Thai court convicts Thaksin's wife of tax evasion

Kelan kaya sa Pilipinas?

Agence France-Presse
BANGKOK - The wife of Thailand's deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was convicted Thursday of tax evasion in the first ruling against his family since the 2006 coup that toppled him from power.

Pojaman Shinawatra and her brother were given three years in prison, while her secretary received a two-year sentence.

"The actions by the three defendants are serious violations of the law. The court has decided that the three defendants were guilty of tax fraud," judge Pramote Pipatpramote said.

All three were released on bail pending appeal, court officials said.

Pulse Asia denies bias in survey


Polling firm Pulse Asia has denied Malacañang's allegation of political bias when it released a survey last week on public skepticism of President Arroyo's State of the Nation Address (SONA) four days before she made her speech before the joint session of Congress.

In an interview with, Ana Maria Tabunda, executive director of Pulse Asia, said it has been conducting and releasing surveys on public's perception on the truthfulness of President's SONA since 2005.

She wondered why it was only now that Malacañang criticized the group for being allegedly partisan in its SONA survey.

"We've been doing this since 2005," she said. "Why is it they did not react this way before?"

Tabunda said respondents had the choice whether to say they found Arroyo's SONA truthful, not truthful, or if they were undecided.

"If people find it truthful, we also print that. So where is the bias?" she said. "We are the messenger."

In previous years, Tabunda said the SONA surveys were also released before or during the day when the president delivers the SONA.

She said there was no political motive behind the release of Pulse Asia's SONA survey four days before Arroyo delivered her address.

Palace says it's biased

In a press conference Wednesday, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said Pulse Asia sought to "embarrass" and "shame" the president when it disclosed in the run-up to the 8th SONA its survey which showed that only 14% of respondents believed the forthcoming SONA would be "truthful."

He was referring to the Pulse Asia survey released on July 24 on "Public Perceptions Regarding State of the Nation."

Out of the 60% of respondents who were aware of past SONAs, the survey results showed only 13% found Arroyo's past SONA's truthful while 46% said her past SONA's were "not truthful." Forty-one percent were undecided.

When asked whether they expected the July 28 SONA of Arroyo to be truthful, 14% said it would be truthful, 40% said it would not be truthful, and 46% were undecided.

The nationwide survey of 1,200 adults was conducted July 1 to 14. It had a margin of error of plus/minus 3 percent.

Methodology questioned

Dureza said it was unfair to ask people whether they thought the forthcoming SONA would be untruthful when Arroyo had not yet made her speech.

"I think it sought to embarrass the president or to shame the president at a time that she has not even given the SONA," he said.

"I question the methodology and the way the question was phrased," he added.

Dureza said Pulse Asia "became a political player" in this particular survey.

"The way it was done, it was not to reflect a public opinion. It had something else in its objective," he added.

Dureza called on the Marketing and Opinion Research Society of the Philippines (MORES), which he described as the "guardian of polling and statistics," to look into Pulse Asia's alleged bias. He said Pulse Asia was not a member of this association of market research professionals and poll organizations.

"I challenge the MORES, which is a respectable institution to look into a non-member because the non-member may be spreading wrong information, which would destroy the integrity of other polling institutions that are doing their job," he said.

"I challenge Pulse Asia to submit itself to scrutiny by the experts and to see how the questions were framed, the methodologies," he said.

Dureza urged media organizations to be "more critical" of these surveys since media are the "principal consumers" of such surveys. He also urged media to "go beyond the survey."

Hard times

On Pulse Asia's July 1-14 Nationwide Survey on Quality of Life and State of the Economy released July 30, which showed 75% of respondents felt they were "worse now," Dureza said this "reflects...that we're in hard times."

He said Malacañang does not expect people to be happy in times of high oil and food prices.

Dureza said the president accepts that her popularity ratings are low due to unpopular decisions such as keeping the 12% Value-Added Tax on oil products.

He also said it was not fair to compare the ratings of Arroyo with former President Joseph Estrada since prices of oil then were around $80 per barrel or much lower than today's world oil prices of $148 per barrel. "Don't you think the dice is loaded?" he said.

Tabunda replies

In response to these claims, Tabunda said Pulse Asia is not a member of MORES, but its "data partner," TNS Trends, headed by its president, Mercy Abad, is a member of MORES.

TNS Trends does the field work for Pulse Asia as well as its rival polling group, Social Weather Stations.

Tabunda said Dureza cannot claim that the methodology of Pulse Asia's survey on the SONA is wrong but then accepts the findings of its Nationwide Survey on Quality of Life.

The July 1 to 14 survey uses the same methodology for the SONA questions and for the questions on quality of life. It is a "multistage probability sample of 1,200 adults 18 years old and over....using face-to-face interviews." It has a plus/minus 3 percentage points margin of error.

On Dureza's argument that it's not fair to compare the Estrada period to Arroyo's when oil prices have nearly doubled, Tabunda said the purpose of the survey is to track people's perception of the quality of life. Pulse Asia has no control over the events that influence this perception, she said.

"What you get there is the sense of how difficult things are right now. They can't even see it how it's going to be improving in the coming year. It gives you a sense of helplessness at the situation," she said.

She also said that the Nationwide Survey on Quality of Life does not mention any particular leader.

"Well, the question doesn't even mention the president. It's only asking them to compare the quality of life or uri ng pamumuhay ngayon sa nakaraang taon. And we have been asking these questions since 1999. And we had a different president back then."


By Lito Banayo

The last SONA of Doña Gloria was interrupted a hundred or so times (according to the broadcast stations) by coaxed applause. The applause was tepid, likely coaxed by two very apparent observations. First, the speaker on the dais stopped after almost every sentence, and looked as if she was waiting for the applause. After a few seconds of embarrassing silence, the polite applause came. Naghihintay ng palakpak!

The second was the usual presence of starters-Senadora Miriam in pink paler than her Boss Woman's, giving her every ounce of strength to raising the decibels of coaxed approval. Plus the Arroyo brothers, one positioned to the front left of Doña Mama, the other at the rear right. And of course, the ubiquitous Senora Girlie Villarosa.

ANC's Pia Hontiveros sounded truly aghast when she observed that the longest and strongest applause came when the Dona said that "because texting has become a way of life", she (misma!) talked to the "telecoms", and got them to lower the price of text messaging to 50 centavos!


Without need of any coaxing from Senadora Miriam or Senora Girlie, the hall thundered in wild applause. Had Joker Arroyo deigned to dignify his Boss Woman with his "august" attendance, he would have described the cacophony similar to "jumping chimpanzees". The most transcendental event in the history of the seven years and seven months of Gloria had transpired, mirabile dictu! Ah, such great significance to the life of this miserably benighted land, such earth-shaking announcement from the lips of La Doña, misma! How could she be so beneficent that at such a great hour that comes but once in every year, she had thought of her "pobrecitos y pobrecitas," particularmente los jovenes, a quien este...text..."had become a way of life".

Ang babaw talaga ng kaligayahan, and to think that in that Great Hall of the Benighted sat in transfixed attention and coaxed applause the crème de la crème of this nation's body politic!

That message about text messaging cost being cut, by "diktat" from her imperial highness, was the high point of her-one hour address. People will long remember her for her hated VAT, and will remember how obstinately she called its juice, more appropriately, the blood, sweat and tears of los pobrecitos y pobrecitas, as "el salvador de la patria". (Pardon the profane usage of your name, Tito Doy.) Just as they would remember how the Bugkalot chieftain and mayor of Natipunan in Quirino upended all the multi-millions spent for the haute couture, les parfums et les coiffures (not to mention prior treatments with Belo or Calayan or a botox visit to Bangkok) by simply being himself, even if he must have chafed painfully inside his heart at being used as a prop for all that lying. But miserable people will always certainly appreciate the small and tender mercy of a cut on the cost of text.

And then came the morning after. My God, the telcos were still charging a peso per text! What happened to the diktat of the "queen"? How dare these telcos defy Canuta, and would dirty her feet, er, word, as so marvellously pronounced in the "great hall" of the benighted land?

'Yun pala, promo lang!

Due to the competition for the thinning purchasing power of "estos pobrecitos y pobrecitas," they asked the National Telecommunications Commission if they could cut their rates for their short messaging services by half, for a period of ninety days. Of course the NTC agreed.

Nai-kwento sa Donya, inangkin naman. "Inutos ko" later tempered to "pinakiusapan ko sila". He, he, he.

With faces as red as beet the day after, the embarrassed NTC officials had to say they would try to make the fifty percent discount permanent, but that, they cautioned, would require hearings.

So man-on-the-street interviews the day after the SONA, and such transcendental message from the "queen" suddenly turned into angry chants of "Nambobola na naman pala!"

But to the succor came the new toady at NEDA, the author of VAT, mismo, who likely would out-nerify Romulo in the post, and intones, as if he would do what his Doña failed to immediately deliver because it was once more lying and cheating and stealing (credit): "I think the government wants that to be permanent, the President wants it to be permanent, so that people will have savings and possibly that can augment their income". Wow! Such transcendental economic theory from Senor Recto, esposo de La Vilma.

Kawawang mga telcos. Ginamit lang na props, na-kotongan pa! As Panfilo Lacson, the perpetual bête noire of Doña Gloria y Don Miguel, rued, "pati credit sa kotong, ninakaw!" "Nawala na ang kotong noon (during his stint as PNP chief), bumalik pa nga nung naupo siya." And every driver in the land, whether that guy who was made to stand up from the gallery in attestation to the virtual reality of the Boss Woman's fatuous claim, or any jeepney, taxi, bus, FX and what-have-you would chorus, "nambobola na naman."

