Winalanghiyang halalan

Nagmamalinis at nagmamang-maangan ang Commission on Elections sa chorva nitong ang mga palyadong marker, SD card, vote counting machine at maging ang transparency server ang pangunahing dapat sisihin sa pinaka-palpak na automated elections nitong dekada.

Akala malamang nina Commissioner Rowena Guanzon na sa pamamagitan ng pagbabantang huwag nang bayaran ang mga supplier ng marker at SD card ay sa mga ito mababaling ang sisi sa mga kapalpakan noong Lunes.

Sa totoo lang, matagal nang palpak ang Comelec at kung sinuman ang nagdesisyong maaring kumandidato sa party list elections ang mga pekeng marhinalisado. (Sino-sino sila? Ito pa. At ito pa.) Walang kakibo-kibo ang mga opisyal ng Komisyon sa kawalanghiyaan ng mga nominado ng mga pekeng partylist. Kasabwat na silang malinaw nito sa panloloko sa taumbayan.

Wala ring halos narinig mula sa Comelec sa lantarang paglabag sa lahat ng panuntunan hinggil sa tamang paggasta sa eleksiyon, patalastas, paglalagay ng poster at maging sa mga sukat nito, pangunahin ng mga kandidato ng administrasyon. Bulag, bingi’t pipi sila o kasabwat na rin sila sa kawalanghiyaang naganap sa buong panahon ng kampanyahan at halalan.

Sa araw mismo ng halalan, hindi mabilang ang ulat ng vote-buying, pangangampanya sa mga presinto at iba pang porma ng dayaan. Sa Lanao del Sur, bugbugan at barilan pa rin ang uso. Maging ang pulisya at militar ay aktibo rin sa pangangampanya sa mga ayaw nilang manalo. Hindi rin kumikibo ang Comelec sa mga ito.

Paanong hindi iisiping kasabwat ang Comelec sa kawalanghiyaan sa halalan, samantalang hindi ito pumayag sa anumang panukala na ipakita nila ang source code ng automated election system. Hindi rin ito tumutugon sa rekwes ng Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) na silipin ang programang ito kung nagtutugma ba ang mga numero sa main server at sa transparency server. Ano ba talaga ang nangyari sa pitong oras na patay ang transparency server? Kung walang itinatago, bakit hindi ipakita sa PPCRV, Namfrel, Kontra-Daya at iba pang poll watchdog?

Tatanggapin na lamang ba ng taumbayan na walang kasalanan ang mga opisyal ng Comelec sa lahat ng ito? Kapag sinabi ba ng mga komisyoner na tayo’y bulag na magtiwala at sila na ang bahala ay ayos na ang lahat? Ano ang gagawin ng Comelec sa malinaw na paglabag sa paggasta ng karamihan ng mga nangungunang kandidato sa pagka-senador at party list?

Tama naman si Komisyuner Guanzon na kaduda-duda na ang resulta ng halalan noong Lunes. Pero hindi ba dapat ang unang hinala ay sa
sa mga walanghiyang politiko at sa Comelec mismo? #

Business League: Congress of the Elite

By Yvette Balita, Joshua Poe Cadano, Dana Eunise Cruz and Arjay Ivan Gorospe

(Part three of three)

[Read the first part here: Party-list (Mis)Representatives]

[Read the second part here: Party-list groups: Family Enterprise]

While the Party-list System Act of 1995 aims to represent and enable marginalized and underrepresented sectors, multi-millionaires and billionaires remain to be the dominant members of the House of Representatives.

There have been instances where the party-list system had been used by the elite to further their business interests by taking advantage of national and local expenditures, as was the case in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

From the 15th to the 17th Congress, Christopher Co of Ako Bicol  (AKB) and Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. of Buhay party-list have consistently been part of the richest party-list representatives. The representatives have net worths of P104.4 million and P52.4 million respectively, according to their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) in 2017.

Other rich lawmakers from the past decade are Virgilio Lacson of Manila Teachers, Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay of Senior Citizen, Jesulito Manalo of Angkla, Michael Romero of 1-PACMAN, and Emmeline Aglipay-Villar of Diwa.

Conflict of interest?

Co, owner of Hi-Tone Construction and Development, has been in the top 10 list of richest party-list representatives from 2010 up to present. He is also the brother of Elizaldy Co, the head of the transnational group Sunwest Group of Companies, Tektone Global Technologies Foundation, commercial hub Embarcadero de Legazpi, and other construction firms, malls and resorts.

His net worth from 16th to 17th Congress surged by P8,731,517, and P8,008,565 from 15th to the 16th. He was investigated, along with other district representatives in 2014, due to conflicting business interests in the projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The House committee on good government and accountability then investigated the release of at least P10.2 billion of the P69.7-billion congressional insertions spent in the last months of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The DPWH expended the infrastructure funds to 1,074 projects despite having no revenues, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said during the hearing, adding that it is against the General Appropriations Act.

In the probe of the House committee, it turned out that the company of Co was among the top 10 contractors involved. The late Rep. Rodel Batocabe, his party mate, questioned the House committee probe to defend him.

Due to Ako Bicol’s business interests, members of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), a member-organization of poll watchdog Kontra Daya, filed a disqualification case against the party-list group in 2010. In an ABS-CBN news report, Ako Bicol admitted being funded by the Delfin A. Co Foundation which shouldered the group’s development projects and scholarship programs.

The petitioners also traced that the employment provided to thousands of Bicolanos were from Co’s Tektone Foundation. “Both Elizaldy and Christopher are wealthy magnates in Bicol and the Philippines and they together, cannot represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors,” the petition says. In addition, the family of Co has close links to Arroyo.

In the same year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) dismissed the petition against Ako Bicol since it had to uphold the will of the electorate after the party-list group obtained the most number of votes. But in 2012, Comelec disqualified Ako Bicol for the 16th Congress. Then Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes said that the group is a registered political party, not a marginalized people’s representative.

However, the Supreme Court released new parameters or guidelines for the party-list elections in 2013. It states that national parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to represent any marginalized and underrepresented sector. As a result, Comelec allowed Ako Bicol to run.

Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. is another lawmaker who joins Co in the top 10 list of multi-millionaire party-list representatives from 2010 to present. His father, Bro. Mike Velarde, is preacher and owner of Amvel Land Development Corporation.

In 2010, Kontra Daya asked Comelec to investigate 40 party-list groups which do not represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors. Even if Velarde is one of those listed, he was still able to run under Buhay Party-list.

Re-electionists

Other partylist representatives in the top 10 list of millionaires in congress include Michael Romero, Jesulito Manalo, Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Virgilio Lacson, and Milagros Magsaysay. These candidates were all elected during the 16th congress and re-elected in the 17th congress.

Richest Party-list Representatives of the 17th Congress

Name Partylist Networth Business Association Business-related bills forwarded
1) Michael Romero 1-PACMAN, 7,291,000,000.00 Globalport 900 Inc. GlobalPort Batang Pier (PBL team) 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Position Harbour Center Port Terminal Inc. Mikro-Tech Capital Inc. Harbour Centre Port Holdings, Inc. R-II Holdings, Inc. MIC Holdings Corp. R-II Builders, Inc. enactment of House Bill (HB) 159 seeking to strengthen the right of government to expropriate lands for socialized housing
2) Emmeline Aglipay-Villar DIWA 1,407,459,436.00 Vista Land and Lifescapes Authored HB 04805, also known as An act mandating the Department of Agriculture to promote urban agricultural development in the country’s metropolitan areas, to address food security, and providing funds therefor
3) Virgilio Lacson Manila Teachers 791,690,847.37 Manila Teachers’ Savings and Loan Association He authored several bills on banking and finance including HB 08453, An Act instituting reforms in real property valuation and assessment in the philippines, reorganizing the bureau of local government finance, and appropriating funds therefor
4) Jesulito Manalo ANGKLA 118,639,794.00 He is one of the founders of Manalo and Perez Law Offices.  
5) Christopher Co AKO Bicol; 15th – 17th 104,440,082.50   CEO of Sunwest Group of Companies  
6) Milagros Magsaysay Senior Citizen 95,100,000.00 She is related to Ramon Magsaysay, the 7th President of the Philippines. She is also the grandmother of Miguel Corleon Magsaysay, a councilor in San Juan, La Union.    
7) Enrico Pineda 1 PACMAN 85,5000,000.00 Manny Pacquiao’s business manager; team manager of Pacquiao’s PBA team Mahindra Enforcer. He authored HB04054 which seeks to provide tax incentives to individuals and corporations giving donations, contributions, and grants to filipino athletes who have won medals in the summer olympic games
8) Michaelina Antonio AGBIAG 80,350,815.22 Her husband was the Partylist’s former Representative  
9) Aniceto Bertiz III ACTS OFW, 17th Congress 54,265,000.00 Global Asia Alliance Consultant Inc. He was involved in a heated discussion  with Eman Villanueva, a leader of OFWs in Hong Kong, after the latter brought up Bertiz’ recruitment agency.  He also authored HB 01302, an act establishing a special social security for migrant workers, which amends section 37-a of republic act no. 8042, on the compulsory insurance coverage by private insurers for agency hired workers.
10) Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. BUHAY 52,387,126.78 Son of Bro. Mike Velarde, the owner of Amvel Land Development Corporation. The other nominees of their party-list include William Irwin Tieng, whose family controls Solar Sports. A resolution directing the committee on revision of laws to index the fines under the revised penal code to adjust to present level of inflationary rates

