Who's who in Noynoy's rise to the presidency

This comprehensive article by a crack team of reporters from GMA 7 captures well the people around and behind the rise of Noynoy Aquino to the presidency. And it correctly includes ANG LADLAD Party List as one of the groups that supported Noynoy. Let it be said that in its first political endorsement, ANG LADLAD correctly read the temper of the times, and endorsed Benigno Aquino III for President and Jejomar Binay for Vice-President. Both guys, as we know now, won. Watch us make our moves in the 2013 elections.


Who's who in Noynoy's rise to the presidency
06/23/2010 | 06:24 PM

A ragtag army of volunteers - many veterans from the glorious fights against Marcos, Erap and Arroyo, but perhaps millions more electrified by the emotional days of Cory Aquino's wake and funeral - delivered the presidency to Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III with their tireless campaigning.

Now with Noynoy at the cusp of assuming power, the action around the president-elect has become the game of the generals.

This was not how it was supposed to be. Aquino's running mate Mar Roxas was expected to be his clear second in command as vice president, waiting for his turn in 2016.

Instead, the feisty Jejomar Binay - nicknamed Rambotito in another era - emerged as the surprise vice president-elect, bringing along his own loyalists, people power credentials, and presidential ambitions.

Binay and Aquino share a light moment in August 2009. Both weren't candidates yet at the time. Less than a year later, they would win the two highest elective posts in the land.

Roxas and Binay's candidacies famously divided the Aquino camp during the campaign, with some of the president-elect's own relatives reportedly supporting Binay.

Since Aquino's and Binay's proclamations, the fissures have only occasionally bubbled to the surface, a sign perhaps of Aquino's growing command. Or simply the calm before the storm. Roxas after all still heads the Liberal Party, Aquino's party, which formulated his platform and will be represented in the new administration through some key appointees. Roxas is also expected to assume a key Cabinet post next year when the ban on appointments of 2010 candidates expires.

On the other hand, Binay may not bear being a spare tire for long without his own political fiefdom. He was reported to have declined several positions offered by Aquino that were presumably not to the vice president-elect's liking, or considered below Binay's stature.

How the rivalry between Binay and Roxas plays out in the months and years to come will be a main test of the new government's teamwork.

Yet their factions are not the only circles around Aquino, all of them angling for influence and key posts, and banking on their roles in the ragtag army's victory. Our infographic above displays the constellation of personalities around Noynoy. It was based on interviews with campaign volunteers and party members, and cross-checked with other insiders, none of whom agreed to speak on the record.

Some in his inner circle, like his sisters, the President-elect has known for most of his life. Others gained his trust only during the campaign. More than a few are remnants from the old Cory crowd that was politicized by the assassination of Aquino's father, Ninoy Aquino, in 1983.

The main nerve center of the Noy-Mar campaign was the "executive committee," or the exe-com, composed of insiders and trusted loyalists, or so the members thought. More than a few will occupy key posts in the incoming administration.

Among the exe-com members were Noynoy's sister Pinky Abellada, his cousin Rapa Lopa, long-time friend and adviser Jojo Ochoa, campaign manager Butch Abad and his daughter and Noynoy's Senate chief of staff Julia Abad, Hyatt 10 stalwarts Cesar Purisima and Dinky Soliman, Cory veterans Margie and Popoy Juico, and Liberal party leaders Jun Abaya, Erin Tañada, Chito Gascon, and Mar Roxas himself.

The group met on most Mondays in Parc House along EDSA in Quezon City.

Noynoy's first cousin Maria Montelibano replaced ad agency doyenne Yoly Ong as communications head and had already attended several exe-com meetings when the other members got wind of rumors that she was secretly supporting a Noy-Bi tandem, injecting political intrigue into the heart of Noynoy's campaign.

The Abads, Purisima, Soliman and Ochoa have all been assured official positions in the Aquino administration.

Like any political enterprise, the Aquino camp is not one big happy family. His own well-known clan on both sides have had bitter disagreements. Ninoy's sibling Lupita Kashiwahara, for instance, was a fixture in President Gloria Arroyo's Malacanang when both Noynoy and his mother Cory called for Arroyo to resign.

Noynoy and his mother's siblings Peping and Pedro apparently don't see eye to eye on what to do with Hacienda Luisita, the most contentious issue thrown at Aquino during his campaign..

If Noynoy learned anything from observing his mother in power, it should be the pitfalls of factionalism, which almost brought Cory Aquino's government down.

All in the Family

Viel Dee, Pinky Abellada, and Ballsy Cruz flash the "Laban" sign minutes before their brother, Benigno Aquino III, is proclaimed President. AP file photo
Aquino's sisters Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, Viel Aquino-Dee, and Kris Aquino-Yap all actively campaigned for Aquino.

Ballsy — who was their late mother Cory's chief of staff — and Pinky, the two elder sisters, were more active in behind-the-scenes campaign organizing. They were in charge of finances, and screened individuals who expressed intentions to help Noynoy's campaign.

Kris, the celebrity sister, has been helping spruce up Noynoy's sartorial image with the help of stylist Liz Uy, and giving her brother the ill-advised idea to float talk-show pal Boy Abunda's name for a key position.

Noynoy cannot appoint any of his sisters to any government post because of the constitutional ban on appointing relatives up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity. But he continues to consult them, particularly Ballsy and Pinky, regarding his official decisions. The four sisters are also increasingly visible in public through their charity work.

Some of Noynoy's cousins were also active in the campaign. His second cousin Tony Boy Cojuangco was listed as having donated a whopping 100 million pesos to the campaign kitty.

Even though business tycoon Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr. did not openly express his support for any candidate during the May polls (his supposed favorite nephew, Noynoy's cousin Gilberto Teodoro Jr., also ran for president), his daughter Lisa Cojuangco-Cruz joined campaign sorties for the Noynoy-Mar tandem.

Former actress Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, daughter of Jose "Peping" Cojuangco Jr. and Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco, hosted some of the bigger events like the Liberal Party miting de avance in Quezon City. Another cousin, Maria Montelibano — who headed Radio-TV Malacañang when Cory Aquino was president — was one of the leading figures in the media affairs bureau of Noynoy's campaign; she is now co-chair of the inaugural committee.

Both Mikee and Maria, however, were reportedly among those who supported Binay instead of Mar.

To counter rumors that he secretly supported Binay, Peping has insisted in various media interviews that he campaigned for Mar. But he also said some of the people who helped Aquino in the campaign, whom he refused to name, are just jockeying for government posts.

Balay vs Samar

Some members of the Hyatt 10, former government officials under the Arroyo administration who quit at the height of the "Hello Garci" scandal in June 2005, played active roles in Aquino's campaign. A few are set to return to the Cabinet.

Former education secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad was overall campaign manager; he is reported to be on the verge of being named budget chief. Abad is also a Liberal Party stalwart. With wife Dina a newly elected congresswoman from Batanes and daughter Julia the rumored incoming head of the Presidential Management Staff, the Abads have become one of the more formidable families in the new administration.

Former trade and finance secretary Cesar Purisima, who contributed P10 million to Aquino's campaign kitty, is part of the transition team that is paving the way for the turnover of Cabinet portfolio positions. He is said to be returning to his finance post.

