Thursday, June 25, 2009

The great disconnect

I have read several poll opinion surveys done in the past year or so, as well as focused group discussion (FGD) results done at the behest of various candidates for national office.

Unless the trends are reversed, the future of this country could be very depressing indeed. Electoral choices have become a function of “kababawan”. The average voter from the lower C, D and E income levels have very few sources of adequate information to make a reasoned and reasonable choice on the kind of leaders who would run this country at these crossroads of our collective destiny.

Despite reams and reams of printed space denouncing corruption in the country, and equivalent air time exposing instances thereof, and despite Senate investigations of unending scandals, the lower C, D and E income levels who altogether comprise 90% of the electorate, do not seem to understand the connection between levels of corruption and the poverty that has kept them in unending bondage.

Corruption ought to be one of the most understandable issues. It has hounded us since after the Pacific War, beginning with scandals in the handling of surplus goods left behind by the Americans. Leaders of the then reigning and newly-formed Liberal Party had been accused of making money in vehicles, steel sheets, war materiel, even liquor. When layer upon layer of abuse of power and privilege got exposed, no less than Senate President Jose Avelino, also the president of the LP, justified it all by saying “What are we in power for?” in a Malacanang caucus. That infamous statement scandalized the nation, along with charges on the Senate floor where a neophyte senator, Lorenzo Tanada Sr. showed photocopies of cancelled checks payable to Avelino or his wife. That eventually led to his fall from power.

President Elpidio Quirino was an honest president, with a string of pioneering infrastructure projects that laid the foundation for our future economic growth, but he was victim of a propaganda hoax about a golden orinola and a 5,000 peso bed. The orinola (bedpan) turned out to be stainless steel and the bed a simple brass headboard, but in those times, people believed the worst. President Magsaysay died from a plane crash before any scandal touched him, and President Carlos P. Garcia was likewise charged by his opponent, Vice-Pres. Diosdado Macapagal, with alleged sins of corruption. At the end of his reign, all Garcia had was a new home, described as palatial, but actually nothing more than a comfortable abode in what is now Bohol Avenue beside the ABS-CBN compound. Garcia’s only offspring, Linda led an extremely simple life with husband Nanding Campos until her death a decade ago. Macapagal was charged with corruption likewise, his brother Angel, later a congressman of their Pampanga district, tarred as his bagman. The former president eventually retired to a Forbes Park home, yet in fairness, did not show any ostentation after his term.

It was Ferdinand Marcos who, having ruled for two decades, became the cynosure of corruption issues, side by side with the extravagant lifestyle of his first lady, Imelda. To this day, Marcos. whom history will perhaps judge in better light like Quirino, is still touted as the most corrupt. Until Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her first gentleman came along to compete. Of course, Joseph Estrada was ousted after two and a half years, also because of charges of corruption.

In fine, Filipinos have lived with corrupt leaders, or those perceived to be corrupt since the end of the Second World War six decades ago. But they still continue electing corrupt people. There is a great disconnect here. Everybody and his mother rants against corruption, but the corrupt continue to fool the people about their “clean and honest” intentions. They take the people for a ride, and for as long as the people get free joyrides every now and then, they are content.

Is it because of poverty? Is it because the daily grind for survival has become so desperate that the poor are unable to be more lofty and more discerning in their demands upon the character and integrity of their public servants?

In survey after survey, the single most important asset of a would-be leader is “matulungin sa mahihirap”. In previous climes, people would at least inquire about the provenance of the “tulong”. These days it would seem, basta’t matulungin, ayos, and never mind if the provenance is dubious. Never mind if it came from the public till, provided the leader “shares”. And never mind as well if the sharing is so egregiously unfair, as in all the poor get are scraps and leavings from the tables of the greedy.

People take it as a matter of course, when the wives, kabits and children of their corrupt leaders openly flaunt their ill-gotten wealth. Jaded they have become, no longer scandalized by such open display of extravagance. Even bishops of various churches suck up to the powerful.

And these show in the surveys of those who present themselves as “presidentiables”. In recently-held FGD’s, a presidentiable who has been charged with using his high office to re-align a road so that he and his family corporations would profit immensely has used the airwaves to bombard the public with a non-sequitur --- “Dahil galing sa mahirap, tumutulong sa mahirap”. And it would seem that people believe him and his alleged generosity. Of course it is early days, as the full story of his self-dealing and abuse of power has yet to effectively unravel, the Senate being in recess until the last week of July this year. But right now, he has been using hundreds of millions, perhaps almost a billion by now, in glitzy and expensive commercials to perhaps insulate himself from the oncoming dirty truth.

A president convicted of plunder and pardoned immediately thereafter goes around throwing candies to the children of the lumpen, and adoring crowds still believe that he is their saviour from poverty. Even if his wanton lifestyle had been uncovered in full monty just about nine years back. People never learn.

Or is it because a succession of failed presidencies, all charged with corruption, their own or their kin’s, has fortified the belief that “pare-pareho lang silang lahat”, and the better attitude is simply to partake of the leavings? Have we become a country obsessed with “balato”? Kay babaw naman ng kaligayahan.

A senator who abjured his 200 million pork barrel allocation is not appreciated except by a few decent souls in academe and civil society. Politicians shun him because “wala namang pakinabang diyan”. And the ordinary man-on-the-street chides him --- “sana kinuha na lang niya at itinulong sa mahihirap”. A nation of mendicants unable to discern right from wrong, it seems, is what we have degenerated into.

The question is --- in the eleven months prior to the 2010 elections, if at all they are held, will people be able to connect the dots, between corruption and their miserable state? Will they be able to discern character and competence beyond thirty-second commercials and two-minute scripted interviews of Boy Abunda that cost hundreds of millions, soon billions? Will they yet see through “para sa mahirap” pledges repeated ad nauseam? Will our politics ever mature?

I hold no candle for the 2010 elections. If Norberto Gonzales’ oft-repeated pining for a “transition council” would only be “reformist” with revolutionary zeal, and not a mask of maggots, even I would support.

But until such an ideal presents itself, and until the same is able to cut the Gordian knot of abuse of power that has bedevilled this benighted land for decades on end, then we just have to muddle through and hope that the next leader, if he is able to mount the political stage despite Gloria and her coven, is the “least evil” among the lot.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Panukala ni Norberto

Sa ating pitak sa Pahayagang Malaya kahapon, inilista natin ang mga maaring gawin ni Donya Gloria upang palawigin ang kanyang kapangyarihan. Sa maikling pananalita, ang mga ito ay sumusunod:

Con-Ass, na kapag itinuloy ng mga alipores niya sa mababang kapulungan matapos ang kanyang SONA sa Hunyo 27, 2009, ay maaring maisampa sa Korte Suprema. Sa kanilang pagtaya, dahil “hawak” niya ang marami dito, lulusot ang tiwaling interpretasyon ng mga taga kamara. Nguni’t wala nang oras para ito maituloy bago maghalalansa 2010. Kaya pagkatapos na ng halalan aamyendahan ang Saligang Batas.

Problema, papayag ba ang mahahalal na pangulo sa 2010? Maski pa sabihin nating “bata” ni Donya ang manalo, kapag may bagong hari, may bagong gawi, may bagong ugali. Ngayon, kung ang habol lang naman ni Gloria ay huwag siyang makasuhan lalan ng kanyang pagkarami-raming kasalanan sa bayan, e baka tumawad ito ng “permanent” o habang-buhay na immunity sa lahat ng nanungkulang pangulo. Kaya lang, papayag ba ang “public opinion”? Lalabanan ba naman ng bagong pangulo ang public opinion na ito?

Di kaya, tutal e malabo naman ang sistema ng halalang ipa-iiral ng Comelec sa Mayo 10, 2010, e magkakaroon ng “failure of elections”. Maga-alburuto ang mga tao, sampu ng mga kandidatong hindi maipu-proklama dahil na nga sa “failure of elections”. Ang siste, sino ang uupong “Acting President” matapos ang Hunyo 30, 2010, kung kailan tapos na ang termino ni Donya, ni Noli, maging ang pangulo ng Senado at speaker ng Kamara? Walang malinaw sa Saligang Batas na nasa “line of succession” ang Punong Mahistrado ng Korte Suprema, na hindi naman halal ng bayan. Masama pa nito, isa ring “Acting Chief Justice” ang nakaupo matapos ang halalan, dahil magre-retiro si CJ Puno sa Mayo, 2010.

Kanya, maaring sa panahong ito ay pumasok ang “emergency” rule, dahil sadyang may emergency, may kaguluhan. At maaring ito ang gawing paraan upang mapalawig ang kapangyarihan ni Donya lampas-lampas sa kasumpa-sumpa niyang terminong “legal”.

Pero, hintay muna. Ano naman itong ilang beses nang pinagsasasabi ni Norberto Gonzales, ang National Security Adviser ni Donya Gloria, na dapat daw ay magkaroon ng isang “transition government” na pamumunuan ng isang konseho, na pamumunuan naman ni Donya Gloria? Miyembro daw dapat ay mga retiradong heneral, mga kaparian, mga negosyante, atbp., para daw gumawa ng mga mahahalagang reporma bago pa mag-halalan sa 2010. Bale ba, ngayon na raw!

Sa madaling salita, lantarang ipina-panukala ni Norberto na buwagin ang kasalukuyang pamahalaan, iwaksi ang kasalukuyang Saligang Batas, at magtatag ng isang pamahalaang “rebolusyonaryo”, na pamumunuan pa mandin ni Donya?

Nguni’t hindi naman siya pinipigilan ng palasyo. Sa normal na pamunuan, matagal na siyang sinibak. Ang panukala niya ang siyang lantarang pagpapatotoo sa mga kinatatakutan ng mamamayang Pilipino, na sadyang ayaw ni Donya Gloriang kailanman ay bumaba sa pwesto. Ayaw isuko ang kapangyarihang hiram.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Never can say goodbye

Option One: Get the House of Representatives to convene itself into a constituent assembly after her “last” State of the Nation Address. She might be able to twist the arm of one or two senators to sweeten the pot, but what matters is that a justiciable controversy arises that will trigger a petition to the Supreme Court, which will then have to rule on the constitutionality of the interpretation of the overwhelming majority of the House on the manner of convening to propose amendments to the Constitution.

The Supreme Court may issue a restraining order, which means that material time may pass before they can propose amendments, approve the same, and finally, ratify these in a referendum. Doing all these will no longer be materially possible. Besides, a special appropriation for the holding of a plebiscite will not happen without the Senate cooperating, and from where I sit, that is next to impossible.

Assuming the Supreme Court, packed as it is by Gloria’s appointees, decides that Congress can convene as a constituent assembly on the basis of a three-fourths vote of the joint total membership of both houses, and does so before the 2010 elections, then clearly, the “legal” way is established. It will thus be left to the representatives of the people elected in the May 10 elections to forthwith convene as such. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo shall by then be a member of the House, representing the second district of Pampanga. From such perch does she hope to pull the strings, and her puppets could then ordain a switch to a parliamentary system.

