Who will be the President of the Philippines in 2010?

Who will win as President of the Philippines in 2010? I offer this reading, which is as slippery as they come, but borne of deep thinking while making that breathless crawl from Loyola Heights, where I live, to Ayala Avenue, where I currently work.

1. Loren Legarda will win if she can cobble together enough money. P2 billion tops.

2. Mar Roxas will win if he injects excitement into his campaign, i.e., get Kris Aquino to run as his VP. In this way, Korina will raise his left hand and Kris will raise his right hand. That's a tough team to defeat.

3. Manny Villar will win if he manages to clean the dirt thrown at him by Lacson and Jamby over C 5. When an issue has spawned jokes and has been embedded in the comic and cosmic imagination of the Filipino, then it is hard to erase this C 5 at Taga.

4. Noli de Castro will win if he finally moves away from the shadow of GMA.

5. Chiz Escudero will win if GMA will not endorse him and if his NPC does not coalesce with the latak team of GMA.

6. And finally, Erap will win IF ONLY the Supreme Court will allow him to run. Eh ayaw...

Aside from funds, excitement, ladies and gentlemen, is the name of the game. I look at the names of people running for senator and I want to go to sleep. I can count with the fingers of one hand the people I would want to run with, and vote for.

And of course, I want to have a question and answer session for senatorial candidates, with tough questions on globalization, education, the economy, the baselines bill, JPEPA, rah rah rah, siz boom bah

Oreta is 6th losing bet to get gov't post

BY Jocelyn Montemayor


Well, well, well. As they say, you can never can tell. It's a blessing from the skies. They are called recycled losers, and they are being appointed to give them media mileage and visibility for the 2010 senatorial elections. And of course, like saliva, they are on the tips of the voters' tongues, they can be easily expelled from the voters' mouths by a mere voluntary contraction of tongue, and lips, and facial muscles.

In short, idudura.


MALACAÑANG yesterday named former Sen. Teresa Aquino-Oreta to the newly-formed Early Childhood Care and Development Council (ECCDC).

Oreta was the sixth losing senatorial candidate of Team Unity to get a government position.

The others are Planning Secretary Ralph Recto, Dangerous Drugs Board chief Vicente Sotto III, Local Water Utilities Administration director Prospero Pichay Jr., deputy security adviser Luis "Chavit" Singson, and Michael Defensor, who headed the defunct named Task Force on the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the ECCDC was created through Executive Order 778 entitled "Transforming the Council for the Welfare of Children into Early Childhood Care and Development Council." It would be under the Office of the President.

Ermita denied that the appointment to the Cabinet-level position, was a political accommodation.

"She (Oreta) accepted it and she knows that is relevant to society," Ermita said.

"My advocacy for children’s welfare remains whether or not I have a position in government. I intend to strengthen that commitment so that the Filipino child can have a fair start," Aquino-Oreta said in a statement.

The ECCDC aims to provide support to children aged 6 and below by promoting their rights to survival, development and special protection with full recognition of the nature of childhood and its special needs, and support parents in their roles as primary caregivers and their children’s first teachers.

The ECCDC shall also be responsible for the institutionalizing a National System for Early Childhood Care and Development.

The ECCDC is composed of the secretaries of the departments of Social Welfare and Development, Education and Health, and the president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines. – Jocelyn Montemayor

Namfrel to hold voters' registration

By Anna Valmero
First Posted 17:53:00 02/26/2009

MANILA, Philippines – The National Citizen's Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) will hold a registration for first time voters at San Beda College Friday, an official said.

Namfrel and Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) chairperson Henrietta de Villa said in a phone interview that the special registration aimed to encourage about 200 students and out-of-school youth from the fourth and sixth districts of Manila, along with other students from nearby schools, to enlist so that they could be able to participate in the 2010 polls.

“I hope this special registration of voters on Friday will signal proactive engagement of our nation's “bagond bida” [new heroes] – the Filipino youth voters,” she said.

De Villa added that there would be a voters' education campaign as part of the registration to promote awareness among the youth on the importance of participating in the elections.

The activity is timely for the National Service Training Program week, which encourages volunteerism among the youth, she said.

Albert Oasan, San Beda College NSTP facilitator and head of Namfrel Manila Chapter, said in a statement the activity aimed to encourage students to be involved in community initiatives that would promote volunteerism and vigilance in safeguarding the electoral process.

For the project, Comelec will setup a satellite registration center at San Beda College in Mendiola, Manila. A data capturing machine will be available to capture biometrics information (photograph, signature and finger print) of first time voters.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said there were about 9 million youth voters aged 18-35 years old in the 48,190,702 registered voters in October 2007.

If 2 million of the 5 million new eligible voters will register by yearend, there will be at least 11 million youth voters for the 2010 elections, Jimenez said.

Roxas: Palace revenge for LP fight vs corruption starts

LIberal President Senator Mar Roxas today said graft charges filed against party mate and former Bukidnon Rep. Nereus Acosta smacks of political persecution following his and the Liberal Party’s united demand for an immediate stop to government corruption and the resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

“Alam ng taumbayan kung papaano tumindig ako at ang mga Liberal laban sa katiwalian at para sa malinis at wastong pamamahala. Alam ng taumbayan kung paano umiiral ang mga sindikato ng korapsyon sa loob ng gobyerno. Kaya alam nilang ang kaso laban kay Dr. Neric ay operasyon lang laban sa akin at sa mga Liberal,” he said, adding: “Neric has unfortunately become an unwitting collateral damage in this renewed attacks by the Arroyo administration against me and the Liberals for standing up for accountability and good governance. Ito ang ganti ni GMA at ni FG sa pagtindig ko laban sa kanilang katiwalian.”

He questioned the timing of the Ombudsman’s action against Acosta and his mother, Socorro, a former municipal mayor of Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon, and his aunt, Ma. Nemia Bornidor but said he and the Liberal have been expecting such propaganda from President Arroyo’s attack dogs.

The Ilonggo senator had been hitting at Gutierrez’ inaction on controversial corruption scandals such as the P728 million fertilizer fund diversion scam, the P6.9 million ‘Euro General’ intelligence fund mess and the multi-billion peso NBN-ZTE bribery scandal.

Demands for Gutierrez’ resignation reverberated the halls of the Senate after senators discovered her passive reaction to the rigged bidding findings of the World Bank in relation to a government road project it was funding.

“As we escalate our opposition to corruption, unfairness and injustice in government, we expect that the same government will escalate their assault against their critics. We expect that they will use the ‘rule by law and coercion’ at the expense of the rule of law,” Roxas said.

He said Malacanang could not intimidate the Liberals and vowed to expose more shenanigans involving Palace cohorts raiding the national coffers for personal and future political purposes.

“Hindi kami matitinag. Hindi kami titigil sa aming pagbabantay laban sa katiwalian at mga maling patakaran ng pamahalaang Arroyo. Dahil mahalaga na makamtan ng taumbayan ang bunga ng malinis na pamahalaan,” Roxas said.

Rizal for our times

By Danton Remoto | Remote Control | 02/17/2009 7:00 PM
Remote Control

I am old enough to remember watching the plays of Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) at the Rajah Sulayman Theater, in the ruins of Fort Santiago in Intramuros. After watching a highly controversial play during the darkest days of martial law, we would go home but would quietly watch our backs, lest some secret marshal would be following us.

Last year, I watched Ateneo teacher Christine Bellen’s play, Batang Rizal, at the new and lovely home of PETA in New Manila. It’s a nifty musical about the young Rizal, and on the way there, the playwright said that what pleased her most was the audience the day before – a gaggle of around 50 tykes who had filled up a small van. As they say, if you can please such a young – and certainly most difficult – audience, you can please the most makunat of them all.

And pleased they certainly were, and so were we, when we watched the musical unfold before our very eyes. A small stage and a low-tech production did not hamper the unraveling of this memorable work directed by Dudz Teraña. The setting is now. The young Pepito (the talented Christian Segarra) of Jose Rizal Elementary School breaks the face of Jose Rizal’s statue newly commissioned by Mayor Ishmael Rapcu (played with pitch-perfect, idiom-breaking English by Wilfredo Casero). The indignant mayor then threatens the teacher (Bernah Bernardo with the funny, rubbery lips) that he would shut down the school unless the statue is fixed. The poor, hapless Pepito – butt of jokes for his matchstick-thinness and poverty, then stumbles upon a big book containing the biography of Jose Rizal. He enters the realm of the book, and is transported to 19th-century Philippines, during the time of the young Rizal.

This device, of course, is nothing new. It was employed in a variety of texts, notably in The Never-Ending Story. But it works seamlessly here. For when Pepito and Pepe (the young Rizal) meet, past and present clash (What does the word English “wow” mean? asks Rizal’s sisters). Not only language, but the great horse of politics is in fine fettle and form here. Pepe gives Pepito a seven-day tour of his time, starting with Domingo (Sunday). The bells ring and the fraile come, punishing the Indios for the smallest mistake.

When Pepito said to Pepe (in my English translation): “So during your time, the authorities punish those who they think defy them and make them disappear?” Pepe nods. And the Pepito said something that made our blood run cold: “Oh, it’s the same with us. Nothing has changed.”

As the song Pag-asa ng Bayan, written by the prize-winning musical director Vince de Jesus, goes: “Sa dami ng nagbuwis ng buhay/ Alang-alang sa bayan/ Ang kalayaan ba’y ating nabantayan?/ Tingnan mo ang paligid mo/ Ang lahat ba ay malaya/ Tingnan mo/ Malaya ba’ng mabuhay nang payapa,/ Malaya ba’ng magsabi ng gusto/ Ang lahat ba ay pantay-pantay ang turing/ Walang nasa ibabaw/ Walang nasa ilalim.”

