader.
“The consciousness is about corruption, “ Guidote said, adding,” How can we aspire for an honest leader when we don’t even articulate what we want for a leader. “
An honest person is more than just not corrupt. It involves a higher sense of morality and integrity.
For the Filipino people, what they ask most from government is not to steal government money. Huwag magnakaw sa kaban ng bayan.
The sad thing about it is that “only less than 2 of 10 Filipinos ‘strongly agree’ that the government isn’t.” the survey showed.
EON’s 2014 PTI survey, conducted March and June this year, had 1,646 respondents nationwide in both urban and rural areas.
EON, a business communications consultancy, had two sets of respondents: General Public (at least 18 years old, majority have not reached higher than 2nd year college, belong to Economic Class A to E, active use of different forms of media –broadcast, print, online) and Informed Public (adult Filipinos aged 25 years and above, with educational attainment of at least 3rd year college, belong to economic class A to C, and extensive access to print, online and broadcast media.)
This is the third PTI and is described by EON’s chairman and chief executive officer Junie del Mundo as “more robust as ever.”
It’s a deeper look into “an ever dynamic environment, where technology and changing social norms converge with our deep secret beliefs and traditions as a people, “ Del Mundo said.
It focused on six institutions: government, church, academe, media, business, and non-government organizations.
It is noteworthy that the Informed Public generally gave lower scores than the General Public.
The government got the lowest trust rating (GP, 11 percent, IP 7 percent) with the Church as the most trusted (GP 75 percent, IP 66 percent).
Second most trusted is Academe (GP53, IP45 percent ); Media (GP 33, IP32 percent), Business (GP13, IP 10 percent) , and a little higher than the government is NGOs (GP12, IP9 percent).
In the government sector, the Office of the President suffered the biggest drop, 12 points among the GP (from 28 percent in the 2013 PTI to this year’s 16 percent) and nine percent among the IP (from 24 to 15 percent).
The Senate was pushed down to the least trusted among government agencies (GP, from 15 to 7 percent; IP from 13 to four percent).
The Senate shares the cellar with the House of Representatives (GP, 9 percent, IP six percent).
For the General Public, the Cabinet got the highest trust rating with 17 percent, down from last year’s 19 percent.
Could it be that the President’s practice of taking the bullet for members of his cabinet involved in controversies took its toll on the people’s trust in him?
For the Informed public, it’s the Local Government Units that are the most trusted.
While 40.3 percent of the General Public said the most important driver for them to trust the government is “not corrupt,” only 11.7 percent said “competent leaders.” The number said, “provides basic needs of the poor.”
There are more interesting aspects of EON’s PTI survey which we hope to discuss in future columns.
“The results show that trust is dynamic and that it can be built and eroded. It also highlighted that for
Filipinos, trust can break communication barriers and is a tool that grounds relationships, which is why it
will always be worthwhile to invest in building trust,” shared Malyn Molina, EON assistant vice
president for business development and strategic planning. 
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Let them debate

So Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV have agreed, more or less, to a debate. We hope the event will proceed as planned, not so much because we think the exchange will provide answers to a waiting public as because it will sharpen the questions already popping up in the public’s mind. But recent remarks of the spokesperson representing the opposition party that Binay leads suggest that the Vice President, a veteran lawyer and a seasoned politician who has the reputation of never backing down from a challenge, may be looking for a way out of this one.

“I am not worried about the debate,” Rep. Toby Tiangco told Radyo Inquirer 990 AM in Filipino. “All I am saying is, how can you debate with a liar? That debate is pointless. I am confident that VP Binay will prove to the people that he is in the right here.” To another news organization, Tiangco said he would try to convince Binay that it would be pointless to engage in debate with Trillanes.

His advice is a little puzzling, because it was Binay who challenged Trillanes to a debate in the first place. After addressing a businessmen’s conference at the Manila Hotel last Wednesday, Binay publicly called on Trillanes to a one-on-one exchange. “So harap tayo para malaman ano talaga ang totoo (So let’s face off so the truth will be known).”

