Fernando Poe

Seeking Closure

In seeking closure to the 2004 and 2007 elections, which type of book (history or law) should be thrown at the fraudsters first?

The truth has a funny way of coming out regardless of how it is suppressed.

After years of hiding and running from the law, former election supervisor of Maguindanao Lintang Bedol decided to surface last week and attest to what many already knew: that fraud had been committed in the 2004 presidential and 2007 senatorial elections favoring Mrs Arroyo.

The suspended regional ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan who is contemplating a life in prison for complicity in the Maguindanao massacre has also implicated Mrs Arroyo last week in a sworn statement.

When such evidence had been suppressed, some anti-GMA stalwarts sought to prod it out of complicit subalterns through a Truth Commission. Now that some of these subalterns have confessed to their involvement, they seem incoherent about the way forward.

Take Sen Chiz Escudero for instance. His proposal for a joint congressional fact-finding committee to determine the real winner of the 2004 presidential elections was echoed by his ex-partymate and vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda who suggested putting the picture of Fernando Poe, Jr her runningmate in Malacanang as a way of “correcting history” if it is proven that he won against Mrs Arroyo in 2004.

Such a move would be frivolous according to the senate president, Juan Ponce Enrile, who believes that prosecuting the case now lies with the Department of Justice whose chief says it is ready to handle it. Creating a separate body to deliberate over the issue would only impede the investigation. The point of Escudero and Legarda is to correct historically the results of the 2004 election, the point of Enrile is to determine criminal liability and prosecute the case against those found liable.

Congressman Ted Casino on the other hand wants Congress to go beyond the issue of who might have won or lost in the 2004 election and look at investigating and perhaps legislating ways to address vulnerabilities in our electoral system to protect it from manipulation in the future. A good point I might add. The problem however is how to deal with an issue that would already be under the jurisdiction of the courts.

Perhaps the best way forward is to expedite the legal proceedings first and then to use whatever evidence, insights or lessons uncovered in the process to inform future legislative proposals. While correcting the record books for posterity might be essential for the people involved, there will be ample opportunity to pursue this in the future. Right now, perhaps we need to let the proverbial wheels of justice turn.

The sooner we can get on with this, the sooner we can move on.

AFP on red alert in preparation for May 10 polls

AFP on red alert in preparation for May 10 polls
By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The military will be placed on red alert starting today as part of security preparations for the May 10 elections.

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)–Task Force HOPE (Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections), said the red alert status will be implemented until May 20 to allow the military to monitor the security situation in the field.

“The red alert will start at 8 a.m. It will be nationwide. We will start the manning of our (HOPE) operations center and that is the signal for us to start implementing our security operations,” Nepomuceno said.

A red alert means that all the military personnel should be readily available for deployment anytime. Such alert level would also entail the cancellation of all leaves to ensure adequate manpower.

Nepomuceno said the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the citizen arm of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), would send representatives to the HOPE operations center to enhance the gathering of poll-related updates.

He said the agreement with the PPCRV would allow HOPE to get feedback on the security issues on the precinct level.

The HOPE operation center would be located at the AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City and will be open to the media.

The PPCRV, as the Comelec’s deputized citizen arm, has been authorized to monitor the results of the May 10 elections. This is intended to promote transparency and accountability in the conduct of the polls.

The AFP is not allowed to engage in partisan politics but has been tasked to provide security during the transport of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to polling precincts nationwide.

In fact, heavily armed police and military forces were already deployed in strategic areas of Metro Manila yesterday to ensure the safe delivery of the PCOS machines.

Joint elements of the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) and the AFP’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) in full battle gear were seen securing vehicles transporting 7,555 PCOS machines, 6.13 million ballots and ballot boxes and election paraphernalia to 743 precincts in Metro Manila.

NCRPO chief Director Roberto Rosales said the police and NCRCom vehicles securing the delivery trucks had global positioning system (GPS) devices for monitoring purposes.

The central hub is being secured by eight NCRPO and 15 NCRCom personnel who barred police officials and journalists who cannot produce access cards issued by Smartmatic from entering.

PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, on the other hand, said that agencies like the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Energy (DOE), Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the local government units (LGU) help in the implementation of safety measures during the polls.

“All other government agencies cannot afford to be mere bystanders in this historic and very important national exercise. Everyone has a moral obligation and duty to choose a new set of national and local leaders in an honest and orderly manner,” said Verzosa.

Because of this overwhelming effort by the AFP and the PNP, Malacañang expressed confidence that their respective members would remain professional and not allow themselves to be influenced by partisan groups.

Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said the soldiers and policemen would remain true to their oath to defend democracy.

“Let us remember even in election time despite attacks on the integrity of certain individuals, the fact is the AFP and the police have performed their jobs in securing the elections and affirming our democratic exercises even beyond the call of duty,” Saludo told a news briefing.

He said the Armed Forces and the PNP play a key role in ensuring the success of the elections.

Old generals support Noynoy

Meanwhile, a group of retired military and police officers yesterday expressed support for the candidacy of Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and vowed to guard against cheating in the upcoming May 10 polls.

In a statement, the group claiming to be EDSA 1986 veterans said Aquino can implement genuine reforms in the government and provide solutions to the problems plaguing the county.

