Grasping at (foreign) straws

By Ellen Tordesillas
August 29, 2008

Gloria Arroyo is leaving abroad this weekend, a source in Malacañang said.

She declined to tell me the destination but it couldn’t be to the United States because her next trip there will be next month. Arroyo is scheduled to leave for New York Sept. 22 to attend the United Nations General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative conference.

I’m told she will also be going to Seattle to attend a Fil-Am activity.

It is expected that Arroyo will again be accompanied by her usual coterie of junketing congressmen paid for by Filipino taxpayers. At this time economic difficulties and with the uneasy situation in Mindanao, another transatlantic trip for Arroyo reflects callousness.

It was only two months ago when she, accompanied by 65 congressmen, went to the U.S to meet with President George Bush while thousands of Filipinos were being battered by typhoon Frank.
A source in Malacañang said they are also at a loss trying to understand Arroyo’s decisions these days. It looks like she is disassembling.

The embarrassing part about it is she is doing it international. Last Monday, she announced that she will enlist the help of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

I’m reminded of her plan in 2001 to hire former New York Rudolph Guiliani as presidential adviser on peace process. Guiliani was a recent visitor and nothing was mentioned about it.

I presume she has talked to Blair, who played an important role in bringing peace in Northern Ireland, because she was quoted to have said the former British prime minister “ is willing to come help us.”

Blair’s willingness to help, however, is not for free. His advisory fee is reported to be at least $1 million.

Her ally, Sen. Joker Arroyo, calls her plan “injudicious” which means “lacking or showing a lack of judgment or discretion; unwise.”

He correctly pointed out the folly of Arroyo’s idea: the conflict in Mindanao is a “geographical dispute”, not a religious war which was the case in Northern Ireland.

“The Mindanao conflict is not between Protestant and Catholics – both Christian as in Northern Ireland,” the senator said.

Arroyo is not only reaching out to far away United Kingdom. Reports said she has also enlisted the help of Sweden, which drew up the Stockholm initiative on Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration. I imagine that’s where she copied her DDR (disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation), her latest tack towards the MILF announced last Thursday after her attempt to ride on the Muslim cause to push her charter change agenda had renewed hostilities in Mindanao killing more than 30 people and rendering homeless more than 250,000 people.

The peace talks with the MILF which produced the explosive Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was brokered by Malaysia with the United States as one of its main sponsor. Japan, Brunei and Libya have representatives in the International Monitoring Team while the ceasefire between the government armed forces the Muslim rebel forces is in place. By the way, the IMT mandate, which is supposed to expire on August 31, has been extended for three more months.
Arroyo’s actions in recent days indicate lack of control and desperation. With majority of Filipinos registering distrust and disapproval of her, she is turning for support to other countries. Probably she thinks that by involving the international community in the Mindanao problem, she can count on their condemnation when she is ousted from power. That’s grasping at straws

In a briefing of the diplomatic corps on the MOA-AD last Wednesday at the Department of Foreign Affairs, a diplomat asked, “What’s next?”

Presidential Spokesperson Jesus Dureza replied:“The next step would be, we are going to do a lot of consultation with ulamas and stakeholders to help us determine the next step that we will take.”

Translation: we do not know.

Lodestar for the elections by Danton Remoto

by Danton Remoto

The following is my introduction to Ladlad 3: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing, edited by J. Neil Garcia and myself (Anvil Publishing). It is now flying off the shelves of National Book Store and Power Books.

Three days of the week, I teach English at the Ateneo, telling my students “sematary” should be “cemetery,” “high school” is spelled two words, and that even if I wrote an erotic poem in their Filipino textbook Hulagpos, I was not, am not, and will never be the persona sitting on another man’s lap in that scandalous poem. I am also taking my last three exams for my Ph.D. in English at the University of the Philippines. And once a week, I have my political meetings.

It is on a day like this, on a fine Saturday afternoon, that I am going to the Manila Yacht Club for my next political meeting. When Ang Ladlad, our lesbian-gay-transgender-bisexual (LGBT) political party filed our papers for accreditation in the party-list elections for May 14, 2007, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) blanched and said “No, you didn’t have enough people for a national constituency.” Yeah, right. To paraphrase the Pussycats, “And don’t cha!” Don’t cha say that without checking, too, the membership roster – with real names and addresses – of the many other party lists of dubious provenance that were allowed to run in the last, super-messy elections.

My reading was that the powers-that-be were threatened by Ang Ladlad. They must have thought that if we got at least two seats – and surveys said we would – that would be two seats against the administration. But how did they know about that? We only had two political statements arrived at through a consensus: 1) No to Charter change and yes to a Constitution Convention of duly elected members; and 2) A stop to political killings of activists and journalists. That was all. Nothing about impeachment, resignation, and such for the sitting President. When I learned of this and actually read a memo that allegedly came from the powers-that-be, I smiled: the political party that began with a book has become a force to reckon with. And why not? Of the 45 million Filipino voters, 4.5 million would belong to the LGBT voters’ niche, if cross-country studies are to be believed. Why do you think politicians fell all over themselves endorsing Ladlad for party-list accreditation in the last elections? I grant them good will, of course, but also I grant them shrewdness and political acumen. They sniffed the wind, and what they sniffed was this: the Pink Vote has arrived. Were you there among the throngs of people registering for voters in the last elections? If you were, did you ask the transgenders why they were signing up? Who were they voting for in the party-list elections? Ask them, and ye shall know.

The uber-origin, of course, of this political party is the book you are now holding in your hands. Our first anthology came out in April of 1994. By June of that year – and appropriately enough, the Pride Month of the LGBT movement – all 2,000 copies of Ladlad were sold out. Salesgirls at National Book Store would tell me of gays stud-looking enough to qualify for Ginoong Pilipinas asking, in their deepest, lowest voices: “Miss, saan ang Ladlad?”

The second installment of Ladlad came in 1996, and together with the first outing, the two books with pink covers became permanent fixtures in the Philippine Books section of National Book Store. I was helping NBS and Power Books then, dispensing free advice on book-selling, and I suggested that they change the word “Filipiniana” into “Philippine Books,” for certainly, when you entered Barnes and Nobles in LA you do not see a section called “Americana.” They complied. And then I also said that Philippine books ought to have pride of place and displayed prominently, on the first shelves, of the Books Section. So any book-lover who enters the store would see the books at first blush, and come near, and open the pages, and inhale the very words of his or her own writers. To their credit, NBS also did that.

And so now, when you go to the more than 50 branches of National Book Store all over the country, you would see the Ladlad series of gay anthologies – as well as the other books of J. Neil Garcia and myself – there on the first shelves. Standing tall, breasts thrust out, bottoms pointed up, and one foot forward.

The anthology gave free mileage to the Ang Ladlad political party, especially in the urban areas where the students congregate and where – as studies show – gay men eventually come out, because of the liberal education in the schools, the company of peers, and the books that are now out there, for them to hold and to cherish.

We also have to give credit to Mrs. Lourdes Vidal, my former English teacher at the Ateneo, who published her romance novels in Tagalog, and gave me thousands and thousands of free copies to give away. Marked with “Donated by Ang Ladlad,” these freebies went around the country, were read avidly and passed from hand to hand, and added to the word-of-mouth campaign that we were waging.

There was also the Internet, where we have a huge and colorful presence, with our website and discussion groups and e-mail exchanges. Our alliances with more than 30 LGBT groups nationwide also bolstered our ranks, as well as the support of straight people – brothers and sisters of LGBT Filipinos, friends and relatives and such – who rallied around our cause. I also appeared countless times in the tri-media of television, radio and print, and toured the Bicol Region – my bailiwick – for a whole month in the summer of 2006, talking to students, teachers, market vendors, farmers, fisher folk, government officials, and priests. In short, from 2004-2007, we worked on our pre-election campaign strategy, and I swear to Nefertiti, we did work our butts off.

But the Comelec – as stodgy and as ancient as their wooden building that later burnt down – would not, could not, budge. To their eternal discredit, because it soon gave way to the mess in the accreditation of the party-list groups, the madness that was the elections, the lunacy of the counting that was slower, slower than a snail climbing Mount Fuji.

The day after the elections I felt so relieved. I got my copy of Elizabeth Jennings’s book of poems, Extending the Territory (Carcanet Press, 1985) and began to read. For many months, the book had languished on the table beside my bed. I felt sad during the campaign season for one simple reason: I could not read anymore. Every day I would go home, tired beyond belief, my feet aching from the day-long sortie, my hands sore from all that shaking, my face painful from all that smiling. The moment my back rested on my bed it was nirvana: I would wake up the next morning, only to campaign once more. Erwin Oliva of the Inquirer online edition asked me what I missed most during the campaign and I told him, “The time to read.” He said he would do a survey of the books the politicians read before the campaign, and I told him, “Good luck, my friend.”

And so I was relieved because I could read again, and return to my old life as an absent-minded professor with what my students called “a fearsome” reputation (translation: I made them read books without movie versions). I began my post-election life by reading Elizabeth Jennings’s Extending the Territory, which Douglas Dunn, writing for the Glasgow Herald, called “poems outstanding . . . [for their] wisdom, hard-earned from grief and religious faith.”

Even so on a day like this I have another political meeting. I am happy because after the meeting, I would go to Makati to buy books. The person I am meeting had sent over his chauffeur-driven SUV, shinier and bigger than my library, to pick me up and bring me to Manila. I said I could take the LRT 2, get off at the Recto station, and then take a cab to the Manila Yacht Club on Roxas Boulevard. But he said that is a “no-no for our senatorial candidate in 2010. You are an important cargo and you have to be handled very carefully.”

“Uh-oh,” I think to myself now as I remember his exact words. Most of the time, I feel like a speck of moissanite, but these guys make me feel as if I were a ring of diamond. Invariably, they are all kind and polite. I must remind them so much of their stern English teacher in college. But today, the sun shines brightly. Our SUV flies over the Katipunan overpass, down to C-5, circling Makati, seemingly gliding on air. Smooth as silk, as the airline ads would put it, with a blast of cool and subtly perfumed air that makes me forget I am in sweltering Manila.

