Liar, liar pants on fire

I called up Helen Flores of Philippine Star to ask her who sent her the press release showing a purported Pulse Asia senatorial survey that showed me getting only 0.7 percent, landing third from the bottom of the list.

She said, "Pulse Asia." I said that is impossible because I am not a subscriber to any of the surveys. Read: I did not pay P50,000 for my name to be there.

I told her to check out the website of Pulse Asia.

I did, again and again, and the alleged press release she got is not there. The only recent news item is the presidential survey. In short, it is a hatchet job.

Clearly, then, the hand of a muckracker is at work here. Some rich political party commissioned a survey, put my name there, and must have been shocked out of their dimwitted skulls when they saw me again up there in the list, past their nina bonita, as it has been in the last many surveys.

How do I know this? Because the other political parties inviting me to join their senatorial slates and offering me campaign funds with lots of zeroes also send me copies of the senatorial surveys, legitimate copies of which they had paid for.

And so, having legal rights on what they could do with the results, the original, rich political party that commissioned the survey invented a figure for my ranking, and threw me at third from the last spot. Very wicked, indeed. Maybe I am not third from the bottom, but third from the top of the senatorial surveys?

If money -- and the arrogance that having too much of it -- is the only thing a political party is bringing to the May 2010 elections, I am very sure it will lose. The gods of karma will make sure of that.

Money is not the only thing you need to bring to this campaign. Brains, too, and wit, and nobility of spirit.

And certainly, a sense of class.

Political jokes

By Lito Banayo
Ang Pahayagang Malaya
August 26. 2009

Trust Senadora Miriam to make your day whenever she vents her ire on whoever. Aliw na aliw.

She chewed Buboy Syjuco and spat him out with such sardonic humor that even the masa clearly understood. “Pasayaw-sayaw pa, e ang tanda-tanda na…puti na nga ang buhok!” And even if you knew she was purposely lying when she described her Jun Santiago as “one of the handsomest men in the country”, you simply got bowled over by the way she stitched her barbs together.

Indeed, Buboy Syjuco should ask himself --- why spend 28 million pesos of taxpayers’ money on an infomercial, just to make an ass of oneself. Surely there are cheaper ways to achieve the same result --- making an ass of himself.

* * *

The King of Saudi Arabia has been prevailed upon by the Royal Privy Council to cancel the purported state visit of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The King’s advisers got verified information that Dona Gloria is not “halal”.

* * *

I do not want to join the chorus asking Noynoy to run, whether for vice-president, as Mar Roxas and Frank Drilon hope, or as president, as others in the Liberal Party see as their ticket to glorious resurrection. As one who served in his mother Cory’s government, and was a friend of his dad Ninoy, I want to give him and the rest of his family the needed space --- to grieve, to collect their thoughts and feelings, unfettered by the political noise and perhaps the self-serving agenda of those who would use Noynoy for ends other than the perpetuation of the good and heroic memory of Ninoy and Cory.

So let me instead make him and others laugh. Here’s a joke that’s been passed to many:

Everyone and his mother (that’s not intended for anyone in particular, please) wants Noynoy to be his or her vice-presidential team-mate.

With the Filipinos’ love for abbreviating names and coming put with cute acronyms, how about these?

Mar-Noynoy tandem --- Ma-noy
Binay-Nonoy tandem --- Bi-noy
Chiz-Noynoy tandem --- Chin-noy
Ping-Noynoy tandem --- Pi-noy
Noli-Noynoy tandem --- No-noy
And the impossible tandem: Gloria with Noynoy --- Una-noy!

Joke, joke only!

* * *

The PaLaKa formula to make Gilbert Teodoro win the presidency, according to the disjointed parties’ strategists, goes like this.

Gilbert should up his survey numbers to at least 10 percent by November 30, or even close to that. Their “command” vote, their humongous machine-generated votes. Will give him a “sure” 15%. That makes a total of 25%, enough to make him win in what is expected to be a multi-candidate brawl. (FVR made it in 1992 with just 23.4% of the total vote, and Miriam still disputes that to this day).

Gibo’s problem is how to magically transform 0.2%, (that’s one-fifth of 1%, or out of 1,800 nationwide respondents, according to Pulse Asia, only 4, yes sir --- only four of 1,800 mentioned him as their choice for president if elections were held in the first week of August.

Now how does he get 180 votes or 10% in 90 days? From 4 to 180?

For starters, Gibo hired a talent scout and events manager to handle his pre-campaign. That explains the T-E-O-D-O-R-O disaster relief infomercial launched during the abbreviated Pacquiao fight last March. Pilit na pilit to give some calamity work nexus to Gibo’s family name. Sophomoric, to say the kindest. No wonder it was a disaster.

Could Gibo re-invent himself in the next 90 days? And it’s the lunar calendar’s ghost month, if he does his product re-launch. If you’re Chinese, or knows anything about feng-shui, you know what I mean.

* * *

But it seems like Gilbert’s Tito Danding is not laughing. And just to demonstrate he is dead serious about regaining political turf in his beloved Tarlac, he has persuaded his very private gentleman of a younger brother, Henry Cojuangco, to run for Congress in 2010, against Gilbert’s wife, Nikki Prieto-Teodoro.

Now surely, that’s no joke.

* * *

Another reader, reacting to our article on “Senator-hopefuls”, loved the way we said that “Pichay might run for senator again, this time resurrecting himself as a cabbage”.

But this reader, whose name I shall keep a secret lest Butch discovers he is one of the LWUA employees, said the more appropriate vegetable is “kangkong”. “Pupulutin na naman siya sa kangkungan”, the reader wrote.

Salvaje tu eres.

* * *

Margaux Salcedo, the comely spokeswoman of former President Joseph Estrada, clarified in a press statement that former President Joseph Estrada, “did not call former President Fidel Ramos "amoy-lupa" as quoted in an article in the Philippine Star the other day”.

"It was merely a text joke that former President Estrada shared. The reporter picked up the joke as if President Estrada meant it, which he did not," Salcedo explained.

Regarding the two former presidents challenging each other to run, Salcedo said, "We have to understand that the two statesmen are just kidding. Men of such stature have earned their right to boast and challenge the other even in jest once in a while.

Talaga? Erap joke only? Ang kaso, Margaux, pikon si FVR. Tingnan mo na lang ang ginawa nung Edsa Dos, and before that.

* * *

A reader wrote: “Ang sabi mo ay subung-subo na si Manny Villar sa pagkandidato sa presidente at mga 700 million na ang tinatapon”.

Let me clarify: It is estimated that Villar has spent 700 million on TV air time alone since he started his commercials. That’s for TV time alone. Add 75 or so million for production costs. Add radio air time. Add print advertising. Add “paid” media men, spread throughout the archipelago. Add “paid” handlers . . . and the cost of building a political infrastructure, including giving “deposits” to the Lakas and Kampi stalwarts who will at the right time become “converts” to Villar’s “good governance” bandwagon and join his heaving gravy train. Add the cost of paying “volunteers”.

Exchanging notes the other day with a veteran of many political campaigns, we estimate he has thrown 2 billion pesos thus far. But for Villar, “pera-pera lang ‘yan”.

And our reader asks: “Hindi ba nakakatakot kung ito ang manalong presidente? Tiyak na babawiin niya ang gastos na iyan. E di korapsyon kaliwa’t kanan?”

That’s easy. All he has to do is to get all public lands titled in the name of Vista Land. And that, dear readers, is not a joke.

Another reason to go out and register

KAYA NATIN
Eirene Jhone Aguila
Manila Times
August 28, 2009

Nine weeks shy of the October 31 deadline for registration, sadly, the new registrants turnout has so far been alarmingly too few to realize the mantra—the youth is the future of this country. With the youth not all flocking to the registration stations to register one can suspect that indeed the face of the Philippine electorate will not change much this coming elections. And without this much needed infusion of idealism and change in the profile of our voters, non-traditional politicians will continue to remain a rarity. And if those who endeavor to line up for hours to register are not processed well or encouraged with assistance in the exercise, they will most likely not bother to vote on election day.

This is very unfortunate. Without this new wave of Filipinos entering our political arena, the new future we hope to see where good governance, ethical leadership and people empowerment are the norm will forever remain a dream.

