March 2010

Ex-DND chief: Only GMA loyalists in AFP will support power grab

Ex-DND chief: Only GMA loyalists in AFP will support power grab
by Lynda Jumilla

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s former defense chief said on Thursday that except for a small group of loyal senior generals, he is convinced that the rest of the military officers and men will not support any attempt to keep Mrs. Arroyo in power beyond June 30.

Lawyer Avelino Cruz, who was deep in the heart of the Arroyo administration from 2004 to 2006 but is now with the Aquino-Roxas camp, said that there are signs all over the place of a possible attempt to extend Mrs. Arroyo’s term in office.

“Ako, nakaka sigurado ako na a great bulk of the senior generals, the middle officers, they will follow the Constitution, kasi mga professionals itong mga ito. Except yung small group na ang kanilang career ay nakataya kay President Arroyo,” Cruz said.

Cruz declined to identify the loyal senior generals who would likely support moves to keep President Arroyo in power beyond her term.

But Cruz cited the recent appointment of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Delfin Bangit, who used to head the Presidential Security Group (PSG), as well as the insistence of Malacañang that the President appoint the next Chief Justice despite the appointments ban during the election period, as indications of a “Gloria forever scenario.”

“Why would you insist on appointing a chief justice, in clear violation of the onstitutional ban, and now, you appoint a chief of staff, also within the constitutional ban, who has served as your security chief for a long, long time and who’s very loyal to you,” he said.

Cruz reiterated his call on the military as well as the police to reject any illegal orders from the commander-in-chief or the chief of staff, and instead work with the people to keep the May 10 elections clean.

And if he spent 2 years as the President’s alter ego in the Department of National Defense (DND), Cruz, together with his law partners, spent an even longer time lawyering for the President and the First Gentleman.

Hence, this unsolicited and free legal advice to his former client: “Pagisipan na niya na ilipat niya ang kanyang kapangyarihan doon sa mananalo sa May 10, 2010 elections, tapos harapin na lang niya kung anuman yung darating sa tadhana. Ganyan ang buhay e.”

Cruz warned any attempt to extend the President’s term would not only be illegal, it would be rejected by the people.

Mikey's party-list bid hits snag in new guidelines

Mikey’s party-list bid hits snag in new guidelines

MANILA, Philippines – A bid by President Arroyo’s son, Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, to remain a member of Congress through the party-list elections could be jeopardized by new Commission on Elections (Comelec) guidelines on screening party-list organizations.

According to Comelec Resolution 8806, a nominee should be “one who belongs to the marginalized and underrepresented sector/s, the sectoral party, organization, political party or coalition he seeks to represent; and able to contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole.”

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said that under the guidelines, the party-list nominees must submit evidence to prove that they are members of the marginalized sector including speeches and articles about that advocacy.

He said that in the case of Mikey Arroyo, the President’s son must prove that he is a member of the marginalized sector that he wishes to represent in Congress. Arroyo has been named as the nominee of Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP), which seeks to represent security guards and tricycle drivers in Congress.

“What we are saying here is that a person who wants to represent a party-list group as the nominee has to show that he is part of the party-list group. If he is not a tricycle driver and the party-list group is representing tricycle drivers, it would look like there are grounds for his disqualification,” he said in an ANC interview.

Jimenez said the party-list nominee should have the tools to make laws that will benefit the sector that he is representing. He said the nominee should have a track record of participation in activities involving that particular sector. “By that definition, someone like a parent of a disabled child could possibly squeak past the requirement. It will have to be on a case to case basis,” he said.

He said the same argument could be made in the case of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes who is running as the party-list nominee of 1-UTAK, a group representing the transport sector.

“If he can show that [his post as DOE chief] can be equated to him belonging to a marginalized sector, I suppose he could make that argument…It seems as a whole, the guidelines require a more personal connection to the underrepresented sectors,” he said.

Under the new guidelines, party-list groups must submit documentary evidence to prove that their group advances the causes of marginalized sectors. Party-list groups must also prove their nominees adhere to the principles and advocacies of the group by submitting copies of declarations, speeches and articles made by nominees.

Party-list nominees should be members of the party-list group 90 days before the polls. There should aso be proof that the nominees are not only advocates of the party-list groups but also bona fide members of the marginalized sectors they represent.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said a nominee could be disqualified if a petition for disqualification is filed against him within 5 days after the last day of filing for party-list nominees. The deadline for the May polls is March 26.

