Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Early birds in early days

I had planned to write something like this after I get convinced that indeed there will be elections to choose a new president in May of 2010.

At the beginning of this year, I began writing about the parameters within which people of this benighted land should choose their next leader. I wrote about the possibility of organizing debates of all the presidential dreamers from one region to another, a process that I suggested should begin as early as the middle of 2008. I called it a "winnowing process", where voters make informed choices even when they respond to surveys, because they had at the very least been treated to televised debates where competence and a view of character comes out. In the absence of a genuine party system, this, I then submitted, would simulate the primaries which serve in America as the process by which grain is winnowed from the chaff.

In this country unfortunately, with a multi-party system within a presidential form, it is just the surveys that decide who should be presidential material. That should be all right if people, particularly from the D and E income levels, respond to research based on informed reason, rather than mere popularity, or worse, the suggestion of either competence or character invented by marketing and advertising experts.

I got some encouragement from certain sectors, and the idea was even endorsed by a well-known television news personality. But then, the abduction of Jun Lozada, a key witness in the ZTE-NBN deal that was clearly 2007’s top story, brought what ought to have been an early focus on the upcoming presidential elections to naught. Political scandal of the corruption genre once more hogged the headlines, and directed national attention, first to ZTE, then to international surveys that had the country at the top of the list among Asia’s most corrupt, and finally segued into the resurrection of the fertilizer scam of 2004 with the return to the country of Joc Joc Bolante. As if this menu of scandals were not enough, the lower house sallied forth into cha-cha mode after making mincemeat of yet another impeachment complaint.

We are just 16 months away from determining who ought to be the next president of the land, on the big assumption that either an upheaval of sorts or the overweening ambition of the present leadership do not somehow create a monkey wrench that would discombobulate the formal polity. Yet we find that the surveys as current political snapshots are merely a cut-and-paste scoreboard of memorable popularity plus boob-tube presence. The oldies, not necessarily the goodies though, are still the memorable figures. Thus, there is Noli, who augments his public awareness through radio and televised plugs about low-interest Pag-ibig housing loans, payments courtesy of a government corporation. There is Erap, always in the public mind by his "oppressed" image, cultivated through years of portraying the downtrodden, and in real life by losing the presidency to an "usurper". There is Manny Villar whose personal fortune earned from real estate deals and a bonanza earned from an IPO has given him wherewithal to launch an early media campaign, inundating prime time TV with his "concern" for OFW’s. But for Erap, "oldies" need not necessarily refer to age, but to long-declared or long-assumed candidacies.

Loren Legarda capitalizes on what Erap calls "beauty and brains" in his own pre-determination that she would best make his vice-presidential team-mate for his re-run in 2010. She was Number One when she first ran for the Senate in 1998, and when she ran as Number Two to no less than the legendary king of Philippine movies in 2004, she could have made it with him, but for Garci’s stellar performance as "Valentina’s right-hand man" (read the latter as GMA). But beauty is never timeless, as young upstart Chiz Escudero, whose handlers fashion him as the "Barack Obama" of Philippine politics, in age as distinguished from the color of Jojo Binay’s skin, threatens to dislodge her in the latest surveys. Being the youngest has massive appeal for Chiz, and being another "woman" in a time when the worst of times are presided over by a "boss woman" creates a baggage, an unfortunate emotional bias, against Loren. But then these are early days. And these early birds may yet be in for surprises, just as other early birds and survey bottom-dwellers like Jojo Binay, Bayani Fernando and Dick Gordon have yet to capture some air beneath their wings.

Ping Lacson and Mar Roxas trail in the latest surveys behind the trio of oldies and even Loren and Chiz. Lacson has hardly campaigned and has no political party, and is in the news only because as a senator, he has been the most consistently vocal against corruption. Roxas has a historic party behind him and has been moving around the country, but has somehow failed to get back the kind of public ardor that greeted his successful run for the Senate in 2004, on the back of an advertising blurb that re-created his pedigree as "Mr. Palengke." But Lacson has a solid loyal constituency who stuck with him even at the zenith of FPJ’s political box-office heyday, and if he would move around and get the wherewithal for more communications presence, that ten or so percent could attract more following in an age where his kind of political will and no-nonsense character may be the need of the times. Roxas, the darling of Makati’s business community, is no wash-out either. With proper handling and focused communications, he could yet reprise what was awesome political performance in the 2004 senatorial elections.

So the early birds will not necessarily be the top flyers when the starting gun for 2010 is fired about this time next year. Early surveys are for the early birds, but no one as yet is listening to their chirping. The gaps between their practice flying "time" is small, a few percentage points, sometimes even statistical separating one from another. Meanwhile, the old eagle many of them regard as a political vulture, has not loosened her grip on power one bit. Some of her loyal birds of prey say that she just wants to make sure she does not turn into a duck – lame duck that is, and so she has to go through the motions of changing the rules via a feigned cha-cha. That, they say, postpones the inevitable, while she makes herself most important in determining who shall be the new eagle atop the stinking palace beside the stinking river. That "important role" she hopes will give her the compromised assurance that she will not be feasted upon as carrion when her time is up.

Which from a Machiavellian point of view is good politics. Except that in this country, deals are not what they seem to be, and she will find it increasingly more difficult to assess who among the presidential eaglets will live up to their word. She has become as unpalatable if not more so, than Ferdinand Marcos whose long reign she seconds with her usurped and illegitimate longevity. This is why more and more are convinced that she will deal her cha-cha card, or even her joker–emergency or martial rule (kuno) and spring a surprise in the coming year. Images of a Chen Sui Bian in handcuffs, or a Thaksin unable to return to his country, should hound one whose alleged improprieties boggle the mind much more than her world peers.

There must be some logic behind the Church in centuries past declaring that Christmas should be celebrated at the end of the year. And the Gregorian calendar declared the New Year commencing one week after. Ends are supposed to usher in new beginnings. We leave the old and ring in the new.

Remember how valedictories each graduation proclaim that it is supposed to be a beginning and not an end, which is why these are called commencement rites? And similarly, elections are supposed to evince new hopes, a change from the tired or despised old, into the welcome of new beginnings.

Alas, in this benighted land, what seems to be is not always what happens.

Watch out for more and more political developments in the coming year. As this is my last column for the year, I should be wishing you a Happy New Year. Alas, I do not have a yen for pretence. Next year will not be as happy, as if this year was.

Still and all, may you have a plenitude of blessings in this season of grace. Merry Christmas to all our readers and their loved ones.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Even Christmas is not spared

The trapos have not spared even Christmas from their predilection for graft. It is suggested that the Commission on Audit inventories the cost of “celebrating” Christmas, and “giving cheer” to the constituents, and determine whether these have been laced with the usual larceny of “tongpats”. Hindi kasi halata ang bukol sa Christams decorations, but try quantifying it across the benighted land, and it should be quite a sum.

During the last two week-ends, I have travelled around the country. You see a lot of faces in anguish at the continued misery of their existence. You hear a lot of voices raised in protest, as well as less strident but equally disappointed. Hopelessness and helplessness prevail throughout the benighted land.

But when the early dusk descends, the lights of Christmas, courtesy of the town mayor, goes all ablaze. The municipio is aglow with thousands of firefly lights. The plaza has a giant Christmas tree, certainly taller than last year, and competing with the next town in height, in the number of lights, as well as the tackiness of its design. Never mind if pine trees do not exist in the lowlands. The enterprising mayor will hire a designer and staff to create one out of so-called “recyclable” materials, or some native handicraft, strew them all over a tree made of steel bars and rings welded together to form an isosceles cone, and bedeck it with thousands of power-consuming lights, imported, but naturally, from China where Christmas hardly exists.

“Mapaligaya man lang ang tao ngayong Kapaskuhan”, quipped a mayor as he opened the lights, which was also signal for the band to play and the fireworks display to ooh and ahh his “beloved” constituents. All over the land, the orgy of “panandaliang mababaw na kaligayahan” is played and replayed, in a thousand five hundred municipalities, and eighty or more cities. Why, even the barangays, using meagre IRA funds, must have their barangay hall decorated, and in Manila, their street lamps “beautified”.

My economics-trained mind tries computing the costs. It must be awesome. As your car passes towns like Rosales and Villasis and cities like Urdaneta, or cities like Tarlac and municipalities like Moncada, Gerona and Paniqui, you get enthralled by a phantasmagoria of lights and tacky décor in poblaciones, while private homes and hovels in between are hardly lit, as if to show that misery among the benighted knows no timeline, and only government can afford the occasional splurge. I am told that the so-called Christmas street, Policarpio in the Mandaluyong fiefdom of Ben Abalos, has toned down their usual “tradition” of bright lights and seasonal displays, from excess to simple. Private money kasi. But go to the tiangge-surrounded Abalos City Hall, and marvel at an island of lights that would put Disneyland to shame, in cost, not necessarily in beauty.

The daily newscasts are on forced Christmas mode too. After detailing news about robberies here and killings there, punctuated by Jocjoc’s serial lying and the lower house dancing desafinado to cha-cha, and jeremiads of gloom for the coming year, with OFWs being laid-off in Taiwan, in Singapore and elsewhere, and factories closing in the homeland, they always end their daily routine with a feature on how brightly and gaily spruced up our towns and cities are, courtesy, but naturalmente, of the mayor. Always and ever, there are the “grand” fireworks displays. He, he, he, the mayor must have thought. May pera sa basura araw-araw. May pera sa jueteng araw-araw. May pera din sa paputok at kuwitis tuwing kapaskuhan. Bonus --- ayos!

And, “nunca te olvidare” as the shmaltzy love line in the upcoming movie, Baler, says --- the gaudy and tacky lampposts dotting the streets of miserably decayed cities, all made in China, all with “tongpats” galore. The royal and loyal city of Manila must take the cake here. Pass by its bridges, and get awe-struck at its monuments to bad taste. Multi-colored lamps on top of multi-colored tiers of gaudy globes whose attempts at luminescence defy all good sense. Even the balustrades of otherwise historic bridges are not spared the orgy of bad taste. Globes of pink, and blue, green and red, alternating in sleazy cadence, dot the sides. And as if these were not enough to proudly display their mayor’s lack of taste and good sense, the narrow islands separating the alleys are not spared. Aarrgh! Words can hardly describe the ugliness of it all. I should next take a camera and documents these monuments to extremely bad taste, and create a column not of words, but images of decadence.

