Wednesday, September 29, 2010

P-Noy’s First 100 Days

PerryScope: By Perry Diaz

Catapulted to the presidency on a campaign promise to eradicate corruption, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s first 100 days was off to a good start with a trivial “walang wang-wang, walang tong” (no sirens, no bribes) message that made its mark with the people. With a survey taken several days prior to his inauguration showing an 88% trust rating on him, the populist tone and demagogic appeal of his inaugural message removed any reservation the people might have on P-Noy’s ability to lead the nation. All P-Noy had to do then was demonstrate that he has what it takes. And like all presidents before him, he was extended the traditional 100-day “honeymoon” period by the media. Now, that honeymoon period is just about the end.

Like with all his predecessors, P-Noy’s ship of state started sailing with an even keel. However, he was sailing in uncharted waters mined with more than 900 of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s midnight appointees that includes the Supreme Court Chief Justice.

His stewardship was erratic at first making a few miscalculations with his memoranda and executive orders. His first memorandum was to fire all of the government top executives who were co-terminus with Gloria. However, he was forced to recall some of them so the government can continue to operate.

Truth Commission

His first executive order creating the Truth Commission was met with strong resistance from Gloria’s few but vociferous allies in the House of Representatives. They immediately filed a complaint before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Truth Commission. And compounding the opposition’s resistance, P-Noy appointed former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. as head of the Truth Commission. Davide’s appointment casts doubt on P-Noy’s motive for appointing him to investigate Gloria. It must be remembered that it was Davide who swore in Gloria as president in 2001 and declared that president Joseph “Erap” Estrada has “constructively” resigned from the presidency. However, many people deemed it as a “judicial coup d’état.”

Notwithstanding the pending complaint in the Supreme Court, P-Noy ordered the Truth Commission to proceed with its investigation of Gloria. This prompted the Supreme Court to threaten the Truth Commission with a temporary restraining order (TRO) if it doesn’t desist.


Then on August 23, 2010, midway through his first 100 days, the unexpected happened – a tourist bus with 25 Chinese tourists from Hong Kong was hijacked at the Luneta Park near the Quirino Grandstand where P-Noy was inaugurated last June 30. The hijacker was dismissed senior inspector Rolando Mendoza from the Manila Police. Mendoza held the tourists hostage while he demanded that he be reinstated in this job. After 11 hours of negotiation the hostage crisis ended in a bloodbath when Mendoza killed eight tourists before he was fatally shot by police sniper fire.

The hostage-taking fiasco became an international cause célèbre. It put P-Noy in a bad light. Immediately, P-Noy ordered Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to conduct a fact-finding investigation. After several days of hearings, the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) submitted its report to P-Noy. It named 13 individuals with complicity to the hostage-taking fiasco, including Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico E. Puno -– P-Noy’s longtime friend and “shooting buddy” -- and then Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Jesus Verzosa.


Then on September 11, 2010, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz dropped a bombshell alleging that two close aides of P-Noy were receiving P2-million each in monthly payola – protection money – from jueteng lords. During a Senate hearing investigating the “jueteng-gate,” Cruz disclosed the names of the “jueteng kings” – Puno and Verzosa.

Immediately calls for Puno’s resignation flooded Malacanang Palace. Verzosa has since retired. But P-Noy stood by his friend Puno saying that he still has confidence on him.

US bonanza

While Luneta-gate and Jueteng-gate were brewing, P-Noy embarked on his first travel abroad as president. Within a six-day period beginning September 21, he addressed the United Nations General Assembly; attended the US-ASEAN conference with US president Barack Obama and the other nine ASEAN leaders; and signed a $434-million grant to the Philippines by the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) to help fight corruption and poverty in the Philippines. P-Noy also talked with Obama for seven minutes after the US-ASEAN conference.

On September 25, P-Noy addressed the Philippine Development Forum in San Jose, California. The following day, his last day in the U.S., P-Noy attended mass with the Fil-Am community at the Mission Dolores in San Francisco. After the mass, he gave a short talk at the pulpit where he revealed that his delegation was able to secure a $2.7-billion investment pledge from American firms.

In the evening before heading for the San Francisco Airport for his flight home, P-Noy met with members of the Pinoys for Good Governance who, as one member said, “want to make sure that the present administration will live up to its promise to bring about such reform in governance.”

The U.S. trip promises to boost the Philippine economy. P-Noy claimed that the infusion of investment would create about 43,000 jobs.

All in all, the events of the first 100 days pose a big challenge to P-Noy in his quest to institute reforms and changes in a country. Indeed, he’s got his work cut out for him for the next six years.