I like this play because it shows you that history should never be a bitter pill to take for our children. The young people in the audience had a merry time watching. They rocked and rolled to the rap song of “The Monkey and the Turtle,” with shadow-play animation by Don Salubayba. They sat entranced when Dona Teodora Alonso Rizal sang to the young Pepe, telling him not to be like the moth that came too close to the candle flame, burning its wings. But when the young Rizal (played with wide-eyed wonder by Abner Delina Jr.) said, “Yes, mother, but the light! How bright the light!” another shudder ran down my spine.

Later, it is the young Pepe’s turn to go the 21st-century Philippines, with its color and cruelties. The stage becomes a rainbow of colors coming from the students’ costumes and the play of light; but the very same children could also be source of such cruel lines against the poor. It is not heavy-handed because it is sung, or danced, or shown through gestures (the sticky Spider man act of one of the young bullies, complete with a hissing like that of a snake’s).

In the end, the play interrogates the notion of a hero. Is he the one only cast in stone? Or venerated blindly by people who do not really know him? How to be a hero in a society that hails the ignorant and rewards the corrupt? Are these questions that come closer to the bone, in this Age of the Graft-Ridden and the Corrupt?

One answer lies in breaking time and space and bringing us back the young Jose Rizal – who also gets upset, is lazy, proud, fearful, friendly and in the end, lonely. But even if the young Rizal knows he would die, he still returned to the past so this would happen, we would all be free. From the shadow of his fear he vaulted into the light, like the moth with its wide-open wings, into our hearts.

Batang Rizal was shown at the Luce Theater in Dumaguete last week. It is currently a series of campus tours in the country. Information about Ang Batang Rizal at PETA Theater and its mobile shows are available at tel: 410-0821, 407-1418.

A coalition that will never happen

I just approved a comment that said he wanted the NP, LP, NPC, Lakas, PMP, etc etc to join forces and field a common senatorial slate. And then he proceeded to list down names for his senatorial slate, and I am not there.

I approved it nevertheless, in the spirit of wicked fun.

And what is the latest about my campaign?

1. We are firming up our provincial campaign teams.

2. One big political party sent an officer to the Ateneo to get a copy of my CV. And why? I am not applying for a teaching position in his political party ;-)

3. Another said their political party wants me to run as their VP. I just gave them my Mona Lisa smile.

4. Still another one wants me to sign an affiliation agreement with them.

5. I have begun meeting with my advertising and promo team, a group of Makati hotshots, friends of long standing. The operative word in my campaign ads would be FUN.

WB: Ombudsman knew road case 3 years ago

By CARMELA FONBUENA, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak | 02/24/2009 3:46 PM

The Ombudsman was on radio this morning being interviewed by Anthony Taberna and she said, "Tunying naman. Hindi na nga kami natutulog. When I arrived, there were 21,000 cases. We solved 18,000 of those."

Well, well, well. It turned out that she included dismissed, archived, etc cases in the 18,000 her office supposedly solved.

And now this news from the world Bank, whose processes and procedures are as multi-layered as a honeycomb. Or as Bert Hoffman would put it, "Our processes are rigorous." I think so too.

And she is caught lying again. Liar, liar, pants on fire....


Contrary to the Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez's claim that her office knew of the irregularities in the World Bank-financed roads project only last November 2007, the multilateral bank said Tuesday that the anti-graft agency was aware of the issue three years ago.

As early as May 2006, World Bank investigators have personally briefed a staff of Ombudsman Gutierrez on the corruption issues involving a portion of a $150 million roads project. Since then, the World Bank had been in touch with the Office of the Ombudsman.

The World Bank investigators and Guttierez's staff met for the second time in January 2008. On February 10, 2009, before the congressional hearings on the roads issue started, the lender provided the Ombudsman office additional documentary evidence.

These meetings were revealed in an investigation timeline that the World Bank released on Tuesday.

World Bank officials met with Senators on Tuesday in an executive session to discuss the bank's reports on the road projects controversy. A press conference was held after the session.

No Action

The May 2006 meeting was to brief the Office of the Ombudsman of the Integrity Vice Presidency's “preliminary findings” based on reports it received. The World Bank's Integrity Vice Presidency is also referred to as the INT office.

Apparently, the World Bank has been receiving leads as early as 2003 on the irregularities surrounding the Philippines National Roads Improvement and Management Program (NRIMP), a project that seeks to upgrade the country's road networks.

The World Bank’s investigation timeline did not specify who the INT investigators met with from the Office of the Ombudsman in those meetings. But it appears that the Office of the Ombudsman sat on the preliminary findings provided by the lending agency. She has denied this.

Based on her testimony in last week's Senate hearing, Gutierrez directed administrative office Mark Jalandoni in November 2007. It was only after her office received World Bank’s Referral Report, which summarized in 9 pages the investigative findings of its INT.

The Referral Report is among the confidential World Bank documents leaked to the media.

It has already been one year and six months since her office first learned about the irregularities.

Second meeting

Two months after the Ombudsman’s office received the Referral Report, the World Bank investigators again met with Gutierrez's staff in January 2008 to “further discuss the case" and "offer additional assistance."

The second meeting occurred before the World Bank issued in May 2008 the Notice that it is initiating administrative sanctions against the involved Filipino and Chinese contractors.

The sanctions process gave the contractors--upon receiving the Notice--the chance to respond to World Bank’s allegations. The World Bank Sanctions Board heard the case in November 2008.

It found a "major cartel involving local and international firms" bidding in the roads project. In January 2009, World Bank debarred seven firms and one individual involved in the roads project from participating in future World Bank projects for engaging in collusive practices.

E.C. de Luna Construction Corp. and its owner Eduardo de Luna was permanently debarred—the strongest possible action that the World Bank can impose on firms or individuals involved in its own Bank-financed projects.

The others were debarred from four to eight years--China Road and Bridge Corp., China State Construction Corp. and China Wu Yi Co. Ltd., China Geo-Engineering Corp., Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corp., and CM Pancho Construction Inc.

Another firm that participated in the Philippines roads project, Korean Dongsung Construction Co. Ltd., was debarred earlier in August 2008. Dongsung did not contest the accusations against it.

On February 10, 2009, World Bank provided additional documentary evidence to Office of Ombudsman, the investigation timeline said.

World Bank also offered further assistance, including an offer from the vice president of the INT team to personally meet with the anti-corruption agency.

This was the third effort from the World Bank to assist the Office of the Ombudsman in its investigation.

Documentary Evidence

The World Bank Sanctions Board based their findings on documentary evidence and on numerous interviews. These focused on analysis of the procurement process that the firms participated in.

The reports of the Sanction Board are confidential.

However, the INT reports on its interviews with witnesses were leaked to the media. It sparked a high profile controversy because it dragged First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo. He was identified by one participating contractor to be involved in the irregularities.

The documentary evidence that proved the irregularities, however, were not leaked.

The bidding documents are the primary evidence that the INT always looks into in corruption cases, Hofman explained in a press conference after the Tuesday executive session with senators.

In the World Bank's powerpoint presentation to senators also the released to the media, World Bank showed an example of a bidding document where irregularities were identified. Two supposedly different companies had nearly similar telephone numbers. Only the last numbers were different. The sentences and even the typographical error were also the same.

The presentation also identified other evidence of collusion--unnatural numbers, sequential bid securities, identical prices, inflated prices, and rotating winners among others.

Aside from the timeline, the World Bank presentation refrained from talking about the Philippine case.

Three years

It has been almost three years since initial meeting between Gutierrez's staff and the World Bank investigators. While World Bank has completed its proceedings and punished the erring contractors, the Office of the Ombudsman is yet to complete its investigation.

The World Bank's INT is an administrative fact-finding body that could decide only on matters concerning its own operations. Permanent debarment is the strongest action it can take against corrupt contractors and individuals.

However, only governments can prosecute the corrupt contractors and individuals. This was why the World Bank shared the Referral Report to the Philippine government.

"The process [of the World Bank] is administrative in nature. It concerns only the issue of whether firms and individuals should be eligible to be beneficiaries of World Bank funding in the future," said World Bank country director Bert Hofman in an opening statement before the Senators.

"This administrative process is not intended to be, and indeed cannot ever be, substitute for a determination by a member country as to whether the actions of such firms and individuals in a World Ban-financed program or project give rise to breaches of that member country's law," Hofman added.

Since 1999, the World Bank has investigated 3,000 allegations of fraud and corruption involving its projects worldwide. A total of 351 firms and individuals in 24 different countries have been debarred either permanently or temporarily. (Read related story here.)

In other countries, World Bank reports have helped governments punish corrupt governments officials, constructions firms, and even World Bank employees. Upon request, it also allowed its employees to testify in court trials.

All that the Ombudsman needs to do is ask.

Protecting Taxpayers Money

While the World Bank funds infrastructure projects in member countries like the Philippines, it is the taxpayer who will eventually shoulder the cost of the projects.

In this case, the roads project that involved the sanctioned firms was worth $33 million.

Hofman said the World Bank investigation sought to "protect the taxpayers' money.”

"The World Bank is bound by its founding instrument, the Articles of Agreement, to ensure that the funds it provides its member countries in support of development are used economically and efficiently and for their intended purposes," he said.

"Through the application of sanctions we do, of course, intend to deter firms and individuals from misusing funds provided by the World Bank. It is important to remember here that the funds the World Bank lends are funds of the borrowing member country," he said.

The World Bank cited the corruption issues it has unearthed in the first phase of the NRIMP for efforts eventually taken by various Philippine government agencies to strengthen the country's anti-corruption and transparency measures in succeeding foreign funded projects.

LP senatorial candidates

From www.visayanbloggers.com

I do not know this guy but I just got this while surfing the Internet today. This is interesting, but let me reiterate that I am not a member of the Liberal party -- or of any other political party. If I am rating well in the senatorial surveys -- as some political operators claim when they talk to me -- that is their opinion and not mine.

Thanks, anyway, for visayan bloggers for thinking I am worthy of being in this slate.


Below are the people being considered as 2010 senatorial candidates for the Liberal Party (LP). I repeat, the people below are still being considered and are still not the final bets of LP, as what the LP-Atienza wing tries to claim.

Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, who was tasked by LP chairman former Sen. Franklin Drilon, to head the party’s Electoral Preparatory Committee, listed down the following potential “senatoriables”:

1. Former Senator Franklin Drilon
2. Former Agriculture Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad
3. Muntinlupa Rep. Rozanno Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon
4. Quezon Rep. Erin Tanada
5. Former Bukidnon Rep. Neric Acosta
6. Naga Mayor Jesse Robredo
7. Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca
8. Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio
9. TV personality Cory Quirino

In my own opinion, they should also include Prof. Danton Remoto and former Genuine Opposition Spokesperson Adel Tamano. I know they’re not members of LP, but I believe they can be adopted by the party.

I wonder who would be Senator Roxas’ candidate for Vice-President? Would it be Senator Noynoy Aquino or bSenator Francis Pangilinan?

How about you? Who do you think should be included in the vetting process for senatorial candidates of LP

Kaya Natin! brings good governance to Laguna and Batangas

By Harvey S. Keh
Feb 20, 2009

More than a thousand college students and teachers attended the Kaya Natin! Caravan of Good Governance held on Friday at the Malayan Colleges Laguna and the First Asia Institute for Technology and Humanities in Tanauan City, Batangas.

During those forums, Kaya Natin! leaders Gov. Eddie Panlilio of Pampanga and Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, shared with the audience their experience of good governance and ethical leadership in running their respective local government units.

Panlilio talked about his experience in curbing the rampant corruption present in the collection of quarry taxes in his province. His success in collecting proper taxes has allowed him to raise more than P200 million that will be used to provide better basic services in education and health for the residents of Pampanga.

Recently, President Gloria Arroyo awarded him the Gawad Galing Pook award for excellence in local government management.

For her part, Lorenzo stressed that good governance can mean good politics since during the last elections her whole team decided not to spend money to put up posters and streamers but she was still able to win by the largest margin in her town’s history due to the effective programs that she was able to implement for the past 10 years.

As a testament to Lorenzo’s solid record in good governance, San Isidro was recently promoted by the Department of Finance from being a 4th class municipality to a 2nd class municipality. In addition to this, Lorenzo also added that some of her programs such as her partnership with Gawad Kalinga are now being replicated all over Nueva Ecija. She is also instrumental in bringing in non-profit organizations such as the Jollibee Foundation and Synergeia Foundation to help in the public education reform programs of her province.

Finally, both Panlilio and Lorenzo reminded the audience that as the 2010 elections come closer, it is imperative for Filipinos to take time to register and be involved in electing the right leaders of our country.

“It only takes a few hours to register and vote for the right leaders as compared to three to six years of bad and unethical governance if we do not make the time to take part in the electoral process” said Panlilio.

Since its inception last June, Kaya Natin—which also counts Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City, Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela and Gov. Teddy Baguilat Jr. among its leaders—has already recruited more than 6,000 volunteers who are committed to promoting good governance practices in their respective areas.

Today, the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership is in Davao City to speak at several colleges and universities.


Mahalaga ang Tao

BY Florangel Rosario Braid

It is noteworthy that at the 63rd Liberal Party anniversary, LP President Mar Roxas, chose to focus on what it means to be a Liberal – “the responsibility of assuming a clear public duty, the satisfaction it provides - having a reason to live, and a reason to serve the lofty cause of fighting for our people.” What should make every party member proud, he noted, was that since the beginning, the Liberal Party had been at the center in setting up the pillars of independence and the rebuilding of the nation after World War II. Also that the Party was central to the establishment of what is now the centerpiece of the Constitution – social justice. Two transformational initiatives - land reform, and the first minimum wage law, R.A. 4150, were legislated and implemented by the Liberal Party. In the 1970’s, LP leaders were again actively involved in the fight against the dictatorship, in the events before and after Edsa One, and the rejection of the US bases.

Senator Roxas said that it is awareness of these historical antecedents that gives the Party the strength and moral ascendancy to pursue this “national vision of social mobility – which he defines as that state where the next generation can have a better life than what we have today..This means putting people first - mahalaga ang tao . It is the belief that the dignity of our people is the dignity of our nation, and that there is no path to progress other than the path of each and every life we hold dear. We do not exist for ourselves alone. Our party is an instrument for the actualization of our people’s grand vision…This is the concept of citizenship, of bonding together so that we can implement the concept of social mobility.”.

LP President Roxas talked about the LP’s chosen task, the obstacles, the trials, and the pitfalls they will continue to face. ”It is not easy to be a liberal We battle on because we know our ideals – fighting for our people and beside our people always inevitably triumphs. This is our shield against those who oppose us.”

The speech is meant to inspire the Filipino to continually think of oneself not as an individual but as a part of a group. It is intended to provoke us to re-examine our political system that had failed to imbue us with a sense of nation-ness. It is a reminder that as long as we are working for the interest of the people and the country, we are at the right side of history, and that we would succeed in the end.

The speech resonates with those who have been with the Party through the good times and the bad. During the latter, many deserted the Party to join other groups that responded to their personal ambitions. Hopefully, those who believe in the power of political parties to effect drastic reforms in the political landscape would heed Senator Mar’s message. That it is time that we re-examine our personality-dominated politics that had encouraged turncoatism and party-hopping by political butterflies. Other countries have laws that mandate penalties for turncoatism. But we admit that the evolution towards strong party systems with their set of political platforms and ideology would take time as it would mean a change in mindsets..Roxas also reminds us that what gives greater meaning to life is not seeking power for one’s personal interest, but the use of this power to serve the common good; as well as the role of the political party in providing the guiding vision that holds us accountable for our action.

The LP recognizes that much needs to be done in building the party. Its strength is that it already has a defined party platform and a history of consistency in abiding by its ideals Here, it had always chosen the path of democracy, social justice, and protection of individual liberties. The burden of strengthening the party will have to be a shared responsibility by every member. The LP president had clearly defined the scope of the responsibility, as well as its risks and rewards.

This year, the LP also chose to focus on fighting the threats against democracy through Charter change which is perceived to extend the stay of those in power. Party members and mutisectoral groups spoke out against these insidious attempts at a forum and a rally at the historic Plaza Miranda.

My email is florangel.braid@gmail.com

How 'TNTs' can enlist for 2010 polls

Veronica Uy
First Posted 15:27:00 02/14/2009

MANILA, Philippines -- Filipinos overseas whose immigration status in their host country is irregular like the so-called "tago ng tago" (TNT, always hiding) need to bring only some form of identification so that they can be enlisted for the 2010 national and senatorial elections, Elections Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer said.

"The passport is an important source of identification. The important thing is an evidence to establish their identity," he said.

In a related development, foreign affairs spokesman Bayani Mangibin denied reports that the Department of Foreign Affairs and its posts here and abroad are forcing overseas Filipinos to register for the overseas absentee voting (OAV) by blackmailing them and withholding their passport applications until they register. He also denied that a registration fee of P75 is charged for every applicant.

"We deny that. That is not true," he said of the reports.

However, Mangibin admitted that some DFA personnel try to convince OFWs to register, but only because they feel that it is every Filipino's civic duty to participate in the electoral process.

Documented OFWs are those with a valid employment contract that passed through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

"Whether documented or not, we treat all Filipinos abroad equally, although for the undocumented, we usually try to convince them to regularize their stay abroad," he said.

But Ronnie Abeto, a Filipino who works in Saudi Arabia and helps fellow Filipinos in trouble, said employers of Filipino household service workers usually hold the latter's passports for the duration of the employment.

Mangibin, who was previously posted as ambassador to Libya, said the Philippine embassy in Tripoli issues an embassy ID card to every Filipino who registers with them as soon as they arrive there. He suggested that Filipinos elsewhere go to the nearest agency register their presence there.

"Even without a passport, an undocumented Filipino worker can go to the embassy or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office for proper representation," he said. Both offices can then issue a certification of identity which can be used to enlist for the 2010 elections.

Mangibin also belied the impression that once undocumented OFWs go to the embassy, their status would be revealed to authorities of the host country so that they would be deported back to the Philippines.

"Hindi kami nagsusumbong (We don't tell on them). In fact, we facilitate their regularization when the host government implements their amnesty program for irregular migrants," he said.

The OAV registration has already started February 1 and will end August 31, 2009. The Commission on Elections and the DFA's OAV Secretariat are targeting some 600,000 more to register, so that a total of one million will be on the list of OAV voters by election time.

HS students speak on leadership: "I can make a difference"

By Lei Chavez
abs-cbnnews.com | 02/13/2009 12:57 PM

I am a leader, I can make a difference.

With this premise, 12 senior high school students delivered speeches on
true leadership in the recently held grand finals of the Voices of
Leadership Elocution Competition on Wednesday.

The public speaking contest is a corporate advocacy of Volvo Philippines
launched last November 2008. It was organized by Viking Cars Inc (VCI), the
authorized dealer of Volvo cars in the Philippines, and Scandinvian Motors
Corp. (SMC), the official importer of Volvo cars in the country.

As varied as the schools the contestants came from, each speech gave
numerous definitions: from the universally known concept of "A leader is a
servant" to endearing ones as "Ang lider ay isang salmon" to serious
notions as "Leadership is a way of life."

For Chinese-looking (but purely Filipino) John Xavier Valdez from Ateneo de
Manila High School, "Leadership is not about power or charisma. It is not
social class or distinction. It is not about job experience or education."

In his grand prize-winning piece, Valdez said that leadership is "something
that transcends age, class, social distinction, gender, even the shape of
one's eyes. Leadership is about influence, nothing more, nothing less." He
added that, "Under this definition, every man, woman, child, in this nation
of 90 million is a leader in his own right."

Regina Isabelle Jaimee Ranada of Miriam College, the first runner-up,
played with the concept of the word yes. "Yes is a response. Leaders must
be responsive. A leader should care not only for the task at hand, not only
for the members of her team, but also for herself. Second, yes signifies
acceptance…you have to accept the fact that you are not perfect. Yes, is a
positive reaction. Leaders should react positively no matter the situation
may be. She should be ready to give affirmation," Ranada explained.

