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Ang kinang ng isang maikling tula ng pagmamahal sa litanya ng pang-aapi’t pagsasamantala

Ni Nuel M. Bacarra

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Ang unang linya ng sonetong How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) ni Elizabeth Barrett Browning ay ganito: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Ang sumunod na isang-dosenang linya ay pawang litanya ng pagmamahal sa kanyang irog. Hindi nakapag-tatakang popular pa rin ang tulang ito sa lahat ng mangingibig mahigit isa’t kalahating siglo na ang nakakaraan.

Mapalad ang mga iniibig. Sila ang taga-tanggap ng mabubuti’t magaganda sa mundo. Kabaligtaran naman kapag ang isang tao ang kinasusuklaman. Sambot niya ang lahat ng ngitngit, uyam, poot, at suklam, ito man ay karapat-dapat o hindi.

Ang kaso ng isang politiko at isang botante ay isang halimbawa. Sa panahon ng eleksiyon, tila isang pursigidong mangingibig ang isang kandidato sa panliligaw ng ating mga boto. Subalit ang pag-ibig ng isang nahalal ay nasusukat lamang kapag naluklok na siya sa pwesto.

Kung kaya, ihambing natin ngayon ang noong manliligaw na si Bongbong Marcos ngayong nabigyan siya ng pagkakataon kung paano niya patunayan ang kanyang mga pangako dalawang taon na ang nakakaraan.

1. Presyo ng bilihin

Bukod  sa ipinangakong gagawin kung manalo sa eleksyon, ang presyo ng bigas ay napako rin sa antas na pang-dalawang kainan na lamang tayo sa isang araw sa halip na tatlo. O baka nga may katulad ko rin noon na ang almusal ay mumog, kanin at itlog, minsan talong ang ulam sa tanghalian at tulog ang hapunan. At hindi na kailangang amyendahan pa ang Rice Liberalization Law. Ibasura na dapat ito antimano. Hubarin na ang maskara na hindi ito para sa mamamayan kundi pagpasok sa buslo ng neoliberal na patakaran ng pag-asa sa importasyon. Tiba-tiba rito ang mga kasabwat na importer at treyder ng gubyerno. Pero madali pa ring lusutan ito dahil halos tuwing Martes kada linggo ay may pataw na dagdag-presyo sa mga produktong petrolyo. Ito ang produktong kapag tumaas, bitbit din ang presyo halos ng pangunahing produkto. Magtatambol naman ang gubyerno ng pagbaba na ₱0.50 kada litro, Pero sa sunod na linggo, ₱1.25 naman ang itaas. At muling ipaghihiyawan na “regulated” na yan dahil may gera sa Ukraine at ngayon sa Israel kaya apektado ang suplay ng produktong petrolyo. May kasunod itong panghimagas na pagtaas ng singil ng Meralco.

2. Produkto ng magsasaka

Ramdam ng mamamayan ang pangunguna ng Pilipinas bilang pinakamalaking taga-angkat ng bigas sa buong mundo. Ito na ang patakaran kapalit ng dapat ay pagpapaunlad ng lokal na produksyon. May budget para sa irigasyon, pero walang tubig na dumadaloy sa mga palayan. Atrasado ng apat na taon ang ayuda mula sa Rice Farmers Financial Assistance o walang kundisyong tulong sa mga magsasaka mula sa execss tariff collection ng gubyerno. Ayon sa Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, ang ₱12.79 bilyon noong 2022 at ang para sa 2023 na halos ₱20 bilyon mula sa excess tariff revenue collection ay di pa naipamamahagi. Nauna pa rito ang pinagsamang halaga na halos ₱7.60 bilyon para sa 2020-21 na ‘di pa rin naibibigay. Ang sibuyas ay ₱15/kg sa bukid pero nasa merkado na halos ₱60 – ₱80 na. At ito ang modelo ng iba pang produkto ng mga magsasaka.

3. Sahod ng manggagawa’t kawani

Sa kabila ng pag-igting ng paggigiit ng manggagawa para sa taas-sahod o legislated wage increase, nakapakong maigi sa starvation level ito. Ang kailangang sahod ng isang manggagawa para mabuhay ay dapat nasa ₱1,208 para sa isang 5-kataong pamilya na malayo sa kasalukuyang pambansang abereyds na ₱441 kada araw, ayon sa Ibon Foundation. Sa National Capital Region (NCR), ang minimum na sahod ay ₱610. Kaya ang mga manggagawa ay nagiging kakumpetensya pa ng mga walang trabaho na dumidiskarte na rin para may dagdag kita. Ang huling pagtaas ng sahod sa NCR ay noong Hulyo 2023. Mayroong hinihilot sa Senado na ₱100 taas-sahod na nasa ikatlong pagbasa na pero may pasiklab ang mababang kapulungan na dalawang panukala para sa isang ₱150 at isa pang ₱350 para raw sa umento sa sahod. Tandaan, eleksyon na uli sa isang taon. Iginigiit naman ng mga organisadong karaniwang kawani ng gubyerno ang ₱33,000 na entry-level salary.