Binay has a specific objective in challenging Trillanes to a debate: He wants the senator who has been most vocal about corruption allegations against him to lose the parliamentary immunity he enjoys in the Senate. This is a way of holding a senator to account, for what would otherwise be libelous statements. The Vice President also enjoys a natural advantage; he is a lawyer used to the give and take of argument, and a political administrator used to dealing with all types of persons, including intemperate ex-putschists like Trillanes. In Trillanes’ only attempt at debating a seasoned lawyer and politician—Binay’s political ally, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile—the former soldier ran out of arguments and walked out of the session hall.

This makes Tiangco’s intervention even more problematic. Why cede the ground that his principal has already staked out? His reasoning is also illogical; if Trillanes is indeed a liar, and will change his mind or his tack or his facts during the debate, then isn’t that all the more reason to engage him in debate—precisely to reveal his true character?

Tiangco raised the rhetorical question: “Bakit pa bibigyan ng pagkakataon si Senator Trillanes? (Why give Senator Trillanes an opportunity?) Why will you honor what he is saying?” Well, to show that Binay’s accuser is without honor, and, by implication, without any credibility.

To be sure, another of Binay’s spokespersons has said that preparations for the debate were ongoing. “It is being discussed,” Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla told reporters. Well and good, because it would be folly on the Vice President’s part to withdraw his challenge on Tiangco’s grounds, that Trillanes is a liar, when his challenge was premised on Trillanes being a liar in the first place. What does “harap tayo para malaman ano talaga ang totoo” mean, after all?

The debate, if it pushes through, may not be the perfect venue for Binay to defend himself, or for Trillanes to offer alleged new evidence; in the highly ritualized forums that pass for political debates today, debaters usually focus their energies on not committing gaffes. It is possible that, even with distinguished personalities serving as debate moderators or panelists, the Binay-Trillanes debate would turn out to be either a nonconsequential shouting match or an uninteresting snoozefest. No matter. The debate, as being developed by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, will train the spotlight on the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II and on an alleged pattern of corruption and deception that leads all the way to what many people are now calling “Hacienda Binay.” The Vice President will have the chance to rebut all allegations, but that spotlight will be there, in its brightest mode.

Perhaps that’s why Tiangco is having very public second thoughts.

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Make the Automated Election Processes Transparent

