Months before campaign, politicians test the power of 'advocacy ads'

By Jam Sisante, Mark Merueñas, and Howie Severino
06/23/2009 | 10:53 AM
www.gmanews.tv
The first in an occasional series on political advertising.


Officially, the campaign period for next year's election will start eight months from now. But who's waiting?

In only the first three months of this year, just three possible candidates have already spent a total of P230 million in "advocacy ads" -- thinly disguised campaign commercials on television and radio.

Roxas and Villar lead in "advocacy ads" spending

Nielsen Media Research identified the three as Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II (P140 million), Senator Manuel Villar Jr. (P80 million), and Senator Loren Legarda (P10 million). All three have given indications they're running for the presidency next year.

The early electioneering is obvious to many TV viewers. But the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already determined that the so-called advocacy ads do not violate election campaign laws since the political advertisers have not yet filed their certificates of candidacy.

"Free for all, yan ay saklaw ng freedom of expression until and unless mabago po ang ating batas [Free for all, that is covered by freedom of expression until and unless our law is amended]," said Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.

It’s not exactly “free for all;" with air time at peak viewing hours on a major network (such as GMA7 and ABS-CBN) worth as much as P475,000 per 30 seconds, heavy political advertisers at this stage are a very exclusive club. Senator Panfilo Lacson cited the cost of a presidential campaign as his reason for abandoning his plans to seek the presidency in 2010.

Paid ads versus negative publicity

With his vast wealth enabling his freedom of expression, the real estate magnate and presumptive candidate Villar is bombarding the air waves with ads extolling him as a bosom friend of OFWs and small entrepreneurs. The ads accompany his camp’s hopes that the paid exposure will outweigh the effects of the free but negative publicity he’s getting as a result of conflict of interest charges by his Senate colleagues.

Villar has refused to participate in Senate ethics hearings called by Senator Jamby Madrigal on allegations that he illegally profited from a diversion of the C5 road project.

Instead, Villar is bringing “his case directly to the people whose wisdom transcends the combined minds of all the senators," according to a statement by his spokesperson Jan Mata. “Admittedly, Senator Villar is active in his public informational campaign. It is by this means that he registers very well in the public mind."

This “public informational campaign" seems to have already paid off, judging by the latest surveys. Villar topped an April-May Social Weather Stations poll, but Villar’s camp itself commissioned the survey. He was followed by Vice President Noli de Castro and Senator Roxas in the same poll.

In a Pulse Asia survey released around the same time, however, Villar was fourth among 16 names appearing in the presidential preference poll, while Roxas was fifth. Topping the survey was De Castro, aided to a great degree by the advantages of his office, including the government’s media machinery.

De Castro was followed by senator and former FPJ campaign spokesman Francis Escudero and former president Joseph Estrada, respectively. The top three are household names because of their TV exposure through the nightly news, and rely more on free publicity rather than paid ads.

Roxas catches up with Villar

Political analyst Ramon Casiple told GMANews.TV that while Roxas and Villar get their share of free publicity through the news, their political ads helped them break through the top five. "[The political ads] contributed to Roxas's and Villar's visibility, ratings," Casiple said.

It would also appear that Villar’s communications strategy has overcome the ill effects on his image of the road controversy. However, a closer look at the Pulse Asia numbers over time tells a different story. Villar’s 14 percent preference among Pulse Asia’s respondents was less than his 15 percent in a similar poll last February. Thus, it does not appear that his ad campaign during the Senate brouhaha has improved his standing.

Roxas, in contrast, improved over the same period from 8 percent to 13 percent. Pedaling hard in his “padyak" commercials, Roxas has virtually caught up with Villar. Of course, it hasn’t hurt Roxas that his engagement to broadcaster Korina Sanchez has been garnering him loads of free airtime.

And in case you missed it on TV, Roxas tweeted his followers with the wedding details here.

While his rival is in pre-nuptial mood, Villar is in crisis communications mode. His ad campaign “softened the blow" of the road controversy, according to Harvey Keh, the lead convenor of Kaya Natin, a movement advocating ethical leadership. “Without the ads, he would have rated much lower."

Villar is adhering to a formula that worked in the 2007 elections when he outspent nearly all other senatorial candidates. But he is surely aware that other big spenders lost badly, including Prospero Pichay, Ralph Recto, and Mike Defensor, whose ads could not erase the stigma of belonging to the administration slate.

Another presumptive candidate testing the power of advertising is Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who spent a fortune placing ads in last May's Pacquiao fight. Not only does Teodoro lack name recognition, those who have heard of him identify him with an unpopular president. And it didn't help that many boxing fans were annoyed by the frequency of ads during Pacquiao's abbreviated fight.

While other candidates credit donors and friends as the sources of their funds, Villar openly acknowledges that the ads are bought with his personal wealth.

The Nacionalista Party standard bearer said in a TV interview in the first video above, "Pera natin yung ginagastos natin diyan at pangalawa palagay ko alam naman ng lahat na malaki naman ang naitutulong natin. Halimbawa yung sa OFW, nailagay natin sa kaalaman ng ating kababayan [We are using our own money to finance that, and I think we are able to give much help. For example, we were able to raise awareness on OFW issues]."

The early ads are necessary, according to a statement by Nacionalista Party spokesman Gilbert Remulla published on his Facebook account, because Villar “did not have a broadcasting or showbiz career to aid him in his politics. And neither does he have blue blooded ancestry where his surname is synonymous with major roads and is printed on legal tender." These are obvious references to Estrada, De Castro, and Roxas (a grandson of former president Manuel Roxas).

With the ongoing ethics investigation, Villar will have an even tougher sell. - GMANews.TV

Bratinella

One senator running for re-election saw my campaign manager, a transgender named Bemz Benedito, and told her: "Hoy, 'yang boss mo, ang lakas-lakas ng loob tumakbo ng senator. Wala namang partido. Wala ring pera. Mataas man siya sa mga surveys at mock polls ngayon, surveys at mock polls lang 'yan."

To which my campaign manager just arched her well-trimmed eyebrows. I have trained her to ignore stray dogs.

Miffed, senatorial candidate added: "And you can tell that to your boss!"

The problem with Bratinellas (brats who become senators) is that, after winning by a fluke because of a TV melodrama about their family's life, they think they can now win the top spot in the 2010 senatorial elections. Because that is what this reelectionist wants, to be on top of the heap in 2010.

I have said it before and I am saying it now: The youth vote will be a youth quake in the 2010 elections. Boto mo, ipatrol mo, is growing by leaps and bounds. Previously apathetic young people are signing up. The Cha Cha of Congress has gelled the young people together. It is like 1986 all over again, with the spring of hope rising in the air.

And I am quite sure these bright, young people will not put a bratty, no-brainer in the top spot for 2010.

Why is everybody jostling for the top spot in the senatorial elections? Because if you are number 1 or number 2 in the 2010 elections, you have a very good chance of landing as Vice-President in 2016.

My dream is much lower. In 2007, I just wanted to run for party list elections, pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill, and return to the quiet life of an English teacher at the Ateneo. But Burjer Cook Ben Abalos promptly shot down our plans, upon the orders of Malacanang. And in a Kafkaesque moment, I sometimes think he is my campaign manager. Because of what he did, waves of sympathy went my way, translating into what Bratinella rues as my "high ranking in the surveys and mock polls."

Now, now, now. Let us have some sense and sensibility here. Let me do a Shakespearean turn and address you directly: Is it my fault, Bratinella, if many people like me and not you? What, really, have you done in the Senate?

You can fool the Filipinos once, but you cannot fool them forever.

Oh, I think I now know what is Bratinella's favorite fruit.

In English: sour grapes.

In Tagalog: ubas na mapait.

Mag-ingat sa tuso

By Ellen Tordesillas
www.ellentordesillas.com

Kayo ba ay naniniwala na talagang tatakbo si Gloria Arroyo bilang kongresista ng Pampanga sa 2010 eleksyon?

Malakas ang kutob ko na isa na namang pakulo niya ito at meron talaga siyang ibang maitim na balak. Suspetsa ko diversionary tactic lang ito.

Nakakapagtaka kasi sila mismo ang nagpapalutang. Si Arroyo mismo. Sinabi nya sa kanyang talumpati, “anong malay nyo, baka tumakbo akong kongresista sa Pampanga.” Ito ay sinundan ng mga pahayag ng kanyang deputy spokesperson na si Lorelei Fajardo na wala namang batas na nagbabawal na tumakbong kongresista.