Now I realize why, and thank God that Ferdinand Marcos had the prescience to give the walls of Intramuros to national agencies like the PTA and Intramuros Administration, instead of City Hall. Imagine what decadent plastic and electric Chinoiserie made in Shenzhen or Yiwu those city hall bright guys would have defaced history with, enough to give friend Bambi Harper a heart attack.

I don’t want to sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas. After all, I was born on Christmas Day, which means it should be, as it is, the season where all the world celebrates with me, my private blessings. While other kids got a birthday gift plus another for Christmas, I had to content myself with one, for both occasions. But never mind that. It is the season of grace, and I should not begrudge it the beautiful ways by which it is celebrated.

But not in excessive and tacky flamboyance please. Especially when the be-all is not necessarily grace, but the gracelessness of corrupt larceny, where gazillions of lights are put up as an excuse to “tongpats”, and fireworks are flared, the more the merrier, because how will the Commission on Audit compare the price paid to the blown-up ashes of last night’s fiery display, eh?

Nothing is spared in the trapo’s end-all of greed. Basta’t pagkakakitaan, ayos!
How nice that I spent Christmas in earlier days --- when one would delight in the privately-funded display of the Rosario’s COD, or the privately-funded lights of Ayala Avenue, or the always tastefully-decorated Rustan’s in Makati. And see handmade parols light up the giant acacia tree in the patio of the Las Pinas Church, or the multi-colored giant parol of San Fernando displayed in singular pride at the Bagumbayan of our national hero. And plazas all over the country with simple but elegant displays of affection for El Santo Nino.

Those were infinitely better days. Now my apo’s are regaled by ersatz snow at that other monument to bad taste --- Star City, which belongs to a formerly ilustrado peninsulare who should have learned good taste from his forebears. They go to malls decorated with plastic Santa’s and Christmas balls imported from Yiwu, and buy toys that teach them the violence of outer space wars. And when I bring them up to Baguio for real chill, they see a pine tree made of ugly concrete, and the same gaudiness with which Mayors Lim and Abalos, and God knows who else, have made up for the holiday season. Along the way, where in my childhood, I would thrill to the stop in Rosales for a good stop-over meal of steaming rice and a bowl of higado, the Ilocano version of Pampanga’s kilayen and Batangas kilawin, now all they see are Mc Do and Jollibee, with food as execrable as my taste buds could abide. Sweet spaghetti, among others, which I forbid my apos to ever, ever try. Time was when one looked forward to maliputo and a clear broth of ginger-laced kabute with dahon ng sili when one sallied southward, home-cooked pansit in Lipa and hab-hab in Lukban upon Banahaw. Now it’s the ubiquitous fat and carbo-loading at, wherever else but Mc Do and Jollibee. Uuugh!

For the good old days, when people had both good sense and good taste. Now we are assailed by bad taste all around us, while greed and commercialism envelop the benighted land.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Of shoes, legacies and apologies

My, was that breathtaking! Journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi threw both of his shoes, one after the other, at George W. Bush, POTUS, and until 20 January 2009, the world’s most powerful head of state. Bush ducked nimbly, but this shoe-throwing incident will be one for the history books. It will certainly not make Bush Junior kindly remembered, but it has made Al-Zeidi some kind of a folk hero to the Arab world.

Sure the Europeans will feign shock, but secretly the likes of Sarkozy must be sheepishly smiling with his Carla Bruni, and Berlusconi must have belted his usually irreverent guffaws. The Confucian-influenced Asian leaders are typically quiet, as if unperturbed, knowing that in their countries something as insolent is not likely to happen. Although a non-leader, Eduardo Ermita, executive secretary of another non-leader, had this by way of comment --- “We Filipinos are different. We are more decent”.

These Malacanang spokespersons are really something else. Ermita’s sidekick, spokesperson Golez weeks before said that Filipinos are “politically mature” when asked to comment about the then ongoing strikes in Thailand. This drew a sharp protest from the Thai ambassador who naturally inferred that Golez called his people “politically immature”. Why anybody given a position of influence in government should even compare one culture and one nationality from another is beyond intelligent comprehension.

Now Ermita does it too. He calls his people, rather, his journalists, “decent” in comparison with another country’s. How does he define decency? His standards of decency, personal as well as public, leaves much to be desired. More so his boss woman.

But when it comes to hypocrisy, aha!...that’s where our society excels. And I say, Ermita mistakes decency for hypocrisy.

Just a few days back, Mar Roxas, senator of the realm by way of real and un-garcified votes, belted a usual Tagalog expletive in exasperation over the kind of politics this government and it’s garcified president practices. And immediately, the garcified president’s press secretary, a certain Dureza, whose first name I shall no longer write as it would be akin to blasphemy, decried Mar’s use of “crass language” and condemned the senator for “stooping so low in his tirades”.

And while Dureza’s garcified boss said after weeks of indecision, “I am sorry…it was a lapse in judgment”, when confronted with voice tapes where she was conversing conspiratorially with Virgilio Garcillano, the senator says “I am not sorry” for expressing what he felt, and what he believes millions of others felt about the hypocrisy, the lies, and the shenanigans of the present polity. About time, Mar.

Which brings me to a point of observation. I do not know if it is cultural, or an herencia from the conquistadores, but we Filipinos really are first-class when it comes to hiding our feelings, and have come to consider hypocrisy as social form. To me, this is truly sickening.

I am not advocating that we should throw shoes at Gloria, in a country where millions of children could not even afford to buy rubber slippers. I do not advocate that we spit at Bolante when we see him, if he ever goes out of his Ayala Alabang mansion from here on. I do not advise that waiters should feed Gloria’s “evil” acolytes with food spiced with cockroach juice, or soft drinks laced with putrid urine. But hell, why should any Filipino not have the courage of his own convictions, and call a damn dirty “president” exactly that?

Respect for the position? Take a leaf from POTUS Dubya, who sounded cool and unruffled after the shoe-throwing incident. With much aplomb, he called what Ermita called an “indecent” expression one of “freedom”, and pointed to it as an example of how Iraqis have already become more “democratic”. Great show, Dubya. Like most Americans, you are truly a “sport”.

* * *

It’s official. The Bangko Sentral has padlocked nine rural and/or “development” banks controlled by the “Legacy” group of Celso de los Angeles Jr., namely, Bank of East Asia, Philippine Countryside Rural Bank, Pilipino Rural Bank (all in Cebu), First Interstate Bank of Tacloban, Rural Bank of Bais in Negros Oriental, Rural Bank of San Jose, in Batangas, San Pablo City Development Bank, Dynamic Rural Bank of Calatagan in Batangas, and the Rural Bank of Paranaque. (Ever wondered why Paranaque should even have a “rural” bank?)

The Bangko Sentral is now saying that their hands were tied by a lower court, which is why they could not move faster. Meanwhile, the funds deposited by the “Legacy” victims are gone, and woe to the unsuspecting victims whose monies were trapped. Woe also unto us all, whose tax money will now be used once more to redeem the insurance guaranteed by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, now headed by the brother of Speaker Prospero Nograles, who our sources tell us, is a “friend” of Celso de los Angeles Jr.

Our fellow FSGO member, Deogracias “Sonny” Vistan, himself a respected banker, writes thus:

“Recently, one of the biggest scams in the history of the country was exposed. I am of course referring to the seven rural banks (nine as of last count) that are owned and controlled by the Legacy group, in turn owned by Celso de los Angeles. I understand that the amount of deposit insurance that PDIC will have to pay is between P7 to P11 billion pesos! That makes the Jocjoc scam of P750 million peanuts!

“Some of us had already heard about this before it blew up. I am sure the four former PDIC presidents with us, Lanny (Nanagas), Ernest (Leung), Boy (Nazareno) and Ric (Tan), had known and may be more familiar with the details. One very disturbing fact was the BSP tried to take action much earlier but an RTC judge issued a TRO against the BSP, which was later reversed by the higher courts. I am not familiar with the capital base of PDIC but it is possible it may need to get additional capital from the government. Even if its capital is adequate, the magnitude of this loss, added to the Bicol bank that closed a few months ago (although not part of Legacy but the hit was P2 billion) should make us feel that we as FSGO should do something. For instance, should we or should someone not suggest to Sen. Dick Gordon, chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, to investigate and summon De los Angeles? (And Bangko Sentral officials too.)

“Wow, and only a few weeks ago, GMA made a public statement that she would like the deposit insurance coverage to be raised to P1 million! That could make it even easier for larger scams against PDIC to happen in the future.”

Right you are, Sonny.

* * *

To which another FSGO member, former DENR Secretary and former Deputy Executive Secretary Jun Factoran reacted, as to whether the Legacy founder/CEO is liable for plunder, that “plunder is really a crime committed by public officials although private individuals may be impleaded if they acted in conspiracy with public officials (Erap’s cases are an example)…The PDIC experts, I am sure, would have a couple of ideas about how this fellow could be brought to justice. But the loot is now probably in Switzerland, or has melted with the bank meltdowns.”

“Talagang kawawa ang depositors”, Factoran laments.

Incidentally Jun and Sonny, Lanny and Boy, Ernest and Ric, and all those who have no deposits with any of these accursed banks --- PDIC President Jose Nograles, the brother of the Speaker who is a friend of Celso, has immediately assured the depositors of these “gone with the wind” rural banks that he will recompense the deposits up to the legal limits of the law, and that his PDIC is ready, willing and able.

That’s our money, folks. Money of the Republic. Money belonging to each and every depositor of each and every bank, plus money belonging to the benighted people of the Republic under Gloria.

* * *

Now anti-graft crusader Mar Tecson also adds in, this time about what is a greater concern, as far as he and I are concerned: “I am more concerned with Bangko Sentral, because if the information is true that contrary to its mandated independence under the Constitution, its officials are not independent of politicians. The alleged “facts” are given in Mr. Banayo’s articles (regarding the Norzagaray scam detailed last Saturday and in a previous column dated September 27), and can either be admitted or disproved by the BSP. “

“From a reliable source who worked as an intelligence officer, I have already gathered much earlier that OVERPRICED collateral were indeed ceded as payment of delinquent loans…under “dacion en pago” arrangements, but this is the first time that specific details are made public.”

Indeed, the Blue Ribbon Committee under Senator Dick Gordon, as well as the Committee on Banks and Financial Institutions must initiate an investigation of these. How the monies of the Republic have been squandered upon the “behest” or “influence” of powerful politicians or people close to powerful politicians.

