Saturday, March 19, 2016
Thursday, February 18, 2016
February 19, 2016
By Perry Diaz
By the looks of it, the May 9, 2016 presidential election could turn out to be a hellishly contentious battle royale. With five major presidential candidates, the outcome of the elections is predictably unpredictable. Indeed, recent presidential preference surveys showed see-sawing and criss-crossing ratings among four of the five major candidates, to wit: Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sen. Grace Poe, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas.
Trailing far behind them is Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, whose anemic – if not pathetic – ratings, would, under normal circumstances, classify her as a “spoiler.” But the forthcoming presidential election would by no means be under normal circumstances. There are just too many variables. Some are known variables, some are unknown, and a few are unknown “unknown,” foremost of which is how the Supreme Court is going to treat Poe’s status as a “foundling” – that is, a person whose parents were unknown.
There is nothing wrong with being a foundling except when you want to be president of the Philippines. However, a foundling under normal circumstances could do anything a natural-born Filipino could do. But under the Philippine Constitution, a person who is not a natural-born Filipino citizen is not qualified to run for the office of president, vice president, senator or representative. Is that discriminatory? Some people – including a few Supreme Court (SC) justices – say it is so. And that is why the high court is hearing oral arguments to no end, which makes one wonder: Why can’t these supposedly defenders of the Constitution interpret such simple provisions of the law. Instead, some of them seem to be threading into the realm of “judicial voodooism.” And after four oral arguments, their number has increased to five justices – known as the Sereno bloc, most of whom are appointees of President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III -- who are now reportedly inclined to cut Poe some slack on her status as a “foundling.” All they need now is to convince three more justices into agreeing to their “voodoo” interpretation of the Constitution.
But several justices led by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio are of the opinion that because Poe is a foundling, she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen but may be considered naturalized Filipino citizen. He said that the Constitution only allows natural-born Filipino citizens to run for president. And this is the gist of Poe’s disqualification case.
Lots of questions, no answers
With the ballots – with Poe included as a presidential candidate – ready to be printed, what do you think would happen if the SC disqualified her after the ballots were already printed? This would give the voters enough reasons to demand reprinting the ballot without her name on it. But what if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) rejected their demands and proceeded with the election? With Poe leading the pack with the highest approval rating, do you think the four other candidates would take it sitting down? And what do you think would their supporters do? Indeed, there are lots of questions but no answers, which makes one wonder: Is this the perfect recipe for another EDSA uprising?
It’s for this very reason that Chief Justice Sereno should – nay, must! – expedite the disqualification case against Poe. Failure to do so would be tantamount to grave abuse of power. And to think that she’ll be the country’s top magistrate until 2030 makes one wonder where is the country heading?
Now, here is the stinger. Ready? Eleven of the Supreme Court justices will be retiring during the term of the next president, possible Poe. That would give her or whoever is elected the power to appoint their replacements. That would give the next president virtual control over the three branches of government. But one can argue that regardless of who is elected president, he or she would appoint 11 Supreme Court justices. And this is where character, integrity, honesty, and competence are what voters should be basing their choice for president on May 9.
Given all the issues raised against the five major candidates, it is going to be hard deciding who among them is the best man – or woman – for the job? But here is the problem with this question: The candidates are hard to qualify as to who is the “best” because none of them had been a president before. However, their character, integrity, honesty, and competence can be weighed by quantifying their “excess baggage.” In other words, it is presumed that they all have excess baggage. Is it then fair to presume that they are “evil” in varying degrees? If so, then let me reframe my original question: Who among the candidates is the least evil?
So, who do you think is the least evil? I’ll leave it to my readers to decide that. But to highlight some of the excess baggage that the candidates carry, here are some for your discrimination: Jejomar Binay is corrupt to the core (kurakot kuno). Grace Poe lacks the experience (and therefore “incompetent”), and she is not natural-born Filipino (kano kuno) and she lied about her citizenship and residency. In regard to Duterte, the people are divided between those who call him a gangster and those who revere him as a gang-buster or “The Punisher,” and some liken him to the late disciplinarian Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. Roxas is honest but some people think he is incompetent (walang alam kuno) and some call him Mr. Palenke, a derogatory moniker. And while Miriam Defensor Santiago is reputedly incorruptible, her detractors called her “Brenda” (“brain damage” kuno) when she ran for president in 1992.