The person I am meeting is a pleasant man, whom I had met twice, and he is asking me to join them in the 2010 presidential elections. He is not the candidate, but one of the assistants of the candidate. He suggests that I draw up a budget for my own campaign, and he would show it to his boss for approval. I tell him he is the third person I am meeting after I lost in the May 14 elections, with the same agenda for discussion, and I ask him, “Why do you really want me to join your group?”

He says, “Because you have no skeletons in the closet. It’s easy to campaign for you.”

I answer, “Oh, I have no more skeletons in the closet. In fact, I am now out of the closet.” The man nearly chokes in his callos and laughs.The memory of his laughter makes me smile now as his SUV drives me to Makati. After his laughter that broke the cavernous silence of the Yacht Club, he said, “That’s why we like you. You’re quick on the take. You don’t have to memorize your answers. By the way, who’s your speech writer?”

This time it was my turn to laugh. I told him my campaign is too poor to hire a speech writer, and I just make things up as I go along. “I’ve been teaching English,” I tell him, “for 21 years. You survive those students, you can survive anything.”

Then he turned serious and asked me: “Professor Remoto, we admire your bravery and your work. What, really, makes you tick?”

It made me feel like a clock – or a time bomb about to explode – but this question burns in my mind now as I write this Foreword. What makes me “tick” is the knowledge that what I am doing is right. It is the thing to be done, right here and right now. Some say that books are mere vessels and words have no bones. But revolutions have been waged, and countries liberated, because of mere books, simple words. As the famous text message every New Year puts it, we should be like birds always poised forward into the future: we should leave behind all regret and bitterness and pain.

It is in this spirit that we are offering you Ladlad 3. The pieces in this book show that, especially the pieces that throw a new light, give a new angle, to gay writing in the Philippines. Alex Gregorio rewrites Alice in Wonderland into a poem. Ian Rosales Casocot gives us a gay children’s story called “The Different Rabbit.” Honorio Bartolome de Dios shows us a beauty-parlor worker who is part of the underground movement – a link, you could say, to another story by Rands Catalan in Ladlad 1. Ino Manalo gives us gay characters that have the delicacy and strength of the pineapple fibers in his story. Michael Andrada gives us the many different kinds of male bonding in “Boy Scouting,” while Zack Linmark shows us that Hawaii is no, never, blue. Paul del Rosario’s character beats up a bully and Neil Garcia, of course, tells us of another, creative use for the razor blade.

Goethe once said that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. We have come, as National Artist Jose Garcia Villa said, and we are here. Brandishing Ladlad and our many other books, waving our words like flames in the wind, we will you see you again in 2010.

And that’s a promise we intend to keep.

Join the petition vs the recall of Gov. Among Ed Panlilio

We must join ranks and help Gov Among Ed Panlilio from the forces of darkness in Pampanga. This is what we call super-hyper-kapal: when those who are writhing in the muck want to topple those who are doing their best to restore pride and dignity among the Kapampangan. Let us show them our power; sign the petition against the recall of Gov Among Ed. -- Danton


Last week, an initiative to recall Gov. Eddie Panlilio of Pampanga was
started by people closely affiliated with Lilia Pineda, the gubernatorial
candidate that Gov. Panlilio defeated and wife of alleged jueteng lord Bong
Pineda. Their main aim is to be able to gather at least 100,000 signatures
from registered voters in Pampanga so that they can remove Gov. Panlilio
from his position through a recall election before 2010. If you will recall,
just last month, Gov. Panlilio courageously filed plunder charges against
Bong Pineda for his alleged involvement in jueteng operations and payoffs in
Pampanga. If they succeed in doing this, we can expect that Pampanga will
once again go back to the dark ages of patronage politics that has led to
the propagation of graft and corruption and illegal gambling activities.
More importantly, this will be a huge step backward for our country as a
whole since all of us were witnesses to how people power prevailed over
traditional politicians in Pampanga during the last May 2007 elections.

*We cannot just sit back, relax and allow a good and upright Filipino leader
to fail. We cannot allow evil to ultimately prevail.* We cannot allow Gov.
Eddie Panlilio to be recalled. We cannot allow politicians with vested
interests to once again rule in Pampanga. Gov. Panlilio needs us now!
Support Gov. Panlilio and Good Governance in Pampanga by signing up at: **

*Please forward this email to all your friends who believe in fighting for
Good Governance in our country and who want to join us in supporting
well-meaning Filipino Leaders!*

Below is the formal statement of Kaya Natin! on the Recall Movement of Gov.
Panlilio. If you would like to join Kaya Natin! Please feel free to get in
touch with us at (02) 426-5657 or you can send an email to us at

Thank you very much.


*Harvey S. Keh*

*Kaya Natin! Statement on the Recall Movement of Gov. Eddie Panlilio

We, the founding members of Kaya Natin! A Movement for Genuine Change and
Ethical Leadership strongly oppose the move to recall Governor Eddie
Panlilio of Pampanga. We believe that this attempt to recall him is
politically motivated and would only serve to benefit the vested interests
of a few politicians in Pampanga.

While we are aware that there are escalating problems in Pampanga such as
the continuing conflict between Gov. Panlilio and the Provincial Board, the
unresolved issue on the striking BALAS Quarry Workers and the calls for the
resignation of the current Provincial Administrator, among others, we
believe that a genuine effort to resolve them will be more beneficial to the
Kapampangans than a political exercise the will further polarize and divide
the community. We also recognize that there are members of the civil
society, church groups, business organizations and supporters of Gov.
Panlilio that have expressed disappointment with his performance during the
past year. Thus, while we continue to support Gov. Panlilio's crusade to
promote good governance in his province, we also believe that he should
listen to the voices of these groups and work at immediately addressing and
resolving these growing concerns in order for him to become a more effective

As current local government leaders, we believe that all these issues arise
as a result of the changes and reforms being implemented in the province.
Reforms do not come easy. It requires continuing engagements between the
provincial leadership and the other stakeholders in the locality. We do
believe that given time, Governor Panlilio's initiatives will ultimately
result to better delivery of basic services to his constituents.

In light of all these, we urge the people of Pampanga not to support the
recall initiative. We ask the Kapampangans to give Governor Panlilio a
chance to fully serve his term and continue the reforms that he has begun.
Moreover, we ask all Kapampangans to be patient with Governor Panlilio
because we believe that despite the current situation, he is at the moment
still the best person who can govern the province in an effective and
ethical manner. Should there be a need, the members of Kaya Natin are
willing to help organize and/or facilitate a dialogue between Governor
Panlilio and disgruntled members of the civil society, business groups,
people's organizations and his former supporters in Pampanga.

Finally, we sincerely hope that this movement to recall Gov. Panlilio will
be put to rest at the soonest possible time so that we can unite towards
working for a better Pampanga and ultimately, a better Philippines.



Mayor of Naga City

Governor, Ifugao

San Isidro, Nueva Ecija


Mar Roxas: The Business of Politics

by Danton Remoto
February 2008

It is 5:30 a.m. at the central market of Iloilo City. The haze of sleep is still on my eyelids, and I rub them to wake me up. Two “Mr. Palengke” tarpaulins of Senator Manuel Roxas II had been hung in front of the entrances to the market. As the door of the van bearing the senator opens, the “Mr. Suave” song transformed into the Mr. Palengke jingle booms in the air. Market vendors and buyers stop what they are doing, look to the left and then to the right, espy a man in blue coming towards them, and rush to him. “Tuod na Ilonggo!” they say to each other, a pointed rebuke at recent senatorial candidates who claimed they were Ilonggo but could speak not a word of the language, not even palangga, hala!. Then, the market vendors and buyers talk to the senator in the gentle diphthongs of the south. The young men dance, the older women crowd around him and kiss him on the cheek. The photographers’ bulbs flash, the VCR runs, and the crowd around me exclaims: “Magidalagan na sa 2010!”

Mar Roxas has not announced any plans, yet, of running as President in 2010. He just said to Ricky Carandang at ANC that he would make a better job of the presidency than its current occupant does. Mar flew to the south, to his bailiwick of Panay Island, to feel the people’s pulse. He talked to market vendors and mayors, street sweepers and students. He inaugurated the Gerry Roxas Market Annex in Santa Barbara, checked the prices of market produce in Pototan, went to two radio stations and attended Governor Tupas’s birthday in Iloilo City. He had a cold, yes, and coughs tore through his voice as he spoke, but the meetings had been planned weeks before, and the people were waiting to see him. He plunged into the meetings and speeches like he was born to do so.

But it has not always been the case. He may be the grandson of President Manuel Roxas, the son of Senator Gerardo Roxas, and the son of Judy Araneta Roxas, but reluctant politician he seemed to be. He went to the Ateneo de Manila University for his grade school and high school and took some units in college before he flew to the States to study at the Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I remember Ateneo with fondness because of the values that I imbibed along the way and the friends I made there. I still see them up to the present. The funny thing is, even when I was no longer in the Ateneo, when I would be home for a vacation, I would hang out in the school. That was the easiest way to connect with friends. On the other hand, I still remember the values taught at the Ateneo. These values continue to guide and influence my decision-making. These values include the all-encompassing ones of making a difference, being a man for others, and an agent for social change. I try to apply them until now, on a day-to-day basis, on whatever decisions I make, and whatever issues that arise.”