As for second placer Christian Earl Castañeda of La Salle Greenhills who
brought the house down with his quirky speech, he compared a leader to a
tree. "Ang puno ay nagbibigay buhay at pag-asa sa ating lahat. Ang puno ay
nagbibigay lilim sa atin kapag tayo ay naiinitan o nauulanan. At higit pa
dun, ang puno ay nagbubunga ng masasarap na prutas, ngunit hindi para sa
kanyang sarili."

Regardless of the many metaphors, the majority of the speakers agree on one
thing: everyone can be a leader and everyone should start to create
positive and substantial change in their little ways.

"Marami kang matutulungang tao at pag-ibayuhin mo ang iyong talento. Kung
magaling kang kumanta, maaaring kanta mo ang sunod na kakantahin ng mga
Filipino ngayon. Kung magaling ka sa sports, malay mo, ikaw na ang
kauna-unahang mag-uwi ng gintong medalya sa Olympics," Castañeda said.

Being a good leader, as Ramada puts, "is about saying yes to being a role
model, which ironically enough, encompasses a lot of Nos." She adds that
"One yes inspires more Yeses."

Valdez further encourages that, "If we recognize the fact that we are all
leaders, and that we all have influence, and really use that in our daily
lives, we will bring out change. And we will become the very Messiah our
country desperately needs."

The other finalists are: Rebecca Ambil (St. Paul University Quezon City),
Anna Pizarro (St. Scholastica's College Manila), Maldova Marcos (OB
Montessori), Senando Santiago (UP Integrated School), Geraldine Felicio
(Assumption College), Miguel Roman Perez (Colegio de San Agustin), Beatrice
Sheena Tan (Saint Jude Catholic School), Joseph Chan (Xavier School), and
Marinella Belen (De La Salle Santiago Zobel).

Only the first

"It's the first and it's an advocacy that we'd like to continue," Albert
Arcilla, VCI president and chief executive officer, said after the event.
According to him, the results of the first batch were positive and

"We were very surprised, these students are very much in tune with reality.
They want to share their thoughts and their ideas. I think this is one
forum that will correct a lot of misimpressions about the youth," Arcilla
told abs-cbnnews.com.

The mechanics of the competition are quite simple. After receiving an
invitation, interested schools are will choose three representatives and
send these students to a two-day leadership seminar. During the seminar,
students are trained in different skills that enhance leadership and
responsibility among the students. They are also guided in the art of
public speaking and writing their pieces for the competition.

"We trained them in skills that we think are important for their own
personal growth and their contribution to society. When they came back to
their respective schools, they have their own respective competitions,"
Arcilla explained.

The winners in the internal school competitions will become the official
school representative in the grand finals, that way, every participating
school is represented.

Speeches should "best articulate the concept of "true leadership" inspired
by integrity of heart and excellent skills, God-centeredness, and
accountable and responsible stewardship," according to Arcilla.

The grand prize winner received P50,000 and a Voice of Leadership plaque.
The first and second runner-up each received a Voice of Leadership plaque
and P40,000 and P30,000, respectively. The winners' home schools also
received the same amount to support a school program to propagate the true
character of leadership among the faculty and staff. But the remaining
finalists didn't go home empty handed. Each received a Voice of Leadership
medal and P10,000 while their schools received P20,000.

Best LGU practices cited, from reducing disaster risk to collecting more revenues

Mr Llanto's piece is well-written, but he has forgotten to mention that the Special Citation for the four Local Government Units was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Better late than later.


BY Jesus F. Llanto
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Newsbreak Magazine

A scorecard to measure performance and improve governance in the city. A barangay government code that has resulted in more revenues and better peace and order situation. A market organized by the provincial government but run by farmers. A disaster risk management and risk reduction program of a calamity-prone province.

These are programs of four local government units (LGUs) that were recently given special citation by the Galing Pook Awards—which recognizes best practices of LGUs—for their programs that provide incentives at the local level to improve performance and governance.

The local governments that received the Special Citation on Local Capacity Incentive Mechanism for Good Governance are: Barangay Sanito in Ipil Zamboanga Sibugay, San Fernando City in Pampanga, and the provinces of Negros Oriental and Albay.

Eddie Dorotan, executive director of the Galing Pook Awards told abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak that the citation highlights efforts of the local government to come up with innovative programs that give incentives to further improve the delivery of basic services.

According to the souvenir program of the Galing Pook Awards, the recipients of the special citation proved that LGUs have “taken up the challenge of decentralization” brought by the enactment of the Local Government Code and have “continually innovated to make delivery of services more efficient.”

“Local officials often have insufficient preparation, capacities and in some cases, very limited resources, to respond to the new demands and challenges…Some LGUs have found creative ways to better serve their constituents, in part by looking to themselves, their communities and their peers for new ideas and approaches,” the souvenir program reads.

San Fernando City: Scorecard
San Fernando City started to adapt the public governance system (PGS), which uses scorecards to measure performances and accomplishments, in 2006. Back then, the city, said Mayor Oscar Rodriguez, was having difficulty enticing investors and encouraging participation of the private sector in the government.

“We realized that we need to cut red tape and improve transparency,” said Rodriguez, who learned about the PGS in a conference in 2005.

The PGS is an adaptation of the Balanced Scorecard (BSC), a measurement and management system for businesses developed by the Harvard Business School that has been used by public institutions worldwide.

The local government of San Fernando City—from the office of the mayor down to the city department—adapted the scorecard to measure their actual performance. Rodriguez said city departments that meet their targets were rewarded with bonuses while those that performed badly were not entitled to the rewards.

Reforms in securing business permits were also introduced. Getting a permit from the mayor’s office now takes a minimum of two hours to a maximum of two days, compared to two to three weeks before PGS was introduced.

The adoption of the PGS has been credited for the improvement of business climate in the city. Since its implementation, San Fernando has since attracted 2,200 businesses or an average 16 percent annually over the past three years. Business and real property taxes collected from these establishments have decreased the city’s dependency from the internal revenue allotment (IRA) from 52.85 percent in 2007 to 49 percent in 2008.

Rodriguez told abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak that the challenge for them is to bring the program to the barangay level. “We are currently training barangay officials through seminars on the PGS.”

The mayor added that they already institutionalized the program by passing an ordinance.

Sanito: Barangay Code
In 2003, barangay officials of Sanito in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay were looking for solutions to the influx of informal settlers, worsening peace and order situation, widespread poverty, and the barangay’s limited financial capability.

The following year, the Sanito Barangay Government Code of 2004 was introduced as barangay officials realized the need for a law that would give them more powers to respond to the problems.

“We patterned it after the Local Government Code but we reduce it to the barangay level,” Sanito barangay chair Jose Cabaral Tiu told abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak.

The barangay code, which was amended in 2005, gave Sanito the power to impose additional fees like Barangay Public Works Development Fee, Barangay Water Development Fee and the Coastal Resource Development Fee. The code also required collection of P30 per month as garbage collection fees and designated retired military and police officials as members of the barangay anti-crime units.

Fees collected by the barangay increased the local generated income to P700, 000 per year from P49, 000 before the passage of the barangay code. Tiu said the increase in local income has made them less dependent on the IRA or their share on the tax collected by the national government.

“We cannot just rely on the IRA forever,” Tiu said.

Negros Oriental: Empowering farmers
In Negros Oriental, the provincial agricultural office (PAO) initiated a marketing activity called “tabo” where farmers are provided easy access to the markets.

The tabo sa PAO is a market where locally-produced agriculture and fish products are sold at farm gate prices. It started with the establishment of nurseries and practical farming classes in municipal agricultural centers where farmers discuss farming issues to attain food self-sufficiency.

Negros Oriental governor Emilio Macias II told abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak that farmers were also taught new ways of cultivating crops. “The farmers were introduced new techniques of planting corn to increase productivity and were brought to a farm where they cam apply these techniques.”

Macias said that the LGU saw the need to improve farmers’ access to the markets as farmers produced more than enough for their families. The PAO organized the farmers into an association and allow them to manage the tabo, where they directly sell their produce to the buyers.

“We were able to eliminate the middlemen,” Macias said.

To support the farmers, the local government did not collect rents and fees for the use of stalls and space during market days. This helped increase the income of the farmers.

Apart from providing access to markets, the program also features mutual death assistance for the farmers and their family members, introduction of waste segregation and production of organic fertilizer to farmers and regular training sessions on farming techniques, environment, health and sanitation.

Albay: Disaster risk management
Meanwhile, the province of Albay, which is often battered by typhoons and affected by the volcanic activities of Mt. Mayon, was able to minimize casualty and damage brought by disasters by establishing an agency that focus on disaster risk management and reduction program.

Governor Joey Salceda told abs-cbnNews.com that his province’s program is different because it is the only permanent institution on disaster risk management in the country.

“Other LGUs have councils but we have an institution with a permanent personnel and budget,” Salceda said.

Albay’s provincial government established the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) in 1995 to develop a community-based disaster risk management approach. The APSEMO trains communities and teach them to conduct disaster preparedness activities, like quarterly drills and exercises.

“We bring the trainings to the barangays because barangay officials are the first respondents,” Salceda said, adding that communities are also empowered to decide when to implement pre-emptive evacuation during the disasters. He added that communities are equipped with early warning devices and tools.

The local government also conducted mapping of disaster-prone areas and formulate a comprehensive land use plan (CLUP) to identify danger zones, commercial centers and residential areas.

“We transfer some of the projects of the province to places where is there is no risk from disasters,” the governor added.

Salceda said that aside from the calamity funds, the local government allocates portion of their IRA to this program. The program, he added, is being replicated by the provinces of Pampanga, Sarangani and Sorsogon.

19 finalists
These four awardees were selected from the 19 finalists for this year’s Galing Pook Awards.

