Monthly Archives: January 2007

Meme: Things you should know about me

Blog lives: I met fellow bloggers Joel and Ilya last week and had wonderful discussions with them. Thank you very much for sharing fantastic ideas on how to unleash the full potential of blogging in improving the lives of people. I also met Bikoy, a famous UP student blogger, last Friday in Morayta.

Check out the new pictures in my photoblog. Click here and here. You will be amazed, taktaktak!

I was tagged by Tharum. This is a blogger’s game I couldn’t refuse. Find out what Meme means. So here are the things you still don’t know about me:

1. I was an Altar Boy in our community for seven years. I was a very religious kid. I read the bible, I prayed the rosary, I went to church everyday after school. I enjoyed the Friday mass in Quiapo and Wednesday mass in Baclaran. I was a bible quiz champion. By the way, I was named after a Saint.

2. Friends think I always visit news websites every morning. They are wrong. I first check out the TV ratings of Eat Bulaga. Then I visit the websites of my idols: Jet Lee, Michael Jackson, Gerry Albert Corpuz, Francis Ford and Sofia Coppola.

3. During college, I was an avid follower of political scientist Remigio Agpalo. I became like a stoker who wish to have a brief conversation with the old professor. I succeeded one time while Dr. Agpalo was having lunch in a college cafeteria.

4. Everytime I visit a bookshop, I search for books written by historian Teodoro Agoncillo, storyteller Jeffrey Archer and novelist Iris Murdoch.

5. I was only in high school when I joined my first street rally in front of French embassy in Makati to protest the nuclear testing in the Pacific. During college, I was a freshman when I joined an anti-oil deregulation protest organized by the student council.

Let me add that my dream is still to be reunited with my parents and siblings who are now living in California and Dubai. Perhaps, I will join them in the US. Perhaps, they may choose to return here. Who knows?

Related entries:

Altar knights.
The sacred and profane lover
Tibak sarbey

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Election questions

Election season begins, my blog entry for Global Voices.

As a voter, I have many questions which I hope will be answered in the coming elections. Some of them are the following:

1. The camp of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has twice beaten the Senatorial lineup of former President Joseph Estrada in 2001 and 2004. Who will win in the third round?

2. Or will the force lean towards the ‘third farce’, I mean ‘third force’?

3. How do we ensure the success of internet voting? Will it be implemented this year?

4. How many will die during election campaigning? How can we end election-related violence? Will there be more election hotspots?

5. Will Comelec disqualify incumbent officials for premature election campaigning?

6. How many nuisance candidates will be disqualified? Will the administration accept Atty. Oliver Lozano in its Senate slate?

7. Who will emerge as victorious between the gambling lord and quarrying king?

8. Will Richard Gomez find a party that will accommodate his political ambition?

9. Can Senator Franklin Drilon beat Raul Gonzales, the elder, in Iloilo?

10. Elections in Quezon City is boring. Will Mayor Sonny Belmonte field a dummy candidate to make his campaign easier?

11. Who will receive the endorsement of Iglesia ni Cristo, Jesus is Lord Movement, El Shaddai and the Catholic bishops?

12. Will there be an organization of showbiz stars in the Senate? I have a proposal: Alliance of Showbiz Stars in the Senate or ASS.

13. How many days, weeks or months will it take to count all the votes?

14. Will there be another Senator from the island of Mindanao? I hope so.

15. What will be the most memorable campaign jingle? Who will run with the most creative campaign TV ad? Who will be endorsed by popular showbiz personalities?

16. Will there be a special screening of the TV program ‘Family Feud’ in the Philippine Senate?

17. Will Namfrel redeem its credibility this year?

18. How can we stop dagdag-bawas? Or how can we minimize its detrimental impact? Who will be the victims of dagdag-bawas in the Senate race?

19. Can Comelec catch all ‘flying’ and ‘ghost’ voters?

20. Will there be a new kind of fertilizer scam through the rice distribution program in schools?

21. Will there be more local officials associated with the Opposition who will be dismissed by Malacañang?

22. Will ChaCha be a major electoral issue? Will it be resurrected after the elections?

23. Where is Fidel Valdes Ramos? Where are the Marcoses?

24. Will the Left emerge stronger or weaker after the elections?

25. Will the military be involved in election disputes and scandals again?

26. Who will be the more influential kingmaker: GMA-7 or ABS-CBN?

27. Will there be more partylist representatives in the Lower House?

28. Who will receive more votes: Gringo Honasan, the coup master? Or Antonio Trillanes, the coup apprentice? Who will run among the Aquino clan: Tessie, the sister of Ninoy? Or Noynoy, the brother of Kris?