“Many of us in recent years followed our ailing President Cory Aquino in her crusade to change a more oppressive, corrupt regime and unite the Filipino people in a fight for true reforms in ourselves, in our institutions and in our national character,” the statement read.

“Our beloved President Cory is now in the heavens but the torch of this crusade is now passed to her son, Senator “Noynoy” Aquino, who is seeking the presidency in 2010 to effect the reforms that all Filipinos are longing for,” it added.

“We would like to inform our people that we are now prepared to protect the votes of every Filipino and to ensure that these votes will be counted. We will see to it that the PNP and armed forces will do their duty,” he said.

Montaño said they will also remind those in active service to be faithful to their duties and to remain non-partisan.

He said they have learned their lesson in 2004 when they backed the candidacy of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., the closest rival of President Arroyo in the presidential race.

“If we know how we were cheated last time, we know how to counter it,” Montaño said. – Non Alquitran, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero

‘Hello, Garci’ boys well entrenched for May 10 polls

‘Hello, Garci’ boys well entrenched for May 10 polls
By Aries Rufo
abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak

MANILA, Philippines—The men who worked closely with disgraced former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano as he rigged the 2004 presidential elections are still well entrenched for the May 10 polls this year.

Together, the so-called “Hello, Garci” Boys control Mindanao, which is home to more than 10 million registered voters.

“Hello, Garci” became a popular phrase to refer to how President Arroyo addressed the commissioner when she was caught on tape asking Garcillano to ensure her a lead of at least 1 million votes over her rival, Fernando Poe Jr.

Except for the high-profile Lintang Bedol, who is in hiding, the Garci Boys are positioned either as regional election directors (RED) or provincial election supervisors (PES).

Easily identifiable is Ray Sumalipao, who has been transferred as RED of Davao Region (Region 11) from his previous post as RED of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Replacing Sumalipao in ARMM is RED Remlane Tambuang.

The influence of the infamous group is intact in ARMM, however, as Renault Macarambon retains his positions as assistant RED (ARED) of ARMM.

Transfers
Sumalipao and Macarambon were Garcillano’s errand boys at the height of the canvassing of the May 2004 of the votes for national positions. At that time, Sumalipao was the chair of the provincial board of canvassers in Lanao del Sur when a Namfrel official there threatened to make an exposé poll fraud.

Arroyo, learning of the threat, called up Garcillano to defuse the tension. “We will try to make him say something. I will tell him to talk without letting the people know that I am the one who will address it,” Garcillano assured the President.

Macarambon, then the vice chair of the Lanao del Sur provicial board of canvassers, was mentioned by Garcillano as the one who was supposed to ensure the victory of a senatorial candidate allied with the administration who was in a neck-and-neck race for the last spot with an opposition candidate.

The cheating attempt, however, was foiled when the opposition candidate went to the area to protect his votes.

A source from the Commission on Elections said that Macarambon might be assigned to Maguindanao as acting PES. The Comelec, however, has yet to release the resolution.

An election lawyer observed that Sumalipao’s transfer from ARMM to Davao Region might have done more damage than good “since this means he has control over a new territory. His men are already in place in ARMM, so removing him from there does not do any good.”

More of them
Another Garci man, Henry Magbutay, is RED of Northern Mindanao (Region 10).

Magbutay’s subordinates include Cirilo Nala Jr., who Comelec sources say is also a Garci follower. Nala is PES of Misamis Occidental.

Magbutay’s voice was caught on tape as the “Boy” who told Garcillano that an election official who knew about the irregularities was in hiding. “Boy” even suggested that they kidnap the concerned Comelec official, but Garcillano rejected the idea.

Another RED who was caught on the Garci tape is Francisco Pobe, who is in command of the CARAGA Region. Pobe, whose nickname is Danny, had called Garcillano asking for results in Cotabato City. Pobe, who was then the PES of Agusan del Sur, was acting on behalf of a senatorial candidate.

Although he was not on tape, Michael Abbas, the current RED of SOCCSKSARGEN (Region 12), is also known as Garcillano protégé who tampered with the votes of Arroyo’s rival, the late Fernando Poe Jr., in Tawi-Tawi during the 2004 race. Abbas was the PES of the province.

Now his coverage includes North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.

More authority
The ARMM has about 1.88 million registered voters; Northern Mindanao, 2.4 million; Davao Region, 2.55 million; SOCCSKSARGEN, 1.98 million and Caraga, 1.37 million.

Garcillano’s men, in effect, collectively have control over more than 10 million votes.

Separately, they are power brokers in their own right. They are not accountable to any Comelec commissioner at the head office, as the en banc decided that there will be no more commissioners-in-charge (CIC) of regions in the elections this year. In past elections, each commissioner was made in charge of a certain number of regions, exercising control over the regional directors.

A commissioner told abs-cbnnews.com/Newbsreak that Comelec chair Jose Melo “did not like the idea of the commissioner having their own fiefdoms during the elections.”

The CIC system, as practiced in previous elections, allowed the poll official concerned to call the shots and make decisions without consulting the en banc, as an initial remedy to problems that required immediate attention.

However, the CIC system, while it decentralized decision-making, allowed the types of Garcillano to manipulate the elections with ease.

