Drilon's Liberals go for Roxas

By Fel V. Maragay
Manila Standard Today

Senator Mar Roxas is the uncontested presidential contender of the Liberal Party, party leaders said yesterday.

“The process of choosing our standard-bearer for the 2010 elections is just a formality we have to go through. Our candidate is Mar Roxas,” said Franklin Drilon, who heads a faction of the second oldest political group.

Party bigwigs, including provincial chapter chairmen, took part in a forum on Charter change and a multi-sectoral rally at Plaza Miranda on the occasion of the party’s 63rd anniversary. Another faction headed by Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza denounced Roxas and Drilon for misrepresenting the party.

Roxas, national president, thanked his party mates for their “endorsement’ of his presidential plan.

“But as president of our party, I have to respect our process. I will have to go through that process. In the meantime, based on the party’s guidelines, we are focusing on public service, not politics,” he said.

Roxas said it is through this process that the party will likewise choose its vice presidential candidate and 12 senatorial bets.

He said the LP is open to coalition with other political parties that are advocating reforms in government, especially in terms of enhancing the system of accountability and transparency.

But Drilon said they will not agree to coalesce with another party which will not accept Roxas as standard-bearer.

Roxas and Drilon said the administration’s efforts to merge the Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino is a welcome development because it will make more clear the dividing line between the administration and opposition forces.

“If you like Gloria and his brand of leadership, then you should ally yourself with Lakas-Kampi. If you wish to see change, reforms, accountability, transparency and enhancement of human rights, don’t join Lakas-Kampi,” Roxas said.

He also explained why the LP is still mounting protest actions against Charter change despite the admission of some administration leaders that such undertaking has been overtaken by events.

“We have been getting a lot of information through our intelligence sources that Charter change is still in the agenda of the administration. In fact, on Tuesday, the House committee on constitutional amendments is scheduled to vote on the resolution to amend the Constitution,” he said.

Roxas said there should be no letup in campaigning against attempts to “tamper” with the constitutional provision on the term limits of elective public officials that is supposedly intended to allow President Arroyo to stay in power beyond 2010.

Road to 2010: credibility, logistics will be key

By JANRYLL FERNANDEZ, ABS-CBN News Channel | 01/27/2009 6:27 PM

The heat is on!

Fifteen months to the 2010 elections, one can already feel the looming heat of the upcoming presidential showdown. On ANC’s Talkback with Tina Monzon-Palma, leading figures from the major political parties gathered for a preview of what promises to be the most participated and potentially most expensive presidential derby in Philippine history.

Present during the program were former Ambassador and Senate President Ernesto Maceda of the United Opposition, Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI) President Congressman Luis Villafuerte, Nationalist People’s Coalition secretary-general Congressman Jack Duavit, Liberal Party chairman and former Senate President Franklin Drilon, Nacionalista Party spokesman and former Congressman Gilbert Remulla, and Lakas spokesman and former Congressman Prospero Pichay.

“There are 17 names that have been mentioned who will run for president--7 from the administration, 7 from the opposition, and 3 from the third force,” according to Maceda. The senior opposition leader said he does not see any major difference in the candidates’ platform of governance, which will mostly be anti-Gloria, as a pro-Gloria stance would be a kiss of death. “But the key will be the credibility of the messenger,” he emphasized.

Moreover, the long-time senator added that a substantially complete line-up, from president, vice-president, senators, 81 governors, about 212 congressional seats to about 1,500 local officials, would be crucial to having a decent campaign.


But the veteran politician surmised that perhaps, the question that needs to be answered first is whether there will be elections or not.

Villafuerte, who authored the House resolution calling for the convening of a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) that will amend the 1987 Constitution, calmed this fear, saying that there is no provision in his resolution for term extension of the President down to the local officials. The Bicolano congressman foresees the 2010 elections not to be an entirely opposition-administration battle. “There will be realignments as the election nears,” predicted the feisty law maker.

Former Senate President Drilon, however, argued that Congress, which is dominated by the administration coalition, is pushing for charter change to allow the incumbent to run again. He said a shift to a parliamentary system would allow Mrs. Arroyo to run as member of parliament and then become prime minister. This, according to Drilon, is driven by the fact that while the opposition may be divided, the administration does not yet have a viable candidate.

Drilon, who is backing the candidacy of Liberal Party President Mar Roxas, brushed aside possibilities that the LP would support another presidential candidate in the event of a merger with other parties. He said they will stick it out with Roxas as their standard bearer.

Economy first

“It is still too early to talk about the presidential elections, and I think it is better to focus our efforts on the economic meltdown,” said administration ally and Lakas spokesman Prospero 'Butch' Pichay. But he said their party will meet soon to identify potential standard bearers.

Among the presidential bets for the administration include Vice President Noli De Castro, Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando, Senator Richard Gordon, and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) chief Ephraim Genuino.

Representing Manny Villar, who is believed to have the deepest war chest, Nacionalista Party spokesman Gilbert Remulla expressed optimism that the ‘Sipag at Tiyaga’ message of the former Senate President will linger in the minds of voters. Villar rose from being a Tondo boy to being an industry leader to being a public servant. “And this is figuring in the trust ratings he is getting,” the former lawmaker said, referring to the recent good showing of Villar in the surveys.

Demographics, debates

Meanwhile, the emerging tandem of Senators Loren Legarda and Francis 'Chiz' Escudero of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), backed by former Ambassador Danding Cojuangco, can be explained by the emerging young demographics, according to NPC secretary-general Jack Duavit. “The young people are able to relate to them [Loren and Chiz],” said the youthful party leader.

A viewer from Legaspi City sent a comment to the program saying, “America just elected a young President. Do you think it will be good for the country if we will also have a youthful President? “

Maceda believes that the electorate will be more inquisitive in 2010. Congressman Villafuerte, in response, suggested that “presidential debates be conducted as early as now” so the people will get to know the candidates better.

As in previous elections, the 2010 polls may also see the emergence of third force candidates. Among those who come from non-traditional political organizations, whose names have been floated, are Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio, Jesus is Lord's Brother Eddie Villanueva, and El Shaddai leader Bro. Mike Velarde.

Escudero plans to run for president

By Eldie Aguirre, Orlando Dinoy
Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 16:50:00 01/31/2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

DIGOS CITY, Davao Del Sur -- Senator Francis Escudero on Friday said the Philippines needs a man like Barack Obama so that Filipinos could dig themselves out of their difficult situation, even as he announced anew his intention to run for president in 2010.

"I am running because we need a leader that can provide solutions to the unemployment problem, the clamor of teachers for higher salaries and [I am] a man that could address the issue on hunger and poverty," he told reporters here.

Escudero said what the country needs is a leader who has a vision similar to that of the first black American president.

He said he was not comparing himself to Obama but that he believed he could be a good president with the help of the people, especially the youth.

"The problems of the Philippines must be solved by Filipinos. Empowering the youth sector of the society is essential in pushing this nation toward national recovery," he said.

Escudero also said his age should not be an issue in the presidential race.

The senator, popularly known as Chiz, will turn 40 in October.

"They say I'm still very young to lead the country but I believe that is not a good argument," he said.

He the minimum age requirement provided for in the Constitution for presidential candidates is 40.

"As long as that person is a natural-born citizen, lives in the country, a registered voter, and is able to read and write, he is qualified to run," Escudero said.

He said he was confident that the Nationalist People's Coalition would pick him as standard bearer.

Asked if he already had a running mate in mind, Escudero said he was not certain yet as to who it will be.

Asked about Senator Loren Legarda's intention to also seek the presidency, Escudero said "of course, I respect the decision of Senator Loren Legarda."

"But I have my trust in the Nationalist Peoples Coalition," he added.

Escudero said aside from addressing the problems of unemployment and poverty, his administration will deal with corruption severely.

He said in the case of government projects for example, corruption can be eliminated if baseline information about a particular undertaking would be displayed instead of putting the image of the president there.

"Overpricing could be detected easily since a curious individual could always compare the contract price of a local project with the quoted price of another project with identical specifications in neighboring barangays (villages)," he said.

As this developed, the daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. also announced her intention to run for senator in 2010.

Grace Poe said she was running so that she could push her father's plans for the country.

Ilocos Norte Dreaming

Danton Remoto
Remote control
Views and analysis

Ilocos Norte dreaming

When I was younger and ten pounds lighter, I went to Ilocos Norte and remember the brown nipa huts and the empanada I ate near the church. I also remember reading the marker on the house of the poet Leona Florentino.

A few months ago I returned, and saw that the brown nipa huts have been changed by sprawling houses with Mediterranean designs – orange and yellow and red. The empanadas are still there, bigger and hotter than before. And the roads are cleaner, wider, and, as the ads say, smooth as silk.

I went there to visit Sitio Remedios owned by St. Luke’s Medical Director Dr. Joven Cuanang and talk to some leaders up in the north. “It evokes one’s childhood,” I told the good doctor as we sat down to a lunch of inabraw (boiled vegetables), tanguinge sinigang soured with tomatoes, and big squid adobo.

The fishermen, their wives and children – around 100 of them – were just hauling in the nets from the sea. I said it looks like a Cecil B. de Mille production, and pretty soon, the sea would part and we could walk all the way back to China. And Rene, our wicked friend, says that the people have been hired to haul the fish while we were eating, and would soon return to their chores after we were done with lunch. We laughed at the absurdity of our tales.

Dr. Cuanang is a neurologist who went to school at Harvard. His studies into the human brain made him conclude that there is a need, as Rene said, “for a holistic understanding of the human body and mind. The cure to illness involves both body and the spirit. It was this realization that led Dr. Cuanang to heighten his interest in the arts.” Owner of both Boston Gallery in Cubao and Pinto Art Gallery in Antipolo, Dr. C. also pushed the careers of many of the brightest young artists around.