4. Charter Change

Bagamat may paghupa sa dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso ang usapin ng ChaCha, hindi kailangang mabulaga ang taumbayan na maaaring ibuwelo muli ang pagratsada nito. (Lalo pa’t may bagong liderado sa Senado na pumalit sa dati na ibinunyag ang presyur mula sa mga kampon ni Marcos para palusutin sa mataas na kapulungan ang kasuklam-suklam na sayaw na ito.) Salik sa paghupang ito ang pagtutok ng mga pulitiko sa darating na eleksyon. Ang pagbago sa Konstitusyon kapag di nilabanan ng mamamayan ay magbubunsod sa bansa sa ibayong kontrol ng dayuhan sa mga aspetong panlipunan at iba pang probisyon na pawang pabor sa mga malaking burgesya komprador at panginoong maylupa. Ang nais isingit sa Konstitusyon ay ang linyang “Unless otherwise provided by law” na pagkapon sa konstitusyon. Iniinda, partikular ng konggreso, ang papalaking bilang ng mga protesta ng mga progresibong pwersa laban sa ChaCha dahil naisisiwalat nito ang kiling sa mga dayuhan sa pamamagitan ng mga panukala ng pagbibigay 100% pag-aari ng lupa at negosyo sa larangan ng edukasyon, masmidya, yutilidad at iba pa.

5. Pambobomba sa komunidad

Noong 2018 sa panahon ni Duterte, sa bisa ng Memorandum Order 32 at E.O. 70, integrado na sa “kontra-insurhensyang” programa ng gubyerno ang pambobomba na ipinagpatuloy naman nang maupo si F. R. Marcos Jr. sa poder. Inutil ito sa layong pagparalisa sa operasyon ng New People’s Army o paggapi mismo dito dahil mas ang mga sibilyang komunidad ng mga magsasaka at pambansang minorya ang nabubulabog at biktima nito. Sa ulat ng Karapatan, sa unang taon ng rehimeng Marcos Jr., 23,391 indibidwal ang apektado ng pambobomba. Ginawa ito para diumano sa “kapayapaan at seguridad” at sa pambansang saklaw. Bawat pagbomba, tuliro ang mga komunidad at lalong nasasapanagnib ang kanilang buhay maging ang kabuhayan nila. Kontra ito sa internasyunal na makataong batas at sa Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Malaking badyet rin ang winawaldas ng gubyerno para rito.

6. Pagpapanatili ng NTF-ELCAC

Kibit-balikat lang ang tugon ng rehimeng Marcos sa desisyon ng Korte Suprema na ang red-tagging ay banta sa buhay, kalayaan at seguridad. Patay-malisya ito sa mga kilos protesta na nananawagan na buwagin na ang NTF-ELCAC, ang ahensyang lugod na lugod sa panre-red tag na bumiktima na ng libu-libong buhay na pangunahin ay mga kritiko at aktibistang kritikal sa gubyerno. Malaki diumano ang papel ng ahensya sa pagpapalaya sa mga komunidad sa pamamagitan ng pagpapasuko sa masang tagasuporta ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa kanayunan, na ayon sa tagapagsalita ng Philiippine Army, ay nasa “survival mode” na. Mula nang itayo ito, naging karaniwang tunguhin ang mga ekstrahudisyal na pamamaslang sa mga konsultant sa usapang pangkapayapaan ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines at sa iba pa, pagdukot sa mga aktibista, huwad na pagpapasuko, at iba pa.  Ang testimonya ni Jonila Castro, isang tagapagtanggol ng kapaligiran na biktima ng pagdukot kasama ni Jhed Tamano, ay mga buhay na halimbawa ng kabulukan ng NTF-ELCAC na biktima. Si Castro ay isa sa mga delegado ng Pilipinas bilang saksi at para sa isiwalat ang kabuktutan ng ahensyang ito sa katatapos na International People’s Tribunal sa Belgium. Hinaharap ni Castro ngayon ang gawa-gawang kaso na ginagawa rin sa iba pang mga aktibistang target ng NTF-ELCAC.