A Comelec source, who is privy to the assignments of poll officials, said that the Garcillano Boys were spared from the disgrace brought by the “Hello, Garci” tape because no one came forward to file a complaint against them.

The Comelec faced a blank wall when it initiated an investigation since there were no complainants and that the evidence—the wiretapped conversations between President Arroyo and Garcillano—linking them to irregularities could not be used as evidence in the first place.

Of the Garci Boys, Bedol was not as lucky after their 2004 adventure. Charges have been filed against him for his participation in the 2007 rigging of Maguindanao votes. (abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak)

Aquino to Roxas, Escudero: Don’t focus on battle next time

Aquino to Roxas, Escudero: Don’t focus on battle next time
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer

GAPAN CITY, NUEVA ECIJA—Survey front-runner Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III Thursday called on his bickering allies to sacrifice personal ambition in order to realize their common goal of bringing about change through the May elections.

The Liberal Party standard-bearer appeared unruffled by reports that the LP was in turmoil as a result of a power play between his running mate Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and his kumpare Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero for control of his campaign strategy and logistics.

“There might be a battle between Mar and Chiz down the line. But [even if] there is [such] a battle, will you sacrifice the mission we all have at this point in time?” Aquino said at a press conference.

Roxas and Escudero are seen as potential rivals for the presidency in 2016.

“I think I can attest to the fact that everybody is responsible enough to ensure we are clear as to who the real opponent is, and the real problems besetting us. It does us no good to fight future battles within. The battle that is important is the one that leads to a transition to a new form of government,” he said.

Aquino also said that “the forces against the change we want to happen are showing their very blatant side and their fangs.”

He said party members “have reached a level of maturity that we can afford to subsume personal interests because the overriding personal ambition is to ensure the transition to change.”

Toxic

Escudero, through his Team Chiz led by LP senatorial candidate Sergio Osmeña III and columnist Lito Banayo, has been in full support of Aquino’s candidacy since the start of the campaign period two months ago.

But Escudero is backing Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay for vice president, riling the Roxas camp in the LP.

Team Chiz had claimed it was being eased out of the campaign team; Team Mar had countered that Team Chiz was “toxic” to the LP.

But in a text message, LP campaign manager Sen. Francis Pangilinan said reports that Team Chiz was being booted out by Team Mar merely indicated “minor organizational gaps that needed addressing as we prepare for the endgame.”

“The matter has been swiftly resolved and the needed adjustments have been put in place,” Pangilinan said.

‘No problem’

At the press conference, Aquino and Roxas took turns assuring the public that all was well between them.

“Mar and I have always been transparent with each other on everything,” Aquino said.

Roxas said he had “no problem” with Escudero’s support of Aquino but not himself.

“What is most important is to encourage everyone to support him even though they are supporting other candidates in other posts. This is no secret; I think this is just an ant that was turned into a monster,” Roxas said, adding:

“[Escudero’s] support is welcome especially in his home province in Bicolandia, where the surveys show that the race is tight.”

When asked if he was on good terms with Escudero, Roxas said: “I would assume [so] because when we parted before the adjournment of the Senate session, we were friends. And there is no reason why we cannot be friends.”

Escudero himself has refused to comment on the conflict in the party.

More people added

Roxas said the LP needed to fill the space left by Osmeña, who quit as campaign manager to focus on his senatorial candidacy.

He said more people had been added to the campaign team to make it stronger in the run-up to the May elections.

Aquino confirmed that Osmena’s old post as campaign manager and media coordinator had been taken over by Roxas’ publicist Danny Gozo.

But he said this would not affect the role of Team Chiz and his own staff led by TV director Maria Montelibano, which would continue to focus on his presidential campaign.

Aquino said he had insisted on keeping his own team in the campaign outside of the party’s main campaign unit led by Roxas’ men.

“I’m comfortable with all these people for my media needs. I can’t work with only Zaldy de Layola (his chief media handler in the Senate),” he said, adding that his campaign was “media-centric rather sortie-centric.”

Despite the purported cracks in the LP campaign, Aquino described his hastily created team as better than the opposition.

He cited the results of the major surveys conducted in the last seven months, with the Aquino-Roxas duo in the top spot.

LP ‘crumbling’

Reacting to reports that Team Chiz had been booted out of the LP campaign, Mayor Binay said this would hurt the party’s goal of taking Malacañang.

“It’s sad [for the LP]. They are crumbling while our forces are being consolidated because of our improving ratings in the surveys. So they have a problem there,” the running mate of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino standard-bearer Joseph “Erap” Estrada said in Zamboanga City.

Binay defended Escudero’s reported decision to back him, and not Roxas, in the vice presidential race.

He said he and Escudero had been through a lot together since they worked for the presidential candidacy of the late action star Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004.

Like a son

“Senator Chiz is not just like a son to me,” Binay said. “He’s also my godson because I stood as one of the principal sponsors at his wedding.”

Binay said that when Poe suffered a fatal heart attack during a gathering of friends and political supporters in December 2004, “I was at his right and Chiz was at his left.”

“So that’s the thing that binds us together,” he said.

Binay also said Escudero was not obligated to support all of the LP candidates, including Roxas, because he was not a party member.