Oh, how we are royally “screwed”, always. And Mar Roxas, as FSGO member Joe Molano wrote likewise, merely used “crass language”, and didn’t use the Tagalog word for “screw”, which is exactly what this government has been doing to each and every Filipino in this benighted land.

Monday, December 15, 2008

“Evil” no longer?

Just when civil society, legitimate business, Church and the political opposition were busy protesting over Cha-Cha in Makati, “like a thief in the night” came the announcement from the stinking palace beside the stinking river that SSS Administrator (with cabinet rank, hah!) Romulo Neri has been tasked by the resident “evil” to supervise a 100 billion peso fund for pump-priming efforts of the regime aimed at neutralizing the expected negative effects on the economy of the global recession.

Still remember him? He was the guy who used “executive privilege” to cover-up Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s role in approving the ZTE-NBN deal, after damning then Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos for trying to bribe him with 200 million pesos, to endorse said deal as NEDA chair. Because he was shaking all over in an executive session, and almost retched in fear on their carpet, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee then chaired by Alan Peter Cayetano took pity on him and allowed him to leave the premises. Thus did he save his master, whom he later called “evil” before Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Senator Ana Consuelo Madrigal, Jun Lozada, this writer, and four others.

Apparently, being called “evil” is nothing to his president, provided he covers up “legally”, which he did, even going all the way to the Supreme Court to invoke his right to keep confidential what his president directed him to do, and to hell with public interest. The Supreme Court upheld his right to be silent on “evil”.

This has earned Romulo Neri the “trust” of his president, so much so that, chafing at the manner academics of the land derided him most “unfairly” as then acting chair of the Commission on Higher Education, she next appointed him to oversee the pension fund of all the employees of the private sector of her realm, and conferred on him further the encomium of being yet a member of her cabinet.

There ought to be little prestige in being part of a cabinet filled with political rejects, recycled because retired generals, and toadies, except for three, maybe five at kindest measure. But, nunca te olvidare, “executive privilege”. He who keeps secrets must remain secretive. And how better to do so than by arming him with the legal cloak, armor even, sanctified by no less than a Supreme Court many of whose members possess the same dubious credentials as her cabinet?

Supervising the use of his boss woman’s 100 billion peso anti-depression pill means Romulo Neri would be looking over the shoulders of Hermogenes Ebdane and Leandro Mendoza, the former police generals who now preside over the infrastructure machinery of government, DPWH and DOTC. It means looking over the shoulders of Agriculture’s Arthur Yap, with his farm-to-market roads and irrigation projects in aid of food productivity. Not to forget --- stepping on the shoes of Ralph Recto, who lost Senate re-election on account of VAT, and got a cabinet title in return for the same onus. Wow, Romulo, you really are going places, aren’t you? “High flying”, but wonder if “adored”, as Andrew Lloyd Weber’s celebration of Evita goes.

But as always in government, look for the reason, or reasons, through the funding. Remember the bureaucracy’s ever-present caveat ---“subject to the availability of funds”? With the BIR unable to collect more, whether on VAT or on sin, and the customs unable to collect more because business is bad, which means lower imports, then 100 billion pesos in anti-depression funds may be too much for Romulo’s president to afford. The deficit is expected to soar, and foreign funding is expected to be scarcer and scarcer. So, how does Romulo’s president makes certain that “funds are available”?

Aha! Government financial institutions, that’s where. The biggies are the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank. But the latter’s funds are supposed to be “special purpose”, in support of farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries. If she touches too much of it, Congress and those pesky party-list representatives will howl. As for the Development Bank of the Philippines, well, how much is left after discounting the supposed losses from Lehmann, et al?

But then there are the pension funds --- GSIS and SSS. They have just sold their holdings in Meralco, and they will sell their holdings in other blue-chips, however you define them in this benighted land. Who the actual beneficial owners of these last-minute sales binges are, we the citizens of this benighted republic will probably know only after June 30, 2010 --- if we ever hold such elections. That should make these pension funds awash with cash. It is not government money. It is the money of the working class of the land, deposited in fiduciaries ran by men and women appointed by the person they are supposed to trust most, having elected a “president” in whom they repose their trust.

That person happens to “legally” be --- by the grace of Congress presided over in proclamation by Senator Francis Pangilinan and then Representative Raul Gonzalez, by the bayonets of the military and the sticks of the police, as well as the water hoses of the firemen, and by the meek sufferance of the most docile, the most patient people on planet Earth --- Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. That SWS and Ibon and Pulse Asia periodically say that she is also the most distrusted president in Philippine history --- bar none --- is of little moment in a land where “legal” covers up for the lack of any appreciation of the “moral”.

Already the “legal” president (by her government’s self-serving definition), has announced that half of her 100 billion distress fund will be sourced from such GFI’s, and the other half from private banking institutions who will be made to participate in the pump-priming program. So that explains why it’s Romulo. But why not Winston?

Winston has never called her “evil”, publicly and I understand neither privately. The dinner guests he entertains lavishly at Mactan Island’s ultra-expensive Abaca by the bay, have never heard Winston dishing anything but the best about his president. The GSIS board of trustees are peppered with their president’s most trusted, including a senior citizen of dubious reputation who swears on a stack of a hundred bibles that his lady president’s esposo is nothing but “marangal” and “may busilak na puso”.

So what makes Romulo more “trustworthy” than Winston? Or for that matter, Vilma’s Ralph, who as NEDA director-general, should be by our bureaucratic set-up’s standards, the more technically capable?

Ah! It is because Romulo has gone through a “baptism of fire”. Tinimbang na siya (by his president’s amoral standards), at hindi nagkulang. Nagpagamit. Magpapagamit. Forever and ever.

But won’t Vilma’s Ralph and Juan Luna’s Winston not be made of sterner stuff?

Why do you think the emperors of China and the pashas of Persia treasured their eunuchs? Because they have no more ambition than to serve their masters most dutifully, most unquestioningly, with utmost fealty normally reserved only for the gods.

Why do you think the next Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces shall be a former presidential security guard commander, sooner perhaps than normal if she would deign?

Loyalty. Blind, unquestioning, and unreasoning loyalty. Not to the Republic and certainly not to the people of the Philippines. Like eunuchs of old, theirs but to follow, theirs but to fawn, theirs but to blindly obey, their mistress, their president.

* * *

Erratum: Fellow FSGO’er, Ric Tan, who presided over the PDIC during the time of FVR, approached me in the Friday rally at Makati, to correct my antiquated perception, as written in our Saturday, 13 December column, that PDIC insures deposits of 100,000 max. It is now 250,000, Ric informed me. Mea culpa.

* * *

And something more which I learned over the week-end --- the “Legacy” honcho, one Celso de los Angeles, whose banking fortunes collapsed recently, is supposed to be extra close to the current speaker of the House that wants to cha-cha-cha for perpetuation. Why, someone who does not look like my friend Digong Duterte of Davao, even whispered that Speaker Nograles also lost a whopping hundred million in “investments” in the crumbled empire of his friend Celso. Oh well---fortunate are those who have that much to lose.

“Tapos ka na, Gloria”

Ito ang nagging pahayag ng nagkaisang Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO), noong Disyembre 12, 2008, patungkol sa isinusulong na pag-amyenda ng ating Saligang Batas sa ilalim ng pamahalaang Arroyo.

Ang position paper ay siyang itinalumpati ni Vicente Paterno, dating senador ng bansa, at nanilbihan sa sambayanan ng marangal at mahusay, bilang pinuno ng Board of Investments, Kalihim ng Public Works, Kalihim ng Trade and Industry, at miyembro ng Kapulungan ng mga Economic Advisers ng Pangulo.

Sa edad na otsenta, at maski naka-tungkod na, si Senador Paterno ay nag-martsa kasama ang iba pa sa amin sa FSGO, upang maki-isa sa pagpapakita ng damdamin ng sambayanan ukol sa muling pagsira sa mga balangkas ng demokrasya nitong kasalukuyang rehimen. Narito ang kanyang talumpati:

“Ang amin pong pangkat, FSGO, Former Senior Government Officials, ay walumpung dating mga nanungkulan bilang cabinet secretary at undersecretary, sa ilalim ng iba’t ibang presidente mula kay Diosdado Macapagal, Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada hanggang sa kasalukuyang Macapagal Arroyo.

“Gamit ang aming kaalaman sa pagpalakad ng gobyerno sa loob ng apatnapu’t limang taon, sa ilalim ng anim na presidente, aming siniyasat at sinuri ang nagawa ng rehimeng GMA. Hatol namin - ang rehimeng ito ang pinakamasama sa lahat ng umiral simula kay Diosdado Macapagal, at sa aming palagay mula pa kay Presidente Quezon.

“Sa panahon ni Marcos, ang corruption ay umiral sa loob ng kanyang pamilya, ilang piling militar at mga crony, pero hindi gasinong kumalat at nabulgar noon sa sambayanan. Sa panahon ni Arroyo kilala ng buong bayan at sa mundo na corruption ang malalang sakit, galing sa garapal na Malakanyang, hinawa ang ilang heneral at marami sa Kongreso, at pinalaganap ng kanyang pamumuno. Ngayon isa nang grabeng cancer --- kalat sa buong katawan ng gobyerno ni Arroyo.

“Ang rehimeng Arroyo kinukulang ang suporta sa public health. At ang FSGO ay lubhang nababahala sa kulang na budget sa edukasyon, sapagka’t ito lamang ang maka-kaahon sa kahirapan ng pangkaraniwang pamilya.

“Isa pang grabeng kasalanan ng rehimeng Arroyo – sinisira ang balangkas ng gobyerno. Pinasak ang napakaraming political appointee sa puwestong ayon sa batas dapat lamang okupahan ng CESO – Career Executive Service Officers – may sapat na kwalipikasyon, nakaraan sa itinakdang training, at nakapasa sa kailangang examination.

“Sa harap ng ganitong kakulangan at kasalanan ng kanyang pamamahala, sobrang kapal ng mukha ng mga nagmu-mungkahing pahabain ang termino niya. Huwag na nila igiit at ipilit ang chacha, bagkus sa galit at poot ng taong bayan ay pabilisin ang kanyang pag-alis sa kahit anumang paraan.

“Kasama ang FSGO sa nagmamahal sa katiwasayan at katahimikan. Hindi namin nais mapilit na umayon sa prosesong iba sa tinakda ng Konstitusyon. Mga alyados ni GMA --- iwanan na ninyo ang tangkang magpalit ng Saligang Batas sa paspasang paraan.

“Ulit-ulitin natin sa mga binging alyados niya – Ibasura ang Chacha. Tapos ka na Gloria.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What’s happening at the Bangko Sentral?