It’s been said that it was destiny that brought P-Noy to the presidency. I agree. Now, it’s time for him to show the density of his commitment to bring about change in country deluged with corruption and plagued with poverty.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

'We Are One Filipino' rallies in San Jose on September 25, 2010

The Movement

Dear Fellow Filipino-American,

I need your help to start a movement. What constitutes a movement? If one were to think of its ingredients, it surely would include a purpose, people, and passion. During the Philippines’ People Power Movement of 1986, this was evident as its purpose was to purge an oppressor with people numbering in the millions passionate about progress through pacifism. I am writing to develop traction for a new movement. For far too long, Filipinos abroad have used buzz words as 1st vs. 2nd Generation, Fil-Am, Fil-Can, Fil-in-the-blank, and so forth. Rather than rehash these tired words, I implore you to understand the issues that plague Filipinos abroad, regardless of your address or generation affiliation, and take action!

The multitudes of issues back in our ancestral home include poverty and corruption. In the US, the issues can include division, lack of representation, and apathy. The problems that face us will require your participation. With the hostage disaster following the euphoria of President Aquino’s inauguration, it seems that joy can be a fleeting emotion. This disaster occurred on August 23, 2010 in which nine innocent civilians were killed by an ex-policeman who demanded his old job back. It is with irony that the inauguration and tragedy occurred at roughly the same location at Quirino Grandstand in Luneta.

Yet, us Filipinos here in the US e-mailed one another, updated our collective Facebook accounts, and shared our concerns about events transpiring back in the Philippines. We are tired of the same story. Yet, in the American social scene, we are proud of Charice (no need to even mention the last name anymore), high-fiving each other after each Pacquiao victory, and wearing Filipino inspired shirts while watching “America’s Best Dance Crew”. It is a shame we don’t capitalize this Filipino Fever into a more productive vision and action. I truly believe that we Fil-Ams of the New Generation have the will to make true change occur. We are instilled with American ideals and well educated. We can inspire an entire people with our sheer numbers. There is data supporting that if all the Fil-Ams in North America were lumped together, our collective GDP is greater than that of the Philippines. How’s that for economic might? I find it odd that with this data, President Aquino hasn’t addressed us yet. If we are educated, make money, and share the emotions of our fellow Filipinos after the recent tragedy, why isn’t he tapping us on the shoulder and addressing us? I believe we can be an asset to collectively fix our problems here and our motherland. Our parents may have left and created a brain drain, but some of us are willing to help and create a brain gain. As One people, we number in the millions. As One nation, we transcend oceans. As One Filipino, no matter where we were born or what citizenship we carry, all of our dreams become reality.

We may not have the solutions to all our problems, but is it in this journey that we show the world that we have a voice. Let’s have this voice be heard here and across the Pacific. On September 25, 2010, I say we come together to have President Benigno Aquino, III address us at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, CA at 4pm. He may not know it yet, but he will have no choice but to address us and embrace us as our ancestral President…the leader of the Global Filipino. It is also with cosmic coincidence that the namesake of the park, Cesar Chavez, was assisted by Filipinos in Stockton. This is Our Time. If you believe in fate, Facebook, and the Filipino, please join me in this rally.

Bring your picnic gear and your unbridled and welcoming enthusiasm.

As one of your own,

UNNAMED New Generation Filipino

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jueteng Payola Exposed

By Perry Diaz

Last September 11, 2010 -- ten weeks after he was inaugurated the 15th president with the highest number of votes since the end of the Marcos dictatorship -- President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III was faced with the biggest challenge of his presidency. Retired Bishop Oscar Cruz made allegations that two of P-Noy’s trusted aides and five other government officials were receiving monthly payola for protection of jueteng, the illegal numbers game.

According to Cruz’s allegations, the two top aides were receiving a minimum of P2 million monthly payola from jueteng operations. He said that the two officials occupy key positions involving security matters which include “efforts to weed out the multi-billion-peso underground lottery especially prevalent in Luzon and the Visayas.” If I interpret it correctly, “security matters” would be within the purview of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), more specifically the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Trusted aides on the take

Malacañang Palace immediately reacted by asking Cruz to name names. “We encourage the prelate to report the anomalies he knows about so that these can be investigated and those found guilty will be punished,” said Presidential Communications and Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma. Initially, Cruz responded that he would identify the two aides in the proper forum. Meanwhile, his group, Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng, was busy collecting more information about them. He further said that the two officials’ names surfaced in recent field reports submitted to him by his organization’s network in the 86 dioceses in the country.