7. Kabuhayan ng mga tsuper at opereytor

Masaker sa kabuhayan ang taguri ng mga drayber at opereytor sa Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP). Naobligang palawigin ang itinakdang palugit nito ng presidente mismo nang ilang ulit dahil na rin sa paglaban ng sektor at sa kawalang-kahandaan ng gubyerno matapos ang pitong taong implementasyon ng programa. Walang mahusay na koordinasyon ang mga ahensyang imbwelto dito kaya walang maiharap na matinong plano kaugnay ng rasyunalisasyon ng mga ruta at paano haharapin ang malawakang dislokasyon ng malaking bilang na mawawalan ng trabaho. Ibubulid sila ng gubyerno sa kawalang-trabaho at sa ibayong pagpapatibay ng kontrol ng dayuhan at malalaking burgesya kumprador na ang tunguhin ay pribatisasyon at korporatisasyon.

8. Demolisyon at kawalan ng social housing

Tuluy-tuloy ang demolisyon. Kapag may malaking negosyong itatayo sa isang lugar, asahan na ang mga demolisyon. Paboritong lugar ang Sityo San Roque sa Quezon City na aabot ng 20,000 pamilya, maging sa Beinte Reales sa Valenzuela,  sa Sugbo at sa Dabaw. Kaya sa mga ganito, bagay na bagay ang kasabihan na “huwag tutulug-tulog at baka magkasunog.” Aasa pa ba ang maralitang tagalunsod sa programang pabahay sa ilalim ng programang 4PH (Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino Housing Program)? Pangako man o pangarap ang isang milyong pabahay sa mga maralita kada taon ng panunungkulan niya, na katulad rin lamang ito ng pangako na ₱20 kada kilo ng bigas. Nais niyang buhayin ang dating programa ng magulang niya na Bagong Lipunan Improvement of Sites and Services o BLISS. Iwinagayway ni BBM ang proyekto sa Naic, Cavite at sa San Fernando, Pampanga. At malamang sa hindi, hanggang dito na lang ito uli. Tulad ng maralita sa lunsod na nangangarap ng kahit paano ay may masisilungang bahay, subalit mangangailangan ang gubyerno ng libu-libong ektarya ng lupaing publiko para rito. Ito ang panganib na idudulot din ng ChaCha ni Marcos. Kapag niratsada ito, goodbye pabahay dahil ang lupa ay aariin kundi man ng dayuhan, o ng tulad ng mga Villar. Hangga’t umiiral ang buktot na pamamahala sa gubyerno, korupsyon at ang dinastiya sa pulitika, suntok sa buwan ang proyektong pabahay.

9. Korupsyon at agawan ng pwesto sa gubyerno

Ito ay eksaktong kumbinasyon ng ekonomya at pulitika ng nasa poder. Negosyo ang pamamalakad sa gubyerno. Matapos mamuhunan para sa halalan, kukubra na ng tubo. Bida lagi ang korupsyon taun-taon at kibit-balikat lamang ang tugon sa trilyong pisong napupunta lamang sa korupsyon. Tama! Nakalista lamang sa ilalim ng korupsyon. Walang napapanagot. Dito rin maiuugnay ang bangayan sa pulitika ng “team unity” na halos isang taon pa lang ay “team hiwalayan” na at maging ang pagiging maka-China at maka-US ng mga Marcos. Isang taon pa lang, tila ramdam na kaagad ang paghahanda sa para sa eleksyon sa 2028. Ang agawan sa kapangyarihan ay laro ng agawan sa kaban ng bayan. Tama, maging ang nangyaring rigodon sa Senado kahapon lamang.

10. Pagka-tuta sa US

Ang ngalan ng ama at ng anak ay kapwa tuta ng US. Kailangan ng dagdag na base militar ng US, ensigida, dinagdagan ng apat pa. Ganito ang kongretong larawan ng isang relasyong tagibang na puro tango sa among imperyalista. Kapag sa kapritso ng US, etsa-pwera ang kapakanan ng mamamayan. Gera ang tunguhin ng galaw ng US kontra sa Tsina na ibinubugaw dahil pain ang Pilipinas bilang sabik na biktima. Tuloy ang paghahamon ng gera ng US sa Tsina sa pamamagitan ng serye ng mga Balikatan. Tuloy ang daloy ng mga angkat na produkto dahil ito ang nais ng amo. Palawakin at paigtingin pa ang ang mga malakihang kontra-mamamayang opensiba laban sa NPA dahil banta ito sa istabilidad ng imperyalistang pangingibabaw sa bansa. Baguhin ang Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas para maluwag na makapagpapasok ang US ng mga armas nukleyar saan man naisin nito sa bansa.