First, a report came in about a Bicol “development” bank which turned belly-up, leaving thousands of small depositors gypped of their precious savings. The only thing that created a stir in the region was word that a big politician lost a hundred million of his publicly-purloined wealth (where else would he have gotten such a hoard, but from the abuse of his “profession”?) in the bank. Modus operandi of this small bank is simple---offer high interest rates that people would never get from the commercial banks, nor from the rural banks that are “straight”. It’s again a pyramid scheme, but people never learn, their “greed” always gets the better of them.

That was about six months ago. The character behind the bank was a certain Celso de los Angeles, who at one time (2004-2005) was even conscripted into the government service by no less than the Vice-President of the Republic, who brought his “genius” into the public housing sector. Looking back, that stint in government probably gave him the cachet to enter the banking industry, who knows, perhaps even impress the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Apparently though, the Bicol caper was not his last. In November, three so-called rural banks in Cebu also declared a bank holiday. Two of them are reportedly part of the guy’s financial casbah. Then this week, the Rural Bank of Paranaque followed. Again part of the De los Angeles “Legacy” empire. (His flagship enterprise is called Legacy, which used to be in another racket---the pre-need plan, where giants like CAP and Yuchengco’s Pacific Plans likewise got hundreds of thousands of educational futures stranded.)

And almost simultaneously, a rural bank in Bais, Negros Oriental, another in Bacolod City, capital of Negros Occidental. And another in San Jose, Batangas, also in Calatagan. And another in San Pablo City.

How many hundreds of millions, if not billions in small depositors’ money had been lost in these banks? We will not know until the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which is tasked to supervise all banks in the benighted land, tells us, if they ever will.

It seems such a mystery that the bank which comes ever so quickly to the succor of the Philippine peso to keep it within “manageable float” in the foreign exchange market, and has been assiduously doing this every single banking day, has been hoodwinked by one smart operator who has become very big by putting up, or buying into, a string of “small” rural banks.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas was legislated into existence in the nineties after its predecessor, the Central Bank of the Philippines, had racked up so much liabilities that its existence had become “in extremis”. Those liabilities were sucked up by the Filipino taxpayer so that their government could pronounce the new entity, the Bangko Sentral, the new fiduciary trust of 90 million unfortunate souls, “clean” and well, trustworthy.

The Bangko Sentral, through the Monetary Board, also manages the state of the Philippine peso, using monetary tools, such as interest rate fixing and bank reserve requirements, in order to “stabilize” the currency as well as inflation. It seems to be doing that pretty well.

But if the string of failures exemplified by the recent bank holidays of these “small banks” is any indication, the Bangko Sentral has apparently been quite lax in the supervision of the banking industry, at the very least, in its protection of small depositors in “small” banks. How in the first place, has the Bank been unable to detect the interlocking interests of one character in a string of “development” and rural banks with such strombotic names as “Dynamic Bank”?

Sure a hundred thousand is insured with the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, another taxpayer-owned facility that absorbs banking losses like a sponge, provided it soaks up no more than the limit provided by law for every single depositor. But what’s a hundred thousand these days? The equivalent of a thousand pesos in the good old days, that’s what. (In the days of Diosdado Macapagal, the minimum wage was a hundred twenty pesos a month. It is now ten thousand pesos a month, even more in the NCR, in the reign of his daughter Gloria).

Which brings me to another question---how much of the Bangko Sentral’s financial base has been eaten up by its own bad loans, financial accommodations it extends to ailing banks, big or small, which have not been paid to date, or for which the BSP has been given collaterals too over-stated for the face value of their assistance?

Take one instance---the Capitol Development Bank, which has also gone under, a “victim” of the Asian recession of 1997, or so they say. The Bangko Sentral loaned out 1.5 billion pesos in an effort to “save” the said Capitol Bank in two successive tranches---1.17 billion on 22 April 1998, and two days after, another 332 million pesos. The president of the bank, a Mrs. Cynthia Villar, signed promissory notes good for six months or 180 days, at an interest rate of 14.957% per annum. The managing director in charge of the Department of Loans and Credit as well as the Asset Management Department, a certain Andres Rustia, signed for the Bangko Sentral. Upon its maturity, Capitol Development failed to pay Bangko Sentral.

Instead, they settled the loan through a dacion en pago (payment by surrender of property) of 483.97 hectares in Norzagaray, Bulacan. At the time of the dacion, the zonal value assigned by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which is supposed to approximate actual market value, was 60 pesos per square meter or 600,000 pesos per hectare. That 484 hectares should therefore be worth 290 million pesos, but it was used to settle an account from the Bangko Sentral of 1.5 billion pesos! Can you beat that?

In fine, the fiduciary trustee of the people of the Republic of the Philippines, issuer of legal tender used by its benighted residents within the metes and bounds of the same Republic, now holds assets valued at 290 million, which”erased” liability of Capitol Development Bank worth one and a half billion, plus close to another hundred million in interest, or more than five times the value of the property now in its possession. In effect, the Bangko Sentral lost the people’s money to some very, very wise guys, for and in behalf of a hopelessly bankrupt medium-sized, family-owned bank.

The deed of real estate mortgage was dated June 29, 2001 for the 483.973 hectares (484 has.) of agricultural land in Norzagaray, Bulacan which was used as payment for the P1.5 billion loan of CDB in April 1998. Funny coincidence this, but from the time the promissory notes became due and payable, Rep. Manuel B. Villar had become Speaker of the House of Representatives, by grace of newly-elected President Joseph Estrada, and then again, senator of the realm. And the main signatory for Capitol Bank, Mrs. Cynthia Aguilar Villar, had become the representative of the lone district of Las Pinas, an herencia from her husband the Speaker turned senator.

But wait, apparently, that’s not the end of the story though, for the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

The land paid to the Bangko Sentral was occupied by farmers whose forebears had been continuously cultivating that huge patch of dirt, and who were granted titles to the same in 1960, after proving continuous occupation of what was then deemed public land. Now, when the BSP went to the register of lands in Malolos to transfer their newly acquired Norzagaray holdings, they presented the titles surrendered to them by Capitol Bank.

Lo and behold! The original certificate of title was issued on July 25, 1944, during the Japanese occupation, when there was no civil government in the Philippines. In fact, Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, maintained that “authorizing the issuance of sales patent was illegal and inoperative during the Japanese occupation.”

Sa madaling salita, “mickey mouse” pala ang mga titulo ng lupa na ibinayad sa Bangko Sentral! Will wonders never cease? Breathtaking!

Pray ask---if the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had accepted as collateral for 1.5 billion in loans something that had a zonal valuation of less than 300 million pesos, why should it bother to exercise any due diligence in checking the bona-fides of the titles paid to it? Tutal, pera lang naman ng bayan iyan. Happy naman si Speaker, later Senate President, at si congresswoman, hindi ba?

So what will the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas do to that smaller “fat cat”, a certain Celso de los Angeles, owner of this string of failed rural banks? E, di wala.

Some are smarter than others, truly. The story of our lives in the benighted land.

In the “bad old days” of Marcos, there were behest loans left and right, to those cronies described as “smarter than others” by this Manapat researcher whom Gloria made head of the National Archives. The taxpayers ended up paying more taxes to soak up these unpaid liabilities. Charge mo sa “bayan”.

We thought that throwing the dictatorship was also the end of this criminal practice of using other people’s money, this “charge mo sa bayan” syndrome.

But now we know that congressmen charge to the “bayan” the egregious tongpats they squeeze from contractors for their pork barrel. And local officials also charge the “bayan” their tongpats from garbage collection contracts, as well as “mababaw na kaligayahan” projects such as giant Christmas trees and street lamps galore, along with fireworks displays---all horrendously overpriced.

We know that the “bayan” always gets royally screwed in government projects and contracts, even those funded by overseas assistance, bilateral or multilateral, in this kleptocratic reign as in others before it.

Well folks, this is the system we survive in. We always end up footing the bill, for nothing. We’d like to f—k the system, if only we could, but those who are “smarter than others” want to perpetuate it. Ha…llelujah! Hallelujah…Hallelujah! Halle…lu…jaaaah!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s favorite student, now governor of the province of Albay and still her economic adviser, Jose Sarte Salceda, was heard on television recently saying that "if the US economy will experience a tidal wave, what we will have in the Philippines is a tsunami".

His principal of course, does not agree, publicly at least. She keeps telling everyone who cares to listen, guys like Donald Dee and Mike Varela and Serge Ortiz-Luis, that we will weather the US-initiated economic recession. She keeps mouthing the mantra that "our fundamentals are good." Her financial factotums pat themselves on the back, and tell us that the expanded VAT has proven itself as our economic salvavida. We should thank them, and their GMA, for what they consider prescience, what they banner as bold economic vision done with utmost political will.

They forget to tell the people, always conveniently of course, that had their principal not embarked on reckless borrowings in the first three years of office, all with electoral "victory" in 2004 goading her, we would not have had the kind of massive deficits that we had to address by taxing consumption more in 2005.

But never mind that. We have survived the expanded VAT, even if we all are the poorer because of it. The bigger problem is the descending gloom. And there is no escaping that gloom. That it may likewise be portent of doom depends on whether leadership can give us a glint of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Salceda likens the Philippine economy to a car "running flat, but still running." The problem, he adds, is that the nearby gasoline stations are closed." So what gasoline station, er, economic power do we run to so as to fix the flat tire? Frankly, none. The big economies will be looking inward, with their domestic markets needing to be primed, and their finances requiring intravenous fluids. Gloria’s favorite student, now her guru in situ, is disturbed that "domestic complacency in government is not acting quickly enough to shore up the country’s defenses against the global meltdown." He simplifies the choices for government as "pain now and more pain later; or more pain now and gain later".

But the truth is that his president is still in denial mode. She would rather cha-cha now, more interested in perpetuating power than curing the malady of economic gloom.

She flies to Hong Kong to hob-nob with Bill Clinton, hoping to curry favor with the husband of the new Secretary of State, with whom she will have to deal with in the remaining 18 months of her term. Condoleezza Rice finally warmed up to her now that her boss Dubya is on the way out, now that she really needs them least. But Bill is not likely to get Hillary or the new president, Barack Obama, to be interested two whits in these impoverished islands at a time when their domestic economy is as pale as pale can be. She will now fly to Qatar and tell us natives when she returns that those sheiks have promised her they will invest their waning petrodollars in these benighted parts. Ah…promises, promises, and little else.