Last year, he bought and restored the vintage houses tumbling down his native Ilocos. His dream: to recreate his childhood more than 50 years ago. And so now we sit here, in Sitio Remedios, an exclusive beachside property in Victoria, Currimao, Ilocos Norte. Around the cobble-stoned plaza stand typical Ilocano houses. The houses have Ilocano furniture, santos, and décor; ivory wood and silver religious icons. The bed and table linens are embroidered in patterns similar to what my late grandmother did. You’re welcomed with frangipani and fresh broad leaves arranged in an arch on your bed. The rooms are air-conditioned, thank God, for the Ilocos sun can be punishing on one’s skin, even if you’ve slathered yourself with SPF 30 as protection. Now I understand better those lovely stories of Manuel Arguilla about the blistering days in the Ilocos. Paoay Church has inspired the elevated chapel in the middle of the community. The Sentro Iloco is the meeting hall, while the Teatro Iloco serves as a venue for cultural shows.

But it is the food that I relish the most. When people tell me that I have gained weight, I am truly happy. And the food at Abrao, the restaurant, is good but not fattening. Well, almost. There are vegetables – fresh, turned into pinakbet, or puki-puki (eggplant mixed with eggs) and of course, seafood freshly caught from the Currimao Bay.

Herencia Café sits in front of Paoay Church, which has been declared a World Heritage Site, and rightly so. We ate pinakbet pizza (super good) the first time we visited. Next time we dropped by, we ate igado (pork with liver, lungs heart and kidney) and bagnet (Ilocano lechon kawali) with KBL or kamatis, bagoong and lasuna (tomato, fish paste, and shallots).

Back in Sitio Remedios, we had thick chocolate that Dr. Cuanang says is the best drink if one wants to fall asleep. We drank that along with fresh biscocho from Rene’s family in Pasuquin. The mosquitoes feasted on Jessica’s skin. I was spared, and listened to the sound of the sea and the conversation lighting up the night.

The next day I met Governor Michael Marcos-Keon. He is a first-term governor and already, you could sense the change in the place. The clerks sit upright and work silently. No TV sets distract them from their work. You can’t find the hum of gossip and idle chatter that you normally find in other government offices. In these chambers, work seems better than words.

I talk to the Governor, who looks like Robert De Niro. He tells me that his four priorities are health, agriculture, tourism and education, especially focused on the youth. Agriculture is the bedrock, since 64 % of the people depend on it. Health is top priority, with loans, grants and equity coming in from the Asian Development Bank, the Dept. of Health, and the European Community. Gov. Keon is also improving the provincial hospitals and building more rural health units, as well as bringing doctors and nurses to the barangay health centers.

As for tourism, Gov. Keon doesn’t want Pagudpud to be “overloaded like Boracay. We have many sites of great natural beauty, and that is why we want to focus on eco-tourism.” A new international airport is in the offing, as well as a convention center and five-star hotels. The Chinese consulate will be set up this year, which will open Ilocos further to Chinese tourists.

The next day was our last day, and we visited the sand dunes near Fort Ilocandia. Here, Tom Cruise shot Born on the Fourth of July. And now, here, the nearby sea is still and clear as glass. A wind blows from nowhere, turning our clothes into the shape of sails, like a country setting out for a new journey.

10 lessons learned from the US Presidential Elections

By COMELEC Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento | 01/19/2009 1:19 PM

“Martin Luther King said he had a dream, and I feel right now at this time, this is the dream he wanted.”—Judy Brown, 56, Jacksonville bus driver

I flew to Washington, D.C. on October 31, 2008 to represent Comelec Chairman Jose A.R. Melo in the 2008 US Presidential Election Program sponsored by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), a nonprofit, democracy development organization that works to give people a voice in the way they are governed. The election program was attended by election officials representing 41 countries.

On the second day of the program Sen. Barack Obama was elected after a historic quest for the presidency. The international program participants shared the sentiments of many that Obama’s election was “historic,” “revolutionary” and “record breaking.”

In its editorial, Chicago Tribune said: “When he [Obama] was born in 1961, African-Americans risked death merely to register to vote in some Southern states…Yet today, the nation is willing to entrust its future to a son whose father was black.” Robert Robertson, deputy sports managing editor of USA Today, wrote that with Obama’s victory “it is a great time to be alive and living in America today.”

The IFES-sponsored 2008 Presidential Election international gathering combined lectures on US politics, electoral campaigns and processes, observation tours of polling places in Washington, D.C., and several Virginia counties on election day, interviews of poll workers, interaction with election officials from other countries and a visit to the US Capitol. It was held amidst a momentous political event in the US.

On the whole, it was very insightful. It provides many lessons on ballot democracy worth pondering as the Philippines prepares for its automated presidential election in 2010. Among these many lessons are:

1. Young voters made a big difference in the elections.

Young volunteers organized, campaigned and fundraised for Barack Obama. For months, they focused not only on registering new voters but in tracking down blacks, Latinos and many other people who had been registered but never voted. True enough, after the polls closed, national exit polls showed Obama winning 66 percent of voters under 30, higher than Ronald Reagan’s 59 percent in 1984 and the highest in data available since 1976. Between ages 30-44, 53-percent voted for Obama, and according to the Associated Press, more than two-thirds of voters under 30 backed him.

2. Modern technology boosted Barack Obama’s candidacy.

Obama adeptly used interactive social technology. According to David Talbot, Obama’s Web site www.my.barackobama.com was created to generate fund support and to wage a successful network campaign. Besides the Web, the spirited Obama campaign team employed blogs, click-to-donate tools, phone brigade, text messaging, door to door conversations and online political updates.

USA Today editorialized that “Beyond TV, for better and worse the Internet became a larger player in presidential politics. It was the engine behind much of Obama’s success in raising record amounts of money in smaller donations. It became a viral means of speeding all manner of political messages, humor and rumor.”

3. Televised presidential and vice-presidential debates helped voters decide.

The debates informed the electorate about the candidates’ persona and stand on issues like the raging economic crisis, energy, health care, global warming, education, US war in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. Prof. Diana Carin of the University of Kansas and one of the lecturers in the IFES-sponsored program opined that debates moved undecided voters and soft supporters turning to the other candidate and reinforced previously held positions.

She added that the debates projected Obama as “winning” and McCain as “nonwinning” because of the latter’s nonverbal communication like scowling and being rude and caustic. The body language was very apparent on TV.

4. Early voting ensured shorter voting lines on Election Day in battleground states.

According to Paul Gronke, a researcher of the Early Voting Information Center in Portland, Oregon, early voting appeared to have accounted for about one-third of the votes cast in the presidential race, compared with 14-percent eight years ago. In North Carolina, the number of early voters equaled 70 percent of the entire turnout in 2004. In Chicago, more than half the vote came early. In states where work excuses are required for voting workers or don’t allow early voting, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia, voting lines were longer.

5. Use of automated election system fast-tracked voting, counting and announcing of election results.

In the late evening of Election Day, Obama was proclaimed as the US 44th President. This speedy announcement could be attributed to the use of voting technology in the US.

There is, however, a variation in polling and voting systems in that land of opportunities. Eighteen states use paper-based voting system (primarily precinct-count optical scanner). Fourteen 14 states employ direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting systems in some or all jurisdictions and require voter-verified paper-audit trails (VVPATS). Four states utilize DREs in some or all jurisdictions both with and without VVPATS. New York employs lever machines and the District of Columbia uses DREs in some or all jurisdictions and does not require the use of VVPATS. Oregon votes entirely by mail.

Kinstall Brace, president of Election Data Services, a company that examines voting machine usage across the country, stressed that “From 2004 to 2006, electronic voting machine usage went up and 2006 was the high-water mark. Then use came down. From 2006 to 2008, every jurisdiction that has changed has gone to optical scan...and election administrators are now moving their decisions in that direction.”

In some parts of Florida and California, all of Connecticut, parts of New York and other jurisdictions around the country switched from either DRE or lever machines to optical-scan systems.

6. Sen. John McCain’s gracious and immediate concession speech is worth emulating.

In the evening of November 4, 2008, when Obama had obtained and even surpassed the electoral votes of 270, McCain graciously conceded defeat, congratulated Obama and offered to support his presidency. This fine democratic behavior demonstrates a political maturity and strongly contributes to political stability. In Delaware, a Return Day, the state’s traditional day of postelection healing took place where winners and losers participated in a parade to symbolically “bury the hatchet.”

7. The trimedia (TV, radio and print) kept the electorate informed about current issues and in projecting the potentials and capacities of the competing candidates. Their day-to-day election reports, updates and commentaries enlightened the voters and helped them make their choices. It is noteworthy that six days before the election, Obama delivered a $3-million 30-minute advertisement on seven television channels during prime time, speaking to an estimated 33 million viewers.

8. Redefined moral issues and faith dimension were evident in the electoral campaign.

Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a national network connecting faith and justice, said that many Evangelicals and Catholics have redefined moral issues more than abortion and gay marriage. To them moral issues include health care, education, housing, jobs, Afghanistan and Iraq, poverty and environment.

In its 2007 document on political responsibility “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said any efforts to reform the health-care system must respect human dignity and protect human life; meet the needs of the poor and the 47 million uninsured Americans, including pregnant women, unborn children, immigrants and other vulnerable populations; protect the conscience rights of Catholics and Catholic institutions, and provide effective, compassionate care those with HIV and AIDS. And days before election day, the US bishops encouraged Catholics to pray a novena for life, justice and peace before the election entitled “Novena for Faithful Citizenship.”

The Los Angeles Times wrote that at the Democratic National Convention in August 2008, a first-ever interfaith prayer gathering was held. During a presidential forum in August 2008 at Saddleback Church, where Obama and McCain were interviewed separately by a church leader, Obama spoke about “walking humbly with our God” and quoted from the Gospel of Matthew. His acceptance speech during the Democratic National Convention echoed the church-inspired speeches of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

9. In managing the electoral process, volunteerism among the adults and the young was impressive.

Poll workers in the different counties in most of the 50 states were not civil servants or public officials. They were volunteers, many of them in their 60s and 70s. And many of them come from poor neighborhoods. An Election Center, said William O. Field, US Electoral Specialist, is in charge of training these volunteers for poll duty. The education module consists of alphabet and number tests, video and bingo games to keep alive the attention and interest of the elderly poll workers.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia came out with a 2008 Virginia Voter Empowerment Card that contained an election-day guide on voting and avoiding voting problems.