Meanwhile, Indonesia lowered its VAT from 7.5 to 3 percent. Thailand is following suit, if it has not yet announced the cut at the time of this writing. But the Doña will "stay the course" because "leadership is not about doing the first easy thing that comes to mind; it is about doing the necessary, however hard."

Vintage Teddyboy Locsin wordsmithing, if I may surmise. I wonder if my friend Teddy also taught her to lie about text messages

More tricks up Gloria's sleeve?

The moment GMA raises the hand of Noli for President, he is as good as dead in the water. That is why they will spend billions to woo the voters beginning in 2001, via infrastructure, dole-outs, Phil Health, the whole shebang. And yes, don't forget the three-month, 50-centavo texting rate. Hahaha. Lokohan lang talaga ito.

Do you wonder why Ace Durano has TV ads ostensibly promoting tourism? And now, print ads, for the Tourism Events of the Month? It's because all their senatorial candidates are out of the Magic 12, being unwinnable and merely "recycled losers" (not my words but that of a respected academic, pero puwede na rin). Bong Revilla, the original Kabuki Mask, is teetering. Miriam Santiago, the former Wonder Woman of Philippine Politics -- how times have changed! -- is teetering. Dick Gordon, the Motormouth, is teetering. And Ralph Recto? The highest-ranking Admi boy will surley teeter, now that we are harvesting the wrath of VAT.

And Noli? Since the forces of darkness would not want Erap to run, as I said a month ago, the Presidency will be a close, dead-heat, snout-in-the-tape race among Noli, Loren and Mar.

And who is my bet to be President of 2010? Whose party will I join?

We will know in the next three months, when the parties hold their oath-taking, swearing-in, their grand chuvaness.

Or maybe, I will not join a party at all. -- Danton



Talk is cheap. Gloria Arroyo's State of the Nation Address was no exception. So when trying to get a sense of what an administration really intends to do in the coming year, we rely rather on the proposed budget than on a crazy quilt of promises which, at the end of the day, will most likely stay unredeemed.

The proposed budget apparently is still being fine-tuned, which is the executive department's right as the Constitution gives it 30 days after the opening of Congress to submit the proposed measure. The Palace, nonetheless, has quoted a ballpark figure of P1.4 trillion. Education will continue to get the biggest chunk of the budget as mandated by the Constitution. The Department of Public Works and Highways will get the next biggest share in line with Gloria's infrastructure-building thrust. The agriculture department is the third agency expecting to get more funds.

If there are more revenues raised than expected, then these will go to the social welfare and health departments, with most of the funds for the latter going to PhilHealth.

We can already see the spending thrust: infrastructure building, food production and social services. It does make sense. Infrastructure to sustain the growth momentum, increased farm output to avert another rice shortage, and a lifeline for those battered by the "perfect storm" of food and oil crises.

Exactly the right response to the challenges of the times, right? If somebody else was sitting in Malacañang, we might agree. But with the disposal of the P1.4 trillion (less, of course, debt service payments, payroll for the bureaucracy and funds for maintenance and operating expenses) at Gloria's discretion, we are more disturbed than reassured.

Out fear is that the proposed P1.4 trillion appropriation might end up as election year budget coming a full year before the fact. Infrastructure building is the source of the usual 20 percent for the thieves. Stepped-up agricultural production was the cover for Joc Joc Bolante's diversion of funds to the campaign chest of the administration in 2004. Social welfare assistance - "Katas ng VAT," for example - is obviously meant to head off an expected rout of candidates identified with Gloria similar to that which took place in 2007.

More funds for PhilHealth is another tip off. Remember the enrollment of millions of the poor in the health insurance program in the run-up to the 2004 elections and their delisting after the votes had been counted?

The people, we fear, are being set up for another grand robbery. The apparent prize is the presidency in 2010. Vice President Noli de Castro, however, should hold the bubbly. We said "apparent." Gloria has more tricks to turn than a streetwalker.

Teofisto Guingona writes his memoirs

ROSES & THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Philippine STAR

Adlai Stevenson, an American senator from the mid-20th century, once remarked, “What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a total sense of national responsibility…a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” The Philippines is a country that has been blessed with patriots; men and women forged in the fires of our tumultuous history. From the famed martyred Friars Mariano Gomez, Jose Apolonio Burgos and Jacinto Zamora to the people of the EDSA revolution to the overseas workers whose remittances sustain the country, the Filipino has exhibited, in the most dire times, a love of country unparalleled.

The Philippines today is seeing a changing of the patriotic guard. The generation forged in the fires of World War II and Martial Law is giving way to a new generation of political and civic leaders and statesmen. The responsibility now of the elder statesmen is to passion their experience, their knowledge to the new generation. Historically, autobiographies have long been a vessel for passing on learned knowledge: from the early works of the early Confessions of St. Augustine to the Long Walk to Freedom of Nelson Mandela. At its heart the autobiography tells the story of a life, events and countries as seen through the eyes of someone who was witness.

Teofisto Guingona, from his student years to his time as the Vice-President of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been a man in touch with the events that shaped the Philippines. Today he occupies a status as one of the remaining elder statesmen in the country. In his autobiography, Fight for the Filipino, he has left to the current generation an invaluable account of the development of the Philippines, of the turmoil that we faced and the challenges that yet lay ahead. In spare and direct language, the story of the country, as seen through his eyes, is laid out before the reader. Naturally, the force of the book focuses on the hardships, political and economic, that the Philippines has endured. Through vignettes of his life, we are told the story of the rise of a dictator and the fall of democracy, of corruption in business and law and the never-ending struggle to preserve peace and strengthen the country.

Teofisto Guingona is a living example of the truth of Senator Adlai Stevenson’s quote. Patriotism is not a momentary frenzy of emotion, but a life’s work. Mr. Guingona has been a stalwart patriot of the Philippines; constantly and tirelessly working to preserve and create a country that he could be proud of. The book ends with the line that he will continue to fight for the Filipino. We hope that the book and the story it tells will prove instructive for a new generation so that in some small way it can inspire people to fight for the Philippines and the Filipino. There can be no greater lesson, no greater knowledge, passed from one generation to the next than that. The Philippines has a history of patriotism, we hope the future is the same.

Iba ang mundo ni Arroyo

ni Ellen Tordesillas

Tinanong ko ang isang dating cabinet member ni Gloria Arroyo kung ano ang atmosphere kapag nasa loob ka ng Malacañang.

Gusto ko kasing intindihin kung bakit ang mga pinagsasabi ni Gloria Arroyo ay malayo sa nakikita at naramdaman ng taumbayan. Hindi ko alam kung siya ba ay nasa alapaap o talagang sobra siyang sinungaling.

Sabi ng dating opisyal kapag nasa loob ka ng Malacañang, lalo pa sa lugfar ni Arroyo, madali ka mawala sa realidad. “Ang mga taong kausap mo ay sasaibhin sa iyo ang akala nila gusto mong malaman kahit na hindi yun ang katotohanan,” sabi niya. Lalo kay Arroyo na mataray. Mahirap magsabi ng “bad news” at baka ikaw pa ang matarayan. .

Sa kalaunan, sabi niya, “ang mundo na mabubuo sa isip mo ay ang ikinukwento sa yo at hindi ang mundo sa labas ng bakod ng Malacañang.”

Kaya katulad sa kanyang SONA, nakakamangha kung saan-san niya kinukuha ang kanyang mga datos para sabihin na mas kokonti ang walang trabaho at mas malakas ang kita ng mga jeepney driver. Alam naman ng lahat na dumarami ang walang trabaho at halos wala nang maiuwi ang mga driver sa kanilang kita dahil sa mahal ng gasolina.

Ang lakas pa ng loob niya magpasalamat sa mamamayan sa VAT na siyang nagpapahirap sa lahat.

Sabi nga ng isang kakilala ko, kung tumagal-tagal pa ang Sona ni Arroyo, baka nabasag na ang kanyang TV sa galit niya sa mga kasinungalingan na kanyang naririnig.

Nagtataka ang Malacañang kung bakit sa halip na magpapasalamat ang mga tao sa ipinahayag ni Arroyo na pagbaba ng presyo ng text sa 50 sentimos, ay marami pa ang naiinis.

Sabi ng mga negosyante, paki-alam sa m,ga pribadong negosyo ang ginawa ni Arroyo na pinilit ang mga telecom companies katulad ng Globe at Smart na magbaba ng presyo. Pakiki-alam yan sa pribadong negosyo at labag sa Constitution sabi nila. Dagdag pa nila, ayaw ng mga foreign investors ang ganung palakad.

Marami naman sa ordinaryong mamamayan ang naiinis dahil para silang naloko ni Arroyo. Sabi ng isa, “pumalakpak pa ako ng sinabi niyang 50 sentimos na lamang ang text mula Globe papuntang Smart. Akala ko naman totoo. Tatlong buwang promo lang pala yun ng Globe at Smart. “

Oo nga naman. Ang pagkasabi niya ay parang permanente nang 50 sentimos ng text. Kung promo lang pala yun ng Globe at Smart, bakit isinama pa sa Sona?

Sabi ni Commissioner Sarmiento, hindi raw nila sinabi kay Arroyo na promo lang ang 50 sentimos. Kaya pala. Nasa ibang mundo nga siya.

"Islands of hope" to go on campus tour

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:08:00 07/31/2008

I attended the press conference that launched the Kaya Natin movement at the Ateneo yesterday. Led by Governors Grace Padaca and Among Ed Panlilio, and Mayors Jess Robredo and Sonia Lorenzo, this group has the integrity, good intentions and enough dream power to help change things on the way to 2010. Kahit ano pa ang gawin ni Mrs Arroyo, there will still be enough clean and honest and brave people in government who will steer the country back to where it belongs -- in the front rank of Asia's vibrant democracies -- Danton


MANILA, Philippines—And then there were four.

