Miriam makes her point

Emphatically, as always. In taking to task the prosecution team in the C.J. Corona impeachment trial for their scattershot approach which led to the sudden and unceremonious withdrawal of 5 of the 8 articles of impeachment, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago let loose with a few choice and colorful words.  Just Miriam being Miriam, the other senator-judges seemed to say, until Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre signaled his displeasure by a contemptuous act which he defiantly stood by. An even bigger uproar ensued.

Which led to Fr. Catalino Arevalo, S.J., in a homily at the EDSA Shrine, to denounce Miriam “as worthy of the fires of hell” for having called the members of the prosecution panel “fools”. This according to the Bible. Never one to suffer fools gladly, Miriam was quick with a retort. The Constitution provides a wall of separation between Church and State, said she, and a priest cannot violate the law in the guise of criticizing a senator-judge with the ulterior motive of promoting his own (presumably anti-Corona) political agenda. Moreover, the Bible can be interpreted in an almost infinite number of ways. Even the devil can quote scripture to suit his ends, she might have added.

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Public Deaths

Death is one of the most universal of taboos. Not the rituals of grief, burial and mourning which are many, varied and almost always public in character. I mean the actual act of dying. This most mysterious of earthly transitions is done in private, even for the most well-known of persons, with a few family and close friends in attendance and maybe a man or woman of God around to ease the way.

Public deaths, on the other hand, serve a social purpose. For instance, public executions are meant to be cathartic events in which society extracts its pound of flesh, as it were. It supposedly serves as a deterrent to criminal or aberrant behavior and reflects the manner by which justice is served within a community. It’s also morbidly entertaining and can even be interactive, such as in the practice of stoning or the spectators’ participation in the gory events in the Roman Colosseum.

Other public deaths, such as the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, serve as a catalyst for social upheaval and change.

Suicide is a more complicated phenomenon in which no easy generalizations can be made. It can be done privately or in plain of view others, but even the most secretive act of taking one’s life assumes a public aspect upon the discovery of the body. The act itself is shocking under any circumstance, being so contrary to what we normally know and expect of human behavior. Thus, the ripple effects of a suicide extend beyond the immediate family or social circle of the victim to the society at large. I knowingly use the word “victim” as I believe those who kill themselves are casualties of one or another of life’s events which makes continued living unbearable. However, some suicides are more publicly significant that others. Continue reading

Pilipinas Kay Praning

Philippine Star columnist Yoly Villanueva-Ong wrote an impassioned piece in support of the discredited and scrapped “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” branding campaign of the Department of Tourism. Ms. Villanueva-Ong is the founder and head of the Campaigns and Grey ad agency, which helped conceptualize the aborted undertaking. By her own admission, she is not a disinterested observer.

In rather purple prose, she expressed her indignation at the “coordinated online outrage” by a “Gruesome Malicious Army” and “net-dicts” intending “to wreck havoc on the new, popular government“. It’s GMA and her stooges and a shadowy cabal “who fancy themselves divas of righteousness” behind all this, you see, and it’s all politically-motivated. “Politically-motivated” being the standard, catch-all retort of those caught in the act of bending the rules for their own benefit.

But this argument skirts the central issue of the whole brouhaha, which is that the whole concept was a bad idea to begin with and was simply called out for being what it was – a bad idea. And which is why the head of the new, popular government shelved the whole scheme. Continue reading

Great Expectations

jobless-man
Photo by Anton Sheker of Blogwatch.ph

It was a good start, as these things go. The air was festive at the site of the presidential inaugural ceremonies, in the sense that it felt like a campaign rally for Noynoy Aquino. The predominance of yellow was expected although still a bit grating to those of us who were not enamoured of the President to begin with.

The entertainment segment preceding the formal oath-taking was entertaining, although some elements were a bit off. Juana Change as mistress of ceremonies, removed from the context of anti-government rallies, looked lost, fat and freakish. The songs were rehashes of campaign ditties with a few revisions to make them more “inclusive”. There was an earnest attempt to give life to a theme of reconciliation but it was still sounded and felt like a victory party for President Noynoy. Fair enough. He won and is now the Head of State.

