Archive for July, 2009

My Dream

Posted in Inner Thoughts, Politics and Politicians with tags , , on July 31, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

No, this is not a Martin Luther King “I Have Dream” write up. This one is about a Rapid-Eye-Movement moment, that portion of life when our body is at its most quiet but our minds are in an excited state of activity.

Perhaps owing to the stress and fatigue of a very active schedule these past days, I fell asleep early last night, which is a very rare occurrence. I was out by 9:00PM, as testified by my wife and that meant that she had to endure longer hours of my snoring.

I needed the rest. Not only for my tired body but more so for my restless mind. So many things to think about, all competing for attention. Work related or personal, these thoughts occupy my conscious mind and it is only during sleep that they settle down and make way for rest.

But last night, my sleep was made colorful by the dream I had. I dreamt that I was a TV Show Host. Yes, I agree that many politicians have that dream and actually try to squeeze themselves in as a broadcast personality. That’s not a dream that I have, but it was a dream I had last night.

I dreamt that I was a host in a TV show. No, not the variety show type where they give out tons of money to people they cajole into doing foolish stunts with scantily clad women grinding their hips in the background. Neither is it the early morning magazine show where the hosts seem to be overdosed with caffeine in order to be perky so early in the morning. And neither were there pretty co-hosts. My wife wouldn’t want that. (Sorry, dear!)

Being a public official, the show was a public affairs show, the one that usually draws yawns or expletives from the public, depending on the topic. And the guest. Or the host. Anyway….

Since it is nearing the elections and everyone seems to be geared towards being part of the change that will happen, the show was a leadership forum starring the Presidentiables.

As I type this blog entry in Microsoft Word, the Spellcheck places a red line under the word “presidentiable”, indicating an error in spelling or an unrecognizable English word. So I check the word, curious as to the official existence of the word “presidentiable”.

I googled it and almost all of the sites listed were Pinoy sites. But one non-Pinoy site, entitled DOUBLE-TONGUE DICTIONARY: A Lexicon of Fringe English Focusing on Slang, Jargon and New Words had this to say –“The noun form of the word probably separately derived in France and the Philippines from the adjective presidentiable ‘capable of being president.’ Such an adjective-to-noun conversion is more common in French and Spanish (from where the word was introduced into the Philippines) than it is in English. A similar word is papabile ‘suitable to be Pope.’”

Well, add this to their dictionary : “Papable”, meaning “suitable to be your papa”.

Going back to the show….

So I was a host in a Leadership Forum show with the Presidentiables. I guess I was not chosen for my good looks (ahem!) but for being someone who is in politics and public office and is familiar with the workings of government and the intricacies of politics.

In other words, the message to the guests was “don’t bull***t the host, he knows the inside story”.

Well, in the dream, the show was pretty well publicized and all the guests confirmed their attendance, unlike in real life where some prefer to hide behind the screen of absence following the principle of No Talk, No Mistakes.

Some have said that if public affairs TV had been around during the time of US President Dwight Eisenhower, he wouldn’t have been president, owing to his physical condition which required him to use a wheelchair. It appears that some presidentiables are following that tact, avoiding public appearance unless it is under their control, not to hide any physical condition but probably some other form of disability.

Back to the program….well, the guests were all seated and the nation tuned in. Final touches on make up were done. Adjustments to the lighting were made and some of the guests were reading notes while another was clearing his throat. Another was wondering “is this my good angle or should I shift in my seat?”. Still another presidentiable kept a smile pasted on, and it was quite obvious that the presidentiable was faking it because the facial muscles were starting to quiver.

“Quiet on the set!” yelled the floor director.

“We’re going on 5..4..” then silently makes the final countdown with his fingers “3..2..1..”

“Papa! Papa!”

No, it wasn’t someone who thought I was “papable”. It was my son waking me up to ask for his allowance. It is a school day and as part of our Standard Operating Procedure in our home, I wake up early just to have breakfast with the kids and send them off to school. It is always such a treat to start the day with my kids, who give me the reason to care for this country and the nation’s youth.

I have four boys aged 18, 9, 6 and 3. My dream is for them to finish their studies, be productive members of society, have a family of their own and be content with whatever God gives them.

Back to the dream I had last night…well, I never was able to see how I performed as a TV host. I never got to ask the questions I was supposed to ask. And I never found out if I would be offered a regular hosting slot in any of the networks.

Well, I do have the questions in my mind. And that’s why I’m writing this. I would like to throw those questions to the presidentiables. I may not have a TV show to do it, but maybe through cyberspace the questions will go out and somehow get answered.

If I were a host in a forum for presidentiables, I would ask them these questions:

1. Is your campaign reflective of what you really are as a person or is it just presented the way you or your public relations analysts think will capture the attention of the public?

2. If you win, will you treat Congress, especially the House of Representatives, as the independent and co-equal branch of government that it should be or will you use your position to influence who the Senate President, the Speaker of the House and the chairmen of the various committees will be?

3. Will you use the pork barrel as leverage on the legislators? Will you use your position to influence how legislators vote on an issue ?

