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Who's hot and who's not

By Tony Abaya
Manila Standard Today
June 16, 2009


You may disagree with what Manong Tony says, but you have to agree he writes it with just the right amount of salt. Or pepper. Or dash of acid.


Political events in the country have accelerated so fast in the three weeks that I was away that I must postpone my Letter from Oakland and Letter from Chicago to a later date so that I can catch up with the dizzying pace, as we spiral down toward a perdition.

The mega event of those three weeks was, of course, the shameless passage last June 2 of House Resolution 1109 that would empower Congress to convene itself into a constituent assembly in which members of the Lower House and the Senate would vote jointly, not separately, to amend the Constitution.

The resolution was passed by acclamation, not by secret or open vote, perhaps to hide the identities of those who voted for it so that they will be spared a backlash from irate voters during the 2010 elections.

But the resolution pointedly avoided naming the specific legislation meant to amend the Constitution, which suggests that the brains behind it are deliberately biding their time, knowing that a premature spelling out of their intentions would immediately raise the issue to the Supreme Court when they are not yet sure of its passage there.

Perhaps after May 2010, when Chief Justice Reynato Puno will have reached mandatory retirement age. His replacement would then be appointed by, who else, President Arroyo, the intended beneficiary of Consa, who remains President up to June 30, 2010.

Days earlier, on May 28, the proponents of Consa finally consolidated their position with the much delayed merger of the ruling Lakas-CMD and Kampi parties of the ruling coalition, creating a new political entity possibly named Partido Lakas Kampi, or as wags were quick to point out, Palaka.

Very funny. But lest we be carried away by our wit, let us remind ourselves that under certain conditions—such as pork barrel largesse and MalacaƱang distribution of paper bags—frogs multiply very fast and may have the last, er, croak.

My esteemed colleague, Amado Doronila, pooh-poohed the formation of the Palaka alliance, calling it a paper tiger, on the grounds that it was boycotted by former president and Lakas emeritus President Fidel Ramos, Kampi president and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, and MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando.

I am of the opinion, however, that Ramos no longer carries much weight in the deliberations of the trapos, and Fernando was not missed since he garnered only a pathetic 0.3 percent of the votes cast in a nationwide survey by Pulse Asia last May 4 to 17, despite the hundreds of tarpaulin posters of himself that he had installed from Aparri to Zamboanga. Villafuerte is sulking because the Palaka big shots did not see things his way. But he’ll be back in time, croaking with the rest of them.

And I do not agree with Doro that House Resolution 1109 is a worthless document. To me, it epitomizes the culmination of the efforts of Kampi, first stated by then Kampi president Ronaldo Puno in February 2005, to become the biggest political party in the Philippines by the year 2007.

It is two years behind schedule, but is still on track toward its implied goal: to make President Arroyo prime minister after her non-extendable presidential term ends in June 2010, as I predicted in my column of May 17, 2005 Prime Minster Gloria?, archived in my Web site,

In this connection, I would consider significant the announcement in the May 27 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, that Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno is seeking the vice-presidency in a tandem with vice president and presidential contender Noli de Castro. This is the most likely Palaka ticket in 2010. More about that in a future article. This means that Palaka presidential hopefuls like Fernando, Gilbert Teodoro and Dick Gordon should scale down their ambitions to senator, if their egos (or their pushy wives) will allow it.

So should others in the over-crowded presidential ring. The results of the May 4 to 17 survey of Pulse Asia may be prophetic. According to this survey, the five leading contenders for the presidency are Noli de Castro, with 18 percent; Chiz Escudero, 17; Joseph Estrada, 15; Manuel Villar, 14; and Mar Roxas, 13. Statistically speaking, the five are in a dead heat.

In the second tier are Loren Legarda, 7; Jejomar Binay, 4; Panfilo Lacson, 4. Lacson has since withdrawn from the presidential race.

Trailing badly are Richard Gordon, one; businessman Manny Pangilinan, one; Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, one; Gilbert Teodoro, one; El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde, 0.4; Jesus is Lord Evangelist Eddie Villanueva, 0.3; MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando, 0.3; and Pampanga Gov. Fr. Among Ed Panlilio, 0.2.

Back to the drawing boards—or back to the showers—for many of the wannabes. It is obvious that religious leaders are not much in demand this season Which is just as well. The empirical evidence is that men of the cloth do not make good or effective presidents.

Haiti, for example, was rated by Transparency International as the most corrupt country in the world in 1993, when its elected president was a priest, Jean Baptiste Aristide. The current president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, has admitted to fathering three children with three different women when he was bishop of his diocese.

Gordon, Pangilinan, Teodoro, Legarda, Lacson and Binay will have to shop for a vice-presidential slot with one of the leading five. It is conceivable that Gordon will team up with Roxas, Legarda with Escudero, Binay with Estrada, Lacson with Villar. But that would leave Teodoro and Pangilinan out in the cold, with no partner to team up with. Pangilinan probably couldn’t care less, but what about Teodoro?

Of all the contenders, it is Teodoro who came out with the most glossy endorsements for his candidacy, with several columnists singing paeans to his alleged accomplishments. I too would like to sing paeans to him, conscious as I am of the legacy of Ramon Magsaysay in the Defense Department.

But I honestly do not know what Teodoro accomplished as defense secretary. He did not defeat the Communist insurgency – it is dying from its own irrelevance. He did not defuse the Muslim separatist movement. He did not talk or scare the Chinese out of the Spratlys. He did not restore the people’s faith in government, as Magsaysay did. He did not modernize the AFP, which remains the most dilapidated military machine in the whole of Asia outside the Maldives, Sikkim, Bhutan, Cambodia and Laos. So where is the accomplishment, or the promise of future accomplishments, there?

Puno remains a moral figurehead, but not much else. Last March, according to those who claim to be in the know, he was supposed to lead a civilian revolutionary government after then AFP ChiefAlexander Yano was to announce the military’s withdrawal of support from President Arroyo.

But MalacaƱang was quicker on the draw: it convinced Yano to retire earlier than June 2009, offering him the ambassadorship to Brunei and presumably some financial sweeteners, and that was the end of the Puno revolutionary government. CJ Puno is still waiting for signals from his grandchildren on whether or not to run for president. With only 1 percent of the Pulse Asia survey votes, maybe he shouldn’t..

Neither should Panlilio, who has been “discerning” for the past two years on whether to run or not. With only 0.2 percent of the Pulse Asia votes, the future looks bleak for any presidential ambitions he may still nurse. Perhaps his handlers, the Kaya Natin! movement in the Ateneo should change its name to Kaya Ba Natin?

And consistent with its penchant for self-destruction—it advocates the banning of boxing when a world champ boxer is the national icon—Nandy Pacheco’s Ang Kapatiran Party, after publicizing its search for a contender in 2010, is fielding a total unknown, a municipal councilor in Olongapo City, as its presidential candidate.

Finally, apparently exasperated by its inability to find anyone (out of a population of 90 million) who will adhere to its 11-point agenda for nation-building, the Pagbabago, once a sober and enthusiastic middle-class do-gooder NGO, has decided to descend to low comedy by fielding a candidate with the nom de guerre of Paq Yu. (Get it? F*ck You!) and thus express its frank opinion of the whole frigging exercise.

Ako na lang kaya. *****

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