Mayor Sonia Lorenzo has joined Governors Grace Padaca and Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio, and Mayor Jesse Robredo in a new movement for ethical leadership and good governance.

Expect to see them in universities not only to talk about electoral reforms and their campaigns against graft and gambling, but also to coax young leaders to run for public office come 2010.

“We will work toward promoting good governance, and encourage young people with integrity to run for elections and join government,” youth leader Harvey Keh said at the launch Wednesday of the movement “Kaya Natin!”

The movement aims to promote genuine and lasting change in government by promoting transparency, social accountability, people empowerment and electoral reforms, he said.

It was borne out of meetings among Padaca of Isabela, Panlilio of Pampanga, Robredo of Naga City, and later on, Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, to share best practices in governance with the rest in government and society.

The movement is eyeing as its new member Ifugao Gov. Teodoro “Teddy” Baguilat Jr., who grew up in Manila, but opted to return to his roots in upland Ifugao and serve the people, advocating the preservation of the Igorot culture.

“We’ve demonstrated that this can be done. So we thought maybe we should form our group and expound on certain principles of good governance. This is for real. This can be done,” Robredo said.

Panlilio, who won over two political giants during the 2007 gubernatorial elections in Pampanga, agreed.

“People are telling us that we’re creating islands of hope. If we band together, we will have a stronger effect. But we can’t do this together. We need an external-based group,” he said.

Keh, director of Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo School of Government, facilitated the dialogue. He is a member of the movement’s secretariat.

Metro campus tour

For starters, the four local executives will go on campus tours in Metro Manila for a series of individual talks on their advocacy.

The tour kicks off at Far Eastern University on Aug. 7, and proceeds to Miriam College on Sept. 4, Philippine Normal University and Ateneo de Manila University on Sept. 5, University of the Philippines on Sept. 23 and the Asian Society of the Philippines on Oct. 2.

“We will also encourage the youth to register for the 2010 elections,” Lorenzo said during the launch at the Ateneo’s Walter Hogan Conference Center in Quezon City.

She added: “We plan to organize Kaya Natin! Leadership forums wherein we hope to invite young professionals and executives who may be interested to join our advocacy.”

Lorenzo, who was drafted at the last minute to run for mayor in 1998 after the original candidate was disqualified, implemented development programs that empowered citizens to improve the delivery of services in San Isidro.

Padaca, who toppled the powerful Dy clan in 2004 and won a second term in 2007 as Isabela’s governor, stressed the need to tap youth volunteers this early to ensure clean elections in 2010.

Wanted: Idealistic students

“We need college students with idealism and energy ... just to take pictures with their cell phone cameras. Let’s engage and involve them in this concern for electoral reforms,” she said.

Keh said the movement would travel to different localities, look for young leaders and train them on how to win elections for free.

“This is similar to the Ateneo School of Government’s ‘How to win an election’ program to encourage young people who don’t come from highly influential families, to give them training on how to actually run a good election and how to be able to do a post-election program so that the election will not be stolen from them,” he said.

No to endorsing candidates

The four executives, who will act as spokespersons for Kaya Natin!, however, ruled out endorsing a presidential candidate in the 2010 national elections.

“We don’t want our attention to be diverted by things that will divide us,” said Robredo, recipient of a string of awards not only for running Naga City well but for involving his constituents in governance.

“If and when the time comes when we agree on matters concerning the coming elections, it might be just a result of a natural flow of event.”

Open to every Filipino

The movement is also launching its own website mainly to give Filipinos working abroad easier access and closer interaction with the leading lights in local governance. It can be reached at

“Overseas Filipinos can sign up to be part of the activity. There will be chat sessions and video streaming wherein Filipinos will have a chance to interact with the local government officials,” Lorenzo said.

Keh said: “There are more Filipinos who want to help this country. We’d like to get them more involved.”

It is open to every Filipino who “believes and is willing to work toward promoting genuine change and ethical leadership,” according to Keh.

“Kaya Natin! is not just a movement, but more importantly, a way of life,” he said.

Talking Turkey with the Young Turks


The Business of Governance

This is what the Young Turks are all about. They belong to different parties, faiths, and “lifestyle” preferences. Nonetheless, they respect and celebrate each other’s differences. They are united in their advocacy for New Politics and their eagerness to engage the youth and invite them to be active in the movement for reforms and political activism.

“Are you willing to talk in a church building”? This was my anxious question to Adel (Tamano) and Danton (Remoto) when we discussed the scheduled visit of the Young Turks to Silliman University on July 10, 2008. The dialogue with the Political Science and History majors was scheduled to be held in the Udarbe Memory Chapel. The All-University Convocation/Town Hall Meeting would be held in the Silliman Church . Adel, a Muslim, replied that he did not have a problem with speaking in a Christian sanctuary. Danton assured me he “is a good Christian soldier.” Erin (Tanada) and Gilbert (Remulla) did not mind either.

This is what the Young Turks are all about. They belong to different parties, faiths, and “lifestyle” preferences. Nonetheless, they respect and celebrate each other’s differences. They are united in their advocacy for New Politics and their eagerness to engage the youth and invite them to be active in the movement for reforms and political activism.

On the other hand Silliman University , all of 107 years old, is steeped in Christian tradition. The conduct of university convocations always include opening and closing prayers led by the university pastor. Nonetheless, the organizers agreed to dispense with the other features associated with convocations. The talk show format was adopted instead. Dr. Cecile Genove acted as talk show host and moderated, with the Student Government president Stacy Alcantara assisting.

Full support was provided by President Ben Malayang III, Vice-President Betsy Joy Tan, Dean Carlos Magtolis, Jr. of the College of Arts and Sciences and Dean Tabitha Tinagan of the College of Business Administration.

Two other events were handled directly by the Student Government. These were the forum with political science and history majors and the symposium with business and economics students. Both were packed with students.

Most nearly everything was discussed: GMA, corruption at all levels starting with the Sangguniang Kabataan to the highest levels, exploitation of the environment, gender equality, the role of media, governance problems with national and local leaders, and yes, alternatives. The oft repeated concern was about loss of trust in the present leaders and lack of hope for the future.

Those who believe that the students from the provinces are different from those in Manila are in for a surprise. The questions were just as intense and well informed. And the depth of despair just as disturbing.

The sharing of hopes for change was touching. Even with his political disappointments, Gilbert urged the young not to lose hope. Erin who is now carrying the torch for his grandfather and father, called for a redefinition of nationalism. Danton urged inclusion of the marginalized. Adel called for a place for everyone at the national table. He advised the young to be part of the political process.

Pres. Malayang commented admiringly, “They are so different from their fathers!” Yes, they are different in a wonderful, contemporary way. But they are also the same in that they honor the trails blazed by their fathers.

Church stand on natural contraception archaic--Miriam

By Efren L. Danao, Senior Reporter
The Manila Times

The Catholic Church’s insistence on natural contraception is “outdated and archaic,” Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said on Monday as she expressed support for bills on reproductive health.

“The Catholic religious should get real!” she added.

Senators Rodolfo Biazon and Panfilo Lacson have filed separate bills on reproductive health. These were similar to the ones they had filed in the previous Congress, but which were archived because of strong opposition from the Catholic Church.

The Catholic bishops of the Philippines have been opposing these bills which they considered as pro-abortion. Some had even declared that authors of these bills would be denied the holy sacraments. The Church had often campaigned actively against the election of politicians favoring reproductive health and insisted that family planning is best pursued through natural methods.

Santiago said that the “natural-law mentality” of the Church in the Middle Ages had prevented many advances in medical science. At the same time, she noted that Catholic teachings had since been evolutionary, like those on religious liberty and usury which were banned before but are now accepted.

She cited the final report of the Papal Birth Control Commission, which had adopted the principle of totality, or that sexuality is not meant only for procreation.

“Vatican 2 insisted that the decision to have children must take into account the welfare of the spouses and their children, the material and spiritual conditions of the times, their state in life, the interests of the family group, of society and of the Church,” Santiago said.

Biazon said he had been filing and refiling bills on reproductive health because he believed that the Philippines needs a population-management program that conforms with the will of the majority.

“We are now 90 million. We will hit 100 million by 2013. Two million babies are born every year. And per record and studies, there are more than 400,000 cases of abortion every year because of unwanted pregnancies and unplanned families,” he added.

Biazon claimed that the “unbridled” growth must be tamed to tolerable level through a family-planning policy or it would outstrip food production.

Survival mode

One of the clearest, sharpest analyses I have seen on the whole mess that is the GMA presidency, coming from the managing editor of my newspaper. Sayang si GMA, at kawawa ang magiging Pangulo sa 2010. But as they say, the task of renewing the country goes on, and on, and on. -- Danton


SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan
Monday, July 28, 2008
The Philippine Star

In her State of the Nation Address today, President Arroyo will reject calls to scrap the value-added tax on oil imports. This is the SONA part where she will stand against populist moves, as Palace officials put it yesterday.

The President will then announce the many subsidies, mainly for the poorest of the poor, that will be funded from VAT collections. This is the “caring administration” part – reportedly the theme of the SONA.

She is expected to promise that the nation will survive the food and fuel crunch, which she thinks is worse than the Asian financial crisis that struck in 1997.

There is no doubt that the country will survive. Filipinos are a resilient people, and it takes so little to make us happy. We have perfected the art of grinning and bearing suffering.

The question is where the country will be situated in the Asian economic hierarchy by the time noon of June 30, 2010 rolls around.

We have been on a protracted survival mode. Under the watch of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, our national competitiveness has steadily dropped in all international surveys. Under her watch the country has dropped far behind Thailand and now even Indonesia and Vietnam in attracting foreign direct investments (FDI).