P-Noy looked embarrassed at times at the outpouring of love and acclamation. Jojo Binay looked alternately bored and annoyed, slumped next to his boss, but came to life when it was his turn to take the oath of office. The foreign dignitaries looked bemused and bewildered at all the hoopla. Erap Estrada looked pensive, maybe looking back at the many lost opportunities. Kris Aquino appeared troubled but the rest of the Aquino sisters were glowingly beautiful. Chief Justice Renato Corona was putting a good face to an awkward situation. Continue reading

Noynoy Aquino and the Rule of Law

Talking to reporters during his retirement ceremony yesterday, outgoing Chief Justice Reynato Puno commented on the refusal of president-elect Noynoy Aquino to take his oath of office before the incoming Chief Justice, Renato Corona. C.J. Puno said that Mr. Aquino should “respect the rule of law” in answer to a question regarding Aquino’s plan of being sworn in by a yet unnamed barangay captain in Tarlac province. This as a way of snubbing GMA’s choice of Puno’s successor, a “midnight appointee” from Noynoy’s point of view. Even though the Supreme Court was nearly unanimous (Justice Carpio-Morales dissented) in declaring that the president “has an imperative duty under the Constitution to fill up the vacancies” in the S.C. even if she is set to leave in a few weeks, delicadeza be damned.

To be sure, there is nothing in the Constitution or the law which would compel Noynoy to take his oath of office before the Chief Justice. All that is required is that the person be authorized to administer oaths. For this purpose, a barangay head would be as good as any justice.

But tradition is sometimes weightier than the the letter (or non-letter) of the law. Only two past Philippine presidents (Quezon and Osmena) were not sworn into office by the Philippine C.J., during the commonwealth and war periods. All post-independence presidents took their office of office before the Chief Justice. The reason is simple: this is a recognition of the separation of powers between the three main branches of government and an acknowledgment of the respect and deference due the leader of a supposedly co-equal branch. Although in reality, an imperial presidency trumps both the legislature and judiciary in terms of actual power and prestige. Continue reading

After Automated Elections, You Can’t Go Home Again

An air of excited expectancy was palpable in our neighborhood this morning. There was a feeling that the day ahead would be full of surprises, hopefully not unpleasant. We live right across a voting precinct and the place was abuzz with activity the past few days. The poll personnel and volunteers were there a full two hours before the voting was to officially start, although the cops and military who were guarding the place were camped out days before.

As always, it’s a chaotic process: long queues, inaccurate voters’ lists, the confused electorate mingling (and occasionally tangling) with the frazzled election officials, shady characters working for the various candidates hovering in the sidelines. A crazy stew exacerbated by the steamy summer heat.

But after you get through the long lines, the voting itself is relatively quick and painless. Simple, fast and apparently transparent. The PCOS machines, at least where we voted, worked wonderfully. I saw smiling faces leaving the polling place. Even the police looked relaxed and happy. Or maybe it’s just me feeling good about politics for the first time in a very long while. Continue reading

Why I Will Not Vote for Noynoy Aquino

This is in response to a friend’s bewildered query as to why I’m not voting for Noynoy.

In September of last year, I wrote a post in which I said that we should give Noynoy Aquino the benefit of doubt until he shows us that there is something behind that bland (bald?) demeanor other than tired platitudes and empty promises, the hallmark of the trapo. Nine months on, he has not said or done anything which would have convinced me that he has the qualities to become a capable president. In addition to other reasons enumerated in another later post, the following points have convinced me that the country is in deep trouble should he succeed:

1. He did not fight a “good fight” – In the sense that St. Paul meant, that we should exhibit intelligence, humility and moral courage in all our struggles. Or at least try to.

Instead, he relied on mudslinging and black propaganda. Most of the presidential candidates did so too, but his was the most odious in terms of viciousness and because of his oft-stated claim of virtuousness by reason of parentage. This two-faced and cynical approach to politics means it will be business as usual if he gains power. While mouthing high-minded ideals, he conducted his campaign at the level of the gutter. He will bring this hypocritical outlook to Malacanang.

His true character was revealed when Chiz Escudero unveiled the NOYBI initiative to stab Mar Roxas in the back. It took him a long while to publicly repudiate the effort and reaffirm support for his embattled running mate. This despite the fact that Mar selflessly paved the way for Noynoy’s run.