At Wharton, some of the courses he took in Ateneo were credited, but they were not enough to constitute a full semester. So he basically started from scratch. “Wharton was
an entirely different experience. Most of my classmates and peers then were very driven, very focused, and very clear as to what their goals were and how they were going to go about attaining them. And it was not just passing school. Their goal-setting included the job, the lifestyle, the city and the house they were going to live in. My experience in Wharton transformed me into somebody who is much more serious about things and less happy-go-lucky. Most of my present advocacies as they relate to the youth are rooted in that experience – where you can have somebody in their teens actually map out where they want to end up, and know if they did certain things, if they adopted certain behavior patterns – doing your school work, being honest and hardworking – they would eventually get there. I admire very much the very close connection between input and output in their society. If I did this pala, I’ll end up in my house, move on in my life, and have a safety net at the end.”

Which, as the young man knew, was in stark contrast to the typical Filipino experience. Here, you cannot even plan your day because you do not know how long it would take you to go from point A to point B because of the mega-mad Manila traffic. “Here,” Mar adds, “if you did what you were supposed to do, chances are you wouldn’t get to where you want to end up. Because many times, the prevailing mechanisms for getting ahead are lamangan and connection and elements other than simply what you would put out. Here, you can work like a dog and still not end up any farther than where you started from. That, in a lot of ways, defines my central advocacy, why I want to be in the public service. I’m attracted to the dynamic that you reap what you sow.”

He graduated with a degree in Economics from Wharton in 1979 and worked for seven years as an investment banker in New York, rising to become assistant vice president of the reputable New York-based Herb Allen and Co., Inc. But home was not far from his mind.

“I always wanted to come back. It was just a matter of when or under what circumstances. I recall when Marcos declared snap elections, I was watching TV like, I assumed, all of the Filipino expatriates were doing at that time. Whenever Marcos would come out, we would always be glued to the TV sets. When he announced the snap elections, the very next day, I went to my managing director and told him that I wanted to take a leave of absence because I wanted to work in Cory Aquino’s campaign. I came home and worked for her campaign in my home province. So there I was at the JFK airport on a cold and snowy December 26, wearing overcoat, scarf, and gloves. And by December 31, I was already at the Iloilo airport, hot, dusty, and in summer wear. I stayed for the duration of the campaign. I was here during EDSA. Shortly thereafter, I went back to resume my life in the States.”

It was Mar Roxas’s baptism of fire in national politics. Sure, being the son of the Opposition leader Gerry Roxas, he had some indirect involvement in the protest movement. He was here during the election for members of the Interim National Assembly at the Batasang Pambansa, the noise rallies, the protest actions against Marcos. But because of age and circumstances, he was not involved first-hand.

“By 1986, my father had already passed away. When my father was alive, he was in the frontline of the opposition movement against Marcos. We his children and his family supported him. After Cory Aquino became President in 1986, I felt it was 1946 all over again. [The time, by the way, when his grandfather Manuel became the President of the republic] It was time to rebuild the country. The treasury was bankrupt, so investment was necessary. I was in investment banking so I thought I could play a contributing role. In September 1986, President Cory went to the United States. I was one of those who organized a series of investment round-table discussions with the American business community. At that time, President Cory’s name spelled magic. That was the trip when she went to the US Congress and spoke.”

He did not have any inkling that seven years later, he would become a congressman of Capiz. From 1986 onwards, he visited the Philippines more frequently.

“It got to a point where it was just crazy. I would come here and when I got back there, I would read a lot of stuff, newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times that I hadn’t read while I was home jus to get up-to-date on what had been happening. Wala pang Internet noon. I remember a fax machine then was as big as a refrigerator. At that time, we were still using telex. I was lucky because my bosses were all kind to me, and invited me to their homes during Thanksgiving. They took an interest in making sue that I progressed and developed as a professional. Maybe they thought I was a refugee or something, and they kind of felt sorry for this political refugee brown kid.”

But work he did, sometimes for as long as 18 hours a day – the coffee gone stale, the hunger pangs stilled by pizza or croissants that had gone cold because work had to be done, now, in that corporation on Wall Street. He worked his way up and became its assistant vice-president.

“Because of my comings and goings to the Philippines, finally I proposed to the company that we set up shop in Asia, since there was really an opportunity there. My only request was that it be in the Philippines. They agreed. So around 1991, I was permanently station here, in North Star Capitals, Inc. We took Jollibee public. We did the financing for them to get them a hundred stores. Now they have more than 500 branches, and I am happy about that. In the US, we participated in the first financing of Discovery Channel and Tri-Star Pictures. So those are my early successes, if you are looking for things that you can really call your own successes. I am grateful for my parents for giving me that chance to find myself, to define me for myself in the States. I think it gave me an additional dimension. It gave me the ‘walk-away’ concept, which is an important part of my character. If you don’t like the situation, then walk away. That’s your ultimate safety net, especially when it comes to ethical issues. When you don’t like something, walk away.”

Another defining moment for him was martial law. One day, his father Gerry was one of the brightest minds in the Senate; the next day, he was jobless. “Within 24 hours, I saw my father go from being a political celebrity – senator, head of the opposition, possible President after Marcos – to in effect becoming jobless. Before, he would go to golf clubs and everybody would want to play with him. Then during martial law, we would go and nobody wanted to talk to him. He made phone calls but they were not returned. People shunned him. I was then in second year high school. I saw that. But I also saw how he never gave in. He never bought in to what Marcos was selling, whatever the cost was. He never did. Right then and there, you saw what he really was. I admire and respect him for that, and I aspire to be as strong as him.”

How was the father-son relationship? “My father was articulate, but wasn’t very expressive. He was old-school father. He didn’t say anything. He just raised an eyebrow. That would already speak volumes about what he thought. I was at home where there were several entreaties from my father’s friends, acquaintances, brods, and emissaries from the Palace. There was even a time when there were telephone linemen who came to our house and installed a direct line. They were from Malacanang. And the entreaty was: This is a direct line that gets you to the Malacanang operator. Parang gusto lang ipaalam ni Pangulong Marcos to my father that there was a direct line to the President, that any time he wanted to call Malacanang, he could. But my father never used it. He never gave in. That’s a defining moment, a defining event.”

But still, until now, even if he is of good political stock, some people are of the impression that he is not so politically oriented. He is not just reluctant but also shy, and seems to dislike political pow-wows.

Mar concedes some truth to that impression. “My training, my experiences, my first successes, my first taste of victories as a professional was in the business world. The experience of standing up on the stage and waving, the satisfaction from that, is of recent vintage. So it’s not something that I thirst for. I told myself I would work in the private sector until I am 50 or 55, then near my retirement, I would do something for our country. That was my plan. When I was very young, I was, in Visayan, upod-upod, sama-sama, of my maternal grandfather who was in business. So I saw Farmers Market and Ali Mall being built. I was the one who was carrying his attaché case, who was driving him around, his all-around messenger.”

But the palm of one’s life is crossed with destinies unseen. When Mar was 35 years old and already used to 18-hour work days in Wall Street, there was a vacancy for the congressional seat in the 1st district of Capiz. His brother, Gerardo Jr. or “Dinggoy”, was the congressman, and he passed away because of cancer. A special election was held, and Mar was prevailed upon to run.

“All the leaders told me why not give it a try? If you really don’t like politics, then after finishing the remaining 1 ½ year terms of Dinggoy, don’t run again.” My thinking is, if I go into politics, then it’s not feasible to be there for only 1 ½ years. Sayang naman kasi. How could you give it your best efforts if you would be there for only 1 ½ years? I did not harbor any ambition to stay long, I just told myself to be sincerely open-minded about the whole thing. It’s not good to work with one foot in, one foot out. The work will just turn out to be shoddy. So I ran for the special elections and I won. I was also lucky that in my first term, I was able to pass a law, Republic Act 7880. The Department of Education calls that the Roxas Law – the Fair and Equitable Access to Education Act. This law stipulates that the Education Department’s budget for classrooms should be pro-rated according to student population. Thus, the more shortage, the more classrooms should be built. And finally, ten percent of the Education Department’s budget should be in the discretion of the Secretary so he or she could fund emergencies when they arise.

The passage of this bill into law seems to be a turning point in the life of the reluctant politician. “I saw that I can be of service pala. That politics is not all about politicking. You can actually make a contribution and have a positive impact. When I was going around the country, campaigning for the 2004 senatorial elections, a member of a Parents-Teachers’ Association in the Visayas told me that their school finally had a classroom because of the Roxas Law. The man told me, ‘For whatever it might be worth sa iyo, nagpapasalamat kami na may classroom na ngayon ang mga anak namin.’ I felt so good. ‘Yung sarap at satisfaction, the fulfillment of hearing things like that – these prodded me to run again as a Congressman in 1995 and in 1998. Then I became a Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry in 2000. There, I focused on the palengke, started my cheaper medicines advocacy, and brought in 30,000 new computers distributed in 2,000 schools that we got for free from the Japanese government. I also closed down 10 DTI offices abroad that were not performing according to standards.”

Even Mar concedes Dinggoy was the better politician. People in Capiz and Iloilo remember Dinggoy with fondness. Dinggoy never left the country and studied here (Ateneo; UP), while Mar went to an Ivy League school and worked in Wall Street. Thus, when Mar returned he carried with him the virtues of punctuality and efficiency which, until now, he expects of everybody he deals with. No half-measures for him. No one foot in, one foot out. Everything must be, in his favorite phrase, “soup to nuts.” In short, everything is planned so well as if there is a matrix inscribed on stone. That is why, one man tells me in Iloilo, during the early days of Congressman Mar, when they arrived for a 7 a.m. meeting at 8 a.m., Mar would be irritated. “Sana, nag-shave man lang muna ako ng maayos kung alam kong one hour kayo male-late!”