11. Palpak na tugon sa El Niño

Simula’t sapul, ang El Niño ay sinasalubong ng kainutilan ng gobyerno. Ang pinakasimpleng paraan na ginagawa ay ang pamumudmod ng ayuda na bagamat nakatutulong kahit paano, ginagawa ito ng mga pulitiko bilang puhunan sa pulitika. Hindi ito inihaharap bilang suliraning pangkapaligiran, walang alternatibo para harapin ang kakapusan ng pagkain at pagkalugi ng mga magsasaka. Todo-larga ang operasyon ng mga minahan, ng mga proyekto sa reklamasyon, habang walang mekanisasyon sa agrikultura o pagpapaunlad ng teknolohiya. Ang sistema ng pagmomonitor sa pinsala nito ang siya nang pinakamataas na antas ng pagharap sa problema.

Larawan ang makatang si Browning at ang politikong si Marcos Jr. ng dalawang mukha ng bagol—isang nagmamahal at isa namang walang malasakit sa nasasakupan. Kung anong kislap ng isa ay siya namang kalawang ng kabila. Ang pagmamahal ay may kaakibat na sakripisyo, kabutihang-loob at malasakit samantalang ang nangingibaw sa galit at pagkamuhi ay ibayong pagpapahirap, kapabayaan at pagiging makasarili. Ang una ay may kaakibat na suporta ng masa habang ang huli ay aani ng paglaban ng taumbayan dahil sa pang-aapi’t pagsasamantala. #

Teacher solon: VP threatens confidential funds critics with police action

Vice President Sara Duterte is ordering the police to now treat critics of her office’s confidential funds as enemies of the state, ACT Teachers’ Party Rep. France Castro said.

In her failed defense of her hundreds of millions of pesos in confidential funds, Dutere resorts to personal attacks and tells the police how to look at her critics, Castro added.

“What happened to her statement that she and her office can live without confidential funds? Why is now fighting tooth and nail just to retain her confidential funds?” Castro asked.

The teacher solon said the vice president is gaslighting (psychologically manipulating) those calling for transparency and accountability after it was revealed by House of Representatives ally Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo in the national budget deliberations that Duterte’s office spent P125 million in just 11 days last year.

Duterte remarked during the 122nd Police Service Anniversary of the Philippine National Police Regional Office 13 last October 4 that her critics have “insidious motivations” in questioning confidential funds.

“Anyone who attacks or undermines funds allocated for peace and order is naturally assumed to have insidious motivations. Such actions go against the protection and well-being of our citizenry. Those who seek to compromise the security and development of our nation jeopardize the very fabric of our society and hinder our progress,” Duterte said.

The vice president added that the Department of Education (DepEd) that she heads is part of the Anti-Terrorism Council as well as the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Neither the Office of the Vice President nor DepEd have clear national security mandates, however.

Castro condemned Duterte’s remarks aimed at making it appear that Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri; Senators Joel Villanueva, Koko Pimentel, and Risa Hontiveros; as well as the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives; Speaker Martin Romualdez; and Reps. Elizaldy Co and Edcel Lagman have dangerous reasons in wanting to remove confidential funds in her budget.

“In essence, she is saying we give her funds when she asks and she should not be questioned how these are spent,” Castro said.

“Instead of trying to justify her illegal confidential fund spending in 2022 and asking for more secret funds, VP Duterte should concentrate on how to improve the dismal state of education now,” Castro said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lihim ng kalihim

Ni Ibarra Banaag

Datapuwa’t sino man ang umaako,

sino man ang sumalo o sumagot,

sa mga tanong at usisa sa kalihim,

mabubunyag pa rin ang nililihim.

Kahit pa bastos at haragan ang litanya,

panduduro at paglulubid ng patutsada,

malalantad lamang ang kahungkagan,

at umaalingasaw ng mga sabwatan.

Hindi lamang pala sa mga nakapaskil,

sa silid aralan ang nais baklasin,

kundi ang kasaysayan ng diktadurya,

nilalabusaw ng walang patumangga.

Dahil kaya sa 125 na milyong pondo,

na sinasabing bawal ng Konstitusyon,

pagsapaw sa tungkulin ng Kongreso,

pero pinipilit ng ilan na ma-abswelto.

Bawal subalit nagbubulag-bulagan,

mali ngunit binibigyan ng katwiran,

nakapangyayari kahit pa iligal,

ipinagtatanggol ng walang kagutal-gutal.