Barangay Sanito, San Fernando City and the province of Albay, meanwhile, were also cited as among the ten best outstanding local governance programs cited by the Galing Pook. Other programs of LGUs that made it to the top ten are as follow:

Children First Program of North Cotabato that promotes camaraderie among Moro, indigenous people (IP), and Christian youth through workshops, scholarships and skills training. Graduates of this program are encouraged to become peace advocates in their communities.
Quezon City’s rehabilitation program for Payatas dumpsite
Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato that seeks to protect upland areas and river systems in the provinces.
Centralized warehousing of Marikina City that improves distribution and utilization of supplies by the city government.
San Carlos City Sustainable City Project that promotes development while balancing economic growth and environmental protection.
Family Townhomes Project in Taguig City that provides affordable housing units to poor families
Pampanga’s program to improve quarry tax collection.

From the closet. To public office

Review of MILK
BY Jessica Zafra

The events described in Milk seem like records from a distant era, so it’s startling to realize that they happened just 30 years ago. Movies based on the lives of public figures tend to play like history lessons—you keep glancing at your watch to see how much more edification you must endure—but Gus Van Sant has crafted a vital and compelling piece of cinema. Based on the life of the assassinated gay rights activist turned San Francisco supervisor, Milk is the story of how one citizen becomes involved in the political life of a nation.

Harvey, a New York-born insurance company employee, moves to San Francisco with his boyfriend and opens a camera shop on the Castro. It’s the early Seventies: a gay man risks losing his job if he is exposed. He soon finds that San Francisco is not as tolerant as he’d hoped, and the Christian right is waging war on anyone who disagrees with them. Harvey quickly marshals the power of numbers, organizing the gay residents in a boycott of Coors beer and building an alliance with the Teamsters, of all people. It dawns on Harvey and his friends that if they want to be left alone and treated just like everyone else, they have to fight.

The political awakening of Harvey Milk is presented without rhetoric or phony sentimentality. Harvey learns politics the hard way, losing in three elections. He becomes a savvy politician—he adjusts his personal style, then repackages himself as a mediator when a riot threatens to break out—but you never forget that he’s a human being (with a messy personal life embodied at one point by Diego Luna). This is possible because the actor playing Milk is so good, you forget that he is the great Sean Penn. He is surrounded by a fine cast including James Franco as his boyfriend, Emile Hirsch as the part-time hustler who becomes his fiercest operative, and Josh Brolin, who hints at the inner terror and self-loathing of the assassin Dan White. (He also played Dubya in the Oliver Stone movie.) Milk is the stirring tale of an outsider who fought his way in so he could fling the closet doors open.

Kaya Natin! creates chapters nationwide

By Karla Pastores
The Manila Times

More than 100 student leaders and professionals came together in the first ever Kaya Natin! Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Training Seminar held last February 7 (Saturday) at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City.

The participants came from different places all over the country including Ilocos Norte, Laguna, La Union, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Rizal, Zambales, Camarines Sur and Davao. Facilitating the seminar were Kaya Natin! Convenor Harvey Keh, who also serves as the Director of the Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship program of the Ateneo School of Government, Simon Mossesgeld, organizer of the Ayala Young Leaders Congress, and Atty. Arnel Casanova, faculty for Social Entrepreneurship of the Ateneo School of Government.

The training seminar aims to develop leaders for nation building, particularly through the Kaya Natin! Movement. The participants organized themselves into Kaya Natin committees and brainstormed about possible activities aimed at promoting good governance and ethical leadership to all Filipinos. The seminar marks the first step towards an empowered movement with young leaders all helping towards changing Philippine politics.

“We want to be able to empower more Filipinos to take the lead and help bring about positive change and effective governance in the Philippines through their own small ways,” Keh said.

Mae Paner, who plays YouTube sensation Juana Change and is a core group member of Kaya Natin, was also present during the event to promote her latest videos and encourage the participants to take a more active role in fighting corruption in the government. Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija also gave a talk on how she as a leader was able to transform the small municipality of San Isidro into an empowered community with responsible and enabled citizens.

During the day-long seminar, Keh, Casanova, and Mossesgeld lectured on the Kaya Natin! leadership framework as well as leadership through social entrepreneurship. The participants were then given a chance to develop their own strategies for leadership according to the framework through the five different Kaya Natin committees—Communications, Membership, Research and Recommendations, Marketing and Fundraising, and Special Projects, as well as a separate group to manage Kaya Natin chapters that the organization is forming all over the country through the initiative of volunteer members.

This will be the first of a series of leadership training seminars that Kaya Natin! will hold around the country.

The next seminar is targeted on February 28 in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, while the second Manila session will be held on March 14.

The Kaya Natin! movement was initially convened by Keh. Its founding leaders include Lorenzo, Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City, Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela, Gov. Ed Panlilio of Pampanga, and Gov. Teddy Baguilat Jr., of Ifugao.

website, http://kayanatin.com or send an e-mail to kayanatin@yahoo.com.

The leader we need

Lito Banayo is one of the clearest-minded analysts in the murky world of Philippine political commentary. I generally agree with his sentiments, which are as follows. The following will run as president, with their own respective parties:

Manny Villar -- Nacionalista Party
Mar Roxas -- Liberal Party
Chiz Escudero -- Nationalist People's Coalition
Loren Legarda -- LDP
Noli de Castro -- Lakas-Kampi

Erap will be sidelined by the Supreme Court, and Bayani Fernando, as well as Dick da Gordon and Jojo Binay da Obama, will not make it even in the starting line.

And my own analysis:

Villar -- has money but sidetracked by the C-5 controversy, still.
Roxas -- has some money but rather low in the surveys, so far. He needs Korina and Kris Aquino to haul in the votes.
Escudero -- will be bankrolled by the Cojuangco money, but might be burdened by Cojuangco ties with GMA.
Legarda -- very popular but will not have enough funds if she runs under LDP. Lucio Tan will give to everyone, not just to her.
de Castro -- the shadow cast by the Mole of Asia will bring him to a thundering fall in May of 2010.

And who will win?

Bets are on for any of the four: Villar, Roxas, Escudero, Legarda.

If I am running for President in 2010, I would already be focusing on the youth vote. Time and again, I have said this: the youth shall inherit the earth, and in 2010, they will claim their just desserts via the polling stations.

And so to the young of this benighted land, register now at your municipal and city halls where the Comelec is located. Show them the singular and stunning power of your vote!


BY Lito Banayo
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

OVER the past six weeks, interspersed with more au courant topics, we have written in this space about the nine most-mentioned men and one woman who have either directly or through media speculations, indicated interest in running for Philippine politics’ top plum, the presidency after GMA. Just to refresh your memory, we first wrote about Erap (The Hamlet act, January 8), followed by Dick Gordon (What the difference a Dick makes, January 10), then Loren Legarda (Loren’s Sinta for 2010, January 13), Bayani Fernando (The misunderstood Bayani, January 15), and later Jojo Binay (Jobama, January 17). Then we wrote about Francis Escudero (Say Chiz and what do you get?, January 20), followed by Noli de Castro (Et tu, Noli?, January 27) and his Wednesday Group buddy-buddy Manny Villar (The Ethics of Mr. Itik, January 29), later Mar Roxas (What’s the matter with Mar?, February 3) and finally Ping Lacson (The atypical Ping, 12 February).

I started with the president I once served, as general manager and CEO of the Philippine Tourism Authority (June 30, 1998 till Nov. 3, 2000), and concurrent Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs (June 30, 1998 till Nov. 3, 2000), Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the darling of the nation’s poor. I ended with the man I have supported since he first sought elections, Sen. Ping Lacson, who began his political career in February of 2001, running for senator in the aftermath of Estrada’s ouster after a successful if brief stint as PNP Director-General from November 1999 to January 20, 2001. While I am (or used to be in one instance) on first-name recognition with all of them, I wrote with close familiarity on the first and the last in the series, Erap and Ping. Mar Roxas and I are friends from the Fernan days of 1991, and have been close together in Erap’s advisory circle. I’ve "been there, done that" since 1981, when Ninoy Aquino got me hooked on this "fever in the blood" called politics, and I thought this is an opportune time to share my views on these men who would be president.

Early last year, I suggested in this same space that civil society and media should get together and sponsor a series of debate-fora throughout the country’s 16 regions, the better to gauge the fitness, both intellectual and moral, of the many aspirants for the presidential derby of 2010. This, I wrote then, could be a simulation of the exhaustive debates and primaries that precede the choice of party candidates as they have in America. We do not have a two-party system as they do, and are plagued by a multiplicity of flags of political convenience. Pia Hontiveros of ANC, who hosts Strictly Politics, liked the idea, and interviewed me on TV about it. Three senators, one cabinet official and one mayor, directly or through media, agreed to participate if something like that could push through. But on Feb. 6, 2000, the nation’s short-sightedness became even more disturbed by an aborted abduction of a prime witness in the ZTE-NBN scandal, and for a while, the dogs of abrupt finis barked at the unstable Arroyo government, as it did when the voices of Garci and she were revealed in 2005.

I have brought attention back to the onus of studied choice, in the hope, perhaps forlorn, that in 2010, the people of this benighted land will not again choose those who I constantly refer to as "the least among us to lead us." For far too long, we as a people have been like the legendary Sisyphus, cursed to carry the burden of our hopes and dreams up a steep mountain, only to fall back each time. If we were to look at it from the economic assessment of stages of development, we have never "taken-off." We keep building up towards pre-conditions to growth, always tried to fly, but never got past the runway. In the past decade even, we have retreated to the tarmac, measured in terms of the wretchedness of our poverty.

Which is why it is absolutely important that we choose the best among us to lead us beyond the abomination that is Gloria’s curse. And again as I keep repeating in this space and elsewhere, we have to carefully screen both competence and character, never mind the charisma that has always fooled us in the past. We have been swept away by the charisma of false political gods so many times in the past, only to realize years after, in the winter of our collective discontent, that we chose unwisely.