The first two future appointees that Aquino confirmed were former social welfare secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman and former peace adviser Teresita Deles, both members of the Hyatt 10 and the civil society group Black and White Movement. Both will be returning to their old positions.

Former Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner Guillermo Parayno Jr. is rumored to have been appointed chief of the Bureau of Customs, a post he once held during the Ramos administration.

Liberal Party bets Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas join Quezon City Rep. Sonny Belmonte and Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada at an LP caucus.
Roxas himself is almost certain to get a Cabinet post after the one-year ban on the appointment of defeated candidates. No less than Noynoy gave that assurance.

Roxas, members of the Hyatt 10, and groups like the Aquino-Roxas Bantay Balota group hold office at a Roxas-owned property in Cubao called Balay, giving rise to the tagging of their faction as the "Balay group."

Meanwhile, the supposedly pro-Binay group composed of Montelibano and PiNoy Lawyers — a group of lawyers who volunteered to be Aquino's legal watchdog — hold office at an old house on Samar Avenue in Quezon City, which is why they've been tagged the "Samar group."

Sen. Chiz Escudero and incoming Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa face the media after meeting with President-elect Noynoy Aquino in his Times Street home.

Senator Francis Escudero, the only prominent politician to have openly campaigned for Noynoy and Binay, is considered part of the Samar group.

Escudero's involvement in the Aquino campaign caused a breakout of tension in the Aquino camp. Escudero initially intended to run for president, but he backed out of the race reportedly due to insufficient support from his political financiers. After he withdrew, Escudero lent his Senate staff to his friend Noynoy; they had served together in the House of Representatives and both won in the May 2007 senatorial elections.

Escudero's staff was in charge of handling the media, which did not sit well with the camp of Roxas, especially when Binay started to catch up with Roxas's ratings. Roxas and Escudero are also prospective rivals in the 2016 presidential elections. In the middle of the campaign, Escudero's staff were removed from the media bureau, but negative reactions from reporters prompted the campaign handlers to bring them back the next day.

The Noynoy Aquino for President Movement, the Council on Philippine Affairs headed by Pastor Boy Saycon, and gay rights group "Ang Ladlad" also reportedly campaigned for "NoyBi."

Behind the Scenes

Members of both camps continue to be involved in the planning of Noynoy's incoming administration, although pro-Roxas forces appear to be more active in transition preparations.

Another person in charge is lawyer Pacquito "Jojo" Ochoa Jr., who is being groomed to be Noynoy's executive secretary. He has said in an interview that he is presenting Noynoy with the road map to the presidency, which includes inauguration details and possible Cabinet appointees (at least three for each post).

Noynoy appears to have complete trust in Ochoa — the son of a former Pulilan, Bulacan mayor who was a friend of Ninoy — as Ochoa had served as Noynoy's legal counsel since he entered politics in 1998.

Ochoa, who was Quezon City administrator for nine years, has said that he plans to keep a low profile "so the real boss gets to be in the limelight." Unless it's absolutely necessary for him to speak up, all questions about the incoming president would be answered by lawyer Edwin Lacierda, who will move on to become presidential spokesman after his stint as Aquino's campaign spokesman.

Noynoy's platforms for various sectors are hinged on the views of his party. Many of his plans are mapped out by the LP think-tank National Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS), which counts among its policy analysts defeated LP senatorial aspirant Neric Acosta (who is rumored to be slated for environment secretary after the one-year ban), and professors Mario Taguiwalo and Dina Abad, wife of Butch.

Political commentator Manuel L. Quezon III, who is serving as Noynoy's inaugural spokesperson and is in charge of explaining inaugural rites and protocols, is a member of the Board of Trustees of NIPS.

Aquino presents to the media Col. Ramon Dizon, his choice as head of the Presidential Security Group. GMANews.TV file photo
Noynoy is currently staying at his home on Times Street, Quezon City, where he holds meetings with his inner circle, other rumored Cabinet appointees, supporters, and visiting dignitaries. Throughout the campaign, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jose Angel Honrado oversaw Noynoy's security detail.

Honrado, who is also a distant cousin of Noynoy, served in the Presidential Security Group during the presidency of the late Corazon Aquino.

Another former PSG member during Mrs. Aquino's time, Col. Ramon Dizon, has been named the incoming PSG commander once Noynoy assumes the presidency on June 30. — Jam L. Sisante, RSJ/HS, GMANews.TV

'Letter to a Young Teacher'

BY Danton Remoto | Remote Control
Posted at 06/25/2010 10:50 PM | Updated as of 06/25/2010 10:50 PM

This is the title of Fr. Joseph V. Landy’s small and sensible book for those who want to teach. The Jesuit teacher lives up to the subtitle of this book — The Art of Being Interesting — by giving us a book filled with pearls to be cast in the classroom.

The nine chapters are concise and written in a tone almost conversational, as if a wise, old man is giving a pep talk to a young person during College Placement Day. It is also freighted with honesty.

“Why teach? Many answers are possible, but one spells death to a career in the classroom. If your overriding motive is money, go elsewhere.” How true, how true. When we hold our college reunions, my college classmates at Ateneo would tell me how youthful I still looked, with a full head of black hair and hardly discernible lines on my face. I would cackle with laughter and tell them that, indeed, God is fair. “I may look young, but I hitched a ride coming here. But you? You came here in your Benzes or SUVs!”

So why should one live a life of genteel poverty and teach? Fr. Landy says a good teacher has a “touch of the actor, perhaps even the ham actor,” in them. They like to perform. Or they have the sense of mission similar to that found in doctors and nurses. Or you remember your confused days as a young person, and want to help those navigating the maze themselves. Or you just loved school when you were a student, and found this world can be for you, even after college.

Be that as it may, it is not a profession free from boredom. You and I and our friends who taught know that you have to prepare for a class. That is not so bad, because that is necessary. But the endless checking of papers! No sooner had you checked the quizzes than the group reports come in; and your green or red ink has just dried on them when you have to check the midterm exams, or the book review! And sometimes, as the good Jesuit Father intuits, you also have to arm yourself with the “inevitable misunderstanding with students and clashes with school authorities. Weathering such storms is part of the teaching profession.”
How, then, to stay alive in the classroom and not be like a parrot reading notes from the yellowed papers you have kept with you in the last 1,000 years?

Fr. Landy, who like all Jesuits have a solid training in Greek and Latin, quotes a line from old Latin: “Nemo dat quod non habet, meaning you can’t give to others what you don’t have yourself. Interest passes from person to person the way electricity passes through a wire.”

This means you should constantly update yourself on the subject you teach. Just because you have a college degree, or a master’s degree or a PhD, you should not just shut the door and consider yourself the fountain of wisdom on your subject. No, Sir, you just can’t wing it. Having a syllabus is fine, but you have to enrich it with contexts, subtexts, stories, why, even jokes and humorous tales about the subject you teach.

Some teachers could be like the magical bird of the forest in Ibong Adarna. You attend their classes and you fall asleep with the droppings from their dead tree of knowledge. “Because their own interest in their subject has expired. They have lost their appetite for it and no longer believe in its value. They have stopped reading about it, talking about it, caring about it. Once their students sense that a teacher is scraping bottom, is no longer growing in curiosity and knowledge about the subject of instruction, their attention level sinks too. Stale bread is uninteresting bread.”