Bukod tanging ahensya ng gobyerno,

na busog at bundat na bundat sa pondo,

ang bansag at tawag sa iskwela,

“sipsip” kasi kaya may medalya.

Aba aba bulaga yaong mga ulaga,

ilang araw parang naglahong bula,

kung lumustay ay walang humpay,

masaya’t mayabang ang garapal!

Ngunit ang higit na nakakabahala,

sa mga mambabatas ay okey lang,

at papatayan ka pa ng mikropono,

mga tonto’t balasubas sa Kongreso.

Walang kahihiyan silang nagsisilbi,

hayok at umasaang makakahati,

sa kulimbat at pork ng kalihim,

sumisingasing at nagngangalit,

sa tuwing nabubunyag kanyang lihim.

–Setyembre 12, 2023

OFWs demand probe of repeat free riders in COVID repatriation program

Migrante International (MI) called for a deeper investigation into reports of free riders taking advantage of the government’s repatriation program for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Reacting to Commission of Audit’s (COA) finding that thousands of supposed OFWs availed of emergency repatriation from two to five times and receiving free flights, lodging and food from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), MI said it is appalled and angered by the report.

In its 2022 annual report on the OWWA, the COA said 3,707 overseas Filipino workers availed of free flights under the government’s COVID-19 emergency repatriation program more than once, indicating the program was used for other purposes.

“This finding is most disgusting, reeks of corruption, deserves immediate and thorough investigation, and should result in responsible officials being sacked and held accountable,” MI chairperson Joanna Concepcion said.

“Some people are going on travels, maybe even junkets, by using the people’s money, taking advantage of services devoted to distressed OFWs, and depriving OFWs and migrant Filipinos of funds for much-needed services,” Concepcion added.

MI also pointed out that since most of the frequent flyers were from Northern Mindanao, the practice reeks of patronage that may only be pulled off with the direction of high government officials.

“Where were these supposed OFWs going? Some secret government project abroad perhaps?” Concepcion asked.

“We demand an immediate and thorough investigation into this mess. Those responsible in high places should be sacked and held accountable,” she added.

Concepcion said Congress’ deliberation of the proposed 2024 national budget is the right time for the government to be transparent with regard to the number of repatriated OFWs under the program.

With more than 10 million Filipinos abroad, the government carries out emergency repatriation in the event of any political unrest or natural calamities in their host countries.

OFWs distressed by medical, psycho-social, or legal problems requiring treatment, counselling or legal representation are given priority under the program, according to the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

The Department of Labor and Employment reported 800 thousand Filipinos whose jobs were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic were repatriated as of November 2021.  “Emergency repatriation is therefore for OFWs who, because of widespread unemployment and poverty in the country, tried their luck abroad but faced unfortunate circumstances. It is repugnant that people will be travelling or going on junkets by taking advantage of services for said OFWs. Ang kapal ng mukha! (They are shameless!)” Concepcion said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PAMPANGITI: How a new corruption euphemism contributed to the Laguna de Bay tragedy

It is the usual corruption in government that contributed to the capsizing of a motor boat on Laguna de Bay last July 27 and killed 27 passengers, a Senate inquiry bared on Tuesday. Motor Boat (MB) Aya Express driver Donald Anain admitted he bribed the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel stationed in Binangonan, Rizal to be allowed to sail his overloaded boat without inspection.

Anain described their practice as “pampangiti”.

“You give them anything… I just bought P100 worth of bananas.  Some money was also involved.  Fifty pesos for snacks,” Anain testified.

Anain claimed it was not his intention to overload but had a hard time preventing passengers from boarding the boat, a tale refuted by John Marr Nino de los Reyes, one of the 47 survivors of the tragedy. “In fact,” he returned to the port to take in eight more passengers,” de los Reyes said.

The survivor also revealed that some passengers had complained that they were already overloaded but were ignored. Other survivors interviewed immediately after the incident said they were not required to don life vests.

Life for bananas

A Kodao source who frequently visited Talim Island said he has never seen a PCG personnel conduct an inspection of the boats before casting off. The source also said that not only are the boats frequently overloaded, they have never been asked to don life vests.

Petty Officer 2 Jay Rivera, on duty at the PCG station that day, admitted at the Senate inquiry that while he received Anain’s manifest listing 22 passengers, he did not perform a personal inspection of the boat. It turned out that the boat had 70 souls on board, only 43 of whom survived the tragedy. The passenger limit for MB Aya Express was only 42.