He said he was “confident” of victory “because the people support the group of Erap and the group of Binay.”

‘That’s how it is’

Estrada was unfazed that certain people were for Binay but not necessarily for him. He said he had gotten used to such peculiarities during his 35 years in politics.

“You can’t prevent that from happening. There are also those who support Erap-Loren (Sen. Loren Legarda, the running mate of Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar),” Estrada said.

“That’s how it is. It is just minimal, though. Of course, there are those who can’t say no to Binay,” he said. With a report from Norman Bordadora

Bro. Eddie says he was offered Cabinet posts

Bro. Eddie says he was offered Cabinet posts
By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Evangelist Brother Eddie Villanueva said he was thrice offered key positions in President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Cabinet.

Villanueva, who is running for president under the Bangon Pilipinas party, said the offers were made shortly after the 2004 presidential elections and before the “Hello Garci” wiretapping scandal broke out in mid-2005, which placed Ms Arroyo’s 2004 poll victory in some doubt.

According to Villanueva, Ms Arroyo went to see him a couple of weeks after the May 10, 2004 polls offering him a place in her administration as a presidential adviser.

Villanueva, founder and leader of the Jesus is Lord (JIL) sect who was also a candidate for president in 2004, said he declined the offer because he saw it as political horse-trading.

“She thought I was a politician,” he said.

Villanueva said Ms Arroyo was accompanied by then congressmen Michael Defensor (later chief of staff), Alan Cayetano (later senator) and Augusto Syjuco Jr. (later TESDA head).

He said Ms Arroyo returned in July 2004 with her former aide-de-camp, retired Gen. Alberto Braganza, reiterating her offer to take him into her Cabinet. At the time, Ms Arroyo was being accused by her main opposition rival, the late Fernando Poe Jr., of having cheated in the elections.

“I said, ‘I can forget about the election cheating but if you’re sincere, institute general reforms so I can convince the JIL to support you publicly.’ She said she was sincere,” said Villanueva.

“But two days later she shamelessly reappointed (former Comelec commissioner Virgilio) Garcillano. This was long before the Hello Garci expose,” recounted Villanueva.

Villanueva said two days before Ms Arroyo came to him, Poe also went to see him proposing that they “join forces” once they have evidence of electoral fraud. He said the movie star was accompanied by then congressman, later senator, Francis Escudero.

The following year, Villanueva said he was offered the posts of finance secretary and “anticorruption czar” in separate instances by emissaries of the President.

He said he did not take seriously the idea of being finance secretary which was broached to him by the late Jesus Martinez, a commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But he gave the next offer brought to him by former Navy Rear Admiral and military intelligence chief Tirso Danga some serious thought because of Danga’s persistence.

“The offer was to be the anticorruption czar,” Villanueva said.

But his talks with Danga fell through after Villanueva gave several “conditions,” among them, that he should be given a free hand to organize a composite armed team and that he would investigate the allegedly anomalous transactions in which the First Couple had been implicated.

Who still believes Loren?

Who still believes Loren?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star

During several meetings, the eminent Professor Emmanuel Q. Yap would exclaim — “She’s a political prostitute!” — when the name of Loren Legarda was mentioned.

Loren Legarda started to create that perception of being a political prostitute when she ate humble pie and embraced former president Joseph Estrada and his 2004 presidential candidate, the late Fernando Poe, Jr. From taking a prominent prosecutorial role in the Estrada Impeachment Case, even shedding tears after the historic impeachment trial walkout which triggered EDSA II, Loren Legarda abandoned her position on the Estrada issue just to be able to run as vice president of Fernando Poe, Jr.

To any person with the barest amount of self respect and sense of propriety, that act of embracing the Joseph Estrada Loren helped prosecute (and who was eventually jailed, convicted and pardoned by a successor who probably did not find plunder that offensive) would have been unthinkable. True enough — the most livid reactions to Loren Legarda’s turnaround came from her fellow alumni in Assumption Convent.

“She’s such a hypocrite. She claims she’s planted many trees. Yet, she voted for the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).” — was how Senator Jamby Madrigal described Loren in a recent article. JPEPA, it must be recalled, was being resisted for its perceived threat to the environment.

In the same article, Madrigal added: “Loren once hated Manny Villar with a passion. She worked hard to oust him as Senate president. Then, she joined forces with him for the money.”

It was not only the ouster of Villar as Senate President where Loren Legarda took an active role. She had vigorously pressed for Villar’s conviction in the Senate Double Insertion and Ethics cases. She was doing these against Villar because at that time she was a presidential contender and Villar was a leading rival.

When Loren Legarda’s presidential illusions fizzled out and she realized that Villar offered her the best chances to become vice president — money and machinery specifically — all of a sudden, Villar was no longer that objectionable to her. All of a sudden, as solid evidences were being revealed in the Ethics Case hearings by crusading lawyer Atty. Ernesto Francisco, Jr., Loren found Villar “clean enough” to tandem with.

During last weekend’s HARAPAN (Face off) among the vice presidential candidates which was staged by ABS-CBN, Loren Legarda must have been shocked to see how the voting panel rated her credibility. She scored the lowest believability at 8.2% versus Mar’s 91.8% believability when the topic of loyalty was discussed. She hit very low believability scores of 17.4%, 14.6% and 8.2% on other topics.