But as there is a newly-elected president, this assumption is fraught with risk. Bagong hari, bagong ugali. The new president dictates who will be speaker of the house, unless he is willing to share this power with his benefactress, the former president, which is not likely. Not even if it is Noli, or Gibo.

Variants of the shift to the parliamentary system, which she hopes the newly elected “hari” may agree to: Variant One --- a French model, where he is the supreme leader, and she is COO, as prime minister. Variant Two --- at the very least, amend the Constitution to provide lifetime immunity from suit to all presidents, past or present. The newly elected president may agree, but will public opinion accept such shamelessness?

Oh, giving up is so very hard to do…oooh (to paraphrase an old Burt Bacaharach song). It’s really hard to say goodbye to power, ain’t it?

Option Two: Since likelier than not, charter change cannot be pushed before the scheduled elections, it will be important to ensure that the next president elected on May 10, 2010, will be either “hers” or will be soft on her.

Option 2.1: Is it Noli, who ranks high in the surveys whom she will anoint as her candidate? Right now, she isn’t in election mode, and he isn’t in the mood to seek her “kiss of death”. Yet. When the arithmetic of resources plus machinery is figured into the equation, and when the configuration of the opposition challengers is clear, Noli might soften and want to be her endorsed.

Option 2.2: Take a limb on Gibo. Which means heaven and earth will need to be moved to make him win, as I don’t see a 1 percentage point shoot up to double digit between now and November, even December, unless she gets to buy SWS (but Mahar Mangahas is reputedly close to Manny Villar), or Pulse Asia, or PSRC, certainly not whatever “center” Ed Malay and other groups claim they are.

Option 2,3: Make side bets. Whoever is the “official” candidate of Gloria’s PaLaKa, she could always detour with cozy arrangements with so-called opposition candidates. The Nacionalistas would surely bite. The NPC might be willing to talk, but their presidential candidate may not want to destroy himself or herself, young as they yet are. The Liberals? Perish the thought. As for Erap, the Supreme Court will deal with that.

But whichever option, the question persists --- can they be trusted to “protect” her, even against the onslaught of fierce public opinion? Will street-smart Noli, never mind Gibo who cannot likely win, or transactional Villar, be true to whatever commitment is forged? Didn’t Villar, handpicked by Erap as speaker, impeach him because of public clamor? Surely the lady does not forget.

There is an escape route. She and her family could always leave the country when no one is looking. When the preparations for the inauguration of the new president are in full swing, she can always leave for Cartagena or elsewhere in Latin America, maybe Paraguay, or Portugal, never to return. Bye, bye, Pilipinas, without waiting for the “transfer” of power. She won’t be missed anyway.

If she lives to the ripe old age her mother and her father reached, exile for a decade or more can be difficult. Besides, with the world becoming smaller and smaller, what are the guarantees she could run away forever? Pinochet could not. Fujimori could not. And suicide is un-Catholic.

Oh, giving up is so very hard to do, isn’t it? How can one ever say goodbye?

Option 3: The automated elections are after all a disaster waiting to happen. A thousand people will line up to get a double-side printed ballot in hardly readable font, shade the dots beside a listing of some 300 choices, line up once more to insert these into a single machine, hah! Many will be unable to vote, many ballots will be spoiled, even the printing could be made to go haywire. With a million and one problems on or even before E-Day, expect the clueless Comelec to turn belly up. We discussed this last Thursday in this same space --- failure of elections.

Every candidate, from councillor to mayor, to board member to governor to congressman to senator, not to mention the presidential candidates, even the party-list groups will be indignant. And we have a multiplicity of these characters. See what happened in Iran because Ahmadinejad imported “Garci”? And we have no Ayatollah to silence the crowds, who in any case are not yet silenced.

With Congress unable to proclaim because of the failure of elections, with the board of canvassers also unable to proclaim local winners yet undetermined, there will be total chaos the evening of May 10, 2010, and every day thereafter. There won’t be a numero dos to succeed, as he will be a candidate for president, and in any case, his term expires, just like her, come noon of June 30, 2010. The current Senate President’s term is also up, and with the failure of elections, he will likewise not be proclaimed. The Senate may be a continuing body, but will the twelve remaining senators be able to convene? In 1972, all some brave souls could do was pose for a photograph before a padlocked Congress --- the rest were either in the stockade, or exiled, or too timid. Ditto for the House. All of them are functus oficio come June 30, 2010. As for the current Chief Justice, his term is up by May 2010, and there will be an acting primus inter pares, as Dona Gloria could no longer appoint in the twilight of her constitutional reign. Besides, how many divisions does the Chief Justice command?

The perfect recipe for emergency rule. She will still be commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces until June 30. With Delfin Bangit as the Chief of Staff, and the Class of 78, of which she is honorary “mistah” and patroness in the strategic commands, can they pull it through? Maybe. Just maybe.

Really so hard to say goodbye.

Option 4: Strike when they least expect. Which means sooner than 2010. That’s what Norbert, her national insecurity adviser is loudly proposing. A transition government. Transition to perpetuation.

Secret “societies”, cabals or covens if you wish to call them, in the Byzantine bowels of the stinking palace and Camp Aguinaldo are weighing these options. The “predicate” can easily be laid. A few strikes here, an ambush or two there. A few bombings here, a few “terrorist” attacks there. All these can be stage-managed. Marcos did it in 1972. Why ever not his gloriannic reincarnation? She is as tough, if not tougher. And she has no limits. He blinked in 1986. She does not even know the meaning of the word, not after Hello Garci and “I am sorry”. Not after Hyatt Ten. Not after February 25, 2006. She has passed it all.

Just a golpe. A coup-me scenario, where she turns out to be the secret coup plotter herself.
Arrest whoever needs to be arrested. Neutralize them before they can counter-attack, if at all. Declare a bank holiday to freeze all liquid assets of the resistance. Condone all loans of soldiers and the police, whether for housing or whatever. Double their salaries. That should make them happy, and loyal to their commander-in-chief, forever and ever.

Come up with immediate appeasement measures. Remove E-Vat on petrol, on medicines. Order the NFA to sell rice at l5 pesos per kilo. These will presage more “revolutionary” reforms. She could announce a shift to federal government, which should make the Americans and the Arabs and Malaysia happy, since that would mean the ancestral domain issue they are pushing will finally be realized. Like Elizabeth Regina, she could name a privy council composed of the clergy, perhaps my lord bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, one of her favorites, plus a retired general, plus a Protestant bishop, plus a high-profile businessman, plus a co-opted senator here, a co-opted governor there will be announced as among those who would advise her on “needed policy reforms to alleviate poverty, distribute wealth equitably, and all that ek-ek. A compact, appointive legislature of toadies and stooges with malleable character would suit her fine.

“A new day has begun!”, she will gloriously announce. Just like Juan Peron and his Evita shouted from the balcony of the Casa Rosada when Gloria was not even born.

Unthinkable? Why then does she return Norbert’s prognostications with the silence of the Sphinx? No slap on the wrist, no tape on his mouth? She could just shout “calla te”, and throw him a banana. But she does not.

As supra-“intelligent” Lorelei who speaks for her would say, “respect her privacy”, while she mulls her options, whether in the lahar flatlands of her “holy” land, or in the gardens of Brasilia, or the baluartes of Cartagena where there are no OFW’s to bother her.

Never can say goodbye.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On “maligning” The Class of ‘78

Reader Herbie sent me through e-mail his comments to “Your Article of June 10 on PMA Class ‘78”. It actually came out on June 11 in this paper. Be that as it may, I have taken the liberty of printing excerpts of his letter, and my brief reply to him.

But first, it just crossed my mind that today is the birthday of Jose Rizal. And I guess the benighted land will hardly remember. Often I have wondered why we honour our heroes more in their death than on the date of their birth. Why do we recall Rizal on December 30, when soldiers of colonial Spain shot him at Bagumbayan? Why do we honour Ninoy Aquino on August 21, when he was assassinated in the tarmac of the airport that now bears his name? How many except family and friends know that Ninoy was born on November 27?

Historians of course will say that it is their martyrdom at the altars of freedom and democracy that we celebrate. And we Christians are also taught that death is glorious because it finally re-unites us with our Divine Maker.

I guess this reasoning also explains why Lupang Hinirang ends with the line, “Ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo” instead of “Ang pumatay ng dahil sa iyo”, or even the more realistic and positive “Ang mabuhay ng dahil sa iyo”. Except that all are basically untrue these days. Who would die for country? Who would kill for country? And worse, who among us truly live by the ideals upon which our forefathers built a country?

* * *
So let me now get to Herbie’s letter (he gave his full name, but as I did not seek his permission to print, I shall protect his full identity. He begins by describing my article as “lopsided”, then states that he “knows these fine officers that you mentioned in your article”. They have “sterling track records in their careers and are very qualified to be in their positions”. (Perhaps they have. I never said they are not qualified, and I am certainly not in a position to swear by sterling records, neither to judge dross from 99.99% pure.)

Herbie has fulsome praises for Chief Superintendent Boysie Rosales, and cites one or two major accomplishments. (A good friend of mine tells me that Rosales is indeed good, but I never said he is not. All I stated is that he and his subordinates as the new NCRPO Chief overdid the handling of the investigation of the suicide of Trina Etong, to the point where ordinary mortals like me wondered if he was following directives from his Dona, his “honorary” mistah in the Class of 1978. In full gore on television, ordinary mortals like me saw how Boysie’s boys harassed and even manhandled Ted Failon’s relatives, and to this day I shudder at the thought of how Boysie’s boys will handle other “oppositionists” and “critics” should Dona Gloria unleash her fury against us.)

Herbie accuses me that “since you have maligned this class, you were not thorough in listing all the generals in the class”. (I did not malign this class. Maybe I was not thorough in listing all the generals in the class. Maybe I forgot some of them. But did I malign the class? Unless associating them with their honorary “mistah” is maligning them.)

He twits me for not mentioning Marine Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban. Forgive me for the oversight. A friend passed on the list to me, and I did not research any further because of deadline pressures. Nor did I mention that several members of the class were instrumental in catching terrorists and other such criminals. Well, I am certain that as this is the task of all who swear by the noble profession of arms in the service of country and people, there are also other fine soldiers and policemen who have done their utmost, not necessarily confined to those who belong to the Class of ’78.

“If this class is truly blessed and favoured, then all of them should be generals right now. But that isn’t the case as the merit system in the AFP promotions program still remains as the reference for promoting any officer to the next rank regardless of whether he is a peemayer or not.”, Herbie states.

Oh yeah? There is no politicization in the promotions system, in this most political of all administrations? Without referring to any PMA class, or any non-PMA class for that matter, shouldn’t I respond to Herbie by saying “Tell that to the Marines”? Just a case in point --- Jonathan Martir has been AWOL for a year and a half, staying in the US of A for such a protracted period. But even a co-layperson in military affairs like Ellen Tordesillas wonders why he is so favoured despite clear impediment, and even touted to be the next commanding general of the Marines.