4. Do you agree to the usual statements of Presidential appointees who say “I serve only at the pleasure of the President” and tolerate them or will you imbibe in your appointees that their accountability is to the people who may call for their resignation any time?

5. Will you allow horse trading in the Commission on Appointments?

These are but some of the questions that I would like to hear form the presidentiables, aside from the usual queries that have been asked in the past. I have never heard any of these questions in past forums so I am at a loss as to how any of those seeking the presidency think about these issues.

Well, my dream was interrupted (although I very much welcome the interruption) so I never got the chance to hear the responses which could have been dream responses or nightmare answers themselves. But I hope that by putting these questions out in cyberspace, we could all get a response from those seeking the highest post in the land.

After all, they should all be online now. If they’re not, then it only means they are dinosaurs and deserve to be overlooked by this highly connected generation.

The Last State of the Nation Address..or is it?

Posted in Politics and Politicians with tags , , , on July 27, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

Once again, the President faces the Senate and the House of Representatives to deliver her State of the Nation Address which is basically a message to the Filipino people. It is a ritual prescribed by the Constitution, an event anticipated by some and ignored by others.

This is the ninth SONA of President Arroyo that I will attend since I was given by the people of Muntinlupa the privilege to represent them in Congress. I have never missed a SONA during my three terms in the House of Representatives primarily because it is held during the opening of Congress’ Regular Sessions, not because I am eager to show my presence to the President to earn brownie points.

I also see it as my Constitutional duty to be officially present to listen to the President’s report which has bearing on the work I do as a legislator. With all due respect to other legislators who choose to boycott the Joint Session of Congress as a form of expressing their opposition to the President, I think there is no harm in being present during the SONA since in the first place, it is held in our turf and hearing her speech will not change my stand on issues and my assessment of her performance.

We all have our own idea about what we expect to hear from the President, although most will say that they expect her to gloss over what she believes are her administration’s accomplishments. I am pretty sure that the agencies of government have churned out all the statistics, data and information to present an overwhelming list of accomplishments.

What do we expect to hear from the President in this, her last SONA?

I am pretty sure we will be treated to a multi-media presentation of the President’s accomplishments—the thousands of kilometers of roads constructed, the hundreds of classrooms erected, the millions of scholars sent to school and jobs created, the huge amounts of investments that came into the country, etc., etc.

It would be foolish for us to expect that she will admit her failures, the shortcomings and abuses. Of course, we will hear none of those during the SONA. But whatever she reports to the nation, I believe the people have the ability to tell what is fact and what is bull***t and make an honest assessment if their lives have indeed improved over the past years.

Expecting what she will say is different from wanting her to say something.

AS for me, what I want her to say is that she will end her term on July 30, 2010 and that she will participate in that sacred ritual of democracy—the peaceful transfer of power from her administration to the next.

Amidst all the rumors and buzzing in the coffeeshops and political circles that she intends to hang on, I think the best response from her is to reiterate that she will leave the presidency as scheduled in her term and as prescribed by the Constitution. She should say so, and say it categorically.

I cannot help but cite the last State of the Nation Address of former President Cory Aquino, where she said, “On June 30, 1992, the traditional ceremony of political succession will unfold at the Luneta. The last time it was done that way was in 1965. I shall be there with you to proudly witness the event. This is the glory of democracy that it’s solemn moment is the peaceful transfer of power.”

Those words conveyed in no uncertain terms President Aquino’s intention to leave the Presidency at the end of her term and leave a legacy that was the dream that of her husband and she fulfilled—the restoration of democracy.

But the last sentence of President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address in 1991 is one that I think will diminish of not eliminate the tarnish in President Arroyo’s administration if she borrows it verbatim:

“Maraming Salamat sa inyong lahat at PAALAM.”

President Aquino was brave enough to say goodbye, in a manner that evoked so much depth and meaning, one year before her term expired. She was brave enough to face what others say is a self-inflicted relegation to a lame duck presidency.

But it was not only a display of bravery, it was also a manifestation of humility which recognized that someone else is also fit to run the country and the willingness to step down is actually a step up towards maturity in the country’s leadership.

I do not agree with the proposition that for the president to acknowledge or reiterate the termination of her term in one year as a ticket to becoming a lame duck president. In the first place, the people already knew the day the president assumed office that her term will end in six years.

Avoiding a categorical statement on what is an inevitable event will not diminish the president’s powers. Even if she declares that she is stepping down at the end of her term, she still retains all the powers that she assumed at the beginning of her term.

The issue of a lame duck presidency only becomes relevant if seen from the eyes of one who has a political agenda beyond the end of the term. The dispensation of political favors and the exaction of political subservience is the only basis for the apprehension about a lame duck presidency.

More than the litany of self-congratulations, I would like to hear the plans in the remaining months of this administration for the preparation of the transition to the next administration.

I wish to hear how the administration will ensure that the elections will push through with minimal disruption and maximum integrity and credibility. I wish to hear how the administration will begin and pursue the process of wrapping up and helping the next administration hit the ground running. I wish for these things, but some say it’s just wishful thinking.