The hypocrisy which Jamby Madrigal accused Loren Legarda of is very glaring in Loren’s attempt to mimic her running mate Manny Villar in projecting an image of being ONCE POOR. Your Chair Wrecker debunked that “ONCE POOR” myth Villar has been peddling in our February 7, 2010 column (Was Manny Villar really ever poor?) which you can read in the Chair Wrecker website (www.chairwrecker.com) or by simply typing the headline on Google.

This “ONCE POOR” myth is nothing more than sheer deception. It exploits the Information and Education Gaps afflicting the poor. The proclaimed “Messiahs” of the poor are displaying signs that once elected — they will be there to exploit the poor.

In several media interviews, Loren has been brandishing her own version of “POOR ME” although she has the good sense not to imply that she swam in a sea of garbage like Manny Villar. In the 1950’s, when Villar was supposed to be “POOR” — there was no such thing as a sea of garbage. The so-called sea of garbage started during Martial Law.

Your Chair Wrecker was surprised when Loren claimed several times on TV that she was once “POOR” and so we verified her claim. Here are hallmarks of how “POOR” Loren Legarda was, as described by a member of her family:

1. Loren’s family lived in University Hills, an exclusive subdivision in the Malabon area. Being atop a hill, the subdivision did not flood like many areas nearby.

2. They lived in a one hectare compound that was bought by her grandfather, the late Manila Times Editor in Chief, Jose Bautista. The Manila Times was the largest circulating, most powerful and influential newspaper until September 21, 1972. Across their compound was the house of Don Macario Asistio.

3. Loren studied at Assumption Convent for grade school and high school. Assumption Convent is usually the school of choice of the elite. For college, Loren studied at UP (University of the Philippines). Her brothers Gary and A. A. went to the Ateneo de Manila University, another school associated with the elite.

4. Antonio Legarda, Loren’s father, was the General Manager of Mantrade, one of the biggest firms then. Loren’s mother — described by Loren as a “mere employee” — was the Executive Assistant of then PNB (Philippine National Bank) president P. O. Domingo. There is no doubt that the combined incomes of her father and mother provided an upper class lifestyle for the Legarda family.

Easily 95% of Filipinos today would want to be as “POOR” as Loren Legarda who lived through all those “HARD TIMES” and now resides in Forbes Park after having been elected senator in 1998.

* * *

Chair Wrecker email and Website: [email protected] and www.chairwrecker.com

Tempers fly in vice presidential debate

Tempers fly in vice presidential debate
By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—ABS-CBN’S vice presidential debate televised nationwide on Sunday night lived up to its billing as a confrontation.

After weeks of blasting each other in the media, leading vice presidential candidates Sen. Manuel Roxas II of the Liberal Party and Sen. Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People’s Coalition finally traded barbs face to face.

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay also renewed his squabble with former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Bayani Fernando.

Broadcaster Jay Sonza of the Kilusan Bagong Lipunan and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Perfecto Yasay Jr. provided relief from the heated exchange, content with simply stating their positions.

The administration’s Edu Manzano stayed away from the debate barely two months before the May 10 elections.

The most sparks flew when an incensed Binay told off Fernando after the MMDA chair brought up Makati’s dirty waterways that his agency had supposedly cleaned up.

“Wow, we’re the ones that worked on that, Bayani. We spent our own money there,” Binay said, visibly trying to restrain his ire.

“I pity you. You’re envious of our city’s wealth. But we are using our city’s funds for its welfare,” he added.

Fernando slammed Binay when the mayor asked him if he would support an investigation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s alleged wrongdoing.

“You’ve yet to do that?” Fernando said. “That has already taken too long. You are a lawyer. You’ve stood onstage to hit the President. Why have you not come up with anything so far?”

She didn’t pull punches

Legarda also didn’t pull her punches.

She told a teacher presented by the broadcast network that she was sorry that her bill increasing the salaries of public school teachers had not been passed.

“I’m not the chair of the committee on education. It’s Mar Roxas. I think not one hearing was even conducted on the measure,” Legarda said.

Roxas’ choicest words could have been his stab at Legarda’s decision to transfer from one party to another.

“Those who don’t follow the party rules … have no self-discipline,” Roxas said.

“I didn’t cry in the Senate when the impeachment trial of (former President Joseph Estrada in January 2001) was aborted,” he added.

Estrada’s allies in the Senate at that time voted to suppress evidence and prosecutors walked out.

Legarda, then a Lakas stalwart and ally of then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, later ran for vice president of Estrada’s best friend, Fernando Poe Jr.

Pro-poor pretenders

Binay, the third placer in the poll surveys, in his opening statement referred to Roxas as among those “who pretend to be pro-poor” but voted for the passage in Congress of the Expanded Value Added Tax (e-VAT) Law in 2005.

“This has caused the suffering of many of our people,” Binay said.

In the contest between survey leaders, Legarda drew first blood when she confronted Roxas with his vote to approve the highly unpopular e-VAT and his “watered down” version of the Cheaper Medicines Law.

She also questioned his family’s continued hold on 1,600 hectares of land in Rizal province despite the agrarian reform law.

