Saturday, March 19, 2016

Growing up in Martial Law Negros"

Jon Ray Fernandez, 2016 



(Photo by Jay Fermin FMG)

I grew up in a mixed political household (also a mixed religious one) My maternal grandmother  and my mother were  staunch supporters of the Partido Nacionalista because her sister Ma. Lourdes was the nacionalista mayor of Valladolid in Negros. My maternal grandfather was a Quirino (cousin of President Quirino) from Ilocos which makes it self explanatory why he was rock solid Marcos.  My maternal grandmother and mother were closely linked to RSB-Roberto 'BOBBY" Salvador Benedicto and his wife Julie both powerful Marcos cronies, Bobby or RSB as he was popularly known, was the comptroller of the Negros Sugar Industry and Traders Royal Bank- both were not only my moms god parents (and my own) but were my grandmothers constant travelling companions all through out the 1960’s and 70’s.



On the other side of my family-my fathers family were all partido liberal and deeply anti-Marcos.  I think you can safely assume that politics and religion divided our family.  I came into political consciousness in the very turbulent years of the 80’s, though I was politically immature, my brother and I were deeply interested in politics.  But we were influenced by my grandmother-who blamed the communist insurgency on the leftist and student protesters, which was a giant headache for the sugar planters on Negros. She felt they were out to destroy the feudal system which made sugar planters rich beyond the dreams of millions of Filipinos. It was safe to assume she failed to connect that the reason why her farm hands went to the mountains to join the NPA in the first place was because of deep corruption and the eventual collapse of the sugar industry brought about by her friends-the Benedictos and their big boss in Malacanang –President Ferdinand Marcos.

I do not think UP politicized me ( my Lola and Mom were not very happy), even before entering the state university I was already politically opinionated.  But after reading many books and seeing and hearing for myself the many screaming matches in my own house about the Marcoses and the Aquinos. I decided to find my own truth.

I see a new generation of young  Filipinos constantly praising the Marcos dictatorship and talk about the good old days during the 20 years of conjugal dictatorship- most of these young people were not yet born, but I was around and knew what was going on. 

( Philippine Airforce UH-1H flying North over Negros Occidental. Photo by Jay Fermin FMG )

Let me talk about my experience from a Bacolodnon or Negros point of view. During the sugar boom of the 1940s, 50s and 60s the sugar industry made all the Negros planters rich beyond the dreams of avarice.  These were the boom years because the USA bought their sugar from the Philippines, and Cuba the other sugar producing island was out of the picture, America imposed trade sanctions on the newly communist Cuba. So sugar only came from the Philippines and other small  sugar producing islands like Puerto Rico,  but still not even close to what the Philippines was sending to the USA. So we had a monopoly. 

Negros was called the richest island in Asia!

Back then if you were a Negros planter, your life was good,  beyond good it was great. All the planters were super rich, these were the boom years- I remember my grand parents and relatives buying houses in the newly developed Makati business district- Forbes park, Bel Air, Urdaneta and Magallanes village- and all out kapit bahays  in these gated villages were all Negrense.  They even had apartments in New York and San Francisco (we had a house in Chicago).  I knew of planter families in Bacolod who had small airplanes and helicopters.   All the the other planter families in our gated Village in Bacolod (Sta. Clara) went to Europe every year in huge tour groups-the Sarosas, Maranons, Lacsons, Jalandonis, Cuencas and so many other Bacolod families.  My grandmother used to say they she went around the world 12 times with my mom, staying for months in the best hotels.  You have to remember this was in the 1950s and 60s when there was no such thing as piso fares or budget airlines.  Back then traveling via PAN AM or TWA was a white gloved affair.  It was reserved for the rich.  The Negros planters were thus called “HACIENDEROS”  

Then Ferdinand and Imelda entered the palace in 1965- he was young and dynamic, she was beautiful and gracious.  Filipinos thought it was the dawn of a new era, Marcos and Imelda were like the JFK and Jackie Kennedy of Asia.  The first 5 years of their reign were uneventful.   

Then around 1970 things started to change in Hacienda Sugarlandia Negros: the economy was failing, and we had a law and order problem in Negros even at the height of Martial Law,  the NPA started to grow in number, from a small force of 2 thousand they grew to around 30 thousand,  the people working in the farms started leaving their jobs and joining the NPA in the mountains,-  the decades long feudal system which had made all the planter families super rich began to crumble.  My Moms ninong and Marcos best friend Roberto Salvador Benedicto was siphoning billions of pesos from the Negros sugar industry to Imelda’s private shopping sprees. The Benedictos were sooooo rich they had a private Lear Jet ( not the Cessna two engine) in their own small airport terminal ( the old cebu pacific terminal in the old airport was their own private airport)  I remember my grandmother used to travel with them, the airport had a red carpet from airport terminal to the airplane stairs  . This I remember because I was on that plane several times.