Then Herbie segues into the “honorary” status of PGMA. He twits me further by stating that “even your ex-boss Erap…along with his sons” are honorary members of other classes.

Now I have always wondered why the Academy has perpetuated this practice of “adopting” politicians and other “honorables” as classmates. Now pray ask, isn’t this akin to the oh so Filipino practice of getting politicians to be “ninongs” and “ninangs” so that, per the “damaged” culture, he or she will be of future help, in promotions and other things?

“And so, sir, please check your facts first before you make your scathing accusations and innuendoes about the PMA Makatarungan Class of 1978”, Herbie tells me. Then he adds, “…I hope you will leave this group alone because they do not deserve this harsh criticism”.

Whatever was so harsh about what I wrote Thursday last week? Unless of course, association with GMA is harsh criticism? Pardon me, but I thought all along they are proud of such association. But then again, the decency in their hearts, probably chafes at the association with one so politically and morally indecent, and for that, assuming it be so, I truly apologize.

Which makes me wonder of course, if PMA Makatarungan Class of 1978 will in the end be “makatarungan” to the people, and not to their honorary class member. All they have to do is remember what they have been taught as cardinal principle in the Academy, “that a cadet does not lie, does not cheat, and does not steal, and will not tolerate the same”. The fundamental basis of “katarungan” after all, is truth. And “truth”, my grade school teacher taught me, is the opposite of “lie”.

And we hapless civilians who live, along with the soldiers and their families in this land benighted by Gloria, can only pray and hope that that principle taught in the Academy will be in their minds before they accept and follow patently illegal and immoral orders that shall come from their “PGMA” (not mine).

* * *

Let me end this weekend article on a happy note.

My good friend and komadre, Adelaida Villaraza Mayo, “Lady” to all of us who count her as one of our dearest friends, was recently installed as Dean of the College of Home Economics of the University of the Philippines.

Lady has a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design, followed by a masters’ degree in Philippine Studies, majoring in Society and Culture, and in 2004, she was awarded a doctorate in Philippine Studies, all from that premier center of academic excellence in the country, the UP.

My warmest congratulations to Lady, and of course, to the husband she has lovingly and patiently “put up with”, my school chum Boy, and their only daughter Kyla, now a college student also in the best school in the land.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Disaster waiting to happen

The candidates are warming up for the starting gun. Others are yet on the way to the stadia, and there will be some 240,000 of these voting precincts spread throughout the country come May 10, 2010. It will be the first time we shall have automated elections on a nationwide scale. A gaggle of commissioners in charge of the political Olympics in this benighted land pin their hopes on some 80,000 machines which shall receive the accomplished ballots, issue a paper record similar to the cash register receipt we get when we buy goods at the supermarket. The voter shall then deposit this paper record in the ballot box. After the polling closes at seven in the evening, the machine tallies the votes cast, and transmit the same to the municipio, the capitolio, and the Comelec main office. In less than 48 hours, or so they aver, the Comelec in Intramuros shall have received the totals, and the winners of the country’s premier sporting event shall be known. Great.

Great? Let’s take a more than cursory look. Most everyone in this country presumes that once the voting is automated, the ghosts of Garci will be expunged from the system, and the phone pals of Garci will not be able to operationalize their evil designs. I am afraid the so-called automated elections of May 10, 2010 is a disaster waiting to happen.

Nowhere in the globe, except perhaps in this benighted land, do we have synchronized elections with choices for as many as 300 names of candidates and parties in the party-list system. Let me enumerate---a voter has to choose one out of 6 or 7 presidential candidates, with perhaps as many vice-presidential candidates. In manual elections, the voter sees a single underlined space for president and another for vice-president, the names of his choice for him to write down. With automated elections, he will be given paper on which is printed, in small font, the names of the dozen or so presidential and vice-presidential wannabes and beside them, small oval spaces which they are supposed to shade. Those shaded spots are what the machine would tally.

But there will also be the names of some 48 or more senatorial candidates, listed alphabetically. Each major candidate for president will need to present 12 candidates, many of them absolute un-worthies. And perhaps five candidates for representative. Plus five or six candidates for governor, and as many vice-governors. Plus five or six names for mayor and likewise their vice-mayor. Plus fifteen or more names for “bokales” or members of the provincial board. Plus maybe thirty candidates for six municipal council posts. How many names are these?

Bueno…7 plus 7 (president and VP) plus 48 (senators), plus 5 (congressman), plus 6 plus 6 (governor and his vice) plus 6 plus 6 (mayor and vice), plus 15 (bokales), plus 30 (councillors) makes a total of 136. Now add to that the list of parties in our party-list system, now around 160. That’s a total of 296, probably more.

Remember, in manual voting, each of these positions are simply printed, with an underlined space on which the voter writes his choices. In the automated system, where both voting and canvass is done through a printed ballot fed into a machine, voters will need to shade an oval space beside the printed names of each of the candidates of each of these positions. So the ballot will contain some 300 names of persons or parties. Go figure how this can be done.

In the manual system official ballot, the fonts used are probably 24. In the automated system, will they use font 8? That will make it extremely difficult for senior citizens with poor eyesight, and worse for those who have not been properly initiated into the new system, as in the country’s hinterlands and islands where the Comelec’s “massive” information program may not connect. The ridiculous alternative is to use large font, but that would make the ballot as long as two meters.

How will it be in the voting centers? The voter goes to his precinct, gets his official ballot, proceeds to the school desk, and shades in the provided ovals his choices for these positions, scanning with his eyes the list of some 300 printed names in small font. Will that take more time than in the manual elections? Has Comelec done a time and motion simulation, using, not James Vergara or some disciple of Garcillano in Intramuros, but Juan de la Cruz from Isla Puting Bato and Petra Dalosig from Lakewood in Zamboanga del Sur?

Then, after accomplishing his ballot, he proceeds to the voting machine, where the votes of four or five precincts will be fed into a single machine for the clustered precincts. Anywhere from 700 to a thousand people will line up to personally feed their ballots into that machine. Try figuring how these will impede the flow of people still lining up to check their names on the voter registry, getting their ballots, having their forefingers blotted with ink, fingerprinting, and other such requisites. Has the Comelec simulated this in a typical voting center? The flow of humans to and from voting machine to the ballot box in the particular precinct where he got his ballot? That printed “receipt” is the only paper trail that Comelec and the courts can use in case there is an electoral protest.

But prior to May 10, the nightmare is really in the printing of the official ballots. There will be specific ballots for each of the 1500 municipalities and 100 or so cities in the country, because the names of candidates are pre-printed. In the past, about the only difference in the ballot for Tandag and the ballot for Barobo in Surigao del Sur is the name of the municipality. Now Comelec has to supply the National Printing Office and all its sub-contractors (NPO can’t handle this by itself), the names of each of the candidates in each of the municipalities and cities of this benighted land. Between the submission of lists and the printing of these names, you will have a monumental headache, and errors, intentional or not. And only on Election Day will the voters and the candidates discover the errors. Too late.

Imagine if the name of Adel Tamano is missed out in the list of senators for some 70 or 80 municipalities in the country? Imagine if it is Prospero Pichay’s name that is omitted? Now think of the governors, the congressmen, the mayors. What if mayoralty candidate Angelo Reyes is not printed in the official ballots for Taguig, and instead finds his in the ballots for San Pedro, Laguna? He, he, he. This has happened in the matter of the LDP sample ballots in the 1992 elections. One man in charge of the logistics of sample ballots for Monching Mitra decided to monkey around with the distribution. Sample ballots of Chavit Singson in Ilocos Sur were found elsewhere in Mindanao, and those of Mindanao were found in Luzon. He switched the distribution, and created consternation on election day. Later they discovered that he had secretly switched his loyalty to FVR.

There are other fears. What if a losing mayoralty candidate instructs his supporters to line up early in the voting precinct, then either delays the process, or even tries to monkey around the machine, by say, putting some kind of glue or adhesive at the bottom of the two-side printed ballot, and “accidentally” jams the machine? Surely there are ways to prevent these, but how and who will foil these nefarious schemes in a land of political cheats?

That is why Gus Lagman and other well-meaning fellows suggested the Open Election System, where voting is manual and only the canvass is computerized. But then, the law wants full automation, and the Comelec shut their ears to Lagman’s fears of a disaster waiting to happen. Besides, Lagman’s proposal would have cost only 4 to 5 billion for PC’s and other paraphernalia, while the budget allotted by Congress is 11.3 billion. The operating rule in government, as we all know is, whatever is appropriated must be spent. Ano ang Comelec, tanga? Magmamalinis? Magtitipid? Hindi uso kay Garci at kay Abalos ang ganyan.

For where is the cheating done? Not so much in the voting process (vote-buying, cadena de amor…one is accepted as a given; the other is something alert watchers for a candidate should be able to foil), but in the canvass, where election return is transferred into a statement of votes and a certificate of canvass which shall be the basis for proclamation of winners. So Gus Lagman says, speed up the canvass through computerized recording and transmission of the election returns as base document. Melo would not listen.

And so, after what seemed like a fairly transparent bidding process, we have Smartmatic, whose machines were used previously in Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela. Do the Venezuelans have synchronized elections too? Do they have as many as 300 candidates and parties to choose from? In the US of A, for instance, there is block voting. A vote for Obama is automatically a vote for Biden. Ditto for governors and mayors, who are elected separately from the president two years after. They elect only two senators for each of their 50 states, who would proceed to Capitol Hill fronting the Mall and Washington’s obelisk. Philippine elections, and its multiplicity of posts stupidly synchronized by a myopically-written Constitution whose appointed members did not bother about systems or plain arithmetic are, well…onli in da Pilipins.

Will Smartmatic, Comelec, the Namfrel, the PPCRV, and the teachers deputized as board of election inspectors be able to operationalize the new system using these newfangled automated innovations smoothly come May 10,2010? Go figure.

Now let me propose this to our Congress:

The Constitution mandates synchronized elections, but the procedures to implement this mandate have been left to Congress, through an Omnibus Election Law and the Automated Elections Law passed in 2008. The implementing rules and regulations were drafted by Comelec and approved by Congress as well.

Why not amend these laws to provide for two separate ballots --- one ballot for President, Vice-President, and Senators, perhaps also the party-list congressmen, A second ballot will be for Congressman, Governor and Vice-Governor, Provincial Board Members, Mayor and Vice-Mayor, as well as Councilors.

The local government ballots, including the district congressman, which is strictly speaking a national office, shall be dropped in a ballot box, to be counted in the manual way, as per previous elections, in full view of the watchers and the voters, after the precinct closes. There will still be an election return, with its manual “taras”, and a certificate of canvass. For 2010, the same old way, because local candidates have the capacity to monitor and watch closely their canvass. They don’t really care what happens to the national candidates beyond distributing their sample ballots.