The same sense of purpose and efficiency he carried into his DTI work, where he focused on the palengke as the index of economic prosperity for the country, and for his senatorial run. From number 22 in surveys to number one in the final count is a long leap, but he did it. He was voted by 19,237,888 people in the May 2004 senatorial elections, the biggest votes anybody has received in the country. In their book Spin & Sell: How Political Ads Shaped the 2004 Elections, Glenda M. Gloria, Ana Maria L. Tabunda and Carmela S. Fonbuena conceded that a year before the May 2004 elections, the Mar Roxas team had already put in place a very comprehensive and detailed campaign strategy, including placement of campaign ads in radio and on TV. So when the campaign period began in February 2004 and his opponents were still finalizing their jingle, ads and placements, Mar was already everywhere – in the morning shows, in person; at night, via the TV ads; and in the farthest nook and cranny of the archipelago, through radio jingles. He was difficult to miss, summed up the authors, and wondered not why he zoomed to number one, even past popular movie star Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., the son of Nardong Putik, himself a former senator.

How did Mar Roxas find Senate work as compared to the get-up-and-go work as a DTI Secretary visiting public markets every week?

“The nature of the job in the Senate is very different from my four-year stint as a DTI Secretary. The output here is in the nature of policy prescriptions, advocacies, and support for or against the position taken by others. In Senate, we are trying to shape the public agenda. At DTI, the nature of the job is problem-solving, making a decision, and then implementing that decision. So it’s two different jobs altogether. Each has its own pluses and minuses. Each has its own attractions. But here, the negative or frustration is that you can only advocate a policy; you cannot implement it. If somebody decides not to implement it, or to implement it differently or at a different pace, then you are just on the sidelines trying to effect a change. You are not a decision-maker. On the other hand, in the executive, you are the decision-maker. You implement it. But you are not in control of the agenda.”

Quietly he worked, focusing on quality education, health and livelihood through small and medium enterprises. The Singapore government chose him as the 16th Lee Kuan Yew Fellow. The World Economic Forum, meanwhile, picked him as “one of the Global Leaders of Tomorrow who is expected to shape the future. The international community chimed in: “He is one of the young leaders in politics and business who will bring Asia and the Pacific into the forefront of world affairs.”

It is less than 25 months before the presidential candidates would file their certificates of candidacy in February of 2010, and the jostling for the presidency has begun. Nobody is in control of the agenda – not even the Palace, who does not have a strong candidate for President in 2010, unless you are thinking of Noli de Castro. Ho-hum.

Since I am running as a senator of the republic in the 2010 elections, I am also attending political meetings with different people and parties for alliances. During one such meeting, one person I do not know rode the high horse and began badmouthing everyone possibly running for president, except who I surmised must be his boss. I just sat there patiently and looked through him while he perorated. But when he said, “I do not like Mar Roxas because he was born with a golden spoon up his ass,” I had to correct him.

I could listen to nonsense as long as it is grammatical and idiomatic. After all, I have been teaching English for the last 21 years and sat through classes of rich brats. But if it is ungrammatical or unidiomatic, it is my bounden duty to correct them. I told the political operator: “Excuse me, the correct idiom is born with a silver spoon. Period.” You should see the ashen faces of the men – tough, rich, old men – around me.

So the next time I met with Mar Roxas I told him to be wary. The decibels for the noise and the lunacy would rise as the days fly towards 2010. They would hit him and his relationship with ABS-CBN broadcaster Korina Sanchez (Why are they still not yet married?) They would hit him and the mother of his son (Why does the public not know who the mother is?) They would say his mother, Judy, is really the power behind him (Why is she invisible when she is the one pulling the strings?) They would attack him for his silence from 2004 to 2007 (Why is he in the public eye only now?) They would even talk about his hair, his clothes, his shoes – everything under the torrid, political sun of a presidential pre-election campaign.

Mar makes no bones about his relationship with Korina. “It’s not a secret, of course, and we are doing well. We love each other. You know this thing, we let time and the relationship hold. Both of us are extremely busy. Sometimes, when we are going on a function, let us say at ABS-CBN, I would be coming from the Senate on Roxas Boulevard and she would be coming from Makati, where she lives. Believe it or not, we would meet at EDSA, at the gasoline station near McKinley Road. That is our rendezvous point, as they say. We do that so we could be together in the same car because that is still 30 minutes of traveling and we would be together. That quiet togetherness is very important. I’m not a teenager anymore. So right now, the highest form of relationship with another is having the security and the integrity and the wholeness of it. I am aware that people are asking when we would get married. I know marriage is important. I think both of us have waited this long and if marriage comes, when it comes, then it will come. Meanwhile, we’re very happy with our relationship.”

Before the senatorial campaign began in February of 2004, he admitted he had a son, but did not want photos of him taken to protect the son’s privacy. The word on the son’s mom is mum. But of his mother, the redoubtable Judy Araneta Roxas, Mar says: “I love my mother. I remember that one of the things my father told me before he died were the same things his father told him earlier: ‘Do not cause your mother to shed a tear.’ Which is not to say that you don’t discuss, you don’t argue, you don’t have your own point of view. I mean, I think my mother’s ambitions and dreams for me are the same as any mother’s ambitions and dreams for her children. She and my father sent me to good schools. My family and these schools taught me my values. In our family, we use the analogy of the compass. And Korina is now considered part of the family. When she is in the house, she and my mom talk. They talk together. In fact, when they start their women talk, I leave them.”

As to the silence from 2004 to 2007, Mar says that people should remember he did not vote for the Human Security Act. “I thought it was a misnomer, because it’s not really a human security act, it’s really a tool that can be used to terrorize our own people. You can be picked up and in effect be hidden forever, because the limitation of five days can actually be extended by a simple action. So all these extra-judicial killings and salvaging might become more frequent. I also went against Executive Order 464, the Calibrated Pre-emptive Response (CPR), and Proclamation 1017 of Mrs. Arroyo. I voted against all of these, I’ve stood my ground, I stood where I thought the country ought to be. I am now the head of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce that grilled government people regarding ZTE and JPEPA.”

To all these artillery, Mar Roxas just shrugs his shoulders. “It’s important to know who you are, where you are. Being congressman, DTI secretary, senator – these are all just titles, these are just jobs. When I was a congressman, I never used the number 8 license plate. When I was the DTI secretary, I never used number 6, and now as a senator, I never use number 7. Maybe that has also something to do with my bachelor status, so it’s not easy to find me, hahaha! But you can’t take these titles seriously. Otherwise, you’ll just get all screwy. I am Mar Roxas – I am the same person, the same clothes, the same shoes, everything. But all of a sudden, you enter a building now and you’re called ‘Honorable.’ HON. ka na ngayon, wow! I mean, you know, you have to take this tongue-in-cheek. When the function is a buffet, you don’t line up any more. They now bring you a plate full of food which – well, since I eat everything – I completely finish everything on that plate!”

It is one of the perks of being an honorable, surely, among other things. But Mar says that being HON. is not always fun.

“Now that you are an HON., typically, the conversation in your table is stilted and formal. Your friends and the halakhakan is actually happening in another table, which is where you want to be – but sadly, you cannot.”

What about youth?

Answering queries of the young is the subtitle of the recently finished youth forum the Young Turks had at the UP NCPAG from 1 to 5 pm today. Thanks go to the Student Council of UP NCPAG led by Sheila Mae Sabalburo, Prof. Liling Magtolis Briones, Dean Alex Brillantes Jr, and the Manila Concert Choir for a most wonderful afternoon.

And of course, to the students. They listened and asked questions, which is the part I always like best in a youth forum. Our emcees were Jeff Manalo and Pebbles Sanchez.

I want to write about this longer, when I have rested after a class I just finished. Suffice it to say that the event, like our first campus tour in Silliman, was a rousing success. After the forum, the students rushed to the stage for photos. I stood up, and the chair I was sitting on fell, and I almost fell with my chair. The stunned students managed to grab my hand. But we just laughed about it. Nearby, Adel and Gilbert and TG were also surrounded by students, for the photo ops. JV arrived and gave a message but had to leave early for another engagement. Erin was out of town for work as Chair of the Human Rights committee in Congress.

We are just Young Turks. But we were treated like rock stars.

As the great Pepe Smith would put it, "rock on!"

1,600 principals to be trained on online management

Isn't it time that these principals jump over to the 21st century? Sirs and mesdames, welcome to a brave, new, borderless world. -- Danton

The Philippine Star

The Department of Education (DepEd) has partnered with the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization, Regional Center for Educational Innovation and Technology (SEAMEO-INNOTECH) to train some 1,600 public school principals on better school management using the Internet.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said the online school management training of public school principals will be pursued under the DepEd’s Excellence in School Leadership in Southeast Asia (eXCELS) program.

"By upgrading their (principals’) competencies, we optimize the principal’s leadership and management capabilities while updating them on the latest trends in curriculum and instruction," Lapus said.

About 1,200 school principals have already been scheduled for a four-week intensive online session where a learning tutor guides them through different sessions.

The principals can either have group interaction, one-on-one consultations with the flexible learning tutor, or do online forums among their peers, DepEd said.

The program also pushes principals to read, download and study resource materials, and answer exercises and case studies in their own time.

Among the learning resources for the principals are the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) materials and the online Harvard Education Review.

SEAMEO-INNOTECH welcomed DepEd’s move.

"We are pleased that the DepEd leadership can see the potentials of the flexible learning system and appreciate the opportunities it offers for the future," said Dr. Erlinda Pefianco, SEAMEO INNOTECH Director.

Comelec prepares for 2010 elections automation, mulls hybrid technology

By Carmela Fonbuena

With the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections out of the way, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Jose Melo said the polling body is now "totally focused" on the automation of the coming 2010 presidential elections.

Less than two years away, Melo said "we have to keep moving. If we rest, we will lose the momentum from the successful ARMM automated elections. We were able to proclaim the winner in two days. If we can do it faster in 2010 and proclaim the president in one day, it will be better," he told

Melo issued at least three orders during Wednesday’s Comelec en banc to prepare for the 2010 elections. One, he asked for the preparation of elections calendar for 2010. "I asked them to do it as soon as possible. There are a lot of things to be done. We still have to bid [the automation project] and decide," Melo said.