PCG Commander Admiral Artemio Abu said Rivera was indeed “negligent” and had ordered his relief from duties, along with PCG Rizal chief Lieutenant  (Junior Grade) Arjohn Elumba pending further investigations of the tragedy. The PCG however said it does not believe–in fact it is “absurd”–their personnel succumb to bananas.

Motor Boat Aya Express driver Donald Anain revealing “pampangiti” as another corruption euphemism at the Senate inquiry last August 8. (Photo from Sen. Grace Poe’s FB page)

Unsafe ferry boats nationwide

Aside from having no captain’s license to operate the vessel, the boat plying the Binangonan-Talim Island route itself is without a license from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), the Senate inquiry also revealed. The MARINA also told the senators that such wooden-hulled boats were already banned by the maritime agency since 2016. MB Aya Express’ blueprint was not approved by MARINA prior to its construction nor was it ever inspected by the agency, the inquiry further revealed.

Many of the motor boat ferries on Laguna de Bay, as well as in other parts of the country, are still wooden-hulled, such as the one that capsized off Romblon last week that also killed one passenger.

Committee chairperson Senator Grace Poe said she is proposing the creation of a National Transport Safety Board designed to oversee the operation of transport systems in the country. “In a country composed of thousands of islands, Philippines should have the highest safety standards in water transportation,” she added.

‘Pampangiti’

Tuesday’s Senate committee hearing might have also revealed a new euphemism that illustrates the rampant corruption in government.

A new addition to the country’s collection of corruption-related words, “pampangiti” may be loosely translated to English as “a bribe to make the taker smile.”

In 2008, think-tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance published the book “Corruptionary: A Unique Dictionary of Corruption Words”, a compilation of 450 words of corruption in the Philippines.

Other corruption-related words that have become bywords in political discussions are “tong-pats”, “bukol”, “padulas”, “for the boys” and others. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Martial law survivors see emerging scheme to recover Marcoses ill-gotten wealth

The dismissal of yet another corruption charge against the Marcoses is part of an emerging pattern to recover the family’s ill-gotten wealth, martial law survivors warned.

Following the affirmation by the Supreme Court (SC) of the September 2019 dismissal of the P1.05 billion civil forfeiture case, the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) said it may be a scheme by the family now that another Marcos is president.

Promulgated by the SC last March 29 but only publicly announced last Wednesday, the high court said there is no merit to the prosecutors’ review petition of Sandiganbayan decision that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) filed the complaint in 1987 that sought to forfeit alleged illegally acquired properties by former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., his widow Imelda and cronies who acted as dummies to the couple.

CARMMA said the dismissal is deplorable, coming in the heels of other recent failed efforts such as:

1. The June 2023 Sandiganbayan dismissal of the P600 million civil forfeiture case involving Imelda, now President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and cronies;

2. The February 2023 Sandiganbayan Fifth Division dismissal of a civil case against the Marcoses and others in relation to more alleged ill-gotten wealth by the family; and

3. The July 2022 Sandiganbayan Fourth Division dismissal of the government’s lawsuit to recover P200 billion worth of assets and properties.

The group cited the PCGG’s declaration that at least USD6 billion worth of reported Marcos ill-gotten wealth have not been recovered, excluding the the P203 billion estate tax unpaid by the Marcoses. The family has appealed to the SC for the dismissal of the tax case.

CARMMA also said the dismissal of former BIR chief Lilia Guillermo is connected with the latter case after she expressed publicly that all Filipinos including presidents and the Marcoses are accountable in ensuring the payment of estate taxes.

“All these point to a disturbing picture of impunity and injustice in relation to the plundered wealth of the Marcoses and a grand heist being done in full view of the Filipino people to allow them to keep their loot and more opportunity to get their hands on the people’s money,” CARMMA said.

“We at CARMMA condemn these schemes and machinations. We demand the full return of the stolen funds by the Marcoses and that they be held fully accountable for the massive plunder and grave human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship,” the group added.

After being deposed in an uprising in 1986, the Marcoses were described as the world’s biggest kleptocrats, or rulers who use political power to steal a country’s resources.

The family staged a complete political comeback after 36 years with members occupying top national and local government positions as well as seats in both houses of the Philippine Congress. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KAPATID: ‘Jun Lozada should be regarded as a political prisoner’

Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada Jr should be regarded as a political prisoner, human rights group Kapatid said, adding the whistleblower has done great service to the people and does not deserve to be in jail.

Kapatid said the Supreme Court’s decision finding Rodolfo and brother Orlando guilty of graft is a “travesty of justice” that sends the wrong signal to whistleblowers.