Ang pinakahuli nilang drama ay ang ikinuwento ni Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman sa mga reporter sa Cotabato City na sinabi raw ni Arroyo sa kanila sa miting ng Legislative-Executive Development Council ang kanyang planong pagtakbo bilang kongresista ng Pampanga.

Nang inilabas ng Inquirer, deny ang Malacañang. Walang sinabi raw si Arroyo sa miting. Atras din si Pangandaman. Ginawa pa yang iresponsable at sinungaling ang reporter. Ang kanyang plano raw na tumakbo sa pagka-kongresista ang sinabi niya sa mga reporter. Ha? Tatakbo siya (Pangandaman) na kongresista ng Pampanga?

Pasensiya na sa mga nagsasabi na sobra naman daw ang aking pagkamuhi kay Arroyo. Hindi ko makalimuntan ang kanyang sinabi sa harap ng puntod ni Jose Rizal noong Dec. 2002 na hindi siya tatakbo sa pagka-presidente sa 2004.

Naniwala at naging kampamte ang marami. Ang hindi natin alam, ginagapang na niya pala ang pagkukunan ng pera ng taumbayan na gagastusin niya sa 2004 eleksyon katulad ng pera ng para sa abono ng magsasaka na naging fertilizer scam at road users tax. Doon din niya kinuha si Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Di ba sa “kasalan” ng Lakas at Kampi, sinabi niya na ang pagkakaisa daw ng dalawang partido ng mga maka-administrasyon na pulitiko ay patunay na may eleksyon sa Hunyo 2010. Pagkatapos niya sabihin yun, umakyat sa presidential suite ng Manila Hotel, ipinatawag ang mga kongresista at inutusang itulak ang HR1109 o Con-Ass. Siyempre may bonus ang mga masunurin- P20 milyon.

Lumalabas ngayon na kaya pinilit niya ang pag-iisa ng Lakas at Kampi ay dahil kung Kampi lang, na siyang sumusulong ng HR 1109 ni Camarines Sur Re. Luis Villafuerte, kulang ang kanilang numero. Kaya para talaga sa Con-Ass ang Lakas-Kampi merger.

Ang HR 1109 ay nagsusulong ng Constituent Assembly kahit wala ang Senado para ma-amyendahan ang Constitution. Gusto ni Arroyo amyendahan ang Constitution para maging parliamentary system at magiging prime minister siya o kung patuloy ang presidential system, ma-aalis ang term limits ay siya ay pwedend president habambuhay.

May suspetsa akong mas malaking operasyon ang niluluto nina Arroyo. Mag-ingat tayo sa emergency rule o martial law.

Who's hot and who's not

By Tony Abaya
Manila Standard Today
www.manilastandardtoday.com
June 16, 2009

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ako na lang kaya. *****

Reactions to tonyabaya@gmail.com. Other articles in www.tapatt.org and in acabaya.blogspot.com.

Same-sex partners to get Fed benefits

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press
June 17, 2009

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama, under growing criticism for not seeking to end the ban on openly gay men and women in the military, is extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Obama plans to announce his decision on Wednesday in the Oval Office, a White House official said Tuesday. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the president hadn't yet signed the presidential memorandum.

The official said Obama would release more details on Wednesday.

The decision is a political nod to a reliably Democratic voting bloc that in recent weeks has grown frustrated with the White House's slow movement on their priorities.

Several powerful gay fundraisers withdrew their support from a June 25 Democratic National Committee event where Vice President Joe Biden is expected to speak. Their exit came in response to a June 12 Justice Department brief that defended the Defense of Marriage Act, a prime target for gay and lesbian criticism. Justice lawyers argued that the law allowed states to reject marriages performed in other states or countries that defy their own standards.

The legal arguments — including citing incest and sex with minors — sparked rebellion among gay and lesbian activists who had been largely biting their tongues since Obama won election. They had objected to the Rev. Rick Warren's invitation to participate in the inauguration despite his support for repealing gay marriage in California.

Their January protest won the invitation of Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration as the first openly gay bishop divided and almost split his denomination.

Gays and lesbians later fretted as the White House declined to intervene in the cases of enlisted military members facing courts martial for defying the Clinton-era "don't ask, don't tell" policies. White House officials say they want Congress to repeal the policy as part of a "lasting and durable" solution, instead of intervening on individual cases.

"The president agreed that ... the policy wasn't working for our national interests, that he committed to change that policy, that he's working with the secretary of defense and the joint chiefs on making that happen," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said last month.

In the meantime, the administration has tried to make small, quiet moves to extend benefits to gays and lesbians. The State Department has promised to give partners of gay and lesbian diplomats many benefits, such as diplomatic passports and language training.

But without a specific change in the Federal Employees' Health Benefits Program, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's promises left out financial benefits such as pensions. Obama's move could make that shift.

Gay and lesbian activists had expected Obama to take action some time in June, which is gay pride month.

Richard Socarides, a New York attorney and former senior adviser on gay rights issues to President Bill Clinton, was taking a wait-and-see attitude on Obama's announcement.

"If it doesn't include health insurance, if he doesn't talk about the military and about the (Justice Department) brief, I think it will fall short," Socarides said in an e-mail late Tuesday. "Right now, people are looking for real action."

John Berry, the highest-ranking gay official in the administration and the de facto human resources chief for the administration, told a gay rally last weekend that Obama planned to take action on benefits soon.

Berry, who heads the Office of Personnel and Management, has repeatedly told reporters that he expected the White House to turn to legislation to give domestic partners access to federal health and retirement plans.

But Obama so far has sent only one piece of legislation to Congress — a pay-as-you-go measure that is part of his wooing of fiscally conservative Democrats.

Instead, Obama will use his signature instead of legislation to achieve the benefits parity sought by same-sex couples.

Imperial Conquests

by Danton Remoto
Remote Control
Views and analysis
www.abs-cbnnews.com
June 16, 2009

God’s Dust: A Modern Asian Journey
By Ian Buruma
Phoenix Books, London
2008 reprint, originally published in 1988

The last 20 years has seen an enormous rise in interest in Asia among travel writers from the West. Verily, it is a tradition that goes many centuries back, when the first Westerners set foot on Asia and returned home with fabulous tales about our “exotic” continent of legend and wealth. This kind of travel writing reached its peak in the 19th century, which was also the century when colonialism was most widespread. Western chroniclers sent home “travelers’ tales” that reported the strange customs, the different rites and rituals of the East. The general idea, of course, was that the people of the East should be saved from their backward and primitive lives, with salvation coming from the West. In short, these travel narratives provided a convenient weapon of words for the imperial conquests.

But such thinking was debunked by Edward Said in his highly influential book, Orientalism (1978). Professor Said pointed out that these Western books turned the East into an “Other” that is exotic, feminine, strange and different. Therefore, it is a land to be conquered, to be colonized, to be contained. It is a land to be turned into facsimiles of the West.

In general, Ian Buruma’s book tries to veer away from this “Orientalist” direction. Although born in The Netherlands, Mr. Buruma is the son of parents from different countries. He was educated in The Netherlands but writes in English, which is his mother’s tongue. He has lived one-third of his life in Asia, where he wrote for the Far Eastern Economic Review, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books. This hyphenated writer spent one year traveling from Rangoon to Hiroshima to write this book. He focuses on “what happens to people when the loyalties and traditions of the village break down and are replaced by the complexities of the modern world.”

It seems like a burdensome thesis, but Mr. Buruma’s book is most illuminating when he writes about people – leaders and beggars, poets and peasants, prostitutes and monks – and spares no incident, whether big or small, as long as it throws light on his theme. He has the journalist’s nose for news and the fiction writer’s gift for the anecdote.

Mr. Buruma laments the Western cliché that one has to go outside the seemingly “Westernized” Asian cities to discover the “reality” about the country one is visiting. He is right when he said that one only has to scratch the surface of lives in Asian cities to find a “cultural sense of self.” Kampung Baru lies near the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, but when one has al fresco dinner in one of the mamak stalls selling nasi bubur, a Filipino visitor could feel in his bones that the Philippines must have been like this before the Spaniards came – a Malay society where neighbors were linked to each other by blood and social ties, where the way of life was slow and gracious, where nature shaped the gestures and seasons of rite and ritual, custom and ceremony.

Mr. Buruma also notes that although many Asian societies are torn by economic crisis and the crisis of identity, these twin horns of difficulty can also be sources of creativity. Verily, he alludes to the Chinese saying that a crisis creates its own opportunity. “The necessity to experiment, to redefine themselves, to find meaning in a world of conflicting values has made the capitalist countries of Southeast Asia extraordinarily dynamic. They are alive in a way that old Europe, complacently bearing the burden of its long, miraculously continuous history, is not.”

