Archive for March, 2010

Justice in Agrarian Reform Includes Going After Illegal Conversions of Agrarian Land to Residential Subdivisions

Posted in Governance with tags , , , , on March 22, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

It is worrisome to hear stalwarts of a rival political party express their eagerness to see a rushed distribution of Hacienda Luisita, particularly because of the incidence of illegal conversions of CARP farmlands into residential subdivisions such as the one discovered in Iloilo where large tracts of irrigated farm lands were alleged to be anomalously converted into a residential subdivision owned by a presidential candidate.

Hacienda Luisita is a prime piece of real estate, very much attractive to developers of commercial and residential projects. It is not surprising for developers to have a lustful eye on the property, considering the value that it has and the potential for development.

While members of some political parties expressed their concern about the Hacienda Luisita not being subject to land reform under an Aquino administration, there is also a serious basis to be concerned about illegal land conversions under and administration led by a real estate developer who has been linked to activities which have undermined the agrarian reform program.

The next administration should not only promote genuine agrarian reform, it should also be committed to protect the gains of agrarian reform and go against greedy land developers and run after those who have bamboozled farmer beneficiaries into selling their rights and illegally convert agrarian land to commercial and residential projects.

Contrary to what others seem to believe, the pursuit of justice in agrarian reform does not end with the distribution of Hacienda Luisita. It includes the prosecution of those who have been engaged in illegal conversion and the prevention of such schemes which undermine the agrarian reform program.

Noynoy Aquino Could Be A Hostaged President

Posted in Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , on March 19, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

The campaign for national candidates is almost halfway through as we near the start of the campaign for local positions. At this time, there is an indication of how the results will turn out, although the remaining half of the campaign period may still see changes in the ratings of candidates. Therefore, it is important that during this time, an assessment of the candidates’ ratings and political parties’ campaign strategies and direction is in order.

Focusing on my own party, the Liberal Party, both our presidential and vice presidential candidates have consistently topped the surveys ever since they first announced their intentions to run for the posts they’re now candidates for.

In the Pulse Asia survey done from Feb.21 to 25, Senator Mar Roxas’ lead over his rival is comfortable, and it seems that the 16 percentage point spread is too big for the other candidates to have a real chance of catching up with in the remaining days of the campaign period. Senator Noynoy Aquino led Villar with a 36% versus 29% margin. After months of spending hundreds of millions (possibly even more than a billion pesos) in the past several months trying to catch up, Senator Villar is still second place with only a month and a half remaining. It seems that only a major blunder will make people change their minds about who to support for president in the coming elections.

With the prospect of an Aquino-Roxas victory more real than imagined, it becomes necessary now to do a post-election scenario analysis of what awaits an Aquino-Roxas administration. Of course, the significant scenario is one that will pertain to the Legislative branch of government, because the plans and programs of the president can only push through if there is support from the Congress.

Let me emphasize that this is a worst-case scenario analysis. Of course, it may turn out differently, but one never really makes plans using the best case scenario. In order to be effective and relevant, you always consider the prospect of the worst situation you can face.

With this in mind, I would venture to say that the House of Representatives seems to most likely become an Arroyo stronghold. With Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself running for a seat in the House, cabinet members seeking both congressional and party list seats, many more incumbent pro-administration congressmen seeking reelection, it stands to reason that the future Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has a very good chance of getting the Speakership of the House of Representatives at the maximum, or come up with a major bloc in the lower chamber, big enough to be a significant threat to launch an impeachment which requires only a third of the House membership.

That significant bloc will also have a very strong influence in how legislation will pass or not pass in the lower chamber. It will be an excruciating and tedious effort to get bills through the legislative mill in the House.