Nominees could also be disqualified if they are nominees of more than one party, if they have not given their written consent or oath to be nominees, and if they are candidates for other positions or lost in the previous election.

The other qualifications are based on Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List System Act: nominees should be Filipino citizens, registered voters, residents of the Philippines for not less than a year before the elections, literate, and aged 25 and above.

Sarmiento described the resolution as a modest effort of the Comelec using its plenary powers to fine-tune the party-list law, which he said badly needs improvement.

“We have all these problems because of un-fine-tuned provisions,” he said, adding that the law should have been fine-tuned by Congress a long time ago.

Disqualification case filed vs Arroyo

Two party-list lawmakers on Thursday filed a disqualification case against Mikey Arroyo as a party-list group nominee, saying that there is no way that Arroyo could claim to represent security guards and tricycle drivers.

In their petition, Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza said party-list organizations including their nominees must factually and truly represent the marginalized and underrepresented constituencies.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño earlier noted that Arroyo cannot be a member of the party-list group because he is currently a ranking member of the ruling party Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

“He has always been a leader of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD. He is a representative in Congress as a ranking member of Lakas-Kampi-CMD. I don’t know when he decided to switch parties,” he said.

Casiño said their group is also planning to seek the disqualification of other party-list nominees, including Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, who is being considered by transport group 1-UTAK as their nominee for the May 10 elections.

He said Reyes’s pending nomination would be ironic since most members of various transport groups are angry at him for his failure to stop oil price increases since he was appointed secretary of the Department of Energy.

Casiño and other members of the opposition believe that the party-list and district representation bids of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies, including her son, is a clear sign that the administration is attempting to form a “very powerful block” at the House of Representatives.

The other Arroyos seeking congressional posts are Mrs. Arroyo’s son Diosdado “Dato” in Camarines Sur, brother-in-law Ignacio “Iggy” for the 5th district of Negros Occidental, and sister-in-law Marilou for party-list Ang Kasangga.

'Lakas hasn't discussed House Speaker Arroyo'

‘Lakas hasn’t discussed House Speaker Arroyo’

MANILA, Philippines – The Lakas-Kampi-CMD has no plan to install President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as speaker of the House of Representatives if she wins her congressional bid in Pampanga on May 10, a ruling party member said Friday.

“Hindi pa pinag-uusapan sa partido namin iyan, pero may mga lumulutang na balita na ganoon (It has not been discussed by the party, but there are rumors about that),” Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone said in an interview on ANC’s Dateline Philippines.

Evardone said President Arroyo has never mentioned her political plans, except for her decision to run as representative of Pampanga’s 2nd District, which is currently being held by her son, Mikey Arroyo.

He said allegations that Mrs. Arroyo plans to win the speakership and use the position to implement Charter change and become prime minister were farfetched.

“It’s a long process,” Evardone said.

He recalled that past presidents have failed to convince Congress to shift to a parliamentary form of government.

The governor, who is also seeking a House seat, said that if Mrs. Arroyo was really planning to become House Speaker, she would have no problems getting the post.

“Ang reality po ay marami po talagang kaalyado ang Pangulo na malakas sa kanilang mga distrito po. Marami ang unopposed so very likely, talang makukuha ng mayorya ng mga kaalyado ng ating Pangulo ang congressional seats sa halalang ito (The reality is a lot of President Arroyo’s allies are strong. Several are unopposed so it’s very likely that President’s allies will get majority of the congressional seats),” Evardone said.

The governor, meanwhile, urged Mrs. Arroyo to actively campaign in Pampanga to further strengthen her congressional bid.

“She should not be too confident. There have been upsets in past elections…She should still campaign,” Evardone said.

Mrs. Arroyo is running against 2 independent candidates, Filipina Sampang and Feliciano Serrano, and Liberal Party candidate Adonis Simpao.

The President was not able to go to Pampanga province on the first day of the local campaign period after First Gentleman Mike Arroyo was brought to the hospital on Thursday due to his heart ailment.

Malacañang has yet to make an announcement about Mrs. Arroyo’s campaign schedule in Pampanga province.

Speaker Arroyo possible under Villar administration, Aquino says

Speaker Arroyo possible under Villar administration, Aquino says
By Maila Ager

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III doubts if President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could get enough number to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.

But this is possible if his closest rival, Senator Manuel Villar, wins the presidency.

“That might be possible. I cannot speak on his behalf,” Aquino said when asked if Arroyo can get the speakership under a Villar administration.