So there you go. You can now select who you believe is the “least evil” among the five candidates. Do you prefer an allegedly corrupt politician to someone who allegedly lied about her citizenship and residency? How about between an allegedly incompetent person and one who is allegedly mentally unstable? And how about between an allegedly corrupt politician and an honest but allegedly incompetent politician? And so on.
Birds of a feather
Now if you take a look at a different perspective, the danger of electing the most evil of the candidates takes a quantum leap. Take for instance if the one elected is corrupt to the core: Do you think that he or she would have the character to appoint honest and incorruptible jurists to the Supreme Court? Could it be that the character of the president would somehow be reflected in the character of the person he or she appoints to the high court? Does the mantra “Birds of a feather…” apply – perhaps subconsciously -- in the selection process? Look at former prez Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is now detained pending plunder charges against her. Her appointee as Ombudsman resigned to avoid impeachment. Her appointee as Chief Justice was impeached and removed from office. Her appointee as Secretary of National Defense and subsequently Secretary of Energy – a retired four-star general – committed suicide after being accused of corruption while he was the AFP of Staff.
In regard to Arroyo’s 16 appointees during her two presidential terms, there were at one time 14 of them serving during Aquino’s early years in office, of which – not surprisingly -- about 10 of them voted as a bloc in ruling against most of Aquino’s executive orders.
Suffice it to say, the next president will be in a position to exercise such immense power that would transform the Supreme Court into a body that would reflect the philosophy – and character – of the appointing president. Given the chance of choosing among Binay, Poe, Duterte, Roxas, and Santiago, the Philippine electorate has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to chart the direction of the Supreme Court by electing the least evil of the presidential candidates.
While some say that corruption is the number one issue against presidential candidates, it hasn’t really stopped a corrupt politician from getting elected. Take for instance Binay who has several plunder charges filed against him. Yet his approval ratings have remained high. However, one can argue that they’re all corrupt!
In the case of Poe, she is accused of misrepresenting – some call it lying – her citizenship status and meeting the 10-year residency. And that smacks right into the issue of character, which begs the question: Does she deserve to be the leader of more than 100 million Filipino citizens when her own citizenship is mired in controversy?
At the end of the day, it comes down to the question: Should the people vote for Grace or anybody but Grace (ABG)?
Monday, January 18, 2016
January 22, 2016
By Perry Diaz
Twenty-four years after the Philippine Senate rejected the extension of the American bases, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). EDCA is an “executive agreement” between the U.S. and the Philippines that would allow the American military to once again set foot on Philippine soil. It didn’t take long for the Philippines to act; she immediately offered eight strategic locations throughout the country where the U.S. could position equipment and personnel on a rotational basis.
It’s interesting to note that prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, every time American warships docked at the Subic port (formerly Subic Naval Base), they were met by protesting leftist groups displaying anti-American signs. This time around, when the USS Topeka, a nuclear attack submarine, docked at Subic a few hours before the high court decision was announced, it was welcomed by a marching band composed of local students.
Indeed, times have changed since the Philippine Senate, by a narrow 12-11 vote, decided not to renew the U.S. bases agreement in 1991. A year later, after then President Cory Aquino’s administration tried vainly to work out an extension, the U.S. flag was lowered in Subic for the last time. Since then, leftist and nationalist groups have vigilantly opposed any presence of American forces on Philippine soil. It was a period when the nationalists proudly declared the Philippines as “truly independent.” However, it was also a dark period when China started grabbing Philippine territories including the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Scarborough Shoal, and six other islands where she built artificial islands that could be used for military purposes. China has been trying to expel a contingent of Philippine Marines guarding the Ayungin Shoal in a grounded and rusty naval vessel, the BRP Sierra Madre.