The veil of secrecy provides a nurturing environment for doubt, distrust, and scepticism to thrive.
Transparency of our election processes is a policy declared in the Election Automation Law, Republic Act No. 8436 (RA8436) as amended by Republic Act No 9369. Yet, the processes of ballot evaluation, vote recording and counting, preparation of election returns, the canvassing and consolidation of election results, and the generation of the canvass reports were kept hidden behind the automated election system (AES) used in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
In an attempt to ensure a bit of transparency,, shortly before the 2010 national and local elections, suggested to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that LCD projectors be provided at the canvassing centers so that the election returns received may be displayed on projection screens to afford election watchers the opportunity to compare copies of election returns they have collected from the polling precincts. The Comelec adopted the suggestion and issued a resolution that directed the local government units to provide LCD projectors for use at the canvassing centers. It fell short of the objective. Only the status of election returns transmission was displayed.
The process of canvassing and consolidation of election returns, too, was never publicly observable though at the end of the process, in some canvassing centers, the results were displayed via the LCD projector.
RA 8436, as amended, also required that “the Commission (the Comelec) shall prescribe the manner and procedure of counting the votes under the automated system.” Were these ever made public? The Comelec’s voter education programs covered only the voting procedure, from shading the ovals to inserting the ballot into the PCOS slot. It never addressed the manner and procedure for counting of votes in the AES.
It will be recalled that soon after the electoral exercise in 2010, the first time an AES was used nationwide, candidates, political parties, election watch organizations, and other interested parties were confronted with the phenomenon of “null votes”. It turned out that “null votes” were an outcome of the hidden manner and procedure of counting the votes.
Then in 2013, a discovery. Digital lines were found running the length of some ballot picture images. Some of these digital lines crossed ovals which resulted in over votes causing legitimate votes to be uncounted. Some of these digital lines resulted in the counting of votes for some candidates where these were not intended by voters.
It’s time to bring transparency back in our elections.
Transparency of our election processes is enshrined in the Omnibus Election Code, Batas Pambansa Bilang 881 (BP881). Crafted and promulgated during the martial law years, the manner by which BP881 meticulously describes our election processes ensures that the execution of the election processes is unmistakably transparent and publicly observable.
The shortcomings of the AES used in 2010 and 2013 elections must be corrected. The software that runs in the PCOS machine needs to be modified to incorporate all systems capabilities enumerated in RA8436, as amended. For example, one of the systems capabilities required by law is “a system of verification to find out whether or not the machine has registered his choice.” No such system was provided in the 2010 and 2013 AES.
The election processes of ballot evaluation, vote recording and counting, preparation of election returns, canvassing and consolation of election results, and the preparation of canvass results must be made transparent and publicly observable in the AES.
Since the Comelec intends to re-use most of the same AES used in the 2010 and 2013 elections, the software must be modified to make the processes transparent. LCD projectors may be connected to the PCOS machines to display the picture images of the ballots for public scrutiny and make the other election processes transparent. LCD projectors may also be connected to canvassing servers so that election results received may be displayed for public review and the process of canvassing and consolidation may similarly be made transparent.
Another option is to go back to the traditional voting as meticulously described in BP881. The processes of the vote counting and preparation of election returns shall be technology assisted while ensuring that the processes are publicly observable. Transmission and canvassing and consolidation of election results shall likewise be technology assisted.
For sure, many will argue that the suggested transparency options will slow down the whole process. Indeed, it will. The polling precinct operations will take longer compared to 2010 and 2013. Time savings may still be realized in the process of canvassing and consolidation. But, if the choice is between transparency and speed, transparency should be it!
Let’s face IT. The veil of secrecy that impairs transparency needs to be lifted to build public confidence in the AES and ensure credibility of the election results.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gruesome deaths

“Halloween” may be the title of a series of gruesome slash-and-kill films; it may be associated with pumpkins with a carved face, or wearing costumes, or children knocking on doors yelling “Trick or treat!”

What people forget is that Oct. 31 used to be a day of fasting before the Church celebration of two feasts: All Saints Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls Day on Nov. 2. Before it was shortened to Halloween, the celebration used to be known as All Hallows Eve. How did Filipinos come to visit the graves of their departed kin and friends, undas, on Nov. 1 rather than correctly on Nov. 2? While I believe that all the dead are or have souls, I’m not so sure that all were saints in life or death.

To bring back the true sense of Halloween, Holy Angel University (HAU) in Angeles, Pampanga, has organized its grade school kids into an alternative celebration. Instead of donning costumes of ghosts, vampires and other scary characters from film and TV, the kids dress up like Catholic saints. And like the famous song, they do come marching into the HAU church, to the delight of parents and friends and the bewilderment of some, as expressed in comments on Facebook.

One of the organizers said dressing up in horror costume for fun detracted from the spirit of the season and, worse, trivialized evil, to which someone replied: “Oh, lighten up!” Maybe the justification should have come from a book, “Halloween, Hallowed Be Thy Name,” by Rev. Dr. Eddie J. Smith, which says that going out in horror costume was a means to stand up to and make fun of Satan, “whose kingdom has been plundered by our Saviour.”

From the photos posted on Facebook, the HAU celebration had the kids dressed like the statues in church that signified how some holy men and women were elevated to sainthood because of martyrdom for their faith. I am reminded of when I wrote a small column for Inquirer Lifestyle called “Santo” on the many obscure saints in Catholic lore.