The High Court upheld Rodolfo’s graft conviction last week for leasing 6.6 hectares of idle public land to his brother Orlando and sentenced the siblings to six to 10 years of imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office.

Kapatid, the support group of families and friends of political prisoners, however said the Supreme Court should reverse its decision as Rodolfo deserves the protection of the law for reporting evidence of wrongdoing.

“Thanks to Jun Lozada’s courage [a] scandalous megadeal was cancelled. But because of the rotten double standard of justice in the Philippines, he is the one who will go to prison while the biggest masterminds of graft and corruption are exculpated and allowed to perpetuate themselves in public office,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

Lim added that Rodolfo has become a victim of retaliation and persecution by powerful enemies who have in effect made him a political prisoner for speaking truth to power.

Rodolfo was former head of the Philippine Forest Corporation and a government information technology consultant when he revealed alleged anomalies in the establishment of a National Broadband Network (NBN) by the Chinese corporation ZTE in 2007 during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government.

Lozada said President Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Miguel were “masterminds behind the NBN-ZTE crime” worth P17 billion of pesos. He also said former Commission on Election chairperson Benjamin Abalos stood to gain from kickbacks.

The Lozadas turned themselves in at the National Bureau of Investigation last Thursday after hearing the Sandiganbayan reportedly issued a warrant of arrest against them following Supreme Court’s affirmation of their conviction.

In a statement, Rodolfo said his enemies made good with their threats they will make him regret for his revelations.

“Yes, they succeeded in sending me to prison. But they will not succeed in making me regret my decision to side with the truth and the people. I do not regret my decision to side with the truth,” Rodolfo said.

“Our hearts go out to truth-tellers like Jun Lozada. Kapatid stands by him and with him in his statement that embodies the plight of the political prisoners in this country,” Kapatid said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Go’s withdrawal to benefit Marcos-Duterte dynasties, BAYAN warns

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) warned Senator Lawrence Christopher Go’s withdrawal from the presidential race may just be an attempt to avert the split of the Duterte-Marcos alliance in the 2022 national elections.

In a statement, BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Go’s withdrawal only benefits the alliance between the Marcos and Duterte dynasties.

In a press conference Tuesday, November 30, Go declared he is withdrawing from the presidential race.

Go said he wants to spare President Rodrigo Duterte from further problems caused by his daughter’s decision to partner with Marcos.

“Ayaw rin talaga ng pamilya ko kaya naisip ko na siguro ay hindi ko pa panahon sa ngayon…Ayaw ko rin lalong maipit si President Duterte. Higit pa po sa tatay pagmamahal ko sa kanya,” Go said. (My family is really against my candidacy. I also do not want to put President Duterte in a difficult situation. My love for him is greater than that of a father.)

Go earlier filed his candidacy for the vice-presidency, eventually substituting as presidential candidate for fellow Senator Ronald dela Rosa who withdrew last November 15.

Both Go and dela Rosa are believed to be acting at the behest of the President in filing their certificates of candidacy (COC) last October while their faction of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Pilipino is convincing presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to run as president.

Duterte-Carpio however decided to run as Marcos Jr.’s vice-presidential running mate instead.

President Duterte went on to accuse Marcos Jr. of being a weak leader who has no public service achievements to speak of.

Many also believe the president was referring to the late dictator’s son when he repeatedly alleged that a presidential candidate is cocaine-dependent.

Reyes said Go’s withdrawal may lead to the elder Duterte supporting Marcos Jr. after all, despite his tirades against the presidential aspirant.

“Perhaps there is already a form of accommodation for Rodrigo Duterte under a Marcos-Sara Duterte tandem,” Reyes said.

“Whatever the final outcome of their maneuvers, the people are more than ever resolved to stop a Marcos restoration and a Duterte extension,” Reyes added.

Progressive groups like BAYAN accuse both dynasties of gross and widespread human rights violations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Senate reveals more questionable Pharmally deals

Controversial medical equipment supplier Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. bagged more questionable contracts from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the ongoing investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee revealed.

At the investigation’s sixth hearing last Monday, September 13, Senator Panfilo Lacson observed that Pharmally may have actually won contracts worth around P12 billion despite having no established record in the business and having only P625,000 in paid up capital when it incorporated in 2019.

Lacson made the observation after Senator Franklin Drilon bared additional P4 billion in test kits contracts were awarded to Pharmally that were not included in the Commission on Audit’s 2020 report flagging questionable transactions between the corporation and the DBM procurement service.