In the campaign of 1992, when I was working as spokesman for the Mitra-Fernan tandem, a journalist asked then candidate Mitra how he would govern the nation if he could at best only squeak in a tightly-contested race, and therefore, not have a "real" mandate. I have never forgotten how the late Tata Monching replied instantly – "A president creates his own mandate".

How true, except that it was Fidel Valdez Ramos, proclaimed winner after a see-saw canvass of votes that had him winning by a whisker, with only 23 percent of the electorate choosing him over a field of seven, who "created his own mandate." Now FVR has little personal charisma. His words failed to inspire, and neither did he have the support of the country’s traditional politicians. He formed a party, Lakas-NUCD, out of a rib he fractured off the humongous LDP whose trapos chose Mitra over him, borrowed a band-aid strip from Raul Manglapus’ Christian Democrats, and then got incumbent Cory Aquino to bless his adventure. But his competence was clear, just as his rivals – statesmen Laurel, Salonga and Mitra, firebrand Miriam, business empire-builder Danding Cojuangco, and the widow Imelda, once the most powerful woman in the country. His character many doubted, partly because they did not know him up close. But when he severed ties with his cousin Ferdinand Marcos the dictator, after serving him loyally for years on end, and finally took a stand in Edsa, his character shone. Many will yet dispute me on this, and perhaps only history will judge, but FVR kept the nation on even keel, started far-reaching reforms (though some disliked these with a passion) and made tough decisions when the same were needed. While I maintained strong doubts about his militarist background, he surprised me by being pacifist when he was president. He built bridges of understanding, instead of sowing more discord in a society already rent by the post-Marcos hang-over. Fidel V. Ramos created his own mandate, and capitalized on the built-in awe and respect for the institution, personal charisma notwithstanding.

I see 2010 as similar in many ways to 1992. The surveys show that there are no clear favorites as yet. There is no narrowing of the field similar to 1998 when it was clear early on that it would be either Erap or Gloria. When the latter slid down to become Joe de Venecia’s vice-president, the coast was clear for Erap. The surveys also reveal that the early leads have been a function of boob-tube presence, made mostly through paid advertising. It is still anybody’s game for six presidentiables – Noli, Loren, Villar, Chiz, Ping and Mar, plus of course the chancy candidacy of Erap. It is going to be rather improbable for my friends, namely Dick, BF and Jojo, to qualify for the starting line. I may be wrong, for as I said in previous articles, one year is a long, long time in Philippine politics.

I attempted to list down the variables and the givens in the linear equation that political forces will perforce balance if there are elections under the same system in May of 2010. I still have this queasy feeling in my gut that the system may yet be sundered – either by deft and scheming political maneuver of Gloria and her cabal, or by a revolution in whatever form.

But, ceteris paribus, or all things being equal, as the economists always preface their equations, the probability of someone else entering the ten names I have written about, to repeat, Noli, Loren, Villar, Chiz, Ping, Mar, Dick, Bayani, Jojo and Erap, is rather low. The exceptions to the lay of our political game happened when a reticent FPJ suddenly entered the scene, and discombobulated the equation.

There is another very important factor to consider, a major difference between the 1992 contest and what could be next year’s. Then, Cory Aquino was not a hate figure. As incumbent, and as the repository of the loyalty of a great part of civil society, her endorsement had quantifiable political value. If she had not anointed FVR, he surely would not have won. Today, despite incumbency, all but 15 percent of this country hate Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and of the 15 percent who approve her yet, less than half would vote for whoever she endorses, and assert their independence of choice. Call it "kiss of death" if you may, but for her unquestioned ability to do anything and everything to pursue her amoral ends (read that as resources plus cheating operations), she would be better off just fading into the political sunset (though this is not likely).

Also, it would be foolish to assume that we will have a single "opposition" candidate. Perish the thought this early. Candidates will be chosen not on the basis of their administration or oppositionist leanings. First, because if elections push through, Gloria would not only be lame-duck, she would be pariah in most people’s sentiments. Second, because defining who is truly oppositionist is an exercise in futility. But for two or three, no one will strictly qualify, as loyalties in our crazy political set-up are mix-and-match, very situational rather than principled.

Candidates will be screened according to their track record, their steadfastness to principle, their platforms if any. While it may be reasoned that I speak only for the middle-class and up when I state this, I believe that the hopelessness of the socio-economic and political environment would goad even the masa to take stock, think, and think twice, before paying with their votes the money that trapos will give. That of course is a role cut out for church groups, civil society, the youth, and of course, the pervasive media. They must help in the process of informed choice, and insofar as the presidency is concerned, 90 percent of the population, I believe, will sit up and listen. I still have faith in the Filipino, even if there are times when I want to give up. The local trapos, like always, will be too busy with their own local fights, and will just take the money of the national trapos, period. Command votes will probably deliver only in the case of Zaldy Ampatuan and his ilk, but again, because his landlady, his boss woman will soon be functus oficio, he will paddle his own canoe for survival’s sake. He will be up for grabs, so to speak.

Who is the leader we need? It cannot be one who has stolen from the kaban ng bayan, whether proven, or where the preponderance of proof, but for our "fixable" prosecutorial and justice system, is evident. It cannot be one whose sense of the moral or immoral has allowed his conscience to take advantage of the poor and powerless, in business or political endeavours. It cannot be one who has refused to learn, either because of inherent lack of comprehensive prowess, or because of sloth. It cannot be one who, having been given a position of responsibility, has acted irresponsibly or did not learn from human mistakes. Bawal dapat ang bobo, at bawal ang tamad. The nation and its population of close to a hundred million, can no longer endure another flirtation with shallowness. The next leader should be one who has stood for principle, and as best as possible, been unwavering in his written or spoken commitments. These are some of the measures of competence and character.

For better or for worse, there will be an NPC candidate, either as a stand-alone party, or in combination with like-minded traditional parties. It could be Lakas, Kampi, both, or huge fractions thereof, depending on how the negotiators on both sides will transact their political sosyo-sosyo. The old pre-martial law parties will plant their flags in the presidential derby of 2010, the Liberal Party better situated than the Nacionalistas, the latter being a party of, by and for one man, Manuel Villar. The fortunes of the NP are ineluctably bound to the political fortunes of Villar; the LP has freedom of choice, on the unlikely probability that its prince, Mar Roxas, should "pass." If the NPC and Dona Gloria cannot come to terms, then Lakas-Kampi will have to find a candidate, and the most likely "savior" would be Vice-President Noli de Castro. Or, (do not discount the possibility), they might yet tap a Gilbert Teodoro or a BF, or even a Ronnie Puno. Dick Gordon is not likely to fly the standards of Kampi. That both parties will disintegrate into fractions before January 2010 is likely, with a pro-FVR and whoever else left with JDV coalescing with another party.

If Erap runs, there will be a PMP. Like Villar’s Nacionalistas, the glue that binds the party together is one person. If NPC chooses Chiz over Loren, she would perhaps resurrect whatever remains of Ed Angara’s LDP. Smaller but tightly knit parties like PDP-Laban, if they could go beyond their narrow and temporary alliance with Erap’s PMP, and champion their own presidential candidate, could yet become another major player. The so-called United Opposition or UNO, has become political farce. Candidates like Ping, Loren (assuming Danding ditches her for Chiz) and Noli (if he is minded to run, or if he is jettisoned by GMA for the NPC candidate) would likely cobble a coalition of parties, and this is where even moribund vehicles like Reporma and Aksyon Demokratiko could be useful. Philippine politics under the present system is hopelessly personal, and parties are of lesser significance. If one does not own shelter, he could always rent one.

Chiz or Loren will run as the NPC candidate. If the NPC allies with GMA, in pursuit of the same alliance that has been mutually beneficial to both she and NPC’s bosses, Loren will likely not be the candidate. The Nacionalistas will field Villar, assuming he is still willing to bet his own real estate fortune in running. The Liberals will field Mar, assuming he himself does not lose heart, in which case, they may cast a wider net. Fractions of Lakas and Kampi will congeal towards other candidates, whether Noli or Ping or Loren. Whatever is left of FVR’s Lakas just might stubbornly field the stubborn Bayani Fernando. PMP will have Erap, with PDP’s Jojo Binay as his vice-president, if KBL’s Bongbong Marcos does not beat him to it.

So there you are – my scenario for 2010, again with the caveat that first, I still am not too convinced the road is clear towards elections, and second, my personal belief that reforms will be slow and tedious even if we are able to elect the best instead of the least, such that to me, only revolutionary catharsis, admittedly a giant leap of faith, can bring about meaningful change. Only a discombobulation of the puerile and destructive system would give this benighted land a chance at redemption.

Next week, circumstances permitting, we will ask – Is there no one else?


Email address: banayo_at@yahoo.com
Blog: litobanayo.blogspot.com

$45 M lost to bribes for 'cartel' backed by DPWH execs, polls

Malou Mangahas was my brave and fearless editor at the Manila Times, a newspaper sued for libel and was later shut down after it reported a former President as an "unwitting" godfather to a corrupt deal. The President has since been deposed.

And so the saga of corruption ripening in the Philippines like a rotten fruit continues.


Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

CORRUPTED to the core, and entirely, by a "cartel" of kickback-takers with support from the highest levels of the Philippine government.

In gist, this is the damning conclusion of the World Bank’s anti-corruption unit, the powerful and dreaded Department of Institutional Integrity (INT) regarding the Bank-funded National Road Improvement and Management Project-1 (NRIMP-1).

According to the INT, "the entire NRIMP-1 Project has been corrupted," and had put "at least $30 to $45 million of the entire $150-million loan at risk," or lost to "a cartel" of contractors, bureaucrats, politicians. Two witnesses said bribes were also "shared" with "relevant local media and non-government organizations... to avoid bad publicity."

The cartel has been "institutionalized and has operated with impunity for at least a decade, possibly longer," on account of the "systemic corruption and bid rigging" in the Philippine public works sector.