”The Village and the City” contrasts the neighbors Burma (renamed Myanmar by its military rulers in 1988) and Thailand. Because he had difficulty staying long in Myanmar, Mr. Buruma’s essay on the country is naturally thin, relying mostly on historical vignettes. I also have a problem with his dichotomy between the village and the city. I think it is too simplistic. Surely, in Asia today, the pace of development is uneven, such that some parts of the city still remind you of the village, while a few parts of the village seem so urban. Thus, the labels of “village” and “city” become slippery constructs when seen in this light. His essay on Singapore also suffers from the changes wrought by history, for what he calls the “nanny state” has changed in the last 10 years. It also focused too much on the “nanny state” image of the island-country, and he did not interview any artists who could have provided a cross-section of views about Singapore, the way he did with most of the other countries in the book.

His essay on Thailand offers more insights. “Patpong kitsch and Thai traditions coexist – they are images from different worlds, forms manipulated according to opportunity. The same girl who dances to rock ’n’ roll on a bar top, wearing nothing but cowboy boots, seemingly a vision of corrupted innocence, will donate part of her earnings to a Buddhist monk the next morning, to earn religious merit. The essence of her culture, her moral universe outside the bar, is symbolized not by her cowboy boots, but by the amulets she wears around her neck, with images of Thai kings, revered monks, or the Lord Buddha.”

And then Mr. Buruma goes for the jugular, showing the West for what it really is: “The apparent ease with which Thais appear able to adopt different forms, to swim in and out of seemingly contradictory worlds, is not proof of a lack of national identity, nor is the kitsch of Patpong proof of Thai corruption – on the contrary, it reflects the corrupted taste of Westerners, for whom it is specifically designed. Under the evanescent surface, Thais remain in control of themselves.”

”The Old Japanese Empire” deals with Taiwan and South Korea. The author twinned the essays in one chapter because Taiwan looks up to Japan as a model, while South Korea reviles Japan for its harsh colonial conquest.

Mr. Buruma’s essay on Taiwan is also rather thin. The essay on South Korea is more instructive. He points out “the complex and sometimes explosive mixture of shame and chauvinism in South Korea. The one, of course, stokes the flames of the other. There is a Korean term for pandering to foreign powers: Sadae chuui. And Koreans are forever accusing one another of it. These accusations are not without reason, for Koreans have a long history of using outside powers to fight opponents at home….”

This peninsula divided into two countries, this country located between China and Japan, is beset by an identity crisis. It seems to have an inferiority complex masquerading as superiority. There is a constant desire among the South Koreans to prove they are better than their neighbors – whether it is in the economy, in having “the most scientific and best writing system in the world,” and, yes, in the race for the slimmest cell phones and the most durable SUV. It seems, Mr. Buruma suggests, that “Koreans often can only define themselves in terms of a foreign civilization.” More so if they can prove themselves better than that civilization.

Mr. Buruma’s essay on Japan, where he lived the longest, is the best in the collection. “Arriving in Japan always fills me with feelings of ambivalence. It is like coming home to a country which, to me, can never be home. I spent my twenties in Tokyo. Everything is familiar: The language, the manners, the advertisements, the TV programs. Japan is part of me, yet I can never feel part of it. This may have something to do with me. But it is also in the nature of the most insular of nations. It fills me with love and horror, which alternate and sometimes even coincide, the one sometimes, in a perverse way, feeding on the other. Japan looks the most modern society in Asia, politically, culturally, aesthetically. It is also among the most archaic. It is one of the most open societies – foreigners can go there, live there, marry, and prosper. But it remains in many ways as exclusive as Burma. Japan is ‘Westernized,’ yet somehow, the country in East Asia least touched by the West. I am never sorry to leave, yet I always yearn to go back.”

Shrewdly Mr. Buruma points out what ails modern Japanese – the feeling that something has been irrevocably lost in Japan’s dizzying rise to progress and modernity. What has been lost is replaced by an uncritical acceptance of many things from the West. Urban Japan has become like a pastiche of many influences – a modern yet tacky Disneyland, if you will.

”But it is not so much the modern vulgarization of traditional forms that is disturbing, but the idea of tradition as just another transient fashion, another form without substance. One sometimes wonders whether anything in modern Japan has lasting value, whether anything substantial can visibly last. There is a rootlessness, a constant evanescence about Japanese sophistication which explains, perhaps, both the melancholy Japanese love for fleeting beauty, for visible decay, and the anxiety about cultural and spiritual loss.”

What has been lost is the Japanese spirit, the national soul – however you define it. Nihonjinron, or defining Japanese-ness, is a constant topic of best-selling books and top-rated TV shows. Sometimes, the form it takes veers dangerously close to ultra-nationalism. And here, Mr. Buruma engages in the history of Western ideas in a learned and admirable manner, comparing prewar emperor worship in Japan to “a kind of Bonapartism grafted onto Japanese traditions.”

If there is one flaw here, it is the hasty generalization that “Japanese intellectuals often seem marginal figures, writing for one another, respected as men of learning, but not taken seriously by the world at large." Of course, in any society – I am sure even in London, where Mr. Buruma now resides – intellectuals are marginal figures. The same intellectuals write for The London Review of Books that the same coterie of intellectuals reads. He also failed to note that there are now public intellectuals – people in academe who write for newspapers and magazines and who appear even on TV talk shows, giving depth and illumination even if they are only allowed so many column inches or so many milli-seconds for their sound-bites. And I am sure Mr. Buruma has read the novels of Harumi Murakami, one of Japan’s best writers – and intellectuals – who dissects Japanese society with a pen as sharp as a scalpel, and as focused as a laser beam.

The essays on Malaysia and the Philippines are the weakest. Mr. Buruma scores some points with his brief discussion on the racial issue, but undercuts it with his shallow take on Malay architecture. Being an archipelago in Southeast Asia, Malay architecture is based on wood and other natural elements. But since Malaysia is also an Islamic country, the motifs of Islamic art – the onion-shaped domes, the curvilinear shapes, the ornate arabesques – have seeped into the country and have been grafted into the look and shape of the buildings. Therefore, I do not understand Mr. Buruma’s statement that the Islamic Center and other additions to the skyline of Kuala Lumpur are “alien forms [because they were] borrowed from the Middle East.”

Then he notes that “Food is one of the few instances of integrated culture: The delicious Nonya cuisine mixes Chinese and Malay dishes in ways that add an extra dash to both.)” But this assertion is only partially correct, because he does not say how. Baba Nonya-Peranakan cuisine has made Chinese food more spicy; it has also enlarged the repertoire of the traditional Malay cuisine.

However, aside from being a great leveler in Malaysian society, food can also be seen as a great divider. The Muslim notions of halal (food should be prepared according to Islamic adat – custom and tradition) and haram (the notion of evil or “sin”) – has served as an effective buffer for integration at the dining table. Only the people of immigrant stock – the Chinese and the Indians – happily eat in each other’s restaurants and stalls.

Mr. Buruma also flounders when he talks about the so-called Third World. He said “The Third World persona… is an image borrowed from the West, from social activists in Berkeley and concerned poetry magazines in London. The Third World concept is a product of post-colonial guilt….”

Again, this is only very partially correct. The concept of the Third World came not from Berkeley or London but from France. It is a literal translation of tiers monde, and was first used by the French economist Alfred Sauvy in an article published in the Observateur magazine on Aug. 14, 1952. Three years later, the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa held a landmark conference in the Indonesian city of Bandung, giving credibility to the idea of a cohesive Third World that was at once opposed to colonialism and aligned with neither the East nor the West. This group has grown into the Non-Aligned Movement, which held its 14th conference recently.

Indeed, the Berkeley intellectuals flirted briefly with the notion of the Third World in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as part of American protest against the Vietnam War. The London journals also dwelt on the concept of the Third World in the mid-1970s, when they were publishing protest poetry and trying to free writers hauled into jail by some of the despotic regimes in the Third World, including that of Ferdinand Marcos’s.

However, it is this, in the end, that mars the book of Mr. Buruma. If only he spent more time sitting down and reading more books on Asian history – especially books that give credit to what the East has done in the history of ideas or the turn of events – he would have avoided the historical gaps in his book.

The essay on Thailand also suffers from this gap. Mr. Buruma says that “The Thais have been both clever and lucky in their relations with foreigners. The Thais were lucky that the British and the French, the two major colonial powers, neutralized each other, so that Siam became a kind of buffer zone between Burma, Malaya, and Indochina….”