This situation continued in the first six months of the year, with FDI dropping by nearly 50 percent, according to official records. Cambodia, whose tourism industry is booming and which is competing with China in offering low-cost manufacturing, may one day overtake us in luring FDI and in economic growth.

Under the President’s watch, the number of Filipinos working overseas has also reached a record high, with more continuing to pursue the Filipino dream of leaving their own country.

The billions of dollars remitted annually by those workers make the peso strong and account for a hefty chunk of economic growth figures. But the continuing exodus is also one of the biggest indicators of economic hardships; the benefits of economic growth are not trickling down.

All is not rosy in this exodus. The country is now suffering from a continuing brain drain. We’re running out of doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, pilots, workers with specialized skills for many industries – the human resources needed for economic development.

The Philippine diaspora also has its social costs: children growing up without parents, OFWs traumatized by abuse at the hands of employers, broken families.

* * *

It surely isn’t just coincidence that in recent years, the Philippines has consistently ranked low in all international surveys on transparency.

The administration likes to point out that all the corruption allegations under President Arroyo’s watch have yet to be conclusively established in court. But this does not prove innocence, and is largely due to the weakness of the country’s judicial system. Also, those behind the Corruption Index take the Philippine government to task not for engaging in specific cases of corruption, which could take decades to prove with finality in this country, but for not doing enough to promote transparency.

When she does what she does best – namely implementing fiscal discipline and tackling economic problems – Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can show conviction and leadership. This is the no-nonsense workaholic on whom the nation pinned such high hopes for change when she replaced Joseph Estrada in 2001.

Too bad even the nation’s best and brightest eventually get swallowed up by a system that rewards fealty rather than merit. This is a system where the best players learn quickly that if you’re going to steal, you better steal big, because then you have a bigger chance of getting away with it.

This is another thing that has been institutionalized over the past seven years: the failure to hold public officials accountable for official acts. Sure, an anomalous project gets scrapped here, a public official resigns there. But overall the failure to instill accountability in government has developed a culture of impunity that will take years to eradicate.

Patronage politics, the absence of a merit-based social system and the rule of law, crony capitalism and the corruption of weak democratic institutions are likely to put the country near the bottom of the Asian totem pole, ahead of only Laos and Myanmar.

* * *

The task of cleaning up after nine years of this administration will be enormous. The Chief Executive, who had hoped to be remembered simply as a “good” president, will instead be remembered for “Hello, Garci,” the fertilizer scam, ZTE and Northrail, unexplained killings and disappearances.

There are the smaller matters: an unknown company with paid-up capital of about P65,000 bagging a coal supply deal worth almost P1 billion, thriving businesses in used vehicle importations as well as smuggling of oil and motorcycles.

The investment climate is so bad one of the country’s top industrialists is downscaling operations in all his companies and setting his sights on further expansion instead in China.

Another top industrialist as well as a banker and real estate developer have moved many of their assets to Australia.

The buzz is that certain individuals implicated in large-scale corruption are also preparing to relocate to hospitable countries in 2010, taking their money with them.

They will be carrying on a tradition of pillage, started by the Spanish bureaucrats who were sent here during the colonial period, enriching themselves and then returning to their country to enjoy their wealth amassed from Filipino suffering.

The tradition was continued by the Marcos regime, which stashed its billions in overseas accounts.

Instead of transparency, we have a perverted application of executive privilege, upheld by no less than the Supreme Court. Even our culture of mendicancy has become tainted with corruption: foreign aid, where auditing and accountability requirements are relaxed, has become a favored source of fat commissions.

We are giving democracy a bad name. As surveys have shown, many Filipinos would leave the country if they see a good opportunity.

This is the state of the nation today. Can President Arroyo still make a difference?

Villar, the reluctant politician

By Efren L. Danao
The Manila Times

Senate President Manuel Villar had originally wanted to serve only one term as congressman. However, he stayed on to become the top honcho of both the House and the Senate. And considering his walk and talk, he might even go on to preside over the Palace by the Pasig River.

Their family had picked him to run in the 9th Congress (1992 to 1995) in place of his then ailing father-in-law, the late Rep. Flo­rencio Aguilar. He agreed—but only for one term. He was then a leading businessman and he wanted to devote more time to his booming realty business. The call to service, however, was too strong for him to resist and he has not left politics since then. That he excelled in both politics and business shows that he is prac­ticing what he wants the Senate to do—multi-tasking, or undertake investigations in aid of legislation without sacrificing its primary task of lawmaking.

I remember him best in the 9th Congress not only for his silver lock of hair (he now has black hair) but also for his brashness in urging that committee chairmanships be given also to newly elected congressmen. The seniority rule was being imposed by then Speaker Jose de Venecia but Villar protested. He argued that qualifications should be given premium over seniority. Of course, the Speaker’s wishes were followed.

“It is only during my tenure as Speaker that freshmen were allowed to head committees,” Villar said.

He is an achiever but he does not strike me as somebody who is out to get what he wants come what may. My source said that at the start of the 12th Congress, majority senators had a straw vote on who should replace then Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. Villar and the late Sen. Rene Cayetano got the most number of votes. They would have shared a three-year term but then, they received a call from President Arroyo urging them to give way to Sen. Franklin Drilon. Rather than insist, SP Villar, along with Rene, gave way to Drilon. Rene and Drilon later agreed to term-sharing, but Rene died before he could enjoy his share.

No hasty moves

SP Villar still refuses to confirm the widely-held belief that he is gunning for the presidency. “2010 is still far away and I believe in timing,” he told me in our hour-long talk at his Senate office.

Indeed, he does not seem to be in a hurry—from the way he talks to the way he is shoring up the Nacionalista Party which he heads. In fact, I’ve been wondering how come I have not heard much news about his efforts to strengthen the NP. Lakas, the Liberal Party and the United Opposition have been all over the country but not the NP. Why?

“We are capable of expanding nationwide if we want to, but this will make future alliances with other political parties more difficult,” he explained.

Rather than establish an NP chapter in every place, SP Villar is concentrating on strengthening areas where the party presence is already deeply felt. He said if he filled up all areas with NP leaders would be running against the leaders of a coalition partner, then the reason for coalescing would be undermined.

Less than a week ago, former President Fidel V. Ramos, the chairman emeritus of Lakas, urged party leaders to consider a possible coalition with NP, the Liberal Party and the Nationalist People’s Coalition. FVR thought that through a coalition, Lakas could expand its possible choices for 2010 candidate. SP Villar said that NP is prepared to coalesce with Lakas. He added that his preference is for the NP to coalesce with opposition parties but it could join forces with Lakas provided its independence is recognized.

He also refuses to identify who could possibly be his running mate. The astute politician that he is, he knows that an immediate choice could torpedo any future negotiations with other political parties.

His drawback

Among the presidential wanna­be’s, SP Villar is the most financially qualified to run a nationwide campaign. The performance of the Senate in the First Regular Session could also boost his standing. However, he has a flaw which could affect public perception of him as a leader. I am referring to his reluctance to give a categorical stand on a controversial issue. I often hear him say “Dalawang bagay lang iyan (there are two possible things),” and then explain: “On one hand . . . On the other hand.” If he could only be one-handed, he would be a more compelling choice. But then, perhaps, he considers it too early to give his stand. As he has said, he believes in timing.

Vice President Bong?

By Ducky Paredes
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

I take it as a personal insult to all of us Filipinos that a do nothing, know-nothing like Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla has been flirting with the idea of running for vice president not of some neighborhood association but of this country that might have attained some greatness except for the fact that we have chosen our leaders very badly.

One of the reasons for this is that we never had a working party system. Our political parties are gangs built on personal pursuits rather than ideals of public service.

Recently, Bong came out with a "clarification" about rumors (started by himself in feeds to the movie press) that some unnamed and possibly deranged persons have asked him to consider running for vice president. The senator is obviously suffering from the KSP syndrome. This is when someone who feels self-important finds himself ignored. He is then "kulang sa pansin" and will do anything to be noticed.

But, there is obviously a plan. Else, why would his wife, the actress Lani Mercado (who was an "A" student at Miriam) make herself available to the media so that she can express her "apprehensions" about all this talk about her rocket scientist husband running for the closest position to being president. Please naman!

You both know that all of this talk is self-generated and that absolutely no one else is even thinking about this. In fact, my own read of the political situation is that actors are passé as politicians. The actor can win, however, when the one running against them is a known jueteng lord or some such scum bag. In that case (and only in that case) do these celluloid heroes come off as the lesser evil. Give the voters a real choice and the actor cannot win!

Lately, the senator has had a snapshot of him in the foreground and our country’s past presidents in the background. Subliminal but not subtle at all. There are also attempts to place him on the same footing as Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Gov. Vilma Santos, both movie greats, too, with the difference that Jinggoy finished his law studies and has done good work as mayor and as senator.

Of course, Senator Bong may be smarter than we think. Could it be that what he really wants is for enough of us to be so shocked at the thought of his becoming vice president that someone rich will try to buy him out of the idea? After all, his political career seems headed for a great, big fall. What is his future as a politician? One doubts that he can get back to local politics in Cavite; and would you vote for him for national office, even as congressman?

Of course, it is too early to speculate on what can happen in the 2010 elections but, perhaps, Senator Bong should first try to do something with his present job. As senator, there is a lot of good that he can do for the country if he would only attend to the job at hand. Of course, he has to stop and think about what it is that he will do. Still, doing that may be time better spent than dreaming of being vice president, a job for which (God forbid!) he just does not qualify

Before focusing on dreaming about a position that involves solving the problems of the entire country, it may be a good idea for Senator Bong to concentrate on putting his domestic and family affairs in order.