Next year, after the tinsel on the Christmas trees have been removed, the reality will descend upon us. Retailers already reeling from low holiday season sales will look forward to little more in the new year. Many will close, unable to pay rent. Export-dependent factories that did not have to double-time for the seasonal rush in 2008, will find fewer and fewer export orders in the coming year. And OFW’s have been given their termination notices, renewals not to be expected, until better times come. When, nobody knows.

Even the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, warns that the global financial crisis is set to worsen and is not likely to improve until 2010. President-elect Barack Obama, who seems to have aged considerably since the magnitude of America’s problems descended upon his shoulders, has likewise said that the economic situation will worsen before it improves. He tells the truth.

Blanchard says "the worst is yet to come…and a lot of time is needed before the situation becomes normal," estimating that "growth would not kick in until late 2010, and it will take another year (2011) before the situation becomes normal." His assurances are actually more hopeful than other economists, who predict a longer period of gloom.

Even the World Bank warns that "many developing countries are moving into a new danger zone, with heightened risk to exports, investment, credit, banking systems, budgets, balance of payments, and the most vulnerable – the poor." Countries dependent on exports, foreign remittances, foreign investments (which will shrink), and which exhibit high current-account deficits or rising inflation, and those with extensive fuel or food subsidies are the most vulnerable to a sharp slowdown, especially if accompanied by a significant tightening of financial market conditions".

That is exactly where the Philippines has chronically been. That is what our economy is right now, and will continue to be, because present leadership has neither offered solutions nor inspired reason to hope.

As more and more are pushed into poverty, as more and more lifelines are extinguished, either because the OFW saviors start losing their jobs, or the marginally-earning locals are likewise deprived of livelihood opportunities, then peace and order problems multiply exponentially. The sadder reality is that because the very rich live in gated exclusive villages and have personal bodyguards to boot, they should be the least affected by crimes against property. Instead, it will be the middle class, living in what used to be peaceful neighbourhoods, driving cars which have yet to be fully paid, with possessions they have had to scrimp for to enjoy, who shall be the victims of increased crime.

So then, will Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her rotten regime be able to tide us well through the crisis? Clearly not.

Her factotums would go on last-two-minutes "tongpats" orgies, and be obsessed with how to hide their loot elsewhere in the world. Already she has announced a hundred billion peso infrastructure program once her 1.4 trillion peso budget is approved. And the Senate is seeing how that budget is full of lump sum appropriations, which means easier occasion for more graft. One is left wondering how much of the 100 billion will end up lining private pockets. Follow the leader.

And because business will have low liquidity positions and lower profit margins come 2010, who but the corrupt rich will have the oodles and oodles of money to buy their electoral "victory"?

Worse, who would have all the billions to throw as support to whoever is able to "guarantee" or assure that his or her benefactor/benefactress, will not have to face justice from the courts of law, once he/she is elected president in 2010?

And on the hopeful assumption that GMA and her minions should withdraw their attempts at prolonging their stay in power through charter change, would not she and she alone, with her money (along with her "esposo"), and her Comelec, not be the single substantial contributor to the campaign coffers of the next leadership after June 30,2010? Cha-cha or no cha-cha, elections or no elections, she and her ilk reign.

So gloom becomes doom.


My friend Ver sent a very appropriate observation, painful though it may seem: "With the present situation and condition in our benighted land (borrowing your word) there are only two Filipino characters I can compare the Filipinos with. One is Juan Tanga where the Filipinos are nag tatanga-tangahan with the current situation and Juan Tamad where they are tamad kumilos to have a change for the good of the country."


As we write this piece, we are informed that the head of Julius Baer, a Swiss private bank quite popular with billionaire Filipinos, 52-year old Alex Widmer, committed suicide. After Lehman Brothers disappeared, and AIG fell into deep shit, and private banks all over the world, from Julius Baer to the Royal Bank of Scotland and its Coutts, how diminished are the portfolios of the Philippines’ filthy rich?

The tragedy of it all is "ninakaw sa Pilipinas, inilabas ng Pilipinas, at kawawang Pilipinas. Walang nakinabang."

Maybe that’s why we have to cha-cha-cha. The crooks need to replenish.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Did they all deserve to die?

Those killed are hardened and heartless criminals and they deserve to die," said Police NCR Director Leopoldo Bataoil, after a shoot-out with the criminals transpired in Parañaque the other day. I have no quarrel with that.

But the shootout also resulted in the death of six civilians, among them a seven-year old girl and her father, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The police mistook their vehicle as one of the criminals’ get-away vehicles, and simply opened fire, hitting the little girl who was seated on the front, beside her father. The terrified father got out of the stopped car and ran, seeking cover from the gunfire. He sought shelter beneath a stalled truck, but the policemen still fired at him, according to bystanders. A grenade launched by the criminal gang killed a truck helper and an unidentified companion, while a security guard was caught by stray fire, or so the early reports said. SPO2 Nixon Vinasoy was also killed, and fighting for his life in a hospital is Police Superintendent Eleuterio Gutierrez, chief of the PNP Task Force Limbas.

I reserve further comment until we get to the facts of this terrifying encounter. The Commission on Human Rights announced that it will investigate. Suffice it to say at this point that things do not look too good for recently-appointed PNP chief Jesus Versoza, the fair-haired favorite of Ronaldo Puno. Barely two weeks after he took over from Sonny Razon, the "euro generals" fiasco came up, where his own wife was part of the gallivanting delegation. Lie after lie emanating from Puno, Versoza, Eliseo de la Paz, and so many other police generals were fed to an angry and disbelieving public. Then, barely two months in office, Versoza’s SAF and other policemen kill innocent civilians in an encounter with "hardened and heartless" criminals.

Those Tondo istambays who drink "ador-ador" along with pulutan of "bargaso," some kind of stew using purloined cow innards from the Vitas slaughterhouse, would wryly observe, "mukhang ina-alat ang hepe ng mga alat".


So many reacted to our previous columns and I have to do some of them the justice of being read:

Reader Rene V said, "I would like to tell the Ambassador of Thailand that I envy the Thais when it comes to their ability to effect political change over a short period of time. I envy the Thais the way they exercise their political rights. I envy the Thais for their patriotism, I envy their aggressiveness to pursue what is good on matters that affect the welfare of their country.

"Truly, shame on us for we are so ineffective in dealing with the blatant corruption, cheating, and stealing in our current government...how I wish we can act and do the same as what the Thais did recently. That is what true freedom and true people power is about." (I deleted his description of Malacañang deputy spokesperson Golez, who another columnist, my friend Conrad de Quiros, called a "cretin").


Meanwhile, Ramon from California wrote: "I just would like to say ditto to what you said in your article, "Shame on us" (where you said) that destabilizing this abominable government is a an act of patriotism. You hit the nail right on the head. We here continue praying for you are not alone."


A top-notch lawyer wrote: "Sa totoo lang, it is GMA who is immature." Ouch, coming from someone she knows very well.


On the current drive for cha-Cha by Con-Ass, Boy of Davao has this to say: "There is no doubt that the same members of the House will run as MP’s, and knowing how elections are won in this benighted land of ours (have you noticed how more and more writers are using this favorite adjective we use to describe the country?) we will see them back in power. And before I forget, guess who will be the new prime minister. Of course it shall be the honorable ???lady??? from Pampanga.

"A new Constitution will not make the Philippines great nor will it solve the ills and problems of our country if we will have the same people running the government".


All the way from Germany, Mon Mayuga writes that "to those who have been telling me that complaints, criticisms, letters of protest and campaigns to force this corrupt regime will not effect the change that we need, we say that apathy, indifference, complacency, inaction, resignation and silence would only prolong our misery, nourish their greed, embolden them to be greedier, to harrow and to plunder."

"They would only interpret our silence as acquiescence."


Another wrote: "What’s happening there in the Philippines is beyond comprehension. It’s difficult to understand why people there just simply allow themselves to be fooled by some selfish politicians who are supposed to be their servants and the stewards of the country’s resources. Presently, I am comfortably living here in Canada. Thank God, I was able to bring my family here as immigrants in 2004 for the good of my family because (the) situation there was not getting any better even then. Nonetheless, I still continuously follow developments there. And I feel nauseous reading in the papers about the endless blatant manipulations being done by our own government headed by no less than the president at the expense of the Filipino people. And I feel sympathetic to the very pitiful situation of the ordinary Filipino people who suffer as a result, and who do not simply care being systematically robbed continuously by selfish politicians of their rights and opportunities to live decent, comfortable lives. Ang masasabi ko lang ay panahon na para kumilos!"


A reader from Isabela: "Some say the present Philippine condition today is still bearable. Well, really? For God’s sake, let’s stop fooling ourselves…Enough of the rhetoric, enough to word wars. Let’s act now. Let’s show our displeasure on the present condition with our preparedness and willingness to sacrifice our lives in the course of fighting for what’s good. Let’s plant a seed for "2010 Para Sa Pagbabago". Let’s come up with a core group of strong 2,010 people consisting of change-oriented who are well placed in society. This group will lead in the movement carrying a slogan of "Walang Uwian Ano Pa Man Ang Mangyari!" to that effect. They will stay as one – kapit-bisig – wherever they plan to go and stay once they shall have embarked on their cause in the streets - and literally, "walang uwian ano pa ang mangyari"! The mistake of the Oakwood mutineers of surrendering in the end should not be repeated. The 2,010 are to be enlisted as "Philippine Martyrs for 2010" the first prerequisite of membership of which would be willingness to die in the streets… Consequently, followers who may come from all walks of life may precipitate and form layers around them. Come what may and let all the 2,010 people perish in the streets. I am certain their lives will not go in vain. And, yes, enough to our preoccupation in a bloodless revolution! Bloodless revolution simply does not work anymore at this time in the Philippines.

"Sustained Civil Disobedience – in the form of sustained jamming the streets (sustained peaceful blockade) fully disregarding police instructions – is the key! Wala nang maraming paliguy-ligoy pa. Kailan pa natin gagawin ito? Let’s put meaning to what we’re saying that the Filipinos can not be fooled by bad politics and that the Filipino is worth dying for.

"While I have still some physical strength to offer, I hope to receive one day a call to go there and join in this action. I can offer at least one life. It will be an honor to die for the sake of future generations of Filipinos. Good luck to all of us."

How many, pray tell, are as brave as he?