This is a flippant assertion; the events of history do not bear this out. A country is not simply “lucky” that the two colonizers around it “neutralized” each other. Saying so is to diminish the pivotal role played by King Chulalongkorn (known to the Thais as Chula Chom Klao or Rama V), who reigned from 1868-1910. Educated by European tutors and drawing inspiration from his father, the great libertarian King Mongkut (known to the Thais as Phra Chom Klao or Rama IV), King Chulalongkorn opened the doors of his country wider to the West. He also built railroads, established a civil service, and restructured the legal code. Verily, he brought his country to the 20th century.

But this was also the time when Siam was being threatened by two greedy colonial powers. How to ward off the might of these two empires—the British and the French? It is not a matter of luck, then, but shrewdness that saved the day for Siam. King Chulalongkorn and his emissaries negotiated with the French and British colonial powers. True, the King was compelled to concede some territory to French Indochina (Laos in 1893 and Cambodia in 1907) and to the British Burma (three Malayan states in 1909). But the fruit of these concessions was that Siam was never colonized, and a large part of its territory remained under Siamese hands. And to this day, the Thais are one of the proudest peoples in Asia, with dignity and a sense of national self intact.

Perhaps I am just a Filipino who is a student of his country’s history, but I found Mr. Buruma’s essay on the Philippines similar to a golf course – full of holes. In the first sentence alone, he calls Olongapo City a “typical Filipino town.” How could a town of 250,000, which hosted an American base, be called typical? Then and now, the typical Filipino town is a small, agricultural place where life revolves around the town square bordered by the church, the marketplace, the municipal hall, and the houses of the few elite.

Then Mr. Buruma also calls Ferdinand Blumentritt, the Filipino national hero Dr. Jose Rizal’s friend, “an obscure Austrian schoolmaster.” Blumentritt was a professor, yes, but he was also a doctor and a scientist renowned in Europe during his time. Then Mr. Buruma adds that Rizal had Japanese blood (not true; he had Chinese blood), had lived much of his life abroad (not true), and called the Propaganda movement Rizal’s movement (not true, it was started by the lawyer and journalist Marcelo H. del Pilar).

Moreover, Mr. Buruma adds that many Filipinos like to claim that Rizal and his fellow ilustrados (the Enlightened ones, the leaders) in the Propaganda movement “were the first modern nationalists in Asia. . . “ Filipinos never claimed that; perhaps Mr. Buruma’s informants did. But what many Filipinos claim is that the Philippines became the first independent republic in Asia in 1898 – a claim that is based on historical fact. Mr. Buruma also says that the Rizal millenarian cult is based in Mount Makiling when, in fact, it is based in the bigger Mount Banahaw. Mount Makiling is the small mountain that can be seen from the azotea (porch) of Rizal’s ancestral house in Calamba, Laguna, south of Metro Manila.

There are more. Mr. Buruma claims that “the typical hero [in Filipino movies] is a simple man who gets abused and humiliated, often sexually, all through the film.” I have been watching Filipino films for the past decades and I have yet to come across a Filipino film with this plotline. Then he said that “one Canadian Zen master set up a successful business in Manila by convincing Filipinos that they, as a people, are especially gifted for spiritual quests….” Filipinos need no reminders about these. The country is full of faith healers and espiritistas (spiritual mediums), from Luzon to Mindanao, who are more imaginative than a Canadian Zen master.

Moreover, Mr. Buruma claims that “Filipinos have no collective memory, no recorded history that precedes Spanish conquest….” The point is that history – or literature or other forms of culture – is not always recorded in print. Philippine literature, like the pre-colonial literature of its Southeast Asian neighbors, was mostly oral and handed down the generations by the centuries-old tradition of oral storytelling. The Philippines has a wealth of epics that are as larger-than-life as any Western one, and a trove of poems, riddles, and proverbs that have the lyricism and pith of the haiku, or of any poem written by Wang Wei, Li Po, or Tu Fu.

Then, Mr. Buruma notes that the education minister from Cebu (he was referring to Mrs. Lourdes Quesumbing) was not understood by the Tagalogs of Luzon when she spoke in Cebuano at the Rizal Park. But Cebuano and Tagalog are cousin languages, the way Tagalog and Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia are cousin languages. This cluster of cousin-languages came from the Austro-Polynesian line of languages, such that when I speak in Tagalog now, my Malay friend in Kuala Lumpur can understand some of the words I use because they have the same meanings. Therefore, when a Cebuano speaks, a Tagalog could understand the gist of what he or she is saying because of more similarities between these two major Philippine languages.

Although Mr. Buruma is a fine and accessible guide to modern Asia, what we need at this point in our cultural history are writers who come from the continent itself. Steeped in the history of Asia and nurtured by its cultures, I hope that they will write the books that will finally give authentic voices to the complex and colorful continent we live in. A few of them have already done that. The real journey, then, has just begun.

God's Dust can be ordered from Power Books.

Noisy Republic

By Ricky Carandang
rogue Magazine
www.rogue.ph

This fearless forecast predicts more of the sameóterm-extension schemes, shifting political alliances, and continued combat in Mindanao with the dubious consolation that other Southeast Asian nations will share some of our indignity next year.

Politics in this country is like the stock market . . . volatile and difficult to predict.

The only thing anyone these days is willing to say about the market is that it will be volatile and unpredictable. It’s probably safe to say the same thing about politics in 2009. Chances are, it will be another noisy year.
Where will the noise come from?

I believe that attempts by the Arroyo administration to amend the Constitution to extend the president’s term beyond 2010 will come to a head early next year. With the Senate now in the more openly friendly hands of Juan Ponce Enrile, the Palace probably sees an opening to dance the ChaCha.

Far-fetched? Remember this: every president after Cory Aquino has tried to extend his term. Fidel Ramos’s 1997 signature campaign, aptly named “Pirma,” was well underway until it hit a tide of widespread public opposition. It was only the people’s presence in the streets at demonstrations that stopped it in its tracks. Joseph Estrada put together a study group to draft a new constitution, but he was ousted before the effort could even take off.

The desire to remain in office beyond one’s original term has been a constant factor with all politicians. Power is like a drug habit that is difficult to kick. And it’s hard to believe that Arroyo, who is probably more ambitious than Estrada and Ramos, would not even consider it, especially when the conditions look favorable.

And they do look favorable.

After all, every single attempt to remove Arroyo from office, whether legally through impeachment or illegally through a coup, has failed. Scandal after scandal has numbed the public, and many are genuinely tired of going to the streets. With most of the bishops, the military, the courts, the House, and now the Senate behind her, who’s going to stop her? Certainly not the media.

The desire to remain in office beyond one’s original term has been a constant factor with all politicians. Power is like a drug habit that is difficult to kick.
Looking at it from that perspective, it would certainly be worth a shot, wouldn’t it? After all, the worst that could happen would be that the public or the military pushes back. Either way she doesn’t lose anything by trying.
Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy. There are many people out there who won’t go quietly into the proverbial night, and they will try to stand up against it, and so we can expect a lot of noise to come out of the whole process.

Assuming though that Arroyo doesn’t succeed in staying on, campaigning for 2010 would begin in earnest by the middle of the year. Yes, it already has sort of begun, but all that jockeying by the candidates will grow in intensity next year as they try to build alliances for themselves and undermine those of their rivals.

When this happens, expect a further blurring of the lines between opposition and administration. No candidate wants the vast powers of the presidency bearing down on them to undermine their candidacy, so they will be less hostile to the Arroyo administration in the coming months until Arroyo anoints someone—then everyone who is not chosen will capitalize on public anger towards her by claiming the mantle of opposition leader.

And the lower life forms of politics—congressmen, mayors, governors—will all start aligning themselves with one candidate or another hoping to get in early on their next gravy train. You’ll need a scorecard to keep up with the shifting alliances.

And, of course, there’s the global recession, which is likely to make itself felt here early next year. More people will be laid off, consumer spending will come down, and people will get angrier. The angrier they are the more noise they’ll make. Not that it will amount to anything in the long run.

Politicians will start aligning themselves with one candidate or another, hoping to get in early on their next gravy train. You’ll need a scorecard to keep up with the shifting alliances.
And then there’s the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao. With the peace talks with the Moro Islamic LIberation Front as good as dead, fighting will likely continue. Our soldiers don’t have the resources to deal a decisive blow to the M.I.L.F., and the M.I.L.F. can’t launch more than the occasional offensive, so no one will have a clear advantage in terms of force. The M.I.L.F. could see itself waging an internal war between the hard-liners who insist on a separate state and the moderates who can live with autonomy. That should keep them from becoming a serious threat to national security unless they start playing footsies with the Jemaah Islamiya again, but if they do that they run the risk of President Obama stepping into the picture more forcefully and tipping the military balance decisively in the government’s favor. Of course, any intervention by Uncle Sam would be done without American troops engaging in combat and violating our constitution. Ha Ha.