The once thriving and unfair sugar industry began to disintegrate right before our eyes.   By the 1980’s things had gotten worst in Bacolod( I remember these dark years)   The gracious garden parties in Sta Clara were replaced by super high walls with electric barbed wire- even the richest hacienderos did not feel safe in their huge houses.  The law and order situation in Negros had gotten so bad, that if we drove to our farm, there was a possibility of being abducted by the NPA’s new armed group called "The Sparrow Unit".   I remember that we had to change our telephone number at least once a month because we would get death threats very often on the phone.   Then one day in the early 80’s- my dad disappeared and there were whispers that he was abducted by the Sparrow Unit. He re appeared after 2 days (I assume my grandmother had paid some sort of tribute fee to the NPA for his release)  Til the day my father died-he never mentioned this incident-maybe trauma (I don't know).  My best friends family  (another haciendero family) and their farm home was entered by the NPA, they were all tied up and made to kneel- thankfully, nothing bad happened to them.

Negros in the 1980's was a dark, dismal and in many ways lawless. We were so desperate for safety that all the rich planter families had private armies called CAFGU's- ex military men willing to be private security for Haciendero families.  It was a dark time.

But the worst was yet to happen, around 1982 a famine hit Negros.  There was no food left in the farms except for coconut and camote. We planters were as helpless as our farm hands- many Negrenses left their huge haciendas to go to the USA to work as nurses aides or clerks- it was that bad in Negros- ika nga tapos na ang happy days.   

Then Newsweek magazine used the picture of a starving Negros child for its cover-  the child was malnourished, bone thin, almost close to death, this child looked like a victim of the genocide or famine in  Africa,  but it was not Africa, it was in my province, we could not believe it-  Negros the island that once bred millionaires by the truck load had turned into an island of hunger, violence and death.   The once proud sugar industry had collapsed. Because RSB and Marcos had strangled it and stolen every peso they could get.  Imelda used the Bacolod money to purchase several buidings in New York, not units- BUT BUILDINGS on 5th ave considered the most expensive  block of real estate in the world.

I am not an Aquino fan. I don't like Noy Noy or Kris or any of Corys cronies who were also thieves,   but lets be real about the Marcoses.   I am not taking sides in this argument. I am only talking about my experiences as a child of Bacolod in the 1980’s.   

 Life was not good and if you dare debate me about it.  All I can say to you is  “Where you there?, kasi I was there.”

Text by Jon Ray Fernandez
Printed with permission 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Is it Grace or ABG?

February 19, 2016

 

PerryScope
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.   

 

Judicial voodooism

 

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.  

 

Carpio Doctrine

 

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, honestyand competence are what voters should be basing their choice for president on May 9.

 

Least evil

 

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)?

 

PerryDiaz@gmail.com  

 

Monday, January 18, 2016

EDCA: A new strategic partnership

January 22, 2016

 

PerryScope
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.   

 

Changing times

 

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.

 

Containing China

 

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. 

 

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Monday, August 26, 2013

P-Noy chops pork, keeps the bacon

PerryScope: By Perry Diaz
 

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. 

Blaming Gloria

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.

Denial

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.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com) 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Apl.de.ap Foundation presents “Fashion Gala" to help premature Filipino babies




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

GOP vs. GOP


Kaleidoscope: By Perry Diaz  
In his 1990 autobiography “An American Life,” Ronald Reagan attributed the rule, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” to Gaylord Parkinson, the state Republican Chairman who introduced it to Reagan when he ran for Governor of California in 1966.  The rule came to be known as the “Eleventh Commandment.”

Since then, Republicans have followed the Eleventh Commandment, religiously.  But today, they have forgotten -- or chose to forget – the rule that had cohered the Republican Party in good times as well as in bad times.  

The 2012 Republican presidential primaries became a cutthroat competition among the 11 presidential wannabes.  One by one, they ganged up on whoever was the frontrunner and besmirched his character until there was only one man standing, Mitt Romney. 

But Romney went to the November elections politically bruised and damaged.  His presidential campaign was preoccupied with defending Romney from President Barack Obama who flayed Romney’s veneer as a successful businessman and exposed his flawed character.  Had Romney and his primary rivals adhered to the Eleventh Commandment, he might have had a fighting chance in beating Obama. 

With the 2014 primaries fast approaching, the Republicans have drawn the battle line that separates them.  On one side are the traditional conservatives including what is left of the moderate wing.  On the other side are the feisty right-wingers and their ideological allies, the Tea Partiers, Christian evangelicals, and Libertarians. 

