Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It’s Eraption Season Again

Balitang Kutsero: By Perry Diaz

With former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada back in the campaign trail as a presidential candidate, it will be the season again for “Eraption” jokes. The following are some Eraptions that I found in the Internet:

How are a San Miguel beer bottle and Erap alike?
They are both empty from the neck up.

How do you confuse Erap?
Stick him in a round room and tell him to sit in the corner.

Why was the Erap proud for finishing a puzzle in only six months?
The box said "2 to 4 years!"

Why can't Erap dial 911?
He can't find the eleven on the phone!

How do you get Erap on the roof?
Tell him the drinks are on the house.

Why did Erap get fired from his job at the M & M's factory?
He kept throwing out the Ws.

I’m pretty sure that as the election campaign warms up, there will be more Eraptions erupting.

My investigative reporter James Macaquecquec reported his exclusive interview with Erap. It goes:

When Erap ran for president the first time in 1998, his slogan was: “Erap para sa mahirap” (Erap for the poor). This time he changed it to: “Erap para sa mas mahirap” (Erap for the very poor). When James asked him why, Erap said, “It’s because the poor are now poorer because of the recession.”

When asked what he’s going to do to stop the recession if he’s elected president, Erap said, “I’ll issue a proclamation that there will be no more recess in the schools.”

Erap is accusing presidential rival Manny Villar of stealing his slogan. Manny’s slogan is: “Money para sa mahirap” (Money for the poor). When asked what’s wrong with that, Erap said, “Manny is taking away my votes by buying the votes of the poor.”

When asked how he can overtake frontrunner Noynoy Aquino in the race to Malacanang, Erap said, “That’s easy. I know a short cut route to Malacanang and Noynoy doesn’t know where it is. Ha ha ha…”

When asked what is his position on “climate change,” Erap said, “Well… uh… it’s the same way with my position on Charter change, NO WAY!”

When asked why he’s opposed to Charter change, Erap said, “Charter change will change our presidential form of government to a parliamentary system with a Prime Minister as the head of government. We cannot have a ‘minister’ to head the government because that would violate the principle of the separation of the church and the state.”

When asked what is his position on the Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S., Erap said, “I’ll treat all visiting American soldiers just like any other tourists, they have to pay travel tax.”

When asked what he’ll do to improve English proficiency in schools, Erap said, “I’ll ask Manny Pacquiao to tell the school principals where he learned his English.”

When asked what he’s going to do to prevent being ousted like what happened in 2001, Erap said, “Gloria tricked me into signing a ‘leave of absence’ without reading between the lines. Well, next time they ask me to sign a document, I’ll have my wife read everything between the lines for me before I sign.”

James asked, “Which wife?” Oops. End of interview.

Talking about Manny Pacquiao… A news article says, “Pacquiao: I had a talk with God.” Pacquiao claimed that God promised him “strength and power.” He said, “I was not yet very popular and world champion when our God appeared to me and assured me of strength and power.” I think Pacquiao has been hanging out too long with Gloria who has been saying that God anointed her to rule the Philippines.

But Pacquiao and Gloria parted ways when Pacquiao bolted Gloria’s party to join Manny Villar’s Nacionalista Party. Balimbing! (Turncoat!)

Noynoy Aquino should watch out cuz if Pacquiao teaches Villar how to communicate with God, he would be in deep shit.

Lately, Tiger Woods admitted to having extramarital affairs. Now, he’s in trouble because more than a dozen women are now claiming that they had an affair with Tiger. Pacquiao -- who’s alleged to be romantically linked to actress Krista Ranillo -- should teach Tiger to just say, “No comments.” Remember, “No talk, no mistake” or should I say, “No mistake, no fun.”

But Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee is having all the fun when she opened her boutique last August in General Santos City called “Jinkee’s Fashion World.”

Recently, Pacquiao opened a novelty shop -- 500 miles away in Manila -- called “Team Pacquiao.” I heard that Pinoy paparazzi are stalking his shop waiting for Krista to show up. Now, that’s where the real fun is.


Monday, November 30, 2009

5th Annual Fil-Am Jazz Fest in Los Angeles December 4-5

Charmaine Clamor, Mon David & Special Guests
World’s Finest Pinoy Jazz Vocalists to Appear Together
5th Annual Fil-Am Jazz Fest in Los Angeles December 4-5
1st Fil-Am Jazz Fest Comes to New York on December 11-12

Los Angeles. Individually, they have earned the jazz world’s biggest prizes and conquered the radio airwaves. Collectively, they are the finest Pinoy jazz singers ever assembled on one stage.

Charmaine Clamor, the Queen of Jazzipino, will make a special appearance at the 5th Annual Fil-Am Jazz Fest on December 4-5 (Saturday & Sunday) at Hollywood’s Catalina Bar & Grill. The multi-awarded vocalist has had a memorable 2009, winning the FILIPINAS Magazine 12 Annual Achievement Award in Entertainment, the 6th Annual Asian Heritage Award in Performing Arts and a special FAMAS Award (Filipino Oscar) in recognition of her cultural trailblazing.

Viva Records recording artist Charmaine Clamor is the first and only Pinay to place two consecutive albums in the Top10 of the JazzWeek world music radio charts. Her breakthrough album Flippin’ Out introduced jazz listeners worldwide to the sound of Tagalog and made the Top 5 of the national jazz chats. Her most recent album, My Harana, is a collection of beloved Filipio serenades presented in contemporary arrangements. Charmaine’s signature jazzipino music is heard regularly in concert halls and jazz clubs around the world and has inspired critics from publications such as the Los Angeles Times to declare Charmaine “one of the original and important new jazz singers of the decade.”

Also headlining the 5th Annual Fil-Am JazzFest is the winner of the 2006 London International Jazz Vocal Competition, Mon David. A living legend in the Philippine jazz community, Mon David recently relocated to America, where he has released his first album in the United States, “Coming True,” on FreeHam Records. The influential All Music Guide wrote of Mon David, “Filipino-American vocalist Mon David should be a pleasant discovery for those who have been seeking a new champion of male jazz singers in a female-dominated world.”

A native Kapampangan, Mon David sings in his native dialect, Tagalog and English. He is acclaimed as one of the finest scat singers (vocal improvisers) on the planet.

Joining him at the 5th Annual Filipino-American Jazz Festival will be two of the “Asian Jazz Divas,” Sandra Viray and Charito.

Charito is the #1 Filipina jazz singer in Japan, where she has released numerous albums to outstanding critical praise. Her latest outing, Watch What Happens, is a collaboration with the legendary Frenchman Michel LeGrand

A veteran of the international Festival circuit, Charito has wowed audiences all over Asia, Australia and America. The 5th Annual Fil-Am Jazz Festival will mark her debut performance with her Fil-Am kababayans.

Known as the Queen of Manila Jazz, Sandra Viray is a Makati-based vocalist who has worked with some of the biggest names in the music business. Her latest album is a collaboration with the Brazilian masters Flora Purim and Airto.

Sandra Viray has attracted comparisons to the great Ella Fitzgerald. Indeed, at her last appearance in Los Angeles, at the 2nd Annual Fil-Am Jazz Fest in 2006, Viray brought down the house with her spot-on rendition of Ella’s “How High the Moon.”

Joining Clamor, David, Charito and Viray in New York City will be 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Annie Brazil.

The First New York Filipino-American Jazz Festival and the 5th Annual Los Angeles Filipino-American Jazz Festival is presented by JazzPhil-USA, a nonprofit organization based in Southern California. The Festival is sponsored by ABS-CBN, Asian Journal, The Law Offices of Atty. Jemela Nettles, Tribune-USA / The Law Offices of David Zuckerman, CENSUS 2010, FilAmNation.com and Hydee Abrahan Photography. These shows always sell out. Tickets are available now!

What: LA’s 5th Annual Filipino-American Jazz Festival
When: December 4-5 (Friday-Saturday) at 8 PM
Where: Catalina Bar & Grill Jazz Club, 6725 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028
How Much: $25 + two-drink minimum
Tickets and More Info: www.Jazzphil-USA.com

What: New York’s First Filipino-American Jazz Festival
When: December 11-12 (Friday-Saturday) at 9:30 PM
Where: Triad Theater, 158 w. 72nd Street, NY, NY 10023
How Much: $30 + two-drink minimum
Tickets and More Information

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

L.A. Clippers Embrace Filipino Heritage Night together with the only Filipino NBA Player

By Jay Fermin (Frontliners Media Group)

Staples Center, Los Angeles – The Holidays are upon us and it is time once again for family and community to slow down, celebrate, remember the culture that binds all of us and maybe, just maybe, have it all in a great basketball game! For the first time in Los Angeles NBA history, the Clippers will host “Filipino Hoops and Heritage Night” which will be held at Staples Center on December 5, 2009 in their game against the Indiana Pacers at the Staples Center at 7:30 p.m.

The only Filipino NBA player Raymond Townsend (Golden State Warriors / Indiana Pacers) spoke to members of the media stating that this is a historic event that will show the Filipino heritage thru the NBA and is an opportunity for Filipinos to support their NBA team as well while promoting our youth to follow their dreams. The theme of Filipino Hoops and Heritage Night is “Follow Your Dreams.” He recounted emotionally how his mother related to him about the Filipino heart – if the cause is right, the Filipino heart will beat it.

Townsend declares that he is saddened by the recent floods in the Philippines.” I still have family in Banaue Street in Quezon City and in Taal”, he declares. Born to a Filipino mother from Batangas, and an American father, he grew up in San Jose, California. Townsend played for UCLA for four seasons under the famous UCLA coach John Wooden, and was a member of the 1975 UCLA Basketball National Champions. He was selected in the first round of the 1978 NBA Draft and played for the Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers

The Filipino NBA player revealed that it was his dream of playing in the Big League. He also wants the Filipino youth of today to pursue their dream. The Filipino Hoop and Heritage Night will highlight talented young Filipino performers led by 9-year-old Filipina sensation Ciana Pelekai (America’s Got Talent) who will sing the National Anthem.