If it’s any consolation, we’re no longer the only country in the region that will see an exciting year, politically.

In Thailand, the rich urban middle class will probably keep ousting their prime ministers, and the poor rural classes will probably keep voting them back into office. Whoever says a parliamentary form of government is more stable can go to Bangkok where they’re likely to play out the cycle of ousting and installing a few more governments next year.

In Malaysia, former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is getting closer to ousting the long-ruling UMNO party. He’s already won a seat in parliament though a landslide and is now enticing members of UMNO to defect. Of course, future prime minster Najib Razak isn’t going to simply allow Anwar to do that. And so, expect a lot of Philippine-style political maneuvering and counter-maneuvering in Malaysia next year. The outcome? Who knows, but Malaysia will be a lot noisier in the year ahead.

Despite all this, we Filipinos will soldier on in our noisy disorganized way and somehow survive it all as we look forward to the next noisy year.

Two allies urge Arroyo to rest after term ends

www.abs-cbnNEWS.com | 06/11/2009 7:29 PM

*

Of course, they would. The cracks are there, and the exodus away from the PALAKA (Partido Lakas Kampi) has begun. There will be more statements of positioning and distancing in the next few days, weeks, months.

The GMA presidency is playing out like one of the tragic plays of Shakespeare: to be powerless, to be alone, and to be betrayed by those whom you trusted, alack and alas, that is how the wheel mercilessly turns.

*

If President Arroyo were to seek their advice, Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor and Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino would tell her to forego any plan to seek another elected post after her term expires in June 2010.

“Definitely, she can't run for president. But if it's for another office, she can run. She can run as congresswoman or member of Senate. Pero nakapagsilbi na naman sya sa bayan. Siyam na taon na naman. Wala naman talagang public clamor for her to stay in office. Siguro, tama naman na magpahinga na,” Defensor, a member of the ruling Lakas-CMD-Kampi, told reporters on Thursday.

“It’s irrelevant to me whether she seeks another position,” Antonino, also a member the Lakas-CMD-Kampi, said at another press conference.

Although he said he is not privy to the President’s plans, Antonino said he was not surprised when he heard the report that Mrs. Arroyo may run for parliament in case there is a shift to a parliamentary form of government.

“It's natural. Maghahanap ng protection,” he said.

Nevertheless, Antonino said it may be best for the Arroyo family to live a private life after 2010. He cited the health condition of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, who underwent a heart surgery in 2007.

Antonino noted how the First Gentleman, a fan of Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao, upon the advice by his doctors, is not even allowed to watch boxing matches.

Arroyo to run if...

Presidential Legal Adviser Raul Gonzalez, in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News’s Julius Babao on Wednesday, said President Arroyo will run again in May 2010 if efforts to change the form of government from presidential to parliamentary through a constituent assembly succeed.

He said he believes that President Arroyo will run for a parliamentary seat in Pampanga so she could be elected as Prime Minister in 2010 in case the current efforts to change the charter through a Senate-less constituent assembly materialize.

"I will not be surprised if the President will run as Member of Parliament," Gonzalez said.

He said threats by opposition presidential aspirants that they will support efforts to file graft and corruption raps against Arroyo after she loses her presidential immunity on June 30, 2010 are helping encourage Mrs. Arroyo's desire to stay in office.

"[I think she will run] lalo na there are so many threats against her naman. Every announced candidate said he will prosecute her. Aba'y 'di... that's a factor, of course," Gonzalez said.

Broken promise

He admitted to having pushed President Arroyo to run for the presidency in 2004 despite having previously announced that she had "decided not to run" so she can help unite a divided nation.

"I was the one who asked her to run again," Gonzalez said.

As a result, Mrs. Arroyo received a lot of flak for not keeping her promise.

Gonzalez said that this "Arroyo as prime minister scenario" will only happen if the 1987 Constitution is changed, and the form of government becomes parliamentary.

He said this is why he is supporting House Resolution 1109 calling on Congress to convene as a constituent assembly in order to amend the 1987 Constitution even without the Senate.

Gonzalez said the Constitution is vague on whether a constituent assembly without the Senate is allowed.

Thus, he said it is necessary for the Supreme Court to settle this ambiguity as soon as possible.

Gonzalez said prospects for a successful charter change via a constituent assembly are declining the longer the process takes.

Independence Day

By Maria A. Ressa
Head, ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs;
Managing Director, ANC | 06/11/2009 1:42 AM
www.abs-cbnnews.com


You are powerful. You will make a difference. If we all come together now, we will reach the tipping point when change becomes inevitable and irreversible. These are the ideas behind Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo: Ako ang Simula, and there is no better time than now.

When friends and family overseas ask me what it’s like to live in the Philippines today, I tell the story of a famous science experiment that’s been used to describe the Middle East, global warming, and in my book, Indonesia right before the fall of Suharto. It’s about a frog and its survival instincts. If you throw a frog in a pot of boiling water, it immediately jumps out. But if you put the frog in the pot on a burner with cool tap water, it stays there. Then you slowly turn up the heat. The temperature rises. The frog, which can jump out of the pot at any time, gets so used to the water that it doesn’t feel the gradual changes in temperature. Soon, the water is boiling and the frog dies in the pot, its natural instincts for self-preservation lulled into a fatal complacency. That is what is happening today.

When Congress passed House Bill 1109 calling for a Constituent Assembly without the Senate, it changed our society. The heat has been turned up, and despite assurances that we will have elections, yet another line has been crossed in the sand like Proclamation 1017 in 2006, the arrests of journalists at the Peninsula in 2007, the ongoing killings of journalists and activists – and just this weekend, the assassination of Sumilao farmer Rene Penas.

Along with the Constituent Assembly, congressmen also threatened to pass House Bill 3306, the right of reply – which if turned into law would put a sledgehammer in the hands of vested interests for the purpose of killing an ant. By using that hammer, it risks destroying the entire structure the ant is standing on. As it stands now, outdated Marcos-era laws like “obstruction of justice” and “wiretapping” are being revived and given new meaning to intimidate, harass and arrest journalists. But those “laws” pale in comparison to what can be done to stifle dissent and free speech with the right of reply bill.

Journalists, united across news groups, organized last week to protest. We called it unconstitutional, a form of prior restraint. The bill is incomplete, chaotic, impossible to implement and a throwback to an authoritarian past at a time when the rest of the world is embracing new media and technology. (It will affect bloggers and anyone else writing on the internet!) While it wasn’t passed, it continues to hang like a Damocles’ sword over our heads. The heat has been turned up again.

If you look closely, there are many instances like this affecting different groups – which ultimately change our society – and not for the better. The strategy is effective: focus on the details and parse the Truth. I recognize it from my days reporting on Suharto. When you parse the Truth, details – disconnected from a larger whole – lose their meaning, and it becomes difficult to assess exactly when the line has been crossed … or in the case of the frog, when it’s time to jump out. This is a time that requires vigilance and courage.

Last month (one year before elections), ABS-CBN and our partners, Globe, Bayan, STI, the Philippine Star, BusinessWorld, Comelec, PPCRV, Namfrel and YouthVote Philippines launched Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo: Ako ang Simula nationwide – in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. In one day, thousands of people lined up in the hot sun, waiting for hours to register to vote and become boto patrollers – citizens who promise to use new media and their cellphones to patrol the vote and push for clean elections in May 2010. We held the first of our leadership series – with presidential candidates Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon, Ed Panlilio, Mar Roxas and Gilbert Teodoro – and we had to turn people away at the Ateneo auditorium! The enthusiasm and the thirst for new ways of doing things was palpable that night.

It was the unofficial beginning of election season. Comelec credited our aggressive registration drive for helping increase voter registration by 456% from April to May. We weren’t alone. We helped ignite a plurality of efforts – youth groups like First Time Voters, YouthVote Philippines and Ayala Young Leaders, along with politicians like Register and Vote (RV) and Kaya Natin. Even the sometimes controversial Ako Mismo campaign followed and pushed the same idea of individual will and effort.