If memory is the mother of all writing, then preparation is at the heart of all teaching. Fr. Landy says a teacher should re-read the text a day before. One should never come to the classroom cold. But preparation is not just an intellectual enterprise. Sure, Aristotle defined a person as a “rational animal,” since our reasoning ability separates us from the buffalo and the bee. But the major challenge one faces in the classroom is not intellectual but psychological.

You have to catch the attention of the students — especially in this Age of Farmville. Luckily, there is a whole archive of materials on pedagogy, and Fr. Landy gives us the gist.
One, it is not what one is teaching that captures the attention of the students, it is the way it is taught. The five psychological factors of attention-getting include activity, reality, the vital, humor and novelty.

Activity means the teacher should not be like the Sphinx solid before the desk. The teacher should move. What I do the moment I walk in is to make sure the classroom is comfortable. I turn on all electric fans, open all windows, and make sure the lights are on. These are part of what my venerable teacher, Fr. Joseph A. Galdon, SJ, called classroom management. Then I call the students by their first names for attendance, and later sit on the desk, a gesture that, I am happy to note, Fr. Landy also likes to do.

Write on the blackboard, point to what you’ve written, walk around the classroom. Activity also hums in the classroom when the students are involved in the learning process, in what we now call student-centered learning. Lectures are still good, but not all the time. Ask questions from the students, in true Socratic fashion. Call the students who nod from time to time. Or better yet, teach the students to ask questions from their classmates, with you acting as a moderator, like in a talk show.

But ever the priest, Fr. Landy adds: “Your method of questioning should always be Platonic in the sense that like him, your manner should be gentle, never sharp and imperious. Martinets may make good marine instructors but not good teachers of the young. In my experience, the most successful teachers had a classroom manner that was relaxed and conversational.”

Reality means bringing the colorful world outside school right into the classroom. Bring a map, a globe, a stack of postcards or photographs. Lug along a chart, a slide show, a Power Point Presentation. Imitate the characters in the fiction you teach — their voices, their facial expressions, and why not, even their very clothes if you have them at home. In my Poetry classes, I ask the students to go to the Ateneo Art Gallery — which has an excellent collection of Modern Philippine Art — and ask the students to describe the images in a painting. And in my Fiction classes, I ask them to go to the same gallery and retell the story found in a painting.

The Vital means emphasizing the importance of the course. In my History class, my late teacher Fr. Leonard stressed the strategic value of the blitzkrieg during World War II, a quality which one can use in life after college. Or the ability to ask difficult questions — to others and more importantly, to one’s self.

Humor, of course, is the tonic that makes a teacher sparkle. The great teacher Gilbert Highet said that “I consider a day’s teaching wasted if we do not all have one hearty laugh.” The atmosphere in the classroom should be friendly, not threatening, and easygoing. If your teachers are Nazis, you fear them, but did you ever learn anything at all, except to make fun of them behind their backs?

Novelty means varying your teaching strategies, bringing or doing something new each time. And voice — ahh, that is the prime apparatus of an excellent teacher. “Living voices, not libraries, are the most indispensable transmitters of learning.. I have always described the ways in which a public speaker should avoid monotone as the three P’s — Pace, Power and Pitch.”

Short pauses are like silences in a conversation — just enough time to let an important idea sink in. The power of one’s voice should reach the person in the last row. Vary also the loudness of your voice, like a theater actor using his voice like an accordion of ideas.
In his Postscript, Fr. Landy said that “those who taught us in college we remember mostly for what they did for our minds. But those who taught us in primary and secondary schools made their mark on our characters, our ways of thinking about life, our ambitions, our immortal souls.”

That is why I teach part-time even now that I am between 40 and death. I am writing books and preparing for a career in the public realm, but still I find time to teach. There is nothing like that eureka moment when the students’ eyes widen because of the arrival of an insight, blooming like light in their minds

* * *

No room for Church meddling

June 21, 2010

‘Our officials should keep their piety private. In exchange, the people would let their hypocrisy pass unnoticed.’

THE Catholic hierarchs earlier said they would not accept the invitation of the education department to review the sex education subjects that will be pilot-tested this year. Now, the word is some representatives of the Church would be meeting with educators after all, but this would only be to reiterate its position that sex education is not the business of the schools and should be left exclusively to parents.

If that’s the Church’s stand, the education department might as well declare that its officials are prepared to humor the Church representatives but are determined to implement the order come what may.

Gloria Arroyo herself issued the order for education officials to dialog with Church representatives. She is exiting on June 30, to be succeeded by Noynoy Aquino who has a more enlightened appreciation of the need to address reproductive health. The officials can dribble the ball during the transition.

We have not seen an administration more servile than Gloria’s to the Church. To reciprocate Gloria’s servility, we have not seen the Church more forgiving of a sitting administration’s legal and moral trespasses.

"Sama sama na sila," as the saying goes, with the coming into power of President-elect Noynoy Aquino.

We recognize, of course, the Church’s right to express its stand on any moral issue. Bishops, priests and the laity are after all citizens with a constitutionally guaranteed right to the exercise of free speech.

But the separation of the Church and State, according to the Constitution, should be inviolable. This means, in the Philippine context, not only for the government not to listen to any religious groups but to turn a deaf ear to all of them. The principle of Church-State separation is a reaction to the Church’s – basically through the friars – meddling in governance which reached its peak during the Spanish colonial rule.

(The constitutional principle is meant to stop Church meddling. It is sets a far higher wall on Church-State separation than the "no-establishment" clause in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," the US Constitution says. This is universally interpreted as, at the maximum, a prohibition against favoring any religious group and, at the minimum, a ban against the setting up of any state religion.)

Our officials should keep their piety private. If they did, we the citizens, in exchange, would let their hypocrisy pass unnoticed.

Bright, Catholic -- and gay

BY Danton Remoto
Art and Culture section
The Philippine STAR
June 14, 2010

Raymond “Bong” Alikpala seemed like the perfect guy any girl would love to bring home to mother. He is a blue-blooded Atenean from grade school to law school, an honor student and student council leader. He is also a practicing Catholic; cheerful, bright, and personable.

But for many years he hid a secret in the innermost chamber of himself — his homosexuality. After almost four decades in the closet, he has finally come out and written what may be a most controversial book, God Loves Bakla: My Life in the Closet.

Published by the author himself in Cambodia where he now works as a lawyer, the book’s Philippine edition was launched by Ang Ladlad Party List a fortnight ago. In reportorial mode, Alikpala begins his narrative this way.

“I am a gay man, a homosexual. I engage in sexual relations with the same sex. I have paid other men to have sex with me. I have never had sex with a woman. I have a husband.”

The words come out staccato-like, unblinking. The prose is like fizz from a soda bottle that had long been covered.

After a closeted life in Manila, being an over-achiever and super-competitive in everything he did, Alikpala took his Master of Laws at the National University of Singapore. Then he returned to Manila and began training as a priest at the Jesuit Novitiate in Novaliches, but was asked to leave after 16 months. Days of depression made him feel like a boat without anchor: in a stroke of irony, he would later go to Cambodia and work with asylum seekers and refugees — people without moorings, like him — at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. And at the age of 42, he began writing this book.