10. The US Presidential Election was not perfect.

There were snags and glitches on election day. USA Today reported that polling places opened late or were understaffed. Voters found they were not registered or were asked for ID when it was not required. Electronic or optical-scan machines broke down in some states, causing paper ballots to pile up. Emergency backup ballots were underused in some states and overused in others. And from Virginia to New Mexico, some voters were told to vote on November 4 or later.

The Washington Post also reported that last-minute lawsuits challenging election procedures were lodged on November 3, 2008 in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, New Hampshire and Ohio. But election law specialists said potential problems at the polls had been asserted by nearly a dozen lawsuits nationwide filed in recent weeks, in which federal and state costs upheld the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of voters.

Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said several college campus and minority communities were targeted with disinformation via fliers, text messages, automated calls and group postings on the Facebook social networking site.

Despite these, the American people did not cast in doubt the outcome of the elections. Many say that the Americans trust their electoral processes. Justice Johann Kriengler, former chairman of Independent Electoral Commission of Africa, said electoral administration efficiency alone is not enough: the people must trust the system.

The US Election Assistance Commission, a creation of the Help America Vote of 2002 Law, monitors all elections in the US, serves as an oversight body and submits recommendations to Congress to improve elections. For sure, Congress will be receiving recommendations from the Commission after this 2008 Presidential Election.

In all, the eventful 2008 US Presidential Elections provided valuable lessons to all those who want democracy to flourish in their countries, the Philippines included. Inspiring as it is, it paved the way for the election of the first African-American President, Barack Obama, whose soaring and stirring speech at the Chicago Grant Square on November 5, 2008, affirmed the worth of every voter, the value of volunteerism, the need for undying hope and the clamor for government of the people, for the people and by the people.

The emerging presidentiables

By Tony Lopez
The Manila Times

It’s fiesta time in the Philippines. The so-called presidentiables or those people with presidential ambitions and think can make it to the presidency have begun to fan out to the provinces in search of votes and voters.

The presidentiables make a long list, at least 11 as of this writing. But only four or five will eventually survive the winnowing process.

At the starting gate, the frontrunners, per recent surveys, are: Vice President Noli de Castro, 59, 31 percent; Loren Legarda, 49, 28 percent; Manny Villar, 59, 27 percent; Francis Escudero, 39, 19 percent Panfilo Lacson, 60, 14 percent; former President Joseph Estrada, 71, 11 percent; and Mar Roxas, 51, 10 percent.

Trying to close in on them with single digit ratings are two local officials, Mayor Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, 66, of Makati, and Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando, 63; and a corporate CEO, Chairman Efraim Genuino, 59, of the state casino monopoly Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

With barely 17 months or 500 days before the May 2010 presidential elections, anybody who wants to be president but has not yet gained national prominence at this stage has no chance to make it—as a candidate and more so, as a winner. But of course, miracles do happen.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro is a bar topnotcher and a decent public servant. Many would wish he could be president. He probably will make a good vice president.

Sheer name recall, without a well-oiled machinery and a credible party, does not guarantee victory. Note that despite his local and international prominence, four-time boxing world champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao failed in his bid as congressman of General Santos City. Even if a candidate has all the ingredients of popularity, machinery and party, he or she must have incredible energy to stump the length and breadth of the land.

A presidential candidate must visit at least once 81 provinces, 136 cities, more than 200 congressional districts, and 1,495 towns. Assuming a candidate will visit three towns in one day, it will take him or her 498 days or 17 months to make a single visit. Then you add the cities and the provinces. There are only two ways to skip this ritual of visiting major provinces, cities and towns to reach out to some 44 million voters in 2010: Use one’s immense popularity. And spend on media exposure. The cost for that effort: P4 billion.

Popularity has its limits. Voters also look for that all important quality—competence. Actor Fernando Poe Jr. saved a fortune because he didn’t need to advertise as much as his rival did. He also borrowed a political party with which to mount his candidacy. Still, he lost despite having started the presidential race with 30-plus-percentage points advantage over incumbent Gloria Arroyo.

Two qualities will define the presidential candidate of 2010. Youth or freshness. And experience, with money and machinery providing the right fillip. Two issues will define the presidential elections of 2010. The economy and corruption. Rice and fish, electricity and gas, governance and incompetence, in other words.

On the youth side are: Vice President Noli de Castro, Senators Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda, Mar Roxas and Panfilo Lacson.

On the experience side are Joseph Estrada, Manuel Villar and Jejomar Binay.

In a close fight, the one who is perceived to have the right balance of youth, experience and popularity could snatch the presidency from the likes of an early favorite like Joseph Estrada or Noli de Castro.

There could eventually be a tossup between de Castro and Estrada, with the former having the slight edge. That is because the former president is not yet perceived as a candidate for president in 2010.

Once Estrada becomes the official candidate and de Castro is adopted by the ruling party as the anointed successor to Arroyo, the former actor and president will present a strong challenge to de Castro.

Except for having been convicted for plunder (which many people do not believe, anyway), Estrada doesn’t have the political baggage that de Castro has. If he runs on his own, de Castro will be hobbled by the stigma of being the continuation of the present administration, an Arroyo Part 3.

Though a banking graduate, from the University of the East, de Castro will have a tough time explaining why poverty increased and unemployment worsened at exactly the period when the economy expanded at its greatest in a generation.

Can a candidate de Castro remain clueless about the economic paradoxes and still hope to win? President Gloria Arroyo will be blamed for the economic mess that is not her fault. It is the result of a global meltdown.

An incumbent who has run out of luck on the economy cannot possibly endorse a successor without sounding hollow and incredible.

At this stage though, the economy seems still strong and dynamic. But fortunes could change come election time.


BY Lito Banayo
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

Jejomar Binay, his first name a contraction of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, has been mayor of Makati, enclave of the very rich, financial capital and fashionable shopping mecca all rolled into one, since the fall of Ferdinand Marcos. But for a brief interlude when he handed temporary power to his wife, Dra. Elenita, when he himself sat as MMDA chair and a member of President Estrada’s cabinet, the people of the city have kept electing him. His second round of three terms each ends on June 30, 2010. Indeed, it is time to move on.

Before Corazon Aquino appointed him officer-in-charge of the country’s then premier municipality, Jojo was a lawyer not of the rich, but of the poor, and together with legal activist Rene Saguisag, embraced human rights advocacies during the long night of the dictatorship. We were together when the first ever anti-Marcos rally in the financial capital rocked the political bearings of the dictatorship in the aftermath of Ninoy Aquino’s dastardly assassination. Unknown perhaps to Jojo then was the fact that I had to bus a few hundred rallyists from his Batangas and my Laguna because we were unsure about any spontaneous turn-out from Makati, then ruled by his predecessor Nemesio Yabut, a loyal Marcos henchman.

Unlike many of the instant local government executives created by revolutionary government fiat, Jejomar Binay proved to be both politically astute and administratively capable. Unlike many who took over their instant constituencies like conquering potentates, Binay retained many of Yabut’s loyalists, in the municipio as well as the barangays. In time, the vaunted political machinery swore loyalty to his colors, even when his rule was challenged by the Yabut heirs.

With so much in real estate and business taxes rolling into the city coffers, he embarked on his own version of a "welfare community," subsidizing so many social services that even Manila, the nation’s capital could not afford. He focused on the basics – health and education, as any right-thinking local executive must. A "yellow card" certifying that the holder is a Makateno, allowed entry at one time to the nation’s most prestigious medical address, the Makati Medical Center. Later, Binay was to put up his own government-run general hospital, apart from well-stocked barangay health centers. The municipality’s schoolchildren had textbook subsidies, and its teachers given increments and bonuses on top of what the national government paid them. In time, he would inaugurate a full-service University of Makati whose educational and even sports facilities are the envy even of some private institutions.

Senior citizens of Makati get to see the movies in Ayala malls for free, chargeable to the city government. And their mayor sends them a birthday cake and some cash gift for Christmas. Makati roads are well-maintained, and I do not refer to Ayala Avenue or the business districts of Legazpi and Salcedo, but even to the poorer districts of Guadalupe Viejo and La Paz and Comembo or West Rembo.

There are many more services that Mayor Jojo gives his pampered constituents which I shall no longer enumerate because, not being a resident of his city, I would only drool with envy, and feel miserable about the state of decay of my beloved City of Manila, once the nation’s pride.

His local detractors certainly have their gripes. They accuse him of corruption, and cases have been filed against him before the Ombudsman. But what local executive has not had his spate of such charges? Of recent memory, Ronnie Puno’s DILG blackshirts laid City Hall to siege because Doña Gloria’s Ombudsman ordered Binay’s suspension for having allegedly padded the payroll with ghost contractuals. Binay’s barangay constituencies surrounded him, and after the Court of Appeals handed down injunction, the "siege of Makati" only provided the mayor with a larger-than-life image as opposition leader. These days, the so-called "United Opposition" coalition is virtually headquartered in his towering City Hall, more fabulously furnished and equipped than any in the entire country. Binay is both president of his original party, PDP-Laban, founded in the early Eighties by now senator, then Cagayan de Oro city mayor Aquilino Pimentel, and the transitory alliance of oppositionists called UNO.

Moving on for Jojo Binay means the presidency of the land. And late last year, he formally declared his intentions, just after Barack Obama won the presidency of the United States. His handlers called him the Philippine version of Barack Obama, but what he had hoped to be an insignia of "change" was trivialized into mere similarity of skin color. By calling their political champion "Jobama," lofty message became little more than, sadly – coffee-shop joke.

The numbers in the surveys show it. Like Bayani Fernando, Jojo, despite real achievements and a busy regimen of moving across the length and breadth of the archipelago, still languishes in the bottom rungs. He has forged sister-city relationships with so many municipalities in so many provinces, donating hand-me-down computers and school desks, but somehow, the effort has not registered in the surveys.

He has publicly declared his fealty to former President Joseph Estrada, and alone among many, has said he would willingly give way to the latter’s intent to make a presidential redux. This makes sense for Machiavellian minds who see opportunity for a vice-presidential candidate of one whose legal rights to seek the office once more may be struck down by the Comelec and the Supreme Court, in which event, No. 2 just might reap instant electoral bonanza. But Jojo, who has shown fierce loyalty to the two political bosses he has served, Cory and Erap, likely means his self-abnegation truthfully.