But it was when China started building the artificial islands that the nationalist legislators began to worry. They turned to the U.S. for help but Uncle Sam stayed out of the disputed islands, claiming neutrality. Some of them even tried to invoke the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), which makes one wonder: Did they expect the Americans to come to the aid of the Philippines after they were booted out of the country? And these “patriotic” legislators know that with a navy without warships and an air force without warplanes, the country is helplessly -- and hopelessly -- at the mercy of China.
It did not then come as a surprise when President Benigno Aquino III opened the doors for the U.S. to station troops and equipment on a rotational basis. And that’s when EDCA came to fruition. But it wasn’t easy. As soon as the EDCA was signed in April 2014, several leftist and nationalist personalities petitioned the Supreme Court to declare EDCA unconstitutional. Among them were former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada who were among the “Magnificent 12” -- as their supporters called them – who voted to kick the U.S. bases out of the Philippines 24 years ago. Today, these 12 senators are now referred to as the “Dirty Dozen.” Indeed, times are changing.
Supreme Court ruling
When the Supreme Court circulated the draft of the ponencia penned by Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno last November, the Senate immediately passed Resolution 1414 introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, which says that any treaty should be concurred in by the Senate otherwise it becomes “invalid and ineffective.” However, the U.S. and Philippine governments have always insisted that EDCA is an executive agreement, not a treaty.
Fourteen senators voted to adopt the resolution. Only Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV voted against it while Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile abstained. It’s ironic that Enrile, who was one of the “Magnificent 12,” had abstained this time around, which makes one wonder: Did he finally realize the folly of his action in 1991? Indeed, had he voted for retention of the U.S. bases then – a notion that might have swirled in his mind today -- China would have stayed out of the Spratly Islands.
Nevertheless, in spite of the “invalid and ineffective” language of Resolution 1414, the Supreme Court went ahead and voted 10-4 on Sereno’s ponencia. Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Marvic Leonen dissented while Justice Francis Jardeleza inhibited.
In his concurring opinion to the court’s ruling, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that EDCA’s provisions that allow the prepositioning of U.S. war materiel and equipment in Philippine military bases would “give teeth” to the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). “With the EDCA, China will think twice before attacking Philippine military resupply ships to Philippine-occupied islands in the Spratlys. With the EDCA, the Philippines will have a fighting chance to hold on to Philippine-occupied islands in the Spratlys,” he said.
With EDCA in place, the Philippines can now play an important role in preventing Chinese expansionism in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region that spans more than 12,000 miles across the globe – from the coast of East Africa to the shores of California. The Philippines, which was the weakest link in the First Island Chain that forms the first line of defense against Chinese intrusion into the Pacific Ocean, is now going to be a fortified 1,100-mile “retaining wall” against China’s “nine-dash line” -- which U.S. Admiral Harry Harris calls the “Berlin Wall of the Sea” -- that runs parallel to the Philippines’ 12-mile territorial boundary and the First Island Chain. And at both ends of that retaining wall are the Bashi Channel in the Batanes Islands in the north and the Tawi-Tawi Strait in the Sulu archipelago in the south. It’s no surprise then that the U.S. has requested access to Batanes Island and the Laoag Airport in Ilocos Norte where movements in the Bashi Channel could be monitored, and blocked if a conflict with China occurs.
Whoever controls the Bashi Channel, Tawi-Tawi Strait, and the Miyako Channel – a major choke point that connects the East China Sea to the Pacific Ocean – would control the First Island Chain; thus, containing China to the confines of the South and East China Seas.
It’s also been reported in the news that the existing Philippine naval facility at Oyster Bay, Palawan is being developed into a “mini Subic.” Oyster Bay, which is only 100 miles from the Spratly Islands, is the Philippine Navy’s sole base facing the South China Sea and the staging point to the Kalayaan Islands that includes the populated Pag-Asa Island.