Only the ballots for national officials will be brought by the voter to the counting machine provided for the clustered precincts. Thus, there will be an automated canvass for the national officials, and a manual canvass for the local officials. The PPCRV and Namfrel should deputize their volunteers to watch the flow from precinct to automated machine, and thereafter, the deposit of the machine-generated paper receipt to a separate ballot box.

After all, the cheating for national officials always happens in the canvass. That is what we have to guard against. Speed in canvass and speed in proclamation thwarts the nefarious schemes of Garci and his generals. That is where automation should be effected.

Higher costs? For the additional ballot box, the paper, the printing of two separate ballots, and the printing of COC’s and ER’s --- yes. But then again, the Smartmatic bid was only some 7 billion pesos right? What happens to the savings of 4 billion pesos? That’s too much money for a massive information campaign. Surely this proposal will not eat up 4 billion pesos more, probably not even half a billion pesos more, minus the tongpats, of course.

Otherwise, prepare for disaster on E-Day. And the consequences of failure of elections.

FPJ at Ping, balik-tanaw

Nagkaroon pa ng tatlong one-on-one na miting sina FPJ at Ping noong buwan ng Marso at Abril. Nguni’t walang pag-usad ang pakikipagkasundo liban lang sa kamustahan. Gaya ng naisulat ko kahapon, parehong ayaw manguna.

Nguni’t isa sa mga miting na ito ay dapat malaman ng taong-bayan. Ito’y inisyatibo ng isang mayamang negosyanteng sumusuporta kay FPJ, nguni’t kaibigan din naman ni Ping. Pareho silang mabutinting sa sasakyan, at malimit magkita sa talyer maski noong martial law pa. Tinawagan nito ang isang mataas na executive sa Makati na kaibigang matalik ni Ping, at nagkasundo sila na anyayahan ang dalawang kandidato sa bahay ng executive.

Nagkamali nang pag-basa sa ugali ni Ping ang negosyante, pagka’t sinabi niya sa executive na paaatrasin nila si Ping, kapalit ng: Una, pagbalik ng mga nagastos na ni Ping sa kanyang pangangampanya (ibig sabihin may kabayaran ang pag-withdraw); pangalawa, pag-usapan na raw ang mga pwesto sa pamahalaan na nais ni Ping at ng kanyang mga ka-alyado; at pangatlo, magbibitaw sila ng pangako na si Ping ang siyang ie-endorso ni Pangulong FPJ bilang kandidato niya sa 2010.

Hindi naging maganda ang pagtanggap ni Ping sa panukala, dahil parang nasaring ang kanyang “self-respect”. Sinabi niya ito sa kaibigang executive, at dahilan doon ay hindi na nagpakita sa miting ang mayamang negosyante. Sa one-on-one na pulong ni FPJ at Ping, binanggit ni Ping ang ukol sa alok ng negosyanteng nasa likod ni FPJ. “Huwag namang tinatanggalan ako ng self-respect. Hindi dapat na parang transaksyunal ang usapan”, wika nito kay FPJ, na agad namang dumistansya at sinabing, “Hindi ko alam iyan”.

Samantala, payabang ng mga taga-taguyod ni FPJ na mananalo ang kanilang kandidato maski pa tumuloy si Lacson. Sobra daw ang lakas ni FPJ sa masa.

Nagkaroon ng “breakthrough” ang patuloy na pagtangkang pag-isahin ang dalawang kandidato nang lumabas ang huling survey noong dalawang linggo bago sa araw ng halalan. Dikit na dikit na si GMA at FPJ, samantalang si Ping ay lumamang ng malaki-laki kay Roco at Eddie Villanueva. Ninerbiyos ang mga supporter ng bawa’t kandidato. Nagtawag ng mabilisang miting ng hating-gabi sa bahay ni Mayor JV Ejercito sa San Juan. Dalawang linggo at tatlong araw na lang ay Araw ng Halalan na.

Naunang dumating si Ping, kasama si Ronnie Zamora, Butz Aquino at ako. Maya-maya ay dumating si Mayor Jojo Binay, at sinabing nasa airport na si FPJ, kasama ni Tito Sotto, at tutungo na rin sa miting.

Bago dumating sa bahay ni Mayor Ejercito si FPJ, nagpulong kami nina Mayor Binay, Ronnie Zamora, Butz Aquino at Ping. May inilatag na “formula” si Zamora upang pagkasunduin ang dalawa. Payag si Ping. Ayos naman ito kay Binay, at imumungkahi kay FPJ pagdating.

Noong dumating na si FPJ, minabuti namin ni Butz na lumabas sa silid, at hayaang si Ping at Ronnie, FPJ at Jojo ang siyang mag-usap. Nasa hapag kainan kami ni Mayor JV, Tito, at Butz, na matamang hinintay kung ano ang mangyayari sa loob ng kulay berdeng music room ni JV at kanyang ina. Matapos ang siguro’y kalahating oras ay lumabas ang apat, at pumayag pala si FPJ sa “formula” na maaga pang napagkasunduan ni Ping at Jojo. Sa usapin ng vice-president, sinabi ni Ping na ipagpatuloy na lang ni Loren ang kandidatura, dahil malaki na raw ang pagod nito sa pagkandidato. Kung baga, sakaling si FPJ ang siyang mapili batay sa “formula” ni Zamora, e di silang dalawa pa rin ang kandidato ng oposisyon. At kung si Ping naman ang itanghal na kandidato ayon sa “formula”, e si Loren ang siya pa ring bise-presidente. Susuportahan na lang nila sinuman ang mapagkasunduang pangulo. Walang pinag-usapang pera, o posisyon --- walang anumang transaksyon. Malinaw ang usapang “under wraps” ang pinag-usapan, at walang maglalabas kaninuman, lalo na sa media.

Sa madaling salita, kung natuloy ang “formula”, magiging Ping-Loren o di kaya’y FPJ-Loren pa rin. Hindi magiging FPJ-Ping o Ping-FPJ. Kaya’t yung mga nagsasabing kung pumayag si Ping na mag-bise kay FPJ, disin sana’y humalili siya sa yumaong “pangulo” ay hindi nalalamn ang kanilang pinagsasasabi.

Kinabukasan ay nagsipagkilos na si Mayor Jojo at Congressman Ronny upang umpisahan ang “formula” sa pakikipagka-isa. Nung gabing iyon ay may konsyerto si Andrea Boccelli sa Araneta Coliseum, at kay daming nagsipagtanong sa akin kung kamusta na ang usapan ng dalawa. Tikom-bibig ako.

Ano pa’t kinabukasan ay lumabas sa nag-iisang pahayagan ang pagpulong sa bahay ni Mayor JV. Malinaw na sinabotahe ang pagpapatuloy ng kasunduan. At alam naming hindi galing sa amin ang pagbubunyag. Batay sa sumulat ng “scoop”, may duda kami kung sino sa kampo ni FPJ ang naglabas.

Bakit malinaw na sinabotahe ang disin sana’y pakikipagkasundo ni FPJ at Ping? Ang ating teoriya ay ilalabas natin sa isang aklat na isusulat sa darating pang panahon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Si FPJ at si Ping: balik-tanaw

Matagal-tagal ko nang nais isulat ang tungkol sa mga one-on-one na mga miting na naganap sa pagitan ng ngayon ay sumakabilang-buhay nang si FPJ at si Ping Lacson, na parehong tumakbo sa panguluhan ng 2004. Ngayong umatras na si Ping ng kanyang kandidatura sa panguluhan ng 2010, siguro’y panahon nang ihayag ito sa sambayanan sa pamamagitan ng pitak na ito.

Noong kalagitnaaan ng Nobyembre, 2003, napagsabihan ako ni Senador Ping Lacson na magpupulong sila ng noon ay hindi pa lumalantad na kandidatong si FPJ. Nasa Amerika ako noon, at hindi ko mapalitan ang petsa ng biyahe ko. Natuloy ang miting, at matapos ang dalawang araw ay nakabalik na ako sa Pinas. Doon ay sinabi ni FPJ na siya’y may balak ngang tumakbo sa panguluhan, nguni’t nais sana niyang magkaroon ng proseso nang pagpili. Minungkahi ni Ping ang kumbensyon. Nagkasundo silang mag-uusap na muli ukol sa pamamaraan ng pagpili, pero may proseso, wika ni FPJ.

Nguni’t minaniobra ng mga kasamahan sa hanay ng oposisyon na hindi magkaroon ng proseso ng pilian. Matapos mag-press conference si FPJ sa Manila Hotel nung sumunod na linggo kng saan isinaad ang kanyang hangaring lumahok sa pulitika, nagkaroon kami ng “unification” meeting sa Shangrila Hotel sa Makati. Wala ang mga kandidato pero nandoon ang mga lider ng oposisyon, maging mga malalapit kay Pangulong Erap. Matapos ang mahaba at mainit na diskusyon, iminungkahi ko na “ikulong” na lang ang dalawa, si FPJ at si Ping, sa isang silid, at lahat kami ay nasa labas. “Hayaan natin silang mag-desisyon, at huwag nating pakialaman”. Kapag lumabas sila doon ay tiyak na may desisyon na. Tumanggi si Sen. Tito Sotto at maging si noon ay Alkalde Jinggoy Estrada. Mangha ako kung bakit ayaw nilang mapag-isa ang dalawang kandidato.

Dahil hindi nga magkaroon ng pagkakasundo, nagpatuloy ang dalawa, sina FPJ at Ping. Itinakwil si Ping ng kanyang lapiang LDP, sa pamumuno ni Sen. Edgardo Angara. Nagpunta kami nina Ping sa Tanay, sa “kulungan” ni Pangulong Estrada, nguni’t tumanggi si Ping na umatras kung walang maayos na proseso. “Masyado naman akong minamaliit”, nabigkas niya kay Erap. “Kung talaga namang siya ang mapipili, susuporta naman ako, pero daanin natin sa wastong proseso, at hindi yung para ka na lang sinabihang – tsupi”, tanda kong sinabi ni Lacson.

Hanggang sa magsimula ang kampanya – Pebrero 10, 2004, wala pa ring kasunduan. Samantala, pinili ng mga kasamahan niya si Senadora Loren Legarda na siyang maging katambal ni FPJ. Minabuti naming huwag nang magkaroon ng kandidato para sa bise-presidente si Ping. Iisa an gaming kandidato sa pagka-senador, si Rep. Carlos Padilla ng Nueva Vizcaya. Noong Enero ay nagpulong muli si Ping at FPJ, kung saan ihinahabilin ni Ping si Padilla na angkinin na niyang “common candidate”. Sa ganoong paraan, magkakaroon ng 11 na kandidato ang kampo ni FPJ at isa sa 12 ay kay Ping. Pumayag si FPJ sa pulungang iyon, na sinaksihan ni Rep. Butz Aquino ng Makati. “Done!”, kagyat na sagot ni FPJ.