The 2014 Republican primaries could be a repeat of the 2010 primaries where the Tea Partiers trounced the traditional conservatives and moderates.  And that year, the Tea Party went on to win in the November 2010 general elections and captured the House of Representatives.
The question is: Could the Tea Party repeat their victory in 2014?  While they would likely come out ahead in the 2014 primaries, it is debatable whether they could win in the November general elections.   And the reasons are:

1) Obamacare – Recently, GOP leaders – who are mostly, state governors and “has-beens” – declared that they would use Obamacare as the main issue in 2014, which they promised to repeal. But wasn’t that one of the key issues that Romney used against Obama in 2012… and lost?  Why do they think that Obamacare would be the “holy grail” to regain control of the U.S. Senate?  They only need to win six Senate seats to become the majority in the U.S. Senate.  However, without a supermajority – 60 seats – they can’t break the gridlock in the Senate. 

Now, assuming that the Republicans win 60 Senate seats, they still have to make sure that the House of Representatives remain under Republican speakership.  But even if the House remained under Republican control, they still have to deal with a Democratic President who could veto any legislation.  And unless the Republicans could muster the number of votes to override a presidential veto, they would probably be luckier flying a kite on a windless day.

It’s interesting to note that the House Republicans had voted to repeal Obamacare 37 times in the past two years!  Why would they keep on repealing it when they know that it won’t even pass in the Senate today?

Honestly, repealing Obamacare could be like Napoleon facing the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.  It would be the Republicans’ Waterloo and that would ensure – perhaps even guarantee – that the Democrats would win the White House again in 2016.

2) Immigration Reform – If Obamacare is the GOP’s Waterloo, Immigration Reform is their Achilles heel.  With the bipartisan Gang of Eight (four Democrats and four Republicans) getting close to passing an immigration overhaul bill the Senate, the bill’s fate in the House hangs by a thread. 

House Speaker John Boehner made it known that an immigration overhaul bill would pass the House only if it ensured the border is secured and that illegal immigrants are not given special treatment.

But here is the stinger: Boehner said that he would not bring a bill to the floor for a vote without a majority of Republicans supports it.  And this is where it really gets very political.  Members of the House Tea Party caucus led by Rep. Michele Bachmann are calling the bill an amnesty for the 11 million illegal immigrants.

If the House does not pass a Senate-approved bill, then the bill dies and that’s the end of immigration reform. 

3) War on Women -- Anti-abortion, which has for so long been the GOP platform’s main plank, has taken a new dimension that covers a wide variety of issue including the definition of personhood, attack on Planned Parenthood, mandated vaginal ultrasound, criminalization of abortion, and ultimately the repeal of Roe vs. Wade.  This war on women has alarmed women’s groups across the nation. 

In the November 2012 elections, women overwhelmingly voted against Romney and senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock because of their perceived anti-women stands.  In Akin’s widely publicized video interview, he said: “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”   From that time on, Akin lost his electoral advantage in a red state, Missouri, and lost to a woman, Claire McCaskill.

Mourdock, who was supported by the Tea Party, defeated six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Richard Lugar in the 2012 Republican primary in Indiana.  He was slightly ahead of Democrat Joe Donnelly in pre-election surveys until he explained his stand on rape, saying: “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” He lost the election to Donnelly.

Civil war

Leaderless and rudderless, the straggling Republicans could only blame themselves if they are going to lose in the 2014 mid-term elections.  If they continue to follow the trail the Tea Party took in 2012, they would be defeated in the 2014 mid-term elections with net losses in both chambers of Congress.      

But they – particularly the Christian evangelicals -- should know better; Mark 3:25 says it all: If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”  Unless the Republicans stop their infighting, they stood nary a chance of capturing the White House in 2016... and worse, ever.   And if the Grand Old Party does not retool its platform and refine its message to minorities and women, it will lose its standing as a viable national political party and would be relegated to a regional partisan entity with limited appeal to voters.

But what’s going to hurt them most is their nasty civil war.  Yes, it’s GOP vs. GOP!  And like any civil war, the only casualty is the GOP.  Can the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln survive a civil war a second time around?



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Scandal fever afflicts Republicans

Kaleidoscope
By Perry Diaz

During the McCarthy witch-hunting era, the “duck test” was used to identify a person’s ideological leaning.  It works this way:  “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”  Thousands of people’s lives were ruined during this period that came to be known as the Second Red Scare.  Yes, “red” as in communist.

“McCarthyism,” which was coined after Republican U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.  It also means making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.  It lasted from 1950 to 1956.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Today, McCarthyism has taken a broader meaning.  In general, it is now used “to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.”  Sounds familiar, eh?