The evening will start with a meet and great reception from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the City View Terrace inside Staples Center. The meet and greet will be attended by Filipino Cultural performers, celebrities, NBA basketball legends, and Raymond Townsend himself. Attendees will have the opportunity for autographs and photos. Pre-game entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by tip-off at 7:30 p.m. Cultural performances will be presented during pre-game and at half-time.

Discount tickets will include a free collector’s edition Filipino Hoops and Heritage Night T-Shirt. Lower Level 100’s seating is discounted to $47 (Original price $75). Other discounted tickets are Lower Level 200 $35 (Original price $68) and Upper Level $15 (Original price $40). Buy your tickets at
www.nba.com/clippers/filipino or call (213) 763-4617

Clippers is the first ever NBA team of Los Angeles to reach out to the Filipino community. Townsend shared that a generous donation by the Clippers will be sent to the Typhoon relief effort in the Philippines. Clipper President Andy Roeser said this is a chance for Filipinos to demonstrate their passion for basketball as well as their passion for their culture.

Margeaux Gupilan cannot agree more. She proudly show her State Championship Ring on her finger to me after the presscon. After all, she is a promising Filipina Basketball point guard from Bellarmine Jefferson High. See you at Staples Center on December 5.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pacman Mania!

(Photos by Jay Fermin Frontliners Media Group)

Balitang Kutsero By Perry Diaz

Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao’s victory over Miguel Cotto for the world welterweight title made him a national hero and an international sensation. And “Pacman Mania” struck Pinoys worldwide. Pacman! Pacman! Pacman!

During an interview with Pacman, American actor and TV talk show host Mario Lopez told him that he is the greatest Asian to invade the west since Genghis Khan. Pacman grinned.

Lopez then asked Pacman whom would he like to play Pacman in a movie. “Filipino or American?” asked Pacman. Lopez replied, “Either one.” Pacman paused and then said, “I’ll play me,” and then laughed. Hey, Pacman is smarter than what most people think. He’s multi-talented. He’s a boxer, singer, actor, basketball player, and politician. And he’s multi-lingual too. He can speak Visayan, Tagalog and English… all in one sentence! It’s called “Vistaglish.”

Unknown to many, Manny has acted in 10 movies already, not to mention his television comedy show, “Where is Da Manny.” His latest movie, “Wapakman,” will be released in December. Sounds like “Wah Pacman,” huh? The producers are promoting the film as “Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, Desperado, Superman, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Cider House Rules, every Jackie Chan movie ever, Rocky III and V (but not IV), Clash of the Titans, Gladiator, and Leonard, Part 6 all rolled into one.” Wow! They should have called it, “Wow Pacman.”

But government censors might ban the film from being shown in the Metro Manila Film Festival because Manny is planning to run for political office. The law forbids candidates from appearing in movies. Now, that’s a stupid law. There are clowns and actors on television who are running for office and their shows are still being shown on television.

Presidential wannabe Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro picked showbiz celebrity Edu Manzano for his vice presidential running mate. With Gibo’s 2% rating in the polls, he needs Edu to boost his ratings. Well, it doesn’t work that way all time. Sometimes the presidential candidate loses and his running mate wins. Perhaps, they should switch places, Edu for prez and Gibo for veep. That might work better.

Prez Gloria Arroyo seems like she’s beginning to see the handwriting on the wall -- Lakas-Kampi-CMD (LKC) is sinking… fast. Not wanting to go down with the ship, she stepped down as party chairman and turned the job over to Gibo. Poor Gibo, he might not just lose the presidential election, he might sink with the ship too.

Gloria’s resignation as LKC chairman activated the “panic button” causing members to jump ship. An LKC party leader said that 30-40 percent of the members have become “balimbings” (turncoats) and joined either the Liberal Party (LP) or Nacionalista Party (NP). However, my investigative reporter James Macaquecquec heard from a reliable source that many of those who are still with LKC have made secret pacts with either LP or NP. These are the dangerous kind of “balimbing.” But the most dangerous are those who made secret pacts with both LP and NP. They’re called “double balimbing.”

Some of the high-profile “balimbings” are Ralph Recto and his wife Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto who left LKC to join LP. Vilma said, “It’s no bandwagon move.” Yep, it’s not. It’s called “tailgating.”

But there are some LP members who didn’t like the Rectos, so they left LP and are now “butterflying,” that is, flying from one party to another looking for the one to join. I call them “paro-paro” (butterfly). Yep, this is “paro-paro politics,” the game that traditional politicians (trapos) play.

A few days ago, presidential wannabe Manny Villar selected Loren Legarda to be his vice presidential running mate. Finally, after “butterflying” around with five presidential wannabes, Loren finally settled for Villar, the richest of the presidential candidates. Maybe she should change her campaign song from “Loren Loren sinta” (Loren Loren my love) to “Paro-parong bukid” (Butterfly in the field).

Now that Loren has teamed up with Villar after Chiz Escudero bolted the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), NPC found itself with no candidates for prez and veep. What’s Danding Cojuangco going to do now?

LP’s standard bearer Noynoy Aquino and LKC’s standard bearer Gibo Teodoro are Danding’s nephews. Recent polls were favorable to Noynoy who has 44% rating to Gibo’s 2%. If Danding would support Gibo, I would be very suspicious. And if Danding would support Noynoy… I wonder if that would help Noynoy in the election. A lot of Noynoy’s supporters were veterans of the People Power revolution in 1986 that toppled Ferdinand Marcos. They will not forget that Danding was Marcos’ closest crony.

A news report says that Gibo said that he has two options after the 2010 elections: the presidency or retirement from politics. Well, I think his two options are: retire BEFORE or AFTER the 2010 elections. Since he has only a 2% rating in the polls, BEFORE is better than AFTER. That would save him at least P3 billion and that’s a lot of moolah!

Incidentally, Marcos’ son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. announced that he accepted the offer of former president and presidential wannabe Joseph “Erap” Estrada to be a “guest candidate” in the senatorial slate of Erap’s Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). He is also a “guest candidate” in the senatorial slate of Danding’s NPC. Then Bongbong insinuated that he may also run as “official candidate” of Manny Villar’s NP.

But recently, in a press conference, Bongbong announced that he’d be willing to run under LP if Noynoy invited him to join. He said that he’s just waiting for Noynoy’s phone call. That’s “double double butterflying.”

Meanwhile, cousins Noynoy and Gibo signed a pact for an orderly, honest, and clean elections. Last August the other presidential and vice presidential wannabes signed a similar agreement. Now, let me guess… whoever breaks the pact would win. Gloria won in 2004, didn’t she? Remember the “Hello Garci” election cheating scandal during the 2004 presidential elections? As someone once said, “In Philippine elections there are no losers, only the winners and those who were cheated.”

“Lakas-Kampi opens door for Pacquiao,” says news report. It looks like “Pacman Mania” is going to catapult Pacquiao into the world of “politicomedy” where anything goes and anybody can run for office. If Erap Estrada and Edu Manzano can run, why can’t Manny Pacquiao run? They all have the same size of brain, right? However, the difference is that Pacquiao can think faster than punch while Erap and Edu can talk faster than think.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lions join LAPD in Crime Prevention Poster Campaign

Los Angeles: The Lions Clubs International – District 4-L3, in conjunction with LAPD is producing a Crime Prevention Campaign poster for the youth.

Last November 14, 2009, Officers of District 4-L3 of Lions Clubs International joined LAPD Deputy Chief Terry Hara at the Police Academy where a photoshoot was conducted by members of the media including Frontliners Media Group. This campaign will be educating the youth against crime, drugs, and gang activities. To that end, the Lions club are in the process of designing Posters to distribute throughout the area of the District. The Lions District covers from Catalina Island, Palos Verdes Peninsula through Malibu, and from the Pacific Ocean coastline to the west of 110 Freeway.

The poster launching ceremony was done at the LAPD Police Academy with Lion Members, and the LAPD Deputy Chief Terry Hara. Terry Hara is the first Asian-American deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, the highest ranking Asian-American in the department's history.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Balitang Kutsero: By Perry Diaz

When Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero dropped a bombshell the other day with his announcement that he bolted from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), it stunned the public. The unexpected happened and all of a sudden the country was buzzing with “chizmis” about Chiz and his “machizmo.” It was a day when “chizmosos” and “chizmosas” dominated the media. Scoop here and scoop there. Some scooped some good scoop and some scooped pure dirt. Well folks, it’s “Chizmisan” time again.

One of the “chizmis” that’s been going around in the Internet is that Chiz is being likened to U.S. President Barack Obama as the real candidate of “change,” now that he’s freed from “political bondage” and patronage of Danding Cojuangco. Okay, let’s see some action, Chiz -- walk the talk.

And here’s my own “chizmis” for whatever it’s worth -- Chiz bolting from NPC was calculated to make a huge impact; thus, increasing his visibility and project himself as the candidate of “change.“ Although he did not say whether he’s going to run or not, his campaign manager said that Chiz will run for president. Well, that’s as good as coming from the horse’s mouth. Suddenly, Chiz is in the limelight. That’s a brilliant marketing strategy. I’m sure we’d be hearing more about things like a new cake recipe called “Chizcake” and other marketing gimmicks or “chizmicks” -- and a new following of groupies called “Chicks for Chiz.”

Everybody is now talking seriously about Chiz, the kid who wants to be president. And guess what, presidential wannabes Gibo Teodoro and Manny Villar asked Chiz to be their vice presidential running mate. Marvelous!