“My family and I have heard these questions and sometimes we just laugh at them,” Roxas said, adding the dispute is in court.

Nothing wrong

Roxas showed no regret for his vote for the e-VAT that was widely viewed as the culprit behind the defeat in 2007 of its sponsor, former Sen. Ralph Recto, who’s once again running for reelection.

“There’s nothing wrong with taxation. What’s wrong is when taxes are stolen,” Roxas said.

He defended the provision of the affordable medicines measure giving the President the responsibility of lowering costs rather than to a board that would set prices. He said a board would only become another source of corruption.

“The Lipitor that you are taking used to cost P100. Now it only costs P50,” Roxas told Legarda.

Climate change

Roxas questioned Legarda’s priorities in making the environment her advocacy, noting that the Philippines accounts for less than 1 percent of the climate problem.

“It is a gut issue,” Legarda said. The Philippines is one of the 10 countries that would be most affected by climate change, she said.

The El Niño-caused drought that damaged crops and the floods that killed many people during the wrath of Storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng,” Legarda said, showed that climate change was an issue that directly affected the people.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who showed up at the event to support Fernando, his running mate, expressed disappointment at the debate, criticizing the behavior of the crowds brought along by the candidates and calling the event “a mob rule.”

“There’s a lot of pandering … so much noise rather than reflections.” With a report from Michael Lim Ubac

Rut

Rut
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer

IT’S ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO LEAVE the country. That’s the Pulse Asia survey that shows these 12 senatorial candidates on top: 1. Bong Revilla, 2. Jinggoy Estrada, 3. Miriam Santiago, 4. Pia Cayetano, 5. Franklin Drilon, 6. Juan Ponce Enrile, 7. Tito Sotto, 8. Ralph Recto, 9. Serge Osmeña, 10. Bongbong Marcos, 11. Lito Lapid, and 12. TG Guingona.

That’s got important—and dismaying—things to say about our political culture.

One is that corruption isn’t all that damning to us. Or else many of those top 12 would be languishing at the bottom of the barrel instead of Neric Acosta. It reinforces my belief that we have a clear concept of nakaw, which is visible theft (snatching, pickpocketing, holdup) and we have a clear concept of going overboard (sugapa, swapang), but we have a fuzzy concept of pillage. Either we do not think of what is being stolen as our money or we grant our public officials leeway to plunder so long as they do not plunder too grossly. That Marcos and Enrile, who are both associated with plundering grossly, are up there must suggest further that we are a truly forgetful race, having already forgotten martial law.

Two is a variation of the saying, “There are no permanent friends, only permanent interests,” which is, “There are no ceaseless loyalties, only ceaseless reinventions.” Again Enrile takes the cake there. He’s the perfect revealer of Philippine political culture, a fellow who has thrived under the most disparate, indeed conflicting, conditions and ideologies, variously under Marcos, Cory, Ramos, Erap and Gloria. I wouldn’t be surprised if he continues to flourish under Aquino, having done him the supreme favor of pulling Villar down.

Three, Enrile’s and Miriam’s high ratings must suggest as well that “walang iwanan” or the kind of loyalty associated with dogs, fraternities and gangs might be overrated as a value. Both were ardent Erap defenders, distinguishing themselves in the impeachment trial for blocking the opening of the second envelope, thereby ushering Edsa 2, and opening the floodgates for the riots in Mendiola by urging the ragged crowd at the Shrine to “sugod, sugod,” thereby dooming “Edsa 3.” Later, in a hugely farcical addition to the farce, Santiago would place a revolver on her desk and defy the authorities to arrest her. As in what, she would have done an Ivler with them if they did?

And then faster than you could say “Brenda,” they were vowing “walang iwanan”—to Gloria.

Four, news of the death of entertainers in national politics is grossly exaggerated. National politics of course is where they’ve thrived, not the local one. Local politics is still ward politics, not popularity politics, as shown by Rudy Fernandez losing to Sonny Belmonte in Quezon City and Manny Pacquiao to Darlene Custodio in South Cotabato, both, if not at the height of their popularity, at least not very far from it.

The notion that entertainers are on the wane comes from their showing in 2007 when Tito Sotto, Richard Gomez, Cesar Montano and several others failed in their bid. And indeed when FPJ, the king of them all, as his title proclaimed, lost to GMA in 2004—or so it seemed (I’ll get to that presently).

In fact, in the case of Sotto, what caused his loss was less being perceived as an entertainer than as having turned his back on FPJ. That was borne out by the surveys. Which must make us add a caveat to walang iwanan as a value or non-value: It matters when the turnaround is immediate, less so when buried by time. Defensor and Enrile have had 10 years to reinvent themselves from being Erap loyalists, Sotto had only three from being an FPJ loyalist.

Gomez and Montano made the leap too fast too soon. Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada have the advantage of having parents who gave political capital to their family names. Quite incidentally Ramon Revilla did not win the first time he ran for senator from the fatal mistake of using his real name instead of his screen name. They have the advantage too, as does Sotto, of continuous exposure throughout the year from the things they do. And Bong Revilla found the most high-profile issue of all, one that, well, pricked the nation’s imagination the way Ernesto Maceda did ages ago with the “Brunei Beauties”: Hayden Kho’s escapades. That’s why Jinggoy is only number 2.