However, a day later Cruz retracted his offer to provide evidence because he was afraid that his witnesses would get hurt or killed like what happened to jueteng whistle-blower Wilfredo “Boy” Mayor who was murdered earlier this year. He also said that he has been receiving death threats since he exposed the jueteng payola. One was sent by mail which contained a message in big bold letters: “SHUT UP.”

Cruz said that the only clue that he would provide at this time -- for his own safety -- is that the two trusted officials of P-Noy are male; one of them has been in government for a “long time” and the other was relatively new. The other five officials are in the “lower echelon.”

DILG Undersecretary approached

Last September 13, DILG Undersecretary Rico E. Puno disclosed that he was approached by “emissaries” of the jueteng lords about “payoffs.” “Some of them are retired policemen. Some of them are politicians. Some of them are even friends. Some of them are even relatives who approached me,” Puno said. But he said that he declined to meet with them.

Puno also said that Cruz promised him a list of government officials receiving jueteng payola or involved in protecting the jueteng lords. He noted that that if there was evidence against these officials, the government would file a case against them.

However, P-Noy wasn’t totally sold to Cruz’s allegations. He said that if anyone of his officials accepted jueteng payola, he would see to it that they would face heavy penalties. But he also said that he heard that some people involved in the numbers game were dropping the names of his officials. When he was asked whether he believes that Cruz was misinformed, P-Noy said that he did not know the “quality of information” that was provided by Cruz.

Jueteng is not a priority

P-Noy, who campaigned on a slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty), was gung-ho on eradicating jueteng when he assumed office. In fact, when his new DILG Secretary Robredo took over, P-Noy issued “marching orders” to stop jueteng. But in a sudden change of plans, P-Noy announced the following day that jueteng was not a priority in his administration. Robredo later acknowledged that his “new assignment” was to concentrate on local government while DILG Undersecretary Rico E. Puno -- P-Noy’s long-time friend whom he appointed several days before Robredo -- was given direct and sole jurisdiction over the PNP. In essence, DILG was split into two: local government under Robredo and security under Puno. Makes one wonder if Robredo was deliberately taken out of the loop on police matters.
Recently, there were reports that Robredo was on his way out. The buzz going around was that Verzosa, who retired on September 14, was a leading candidate to replace Robredo. However, with Verzosa’s controversial “disappearance” during the Luneta hostage crisis, P-Noy announced the other day that Verzosa will not take over DILG but would most likely be appointed to a non-Secretary post.

In an earlier article, Cruz claimed that jueteng protectors who are holding key positions in P-Noy’s administration are leading the calls for Robredo’s resignation. He said that the plotters are using the Luneta hostage crisis as the reason for Robredo to resign, holding him responsible for bloodbath that resulted from the botched rescue attempt by the Manila Police. But Robredo has no responsibility over police matters, Puno has. Shouldn’t Puno be the one who should resign then?

It is interesting to note that a Liberal Party stalwart revealed that even before P-Noy assumed the presidency, there was already an “arrangement” for Verzosa to serve as DILG secretary. However, due to the public pressure to appoint Robredo, P-Noy gave in. But according to that LP official, compromise was reached for P-Noy to bring in Puno to oversee PNP operations.

Red flag

The red flag is up: it seems that corruption is creeping back... or perhaps, it never left. As I said before, corruption is like weed: if you don’t kill it, it will grow and spread rapidly until the entire landscape is full of weed.

It is common knowledge that for jueteng to thrive, it needs the protection of the PNP. For as long as the PNP protects the jueteng lords, nobody could touch them -- not even the DILG Secretary.

With the retirement of Verzosa as PNP Chief, P-Noy has an opportunity to clean up the PNP and appoint a person who is committed to stop jueteng. In regard to DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, P-Noy should put the PNP directly under the authority of Robredo. As for DILG Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, he should work “under” the DILG Secretary subject to his authority.

P-Noy has a grand opportunity to prove to the people that he will not betray his covenant to eradicate corruption, stop jueteng, and end poverty. He made his pledge in the name of his parents, the martyr Ninoy Aquino and the icon of democracy Cory Aquino. Ninoy was immortalized by his words: “The Filipino is worth dying for.” I fervently hope that P-Noy would find the moral strength -- and will power -- to prove that Ninoy did not die in vain. P-Noy can effectively stop corruption because his 90 million “bosses” are behind him.

Mr. President, it’s time to get your act together, don’t let your people down.