Ngunit pumalag ang mga ka-alyado ni FPJ, particular sina Senador Angara at Sotto. Walang nagawa si FPJ. Hitsa-pwera pa rin si Padilla. Minasama ito ni Ping at namin sa kanyang kampo. Bakit nagsalita na siya, e binabawi ng kanyang mga kasamahan, samantalang siya ang kandidato at siya ang magiging pangulo?

Nung nag-umpisa na ang kampanya, nagkaroon na naman ng isang one-on-one miting buwan ng Pebrero. Sabi agad ni FPJ kay Ping, “tumuloy na lang tayo at tignan kung paano ang takbo ng kanya-kantang kampanya”. Walang pinag-usapang “mag-bise ka na lang sa akin”, o anupaman. Tingin naming ay nahihiya si FPJ nab aka nga naman akalain ni Ping ay mini-menos agad ang kanyang tsansa e kauumpisa pa lamang ng kampanya. Binabanggit ko ito dahil sa palaging sinasabi ng marami na sana raw ay tinanggap na lamang ni Ping na maging bise siya ni FPJ.

Hindi ito personal na ini-alok ni FPJ. Media lang ang nagpalawig ng ganitong haka-haka, at sa sapul simula, ang mga nakapalibot kay FPJ na mga tradisyunal na pulitiko ay away na si Ping ang maging bise-presidente ni FPJ.

Iba marahil ang nangyari kung mismong si FPJ ang siyang nag-alok kay Ping. Hindi naman sila ang mga kandidato, nguni’t naging mapag-imbot ang mga nakapaligid kay FPJ. Gayunpaman, hindi tumigil ang dalawa sa pagmimiting ng one-on-one. Ang problema, parehong mahiyain, parehong, kung baga sa psychology, ay “introvert” si FPJ at si Ping. Hindi mangunguna, hindi mangangahas.

Gloria’s “men”

It’s not a case of scrambling for the nearest exit. It’s not panic time. It’s just ensuring there is life after the Dona, assuming, and that’s still a big IF --- the Dona decides to go quietly into the night.

Clearly she won’t, and in another article in this space, soon, we will try to describe Gloria’s options unlimited. But for now, let us assume that the only harm she wants to further inflict upon the nation is running for, and winning, a seat in western Pampanga. There she will be with Mikey (who plans to transfer to the first district of the “holy” land), Dato of the railroad towns of Camarines Sur, Iggy of Hacienda Bacan in Negros perdida, Lulu of the party list whatever (even my friend Jun Lesaca won’t tell me what it represents truly), and why, perhaps even Don Jose Miguel, if some party-list whatever again would adopt him, and earn big bucks in the process. The whole hog in the swine corral that her Speaker Nograles calls “The House of the People”.

Who among her “men”, her boys and girls in the cabinet, will join her? Who will prefer to be in the upper House?

Until the AH1N1 flu has come to epidemic proportions in these islands, Pingkoy Duque of Health seriously thought he could be senator of the realm. But surveys show that despite daily press cons and singing Happy Birthday while washing hands, his numbers remain low. Only 5.1% of the miserable population would vote for him if elections were held in May 2009. Now Pingkoy is being pushed to run for the House, in the district where the town of Aguilar, his father’s own, is located. But against Victor Agbayani? Simple. Ask Victor to go back to the presidencia en Lingayen. Ah, the problems of Lakas-Kampi, er, PaLaKa, or Nagkaisang Kawatan, which Pingkoy, to his credit, is not. He could also run in the district of Rachel Arenas, as Rachel will flip into NPC, but then Gene Tulagan is also there. Sakit ng ulo, but the doctor should know best.

The most tele-genic, well-accomplished in her cabinet at that, Tourism’s Ace Durano of Cebu, scores a relatively high 12.1%, just a shred above Prospero Pichay Jr. at 11.3% voter preference. But that puts Durano’s chances still slim at 20-31 in a Senate where only 12 will be proclaimed. Which makes Ace a bit antsy, except there’s another Durano in the 5th district of Cebu who took over his seat --- papa mismo. Cebuanos are pushing him to run against Gwen the governor, sister to Winston con mucho dinero, daughter of Pabling el Viejo, and incumbent with the most-est to boot. Tell you what, friend Ace. Go for the Senate, but not in the ticket of the humongous party of Claudio and Roquero. Never, never get your hands raised by La Donna, or so Pepe Miranda and Mahar and RJ will advise. If Chiz runs, run under his ticket. You can win.

Ralph Recto of NEDA, because of name recall, and high awareness (96%) with 36.2% conversion to votes, could make it. But he lost in 2007, also with similar chances, because he preferred to sleep with the Dona, as did Tito Sotto, who last I heard is thinking of a re-run in Quezon City (vice-mayor otra vez?), afraid of running for senator because a somersault might be risky. Recto and Sotto are the only cabinet rank officials who one year before the polls figure in the top 12. They can run, and perhaps be welcomed by Manny Villar’s NP. Recto can always say his lolo was once a Nacionalista, and he is after all a fellow in the Wednesday fine dining club whose bills Villar paid.

Edu Manzano who does not possess cabinet rank, unlike his fellow Ilonggo, Buboy Syjuco whose TESDA was queerly elevated to cabinet status (just like Sotto’s Dangerous Drugs Board), might follow in the footsteps of Sen. Bong Revilla, if Pinky Webb will agree. But again, Pinky is too smart to know that my friend Edu, who is as conscientious in his job as he is intelligent, would best be somewhere far from La Donna on proclamation day. Buboy Syjuco though is serious about going for the Senate, even if “Mr. TESDA” and “Tito Buboy” gets voting preference of a measly 2.5%. Dream on!

Ed Ermita will get his dynastic seat back from his daughter Elenita Buhain, the family’s kingdom by the sea in Western Batangas. DPWH’s Hermogenes Ebdane will run for congressman in native Zambales. And the other Hermogenes, Esperon of Garci fame, now PMS Chief, will run in the 5th district of Pangasinan, there to inherit my friend Conrad Estrella’s seat, hopefully with the blessings of El Tabako of Asingan. Conrad is being pushed to run for governor of the huge province likewise. Back to the Agbayani-Estrella political wars their forebears fought, East versus West, but what happens to incumbent first-termer Amado Espino, also PaLaKa?

Leandro Mendoza’s Mark is already the congressman of the fourth district of Batangas, and Papa is not likely to push him out. But the DOTC secretary would prefer to retire in Cebu. (Don’t ask me why Cebu.) Energy’s Angie Reyes will go for city mayor of Taguig, against the wife of incumbent Freddie Tinga, and the wife of Alan Cayetano, Lani, who inherited the congressional seat for a term, but has to run because the dynasty must fight on, with Mr. Itik’s mega-bucks, but naturally.

Hardworking Art Yap of Agriculture will contest PaLaKa’s Eladio Jala in the third district of Bohol, where Art’s wife Carol is from. Both Jala and Yap’s wife are natives of beautiful Loboc. Jala is likely to move to Villar’s NP anyway, which will welcome him with open arms, along with three-term governor Erico Aumentado, who will be speaker of the House if Villar wins. And Nasser Pangandaman of Agrarian Reform will run in Lanao del Sur, after announcing that his Dona Gloria will be Pampanga’s “best” bet for Speaker, and then, Prime Minister.

Gary Teves of Finance wants to be senator, but Pepe Miranda’s Ulat gives him a 42-60 cluster ranking, which is something even my friend Dennis Garcia, with unlimited advertising funds, and my friend Rey David will find difficult to turn into victory. He couldn’t go back to Papa’s district in southern Negros Oriental, because Papa Minyong has already bequeathed that to his apo, Henry Pryde. DTI’s Peter Favila is from Pangasinan, but to contest his tita, Manay Gina de V is unthinkable. Where in the metropolis do you vote, friend Peter?

DSWD’s Dr. Esperanza Cabral is one lady I would wholeheartedly support for senator, but she has no political plans. Selfless service after all is its own reward. And surely DOST’s Estrella Alabastro will just quietly retire into the folds of the academe.

Tukayo Lito Atienza wants to reclaim the City of Manila against the incumbent Fred Lim, but another president’s man, former PNP Chief Sonny Razon, now the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, wants to be the third man in the ring. Who could bring back Manila’s lost glory?

Education’s Jesli Lapus will not get back Tarlac’s first district from his younger brother Bong, and would likely run for senator under the NPC. His vote conversion as of May 2009 is a measly 6% out of an awareness level of 75%, which again means that with an assumed network of teachers, plenty of money for advertising, and a safe distance from GMA, he just might make it.

Raul Gonzalez will go back to native Iloilo, to take over City Hall from Jerry Trenas. To ensure that his son Raulito and Jerry will not fight each other, they divided erstwhile lone district in two --- one for him, one for me, says the 77-year old crusty politico whose wife Pacita used to practice Vicky Belo and Calayan’s craft, sans celebrity airs. Agnes Devanadera, his replacement at DOJ, hopes to be rewarded with a seat in the Supreme Court, and she has till November this year to realize her fondest dream, but what’s this I hear Ombudswoman Mercy also wants to join the legal “venerables”?

Of course SND Gilbert Teodoro wants to be president of the land, in tandem with DILG’s Ronnie Puno as his vice-president, and proudly shall they bear the colours of the PaLaKa.

Have I missed out on any?

My old friend Bert Romulo is old, I suppose. And Lovely would rather travel around the world with him to old haunts like the Plaza del Sol in Madrid, or look at the treasures of the Prado, and sit in the Jardin de Rosas. Two for the road.

And oh yes, there’s Nonoy Andaya who disburses the funds of the people, a.k.a. Dona Gloria’s purse. They’re still trying to add two more districts to Camarines Sur, so that Principe Dato and Nonoy will not fight over hegemony in the railroad towns of Louie Villafuerte’s kingdom. Nonoy wisely knows he cannot run for senator, recalling how his dad, the friendly Rolly, lost in 1998 pursuing that quest. And there are no cities in his district that he will find worthy of his presence, nor can he contest El Ray for governor.

And Norbert of Dona Gloria’s insecurity? What is he and his boss, Jesuit Archie Intengan, plotting next?

But who will run for senator in Gibo and Ronnie’s PaLaKa ticket? Nagkaubusan na ba ng mga matatapang at malalakas ang loob sa umbrella ng Nagkaisang Kawatan?

Well, there’s Butch Pichay. And incumbents Bong Revilla and Miriam Defensor Santiago. And Butch Pichay, otra vez. What about the Senate President, Juan Ponce Enrile? Don’t bet on him running under the PaLaKa, not even as a guest candidate.. And what about Lito Lapid? He will run for governor of the “holy” land, unless Mikey decides he wants to control quarry collections on top of jueteng. But not to worry, Mikey prefers the company in the house of pork. Miguelito el Defensor will not run for the Senate. He will replace Lito Atienza at DENR --- take two for Mike at mines and public lands.