I was fascinated when I read of one St. Artemas, a teenaged boy, who flaunted his faith in a pagan classroom. He got more than bullying and being called names: His classmates stabbed him to death with their styli (a stylus is an iron or iron-tipped pen used to carve into wood or wax writing tablets)! Further research led to St. Cassian, schoolmaster of Imola, who refused an order of the Emperor to worship Roman gods.

He was turned over to his students, who had nursed grudges about his teaching and disciplinary methods, and who took their revenge by stabbing him to death, also with their styli. Cassian is the patron saint of Mexico and parish clerks. His feast actually falls on my birthday, Aug. 13, and should remind me to be kinder to my students lest they club me to death with their laptops.

More popular is San Sebastian, usually depicted in art as a beautiful young man, almost naked in a homoerotic pose, punctured by numerous arrows. In one source the saint is described as “surrounded by arrows as a porcupine is with quills.”

Gilda Cordero-Fernando suggests in a recent column that some items in “Lives of the Saints” can be as terrifying and gruesome as the costumes of monsters and demons. The apostle Peter was crucified on an inverted cross, often seen as a symbol of evil. San Bartolome, who in Malabon is depicted holding a bolo similar to that of Andres Bonifacio, was skinned alive like a rabbit being prepared for roasting. Bartholomew in the Sistine Chapel is shown holding a knife in one hand and his crumpled skin in the other. It is said that if you pay attention to the withered flesh, it forms the face of a man, the self-portrait of Michelangelo.

My favorite image of a saint in San Agustin Church is that of San Pedro Martir, in the distinctive Dominican habit with a bolo on his head. He was stabbed and hacked to death. In English churches my favorite is St. Cuthbert, regally dressed as a bishop, with his head in his hands. St. Stephen the Deacon or San Esteban is another favorite: He is also depicted as a beautiful youth in diaconal attire, with rocks to remind us that he was stoned to death. (If you don’t know the story, you may mistake the rocks for pan de sal.)

St. Agatha, the patron saint of bakers and bell-makers, holds her breasts on a platter because that was one of the tortures she endured before she expired. St. Appolonia is shown with pliers and a tooth, depicting how she was tortured and explaining why she is the patron saint of dentists.

St. Valentine, whose feast falls on Feb. 14, was a priest who made the mistake of trying to convert the Emperor Claudius. He was beaten with clubs, stoned, and beheaded. While in prison awaiting his execution, he married young couples and became the patron saint of lovers. St. Afra of Augsburg and St. Joan of Arc join many martyrs who were burned to death. St. Lawrence (Lorenzo in Spanish) was a deacon who followed Pope Sixtus to his execution.

He was told that he would follow in three days, so he sold everything he owned, including some precious vessels, and gave the money to the poor. This caught the attention of the greedy Prefect of Rome, who inquired where the Christians hid their treasure. Lawrence gathered all the poor people in the city and presented them to the Prefect, declaring: “This is the treasure of the Church.” Naturally, the Prefect was not amused and ordered that he be roasted on a grill until dead. The gridiron is the symbol of his martyrdom and sometimes he is depicted like a lechon in a roasting pit. His feast is on Aug. 10.

St. Lucy is best remembered for the image of Sta. Lucia in Ilocos, whose dress is filled with silver eyes left by people who had asked for a cure. The story of her eyes being gouged out by her tormentors does not appear earlier than the 15th century because she was sentenced to be defiled in a brothel but the guards could not move her even with the help of oxen. So they put wood around her and set her on fire, but she miraculously survived so they dispatched her by beheading.