This month, we take it a step further. On June 5, we held our second leadership forum, this time at the University of the Philippines with Jejomar Binay, Joseph Estrada, Bayani Fernando and Loren Legarda (Ping Lacson announced he would drop out of the race that night). Like the first one, students lined up and were turned away after the house was packed hours before the program was slated to begin. Despite the rains, they refused to go home, instead choosing to sit on the floor outside watching the monitors. Inside, the candidates and audience braved the barely functioning airconditioning for nearly three hours for a spirited, substantive and often funny dialogue. The forum aired on ANC live on June 5, on Studio 23 on June 6 and on ABS-CBN on June 7. You can watch online on abs-cbnnews.com.

On June 11, ABS-CBN will take the signature drumbeats from 2007’s Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo to form the foundation of our music video launch of Ako ang Simula, spearheaded by singer-songwriter Rico Blanco, Imago lead singer Aia de Leon and Sandwich frontman Raimund Marasigan. They are joined by Barbie, Sinosikat, Rocksteddy, Chicosci, the Ambassador, Salamin, Pochoy, AstroJuan, the reporters, anchors and managers of ABS-CBN News in a musical call for change: “Wag nang mahimbing sa sariling mundo/Wag nang iwaldas ang dekadang bago/Ako ang tutupad sa pangakong ito/Ako ang Simula ng pagbabago.” Watch it live today at 10 am on ABS-CBN, ANC and Studio 23.

June’s cornerstone is Independence Day, our effort to fast-forward its meaning to the twenty-first century. The core of our campaign is how traditional media can combine with new media and mobile phone technology to transform society and clean up our elections. In 2007, we empowered ordinary Filipinos and they rose to the challenge – 500 messages a day in the run-up to elections and more than 2,000 messages on election day! That is only a rehearsal for what we can collectively do in 2010.

On June 12, the full force of ABS-CBN kicks into high gear again nationwide - in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao – and, this time, internationally – in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. Comelec works on a holiday so you can register to vote. Become a boto patroller in 19 ABS-CBN stations nationwide and with anchors Pinky Webb in Legazpi City, Julius Babao in Iloilo City and Ces Drilon in General Santos City. All day coverage begins at 5:15 in the morning and ends after midnight the next day.

The times, they are a-changing, and we are keeping pace. Millions of Filipinos are taking part in our efforts through traditional media, but new media gives a chance for immediate feedback and action. That is changing societies globally, and it is happening here. There are so many inspirational moments in the past month and a half – moments of yearning, anger, joy and tremendous patience from thousands of Filipinos waiting hours in lines – to register and vote, to become a boto patroller, to watch the leadership forums – which at one point had nearly 150,000 people chatting and tweeting (using twitter) on new media. On the first night, the number of people who registered using their mobile phones increased by 1,700% after a TV Patrol World story!

Let me end the way I began and come full circle. The heat is rising. What we choose to do is up to each of us. The core of our campaign is simple. You are powerful. You will make a difference. If we all come together now, we will reach the tipping point when change – real, positive change – becomes inevitable and irreversible. If you’ve had enough and want better, join us. Stand up and say AKO ANG SIMULA.

Papayag ba tayo?

By Ellen Tordesillas
www.ellentordesillas.com
June 9, 2009

Bukas, magkita-kita tayo sa Ayala ng ika-lima ng hapon.

Ipakita natin ang ating pagtutol sa panloloko na ginagawa ni Gloria Arroyo sa pamamagitan ng Con-Ass na kanyang isinusulong pra siya manatili sa kapangyarihan habambuhay.

Sabi ni Rep. Mauricio Domogan, isa sa may-akda ng nakakadiri na House Resolution 1109, na kahit mag-ngangawa ang mga tao sa kalsada, wala silang paki-alam. Itutuloy nila ang kanilang ilegal na gawain.


Sabi niya sa susunod na buwan bubuu-in na ng mga congressman ang Constituent Assembly. Sabi niya kina-calibrate o tinatanya nila ang mga pangyayari.

Tama yun, sa isip nina Gloria Arroyo, hindi na mangyayari ang people power. Magra-rally man ang mga tao, isang araw lang yun. Sa hirap ba naman ng buhay ngayon, sino naman ang magtityaga na magprotesta. Kaya, maari nilang gawin ang ano man na pambabastos ng batas, alam nilang hindi mangyayari ang nangyari noong 1986 kay Marcos at noong 2001 kay Estrada.

Hawak ni Gloria Arroyo ang military kaya kahit mag-rally at magsisigaw sa kalsada araw-araw, wala silang paki-alam.

Ano ba talaga ang gusto ni Arroyo? Klaro na ayaw niya bumaba sa puwesto sa 2010. Alam niyang kapag bumaba siya, sa kulungan ang bagsak niya sa daming krimen na kanyang ginawa sa bayan. Simula sa kanyang pag-agaw ng pagkapresidente noong 2001, sa kanyang pandaraya noong 2004 na eleksyon na narinig natin sa “Hello Garci”, sa fertilizer scam, sa NBN/ZTE at marami pa.

Ngayon halos pag-aari na niya ang Pilipinas sa pag-gapang niya ng mga malalaking kumpanya sa pamamagitan ng kanyang mga crony. Ngunit alam niya na hindi nya yun maprutektahan kapag hindi na siya ang naka-upo sa Malacañang.

Sa halagang P20 milyon bayat isang boto, ipinasa ng kanyang mga tuta sa House of Representatives ang isang ilegal na resolusyon na magbuo ng Constituent Assembly para mag-palit ng Constitution para mapalawig pa ang paghawak ni Arroyo ng kapangyarihan.

Ayon sa Constitution, ang Constituent Assembly ay dapat binubuo ng Senado at House of Representatives. Dahil alam nilang hindi nila makuha ang Senado para mambastos ng Constitution, sila na lang daw na kongresista.

Ilegal ang kanilang ginagawa at pambabastos ng Constitution. Ito ang ating tinututulan. Kaya tayo nagra-rally.

Dahil mukhang pursigido talagang itulak ang kanilang maitim na balak, siguradong magiging matindi ang protesta sa susunod na mga linggo. Nababahala ang mga lider ng simbahan at negosyo na baka kapag tumindi ang protesta ay gagamitin ni Arroyo ang kanyang mga loyalistang pulis at militar ay magdeklara ng martial law at emergency rule.

Yun lahat ay depende sa atin kung papayagan natin.

Tipping point for cha-cha

By Mon Casiple
www.moncasiple.wordpress.com

The congressmen who voted for the holding of the GMA constituent assembly feel the universal heat. Putting up a brave face, many of them contemplate the possible impact of their decision on their candidacies and political future. Some even blamed the Senate (?) for the HOR Con-Ass decision.

There is a miscalculation of the public’s anti-GMA sentiment–it’s transferable. In the 2007 elections, it translated to losses of erstwhile high-rating senatorial candidates. It also led to Senator Trillanes’ victory who ran only on this single issue. The GMA kiss of death, despite Secretary Gilbert Teodoro’s optimism, is a major factor in the coming 2010 elections, particularly if GMA continues at the helm of the current government.

The congressmen went out on a limb when they–for their own reasons–chose to push forward with the Con-Ass initiative. In many places, even in their own dynastic heartlands, GMA is the current issue. Combined with the rising anti-trapo sentiments and various citizen’s initiatives in electoral monitoring, there is a greater chance this accommodation of GMA’s survival scheme will cost them their political influence, even their own seats.

This is still too early to see how the Con-Ass participation will actually impact on them. However, the trend is the widening and deepening of the opposition to the initiative. A defiant House of Representatives will increasingly be beleaguered along with GMA herself. The unconstitutional convening of the constituent assembly itself can tip the balance and send the whole thing spiralling into a constitutional crisis. People power is a distinct possibility in this case.

The worst-case scenario stares the congressmen in their collective faces. Charter change this late into the electoral scenario turns them into political pariahs–it may even lead to their political demise.

My fearless forecasts

We have to thank the Arroyo administration for making it possible for the Catholic, Protestant, Born-Again, Muslim leaders and followers to close ranks. As Barack Obama said, let us listen to those who have faith -- and to those without faith. I am sure the agnostics, atheists, and those in the balag ng alanganin are also agitated, angered, even insulted by the nerve of Congress to push for a Con-Ass resolution near midnight. They always do it in the dark: the proclamation of GMA as president, her visit to Boao in China to witness the signing of the NBN-ZTE deal, the banishment of Joe de Venecia from his lofty perch as speaker of the house.

On second thought, I am happy that Ang Ladlad was not allowed to run in the last elections. I am sure we would have won two seats, but that meant sharing space with the vomitable amongst us.