Raffy Alunan, former tourism secretary during the last year of Cory, and DILG secretary during the first half or more of FVR, wrote to his fellow FSGO members, and I quote excerpts herein:

"We can shorten our length of suffering, and do the impossible, if we only get our act together. Unless and until we eliminate the conditions affecting our state of being, the next generations will be doomed to a life of aimlessness, conflict and chaos, and incapable of dealing with epochal challenges like climate change and a failed global order.

"Fatalism should be purged from our vocabulary. Waiting for things to happen or fall in our laps, and leaving our fate to the gods, is not how we were taught. Rather, God helps those who help themselves, and it is our choices that help shape our future. While there are elements of chance and human limitations, life is how we make it.

"But when will we ever unite to rise above ourselves? When shall we become a living democracy and a model of competitive and sustainable development? When do we shift to virtue, knowledge and excellence to render poverty, injustice, neglect, civil wars, corruption, ignorance and bad governance a thing of the past? When will we regain the trust and respect of the world?

"These are questions that actually frame and define the EDSA Spirit, which is about national transformation; national renewal; and national redemption. Regardless of origin, creed or status in life, it is about Filipinos unleashing the selflessness of their hearts and the brilliance of their minds to make the Spirit of EDSA a pulsating reality for all time.

"If you choose to fight, do what needs to be done for God, country and people. Just do it; it is indeed now or never."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Shame on us

The ambassador of Thailand could not contain his feelings at the affront coming from a pipsqueak in the stinking palace. Malacanang’s deputy spokesperson insinuated that the political turbulence in Thailand showed a lack of political maturity.

What was happening in Bangkok at the time of his improper statements, capped by the “capture” of the Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports by protesting “people power”, would not materialize in the Philippines, he averred, “because our people have reached a high degree of political maturity whereby our people respect due process and the rule of law”.

Which, if the GMA spokesperson used some brain and sensibility before he opened his mouth, implied quite clearly that the “high degree of political maturity” was lacking among the Thais. There is no way he could wiggle himself out from such a politically incorrect statement. When you claim political maturity for people who have yet to summon the courage to do what some others have, then you condemn the other people as politically immature. But are they?

Ambassador Kulkumut Singhara Na Ayudhaya stressed that “the protests in Thailand show that Thais are free to exercise their political rights”. And he is right. For GMA’s spokesperson to flaunt the inaction of our people against far greater political crimes as “maturity” insults not only the Thais, but more so, the Filipino people themselves. Shame on us that we can abide with such bad governance. Shame on us that we can tolerate the cheating, and the lying and the stealing. Shame on us that we can yet endure all the abuses, from extrajudicial killings to corruption most gross.

This guy named Golez (with apologies to Roilo) must be given a briefing by the Department of Foreign Affairs on the basic principle of non-interference among Asean members. Who is he to judge the political actions of a free people, with a proud history of not having been colonized by any foreign power?

Senator Dick Gordon’s pronouncements on the political developments in Thailand were actually inoffensive. He took pride that as a people, we began the practice of peaceful “people power” through Edsa I and II. The inveterate cheerleader seemed to say “ginaya n’yo lang sa amin iyan”. In truth, modern history traces the phenomenon to the great Mahatma Gandhi. But just as the recent carnage in Mumbai reflects a sad departure from the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, the fact that we who popularized people power are now most reluctant to use the same against the worst president, bar none, is cause for shame, and certainly not the kind of pride that Golez preens about.

That the Thais were able to change their government after a week of people power demonstrations, with their high tribunal (Constitutional Court) declaring the de facto prime minister and his political party as “illegitimate” due to electoral fraud, makes it doubly shameful for us. We have all heard the indecent conversations between our president and an election commissioner conspiring to manipulate the voting results. We have witnessed how our representatives thrashed an impeachment complaint on what ought to have been a clear betrayal of public trust, not once, but thrice over, in obeisance to the executive. We have witnessed how bags full of cash were distributed right in the seat of power. And many more transgressions of law as well as decency. Yet we have chosen to close our eyes. We have chosen to “forgive and forget” in favour of “moving on”. The Thais weighed in against corruption, following a model for political action that we displayed so proudly in 1986. They learned. We forget our own lesson.

In fairness, Gordon warns that what happened in Thailand might yet be replicated here, especially now that the leadership seems hell bent on changing the charter to suit its own selfish political objectives. If it does, we redeem ourselves, even if late. If we persist on the kind of cowardice that dolts like Anthony Golez describe as “political maturity”, then indeed we deserve the arrogance with which our leaders insult us.

* * *

Someone called dennis magsaca or whatever group uses such a name as front, has been circulating a highly imaginative production number on the youtube, complete with a “Mission Impossible” theme for background music, about so-called “destabilizers”. It claims that certain people are launching a campaign called “Stop Now Arroyo’s Plunder” or “SNAP” in order to “empty the presidency by March 2009…with anti-administration propaganda, tarnishing Gloria’s credence, discrediting her and throwing in her face all sorts of accusations particularly graft and corruption”.

Hello? Discredit the discredited? This is funny.

The yarn names Atty. Harry Roque as pointman, with Erap’s Linggoy Alcuaz, Bayan’s Carol Araullo, Black and White’s Leah Navarro, and a certain Atty. Bayani Quinones, in launching a nationwide signature campaign to force GMA to step down, by March, ha, ha, ha. Do your arithmetic. Just count the number of signatures needed, and go figure, if that is possible.

But the yarn does not stop there. It mentions me as the treasurer, and I am supposed to be awash with cash, thanks to Ping Lacson’s contacts in “Binondo”. And who are my disbursing officers? Why, Dinky Soliman of all people. Never mind Alain del Pascua, who does work for me and Senator Lacson, but Dinky? Sana totoo. Why, nagchi-chip in pa nga kaming lahat para sa merienda ng FSGO meetings. Hah!

To make the tale seem credible, they mention more names, like a certain Johnny Chang and a Harry Lintang, who allegedly donated 10 million to fund Project SNAP. Allegedly, both are Lacson supporters. I know no Harry Lintang, and the only Johnny Chang I know happens to be an alalay of former President Erap, ever-faithful, ever-true.

I have a fairly good idea of the progenitor of this drivel peddled in the net, but I will not mention him and them. Baka kumita pa lalo sa mga naloloko nila with their “special ops ek-ek”.

Be that as it may, I have never been coy about my desire to see this government fall. I pray each night before I go to sleep, and always in my prayers there is a special mention about the Lord ending this nightmare that all of us endure. I am sorry that He has not answered my prayers yet, but I keep praying nonetheless.

If that is destabilization, and my nasty columns are destabilizing, I am very proud of it. Destabilizing this abominable government is an act of patriotism. Truly.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Let them feel the rage

Bobby Kennedy, the man on his way to certain election as president before he was gunned down by an assassin, once wrote - "Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws--but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us. Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted--when we tolerate what we know to be wrong--when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too frightened-- when we fail to speak up and speak out--we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice."

The problem with our countrymen is that they have been too busy minding their “own business”, which is selling in the sidewalks and being milked of their earnings by crooked “kotong” cops or barangay aides of another crook of a mayor, or trying to sell shares of stock in a market that has seen better days and will see red for months and perhaps years to come, or busy waiting for a 2010 as “redemption” from the bad government that they now endure --- too busy “minding their own business” and forgetting that they are part of a bigger community called nation.

But we see rays of hope. We hear more and more people speaking out. One man who has removed himself from sterling public service and in his quiet and self-effacing ways, serves the nation still by incisive inputs to that group of former senior government officials who have taken it upon themselves to analyze the national malaise as dispassionately as humans can be spared their own inner rage, is Tomas Africa, former chief statistician of the government.

I share with our readers something he recently wrote to fellow FSGO members, in reaction to a news report that had Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur boasting that his abominable Kampi is close to getting 197 signatures of members of the lower House on a resolution to amend the Constitution through a constituent assembly (Con-Ass).

“If that is the KAMPI position, here is my take:

“If the 1987 Constitution intended the Congress to vote as one in amending the Charter through a Constituent Assembly, 197 signatures could already be sourced out solely from the 238 members of the House of Representatives (HOR). Why bother with how the Senate would vote?
(Incidentally, as we write this, radio is reporting that only 21 HOR members registered negative votes against the asinine impeachment report of the Committee on Justice headed by Matias Defensor, padre de Miguelito el minero, y padre tambien de Maite, who manages that infernal stretch of road called the South Luzon Expressway or SLEX – what lucky, favored family they are. Now 238 less 21, my arithmetic teacher in Grade One taught me, is 217, indeed more than Villafuerte’s magic 197.)

“What did it take to become a member of the 14th Congress? Look at some official numbers from the COMELEC website: To get into the Senate, the 12th placer in the 14 May 2007 senatorial elections got 11,005,866 (or 37.3 percent) votes out of 29,498,660 who actually voted.

“To be a member of the (horrible) HOR, the winner in the 14 May 2007 congressional elections in Batanes garnered 4,430 (or 54.4 percent) votes out of 8,147[1] actual voters. In Camiguin the winner had 24,277 votes (54.3 percent) of a total 44,677[2] voters, or.
“320, 677 (2.03 percent of 30,056,695) party-list voters placed the sectoral organization An Waray on their ballots.

“The spheres of influence and representation are obviously different. A member of the Senate is voted into office by the national electorate and a member of the HOR, by the constituency in their district (which can be less than 1 percent of total voters in the country, but of course through no fault of theirs).

“To the 167 members (and counting…) aboard the bandwagon at the HOR (ABHOR) who have already signed the resolution, what makes them think that their individual votes will have the same weight as the individual votes of the Senators in amending the Charter through a Constituent Assembly under the present Constitution? Why bother the Supreme Court justices with another test of their loyalty and insult their intelligence and integrity?

“Chances are that those promoting the CON-ASS have constipated asses which are enthroned on seats padded with 'tong-pats'.”

Indeed, what seems to be the game plan of the abominable Kampi and its other coHORts in the horrible lower House?

They get the required three-fourths vote to their resolution to convene a Con-Ass, which is 197 if you total up the membership of the two houses of Congress. The Senate will not come up with a similar resolution, and instead will elevate the interpretation of the ambiguous constitutional language on the matter to the Supreme Court. Timeline? January, by which time a new addition to the Supreme Court shall have been appointed (choose between Agnes Devanadera and one of the Sandiganbayan justices who participated in the Erap trial). By the time the Supreme Court likely decides, it will have been late February, or early March, by which time, another new SC associate justice has been appointed. That removes one each from the ranks of the 9-6 voting trend in recent constitutionally-interpretative decisions of the high tribunal, but adds one more to the ranks of the Arroyo appointees, or 10-5. Will the new appointees toe the line of the kaKampi ni GMA? Now quake in your shoes.