Aquino attended the proclamation rally of local candidates in Valenzuela City, where girlfriend Shalani Soledad is running anew for councilor.

According to a nationwide count of the Inquirer bureaus, Arroyo will have at least 159 votes for Speaker if her allies seeking congressional seats are elected. With the current membership in the chamber of 268, an aspirant for Speaker needs only a vote of the majority or 135.

Arroyo is seeking a seat in the chamber in the second congressional district in Pampanga. The post is currently being held by her eldest son, Pampanga Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, who plans to continue his stint in the House through the party-list system.

Aquino, standard-bearer of the Liberal Party, said there was not enough number to get Arroyo elected as Speaker.

“As you know, after EDSA there has been no Speaker that has been not allied with the administration. GMA (Arroyo’s initials) has exploited that to a very large extent,” he said.

“I doubt if she is no longer in Malacañang that all the people there will still be her allies,” he added.

To prevent an Arroyo speakership, Aquino said the LP is wooing more candidates for congressmen to their camp.

”Our recruitment is continuous. The people we talked to before, we are expecting them to declare (they are for us),” Aquino said.

Cebu’s Gov. Garcia still all-out for Teodoro

Cebu’s Gov. Garcia still all-out for Teodoro
By Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas
Philippine Daily Inquirer

CEBU CITY—Not so fast, Manny Villar; Cebu is still for Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro.

Speaking at a meeting of the One Cebu party on Wednesday night, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said that nothing had changed since her party late last year endorsed the former defense secretary and administration standard-bearer in the May 10 elections.

“In this season of shifting political alliances, they say there is no such thing as word of honor, but I beg to disagree,” she said, stressing repeatedly that she was keeping her “palabra de honor” in her 20-minute speech in Cebu City.

“I hope that you are with me here. I hope that you will join me in this firm commitment. Because if you do not then perhaps it is best I risk losing all of your support; but I would rather lose that than lose my self-respect,” she said.

Earlier, One Cebu congressmen reportedly met with Villar, the Nacionalista Party presidential candidate, on Wednesday and vowed to support him.

The governor’s father, Rep. Pablo Garcia of the second district confirmed in an interview on Wednesday afternoon that he and his son, Rep. Pablo John Garcia, had met with Villar, who said he was just exchanging pleasantries with the congressmen.

Official stand

But the 84-year-old family patriarch Thursday declared in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the family remained solid behind Teodoro.

“The party has an official stand and the party is supporting Gibo Teodoro,” the elder Garcia said. He said Teodoro would attend a planned mammoth rally of the party in Cebu Friday to officially launch the campaign for local candidates.

“The governor is my daughter and I am with the governor (on this issue),” he said. “The governor has the support of 90 to 95 percent of all the mayors and is supported by all the congressmen.”

Francis Manglapus, Lakas-Kampi-CMD secretary general, said by phone that Teodoro was attending the One Cebu rally.

“We’re flying there. That’s where you’re going to see Gwen is solidly behind Gilbert. Her father and brother will be there,” he said.

“This is the big event. This is where you will see the sentiments of the Cebuanos. Actions speak louder than words,” he added.

‘She’s sticking it out’

Teodoro told Radio Mindanao Network that he had spoken with the Cebu governor and had gotten assurance of her continuing support.

“She’s sticking it out with us,” Teodoro said.

Aside from the Garcias, Villar reportedly met with Representatives Eduardo Gullas of the first district, Benhur Salimbangon of the fourth district and Nerissa Soon-Ruiz of the sixth district.

Gullas, whose Alayon Party has an alliance with One Cebu, earlier declared his support for Villar. Ruiz and Salimbangon were unavailable for comment Thursday.

Rep. Ramon Red Durano of the fifth district did not attend the meeting.

Former Mandaue City Mayor Alfredo Ouano, whose son Thadeo was privy to the discussion between Villar and the congressmen on Wednesday, said he got the impression that Winston Garcia, the governor’s brother, wanted One Cebu to support Villar.

Ouano said he had learned that Winston was concerned that he would lose his job as president of the Government Service Insurance System if Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III won the presidency.

The Inquirer tried to get Winston’s reaction, but he could not be reached by press time.

Mayor’s denial

Former Mayor Alvin Garcia of Cebu City, founder of Kugi Uswag Sugbo (Progress for Cebu), or Kusug, also denied having said that his cousin Winston arranged an alliance between Kusug and the NP so that the Garcias would support Villar.