The question is: Is Chiz going to be a “balimbing” and join another party? Well, for now, he said he’ll remain independent. But for how long?

Gibo, his former NPC partymate, became the first “balimbing” this year when he bolted from the NPC and leapfrogged into Gloria’s PaLaKa -- short for Lakas-Kampi-CMD -- to become its presidential nominee.

Well, it’s “balimbing” season again, folks. The “balimbing” --star fruit -- has become the mark of a turncoat. The star fruit's cross section is shaped like a five-sided star; thus, a person who changes political loyalty is called a “balimbing.”

Basically, this is how it works: If you want to run for, say, president and your political party doesn’t support your candidacy or has selected another person to be your party’s standard bearer, then you look for another party who would support you. And if an existing party wouldn’t take you in, then start a new party. I call it “bolt, shake, and roll.”

In 1946, Manuel Roxas -- Mar’s grandfather -- bolted from the Nacionalista Party and formed the Liberal Party to run for president. He won.

Roxas died in office in 1948 and his vice president, Elipido Quirino -- also a Nacionalista-turned-Liberal -- took over the presidency. In 1949, he won a four-year term.

In 1953, Ramon Magsaysay resigned as Quirino’s Defense Secretary, bolted from the Liberal Party and joined the Nacionalista Party to became its standard bearer. He won the election by 68.9% of the vote.

Magsaysay died in a plane crash in 1957 and Vice President Carlos P. Garcia, also a Nacionalista, took over the presidency. That same year, Garcia ran for president and won while Diosdado Macapagal, a Liberal, won the vice presidency.

In 1961, Macapagal ran against re-electionist Garcia and won. In 1965, when Macapagal ran for re-election, Ferdinand Marcos, his rival within the Liberal Party, bolted from the party and joined the Nacionalista Party. Marcos captured the nomination and defeated Macapagal in the election.

When Marcos ran for re-election in 1969, his partymate Sergio Osmena, Jr. bolted from the Nacionalista Party and became the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate. Marcos won handily. In 1972, Marcos declared martial law and stayed in power until he was overthrown in the “People Power” Revolution of 1986. Cory Aquino then took over the presidency and served a six-year term.

In 1992, when Fidel V. Ramos lost the nomination of Laban Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) to Ramon Mitra, he bolted from LDP and formed his own party, the Partido Lakas ng Tao (People Power Party). He then ran for president and won.

In the same election year, Joseph “Erap” Estrada ran under NPC as the vice presidential running mate of presidential candidate Danding Cojuangco. Danding lost to Ramos and Erap won the vice presidency.

In 1998, Erap bolted from NPC and formed his own party, Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino, and ran for president. He won.

In the same election year, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo bolted from LDP and formed her own party, the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI), to run for president. But she changed her mind and decided to run instead as the vice presidential running mate of Jose de Venecia, Jr. under the newly formed tripartite coalition Lakas ng EDSA-National Union of Christian Democrats-Union of Muslim Democrats in the Philippines (Lakas-NUCD-UMDP). De Venecia lost the presidency to Erap but Gloria won the vice presidency.

In 2001, when Erap was deposed in another “people power” revolution due to charges of corruption and the jueteng scandals, Gloria took over the presidency. In 2004, Gloria ran for president against popular actor Fernando Poe Jr. She won but was later exposed for cheating in the election. Kawawa naman ang Pilipinas.

Today, with only one month left to the deadline for filing certificates of candidacies, party-switching has reached fever pitch and will continue at a fast pace up to the eleventh hour.

Now, here’s some interesting numbers. Of the nine presidents, not counting Cory Aquino, seven were “balimbings” -- Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Marcos, Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo. Garcia and Macapagal were the only ones who didn’t switch parties when they ran for president.

From a statistical standpoint, the five strong presidential contenders in the 2010 elections, the “balimbings” -- Teodoro, Estrada, and Escudero -- would have a better chance of winning over Villar and Aquino. And based on their ratings in recent polls, Estrada has a better chance of winning over Escudero Teodoro. So, based on these simplistic “process of elimination,“ there is a good chance that Erap Estrada might be the next president of the land of Wah Wah We!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Danding’s Choice

PerryScope: By Perry Diaz

In my May 27, 2009 column, “Gloria’s Gambit,” I asked: “Would De Castro kowtow to Gloria? If he does, he will be taking a great risk of losing his base of support because Gloria’s ‘anointment’ might turn out to be a ‘kiss of death’ which could put an end to his political life.” I was right. De Castro turned down Gloria’s “anointment” and his reason was that it would be a “kiss of death.” Bingo!

And then I asked: “And what would happen to Teodoro? I would not be surprised if Gloria would use him as a pawn to sacrifice in her opening gambit… unless he changes his mind and settles as De Castro’s vice presidential running mate.” Well, the question is now academic since it was predicated on De Castro accepting Gloria’s “anointment.” Secretary of Defense Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro is now the choice of the Executive Committee of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, PaLaKa for short, as their standard bearer. They also selected Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government Ronaldo “Ronnie” Puno as his vice presidential running mate.

In a few days, Gibo’s former political party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), will be selecting its presidential and vice presidential candidates. For its standard bearer, the odds-on favorite is Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who just turned 40 years old -- the minimum age for presidential candidates -- last October 10. Sen. Loren Legarda is believed to be their choice for vice presidential candidate.

Now, the question is: Who are the people who would support Chiz and bankroll his campaign? This brings us squarely on Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, the founder and power behind NPC. Is he going to support Chiz Escudero or his erstwhile “favorite nephew” and former political heir, Secretary of Defense Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro?

A few days ago, Danding broke his silence and said: “I’m the founder of the party (NPC). I think I have to support my own party that I founded, I think it is but normal.” He also said, “One of my nephews left even if we did not ask him to leave. It only means that we are of no consequence to him. So why should that be a bother to me?” He was referring to Gibo who left the NPC to join PaLaKa to pursue his presidential ambitions. Danding unequivocally said that he will not support Noynoy nor Gibo.

Danding’s revelation changes the whole game. The “Cojuangco War” is no longer just between Noynoy and his cousin Gibo. It is now among three members of the Cojuangco clan: Noynoy Aquino, Gibo Teodoro, and their Uncle Danding whose choice is the NPC nominee-to-be, presumably, Chiz Escudero.

It’s interesting to note that it was Danding who prevailed upon Gibo to come back home to run for office in 1998. Gibo was at that time practicing law in New York. He came home, ran for Congress, and won. He became the leader of the large NPC bloc in the House until he was termed out in 2007. He then accepted the post of Secretary of Defense in the Arroyo administration. However, there was no evidence that he resigned his membership from NPC. This led many people to believe that he left the door wide open to go back to NPC and seek the party’s nomination for president.

It was only after he was required to join PaLaKa as a prerequisite to being considered for nomination that he formally affiliated with PaLaKa. On September 15, 2009, he was selected by the party’s Executive Committee as their standard bearer. However, his selection has yet to be ratified by the party’s membership.

But why did Gibo leave NPC? He could have stayed in NPC and still become its presidential bet. Somewhere along the way, a serious fallout might have happened between him and his Uncle Danding.

However, if Gibo had shown high poll ratings, I’m pretty sure that Danding, politically savvy as he is, would not hesitate to throw his support behind Gibo, regardless of party affiliation. Danding is a power by himself and NPC is just a vehicle to achieve political ends. But just like any other “vehicle,” it can easily be replaced. The bottom line is: If the election was held today, Gibo would lose miserably. In my opinion, that’s the primary reason why Danding would not support Gibo. Blood, after all, is not as thick as politics… particularly in the Cojuangco clan (“The Cojuangco Wars,” PerryScope September 22, 2009).

And who would Gloria support? In my August 18, 2009 column, “The Looming Battle Royale,” I said: “So, who do you think Gloria would support knowing that whoever her party’s candidate will be, would lose? There is only one person who would fit the mold of the candidate that Gloria would support… secretly. And that is Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero.” Indeed, his “winnability” is much better than Gibo’s.

Chiz might attempt to assert his independence if he wins but that’s wishful thinking. The Arroyos and the Cojuangcos will own him and nothing will change. It will be “business as usual” with the Arroyo-Cojuangco business interests controlling the government… and, for that matter, the country. In the Philippines, politics is business and business is politics. And as someone once said, “There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent self-interests.” Yes, indeed.

To date, Gloria -- who had previously “anointed” Noli De Castro who turned it down -- has yet to “anoint” Gibo. She did, however, say that she was “elated” over the endorsement of Gibo by 49 governors. But “elated” does not translate to “anointed” or “endorsed.”

So, what’s Gloria really up to? In my opinion, she’s keeping her options open. She could eventually throw her support behind Chiz or Manny Villar… or even Erap Estrada. She would support anyone of the candidates who would dance to her tune. Remember, she would still be in control of the Commission on Election. She pulled a “win” in 2004 for herself. She can do it again for her “manok” in 2010.

At the end of the day, Gloria’s ultimate goal is to prevent Noynoy Aquino from winning the presidential elections next year. Follow the money and you’ll know on whose shoulders Gloria would be putting her political survival on. I said it before and I’m going to say it again: the battle for the presidency would be between Noynoy Aquino and Danding’s choice -- and, possibly, Gloria’s “secret candidate” -- Chiz Escudero.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Typhoon Ondoy: A Tragic Disaster

PerryScope: By Perry Diaz

Last September 26, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy -- internationally known as Ketsana -- hit Metro Manila. It was the worse typhoon since 1967. After two days of torrential rain and delugial floods, the government reported that Typhoon Ondoy left 288 people dead, five injured and 42 missing. Damage to property was estimated at P8.328 billion, including P2.743 billion in infrastructure and P5.584 billion in agriculture. It also said that “at least 797,404 families or 3,899,307 people in the entire Luzon, Cordillera, Western Visayas, Regions 9 and 12, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Metro Manila were affected.”