Controversies

The Priority Development Assistance Fund scam, also called the PDAF scam or the pork barrel scam exposed large sums allegedly misused by several members of the Congress and Senate.

Based on the 2013 annual audit report of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos released and posted on the Commission on Audit website, the following partylist representatives released part of the PDAF and Disbursement Acceleration Program allocations to alleged bogus foundations and suppliers:

Partylist RepresentativePartylistAmount
Daryl Grace AbayonAangat TayoP 44.8 million
Salvador Cabaluna IIII-CareP 37.5 million
Michael Angelo RiveraI-CareP 27.5 million
Mariano PiamonteA-TeacherP 20 million
Maximo RodriguezAbante Mindanao Inc.P 15.5 million
Raymond Democrito MendozaTUCPP 14 million
Abigail FerriolKalingaP 11.35 million
Angelo PalmonesAghamP 10 million
Ranulfo CanonigoKakusaP 10 million
Manuel AgyaoKalingaP 5.5 million
Sharon GarinAAMBIS OwaP 5 million
Mark Aeron SambarPL-PBAP 5 million
Neil Benedict MontejoAn-WarayP 5 millon
Homer Mercado1-UtakP 4.5 million
Isidro LicoAting KoopP 3 million
Ponciano PayuyoApecP 2 million

Indeed, there is evidence to prove that the party-list system has been hijacked by the rich and powerful. The Party-list System Act of 1995 which is supposed to make the House of Representatives truly representative has made it cruelly repressive. #

Party-list groups: Family Enterprise

(Part two of three)

By Enrico Berdos, Michelle Co, Ara Eugenio, Aimee Lontok, Edelino Mercene, Jr. and Angela Ng

[Read the first part here: Party-list (Mis)Representatives]

Political dynasties have secured their place in the House of Representatives in the last three administrations, occupying close to 55 percent of congressional seats.

Data from online news website Rappler and election watchdog Kontra-Daya show that 31 percent (18 out of 58) of party-list seats were occupied by members of political dynasties in 2015. A study by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center concluded that political dynasties occupied 25 percent of party-list seats (14 out of 56) in the 16th Congress. Meanwhile, out of 65 party-list seats in the 17th Congress, 22 were occupied by political dynasties, accounting for 33 percent.

According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, “a family that has successfully retained political power through maintaining control over at least one elective position over successive generations” can be placed in such a category. A political dynasty is established when a family member occupy different political positions simultaneously, or when a government official and his relative/s occupy an electoral position over the years.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that national and regional parties “do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to represent any marginalized and underrepresented sector.”This made it easier for members of political dynasties to run as partylist representatives.

Big fish

Having several relatives in power allows political dynasties to exert control and distribute development in their political turfs.

Some party-list representatives belong to political clans whose relatives occupy several government positions in a province. For instance, Sharon Garin has served as representative of Ang Asosasyon Sang Mangunguma Nga Bisaya-Owa Mangunguma (AAMBIS-OWA) since the 15th Congress. Among her relatives in politics are her brother Rep. Richard Garin (1st District, Iloilo), sister Christine Garin (Iloilo vice-governor), mother Nimfa Garin (San Joaquin, Iloilo mayor), father Oscar Garin (Guimbal, Iloilo mayor), sister-in-law Janette Garin (former Health Secretary and former Rep. of the 1st District of Iloilo).

Similarly, Shernee Abubakar Tan, incumbent party-list representative of Kusug-Tausug, is a member of the Tan family of Sulu. She is the youngest daughter of former Sulu governor Abdusakur M. Tan and sister of incumbent Sulu governor Abdusakur Tan II and Maimbung Mayor Samier Tan. Her mother, Hadja Nurunisah Abubakar-Tan, is vice governor of Sulu.

In the case of Democratic Independent Workers Association Inc. (DIWA) Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar who has been in Congress since 2010, her link to a political dynasty is through her marriage to Mark Villar, current Public Works Secretary. This makes her a part of the Aguilar-Villar political clan of Las Piñas and Muntinlupa.

But despite the influence that these personalities wield, they know they cannot hold their political positions forever. They find a way to transfer it to their other relatives such as their children or siblings when their terms end.

Rigodon

The act of switching government posts among two politicians is known in the Philippines as political rigodon, named after a formal Spanish dance where two people exchange positions until the music stops.

Switching places as party-list representatives occur across first and second generation relatives, such as among siblings, among couples and among parents and children. Sometimes, the switch also involves siblings-in-law or children-in-law.

Party-list representatives are replaced by their relatives because an outgoing representative plans to run for a position in his or her province’s local government or because he or she has reached the three-term limit in Congress.

Nicanor Briones was Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (Agap) party-list representative for the 15th and 16th Congress (2010-2016). In 2016, he attempted to run as governor of Batangas but lost. His daughter Kathleen Briones tried to replace his place as party-list representative but was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Maximo Rodriguez, Jr., Abante Mindanao (ABAMIN) party-list representative of the 15th and 16th Congress (2010-2016) and current ABAMIN president, replaced his brother Rufus Rodriguez as Cagayan de Oro’s (CDO) 2nd district representative in 2016.

Rufus Rodriguez tried to run as CDO mayor in 2016 as he reached the three-term congressional limit, but lost to Oscar Cruz.

Maximo Rodriguez, Jr.’s wife, Mary Grace Rodriguez, is also currently running as a party-list representative for ABAMIN in the coming elections.

You Against Corruption and Poverty (YACAP) Rep. Benhur Lopez, Jr. replaced his sister Carol Jayne Lopez, who served during the 15th and 16th Congress.

Some political families also send two or more representatives to sector-oriented and regional/national-based party-list groups which means that they can replace outgoing relatives with other members of the family.

During the 2016 national elections, two of Kalinga party-list representative nominees, Kristen Michelle Ferriol and Arturo Ferriol failed to win seats alongside incumbent representative Abigail Ferriol-Pascual.

A family enterprise

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr., warned that political dynasties have an unfair advantage against other groups during the campaign period. “Bibitbitin na nila ‘yung mayor, governor, congressman – tapos party-list. So… Isang buhos na lang iyan. Tapos most likely, doon lang sila sa region nila kukuha ng boto, or in many cases nga namimili ng boto.”

“‘Pag nakita mo na kasi sila – silang magkakapamilya, that’s not a real party-list group, that’s a family enterprise,” Reyes said.

Anti-Dynasty Law: Failed Attempts

The Senate and the House of Representatives dropped the Anti-dynasty Bill in 2015, describing it as a “mere showpiece” and a “toothless measure” that strengthens instead of removes political dynasties.

House Bill No. 3587, which was up for second reading at the time, proposed that two members of a political dynasty be allowed to run for politics, while the Congress pushed for a third member to be allowed to run in the national and local polls simultaneously.

“There will be no Anti-dynasty Law. There’s no more time to consider and approve it,” former Senate President Franklin Drilon told ABS-CBN News Channel at the time. “Besides, many in Congress are against it. There’s strong opposition to it. That’s the reality of our politics.”