Common reasons my many unregistered friends give for not registering are:

• No good apples to choose from, all rotten tomatoes

• What’s one vote?

• Too much hassle for a day plus I lose a day registering and another day voting then get stuck with mediocre politicians for three or six years (at least no hassle for not registering and a three-day vacation weekend if I don’t vote)

After asking, I usually get a “why do you still participate: register and vote, Eirene?” Truth be told, with every opening of the newspaper and with surveys showing the usual top six or ten names for President, it becomes more difficult to enthusiastically respond with my usual—“there is hope! We are that hope and it is our vote that helps realize the changes we wish to see in this country.” My cynicism would have long overtaken my feeling of hope and pride in our Filipino public officials had it not been because partly of my exposure to Kaya Natin! Getting to know the Kaya Natin! champions has given me actual reasons to say that there are good politicians worthy of our vote and the hassles that go with it—helping our country means helping get them elected which means my going out to register and casting my vote.

Nestled far-away in the mysterious Cordillera region is one such Kaya Natin! champion. You would think that nothing much happens up north, but in his recent state of the province address (SOPA), Gov. Teddy Baguilat Jr., gave us a peek into the dynamic province of Ifugao and the promise that having good leaders brings even to a place so far-away from Metro Manila:

• Gawis-Haggiyo mechanism, a first in the country, between Ifugao and Mountain Province for joint border operations against malaria

• Creation of 185 AYOD Community Health Teams: composed of male volunteers to ensure male involvement and local government support to community health and nutrition services (besides the usual women and health-care workers)

• Setting-up inter-local health zones for health sector cooperation among the municipal and provincial local governments (sharing of resources, technical expertise and best practices)

• More than P160-million assistance in health infrastructure and equipment (Ifugao General Hospital P50-million grant)

• United Nations Fund for Population Activities’ (UNFPA) expansion efforts throughout the province due to the good track record in reproductive health programs and the AYODs

• Setting up of Ifugao Land Management and Development Task Force providing legal framework and logistics for the IPs to get titles

• Second lowest poverty incidence in the Cordilleras at 33 percent

• Haggiyo Enterprise Development Program’s introduction of 20 Ifugao products into the market (has helped 36 organizations composed of 1,684 beneficiaries through training, equipment, promotion and exhibits and technical assistance)

• Organizing a network of organic producers with a P10 million pledge for agricultural research

• P4 million from the Bureau of Agricultural Research for organic vegetables, tilapia production and organic chicken raising

• Repairing irrigation systems and restoring collapsed terraces walls coupled with teaching indigenous knowledge to younger Ifugaos led to the steady stoppage of the deterioration of the terraces and loss of the Ifugao culture

• Support Infrastructure: Department of Agriculture for farm-to-market roads (P20 million), National Irrigation Administration (P50 million), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for fish tanks at the new Fisheries and Aquatic Research and Development Center (P1 million), National Economic and Development Authority’s P1 million for Ifugao breeding center, Department of Labor and Employment and Food and Nutrition Research Institute (P4 million) for various livelihood projects

• Multimillion projects CHARMP, Makamasang Tugon, ARISP III and climate change mitigation are coming in

• Fruitful fully sponsored official foreign trips—4th Asia-Pacific Conference on Reproductive Health in Hyderabad, India (result: UNFPA expanding program to entire province), United States Ifugao Reunion in California (result: facilitation of the release of donations from the Ifugao Association in California for the Ifugao General Hospital), dialogue with Norwegian energy officials (result: SN Aboitiz, the joint Philippine-Norwegian corporation gave CSR funds—now used for construction of senior citizens’ center) and Cinque Terre, Italy (result: twinning agreement—sharing of several forms assistance and tourism)

A month ago, I had a dare to our public officials—come out with your accounting. Tell us, your constituents, what you have done for your province, town or country. What have you done as a legislator? As a local chief executive? Especially for those who intend to seek reelection or make a bid for another office, instead of your multimillion ads and fancy show biz gimmickry, tell us what you have done to promote good governance, ethical leadership and people empowerment. Perhaps, that will give us the youth, a renewed sense of hope and will encourage us to go out and register (here’s hoping your silence will fire us up to register and vote to make sure and get you out).

Comments are welcome at eirenejhoneaguila@gmail.com. To learn more about what other Kaya Natin! Champions are doing, check out www.kayanatin.com.

Jinggoy, Mar, Pia top Senate poll

What is wrong with this news report? I am NOT a subscriber to the Pulse Asia or SWS surveys. Therefore, my name should not be in the list of senatorial candidates for the 2010 elections. Suddenly, I find my name in the list and my ranking at third from the bottom, at 0.7 percent. Even Cerge Remonde got higher than me?

The purpose, of course, is to condition the mind of the voters that my candidacy is lameduck, if not dead in the water. See, so early in the game, and the misinformation has begun?

Maid Miriam (Santiago) is correct: when your campaign is doing very, very well, they will begin to hit you.

The mud-slinging has begun. Welcome to the 2010 elections!

By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) Updated August 27, 2009 12:00 AM


MANILA, Philippines - Pulse Asia released yesterday the results of the firm’s recent survey on senatorial candidates that showed Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada as the top favorite to win if the elections were held today.

Estrada got 50.2 percent of votes, which translates to a statistical ranking of 1st to 5th places in Pulse Asia’s August 2009 Ulat ng Bayan survey, which also showed that 14 out of 71 aspirants have a statistical chance of winning Senate seats.

The non-commissioned survey was conducted from July 28 to Aug. 10 and used face-to-face interviews of 1,800 respondents 18 years old and above.

The survey sample of 1,800 is greater than the usual 1,200 respondents used by Pulse Asia in its previous polls. The survey with more respondents has a lower margin of error, it explained.

Sharing statistical rankings of 1st to 6th places among the Senate bets were Senators Manuel Roxas II (48.3 percent), Pia Cayetano (46.6 percent), Ramon Revilla Jr. (46.4 percent), and former Senate president Franklin Drilon (46.3 percent).

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago (45.2 percent) was ranked from 2nd to 6th places.

Other probable winners include Sen. Jamby Madrigal (38.9 percent), former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director-general Ralph Recto (37.6 percent), and Makati City Mayor Binay (37.5 percent), who placed between 7th to 11th places.

Pulse Asia said the aspirants that were ranked from 1st to 11th are sure to take the 1 to 9 slots for the 12 Senate seats that would be contested in the 2010 polls.

Those within the statistical ranking from 13th to 24th are expected to contest the 10th to 12th Senate slots.

Lawyer Aquilino Pimentel III currently ranks 7th to 13th, with an overall voter preference of 36.1 percent, while former Optical Media Board (OMB) chairperson Edu Manzano (34.9 percent) is in 7th to 14th places.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former senator Sergio Osmeña III record the same overall voter preference (32.1 percent) for a statistical ranking of 10th to 14th places.

Completing the list of probable winners is Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chairman Vicente Sotto III who enjoys the support of 30.8 percent of Filipinos for a statistical ranking of 11th to 15th places.

The survey also showed that the level of public interest in the senatorial race remains high, with Filipinos naming a mean of 10 and a median of 12 (out of a maximum of 12) of their preferred senatorial bets. At the national level and in all geographic areas and socio-economic groupings, majorities (51 percent to 63 percent) already have a complete senatorial list.

“Presently, seven re-electionists and four former senators are among the probable winners in the senatorial race,” Pulse Asia said.

Less than one in 10 Filipinos (three percent) is not inclined to vote for any of the personalities included in the senatorial probe, Pulse Asia said.

Among the probable winners, Manzano enjoys the biggest improvement in overall voter preference between May and August 2009 (+13.5 percentage points).

Drilon (+7.6 percentage points), Enrile (+7.0 percentage points), and Binay (+7.0 percentage points) also register notable gains in electoral support during this period.

On the other hand, marginal improvements may be noted in the overall voter preferences of Revilla (+5.0 percentage points), Estrada (+4.2 percentage points), and Pimentel (+4.2 percentage points).

Pulse Asia said considerable gains were made by broadcaster Ted Failon (+7.0 percentage points) and Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano (+6.5 percentage points). The duo was among the group that landed outside the winners’ circle.