In 21 chapters, Alikpala sketches for us the brief history of a life. But unlike Western coming-out books that rage and rage against the light, this one is very Filipino in the sense that it is, eventually, anchored on family and God. He acknowledges love and devotion for his hardworking parents, who sent him to a good and expensive Catholic school; to his circle of friends, most of them male, with whom he (tried to) have a platonic relationship as comrades-in-arms.

His teachers at the Ateneo are also mentioned, described in terms more sweet than bitter: Dulaang Sibol, Prayer Days for Coeds, generally liberal advice dispensed by his Jesuit mentors.

“Fr. Joel’s initial advice was to try to be at peace with myself, to learn to accept myself as I was. He told me to pray for the grace of peace and self-understanding. In later sessions he would tell me that I was too preoccupied with my own self, and he encouraged me to join student activities which were others-oriented, which could draw me out of myself and place my problems in perspective. He said that I should learn to accept my homosexuality peacefully, and then learn to go beyond it, to transcend it, because it did not have to limit or define who I was.”

And so our young and confused gay man in the closet began doing apostolate work for an urban poor community in Commonwealth, Quezon City. Later, he would throw himself headlong into the student council, leading protests against the Marcos Government in the mid-1980s. But still, at the heart of it lies a life of contradiction: because unable to accept one’s self, one abandons the inner core and offers one’s self to the altar of community and country. But when there is a black hole inside one’s self, what then can one offer, except hollow words and acts of charity?

With confusion hounding him like a shadow, Alikpala graduates, takes up law, and becomes involved with human-rights cases. He teaches at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, cuts his legal teeth with the law office of the legendary Senator Rene V. Saguisag. Already 30 years old, but still lost. The photograph at the end of Chapter 11 captures it perfectly: a man with an umbrella on a rainy day, carrying a cane as he walks on the slippery street.

And as with the case of many Filipinos who lived abroad, his stint there freed him in a way. He received an ASEAN Scholarship to take the Master of Laws at NUS.

“Living abroad for the first time, I was able to move and behave in a way unencumbered by past frustrations, embarrassments, and failures. I felt liberated, for once, to be myself, and not to have to be the dutiful son, diligent student, model Atenean, and hardworking attorney. I felt young, carefree, and irresponsible. I still remained closeted all my life in Singapore, and yet the feeling of being a student all over again made me happier, friendlier, more fun to be with, more happy-go-lucky. And this happier Raymond, the backpacker Raymond traipsing with them across Malaysia and Indonesia, was who my European friends got to know and grew to cherish.”

It’s like the Chinese poem of a beautiful parrot suddenly freed from the golden cage of home. And again, in a life of ironies, only to find another golden cage in the Jesuit Novitiate, where he stayed for 16 months and was finally expelled by the Father Provincial for a homosexual act. Set adrift and gripped by depression, he later found solace in work as a lawyer for refugees in Cambodia under the Jesuit Refugee Service.

There he met an 87-year-old priest, Fr. Pierre Ceyrac, who counseled him: “Umbra lux Dei, [he said], drawing with his finger a sundial on the cabinet door. He illustrated how the shadow on the sundial told us the time, and that without the shadow the sundial would be useless. ‘The shadows are the light of God.’ he translated. It was the shadows in our lives through which God revealed Himself to us. . . .”

After the metaphysical, it was time for the physical — and out of the closet at last. Alikpala was en route to attend summer school at Oxford when he had a stopover at Bangkok and a friend brought him to Silom area, to have “massage for men by men.” Suffice it to say that he had finally tasted the forbidden fruit in an atmosphere that was free from Catholic guilt.

The coming-out part of the book is written in prose that is shorter and more crisp, as if the liberated Raymond is taking a jaunty walk in the park. He has found his own voice, own friends, and finally a lover — Robert from Saigon.

“Robert and I were married on 14 June 2008. It was not a legal ceremony; neither Philippine nor Vietnamese civil laws recognize same-sex marriages. It has been the fashion to call this a ‘commitment ceremony,’ but for Robert and me, ours is a real marriage — we have made our own vows before God, promising to love each other, for better or for worse, until the end of our days.”

And where did they get married? In Angkor Wat, the ancient ruins in Cambodia. This is also the place where the character played by Tony Leung in the film In the Mood for Love finds a crack in the wall. And there in the ageless ruins, he confesses his most secret love for the already-married character played by Maggie Cheung.

* * *

God Loves Bakla sells for P400. Copies are available at Achieve office, 162 Sct. Fuentebella Ext., Barangay Sacred Heart, Quezon City (426-6147). Or you can deposit P490 to Ang Ladlad BPI savings account 1993077425, inform me at danton_ph@yahoo.com and we will send your copy by courier.


If you think 2016 is still too far away, then think again.

My pink crystal ball sees the following combinations for President and Vice-President in 2016. And I'm telling you these guys are beginning to lay the ground work. As I told the emissary of a presidentiable who talked to me in July 2009 and who invited me to join their senatorial slate, you don't prepare for a presidential election a year before the election. You prepare for it a day AFTER the previous election. Thus, the campaign for the next Presidential and VP elections started on May 11, 2010.

Combinations are as follows, in random order:

1. Jinggoy Estrada - Bongbong Marcos (Partido ng Masang Pilipino and Kilusang Bagong Lipunan)

Both families have been friends for ages; the alliance is sealed tighter than any glue could seal it. Jinggoy has his father's 20 percent following, and Bongbong has his billions...

2. Mar Roxas II - Kiko Pangilinan (Liberal Party)

A decent and charming team, but will the masses -- who constitute 80 percent of the voters -- bite?

3. Manny Villar - Alan Peter Cayetano (Nacionalista Party)

Tingnan natin if Villar's wealth and Alan's motormouth can do the trick -- this time.

4. Jojo Binay - Koko Pimentel (PDP-Laban)

Binay would be 74 by this time and Koko was 12th in the 2007 elections, but it's worth a try.

5. I am sure Chiz Escudero will run but he has no funds and no political party and no VP candidate yet in sight. But he is not a wunderkid for nothing.

Remember, before Cory died and Noynoy ran, I wrote in this blog that Erap would win the 2010 elections, in spite of Villar's fabulous wealth. And he almost did, if Cory did not die and if Noynoy did not run...

My choices for 2016?

I am keeping my bets close to my chest. For now.

Mr. Aquino will expand and reform CCT programs

Mr. Aquino will expand and reform CCT programs
The Manila Times
Thursday, 10 June 2010 00:00

YESTERDAY’s press conference immediately after the proclamation of President-elect Noynoy Aquino was a demonstration of his mastery of the national condition.

All his answers—in perfect English and sometimes Tagalog—were impressively those of a person who knows how our country fares in the key departments of life.

One of the questions touched on poverty. Responding, he spoke of the Arroyo administration’s successful CCT (conditional cash transfers) program. Cash is given to the very poor—by the Social Welfare department. But DSWD does not touch the money. Recipients go to the Land Bank.

These are dole outs to the “targeted absolutely poor”—families who need cash so they can have food on their table and some of their basic necessities for survival.

There are conditions to being included in the program. The family must fulfill the basic duties of going to a health clinic for treatment. Toddlers and kids below six must go to the daycare center. And each qualified household’s children of school age must be enrolled. Not only that, the children must have at least 85-percent attendance record. Failing these conditions, the family loses its monthly cash gift from the state.