There is some characteristic that makes the Filipino voter akin to the Filipino movie fan. He typecasts his movie "idols" as much as he typecasts his political "idols". May pang-meyor; may pang-senador. And only a few are considered pang-presidente. (Just like in the movies, where a Baron Geisler like Max Alvarado before him is "pang-kontrabida", while a Piolo Pascual or an FPJ or an Erap could only be the "bida.") Thus, we have had outstanding senators, in erudite advocacy as well as legislative performance – Salonga, Puyat, Diokno, Recto, Tañada, Laurel and many others, but somehow they had been typecast by the voter as "magaling na senador", and would elect them forever if possible, as senators, but not as president. There is a varying background and indefinable charisma required of the top position within the public gift, that had made them elect "electrifying" speakers, or men with military or national security backgrounds – Magsaysay, Marcos, Ramos – or vice-presidents thrust into power by accident of fate – Osmeña, Quirino, Garcia, even Arroyo. Note that all four were neither deeply charismatic nor powerful speakers, and would perhaps not have won against their president in fair elections. We elected Cory Aquino in a wave of sympathy over her murdered Ninoy, and a movie actor with boundless personal charm in Estrada.

It is said that one could plan his political career up to senator, but above that, it becomes a matter of destiny. Quezon and Marcos perhaps defied that. Based on their biographies, it seemed quite evident that they had lusted to become national supremo the day they entered politics. The Filipino voter has not had a mayor or governor typecast as presidential material. The exception was perhaps Arsenio Lacson, mayor of the then truly great City of Manila. But untimely death cut his "destiny" off. Joseph Ejercito Estrada was once mayor of the tiny municipality of San Juan, and was acclaimed for his achievements therein, but people who elected him president in 1998 did so for reasons of charisma and popularity as a movie actor, more than his considerable feats as mayor, and certainly not because of his senatorial performance.

The highly-acclaimed governor of post-martial law Cebu, Lito Osmeña, tried in 1998 as presidential candidate, and failed. These days, there seems to be a growing realization in civil society sectors that there are good local government executives who ought to be considered for the presidency in 2010. Mention has been made of Quezon City’s Sonny Belmonte, even Isabela’s Grace Padaca and Naga City’s Jesse Robredo, Magsaysay Awardees for public service at that, and of course those who have openly declared their intent – Gordon of Olongapo, Fernando of Marikina, and Binay of Makati.

Thus far, the tale of the surveys shows they are not "typecast" by the voters for the presidency of the land. For Jojo Binay, one major problem is that he is titular head of an opposition coalition with many heads who cannot come together to reach consensus that transcends personal ambition. The Liberal’s Mar Roxas, nor Manny Villar’s Nacionalista Party, neither the independent Ping Lacson, or Loren Legarda and Chiz Escudero, oppositionists both in openly pro-administration NPC. Crazy as it already is, the deposed former president, the undeniably charismatic Erap, wants a double take.

Where and how does a Jojo Binay, "Jobama" to his Makati handlers and fans, situate himself thus?

Mar: Gloria corruption brings international shame

Ang Pahayagang Malaya

SEN. Mar Roxas yesterday lashed at President Arroyo for "bringing international shame to the country" for her deliberate disregard of the corruption that pervades her administration.

"Nakakahiya na talaga. This administration should be ashamed of itself. Si Joc-Joc Bolante, nahuli sa US; si General Carlos Garcia, nahuli sa US; itong mga euro generals, nahuli sa Russia; mga ilang contractors, nabuking ng World Bank," Roxas said.

Bolante, a former agriculture undersecretary, has been tagged as mastermind of the P728-million fertilizer mess.

Garcia, a former AFP comptroller, was convicted by a general court martial over undeclared wealth. Former PNP police general Eliseo dela Paz was involved in 105,000 euro money scandal.

"The entire world knows how corrupt our government is, even arrested these Filipino grafters when caught with their loot, but we cannot put them to justice," Roxas said.

Roxas also cited the decision the World Bank Thursday to blacklist seven firms – three from the Philippines and four from China – and an individual for allegedly "engaging in collusive practices" during the biddings for the first phase of the National Road Improvement and Management Program.

"The world is seeing through the corruption of the Gloria administration and she is doing nothing about it. Nasaan ba si Gloria?" he added.

E.C. de Luna Construction Corp. and its proprietor Eduardo C. de Luna were permanently barred from participating in any bidding for World Bank-funded projects. China Road and Bridge Corp. was banned for eight years; China State Construction Corp. and China Wu Yi Co. Ltd. for six years; China Geo-Engineering Corp, for five years; and Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corp. and CM Pancho Construction for four years.

The World Bank said it rejected two large road contracts worth $33 million between 2003 and 2006 because of excessive pricing in three rounds of bidding.

Roxas said Arroyo should now drop her political manipulations to extend her term beyond 2010 through a constituent assembly and instead clamp down on corrupt officials.

He said President Arroyo can begin her government’s cleanup by ordering Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to immediately file cases against ranking public officials accused of stealing money from the government.

He said the Ombudsman should file graft charges against Bolante for the fertilizer scam, Dela Paz for the euro money scandal, and former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos for the botched Mega-Pacific poll modernization program and the NBN-ZTE controversy, among others.

"Our Ombudsman has one of the worst track records in the world. Merceditas Gutierrez should shape up or leave," he said.

Sen. Pia Cayetano urged the World Bank to identify "high-ranking officials" involved in the "road contracts cartel."

"An investigation was initiated by Malacañang, or so they announced to the media. But did anything come out of it? We never heard about any official being questioned, sanctioned or charged in court in relation to World Bank’s 2007 complaint," she said.

Learning from Barack Obama

BY Fidel V. Ramos
Newsbreak Magazine

The assumption of Barack Obama as 44th President of the U.S. should be welcomed by ordinary Filipinos, given his liberal, anti-racial, pro-minority, and pro-poor tendencies developed throughout his youth, and during his immersion in a diversity of cultures and social justice advocacies.

Given the worldwide economic recession plus political instability in several regional hotspots -- and their impacts on the Philippines -- our elected leaders and decision-makers should seriously study and learn from the Obama phenomenon.

Leadership is what Barack prepared himself for and sacrificed for. His burning desire to excel was not just to satisfy a grand personal ambition, but to enable him to better serve the suffering and marginalized.

Obama's first book, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, published in 1995, was and continues to be a national bestseller. It describes Barack's grandfather, Onyango, as a respected elder of Kenya's Luo tribe, who had such strong qualities of caring, sharing and daring for his community that he was known for having "ants in his anus" (or "fire in his belly").

The same was said about Onyango's son, Barack Sr. (which means "Blessed" in Arabic), and it is presumed that their genes, fires and ants flowed into Barack II, the incoming U.S. President. And from his mother, Ann Dunham -- an anthropologist -- he also inherited similar virtues of compassion and empathy.

PGMA and Obama
At this late date for PGMA -- which coincides with a new era dawning for America with Obama's inauguration just two weeks away -- there may no longer be enough time and space for her to get a "passing-mark" to reverse what most Filipinos consider a generally mismanaged administration that has been going one step forward and two steps backward.

But, if she is to change her declining trust ratings, she must make bold reforms for the resolution of the enormous problems facing our nation in order that she can still effectively optimize her precious remaining 17 months to return the Philippines back on the track of sustainable peace and development, and a place of respect in the community of nations.

While Obama can look forward to as long as eight years of being at the helm, PGMA and her drumbeaters must not delude themselves into staying on beyond 30 June 2010.

In his The Audacity of Hope, Obama back in 2006 precisely identified America 's dilemma. He said: "What's troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics -- the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem."

Note Obama's sarcastic comment on the "smallness of politics" against the "magnitude of challenges." Do Obama's analysis and prescriptions ring a bell here at home? Yes, they do, because of "our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem." And, if PGMA bites the bullet of reform and takes decisive actions now, she could still bow out with an acceptable legacy and her head still held high.

Like a meteor
Notwithstanding that Barack's writings are not easy reading, it is certainly worthwhile and rewarding to plow through the 900 pages of both his bestsellers that describe his life story and advocacies. Today's leaders who have cast longing eyes on the Philippine Presidency come 2010 would find it enlightening, even advantageous, to study carefully what made Obama the way he is, what he thinks, and how he gets things done.

For he is not just a rare multi-colored phenomenon who burst upon the world scene at the right time like a meteor, but much more than that, he is a mobile gladiator with sharp intellectual skills, charming political savvy and a cool, unflappable character. Moreover, he is a tough competitor with the admirable physical fitness and endurance of a champion Kenyan marathoner -- born of an austere life style and stability under pressure.

The phrase "The Audacity of Hope" came early into Barack's consciousness during his meetings with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and a Ph.D in religious history. In 1988, towards the end of his 3 years as a community organizer in the slums, and before he entered Harvard on a scholarship, Barack recalls:

"The title of Reverend Wright's sermon that morning was 'The Audacity of Hope.' It is about this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks' greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere… That's the world! And so it went, a meditation on a fallen world… Reverend Wright spoke of Sharpsville and Hiroshima , the callousness of policy makers in the White House and in the State House… The Reverend spoke of the hardship that the congregation would face tomorrow, the pain of those far from the mountain-top, worrying about paying the light bill."

There are valuable lessons for "wannabe" Presidents of the Philippines to be acquired from a comprehensive understanding of Barack Obama. Among them: his humility, grit, honesty, industry, and sincere concern for the powerless and endangered masses.

What could be his most precious legacy to the American people -- as well as for others around the world -- is a new, reformist paradigm for public service and leadership in the interdependent world of the 21st century, which is based on the audacity of hope for a better future, the advocacy of change we need, and the faith that "Yes, We Can (Kaya Natin Ito!)”.

Real People, Real Change

By Karla Angelica Pastores
www.inq7.net blogs

THE first time I met Jesse Robredo, Grace Padaca, and Among Ed Panlilio, I wasn’t star struck. They did not have an air of superiority around them, and they certainly did not walk around waving to everyone and shaking hands with people whose arms are not even extended. To me, they did not look like politicians, let alone award-winning ones.