Could the massive floodings have been mitigated?

While it is hard to control flooding, it can be argued that it could be mitigated by effective flood control planning and timely emergency response by government agencies. In a recent article, “Not an act of God but a sin…,” written by Alcuin Papa of Philippine Daily Inquirer, urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox was quoted as saying, “The flood disaster that struck Metro Manila over the weekend was not an act of God but a sin of omission by government and private real estate developers.”

Palafox said that “a land use plan that took floods into consideration was drawn up as far back as 1977, titled ‘Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Planning Project,’ sponsored by the World Bank.” He also said, “the study had already noted the possibility of heavy flooding in at least three sites of urban growth in the Philippine capital—the Marikina Valley and its northern and southern parts.” “When I saw the damage caused by the floods recently, I realized that these were the same areas that had already been identified,” Palafox observed.

The question is: “What did the government do to mitigate flooding and other problems identified by the 1977 study?” Palafox said, “Nothing.”

In the aftermath of Ondoy, I received from a friend a forwarded email from an unidentified author -- most probably a government engineer who didn’t want to be identified for fear of reprisal -- about his analysis of the disastrous flooding. He wrote:

“It’s deemed impossible for the supposedly excessive amount of rainfall, equivalent to a month’s outpour condensed in 6 hours time, to be the main culprit.” His rationale was: (1) The rain was not that strong; (2) We’ve had worst rains before; (3) And why Marikina, Pasig and Cainta became water worlds in just an hour; and (4) Why Moriones, Tondo, just several hundred meters away from Manila Bay was barely affected if nature did cause the rivers to swell, overflow and contribute greatly to the deluge.

He further said, “The Manggahan Floodway was especially built to control flooding mostly in Marikina, Pasig and Cainta areas. Mechanical or systems failure of the water pumping station due to negligence was the more logical reason for the flash flood that swamped even high end villages.”

Recently, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. indicated that he wants to file a class action suit against those responsible for the allegedly “reckless release of water from dams” near Metro Manila. He believes that it contributed to the rapid rise of floodwater during the storm. At the moment, he is studying the facts and collecting evidence to determine who were responsible for allowing the water to flow out of the dams; thus, flooding the Marikina Valley.

By all indications, the massive floodings could have been mitigated, if not controlled. Poor government urban planning contributed to the massive floodings. You add the negligence and ineptitude of government officials and you have a disaster that not even Noah could have handled.

Could lives have been saved?

A lot of people complained that the national government, through its National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), did not respond to the disaster in a timely manner. Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro as NDCC chairman was faulted for the NDCC’s lack of preparedness and failure to save people’s lives.

As the country’s centralized and primary disaster planning center, NDCC lacks the logistics, manpower, and an effective disaster emergency plan to cope with the massive displacement of people, many of whom had to stay on rooftops to stay alive. From what I heard, NDCC had only three rubber boats to use in evacuating the 3.9 million flood victims.

And to make the situation worse, the government didn’t have the funds for disaster assistance. A news account says that a recent Commission on Audit (COA) report said that President Arroyo “has all but spent the P800 million contingency fund allotted to the Office of the President.” Accordingly, the COA said that “nearly every peso of the fund had been used for her foreign junkets, on top of the more than P1 billion budget for her official travels.”

It’s not surprising then that on September 28, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filled two legislative bills -- totaling P10 billion -- to “fund relief operations, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of areas devastated by Typhoon Ondoy.” How about the senators and congressmen’s pork barrel funds? There are more than 100 senators and congressmen representing the 25 provinces in and around Metro Manila. Or did they already spend their pork barrel funds somewhere else?

Sen. Defensor Santiago also said that mayors of areas gravely affected by Typhoon Ondoy -- including Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno -- should be suspended for negligently performing their duties.

Command responsibility

The Typhoon Ondoy disaster and tragedy once again manifested the government’s inefficiency in dealing with emergency situations. Although Teodoro and Puno are to be held accountable for not doing their jobs, President Arroyo should -- nay, must! -- accept full command responsibility for the Typhoon Ondoy fiasco, a disaster that could have been mitigated and a human tragedy that could have been avoided.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Survival of the Cheatest

By Perry Diaz

With President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s approval ratings plummeting like balls of fire into the Pacific Ocean, presidential wannabes are sprinting to the starting line of the 2010 presidential derby. Assuming that Gloria is not going to declare martial law -- which a lot of people say she might -- it’s going to be rough and tumble politics in a crowded field.

Election cheating has been around since the Philippines adapted the democratic system of government after gaining independence from Uncle Sam in 1946. In my column, “It’s ‘Open Season’ Again” (January 26, 2007), I said: “I remember in the 1950’s, the term ‘flying voter’ became the buzzword during elections. A ‘flying voter’ is a person who has the ability to ‘fly’ -- like a bird -- from one precinct to another to vote for the same candidate; thus, giving the candidate a numerical edge over his opponent. Mathematically, whoever has the most ‘flying voters’ would have a better chance of winning.”

In some instances, candidates provide some sort of “home service,” that is, they would send someone to your house and have you fill out the ballot in favor of their candidates. In some cases, ballot boxes were hijacked and replaced with ballot boxes containing ballots favoring certain candidates. And in other cases, particularly in remote barrios, armed goons were used to intimidate the voters to vote for their candidates. It was not uncommon for a precinct to show 100% vote for a certain candidate. Another method used was vote-buying. The poor were always fair game. The three G’s -- guns, goons and gold -- were the most effective way to win an election. As someone once said, “There were no losers in an election, only the winners and those who were cheated.”

After the People Power Revolution of 1986, a new system of election cheating evolved. Known as “dagdag-bawas” -- add and subtract -- it involves a cunning method of tallying the votes by adding a number of votes to a candidate and subtracting the exact number of votes from his or her opponent. However, this kind of cheating involves the collusion of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) officials.

During the presidential elections in 2004, the celebrated “Hello Garci” election cheating was exposed. It was alleged that the taped wiretapped conversations between President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and COMELEC official Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano were proof that fraud was committed to rig the election results in favor of Gloria’s reelection.

Impeachment was filed in Congress against Gloria. However, Gloria survived the impeachment. But the “Hello Garci” scandal cracked COMELEC’s façade as an independent government body.

It was also during the 2004 elections that another scandal surfaced -- the P1.7 billion bidding scam of the Automated Election System (AES) awarded to Mega Pacific Consortium. It was alleged that three COMELEC officials -- then Chairman Benjamin Abalos and members Florentino Tuazon and Resurreccion Borra -- were involved in the anomaly. Corruption charges were filed against them in the Ombudsman’s Office but the Ombudsman, to date, has not made any progress in its investigation. However, the Supreme Court ruled the contract null and void due to irregularities in the bidding process.

This year, COMELEC is once again pursuing the automation project. However, with the 2010 elections just a year away, COMELEC has yet to award the whopping P11.3 billion AES contract. Recently, the bidding process hit a snag when the seven consortiums vying for the contract failed the eligibility requirements. I wonder what the “eligibility requirements” included? A “padrino” perhaps?

According to Rick Bahague, the National Coordinator of the Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU), “The initial result of CPU’s investigation in the bidding process of COMELEC revealed that the COMELEC is dealing with questionable and unreliable vendors.” He said, “The COMELEC is even more subjected to a triple degree of difficulty to win the trust of Filipino people especially on its effort to automate the national election in 2010.”

But COMELEC officials said that the situation is not hopeless and that a contract could be negotiated with a provider as a “last recourse” to install 80,000 automation machines in time for the 2010 elections.

And this is where the problems would begin. First, a “negotiated contract” implies a “sole bid process” in which only one bidder is selected. This reminds me of the controversial ZTE-NBN contract exposed by Jun Lozada. A “negotiated contract” circumvents the competitive “multiple bid process” in which two or more bidders would compete for the contract primarily based on a low-bid rule. And since there is no competition, a “negotiated contract” is vulnerable to overbidding. Oftentimes overbidding is done in order to accommodate under-the-table commissions -- or “tongpats” -- to influence peddlers and corrupt government officials. In the end, the “negotiated contract” could increase the contract amount to as much as twice its cost.

The second -- and more serious -- problem would be the integrity and accuracy of AES. In a press release issued by CPU, it says: “Cheating and fraud in the 2010 election will be swift and simple for the likes of ‘Garci’ through the automated election system (AES) the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is striving to implement. In 2010, ‘Garci’ will return and will be more sophisticated in his cheating schemes with his expertise in computer technology. ‘Garci’ will operate far better than the fraud he performed last 2004 national election.”

Indeed, if AES is going to be hastily implemented in 2010, an electronic “dagdag-bawas” cheating scheme which might have been surreptitiously programmed in the system will virtually be impossible to detect. There would not be enough time to fully test the system and incorporate all the necessary verification and security routines in the system to ensure that data integrity is maintained. As computer professionals would say, “Garbage In, Garbage Out,” the system is only as good as the input. It is said that most computer systems work, it’s people who don’t make them work. And that is the danger of a computer system that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles installed to prevent it from being tampered.

If COMELEC pushes through with AES in 2010, the next President may not necessarily be the fittest, but the cheatest. Indeed, the 2010 elections could very well be the survival of the cheatest.




(Los Angeles, CA. – May, 2009) - A celebration of faith and life comes to the Gospel Life Community Church as they present “Stir It Up!” a concert featuring the uplifting, life-affirming Christian music of actress, singer, composer, producer, director and recording artist Becca Godinez. The concert (title taken from a song in Godinez’s “Road to Humble” CD) hopes to bring more worshippers to the Christian church based in Walnut, California and to raise funds for their continuing missionary work in the Philippines.