29. Will there be another ‘Hello Garci’ controversy? Who are the individuals in the ‘Hello Garci’ audio recording?

30. Will there be a huge turn-out of voters? Or will Filipinos finally shun a discredited political exercise? How can we encourage overseas Filipinos to vote?

31. After the elections, will President Gloria Arroyo realize she’s already a political lameduck?

National roads

Thank you Erwin for this Inquirer article: RP’s eyes and ears in the Global Voices blog network.

Thank you Jhay of La Salle-Dasma for writing about our partylist convention. Thank you Dabet of Bulatlat and Angel of Pinoyweekly for featuring our group in your websites.

Check out the Global Voices Delhi Summit online map.

EDSA (formerly known as Highway 54) remains the most popular and maybe the most important street in the Philippines. It is not only the site of two or three (pick your number) people power uprisings; it hosts the country’s major cultural, social, political, religious and educational landmarks.

Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard is the most expensive road in the world. Mendiola, Recto and Morayta are traditional sites of mass demonstrations. Colon in Cebu is the oldest street in the country. C-5 is gaining prominence as businesses and shopping malls continue to thrive in its vicinity. It is also notorious for the continuing violent demolition of urban poor settlements in the area.

Cory lives in Times street, Erap in Polk street and the President of the Philippines in Arlegui. Escolta, Buendia and Ayala have been associated with big business. Rizal Avenue in Sta. Cruz used to be the ‘Gateway Cubao’ or ‘gimik area’ of the older generation before the LRT ruined its environs. Everything you need to buy can be found in Raon.

Roxas Boulevard (or Dewey Boulevard for the veterans) is the entry point to Baclaran church, DFA, Cultural Center, Central bank, US Embassy, Hyatt Hotel, Mall of Asia, Manila Bay reclamation project, Navy headquarters, Baywalk, Manila Yacht Club, Manila Hotel, South Harbor and Rizal Park.

Coastal Road links Manila to Cavite and Tagaytay. McArthur highway is the poor man’s alternative in travelling to the North. Naguillan, Marcos and Kennon roads lead to Baguio city – the former ukay-ukay capital of the Philippines before SM bankrupted small merchants.

According to Alfredo Navarro Salanga, the North and South expressway can expand the boundaries of Metropolis in the same way Quezon Avenue, Aurora Boulevard and EDSA blurred the distance between the center and suburbs of old Manila during the 1950s-early 70s.

Politicians maximize road projects to promote their interests. During the 2004 elections, street sweepers wearing blue t-shirts with imprinted GMA name (courtesy of road users’ tax) were visible throughout the country’s roads. Local officials were impressed with this strategy that they implemented a similar program in their districts.

Inter-island travel was encouraged through the ‘roll-on roll-off’ (RoRo) nautical highway project. The DENR planted trees in major roads through the Green Philippines Highways project. The MMDA intends to maintain and improve seven major good roads.

The most symbolic road in the country is Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. Symbolic since it clearly represents the contradictions in Philippine society.

Mayor Sonny Belmonte has great plans for Commonwealth Avenue. According to him, it’s bigger (road widening never ceases) and longer than EDSA.

Schools are accessible: UP, Ateneo, Miriam, FEU-FERN.

Notable Church structures like Iglesia ni Cristo’s central tower and Roman Catholic’s St. Peter’s Parish are located here.

Government offices abound: Commission on Human Rights, Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, COA, Sandiganbayan, DSWD and the House of Representatives. There is a plan to build a National Government Center around the Batasan Complex.

Call center companies are starting to set up operations here. UP intends to establish a commercial center near Philcoa.

Shopping malls and super grocery stores exist. Night markets catering to the needs of the urban poor operate in Tandang Sora, Manggahan and Litex.

La Mesa watershed – Metro Manila’s drinking water source is accessible through Commonwealt Avenue. Arboretum in Philcoa is the only ‘rainforest’ in the urban jungle. Payatas dumpsite is also in the neigborhood.