It was Mar again who immediately and graciously stated that any support for the standard bearer is welcome although it might bode ill for him. Say what you will about Mar Roxas, no one can deny that he’s a class act. In contrast to Noynoy’s new buddy, Jojo Binay, who out-trapoed the trapos in order to build a dynasty in Makati. Jojemar is telling the truth though. If he wins, he’s going to do to the rest of the country what he did to Makati, which is to say institutionalize patronage politics and corruption. Continue reading

The Hope of Audacity

If anyone seems to be having the most fun out of campaigning for the presidency, it looks to me like Dick Gordon.

Just check out his video with the comedy duo Moymoy Palaboy which has gone viral. This is not the demeanor of a man lagging far behind in the polls. He looks and sounds like a winner.

The irrepressible Gordon is nothing if not audacious. After failing to keep the U.S. bases in his bailiwick of Olongapo City (God stepped in anyway with the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo to ensure that the Americans well and truly left), he turned what could have been a calamitous situation into a golden opportunity. Pushing for the establishment of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, he converted the former U.S. naval base into a thriving freeport, creating more jobs and revenue than when the U.S. military was there.

As Secretary of Tourism, he once again showed his marketing savvy (he was at one time a brand marketing exec for P & G), boosting foreign and local tourism after years in the doldrums. He was also the high profile head of the Philippine National Red Cross, making his presence felt at every natural or man-made disaster even while serving in the Senate.

All is not sweetness and light in Gordon country, however. Long-time anti-U.S. bases activist, child-welfare advocate and Gordon critic, Catholic priest Fr. Shay Cullen, paints a dark picture of a Godfather-like warlord who will not hesitate to use extreme measures to silence his critics and get his way. But this image did not gain wide acceptance in the public mind. Continue reading

The Villar Conundrum

Do you trust Manny Villar (to be the next president of the Philippines) ?

The answer to this question is the stumbling block of the Villar campaign and must keep the candidate awake most nights. That many Filipinos are undecided, at best, about how they would reply if asked is why Villar trails at the polls, albeit closely nipping at the heels of Noynoy.

He certainly has a reputation for being an astute, even ruthless, businessman. This is partly because an instinctive mistrust of the very wealthy. He could not have gotten his fortune without having done something bad, the thinking goes. But this only accounts for a small percentage of his detractors.

The main reason is that he has more than a few skeletons rattling in his closet, the scariest being the C-5 scandal. Thus, despite all the money and effort poured into his run he has to play catch-up in the homestretch. And why the smear campaign about his being “Villaroyo” has taken its toll.

But Villar also has a lot of things going for him, which is why he has a good chance of defeating Noynoy Aquino and his fearsome yellow army. And I don’t mean just his money. At a certain point in the election (and I believe this point has been reached), money becomes less important. All the money in the world will not get you elected if you’re truly unelectable. Cash becomes critical as election day nears only as a means of ensuring the party machinery is kept well greased and to keep your capos and foot soldiers happy and motivated on the day itself. You will need warm bodies and money to safeguard your vote. On this score I believe Noynoy and Villar have achieved a rough parity. Continue reading

Desperately Seeking Noynoy

More than six months ago I wrote a post on how Noynoy Aquino lacks substance. Nothing that has happened since has changed my view. If anything, I feel stronger than ever that he is just not the right person to lead this country for the next six years.

Though I have to admit is it’s not hard to like the guy. He’s a decent and well-mannered fellow. Noynoy’s like a buddy from high school who you may not have seen for a number of years but you instantly feel at ease with if you unexpectedly bump into each other. The kind of guy you want to have coffee with or knock down a few beers while watching the latest Pacquiao fight.

But as the next Philippine president ? The prospect makes me very uneasy. Considering his undistinguished public life, no one can deny that he has gotten to where he is solely because he is Ninoy and Cory’s only son. The presumption being that since his parents were historical giants, their progeny will prove to be noble and outstanding as well. History has proven that this is not necessarily so, Gloria Arroyo being the most obvious example. As is Noynoy’s sister, Kris. Continue reading