But how will the Dureza’s. Remonde’s, Limcaoco’s, Puno’s and Ermita’s of this world, even if one or two of them would rather slit each other’s throat, lay the predicate, prepare the public mind, to accept --- suffer if you may --- the need to amend, and later, the need to change the form of government to suit their “and she shall rule, forever and ever…hallelujah!” scripted chorus?
He,he,he. Nothing is impossible to these guys and their conjugal masters in the stinking palace beside the stinking river.

There is the economic crisis, with tens of thousands of OFW’s coming home to the benighted land, and tens of thousands in the benighted land losing their jobs in factories that can no longer export as much. There will be farmers all over the benighted land going on hunger strikes (as if they have ever been less than hungry) and march towards the metropolis, because agrarian reform shall have been given the death blow by the non-extension of CARP. There is the “terrorist” bogey in the South, with both the GRP and the secessionists not making headway in peace negotiations because both are not sincere in the first place. All of these issues, and more, the hallelujah chorus will claim, along with their better-syncopated second voices, Fajardo named after a rock in the river Rhine, and Golez whatever, to chant “charter change is the CHANGE we need”. And the high tribunal just might assent, and chant, “charter change is the CHANGE we believe in”. I would love to see President Barack Obama go to the International Court of Justice and sue these guys for plagiarizing him.

Speak out. Cry out. Shout, you hopeless citizens of this benighted land. To you we commend the voice of Joaquin “Chino” Roces, publisher of the then well-respected Manila Times who preferred to close it down than be a mouthpiece of a far more fearful Ferdinand Marcos, one of those who refused to sleep in the long night of authoritarianism:

“We all have to link and expand our ranks till the entire country is bound together with the strength and the ardour of our resolve. I do not exaggerate when I say this could be our last chance to save democracy in the Philippines. The darkness thickens and we have to move.”

* * *

A happy postscript:

Another activist in the FSGO (not that any of us are not activists), former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Ging Quintos-Deles (whose father the late respected paediatrician Florencio Quintos, MD, saved me from an epidemic called H-fever when I was a grade-schooler), recently supped at a private dining club where pig knuckles and sauerkraut are a delight, along with to-die-for seasonally available fat, white asparagus. On their way out, she and her friends saw Romy Neri (of course you haven’t forgotten him), Vic Corpus (still remember him?) and Cyril del Callar, erstwhile Napocor boss who has quietly taken sick leave and moved to the Land Bank as director, courtesy of who else but GMA. They were in deep discussions with two others who looked, according to the waiters, like they wandered here from somewhere in the sands of Araby. Probably cooking up another deal, eh?

Romy quickly recognized Ging, who sat with him in GMA’s cabinet before Ging realized she would not be party to the coven, while Romy revelled in serving the “evil” he eloquently described. Ging tried everything --- step back, turn aside, not smile, but the gentle lady that she is, could not but limply accept the proffered hand of one for whom she has lost all respect.

But the encounter has firmed her resolve, that Romy’s is the last of those “judas hands” that she will shake. Hooray for her.

Twice before she snubbed Norberto Gonzales in similar encounters. Hindi na nakatiis si Norbert, the infamous acolyte of the equally notorious Archie Intengan of the Jesuit society, both conscripted into the un-holy coven. He approached Ging, and asked, “Hindi mo man lang ba ako babatiin?” or words to that effect. Ging simply pretended she did not see, or hear, the Norbert.

Yes. Let them feel the rage. Let them all feel the rage. And yes, “be not afraid”.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kasong Dacer-Corbito, 2

Hindi ko na natanong si Bubby Dacer kung ano ang pinagka-ayusan nila ni Pangulong Erap. Bagama’t alam kong siya ay malapit kay dating Pangulong FVR, alam ko rin na ginagamit siya ni Pangulong Erap sa pakikipag-niig sa ibang mga kasapi ng media bilang kilalang PR man. Laking gulat ko na lang noong matapos ang ilang araw (palagay ko ay walang isang linggo ang nakararaan) ay mabalitaan na nga ang pagkaka-dukot kay Bubby sa may South Superhighway.

Sa ulat ni Norman Bordadora sa PDI noong Lunes, ika-01 ng Disyembre, ‘diumano’y sinita daw ni Mancao si Michael Ray Aquino, nang malaman niya na sinu-surveilance si Dacer, at ang sagot ni Aquino ay “OK na ‘yan sa Malacanang”.

Nguni’t mausisa si Mancao, at tinanong pa, “Cleared ba ito sa boss natin, si 71?” (code-name ito ni Lacson hanggang sa ngayon). Kung saan ang sagot daw ni Aquino ay “Sila na daw bahala sa kanya”.

Sino kaya “sila”? Sino kaya ang nag-“OK na sa Malacanang?” At ano ang ibig sabihin ng “Sila na daw ang bahala sa kanya (patungkol kay Lacson o 71)?” Iyan ang mga katanungang dapat ay sagutin ng mga kinauukulan, sina Dumlao, Mancao at lalo na si Aquino, na kasalukuyang nakakulong sa New York dahil naman sa pagkakapasa ng mga impormasyon hango sa “confidential files” ng pamahalaang Estados Unidos na diumano ay nailabas nang walang pahintulot ni Aragoncillo, isang Fil-Am na datihang nagtatrabaho sa FBI at White House.

Subali’t sa kanyang pangalawang affidavit na isinalaysay sa abogado noong Mayo 20, 2003, bago siya tumungo ng Estados Unidos, ang sinabi ni Glenn Dumlao ay inaresto siya ng mga miyembro ng PNP noong ika-apat ng Hunyo, 2001, at walong araw siyang pinilit na magsulat at paulit-ulit na baguhin ang kanyang salaysay upang maidiin sina Mancao, Aquino at Sen. Panfilo Lacson sa kung anu-anong iligal na Gawain, lalo na ang iugnay ang mga ito sa pagkakadukot at pagkakapaslang nina Dacer at Corbito.

Tahasang itinuro ni Dumlao si P/CSupt. Reynaldo Berroya, kasama sina P/C Insp. Rodrigo Bonifacio at P/C Supt. Carlos Joaquin, sa mga nagpilit na siya ay “tumuga” ayon sa kagustuhan nilang ipalabas. Maging si P/S Supt, Marcelo Garbo at P/Supt. George Gaddi daw ay inutusan siyang isama ang mga krimeng “drug-trafficking, kidnapping, at robbery/hold-up” sa mga ‘diumano’y “krimen” na kinasangkutan ni Lacson.

Nguni’t ayon sa sinumpaang salaysay ni Dumlao, “naglakas-loob siyang tumutol sa mga kasinungalingang ipinipilit sa kanya, bagama’t siya’y tinakot at sinaktan”. Sinabi pa raw niya kay Gaddi na “pareho naman tayong nagtrabaho sa PAOCTF, at ikaw mismo ang nakaka-alam na hindi totoo ‘yang mga pinaa-amin niyo sa akin”. At “minsan nga ay kaharap si P/S Supt. Rolando Anonuevo nang sabihin ko nang tahasan kay Berroya na huwag naman niyang idawit ang mga inosente sa nais niyang ibintang na hindi naman makatotohanan”.

Noon ayaw niya talagang magpagamit, dinala na raw si Dumlao sa ISAFP, sa tanggapan ni Col. Victor Corpus, na siya ay pinilit na muli, at sinabihang kung hindi makikisama sa kanilang naising “mapakulong si Lacson” at “patotohanan ang mga akusasyon ni Ador Mawanay na kasalukuyan noong nagpi-press conference sa katabing silid”, ay kaawa-awa siya.

Minsan pa raw ay humarap sa kanya si Mary Ong alias Rosebud, na dalawang beses siyang binisita sa PNP-IG Office, at hinikayat siyang idawit si Lacson sa droga at kidnapping gaya ng kanyang mga paratang sa media, at bibigyan raw siya nito ng 250,000 US dollars, kung saan ipinangalandakan daw ni Ong na ang pamaha;laan pa ng Estados Unidos ang siyang magbibigay ng ganoong salapi.

Dahil nga sa ayaw niyang magpagamit, siya’y patuloy na detenido, nguni’t nagluwag-luwag na noong 2003, hanggang sa maka-alis nga siya ng kampo, at inisip na lumisan na ng Pilipinas.

Noong Disyembre 17, 2002, muli na naman daw dinala si Dumlao sa tanggapan ni Corpus sa ISAFP, kung saan iniharap siya sa mga nagtipon doong mga opisyales at kilalang tao na sina Ronaldo Puno (dating DILG Secretary ni Erap, nguni’t nang mga panahong iyon ay hindi pa naibabalik sa pwesto ni GMA), NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco (pumanaw na noong 2006), DOJ Kalihim Hernando Perez, PDEA Director Anselmo Avenido, Chief PNP Hermogenes Ebdane, Former Chief PNP Roberto Lastimoso, at isang Col. Davila ng ISAFP, at si Victor Corpus mismo.

Halos si Corpus daw ang nag-monopolyo ng miting, kung saan sinabihan siya sa harap ng mga nabanggit, “Sige, magdiretsahan tayo. Kung hindi ka tutulong sa amin, ibibigay ka naming kay Ping para patayin ka na. Ayaw namin ang katotohanan. Kung amin ka, dapat total support at i-pin down mo si Ping. Bibigyan ka namin ng magandang buhay at posisyon. Andito lahat ng makakatulong sa iyo. Pero kung hindi, magkaka-leche-leche na ang buhay mo. Nagkakaintindihan ba tayo…?”

At pinilit pa daw ni Corpus na “aminin mo na ang pagpatay kay Dacer at Corbito, kay Gemma Soronda at magtestigo ka sa Kuratong Balelelng para magkaintindihan tayo. Ituro mo na si Lacson ang nag-utos.” At inutusan si Col Davila, na dalhin si Dumlao sa kanyang opisina.

Sadyang dapat na malaman ang buong katotohanan ukol sa kasong ito, at sa pagpilit ng mga nabanggit na opisyal, at marami pa, na idawit si Lacson at idiin sina Mancao at Aquino sa salang pagpaslang kina Dacer at Corbito. Sa susunod na linggo ay tatalakayin pa natin ang kasong ito.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Kasong Dacer-Corbito

Nakatawag-pansin ang pagkakahuli kina Cesar Mancao at Glenn Dumlao, mga dating opisyal ng Philippine National Police sa Estados Unidos. Si Mancao ay naninirahan sa Florida, kasama ng kanyang pamilya, kung saan siya ay nakapagtayo ng isang maayos na real estate business. Si Dumlao naman diumano ay nahuli sa New York, batay sa isang extradition request ng pamahalaan ng Pilipinas.