With research interests along the lines of legislative dynamics, executive-legislative relations, electoral politics, institutional reform and political economy, UP Diliman Political Science Assistant Professor Alicor Panao said that political dynasties are mere symptoms of a larger political dysfunction. “Our rules, electoral laws, push people to establish dynasties. When your legislator legislates, no one in his right mind would sign his own death warrant.”

Party-list groups are now used as a backdoor for candidates to perpetuate themselves in power, Panao added. The law only allows a three-term limit, and when a candidate reaches his outterm, this could be passed down to other members of the family.

Panao said such actions do not reflect on greediness, but mainly because of how the institution permits the continuation of making these families relevant to society. “If you’re out-termed, you’re toppled, it would be difficult to get back into the scene; there is a difficulty in name-recall, and such candidate will be out of circulation.” #

ANNEX

This table lists down all members of political dynasties in the party-list system who served during the 15th to 17th Congress (2010-2017):

Political
Clan
Province/ City Party-list Represen-
tative
Party-listCongressional
Term
AbayonSamarDaryl
Grace
Abayon
Aangat
Tayo (AT)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
AbayonSamarHarlin Neil Abayon Jr.Aangat Tayo
(AT)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Antonio Patricio
Antonio
Agbiag!
Timpuyo
Ilocano Inc.
(Agbiag)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
Antonio Michaelina “Michelle” AntonioAgbiag! Timpuyo Ilocano Inc. (Agbiag)17th Congress
(2016-2019)
AtienzaManilaJose “Lito” Atienza, Jr.BUHAY16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Batocabe Rodel
Batocabe (+)
AKO BICOL15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
BelmonteQuezon
City
Ricardo
Belmonte
Serbisyo sa
Bayan
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Chavez Cecilia
Chavez
Butil Farmers
Party (BUTIL)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Herrera-Dy BernadetteHerrera-DyBagong
Henerasyon
(BH)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
EstrellaPangasi-
nan
Robert
Raymund
Estrella
ABONO15th Congress
(2010-2013)
EstrellaPangasi-
nan
Conrado M. Estrella IIIABONO16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
GarinIloiloSharon
Garin
AAMBIS-OWA15th Congress
(2010-2019)
Gatcha-lianValenzue-laWeslie
Gatchalian
Alay Buhay16th Congress
(2013-2016)
Haresco TeodoricoHaresco Jr.Kasangga sa
Kaunlaran Inc. (ANG KASANGGA)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
Haresco Jose
Ciceron
Lorenzo
Harenzo
Kasangga sa Kaunlaran Inc.
(ANG
KASANGGA)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
HatamanBasilanSitti
Turabin
-Hataman
AMIN16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Lopez Benhur
Lopez Jr.
You Against
Corruption and Poverty
(YACAP)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Lopez Carol Jayne LopezYou Against
Corruption and Poverty
(YACAP)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
Macapa-
gal
-Arroyo
Pampa-
nga
Juan
Miguel
MacapagalArroyo
Ang Galing
Pinoy (AGP)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
Magsay-
say
NationalEulogio
Magsaysay
AVE15th Congress
(2010-2013)
6th Congress
(2013-2016)
Magsay-
say
NationalMilagros
Aquino-
Magsaysay
Senior Citizens17th Congress
(2016-2019)
MendozaCotabatoRaymond
DemocritoMendoza
Trade Union Congress of the
Philippines
(TUCP)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Noel Victoria
Noel
AN WARAY16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Noel Florencio NoelAN WARAY15th Congress
(2010-2013)
OrtegaLa UnionFrancisco
Emmanuel Ortega III
ABONO15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Pangani-
ban
Pangasi-
nan
Jose
Pangani-
ban Jr.
Ang National
Coalition of
Indigenous
Peoples
Action Na!
Inc.
(ANAC-IP)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Pizarro Catalina
Leonen
-Pizarro
Arts,
Business and
Science
(ABS)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
RodriguezCagayan
de Oro
Maximo
Rodriguez Jr.
Abante
Mindanao
(ABAMIN)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
SuarezQuezon
Province
Anne Marie Villeza
-Suarez
ALONA16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
TanSuluShernee
Abubakar
Tan
KUSUG-
TAUSUG
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
VelascoMarindu-
que
Lorna
Velasco
Ang Mata’y
Alagaan
(AMA)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
VelascoMarindu-
que
Trisha
Nicole
Velasco
-Catera
Ang Mata’y
Alagaan
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
VillarLas Piñas,Muntinlu-
pa
Emmeline
Aglipay
-Villar
Democra-
tic Independent Workers Association Inc. (DIWA)
15th Congress (2010-2013)
16th Congress (2013-2016)17th Congress (2016-2019)



Party-list (Mis)Representatives

By Kiana Cardeno, Nica Rhiana Hanopol, JM Casino, Ferdin Sanchez

(Part one of three)

The House of Representatives (HOR) is hardly representative.

In not so many words, a non-representative HOR is the reason for the enactment of the Party-list System Act in 1995 and the first party-list election held three years after. No less than the framers of the 1987 Constitution saw the need to establish a party-list system to ensure representation of the marginalized and underrepresented.

While its 2001 decision helped define what is meant by marginalized and underrepresented, the Supreme Court practically reversed itself 12 years later. On April 5, 2013, the highest court of the land decided that party-list groups do not need to represent any marginalized or underrepresented sector.

“In effect, anyone actually by that decision can join the party-list,” said Alicor Panao, a researcher on party-list systems and a political science professor from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.

From two dominant parties in the 1950s, Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party, Republic Act (RA) 7941, or the Party-list System Act, sought to provide the broadest possible representation for the Filipino people, most especially the poor and marginalized.

Over the last decade, the trends of proportionality in the House of Representatives have favored regional and workers groups, holding the most number of seats.

At present, more than 40 of active party-lists are now seated in Congress supposedly on behalf of laborers, peasants, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals.

Many of those claiming to represent these marginalized sectors do not belong to these sectors and are members of well-entrenched political dynasties and special interest groups. Some have been implicated in corruption investigations while others have been known to promote special business interests. They are among the 59 party-list representatives occupying seats in Congress today.

Contradicting Actions

Some party-list representatives have been exhibiting contradicting platforms and have backgrounds that oppose what their party supposedly stands for.

1-PACMAN, a party geared toward supporting “marginalized nationals,” is represented by Michael Romero, who is a high-profile industrialist with a net worth of P7.2 billion, according to his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) in 2017. He is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of several corporations such as Mikro-tech Capital, Inc, Harbour Centre Port Holdings, Inc., 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Corp., Manila North Harbour Port, Inc., and GlobalPort 900 Inc. An author and co-author of 473 bills, only four of these may be classified as poverty alleviation.

Similar to Romero, Rep. Rico Geron of AGAP party-list is a multi-millionaire who claims to represent agricultural workers. He is the former chief executive officer (CEO) of Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC), one of the largest agricultural cooperatives in the country. In 2016, SIDC’s employees went on strike citing unjust labor policies like low pay and contractualization. That year, Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik-KMU) condemned the “anti-worker nature” of Geron and his party-list group.

Meanwhile, other party-list representatives have also been accused  misdeeds.

Incumbent Rep. Arnel Ty of LPGMA or the LPG Marketers Association, a party-list that advocates “the need of the consuming public to have access to lower-priced LPG,” was found guilty of the unauthorized refilling of branded LPG tanks belonging to oil companies, violating Batas Pambansa Blg. 33 or “short selling and adulteration of petroleum and petroleum products” in 2016.

Along with former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, incumbent AGRI Rep. and garlic trader Orestes Salon faced graft charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman. Salon and his 23 co-accused were allegedly able to monopolize the supply of garlic during the Aquino administration, manipulating the prices of garlic from 2010 to 2014.

Salon, who supposedly champions the rights of farmers in the country, posted a bail of P30,000 for his alleged involvement in the garlic cartel.

Ang Mata’y Alagaan (MATA) party-list claims to represent the blind and visually impaired. Also engaged with the overall health of the Filipino, the group also claims to give away free medicine, consultations, operations, and dental missions. However, MATA party-list Rep. Tricia Velasco-Catera is the daughter of retired SC Justice Presbitero Velasco and re-electionist Torrijos Mayor Lorna Velasco. The former Supreme Court justice is now running as governor of Marinduque. Tricia’s brother Lord Allan Jay Velasco is running for congressional re-election. Ethics complaints were filed against Velasco-Catera over her alleged “highly unethical activities,” such as Gluta-drip sessions at her office in the House of Representatives during working hours.

Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and Environment (Page) said that the use of Glutathione drips is highly discouraged by established medical professionals. As reported by Rappler, Page questioned whether Velasco-Catera’s practice was safe or legal under the code of ethics for doctors, especially for having the Gluta-drip sessions inside her office. “One’s office cannot be considered a medical clinic. We do not want to even consider the dire consequences if something untoward happens to Rep. Catera in the very premises of the House of Representatives due to such unregulated practice of medicine,” Page said.

History of Disqualifications

In October 2012, Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP) was disqualified from the 2013 elections for failing to meet requirements on representation. They were among the 54 party-list groups and organizations that were barred from participating in the said elections. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualified AGP because its nominees “did not represent its chosen marginalized sectors.”

Panao said that it is important to look at these political parties internally, specifically on the lack of proper guidelines on how nominees are chosen. He said that once a party successfully meets the qualifications set, they basically already have the freedom to choose whoever their nominee is, as long as they achieve the bare minimum. “If people elect [them], it can happen na yung mga nominee ay member ng political dynasty, member ng traditional or outterm, former district representative. So, pwede siyang gamiting backdoor.”

AGP aimed to represent the interests of such sectors as security guards, tricycle drivers, FX drivers, taxi drivers, and street vendors. One of AGP’s principal nominees was Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, son of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and was neither a security guard nor tricycle driver. At the time, the younger Arroyo was facing inquiries regarding his wealth, which by some reports increased from P5.7 million in 2001 to P101.3 million in 2009.

Following the 2013 SC decision, AGP was one of the party-list groups whose cases were not remanded to Comelec and remained disqualified. Furthermore, even after the SC decision, they decided not to appeal. AGP was then removed from the 2013 ballots, concluding with finality that they were not permitted to run in that year’s midterm elections.

A Backdoor Entry

Six years after the Atong Paglaum case, the party-list system has cemented itself as a backdoor entry for traditional politics in the already elite-dominated House of Representatives.

In 2012, the Comelec initiated special proceedings that sought the disqualification of several partylist groups after public outcry over the proliferation of nominees who were neither marginalized nor underrepresented. Groups like Kontra Daya filed disqualification cases against what they described as “fake” or non-marginalized partylist groups.

The groups disqualified by the Comelec soon brought their case to the Supreme Court. With the consolidation of 54 petitions from 52 party-list groups in 2013, the SC was prompted to decide on Comelec’s disqualification case against various groups from running in the May elections of the same year.

Among the most common grounds that Comelec cited for the disqualifications were:

1.    The sector the party-lists aimed to represent were neither marginalized nor underrepresented

2.    The nominees did not belong to those sectors

3.    The nominees / political parties did not have extended histories in supporting their chosen sectors

A number of the grounds for disqualification were essentially rendered null by the SC decision, which set six new parameters to which the Comelec must adhere in determining who was allowed to participate in the May 2013 elections. The decision’s fourth parameter states that “it is enough that the party-lists’ principal advocacy pertains to the special interests and concerns of the sector.”

Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), said that this results in narrower representation, especially when measuring who gets to sit. “Mas-kumikitid yung representation… kasi yung party-list sana would have allowed other sectors to be represented. Pero yung mga dati nang nakaupo, gusto nila pati iyong partylist i-claim nila, hawakan nila, because it helps concentrate power in the hands of a few.”

While disadvantaged groups have their own seats, the law in its current form does not protect them from unfair competition, according to Reyes. “Ang dilemma is how can they compete during the elections doon sa mga dynastic party-list groups, tsaka sa mga well-funded local machineries? So yung mga party-list groups na talagang galing sa mga mahihirap yung kanilang kinatawan, lagi silang mahihirapang mag-compete and manalo ‘pag ang kalaban nga nila yung mga dynasties at yung mga bilyonaryo.”

Meanwhile, Panao said that the low requirement of only two percent to gain seats, albeit limited to three, also results in almost identical parties. “Hindi sila ganun ka-productive kasi hindi sila maka-forge ng alliance… hindi sila nagtutulungan kasi ine-alienate mo na no’ng kampanya ninyo; nagkaroon ng fragmentation sa halip na unity. Parties are meant to unify your preferences, that’s the point of party-list, whether you like it or not.”

In the 17th congress, Kalinga Party-list, whose nominee is one of the poorest in Congress, was only able to file a total of 40 bills, whereas Ako Bicol Party-list, which listed multi-millionaires Christopher Co and Rodel Batocabe, filed 1,163 bills.

Despite the high number of bills authored and co-authored by Ako Bicol, only 55 unique bills were passed into law. The party-list was the main sponsor of 39 of these bills, and a co-sponsor of 16. These laws, however, were not directly concerned with the welfare of Bicolanos, the region they claim to represent.

In his statement in an interview with ABS-CBN, the late Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe said that authoring bills that would only benefit Bicol would be “tantamount to class legislation and a violation of the equal protection clause of the constitution.”

“Amend it or craft a new law that defines with lesser ambiguity – with no ambiguity – those gray portions and those gray areas of the law. Ang nangyayari sa akin ngayon we have the law, we don’t amend it, and we let the Supreme Court do the interpretation,” Panao said. #

(Part 2: Party-list groups: Family Enterprise)

Ang Simbahan, ang Diyos at si Digong

Nag-rali at nagdasal ang daan-daang taong simbahan sa Liwasang Rajah Sulayman noong hapon ng Enero 25 sa Maynila sa aktibidad na tinawag nilang “One Faith, One Nation, One Voice Prayer Rally” na may panawagang “katotohan, hustisya, kalayaan at kapayapaan.” Dumalo ang mga Obispo, pari, madre’t layko, gayundin ang mga mag-aaral ng mga eskwelahang pinapatakbo ng mga Simbahan, mapa-Katoliko o Protestante.

Matapos ang walang patid na atake ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte sa mga relihiyon at maging kanilang batayang paniniwala sa tatlong katauhan ng Diyos, hudyat na ba ang pagtitipong iyon sa harapang komprontasyon sa pagitan ni Duterte at mga Simbaha’t kanilang mananampalataya?

Siyempre, naririyan na naman ang makitid na interpretasyon na “separation of Church and the State” na naggigiit na sana’y huwag nang makialam ang Simbahan sa politika. Makitid at mali dahil ang prinsipiyong ito patungkol lamang sa tuwirang pagbabawal sa mga Simbahan na lumahok sa aktuwal na pagpapatakbo ng pamahalaan. Hindi nito pinagbabawalan ang mga Simbahan na mag-komento sa politika at kalagayan ng lipunan. Ayon mismo sa turo ng mga mayor na relihiyon dito sa Pilipinas, tungkulin nilang magsalita sa mga isyung panlipunan bilang bahagi ng kanilang misyon na ituwid sa aspetong moralidad ang mga temporal na usapin ng mamamayan. Kasali rito ang mga usaping politikal.

Ang Simbahang Katolika, ang dominanteng relihiyon sa bansa, ay nakapag-labas na ng higit-kumulang na dalawandaang pahimakas sa mga usaping panlipunan, mula sa usapin ng kahirapan, korupsyon sa pamahalaan, serbisyong panlipunan, at marami pang iba. Gawain na nila ito bago pa naging pangulo si Duterte noong 2016.

Ngunit kakaibang nilalang ang kanilang katunggali ngayon: isang taong walang tigil at walang habas na inaatake ang institusyon ng Simbahan sa bawat pagkakataon. Talaga namang sa maraming pagkakataon ay “ipokrito” ang maraming taong-simbahan tulad ng madalas na sabihin ni Duterte. Ngunit kailanma’y hindi itinanggi ng mga taong-Simbahan na sila ma’y makasalanan.

May pinaghuhugutan si Duterte. Aniya’y minolestiya siya ng kanilang dating prinsipal sa Ateneo de Davao High School na si Fr Mark Falvey, SJ. “So when I graduated, I was no longer a Catholic. I was no longer a Catholic at that age. I was not even in politics then.”

Sa kabilang banda, tama ba ang pang-uupat ni Duterte sa Simbahan sa kaniyang kakaibang paraan? Sa panahong siya ang pangulo ng bayang mayorya ay Katoliko, katanggap-tanggap ba na may lider na tandisang lapastangan sa Diyos na pinaniniwalaan?