Even worse, "evidence suggests (that) the cartel may enjoy support at the highest levels of the Government of the Philippines, including several officials of the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) and even reaching the husband of the President (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) herself."

"Ultimately," said the INT, "the cartel harmed development itself – NRIMP funds were not disbursed because of the fraud and corruption, and the roads were not rehabilitated with the development funds allocated to this purpose."

60 witnesses, piles of docs

The INT said that its investigation -- which eventually implicated 16 individuals and had the unit’s acting director Johannes Zutt recommending sanctions against 17 companies -- involved 60 separate witness interviews and the evaluation of hundreds of documents.

"Despite fears that they risked their physical and economic well-being," the INT said, "over a dozen witnesses confirmed the existence of the cartel and provided details on its practices."

By the INT’s reckoning, "a syndicate made up of contractors and corrupt officials in the DPWH had organized and had been operating a cartel to control road projects at least as early as 1998."

But "Filipino politicians later took a managing role in the organization," while DPWH officials "arranged for contracts to be awarded to particular contractors in exchange for bribes and kickbacks," said the INT.

With the cartel’s operation, it continued, "the entire system operated (and may continue to operate, with respect to other contracts...) under ‘a gentlemen’s agreement,’ with implicit understanding that those who violate the agreement will be denied the prospect of winning future contracts."

The cartel provided "the illusion of competition – the appearance of a free market (that) was entirely simulated," the INT said.

According to the INT report signed by Zutt, "the evidence is sufficient for a determination that it is more likely than not that the respondents, with the active cooperation of numerous officials of the Government of the Philippines, participated in an institutionalized cartel replete with collusive tendering, bid rigging, price fixing, and the routine payment of bribes and kickbacks."

In the 260-page report on the INT’s findings dated March 20, 2008, Zutt also recommended sanctions against a Filipino contractor and 17 construction companies that joined the three rounds of project biddings.

(A separate 230-page Part II of the INT report enrols the "Record of Interviews" that the investigators conducted with 54 named witnesses from April 2003 to November 2006 in the Philippines, Japan and South Korea.)

‘Affirmative deception’

Thirteen of the 17 firms were put under the category of respondents who "either refused to cooperate with the Bank’s investigation or affirmatively misled the INT."

Such "affirmative deception" of the Bank and "obstruction of its investigative mission should be an a priori disqualifying circumstance from doing future business with the Bank."

These 13 companies are:

Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corp., headquartered in Pasay City;

China Road and Bridge Corp, a state-owned firm based in Hong Kong;

China State Construction Engineering Corp., a state-owned firm based in Beijing;

China Wu Yi Co. Ltd., a state-owned firm based in Fuzhou City;

CM Pancho Construction Inc., Quezon City;

Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd., based in Seoul, South Korea;

Dongsung Construction Co. Ltd., based in Gyeongham, South Korea;

EC de Luna Construction Corp. and Eduardo de Luna, San Juan City;

EEI Corp., Quezon City;

Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp., based in Seoul, South Korea;

Italian-Thai Development Public Co. Inc., based in Bangkok, Thailand;

Sammi Construction Co. Ltd., based in Busan, South Korea; and

Shinsung Corp. General Contractors and Engineers, based in Kangnam-Gu, South Korea

Five of the 17 respondents were judged to be "affiliated with the organizers of the cartel also (and) should receive enhanced sanctions as they are the perpetrators of fraudulent and corrupt practices." These five respondents, the INT asserted, "had the greatest extent of corrupt relationships with government officials, directed the submission of fraudulent bids, and controlled the fraudulent distribution of contract awards." The five are:

China Geo-Engineering Corp. based in Beijing, China;

China Road & Bridge Corp.;

China State Construction Engineering Corp.;

China Wu Yi Co. Ltd.;

EC de Luna Construction Corp. and Eduardo de Luna.

Open secret

The witnesses who spoke with the INT, including "multiple cartel participants and government officials," described the "collusive and corrupt practices surrounding these contracts as an ‘open secret’ and said the bribery the cartel managed was known in the Philippines as ‘standard operating procedure.’"

The report exposed the modus operandi of the cartel:

‘The cartel was aided by officials within the Project Implementation Unit, the Philippine DPWH, which disqualified uncooperative bidders without basis before formal bids could be placed." To be continued

the young here, there, everywhere

My gazillion thanks to the young people who comment on my blog, send me e-mail messages, or text me on the cell phone. Their inexhaustible fire will fuel the 2010 elections, turning it into an election to be decided by the young, and by those who have the idealism of the young.

yesterday i was talking to a priest. two days ago, to a group of teachers. last week, to farmers and market vendors in the south. a fortnight ago, to a group of students in mindanao.

and they echo with the same words, filled with a thirst for the truly non-trapo upon whom they could give their trust in 2010.

i tell them to look at the track records of the candidates, their votes for or against important bills, what they have done concretely for the country.

in the workplace, in congress and in the senate, what blights us is our propensity to shoot our mouths off. in the end, work is more important than words. words you can slough off, like layers of dead skin.

and so to our politicians running in 2010: avoid a diarrhea of words. go for the substance, not the shadow. have style if you want.

but i am sure that in 2010, the voters -- especially the young -- will rally behind candidates who will haul this country into the 21st century, where it belongs.

Netiquette for the cellphone and cyberspace age

BY Danton Remoto
Views and analysis
02/09/2009 11:50 PM

The Philippines is the texting capital of the world, with at least 70 million text messages sent every day. Internet usage in the country is also rising, with at least 20 percent of the population having access to the Internet, whether at home, in the office, or in the Internet cafes.

Thus, it behooves everybody to know etiquette for the Age of the Cell phone and Cyberspace. We can telescope them together and call them Netiquette -- a portmanteau of “network etiquette” that can be the convention on electronic forums (Usenet, mailing lists, live chat, and Internet forums). It can also be extended for use of the cell phone users.

The fact that 70 millions text messages are circulated in the Philippines suggests that we are comfortable with this medium. The cell phone is like a third party between us and the receiver of the message. Therefore, since we Filipinos are most comfortable when messages are sent through an “intermediary,” we feel a certain kind of freedom in sending even highly emotional or personal messages via the cell phone.

Moreover, the rising use of the Internet as a form of communication has short-cut the time needed for the response to be received. But we need to have Netiquette, because faster does not necessarily mean better. The point here is that we would rather have friends than enemies in the Internet. Following a few basic rules will make the newbies – those new to the medium – navigate better this brave, new world. These rules come from Virginia Shea’s book called Netiquette.

The first rule is that remember you are texting or writing to people. When we communicate electronically, we see only a screen. No facial gestures, expressions and vocal inflections would guide us. Thus, we run the risk of misinterpreting someone else’s comment.

Writer and MacIntosh evangelist Guy Kawasaki has a useful test for anything you want to send via the cell phone or the Internet: “Would I say this to the person’s face?” If the answer is no, we have to rewrite and read the message again. Send only the message or mail that you would be most comfortable with. Moreover, remember that when you communicate through cyberspace, your words are written and stored somewhere, where you have no control over them. This is true also with blogs and electronic discussion groups. So be careful with those words. And remember that there is not one person reading your message; perhaps there are thousands, and possibly millions.

Online, real life

The second rule is to follow the same standards of behavior online that you would follow in real life. In short, in both your real and virtual lives, you should have the same pattern of behavior. Because the chance of getting caught in the Internet is slim, some people use this as a license to violate the standard of ethics or behavior.

The third rule is to respect other people’s time and bandwidth. We must make sure that the time people spend reading our text messages or e-mail is not time wasted. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that you never stand on the same river twice. Time has elapsed the moment one second has ticked past.

What does bandwidth mean? It is the “information-carrying capacity of the wires and channels that connect everyone in cyberspace. . . {It} is also sometimes used to refer to the storage capacity of a host system.” Therefore, if we press a button and send the same message ten times to the e-group, then we are wasting the bandwidth. Moreover, do not forward messages indiscriminately because it is a cheap and fast way to send information. Think first if the recipient would welcome the e-mail and find it useful.

Look good

The fourth rule is to make yourself look good. Unless you have a 3G cell phone and using a video call to your friend, he or she cannot see you. The same goes for the Internet. Therefore, you will be judged by the quality of your writing. This means being concise, sensible and correct in both spelling and grammar. For these qualities, you may have to review and read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, available at most good bookstores.

Avoid long words and, therefore, avoid reading a thesaurus. And Anglo-Saxon words are still the best, because they are crisp, short, and to the point. Moreover, you must be polite and pleasant. This will also shield you from being a flame-bait, or the subject of abuse in the Internet. Moreover, avoid using ALL CAPS, which is the equivalent of shouting and yelling just to gain attention.

The fifth rule is positive: share your expert knowledge. Virginia Shea is right on the dot when she wrote: “The strength of cyberspace is its numbers. The reason asking questions online works is that a lot of knowledgeable people are reading the questions. And if even a few of them offer intelligent answers, the sum total of world knowledge also increases. The Internet itself was founded and grew because scientists wanted to share information. Gradually, the rest of us got in on the act.”


The sixth rule is to help keep flame wars under control. “Flaming” is the term used when people express strong opinions without holding back on their emotions. A flame is alike a mail bomb. Flaming has a place in the Internet, which after all is a democratic space. But Netiquette frowns on the perpetuation of flame wars – two or three people venting their ire on each other, making the other people in the e-group bored. It is also a waste of bandwidth.

The seventh rule is to respect other people’s privacy. Do not forward cell-phone numbers and e-mail addresses without asking the owner. This goes the same, of course, to text messages and e-mail. Corollary to this is the eighth rule: do not abuse your power. The keeper of the keys in cyberspace are the system administrators, experts in every office, and the wizards on MUDs (multi-use dungeons) of every system. Private e-mail is sacred, and should never be read by those with access to them.