No, I wasn’t star struck when I met them. I was awestruck.

Over dinner at Club Filipino one June evening last year, I was listening to these three government officials talk about their problems in their provinces and offer solutions and support to each other. They were seated across from each other, engaging themselves in a lively conversation. As I sat there, a young, somewhat inexperienced fresh graduate, I felt very privileged to have met these leaders and be privy to their thoughts and ideas.

Several months and two more exceptional public servants later, my respect and admiration for Mayor Jesse of Naga City, Gov. Grace of Isabela, Among Ed of Pampanga, Gov. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao and Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija have only grown. In my work for Kaya Natin!, I interact with these five people on a regular basis, and like that evening in Club Filipino when they first met, I have the chance to know them as people, not as politicians.

As people, these leaders are as real as they get. They have more right to say that they’re just regular people than television and movie stars have –just regular people who have problems and issues albeit scrutinized by the public eye. At least with celebrities, they’re compensated with more than enough; with government officials like Mayor Jesse and Gov. Grace, it’s only their heart for the people and the country that keeps them in public service despite the difficulties.

In today’s political arena where corruption seems to be the norm, government officials like the Kaya Natin! champions are a refreshing twist to the story. Here we have leaders who, while far from being perfect, have put it upon themselves to serve the public with integrity. Not only are they challenging the rules of the game of traditional politics, going against big names, but they do so with a genuine commitment to changing how politics works in the Philippines. They are the faces of effective and ethical leadership in government.

The reality is that these champions of good governance are not that much different from the rest of us. Before taking on the challenge of public service, they were ordinary citizens who only wanted to do something and be someone for others. It was a sacrifice they were ready and willing to make, and it was a sacrifice that was worth every pain and disappointment if only to see their fellow Filipinos leading better lives. They are still ordinary citizens; only now they hold jobs aimed at serving the public.

Ordinary people? Quite probably. Extraordinary characters? Most definitely. The best part is, they’re all real people.

Top 10 Messages Left on Sen. Roxas' Answering Machine


I am reprinting this because when I saw Sen Roxas in a party, the first thing he told me was, "Did you read that list of ten things that mentioned you twice?" And then he let out a wicked laughter.

I told him I am not the professional heckler and don't intend to be one, since I am part of the group (those darned politicians) that deserve to be heckled. I am reprinting this because it is still going the rounds, and being quoted out of context, and being mangled. As they say in Lit Theory class, let us go back and retrieve a fair copy of the text. So here goes:

10 Messages Left on Mar's Answering Machine:

10: Senator Roxas, this is Yolly Ong of Campaigns & Grey. I think you’ll need our help.

9: Mar, Si Archbishop Cruz ‘to. Amen!

8: Hello senator, Danton Remoto here. Naloka ako sa ‘yo!

7: Hi, it’s Teddy Locsin. I thought my “Fuck You” then was good. But your “Putang Ina” was awesome!

6: Mar, si Erap ‘to. Salamat sa pagmumura mo. At least, mas madaling ma-narrow down ang choices ng opposition.

5: Manuel, this is your mamita! Hijo naman, ano na lang ang iisipin ng akin mga amiga? Na ikaw ay persona mal educado? Na mal ejemplo ako bilang madre de familia? Usted debe pedir perdón! (Read: You must apologize!) Ahora mismo!

4: Hello senator, Danton Remoto again. In fairness, lalaking-lalaki ka that night!

3: Hon, Korina here. Ang tanga-tanga mo! Di ka ba na-inform na may nakatutok na camera?

2: Mar, it’s Senator Villar. Hahahahahahahahaha! One down.

And the No. 1 message left on Sen. Mar Roxas’ answering machine…

1: ‘Tol, si Mikey ‘to. Puta’ng ina mo rin!

EU monitoring progress of 2010 poll automation

By Carmela Fonbuena
Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Representatives of the European Union on Tuesday met with Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Jose Melo to monitor the progress of the automation of the 2010 polls.

“We met a team of about 13 commissioners. They were in full force. They are showing very great interest in the coming 2010 poll elections. They are asking a lot of questions,” Melo told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.

The EU team was led by the head of the delegation Ambassador Alistair MacDonald and Czech Republic Ambassador Jaroslav Ludva. Melo was joined by National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) chair Henrietta De Villa.

Barely a year before the May 2010 presidential polls, the Comelec is in the thick of preparing for the automation. Melo said he reported to the EU members that the Advisory Council—which is tasked to oversee the technical aspect of the poll automation—is set to finalize on Friday the terms of reference for the project bidders.

Melo said he is happy with the interest shown by foreign institutions like the EU. “They might send foreign observers. We welcome them,” he said.

Melo believes that the presence of foreign observers helps in ensuring a cleaner election.

Asked if there are other international groups who have shown interest in the 2010 poll automation, Melo said he is also counting on the Asian Network for Free Elections to come again in 2010. The Asian group has been regularly sending delegates in the Philippines to observe elections.

Melo earlier said he was pleased that a bill allotting a supplemental budget of P11.3 billion for the 2010 poll automation is finally filed in Congress.

After months of sitting on the budget allocation, Malañang on January 9 finally submitted to Congress supplemental budget. Appropriations committee chair Quirino Rep. Junie Cua immediately the necessary bill, which House Speaker Prospero Nograles said will be fast tracked for approval as soon as Congress resumes session next week, June 19. (abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak)

Gay readings

BY Danton Remoto
Remote control
Views and analysis section

Even if Rep. Bienvenido Abante of Manila’s sixth district is still bent on blocking the Anti-Discrimination bill in the 14th Congress, this congressman who sought the banning of the film The Da Vinci Code in Manila would turn pink with prissy dismay at the sight of our bookstores, where the hottest books flying off the shelves are gay.

Whether you are talking about National Bookstore, Fully Booked, or your friendly bargain-basement tiangge in the mall, gay-related titles are a smash. The Ladlad series that Neil Garcia of UP and myself have edited had never gone out of print, since the first edition came out in 1994.

Our other books – Black Silk Pajamas, Buhay Bading, Misterios, and Pulotgata, along with those of Jessica Zafra and Bob Ong, dominate the Billboard Charts of shelves in National Bookstore. My new gay books now in the bookstores include Ladlad 3 and Rampa: Gay Essays in Filipino, as well as the book of gay poems by Ronald Baytan of De La Salle University, called The Queen Sings the Blues.

Of the magazines, though, only Icon has hewed closely to its original intention, but it has not published in a year! Generation Pink (GP) has not published an issue in many months, while Him has been reformatted into a metro sexual version of GQ magazine. Invoice Magazine by the young and brave publisher Geo Macapagal is now on sale at the bookstores as well.

But I am happy to report that new authors are also, ahhh, coming out with their own titles. Louie Cano’s Pink Brusko (published by Milfores) is now on its second printing, and his Baklese: Pinoy Pop Queer Dictionary, is going in the same publishing route. Baklese 2 and Masculadolls just rolled out of the printing presses.

“This is baklese circa 2006,” says the intro, “[and] the wordplay begins here.” As in his earlier book, Louie has energy and enthusiasm and his books have life, although I would be happier if there were lesser adjectives and adverbs in those pages. They tend to sap the energy quotient along the way.

Like James Joyce

Be that as it may, Baklese treads “through the maze alleys of Maricaban [in Pasay] to the manicured lawns of posh North Greenhills, from the friendly neighborhood’s byuti parlor to David’s Salon Prestige hub in Podium, from the ubiquitous ‘bottoms’ to the strictly ‘top’ to the greedy ‘versa,’ from the discreetly mascula-dolls to buffed gurls and cocky divas, this lexicon is a journey that has taken me along the diversified faces of pink men.”

That is one-half of the intro. Listen to this version, in flamingo-pink language worthy of a gay James Joyce: “Hola, mga badutch, ecla-voo, King Kong Barbies at mga brusko pink na di pa bukella! Mga sisteraca y maderakah de Espana, mga botomesa de Sta. Mesa, mga pretenciosang alitop-tap ng Taft, mga bebang of Alabang, mga ineng ng Kamuning, mga pa-mhintang buo at durog ng Greenhills, sa lahat ng mga vhaklers kung saan-sann at kung anik-anik pa! Iteching ang first evahfonda lexicon (talatinigan, nini, as in dictionary lowkah) ng mga tienes ng mga syofatids mo.” Whew, getch mo?!

If you didn’t get it, then this slim, 33-page book will define the terms for you. There are a lot of names: Armida Siguion Reyna for military, James Yap for significantly younger partner; and Papaya Medel for a woman with big breasts. There are also references to looks, whether natural or cosmetically induced or otherwise, as in this item: “moon crystal power – beautiful only at night.” The dudes who go the gym are also defined, whether as “vorta — gym-buffed” or as “vostron – muscular gay man (baklang maton).”

Moreover, there are lots of references to a pendulum of feelings, from fear (“shokot”) to bitterness “nagmama-asim”). There are, of course, many references to sex: parts of the body, smells of the body, things one could do with the body. But lest the Catholic Women’s League readers of our website put me to task again for ruining their Tuesday mornings, I would rather let the reader go to the store, buy this book, and have a happy—and gay—day.

Lesbian section

If Fully Booked boasts of Blue Magazine and all those periodicals of men captured in erotic but tasteful photographs, then National Bookstore already has their Gay and Lesbian section!

Their first blast is composed of newly published titles catering to the hip, young and cosmopolitan set. One of them is The Trouble Boy by Tim Dolby, which has the razor-sharp urban wit of Candace Bushnell married to the dark gaze of Bret Easton Ellis.

Our antihero is 22-year-old Toby Griffin, born of rich parents in the West Coast but now living in New York. He hungers for fame, fortune, an Oscar-winning screenplay and a cute boyfriend, “not just a bed partner.”

But he is stuck in an online magazine that closes shop and a small flat in the East Village. He encounters with “the boys,” a group of preppies from the Upper East Side who are fab and have glam, who drink top-shelf liquor, and who only sleep with men as cute and as buff as they are. Their names are iconic New York: Subway Boy, Loft Boy, Goth Boy. It is a world of anti-depressants, from Paxil, “which medicated the student body in college,” to a new one called “Wellbutrin,” which sounded “so touchy-feely.”