Through this method, millions of children between 6 and 14 years of age cease to be out of school youth or dropouts. They get some basic education.

Yesterday, President-elect Aquino promised something The Times has been campaigning for: That his new administration will not stop but actually improve and expand the CCT program. All the needy will be helped to surmount their crippling poverty and no child, no matter how poor, is left without an elementary and high school education.

There are now (as of May 2010) 1,015,542 household beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program with the result that 1,739,353 children aged 6 to 14 years old are now enrolled in and attending the neighborhood elementary and high schools.

Yes, he said yesterday. The CCT will even be expanded (which means millions more dropouts will be brought back to school) so that instead of covering only 38 percent of all families that should be in the program, 100 percent would be. Mr. Aquino actually knew the percentage figure! This means no poor child would be left behind by his or her cohort. No poor Filipino child will go unschooled.

He also promised to reform the CCT program. It will become less politicised. (“Babawasan lang ang pamumulitika.”)

Wonderful! God bless you, Mr. President-elect.

Having millions of dropouts equals ever-poor Philippines

In 2006 to 2007, primary school enrolment was down to 83 percent from 90 percent five years earlier. For secondary education, participation rate was a mere 59 percent of our youth—and this figure was steady over five years.

The education secretary then put the 2007 to 2008 participation rate at 85 percent. This early, the National Economic and Development Authority has said we won’t make our Millennium Development Goal of universal participation by 2015. But present Education Secretary Mona Valisno is confident it can be met—with unstinting support from incoming president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd.

There have been improvements, the 2007 to 2008 the dropout rate was 16.7 percent. In 2008 to 2009, the Arroyo administration claims, it has been reduced to 9 percent. This is owed to the various Education for All (EFA) programs, the 4Ps Program (conditional cash transfer for poorest families discussed above), the MISOSA (Modified In-School and Off-School Approach to allow children to study at home while employed as parents’ farm help) and other alternative schooling system. These are parts of the DepED’s Drop-Out Reduction Program (DORP).

But much more must be done.

In poorest regions, a quarter of children are out of school
In the poorest regions, such as in Western Visayas, 25 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are out of school while in the National Capital Region, the participation rate is 92.9 percent.

The number of young people aged 12-15 who are not in high school is 41.4 percent of that population group.

Many pupils don’t even get to Grade 2
For every 100 pupils who enter Grade 1, only 86 will continue till Grade 2. Over the last 30 years, this has been the highest dropout rate (14 percent) in the basic school cycle.

By Grade 4, only 76 will still be in school. By Grade 6, only 67 of the original 100 would still be enrolled—and only 65 will finish elementary school.

Our neighbors have left us far behind
Of the 65 children who graduate from Grade 6, only 58 will move on to high school. And of the 58 who enter high school, only 42 will graduate.

This completion rate of 42 percent is too low for the middle-income country we’re supposed to be. Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia—which started at the same level, or lower, in the 1950s—have left our country far behind.

Inequality starts at ‘play’ school
The children of Filipino parents who could afford the expense go through 14 to 15 years of basic education, starting with “play” and “prep” school. The great majority get only 10 years: six of elementary and four of high school.

We’re one of only three countries among 155 Unesco-member states with a 10-year pre-university education system. The others are Djibouti and Angola. Even Laos and Mongolia have elected the 12-year basic system: seven of elementary and five of high school.

We also spend far less on our schoolchildren than comparable neighbor states do. Thailand spends six times more; Malaysia 10 times more, on every schoolchild. Singapore spends 13 times more.

As long as millions of Filipino kids are unschooled and grow up to be adults bereft of basic education, our country will continue to be doomed to deepening poverty.

Tickled pink

Tickled pink
By Büm D. Tenorio, Jr. (The Philippine Star) Updated June 10, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - They all came garbed in different colors but the mood of the night was definitely pink. After all, for the first time, the US Embassy hosted the Gay Pride Month celebration in Manila to show respect for the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) community in the Philippines and to recognize their contributions to their culture and society.

No less than US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. topbilled the celebration. Thomas, who said he was disheartened to hear tales of woe and injustice committed against the LGBT community, was candid and warm as he delivered his speech that momentous night.

“Discrimination is a waste of talent,” he told more than a hundred of LGBT members gathered at the cozy Makati residence of Richard Nelson, the counselor for public affairs of the US Embassy.

Nelson, who was very comfortable hosting the party, said US President Barack Obama proclaimed June as LGBT Pride Month in the US. Obama, in a statement distributed at the event, said: “We must give committed gay couples the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. We must protect the rights of LGBT families by securing their adoption rights, ending employment discrimination, and ensuring Federal employees receive equal benefits.”

The occasion was maintained at a convivial level throughout the night. At the end of Thomas’ speech, the gracious ambassador even said: “I was too nervous to ask Boy Abunda for his autograph.” TV personality and STAR columnist Boy Abunda, one of the prominent figures who graced the affair, broke into laughter. So did the rest of the LGBT community of journalists, writers, TV reporters, publicists, fashion designers, chefs, lawyers, professors among other professionals.

Many straight men and women were also seen enjoying the party sans the dreaded homophobia.

Abunda was recently the subject of discriminatory remarks when his name was mentioned by President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as possible Secretary of the Department of Tourism.

“I really find it very offensive when people say that I am just a TV host and not a lawyer or a doctor, therefore I am not capable of running a public office,” Abunda told The STAR.

Ang Ladlad party-list founder and STAR columnist Danton Remoto was also “happy and gay” to be at the momentous occasion. He said, “The first black American President has declared June as the LGBT Pride Month and the Manila embassy hosted this reception for us. We are no longer in the closet. We are now in the center of the room.”

Nelson’s Filipina wife, Pinky Sabinosa-Nelson, was just too delighted to welcome members of the LGBT community to their residence as she led guests to the buffet table that consisted of sumptuous Filipino fare including fresh lumpia in pink wrapper and pink rice. Pink is the international color of the LGBT community.

(E-mail the author at bumbaki@yahoo.com)

Homophobia and the case of Boy Abunda

Homophobia and the case of Boy Abunda
Posted at 06/08/2010 12:17 AM | Updated as of 06/08/2010 12:17 AM

Ang Ladlad -- the national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos -- wants to express its alarm over the quality of the debate and discourse regarding Mr. Boy Abunda and the alleged offer for him to become Secretary of the Department of Tourism.

Mr. Abunda -- who is a close friend and ally of the Philippine LGBT movement -- does not deserve the vilification being done to him in print, online and in conversations going on around town. President-apparent Benigno C. Aquino III allegedly wanted Mr. Abunda to be the DOT Secretary to help market the Philippines and its luxuriant tourism potentials to a global audience.

Obviously, some people whose eyes are dead-set on the position have begun to orchestrate a vile and malicious campaign against Mr. Abunda. They questioned his academic preparation, his training and even his job, calling him a "mere entertainer. " This, Mr. Abunda has ignored, letting them slide like water down his back. But when the attacks became personal -- that he is a "mere homosexual," "that where is the Philippines going -- from republican to democratic to pederasyon ng mga bading" -- it is time for Ang Ladlad to make a clear and strong statement.