Upper class subdivisions flourish in the area: Capitol hills, Ayala Heights, La Vista, Tierra Pura, Filinvest, Don Antonio, BF Homes.

Urban poor kingdoms proliferate in the long stretch of Commonwealth Avenue.

Commonwealth is known as a ‘killer highway’. Robberies are common, traffic mishaps are daily occurrences, and desperate individuals are jumping off from the footbridges.

Rush hour traffic is terrible since there is no alternate route to Commonwealth Avenue. Tricycles dominate the roads around Commonwealth.

Commonwealth is a testament to the Philippine-style of urban planning. Rich subdivisions exist side by side with urban poor ghettoes. The green fields of Diliman and La Mesa dam are just a few kilometers away from the Payatas dumpsite. Laws to uplift the conditions of the poor are crafted in the Batasan which is surrounded by urban poor colonies. Education centers exist yet illiteracy is a major problem in the area. Religious institutions could not stop the moral decay around them.

Commonwealth is traversed by very important people and at the same time by very impoverished people. Wealth is concentrated in just a few households while poverty is dispersed.

This uneven distribution of God’s blessings is not viewed as an aberration. Human flooding is blamed for the pollution, ugliness, traffic and chaos in Commonwealth.

Commonwealth symbolizes the impotence of the State in meeting the needs of the people. Commonwealth attests to the failure of modernization projects. Commonwealth underscores the need for a new kind of democracy.

Commonwealth can be the launching pad for the urban uprising in the future. Commonwealth is the home of the ‘refugees’ from the countryside and the urban proletariat. Imagine, just imagine, if the poor will go out in the streets, in the long stretch of Commonwealth Avenue and what if they started clamoring for change, real change. If that happens, we can forget EDSA and Mendiola.

Related entries:

Towers of desolation
Mirror on the wall.
Open the gates

Judging candidates

Voters can dig into the electoral platform of neophyte candidates in deciding whom to vote in the coming polls. They can also review the track record of incumbent officials seeking reelection. How did politicians vote in controversial issues? How did they defend their position on important political matters?

Below is an incomplete guide for voters to refresh their memories about the voting record of some politicians on issues that divided the nation.

The incumbent senators who approved the Visiting Forces Agreement were Juan Flavier, Juan Ponce Enrile, Franklin Drilon, Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Rodolfo Biazon and Miriam Defensor Santiago.

The other lawmakers who voted for the treaty were former Senators Tessie Aquino Oreta, Robert Jaworski Sr., John Osmeña, Vicente Sotto III, Francisco Tatad, Ramon Revilla Sr., Nikki Coseteng, Gregorio Honasan, and the late lawmakers Marcelo Fernan, Blas Ople, Robert Barbers Sr. and Renato Cayetano.

The senators who voted against the opening of the sealed envelope during the Estrada impeachment trial were Majority Leader Francisco "Kit" Tatad, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Juan Ponce Enrile, Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, John Osmeña, Tessie Aquino-Oreta, Anna Dominique Coseteng, Blas Ople, Robert Jaworski, Vicente Sotto III and Ramon
Revilla.

Those who voted for the opening of the envelope were Senators Raul Roco, Franklin Drilon, Renato Cayetano, Rodolfo Biazon, Loren Legarda-Leviste, Juan Flavier, Teofisto Guingona, Sergio Osmeña III, Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Aquilino Pimentel, who voted last.

The lawmakers who voted in favor of the second impeachment case against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were Henedina Abad, Nereus Acosta, Benjamin Agarao, Mario Aguja, Juan Edgardo Angara, Darlene Antonino-Custodio, Agapito Aquino, Benigno Aquino III, Teddy Casiño, Alan Peter Cayetano, Justin Marc Chipeco, Francis Escudero, Roilo Golez, Teofisto Guingona III, Mujiv Hataman, Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, Ruy Elias Lopez, Renato Magtubo, Manuel Mamba, Imee Marcos, Rafael Mariano, Liza Maza, Florencio Noel, Saturnino Ocampo, Rodolfo Plaza, Gilbert Remulla, Etta Rosales, Rolex Suplico, Lorenzo Tañada III, Joel Villanueva and Joel Virador.