Kandidato pa lamang sa pagka-pangulo’y nagpatikim na si Duterte ng kawalang-tulad na kagaspangan sa pagmumura kay Papa Francisco. Disyembre 9, 2015 nang sinabi niyang, “From the hotel to the airport, alam mo inabot kami…limang oras. Sabi ko bakit? Sabi pinasarado daw? “Gusto kong tawagan, ‘Pope p********!”

Sinabi niya ito sa panahong nagkukunwari pa siyang kasapi ng Simbahang Katolika (dahil nga panahon ng kampanya). Matapos siyang maihalal, tulad ng ibang sektor, binantayan ng mga Simbahan kung anong klase presidente si Duterte. Naging “killing fields” na ang bansa pagkalipas ng ilang buwan dahil sa giyera sa droga ni Duterte. At doon nagsalita ang Simbahan, kasama ng marami pang grupo. Imbes na makinig, nagsimula na si Duterte sa kanyang mga atake sa mga alagad ng Simbahan.

Enero 2017 nang puntiryahin ng bunganga ni Duterte ang retiradong obpispong si Teodoro Bacani Jr na inakusahan niyang may dalawang asawa. “P***** i**** Bacani, dalawa pala asawa, pareho ko. Tapos, ‘pag magsalita ang unggoy na ‘to!” ani Duterte. Hinamon naman ni Bacani si Duterte na patunayan ang sinabi at babayaran niya raw ito ng milyon-milyong piso kung mayroon siyang pruweba. Walang ebidensiyang nailabas ang Presidente, kahit pa kalauna’y inulit ang kanyang paratang na may mga obispong pinapatira sa mga pabahay ng gubyerno ang kanilang mga kinakasama.

Pebrero 2017, sa isang talumpati tungkol sa programang pabahay ng kanyang pamahalaan, sinimulan na niyang gawing biro ang Simbahan at ang mga Sakramento. “‘Sus, ang baho ng bunganga nitong P******** na paring ito. Sintensiyahan ka na ng 20 Our Fathers, bugahan ka pa ng mabahong bunganga!” aniya. “Huwag sa pari, ‘yung tubig diyan, kinuha lang sa poso. Maniwala ka. Totoo. Saan ba nila kinuha iyan, ‘yung holy water?” dagdag niya.

Patikim pa lang pala ni Duterte ang kanyang mga atake noong 2015 at 2017. Ibang lebel ang kanyang pagkamuhi sa Simbahan nitong nakaraang taon kasabay ng kanilang walang tigil na pagkondena sa pagpatay sa libo-libong sibilyan.

Isang malumanay na madre ang kanyang buwena-mano sa 2018—si Sr Patricia Anne Fox, NDS, isang beteranang misyonaryang Australyana. Ani Duterte, walang karapatan ang madre na kastiguhin ang kanyang pamahalaan. Matabil daw ang dila ng madre, katangiang kailanma’y hindi masasabi ng sinumang nakadaupang-palad na ng misyonarya. “You come here and insult us, you trample with our sovereignty. That will never happen,” dagdag pa ni Duterte. Kalaunan, na-deport ang madre.

Noon namang napatay si Fr Mark Ventura ng Cagayan noong Mayo 2018, imbes na kondenahin ang pamamaslang ay binigyang-katuwiran pa ni Duterte ang krimen. “Paanong hindi ka mapapatay? May asawang bise-mayor, may asawang pulis, may asawang sundalo, may asawang malaking negosyante. Eh, ‘di patay ka tuloy,” ani Duterte.

Noon namang Agosto 2018, pinagbantaan niyang tatadyakan ang sinumang Obispo. “Is there any bishop here? I want to kick your ass,” ani Duterte sa isang talumpati sa Malakanyang.

Nobyembre ng parehong taon, inakusahan naman niya si Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David ng pagnanakaw. “Ikaw, David, tumahimik ka ha. Sige ka lang hingi ng kontribusyon diyan sa mga… Saan ang pera ng mga tao? Sige lang hingi, may second collection pa,” ani Duterte. “Alam mo, totoo lang, sabihin ko sa inyo, iyong mga offering, iyong mga pinya, mga abokado, saging, saan napupunta iyan? Gusto ninyong malaman? Gusto ninyo ng video? Ibigay ko sa inyo. Doon sa pamilya niya,” dagdag ng pangulo. Walang bidyong nailabas ang pangulo.

Hindi lamang paratang ng korupsyon ang ibinato ni Duterte sa Obispo. David! Nagdududa nga ako bakit ka sige ikot diyan ng gabi. Duda tuloy ako, p********, nasa droga ka,” ani Duterte.

Tumawid na sa kasalukuyang taon ay hindi pa rin tapos si Duterte sa atake sa Simbahan. Ngayong buwan, inutusan niya ang mga tambay na patayin ang mga obispo. “Hoy, kayong mga tambay diyan, ‘pag dumaan ‘yang obispo ninyo, holdapin ‘yan. Maraming pera ‘yan, p***** i** niya.  Patayin mo,” ani Duterte sa Masbate.

Nitong buwan lamang, tatlong pari at isa pang Obispo ang nagsabing nakakatanggap ng banta sa buhay dahil sa kanilang kritisismo sa walang tigil na pagpatay sa mga pinaghihinalaang lulong sa droga. Inamin nina Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ; Fr. Flavie Villanueva, SVD; at Fr. Robert Reyes, OFM, gayundin si Lingayan Archbishop Socrates Villegas na natatakot sila sa kanilang buhay dahil sa mga banta sa kanila. Ang sagot ni Duterte: Wala siyang pakialam kung mamatay man daw ang mga pari. Maluwag pa ang mga sementeryo.

Ngunit ang lahat ng ito ay hindi maihahambing sa pang-aalipusta ni Duterte sa buod ng Kristiyanismo at sa Diyos mismo. Hunyo 2018 nang simulan niyang atakihin mismo ang Diyos ng mga Kristiyano.”Kinain ni Adam (ang mansanas), then malice was born.Who is this stupid God? Istupido talaga itong p******** kung ganoon,” ani Duterte sa isang talumpati sa Davao City.

Marami ang natigagal sa kalapastangan ni Duterte. Maging ang mga hindi relihiyoso ay nabastusan sa kanyang sinabi. Dagdag pa rito, sinabi niyang hindi siya hihingi ng paumanhin. “No, I will not do that definitely. Not in the million years,” ni Duterte sa mga mamahayag sa Panglao, Bohol.

Tahasan na ring sinabi ni Duterte na walang Diyos. Sinabi niyang kung mayroon mang makakapagpakita ng kanyang selfie kasama ang Diyos at kagyat siyang bibitiw sa pagka-pangulo. Maging ang paniniwala ng mga Kristiyano sa tatlong katauhan ng Diyos ay kanya na ring nilapastangan “Magdasal ka na sa isang Diyos, magdasal ka pa dito sa santong yawa. Isa lang ang Diyos. There’s only one God, period. You cannot divide God into three. That’s silly,” ani niya.

Bago pa niya ito sinabi, idineklara niya ring walang kahanga-hanga sa pagpapa-pako ni Kristo sa krus. “‘Yong Diyos mo, pinako sa krus. T******. Nakakawala ng bilib. Ako ang Diyos, tapos ipako mo ako? P********!” ani Duterte.

Matatandaang nangako si Duterte kay Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles na magmumulta ng isang libong piso sa bawat niyang pagmumura. May nagbibilang kaya? Magkano na kaya ang buong multa? Pareho lang kaya ang halaga ng multa kung ang minura ay ang Diyos na?

= = = = = = =

May nagbanggit sa akin kamakailan na kapaki-pakinabang sa kanila ang mga bidyo ng Kodao dahil mula sa mga ito nila nasusubaybayan ang mga kaganapang hindi nila karaniwang napapanood saanpaman. “Ngunit medyo nahihirapan kaming ibahagi sa mga magsasaka at katutubo ang laman ng inyong mga balita, kasi Ingles,” ani aking kausap. “Sana mayroon kayong sulatin sa Filipino para madaling ibahagi sa mga diskusyon dito sa baryo,” dagdag niya.