Two, he assigned poll commissioner Leonardo Leonida to be in charge of cleansing the voters’ list. "I still don’t know how it will work. Commissioner Leonida will report to us," Melo said.

The Comelec is mulling the use of biometrix technology, which will supposedly purge the voters’ list of flying voters or multiply registrants. With biometrix, poll officials will be able to cross match the signatures, photographs, and fingerprints of voters.

Three, he scheduled a meeting with the Advisory Council on Poll Automation on Tuesday next week. The advisory council was in charge of the technical aspect of the ARMM automated elections.

While the council is expected to complete its assessment on the machines used in the ARMM elections in October, Melo said it’s better to start discussing with them this early about possible technologies that will be used in 2010.

The council's report due in October will also be submitted to Malacanang and Congress.

DRE, OMR hybrid in 2010?
A hybrid of the Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) and Optical Mark Reader (OMR) technologies were used in the ARMM elections. With DRE, the election is fully automated from voting, counting, and canvassing. With OMR, only the counting and canvassing are automated.

While the same hybrid is mulled for the 2010 presidential elections, Advisory Council for Poll Automation president Ray Roxas Chua told reporters after the ARMM polls that Comelec is still open to other technologies for 2010. Chua is the head of Malacanang’s Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT).

"When we look at the 2010 elections, we will once again look at all possible technologies. We will do procurement from the very beginning. Definitely, OMR and DRE will be strongly considered," he said.

Melo depends on the advisory council on technical matters. "It’s up to the advisory council to tell us. They will study the glitches. Of course, the cost is a big factor."

Early bidding
On Melo’s timeline, invitations to bid for the automation project should be given out December this year if not earlier. "At the latest on January 2009, we would be giving out our invitations to bid to the providers," he said.

"By the first quarter of 2009, we shall be making our decision on whom we shall get as providers. At the latest, March of 2009. We will begin training again, etc.," he added.

"We have to consider a lot of factors," said Chua. "It will not be economically feasible to do 100 percent DRE roll out for 2010. One of the things we’re really looking for in [the ARMM polls] is how the two systems can work together."

Although quicker, the DRE technology is estimated four or five times more expensive than OMR. Comelec will depend on the budget that Congress will give them.

Nobody's listening to Arroyo

By Ellen Tordesillas
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

Gloria Arroyo has lost control. She should resign.

She has lost control not only of herself (look up her throwing tantrum video last Monday in YouTube) but also of the government.

She should resign to spare the country further destruction, not only in terms of loss of lives but damage to democratic institutions.

Calls for Arroyo to resign are nothing new ever since the “Hello Garci” tapes surfaced which exposed her to have masterminded cheating in the 2004 elections. But she has effectively placated her political adversaries. This time, however, she has expended her political capital. Derided by majority of Filipinos, Arroyo’s words have no value.

Even MILF spokesman Mohagher Iqbal is not taking her seriously.

Asked by ANC’s Tony Velasquez about Arroyo’s latest policy statement abandoning negotiation and shifting to “dialogue with the communities” (whatever that means), Iqbal said, “I don’t want to comment. Kapag ang isang tao ay emotional kung ano-ano ang nasasabi.

Iqbal must have also observed that Arroyo is confused and panicking. Her statements give us reason to doubt if she has a good grasp of the situation on the ground. What does she mean by “Engagements with all armed groups shall be about disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation or DDR.”

Is she ordering the AFP to disarm the MILF? Is this an order for an all-out war?

At this time when the people have had enough of secrecy and obfuscation, she comes up with declarations that “From negotiations, our focus shall shift to dialogues with the communities or government conducting authentic conversations or dialogue with the people… about the people and government telling armed groups to give up armed struggle.” The people telling the MILF to give up their arms? Hello?

Arroyo’s deputy spokesperson announced the cancellation of the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement On Ancestral Domain that would have been signed last August 5 in Kuala Lumpur had it not been for the temporary restraining order by the Supreme Court. She said the government will work out a new agreement with the MILF.

MILF’s Iqbal rejected any suggestion of renegotiation.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado. OMI, who has worked closely with the GRP-MILF peace panel said, “GMA is suspect from the very start. Whether we are for GMA or not, the fact remains that her credibility and popularity are almost nil. No peace agreement anywhere in the planet can be negotiated with that standing.”

Mindanao is being held together by the military taking to heart their Constitutional duty “as protector of the people and the State.” Arroyo, the commander-in-chief, is merely catching up with the armed forces. In fact, she issued her order for the military and police “to defend every inch of Philippine territory against MILF forces, and immediately restore peace in the affected areas in Lanao de Norte” when the military was already conducting mopping up operations. MILF’s Commander Bravo was already back in his “territory” after attacking municipalities in Lanao del Norte, burning houses and killing those who resisted.

The people have to be thankful that AFP chief Alexander Yano does not share the view of his predecessor, presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon who told North Cotabato Vice Governor Manny Piñol that it’s the policy of the government not to “sacrifice the lives of the soldiers” if communities are attacked by MILF if the MOA on ancestral domain if blocked by the Supreme Court.

Arroyo should take her cue from her 2005 visitor, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who resigned last Monday after nine years in power rather than be impeached. She is in no danger of being impeached given her hold on the pork barrel-loving congressmen. But if things get out of hand and Arroyo is seen as incapable of governing anymore, more messy scenarios could unfold.

She still has the option to resign and negotiate her exit which could include exile in a castle in Europe where she can enjoy her brandy. That’s definitely better than being ousted and landing in jail.


Roxas invites Lim to join Liberal Party

Politics is addition, not subtraction. Erap has a lot of time in his hands -- enough time to prepare for 2010. Whether running as president or kingmaker, Tatay Erap is still like a force of nature. Whether you like it or not, you will see more of him in the next few days. That is, if he is not busy going around the country, to thank the people for trusting him.


August 21, 2008

MANILA, Philippines - Dethroned Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) president Alfredo Lim may find himself joining the party that had him as standard bearer in the 1998 presidential elections.

This was after Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II disclosed that he had invited Lim to join Liberal Party (LP) and that preliminary talks are “ongoing.”

“We have high regard of Lim and we respect him. We welcome him (if he intends to join the party),” Roxas, the LP president, said Thursday.

Lim formally resigned from PMP Wednesday after he was booted out of the presidency.

Pardoned former President Joseph Estrada said he decided to assume the leadership of the PMP since Lim was “too busy" with his functions as mayor of Manila.

“I have taken over as president of the PMP because Mayor Lim was too busy. Anyway, I am not doing anything. The party removed him (Lim)," Estrada said.

Estrada also admitted that Lim’s participation in Edsa Dos, which catapulted President Arroyo to power, and his recent manhandling of a Manila councilor over a row involving a slaughterhouse also contributed to the party’s decision.

In his resignation letter dated August 20, 2008, Lim promised Estrada that he will remain with the opposition.

Lim served as secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) during the short-lived Estrada administration. - GMANews.TV

Ninoy may now be wondering if the Filipino was worth dying for

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
Thursday, August 21, 2008
The Philippine Star

The murder of Ninoy Aquino 25 years ago was supposed to silence the one Opposition leader then who was the thorn on the side of Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos and posed the greatest threat to those seeking to succeed him.

The murder was supposed to secure the tenure of the Marcos dictatorship — if not Marcos himself, then his preferred successor. But like the best laid plans of mice and men, that was not what turned out to be.

The murdered Ninoy became the country’s new national hero. His sacrifice provided the spark that ended the Marcos dictatorship. The dictator who sought to perpetuate himself in power was ousted three years later – to be succeeded by the widow of the man they murdered.

To those of us who lived through all this, we are wiser for witnessing with our own eyes two valuable lessons:

1. The first is that there is truly a God who can set the seemingly hopeless course of a nation to the path of redemption. We delude ourselves if we say that the events of August 21, 1983 all the way to Redemption Day on February 25, 1986 did not have the hand of God guiding the nation to its desired liberation.

2. The second is that the Filipino is a great nation that only needs a truthful and sincere leader to bring out the best in all Filipinos. Filipinos became the toast of the world for the lessons of People Power which, sadly, is altogether forgotten and discarded now.

It is no coincidence that two of the icons of People Power — Cory Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin — are persons who take their strength from prayer. It is no coincidence that the people in EDSA were repelling tank columns with prayers and rosaries. All they had was the faith that moved mountains.

It is no coincidence that the easily divided Filipinos were united in their stand for freedom and democracy during the fateful days of the People Power Revolt. Their courage was no doubt inspired by the man who dared to return home 25 years ago despite the grave risks it involved.

The events of February 21 to 25, 1986 made us the toast of the world. The anchor of a US TV network covering the event live commented: “We Americans like to think that we taught the Filipinos democracy. Well today, they are teaching the world.”

It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote in St. Joan that it is bad enough if people do not know when they are beaten, it is worse when people do not know when they are victorious. In other words, it is bad enough if you do not learn the lesson of your mistake, it is worse if you do not learn the lesson of your own success.

Alas, we Filipinos taught the world the perfect execution of People Power sans violence. And yet, instead of using People Power to strengthen our democracy and make it work, we discarded the priceless lesson we taught the world.

The lesson of unity gave way to ‘kanya kanyang lakad’ (paddle your own canoe). Weak because we are un-empowered, still we allowed ourselves to be divided and thus be easily manipulated and exploited.

Since few Filipinos really cared to do something about the problems of the country, we find ourselves the biggest victims of the continued slide, our economic retardation. Richer than Japan in natural resources, we cannot even provide our people with basic education and health services.

The majority of Filipinos thinks and believes that the country is ruled by one who cheated during the 2004 elections. Ninoy must be wondering — how come People Power was launched when Marcos tried to cheat Cory and yet is now discarded in the face of a similar rape of the democratic process?

It must be puzzling Ninoy no end that how come Filipinos who did not tolerate oppression and repression from Marcos — compared to the current, a far better ruler who had a vision for the country despite the failings of his dictatorship — is now able to stomach the present regime which hardly has any saving grace to speak of?