In addition to earlier revelations that Pharmally has bagged more than P8 billion in contracts, Drilon said the following purchase orders were awarded to the company:

  • P300 million worth of KN95 masks at P100 per piece issued on April 23, 2020;
  • P2.88 billion for 41,400 test kits at P69,500 per kit on June 9, 2020;
  • P245.85 million for 312 test kits at P787,968 each on June 10, 2020; and
  • P774.35 million for 17,000 test kits at P45,550 each (no date cited).

“This is not in the COA report. What happened to this?” Drilon asked former DBM undersecretary Christopher Lao who was its procurement service head at the time of the transactions.

While acknowledging that Drilon’s documents may be official DBM records, Lao denied having any idea about the contracts.

Drilon however said Lao himself signed at least two of the contracts.

The Blue Ribbon Committee investigation was triggered by state auditors who revealed “deficiencies” in government spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Duterte gov’ts corruption

In his summary of Monday’s hearing, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Pharmally still has to explain its incredible fortune with the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“Pharmally still could not explain where it got money to pay its Chinese suppliers. The ‘buy now, pay later’ explanation is hard to believe at a time when the demand was highest,” Reyes said.

Reyes rued that former Duterte economic adviser Michael Yang again chose to skip the Senate hearing to explain his role as go-between between Pharmally and the DBM while possibly being the company’s funder.

“One can’t help but ask, is Pharmally, which was underfunded and incapable of manufacturing medical supplies, just Yang’s dummy?” Reyes asked.

Reyes also noted questionable procedures revealed at the Senate hearing, such as “same day deliveries” of overpriced face masks despite the absence of purchase orders.

“DBM-PS was still asking for quotations and here was Pharmally delivering half-a-million face masks within three hours. It looked like a deal was already in the bag,” he said.

Reyes said that instead of spearheading the defense of Yang, the scale of his administration’s corruption during the pandemic should already be obvious to Duterte. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Sandiganbayan convicts Duterte’s frat brods of plunder

The Philippine anti-graft court convicted two of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fraternity brothers of plunder along with a retired police officer over one of his government’s first corruption scandals.

The Sandiganbayan said former Bureau of Immigration deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles as well as retired policeman Wenceslao Sombero extorted P50 million from Macau-based gambling tycoon Jack Lam in 2016.

The three were sentenced to 40 years in prison for plunder as well as 10 years for graft. They are also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

Argosino and Robles were among the Lex Talionis Fraternitas brothers Duterte appointed to office upon assuming the presidency.

The anti-graft court ruled the three were guilty of extorting the amount in exchange for the release of 1,316 Chinese nationals caught illegally working in Pampanga. 

It said Sombero acted as middleman while Argosino was identified as the “main plunderer.”

Closed circuit television footage presented at a Senate investigation showed the officials and the middleman receiving bagfuls of cash from Lam and later carrying them out to a casino parking lot in Pasay City.

Argosino and Robles later claimed they took home to the money to protect it before handing them over to the Philippine National Police.

In 2017, Lex Talionis member and Duterte’s first justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre appeared to try to protect Argosino and Robles when he declared the three could not be charged for plunder as the money they returned was P1,000 short of the minimum P50 million for the offense.

The National Bureau of Investigation, an agency under Aguirre’s supervision, consequently recommended the lighter charge of graft and corruption.

Then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales however disregarded the Department of Justice recommendations and went ahead with the plunder charges.

Sandiganbayan justices later discovered the full P50 million was intact after the accused separately returned the amount in batches, leading to their plunder conviction.

Aguirre was himself implicated in the scandal when Sombero revealed the then justice secretary also met with Lam on the day they received the money.

Aguirre however was allowed to stay as justice secretary until April 2018 when he figured in another controversy involving his clearance of alleged big time drug personalities Kerwin Espino and Peter Lim.

The Jack Lam extortion scandal was not the first time that Argosino has figured in the news.

He was among the senior students implicated in the hazing death of fellow San Beda College of Law student Raul Camaligan in 1991.

Argosino and his co-accused pleaded guilty to the charge of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and were imprisoned from 1993 to 1995.

Argosino passed the bar examinations in 1993.

Upon his release, he petitioned the Supreme Court to be allowed to practice law which was allowed after senators, former magistrates and members of the religious community attested he was of “good moral character.”

He and his co-accused also declared they have promised a Raul Camaligan Scholarship Foundation to atone for the death of the then Lex Talionis neophyte.

Both the Camaligan family and San Beda later told The Philippine Daily Inquirer the foundation was just an empty promise.

Lex Talionis is seen as the most powerful law school-based fraternity when member Duterte became President in 2016 and began appointing several fraternity brothers to high government positions. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)