The lives of the saints can supply more Halloween blood and gore than the movies.
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Abolish the Yellow (aka Blue) Ribbon Committee

As I argued in my column Friday, the so-called Blue Ribbon Committee, whose official name is the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, is a total misnomer. Especially under this Administration, its members haven’t been nonpartisan nor experts in what they are investigating, which the term “Blue Ribbon” means.
Rather, it has been a persecution and harassment weapon of President Aquino: We should, instead, name it the “Yellow Ribbon Committee,” after his insignia.
Maybe we should thank Aquino and his Liberal Party inner circle for abusing the authority of the Blue Ribbon Committee so much that it has become clearer how utterly flawed the very notion of such a committee is.
We are the only legislature in the world to have a “Blue Ribbon Committee” or a congressional body with the authority to investigate any alleged wrongdoing by a public official.
This is because of an important reason that is at the heart of the idea of republican democracy: It violates the separation of powers of the three branches of government.
No matter what the checks on a “Blue Ribbon Committee” are — in our case that its investigation should be “in aid of legislation” – such an entity appropriates for itself the powers of the two other branches of government, the executive branch whose duty is to investigate alleged crimes and the judiciary, which determines if an accused did commit a crime.
“Blue Ribbon Committees” then and now. Above, the “witchhunting” McCarthyist hearings in the US Senate in the 1950s; below, the Binay investigations.
“Blue Ribbon Committees” then and now. Above, the “witchhunting” McCarthyist hearings in the US Senate in the 1950s; below, the Binay investigations.
In more concrete terms, the Blue Ribbon Committee quite obviously expropriates the power of the Ombudsman, a constitutional body, and the Sandiganbayan, a court of the judicial branch of government.
Civilization has developed through centuries a gargantuan body of procedures and regulations governing how an alleged crime is investigated and proven, to avoid humanity’s vulnerability to emotions, especially vengeance and mob rule. This is called our system of laws and regulations that include, for instance, such things as Rules of Court, rules of evidence, court procedures. There is such a thing as jurisprudence, so every court decision is consistent with the laws as these have been applied in the past.
Our system even limits those who can participate in judicial proceedings to a particular professional – required to have a certain post-collegiate education and to pass a particular exam called the bar – we call the “lawyer.” There is a system of appeal, which stops thought at the Supreme Court.
In the blue, aka yellow, ribbon committee’s hearings, any jerk, as long as he is a senator, can even be at the forefront of such investigations, such as the former mutineer Antonio Trillanes 3rd, who has shown his utter ignorance of the law, or even Alan Cayetano, who should be sent back to law school for his claim that a TV interview with an alleged landowner is more important that the registered owner.
There is no such body of knowledge governing investigations by a committee of the legislative branch. Hence, here you see a Cayetano bullying a witness or a Trillanes putting words in witnesses’ mouths. This former mutineer even so crassly threatens “resource persons,” for example, when he barked at the contractors of he Makati Building that he would ask the DPWH to blacklist it from any public contracts.
Things such as PowerPoint presentations annotated with biased words like “overprice” and videos of “Hacienda Binay” are presented in the “Court” without giving the accused the right – as he would have in a real court – to even block such presentations if these are not shown to him beforehand (or his lawyer) so he could question first its authenticity.
I cannot understand why we are treated as fools whenever the Yellow Ribbon undertakes an investigation it claims is in “aid of legislation.” No one really believes that, and no Yellow Ribbon investigation has so far resulted in any bill. Why do we, as a nation, imbibe such a lie concocted by the Senate?
The McCarthyist Era