So who will run for senator in the PaLaKa ticket? Ah … there is always Butch Pichay. And who will take over those cabinet portfolios when Gloria’s “men” go to the hustings from National Heroes Day (November 30) to Liberation Day (June 30, 2010)? Should be their undersecretaries. Except, don’t look now, they too are running … for congress, for mayor, for governor, like Jocjoc Bolante.

So when Dona Gloria convenes her Parliament, wouldn’t they all be one big happy family? As Ate Glow, that comedienne who apes the Dona would exclaim---“Kita-kits tayo…ang saya-saya!”

Forget about Liberation Day. Hallelujah!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pera-pera on TV

It is perhaps most apt that this article should appear on the 111th anniversary of the Republic. It shows the state of the polity, more than a century and a decade since the dreams of our forefathers have been prostituted by their unworthy successors.

It all began on September last year. Manuel Villar started a television 30-seconder which pictured him as having a “bleeding heart” for poor OFW’s. That blurb ran for some two to three months. Then, after he had been dislodged as Senate President in the wake of revelations about unseemly conduct and self-dealing as a senator of the realm, the billionaire politician poured more money on the boob tube in order to neutralize the then yet unrevealed story of his shenanigans.

What followed was the “Itik” ad, where this time, Villar’s assistance to “small” entrepreneurs was touted. The story line has a small “mag-iitik” losing his fortune until Manny Villar came to the rescue and loaned him money to rebuild his “itik” stocks. Manny next holds an itik, then wipes the mud on his flaming orange T-shirt. In the next clip, voila, like the man in the Tide commercial, he was laying his arms upon the shoulders of the mag-iitik with the mud miraculously gone. Ah, the ethics of Mr. Itik!

Then, another OFW ad was run, this time with a helpless domestic tearfully saying that her “buwa” was ravished by her “amo”, and she went home, back to her family, only because Villar came to the rescue.

Then there was a commercial where Manny Villar claimed that his grandmother also
worked as a household help, which is why his heart bleeds at their plight, and he will always help them. These days, the “poor boy” image (this always sells…Monching Magsaysay was just a “mechanic” even if his wife’s family owned a bus company; Dadong Macapagal was “the poor boy from Lubao” who retired in Forbes Park) is taken to atrocious heights. Manny visits a barong-barong somewhere in Tondo, where he points to a leaking roof and a small wooden floor where “eleven of them cramped up to sleep”. The spiel starts by claiming “This is a true story”. That barong-barong must have been made of hardwood (yakal, narra, kamagong, maybe even sendora supa?), for Villar is almost 60 years old, and for a barong-barong to miraculously last half a century is stretching truth a bit too far.

In any case, the tagline always catches the “masa”. “Pag galing sa mahirap; tumutulong sa mahirap”. Or so the tale of the surveys show. From 6% in August of 2007 to the seventeen’s and eighteen’s in the second quarter of 2009, depending on whether it is Pulse Asia or SWS.

The cost of all these television ads, without radio, without tele-radyo, without collaterals that announce Manny Villar is “in town” wherever, without “free” media that does not come cheap, especially when they are tasked to “kill” stories about that pesky C-5 brouhaha, the tab, from September 2008 till May 2009, has come out to P321.4 million, not including production costs, which should be about 12 to 15 percent of the broadcast price. So add 38 to 45 million more.

Loren Legarda came up with some television blurbs about the environment on Earth Day last year. Then she segued into twice-repeated 15-seconders about the need to fight corruption, with something like the hovels of Payatas in the background, and her in trademark white blouse delivering a short spiel about how poverty sucks because corruption sucks more. Those ads have been out for some time now, and her survey ratings seem to have dropped from almost 20 to single digit, according to the latest Pulse Asia Ulat. Still and all, those sparse ads cost all of 42 million in air time payments alone.

There is her bĂȘte noire, Noli de Castro, poster boy for Pag-ibig, which he chairs as Dona Gloria’s housing czar. Here, the veep advertises “murang pabahay”, enticing people to start using their savings (if any) to buy their dream home somewhere in the boondocks of Laguna or Bulacan (and make his Wednesday dining buddy Manny Villar even richer). Those ads, or so the advertising industry rating agencies tell us, cost all of 45.8 million pesos, courtesy of the taxpayer.

Again that’s for television airtime alone, not to include production costs, and more --- not including radio and tele-radyo, where the ubiquitous baritone of Mr. Kabayan saturates the audio waves all over the benighted islands. Add that all and 45.8 million should by now be in the vicinity of 70 million, thanks to the Pag-ibig fund.

Mar Roxas comes second to Manny Villar in the TV spending department. Nielsen says he has plunked in a total of 256 million, for ads about “murang gamot”, his pet bill, ran on January and February 2009, then the “padyak” ads where his heart bleeds at the plight of a brother-and-sister lumpen tale about shattered dreams.

But it seems the spending has worked wonders on his survey ratings. From 6% in the latter part of 2007, within which single-digit movements he stayed for all of 2008, he has now broken into the magic circle of winnables, dislodging Ping and Loren, and Pulse Asia rated him with a 13% as of May 2009.

During the survey period, Mar also effectively exposed the lechery and larceny of one Celso de los Angeles, whose Legacy Group plundered small people, in much the same manner that this government plunders every Filipino, day in and day out.

And of course, his much-ballyhoed romance with Korina Sanchez, with wedding bells soon to ring, and announced over Wowowee at that, must have taken the breath out of many a “masa” voter.

But surprisingly, next to Mar in the TV spending department, even if his “infomercials” on “pride of (his) place” started appearing only in the month of May, but with amazing regularity, and even a 60-seconder version which is double the air time used by almost every other ad, is Makati city mayor Jojo Binay.

His city’s “foundation” has spent 115.1 million in all of one month alone, touting health care, senior citizen care, education standards, etc., in the country’s center of finance and big business, and where the richest of the rich live, shop, dine, and play. Unlike Villar’s ads though, you could not question Makati’s credentials in the provision of basic services to its citizens.

You wish though, as the ad ends, that what Binay’s fabulously wealthy Makati could provide its citizens, could likewise be replicated among the 90 million other citizens of this republic. That’s a tall order, considering that Binay presides over a city of some 750,000 residents, less than one percent of the rest of the benighted. But the “masa” were not taught good arithmetic, anyway.

Mayor Jojo of course says that they have been advertising their proud wares before, and does so perhaps even more now, because it is the city’s 337th founding anniversary. That doesn’t sound like it’s the 350th milestone, or the 400th, but heck, what would Jojo’s next spiel say, after the May anniversary has elapsed, which it has? Abangan ang susunod na survey period.

Gibo Teodoro, soon to be drafted into a Teodoro-Puno tandem of the humongous Lakas-Kampi-CMD (PaLaKa to some, as in the unimaginative Partido Lakas Kampi with the catchy and croaking acronym, or NaKaw to others, as in Nagkaisang Kawatan, more aptly descriptive, and more universally appealing, because kawatan is understood for the filth that it connotes in all of the Visayas and all of Mindanao), has blown, from the date Pacquiao beat the lights out of Hatton on May 3, a total of 30.7 million on TV.

The money comes from “well-meaning friends”, Gibo avers, and not from government coffers, as if to jab at Noli, who admits to being the paid poster boy of Pag-ibig. That’s 30.7 million for TV alone, in less than 30 days, enough however for Gibo to overtake the long-running BF and his omnipresent tarpaulins about “Kaayusan” a run for his small bucks. Gibo was given 1% by Pulse in May, while BF, the original and loyal Lakas party member, rated less than a percentage point.
Chiz Escudero is a wonder, one must admit. He has not ran TV ads on nationwide broadcast, although he has some radio advertising in the provinces. But his articulate ability, dismissed as “glibness” by his non-believers, which almost always pop out of the news programs, seems to have caught the fancy of the young and the “yuppies” (I know, that description is no longer “in”, but hey, I do not pretend to be young).

Chiz is Numero Dos in the latest Pulse Ulat, edging out the megabucks-driven Manny Villar from his perch, and threateningly close to “masa” darling Kabayan Noli himself. He is of course the youngest, not yet quite 40, which is the constitutionally prescribed age before one can qualify for the presidency, in the field of many. He could call Mar, Manny, Gibo and Ping “kuya”, and Loren his “ate”, Erap his “tito”, almost his “lolo”.

Ping Lacson started his “Patas na Laban” 30-seconder in late March, sparsely ran on Wowowee and Eat Bulaga noontime, and then TV Patrol and 24 Oras early in the evening. That was all his money could afford. The ad did not talk about his truly humble beginnings, as the son of a jeepney driver and a market vendor in Imus, Cavite, but how corruption has made “equal opportunity” a bygone in the lives of every struggling Filipino.

The TV spiels ran until before Holy Week, resumed two weeks after, then sputtered by May because the resources weren’t coming in. At about the same time, Raul Gonzalez and his coven consisting of Reynaldo Berroya and jesters in media danced their striptease about the so-called “latest” Mancao affidavit. What little goodwill Lacson’s rare ads may have generated in the hearts of the voting public may have been negated by Raul’s striptease, or so opinion researchers say.

He bowed out of the race last week, to end a slow burn that he felt in the marrow of his bones, and after spending a measly 22 million. But in so doing, Lacson has also started the “winnowing” process.

As early as January of 2008, I suggested in this space that the many presidentiables should be invited that early to media-sponsored debates and fora, all over the land, in order to test their character and competence. That, in the absence of party conventions, I suggested, should “winnow the chaff from the grain”, the fit from the un-fit. Nobody took it seriously, and the tale of the ads, fuelled by pera-pera, and lots of it, became the marketplace of political debate. Contrived and paid-for soundbytes took the better of original, extemporaneous position and vision.

The winnowing process has become a function of resources, or the lack of it, one year before the elections itself, nine months before the official campaign begins. Matira ang mayaman.

And so we are where we are, once more in this benighted country, about to choose our next leader, if Gloria and her coven “back off” from their intimations of madness, on the basis of mis-information, dis-information, and paid media. Impressions rather than solid information.

Pera-pera in the land where all the pera is being greedily amassed by “la perra” (I am just translating Gov. Joey Salceda’s description “bitch” into lenguaje mas urbana) y su conjunto de ladrones.

Que pais! What a country!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Class of ‘78

“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”, is a wit’s description of how “boring” operas end. Those who do not appreciate the long arias and have ears only for the operatic highlights often wonder when it would all end.

What this country has had to suffer through the years has been a long and badly sung, badly-scripted, badly-acted opera. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has inflicted her unworthy presence in the life of the nation far too long. First she pushed off the popular troubadour, Joseph Estrada, off the stage, even before the half-way intermission. Then she connived with Garci and Abalos and “her” generals in both the military and the police, in order to keep the klieg lights focused on her bad act for six more years.