Other personalities included in the survey were: Sen. Richard Gordon (26.1 percent); former Sen. Juan Flavier (22.1 percent); Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III (20.5 percent); Durano (18.6 percent); Jose de Venecia III (17.6 percent); Sen. Manuel Lapid (17.3 percent); former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay (16.2); book author Alex Lacson (15.9 percent); Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Biazon (15.5 percent); Surigao del Norte Gov. Robert Ace Barbers (11.5 percent);

National broadband network-ZTE contract scam whistleblower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada (10.7 percent); former Presidential Management Staff chief Michael Defensor (10.3 percent); Grace Poe (9.6 percent); Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno (9.6 percent); Nacionalista Party spokesman Gilbert Remulla (8.2 percent); Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo (7.5 percent); Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte (6.7 percent); Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (6.6 percent); detained Army Brig. General Danilo Lim (6.1 percent); Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez (5.6 percent);

Former executive secretary Oscar Orbos (5.6 percent); Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca (5.3 percent); professor Randy David (4.8 percent); Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo (4.8 percent); Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap (4.7 percent); Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza (4.5 percent); NP spokesman Adel Tamano (4.5 percent); Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III (4.3 percent); Anakbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros (4.1 percent); Manila Hotel president Jose Lina (3.9 percent); economist Benjamin Diokno (3.7 percent); Education Secretary Jesli Lapus (3.7 percent); San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora (3.7 percent); Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes (3.4 percent); former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman (3.4 percent);

Camarines Sur Gov. L-Ray Villafuerte (3.4 percent); Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director general Boboy Syjuco (3.3 percent); Speaker Prospero Nograles (3.2 percent); Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño (three percent); former Labor undersecretary Susan Ople (2.8 percent); detained Marine Col. Ariel Querubin (2.8 percent); Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane (2.7 percent); former agrarian reform secretary Horacio “Boy” Morales (2.2 percent); Finance Secretary Margarito Teves (2.2percent); former education secretary Florencio Abad (1.8 percent);

Black and White Movement convenor Leah Navarro (1.7 percent); former Bukidnon Rep. Nereus Acosta (1.3 percent); Iloilo Rep. Rolex Suplico (1.3 percent); University of the East College of Law Dean Amado Valdez (1.1 percent); constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas (0.9 percent); Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza (0.9 percent); Press Secretary Cerge Remonde (0.9 percent); former Akbayan Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales (0.8 percent); Ang Ladlad founder Danton Remoto (0.7 percent); Ang Kapatiran founder Reynaldo Pacheco (0.5 percent); and Naga City Mayor Jessie Robredo (0.4 percent).

Realignments

By Mon Casiple
www.moncasiple.wordpress.com

More realignmentsWith the death of Con-Ass and its accompanying emergency rule scenario, things have gone back to normal–”normal electoral politics” that is. The 2010 elections tightens its grip on the whole political landscape.

However, there are interesting twists. Most of these were brought about by the re-manifesting of people power during the wake and funeral of former president Cory Aquino. Some were brought about by the rapid process of disintegration of the lameduck Arroyo administration. Still, others were influenced by the surprising strength of former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada in the presidential surveys.

The most interesting is the catapulting of the Aquino political heir, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, to the electoral limelight. He is now being buffeted by pressures from all sides–not necessarily friendly–to seriously take a stab at the vice-presidency, even the presidency itself. If this materializes, the political shock would reverberate across the whole presidentiable and vice-presidentiable landscape. It would redraw it as the previous alignments adjust to accommodate his entry.

Along with this, the Aquino endorsement has become the most sought-after political commodity, not only to possibly win in the 2010 elections but even to try to obviate the paralyzing unpopularity of the Arroyo administration. All roads, right now, lead to the Manila Memorial Park.

The lameduck Arroyo presidency has led to the disintegration of her ruling coalition. Initial signs can already be seen in the refusal of former president Fidel Ramos from assuming the position of Chairman Emeritus of the Arroyo-engineered Lakas-Kampi-CMD coalition party, the resignation of NEDA director-general Ralph Recto and Optical Media Board Edu Manzano who are already preparing their respective political plans. The absences in the Cabinet meetings and the difficulty of mustering a quorum in the House of Representatives also reinforces the sense of essential helplessness to command events in Malacañang.

The entry of more religious leaders into the presidential derby as well as in local elections mirrors the sorties of former generals and colonels along the same path earlier. There is also action in the party-list elections as more than 250 new party-list groups swamped the Commission on Elections to insist on their inclusion in the party list system.

The failure to develop a genuine political party system in time for it dooms the 2010 elections to a continuance of the political circus that it was in the past. Traditional politicians vie with popular movie, TV or sports figures, religious leaders, generals, and whoever else who thinks he or she has the money, influence, fame, organization, or the sheer gall to win an elective position.

Welcome to the 2010 national and local elections.

Ninoy, Cory, Evelio

By Ellen Tordesillas
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

WHEN I passed by the Evelio Javier monument in front of the provincial capitol in San Jose, Antique last Monday, I noticed he was holding a yellow ribbon.

Antique Governor Sally Perez said the yellow ribbon on Evelio’s statue was part of their tribute to former President Aquino. Rightly so because the heroic lives of Evelio and that of Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. and President Cory Aquino are inextricably twined.

Although I was born and grew up in Antique, I personally met Evelio Javier when I was covering the Cory Aquino for President Movement in 1985. He and Sally, on loan to CAPM from the University of the Philippines where she was in the staff of UP President Edgardo Angara, were active in soliciting one million signatures prodding Cory to run for president in the 1986 presidential snap election.

At that time, Evelio, former governor of Antique, had a pending protest against the election of Arturo Pacificador as member of the Batasan Pambansa in the May 1984 polls.

The 1984 election was bloody in Antique. On the eve of election, the leaders of Javier and Enrique Zaldivar, the opposition candidate for governor who won, were ambushed at the foot of Pampang bridge in the town of Sibalom by men suspected to be aligned with Pacificador. The tragedy became known as the "Pampang Massacre."

Evelio, like Ninoy Aquino, represented enlightened politics at the time when everything in the country revolved around the Marcos dictatorship. Against guns, goons and gold, Evelio, had an army of young campaign volunteers. He would take the banca in visiting the province’s coastal towns. He was a Jesus-like figure as he waded to the shore to his adoring supporters.

***

As governor, he made Antiquenos, many of whom had developed an inferiority complex because of the province’s reputation as land of the sacadas, rediscover their proud heritage by initiating the "Binirayan" festival.

Evelio eventually won his election protest after the 1986 People Power revolution. But it was too late. On Feb. 11, 1986, Evelio was gunned down in front of the provincial capitol while he was overseeing the canvassing of votes in the snap polls between Cory Aquino and Marcos. Again, Pacificador, a Marcos loyalist, was accused, but he was later acquitted.

The assassination of Evelio, done in broad daylight, gangland style, helped spark the outrage that led to first Edsa Revolution.

Sally and I were talking about the many similarities of Ninoy, Evelio and Cory’s funeral, like the coffin being carried in a flatbed truck and the outpouring of grief by the people.

From Antique, Evelio’s remains were brought to Manila. At the Baclaran church, it was the first time foreign diplomats addressed Cory, who led the mourners, "Mrs. President."

I remember foreign embassies calling up Malaya, which was then providing the alternative to the Marcos-controlled establishment newspapers, patiently spelling out the ambassadors’ name in their condolences to Evelio. They wanted to put on record their governments’ outrage over the killing of Evelio.

At the funeral march of Cory two weeks ago, people along Sucat road were holding lighted candles. I was reminded of the funeral march of Evelio from Caticlan in Aklan to San Jose. I don’t remember anymore if it was a 15- hour procession. What I remember was people lining the streets in the evening with lighted candles. It was awesome.

Evelio was buried Feb. 20 amidst calls of Cory for civil disobedience in protest of massive election fraud. We all rushed back to Manila. Feb. 22, then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Gen. Fidel Ramos, chief of the Philippine Constabulary, declared their withdrawal of support from Marcos.

The rest is history.

Today, we remember the martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino. On Aug. 30, we pay tribute to our heroes, who dedicated their lives to the cause of peace and freedom for Filipinos.

Intimate partners now in danger of HIV

BY Danton Remoto
Remote Control
www.abs-cbnnews.com
Views and analysis

BALI, INDONESIA – If you think that having an intimate partner will always keep you safe from contracting HIV, better think again.