The US Congress had its own episode of mob frenzy when it succumbed to such investigating committees, a blue-ribbon kind of committee in the 1950s: the House Committee on Un-American Activities and its Senate counterpart, Permanent Committee on Investigations, led by the infamous head Joseph McCarthy.
These undertook witch-hunts against suspected Nazi and communist sympathizers that even led to suicides – just like former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes did – of several people being investigated. The two committees investigated even Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and 300 other artists.
After that horrific episode, which historians have labeled as the irrational McCarthyist era, the US Congress had made it a point to make such investigative bodies ad hoc, or temporary ones consisting of people with indisputable integrity, expertise in the field, and nonpartisan.
Our Supreme Court, relying on decisions by its US counterpart during the McCarthyist era in general, has in fact, generally frowned on investigations by the “Blue Ribbon Committee.”
It is quite interesting that the first Supreme Court ruling against the Blue Ribbon Committee was made in favor of President Aquino’s uncle, Manuel Lopa, in 1991. In its decision, the Court barred certain witnesses from being compelled by the Committee headed by Senator Wigberto Tanada to testify in its investigations on allegations  that Lopa, right after Marcos’ fall, had illegally acquired 36 firms of the dictator’s brother-in-law, Benjamin Romualdez.
The allegations were made by then Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who, like Trillanes in the case of Binay, probably merely wanted to undertake a demolition job, in his case against President Cory, rather than establishing the truth.
The Court exposed the fact that the committee wasn’t really undertaking the hearings “in aid of legislation” but was trying to investigate an alleged crime – which it did not have the authority to do so under the Constitution.
Supreme Court ruling
The Court (in G.R. No. 89914) invoked a US Supreme Court ruling against the US House’s Committee on Un-American Activities:
“The power of Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad… But broad as is this power of inquiry, it is not unlimited. There is no general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of Congress… Nor is the Congress a law enforcement or trial agency. These are functions of the executive and judicial departments of government. No inquiry is an end in itself; it must be related to and in furtherance of a legitimate task of Congress. Investigations conducted solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to “punish” those investigated are indefensible.” (Emphasis supplied)
But of course, the Yellow Ribbon investigation is not really a probe into an alleged crime, nor to gather data for drafting a bill. It is totally a demolition job via the media, to throw dirt on the front-runner in the 2016 elections.
Based on the decision of that Lopa case, Binay is on solid legal footing to refuse to participate in the Yellow Ribbon hearing. The Court noted that the allegations against Lopa being investigated by the Committee were the same subject of a case already filed in the Sandiganbayan.
The Court therefore ruled:
“In fine, for the respondent Committee to probe and inquire into the same justiciable controversy already before the Sandiganbayan, would be an encroachment into the exclusive domain of judicial jurisdiction that had much earlier set in. In Baremblatt vs United States, 21 it was held that:
‘Broad as it is, the power is not, however, without limitations. Since Congress may only investigate into those areas in which it may potentially legislate or appropriate, it cannot inquire into matters that are within the exclusive province of one of the other branches of the government. Lacking the judicial power given to the Judiciary, it cannot inquire into matters that are exclusively the concern of the Judiciary.’”
The same people who were the Yellow Ribbon Committee’s witnesses already had filed a case against Binay, involving the same allegations with the Ombudsman July 22. What the Yellow Ribbon Committee is investigating has become, as the Constitution provides, the province of the Ombudsman, and later the Sandiganbayan.
But beyond these legal technicalities is the basic question: Why do we allow the Senate’s platform to be used for a demolition job, and we, the citizens, are even paying for it, Aquino’s propaganda weapon?
FB: Rigoberto Tiglao