Seven senators signed a Senate report in May 2005 which empowered the President to increase the Value Added Tax by two percentage points. They were Senators Ralph Recto, Rodolfo Biazon, Richard Gordon, Manuel Villar, Edgardo Angara, Juan Ponce Enrile and Sergio Osmeña III.

There were 25 Solons who voted against amending section 105 of House rule 15 last December which allowed the Lower House to propose amendments in the Constitution without the concurrence of the Senate. They were Reps. Henedina Abad, Joseph Emilio Abaya, Nereus Acosta, J.R., Mario Aguja, Darlene Antonino-Custodio, Agapito Aquino, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Teodoro Casino, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Roilo Golez, Teofisto Guingona, Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, Renato Magtubo, Manuel Mamba, Rafael Mariano, Liza Maza, Florencio Noel, Gilbert Remulla, Rolex Suplico, Lorenzo Tanada III, Alfonso Umali Jr., Emmanuel Villanueva, Joel Virador, Ronaldo Zamora.

There were twenty Solons which voted last year to retain the death penalty law. Curiously, Senators Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Biazon, Representatives Belma Cabilao, Antonio Cerilles, Junie Cua, Jose De Venecia Jr, Raul del Mar, Catalino Figueroa, Roilo Golez, Jose Carlos Lacson, Antonio Serapio and Eric Singson voted in favor of death penalty in 1993 but changed their position after thirteen years.

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile gave the only dissenting vote to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act when it was submitted for voting in 2001. This law led to the imposition of exorbitant power fees charged to end users.

Readers can check the 77 Solons who voted to impeach former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. Only 51 Solons voted in favor of impeaching the President in 2005. Admirers of Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano can start campaigning against the ‘unfriendly’ members of the ethics committee. Motorists can start asking who voted in favor of deregulating the downstream oil industry in 1996.

Wanna run for public office? Plant a tree

Blog the city: I have a question for my readers. Do you think it’s appropriate to build a footbridge in front of the Welcome/Mabuhay Rotunda at the boundary of Manila and Quezon City? The historic Rotunda has hosted hundreds of political and religious activities for decades. It’s an important Quezon City marker. Why desecrate it by building an ugly MMDA footbridge in front of it? Why not build an underpass instead. Imagine a footbridge in front of the Rizal Monument in Luneta.

Dell Computers is asking its customers to donate a few dollars for its ‘Plant me a Tree’ program. For every computer sold in the market, a tree will be planted. It’s a commitment necessitated by the fact that trees can absorb the carbon dioxide generated by computers.

Almost everybody in the world seems concerned about the state of our environment. While States are obliged to implement big programs that would protect the environment, ordinary citizens can contribute small but effective measures to save the planet.

We can learn from Dell’s noble initiative. We should plant more trees. We can start today. We can require those who are aspiring for public office to plant a tree before filing their candidacies next week.

In 2004, all candidates were required to undergo drug testing before the Commission on Elections can approve their petition to run in the elections. I think not one candidate was found guilty of using illegal drugs. (They were not drug dependents, just druglords).

Why not require candidates for the 2007 elections, from senatorial level down to the local districts, to plant a tree in their respective barangays. A candidate can be compelled to submit a certificate signed by a barangay chief that he/she planted a tree this year.

Imagine the thousands of trees which will be planted in 79 provinces, 115 cities and 1,500 municipalities. This undertaking will complement the Green Philippines Highways project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Luntiang Pilipinas of former Sen. Loren Legarda and the one billion trees program of Speaker Jose De Venecia.

Planting of trees is the least candidates can do for the environment. Candidates will consume tons of paper for their election paraphernalia. They will dot the nation with huge streamers containing their smiling and ugly faces. Many of these campaign ads will be posted in trees.

This project will also be an opportunity to ridicule politicians who are known coddlers and operators of illegal logging, large-scale mining and timber smuggling. Imagine how embarrassing this activity can be for a candidate whose business requires the destruction of our environment.

Hopefully, this will partially instill a pro-environment consciousness among public officials. Environmental protection could be added in their election agenda. After winning or losing in the elections, candidates may continue with this ‘green’ crusade.

Perhaps nature will guide the superstitious on whom to vote in the next elections. The good leaders will breed tall and strong trees while bad politicians will produce only dead treelings.