Thus, in the month of June -- the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month -- Ang Ladlad would like to serve notice that debates and discourse on a person's qualifications for any job in government should be focused on the professional and not the personal. One's sexual orientation and sexual identity have nothing to do with one's qualifications for the job at hand. Those who stoop down to this level are obviously threatened by Mr. Abunda's appointment.

He has said he is inclined to decline the appointment, and pointedly added that those who want the job can now sleep better. Thus, it is time for the gay-bashing to stop -- now, and in the future, if and when Boy Abunda would have changed his mind and accept an appointment as the first openly gay member of an Aquino Cabinet.

And we are certain that the incoming Aquino administration will give no space to homophobia in its governance standing on the strong legs of change and national renewal.

This statement was signed by our new Chairperson, Ms Bemz Benedito, and myself as the Chairman Emeritus.

Mayor Binay makes history

Photo by Robert Dilan

Mayor Binay makes history:
Win or lose, VP race one for the books
June 7, 2010

Whatever the final outcome of the tightly contested vice presidential race, Mayor Jejomar Binay of Makati City has made history by being the first local official to be possibly catapulted to a top national position, just a breath away from the presidency. Unlike another former mayor, Joseph Estrada, Binay bypassed Congress in his quest for a top post.

But Binay’s journey from being a far third at the start of the campaign to becoming the frontrunner in the national canvassing does not surprise fellow mayors and other local executives who say that he prepared for it long ago. The Makati mayor made smart use of vast resources and backed these up with an underground operation that included an in-your-face infiltration of a rival political organization.

The latest count by the Senate and House of Representatives acting as National Board of Canvassers shows the Liberal Party’s Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd with a commanding lead of 5.5 million over former President Joseph Estrada of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).

But the vice presidential race is still too close to call with the PMP’s Binay posting 14,084,879 votes against the 13,440,127 votes of the Liberal’s Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd.

Binay leads by 644,752 with some 1.4 million votes still to be canvassed.

This cliffhanger finale to the 2010 elections was unthinkable at the start of the campaign period when Aquino and Roxas topped the December 2009 survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) with 40-percent respondents’ approval. Sen. Loren Legarda of the Nacionalista Party was a distant second with 32 percent, and Binay trailed far behind with 10 percent.

But interviews by VERA Files reveal Binay is now merely reaping the rewards of a nationwide network laid out nearly two decades ago when he launched a sister-city program linking Makati with other local governments.

Spreading the wealth
With a P12-billion annual budget, Binay’s Makati could afford to be generous. Since the early 1990s, Makati has forged sisterhood ties with more than 200 municipalities and cities all over the country, advising them on public management, subsidizing computerization training of municipal government employees, providing computer equipment, giving scholarships to poor students from the provinces in Makati City schools and making available the city’s modern medical facilities.

Binay is also known to be quick in giving at least P50 million in financial assistance to a sister municipality in need, such as in times of calamity.

In his visit to Catbalogan, Samar, in March 2009, Binay told reporters that Makati’s sisterhood program had nothing to do with his announced plan to run for president. “Aside from extending assistance and goodwill to other cities and municipalities, the sisterhood is also a good way for LGUs [local government units] to exchange ideas and best practices on governance,” he said.

Binay had initially aimed for the presidency, refusing invitations from the Liberal party to join its senatorial ticket, saying that his expertise is as an executive and not as a legislator. He only slid down to the vice presidency when Estrada decided to run for president.

The Makati mayor gained valuable exposure to the masses in provincial sorties with the popular Estrada. Sources knowledgeable about the Estrada campaign said Binay underwrote the bulk of the PMP campaign expenses.

Mayors, Boy Scouts and fraternity
Binay solidified his linkages with local governments with his friendship with 78 other city mayors who compose the League of Cities of the Philippines. This is best shown in Metro Manila’s results where the winning team was Aquino-Binay.

The SWS exit poll showed Binay’s support cutting across party lines. Majority of supporters of Nacionalista’s Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr., Lakas-Kampi CMD’s Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro and other presidential candidates had him as vice president.

A source close to one of the Metro Manila mayors said Binay campaigned only for himself with his fellow city mayors, telling them he understood their commitment to another presidential candidate. Estrada showed his displeasure by leaving blank the slot for vice president in his ballot, which was captured on camera on May 10.

Another national organization that Binay cultivated through the years was the Boys Scouts of the Philippines and its allied fraternity, the Alpha Phi Omega.

People made fun of the diminutive mayor looking like an overage boy in his Boy Scout uniform. But what many didn’t realize was that whenever Binay donned those khaki shorts, he was re-affirming his ties with the 3.5 million members of the organization and establishing a connection with their parents and other family members.

Binay’s masterstroke
While Binay’s low-key building of national networks would make a good study of effective campaign strategy, his masterstroke was the infiltration of Aquino’s campaign organization.

“There’s no way that Mar [Roxas] could have won with the betrayal from within their campaign organization,” a veteran journalist remarked, sharing his conversation with Aquino’s campaign manager Florencio “Butch” Abad, who was concerned about the activities of the Noynoy Aquino for President Movement.

The movement is headed by Ed Roces, son of the late Joaquin “Chino” Roces, founder and publisher of The Manila Times who was responsible for convincing the late Corazon “Cory” Aquino to challenge Ferdinand Marcos for the presidency in 1986.

Abad, the journalist source said, was disturbed that the movement was campaigning for a Noynoy-Binay ticket from its campaign headquarters in Parc House Building along EDSA, just two floors above the Liberal Party office.

It was not only the movement that was campaigning for a Noy-Bi ticket among Aquino’s supporters. There were the “Yellow Force” reportedly headed by Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski, daughter of Aquino’s brother Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, the gay organization Ang Ladlad, the People’s Patriotic Movement, and Council for Philippine Affairs (COPA).

Friends of the council leader Pastor “Boy” Saycon speak of a roomful of Noy-Bi materials when visiting his Makati office. The council includes Peping Cojuangco and his wife, Margarita, and Philippine Star columnist Billy Esposo.

Other Aquino relatives campaigning for Noy-Bi were Jose Maria “Boy” Montelibano and his wife Maria, who headed Radio TV Malacañang in the Cory Aquino administration and was active in Noynoy’s presidential campaign.

Major blunder
Boy Montelibano, in his column in Inquirer online, said that Roxas has only himself to blame for his defeat: “It [a Binay victory] has caused allegedly well-bred people to cross lines of decency and engage in gutter behavior in blaming others for what cannot be but a serious error of the core of Mar Roxas’s campaign. For a candidate to lose a lead of over 30 percent in three months without realizing it until the last moment is a classic case of political ineptness. The inept, therefore, has to point the blame on others, a usual human tendency.”

Campaign strategist Malou Tiquia of Publicis, who helped Roxas’s senatorial campaign in 2004, has a similar observation, although put in gentler terms. “Mar was too complacent. This is not the Mar of 2004 who was well-prepared with a good message, an organized ground troop and an air war with a storyline strategy.”

“My reading of him was he was too burned-out after sliding down to number two, and my sense was he was banking on the ‘sacrifice’ to get the home run,” Tiquia added. Roxas, who had been nurturing his own presidential ambition for years, gave way so that Noynoy could become Liberal standard-bearer, amid public clamor in the weeks after Cory’s death in August.