By Fr. Ranhilio Aquino
The time of year has once more come when conversation may respectably take up ghosts and spirits.  TV channels vie with each other for the top rung in spookiness.  The buffet is abundant: from subtle suggestions of the preternatural to graphic depictions of the diabolically possessed.  And because the Filipino’s humor is irrepressible there is that spoof of a ghost comfortably seated beside a compulsive movie-goer, sharing in her popcorn, obviously with her kind consent!
Philippine studies scholars remind us that the indigenous Filipino was animistic.  The world of the pre-hispanic Filipino was one permeated by spirits.  Most everything had a spirit.  This is the reason that Filipinos in more traditional settings still make offerings of food and drink.  Our common fear of ghosts is a vestige, they theorize, of our animistic past.  That is all very well.  But is there not, in fact, a suspicion, almost universal, that there are realms unseen, dimensions that exceed the boundaries of our everyday, familiar world?  On the one hand, we should be credited for the humble acceptance of the limits of human sensibility. In our fear of ghosts, we accept that reality is more than the eyes and our other senses can reach.  On the other hand, when we watch our backs for some unseen presence on a dark path on a moonless night, we transgress a salutary rule of thought—the canon of parsimony.  Occam forbade the ‘multiplying of being’  without necessity.  Bertrand Russell warns against postulating to much, lest the inexistent be posited.  Contemporary science for its part has decided that the simpler the theory, the more plausible it is.
“Shades”—that is how ghosts were thought of in Greek and also in Jewish thought.  When one died, all that was left of oneself was a ‘shade’ that, together with other shades, inhabited the forbidding region of the netherworld, variously called “Hades” or “Sheol”.  There was not much to look forward to in this ‘next life’.  In fact, life in the underworld was ‘shadowy’.  But why did something have to be left at all?  Why not accept that like the flowers of the field that, when rotted, simply cease to be, leaving nothing at all behind, we too disappear forever, having run the course of our lives?  Looked at this way, ghosts are paradoxical.  One is not comfortable with them; in fact we fear them.  But they also represent our refusal to resign ourselves to the annihilation with which death seems to threaten us.  The belief in ghosts is somehow a ‘transmuted’ hope that in some way, in some sense, we are still around, even after the inevitability of death!
In fact there is something contradictory in the notion of “seeing ghosts”.  Ghosts are spirits, and spirits are, by definition, immaterial and invisible.  So seeing ghosts is seeing the invisible—obviously, a contradiction in terms, except that some people insist that they have seen ghosts.  My mother insists that as a child I reported to her that I was being beckoned to by an old woman seated on a “baol”, and when she asked me to describe who I was seeing, what I told her matched how her newly departed aunt—my “lola”— looked like!  And while one can steep himself in that brand of positivism that has very little patience with talk of ghosts and spirits, there are times, in fact, that one gets that uncanny feeling that one is not alone!
Personal identity, Ricoeur insightfully writes, is ‘narrative identity’: the identity of a character emplotted in a narrative, a story.  Of every person a story can be told, and it is this story that constitutes his identity, hence the folly—and the injustice—of “fixing” a person in the image one has of her, flattering or disparaging, and of identifying a person by a singular act of either nobility or ignominy.  But really, there are two stories told.  There is the story a person is able to tell of himself, and there is the story that others tell of a person.  And while all story-telling about another comes to an end with the death of that person, who is to say that that too is the end of the story one tells of oneself?  That, of course, is not a completely new insight.  Gabriel Marcel, who characterized himself as a “Christian socratic”, said of the human body that it is both body-subject (the living of my bodiliness) and body-object (as object of apprehension and the transitive action of others).  While we can say that with the interment or cremation of mortal remains, we have done away with the body-object, what entitles us to foreclose anything further in respect to the body-subject?
One thing is for certain: Ghosts are not what the Christian means by resurrection.  Risen Life is the fruition of meaningful bodily life—life unselfishly lived in the goodness that death does not extinguish.  Risen Life is a life stamped with such validity that it in fact participates in what the person of faith recognizes as Divine Life.  About that kind of life, there is nothing ghostly at all!