More women from the Asia-Pacific region – housewives and career women –are contracting HIV from their intimate partners. These women are either married, or have long-term relationships with men who engage in high-risk sexual behavior. These behavior are found in men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users, and clients of female sex workers.

These findings are contained in a new report by UNAIDS, its co-sponsors and civil society partners entitled HIV Transmission in Intimate Partner Relationships in Asia, released at the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, being held in the island resort of Bali until tomorrow.

Men who buy sex are the largest infected population group. Many of them are married – or are about to get married. This puts a significant number of women, often perceived as “low risk” because they only have sex with their husbands or long-term partners, at risk of HIV infection. In the Philippines, data from the AIDS and HIV Registry of the Dept. of Health show that male Overseas Filipino Workers constitute one-third of reported HIV infections every month. Some of them have infected their home-bound wives as well.

The United Nations report estimates that more than 90% of the 1.7 million women living with HIV in Asia got it from their husbands or partners in long-term relationships. By 2008, women constituted 35% of all adult HIV infections in Asia, up from 17% in 1990.

“HIV prevention programs focused on the female sex partners of men with high-risk behaviors still have not found a place in the national HIV plans and priorities of Asian countries,” said Dr. Prasada Rao, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific. “Integration of reproductive health programs with AIDS programs and the delivery of joint services to rural and semi-urban women is the key to reducing HIV transmission among female partners.”

To prevent HIV transmission among intimate partner relationships, the UNAIDS report outlines four recommendations. First, HIV prevention interventions must be scaled up for MSM, injecting drug users, and clients of female sex workers, and should emphasize the importance of protecting their regular female partners.

Second, structural interventions should address the needs of vulnerable women and their male sexual partners. This includes expanding reproductive health programs to include services for male sexual health.

Third, HIV prevention interventions among mobile populations and migrants should be scaled up and include components to protect intimate partners. And last, operational research must be conducted to better understand the dynamics of HIV transmission among intimate partners.

In the Philippines, men who have sex with men (MSM) who practice unsafe sex alternate with OFWs as the groups most vulnerable to contracting HIV. This situation is also found in the rest of Asia, where 90% of MSM in the Asia-Pacific have no access to HIV prevention and care.

If nothing is done about this situation, the spread of HIV in this vulnerable population will escalate sharply in the very near future. Moreover, legal frameworks across the region need a dramatic and urgent overhaul to allow public-health sectors to reach out to MSM. The consequences could very well go beyond MSM to affect the general population.

This warning came at a high level symposium, “Overcoming Legal Barriers to Comprehensive Prevention Among Men who have Sex with Men and Transgender People in Asia and the Pacific” held at the 9th ICAAP. It was co-hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM).

“In order to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and realize the Millennium Development Goals, we must facilitate an enabling legal environment and human rights based HIV policies and programs for MSM and transgender (TG),” said Jeffrey O’Malley, Global Director of UNDP’s HIV Group, among the speakers at the symposium. “This will mean stepping up our investment in legal and social programs that address stigma and discrimination directed at MSM and TG.”

Professor Vitit Muntharbrhorn of Chulalongkorn University and one of the convenors of the 2006 Yogyakarta Principles of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Rights said: “One of the challenges for overcoming barriers to prevent HIV is to promote the formulation of humane laws and policies that enable people to participate in addressing the disease in a cooperative manner, rather than driving those living with HIV underground. The latter approach is counterproductive, since it makes the disease more difficult to control. Thus, it is essential to advocate the adoption of laws that do not lead to discrimination and marginalization, and to provide space to respect sexual activities between consenting adults in the private sphere in their diversity.”

Currently 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific criminalize male-to-male sex, and these laws often lead to abuse and human-rights violations. Even in the absence of criminalization, other legal provisions violate the rights of MSM and TG along with arbitrary and inappropriate enforcement, thus obstructing HIV interventions, advocacy and outreach, and service delivery.

Happily, the Philippines is not one of these countries, since its criminal codes are silent on male-to-male sex. But as one Filipino participant in the international conference said, “But silence does not always mean consent. Sometimes, it can be like the silence of the lambs.”

A trilogy on my senatorial bid

1. One journalist I saw at the airport, when told I would run for the senate, said: "Ah, these political parties. They will get you just to have diversity in their slate."

Wrong. Any bull-headed political analyst will tell you that politics in this country is like a race horse. You will bet only on those who would win.

2. Another radio commentator told me not to run because "the political parties will just use you." More crude language, but same premise as the earlier one. Who will use who?

At this point in the time-space continuum (as a word-gobbling writer would put it), the presidential candidates are desperate. It will be a closely-fought election, and the winnner for president would nose out the competition by less than a million votes.

A strong senatorial candidate (which means somebody in the top six) would add at least 5 percent to the votes of his presidentiable. If 40 million people would vote, that is an additional 2 million votes. Enough for him or her to vault over the barricades and win the race.

3. So when would I file my senatorial papers at the Comelec?

If I join the Liberal Party, we would file on November 30, Bonifacio Day.

If I join another party composed of two candidates with great charm, we would file earlier, between November 20-30.

I have said "no" to a third, big, rich political party that has twice invited me to join their slate.

So for those in cyberspace who still ask, Is Danton Remoto really serious in running for Senator in 2010?

You bet.

Ang Ladlad filing

Dexter and I filed the Ang Ladlad papers for accreditation last Monday. It was all of 240 pages -- documents, database, list of projects, photos. Ang Sabungero had four pages. The other party I saw had 20 pages. Cobbled together, stapled, funded by rich people.

And who did media cover? Ang Ladlad. Because we have a legitimate cause. Because we give short but substantial answers. Because we are fabulous.

We will know if Comelec will accredit us by October 31.

Then watch us, watch us win the party-list elections by a landslide. Or as DWIZ said this morning, "Palagay namin, three seats yan sa Kongreso."

Ano pa nga ba?

Mar: Eye on the prize




Mar: Eye on the prize
SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star)
August 12, 2009 12:00 AM

In a sprawling compound within the Araneta Center, Judy Araneta-Roxas lives in the house closest to the main gate.

The house, with an unimposing façade, has her stamp all over it, from the family photographs to paintings of herself and her late husband, Sen. Gerardo Roxas. Priceless paintings by Juan Luna and Vicente Manansala adorn the living room, which opens out into a spacious garden.

It’s the kind of house, reeking of old money, that you usually find in Forbes Park. But this is right in the heart of Cubao, Quezon City. The only one who can have this kind of spacious accommodations in the heart of Araneta Center, which includes Farmers’ Market and several shopping malls, is the family that owns the commercial center.

This is the favorite joke of former President Joseph Estrada about Judy’s son, Manuel “Mar” Araneta Roxas II, who lives with mom Judy. How can the grandson and namesake of a Philippine president, Erap likes to ask, be “Mr. Palengke” when he owns the palengke?

We don’t know if such comments persuaded Sen. Mar Roxas to replace the Mr. Palengke image with his “padyak” or pedicab ads.

Someone with his pedigree is expected to have a hard time convincing pedicab drivers that he feels their pain. Yet the new imagery seems to be working. Mar’s ratings are dramatically up, although he probably owes this in part to his very public romance with broadcaster-on-leave Korina Sanchez.

Korina is still an X factor in the Roxas presidential campaign. If Mar officially becomes the standard bearer of the Liberal Party (LP), one of the country’s two oldest political blocs, Korina will be subjected to minute public scrutiny, as will the other spouses or soul mates of the other candidates. Will Korina be like Imelda Marcos, Ming Ramos or Loi Ejercito? Will she be like Mar’s grandmother Trinidad or First Gentleman Mike Arroyo?

Or will the real first lady in a Mar Roxas presidency be the queen of the Roxas manor, Judy Araneta-Roxas?

In her L-shaped home, one wing is the territory of her son, although the two zones can function interchangeably. On a recent Saturday afternoon Judy was interviewed by Cheche Lazaro in Mar’s part of the house while Mar entertained guests in Judy’s area.

The idea of a 52-year-old still living with his mom in the family home is one of the issues raised against Roxas — although in the Philippine extended family system, this is hardly unusual, especially for bachelors. Mar in fact lived on his own for years as a student at the Wharton School of Economics in the University of Pennsylvania, and then as an investment banker in New York until December 1985, when he returned home to help in the presidential campaign of Corazon Aquino.