Brilliant as he was, Ninoy must be at a loss at how come the race that produced such lions of history as Lapu Lapu, Gregorio del Pilar, Jose Rizal, Apolinario Mabini and Andres Bonifacio is so devoid today of such patriotism and heroism in the face of crass corruption and the treasonous sellout of the national interest to foreign superpowers.

Ninoy must be crying over how the rest of the soldiers and officers of the military — save for the few who stood up to tyranny — can continue to defer to this present ruler as their Commander-in-Chief. They’re the constitutionally mandated protectors of the people and yet they’re unable to discern if Filipinos need protection and redemption from their present bad rulers.

Ninoy must be crying at the sight of his siblings — Paul, Tessie and Lupita — fawning on the woman who would be another Marcos if she could.

We are family

Posted August 20, 2008

In the mid-seventies my father had a trading firm in Quezon City and his accountant was a lesbian. How did I know she was a lesbian? She had short hair, a robust body, and she wore blouses that looked like shirts. She walked with a swagger and had a gentle face wreathed in smiles.

She would visit our house every quarter to look at the books. After her first visit, my father walked her out of the house into her car, a cool, blue Datsun. My mother and I were sitting in the living room, and suddenly she said, “Do you know that Tess is a lesbian?”

I was in high school, tall and lean and shy, my face full of pimples. I just looked at my mother, and then she added: “But that is all right. She takes care of her old parents and sends her brothers and sisters to college.”

I was confused. Does that mean it was all right to be a lesbian? Or was it all right to be a lesbian if you care for your old folks and send your siblings to school?

My hairdresser’s name is Dessa. I go to him not only to have my hair shampooed and trimmed and oiled; I also go to him for my month’s supply of stories. Sometimes scandalous stories, yes, because his parlor is near two places dear to his heart--a military camp and a construction site. He likes his men straight and dark and hard of sinew, and he has a cache of stories about soldiers and workers who can be seduced with an excellent haircut or a bag of hot pan de sal and Coke.

But like Tess, Dessa is also the family breadwinner. Sure, his parents are now permanent residents in the United States, after having been petitioned by his sister, now an American citizen. But he still has other brothers and sisters—and their gaggle of children—who come to him with their interminable needs.

Sometimes, he would be cutting my hair and his nephew would climb the stairs and ask him for some money to buy milk for the baby at home. Dessa’s round eyes would just look at me, he would shrug his shoulders, then dip his fingers into his small, brown handbag.

Gay market?

The columnist and UP professor Michael Tan said that there is no such thing as a gay market in the Philippines, in reference to the slew of advertisements talking of gay-niche marketing. In the Philippines, he said, there is only the gay (and lesbian) breadwinner.

The Filipino family in the new millennium is no longer composed of the father who works, the mother who stays at home, and the children who go to school. Since the 1970s, with terrible poverty besetting the land, millions of Filipinos have left.

There are now eight million Filipinos abroad, fully 10 percent of our population of 89 million. These Filipinos are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts. They left behind children, nephews and nieces, siblings to be fed and clothed and educated.

Some of those who left are gays and lesbians who remit the dollars that prop up our dismal economy. Some of those who stayed here are gays and lesbians who care for the children their parents left behind. They work by day, go home to tutor the children, make sure they are fed and cared for. Along with the grandparents left behind, they, too, constitute the new Filipino family.


In this nation of migrants, the fabric of the Filipino family has not been torn, it has been altered. It has been patched, with new designs and new colors added. It has verily become a fabric different but still the same. It has been said that the Filipinos are some of the warmest and most spontaneous people in the world. You only have to attend family reunions to see vivid examples of these.

But in these reunions, the gay uncle is quiet because he does not want to be asked when will he marry, and the lesbian aunt is busy puttering about the house, making sure everybody is fed.

These are stereotypes. Gays and lesbians in the millennium have changed, too. Some of us are into relationships with fellow gays, or with fellow lesbians. There are still those who sleep only with straight people, with dire consequences for their pockets and for their self-esteem.

But more and more people in our community are into relationships based on mutual love and respect. The relationships last for months, for years, even for decades. Love, like desire, springs eternal in the human breast.

And as the years pass, more and more are adopting children—the children of their poor relatives, the children of their house help, the children left on their very doorsteps, like in the melodramatic Tagalog movies. So the mainstream protest has shifted to same-sex parenting.

In 1998 we hosted an afternoon of discussions with presidential candidates. One of those who graciously attended was the late Senator Raul Roco. We asked him if there is a provision in the Family Code that would prevent a same-sex couple from adopting a child legally. The context of the question is an opinion from the Department of Social Welfare and Development that a lesbian or gay couple (or individual) cannot adopt because there would be no role models for a male or female parent.

Senator Roco said that was only an opinion and it has no legal leg to stand on. He even suggested that we could do a test case here and go to court.

Condoms and contraceptives

The American Psychological Association and the American Psychoanalytic Association have separately issued statements supporting the rights of gays and lesbians to adopt. Categorically, they have affirmed studies done over the last 20 years that “there are no notable differences between children raised by straight or gay parents.”

Ironically, the Marriage Law Project—an organization whose mission is to reaffirm the legal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman—commissioned analysts to examine the 49 studies in which researchers found no difference between children raised by gay and straight parents. Shaking its head, incredulous even, the Marriage Law Project had to concur with the validity of the scientific findings.

You can see this miasma of confusion in the current debate between the Catholic Church and the reproductive-rights advocates. The end-point, from where I stand, is that the Church should continue teaching people in their natural family planning clinics how to count correctly so their natural birth-control methods would work.

As it is now, with illiteracy and innumeracy hounding the poor, they cannot even understand the basics of the natural method. On the other hand, health centers should carry condoms and other contraceptives, as well as accessible information on family planning, so that the poor could limit the number of their children.

For the very poor who has P10 in his pocket would rather buy a packet of noodles to feed their children than a condom for himself. In the end, I think it all boils down to choice.

Sexual violence

Moreover, there is the silence of the church on the sexual violence inflicted on young members of the flock. Even Pope Benedict has publicly apologized for what the pedophile priests have done in Australia and the United States. Gobbledygook, a member of a gay yahoo group, said, “It’s truly sad that the Catholic hierarchy condemns homosexual [acts] when it has treated its erring gay priests and lesbian nuns who figured in molestation/rape/sexual harassment cases with kid gloves. If there are closeted gay clergy who engage in homosexual practices, what does that make of the Catholic hierarchy that condemns homosexuality? I think it only makes the Church look ridiculous.”

Mr. Brown adds: “There are some gay priests hiding in the confessional boxes, afraid to come out in the open. What we get from the newspaper headlines are only a few isolated cases. Most of the young and helpless victims are afraid to speak out. Yet we hear of condemnation of gays high up in the pulpit.”

In fairness to the Catholic Church, when I asked a bishop about this, he said the CBCP should be given a written letter about incidents of pedophilia, and they would investigate the matter at hand. So the table is now open for a test case.

Luigi, Mika

I want to end with a self-serving story.

My sister’s husband recently died of leukemia. Now she has to raise Luigi, her now 12-year-old son, who wants to go to medical school. She works hard and has saved some money, but I do not think it is enough to send a son to medical school in the next 20 years. So I told her I will help send her son to school.

Recently, I adopted the daughter of our yaya of 20 years. Mika is now seven years old, a big-boned and bubbly girl who is topping her class in grade school. I am sending her to a good school and one of the pleasures of my life is to call home every night and ask her what good thing she did in school today.

Thus, happy-go-lucky me who only buys books and clothes for myself and who lives abroad every two years now has to send two kids to school. Our house is loud with a teenager’s voice and the poem being memorized by a bright girl.

Every night I check if the aircon is not too cold for them, and if the yaya has tucked them well for the night. I think of vaccinations and medicines and sweat drying up on their backs. But in turn, the boy breathlessly tells me stories about what the manga he has just drawn, and the young girl calls me “Daa-dee.”

I do it not out of a sense of obligation but of love. Now that these two children have another “Daa-dee,” our little house on the prairie is complete.

Don't stereotype Moros as terrorists -- Opposition spokesman

MANILA, Philippines — The spokesman of the United Opposition (UNO) on Wednesday appealed to the public not to stereotype Filipino Muslims as “terrorists” as a result of the unprovoked killing of unarmed civilians allegedly by renegade members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Central Mindanao last Monday.

Adel Tamano, a Muslim scholar and lawyer, said such unfair characterization would be “a serious threat to the peace-process in Mindanao.”

“While all-peace-loving Filipinos must condemn the attacks on civilians by MILF, we must strongly resist the temptation to stereotype all Moros as violent or terrorists,” Tamano said in a statement.

“The vast majority of Filipino Muslims are law-abiding citizens who want nothing more than to find decent jobs and education for their children, just like all other Filipinos,” he added.

“We must not allow the situation to degenerate into a generalized anti-Muslim sentiment which is unfair and will ultimately be a death-blow to the dream of creating a lasting peace in Mindanao,” he said.

Tamano earlier said the unprovoked attacks on civilians “certainly does not help convince those against the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on ancestral domain between the government and MILF negotiation panels.”

He called the attacks “immoral, Un-Islamic and un-Christian.”

Tamano, along with former Senate President Franklin Drilon, and Liberal Party President Sen. Mar Roxas openly supported the opposition raised by Mindanao local officials against the proposed MOA. They were able to secure a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court to stop its scheduled signing last Aug. 5 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

At the same time, Tamano said all peace advocacy groups, whether they supported the MOA or not, should now take a firm stand against the recent atrocities in Central Mindanao that has claimed dozens of lives and displaced thousands of villagers..

Tamano earlier called on all Mindanao leaders “to make a strong and unqualified call to end all hostilities between the government and the MILF.”