An Aquino-Roxas electoral victory will only mean that Senators Villar and Legarda will go back as members of the Philippine Senate. It is therefore necessary to play out the scenario in the upper chamber, since under the bicameral system of government, legislation is passed by both chambers before it become law.
In the senate, there are twelve senators who are now in their mid-term, and they are either up for re-election or at the end of their term in 2013 (with the exception of Sen. Noynoy Aquino, who we are assuming to have been elected president in this scenario):

1. Sen. Miguel Zubiri
2. Sen. Edegardo Angara
3. Sen. Joker Arroyo
4. Sen. Alan Cayetano
5. Sen. Francsis Escudero
6. Sen. Gregorio Honasan
7. Sen. Panfilo Lacson
8. Sen. Francis Pangilinan
9. Sen. Antonio Trillanes
10. Sen. Manny Villar
11. Sen. Loren Legarda

Using the Pulse Asia survey referred to earlier, the possible winners in the 2010 elections are:

1. Sen. Bong Revilla
2. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada
3. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago
4. Sen. Pia Cayetano
5. Former Sen. Franklin Drilon
6. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile
7. Former Sen. Tito Sotto
8. Former Sen. Ralph Recto
9. Former Sen. Serge Osmeña
10. Cong. Bong Bong Marcos
11. Sen. Lito Lapid
12. Cong. TG Guingona
13. Jose De Venecia III
14. Cong. Ruffy Biazon

Statistically, Cong. Marcos is ranked 9-12, Sen.. Lapid is 9-14, Cong. Guingona is 10-14, Mr. De Venecia is 11-15 and Cong. Biazon is 11-16.

Based on the senators serving their mid-term and the possible result of the 2010 senatorial elections, the composition and alignment of members of the Senate of the 15th Congress may be analyzed. The outcome in the Senate will also have a very significant effect on the success of the Aquino presidency.

From the foregoing information, a possible composition of the Senate may be drawn:

1. Sen. Miguel Zubiri
2. Sen. Edegardo Angara
3. Sen. Joker Arroyo
4. Sen. Alan Cayetano
5. Sen. Francsis Escudero
6. Sen. Gregorio Honasan
7. Sen. Panfilo Lacson
8. Sen. Francis Pangilinan
9. Sen. Antonio Trillanes
10. Sen. Manny Villar
11. Sen. Loren Legarda
12. Sen. Bong Revilla
13. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada
14. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago
15. Sen. Pia Cayetano
16. Former Sen. Franklin Drilon
17. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile
18. Former Sen. Tito Sotto
19. Former Sen. Ralph Recto
20. Former Sen. Serge Osmeña
21. Cong. Bong Bong Marcos
22. Sen. Lito Lapid
23. Cong. TG Guingona
24. (vacancy left by Sen. Aquino, assuming he’s elected president)

Owing to the statistical tie in the survey, Mr. De Venecia and Cong. Biazon may land in the 12th spot.

From the above list, the alignment of senators may also be drawn, based on who will support an Aquino presidency:

Pro-Aquino:
1. Sen. Francis Escudero
2. Sen. Panfilo Lacson
3. Sen. Francis Pangilinan
4. Sen. Franklin Drilon
5. Sen. Ralph Recto
6. Sen. Serge Osmeña
7. Sen. TG Guingona / Sen. Ruffy Biazon (if either of them gets in )

Pro-Villar:
1. Sen. Manny Villar
2. Sen. Loren Legarda
3. Sen. Joker Arroyo
4. Sen. Alan Cayetano
5. Sen. Pia Cayetano
6. Sen. Gregorio Honasan
7. Sen. Antonio Trillanes
8. Sen. Ramon Revilla
9. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago
10. Sen. Bong-Bong Marcos

Unknown:
1. Sen. Miguel Zubiri
2. Sen. Edgardo Angara
3. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile
4. Sen. Tito Sotto
5. Sen. Lito Lapid
6. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada
7. Sen. Joey De Venecia (if he gets in )

These projected alignments are based on party affiliation, alliances during the campaign, alignments during issue-discussions and other observed nuances.

Based on this projected alignments, it would appear that Sen. Villar will have a bigger bloc ready to support a bid for the Senate presidency. With a bloc composed of 10 senators who are members of his party, vocal supporters or known sympathizers, Sen. Villar will only need three more to gain the majority in the Senate and propel him to the Senate presidency.

Among the seven unknowns, if Joey De Venecia gets in (and both Cong, Guingona and Cong. Biazon are out), he will not make a difference if he joins the pro-Aquino side since he would have just dislodged either Cong. Guingona or Cong. Biazon who are sure to be with Aquino, but there is a possibility that he will join the Villar side due to the prospect of being with the majority in the Senate and get a chance at choice committees. With De Venecia, Aquino stands to either just maintain 7 allies or be reduced to 6, unlike Guingona and Biazon who are sure to stay with Aquino.