“Definitely it’s not true,” he said.

Vice Mayor Maria Luisa Loot of Daanbantayan said she would abide by what the governor had announced. “We will still support Gibo,” Loot said.

The elder Garcia said it did not matter if Teodoro remained at the bottom of surveys of presidential candidates, whose two front-runners are Villar and Aquino.

“If we will go by the surveys then there is no more need for a campaign,” he said.

Drive to lift Gibo rating

Gwendolyn Garcia founded One Cebu. In the 2004 election, the party gave President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a 1-million-vote margin over her nearest rival, the late Fernando Poe Jr., in Cebu.

The administration party this week launched a major offensive to lift Teodoro’s poll rating, putting out new ads in prime time network shows to coincide with the start of the campaign for local positions.

The ruling coalition, which enjoys a headlock on 70 percent of local government positions, is pinning its hopes on superior resources and widespread party machinery to swing the tide in favor of Teodoro, according to political analysts.

Teodoro’s spokesperson, Mike Toledo, has said the commercials will be aired with frequencies rivaling those of Villar and Aquino.

Also Thursday, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno shrugged off reports that the Garcias had abandoned Teodoro.

“As far as I know, the family, the organization of the Garcias is still working with Gibo. No one among them has left,” said Puno, Teodoro’s chief political strategist. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra, TJ Burgonio, Michael Lim Ubac and Miko Morelos

Comelec: Party-list bets have to belong to sectors

Comelec: Party-list bets have to belong to sectors
By Leila B. Salaverria, Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Party-list nominees should “belong” to the marginalized sector they seek to represent, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Thursday said in a resolution aimed at preventing political opportunists and proxies from using the party-list system.

The nominees should also have a proven track record in their advocacy, the Comelec said.

In the resolution, the Comelec en banc set the parameters for the qualifications of party-list nominees, which would give citizens and groups grounds to petition for the disqualification of questionable nominees before the poll body.

A nominee is “one who belongs to the marginalized and underrepresented sector/s, the sectoral party, organization, political party or coalition he seeks to represent,” the resolution said.

The nominees should prove that they have “active participation” in the advancement of their party-list group’s causes.

Speeches, articles

Thus, the nominees and the group have to submit “documentary evidence,” such as speeches, declarations, written articles, and other positive actions showing the nominees’ “adherence to the advocacies of the party-list,” the resolution said.

Comelec officials said they issued the guidelines to clarify the “very broad” provisions on the party-list definition that have allowed just anyone to claim to be a nominee of a marginalized group.

Some party-list groups and nominees have no business in claiming to be a member of the marginalized sector, according to Commissioner Armando Velasco.

Velasco said half of the 187 party-list groups on the official ballot might not be for marginalized sectors.

Asked if there was anyone on the list who could be disqualified because of the new guidelines, he said “there could be some.”

Due process

Velasco declined to name names, saying that these nominees deserve due process and that he does not want to preempt the commission’s decisions.

He said some groups might challenge the Comelec resolution on party-list nominees, but he pointed out that the poll body was empowered during the election period to come up with such rules.

Party-list nominations recently came under scrutiny after some high-profile political figures were revealed to be nominees of marginalized sectors.

President’s Arroyo’s eldest son, outgoing Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, is the No. 1 nominee of Ang Galing Pinoy, a group that claims to represent security guards.

Bro. Mike Velarde, leader of the El Shaddai Charismatic Movement, is the fifth nominee of Buhay. The first nominee is his son Mariano Michael.


Ferdinand Rafanan, chief of the Comelec legal department, condemned the personalities who accepted nominations from party-list groups just to be able to sit in Congress and enjoy the perks of their position.

Rafanan described these nominees as “selfish.”

The party-list system, Rafanan said, was established to give voice to the underrepresented sectors of society. “It should be the powerless themselves who should represent their group. Otherwise the purpose is not served,” he said.

The Comelec’s citizens arm noted that some party-list groups were allowed to run in the May 2010 polls even though there were questions surrounding their legitimacy.

“This calls for a review because there are so many nominees who are not marginalized,” said Henrietta de Villa, chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.

In a report posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines website, De Villa lamented the accreditation of bogus organizations.

She said these groups were crowding out groups that truly represent the marginalized and were providing an easy way for traditional politicians to get into Congress.