No, the entertainers will be here for quite a while.

Five, FPJ did not lose the elections, he was robbed of the elections. It wasn’t a case of the dawning of a new day, the entertainers were gone, it was a case only of “Da King is dead, long live Da King.” It certainly wasn’t the dawning of a new day on two counts.

At the very least because the seeming disappearance of the entertainers only meant the reappearance of the trapos led by GMA and Jose de Venecia. The latter, still smarting from being crushed by Erap in 1998, would later help GMA avoid paying the price of stealing the elections. He would also later pay the price for that, by being crushed by GMA. Two-zero. De Venecia it was who would lobby hard for a shift to a parliamentary system, which would defang popularity and make the trapo da king once and for all. He would fail miserably.

At the very most because it did not just announce the reappearance of the trapo, it announced the reappearance of the extreme form of the trapo, which was the dictator. The entertainers weren’t beaten through the vote, they were beaten through the theft of the vote, the trapos reasserting themselves by showing that if they could not win by hook, they would win by crook. If they could not win by popularity, they would win by force. If they could not rule by law, they would rule without the law.

Six, when will we ever get out of the rut of having to choose between entertainer and trapo?

New NCR military chief another Arroyo classmate

New NCR military chief another Arroyo classmate
By Reynaldo Santos Jr
Newsbreak

MANILA, Philippines—Many were skeptical when Gen. Delfin Bangit, upon his assumption as chief of staff of the Armed Forces, vowed to shield the military from being used in fraudulent acts in the elections.

Bangit, after all, is known to be loyal to President Arroyo. In 2004, several generals were implicated in a grand scheme to rig the elections in favor of Ms. Arroyo.

On Saturday, Bangit seemed out to prove that he’d keep his word that “only God can use me.” He placed Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue at the helm of the military’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCom), replacing Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu, who had been promoted chief of the Philippine Army.

Bangit, Angue, and Mapagu belong to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978, which counts President Arroyo as honorary member. The PNP’s Commander for NCR, Roberto Rosales, is also their classmate.

On May 11, 2004, Angue, then a Navy captain, was pulled out from his assignment as commander of Task Force 62 that controlled military troops in Tawi-Tawi on suspicion that he was aiding President Arroyo’s rival, Fernando Poe Jr.

It turned out, according to some concerned soldiers, Angue was in fact trying to frustrate the administration’s move to use the military in Tawi-Tawi to rig the votes.

Newsbreak reported in 2005 that Tawi-Tawi was the only province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where Poe won (49,803 against Arroyo’s 33,634).

Former Tawi-Tawi Rep. Nur Jaafar had admitted to Newsbreak that he sought the removal of Angue at the time because the Navy captain was “fraternizing” with Gov. Sadikul Sahali, who was campaigning for Poe.

“He (Angue) was hostile to us, allowing our rivals to use military vehicles,” according to Jafaar, who lost.

A source close to Angue, however, told Newsbreak that he didn’t mind being pulled out because it was a choice between “taking a leave or taking part in the cheating.”

In an interview at the time, Angue denied that he was biased for the opposition. “What I made sure precisely was for the military not to be used,” he said.

In the wiretapped conversation that was uncovered a year later, the President asked Virgilio Garcillano about reports that the opposition was preparing an election complaint in Calanguyan, Tawi- Tawi.

Garcillano told her not to worry because, after all, “wala naman tayong ginawa doon (we didn’t do anything there).” They even lost there, he said.

Before heading the military’s NCR Com, Angue was assigned chief of staff of the Philippine Navy. He was with the rebel military group behind the coup attempts during the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino in the 1980s. (Newsbreak)

‘Emperor’ as AFP chief raises fears of poll fraud

‘Emperor’ as AFP chief raises fears of poll fraud
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Members of both sides of the political spectrum are antsy over President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s appointment of the “Emperor” as Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff.

Retired Maj. Gen. Ramon Montaño Tuesday said ex-officers like himself who were “in touch with the still idealistic elements” of the military were apprehensive that the AFP under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit would “again be used to frustrate the people’s will.”

In the 2004 presidential election, Ms Arroyo “skillfully used her cabal of blindly loyal military officers and political running dogs to destroy the political opposition,” according to Montaño.

It was a reference to the purported involvement of ranking military officers in ensuring Ms Arroyo’s victory over her then rival, actor Fernando Poe Jr., as revealed in the “Hello Garci” tapes.

The tapes contained supposed conversations between Ms Arroyo and then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano during the counting of the votes, for which the President later apologized.

“We pray that this desperate plot of this administration to cling to power shall be stopped by the might of the Filipino people and the idealistic, honorable members of the AFP,” Montaño said in a statement.

Avid loyalty

Presidential candidates Benigno Aquino III (Liberal Party) and Joseph Estrada (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino) also expressed dismay at Bangit’s appointment.

“We were hopeful that [Ms Arroyo] would be magnanimous in her exit from power by appointing someone who is beyond reproach. But she chose someone who is avidly loyal to her,” Aquino said in a phone interview.

Aquino said Bangit’s appointment had sent alarm bells ringing over the military’s role in the May elections considering that Ms Arroyo had not fully explained the “Hello Garci” scandal in 2004 and the 12-0 score in Maguindanao in favor of administration senatorial candidates in 2007.