Agad nag-umpisa ang mga haka-haka ukol sa karumal-dumal na krimen kung saan idinawit si Ping Lacson, dahil lamang sa ang mga hinuling opisyal ng kapulisan ay mga dati niyang tauhan sa PAOCTF, na siyang buma-bandera noon laban sa mga sindikatong kriminal.

Natatandaan kong kasagsagan ng kampanya ng 2001 nang mahukay ang mga labi nina Dacer at Corbito, at sama sa iba pang black propaganda, ay ginamit ito ng mga kampon ni GMA upang siraan si Lacson. Balisang-balisa ako noon dahil sa ako ang tumtayong campaign manager ni Lacson nung paglahok niya sa pulitika sa pagtakbo bilang senador matapos bumagsak ang panguluhan ni Estrada.

Nagkaroon pa nga ng mga hearing sa Senado nung panahong iyon, at doon ay hinarap ni Ping ang mga anak ni Dacer, kung saan tahasan at walang atubiling sinabi niya na wala siyang kinalaman sa nangyari sa kanilang ama at driver nito. Dahil nga malapit ako kay Lacson, tinanong ko siya kung ano ba ang resulta ng kanilang pag-imbestiga noong panahong iyon. At ang kanyang sagot ay nangyari nga ito noong katapusan na ng Nobyembre, 2000, kung kalian gulung-gulo na ang pamahalaang Estrada na nakasalang sa impeachment. “Tanda mo nga, Lito, na gabi-gabi ay pinatatawag tayo sa mga miting sa Malakanyang ukol sa krisis. Bagama’t naumpisahan ang imbestigasyon ukol sa pagkakadukot kina Dacer, natabunan naman ito ng pagsabog ng LRT at iba pang lugar noong Disyembre 30, na siyang puspusan naming tinarabaho. Pagkatapos nga ay bumagsak na ang pamahalaang Estrada noong Enero 19, 2001.”

Sinikap kong tanungin noon si Cesar Mancao nang magkita kami minsan sa Estados Unidos, taong 2006. Maayos na ang pamumuhay niya roon, bilang isang realtor. Kasama ko ang aking kumpare na kaibigan din ni Cesar at isang Fil-Am na pulis sa Miami na kababayan ni dating Pangulong FVR sa Asingan, Pangasinan, at malapit raw sa kanya.. Sinabi sa akin ni Cesar na tahasang wala siyang kinalaman sa nangyari, at kanya nga lang siya nasangkot ay dahil may mga tauhan sa ilalim niya na diumano’y nasangkot, ayon sa imbestigasyon ng mga awtoridad noong kapanahunan na ni GMA.

Kahapon ay may lumabas na report sa Philippine Daily Inquirer na sinulat ni Norman Bordadora, sa pahina 7 ng pahayagang naturingan. Ang report ni Norman ay batay sa dalawang affidavit na nakuha niya sa records ng kaso. Isa ay sulat-kamay daw ni Glenn Dumlao, na may petsang June 12, 2001, matapos na siya ay madakip.

Ang pangalawa naman ay affidavit na ginawa ni Dumlao noong Mayo 20, 2003, kung saan sinalaysay ni Dumlao na siya ay pinilit lamang na magsagawa ng “fabricated documents” tulad ng naturang salaysay na sulat-kamay, ng mga opisyal noon ng PNP, katulad raw ni Reynaldo Berroya.

Sinabi niya na pilit na pinadidiin sa kanya sina Lacson, Mancao at Aquino sa kasong Dacer-Corbito, bagama’t hindi raw totoo.

Ano ba talaga ang misteryong bumabalot sa pagkakapaslang kina Dacer at Corbito? Tanda ko pa na may ilang araw bago nangyari ang insidente ng pagkakadukot, naging panauhin ni Pangulong Estrada si Bubby Dacer sa Malakanyang. Sinamahan siya ni noo’y congressman ng Kalookan na si Baby Asistio, na malapit na malapit kay Erap. Kailan ko nga lamang nalaman na si Dacer at Asistio pala ay mag-balaeng magturingan dahil sa anak ng kapatid ni Asistio na si Nene Henson ang siyang napangasawa ng anak na babae ni Dacer.

Matapos makaharap si Erap, at paalis na sila ng Malakanyang, nilapitan ako ni Dacer, na kaibigan ko rin dahil isa siyang media practitioner, at inakbayan pa ako. Sabi niya, “Brother, ayos na kami ni Presidente mo.”

Voices of despair

“The year is closing and yet we still have the same issues over and over again. We always try to look for a better tomorrow, keep our hopes up, but the evil that men do in government always prevails. Recycled politicos, same faces, same names, same agenda, which is to keep themselves rich and be above the law…(even) new officials are now bolder than ever --- abandoning principles and not upholding what is just…bouncing from union to union to preserve their (privileged) existence. To both, blood money passes their hands without any sense of decency, and without any regard for those of us who bleed, who can barely make it to the next meal.

“When will this zarzuela ever end?”

The anguish is evident in the letter from Ed Landicho, who wrote us in reaction to several columns.

De La Salle University President Armin Luistro, in an interview after the convocation where an ailing but hopefully recovering Cory Aquino spoke before the youth, is himself quite pained:

“I am worried with the evil around us. They make us look like fools. Once the nation loses its values, it loses its soul.

And then my good friend Armin asks, “How do we resurrect the Philippines? Have we become a party to the problem instead of the solution?”

Actor Diether Ocampo, who has conscripted himself into the “I am Ninoy” campaign, so as to make the youth more pro-active in the affairs of this benighted nation, like the young Ninoy did in his time and up to his assassination 25 years ago, still pins his hopes in the electoral system. In that same forum, he asked the youth to register and vote in 2010. “Don’t wonder why our life is like this. You have to vote. Change must come from you”, the young actor said.
Ocampo is trying to be “politically correct”. He probably realizes that the owners of his home studio are under the gun from the powers that be, and those from the other network where he is rumoured to be signing up next are very friendly with the resident evil in Malacanang. But if he truly examines the system on which he tries vainly to pin his hopes upon, he would realize that the rottenness is all over, and that the system must be dismantled before any real change can happen in this thoroughly benighted land.
In the news channel of Ocampo’s current network, a public service blurb is flashed during station breaks, where my good friend Karina Constantino-David keeps saying, “Drastic reforms are needed”, with very clear emphasis on the “drastic”. She too, is in pain. This is certainly a Philippines much worse, much poorer, much more un-patriotic, much more values-perverted than when her father Renato of highly revered memory, used to write and warn a generation of foolhardy men and women.
Would the elections of 2010, assuming they take place, bring us any closer to real change?
The system is fraught with obstructions to meaningful change arising out of electoral choice. The Comelec has not even cleansed himself, nay, not even any attempt to exorcise the demons of Garci in the woodwork. They are still there, ready to sell filched ballots and election returns for a price, ready to manipulate ER’s and certificates of canvass, to whoever has both the money and the immorality to do so.
And pray tell, have we rid ourselves of those conscienceless politicians, mostly dynasts, local as well as national, for whom everything is just a matter of price? Electoral choice has thus become hopelessly corrupted, and don’t tell me those pricey computers Melo and his commissioners now ululate about are the answer.
Even now, if SWS and Pulse Asia are to be believed, the front-runners for the presidential race are men whose political careers leave little if any inspiration for change. One was elected on the basis of familiarity in the boob-tube, and as vice-president has not spoken up against any of the evils that in his broadcast days he at the very least made pretensions to denounce. Another is a former president who had his time, and failed to use his awesome political capital to effect meaningful change, unable to shun the hedonistic profligacy imbibed as an actor, even as he had been gifted by the adoring masses with the mandate to effect change. Still another survey leader is just a quintessential trapo, with no loyalty except to the protection and aggrandizement of his pecuniary interests, and who thinks that politics is nothing else but masquerading as pro-poor in advertisements paid for by lots and lots of money.
These men, I presume Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento hopes to inveigle into a series of debates? What in heaven’s name would that spectacle amount to?
So will elections in 2010 provide any hope for meaningful change? Perish the thought.
Money, whether Arroyo’s or anybody else’s, will just buy deceitful advertisements, and buy senatorial candidates, buy congressmen and governors and mayors, and an army of operators and “volunteers” during a 90-day orgy of peddling false hopes, a phantasmagoria stupidly regarded as “democratic choice”.
Reading through the lines of pronouncements made by the few erudite bishops of our Church, you could see that even to them, the kind of elections we have in this country do not, and will not, provide any reason to hope.
What about rallies, the way people did it rightly in Edsa Uno, and wrongly in Edsa Dos? Reader Mon Sagullo does not believe these would yet work ---“To rally a famished citizenry too busy in trying to survive to put a stop to their Pavlovian existence is futile. As for those who can, just go ahead and do it. “
In the confines of his prison cell, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim writes, “Long starved of good governance, the Filipino people should now act to reclaim their dignity, remove the pretender from power, and steer the nation towards the path of greatness…through radical reforms and restructuring.”
Another reader, Mon Mayuga, faithfully monitoring every political development in his beloved land from far-away Germany, quotes Cicero in his reproach of Catiline, “Quondam abutere patientia nostra?” (How long will you abuse our patience?) and suggests to the people of the benighted land, “Hippocratic solutions” as the last resort.

“ (To)those idealistic officers in the military who value honor, duty and country”, Mayuga says, “for extreme diseases, extreme strictness of treatment is most efficacious”.

And to clergymen, he says, “Prayer indeed is good, but while calling on the gods, a man should himself lend a hand”

“We the people should not be resigned, as if we have surrendered any attempt to make her go. We cannot and we must not suffer her (during) her whole lifetime”, Mayuga avers.

I now go back to Danny Lim, who cries, that “with a subservient Congress which frustrates the impeachment process at every turn and some Supreme Court justices willing to do her bidding, then the coast is clear --- our political fate is sealed.”

And then he adds the final touch of bitter denouement ---“I dread the thought that our best bet is for GMA to die of old age”.

What then are we to do when we are assailed by such voices of despair, and many more that we gather in our seminal encounter with the evils that plague the land?

Said the bishops…”the TIME to act is NOW”.