The book glitters with sequiturs: “Experience had always shown me the best way to meet cute guys was to get to know their less cute friends.” Or sharp takes at cosmetic culture: “Having begun her transformation at age sixteen, [this model] attended to every detail over the years, including having a pair of ribs removed, further highlighting her concave stomach. . . .” Or the fear of old age: “We ate at a slick new gay restaurant in Chelsea. All around us were old queens tossing around bon mots. Someday, I feared, that would be us.”

But one day he becomes the PA of Cameron Cole, an aggressive and driven film mogul. The only person Cameron is afraid of is his mother, “a bottle blonde who, thanks to the wonders of plastic surgery, existed in that nebulous chasm between forty and sixty. . . .” Toby steps up into a world of designer drugs, VIP lounges, networking and hype. And he meets a rich, spoiled, young brat of a girl, who encounters a problem with her, ahhh, driving. The dark heart of Manhattan is skewered in this fast and furious read about the filthy rich who are also emotional zombies.

The last gay book I devoured, Tangled Sheets: Tales of Erotica, by Michael Thomas Ford. Not your usual porn queen, Ford has written critics’ choices, including the books Last Summer and Alec Baldwin Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Tangled Sheets collects the best of his erotica, with titles like “The Checkup” (about a dentist), “Riding the Rails” (about a New York-bound train), and “Paying the Tax Man” (about a tax collector). This book will leave you hot – and bothered.

Desperate hope

George Orwell was one of the shrewdest, clearest political writers of all time. His book, "1984", is a departure point for a well-argued editorial in today's issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Read on.


1984 is once again upon us. We refer to the novel by that title by George Orwell, a prophetic, nightmarish vision of a “negative utopia.” In Orwell’s generation, and even up to now, no other novel has stimulated so much loathing for tyranny and so much desire for freedom.

In “1984” the slogans of the Party are the following:




Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, the following might be the slogans of the times:




At no time in the history of the current administration has the truth of these supposed “slogans” been more strongly demonstrated than the present. Consider the following:

An upright, incorruptible, right-thinking Chief Justice is proposed to be impeached, whereas a President who has been charged with corruption, violation of many provisions of the Constitution, and other serious crimes, has always gotten away scot-free every time articles of impeachment are filed against her.

Whistleblowers like Acsa Ramirez, Rodolfo Lozada and Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino are either wrongfully prosecuted, kidnapped and muzzled, or criticized, while Benjamin Abalos and Virgilio Garcillano are allowed to resign without first being made to answer the charges against them.

A reformist provincial governor like Ed Panlilio is constantly being subjected to all forms of political harassment, while congressmen and local government officials who have been wasting the people’s money are given even more money in brown paper bags to support a president whose legitimacy is constantly being questioned.

Generals who are accused of killing unarmed militants are praised in a joint session of Congress while other generals and officers who dare to criticize high officials for their questionable acts are arrested and detained.

The people are fed half-truths by government spokespersons. The President will not answer “political questions” from reporters, for fear, possibly, of giving away her real plans for 2010. The truth, which is the oxygen of democracy, is kept hidden from the people. Sometimes it is exposed only at a critical time, as what happened when the treasonous Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain became known only on the eve of its signing.

We could go on and on, but the idea is this: In this administration,




Social critic Erich Fromm, commenting on “1984,” said: “Orwell, like the authors of the other negative utopias [Yevgeni Zamyatin, ‘We,’ Aldous Huxley, ‘Brave New World’] is not a prophet of disaster. He wants to warn and to awaken us. He still hopes—but in contrast to the other writers of the utopias in the earlier phases of Western society, his hope is a desperate one. The hope can be realized only by recognizing, so ‘1984’ teaches us, the danger with which all men are confronted today, the danger of a society of automatons who will have lost every trace of individuality, of love, of critical thought, and yet who will not be aware of it because of ‘doublethink.’”

We hope we Filipinos have not been reduced to automatons who have lost their individuality and their critical thought, and who have lost the capacity to rage against falsehood, dishonesty and corruption. Perhaps they are not protesting too much because the great majority of them are more immediately concerned with earning a living, putting food on the table and providing for the other basic needs of their families. Perhaps it is because they are so caught up in the daily rat race that they do not have time to engage in political action. Perhaps they are just waiting for the tipping point.

Many commentators have said that Filipinos seem to have lost their capacity to express their moral outrage at what is happening around them. Let us hope that this is not true, and that in time they will become engaged citizens of their country who value truth, integrity, honesty and freedom.
1984 is once again upon us. We refer to the novel by that title by George Orwell, a prophetic, nightmarish vision of a “negative utopia.” In Orwell’s generation, and even up to now, no other novel has stimulated so much loathing for tyranny and so much desire for freedom.

In “1984” the slogans of the Party are the following:




Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, the following might be the slogans of the times:




At no time in the history of the current administration has the truth of these supposed “slogans” been more strongly demonstrated than the present. Consider the following:

An upright, incorruptible, right-thinking Chief Justice is proposed to be impeached, whereas a President who has been charged with corruption, violation of many provisions of the Constitution, and other serious crimes, has always gotten away scot-free every time articles of impeachment are filed against her.

Whistleblowers like Acsa Ramirez, Rodolfo Lozada and Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino are either wrongfully prosecuted, kidnapped and muzzled, or criticized, while Benjamin Abalos and Virgilio Garcillano are allowed to resign without first being made to answer the charges against them.

A reformist provincial governor like Ed Panlilio is constantly being subjected to all forms of political harassment, while congressmen and local government officials who have been wasting the people’s money are given even more money in brown paper bags to support a president whose legitimacy is constantly being questioned.

Generals who are accused of killing unarmed militants are praised in a joint session of Congress while other generals and officers who dare to criticize high officials for their questionable acts are arrested and detained.

The people are fed half-truths by government spokespersons. The President will not answer “political questions” from reporters, for fear, possibly, of giving away her real plans for 2010. The truth, which is the oxygen of democracy, is kept hidden from the people. Sometimes it is exposed only at a critical time, as what happened when the treasonous Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain became known only on the eve of its signing.

We could go on and on, but the idea is this: In this administration,




Social critic Erich Fromm, commenting on “1984,” said: “Orwell, like the authors of the other negative utopias [Yevgeni Zamyatin, ‘We,’ Aldous Huxley, ‘Brave New World’] is not a prophet of disaster. He wants to warn and to awaken us. He still hopes—but in contrast to the other writers of the utopias in the earlier phases of Western society, his hope is a desperate one. The hope can be realized only by recognizing, so ‘1984’ teaches us, the danger with which all men are confronted today, the danger of a society of automatons who will have lost every trace of individuality, of love, of critical thought, and yet who will not be aware of it because of ‘doublethink.’”

We hope we Filipinos have not been reduced to automatons who have lost their individuality and their critical thought, and who have lost the capacity to rage against falsehood, dishonesty and corruption. Perhaps they are not protesting too much because the great majority of them are more immediately concerned with earning a living, putting food on the table and providing for the other basic needs of their families. Perhaps it is because they are so caught up in the daily rat race that they do not have time to engage in political action. Perhaps they are just waiting for the tipping point.

Many commentators have said that Filipinos seem to have lost their capacity to express their moral outrage at what is happening around them. Let us hope that this is not true, and that in time they will become engaged citizens of their country who value truth, integrity, honesty and freedom.

Teodoro seen to bolt NPC as political forces realign in 2009

By Jess Diaz
Philippine Star
Updated December 30, 2008 12:00 AM

I just dug this up from the archives, but still piping-hot news almost two weeks after it was reported. At nagtampo pa si Gilbert Teodoro sa uncle niya? If he wants to run as senator, maybe he has a chance -- of landing in the top 25 :-)


The start of the new year will most likely see a realignment of political forces in preparation for the combined presidential-congressional-local elections in May 2010.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. will most likely leave the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and join the administration Lakas party together with his wife, Tarlac Rep. Nikki Prieto Teodoro.

Teodoro, who is eyeing the presidency, reportedly had a falling out with his uncle, billionaire businessman and NPC founder and principal financier Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

He resents the fact that his uncle is leaning more towards NPC Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Loren Legarda than to him when it comes to 2010 presidential politics.

Cojuangco is eyeing either Escudero or Legarda as NPC standard-bearer in the coming elections.

In fact, House Speaker and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) president Prospero Nograles said the ruling party will not field weak candidates in the 2010 elections.

This early, the Speaker admitted that they are in serious talks with other political groups such as the NPC in an effort to strengthen its ranks in the 2010 elections.

However, the team to beat, according to Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, a former Tarlac congressman and an NPC member, is the Escudero-Legarda tandem.

Lapus said it’s not yet clear whether it would be an Escudero-Legarda or Legarda-Escudero ticket.

“The surveys shortly before the 2010 elections will greatly influence the decision on who will be the presidential candidate,” he said.

During the NPC Christmas party, Cojuangco expressed hope that Escudero and Legarda would stick together.

“If they stay together, we will perhaps field a full senatorial ticket,” he said.

The two NPC senators are doing well in the surveys. Escudero, a neophyte senator unlike Legarda, has apparently set his sights on the presidency.

With Legarda’s declaration that she won’t run for vice president again, Escudero is reportedly exploring the possibility of having Sen. Mar Roxas as his running mate.

Roxas, president of the Liberal Party, is also eyeing the presidency. But he is not doing as well as Escudero and Legarda in the surveys.

Rep. Rodolfo Plaza of Agusan del Sur, another NPC stalwart, said an Escudero-Roxas ticket, “like an Escudero-Legarda slate, would be exciting.”

“Both Chiz and Mar are young. They will complement each other. Chiz is a brilliant lawyer. Mar is a bright Wharton-educated economist and finance man. Chiz is from Luzon, while Mar is from the Visayas,” he said.

Plaza was among the NPC leaders from Mindanao who attended the Dec. 15 Christmas party.


NPC can field 2010 slate, eyes Escudero as standard-bearer

By Maila Ager
First Posted 17:42:00 08/28/2008


If the LP is there, can the NP and NPC be far behind? NP has also released its own patikim for 2010. And I am sure that my friend, the newbie Senator Chiz Escudero, will run for President of the land. He intends to grab the bulls' horns of being a self-declared version of Barack Obama (they have the same body frame, head shape, and hair), and give everybody a big fight in the 2010 elections.