Indeed, the Republicans in Congress are using this modern form of McCarthyism to target their political opponents, particularly President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  And just like McCarthy, they conducted congressional hearings and investigations.  These latter-day followers of the McCarthy creed are trying to make President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton look like ducks, walk like ducks, and quack like ducks.  But this time around, they’re not witch-hunting for communists but how to implicate Obama and Clinton to a number of scandals.    

In my article, “Benghazi Syndrome” (May 18, 2013), I wrote: “Within days of the Benghazi attack, McCain led a smear campaign against U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. They attacked Rice’s Benghazi ‘talking points,’ accusing her of withholding information to cover up the real story. They demanded an investigation and vowed to block Rice’s confirmation in the Senate should President Barack Obama appoint her as Secretary of State. Well, Rice did not give them that chance; she withdrew from being considered for an appointment. 

“The virulent strain of the Benghazi Syndrome spread to the House of Representatives. Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and four other House committee chairmen conducted their own investigations. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey gave countless hours of testimony. The State Department sent more than 25,000 pages of documents to Congress. And yet Issa and the other witch hunters would not let up on their beliefs that the Obama administration is covering up something and they want to hear the true story of l’affaire Benghazi.” Sounds familiar, eh?

Scandal fever

Last May 13, former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on the Sean Hannity Show to discuss the Benghazi attack and the scandals plaguing the Obama Administration.  On the Benghazi incident, Cheney commented: “One of the worst incidents I can recall in my career… If they told the truth about Benghazi that it was a terrorist attack by a terrorist affiliated group it would have destroyed a false image of competence that was the basis for his campaign for reelection.”  Huh?

What was Cheney talking about?  Didn’t Obama call the Benghazi attack an “act of terror” at a press briefing the day after the attack?  Isn’t a “terrorist attack” an “act of terror”?  It’s all semantics.  So, what’s Cheney’s problem?   Perhaps he’s afflicted with “scandal fever,” a contagious strain that mimics the symptoms of dementia.  And contagious it was!  Within a few days, Rep. Darrell Issa used the same “terrorist attack” vs. “act of terror” argument during a media interview on Capitol Hill.  

Ratings up!

Recently, Obama’s rating bumped up from 51% in an April poll to 53% in a poll conducted last May 17-18. With all these scandals, you would think that Obama’s rating would plummet down.  Doesn’t that prove to show that most Americans are not falling for the McCarthyist games the Republicans are playing?

In spite of the scandals that are hounding the Obama administration, the Republicans have yet to find the “duck test” that they could use against Obama and Clinton. 

But they’re not giving up. The witch-hunt has reached fever pitch!  Speaker John Boehner started talking about impeaching Obama.  When he was asked what are the grounds for impeachment, he couldn’t give any specific impeachable offense.  However, he replied that they’d find something to nail him down during the impeachment process.   Sounds familiar, eh?

The question is: Can Obama weather the storm until the spring of 2014 when the mid-term election season kicks off?  In my opinion, I believe he’d not only survive it; he’d thrive on it for as long as they fail to implicate him to the scandals.  And so far, they don’t have an iota of evidence that would prove their complicity to these scandals.

Déjà vu

This whole charade reminds me of the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton in December 1998 for four charges, to wit: two charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, abuse of power.  The charges arose from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the Paula Jones lawsuit.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives impeached Clinton on one charge of perjury and obstruction of justice.  However, the Senate acquitted him in February 1999.  Although the Republicans controlled the Senate with a 55-vote majority, the Republicans were 17 votes short of the required two-third majority for a conviction.

If impeachment charges were brought before the House of Representatives against Obama, the Republican-controlled House would be able to impeach Obama since only a simple majority is needed for impeachment.

The Senate vote would probably mirror the 1999 vote in reverse.  Today, there are 53 Democrats, two Independents, and 45 Republicans.   To convict Obama, the Senate needs all 45 Republican and 22 Democrats/Independents, which is improbable simply because that is political reality.

And the political reality is that unless Obama has really screwed up to a point where Democrats would abandon him and feed him to the vultures, the impeachment process that Speaker Boehner had in mind was nothing more than an exercise in futility. 

Then what? 

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.

Quo vadis, Republicans?

In the 2014 elections, the Democrats need 17 seats to retake the House while the Republicans need six seats to retake the Senate.  However, unless either party gets a super majority of 60 seats, the Senate would face another unproductive term.

But as far as impeaching and removing Obama from office is concerned, the Republicans should call it quits and concentrate on the 2016 presidential election.  And the candidate to beat is Democrat Hillary Clinton.  Could any of the Tea Partiers – Rand Paul, Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan – beat her?  Now, you can see why the Republicans are trying so hard to get their ducks in a row to bring down Clinton.  

At the end of the day, the scandal fever that is afflicting Republicans could relegate the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln to political impotence.