Scrutinize nominees

In an earlier interview, De Villa encouraged voters to scrutinize the nominees of party-list groups to ensure that they would be voting for those who really speak for the marginalized and the underrepresented.

She said voters, in choosing a party-list group, should exercise the same zeal as when they are selecting their candidates for the presidency.

Even if party-list wins…

“They should invest some time and research on candidates. That includes the party-list,” she had said. A Pulse Asia survey released last month showed that 69 percent of voters were unaware of the party-list system.

The resolution said groups seeking to disqualify nominees should file their petitions with the Comelec clerk. The commission en banc will study the petition and decide on its merits.

Nominees found to have failed to meet the criteria would not be allowed to take seats in the House of Representatives should their party-list group win in the May 10 polls.

“If the evidence of guilt is strong, the proclamation of the nominee shall be suspended notwithstanding the fact that his group or organization received the winning number of votes in such election,” the resolution said.

Each party-list group is entitled to a maximum of three seats in the House, but the groups are required to submit the names of at least five nominees by March 26.

The party-list groups have until this Friday to submit their nominees to the Comelec.

Serge says Cebu going for Noynoy

Serge says Cebu going for Noynoy
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Cebu remains “Cory country” and her son, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, leads the presidential derby in the province by a mile, according to a stalwart of the Aquino camp.

Liberal Party (LP) senatorial candidate Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III said in a text message that the reported defection of congressmen belonging to the Garcia family to Sen. Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party did not matter much in the province.

“Noynoy leads by a mile. That’s Cory country. Watch the next surveys,” said Osmeña, whose family supported the late President Corazon Aquino. The family remains a dominant force in Cebu and is considered archnemesis of the Garcia clan.

In Imus, Cavite, Aquino shrugged off the reported alliance between the Nacionalista Party and several Lakas-Kampi-CMD representatives as “not surprising.”

“We are with the Osmeñas, the Garcias are our enemies. We don’t think this will have an impact because we have long expected it. Serge is one of our candidates, his relatives joined with us and therefore their opponents are in the other camp. That is to be expected,” Aquino said.

For example, Aquino said Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas (first district) had confided to him when they were both in the lower House that he was with Team Villar because he got to know him earlier.

“Nothing new, no surprises,” Aquino said.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who said he had secured Gwen Garcia’s support in his reelection bid, expressed hopes Thursday that the Cebu governor would endorse the candidacy of his father, former President Joseph Estrada.

“This is the last chapter of his life. I think he will do good,” said the senator.

Not quitting LP

Aquino said that Osmeña was staying with the LP and that he was just taking a two-week leave as the party’s campaign coordinator to focus on his senatorial bid.

He said he expected Osmeña to join his provincial sorties next month.

Osmeña issued a statement on Wednesday night to clarify rumors on the Internet that he was quitting Aquino’s team for its alleged misuse of campaign funds.

He said this was nothing but “a malicious figment in the imagination of those who wish that it were so.”

Osmeña earlier quit the LP’s senatorial slate because he did not want to be associated with former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto, who is also an LP candidate seeking reelection as senator.

“As the campaign draws to a close and an Aquino victory becomes apparent, more of these rumors will be fed in cyberspace to undermine our campaign. I have faith that our people will see through these dirty tricks, just as they have seen through the fakery being peddled in multimedia,” he said.

Campaign for local posts begins, Comelec bracing for more violence

Campaign for local posts begins, Comelec bracing for more violence
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is bracing for a rise in violence and poll infractions as the 45-day campaign period for local races begins Friday.

Poll officials said they expect election-related violence to increase, particularly with the country’s first fully computerized polls.

“There is that possibility so we have to be doubly vigilant,” said poll commissioner Rene Sarmiento, noting that local elections in the Philippines are often bitter and violent, with families often turning against each other.

“Politics is thicker than water in the elections,” the commissioner added.

Up for grabs in the May 10 elections are 222 seats in the House of Representatives; 80 each for governors and vice governors; 762 provincial board members; 120 each for city mayors and vice mayors; 1,514 each for municipal mayors and vice mayors; 1,346 for city councilors; and 12,116 for municipal councilors.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that the violence during elections have historically come from local contests.

“People are more hot-headed in local politics,” he said.

Jimenez noted that the automation process could increase election-related killings and harassment as politicians realize that they cannot subvert the system to manipulate the vote in their favor.