Madali akong kausap, lalo na kung medyo may kasamang puri at halong boladas ang mungkahi.

Ito ang simula at sana’y maipagpatuloy. Sa ngayo’y gamitin ko muna ang titulo ng aking sinaunang blog. (Ito naman ang orihinal na nauna sa pitak ng isang singer at isang palabas sa telebisyon na may parehong pamagat.)

Pag-uusapan rito ang mga isyu sa ating buhay at lipunan sa paraang maigsi at madaling maintindihan. Hindi naman ako “scholarly” para kayaning mag-tunog matalino’t matalinghaga sa lahat ng pagkakataon. Bukod pa, nakakapagod din minsan ang ingles ng ingles.

Walang regular na labas ang Ka-Blog. Kung kailan may isyung nakikita kong dapat komentaryuhan ay saka ako magsusulat.

Mag-huntahan tayo.

Method in its madness

By Luis V. Teodoro

Despite the bluster of President Rodrigo Duterte and his equally loud lieutenants, yes-men and accomplices in the Cabinet, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, his regime is in reality completely without anything that even approximates a rational and coherent platform of governance. It is making things up as it goes along, and patching together ad hoc attempts to make it seem as if it were addressing the urgent problems that haunt the nation, most of which are of its own making.

But there is some method in this seeming madness. Devising the right solutions to the country’s problems is not only beyond the regime’s capacity; it is also the last of its priorities. What it craves most is absolute power and political dominance, to achieve which it uses the most absurd and politically self-damaging means to silence and suppress its critics as well as anyone else opposed to — among its legions of offenses against this portion of humanity — its lawlessness and contempt for human rights, and the terrible cost in lives of its savage “war” on drugs.

To achieve that dominance it has demonized and threatened the independent press, and elevated as policy the use of coercion against dissenters including the manufacture of various forms of deception to imprison its perceived enemies.

Both are failing, however, and have become counterproductive. The threats on the press are uniting much of the media community behind the imperative of defending its constitutionally-protected freedom as well as free expression. Its latest attempt to jail another political opponent, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, has instead enhanced Trillanes’ status as a leader of the political opposition by keeping him in the media limelight and providing him a forum from which to address the public and condemn the many failings of the regime that’s persecuting him.

In obvious recognition of how much its mindless attack on Trillanes has earned him near-unprecedented media mileage, the regime launched a media campaign that began with that misnamed September 11 “tête-à-tête” between Mr. Duterte and his legal counsel. In the public mind that event seemed so much like a conversation solely between Mr. Duterte and himself that few took seriously even his claim that there was a conspiracy afoot to oust him from power.

Its obvious and desperate attempts to preserve and enhance what it mistakenly believes should be permanent citizen approval of anything and everything it says or does, and its egregious failure to even begin to address the problems its own lack of vision and ineptitude created, have led some observers to conclude that it’s only a matter of time before the regime collapses from the dead-weight of its own blunders and ineptitude.

There is indeed that inviting possibility. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the regime capacity to inflict irreparable harm on this country and its people before it finally goes. For if at all it has any semblance of a plan, it is to transform the Duterte dynasty from a petty rural tyranny to a national dictatorship — a process that thanks to the perverse character of Philippine elections as a media and popularity contest began in 2016, when the electorate catapulted a provincial despot to national office. Only by putting the entire country under authoritarian rule can it protect and preserve the dynasty’s long-term interests.

A third of the Philippines is still under martial law 32 years after the fall of the Marcos terror regime in 1986, and despite the lessons from that dark period that every Filipino should have learned by now.

Because Mindanao is the laboratory in which the regime is testing the feasibility of placing the entire Philippines under one-man rule, martial law has twice been extended by a Congress and Supreme Court dominated by landlords, their hirelings, and by bureaucrats with neither a sense of history nor concern for the rights and liberties of the people. It is likely to be extended for the third time on the argument that it is needed to check the violence it has failed to prevent — and of which its military and police implementors are often the perpetrators.

As distressing as this may be, what is even more abhorrent is the growth of the myth that the Marcos version of martial law ushered in some kind of Golden Age in the troubled history of this Republic. There is also the growing popularity of the dangerous notion that the nationwide imposition of martial rule is a legitimate government option, and its acceptance by regime partisans as a supposed means of ending criminality and the drug problem that Duterte the candidate promised in 2016.

The by now conventional view is that these delusions are among the consequences of the failure of those who lived through the terrors of the Marcos dictatorship to pass on to succeeding generations what authoritarian rule meant to the hundreds of thousands who were its victims as well as its immediate and long-term impact on the present and future of this country and its people.

There is much that is true in that explanation. But those falsehoods are also the results of a campaign in which the Marcos, Arroyo and kindred dynasties are not only willing collaborators but also the driving forces, to prettify fascist rule and pass it off as the only means of bringing about the changes that have eluded the Filipino people for centuries.

This is the context in which the current President of the Philippines has been making his frequent promises to resign. Is the goal — and Mr. Duterte has hardly tried to conceal it — for him to relinquish the Presidency once Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. is declared by the Supreme Court, while sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), Vice President in place of Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo?

If this is indeed the plan, Marcos, Jr. would be interim President until 2022, from the commanding heights of which he could then complete Mr. Duterte’s march to despotism, thus clearing his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio’s path to the Presidency.

The catch in this seemingly clever scheme is that the Marcoses’ agenda is entirely different from that of the Dutertes. Marcos, Jr. as well as his mother Imelda, his sisters, and the rest of the Romualdez and Marcos clans have made it abundantly clear that they want “Bongbong” to be President to complete their return to the pinnacles of power, from where they can foist upon the people their version of what happened during the 21-year rule of their late patriarch.

Therein lies the fatal flaw in this conspiracy against the country, the Constitution and the Filipino people. There is every likelihood that as in times past, the alliances of convenience forged among the ruling cliques in this vale of uncertainty will come apart under the pressure of their unremitting greed for pelf and power.

Their differences can find expression in the armed confrontations and assassinations that still characterize much of local politics, and which have numerous times spilled into the national arena. The ensuing violence would then be part of the already bloody legacy the Duterte regime will leave behind once it passes into history.

(First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO)

On Duterte’s capibility for malicious mischief and social disaster

By Prof. Jose Ma. Sison

Duterte may be seriously sick physically and mentally. But he can still walk and give orders to his minions. While still alive, he is capable of doing a lot of malicious mischief and inflicting social disaster on the Filipino people.

For instance, he has created a caretaker committee headed by Inday Sara to rule the country, instead of letting his constitutional successor serve as caretaker, while he is out on one more expensive tour cum medical treatment in Israel.

He and his co-conspirators are still hell-bent on carrying out a discernibly four-stage plot of establishing a fascist dictatorship ala Marcos and imposing it on the people. Duterte himself has on various occasions volubly indicated these four stages:

Stage 1. Proclamation of martial law nationwide as a result of supposed bombing incidents ascribed to the Islamic State and NPA tactical offensives.

Stage 2. Duterte´s “revolutionary government,” which is actually a counter-revolutionary coup against the 1987 Constitution under the pretext of a counter-coup against an imaginary or real US CIA coup in favor of the opposition.

Stage 3. Due to stages 1 and 2 above, effective control of the results of the May 2019 elections to ensure charter change through the needed majority in both houses of Congress.

Stage 4. Charter change to federalism as façade for fascist dictatorship.

Duterte and his co-conspirators are clever and brutal enough to plot and carry out their evil plan. But time and circumstances are against them. Below are some of the major factors against them:

1. The rise and spread of the broad united front and mass movement against the Duterte tyranny, especially its practice of mass murder, corruption and rapid deterioration of the economy,

2, The growing bankruptcy of the reactionary government, the widening budgetary and trade deficits, the mounting tax burden and the soaring prices of basic goods and services, and

3. The effective resistance of the armed revolutionary movement based in the countryside.#

Philippine TRAIN wreck

By Luis V. Teodoro

Living in the Philippines has always been challenging and difficult for many Filipinos. But never since the Marcos dictatorship has it been more dangerous than today for Lumad, dissenters, women, human rights defenders and the poor.