Perhaps it is. But perhaps this wish will come true. Soon, we will know.

Restore the Death Penalty for Drug Traffickers

Posted in Governance with tags , , , on July 20, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

Last night I was informed that the daughter of an anti-narcotics agent was kidnapped. The details were sketchy, but the incident was said to be confirmed. Immediately, I connected the kidnapping to the work of the agent, who does not fit the usual profile of a kidnap for ransom victim. The agent is an ordinary government employee who does not have the riches of a businessman nor the resources of an executive.

Today the newspapers’ headline is that of the abduction of the agent’s daughter. But not only was the girl abducted, she was drugged and raped. The agent’s active role in the campaign against the illegal drugs trade has made a dent in the industry, and apparently, it has earned the ire of those engaged in the business.

This crime is so heinous, so sinister and diabolical that it takes a particularly evil mind to conceive and do it. It is obviously a pre-meditated act, meant to hit back at the person who has been effective in foiling the proliferation of the illegal drug trade. It was meant to hurt the agent, in that instead of merely killing the victim, they let the child live through a harrowing experience and did things to her that only a sick mind will consciously think of doing.

Expectedly, the government says that this means war. Perhaps a belated response, considering that the drug menace has been hounding society for so long and that there was even a narcotics agent who was murdered along with the rest of his family months back. Nevertheless, it should really be war, with the people and the government on one side and the drug syndicates on the other.

So if it is war, what is the government prepared to do to fight the battles? In Colombia, it is literally a war, with drug syndicates even staging assassinations not only of police and anti-narcotics operatives but also of judges using high profile methods such as car bombings and elaborate daylight ambushes on busy streets. With this attack on the family of a narcotics agent, it would appear that our local syndicates may be brazen enough to imitate their counterparts in Colombia.

This is the reason why from the very beginning since I became a legislator I had always been for the imposition of the death penalty on drug traffickers. Even when the death penalty was repealed, I had stated my desire to retain the capital punishment on those who are convicted of drug trafficking.

To begin with, unlike other heinous crimes like murder, rape and other crimes which are usually rooted in emotions of the perpetrator, drug trafficking is primarily rooted in the motive of profit. Profit which is at the expense of other people’s lives that are ruined, maimed or killed. They know that their wares ruin lives, lead people to commit crime and destroy the moral fabric of society.

The repeal of the death penalty is meant to give convicted criminals a chance to repent and be rehabilitated. As a congressman in the District of Muntinlupa City where the national penitentiary is located, I have seen convicted criminals lead changed lives after incarceration. Murderers, rapists, robbers and other types of criminals have repented and even lead lives more pious than others who have been law abiding.

But there have been convicted drug traffickers who have not spurned their criminal ways even behind bars. Having the financial resources, they are able to hire personal assistants, bodyguards and bribe prison personnel in order to live comfortable lives inside the prison and even continue their trade from within. In effect, they are secure while they proceed with business as usual.

All they need is a cellphone to communicate with their colleagues and crew outside the prison and life goes on for them. They still rake in the profits while society bears the burden of the after-effects.

If the government says that the abduction and rape of the daughter of a narcotics agent is the start of the war, then I suggest the government first look at what they will throw against the drug syndicates. The government can mobilize all the law enforcement agents, and ensure that the prosecution is swift, decisive and uncorrupted. But if we send the drug convicts to a life of security, comfort and with the ability to go on with business, then the war will still be won by the syndicates.

Amend the law. Reimpose the death penalty to drug traffickers and implement it seriously.

Series of Bombings Will Put to Test the Government’s Ability and Credibility

Posted in Governance with tags , , , on July 7, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

Series of Bombings Will Put to Test The Government’s Ability and Credibility

The back to back bombings in Mindanao which claimed several lives and injured numerous other will now put a test the government’s credibility in handling the crisis.

The first test is whether or not the intelligence services, with all the resources allocated for Intelligence was able to get a sense of this bombing offensive. With 600 Million Pesos under the Office of the President, 270 Million Pesos in the PNP and 118 Million Pesos under the AFP, it is highly questionable why the series of attacks seem to go on without the authorities unable to give a clear picture of who is responsible.

The second test is whether our law enforcement agencies is able to investigate the bombings effectively and conduct arrests of the suspected bombers. Bombings are crimes that leave evidence behind and competent investigations will lead to at least an indication of the profile of the bombers.

The third test is the authorities’ ability to prevent further attacks. While the bombers had the initial advantage of surprise, the authorities now have the luxury of expectation. By this time, it should already be anticipated that the series will continue therefore measures should be put into place in order to enhance security and deter further attacks.

The fourth test is the government’s credibility in convincing the people that this is not part of a sinister grand plan to impose emergency rule. With all the talk about the administration doing its best to extend its tenure with scenarios ranging from amending the Constitution to sowing disorder as a basis for emergency rule, the people cannot be blamed for even considering that the bombings are the handiwork of operatives with a political objective. How the government will convince the people that this is not part of a grand political plan will depend on whether they pass or fail the first three tests.