First, his minor son Jolo gets Rosanna Roces’ minor daughter Grace pregnant; then, his own daughter Inah likewise becomes an underaged mother. Then comes talk that Jolo used to physically abuse Grace even while she was pregnant, giving the public the impression that being heavy-handed runs in the Revilla family. After all, it is now sister Princess making headlines, after she allegedly beat her maid up and this is not the first time that Princess has been in the news for this kind of treatment of her household help.

Politics can wait, Senator Bong. Get your house in order first. Obviously, your immediate family needs your attention.

As Confucius says: "To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right."

The handwriting on the wall

The handwriting on the wall

by Liling Magtolis Briones

And so it came to pass that King Belshazzar of Babylon gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles. In the midst of Belshazzar’s revelry with his nobles, wives and concubines, the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the wall: mene, mene, tekel, parsin. Terror filled the heart of the king and all those in the palace.

All the king’s wise men could not read the handwriting on the wall. Finally, the prophet Daniel was summoned. He told the king the meaning of the words. Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Parsin (or Peres): Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

Today, July 28, the President will address a gathering of her nobles and satraps. She will deliver the annual Sona or State of the Nation Address. Whatever she says, however she says it, cannot erase the handwriting on the wall which is there for all to see.

There is more than one Daniel denouncing and exposing the perfidy of the present administration. As early as July 18, Social Watch Philippines started its series of statements and briefings on the national budget, the state of the economy and its impact on the social sectors.

This week, more Daniels spoke out—academics, think tanks and progressive organizations, particularly the youth. On Friday, former Cabinet members from four administrations (FSGO) issued a powerful statement, which was prophetic as well as poetic. It highlighted the seven curses which the present administration had inflicted on our hapless country: the food crisis, worsening poverty, deteriorating basic social services, corruption, wanton abuse of presidential power and illegitimacy.

Today, Social Watch Philippines, a convener of the Alternative Budget Initiative composed of 48 civil-society organizations, is presenting its position regarding the handwriting on the wall and the state of the nation:

• Mene, Mene: Your days are numbered

The latest that this administration can last is up to 2010. There are speculations about constitutional change, either to extend the term of the President or change to a parliamentary system. The public strongly rejects this move. Efforts to generate support for constitutional change at this time have been roundly rebuffed. The people refuse to give the smallest opportunity for the President or her anointed successors to stay one minute longer.

End of days is coming!

• Tekel: Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang

For seven years Social Watch Philippines has weighed the accomplishments of this administration in social development, particularly the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and found them grossly wanting. Mention has consistently been made of poverty, inequity, increasing hunger, deterioration in education, stubbornly high levels of infant and maternal mortality, low levels of health, environmental degradation and global problems related to trade and debt.

Inadequate financing

Lack of adequate financing partly explains the appalling failure in social development. Dr. Rosario Manasan of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies calculated that for four MDG goals alone, P94.9 billion in additional resources would be needed this year. The actual additions to the 2008 budget are nowhere near this amount.

For 2009, Manasan has calculated that additional resources of P100.4 billion should be added to the national budget for education, health, water and sanitation and poverty reduction. Again, this amount is not likely to be generated, considering escalating deficit levels.

Slowdown in the economy

Most of the counter-Sona assessments focused attention on social-development impacts. Social Watch Philippines has already issued extensive papers on nonattainment of MDGs. This is partly explained by the slowing down of the economy.

Official data on the growth of the economy indicate a clear downward trend in the gross domestic product (GDP). In 2007, the President called for a special conference crowing about a 7- percent GDP growth for the first quarter. During the first quarter of 2008, this has gone down to 5.2 percent.

The growth of agriculture, fishery and forestry has gone down from 4 percent in the first quarter of 2007 to 3 percent, also in the first quarter. Even worse, the industry sector has gone down from a hefty 6.6-percent growth during the first quarter of 2007 to 3.9 percent in 2008.

A breakdown of the industry sector shows numbers which are not for the faint-hearted: Manufacturing went down from 4.1 percent during the first quarter of 2007 to 2.3 percent in 2008. But wait! Construction went down from 21.7 percent to—que horror!—4.5 percent from the first quarters of 2007 to 2008!

Global crisis no excuse

The usual excuse is that the crisis is global. How come Vietnam has 7.4 percent growth rate, Malaysia 7.1 percent, Indonesia 6.3 percent, Thailand 6.0 percent and the Philippines a meek, embarrassing 5.2 percent?

The crucial factor is governance.

What employment?

Last week, the government paid for a full two-page ad and issued a series of press releases on its so-called accomplishments. A claim was made that 9 million jobs were created from 2001 to 2008. These extravagant claims are totally erased by the fact that unemployment now stands at 8 percent and underemployment at double-digit levels.

Even as so-called millions of jobs were created for street cleaners, canal diggers, flower trimmers and the like, millions of jobs were also lost in manufacturing and construction. This resulted in a net loss of 168,000 jobs since April last year.


The present administration has been measured and found most wanting in the area of governance. No less than the World Bank has pronounced this government as the most corrupt in East Asia.

• Parsin: Reform is blowing in the wind

The people refuse to listen to the Sona and its claims. Change and reform are on the way. They already know the truth, and it will set them free.


Whatever happened to Belshazzar? He was thrown into the dustbin of history. Darius took over the kingdom of Babylon.

Ladlad: From Literature to Life

Speech delivered before the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines National Conference, Santo Domingo, Albay, May 22, 2006.

Posted in
July 23, 2008

Like many things in life, liberation does not always guarantee that all our dreams will come true. The Greek lesbian Sappho described life as "a beautiful pain." Living the life of a gay man does not lessen the pain in life, but it makes everything bearable.

It makes everything bearable because now, the gay men have a community to turn to. Whether it is the community of the gay yahoo groups, or the community of gay student organizations in our campuses, or the community of the organized lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement, now we have communities that are no longer imagined but real.

The PKB gay yahoo group sends bright but poor Filipino students to college. Their first batch of scholars graduated in 2006, with honors, and they are raising funds for other scholars. The student organizations all over the land have organized themselves and have gay and transgender groups among themselves. Some of them hold beaucons, or beauty contests, to be sure, but they also hold each other’s hand when the winds of isolation chill them.

Cases of suicide among gay youth abroad are rampant. Only in the past two years did I become aware that some of the suicide cases among young Filipinos must have been due to their inability to come to terms with their gayness. I have direct testimonies from some young people to this effect.

And in the last 18 years, from the year 1990 to the present, the various groups that comprise the Philippine LGBT movement have done many things. We have raised consciousness on the issue of HIV and AIDS. We have run counseling and information centers. We have done medical and dental missions. We have given gender-sensitivity workshops. We have published magazines, newspapers, and books. We have marched on the streets – during the annual State of the Nation addresses and during the annual Pride March every December. We have filed the first Anti-Discrimination Bill in the whole of Asia.

Open and closet

And three years ago, we formed the group Ang Ladlad, whose name comes from what a young man said "the book that helped liberate us all." Our members can either be LGBT organizations or individuals, or their heterosexual supporters.

In Filipino, "magladlad" means to unfurl the cap that used to cover one’s body like a shield. It means to come out of the closet, to assert one’s human rights as equal to that of the next Filipino. Thus, it means to take one’s place in the sun, with dignity intact.

What has been the response to Ang Ladlad? We have landed on the front pages of all the newspapers, have been interviewed on television and radio, have landed in Italian television and the pages of foreign newspapers from the US, the UK, Thailand, Hong Kong, why, even Qatar and Dubai!

More than 4,000 members have registered in our vibrant e-group. Lesbian and gay lawyers have volunteered to handle our legal cases, which involve mostly transgenders who are abused in their places of work, whether these are call centers or barangay halls. Counselors from leading universities have offered their services, for free, to the victims of incest, physical and mental abuse, and discrimination.

The closet cases in Makati – and boy, oh boy, they number in the thousands – have told me they will raise funds for us but would never, ever march on the streets even if the crows have turned white, since they will hit the glass ceiling if they do so.

Straight supporters – like owners of hotels, restaurants, bakeries, even car-renting companies – have offered their kindness and charity to us. Some of them are former students of mine, prompting my father – a tall, big-boned, and stern man, who used to be a military officer – to tell me it was good I did not fail these people when they were my students.


And like paramecium – those one-celled organisms who move about with their hairy parts – we have also met our share of detractors. We call them the nega stars, or the super nega, or the nega starlets.

At a Theological Hour two years ago in my university, the Ateneo de Manila, more than 200 kind nuns, priests, and Theology teachers listened to me talk about gay life and politics, even nodding their heads vigorously with the points I raised. But during the open forum, one dentist who belongs to the Opus Dei stood up and asked me in a loud voice, his questions punctuating the air like bullets: "Professor Remoto, do you still go to confession? Do you still take Communion? Do you still go to Mass? Aren’t you worried about the state of your soul?" I just smiled at him and said, "No, do you?"

The last question in the open forum came from a member of the Catholic Women’s League. So you see, my list of, shall we say, inquisitors, seem to be book-ended by these two groups – the Opus Dei and the CWL. Our CWL member was wearing a blue uniform and she had blue eyeliner, too. In fact, she looked like an older version of the SM Shoemart sales girls with their blue uniforms and blue eyeliners! She gave me a look that could have turned me to stone, and then she asked: "Professor Remoto, single Catholics are called to a life of celibacy. That is the only way to the glory of heaven. What can you say about this?"

I think I paraphrased from Santa Teresa de Avila, who wrote something in The Interior Castle that went this way: And then He [the image of Christ] came into my consciousness and awakened me. He was sweating and he had the most piercing eyes. And then he looked at me and his look penetrated me deeply, down down into my inner core. I said that if the good Catholic saint, the doctor of the Catholic Church, could consider Christ in that manner – as somebody intimate and as close as that – then I guess there various ways to reach the divine order. In short, there is no straight and well-laid map to God.