In the previous week, three important events happened that gave the U.S. a geopolitical victory over China in Asia-Pacific, to wit: (1) The resolution of the “comfort women” issue between Japan and South Korea; (2) The election of pro-independence Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s next president; and (3) The Philippine Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of EDCA.
With America’s military alliances with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Australia, and Singapore secured, President Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” strategy is finally paying off, which solidified the position of the U.S. as a Pacific power. And with EDSA in place, a new strategic partnership between the U.S. and the Philippines is created; thus, providing a safety net for the Philippines to protect her sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Monday, August 26, 2013
LAST August 23, 2013, three days before the “Million People March” anti-pork barrel rally at the Rizal Park (Luneta), President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III, in a seemingly pre-emptive move, announced that its time to abolish the PDAF, the acronym for Priority Development Assistance Fund, or more commonly known as “pork barrel.” The rally, which was initiated by netizens, demanded for the abolition of pork barrel. A few individuals using Facebook barely two weeks ago, posted a call for “Martsa sa Luneta” on August 26, 2013.
The attendance, which varies from 65,000 to 100,000, manifested the seriousness of the pork barrel scandal. The rally could be the “tipping point” of the people’s fight against pork barrel… and corruption. Many felt that P-Noy reneged on his promise of “Walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”
Never before since the EDSA people power revolution of 1986 has an issue galvanized the people to rise in protest. The social media has taken the place of EDSA as the venue for people to vent their anger against corruption and incompetence in government. Just imagine how fast “news” travels around. It’s faster than sound and light; everybody is just a “click” away.
It did not then come as a surprise when P-Noy called for an unscheduled press conference to announce that pork barrel has to go. He told reporters that he was not “threatened” by the “Martsa sa Luneta. ” “Why should we be worried? We’ve gained more allies in fixing the system. Thanks a lot to them,” he said. He blamed the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for all the anomalies the Commission on Audit (COA) found in a three-year study on pork barrel corruption.
P-Noy should stop blaming Gloria for all his problems. While it may be true that the pork barrel scam ran by Janet Lim-Napoles started during Gloria’s time, it did not end when P-Noy ascended to the presidency. In fact, the COA report shows that the pork barrel scam increased in volume and more lawmakers – 12 senators and 180 congressmen – were involved in raiding the PDAF funds and splitting the funds 70-30 with the lawmakers getting the lion’s share.
But blaming Gloria is not going to work this time around. Department of Budget and Management (DBM) records show that in 2010, Gloria’s last budget year, PDAF was P6.9 billion. The following year, with P-Noy having full control of the budget, he could have pared down the PDAF allocations. But instead, PDAF allocations took a quantum leap. In 2011, PDAF more than tripled from 2010’s P6.9 billion to P22.3 billion! In 2012, it was increased to P24.89 billion. It was for the same amount in 2013. But in 2014, PDAF will increase to a record P27 billion!
P1-trillion presidential pork
Recently, it was reported in the news that Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and former Treasurer Leonor Briones “want the executive department to explain the lump sum items in the national budget which they believe are the President’s version of lawmakers’ pork barrel funds.” Briones estimates the lump sums under the President's discretion to be around P1 trillion.” She explained that any “lump sum” fund that is under the discretion of an official like a senator, congressman or president, is considered a “pork barrel.” She defined “pork barrel” as an allocation with no details on how and where it will be spent.” She also said that the power of the President to redirect or realign funds in the budget would make the whole national budget his “pork,” which he can use any which way he wants.
The following is a breakdown of the presidential pork by category:
Special purpose funds - P310.1 billion, which includes big items such as PDAF (P25.42 billion), Budgetary support to state-owned corporations (P45.7), and miscellaneous personnel benefits fund (P80.7 billion).
Unprogrammed funds – P139.9 billion, which include Support to foreign-assisted projects (P16.124 billion), Support for infra projects and social programs (P56.349 billion), AFP modernization program (P10.349 billion), Debt management program (P10.894 billion), and Risk management program (P30 billion).