“Now is not the time for blame and finger-pointing but for statesmanship on all sides. I challenge all our leaders to set aside their own agenda and make an unequivocal call for peace and unity,” he said.

SWS: De Castro, Loren are top prez bets for 2010

Vice President Noli de Castro and Sen. Loren Legarda are the top two presidential choices to succeed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2010 polls, results of the Second Quarter 2008 Social Weather Stations survey said Tuesday.

Three out of ten Filipinos or 31 percent of the respondents chose De Castro as their top presidential bet followed by Legarda with 26 percent. Twenty-five percent of respondents chose Senate President Manuel Villar as their choice for president.

The SWS survey used face-to-face interviews to 1,200 respondents, who were divided into random samples representing 300 each in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. SWS claimed a sampling margin error of ±3 percent.

In the survey conducted June 27 to 30, adult respondents were asked the question: “Under the present Constitution, the term of President Arroyo is up to 2010 only, and there will be an election for a new President in May 2010. Who do you think are the good leaders who should succeed President Arroyo as President? You may give up to three names."

The respondents were not provided a list of names, giving them the chance to name three of their presidential bets.

Other names that emerged were mostly from the opposition namely Senators Panfilo Lacson (16 percent), Francis Escudero (14 percent), Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas (13 percent), former President Joseph Estrada (11 percent) and Francis Pangilinan (2 percent).

Fifteen percent failed to give an answer, while eight percent had no one to recommend.

Compared to the previous SWS survey, the proportion of respondents who favored De Castro and Legarda slightly dropped down by four points. De Castro dropped from 35 percent to 31 percent while Legarda dropped from 30 percent down to 26 percent. There was a three-point decline for Roxas (from 16 percent to 13 percent) and Estrada (14 percent to 11 percent). Escudero went down to 14 percent from the previous 19 percent while Villar leaped 8 points from 17 percent to 25 percent.

Young Turks go to Silliman

LODESTAR By Danton Remoto
Monday, August 18, 2008

In February of this year, I received a text message from my friend, Atty. Adel Tamano, president of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, spokesman of the Genuine Opposition, and a fellow alumnus of the Ateneo de Manila University.

He was asking me to join a group of new and relatively young political leaders. Our mission: to talk to the youth and listen to why they only see hopelessness on the horizon. I signed on, along with San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito, Bukidnon Rep. TG Guingona, former Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla, and Quezon Rep. Erin Tanada. We had two subsequent meetings, where we drew up a list of other people we wanted to invite to our group, and to focus on what our core message would be. Hope, we all said, it is going down, down, down, especially among the young.

Our first media appearance was on ANC, and then to tilt the scales, we also had a radio gig at DZBB over at GMA-Channel 7. Our first campus tour was held last July 10, at Silliman University in Dumaguete City.

“Are you ready to talk to a group of students in a big church?” asked UP professor Liling Magtolis Briones, chairperson of the board of trustees of Silliman University, former national treasurer, and our fairy godmother.

“Of course,” I answered, “I am a good Christian soldier.” Adel, who is a Muslim, as well as Gilbert and Erin joined the first campus tour of the Young Turks.

Nestled in a bowl of land between the mountains and the sea, Dumaguete City is a perfect place for the first campus tour. It is home to the 107-year-old Silliman University, which has taught and trained some of the country’s best minds. I first went to Silliman after graduation in 1983, as a writing fellow in the famous Writers’ Workshop led by the formidable husband-and-wife team of Edilberto K. Tiempo and Edith L. Tiempo. I returned a decade later, as a workshop panelist myself.

And I was back a few weeks ago, with my friends, to talk turkey with the young in Silliman. We woke up at 4 a.m. to be at the airport by six, for the 7 a.m. flight. Groggy from lack of sleep, we were fueled by sheer adrenaline, and the kindness and graciousness of the administration, faculty, staff and students of Silliman.

First we talked at the Udarbe Memorial Chapel, before a group of feisty political science and history students. One of them asked us, in a tone plaintive yet inquisitive: “What makes us sure that you won’t end up like the politicians before you, who talked to us and later abandoned us?”

Adel, Erin, Gilbert and I spoke, telling them of our individual choices to stay here in the Philippines when we could have stayed in the US after we got our graduate degrees. We spoke of working for the government with its starvation wages — if you never dipped your fingers in the pie of public funds. I told the young and earnest crowd that I’m proud to be with this group of bright and hardworking young men, achievers all, the finest assembly you could find ever, who would put the country where it belongs — in the forefront of the Asian renaissance.

After lunch at the lovely Residencia del Almar, with its Spanish-inspired architecture, we hied off to talk to the business administration and economics students at the audiovisual presentation room of Silliman. This time, we were asked about our thoughts on pump-priming the moribund economy. I said the government has money, but it is not allocated wisely and well, and much money is lost due to a lot of leakages. So in this time of economic crises, we must focus on fixing first the infrastructure destroyed by the recent typhoons, thus providing jobs for the countryside and making the infrastructure usable again. I also batted for food security, in the sense that we should put agriculture back on track, by funding irrigation and fertilizer needs, and making sure the money does not end up in the campaign kitty of some dirty hands in the 2010 elections, the way it did in 2004.

Our last stop was at the grand Silliman Church, where we held the all-university convocation/town hall meeting, complete with orchid leis and a recessional hymn. We spoke briefly and listened to the questions, ranging from politics to economics, from local government units to the Sangguniang Kabataan, from lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender concerns to the Law of the Sea. Whew! And we were treated like rock stars — the whole church rocking with the screams, shouts, and cheers of the students when our names were called. Goose pimples ran over my skin when I saw the warm welcome and — yes — wild reception we all received from the young people.

When a well-scrubbed girl in ponytails asked if there is still hope for this country and why do we continue to live here, I said: “Look, look outside this grand church and there is the sea. More than one hundred years ago, our national hero, Jose Rizal, walked on the same boulevard in Dumaguete that we now see. From Dipolog he visited Dumaguete and walked there, deciding whether he should stay here in the Philippines, or leave. We all know what he did. When in doubt,” I added, “read what Lolo Pepe did.”

But let us now listen to what Ma’am Liling wrote about us, to round off this piece.

“The Young Turks belong to different parties, faiths, and lifestyle preferences. Nonetheless, they respect and celebrate each other’s differences. They are united in their advocacy for a New Politics and their eagerness to engage the youth and invite them to be active in the movement for reforms and political activism. Silliman University, (on the other hand), is steeped in Christian tradition. The conduct of university convocations always include the 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 the 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. 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.”

The next campus tour of the Young Turks will be on Aug. 26, at the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, 1 to 5 p.m. Be there.

My campaign team in Lanao del Norte

My campaign team in Lanao del Norte just texted that they are fleeing because the MILF took over their towns this morning. More than 20,000 people have fled. Some are taking their bancas to cross over from Lanao del Norte to Ozamiz City, on the other side of Northern Mindanao. Iligan City is on red alert. Fr. Regie Quijano of Kulambugan town has been killed by the MILF. Fr. Regie is a friend of our cause -- human rights for all Filipinos, including LGBTs, and justice and peace for Mindanao. We should mourn his passing and pray for his soul.

There is blood on the hands of GMA. The Chinese said their govt is unlucky if it is doing nothing for its people. This govt is just that -- full of ill luck, deep in wickedness. And thus, its mandate from heaven should be lifted.


Reaping the whirlwind: GMA and the MOA-Ad mess

by Atty. Adel A. Tamano, AB, JD, MPA, LLM

I received information that war is imminent in Mindanao because of the petitions questioning the constitutionality of the MOA on Ancestral Domain pending before the Supreme Court. According to one message, the Supreme Court was “adding fuel to the fire.” The proposition is that if the MOA is declared to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, then hostilities would break out between the MILF and government. Also, in media and in numerous fora, the supporters of the MOA argue that those who support the MOA are for peace in Mindanao and those who oppose it, like myself, are, therefore, are not only against peace but are anti-Moro. This is preposterous.

Firstly, that argument implicitly characterizes the MOA as the cure-all for the peace problems of Mindanao, so much so that if you are opposed to its implementation or disagree with its effectivity, then you must ipso facto be against peace in Mindanao. This characterization grossly oversimplifies the problem and underestimates the human capacity to find creative and even better solutions to the problem. The MOA essentially creates a separate Moro State; the obvious stand of the MOA proponents is that this is the only answer to the Mindanao conflict. There are other approaches to the peace problem in Mindanao, such as enhanced Moro integration, providing greater autonomy to the ARMM, creating a culture of peace, intensive Muslim-Christian dialogue, or even establishing federalism in Mindanao, which – unlike the MOA - does not create an unconstitutional State within a State. Apparently, the MOA proponents do not find merit in these less drastic, and yet
more effective, solutions.

Unfortunately, making the MOA a panacea to the peace problem only creates unreasonable expectations that, ultimately, will cause greater disappointment and even heightened conflict in the long-run. Sadly, because the terms of the MOA are undeliverable because of their inconsistencies with the Fundamental Law and the inability of GMA to convince the public to support her moves to amend the charter, the MOA is, by its very terms, doomed to failure.

Secondly, it is another gross oversimplification to argue that those against the MOA are anti-peace and anti-Moro. On a personal level, being a Moro myself, that is absurd and I am not the only Moro who opposes the MOA. Other Moros share my stand that while we are against the MOA for being unconstitutional and done without proper consultation with stakeholders, nevertheless we are for greater autonomy and federalism for Filipino Muslims. It is true that some non-Moros who oppose the MOA are driven by interests not related to the peace process, such as preservation of their private lands or fear of loss of political power. In truth, some Christians may even oppose the MOA because they discriminate against Moros. That is a fact that we must admit in all candor and it is, of course, most unfortunate. However, the whole truth is that discrimination is not a one-sided affair. There are Moros who discriminate against Christians as well and we must condemn that
as strongly as we condemn Christians who discriminate against Muslims. Additionally, fairness dictates that we must accept that there are Christians who oppose the MOA on principled grounds and who do so out of a sense of patriotism and even a genuine concern for the interests of Moros.