He said that he expected the President, in another controversial move, to name the replacement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno with or without a nomination from the Judicial and Bar Council. (Puno retires on May 17.)

From Davao City, Estrada said Bangit was more loyal to Ms Arroyo than to the Constitution.

“The bottom line is that he’s a true-blooded man of GMA. He’ll risk his life for GMA,” Estrada said by phone, adding:

“There are rumors that General Bangit and his men would be used to manipulate the outcome of the elections. It’s a recipe for unrest. [But] let’s give Bangit a chance to disprove all the allegations against him.”

In case of power vacuum

Through its secretary general Renato Reyes, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said Bangit’s appointment as AFP chief of staff “creates greater uncertainties” for the May elections.

“The biggest question in Bangit’s appointment is his perceived closeness to the President, which, in the event of a failure of elections, may be useful in keeping Ms Arroyo in power indefinitely. He may be [Ms] Arroyo’s ace up her sleeve should there be a power vacuum,” Bayan said in a statement.

It said Bangit had yet to show whether his loyalties lay with the Constitution or with Ms Arroyo, “his adopted classmate” in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

Suspect appointments

Bangit is to take over from Gen. Victor Ibrado, who turns 56, the mandatory retirement age for the military, on Wednesday.

But activist priest Fr. Jose Dizon, a convenor of the election watchdog Kontra Daya, said Bangit’s appointment could bring about a reprise of the “Hello Garci” election fraud controversy.

Bayan said the uproar over Bangit’s appointment could have been avoided had Ms Arroyo let her successor choose the next AFP chief of staff.

“All of Ms Arroyo’s appointments at this point are suspect. No one trusts her. No one believes she will quietly step down when her term ends [in June]. Everything she is doing is for political survival beyond 2010,” it said.

Bayan said Bangit, who had variously headed the Intelligence Service of the AFP and the Presidential Security Group, should issue “a categorical statement” that in the event of a failure of elections, he would “not move to install Ms Arroyo in power indefinitely.”

“He should pledge to uphold civilian supremacy and he should not let the military stop peaceful mass protest actions,” it said.

Bayan also said that as AFP chief of staff, Bangit should uphold human rights, especially in relation to the 43 health workers detained at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, since early last month.

Professional soldier

Malacañang took pains to douse the uproar.

In his first news briefing at the Palace, Leandro Mendoza, the newly named executive secretary, said Bangit was a “very professional soldier” loyal only to the Constitution and the people.

Mendoza, a PMA graduate who once served as director general of the Philippine National Police, assured reporters that the military was “a professional organization.”

“Once you’re appointed, your focus is not personal anymore. [It’s] not on the appointing authority anymore but, particularly, on your institution,” he said.

Press Secretary Crispulo Icban went on RMN radio to dismiss fears that the administration would use Bangit to help its presidential candidate win in May.

“Those are just fears … And the President has shown that she is not active in the presidential election and is just focused on her candidacy [for representative of the second district of Pampanga],” the press secretary said.

According to Icban, Ms Arroyo chose Bangit over other candidates for AFP chief of staff because he met the criteria that included loyalty and trust.

“And he has shown that he is a good general,” Icban said.

No restless soldiers

The AFP itself, through its spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, downplayed rumors that Bangit’s appointment was intended to disrupt the elections.

“We want to tell the public that there is no need to worry about the designation of General Bangit as the next chief of staff,” Brawner told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo, the AFP’s general headquarters in Quezon City.

“The AFP is a professional organization,” Brawner said, adding that even Ibrado was confident of Bangit’s abilities as military officer.

Brawner said that during the Army’s testimonial parade for Ibrado at Fort Bonifacio on Monday, Bangit himself declared that he would be “nonpartisan.”

“He vowed that the AFP will not be used to protect the interest of some groups, or for any [kind of] cheating in the elections,” Brawner said.

Mendoza said he saw “no connection” between Bangit and speculation of rigging in the May elections.

But he pointed out that the military should play a “very important” role in elections, particularly in providing security in areas “where government is scarce,” to ensure the success of the polls.

He also said talk that Bangit’s assumption to the top AFP post would generate unrest among the soldiers was “not an issue.”

Arroyo’s prerogative

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manuel Villar acknowledged that it was Ms Arroyo’s prerogative to appoint the AFP chief of staff even in the waning days of her presidency.

“I really don’t know [Bangit] that well. But I understand that in our system of government, it’s the President that makes the appointment, and I understand that that is consistent with our laws,” Villar said in Filipino at a press conference in Davao City.

“So how can we [oppose Bangit’s appointment]? We can’t assume that it’s not proper [on the mere assumption] that he will create chaos,” Villar said.

He said he had his “personal choices” for the post, but did not name them.

“I always sleep soundly regardless of whoever is the AFP chief of staff,” he said.

Villar also said what was crucial for the nation was for the AFP chief of staff and all citizens to “safeguard the institutions of democracy at all times.” Reports from Fe Zamora, Alcuin Papa, Leila B. Salaverria, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Christine O. Avendaño, Norman Bordadora, Marlon Ramos, Michael Lim Ubac and TJ Burgonio