In response to life’s daily perils, some 20 percent of the population — or roughly 20 million men and women of the over 100 million residents of these isles of uncertainty — want to leave. These numbers are in addition to the nearly 11 million Filipinos scattered all over the globe from Angola to Zanzibar, of whom 47 percent are permanent immigrants, and 43 percent Overseas FilipinoWorkers (OFWs), according to data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

But it isn’t just construction workers, seamen, nannies, and domestics who’re heading for the nearest airport — and who were most likely among the thousands whose flights were canceled or delayed because of the 38-hour shutdown of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last weekend.

Engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, even lawyers and other professionals are also among them. In the mid-1980s, the surge in the number of Filipinos leaving for alien shores alarmed those who saw in the exodus the irreparable loss not only of the brains but also of the brawn that are both crucial to the country’s development.

In the 1990s, the alarm turned into condemnation of those abandoning the country of their birth, accusing them of being unpatriotic and of being solely focused on earning as much as they could.

The critics ignored the fact that for many OFWs, working in another country had become, and still is, a matter of survival, there being hardly any job opportunities at home that would assure them and their families lives of dignity in a society that over the decades has become more and more impoverished.

As for professionals, some do leave in search of relative luxury abroad. But others are also in search of the certainty, order and predictability of life that are absent in the Philippines, which in their minds would assure their children brighter futures. The meritocracy that governs the professions and trades in developed countries — the system based on the principle that what you know rather than who you know should decide personal advancement — is also among the lures of emigration. Filipinos generally excel in other climes, thereby proving that it is the system they’re born into that hinders both their advancement and the realization of their potentials.

The long and the short of it is the common conviction that being elsewhere is preferable to being here. “Here” is the Philippines, where, despite its having been under fascist rule from 1972 to 1986 and being once again under a despotic regime, the trains still don’t run on time. (The trains’ supposedly being on time, the fascist government of Italy’s Benito Mussolini claimed during World War II, was symbolic of the efficiency of the dictatorship.)

The Philippines is instead rapidly turning into a total disaster, a metaphorical train wreck whose brutal reality is pushing even more and more Filipinos into leaving for whatever country will accept them as workers or immigrants — or at least enable them to evade being deported as undocumented aliens.

TRAIN, the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion law and the unprecedented surge of inflation in its wake that has almost literally made prime commodities worth their weight in gold, are not the only components of that wreck. Above it all is the gross inefficiency, incompetence, corruption, violence, and sheer madness that’s endemic in what passes for governance today.

The monopoly of a handful of families since Commonwealth days, political power has been used to keep those few in pelf and privilege in the seven decades since their United States patron recognized Philippine independence in 1946. Every administration since then has been run by the dynasties earlier “trained in self- government” by the US colonial regime and later nurtured and protected by their US patrons. Every one of them has been committed to keeping the country the way it has always been for over a century: a backward agricultural country and a US economic, political, cultural and military dependency.

Rather than address the poverty and its attendant ills rooted in the semi-feudal and semi-colonial character of Philippine society, they use and have always used State violence and repression against the movements, individuals and groups that have tried to work for the changes that have eluded this country and its people for centuries. The rebellions, uprisings and revolutionary wars that have haunted Philippine society for over 300 years are the consequences of both the reality of poverty and injustice as well as of the repression the ruling cliques — whether Spanish, American or Filipino — have used in response to the demand for the democratization of political power.

Since its collapse, the Marcos terror regime (1965-1986) had seemed the worst expression of the dynasts’ limitless appetite for power and plunder. But at least two of its successor regimes have come close to challenging that dictatorship’s dubious distinction.

The Macapagal-Arroyo regime (2001-2010) tried, but despite its sordid human rights and scandal-ridden record, didn’t quite make it as a Marcos regime clone during the near-decade it was in power. Instead, it is the current regime that in the brief span of twenty-five months is well on the way to becoming a worse version of the Marcos kleptocracy.

Not only has his regime amassed a record of human rights violations way above that of Ferdinand Marcos’ 19-year occupancy of Malacanang. President Rodrigo Duterte is also presiding over the complete return to power of the Marcoses via the siblings “Imee” and “Bongbong” and their unrepentant kin and cronies. In patent violation of the Constitution, Mr. Duterte has gone as far as to express his preference for the latter rather than for Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo to succeed him should he resign, and to even invite a military junta to seize State power to prevent a Constitutional succession.

But it’s far from surprising. The regime’s lawlessness and contempt for the Constitution are by now close to the stuff of legend. The Duterte police force, acting above the law and with total impunity, has slaughtered thousands including women and children in the course of the selective “war” on illegal drugs, and arrested and detained thousands more for such “offenses” as loitering, some of whom have been killed while in custody.

Should he survive the remaining four years of his term, Mr. Duterte is likely to be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. But before the advent of that moment of historical retribution, the regime war against the poor and the future is continuing to ravage entire communities.

The debasement of democratic discourse he has achieved through his rants, profanities, ravings and encouragement of hate speech and the use of State violence against dissenters and regime critics has made the reform of Philippine society through peaceful means impossible. Instead of the sustainable peace he promised the electorate in 2016, the country today has never been more divided and in peril of even worse conflicts since Ferdinand Marcos erected a dictatorship on the ruins of the Republic.

Only the willfully blind, the intellectually dishonest, and the mercenary will mistake for progress the ruin of Philippine society Mr. Duterte and company have completed. More and more Filipinos are thus leaving for foreign lands, compelled by need and concern for the future to look elsewhere in this planet for a refuge from the terrors of the man-made disaster the country has become.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO.

The ignorance that kills

By Luis V. Teodoro

Within months of his coming to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte’s profanities, tirades, threats, outrageous remarks about women, human rights, heads of foreign states, and what he was actually doing, had called the attention of international media — in Japan, the United States and Europe — to what was happening in the Philippines.

As early as his first 100 days in office, and as the number of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users and pushers including women and children from the poorest communities escalated, they called him “serial killer,” “the punisher,” and a human rights violator indictable before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. In his second year in power they called him a “populist dictator” and a tyrant (“strongman”) in the same company as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Edrogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In almost every case, however, the journalists who were mostly reporting on the human rights crisis in the Philippines reminded readers that Mr. Duterte was “democratically-elected.” Some also pointed out that the 16 million votes he amassed in a field of five candidates for president (Manuel Roxas II, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay and Duterte), although less than 40 percent of the total votes cast, was practically a landslide.

Both why he won, despite his admitted links to the Davao Death Squad and his threat to kill 100,000 during the anti-illegal drug campaign he vowed to launch once in power, and his continuing popularity despite the police bloodbath he encouraged, were among the questions they tried to answer.

Among the answers they proffered, based on their interviews with Filipino sources and their own analysis, was that the voters were weary of the corruption and inefficiency of past administrations, and that the tough-talking Duterte appealed to the millions of Filipino poor who have long wanted change, particularly an end to the criminality that haunts both city and countryside, and who saw no other way to achieve it except by killing criminals without recourse to legal niceties.

To this day, 70 percent of adult Filipinos think that the “war” on drugs is Mr. Duterte’s crowning achievement despite its horrific cost in lives and its enshrinement of the use of State violence as the first and at times the only “solution” to the country’s problems. Although it has always been every regime’s weapon of choice against critics, protesters, human rights defenders, political and social activists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples defending their right to their ancestral domain, and anyone else committed to the democratization of Philippine governance and society, killing as State policy has never been as openly endorsed by any president and as widely supported by his partisans than today.

Both its adoption as State policy and the support for it are premised on the assumption that crime, the drug problem included, can be eliminated by simply doing away with suspected wrong doers. That those killed in anti-drug police operations were denied their right to due process and a fair trial has been dismissed so often and so loudly on the argument that they’re necessary it has endowed lawless violence with a cloak of legitimacy. The policy ignores the social and economic roots of criminal behavior, the persistence of the culture of impunity which too often penalizes the innocent and absolves the guilty, and in many cases, the demonstration effect of the wealthy and well-connected’s literally getting away with murder that encourages gangsterism and criminality.

Together with the promotion of killing as State policy, however, is mass indifference to, and even support for, the return of dictatorship, which Mr. Duterte himself has proposed as the quick-fix solution to the country’s complex problems.

No one can blame the foreign press and other observers for being deeply surprised at the seemingly wide support for the dictatorship option. After all, did not Filipinos overthrow the Marcos terror regime only 32 years ago? Didn’t that regime imprison 100,000 men and women and kill over 3,000 of the Filipino people’s best and brightest sons and daughters? Didn’t it bloat the foreign debt from less than a billion US dollars to 30 billion? Didn’t it so empower the military it made civilian supremacy over the country’s security forces a joke?