“There’s that remote and perverse possibility that automation might actually contribute to the slight increase in election violence. The tendency is to try to pre-empt the elections by just offing your opponent, killing your opponent or, at least, hurting them or whatever,” he said.

Private armies

Sarmiento also called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be serious in eliminating private armed groups.

Citing a police report to the poll body, Sarmiento said there are 43 verified partisan armed groups and 25 unconfirmed ones scattered throughout the country.

As of February, the PNP said 35 percent of the country’s 1,634 towns and cities have seen election-related violence.

The poll body has yet to put any town or province under Comelec control because of excessive violence.

The Comelec has not received any petition to place an area under its control, Sarmiento said, adding that concerned parties have to file a petition with the Comelec to start the process.

Sarmiento urged candidates to follow the election laws on campaign spending, advertising and other campaign activities. They should familiarize themselves with the rules on posters and streamers to avoid complaints, he said.

Jimenez noted that local candidates are the main offenders of the rules on the posting of streamers and posters.

Meanwhile, the PNP has gone on heightened alert and would remain in that status until June 9 to foil election-related violence and double its efforts against private armed groups, officials said.

To implement the gun ban imposed by the Comelec, more than 50,000 police officers have been deployed in 3,500 checkpoints across the country, said PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina.

Full alert

But the entire Mindanao, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), remain on full alert, he said.

The Zamboanga peninsula, Northern Mindanao, the Davao provinces, Socsargen and the National Capital Region have been on full alert since July “because of the series of bombings that happened there,” Espina said.

In a heightened alert status, the police would be on a round-the-clock lookout for private armed groups it earlier identified “so we can prevent their plans of conducting criminal activities against rival candidates,” Espina said.

The PNP has created special task groups to monitor 95 private armies reportedly operating in provinces identified as “election hot spots” in anticipation of a possible escalation of election-related violence when the local campaign season starts. With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy

Gordon, Roxas, Santiago top UP mock polls

Gordon, Roxas, Santiago top UP mock polls
By Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Richard Gordon would be president if students of the University of the Philippines system had their way, a mock online poll conducted among the UP system’s 11 units has shown.

In a press conference Thursday, BotongIsko2010, an alliance of student groups, said Gordon won with 1,236 votes from 3,958 students who participated in the poll.

He was followed by administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro who got 923 votes and Manuel Villar who got 698. Benigno Aquino III came in fourth with 591 votes.

For vice president, Mar Roxas won with 1,383 votes. Gordon’s running mate Bayani Fernando came in second with 943 votes, Loren Legarda was third with 579 votes and Jejomar Binay came in fourth with 563 votes.

JP Bernardo, head of the BotongIsko2010 technical committee, said the 3,958 voters were from the UP system’s units in Diliman, Manila, Los Baños, Baguio, Mindanao, Cebu, Tacloban, Iloilo, Miagao, San Fernando and the Open University. The entire student population is 48,860.

“We used an open source voting system in which the students were asked to log onto a website using their student number and last name,” he explained.

BotongIsko2010 conceded that not much publicity was given to the online poll, hence participation was low. Coupled with that was the fact that it coincided with finals week on March 18-23.

In the senatorial poll, Miriam Defensor-Santiago won with 2,302 votes. The other senatorial candidates who rounded out the top 12 were Pia Cayetano, Satur Ocampo, Franklin Drilon, Liza Maza, Gilbert Remulla, Risa Hontiveros, Ralph Recto, Adel Tamano, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sergio Osmeña III.

Kabataan won the party-list race with 1,322 votes, followed by Bayan Muna which got 241.

Earlier, the Alpha Sigma Fraternity at UP conducted the last of a three-part poll, this one showing Villar as the choice for president of 2,866 students of a total 8,468 that participated from 25 colleges.

In second place was Aquino with 1,787 votes, followed by Gordon with 1,317.

Teodoro, who topped the second part of the mock poll, came in fourth this time with 646 votes.

Villar, Aquino exceed ad airtime limit, says private watchdog

Villar, Aquino exceed ad airtime limit, says private watchdog
By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) The two leading presidential candidates in the May 2010 elections have already exceeded the 120-minute air time limit on political advertisements alloted to them in each of the country’s top two television networks, a consortium of non-government organizations monitoring candidates’ campaign spending said Friday.

Based on data provided by AC Nielsen, the Pera at Pulitika Network reported in a press conference that Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar has aired political advertisements with a total of 128.25 minutes over GMA-7 and 122.5 minutes on ABS-CBN.