The other prominent LP member, 49-year-old Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, also a bachelor, lived with mom Cory till her death, and has now inherited the family home.

Mar will probably get the votes of many mothers, who wish they could have all their children stay with them forever.

Though attached to his mother, Mar is no conservative in his personal life. He dotes on a teenage son out of wedlock and can probably identify with Julio Iglesias’ song, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.” Korina has moved in with him and is handling preparations for their wedding, where the details are being doled out like news teasers.

Mar is relaxed around new acquaintances. As a bachelor in the US, he said, he learned that he could get through any date by being ready to whip up quickly a pasta, a risotto and a roast. He gave his guests a sample of his cooking — his recipes, but prepared by the family cook.

He was pleasantly surprised that during a recent visit to The STAR in Manila’s Port Area, he was mobbed by bystanders and received a warm reception from employees.

Was it the flood of ads? Sen. Loren Legarda recently told us that she had to accept the reality that her ratings were going down. “I don’t have P500 million for ads,” she told us with a smile.

“Neither do I,” Mar said, chuckling, when I told him about Loren’s remark.

He gives the impression that he will still be able to genuinely relax even if he fails to win the presidency. More than any of the likely presidential candidates in 2010, Mar Roxas looks like he wants the prize not just for power’s sake.

Call him a mama’s boy, indecisive in marriage, a rich boy who can’t connect with the poor, though it’s not for lack of trying. The top vote getter in the 2004 Senate race, his current efforts to boost his national profile are now making him come off like a traditional politician.

But among all the potential candidates, Mar Roxas is the only one not hounded by scandal. Among the candidates, he and Sen. Manny Villar have the best grasp of economic matters, though Villar’s blueprint for accomplishing his objectives is more detailed and viable.

Mar Roxas offers hope of good governance if he becomes president.

His one big problem right now is that the torch of decency and integrity has become inextricably identified with the late President Corazon Aquino. And there are people who believe that torch has now been passed on to her only son, Mar’s party mate Noynoy Aquino.

* * *

If Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stays true to form until May 2010, public dismay over her presidency will translate into votes for the candidate deemed to be the most different from her.

Right now, that person is starting to look like Noynoy.

Since his mother’s burial, Noynoy has said he is too green and has no plans of seeking higher office in 2010. A reliable source told us that this was what President Cory, in her sickbed, wanted for her son.

Even if there is a strong public clamor? Although Cory Aquino herself gave in to that clamor in 1985, the source said she did not want it for Noynoy.

Amid intense public speculation about Noynoy’s political plans, the best scenario at this point for Mar Roxas is to have Cory Aquino’s only son as his running mate.

So far, Mar is making the right noises about openness to a tandem with Noynoy, whoever is chosen by the party as the standard bearer.

With Cory Aquino’s life revived in everyone’s memory, the presidency in 2010 could go to the candidate who looks least interested in it.

Q & A: 'Many Still think That If You Have It, You'll Die'



Danton Remoto in Bali, Indonesia. Photo by Inter Press Service

Q & A: ‘Many Still Think That If You Have It, You’ll Die’
2009 August 10, 2009
Inter Press Service News Agency
Terraviva.Asia



Nusa Dua, Bali -- The Philippines is a low-HIV prevalence country in South-east Asia. But according to journalist and activist Danton Remoto, who is also the Communications Officer of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Philippines, there are still many underreported and unreported cases. “The figures could be ten times higher,” said Remoto, known more in his home country as a multi-awarded literary writer and chair of Ladlad, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political party.

Remoto talks to TerraViva’s Lynette Corporal about his advocacy and his views about the Philippine situation on HIV and AIDS.TerraViva: What is the HIV/AIDS situation in the Philippines right now?

Remoto: The Philippines has one of the lowest incidences of HIV transmission in the region. From 1984 to May 2009, we only had around 3,914 cases of infection in the last 15 years. That’s really small but many of us who work in the advocacy believe that the figure is 10 times more than that. These cases of underreporting stem mainly from lack of information due to stigma, discrimination and fear. Many Filipinos still think that if you have it, you will die. But, of course, that is not the case because anti-retroviral drugs help people with HIV and AIDS lead healthy lives.

TerraViva: But despite these underreported cases, the Philippines is a low-HIV prevalence country. How do you explain that?

Remoto: Yes, compared to the rest of Asia, the Philippines has a low prevalence rate. We’re an island nation and quite isolated from the rest of Asia. But it doesn’t mean that Filipinos should be complacent. The figure is rising now, especially among young people. The Internet also makes it possible for them to easily find sexual partners. Unfortunately, these young people also engage in unprotected sex for a number of reasons, among them a ‘bahala na’ (come what may) attitude among the young and (one) of complacency and shortsightedness. We’re talking about young, educated youth here.

According to a Pulse Asia survey three months ago, 97 percent of Filipinos favour reproductive health practices. But being in favour doesn’t necessarily mean they practice it, especially among those in the lower-income bracket. For instance, a can of sardines costs 11 pesos, while a three-piece condom pack sells for 15 pesos. For these families, there is no question that a can of sardines is more important. Fifteen pesos for a lot of poor Filipinos in the rural areas still means a lot.

TerraViva: What changes have you noted in terms of transmission trends?

Remoto: It used to be that the biggest at-risk groups were commercial sex workers. They still are, but recent figures show an increase in infection among men having sex with men (MSM) and overseas Filipino workers (OFW). The highest number of transmission now is by returning OFWs who engaged in unsafe sexual practices while abroad. They, in turn, transmit the disease to their partners.


TerraViva: What kind of political will are you seeing in the present Philippine government?

Remoto: What happens now is that the local governments are more active in the advocacy for HIV/AIDS, especially in such places as Angeles City in the province of Pampanga where there once was a thriving sex and entertainment centre, when the U.S. bases were still around. Sex workers there have health checks every week, and are given information about HIV and AIDS. Local government units are given free rein to formulate their own policies about sexual and reproductive health, but there are very few local AIDS councils nationwide due in part to budgetary constraints.

TerraViva: How does one advocate HIV and AIDS prevention when you have a primarily Roman Catholic population?

Remoto: The Catholic Church, obviously, does not advocate reproductive health, discouraging condom use and instead pushing for abstinence and fidelity. But we all have roles to play and we at UNDP continue to work towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 6, which is to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis. We also work with interfaith groups, among which the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines is an active participant. We are also in touch with Muslim leaders from the south. It’s all about involving different faiths in the loop through dialogues and consultations.

TerraViva: What has struck you most so far about ICAAP9?

Remoto: On Aug. 6, I attended the South-east Asian Court of Women on HIV and Trafficking, where 22 migrant workers from the region told their stories of abuses. Seven of these women are Filipinos who ended up either as sex workers or trafficked women. This tells us about the vulnerabilities of and risks that women face when they work abroad. The OFW scenario is not so much now about the cost of separation between parents and children; it is also now more about the HIV vulnerabilities of OFWs, including seafarers and women who work abroad as domestic helpers and entertainers, for instance. (END/IPSAP-TV/09)

Grossly insensitive

BY Lito Banayo
Ang Pahayagang Malaya
www.malaya.com.ph
13 August 2009

L’addition, s’il vous plais, Ferdinand Martin Romualdez must have told the head waiter at Le Cirque. He could have added, "The President has a funeral to catch in Manila".

Le Cirque does not get this large a crowd of diners these days, the economy being in recession. In any case, the celebrities that come to the East Side restaurant which boasts of a wine collection like no other in Manhattan, caters to twosomes and foursomes mostly, not boisterous over-dressed gaggles unable to distinguish between osetra from the Caspian or caviar from California.

Looking at the reported dishes ordered for the celebration of the wedding anniversary of our Fourth World presidenta y su esposo, you notice a clear divide. It reminds you of one of her state of the nation addresses, where she decried "two Philippines", "a Philippines for the rich, and a Philippines for the poor". And thereafter vowed she would make us in her watch — "one Philippines".