Filipinos did oust Marcos in 1986 — and the Marcos dictatorship did all that, and worse. But many Filipinos today think that the period from 1973 to 1986 was some sort of golden age.

Their ignorance of that time proceeds from a number of causes, among them the failure of the administrations after that of Marcos’ to make sure that succeeding generations will understand what really happened. The creation of a truth commission in the manner of similar bodies in South Africa after apartheid, or in Chile after the collapse of the Pinochet dictatorship, was ever contemplated by the fragile, coup-threatened Corazon Aquino administration. The administrations that succeeded hers were focused on remaining in power, hardly cared about the threat of dictatorship, and were in fact more than willing to welcome the Marcoses back after Ferdinand Marcos’ death in 1989.

The Marcoses’ return to power — in fact the possibility today that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. could be actually be president — is as difficult for foreign observers to fathom as many Filipinos’ support for a despotic president. Both are quite simply based, not solely on lack of information, but also on false information.

But that false and misleading information has become deeply rooted in the minds of many Filipinos isn’t due only to the failure of the generation that lived through the dictatorship to impart its lessons to the next. It’s also because of the unwillingness of the dynasties in control of the Philippine State to break from that sordid past, they being one and the same in economic and political interests as the Marcoses and their cronies, many of whom are back in power in both the national and local governments. Mr. Duterte’s pro-Marcos idolatry and declared preference for martial law and dictatorship have also contributed to his partisans’ clueless support for the Marcoses and for the return of authoritarian rule.

Quite openly and often accompanied by threats of physical harm against those who disagree with them, however, the apostles of “strong government” justify murder as a State prerogative in combatting crime, in the process intensifying the country’s descent into chaos and even worse violence.

Because support for what amounts to fascist rule is based on ignorance — of history, human rights, and democratic ideals — what is clearly needed is a campaign to educate the vast majority on such issues as what happened during the Marcos dictatorship, its economic, social, political and cultural costs, and the imperative of resisting any attempt to restore a rehashed version of it. What this country needs in these times of lies, hate speech, unreason and the unprecedented use of State violence is an information revolution.

Now the unashamed advocate of that foul period in history, government is so obviously unwilling and incapable of doing it. On the media, the churches, the schools, human rights defenders and on non-governmental, sectoral and people’s organizations has therefore fallen the task of combatting the ignorance that kills, and replacing it with the understanding of issues and events that can stop the ongoing slaughter of the poor, regime critics and protesters, and halt the rise of another homegrown tyranny.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO.

Theater of the absurd

By Luis V. Teodoro

A television comedy director was supposed to direct it, and did hold at least one rehearsal over the weekend. But the directorial prowess of Joyce Bernal wasn’t in much evidence except in President Rodrigo Duterte’s subdued though less than forthright State of the Nation Address (SONA) this year.

Together with the protest outside the House of Representatives by some 40,000 men and women of various political persuasions united in their opposition to his regime’s policies as well as to Mr. Duterte’s own misogyny, attacks on the Church and profanities and insults against journalists, the leaders of other countries and even God Himself, what went on inside the House before he delivered his SONA and the fantasy world of the actual address itself did more to accurately describe the true state of the nation.

Mr. Duterte’s address was delivered over an hour late this year because of the overthrow, timed for his appearance before the joint session of both Houses of Congress, by the House of Representatives majority of “no-el” (no elections) proponent Pantaleon Alvarez. The honorable gentlemen of the aptly named lower house replaced him with former President, now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Speaker.

The culprits responsible advanced a number of seemingly sound reasons for it, but it basically meant nothing except to themselves. A petty tyrant and consummate guardian of his imagined entitlements, wealth and power was replaced, for God knows what considerations, by just another Duterte ally accused of plunder, corruption, election fraud and gross human rights violations during her problematic, nearly decade-long occupation of Malacanang. Tweedle-dum had merely been replaced by tweedle-dee. But Arroyo, it is widely assumed, is likely to occupy some exalted post like the Presidency once a federal form of government is rammed down the people’s throats, hence her sudden rise in the esteem of her fellow conspirators.

If the split among Mr. Duterte’s allies was of no significance to the long suffering Filipino millions, so was his address as meaningless. The only bright spot in his speech was the absence of the rants, the rambling and the profanities that have characterized his other public appearances.

Mr. Duterte didn’t depart from his prepared speech either, thus sparing the nation another display of bad manners. But he nevertheless began his 48-minute SONA with a threat to continue the “war” on illegal drugs that he began when he assumed the Presidency in 2016 — and which has so far cost the lives of some 20,000 men, women and even children suspected of being either petty drug dealers or users, and widowed and orphaned thousands more in its bloody wake.

He vowed to make that “war” even more “chilling,” meaning even more murderous than ever, but in almost the same breath claimed to be concerned with human lives, unlike, he said, the critics of his anti-poor campaign against the illegal drug trade who’re concerned “only” with human rights.

That expression of “concern” for life earned him the first of the surprisingly tentative rounds of applause that he got five times in the course of his third SONA. But what both he and his partisans missed was that human rights are precisely about human lives, the right to life being a fundamental human right. He nevertheless again justified the killings for which he’s likely to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) by echoing police claims that those killed “violently resist(ed) arrest.”

Mr. Duterte dwelt on the drug issue at length, and claimed that the critics of the way it was being addressed with a number of extrajudicial killings unprecedented in the history of the Republic were merely concerned with the present while he was himself worried over “the present and the future.” Again, however, he was obviously unaware that the killing of children, minors and young men is itself an assault on hope and the future, the young being, in the words of Rizal, “the hopes of the Fatherland.”

He went on to say that neither human rights advocates nor Church leaders have protested drug-dealing and “druglordism” as loudly as they have protested the well-established misdeeds of “errant law enforcers.” Although a lawyer, Mr. Duterte can’t appreciate the fact that it is State actors such as the police, rather than human rights groups and the Church, that are charged with law enforcement, and are also required to do so in compliance with the law of which they’re supposed to be the guardians.

Mr. Duterte also defended the misleadingly named Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) act despite protests that it is mostly responsible for the surge in the inflation that’s adding to the already vast miseries of the Filipino poor. He claimed that the revenues, mostly from the excise taxes on fuel that have led to increases in the cost of various commodities, are necessary for sustained growth. He did not mention that despite his claims that he’s for the poor, whatever economic growth TRAIN has generated has mostly benefited only the already wealthy.

But what about China’s occupation and militarization of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone? In his other public declarations, Mr. Duterte had limited Philippine options to either capitulation to imperialist China or war with it. This time he pledged to “defend” the West Philippine Sea, which is indisputably Philippine waters, but did not specify how he intends to do so. In the meantime, China not only controls the area; it also bars Filipino fisherfolk from their traditional fishing grounds, and its coast guard even steals the catch of those who manage to elude its vessels.

He did talk about the need to end corruption and crowed about his firing and forced resignations of officials whom he admitted were mostly his friends and supporters, but failed to address the fact that many of them have been reappointed to other, even higher posts. What’s even worse is how, over the last two years, billions of pesos of the people’s taxes have been squandered by, among other offices, the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).

With nary a word did he mention his regime’s rush to federalism and a new Constitution despite most Filipinos’ ignorance of what federalism is, and their opposition to amending, much more changing, the 1987 Constitution. Neither did he say anything about his scuttling of the government’s peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) right at the point when both peace panels were about to discuss the social and economic reforms that if implemented could have led to the end of the 49-year civil war.

Conclusion: Mr. Duterte’s address was long in words but short in truth and reality, and was distinguished more by what it failed to say than for what it said.

If “Theater of the Absurd” playwright Samuel Beckett were alive today, what happened last Monday, July 23, 2018 — the ludicrous jockeying for power among the alleged representatives of the people, and the SONA that might as well have been describing another dimension — would have qualified as one of his more engaging productions for the light it threw on the real state of this oh-so-unfortunate nation. Instead of Beckett, however, only Joyce Bernal, a stranger to the theater, was available. And the most she could do was keep Mr. Duterte relatively sober and almost, though not quite, presidential.

First published in Businessworld. Photo from PCOO.