I agree with Mike Duavit that it is easy to toss up names in the air, but the senatorial candidates' "winnability" is the most important thing. This is a national campaign. The name of the game is name recall, image awareness, and voters' endearment.

And I wonder who are the "three to four fresh, new faces" that Mike Duavit and Chiz Escudero are seriously eyeing to join the NPC senatorial slate in 2010?

As they say in the Tagalog komiks I so love to read: abangan ang susunod na kabanata.

My lips are sealed very tight indeed.


MANILA, Philippines -- The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) is capable of putting up its own slate in 2010 with Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero still being considered as its standard-bearer, a party official has said.

“We are capable. We can do it,” said Rizal Representative Michael John Duavit, secretary-general of NPC, which businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco had founded.

“But whether we will do it or not is a different matter. Madaling maglagay ng 12 kandidato [It is easy to field 12 candidates], anyone can put up a one full slate but the winnability of the candidates is another thing,” he said.

Duavit said the NPC could produce three to four fresh faces for the Senate should the party decide to form its own slate. He refused to identify them.

At this point, however, the lawmaker said everything was still fluid as the party was still talking to other groups for possible alliance.

The NPC official also clarified that Escudero was still being considered as standard-bearer of the party, aside from Senator Loren Legarda, another party member.

Born in 1969, Escudero is of legal age to run for president in 2010, Duavit said.

“He [Escudero] is qualified. He is popular compared with other candidates,” the lawmaker further said.

Aside from Escudero and Legarda, those also said to be eyeing the presidency included Senate President Manuel Villar, Senators Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Manuel “Mar” Roxas, and Richard Gordon, and Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando.

The Hamlet act

BY Lito Banayo
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

Read this shrewd political analysis from one of my favorite insiders.


Quote the Bard of Avon, "To be or not to be, that is the question" in his well-read Hamlet.

Quote Joseph Ejercito Estrada, dispossessed 13th president of the Republic, "To run or not to run, that is the question".

The question of course, persists only in the public mind, as Erap’s propaganda insists. The ostensible reason behind a run is the threat that if the opposition does not unite, he himself will run. Anybody with two cents worth of political experience knows that the opposition is not going to unite behind one candidate in 2010, and Erap’s premise is ipso facto and ab initio defunct. And the man knows it, but, "just like in the movies", he has to dissemble.

He has increasingly made his decision to run known to almost every person he has privately talked with. He has moved around the country, in what he bills as "lakbay-pasasalamat" meanderings, because he is "giliw na giliw" with his adoring masa, and the curious throngs that greet him are in turn spun off as "sabik na sabik" for the return to the presidency of the fallen leader. But for the fact that he is not FPJ, an entertainment columnist could as well call an Erap redux as "Ang Pagbabalik ni Panday." It would be well nigh political sacrilege, at least for this writer, to call it "Ang Pagbabalik ni Asiong Salonga."

Lately, the private intent has become more publicly disclosed. Already Erap has floated his first choice of a running mate in Senator Loren Legarda. This of course is more reaction than pre-emptive action. A week or so before his announcement of preference for Loren, the NPC under Ambassador Danding Cojuangco pre-empted him by announcing in its Christmas get-together that they would field a complete slate in 2010, from president to a 12-man senatorial slate, down to the local candidacies. And to head their team would be Francis Escudero and/or Loren Legarda, preferably a team-up of both. The "both" is likely if Chiz agrees to be Loren’s number two; vice-versa, the lady would not agree. Chiz is quite "junior" in Loren’s political esteem, and confronted even by an Erap public offer, the lady insists that she’s "been there, done that."

Jojo Binay assumed that he would be Erap’s running-mate as the UNO president and Erap’s loyalist sans pareil. Of course, his survey numbers are nowhere as close to Loren’s, at least for the moment. And Erap boys have been openly talking about an Erap-Chiz tandem, except that Danding, who is naturally closer to Chiz than Erap could ever hope to be, put his foot down early on. Which is likely why Erap mused out loud that Loren is "his" preference.

Indeed, Loren was FPJ’s running mate, and insists she too was garcified out of electoral victory by the Gloria-Noli tandem in 2004. She protested all the way to the Supreme Court, but the politics of being in the public eye required her to run for the Senate in 2007. She was Numero Uno, and Chiz was Numero Dos. The impact of their victories still reverberate in the surveys of presidential preferences in 2008.

But then, enter El Erap. After a series of mega-Manila warm-up tours, complete with a campaign truck from which he and his Manong Ernie Maceda showered candies at the children of the gathering lumpen, 1998 style, his name was entered into the surveys by mid-2008. And as expected, he shaved off points from the other presidential wannabes. Three to five points from Noli and Ping Lacson as well, a whisker or two from Chiz and Mar Roxas, hardly any from Manny Villar that his money and his advertisements could not cover, but a decidedly big slice off Loren’s early lead.

To lay his legal predicate, Erap commissioned (hired is not a politically correct term) retired justices and legal luminaries to reason that he is not covered by the constitutional provision against "any" re-election. I will leave it to the lawyers to debate in the meantime whether Erap’s legal legs are straight or squat.

In any case, the issue will not be before the bench and with the barristers until Erap, if at all, files his certificate of candidacy, which is at least 90 days before the elections of May, 2010. The first bench to hurdle is the Commission on Elections, on the proper assumption that someone will go before it to question the validity of his candidacy. If the Commission should decide that Erap is not qualified, then Erap appeals to the highest bench of law.

Meanwhile, the focus of the campaign of 2010 will shift from the "others" and their "platforms and programs", if any, to the courtroom drama, first before the Comelec, and then to the Supreme Court. Exactly as Erap would want it. It allows him to play underdog, his and the late FPJ’s favourite script in their action movies, "aping-api" throughout the movie, until they prevail against the bad guys in the end. "Tagumpay!" sa takilya, and "just like in the movies," so also in politics. This has always been Erap’s electoral praxis anyway.

Conveniently, there will be no time for debates (as usual), and this time, apart from the hectic campaign schedule, there is the "inconvenience" of being hobbled by the legal conundrum. Meanwhile, the other candidates are deprived of prime time, as Erap reprises his favorite act. And I can read the script this early. Ninakawan ng tagapagtanggol ang masang Pilipino ng ninakaw kay Erap ang pagka-pangulong handog sa kanya ng masang Pilipino. The script then segues into the "conspiracy" of the elite, whose interests were threatened by an Erap presidency that "refused" to give in to the demands of the elite at the expense of his adoring masa. So…"Ibalik si Erap," the "people" chant.

Erap’s re-run scenario expects all these to convert into high survey ratings, enough to eclipse his opponents, and enough to convince the high tribunal to debate and tarry, rather than decide abruptly on what could be a political issue more than an open-and-shut constitutional interdict. If the justices, all of whom but for the Chief will have been appointees of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should decide to tarry, then Erap hopes that the hordes of the masang Pilipino shall have made their vox populi clear enough to make the issue of qualification moot and academic.

All very fine in Erap’s mind, as well as his handlers. Except for a few things, principal among which is the single most important question a prospective candidate has to personally hurdle – who foots the bill? And in an Erap political extravaganza, with Erap as the lead actor, this is always an expensive proposition. The bill will always run into many billions. In the same way that the man does not drink anything but the best, from the then Blue Labels to the ultra-expensive Chateau Petrus, and wears only top of the line, from 4,000 dollar Zilli jackets to 6,000 dollar Brioni suits and eight hundred dollar silk cravats, an Erap campaign, the "greatest" performance of his political career should cost billions upon billions of pesos.

For now, a few of the usual Chinoy believers help in footing the bill for his "trailer" runs, the "lakbay-pasasalamat", but the bulk of his political expenses, which includes the cost of being in the public eye, is pump-primed from his own personal fortunes, which ought to be considerable, humongous legal fees debited for his trial notwithstanding. But an Erap campaign is "otra cosa," and many big businessmen have yet to be ensnared into the "cosa."

Which brings me to the question – who in this day and in these parlous times, would risk his money in a candidacy the life expectancy of which is dependent on what the Comelec and the Supreme Court declare? What happens to your contribution if the Comelec declares the Erap re-run a no-no? You could pee in your pants as much as you want, but the money goes down with it. But wait! There is hope, you think, in the Supreme Court. It has been swayed by "public opinion" before. It might make a "play for history" and reverse itself, when it declared in 2001, that Joseph Ejercito Estrada, duly-elected and duly-constituted President, "constructively resigned" on January 20, 2001. So your crap petrifies in the process of waiting. And meantime, you fly out of the country, make yourself scarce to calls from the Erap camp to up the ante. Remember the truism while business is essentially a take-risk affair, businessmen try to be as risk-averse as possible.

"To run or not to run", Erap ponders. The answer lies in the money. Whose money, that is.

And then again, let me invite our readers’ attention to a legal question. If the Comelec declares the re-run disqualified, will they print the name of Estrada on the ballot? Will the board of election inspectors in computerized or manual mode, count the votes therefore? At their level, I would think not. Unless the Supreme Court directs them so, because as certain as light becomes night, this one is for the Court to decide.

But what if the Court tarries, and debates what to many should be an open-and-shut case, which is, and I quote the second sentence of Section 4, Article 7 of the Constitution: "The President shall not be eligible for ANY re-election".

Then the Comelec cannot print Estrada’s name in the ballot, if computerized, nor on the official registry of candidates, if manual. How then will "vox populi" be recorded, as to moot whatever the Court decides or not decide?

That is why Erap, quite to his destined presidential misfortune, will need a lifeline in Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the woman who conspired with many to remove him from his throne in the stinking palace beside the stinking river. As it was she who gave him absolute pardon right after the Sandiganbayan convicted him for plunder, she it is who will ultimately decide whether an Erap re-run and an Erap re-election to a presidency once before lost, is better guarantee of her judicial peace after 30 June 2010, a "peace in her time" that would best protect her economic interests, more considerable than any in presidential history, as well as the political interests of her bloodline.