Clearly neither Cerge Remonde nor Eduardo Ermita did the ordering. Cerge would probably not know the difference between a "torchon of foie gras" from "Dover sole." Ermita would have wondered why "isdang dapa" should fetch such a high price of 75 dollars per order, or 3,700 pesos, when out in Balayan Bay (during his childhood, for "isdang dapa" has become a rarity these days), it would hardly fetch 200 pesos for a kilo, or 75 pesos (not dollars) per fish. But Dover is veddy British, and the English Channel must have something in it that makes the "dapa" more fleshy than the emaciated ones that Ermita used to feast upon from his hometown. Cerge is Cebuano, Ed is from West End Batangas; both are penny pinchers by upbringing.

It could have been Remedios Poblador on her last night before flying to Syria upon her Doña’s express orders. Why go to Syria instead of Tita Cory? Ask Medy, if she would speak, or better yet, Gloria and Mike, if they would ever, ever say whatever was so important in Syria. For Medy would know what to order for the coven of hangers-on, and what La Doña y su esposo crave for. My guess is that El Esposo had the Dover sole (doctor’s orders), while the Doña feasted on her "dry-aged" prime striploin, and compared it to the best that Mamou’s at Serendra served her.

Or Medy and Martin Romualdez together. For the "paisanos", the chef’s seasonal menu, a three-course meal of soup, salad and main course, likely a chicken timbale or some bourguignon of beef. That’s what Cerge complains about, "just set menus". He must have been treated like a pobrecito paisano. Far, far away from the table reserved for the elite of the elite, who had a menu degustacion avec vin, at 180 dollars each, for appetizer rather than main course, out of which they chose their entrée of sole, or halibut poached in coconut milk (tastes like lapu-lapu sa gata), saddle of lamb and "dry aged" prime steak.

But why eleven bottles of champagne, Krug at 510 dollars a bottle (25,000 pesos per? (Still cheaper than a bottle of Erap’s vintage Chateau Petrus, at 80,000 per bottle, but Erap opened just a bottle or two at a time, as if that makes any difference). The toasts must have been "plenty" that night of August 2 at Le Cirque. Like "plenty of sex", remember the interview?

***

Three worlds and twelve time zones apart, people of her country were lining up, braving the heat of scorching sun and outbursts of soaking rain, to pay their final respects to the simple bier where their first lady president lay in state. This was the president whose husband was murdered in the night of the dictator’s reign, the dictator whose wife used to dine in the same elite restaurants her full-blooded nephew Ferdinand Martin Romualdez now fancies as well. This was the president who, brought to power by the people, called upon the same to oust a duly-elected president for excesses she found too scandalous, only to rue the day she did it, because she ushered into power a woman whose excesses far outweigh everyone else’s. And had the grace to accept her mistake, while the woman she brought to power could only say "I am sorry", for nothing she would admit.

Ferdinand Martin, if indeed he was the one who paid for the million-peso dinner tab, must have rushed the check, lest dessert of fraiche au chocolat and after-dinner liqueurs push the "chit" beyond a million, not to forget the 3 to 4 thousand dollar additional "tip" that he would cough up, lest the waiters of Le Cirque snub him when next he visits the Big Apple. "The President has a funeral to catch back in Manila…" ne c’est pas?

During the short wake for the beloved lady, text jokes were being passed around, about a Pinoy who, seeing that it would take him five hours of lining up just for a fleeting glance at Cory, told another — "Hihintayin ko na lang ang burol ni Gloria. Doon sigurado walang pila".

***

Such insensitivity, everyone now says. Wining and dining while the nation was in grief. Was the Doña y su esposo ever affected, when they went back to the presidential suite of the Waldorf Astoria, the same address in Manhattan Imelda Marcos favored?

But why ever be affected, the Doña must have thought? She paused for an ersatz prayer for Cory’s worsening health on July 27, just a pause, not even a minute, before she mouthed her SONA lies. When Cory breathed her last, Hillary Rodham Clinton was calling on her at the Willard Hotel, only to find that her cabinet had left for shopping or sight-seeing, because of a mix-up in their schedules, one of several egregious errors in the comedy that was her Washington visit. (Ellen Tordesillas has already written about how SND Gibo and how SOF Gary were bumped off from the Oval Room encounter with Obama, in favor of He-he Alvarez and Medy Poblador). The "singit" displeased their American counterparts, Gates and Geithner, who thought they could say anything substantial in the abbreviated call on their POTUS of this little lady who was given nothing more than a sop — coordinator for the Asean, merely because she spoke Georgetown English with the funny nasal twang.

Now back to the Willard, which was after Barack Obama’s photo op with her, and the asinine press conference where Cerge chose a non-journalist, voice modulator Rey Langit, to ask the only question that floored both Barack and his Doña because of its pusillanimous inanity (pardon the quaint redundancy, the editor would have excised my initial choice of expletives).

As her staff support were told that the Hillary call was cancelled (by whom, Ed or Cerge or Medy?) there was hardly anything to talk about. Whether the Doña was told about Cory Aquino’s last gasp of mortal air before she faced Hillary or whether the Doña intentionally withheld information about the same to Hillary with Kenney, one could only deduce from the pained and surprised reaction Hillary had when she was informed by the ABS-CBN correspondent, Ging Reyes.

Now comes the Doña’s "official" reaction. Hours later, she declared a ten-day mourning period, dressed in appropriate grey propped over a red settee. Caught on cruel camera, right after reading the message of "grief", the Doña quickly stood up, then breaks into some indescribable laughter, half-nervous, half-acting, definitely a give-away to insincerity. Sans the audio, the lip-synch expert would have sworn that she was asking her "handlers" (was that you, Lupita?), "O, okay ba?" How many takes? Surely less than the 21 or more when she pronounced "I am sorry" over Hello Garci four years back.

I saw the footage after Cory had been interred. I briefly greeted Lupita Aquino Kashiwahara as she strode to her seat in the funeral mass at the Manila Cathedral. I could not ask, as I had not yet seen it, nor had I opened my e-mail in days.

***

At about three in the afternoon of Friday, August 7 (Manila time), I was caught by rain and heavy traffic rushing from one meeting in Quezon City to another in San Juan. My driver took a circuitous route upon seeing the traffic bottled up at Aurora Boulevard and Gilmore, and went through 6th St. to Balete and a round-about route past N. Domingo in a narrow street whose name escapes me.

There in the middle of the street were an emaciated couple, looking like zombies, skin and bones put together only by God’s amazing grace, looking like they were in their sixties when probably they were half that age. The woman was pushing a small dilapidated makeshift cart while the man was picking what litter in the street they could sell for repast. The rains had slowed down to a "tikatik", and my driver was about to honk because the couple had blocked a narrow street where cars had double-parked. I stopped him, and allowed the couple to pass, painful step after each slowed step. I caught a glimpse of those faces wearied by suffering, the torment etched for eternity. I noticed how the lady’s mouth foamed and her tongue whitened in what seemed like clear signs of hunger, if not starvation.

And then, later that evening, a friend sent me a copy of the New York Post, where the million-peso dinner was reported on Page Six.

Where is justice in this benighted land? How can those who style themselves as leaders even sleep in their opulent settings, or gouge on astronomically-priced cuisine and libations, while countrymen survive on picking trash?

Insensitivity most gross is the kindest descriptive. Just because the provenance of wealth is thievery, and conscience is barren.

What a country!

Filipina workers testify in Southeast Asian Court of Women

REMOTE CONTROL | DANTON REMOTO | 08/11/2009 1:45 AM
www.abs-cbnnews.com
Views and analysis


Bali, Indonesia – More than 20 Southeast Asian women narrated their personal stories of exploitation and abuse during the first Southeast Asian Court of Women on HIV and Human Trafficking held yesterday in this island resort. The women were among the estimated 250,000 victims of trafficking, violence, exploitation and HIV in Asia. Subtitled "From Vulnerability to Free, Just, and Safe Movement,” the conference is being held as part of the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP 9) that will begin here on August 9, with 4,000 participants from all over the globe. The Court of Women was organized by the United Nations Development Programme, Asian Women’s Human Rights Council and Yakeba, a Japanese NGO funded by Japan, as well as other UN and civil society partners.