Brokeback moment

But there are also the nay-sayers even among my friends. They say that you will just end up like the old politicians – what Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago called the "fungus-faced" creatures of the Philippine political universe.

But I believe in the young people. Statistics shows that we have 43 million registered voters, and 75 percent of these voters are young people who are 30 years old and below. Thus, 32.25 million voters belong to the youth sector. You are young and exposed to the wonders of cable TV, the Internet, and the cellular phone. You are enamored with stories of progress from your parents, relatives, and friends who are Overseas Filipino Workers, and who tell you that in other lands, the politicians who steal go to jail; the air you breathe will not kill you; and the roads you take do not have craters like those found in the moon.

Words are deeds, as the philosopher Wittsgenstein has said. But in Philippine politics, words are not deeds. Words have no currency after the last polling station has closed, the last vote counted, the new winner proclaimed. Worthless are the words. They just crumble in the dry wind.

Deeds are what we need. But beyond the physical infrastructure of roads, bridges and school buildings; harbors, piers, and airports, we also need the spiritual infrastructure.

The spiritual infrastructure is anchored on the belief that our leaders are the ones we voted for; the knowledge that our country can stand on its own two feet again; the hope that, one day, we can ask the more than 8 million Filipinos abroad to return home if only for a while, to savor the sun and the sea and the sand, the company of parents and relatives and friends, bask in the reality that this beautiful country is finally moving forward, the way it did in the 1960s.

This is the stark point taught to us by all great political movements. To paraphrase the German writer Goethe: "There is nothing as powerful, there is nothing as invincible, than an idea whose time has come."

Let us allow Ang Ladlad to have its Brokeback Moment in government. We promise grammatical English, good fashion sense, and short speeches—shorter than this one I was asked to deliver today.

Aram ko na may pag-asa pa kita sa tuyang banwa. Sa tulong ng mga batang arog sa indo, ining banwa ta ay sarong aldaw maging progresibo at maogma, sa hirac ng Dios. Dios mabalos sa indo gabos!

The Timidity of Hope

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:05:00 07/23/2008

Earlier [this year], there was an explosion of idealism took place among students. There was talk that this development astounded and worried the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo so much that marching orders were given to destroy the personality thought to have sparked it: Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., the whistleblower on the national broadband network (NBN) deal with ZTE Corp. By the time classes resumed, he was supposed to be reduced to being a has-been, and with that, the political problem of student activism would be buried.

We are all used to the powers-that-be thinking in such terms, and it has to be said that there is little evidence to show that tactically speaking, the administration is wrong in its approach. Here its critics and main opponents have been sidelined, and it has managed to present the illusion that it is here to stay.

In recent weeks, students have been reported to be engaging in walkouts from their classes to protest everything, from insufficient budgets for education to high inflation and the many other ills plaguing society. These events, however, are stunts, and they lack what the authorities fear most: the impression that these represent a growing tide that can no longer be reversed.

These stunts are taking place for a reason, and it has less to do with the return of students to their classes and more with the State of the Nation Address on Monday. Previously formed student organizations are trying to prove they have clout, that they have followers, and that they haven’t given up the fight. And yet, what they are doing is a far cry from the noise barrages and protest actions that saw the students outnumbering practically every other sector publicly manifesting dissatisfaction with the status quo. The truth is that the ranks of the concerned youth have been decimated by economic reality. Too many have had to stop going to school, for one thing, and too many have found their idealism tempered, yet again, by disillusionment with their elders.

Earlier this year, the youth, of whom their elders had already been despairing, proved themselves capable of righteous indignation and concerted action. Their rising to the occasion, however, wasn’t accompanied by their elders setting aside petty differences and ambition. And so, out of sight and out of the politicians’ minds, the youth have taken to biding their time, nursing their wounds, and planning for what they hope will be better days under better leaders.

With 2010—and beyond—dancing before their eyes, politicians have taken to courting the youth. No one has been better at it than Sen. Francis Escudero, who has in many ways presented himself as the incarnation of what Barack Obama has called “the audacity of hope.” But it must be asked if its Philippine version isn’t the exact opposite, for we are troubled by the mixed messages Escudero has been sending out.

Referring to the present dispensation and his political plans, Escudero has said, “We have already suffered and sacrificed for seven years, what is two years?” This is a cunning statement, at once reinforcing his opposition credentials while paving the way to give the present suspects a free pass should they relinquish power.

He laid the predicate for this some weeks back when he said: “GMA [President Arroyo] is not running in 2010, and it would be unfair to the people if presidential candidates should still use her as an issue. Any candidate who runs on an anti-GMA platform is insulting the intelligence of the people. The people will vote for a presidential candidate because of what he or she intends to do if victorious, not because he or she is against GMA.”

This is taking the high road to enable the highwaymen to escape. It ignores the demand of the studentry in recent months both for accountability and for democratic processes to function. It is being said, however, in such a seductive way as to disguise not just political pragmatism, but opportunism. Escudero has been making these statements in the context of administration coalition overtures to his party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and talk of administration support for an NPC presidential and vice-presidential slate on which Escudero might possibly star.

So young—and so out of touch?


Column by Lito Banayo
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

Ayan na. Kahit gaano kalaki at kakintab ang tarpaulin, kahit gaano karami ang nakakalat nito sa Metro, imbyerna pa rin ang mga tao. Tama si National Artist for Literature and Theater Rolando S. Tinio: "Hindi naman talaga tanga ang mga mahihirap. Naghihintay lang sila ng tamang panahon para rumesbak." At eto na nga ang resbak: - 38 percent sa SWS survey, the lowest of the lowest of the lowest, since the time of Herr Ferdinand Marcos.

And wait, just you wait, for the full fury of the people's anger when the 2010 elections come. And then you will see how pure, how magnificent, the people's anger would be! -- Danton


Doña Gloria's net satisfaction rating dives to negative 38, and the indictment cuts through all regions, all ages, all social strata. Nothing she does ever seems to be right by her people.

Her imperious executive secretary says it's not the surveys, but the people who should judge his president. The poor who are benefitting from her subsidies should be the ones to judge her, Eduardo Ermita says.

When she was running in the 2004 elections, surveys that showed a neck-to-neck race between her and FPJ were bible truth to Malacañang. When the same surveys showed at the tail-end of the campaign that their Boss Woman had overtaken the movie king, they were ululating with joy. "Happy times are here to go on and on and on," they chorused among themselves. The surveys had given perfect cover for what the shadows at the Comelec headed by Virgilio Garcillano and Roque Bello, with the imprimatur of Ben Abalos, were about to commit.

Before, surveys were the perfect gauge of vox populi. Now Eduardo Ermita seeks in vain for another vox populi. Tell you what, Mr. Ermita - try manufacturing hao shiao surveys. With your money, you could even put up some. But who will you fool but yourselves?

Rep. Joseph Santiago of the lone district of Catanduanes wants Sulpicio Lines, and all other shipping companies that ferry more than a hundred passengers in their vessels, to seek a franchise from Congress before they can operate.

As if a franchise would prevent sea accidents and disasters.

All it will make certain is that legislators, especially those in the committee on franchises, will laugh all the way to the bank.

What the Malacañang boys cannot seem to accept is that their boss woman's dissatisfaction rating has gone down to 56 even in the Visayas. "The heartland is lost?" Cerge Remonde of Cebu asks in anguish. This Wednesday, his Doña will go to her political heartland, and will try to woo the Cebuanos back to the fold. Of course Gwen and Tommy and maybe even some clerics will be there to assist, but whether in Bantayan to its north or Oslob in the south, or Pardo and Tabunok in the city, the question that persists is "nganong gigutom na kita?"

Neither Gwen nor Tommy, nor Raul or Eddie Gul, not even Pabling Garcia, can give the right answers. Unsa'y ilang itubag? "Mag-antos lang kamo ug dyutay, kay nagpalambo na ang atong ekonomiya kang GMA?"

He, he, he. Wala mo kuyapi?

As Erap keeps saying, "hungry stomach knows no law".

As an economist, the Doña must know that an extremely huge population would be a drag on the economy's ability to grow and develop, and to distribute properly the fruits of any growth. That's in the Economics 102 course.

But the economist in her yields to the politics of appeasing the princes of the Roman Catholic Church, who, whether they themselves believe in their heart of hearts the logic or reason of the Vatican position on population planning, simply have to obey. It is a question of dogma, and the Pope is infallible when he speaks of faith and morals. Before this latest konfrontasi, she was throwing the matter of population management to the discretion of local government units. So Pangasinan under Vic Agbayani and Butuan City under Boy Daku Plaza made strides in lowering the growth rate in their constituencies. But in Lito Atienza's Manila, condoms and pills were verboten for a straight nine years. Go to Parola and Isla Puting Bato and see the results of Atienza's policy of the more the merrier.

Sa madaling salita, para kay Donya Gloria, basta't hindi siya ang gumagawa, at hindi siya ang tinatamaan, okay lang ang population control. But now that the bishops are putting the squeeze, and they are propping up her wobbly control over the State, she kow-tows.

What a hypocrite.

Thus does FVR twit her lack of political will. "She is the president of all Filipinos, not only the Catholics," FVR reminds her.

It's not a question of political will, Mr. President. It's a lack of any sincerity on anything.

Ang tagal mo namang magi-sing, sir!

This bigot from Ozamis, Bishop Jesus Dosado, threatens denial of the sacred host to those who push what his Church keeps deliberately mislabelling as an "abortion" bill.