It has thus been eight years, four months, and eleven days since she mounted the stage as our prima donna. Before her, no other don or donna except Ferdinand Marcos stayed in power as long. The latter had been president by genuine election for two legal terms. But on his seventh year in office, he declared martial law, and proceeded to rule for another 13 years and 5 months until a mutiny in the ranks of his praetorians, supported by people power, got him and his family packing into Hawaii, courtesy of the United States military.

In all, Ferdinand Marcos was president since December 30, 1965 until February 25, 1986, a total of 20 years, one month and 25 days. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo served out the remaining three years and five months of Erap’s duly-elected term. On December 30, 2002, after a tumultuous reign where even Malacanang Palace was besieged like the Bastille by thousands of the “masa” on May 1, 2001, this daughter of a former president declared before the nation, with the national hero’s monument as mute witness, that she would not seek election for a legal term. Ten months later, in the heartland of her father’s province, in an auditorium built to commemorate a hundred years of inglorious independence, she took back her words.

What followed was not just the infidelity of her spoken word, but worse, the shameless manner by which she ensured her election. All bets were on her table, from government resources to include immoderate proceeds from the allocation of fake fertilizers to unsuspecting farmers (and some suspect, even the conversion of military funds to add to her campaign kitty, cared of the longest-serving military comptroller, Carlos F. Garcia), all the way to the use of military personnel to guarantee the success of the evil plan she and Virgilio Garcillano had conspired to undertake with the concupiscence of Benjamin Abalos.

The last five years of illegitimate power have been as tumultuous as the first three years of usurped reign. Reeling from suspicions that she had tampered with election returns, and nonetheless proclaimed by “noted” cohorts in Congress, Raul Gonzalez for the lower House, and Francis Pangilinan for the upper, her first “elected” term wobbled unsteadily. Then Hello Garci was discovered, clumsily pre-empted by her bumbling press secretary no less (“I have two discs, the left and the right…”), and the veneer of legitimacy was peeled off, despite layers and layers of lying. Lying which even ten of her closest confidantes in the cabinet could not withstand.

She survived the crisis by buying off with tons of money the lower House where impeachment was almost certain, and her governance was hostage ever since to these ever-hungry lacoste’s and every other official with his share of knowledge of other terrible secrets, including l’affaire NBN with ZTE done in stealth “like a thief in the night”. Secrets of stealing and cheating and the lying that covered up for all these became the staple of her political longevity.

When conscientious generals and officers of the uniformed services could stand her evil no longer, they decided to “save the Republic” and “protect the people”, on the 20th anniversary of people power even, but their noble ends were thwarted because of the clumsy mistake of believing that their superiors in the chain of command had similar regard for the virtues taught them in the Academy where they were schooled. Now these officers languish in her jails, and those who thwarted their noble ends are rewarded no end by a grateful prima donna to the highest posts in the military service, and beyond, to cabinet rank in the civilian bureaucracy.

To consolidate her power over the uniformed ranks, she got her chief bodyguard, one “highly” regarded by Garci because of his willingness to “follow” orders no matter if unlawful in the elections of 2004, to become her operational commander of the soldiers of the Republic. But age and tradition caught up on Hermogenes Esperon, now the Chief of the Presidential Management Staff where all papers that lead to the sanctum sanctorum of Malacanang undergo what former President FVR called “complete staff work”. Soon he will be the Secretary of National Defense, after a gullible Gilbert Teodoro is inveigled into running for a presidency where defeat is certain.

But retiring Esperon did not come easy. There were the Classes of ’75, and ’76, and ’77, cavaliers in the Academy, of whose utmost and unquestioning loyalty she was uncertain. So, with Esperon always on the watch, she reluctantly gave way to the appointment of Alexander Yano of the Class of ’76. But as ’78 was closest to her heart, being their honorary classmate, their idol, their patroness, she quietly placed them in strategic positions in the interstices of the military echelon. Likely because Yano showed signs of being “independent”, a quality anathema in the bowels of the stinking palace beside the stinking river, she cut short his term, and sent him packing to the holy wilds of Brunei where his favourite cognac could not publicly be imbibed, as an insignificant ambassador. Insulting him to the last, she rewarded his deputy, Cardozo Luna of ’75, with the more glamorous retirement job of ambassador to The Hague, an hour away from the sinful pleasures of Amsterdam.

That gave her opportunity to make her other classmate, once her favourite bodyguard as well, Delfin Bangit, to be the chief of staff. But Esperon cautioned her from jumping that fast, and bade her to appoint Army chief Victor Ibrado of the Class of ’76, lest she roil the troubled waters of the military any further than it should. Yet, appointing Ibrado as chief of staff made the appointment of Del Bangit seamlessly pass. The Army, after all, is 75% of all the armed forces.

Recall likewise that I wrote in this space months ago about a meeting where Jess Versoza, PNP Chief by the grace of Herr Ronaldo Puno, was ushered into the regal presence at the stinking palace. To his surprise, with the prima donna was Roberto Rosales of the favourite Class of ’78, then WPD Chief. Right then and there, Versoza was directed to yank out Leopoldo Bataoil and replace him with her Boysie Rosales as Chief of the NCR Police. Versoza had to invent an effete position for the accomplished Bataoil somewhere in the wilds of the North, just to please the dona and install Boysie. And Boysie showed his unswerving loyalty right off, with the highhanded tactics against “enemy” Ted Failon in the recent crisis of his life.

Versoza, it is certain, will be made to retire early, a year or so before his 56th birthday on Christmas of 2010, and if he accepts, be posted in where else but the wilds of euro-Russia, as ambassador in charge of its freezing steppes. By then too, likely before the appointed date, Ibrado shall be on the exit, and Bangit shall be “emperor” of the Armed Forces, with Boysie Rosales his ‘rasputin” in the PNP. Over and above them all, of course will be the Tsarina, la Prima Donna de Lubao y Binalonan, Iligan y Kabankalan, their classmate in the Class of ‘78.

But what if the Class of ’76, and the remnants of ’75, as well as the hold-outs of ’77, feel they had been shafted from the behind?

Well, they have been royally screwed already, because as I wrote earlier in this piece, the Class of ’78 is all over the woodwork, and how!

The following are 22 Class ’78 members occupying sensitive posts within the AFP:

In GHQ, Camp Aguinaldo:

J2 (Inteligence) – Rear Adm. Victor Martir (PN – Philippine Navy)
Deputy J2 – Commodore EfrenTedor (PN)
J3 (Operations)- Maj. Gen. Carlos Holganza (PA – Philippine Army)
J6 (Commel) – Maj. Gen. Jonathan Martir (PM – Philippine Marines)
J7 (Civil-Military Relations) – Maj. Gen. Sealana (PA)
DND-BAC Chairman – Brig. Gen. Gregorio Paduganan (PAF – Philippine Air Force)
Chief of Engineers – Maj. Gen. Rudyval Cabading (PA)
ISAFP – Maj. Gen. Romeo Prestoza (PAF)
Presidential Security Group – Brig. Gen. Celedonio Boquiren (PAF)

In the Army, six out of 10 infantry divisions are under the control of the Class of ’78 members), namely:

Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit – Commanding General of the Philippine Army
Maj. Gen. Roland Detabali – CG, Southern Luzon Command
Maj. Gen. Romeo Lustecteca – CG, 1st Infantry Division (Zamboanga del Norte)
Brig. Gen Florante Martinez – OIC, 2nd Infantry Division (Tanay, Rizal)
Maj. Gen. Vic Porto – CG, 3rd Infantry Division (Panay Island)
Maj. Gen. Ralph Villanueva – CG, 7th Infantry Division (Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija)
Maj. Gen. Manuel Tabaquero – CG, 8th Infantry Division (Catbalogan, Samar)
Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu – CG, 10th Infantry Division (Caraga Region)

In the Air Force, there is Maj. Gen. Oscar Rabena as Commanding General, and Brig. Gen Jesus Fajardo – CG, 710th Special Operations Wing as well as Col. Carlix Donila – Commander, 530th Air Base Wing (Zamboanga).

And in the Navy, the chief of the Naval Staff, Commodore Feliciano Angue, as well as heading the most strategically-located naval station in Cavite is Commodore Nestor Los Banes.

Go figure. The little lady has carefully chosen every actor, every extra, even the props, the lights and the sound system (J-6, Commel).

The “fat” little lady will never croak her last song. Like Marcos, she “does not intend to die”.

Get your long stored disc, even phonograph, of Handel’s Messiah. “For (she) shall reign, forever and ever…Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halleluyah! Haaa-lehhhh-lu-yaaahhh!

* * *

Postscript from history: In 1972, Ferdinand Marcos assembled twelve of his loyalists, mostly generals, but including a crony-politician and a cabinet member. He gave them copies of his “Oplan” to declare martial rule. One of them got Oplan Sagittarius, and he supposedly leaked the same to a rising political star who happened to be the cousin-in-law of the crony politician. But Sagittarius was coded, and the infidel general soon died. Soon after, the rising political star was incarcerated.

Fast-forward to 1985, by which time Marcos had consolidated his hold over the entire polity through his KBL, the entire military through his Fabian Ver, and society even, through cronies who had parcelled out the nation’s wealth among themselves. Like a bolt from out of the blue, the dictator called for snap elections, and the frail widow of the by now-assassinated political star challenged his might. After Congress proclaimed Marcos notwithstanding cheating, stealing and lying, two of his original 1972 apostles declared a mutiny on February 22, 1986. The apparatus of hegemony broke like Humpty Dumpty. Sooner than later, the long-laid plans of mice and men unravelled, and Marcos boarded a helicopter for Hawaii.

There are no military bases now that the US of A then held dear, and the man at the White House is no longer a friendly like Ronald Reagan but a distant Barack Obama. But then again, these benighted islands are just specks in the Pacific, as far as Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon are now concerned.

Will Ferdinand’s reincarnation in little Gloria succeed? Will history be allowed to repeat itself in this “patria adorada”? Go figure.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kakaibang “pulitiko”

Noon ay lagging bukang bibig ni Senador at matapos ay Pangalawang Pangulong Erap Estrada, na siya raw ay “hindi pulitiko; siya ay public servant”. Mariin niyang sinasabing paninilbihan sa mahihirap ang kanyang hangad, at hindi ang makipag-kompromiso sa mga nais ng mga pulitiko. Kanya nga raw ang ngalan ng kanyang lapian sy Partido ng Masang Pilipino, at hindi siya nakikilahok sa mga naglalakihang lapian, tulad ng LDP, NPC, o maging Lakas.

Nguni’t taliwas sa inaasahan, naging “praktikal” at “tradisyunal” din si Pangulong Erap matapos maluklok sa Malakanyang. Bagama’t hindi naman niya pinabayaan ang mga masa sa kanyang mga adhikain, malimit rin siyang nakipag-transaksyon sa mga naghaharing uri sa lipunan, lalo na sa malalaking negosyante.