Under the President’s control - Budget for school buildings (P200 billion).
PAGCOR and PCSO – They contribute to the social fund. PAGCOR will contribute about P2 billion to the President's social fund this year.
Malampaya funds – More than P100 billion will be at the disposal of P-Noy this year.
Miscellaneous – Debt servicing (P352 billion) and Internal Revenue allotment (P341.5 billion) “allegedly” under the President's control.
If you add the miscellaneous items to the P1 trillion that Briones estimated, then you are looking at a whopping P1.45-trillion presidential pork! That would represent 55.7% of the P2.6-trillion budget for 2014.
Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad disputes Colmenares and Briones’ observations. He claimed that P-Noy “has been prudent in spending.” If so, how much is left over and where did it go? Perhaps P-Noy should allow COA to audit his P1-trillion pork to the satisfaction of his “bosses,” the people. The lack of transparency and accountability makes the people suspicious of abuses like the pork barrel scam that Janet Lim-Napoles allegedly pulled off, which defrauded the government of P10 billion from lawmakers’ PDAF in the past 10 years.
Pork by any other name…
While P-Noy said that the PDAF would be abolished, he instructed the Senate and the House of Representatives to “find a new way to deal with the needs of constituents ‘in a manner that is transparent, methodical and rational’ and ‘not susceptible’ to abuse.” In other words, pork barrel is here to stay; only the name would change.
In my article, “For the love of pork…” (August 23, 2013), I wrote: “It is interesting to note that the PDAF can trace its provenance to 1989 when P-Noy’s mother Cory created the Mindanao Development Fund (MDF) and the Visayas Development Fund (VDF), with and appropriation of P480 million and P240 million, respectively. In 1990, the MDF and VDF were combined and expanded nationwide as the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) with an appropriation of P2.3 billion. In 2000, the CDF was renamed PDAF.”
It seems that we are once again going through the rigmarole of renaming “pork barrel” into something else. But like a lot of people are saying, “Pork by any other name is still pork.” What is it this time? As someone suggested, why not BADAF, which is an acronym for “Benigno Aquino Development Assistance Fund” or BACON, which stands for “Budgetary Allocation for Collaborative Outreach Nationwide”?
I believe it is time to get rid of PDAF, which is the number one cause of corruption. While P-Noy might be “prudent” in spending his pork barrel funds as Abad said, who knows what the next president would do? He or she might not be as “prudent” as P-Noy.
For P-Noy to chop the P27-billion pork but keep the P1-trillion bacon is not only unfair, it is unconscionable. P-Noy is now at the crossroads of his political life; he can follow a “daang matuwid” (straight path) or take a detour to a road that would lead him to ignominy.
Mr. President, it’s time to act… resolutely.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
On Sunday, July 21, The Apl.de.ap Foundation in partnership with Mending Kids International will present “The Spring Collection” of Alan Del Rosario with a special appearance from the candidates of Binibining Pilipinas USA 2013 at SupperClub, in Los Angeles, California.
The Fashion Gala benefits the campaign for Filipino Children, a two- fold project of The Apl.de.ap Foundation in partnership with Mending Kids International, called “Apl of My Eye”.
The project will provide eye surgeries for premature Filipino babies, at least 30% of these premature babies develop retinopathy, a disease that causes abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina from excessive oxygenation. If the affliction is not diagnosed and treated within 48 hours of birth these premature babies become permanently blind.
“Heartstrings” is the other project, which will provide heart surgeries for Filipino children with life-threatening heart ailments. The Apl.de.ap Foundation.is focus on raising additional resources to make more of these heart surgeries available to disadvantaged children at the Philippine Heart Center.
If you would like to help, you can purchase tickets to the Fashion Gala, please text or call 310-968-5911 or send an email to JRobbieFabian@aol.com.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
In 2000, the Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives. However, they had a net loss of two seats from the previous elections. With George W. Bush winning the presidency by five electoral votes; however, he lost the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore by 0.5% of the vote.