The Philippine contingent included Katherine, a 29-year-old Muslim who lives in Taguig. She worked as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia, and was separated from her sister who arrived with her from Manila. She was forced to sleep on the floor of the living room and almost had no food to eat. Her employers would eat in the house of relatives or ate outside the house. One day she fainted from hunger, and her female employer threw water at her and kicked her back to revive her. She was locked for one more day in the house, with neither food nor water. When she was returned to her agency’s representative in Saudi Arabia, he made sexual advances to her which she resisted. But later she was raped and rescued by a Philippine human-rights group in Saudi Arabia along with embassy officials. Upon her return to Manila, she learned that her sister was also raped in Saudi Arabia, and they worked to bring her back. They filed cases against their foreign and local agencies, so the agency could be blacklisted and they could get back the wages that were never paid to them.

On the other hand. Amalia was a call-center agent in Manila who only wanted a better life for her child, who has learning difficulties, and herself. She was being beaten up by her husband, so she left him and raised her child alone. She applied for work in Australia as a Restaurant Duty Manager on a 457 visa. Her sister told her that it was a lopsided visa, since she could work for only one employer, her sponsor, and could not leave even if the company was maltreating her. But she did not listen to her sister. She flew to Australia, only to discover that she would be more of waitress and janitor than manager of the restaurant. She stayed in a cramped apartment with three other Filipinas and had many mysterious deductions in her paycheck. When she and her fellow Filipinas banded together with the help of Migrante and Buhay Foundation and asked for better treatment and just wages, the restaurant management fired them, citing the economic crunch as a reason. She returned to Manila and has filed a case against her employer, speaking out against the ills of not getting full information about the contract, culture and context of one’s foreign employment.

Jocelyn was the daughter of a poor family in Davao. She auditioned for a job in Malaysia by singing on the cell phone so her prospective employer could hear her. Her supposed salary was P60,000 a month. She went to Malaysia by taking a ship from Zamboanga to Sandakan, thence to Sabah, and by bus to Kuching in Sumatra. Her employer got her passport and forced her to prostitution. “I asked the Philippine embassy to help me get back my passport and to rescue me, but they said there was no budget.” Later, she met a kind Malaysian by the name of Agustin. He helped her pay for a new passport, return to Manila, and start a new life. She is now taking a college course on a small scholarship and raising their son, giving a voice to the numerous silenced voices of the Filipina diaspora. (All the names were changed for this article)

The Court of Women utilized a unique format of weaving the objective and the subjective, as well as the personal and the political. It is in keeping with the way women have told their stories since time memorial – facts laced with song and poetry and prayer, the better to bring out the intensity of the experience at hand. The Court also featured in-depth analyses of the issue from the region and outside. Ms. Corinne Kumar, International Coordinator of the Courts of Women, said that “the testimonies were presented before an eminent jury of wise women and men validating their experiences, legitimizing their memories, and seeking new ways of justice.”

Caitlin Wiesen, Regional HIV/AIDS Practice Leader, Asia-Pacific, of UNDP said that “the Women’s Court is both a call for action against human trafficking and HIV, and a testament to the resilience and courage of women from the region who have survived unspeakable exploitation and violence. Asian countries are the sources, transit points, and destination areas for human trafficking."

Ms. Wiesen added that the Court of Women is not a one-time event, but is part of a process to make a difference in the lives of the man women who are subject to trafficking, violence, and exploitation. These abuses make them vulnerable to sexual abuse and unprotected sex, leading them to contract HIV.

Ms. Kumar added that “the concepts and categories that we use are unable to grasp the violation against women. The existing jurisprudence is gender-blind and we need to move towards a justice [system] that is restorative and healing of individuals and communities. It is essential that the linkages between HIV and human trafficking are viewed and addressed through the prism of dignity, access to justice, health and the human security of individuals and communities.”

Indonesian Minister for Women’s Empowerment Meutia Hatta officially opened the Court, while Dr. Nadis Sadik, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on HIV-AIDS in Asia and the Pacific Region delivered the keynote address.

The event was a major partnership that involved the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, United Nations Development Fund for Women, United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking and the Asia Pacifc Network of People Living with HIV +, with funding from the Government of Japan. The Court brought together more than 400 leaders, politicians, activists and communities who are working to empower Southeast Asian women and make them less vulnerable to trafficking and HIV.

The eminent jury included Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, Professor of Law at Chulalongkorn University and former Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Thailand; Marina Mahathir, Steering Committee Member, Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development, Malaysia; Annette Sykes, a lawyer from New Zealand; Sylvia Marcos, Director of the Center for Psycho-Ethnological Research, Mexico; Mieke Kamar Kantaatmadja, a Justice of the Supreme Court, Indonesia; and Ezperanza I. Cabral, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Philippines.

The Women’s Court had for sessions: human rights of vulnerable communities; public health impact of anti-trafficking legislation; and responses from communities that celebrated the women’s successes in overcoming various difficulties. The sessions of the Court were introduced by a group of “Expert Witnesses,” composed of Mabel Bianco, Argentina; Professor Iwanto, Indonesia; Irene Fernandez, Malaysia; Vichuta Ly, Cambodia; and Eni Lestari, Hong Kong.

The many tales of woe are enough to break one's heart. But despite their grimness, the Court ended on a note of celebration. The guests and speakers unveiled a Talking Poleng made by the participants of the Court that expressed hope, strength, solidarity and commitment. A traditional Balinese dance called Mulat Sarira was also performed by a group based in Bali. As one of the women participants said, “I am happy that I now have a voice. We have the power, the ability, to change things.”

A multi-stakeholder conference was also held yesterday to solidify the gains of the Court of Women and to create a space that will honor the testimonies of the women. Among the concrete suggestions was the inclusion of the voices of children who are also victims of trafficking, filling the gaps in data, as well as the inclusion of politicians and bureaucrats in the loop, along with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Professor Vitit also underscored the need to train law-enforcement agencies and judges on the issue. There is also a need to mobilize public opinion was also stressed, especially by Marina Mahathir of Malaysia, since trafficking is seen by some people as a perception problem. And in the end, the need to sink deeper roots in both policy and community was emphasized, the better to change mind-sets, the way dirty windows are washed clean by a dash of soap, water, and cloth.

And running

Of course, I am running for senator of the republic in the May 9, 2010 elections. That was the question asked by a schools superintendent whom I met at the premiere of Jay Altarejos' latest movie, Big Boy, Little Boy. That is the same question asked by one of my readers. And that is the question that my detractors wish I would answer "no" to. Manigas kayo.

If I have my way, I will file my senatorial papers on Nov 27. But this big political party that wants me in their slate will file their presidential, vice-presidential and senatorial papers on Nov 30, National Heroes Day. The two other parties who want to include me in their senatorial slates are still looking for other viable candidates to complete their slate of 12 strong names.

And I do not mind being called a commodity, or a brand, as one reader commented. That is the language of marketing, which sees candidates as goods or products that can be remembered with the proper advertising or publicity. But remember that LGBT issues are hot now not because it suddenly became like that.

It took us 20 years -- from the time we set up our LGBT groups in 1990 to the present -- to have our voices heard. Books, magazines, newspapers, movies, telesines, indie films, paintings, songs, the Anti-Discrimination List that Akbayan and Ang Ladlad pushed, our columns in the country's top publications -- all of these did not come easily. We had to work hard for them, to gain space and rooms for us, day by day. And over the years, we made sure we will be visible, we will be here, and we will be ready to take the country by storm in 2010 elections.

If I were you, please register now and vote. 2010 will be a historic election, and I am sure you want to tell yourself, or your kids, or whoever cares to listen years later, that you were there, you voted wisely and well, and helped the young and the fearless vault into positions of governance.

Good luck to us all.

--Am in Bali for the HIV-AIDS Conference of Asia-Pacific gay, bisexual and transgender men. No wonder we are called gay and happy -- sparks fly in the air, but there is also fabulousness and fashion sense and lots of vintage wit.

Half a lifetime ago

Half a lifetime ago - Danton Remoto

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Remote control | Danton Remoto | 08/04/2009 12:05 AM
www.abs-cbnnews.com
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Half a lifetime ago, I was working as an Editor in the Secretariat of the Batasang Pambansa. I edited the plenary sessions, correcting the unforgettable grammar and idioms of assemblymen. One of them rose one day and said, “Mr. Speaker, I want to declare ______ Air Lines a persona non grata, because their planes always collapse.”