Pastor John Tulio has been the lead pastor of the Gospel Life Community Church since its foundation in 1997. Gospel Life planted churches in Palawan, Nueva Ecija, Rizal, Davao and continues to plant churches throughout the Philippines. Gospel Life helped the churches it planted by providing them with the course materials, instructors, advice and financial aid. In October, 2009 the worship building in Iriwan, Palawan will be inaugurated. This building was built by the people of Iriwan with the help and aid of Gospel Life. Evangelism and discipleship are at the core of the Gospel Life's mission.

Explains Tony Luciano, Media Ministry Coordinator for Gospel Life, “the church prayed for a well known Filipino talent who is a born again Christian and God answered our prayers through Becca. We are excitedly praising the Lord for giving her to us as our featured concert performer.”

“It is an awesome and humbling experience to be able to do give back to God a small fraction of what He gives me graciously each day” exclaimed Becca Godinez. “The folks I have met at Gospel Community - - they are so deeply sincere about service to God and giving back to the community that I am honored to be a part of their vision. I already know - even before this little concert takes place that it will be a blessed ...joyful - - Spirit filled...praiseful event because its purpose is eternal. I can't wait!!!!”

“Stir It Up! with music from Becca Godinez”

Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 7:30 pm
Gospel Life Community Church at Miracle Hill
18901 East Amar Road, Walnut, CA. 91789
(Located opposite Amber Valley Road between Nogales & Creekside Drive)
Doors Open at 7:00pm

Free Parking

Gospel Life Church (626) 965-4300
Or email tickets@gospellifecommunity.org

Tickets are also available at:

Kusina Ni Lola Restaurant
1559 E. Amar Road, Suite C, West Covina, CA. 91792
(626) 839-9815

Borakai Bakeshop & Café
15870 Soquel Canyon Parkway, Suite G, Chino Hills, CA. 91709
(909) 597-7993

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Artist Lynda A. N. Reyes at the PSA 84th Annual Exhibit

The Pasadena Society of Artists (PSA) proudly presents 39 artists for its 84th Annual Exhibition at VIVA Gallery,13261 Moorpark Street, Sherman Oaks from April 29 to May 16, 2009. The Artist’s Reception is on Sunday, May 3 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Three oil and watercolor paintings of distinguished Filipino American artist and Art Historian Lynda A. N. Reyes titled “Out door Delight”, “Sons of the Beach” and “Fresh Produce No. 1: Onions” are featured in this juried exhibition. The award winning pen and ink entry of her son Roy Natian titled “Thine Eye” is another highlight of the show.

Lynda A. N. Reyes with her paintings for the PSA 84th Annal Exhibition at VIVA Gallery: "Outdoor Delight", watercolor on arches, "Sons of the Beach", oil on canvas and "Fresh Produce No. 1: Onions", watercolor.

Lynda A. N. Reyes is a prolific arts person. She is a visual artist, an art historian, an author, and an art educator. She is best known in the international academia for her pioneering book entitled "The Textiles of Southern Philippines” and her published studies in Philippine ethnic art. She taught at the University of the Philippines Manila, was a recipient of an International Fellowship Award from the American Association of University Women. Lynda has taught at Glendale College and in several community colleges in LA area including Santa Monica College and Pasadena City College.

As an artist, Lynda has participated in group shows at the VIVA Gallery, Eagle Rock Center for the Art, Arts and Books Gallery in LA, Glendale College Art Gallery, Brand Gallery and at the Pete and Susan Barrett Gallery in Santa Monica. In the Philippines, she had a one-person show at the University of the Philippines Manila and several group shows at the Solidaridad Galleries. As a California Arts Council grant artist, she was a resource person for the visual arts for the Glendale Unified School District as part of the Arts as Basic program of the City of Glendale Arts and Culture Commission.

"Thine Eye", an award winning entry by Roy Natian, pen and ink. The winning entry titled “Thine Eye” by Roy Natian is a pen and ink composition meticulously linear in rendering and minutely complex and personal in content. The exhibit continues until May 16 at the VIVA Gallery in 13261 Moorpark Street, Sherman Oaks.

The works in the exhibition attest to the exceptional diversity and professional standards of the current membership of PSA. Artworks for exhibit are selected by a juror or a group of senior PSA members. In this exhibition, Jay Belloli, the Director of the Armory Center for Art in Pasadena served as the juror. The 71 artworks featured in this annual show come in an array of styles ranging from the traditional to the contemporary, from the representational to the abstract. Lynda A. N. Reyes paints representational subjects that reveals mastery of both watercolor and oil mediums. The style of Roy Natian in its meticulous linear rendering of his subject in pen and ink is minutely complex and personal.

Glendale artist Roy Natian is shown receiving his award for Outstanding Artwork from the Pasadena Society of Artist President Lawrence D. Rogers during the artists’ reception held at the VIVA Gallery on May 3, 2009. .It was the 84th Annual Exhibition of PSA participated by 39 artists and juried by Jay Belloli of the Armory Center for Art in Pasadena.

Continuing its tradition of upholding high standards based on real merit, PSA recognizes the outstanding works of artists in its annual exhibitions. This year, recipients in the Award of Merit category are Rick Drobner (mixed media) Martin Mondrus (oil on canvas) and Michael Vinci (photography); and the recipients of Honorable Mention Awards are David Grigsby (Acrylic), Roy Natian (pen and ink) and Kathleen Swayden (graphite on paper).
PSA (www.pasadenasocietyofartists.org) is an organization of professional artists from Pasadena and nearby communities that has continuously exhibited its members' artworks for 84 years. Since its inception in 1925, it has evolved into a varied and vital artistic force that nourishes artistic growth in the contemporary art scene.

VIVA Gallery is a nonprofit organization run by four supporting art groups (Women Painters West, Valley Watercolor Society, Collage Artists of America, and Valley Artists Guild) that have joined together to operate a permanent Arts Center in the San Fernando Valley. VIVA provides artists with the opportunity for critical exposure and public appreciation of their creative work in a professional environment.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Telltale Signs/ NICOLE'S RAPE

Nicole (not her real name) is now among us, somewhere in the US on a visa generously provided by the US Embassy. She is reportedly awaiting the arrival of her US serviceman fiancé who will marry her and petition her for a green card. But before she received her US visa, Nicole had to sign a sworn affidavit on March 12, 2009 prepared by Jose Justiniano, the lawyer of the man who raped her, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith. The affidavit exonerated Smith for the rape which occurred on November 1, 2005 in Olongapo City.

Justiniano had appealed the December 2006 guilty verdict against Smith and the Court of Appeals was set to rule on the appeal this month and a recantation by the rape victim would virtually ensure his client's victory. Towards that end, the US Embassy was willing to offer anything to Nicole to sign the recantation as the fate of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the US and the Philippines somewhat depended on the outcome of the case. Offering a visa to Nicole and her sister was a small price to pay to seal the deal.

The 3-page affidavit prepared by lawyer Justiniano followed the logic of Justiniano's own closing argument at the conclusion of the trial of Smith and the basis of his appeal. Here is an excerpt of the affidavit prepared by Justiniano:

“Looking back, I would not have agreed to talk with Daniel Smith and dance with him no less than three times if I did not enjoy his company or was at least attracted to him since I met him for the very first time on the dance floor of Neptune Club. With the events at the Neptune club in mind, I keep asking myself, if Daniel Smith wanted to rape me, why would he carry me out of the Neptune Club using the main entrance in full view of the security guard and the other customers? Why would the van park right in front of Neptune Club? Why would Daniel Smith and his companions bring me to the sea wall of Alaba Pier and casually leave this area that was well lighted and with many people roaming around? If they believed that I was raped, would they have not dumped me instead in a dimly lit area along the highway going to Alaba Pier to avoid detection?”

After securing Nicole's signature on the affidavit, Justiniano then included it in the supplementary “manifestation” which he submitted to the Philippine Court of Appeals panel that was reviewing Smith’s 2006 conviction by the Makati Regional Court.

As Justiniano expected, on April 23, 2009, a 3-judge panel of the Court of Appeals reversed Smith’s conviction, finding that no evidence was presented in court to show that Smith had employed force, threat and intimidation on Nicole. The panel of three women judges found the sexual tryst to be nothing but "a spontaneous, unplanned romantic episode…(with Smith and Nicole) carried aw ay by their passions."

"Suddenly the moment of parting came and the marines had to rush to the ship,” they wrote. “In that situation, reality dawned on Nicole – what her audacity and reckless abandon, flirting with Smith and leading him on, brought upon her”.

The regional trial court had earlier found that Nicole was too drunk to give consent to sex. But the appellate panel rejected that claim. “From the narration, after draining all those drinks of Sprite Vodka, B-52s, Singaporean sling, B-53 and half a pitcher of Bullfrog, although feeling dizzy, she danced with Smith through all four songs for about 15 minutes. She did not drop on the floor nor did she vomit,” they wrote. They also rejected the trial court’s finding of “forcible entry” to explain the contusions in Nicole’s genitals. “Even in consensual sex,” they explained, “contusions could be inflicted by finger grabs, as in Nicole’s case.”

Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David criticized the decision of the women judges which “seemed more like the admonitions of scandalized maiden aunts to a wayward niece than a reasoned, objective and compassionate appreciation of evidence. They needed only to settle one question: Was Nicole raped? Was she in possession of her faculties such that she could decide freely whether she wanted to have sex with Smith or not? Or was she so drunk that the Marine, taking advantage of her conditio n, had his way with her? But instead of answering these queries, what the justices wrote instead was a complicated scenario justifying the rape and gross abandonment of Nicole at the pier of Subic.”