Here is another Binay “Friend” with a letter regarding Jejomar, this time from  Buddy Gomez, former press secretary to Cory Aquino:
“Vice President Jejomar C. Binay has now become an irrefutable moral issue. As our world is witness, he stands accused of colossal and systematic thievery of public funds that runs into hundreds of millions of pesos. Is he really a thief or is he a saint/benefactor (as he portrays himself to be the savior of the masses)? Is he good or is he bad? And since long has he avowed his desire to be the President of the Philippines, and even utilized this episode as an opportunity for early campaigning, is Jejomar Binay fit to be President?
“Before the forums that Binay has selected to address, there seems to lurk behind his rhetoric and demeanor an attempt to summon the ‘masa,’ bastion of his miscalculated arrogance and maladjusted self-confidence, into a potential class war. Binay is evidently now in a dire survival mode and in panic. He can be dangerous, hopefully, only to himself.
“Dabbling in matters Binay has become irresistible, and so today, I succumb to the temptation. Let me then join this political festival with the overweening thought that apart from the desirable end of justice being meted to the guilty, there could be also be a socially elevating purgative for the moribund and uncaring conscience of those in dire poverty and destitution, accused of always being ready for handouts in exchange for votes, the “masa,” who perhaps in Binay’s wildest dreams, he can still summon to come to his aid at this stage of the revelations against him.
“It is perhaps prudent to surmise that never in the history of the Philippines has the population witnessed and become participants in the involuntary disembowelment of an incumbent public official of his supposedly well-masqueraded cache of unexplained wealth. The enormity of the alleged pelf and purloined riches this official keeps on denying has been for weeks now been the flavor of the ensuing hours, day in, day out, obviously seeping down to the attention and interest of the citizenry, the ‘masa’ now included and participating.
“When a respected and legitimate opinion survey states that 70 percent of the Filipino people, covering the range of demographics and geography have expressed a wish to see the accused face his accusers in the very arena of original exposition--in the Senate--(the survey’s data mined include the socio-eco C,D, and E classes), I see a welcome change in attitude. If perchance this is somewhat merely a fluke, it then deserves further nurturing and encouragement. Planting the seeds of social responsibility especially among the destitute and downtrodden is a worthy apostolate by the better endowed among us.
“Is Binaygate therefore a seminal moment that will awaken outrage among the disparagingly described as “bobotantes” and bring about a new discernment and concern both in public opinion and ultimately, in the casting of ballots? That remains to be seen. But the wait may not be that long. Mukhang daratnan na ng pagkamulat ang mga mata. Dukha man at maralita, may konsensya rin! (Looks like their eyes are beginning to open. Even the poor have a conscience.) They will rally to the truth.
“Before I end this piece, let me digress a bit to the matter of pieces of evidence that have become available.
“Among the many exhibits that have been displayed by formal and social media, there are two seemingly and relatively small acts of alleged thievery that may have eluded most of us but nonetheless have caught my fancy.
“One, the overpricing (‘tong-pats’ in sidewalk parlance) of toilet fixtures and amenities in the now famous Makati City Hall parking building-cum-offices. This has led a Filipino expatriate from down under (a Mr. Lores) to refer to it as “Kubetagate.” Now isn’t that quaint! The arithmetic of the Kubetagate comparables are very precise, most especially those of the same type and specifications purchased and installed in hotels and residential condos in Makati itself. Same banana but grossly overpriced for the Binay/Makati project. Gotcha, as gotcha can! The “patong”/overpricing of these fixtures and amenities is inescapable and truly damning!
“The other one involves horses. Binay has evidently gone into the breeding of imported horses. Why or whatever for, one can only surmise. We know by his own propaganda that he tended to pig fattening while growing up as an orphan. But breeding horses? Seeds of delusional grandeur? Has a personality disorder set in? This horse aspect of Binaygate has hardly been touched or even noticed but it could be irreversibly additionally damaging to his political health. Remember that in ‘Hacienda Binay’ in Rosario, Batangas a portion of the hectarage has been set aside and developed into horse stables and paddocks.
“If what has been reported holds true that valuable assets such as horsebreeding stock have not been declared in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), this could be a fatal add-on to others that he is accused of omitting in his SALN. There is no way that Binay can deny ownership of the horses (and by simple deduction, as well the stables, the paddocks and the hectarage upon which these have been erected) because there are Bureau of Customs records of his horse importations from Australia, as well as the inevitable records of the horseowners’ association, the Philippine Stud Book, under the supervision of the Racing Commission. He is the owner and importer of these unreported assets.
“It is unlikely that the Binays will survive the onslaught of truth. My forecast is that Binay is dead meat!
(“Jojo Binay and I go a long way. We were friends. In the early 1960s, we were fellow employees at the Insular Life, albeit I was his senior both in years and in office assignment. The last time we were together was two years ago during the 100th birthday celebration of our boss, Jose M. Olbes, who was President of Insular Life.”) 
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