The ninth rule is to forgive other people’s mistakes. Mistakes are like noses: everybody has them. So we must forgive the network newbie, or sender of the e-mail sent by mistake. Whether it is a spelling or grammar error, a hare-brained question or opinion, or an overly long answer – have the patience of Job. If it’s a small error, let it slip, like water down the back of a duck. If you feel you must respond, please do so with tact and good manners. You may send the correction by private e-mail rather than in public. And never be self-righteous or arrogant, even if you are right

The tenth rule is to know the recipient of your text message or e-mail. You may send a fragmented text message, with words and spelling broken down, if the recipient is a young person or somebody used to receiving it. If the person sends you a text message with complete words and iron-clad grammar, then by all means, you must respond in the same vein. Otherwise, they might think you do not know your manners and manners – as we all know – make the man, or the woman.

how to win a senate seat

1. talk in tagalog.

2. read up on issues.

3. have a strong political party.

4. don't flit from party to party.

5. smiles, sound-bites and smart moves all around.

There are many re-electionists running for the senatorial seats in 2010. Many of them would win.

Alas and alack, my fearless forecast is that it would be a lucky year if at least FOUR new and young candidates would win a seat in the Senate.

And so the race begins....

Excuse me while I leave the metropolis for a week, to touch base with the student council editors and school paper editors and the forgotten lower-middle classes of this country.

And one day, in God's own good time, a plausible and reliable survey of senatorial candidates would appear.

obama's campaign manager

I recently attended a forum led by Joe Hansen, a campaign consultant of Barack Obama. He is like the US President himself -- sharp, funny, wise and calm. Add a dash of folksy charm as well, and you know why Team Obama bulldozed the Republicans piloted by Mc Cain.

On the way out of Club Filipino, I met a former senator, a senior member of what might be called the Opposition.

He smiled at me, walked over to me, and clasped my hand. Last year, he would not even recognize me, when we were together in a forum in the same place.

Ahhh, how times have changed.

Joe Hansen talked about how the gays and lesbians of the USA helped Obama win the presidency. You may call it niche marketing, or gray marketing, or whatever. But Obama touched base with them, and with the youth, and with the minorities, and with the others who felt they were voiceless and not important.

But our senior senator was non-plussed. He told me, "Danton, we know all of that already. Why listen to him?"

I just gave him my small smile, at this old fart who has tried again and again to recapture his former senatorial seat, and looked at him as he staggered down the stairs, into the cold embrace of his long and shiny car.

And then returned to Joe Hansen, who helped put into power a young, bright, brave and eloquent man of the people.

Admirable Miriam

By Alvin Capino
Manila Standard Today

Overwhelming approval would be the most probable result of a public opinion survey on the handling by the irrepressible Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago of last week’s hearing on reports of alleged corruption in the World Bank-funded public works project in the Philippines.

Most people would have to agree with and approve Santiago’s outburst against the seeming indifference by government officials on allegations of corruption in public works projects. People probably wish that they could also publicly lambaste these officials.

Santiago clearly gave vent to people’s frustration on government corruption.

Of course one of the reasons for the strong public support for Santiago’s anti-corruption advocacy is public anger which has been stoked by the kid’s glove treatment of blacklisted contractors by their fellow contractors sitting in the House of Representatives.

The House hearing on the same issue heard by Santiago’s Senate committee on economic affairs was chaired by Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales, the vice chairman of the House committee on public works who is in the construction business.

While Santiago made a strong denunciation of influential people who are stonewalling the Senate inquiry, the Pampanga contractor-congressman on the other hand said that it’s the World Bank which should be sanctioned and not the blacklisted contractors.

While we agree that there should be a scrutiny of the World Bank investigation and how it arrived at its conclusions, clearing the blacklisted contractors outright without looking at the report is patently wrong.

The public would certainly side with Santiago in her desire to get to the bottom of the issue of the WB blacklisting of three big-time Philippine contractors.

Aside from her verbal assault against coddlers of corrupt public works contractors, the feisty Santiago also made another important point when she insisted that the allegations made by Senator Panfilo Lacson should be supported by the testimony of at least one witness.

Lacson had linked First Gentleman Mike Arroyo to one of the WB blacklisted contractor. Lacson also said that one of the contractors under investigation delivered P70-million cash to the LTA building in Makati where the First Gentleman holds office.

Santiago made it clear that she would not allow her committee’s investigations to be used for scurrilous attacks against the First Gentleman Mike Arroyo or other personalities unless a witness can be produced to back up the accusations.

She surprised Lacson and the other senators when she announced the termination of the hearing. She said that she was more than willing to reopen the investigation if Lacson produces at least one credible witness to testify on the allegations about the P70-million bribe to the First Gentleman.

Santiago made two things clear in that hearing. One, she would not allow anybody to treat her committee’s investigation lightly. Two, she would not allow even fellow senators to make unsupported accusations in investigation by her committee. This should be the standard in all Senate investigations.

Santiago’s “performance” in last week’s hearing should explain why even people who do not like her feistiness admire her.

CHR should craft policy for LGBTs

By Tetch Torres
First Posted 19:21:00 02/04/2009

MANILA, Philippines -- Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said it is the responsibility of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to draft policies to protect lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) against discrimination.

In a three-page opinion, Gonzalez said Articles 2(2) and 26 of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Philippines is a signatory, requires that LGBTs be entitled to equal protection before the law.

The opinion was issued after Akbayan party-list Representative Ana Theresa Hontiveros-Baraquel asked Gonzalez who should make the policies on LGBTs.

"[T]he law shall prohibit discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any grounds, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status," Gonzalez said.

He pointed out that policies concerning human rights and constitutional guarantees on civil liberties are the jurisdiction of the CHR and the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC).

"This time-honored policy is dictated not only by practical considerations but by a sincere respect for the experties on, and familiarity with, the policies relating to the subject, and the rightful exercise of jurisdiction by a coequal and coordinate government office," Gonzalez said.

On the other hand, questions of legislation belong to the House of Representatives, the justice secretary said.

The justice secretary is primarily the legal adviser of the president, department heads, bureau chiefs, and other members of the executive branch of government.

Voices from the margins

Views and Analysis

Many thanks to the people who take time out to send me an e-mail. One of them is Jack, a 22-year-old gay man from Cagayan de Oro City. Now working in Manila, Jack seems to typify the twenty-something gay man—based in the city, with a slew of friends for company, and leisure to read the books dealing with the life he has chosen to lead. His letter was written in Tagalog. With his permission, I’ve translated some passages.

“Unlike your family, my family was not supportive of my sexuality. I come from a broken family and I wasn’t able to finish college because of financial difficulties. I left Cagayan de Oro City to strike out on my own. Life in the city is a combination of beauty and pain. I want to write about all of this, but being a writer is like something I cannot reach. So, I am now just contented with reading books, like the ones you write. But one day, I hope that the things I write can reach their intended readers. As of now, I’m saving money so I can go back to school. I also have a partner for the past five months. I hope this relationship continues. He is a tower of inspiration for me, a source of strength - something that I also feel when I read your books. . . .”

Another e-mail I received was from a reader who also came from the south. Now a student at University of the Philippines in Diliman, N.D. wrote to me about the Baha’i faith and its open-arms policy regarding homosexuality.

“I belong to the Baha’i faith, one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. I like this religion because it promotes unity and diversity. It teaches us to be understanding and prohibits discrimination and prejudice of all kinds - be they caused by differences in race, religion, gender, and ethnicity. One day, I sent to a copy of the Baha’i Faith’s stance on homosexuality to my parents in Mindanao. My parents read it and later became supportive of my sexual orientation. They even gave me some pieces of advice, especially my father. It wasn’t hard to come out to them, because they already know me well. I wanted my parents to know something that was deeply important to me, and they did. Many Baha’is around the world are coming out, too. Whenever I feel lost and depressed, their website and your books give me the inspiration and strength that I need.

These are the tweetums letters, and they fill the heart with joy. But we must remember that out there, in the wilderness, homophobia still exists. One such discrimination was reported to me by Potch, a college student in one of Manila’s exclusive colleges. The incident happened to one of her best friends.


“Let us call my friend John. He used to teach in a school run by a rich but conservative Catholic group. This is an exclusive school for boys in Quezon City, with an all-male faculty. My friend is gay and proud of it. He doesn’t hide his sexual orientation. When he applied to teach in the school, the principal immediately sensed he was effeminate so he asked my friend outright, ‘Are you gay?’

“My friend answered ‘yes.’ But he also assured the principal that his gayness would not affect his teaching. The school authorities must have been impressed with my friend because they hired him. My friend is a very good English teacher and he became an asset to the school. He was the moderator of the school paper, he led projects, and he trained students for contests. His being gay never interfered with his work. In fact, he was given a high performance rating for that school year.

“Unfortunately, the following school year, there was an incident involving another teacher who was in the closet. The closeted gay molested a student. Right there and then, the discrimination started. It’s like there was this witch hunt for gay teachers in that school. At the end of the school year, seven of them were terminated just because they acted in an effeminate manner. There was no investigation and due process was not observed. The authorities just suddenly felt like weeding out all the gays as if they were lepers or something.

“Even my friend - who was given a good performance rating for that school year - wasn’t spared. I think he was just given something like P30,000 so he would not complain. This seemed like the height of absurdity. As if a trigger had been pulled, suddenly all the administrators became homophobic. Hypocrisy also became the order of the day. I told my friend to complain or file a case against these people. But he said ‘no,’ because this conservative Catholic group is composed of rich and powerful people. He said he wouldn’t stand a chance against them. Right now, my friend is teaching at another school, a college this time, to be safe from intrigues and discrimination.

“I hope your advocacy against the discrimination of gays and lesbians would continue because I believe in giving equal rights to everybody. In fact, my closest friends are all lesbians and gays. I love them dearly and it pains me when unfortunate things happen to them.”

As with other cases like this, I tried to contact the aggrieved party, but he did not want to file a legal case against those who pushed him on the margins of the page. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement in the Philippines has made great strides, but more needs to be done.

On another tangent, the films Jay and Milk will begin showing this Thursday, February 4. These are brave and eloquent testimonies on why we will never be on the margins of the page.