Thirdly, opposing the MOA may have little to do with being anti-peace and anti-Moro but have everything to do with being anti-Gloria. GMA has never been shy about her desire to amend the Constitution. In 2006, she attempted to do this via the aborted People’s Initiative, which was struck down by the Supreme Court. Also, she has explicitly stated in her State of the Nation Addresses that charter change is part and parcel of her administration’s agenda. It has become obvious to many that her support for the MOA is another sinister attempt to amend the charter for the purpose of staying beyond 2010. GMA’s claim that she will amend the Constitution only to conform to the MOA is belied by the fact that there is no such thing as a “surgical amendment” of the Constitution. Once constitutional change is discussed, whether by a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention, the assembly or convention has plenary power to consider any amendment,
which of course may include term extensions, not merely amendments to conform to the MOA.

In my view, the fatal flaw in the whole process of creating the MOA - even going beyond the constitutional issues and whether or not it was negotiated by the government in bad faith – is that the MOA was crafted in the shadows beyond the pale of public discussion and debate. The marginalization of the stakeholders to MOA, which not only include the MNLF, the lumads in Mindanao, the Christian communities that are to form part of the BangsaMoro Juridical Entity (BJE), the Congress that will be duty-bound to enact laws to effect the MOA, but, more importantly the public-at-large who have an interest in a matter of this transcendental importance, fatally undermines the MOA. It must be obvious that there can be no final peace settlement unless all stakeholders are part of that settlement. The MOA is only between the government, as represented by the peace panel, and the MILF. If consultations had been done, if we had a full and fair debate on this issue,
then we would not be where we are now, which is at the verge of war. Let us put the blame squarely where it belongs – not with the MILF who had every right to negotiate for the best terms that they could obtain, not the Supreme Court that is merely fulfilling its constitutional duty to hear the cases on the MOA, not the petitioners who oppose the MOA, and not the political opposition who see the MOA as a Trojan horse for charter change – but with the person whose administration has been characterized by secrecy and repeated claims of executive privilege, who will use any means, even tearing our country apart, to perpetuate herself in power. The blame lies with GMA.

Pulse Asia's July 2008 Nationwide Survey on 2010 Senatorial Race

I am not in the list of names given to the survey respondents so, obviously, the respondents could not choose me. Maybe next time, Pulse can widen the net of voters to include us from the far side?

Then we will see who will eat the dust. -- Danton


Pulse Asia is pleased to share with you some findings from the July 2008 Ulat ng Bayan national survey on 2010 Senatorial Race. We request you to assist us in informing the public by disseminating this information on Filipino perceptions, opinions, sentiments, and attitudes relating to current developments here and abroad.

Based on a multistage probability sample of 1,200 representative adults 18 years old and above, Pulse Asia’s nationwide survey has a +/- 3% error margin at the 95% confidence level. Subnational estimates for each of the geographic areas covered in the survey (i.e., Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) have a +/- 6% error margin, also at 95% confidence level. Face-to-face field interviews for this project were conducted from July 1 to 14, 2008. (Those interested in further technical details concerning the surveys’ questionnaires and sampling design may request Pulse Asia in writing for fuller details, including copies of the pre-tested questions actually used.)

In the period prior to and during the conduct of this survey, the news headlines focused on developments having to do with the increasing demand for NFA rice across the country, the granting of various subsidies to the Filipino poor particularly through the administration’s “Katas ng VAT” program, the signing into law of the cheaper medicines and tax exemption bills, the President’s call for a review of the power rates being charged by MERALCO and GSIS President Winston Garcia’s efforts to take over the management of MERALCO, several natural disasters in the Philippines and other parts of the world that resulted in loss of lives and destruction of properties (e.g., especially the aftermath of Typhoon Frank which hit the country in late June 2008), the investigations into the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars by the House of Representatives and the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI), the worsening global food crisis, the continuing increase in oil and food prices, the depreciation of the local currency, and sustained calls for further wage increases and fare hikes.

The survey’s sampling design and questionnaire are the full responsibility of Pulse Asia’s pool of academic experts and no religious, political, economic or any other form of partisanship has been allowed to influence the survey design, the findings generated by the actual surveys or the subsequent analyses of survey findings.

Pulse Asia undertakes Ulat ng Bayan surveys on its own without any party singularly commissioning the research effort.

Incumbent and former senators dominate the 2010 senatorial race

If the May 2010 elections were held today, 14 possible senatorial candidates would have a statistical chance of winning a seat in the Philippine Senate. Senators Pia Cayetano (48.2%), Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada (47.3%) and Manuel “Mar” Roxas (46%) and former Senator Franklin “Frank” Drilon (44.1%) lead the list. Given the survey’s error margin, these four are tied for first place. Following these senatorial race leaders are Mr. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel (39%), a 2007 senatorial candidate, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago (37.2%), former senators Sergio “Serge” Osmeña and Ralph Recto (both at 35.6%), Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla (34.6%) and Jamby Madrigal (34.5%), and former Senators Ramon “Jun” B. Magsaysay, Jr. (30.6%) and Vicente “Tito” Sotto (26.5%).

Completing the list of probable senatorial winners are Senator Juan “Johnny” Ponce Enrile (26.3%) and Makati Mayor Jejomar “Jojo” Binay (25.2%). Sen. Enrile has a statistical rank of 11-15, while Mayor Binay has a statistical rank of 12-16 (See Table 1a and 1b).

Presented with a list of 60 names for the senatorial race, Filipino adults name a mean of nine and a median of 11 (out of a maximum of 12) individuals as
their bets to the Philippine Senate.

On the other hand, 6.6% of Filipino adults are either still undecided as regards their senatorial candidates or refuse to name their senatorial preferences at this time.

Back to Cha-cha

SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Philippine STAR

Give the administration an A for audacity. Or maybe it’s plain cluelessness, born of long years of insensitivity to public sentiment.

I don’t know how the administration intends to sell two unpopular ideas at the same time to Filipinos: Charter change to shift to another form of government, plus a deal with a bunch of violent hooligans that will reward their banditry with vast tracts of Philippine territory, and without consulting affected communities.

Shifting to a new system of government elicits passionate debate in this country only when Filipinos see the initiative as a mere smokescreen for the real agenda: the perpetuation of public officials in power.

In this case, the intended principal beneficiary of a shift to federalism looks too much like President Arroyo – the most unpopular chief executive so far since Ferdinand Marcos, according to independent surveys.

Fidel Ramos, who brought the country closest to Asian tiger status, could not pull off Charter change. In fact his allies’ efforts to allow him to seek re-election through Cha-cha, coupled with an economic slowdown due to the Asian financial crisis, pulled down his performance ratings.

How can the country’s most unpopular president since Ferdinand Marcos at his worst think that she can pull off what even Ramos could not?

This is the problem when people stay too long in power; they become indispensable in their own minds. The lust for power must be one of the toughest addictions to cure. In the past four decades, only one Philippine president has handed over power with grace and dignity – Corazon Aquino – though there were rumors back then that certain members of her inner circle also harbored thoughts of making her hang on to power beyond her constitutionally allotted six years.

Suspicions of a hidden agenda in President Arroyo’s push for a shift to federalism were bolstered yesterday by an “informal survey” trotted out by her allies in the Palace rubberstamp House of Representatives, that bastion of political navel-gazing and unenlightened self-interest.

The instant survey, conducted among 238 lawmakers, elicited responses from 123, of whom 115 favored a shift to federalism, according to the head of the House committee on constitutional amendments.

* * *

There is only one way Filipinos will go along with political amendments in the Constitution: no incumbent public official must benefit from any of the amendments especially through a term extension.

Federalism is a concept that most Filipinos cannot easily understand. But they can understand what a term extension means.

Faced with the prospect of a few more years of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – and the shelving of the 2010 general elections – the naifs in the Senate who supported a resolution for federalism are now reviewing their stand.

What were they thinking in the first place – that Malacañang would let such an opportunity for Cha-cha pass?

As I have often written, President Arroyo’s staying power is due less to her personal strength than to the weakness of her enemies. The disorganized opposition is reactive, lacking in foresight, unable to anticipate the moves of the enemy. And it has its share of navel gazers preoccupied with matters of unenlightened self-interest, constantly waiting for someone to make them an offer they can’t refuse.

So now Malacañang is happily announcing that “it’s all systems go” for federalism through Cha-cha.

* * *

The world has changed so much since the so-called Freedom Constitution was ratified 21 years ago. A number of provisions in that Constitution have held back Philippine competitiveness in a global economy. Constitutions are supposed to be dynamic, and we must always be open to changes in the basic law of the land.

We must be open even to the possibility of changing the system of government, though with the same characters, the same dynasties keeping their stranglehold on politics, it’s hard to see what difference such a change would make.

But any credible effort to overhaul the Constitution would have to wait until the country’s most unpopular president is no longer in power, and no longer able to influence the results of Cha-cha in her favor.

If certain foreign governments are willing to go along even with Cha-cha, just to ram down Filipinos’ throats any peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, they should consider that they would likely end up saddled with cleaning up the resulting mess – including a peace agreement that cannot be enforced.

That aborted signing of the land deal in Malaysia should teach the diplomatic community certain lessons about dealing with this government.

One of the ambassadors who eagerly rushed to Malaysia was surprised to learn that Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo had not been informed of the diplomats’ presence. In the first place, don’t foreign offices have a rule that ambassadors should not encroach into each other’s turf? The governments represented at the aborted signing all had their respective ambassadors to Kuala Lumpur. Those were the envoys who should have been present at the ceremonies.

Perhaps there was just too much confusion. And the confusion can only be attributed to the hush-hush nature of the fast-break attempt to get that bizarre land deal signed.

Now the continuing fast break includes Cha-cha. The effort can still be blocked.