In his 2006 column “Cry Rape”, Inquirer columnist Conrado De Quiros described the viciousness of the rape. “The girl was plied with drink and God knows what else in a bar, shoved into a van, and raped inside by an American serviceman while his four buddies egged him on with cries of "F__k! F__k! F__k!" Later, she was lifted out of the van by her hands and feet by two men like a pig ("parang baboy") and deposited on the pavement. She had on only a shirt and a panty, a condom still sticking to her panty. Someone from the van threw a pair of pants in her direction, and the van drove off.”

Nicole’s case might have been just another of the thousands of other cases of rape that involved US military personnel in or around US military bases in the Philippines since 1946. But no American soldier had ever been convicted of raping a Filipino woman until December of 2006 when Makati Trial Judge Benjamin Pozon pronounced Smith guilty of raping Nicole.

Judge Pozon ordered Smith remanded into the custody in a Philippine jail. But a provision of the VFA required US military personnel convicted of a crime in the Philippines to remain in US custody pending the outcome of the appeal. While this provision was disputed (and ultimately found unconstituti onal), Philippine government authorities removed Smith from a Makati jail cell and transferred him to the US Embassy where he was billeted while awaiting the eventual reversal of his conviction which occurred last week.

As Daniel Smith hurriedly departed the Philippines a few days ago, columnist Rina Jimenez-David wrote “Goodbye Danny Boy”: “Filipino women, fighting gender bias and social dictates in court, and finding themselves judged against hoary social standards, will have reason to remember you, Danny Boy. They will remember you and how you, abetted by your and our governments, manipulated the justice system and the unequal relationship between our nations, and managed to get away with a most heinous crime.”

Welcome to America, Nicole. I hope you find some measure of peace here.

(Send comments to Rodel50@aol.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis, 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127. For past columns, log on to: Rodel50.blogspot.com.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chip Tsao’s Cheap Shot: A Wake-up Call

PerryScope By Perry Diaz

Chip Tsao, a Hong Kong-based author and columnist, stirred a hornet’s nest in his recent article, “The War at Home.” Tsao said, “Manila has just claimed sovereignty over the scattered rocks in the South China Sea called the Spratly Islands, complete with a blatant threat from its congress to send gunboats to the South China Sea to defend the islands from China if necessary. This is beyond reproach. The reason: there are more than 130,000 Filipina maids working as $3,580-a-month cheap labor in Hong Kong. As a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter.”

Tsao further said, “I summoned Louisa, my domestic assistant who holds a degree in international politics from the University of Manila, hung a map on the wall, and gave her a harsh lecture. I sternly warned her that if she wants her wages increased next year, she had better tell every one of her compatriots in Statue Square on Sunday that the entirety of the Spratly Islands belongs to China.”

Adding insult to an injury, Tsao said, “Grimly, I told her that if war breaks out between the Philippines and China, I would have to end her employment and send her straight home, because I would not risk the crime of treason for sponsoring an enemy of the state by paying her to wash my toilet and clean my windows 16 hours a day. With that money, she would pay taxes to her government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland and deeply hurt my feelings.”

And rubbing salt to the injury, Tsao said, “Oh yes. The government of the Philippines would certainly be wrong if they think we Chinese are prepared to swallow their insult and sit back and lose a Falkland Islands War in the Far East. They may have Barack Obama and the hawkish American military behind them, but we have a hostage in each of our homes in the Mid-Levels or higher. Some of my friends told me they have already declared a state of emergency at home. Their maids have been made to shout ‘China, Madam/Sir’ loudly whenever they hear the word ‘Spratly.’ They say the indoctrination is working as wonderfully as when we used to shout, ‘Long live Chairman Mao!’ at the sight of a portrait of our Great Leader during the Cultural Revolution. I’m not sure if that’s going a bit too far, at least for the time being.”

Tsao’s acerbic commentary spread like a virus in cyberspace. Bloggers hit him back with unprintable insults. After a couple of days of incessant attacks against Tsao, Tsao went to the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong and met face to face with representatives from the Filipino community. He conveyed his “most sincere” apologies to the Filipino people. He said that he realized that he had “crossed the line” and was “terribly sorry.” After making his statement, he stood up and bowed deferentially before the audience.

As we say, “all’s well that ends well,” but is it really the end? For Tsao, it was. But as I see it, it’s just the beginning. It’s a wake-up call for Filipinos. Although Tsao’s act was a cheap shot at Filipinos, he didn’t realize that he had unwittingly raised an issue which Filipinos have conveniently ignored in the past; that is, there is an increasing number of Filipinos who are going abroad to work as domestic workers or as Tsao said, “servants.”

In August 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo proclaimed, “We will be sending ‘super maids’,” when she announced the launching of a new training program for Filipino domestic workers. Today, out of approximately 3,500 Filipinos leaving each day for overseas jobs, about 70% are domestic workers. A few years ago, there were only 40,000 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong. Today, there are 130,000. And it’s probably in this context that Tsao used the pejorative term, “nation of servants.”

In Europe, particularly England, a servant is called “Filipina.” Is it more acceptable for an Englishman to call his maid, a “Filipina,” than a Chinese man to call his maid, a “servant”?

But let’s not even deal with that because the real issue here is that the Philippine government is in the business of exporting domestic workers. Today, out of the 8.7 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), a large number is employed as domestic workers.

With the government’s main thrust of exporting OFWs, the need to create jobs at home has diminished in the overall scheme of things. The more OFWs were to be deployed overseas, the better the economy would be for the simple reason that OFW remittances -- $16 billion in 2008 -- has been fueling the economy. With 75% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) generated from personal consumption spending, the economy is virtually dependent on OFW remittances.

As long as OFW deployment remains on an upward trajectory, consumer spending would continue to increase, thus keeping the economy on the “growth path.” However, if OFW deployment declined, the remittances would decrease and the economy would revulse.

According to a “worse case” scenario analysis by Citibank, OFW remittances could drop to $11.4 billion this year which would cause the GDP to drop to 2.5% from last year’s 4.5%. However, the International Monetary Fund was more pessimistic in its GDP prediction: 2.25% in 2009. Either way, the economic outlook for 2009 looks bad.

The question is: How will the Arroyo administration cope with a potentially disastrous economic forecast? Chip Tsao’s cheap shot may have insulted Filipinos but it also sent a warning to President Arroyo that her approach to economic growth is not only risky, it is dehumanizing to the Filipino people who are systematically being trafficked to foreign land as commodities.

The Philippines has a good educational system -- one of the best in Asia -- which produces professionals in the fields of medicine, health care, engineering, education, business, science and technology. But due to lack of job opportunities at home, a lot of the country’s new college graduates are forced to leave -- out of necessity -- to seek a better life abroad. And the sad part is that they’re taking jobs which are not what they were educated or trained for.

As a result, families are breaking apart with their young children left behind so the parents could take jobs abroad in order to feed them. And if President Arroyo doesn’t take action to reverse this trend, the Philippines will indeed become a “nation of servants.”


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

‘4 Divas’ embark on U.S. and Canada Tour

Photos by Jay Fermin & Albert Vargas (FMG)
Article by Jay Fermin

It is early in the year but everybody can feel that the biggest show for 2009 is indeed here. The four Divas Kuh Ledesma, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Pops Fernandez, and Regine Velasquez arrived in Los Angeles last March 17th for the biggest and most ambitious concert tour of all entitled “Divas 4 Divas”.

Meeting members of the media the next day in Hollywood, Kuh Ledesma confided that it took almost 4 years of planning the project. “I’ve performed with each one of them before, here and in US concert tours, but this is the first time that we are doing a concert together”, she exclaimed.

Following a very successful December 6 show at the Araneta Coliseum in Manila, the 4 Divas were all praises for each other, and especially for Kuh who is the creative brains behind ‘Divas’. Pops described Kuh as ‘persistent’ in making the dream project of having all four of them on one stage become reality.

However, this did not come without challenges. Concert Director Rowell Santiago resigned only 9 days before the December 6 concert because, as insiders reported, he was having problems getting the four divas to rehearse together due to their very tight schedule.

And if schedule was not the main thing, it would indeed be interesting to see the collaboration of the four divas under the same spotlight, playing their best musical style and bringing on their larger than life stage presence without out-staging each other. Kuh emphasized however that this ‘is not a competition.’

‘Divas 4 Divas’ opened in Houston, New Jersey, and Vancouver, and is scheduled for 16 venues in the U.S. and Canada. However, all eyes are looking forward to the concert at Pasadena Civic Center near Los Angeles on March 28, 2009. Produced by Starmedia’s Anna Co-Puno, it is expected that the 3,029 seats will be sold out!

The show continues on to San Jose, Washington D.C., Chicago, Florida, Dallas, and other cities.

With fabulous fashion of 12 costume changes, impressive production numbers, musical direction by famed composer-arranger Louie Ocampo, and the legendary voice of Pop Diva Kuh Ledesma, Divine Diva Zsa Zsa Padilla, Concert Queen Pops Fernandez, and Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez, ‘Divas 4 Divas’ promises a totally different concert experience.

Be there when music history happens in your city.






APRIL 3 SAN JOSE CALIFORNIA San Jose State University Event Center



MAY 15 To Be Announced




MAY 23 MAY 24 To Be Announced

MAY 29 DALLAS TEXAS TBAAL (The Black Academy of Arts & Letters) Dallas Convention Center Theatre Complex


MAY 31 To Be Announced

visit Divas 4 Divas website

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bankers Have Gone Bonkers

PerryScope By Perry Diaz

In the past several months, amidst the financial meltdown, a lot of people have wondered, “are bankers going bonkers?” With the passage of the $700-billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and President Obama’s signing of the $787-billion economic stimulus package, the bankers have gone bonkers, not for lack of money but for having too much money in their pockets. Indeed, the government bailout has created a “windfall” for the banks that they can use any which way they want.