I wonder, at the height of the Kuratong Baleleng depredations, did the Ozamis bishop deny communion to the well-known Baleleng masters who controlled then, and control even now, the underground economy of his diocese? Or perhaps they contributed generously to the diocese? Robin Hood kasi ang papel nila, di ba, Señor Obispo? Just like the Pinedas of Lubao, di ba, Bishop Paciano Aniceto?

And may I pray ask, if denial of the sacred host is to be made against legislators pushing for sane population management, how about denying the host to unrepentant and hopelessly irredeemable crooks and plunderers in government? That, as a Roman Catholic, I would wholeheartedly applaud.

''They have to shoot me'--Villa Ignacio on ouster move

Nagkakabukingan na po. Ang baho-baho na talaga ng Office of Ombudsman. That is what Malacanang got for appointing a friend of Mike Arroyo in that sensitive office. Somebody’s house is falling down, falling down, falling down. Buti nga! — Danton



The battle lines between Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio have been clearly drawn.

If push comes to shove, Villa-Ignacio said he will go to the Supreme Court and inform the justices of the underhanded tactics aimed at forcing him to resign his post.

In a hastily called press conference shortly after a show of force by subordinates of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, Villa-Ignacio, in a rare show of pique, said “they will have to shoot me” if Gutierrez’s allies would have him removed from the Office of the Special Prosecutor.

Deputies of Ombudsman Gutierrez closed ranks behind her and said the row between their boss and Villa-Ignacio should be resolved internally. (See Other Top Stories, Ombudsman rallies support from staff)

Villa-Ignacio is known to be a quiet person and rarely gives media interviews. But he told that he can no longer keep quiet because it is his integrity that is being impugned. “They can fault me for my litigation skills but not my integrity,” the said in an earlier interview.

“I am sure they are going to suspend me,” Villa-Ignacio said during the press conference, referring to the estafa case filed by former prosecutor Elvira Chua against him before the Ombudsman’s Internal Affairs Board. “A foul scheme is being foisted against me.”

GMA wants new SP?
He said he “will go to the SC and explain the unthinkable things happening in the (Office of the) Ombudsman.”

Spilling the beans on the motive for his ouster, Villa-Ignacio said Malacanang wanted him removed to give the President a free hand in appointing a new Special Prosecutor.

He said his term as Special Prosecutor will lapse on Feb. 14, 2010, a period covered by the 90-day ban in the appointment to government positions before the May 2010 presidential race.

“(The President) will not be able to appoint my replacement (if that happens),” Villa-Ignacio said.

He said he is determined to stick it out even as he urged Gutierrez to resign as Ombudsman “if there should be a call.”

Ronaldo Puno’s case
Villa-Ignacio questioned the Ombudsman’s quick move to give due course to the estafa case filed against him when “there are other significant cases rotting in her office.”

He pointed out that the complainant, prosecutor Elvira Chua, had an axe to grind against him after he “disciplined” her, together with another prosecutor, for bungling a huge case.

This case, he said, was the Motorola communications contract involving Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno. He said Chua conveniently failed to attach a requirement in appealing the case to the SC, causing its dismissal by the High Court due to technicality. “They also resorted to the wrong mode in appealing the case.”

As an experienced prosecutor, Villa-Ignacio said it was unlikely that Chua committed an honest mistake, other than to ensure that the case is dismissed. “When Gutierrez found out this incident, she took the two to her office.”

He also pointed out that it was Chua who was behind the defective case filed against Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay which the Court dismissed for lack of probable cause.

The estafa case, Villa-Ignacio said, is part of a series of harassment moves by Gutierrez. These include disapproving the recruitment and employment of new prosecutors, denying a move to transfer the OSP’s office to a bigger space which will only cost government P1 a year, and keeping him out of the decision-making process in the filing of cases.

As to the OSP’s transfer, Villa-Ignacio said the Commission on Audit offered to lease its 3rd and 4th floors for the OSP’s use for P1 a year. But the Ombudsman, for some reason, denied the transfer.

It began with Megapacific
Villa-Ignacio said the tension between him and Gutierrez started when the Ombudsman moved to dismiss the P1.2-billion MegaPacific computerization case against officials of the Commission on Elections.

The panel, which Gutierrez created and was headed by Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, agreed to charge certain officials for the failed project, recommended further investigation as to other officials, and dismiss those with no evidence to indict them for the anomaly, Villa-Ignacio said.

But on orders of Gutierrez, Villa-Ignacio said the panel, of which he was a member, decided to drop the case against all officials. Villa-Ignacio protested and told a colleague that “it would be the last time that I would lend my name and credibility (to an Ombudsman report).”

(It will be recalled that Gutierrez created the Casimiro panel to disabuse allegations that the investigation on the MegaPacific case would be rigged. Gutierrez inhibited herself from the investigation).

Villa-Ignacio said the press conference called by Gutierrez’s allies to prove that there is no demoralization creeping into the ranks and the show of force “is a sign of insecurity.”

“Was there ever an instance where (former) Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo called for a show of support? There was none. You need not do that if you feel you have the support of the staff,” Villa-Ignacio said.

Belittling the show of support behind Gutierrez, Villa-Ignacio said there are those who feel otherwise “but they cannot come out in the open.”

We earlier reported that demoralization has crept into the ranks of the Ombudsman as a result of Gutierrez’s centralized management style. The disenchantment is worsened by the Ombudsman’s dismal performance in the Sandiganbayan where the former’s conviction rate has gone down. The dip in the conviction rate is being blamed on Gutierrez’s centralized decision-making process and her clipping the OSP’s role in the evaluation and assessment of cases.

An Affair with English

An Affair with English
By Danton Remoto
Business Mirror Newspaper
Front Page
July 21, 2008

This column is part of the series on Planet English sponsored by the British company Pru-Life to promote the English language and writing in English in the Philippines.


HOW did you begin to write? And why in English?

Friends and strangers alike would ask me that question. But the notion of beginning still surprises me until now.

As a child, I loved to draw, to memorize in my mind’s eye images of the passing day. I also loved to read—I would finish reading my English textbooks in one week, when we were supposed to read them for the whole year. I read ravenously and I read everything—the ingredients in a can of soup, the newspaper my father bought every day, the Philippine Journal of Education my mother subscribed to, the ten-volume Children’s Classics that an uncle had given to us.

I grew up in Basa Air Base, Pampanga, in a small white house with a sloping roof and French windows. My father was a soldier, when soldiers were still honorable, and my mother taught Music in school. The Distance to Andromeda and Other Stories by the peerless Gregorio Brillantes was the first book I bought with my own money. Listen to the reasons he writes, spoken in the third person.

“The answer . . . was tied up somehow with the town in Tarlac where he was born, and the acacias beside the house where he grew up, the sounds that wind and rain made in them. In that house, its rooms suffused with a clear white light in his memory, he learned that words, combinations of them, could unlock the doors to fancy and fable: the strange lands visited by Gulliver, Lord Greystoke shipwrecked on the African shore . . . .”

Memory is the mother of all writing, it has been said, and many of my memories are tied up with the books I read in English, or imprinted in my mind in English. I was born of a generation when you were fined five centavos if you spoke a word of Tagalog in school, and you did not only learn in English—you also had to be excellent in it! Essays written with a good hand in perfect English were marked 100 and tacked on the bulletin board for the entire world to see.

After my father resigned from military service, we moved to Quezon City. Our textbooks included the Philippine Prose and Poetry series, published in the 1950s and constantly reprinted. It collected the brightest and the best writing in English done by Filipinos, and I was amazed at its quality. I still remember “The Scent of Apples” by Bienvenido N. Santos, where the photograph of a Filipina in a terno is slowly fading in a crumbling house. I remember “May Day Eve” by National Artist Nick Joaquin, whose long, first sentence is also its first paragraph—a startling, shimmering train of words that sinuously moves from page to page. It left me breathless.

I went to college at the Ateneo—my prize for winning the plum spot in a nationwide essay-writing contest for high-school students, in English. The prize said I could go to a school of my choice, and I went to the Ateneo, because it was the school nearest my house and I could walk to and from school. One day in college, the writer Linda Ty-Casper came and gave us a workshop.

Mrs. Casper was the valedictorian of her class at the UP College of Law and has an MA in Law from Harvard, but she chose to write novels about Philippine history—in English. She affected no airs, was quiet and dependable, like the maroon Volkswagen that picked her up from her parents’ house in Malabon and brought her to Ateneo every day. I was young and shy, given to dark moods I could never understand, but the words of Mrs. Casper were most instructive.

“We can survive almost anything, as long as we know that what we are suffering has been suffered before. When our time comes to falter, we can take comfort in the small, triumphant gestures that rendered someone, very much like ourselves, indestructible despite death. Or we can ignore literature and banish ourselves from our own lives.”

When you are young and in love with English, these words could make your day. I knew, then, that I wanted nothing else in the world, except to write. My days began to blaze with happiness because I could put order to the chaos—even the sadness—of life.

I was dazed with words. I kept a journal where I wrote poems, shards of memory, the tug of dreams. During those days, as Marcel Proust would put it, “an hour [was] not merely an hour. It [was] a vase filled with perfumes, plans, sounds and climate.”

I was in love with English and I was in love with words. I knew, then, that I was finally home.

Students urged to get involved in social concerns

Sun Star Dumaguete
Published July 12, 2008

YOUNG politicians from Manila visited Dumaguete City and Negros Oriental recently in their series of campus tours throughout the country. The young politicians who call themselves “Young Turks” visited Silliman University first.

They engaged Silliman students in a forum discussion held at the Silliman Church, as well as in addressing concerns on education, politics, economics, and cultural concerns in two earlier forums.