Planting of trees is not a difficult requirement. In fact, this has been imposed in a government program in 2004. Students availing of government scholarship (Student Assistance Fund for Education and Strong Republic or SAFE for SR) were required to plant trees before getting their subsidy. We should be more firm in obliging politicians to plant trees. They always profess their concern for our children and love of country. Well, one way to prove it is to plant trees for the future of this nation.

Trees give life and emit beauty in the surroundings. What is one hour of compelling candidates to be intimate with nature compared to the three months of dirty election campaigning and three years of disappointing public governance that will destroy the life and beauty provided by trees?

Related entries:

Green highways, brown mountains.
Sons and politicians.

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Philippine free press under attack, my blog entry for Global Voices.

Election season

Citizen complaint: Last year, I paid P15 for my cedula. This year, the Quezon City government is charging P55! (In Gapan, it’s P78, thanks to the ‘show me your cedula’ campaign of the military). Now I know how QC is earning its high income.

 

There are new blogs and websites in the Mongster Link section. There are new pictures in my photoblog.

 

 

Election campaigning will officially commence next month but it’s already election season since last year.  

 

Not a few politicians who believed the Palace rhetoric that charter change will supersede the 2007 regular elections are now scrambling to build their electoral machineries. The five G’s (guns, goons, gold, girls and god) will be unleashed once more to boost the electoral chances of discredited leaders.

 

Local government units have been giving away holiday gifts to poor constituents; greeting streamers from politicians have sprouted everywhere; Sen. Ralph Recto sponsored a TV campaign ad disguised as a Christmas message; Pres. Joseph Estrada celebrated the New Year with aspiring senators which included actor Richard Gomez.

 

There are valid fears that the next elections, especially at the local level, will be violent. From Abra to Capiz, politicians have been targeted by unknown assassins. Activists continue to be the main victims of extrajudicial murders. Private armies by local kingpins have begun spreading terror in the countryside.

 

Aside from violence, fraud may probably taint the elections again. The decision by the Commission on Elections not to push through with the automation of polls has revived past anxieties over the possible use of dagdag-bawas (vote padding and shaving) to manipulate election results. News that the total number of voters will reach 49 million led to speculations that the voters’ list has been padded.

 

What is most worrisome is that reports about the 2007 elections continue to be focused on personalities. The public is denied of any meaningful chance to probe the platform of possible election candidates. The upcoming polls are in danger of being reduced again into a popularity contest.

 

That politicians can easily broach the idea of a ‘unity ticket’ between members of the Administration and Opposition underscores the failure of major political forces to present an alternative program that will challenge the policies of the current regime.

 

In the US, the midterm elections last year was used as a referendum for the ‘Iraq war’ policies of the Bush administration. After the defeat in the polls, Pres. Bush started talking of an ‘Iraq exit strategy’. The local Opposition should start defining a program or issue that will rally the people against the Arroyo government. Perhaps buoyed by positive survey results showing a major victory over Administration candidates, the Opposition has forgotten to draft a sensible, doable, creative and pro-people election agenda.

 

The unity in the Opposition should be more than a shared hatred against the sitting President. There must be specific answers to specific problems faced by the Filipino people.

 

I have a proposal. Maximize the 2007 elections to find sustainable solution to hunger. Surveys have been consistently revealing that more and more of our people have nothing to eat. If we want to end poverty, let’s begin by eliminating hunger. How could hunger prevail in a land blessed with abundant resources? How could there be disparity of wealth in the only Christian nation of Asia?  Despite the Christian lesson of “love thy neighbor,” we have wealthy households surrounded by urban poor enclaves.

 

The campaign against hunger can be an opportunity to make the electoral campaign more relevant in addressing the real needs of the people. We can cite the inadequacies of the anti-poverty measures of the government and at the same time rate the performances of incumbent leaders. Instead of parading showbiz stars and sexy beauties in mass assemblies, politicians can be compelled to provide a concrete program on how to feed 90 million Filipinos.

 

We can ask the major political blocs, organized religion, big business, mainstream media, civil society and other kingmakers of the Republic to build a consensus and forge a ‘win-win’ solution against hunger. This is a paramount national concern requiring political will.