Tiquia noted that Roxas’s ads did not “embrace” Aquino’s anti-corruption theme and that he was not able to communicate what a vice president can do. “He was more of Mr. Palengke than a partner of Noy,” she said.

Since sliding down to vice president, Roxas had consistently maintained a commanding lead against his then closest rival, Legarda, until polls showed Binay catching up in April.

And then there was Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero who withdrew from the presidential race in November 2009 and then announced he would be supporting Binay for vice president. Escudero and Binay worked together as part of Fernando Poe Jr.’s presidential campaign in 2004. Escudero did not immediately announce whom he was supporting for president.

Enter Escudero
In February, when Aquino’s rating was declining and Villar was catching up with him, Aquino revamped his campaign organization and brought in Escudero, whose team handled media operations. They are believed responsible for the exposés against Villar that paved the way for an Aquino surge.

In April, Escudero, while managing the Aquino campaign’s media operations, came out with TV ads endorsing Binay for vice president. The next surveys after the endorsement had Binay slightly ahead of Roxas.

Tiquia does not credit Binay’s surge to Escuderos’ endorsement. “Binay was already on the rise when it came out,” she said. “What it perhaps did was to raise the ante. The timing of the endorsement created that kick to the end game.”

University of the Philippines political science Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer agreed with Tiquia. “The vaunted appeal of ‘NoyBi’ is a myth. Let’s not give too much credit to Chiz Escudero, Ang Ladlad, and the faction of the Coryistas who supported Binay,” she said.

Ferrer did an analysis of votes based on figures from the electronic data maps prepared by Cybersoft GeoInfomatics for the Philippine Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. The running tallies were computed from about 90 percent of election returns.

“Aquino and Roxas dominated all other tandems in terms of sheer number of votes,” said Ferrer. “NoyBi is leading in eight or majority of the regions, but contrary to what most people think, Binay benefited primarily from being Estrada’s running mate and only in a small way from the NoyBi vote configuration.”

Ferrer pointed out that Aquino and Roxas led the race in Western and Central Visayas and the Caraga regions, while Estrada and Binay prevailed in Cagayan Valley, Northern Mindanao, Davao and Socsargen Region.

“Assuming all Erap supporters also voted for Binay, about 8.7 million of his votes can be accounted for. But he has about five million more votes than Erap,” she said.

Ferrer said the gap between the votes of Teodoro and his running mate, Eduardo Manzano, was a possible source for about 2.9 million votes for Binay. “A secondary source is the 1.2 million more people who voted for Villar but not for Loren,” she said.

“Binay should thank Gibo’s and Villar’s supporters instead,” Ferrer said.

What makes this year’s intrigue-ridden vice presidential race interesting, however, goes beyond the results of this election. It could be a preview of the 2016 presidential contest.

Ellen Tordesillas and and YouthVotePhilippines

Editor’s note: VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look into current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

Dropouts 'our immense and invisible failure'

6 June 2010
The Manila Times

The school crisis is on us once again. Everyone’s agitated about crowded classrooms; the lack of teachers; not enough textbooks. All tough problems, certainly, but not even the key ones. The more intractable problem we don’t talk about: it concerns the children who never even get to school—or who drop out before they’ve received enough formal learning to function in a modern society.

Out of every 100 Filipino children of the right age, roughly 10 never enter a classroom at all. And out of every 100 children who do, 14 drop out before they reach Grade 2. (In early 2009 Pulse Asia reported 26 percent of all Filipinos having no formal education or no more than an elementary education.)

Almost unavoidably, these children will grow up to join the ranks of our hard-core poor.

In 2009-10 the primary-school participation rate was 86.5 percent. For high school, it was 65.8 percent.

The Jesuit educator Bienvenido Nebres calls our inability to provide adequate elementary education to the great majority of our people “our immense and largely invisible failure.”

Our shameful neglect
And it’s true we’ve shamefully neglected providing the universal basic education to which government is committed—by both the 1987 Charter and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (Unesco) “Education for All” framework.

What is worse is that even our policymakers don’t seem to realize the enormity of that policy failure.

This early, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has said it is unlikely the Philippines would meet its Millennium Development Goal of universal school participation by 2015.

Falling out of school
To compound this problem, children who do enter school begin to drop out early. In the poorest regions, parents still tend to pull their children out of school at the planting and harvest seasons.

For every 100 pupils who enter Grade 1, only 86 will go on to Grade 2. For the last 30 years, says the Philippine Development Report, the highest dropout rate in the basic school cycle has occurred this early.

By Grade 4, only 76 of the original 100 will still be in school. By Grade 6, only 67 would still be enrolled—and only 65 will graduate from elementary school.

Of the 65 who finish grade school, only 58 will move on to high school. And of the 58 who enter high school, only 42 will graduate.

The figures cited above are national averages. In the Western Visayas, 25 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are out of school. (In the National Capital Region, the participation rate is 92.9 percent.) The young people ages 12 to 15 who are not in high school make up 41.4 percent of that population group.

This completion rate of 42 percent is far too low for the middle-income country we’re supposed to be. Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia—which started at the same level, or lower, in the 1950s—have all left our country far behind.

One reason is that government spends far less on our school children than comparable neighboring states do. Thailand spends six times more, and Malaysia 10 times more, on every schoolchild. Singapore spends 13 times more.

Generational poverty
As elsewhere, our poorest families are those whose heads have the barest formal education—or none at all. And these family heads pass down their poverty to their children and grandchildren.

Parents who drop out of school raise children who drop out in turn, and children who drop out raise grandchildren who drop out too.

Despite our enduring myth of the dropout who makes good, only 3 percent of farmers’ children ever become modern professionals, according to the sociologist Gelia Castillo.

Inequality starts early
Among us social inequality starts early. The children of parents who could afford the expense receive 14 to 15 years of basic education—starting with “play” and then “prep” school. But the great majority gets only 10 years: six of elementary and four of high school.

We’re one of only three countries among 155 Unesco-member states with a 10-year pre-university education system. The other two are Djibouti and Angola, both in Africa. Even Laos and Mongolia have elected the 12-year basic system: seven of elementary and five of high school.)

Since the correlation between the lack of schooling and the degree of poverty is so strong, ensuring that no child is left out of school should be a key objective of any anti-poverty program.

The cycle of generational poverty we should break by ensuring the children of the very poor stay in school.

Mexico shows how
What are we to do? We can learn from what other nations at roughly our stage of economic growth and with roughly our level of income-inequality are doing.

There are two stages in basic schooling during which children are most likely to drop out. We’ve noted that 14 out of every 100 Filipino children leave school just after finishing Grade 1. The second is middle high school, when the child in a poor family becomes old enough to start working, or to help around the farm.

Since 1997, Mexico has been managing an anti-dropout program that has been adopted by some 30 countries—including Brazil, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Both China and New York City are observing the program—New York desirous of adapting it for its ethnic and migrant ghettoes.

One Mexican family in four receives an average $150 monthly stipend—provided it keeps its children in school and presents them for regular health checks.

To keep young children in school, Mexico offers them free school meals. More recently, it has also started giving pupils small amounts of cereals and other basic foods to take home—the quantity pegged to the number of days they’re in school.