A day later I went to him, with transcripts in hand, and told him that an airplane cannot be declared a PNG and that planes crash, but never collapse. Mr . Assemblyman rose to his full height of five feet, looked up at me (I am 5’ 11”) and barked: “And which school did you come from? The nerves to correct my English.”

When I told him where I studied, he smiled, showing teeth stained with nicotine, then mumbled that next time, I could just correct his startling ways with the English language, since I already have his “approbation” to do so.

I was slaving there when President Marcos declared in the Ted Koppel show that he would call for a snap election. The fragmented Opposition (they are always fragmented, then and now) cobbled together a presidential team. The green of Doy Laurel gave way to the yellow of Cory Aquino, whose words then and more so, now, still ring in my ears.

"Courage,” she said, before blessing the body of her dead husband in the casket, clad in widow’s weeds, the day of her arrival from Boston, “courage is as contagious as cowardice.”

Short and sharp those words, like bullets exploding in the air. And now, the woman was running for President. Speaker of the Batasan Nicanor Yniguez was a gentleman of the old school. He gave us our 13th month pay that December of 1985. Then he followed that up with a 14th month, and why, even a 15th month pay. He did not say he was giving us that largesse to vote for Marcos. He said the Batasan had some savings (it did) and these savings could be better used if given away to the employees.

And so my 13th-month pay went to a new set of contact lenses, which in those days cost an arm and a leg. My 14th-month pay went to my mother. And my 15th-month pay I brought to the Cory Aquino for President Headquarters in front of Santo Domingo Church on Quezon Avenue, and gave it to them as a donation.

The Batasan then was a cool place to be. Stickers of Cory and Doy would mushroom in the bathrooms, to be scraped away the next day. And then they would be there again. The young employees were openly campaigning for Cory and Doy. I attended all the rallies, giving away campaign leaflets to jeepney drivers and sidewalk vendors. Their stickers I pasted in our gate in our house in Antipolo; their banners I hung in the branches of the star-apple trees in front of our house, incurring the ire of my father – the military officer – who was a red, white, and blue fan of Marcos, the hero of the Second World War and a bright lawyer.

We campaigned, we voted, we guarded the vote. However, the Batasan where I worked proclaimed Marcos, to our great and utter embarrassment, such that I applied for work in the so-called mosquito press then (Malaya, Inquirer), only to be told there were no openings. We continued attending the massive rallies of Cory Aquino, where you counted people not in the hundreds of thousands, but in the millions. Cory then, alive, and Cory now, dead, always crunched numbers.

And then February 23 happened. I had just watched a movie in Remar Theater in Cubao and was eating donuts in the basement when I heard in the transistor radio the voices of Enrile and Ramos, crackling in the dry air, saying they had just withdrawn their support from the Dark One. The Coke nearly spilled out of my nose. I rushed home, only to find my father already watching TV and telling us never, never to go out. “There might be trouble,” he said, “you will be safer at home.”

Of course we did not. My two sisters and I went to EDSA, on the pretext of buying books at National Book Store in Cubao. We saw an old woman waving a big Philippine flag in the corner of P. Tuazon and 20th Avenue in Cubao. People cheered and sang and danced on the whole length of EDSA. Cars were barricaded in front of what is now the POEA. A mass was going on, while vendors plied their trade. It was like a fiesta. When we went home, my father remarked tartly how hot it must be in the bookstore, since our skin turned brown from buying books in the bookstore. We just kept silent.

When Marcos was speaking on TV and he was cut off in mid-sentence, I knew his end had come. The baritone voice that echoed, and sometimes still echo in my ears, was gone. A few days later, he flew away, with his family and their loot, in the dead of night.

And Cory became president in February of 1986. A month later, I had two letters in my hand, telling me I had been accepted into two M.A. programs of Creative Writing in American universities, on scholarships. It was an easy decision to make. I stayed in the Philippines, took my graduate studies in Literature at the Ateneo, and taught.

Three years later I was taking my second Master’s, this time in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling on a British Council grant. I took Publishing Studies because Marcos had destroyed the country’s publishing industry, and I wanted to help the Ateneo’s then-fledgling Office of Research and Publication produce textbooks and literary titles for the next generation of readers. In December of 1989, I was about to go to sleep when Ricardo, my Brazilian flat mate, knocked on my window. I opened it, and the cold wintry air stole into my room. “There is a war,” he said in his Portuguese-accented English, “there is a war going on in your country.”

“Shut up, Ricardo,” I said, “the last coup d’etat was in 1987.”

But he said there was a new one. So I turned on my Walkman radio, and there it was, in the clipped, terse English of the BBC journalist in Manila, reporting on the latest coup d’etat led by Colonel Gringo Honasan. A day later, I was on the train bound for London. I was going to the U.S. embassy in Grosvenor Square, to get a visa for my holiday visit to my sister in the U.S.

Outside the train, winter had turned the landscape into the color of bone. I listened again to the BBC, where the same journalist reported that he was somewhere in the Atrium in Makati, and gunfire was exploding all around him. I could hear the machine guns, and saw the rectangle of Atrium rise in my mind, and for the first time thought of the possibility of living in exile. But the rebels lost after the American jet fighters flew over them, spraying a ricochet of bullets as warning shots.

Three months later, in February of 1990, I had two letters in my hand, telling me that I had been accepted into two Ph.D. programs in Creative Writing in American universities, on scholarships. I agonized for days on what to do. My sister living in New Jersey was telling me to accept the offer. She was so lonely there and wanted me to join her, and added I could write more books if I stay in the USA. I had just been to the USA for the Christmas holidays and surely, she added, you must have enjoyed your stay here.

But do I really want to be a writer in exile? That romantic notion of making it in the publishing houses of New York, reviewed by the New York Times, and read by Americans? Or do I want to return to take care of my two parents going into their sixties, pick up a promising career in writing in the Philippines, and publish books that would be sold at the local bookstores?

I did return, taught for 22 years at the Ateneo, and published eight books of poetry and prose. And last Saturday, when Cory Aquino died and she was shown on TV in an earlier interview saying, “I am honored to be a Filipino, to be like all of you,” I finally knew that I made the right decision to come home, half a lifetime ago.

My party

Which party?

I have received two firm offers from two big political parties for me to join their respective senatorial slates, and if I do so, they said they would fund my campaign.

My campaign manager has also received word that another big political party would make an offer as soon as they resolve who among their two top horses would be their bet for the presidential race. Both race horses, I have been told, like me because I am not trapo, I did not come from a dynasty, and I have a big, bad mouth. Okay, fair enough.

Yes, but what about their platforms? And who else would be in their senatorial slates? And where, oh where, is their money coming from?

I think I am one of the very, very few candidates who actually ask the parties what their platforms are, and where their money is coming from.

Well, as I tell my students in my classes at the Ateneo, the most important thing is to ask questions. The right questions.

And the rest would, I hope, follow.

My platform

And am not talking about shoes.

Many thanks for those who asked me what my platform is. If you have read the 60 minutes interview I had with the Manila Bulletin, my platform will be education for all.

Out of ten children who enroll in Grade One, only six graduate in elementary school. And out of this six who enter high school, only four graduate. And out of this four who enter college, only two graduate.

Thus, I want to focus on universal primary school education for all. The ten who enter Grade One should be able to graduate in Grade Six. That is basic, so they could learn how to read, write, count and I hope think.

How is this possible? Through conditional cash transfer, where parents will be given Php 500 per child as long as these children stay in school, get regular vaccination and the mothers go to the health center for seminars on reproductive health. This is of course an idea from the Latin American countries, which GMA has adopted, but only in a desultory fashion. I want this initiative turned into a bill and into a law, to keep poor children in school, have them immunized, and their mothers knowledgeable about issues related to their health.

I will extend this CCT to high-school students, to keep those children in their schools -- and not on the streets, or the farms, or the sea, to eke out a living for their families. Children should be in school.

I would also fund the Study Now, Pay Later Plan for college students. I would also institute regular monitoring and evaluation of the 45 state college and universities -- to reward those who do well, with more funds programmed with strict allocations; and to find out why the others are lagging behind, and to institute measures for them to catch up.

LGBT rights will be part of my platform of education. As my 22 years of teaching have shown me, when people go to school, their minds become like windows. You could see the sun through a window. Or if you open it, you would let the sunlight and air in. Sunlight and ventilation kill viruses.

That is my platform.