Basically, TARP is a program of the US government to purchase “toxic” assets from financial institutions that were acquired through unregulated subprime mortgage programs. Passed during the waning days of the Bush presidency, TARP was intended to prevent the country’s financial sector from collapsing. However, in its ardent desire to keep the financial institutions from going belly up, Congress haphazardly enacted TARP with no specific conditions on how the recipients should use the bailout money. In essence, it’s a giveaway money with no strings attached. They were given carte blanche on how to use the money.

Of the $700 billion in TARP funds, $185 billion went to four of the largest banks: AIG ($70 billion), Bank of America ($45 billion), Citigroup ($45 billion), and Wells Fargo ($25 billion). The rest of the TARP funds were distributed to smaller banks. While the government had acted in good faith, a lot of the banks -- particularly the big ones -- did not respond in a manner that would be consistent with the legislative intent of TARP.

At a congressional hearing last February, lawmakers grilled Wall Street CEOs over their use of TARP funds. The CEOs’ responses were identical. When asked what they’re going to do with the bailout money, they responded that “the shareholders -- not increased lending -- are their utmost concern.” As a matter of fact, many of the banks have tightened their lending standards after TARP was signed to law.

According to a recent report by The Wall Street Journal, it was revealed that 10 of the 13 largest TARP beneficiaries’ lending fell even after they received $148 billion in TARP funds. The report said that these banks’ outstanding loan balances declined by a total of about $46 billion, or 1.4%, between the third and fourth quarters of 2008. The question is: where did their TARP money go?

It is interesting to note that some banks were using TARP funds to buy out banks who were in trouble and who didn’t qualify to receive TARP bailout. There were also some banks who applied for TARP bailout but did not have any use for it. They claimed that they applied out of “civic duty.” If that is the case, shouldn’t it be their “civic duty” to return them to the government?

But some banks have used the bailout money not for “civic duty” but for greed. Take the case of AIG. After reporting a $61.7 billion quarterly loss, they asked the government for an additional $30 billion on top of the $40 billion already received. When AIG got the extra bailout money, they gave bonuses to some of their employees!

A few days ago, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut revealed that documents he subpoenaed from AIG showed that it paid a total of $218 million in bonuses, $53 million more than what it previously disclosed. He said that “bonuses were showered like confetti” on AIG employees.

It is sad that while Congress took the unusual step to bail out the distressed financial institutions, the banks’ modus operandi remains “business as usual”; that is, to maximize profits for their investors and stockholders. In other words, they continue to be driven by “greed” even in these uncertain times.

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf said it bluntly: “We make money when we make loans. That’s our business. Not every borrower that needs money can get it today. We have to be prudent.” But Stumpf wasn’t prudent enough to underwrite “toxic loans” when things were looking good and business was profitable. And now that things are looking bad, he suddenly has the temerity to say, “We have to be prudent.” It is interesting to note that Wells Fargo received the lion’s share of TARP’s $27.6 billion bailout for California’s 67 banks -- a whopping $25 billion!

At the end of the day, the taxpayers are being screwed by the banks. Indeed, the banks are frying the homeowners with their own fat. And at the rate that homes are being foreclosed, it is estimated that one million children will be homeless by the end of 2009. And come to think about it, it will be these one million children who will be paying back the bailout money that they never benefited from. Meanwhile, the banks would be raking in profits from the $700 billion “windfall” they received -- with no repayment plan required -- from their parents.

With the economy in the brink of deflation, the magnitude of which has never been seen before, the bankers couldn’t fathom the depth in which they brought America -- and by extension, the world -- to its worse economic recession since the Great Depression.

There is only one rational explanation to the bankers’ irrational behavior: they have gone bonkers. It’s time for President Obama to rein in the bankers and bring sanity to the banking industry. It’s also time for President Obama to redirect government resources from bailing out banks to helping homeowners avoid foreclosures.

Yesterday, March 23, President Obama did just that. In his boldest move in his 60-day old presidency, he unveiled a new three-part plan -- the Public-Private Investment Program -- that could buy up to $2 trillion in “toxic” real estate assets from troubled banks. As part of this plan, up to $100 billion from TARP funds would be used as equity. But a big part of this plan is for the US Treasury -- through a joint venture with the Federal Reserve -- to pump approximately $1 trillion more into purchasing “toxic” assets from banks. This program is called the Term Asset-Backed Securities Lending Facility (TALF).

Finally, Obama is back on track to doing exactly what he promised the voters last year; that is, to create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quo Vadis, Republican Party?

PerryScope By Perry Diaz

With the Republicans routed last November and the Democrats now controlling the Executive and Legislative branches of government, there is a lot of talk about the future of the Republican Party. The Republicans have been looking for a leader to pick up the pieces and restore the Grand Old Party to its glorious past.

Leaderless and rudderless, where is the party of Abraham Lincoln going? Quo vadis, Republican Party?

In an apparent attempt to draw support from African-Americans, Latinos, and other minorities -- who delivered a solid block of votes for President Barack Obama last November -- the Republican National Committee (RNC) elected Michael Steele as its chairman. Steele, who is of African-American descent, immediately went to work in trying to sell the Republican Party and its “conservative philosophy” to minorities. Projecting the GOP’s image as a “big tent” that welcomes all Americans, Steele’s message is not resonating well with minorities. Instead, he’s making the right wingers of his party fuming mad.

With his political head getting squeezed -- like in a vise -- between the right wingers and the mainstream moderates and conservatives of his party, Steele is frantically trying to please both sides. But it is like walking a tightrope with no safety net to fall into if he slips. And he knows that all it takes is one slip to end his political life.

Recently, there have been speculations that Steele was on his way out. During a GQ magazine interview, Steele was asked, “Does a woman have a right to choose abortion?” He replied, “Yeah, absolutely!” If there was one issue that the Republican Party would fight to death, it would be in defense of its anti-abortion stand. And for Steele to utter “right to choose” makes him an anathema to the powerful “right to life” forces within the Republican Party.

There were talks that Katon Dawson -- the former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party and the person whom Steele defeated for the RNC chairmanship -- has been quietly soliciting support for a “no confidence” vote on Steele. However, if Dawson were to succeed in ousting Steele, it would be unlikely that he will get the coveted chairmanship for himself. Interestingly, one of the reasons why he lost to Steele was his 12-year membership in a racist “whites-only” country club -- the last bastion of Southern segregation. Although he claimed that he had resigned his membership, it would be hard to dispel the perception that he has racist tendencies.

The question is: Are the Republicans searching for the “great white hope” to unify their seemingly divided party? Or would they stick it out with Steele and make the most out of him? If the Republican leaders were to use their heads instead of their ideological beliefs, they could prevent their party from disintegrating and start the task of rebuilding it. Otherwise, the 2010 mid-term elections could further solidify the Democrats’ grip on Congress, particularly in the Senate where the Democrats are just a few votes shy of reaching a filibuster-free supermajority.

The next two years would be crucial to the Republicans’ goal of defeating Obama in 2012. There is a guardedly optimistic mood among Republicans that Obama could become -- like Jimmy Carter -- another one-term Democratic president. However, it would take another Republican with a Reaganesque charisma to match up with Obama whose charismatic personality has enthralled millions of Americans. Today, that Republican “presidential timber” has yet to emerge. But who knows? Politics is the ultimate game of the “possible.” Didn’t Obama prove that last November?

Obama also proved that he is a skillful master of the “art of war.” When he saw a power vacuum within the Republican Party, he adroitly moved to fill that vacuum with the person of his choice. At a White House meeting with Republican leaders last January 23, he told them: “You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.” In one short sentence, Obama catapulted Limbaugh to the top of the Republican Party, filling the void created by the departure of George W. Bush and John McCain. As expected, many Republicans fell for Obama’s cleverly executed bait. They turned to Limbaugh to lead them in their fight against Obama. And with Limbaugh emerging as the Republicans’ undisputed de facto leader, he could now use his radio talk show as his “official” Republican pulpit to attack Obama and the Democrats.

But wait a minute. Is Limbaugh going to be effective in leading the Republican Party? Some Republicans are worried that Limbaugh might just be the opposite -- he could be the “kryptonite” that could weaken the party just like what it did to Superman.

Limbaugh’s famous line, “I hope Obama fails,” has been widely circulated and criticized by Democrats and some Republicans as well. If Obama fails, then America will fail too -- a notion that scares the hell out of millions of Americans who are tiptoeing on the edge of losing their jobs, homes, and life savings.

Indeed, Limbaugh’s blistering assaults against Obama have unleashed a backlash against him. Bloggers had a heyday lambasting “El Rushbo” as Limbaugh calls himself. They labeled him “Tokyo Rose.” One blogger said, “Rush Limbaugh is the Tokyo Rose of our time. At least, Rose did her subversive, anti-American broadcasts from Tokyo, not from the USA.” Another cyberspace habitué blogged, “Tokyo Rose was as unconcerned about giving accurate, undistorted views of the world situation back in her day like the failed top 40's radio disk jockey turned ideological know-it-all Limbaugh is today.”

In a recent survey conducted by McClatchy-Ipsos, it showed President Obama to be twice as popular as Limbaugh -- 65% to 30%. The survey also showed that a solid 33% of all Americans have "very unfavorable" opinions of Limbaugh.

A few days ago, former Vice President Dick Cheney, during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” was asked, “Is Rush Limbaugh kryptonite?” Cheney replied, “No, Rush is a good friend. I love him.”

It is interesting to note that a few days before the November 4, 2008 elections, Cheney came out to endorse John McCain. With Cheney’s 15% favorability rating at that time, his endorsement was viewed by many as a “kiss of death.” Does Cheney’s endorsement of Limbaugh have the same morbid effect?