His strongest rival for the presidency, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party, has 118 minutes of ads aired over GMA-7 and 129 minutes on ABS-CBN.

Deposed President Joseph Estrada has aired 77.50 minutes worth of ads over ABS-CBN and 65 minutes on GMA 7; Sen. Richard Gordon (Bagumbayan Party), 52 minutes on ABS-CBN and 43 minutes on GMA-7; former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (Lakas-Kampi-CMD), 3.50 minutes on ABS-CBN and 4 minutes on GMA 7; and evangelist Eddie Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas Movement), 3.50 minutes on ABS-CBN and 1.00 minute on GMA-7.

A candidate for a national position is entitled to 120 minutes of political advertising on each TV network.

Pera at Pulitika executive director, lawyer Roberto Cadiz, said that it was up to the Commission on Elections to prosecute erring candidates.

“We are a monitoring group. Our primary duty is to report to the media the compliance of the candidates and the parties to campaign finance laws. The primary responsibility of prosecuting the ‘violators’ rests with the Comelec,” Cadiz said.

He also said that candidates and political parties were welcome “dispute the data” presented by his group to the media, adding that it was possible there could be discrepancies in the monitoring of Nielsen as happened on one occasion when the media monitoring company corrected data it had uploaded on its website.

In a statement, Villar denied he has exceeded the airtime limit.

“The reports may give the wrong impression in the minds of the public. I’d like to believe that there was inadvertent mistake in the counting of our TV airtime, perhaps by adding the NP TV ads in the count,” Villar said.

Villar’s “Dagat ng Basura” and “Puedeng Mangarap” ads dominated the air time alloted to him, said veteran journalist Malou Mangahas of the Philippine Center for Investigate Journalism, a Pera at Pulitika Network partner.

“Overall, money seems to be working for Villar, if you go by the way he went up in his ratings and if you correlate it with the billions he has spent creatively or otherwise. We have monitored that among all the candidates, Senator Villar has been the most creative in projecting himself in the media,” Cadiz said.

Pera at Pulitika pointed out earlier that a partylist group for children’s advocacy, Akap Bata, has used Villar’s popular “Dagat ng Basura” TV ad with a few modifications.

“Unless he [Villar] will dispute that Akap Bata’s campaign ads are not similar to [his ad], then we will have an argument. But if you will agree that Akap Bata is very similar to Villar’s political ads then you would have to give it to Senator Villar for being very creative. He is able to project himself as a candidate and spend an additional 60.5 minutes under Akap Bata’s name,” Cadiz said.

Moreover, there are ambiguities in interpreting the law which candidates and political parties appear to have taken advantage of.

Mangahas called these the “smorgasbord ads,” which feature a presidential candidate with his running mate and/or with their senatorial candidates.

“The smorgasbord ads have begun. It’s turning to that and they’re trying really to run around the law so they have additional credits. The law says the political party may spend P5 per registered voter. The assumption is that’s the spending for all the candidates of the political party. But what is happening is they assign the credit to different candidates of the party,” Mangahas said.

However, she pointed out that viewers still see the presidential candidate giving the final statement in the ad.

“He’s the last frame or recall element of the ad. So should this be counted to the senatorial candidates or the presidential candidate… They razzle-dazzle the law so that they (presidential candidates) would still have credits,” Mangahas said.

Cadiz said that Pera at Pulitika would be drafting a letter to the Comelec asking the poll body to “clarify” and issue a ruling on how the monitoring of political ads should really be done.

The importance of monitoring how much the candidates use their air time, or spend for their political advertisements, is to “actually shed light on… the perils of spending too much on elections,” Mangahas said.

“All of the candidates generally would tell us that they aim to lift the poor and they are spokespersons of the poor. But one candidate is spending P4 million a day [in advertisements] and another is spending P3.5 million a day. All together, top candidates are spending P7 million to 10 million a day. You could imagine the amounts of money that could have gone to direct resources,” Mangahas said.

She pointed out that a President receives a monthly salary of P60,000 a month or not more than P3.5 million throughout his six-year term in office.

This raises the question of how they would recover the amount they have spent or on the other hand, what would their fund donors expect in return if the candidate wins, Mangahas said.

“My thought is this is really a crucial peg to promoting good governance. We are highlighting these figures because we think this is really a lot of money spent on vanity and self-promotion of the candidates. I don’t think this is going directly to servicing or improving the lives of the poor in the Philippines,” she said.