Si Ping Lacson ay tunay na kakaiba. Ilang beses siyang kinausap ng kampo ni GMA, mga sadyang malalapit dito, at sa dalawang pagkakataon, isang mahabang usapan at isang maikli lamang, mismong ni GMA. “reconciliation, pagkakaisa, magtulungan”, ito ang mga sambit ng rehimen kay Ping. Nguni’t palaging ang sagot ni Ping ay iisa: “Handa akong tumulong at makipagkaisa basta’t alang-alang sa interes ng sambayanan, basta’t itigil na ang mga katiwalian”.

Subali’t wala namang habas ang pangungurakot sa pamahalaang Arroyo. Kaya’t hindi makipagkasundo si Ping, at patuloy na nilalabanan ang mag-asawang Arroyo at kanilang mga alipores na nasasangkot sa katiwalian. Jose Pidal. Pic Marcelo at kaso ng prangkisa sa telecoms. Hello Garci. ZTE-NBN project. Talamak na jueteng sa buong Luzon, na kinasasangkutan ng mga kapamilya ni GMA. At marami pang iba. Walang sinumang senador na walang humpay na nakikipaglaban sa katiwalian sa pamahalaan.

At upang ipakita na siya ay walang personal o pansariling interes, at hindi mabahiran ng korapsyon bilang senador, katangi-tangi si Lacson na umayaw sa 200 milyong piso kada taon na “pork barrel” na tinatanggap ng bawa’t senador.

Nguni’t kung ano ang lakas ni Ping bilang katunggali ng kurakot, ito rin ang siyang “kahinaan” niya sa mga pulitkong tradisyunal. Maging sa mga malalaking negosyante na sa pagbibigay ng pinansyal na tulong, ay may pagnanais na maka-tabla, o di kaya’y makakuha ng higit pa, sa pamamagitan ng mga pabor o proteksyon sakaling mayroon silang hindi legal na gawain.

At dahil hindi nakikipag-kompromiso si Lacson, at hindi “transaksyunal” basta’t ang isinasatabi ay batas, at ang interes ng sambayanan ang siyang naaagrabyado o naaabuso, ayaw siyang “batain” ng mga ito.

Ito ang tila malungkot na realidad ng pulitika sa Pilipinas ngayon. Una, dahil sa walang malalakas na institusyon tulad ng partido pulitikal. Ang pagpili ng mga kandidato ay dinadaan sa “surveys”, batay sa popularidad at hindi sa kakayahan. Batay sa “damdamin” ng mamamayan na madali namang maimpluwensyahan ng daan-daang milyung piso na ginugugol sa mga advertisements na hindi

makatotohanan kundi kathang-isip lamang. At dahil mahalaga ang advertisements upang umangat sa surveys, nagiging lalong mahalaga ang salapi upang makapagbayad ng milyun-milyong gastusin sa advertisements, maging sa pagikut-ikot sa bansa bagama’t hindi pa panahon ng kampanya.

Sumuko si Ping sa realidad na iyan ng pera-perang pamumulitika. Subali’t ayon na rin sa kanya, ipagpapatuloy niya ang laban sa katiwalian, at itataguyod ang adhikain ng malinis at maayos na pamahalaan, sa pamamagitan ng paghahanap ng isang lider na magiging marangal, may kakayahan, at malinis ang hangarin.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Valedictory

Sunday, May 31, I received a call from Senator Ping Lacson. He intimated that he had made up his mind to withdraw from the presidential race. I did not ask for reasons. His campaign had been wobbling along principally due to a paucity of resources that the other so-called presidentiables seemed to have without limit.

As I had written in March this year, “the atypical Ping” is not your regular politician. In fact, he is not a politician at all in ways and in character, and “handling” him, or attempting to handle him, is a most difficult task. He will not do the “usual” things, and not go through the “usual routine” that politicians typically do. He will not try to please someone he does not regard highly. He will not be interviewed just to spew neither-here-nor-there positions. While he is at ease with common folk, he does not “socialize” for the sake of socializing.

After he won re-election to the Senate, making it to third spot despite campaign expenditures that probably approximated only one-seventh of what Manny Villar, the Numero Cuatro spent, we had lunch, just five of us --- Ping, me and three other close friends. “Where do you go from here?”. I asked.

“You know I want to serve as president. But, we have to be more realistic now”, he said. “In 2004, we were treated like dirt by those we thought were our allies in the opposition, and we stood defiant to the end. This time, let’s test the waters, and see how we pick up.”

The first round of surveys taken the third quarter of 2007 placed Ping at Number 2, behind Loren Legarda. But as much as we asked Ping to move around the country, he refused, saying that it was inappropriate to campaign early. Ping can be as hard-headed as a bull when it comes to his sense of propriety, and more so, his convictions.

2007 passed, and so did 2008. The surveys slipped. In early 2009, we started to assemble a core team, and did a team-building endeavor. It was all systems go, but as survey ratings are the end-all of pre-campaign activity, I saw chances slipping. While other candidates had broadcast audio-visuals in every prime-time show nationwide, we could only afford a pitiful few. And the problem with short messages is, unless you can afford a blast, the effort to communicate fails. The situation was worsened by the government striptease in March regarding the Dacer-Corbito case.

After Holy Week this year, we did a serious reality check. And after a slow thaw, Ping decided to withdraw. Though the timing was off, considering that Cezar Mancao, who has re-invented himself as a state witness to the Dacer-Corbito abduction in the late hours of Erap’s reign, had just returned to the country, (giving Ping’s enemies in the administration reason to ululate and wet their pants for a giddy kill) Lacson decided to go through with his announcement, which he requested Ricky Carandang to read at the start of the ANC Leadership Forum, where he was invited to present his views on national leadership. “No timing will ever be right if we consider every situation, every obstacle”, Ping reasoned. What follows in this article is his statement:
“Thank you for this invitation to the second ANC Leadership Forum. Up until I made a decision last Sunday to retire myself from a race that would matter most in the lives of our beloved countrymen, I had every intention to share with our people my vision of what the Philippines ought to be in a Ping Lacson presidency.

“Marahil sa huling pagkakataon, sa isang pagpupulong na tulad nito, nais kong ipabatid sa aking mga minamahal na kababayan na ang kahirapan at kawalan ng mga serbisyong pangkalusugan, edukasyon at seguridad ng mamamayan ay hindi mabibigyang lunas ng pamumudmod ng tulong mula sa mga pulitiko tuwing papalapit ang halalan; tulong na magaan at madaling ipamigay dahil madaling kinikita sa pamamagitan ng pagsasamantala sa kaban ng bayan.

“My vision is clear as it is simple - the country's problem is government - bad government. The solution stares us right in the face of the problem itself. I believe that we need to discipline 1.5 million members of the civilian and military bureaucracy and imbue them with the right motivation and a sense of genuine public service. In short, if we hope to solve the problems of most of the 90 million Filipinos, we must set government right. This is the only way we can move forward as a country, and as a people.

“But correcting government will not come easy if it does not start with the leader himself. One cannot discipline if one is unable to discipline oneself. One cannot preach clean government if one is himself on the take, or his relatives and cronies are themselves the thieves. If a president cannot lead by the power of good example, then governance will always be bad.

“My vision for the Philippines is one where basic services are guaranteed, where health and education and public safety are prioritized, and no-nonsense government is instituted in all levels of the polity.

“Sadly, what we have today is a feudal set-up foolishly labeled as democracy, where transactional politics is entrenched both in the bureaucracy and local government units; and where the poor are deluded into believing that throwing candies or giving instant noodles or occasional help in distress is the be-all and end-all of public service. In the grind for survival, the poor forget all too often that the occasional goodies they get are mere scraps from the tables of the immoderately greedy powerful who plunder public coffers, or abuse power for self-profit.

“I have always maintained that if we doggedly and purposively set government right, the rest will follow. When people respect government, they pay the correct taxes and follow even the simplest of traffic rules.

“Equal opportunity. Level playing field. To each a fair, fighting chance.

“Patas na laban, para sa lahat.

”But reaching out to the voters, particularly those in the D and E income levels, which altogether comprise some four-fifths of the population, does not come easy. It is most expensive in a political system which has neither strong institutions nor correct procedures.

“Minsan ay sumagi na rin sa aking isipan na tanggapin na ang 200 milyong pisong pork barrel bawat taon para sa isang senador upang magamit at makasabay man lang sa isang magastos na pangangampanya. Nguni't, at mabuti na lamang, nanaig pa rin sa aking isipan na ipagpatuloy ang isang adhikain at paniniwala na higit sa ano pa mang bagay, mas mahalaga ang integridad sa isang tulad kong inihalal ng bayan upang maglingkod nang tapat at walang halong pag-iimbot.

“The great Charles de Gaulle of France, who put order back in a land wracked by anarchy, once remarked that “in order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant”. Like his forebear Nostradamus, he might have foreseen the Philippine political scene of this generation.
“But I refuse to lie. And I refuse to purvey make-believe storyboards and saturate the airwaves with fairy tales.

“Even if I tried to communicate the truth to our people given the extremely limited resources that I could raise from well-meaning friends who have kept the faith, and believe as I do in my central advocacy of good governance and national discipline, the time has come to face the reality that the intent to lead in this land in order to do good, has become an enterprise only for those who have access to unlimited funds.

“I bow to that reality, which is why I have chosen not to participate any more in this laudable forum of those who seek the presidency of the land. And I beg your favor that you read this message that springs from my heart.

“To my loyal supporters and those who appreciated the kind of work ethic and purposive leadership I have demonstrated as a soldier, as the Chief of the Philippine National Police, and share the advocacies I have been fighting for as senator of the Republic --- beyond expression of my undying gratitude, I now pledge that in time, we will all join together to support a leader who could best deliver our people from the bondage they now suffer. That leader must have both the competence and character that are the preconditions to purposive leadership so imperative in these crossroads of the nation’s life.

“And I appeal to the learned and the well- educated in our society to share their thoughts and help guide the vulnerable 80% of the Filipino electorate to vote wisely and conscientiously, not for their day to day personal needs, but for a country that we all love and care for.

”Magkaisa po tayong tumulong sa isang taong batay sa karanasan at sa ugali, ay alam nating hindi magnanakaw at hindi gagamitin ang kapangyarihang hiram para magpasasa sa sariling interes.

“Maraming salamat po. Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino!”

* * *

Right after lunch last Friday, June 5, Dr. Minguita Padilla, Gerry de Belen and I met with ANC’s Ricky Carandang, to give him the Lacson statement written and addressed to him in letter form. He was requested to read it in the Forum at the UP School of Economics auditorium, but he thought it best to have Ping taped live just before the show began.

ABS-CBN’s Linda Jumilla went to a meeting which we called that afternoon so Ping could break the news to his core team before the Forum started. It would have been a shocker to them if they had learned about it only in the news.