The Young Turks is composed of Danton Remoto, chairman of Ang Ladlad Party List and professor of English at Ateneo; Representative Gilbert Remulla, a former congressman, broadcaster and television personality; Adel Tamano, spokesperson of the United Opposition (UNO); and Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III of Quezon City, the son of former Senator Wigberto Tanada and the grandson of nationalist Senator Lorenzo Tanada. The forum was also initiated by the Arts and Sciences Department of Silliman University.

The Young Turks called on the students to organize among themselves and help in forming a new political landscape that would directly benefit the youth sector. Tamano, who is designated by the group as its spokesperson, said they set out on campus tours to get the sentiments of the youth across the country, be it in the politics involving the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The group has also expanded its discussion on family planning, reproductive health and music, among others. The Young Turks advocated equal rights for both sexes and an end to discriminatory traits for women and gays, since we all belong to one Filipino race and nation.

Tanada, for his part, explained that there is still hope in our country although several crises have been besetting it. He said this could be done if people reclaim their rights. Their visit, said Tanada, is considered a way of conversing the youth and, at the same time, hearing the youths’ sentiments direct from the grounds. “We want to engage you, we want to hear you, and we want to mobilize you,” he said. (EBS)

Taking turkey with the Young Turks

by Liling Magtolis-Briones

"Are you willing to talk in a church building"? This was my anxious question to Adel (Tamano) and Danton (Remoto) when we discussed the scheduled visit of the Young Turks to Silliman University on July 10, 2008. The dialogue with the Political Science and History majors was scheduled to be held in the Udarbe Memory Chapel. The All-University Convocation/Town Hall Meeting would be held in the Silliman Church. Adel, a Muslim, replied that he did not have a problem with speaking in a Christian sanctuary. Danton assured me he "is a good Christian soldier." Erin (Tanada) and Gilbert (Remulla) did not mind either.

This is what the Young Turks are all about. They belong to different parties, faiths, and "lifestyle" preferences. Nonetheless, they respect and celebrate each other’s differences. They are united in their advocacy for New Politics and their eagerness to engage the youth and invite them to be active in the movement for reforms and political activism.

On the other hand Silliman University, all of 107 years old, is steeped in Christian tradition. The conduct of university convocations always include opening and closing prayers led by the university pastor. Nonetheless, the organizers agreed to dispense with the other features associated with convocations. The talk show format was adopted instead. Dr. Cicile Genove acted as talk show host and moderated, with the Student Government president Stacy Alcantara assisting.

Full support was provided by President Ben Malayang III, Vice-President Betsy Joy Tan, Dean Carlos Magtolis, Jr. of the College of Arts and Sciences and Dean Tabitha Tinagan of the College of Business Administration.

Two other events were handled directly by the Student Government. These were the forum with political science and history majors and the symposium with business and economics students. Both were packed with students.

Most nearly everything was discussed: GMA, corruption at all levels starting with the Sangguniang Kabataan to the highest levels, exploitation of the environment, gender equality, the role of media, governance problems with national and local leaders, and yes, alternatives. The oft repeated concern was about loss of trust in the present leaders and lack of hope for the future.

Those who believe that the students from the provinces are different from those in Manila are in for a surprise. The questions were just as intense and well informed . And the depth of despair just as disturbing.

The sharing of hopes for change was touching. Even with his political disappointments, Gilbert urged the young not to lose hope. Erin who is now carrying the torch for his grandfather and father, called for a redefinition of nationalism. Danton urged inclusion of the marginalized. Adel called for a place for everyone at the national table. He advised the young to be part of the political process.

Pres. Malayang commented admiringly, "They are so different from their fathers!" Yes, they are different in a wonderful, contemporary way. But they are also the same in that they honor the trails blazed by their fathers.

Till them do them part by Lito Banayo

Romulo Neri will soon assume his new posting, as administrator of the Social Security System, which husbands some 250 billion pesos of the blood, sweat, and tears of the working class and their private employers.

To make certain he is classified as cabinet rank, his president created a new cabinet cluster, and made him chair the "national social welfare program" of the Boss Woman. Being in cabinet, he can always and ever invoke executive privilege.

And true to form, Romulo Neri tells the country that "executive privilege will stay with me for the rest of my life". Their secrets (his and hers) till the grave he shall carry. Till death do them part. Married to each other's prevarications - Romulo and Gloria.

In defending himself against accusations that he is out to use the workers' fund as his Boss Woman would order, he claims that when he was appointed to the Department of Budget and Management, they likened him to "Dracula" sent to the blood bank. But there was, Neri maintains, no such "Dracula phenomenon" under his watch.

Yet this guy, over wine and fine cheeses and pica-pica, used to regale his close friends with stories of how his cell phone kept ringing during those stressful days of the impeachment case of 2005. His Boss Woman was besieged by those blood-sucking congressmen, he used to tell, with unlimited requests for funding here and funding there. And her Boss Woman, counting every vote of every crocodile, would call him (a la Garci), to release this and release that to whomever. Exasperated at the incessant ringing of his phone, he decided to go to her palace, and sit beside her, calculator in hand, so his responses, which trigger the SARO's and the NCA's, would be direct.

He, he, he. He may be no Dracula, but he certainly was Dracula's valet and faithful gofer. He would open the casket dutifully each night, and close it as soon as the blood-sucking spree was over. And he would make certain the heavy drapes of secrecy are closed, lest the rays of truth permeate and set his bosses' victims free again.

To the Energy Regulatory Commission, there's one political appointment after another. Exit Rodolfo Albano of Isabela, enter Zenaida Ducut of Lubao in Pampanga, faithful maidservant to the Boss Woman, and faithful lawyer of the Boss Woman's faithful comadre, Atcheng Lilia or Baby Pineda of jueteng infamy. Again, can the public expect this Ducut lady to protect their interest, or do as her Boss Woman bids, whatever that may be, and however inimical such may be to public interest? Don't look now. And don't be surprised if one of these days, a Pineda from Lubao sits in the board of Meralco.

Bad governance is not just the flavor of this month; it is the order of this dispensation. They have run out of people who they can trust to carry their secrets to the grave along with them. The ability to do whatever they bid, no questions asked, no ifs and buts, along with the promise to keep everything secret - these are the most "sterling" qualifications for employment in this government.

As for those former senior government officials (FSGO) who keep objecting to her "good" governance style, and critique every new appointment under the principle that bad appointments are the hallmark of bad governance, well, she just couldn't care less. "Manhid" in Tagalog. "Insensitive and callous" in English. My lola would have said, "sin verguenza".

Recall what Rear Admiral Mata, that member of the Board of Marine Inquiry said about the quality of officials asked to head the regulatory agency for shipping, the Marina? "Kung ikaw binigyan ng trabaho, sana naman sabihin mo, Ma'am hindi ko kaya iyan! O ngayon...walong daan ang namatay?" referring to the Princess of the Stars tragedy.

But that's the problem, folks. The men at the helm of Marina and Philippine Ports Authority are there precisely because the cronies of the Dona y su esposo want them to be there. These are the same people Romulo Neri railed and ranted against in his lectures on his Boss Woman's "praxis of regulatory capture by the oligarchs.".

Corruption and bad governance not only sucks. It kills.

On New Politics by Liling Magtolis Briones

Boiled Green Bananas
Column in Business Mirror

During the past week, I was deeply engrossed with two seemingly disparate activities. The first was the visit of the Young Turks—Adel (Tamano), Danton (Remoto), Erin (Tañada) and Gilbert (Remulla) to Silliman University, Dumaguete City, on July 10 and 11. The other activity was the “Magkaisa sa Awitan” choral festival commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United Church of the Good Shepherd (UGCS).

It is starting. The young are singing a different political tune. It is the music of New Politics. Young people are responding to the call for New Politics in talk shows, blogs and assemblies. They are moving away from apathy and are starting to march to a different drum. They are talking to the Young Turks.

Who are the Young Turks? During the first leg of their university tour in Silliman University, many asked this question. Are they similar to the young men of Turkey who started the Young Turks Revolution that brought down the monarchy? Or are they like the young Filipino politicians who defied their party elders?

Adel says it was the media who gave them the name, which was quickly picked up by young people who responded to their blog, the opposite of

The call of the Young Turks is addressed to the young—not necessarily in age—but in terms of hope, fresh ideas, and relief from the cynicism and sense of hopelessness pervading the country. They call for the participation of all sectors, especially the marginalized, in the political process. They challenge the youth to engage the government on urgent national issues.

Coming from different political parties, the Young Turks cross political, ideological, religious and social boundaries imposed by the traditional political process.

For their visit to Silliman University, they got up at the crack of dawn to board the first flights to Dumaguete. Upon arrival, they gamely followed a strenuous schedule, which included three major fora with the political science and history majors, business and economics students and the all-university convocation held in Silliman Church.

In between, they walked from one part of the campus to another, talked with students, faculty and staff. The only thing they could not do was sleep.

The questions raised by the students in the three fora were both disturbing and inspiring. A recurrent theme was the disappointment and apathy of the youth. One student complained that their hopes had been raised and destroyed so often. What guarantee is there that they would not be disappointed again with New Politics?

Another student talked about his province, which is one of the poorest in the country even as their governor is wallowing in wealth. A son of a former mayor spoke passionately about how his father was impelled to change political parties in order to access funding for their poor municipality.

A student wanted to know why Gilbert proposed the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan even as Erin wanted it reformed and strengthened. More questions about gender equality, exploitation of natural resources and exclusion of minorities in politics. And always, the despairing query, “Is there hope?”

Gilbert kept repeating like the Lord of the Rings’ Arwen, “There is hope. The hope is in you.” Erin challenged the young to “reclaim the government!” Danton called for more inclusiveness in politics. Adel urged the youth repeatedly to continue engaging the government and the political system. He said everyone should have a place at the table.

A different kind of music, indeed!