For older potential dropouts, Mexico has “wages for learning” schemes. Older children are “paid” to stay in school, in amounts approximating what they would earn as “start-up” workers with no skills.

Program managers claim that as much as 97 percent of all Oportunidades funds go directly to beneficiaries. Bimonthly payments to enrolled families are made via bank ATMs.

The program costs Mexico $3.8 billion yearly, but it has had a tremendous impact on school attendance, especially by girls, and on poverty incidence as a whole.

In Brazil, Bolsa Familia—also a conditional-cash-transfer scheme—benefits 11 million poor families.

Our food-for-school program
Since November 2005, the Social Welfare and Education Departments have apparently been trying out a
“Food-for-School Program.” It gives every food-poor family in selected areas of the archipelago a kilo of rice for every a day that it has a child attending either a day-care, pre-school center or a Grade 1 class in a public school.

The program has apparently been encouraging enough for the Arroyo Administration to agree to finance it on a larger scale.

The World Bank notes that as much as 40 percent of program funds go astray. Nevertheless, it has encouraged government and assisted it to venture on a full-scale CCTs program—as the tool for eradicating hard-core Filipino poverty. The Bank estimates that three million families qualify for conditional cash transfers.

Government can afford the expense
The World Bank also says there’s no need to increase public indebtedness to raise the money for a serious CCTs program large enough to begin easing mass poverty. Government can simply rechannel high-cost, wrongheaded and easily subverted schemes such as the National Food Authority’s rice subsidies.

Realignment of the education budget will also help. Right now government is dissipating its money for public education in a mistaken—and futile—effort to do more than it can. Too large a portion goes to maintaining state universities and colleges.

The NEDA think tank, PIDS, notes that not just money but governance issues hamper the modernization of public education. Frequent changes in political leadership of the education department compounds the problems inherent in its “highly centralized structure.”

Where innovative principals have been empowered to reach out to their surrounding communities and engage them in school affairs, specific districts have done well.

What local governments can do
Local governments too can make a difference. They may have neither the money nor the administrative capability to carry out social programs of the magnitude of the Mexican CCTs concept, but they can make a start—without waiting for a laggard and often-confused Manila to make a move.

Among the provinces with the greatest poverty incidence, Negros Occidental apparently has set up a fairly large school-feeding program. As for the quality of governance systems in the education sector, Albay, Benguet, Biliran and Camarines Sur are apparently outstanding.

In these provinces, more intensive collection of provincial and municipal taxes (such as the real-estate levy)—with the promise that the proceeds would be earmarked for CCTs programs—might speed up local CCTs programs attacking the dropout problem where it is most acute.
At last, Gibo speaks

‘Even when he was betrayed, he had nothing bad to say about those who betrayed him.’

I HAVE not seen Gilbert Teodoro. Jr. – Gibo – since weeks before the elections but I am glad that he talked to Newsbreak where I got the following quotes.

On the reasons for his conceding early, he answered: "Marami, pero natural ’yung betrayal ang pinakamasakit. Pero nangyari ’yan. Ang importante huwag ka magtatanim, you move on. And I am very happy insofar as the results are concerned, Lakas-Kampi-CMD remains, as of this time, the dominant majority party in terms of the number of [local] officials elected, according to the secretary general, Ray Roquero. I am only a member of Lakas-Kampi-CMD. I am a loyal party member. "

Did you speak to anyone before conceding?" I spoke to Nikki (Gibo’s wife) about it and, of course, to our party president, Francis Manglapus."

How about President Arroyo? "No. I spoke to our party president, Francis Manglapus. Then I’m speaking to the country through you."

Do you have any regrets? "Alam mo, kung meron akong ginawa napagsisisihan ko, dahil may nagawa akong mali, siguro I wouldn’t be relieved. But I didn’t do wrong to anybody, I served my country well, I didn’t steal a single peso of Filipino money. I have a record probably that I can hold up to anybody, and I have got a supportive family–the best one: my wife, my son, and my official family, and the volunteers. Who could ask for more?"

What are your long-term plans? "I didn’t fight for a political position for myself, but for an idea. And I have to retain the objectivity to criticize when I feel it is there and to agree when I feel it’s there. Any official political involvement will restrain that because I have my own political interest to protect."

Where did the campaign go wrong? "It’s not for me to point kung saan nagkamali. Right now, the message is: What can we do right for our country? I said my winning or my losing is secondary to the idea I was proposing–the idea of national unity, competence, several ideas that I have: universal participative healthcare, basic education reform, college graduate opportunities for every family, genuine and sustainable agrarian reform, long-term infrastructure programs, continuing cash transfers to open up the 4P program, localized peace processes, strong foreign relations on the basis of national integrity, and what’s best for the Philippines, and several other programs."

Don’t you think there would be a clamor for you to remain in public life? "It all depends. As I said, I am secondary, the principal is the idea."

Are you running for senator in 2013? "Right now, rather than have Senator-whatnot, what I want is constitutional reform. What I want is to see the country go forward. I’m not even gonna participate so it’s not bona fides. We need a constitutional convention as soon as possible to reform the political and economic situation in the country. I think it’s bona fide already, because I’m not in government anymore, I don’t stand to benefit from it anymore."

What advice do you have to those who won? "Do the best that they can do in their own fields. We have an obligation to our country to do the best in our respective fields. And we do the best for ourselves in that sense–fairly, legitimately, within the bounds of the law. We do better for our country."

I always considered Gibo an interesting candidate and a friend worth keeping for life

Newsbreak has the whole story. Gibo should remain a person of interest for us all. Even when he has been betrayed, he has nothing bad to say about those who betrayed him. I know that, eventually, the country will need him again.


This is a statement from the Commission on Human Rights Chairperson:

"Whistleblowers are a rare breed of individuals. Many other people would simply choose to turn a blind eye to an anomaly, so as not to jeopardize their careers, their ambitions, their personal security and the safety of their loved ones. Whistleblowers, on the other hand, see graft and corruption, illegal activity and human rights abuses, and despite the huge personal cost involved, choose to make publicthese anomalies for the greater good.

"Whistleblowers and their loved ones must be protected and given safe refuge, as well as the chance to tell their stories. If our society turns a blind eye to their plight and their courage, if our society simply allows the powerful to threaten, intimidate, abduct, injure or worst, kill them, then things will never change. The culture of impunity will prevail, and the morally bankrupt will win.

"Bona fide whistleblowers must be protected, and their dignity respected. The reported incident involving a Comelec Commissioner and two whistleblowers, wherein the former allegedly pointed repeatedly his fingers at the latter and kicked a chair, allegedly provoking a fistfight, must not be countenanced. That incident must be duly investigated. There are legal remedies against false, malicious or libelous claims, if at all, which, however, exclude maltreatment of the whistleblowers. There are proper ways to refute the claims, or counter-act the moves, of whistleblowers other than intimidating or harassing them.

"Given these developments, the CHR will call on the next Congress to prioritize the passage of a Whistleblowers Protection Act." – Lilia de Lima

It is interesting that she takes note of the violent reaction that the Comelec has taken on its whistleblowers. It makes me wonder what secrets are being kept by the present commissioners. I wonder, too, from the stories I am hearing, if those secrets could eventually put them all in jail.