The Republican Party has a monumental task in changing its image from a destructive obfuscator to a constructive opposition. Nothing is gained by bringing down the president of the United States of America. He is the people’s president. If he fails, so will the people. All Americans are all in this together.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mercy or No Mercy ?

PerryScope By Perry Diaz

In an act of defiance, Ombudsman Maria Merceditas “Mercy” Gutierrez arrogantly declared, “I have my mandate, I have my term and I believe this is my duty, my service to our countrymen.” With “my” repeated four times in one sentence, one would wonder if she really cared much about what her “mandate” was all about.

What prompted her outburst was the filing of an impeachment complaint against her. Last March 2, 2009, 31 civil society leaders led by former Senate President Jovito Salonga filed a complaint before the House of Representatives. The group -- called “Kilosbayan” (people action) -- said that the Office of the Ombudsman “has become synonymous to inaction, mishandling or downright dismissal of clear cases of graft and corruption, some leading to the President herself or her closest associates.”

What makes the impeachment complaint extraordinarily unusual is that Gutierrez, as the Ombudsman, is the “Tanodbayan” -- literally, the “Protector of the People” -- who is duty-bound to prosecute corrupt public officials who use their positions to enrich themselves. That’s her mandate. If she fails to perform her mandate, then she will be derelict of her constitutional duty to “protect the people.”

Appointed to a seven-year term of office by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on December 1, 2005, the constitution stipulates that the Ombudsman can only be removed from office “on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”

It is interesting to note that Gutierrez is believed to be a close friend of the First Gentleman, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo. They were classmates at the Ateneo College of Law. Their “friendship” has fueled speculations that Gutierrez is a protégé of the First Gentleman. Prior to her appointment as Ombudsman, Gutierrez was appointed by President Arroyo as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Chairman of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission -- the Anti-Corruption Czar -- in December 2004. Her two concurrent appointments made her one of the most powerful officials in the Arroyo government.

Coincidentally, it was during Gutierrez’s “czarist” days that corruption dramatically increased. In 2004, before she became the Anti-Corruption Czar, the Philippines was the fifth most corrupt country in Asia. In 2005, during her first “czarist” year, the Philippines became the third most corrupt country in Asia. In 2006, during her first year as Ombudsman, the country moved up to second place. In 2007 and 2008, the country became the most corrupt country in Asia. And more than likely, the country would retain that ignominious distinction in 2009.

The basis for the impeachment complaint against Gutierrez involved at least five cases of corruption in high places which Gutierrez allegedly failed to investigate or prosecute. They are the P1.3-billion Mega Pacific poll computerization case against former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, the $2-million extortion case against former Justice Secretary Hernando Perez, the P728-million fertilizer scam scandal involving Joc-joc Bolante, the P6.9-million case involving the “euro generals,” and the rigged bidding of multi-billion World Bank-funded projects in which the First Gentleman was implicated.

When Gutierrez took office, she declared, “I will be merciless to the grafters… no one can bribe me!” But within eight months, “Mercy,” as she is affectionately called by her friends and associates, was accused of being too merciful to influential people suspected of graft and corruption. On July 31, 2006, the Malaya editorial said: “The Office of the Ombudsman has become a joke after Merceditas Gutierrez, a classmate of Mike Arroyo, succeeded Simeon Marcelo. How many big-time corruption cases have been sleeping the sleep of the dead on the desk of Gutierrez?”

The Malaya editorial enumerated several “sleeping” cases, to wit:

(1) The case against former Justice Secretary Hernani Perez who allegedly received millions as payoff for awarding a sovereign guarantee to an Argentine company. It was reported that the Swiss government provided information to the Philippine government on deposits made to bank accounts of Perez and his wife.

(2) The case against Comelec officials over the election modernization scam was completed by Gutierrez’ office. However, the findings of investigators were overturned by Gutierrez, leaving only Resurreccion Borra among the commissioners to face the music.

(3) On the fertilizer fund scam, Gutierrez failed to take action despite the massive volume of testimonial and documentary evidence transmitted by the Senate committee on agriculture and the Blue Ribbon committee.

Indeed, the impeachment complaint filed by Kilosbayan mirrors the three “sleeping” cases exposed by Malaya two and a half years ago and the two recent scandals involving the “euro generals” and the rigged bidding of World Bank-funded projects.

Although President Arroyo had publicly distanced herself from the impeachment complaint against her three-time appointee and friend of her husband, it remains to be seen if she would covertly exert pressure on her House allies to reject the impeachment complaint against Gutierrez.

However, as a lame duck president, House members might be emboldened to resist pressure from Arroyo to quash the impeachment complaint. With the likelihood that Arroyo would not be able to stay in power beyond 2010, her House allies might soon be looking around for a new “master” to lead them to battle in the 2010 elections.

To impeach Gutierrez, a one-third vote -- 80 -- of the 238 members of the House is needed. The question is: would there be enough House members who will show no mercy for Gutierrez and thus impeach her? In the event that Gutierrez was impeached by the House, she would then be brought to trial before the Senate. Conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds vote -- 16 -- of the 23 senators. In my opinion, the Senate will show no mercy for Gutierrez -- they will convict her. Therefore, Gutierrez’s fate hinges on how the House members will vote on impeachment: mercy or no mercy?


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

GOP’s ‘Colorful’ Poster Boys

PerryScope By Perry Diaz

In an attempt to add “color” and re-energize its ranks, the Republican National Committee (RNC) elected Michael Steele, an African-American, as the new Chairman. They also asked Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who is of Asian Indian descent, to respond to President Barack Obama’s address to a special joint session of Congress last February 24, 2009.

Obviously, the motivation behind the election of Steele as the first African-American RNC Chairman was to counter the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-American president. But Obama was elected by 52.92% of approximately 131 million voters while Steele was elected by 168 RNC members.

As soon as Steele was installed, he immediately laid out plans to reach out to African-American and Latino voters in all 50 states. He vowed that his outreach program will be “permanent” and not just election-time activity as what had happened in past campaigns.

In a recent interview with a national news magazine, Steele said that he wanted to “better explain the GOP's conservative philosophy of optimism, opportunity, and economic growth to minority voters and make folks understand that ‘we'll walk that walk with them’.” However, he conceded that “it may be tough sledding, but we're going to get on the sled.”

Well, it seems to me that he isn’t bold enough to do the task and doesn’t have the “optimism” that he claims is part of the “conservative philosophy” that he’s trying hard to sell to minority voters. But no matter how Steele retools “conservative philosophy,” minority voters aren’t going to buy that because they perceive it as pro-business. And how could he peddle Republicanism to Latinos who perceive Republicans as anti-immigrant; therefore, anti-Latino.

The battle for Obama’s stimulus package last month proved once again that the Republican Party is out of touch with the American people’s problems -- particularly the poor and the middle-class. Obama’s populist stimulus package, among other things, centered on creating jobs and providing tax cuts for those who needed it most, which is 95% of those earning less than $250,000 a year.

The Republicans in Congress insisted that Obama’s stimulus package should provide tax breaks to businesses and the wealthy, a philosophy -- known as Trickle Down Economics or Reaganomics -- launched by Ronald Reagan in 1980. But Reaganomics hardly trickled down to the people. Instead, it became the tool of big businesses and their greedy CEOs who plundered the economy for corporate and personal gain. The result was the financial meltdown that occurred in the waning days of George W. Bush’s administration.

After losing the White House to Obama, the Republicans retrenched in Congress hoping that they could hold some bargaining chips. Obama tried to work with the Republicans in a bipartisan fashion. But even after getting some concessions, the House Republicans voted unanimously against Obama’s stimulus package. But the number of Republicans in the House had dwindled so much that it made them completely irrelevant and inutile.

The Republicans’ last redoubt was in the U.S. Senate where the Democrats hold a majority but short of the 60 required to stop a filibuster. But the Republicans’ only chance of defeating the stimulus package was shattered when three Republican senators broke ranks with their party and voted with the Democrats; thus, preventing a filibuster and ensuring its passage.

After signing the bill into law, Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to explain how the stimulus package would work. As soon as his speech was over, Jindal went on national television to deliver the Republican Party’s blistering attack against Obama’s stimulus package.

Jindal called the congressional Democrats “irresponsible” for passing the $787 billion stimulus package which the Republicans had criticized as excessive and wasteful. He claimed that giving tax breaks and assistance to businesses -- an allusion to Reaganomics -- would work best for the nation’s economic recovery. In my opinion, that’s like selling a dead horse to pull the wagon. He should know that Reaganomics died when George W. Bush’s presidency came to an end.

But the question that popped in my mind was: Why did the Republicans select Jindal as their spokesman in attacking Obama’s stimulus package? Why not the Senate or House Republican leader? Or was it because Jindal was presumed to be “teflonized” from attacks by minorities -- particularly African-Americans -- who might be alienated if the Republican spokesman was white? With Jindal as the spokesman -- or “hatchet man” -- the Republican congressional leaders could conveniently wash their hands in the event of a backlash from the community.

But whether it projected the 37 year-old Jindal as a bad guy or not, his “15 minutes” on TV prime time gave him priceless exposure that he could use to promote his ambition to run for president in 2012. But will he have the gumption to wage war against a sitting president? Well, he’s probably praying day and night that Obama will fail and thus become another one-term president like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

And kicking by his side for the next four years is Steele whom he could unleash as his “attack dog” just like what Sarah Palin did for John McCain during the 2008 elections. With Steele doing the attacks, nobody could accuse him of racism since he and Obama are both African-Americans.

With Jindal and Steele as poster boys for the “new” Republican Party, it would certainly add color to an otherwise anemic party that had bled to near-death after the Obama electoral landslide last November. And where would Sarah Palin fit in the picture? She would probably be making her next move pretty soon.