And my foreless forecasts:

1. Lakas-Kampi-CMD will have wider and deeper cracks and will not be the behemoth party it is being touted to be. Blame it on human nature, especially the greedy, blistery nature of our local politicians. They will all want to run for governor, or board member, or mayor -- and that will make the cracks wider and deeper. In short, this will be the lameduck party in the 2010 elections.

2. Will there be elections? GMA and her cohorts from the land of darkness are trying their mighty best for it not to prosper (no pun to Prospero Nograles). Only those who are hiding something need fear another election, like vermin or viruses afraid of the sun. GMA and her cohorts will try their utmost best, but fail in preventing elections to be held in 2010. What, you want to deprive Filipinos of their fiesta, sabong, and New Year's paputok rolled into one? You must be crazeee.

3. The administration team will lose mightily. In the senatorial contest, only Bong Revilla will win in the administration side. And please note that after coddling Careless Whispers in public, Revilla is now making an anti-Cha Cha posture. He has correctly sniffed the wind, being the true and loyal son of Nardong Putik that he is, and sniffted it well; thus, the slow, sure movement away from the shadow of Bugs Bunny. Who else will win in the administration side? Ralph Recto, if he is lucky and if Bear Brand will help him. Miriam, too, but can you trust Lady Miriam not to swing to the opposition side when the going gets tough and rough for GMA and her cohorts? And Tito Sotto, also, might win, but I hope he does not. In short, the opposition (or its various shades) will clobber the administration in the senatorial elections.

4. How about the presidential and vp elections? Noli and Kiko want to do an independent jig, but I think they will both fail. Noli has to contend with his alliance with GMA, and Kiko has to contend with lack of funds. Even if Madame Sharon sells another house in the south, again, it will not be enough for the P1 billion needed for one to run as VP. When people tell me why can't we do an Obama campaign and ask funds from the people, I answer, hoo-haa? Filipino voters want to be given money; they do not want to give money. That is one mentality we have to change. And so I return again to my beef about the need for a voters' education, which should be on the early agenda for the 2013 elections. Why 2013? Because it is too late now to have a voters' education campaign, 11 months before the May 2010 elections. Mind-sets take time to change; brain cells have the habit of solidifying and staying there, lika barnacles in mind.

So who will fight it out in the pres and vp elections? My five centavos' worth:

Chiz and Loren, or Loren and Chiz -- NPC
Mar and Ping -- LP
Noli and Kiko -- Independent kuno
Manny and Jinggoy -- NP and Puwersa ng Masa

The Supreme Court will bar Estrada from running, so all his funds will go to help Jinggoy in his run as VP. The young Estrada -- who has his father's gift of gab -- will give Chiz/Loren a helluva time in the VP race. But in the end, either Loren/Chiz will win the VP. And as for the presidency, what is my super-hyper-mega fearless forecast?

I am keeping my cards close to my chest, because even if I am affiliated with LP, I have not yet signed the membership form and have not yet taken an oath of office.

In short, I am free as the flowers and the bees buzzing outside my window.

I will decide on which party to join before November 1, 2009.

Tipping point, at last?

BIG DEAL
By Dan Mariano
The Manila Times
June 8, 2010

Dan Mariano is a friend of mine and one of the most astute political analysts in town. Read most especially the list of congress people who voted for the pro-GMA bill. For that is what it is, a pro-GMA bill. A few of those in the list are friends of mine. I am sure the political wind will blow another way in November of 2009, when we have filed our certificates of candidacy and the GMA ship of state would be shot full with holes, the rats scampering away from the sinking ship. But by that time, will I still take the phone calls of my so-called friends?

***



Flashback to January 2001. The opposition walks out of the Senate impeachment trial of then-President Joseph Estrada. Filipinos, first, by the hundreds, then by the thousands and finally by the hundreds of thousands, gather in protest and indignation at the EDSA Shrine.

Then-Ambassador Ernesto Maceda pooh-poohs the significance of the daily demonstrations at EDSA. Give those people four or five days and they will get tired and go home, he says—or words to that effect.

We all know what happened.

Fast-forward to June 4, 2009. Malacañang is reported to have “shrugged off the threat by civil society and militant groups to mount street protests” against House Resolution 1109.

“That’s nothing new,” chortles Malacañang mouthpiece Anthony Golez. “Anytime and anything that would raise the issue of [Charter change], the same people would go down the streets.”

Shorn of its grammatical lapses, Golez’s scornful remarks rang eerily similar to the dismissive statements of Maceda on the eve of what was to become the second people power uprising that toppled Estrada.

Will Golez’s words return to haunt him in the not too distant future?

HR 1109 signatories

According to the blogsite Filipino Voices, the representatives who signed House Resolution 1109 are:

Bienvenido Abante, Manila; Roque Ablan Jr., Ilocos Norte; Victor Aguedo Agbayani, Pangasinan; Manuel Ayago, Kalinga; Rodolfo Albano 3rd, Isabela; Felix Alfelor Jr., Camarines Sur; Thelma Almario, Davao Oriental; Antonio Alvarez, Palawan; Genaro Rafael Alvarez Jr., Negros Occidental; Edelmiro Amante, Agusan del Norte;

Rommel Amatong, Compostela Valley; Ma. Zenaida Angping, Manila; Rodolfo Antonino, Nueva Ecija; Trinidad Apostol, Leyte; Jose Aquino, Agusan del Norte; Ma. Evita Arago, Laguna; A. Munir Arbison, Sulu; Ma. Rachel Arenas, Pangasinan; Diosdado Arroyo, Camarines Sur; Ignacio Arroyo, Negros Occidental; Juan Miguel Arroyo, Pampanga;

Amado Bagatsing, Manila; Pangalian M. Balindong, Lanao del Sur; Elpidio Barzaga Jr., Cavite; Franklin Bautista, Davao del Sur; Vicente Belmonte Jr., Lanao del Norte; Al Francis Bichara, Albay; Ferjenel Biron, Iloilo; Anna York Bondoc, Pampanga; Ma. Theresa Bonoan-David, Manila; Narciso Bravo Jr., Masbate;

Nicanor Briones, Agap party list; Eileen Ermita Buhain, Batangas; Elias Bulut Jr., Apayao; Marc Douglas Cagas 4th, Davao del Sur; Mary Mitzi Cajayon, Caloocan; Roberto Cajes, Bohol; Carmen Cari, Leyte; Fredenil Castro, Capiz; Arthur Celeste, Pangasinan; Antonio Cerilles, Zamboanga del Sur; Edgardo Chatto, Bohol;

Glenn Chong, Biliran; Solomon Chunga-Lao, Ifugao; Marina Clarete, Misamis Occidental; Eufrocino Codilla, Leyte; Mark Cojuangco, Pangasinan; Teodulo Coquilla, Eastern Samar; Vincent Crisologo, Quezon City; Junie Cue, Quirino; Antonio Cuenco, Cebu City; Samuel Dangwa, Benguet; Simeon Datumanong, Maguindanao;

Nelson Dayanghirang, Davao Oriental; Nanette Daza, Quezon City; Paul Daza, Northern Samar; Del de Guzman, Marikina; Arthur Defensor Sr., Iloilo; Matias Defensor Jr., Quezon City; Raul del Mar, Cebu City; Carlo Oliver Diasnes, Batanes; Abdullah Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte; Mauricio Domogan, Baguio; Michael John Duavit, Rizal;

Henry Dueñas Jr., Taguig; Faysah MRP Dumarpa, Lanao del Sur; Thomas Dumpit Jr., La Union; Ramon Durano IV, Cebu; Glenda Ecleo, Dinagat Islands; Yevgeny Vicente Emano, Misamis Oriental; Wilfrifo Mark Enverga, Quezon; Conrado Estrella III, Pangasinan; Robert Raymund Estrella, Abono party list;

Jeffrey Ferrer, Negros Occidental; Florencio Garay, Surigao del Sur; Albert Garcia, Bataan; Pablo John Garcia, Cebu; Pablo Garcia, Cebu; Vincent Garcia, Davao City; Janette Garin, Iloilo; Rexlon Gatchalian, Valenzuela; Angelito Gatlabayan, Antipolo; Arnulfo Go, Sultan Kudarat; Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Pampanga;

Raul Gonzales Jr., Iloilo City; Eduardo Gullas, Cebu; Magtanggol Gunigundo, Valenzuela; Dulce Ann Hofer, Zamboanga Sibugay; Nur Jaafar, Tawi-Tawi; Adam Relson Jala, Bohol; Cesar Jalosjos, Zamboanga del Nrote; Cecilia Jalosjos-Carreon, Zamboanga del Nrote; Yusop Jikiri, Sulu;