Her Ronnie the Tree favors this kind of arrangement, seeing as he does that their Kampi has no champion who could mount the national stage, not by a long shot. He knows Erap well, and believes that "amor con amor se paga" will carry the day in Erap’s heart vis-a-vis the Arroyos. After all, Erap has ostensibly pardoned Angelo Reyes, and welcomes Joe de V into his political tent. He has "forgiven" just about everyone who did him wrong. But how well has he forgotten? He revels in the thought that Cory has said she is sorry, even if everybody knows she is sorry only because her beneficiary, Glory, turned out to be such a political monster, not necessarily because deposing Erap through people power was such a reprehensible act. And if FVR would allow it, why, trust Erap to likewise light up his cigar, as much as he now drinks with the likes of Reynaldo Berroya, whom his vice-presidential PACC apprehended for masterminding a celebrated kidnap-for-ransom caper.

"Son capaz," nuestros abuelos would say, of such kinds of political compromise, both he and she, unthinkable though it may seem to the ordinary Filipino mind.

But then again, can one trust each other, she more than he? For even in this day and age, transactions require a great level of personal trust.

Gov. Grace, Cory Q.in partial LP senatorial slate

January 10,2009

I am happy that some of my friends are in this tentative and partial slate, especially my textmate and sister Governor Grace Padaca. When people asked me today why I am not in this slate, I answered them: "I am not a member of the Liberal Party. Only those who are members of the LP were considered for the tentative slate."

And then somebody texted me later in the afternoon: "Will you join the LP?"

My simple answer? "I do not know." I have been informally invited to take my oath as an LP member, but frankly, why will take an oath at this point in the time-space continuum and bind myself so early in the political game?

The thing to do is to wait for all the cards to be tossed on the table. And aside from the LP card, there are four other cards ready to be tossed on that slippery political table.

Have a good weekend!


Two winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, a former education secretary, two members of the House of Representatives, a media personality, and two former legislators are part of the Liberal Party's (LP) tentative senatorial lineup for the 2010 elections.

Former Senate President and LP chairman Franklin Drilon announced Saturday that some of the LP candidates for the senatorial race include Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon, Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, Former Bukidnon Rep. Neric Acosta, former Education Secretary Florencio 'Butch' Abad, health and fitness guru Cory Quirino, Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo.

Padaca was among the eight winners of the 2008 Ramon Magsaysay (RM) Award--Asia's version of the Nobel Prize--for Government Service for "empowering Isabela voters to reclaim their democratic right to elect leaders of their own choosing, and to contribute as full partners in their own development."

Robredo, on the other hand, won his RM Award for Government Service in the year 2000 for "demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people."

Drilon said that he also may run again in the 2010 senatorial race.

"I've opened myself to run again for Senate," Drilon said in the weekly "Kapihan sa Sulo" media forum.

Con-Con over Con-Ass

Drilon made it clear that they are only against a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) before the 2010 elections, saying that a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) is a better way of amending the Constitution.

"We [LP] are against Con-Ass because we believe it's unconstitutional and immoral," he said.

However, he stressed that "the term of the Con-Con should be limited to one year."

As the final arbiter on what mode to use for charter change, Drilon said that the Supreme Court will "determine the fate of the country in the years to come."

CARP extension + reform on support services

Meanwhile, Drilon announced that LP members in Congress will push for an extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and will attempt to introduce amendments to the present law that will benefit farmers.

"What is needed is for real reforms to come about from an extension of CARP, not hollow promises. While we favor the extension of CARP, we also see the need for reforms to make it a genuine vehicle for social justice and economic development," he said.

Under Roxas' leadership, Drilon said that the LP would propose a 5-year CARP extension, focusing on several points. For instance, Drilon said that land must be made productive and profitable for farmers in order for CARP to succeed.

"The prevalent situation since 1988 has been a farmer being awarded his own land, but because of the lack of tools and know-how, the land becomes idle or is sold back to the original landowner," he said.

Drilon said that the LP is pushing for the delivery of support services to farmers such as low-interest and long-term credit facilities, inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, adequate drying and milling capabilities, market access, training and capacity-building, and full support of the Department of Agriculture, local government units, and the Department of Agrarian Reform.

"The heart of CARP is compulsory distribution, we need that. But reform on support services to farmers is also needed. All proceeds of ill-gotten wealth should go to CARP," he said.

Schools and communities for peace

BY Danton Remoto
Lodestar column
Arts and culture section
Philippine Star

The Schools for Peace is a project under the Act for Peace Programme of the United Nations Development Programme Philippines. A School of Peace (SoP) is an elementary or secondary school in conflicted areas in Mindanao. It is a school that seeks to strengthen capacities on integration and mainstreaming of the Culture of Peace principles, concepts, and values through Peace Education and Teacher Education.

Mainstreaming process involves integrating peace principles, concepts and values in all subject areas, both in formal and nonformal education through the use of Enriched Lesson Plans and Peace Exemplars, or role models.

As defined by the United Nations, a Culture of Peace consists of values, attitudes, and forms of behavior that reject violence and prevent conflicts by going to their root causes. The endpoint is solving the problems of conflict through dialogue and negotiation among people, groups, and nations.

Actor Robin Padilla – the former Bad Boy of Philippine cinema – is now among the Peace Exemplars of the Act for Peace Programme of the UNDP. Early this month, he and UNDP Country Director Renaud Meyer went to Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabungsuan province, to visit the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) staying in the evacuation centers. They also launched ACT projects in Mindanao.

Meyer and Padilla led the launching of the Early Recovery Project implemented by the UNDP-Act for Peace Programme for the IDPs. They were joined by Act for Peace Programme manager Diosita Andot and Governor Ibrahim Ibay of Shariff Kabungsuan. Among the projects were a children’s health and daycare center, as well as bio-intensive gardening for the evacuees. Food and non-food items were given as direct assistance, and a rubber-tree nursery was also set up.

Meyer said that the UNDP will continue to assist the Peace and Development Communities and the Schools for Peace so that the communities and schools can be transformed and provide better lives for their constituents and students. Moreover, the Act for Peace Programme approaches the conflict-affected areas in two ways. It helps in capacity-building by giving assistance to the communities and their leaders. It also makes sure that those areas affected, but not involved in the conflict, can live as normally as the other communities in the country.
Meyer adds: “After we acknowledge the situation, we make sure that the population suffers the least possible impact due to the ongoing conflict. Another important aspect of our role in dealing with the internally displaced persons is not to let them get addicted or dependent on assistance. We help them build and sustain their hope to go back to their homes and assist them towards recovery.”
For his part, Padilla – who is a Muslim convert – appealed to his brother Muslims and Christians to work hand in hand. Lines of communication should always be open, he added. “Lapit-kamay po tayo. At sana, ballpen at papel ang hawak natin at hindi baril. [We should join hands. And I hope, we should have ballpen and paper, not guns.]” Padilla’s daughter, Queenie, also visited conflict-affected areas in Mindanao last Sept. And Padilla himself has set up the Liwanag ng Kapayapaan [Light of Peace] Foundation, a preparatory school that gives free education to mostly Moro children in Quezon City.
Padilla added: “Hanggang may eskuwelahan at daycare centers na ginagamit bilang evacuation centers, hindi uunlad ang karunungan ng mga bata. Ang pinag-uusapan natin dito’y ang kinabukasan ng mga tao – lalo na ng mga bata. Lahat na po ng kailangan natin para magsimula muli ay narito na. Wala na tayong maidadahilan pa para hindi natin makamtan ang kapayapaan. Ipakita natin ating buong suporta sa pag-asang dala ng UNDP at ng Act for Peace Programme. [As long as there are schools and daycare centers that are used as evacuation centers, the children’s knowledge will not improve. We’re talking here about a people’s future – especially that of the children. Everything we need to start anew is already here. We have no more reason not to achieve peace. Let us show our full support for the hope that UNDP and the Act for Peace Programme bring.]”

Act Programme Manager Diosita Andot said that the assistance has no deadline and does not end after the evacuees have already returned to their homes. “We do not treat them as victims. We deal with them as people who have the right to plan for themselves and who can do something for themselves. We also see to it that our recovery and livelihood programs will be vehicles for social cohesion, where everyone from different cultures, religions, and beliefs can work as one and in harmony.”

The Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government led by Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan is the lead implementing agency of the programs and projects implemented in the region. The UNDP serves as the managing agency for the programme and MEDCO serves as the overall implementing agency. The Act for Peace Programme supports 250 Peace and Development Communities all over Mindanao.

Afterward, Meyer and Padilla joined a storytelling activity among Muslim and Christian students at the Broce Elementary School of Peace in Barangay Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat. Broce is one of 31 Schools of Peace supported by the Act for Peace Programme to promote quality, basic education grounded on the values of non-violence. Padilla read a story of tolerance, goodwill, and friendship among Muslim and Ilocano children. The children listened with rapt attention – and applauded heartily after Padilla’s inspired reading. The story was developed under the Big Books project of the Kids for Peace Foundation, Inc., of Cotabato City, which is supported by the UNDP and the British Council. The stories are written by core groups of children from Mindanao themselves, who interviewed their parents and elders, and then wrote the stories themselves. In the true tradition of communal ownership, young and old weave stories that spring from their culture and community.

Among the stories are Bagong Golis [New Golis] of Dalingaoen, Pikit, North Cotabato; Pangadapen: Ang Kuwento ni Kandutan {Pangadapen: The Story of Kandutan] of Barira, Carmen, Cotabato; and Ang Balon [The Well] of Ranzo, Carmen, Cotabato. Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) helped in the writing of two more stories. In addition to the five stories, the young people have banded together and are now working on the following storybooks: the centuries-old Moro Watch Tower in Guinsiliban, Camiguin; the musical instruments of the Aromanen-Manobo, Matigsalug, and B’laan tribes; and on the Sheikh Makhdum mosque in Simunul, Tawi-tawi.

These kids’ stories introduce them to the glories of their past and made them take a peek at their culture and history. Moreover, it also asked that if peace reigned before, why can we not have peace again – at present?

And when you start with the young – in their houses and their schools – you can never go wrong.

Photos by AKP Images / Ruby Thursday More