Antonio Kho, Masbate; Rosen-do Labadlabad, Zamboanga del Nrote; Jose Carlos Lacson, Negros Occidental; Antonio Lagdameo, Davao del Norte; Jeci Lapus, Tarlac; Carmelo Lazatin, Pam-panga; Reno Lim, Albay; Jaime Lopez, Manila; Eleanora Jesus Madrona, Romblon; Ma. Milagros Magsaysay, Zambales; Oscar Malapitan, Caloocan;

Manuel Mamba, Cagayan; Datu Pakung Mangudadatu, Sultan Kudarat; Alfredo Marano III, Negros Occidental; Francisco Matugas, Surigao del Norte; Mark Leandro Mendoza, Batangas; Roger Mercado, Southern Leyte; Florencio Miraflores, Aklan; Joaquin C. R. Navas, Guimaras; Reylina Nicolas, Bulacan;

Prospero Nograles, Davao City; Arrel Olaños, Davao del Nrote; Emil Ong, Northern Samar; Victor Francisco Ortega, La Union; Ernesto Pablo, APEC party list; Pedro Pancho, Bulacan; Candido Pancrudo, Bukidnon; Philip Pichay, Surigao del Sur; Bernado Piñol Jr., North Cotabato; Roberto Puno, Antipolo;

Herminia Ramiro, Misamis Occidental; Jesus Crispin Remulla, Cavite; Carmelita Reyes, Marinduque; Victoria Reyes, Batangas; Arturo Robes, San Jose del Monte; Adelina Rodriguez-Zaldarriaga, Rizal; Herminia Roman, Bataan; Guillermo Romarate Jr., Surigao del Norte; Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Leyte;

Pedro Romualdo, Camiguin; Roman Romulo, Pasig; Jose Antonio Roxas, Pasay; Benhur Salimbangon, Cebu; Andres Salvacion Jr., Leyte; Edgar San Luis, Laguna; Alvin Sandoval, Malabon-Navotas; Joseph Santiago, Catanduanes; Narciso Santiago III, ARC party list; Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, Masbate; Cecilia Seares-Luna, Abra;

Lorna Silverio, Bulacan; Eric Singson, Ilocos Sur; Ronald Singson, Ilocos Sur; Jose Solis, Sorsogon; Nerissa Corazon Soon-Ruiz, Cebu; Danilo Suarez, Quezon; Mary Ann Susano, Quezon City; Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado, Bulacan; Judy Syjuco, Iloilo; Emmylou Talino-Mendoza; Sharee Ann Tan, Samar;

Marcelino Teodoro, Marikina; Monica Louise Teodoro, Tarlac; Pryde Henry Teves, Negros Oriental; Neil Tupas, Iloilo; Isidro Ungab, Davao City; Edwin Uy, Isabela; Reynaldo Uy, Samar; Rolando Uy, Cagayan de Oro; Edgar Valdez, APEC party list; Rodolfo Valencia, Oriental Mindoro; Florencio Vargas, Oriental Mindoro;

Florencio Vargas, Cagayan; Luis Villafuerte, Camarines Sur; Ma. Amelita Villarosa, Occidental Mindoro; Joseph Gilbert Violago, Nueva Ecija; Jose Yap, Tarlac; Victor Yu, Zamboanga del Sur; Manuel Zamora, Compostela Valley; and Eduardo Zialcita, Parañaque.

The list of HR 1109 signatories continues to be replicated as if it were a roster of rogues in numerous blogspots, websites and social networks, as opposition to the congressmen’s self-serving bid to rewrite the 1987 Constitution mounts.

Could this be—as Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay asked at the Kapihan sa Sulo media forum Saturday—the tipping point?

dansoy26@yahoo.com

'Padyak' ads, Korina factor pull up Mar's ratings

by Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak | 06/02/2009 11:58 PM

I said this before in this blog. That -- even though reviled by the middle-class and those pretending to be middle-class in their blogs and private conversations -- the Padyak ad of Mar Roxas is effective among the 80 percent who comprise the masses, the bulk of the voting population. You need an image, a storyline, to endear yourself to the masses. Just try talking in English, or spewing statistics, or talking about your political dynasty, and it means the end of your political career.

And questions abound: why was my name not listed, again, in the latest SWS senatorial survey? Simple. I am not a subscriber to the survey, which in monetary terms means I did not pay P50,000 for my name to be listed there, as one of 65 people aspiring to be a senator of the land. Well, if in your heart of hearts you know you are a strong candidate, why waste $1,000 every quarter to see your name there?

Just a thought on this gray day.

***

Senator Manuel Roxas II's political ads and his televised wedding engagement to ABS-CBN broadcast journalist Korina Sanchez pulled him up in the latest Pulse Asia survey, three sources with access to key campaign data and information told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak in separate interviews.

The sources, all credible media campaign analysts, asked not to be named because of the key positions they occupy in their organizations.

Roxas's five percent climb in the May 4-17 survey from his eight percent rating last February is seen as a major development since he was the only one who moved up more than the three percent margin of error.

But in the absence of correlation data, the sources said they cannot calculate how much of the increase can be attributed to the ads and to Sanchez.

"The survey captured what they did. They launched 'Padyak' ads and the wedding engagement on a [high]-rating TV show," said one of the sources.

The wedding engagement was announced over ABS-CBN's top-rating noontime show Wowowee on April 25. This was less than two weeks before the Pulse Asia survey was conducted, which means the news was still fresh in the minds of respondents.

Roxas' "Padyak" ads were also aired during the survey period.

"It's a combination of the two," said another source. "She's showbiz." He said Roxas' relationship with Korina has endeared him to the masses, who comprise majority of the voters.

"It was his ad, and maybe the engagement. But a large factor is the ad, I think. It made people realize that he wants to run," said a third source.

Catching up

The May 2009 Pulse Asia survey showed Roxas, with 13 percent, had caught up with survey frontrunners Vice President Noli De Castro (18%), Senator Francis Escudero (17%), former President Joseph Estrada (15%), and Senator Manuel Villar (14%).

With a three percent plus/minus margin of error, all five are statistically tied at the top spot. De Castro's 18 percent could actually be 15 percent, while Roxas' 13 percent could be 16 percent.

Compared with the February 2009 Pulse Asia survey, De Castro, Estrada, and Villar slid down one percentage point each. Escudero remained at 17 percent.

The biggest loser in the May 2009 Pulse Asia survey was Senator Loren Legarda, who slipped from 12 percent to 7 percent. Senator Panfilo Lacson declined two percentage points from 6 to 4 percent.

One big difference between the February and May surveys of Pulse Asia is the names on the list presented to respondents. In the February survey, respondents chose from nine names. In the May survey, there were 16 names.

Padyak ads

In recent weeks, Roxas' camp has been promoting his "Padyak" ads.

In the TV ads, Roxas, who comes from the elite Araneta and Roxas clans, is shown driving a pedicab and telling poor children that he will take care of their future.

Among the five front runners, Roxas and Villar have had the most number of advertisements. All of them, however, have prominently been in the news.

However, the wedding engagement was hard to beat. It was shown on the top-rating show Wowowee, which cornered 21.8 percent of the nationwide audience during its timeslot on weekends, according to the April statistics of TNS Philippines, the local arm of the worldwide research firm TNS Global.

Wowowee was the most popular noontime show in April, according to the same survey.

The engagement was also widely covered by news and entertainment programs not only of ABS-CBN but also of other networks. The two were also interviewed separately about the engagement.

Repeating History?

Roxas' climb in the surveys is reminiscent of his performance in the 2004 elections, which he topped with almost 19 million votes.

His success in the 2004 polls was also attributed to his new relationship with Sanchez, plus his famous "Mr. Palengke" ads.

As early as 2003, rumors about their relationship were circulating. On Valentines Day in 2004, or three months before the elections, news reports showed them together in the concert of internationally renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

Roxas' camp calculated then that Sanchez had a 40 percent conversion rate. It meant that without Roxas's camp doing anything, four out of ten votes would vote for Roxas because of Sanchez.

Roxas had ranked 22nd in a September 2003 senatorial preference survey. Eight months later, he topped the senatorial polls.

He did even better than TV-movie star Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., who placed second with about 16 million votes.

Roxas's "Mr. Palengke" brand also had a catchy jingle, "Mr. Suave," by Parokya ni Edgar band, which likewise helped in marketing the candidate.

Officially, Roxas spent P69.4 million for his ads in 2004.