There is basis to believe that Sen. Enrile and Sen. Estrada will side with the pro-Aquino bloc, especially since both have been vocal against Sen. Villar during the campaign. That would give the pro-Aquino bloc 9 senators at best.

The crucial question is where will the Arroyo allies in the Senate, Sen. Zubiri and Sen, Lapid, go? It is highly unlikely that Arroyo will ask them to side with the pro-Aquino camp. The only remaining option is to go the other way and ensure that they get good posts in the new Senate while at the same time not digress from the interest of their party leader.

Such a move would then give Sen. Villar a solid 12 votes, with Sen. Angara and Sen. Sotto up for the grabs. As to where they will go, I will not venture to proceed with an analysis and prediction.

In conclusion, there is a possibility that the relationship between the 15th Congress and an Aquino presidency might be a hostile relationship at worst or a difficult one at best. Noynoy Aquino could be held hostage by an Arroyo House Speakership and a Villar Senate Presidency.

Experience has taught us that the dynamics in the legislature sometimes transcend those of national and even party interests. That when the individual perks and coveted positions are at stake, the decision on who to side with are made with the individual interests in primary consideration.

It is therefore imperative that the supporters of Noynoy Aquino, who have the desire to see him succeed as president, should give equal and committed support to his senatorial candidates in order to ensure that he has enough allies in the legislature to support his plans and programs. The senatorial elections must not only be an afterthought, but it should be considered a crucial part of the strategic plan in gaining leadership of this country and installing a government that will be able to work without the difficulties of an uncooperative legislature.

The Appointment of a New Chief Justice – Make or Break the High Court’s Image

Posted in Governance, Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , on March 17, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

If President Arroyo wants to preserve the integrity and image of the Supreme Court, she should refrain from appointing a new Chief Justice and leave the decision to the next president. Even if the SC ruled that she can name the next Chief Justice, she also has the option not to do it, for the sake of preventing any speculation on the motive behind the appointment.

At this time, an appointment by President Arroyo will only suffer from credibility, with people suspecting that the Supreme Court is controlled by the President since all the justices are appointed by her. The seeming eagerness of the President to name the next Chief Justice in spite of the doubts raised also fuels the doubts that people have regarding this appointment. With the entire Supreme Court ending up to be Arroyo appointees, suspicion as to the members’ independence will certainly not be easily replaced.

It is now in the hands of President Arroyo whether the Supreme Court will be spared from this cloud of suspicion especially by her administration’s critics. Her actions will determine whether the people’s confidence in the Supreme Court will be restored or eroded. While Midas, a king in Greek Mythology (and coincidentally the namesake of the High Court’s spokesperson), turned everything he touched into gold, it seems that the President has the opposite effect on those she lays her hands on. Look at the candidacy of Gibo.

New AFP Chief of Staff Should Serve Only Up to the End of PGMA’s Term

Posted in Governance, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

The primary role of the new AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Delfin Bangit is to ensure the orderliness and credibility of the 2010 elections. It is therefore his supreme obligation to alleviate fears about his partisanship in favor of the present administration. Or any of the other aspirants.

He should condition himself that he will only serve for the remainder of the term of the one who appointed him because after all, the next president will have the authority and prerogative to replace him.

In fact, he would gain the trust, confidence and respect of all sectors if he makes a declaration now that he will only serve until the end of President Arroyo’s term and voluntarily relinquish his post on June 30, 2010.

Such a move will ensure he would have no motivation to pander to any of the presidential candidates. For the same reason that I had previously suggested that Gen. Victor Ibrado be extended up to the end of President Arroyo’s term, so too, will Gen. Bangit’s relinquishing the post at the end of PGMA’s term give the new president the courtesy of not having to remove him and appoint a new Chief of Staff.

He should consider the conduct of a clean, honest, orderly and peaceful elections and a smooth transition of power as the ultimate accomplishment he could have in his entire career as a military officer. He would be redeemed from the Hello Garci issue and suspicions of being an administration puppet.

So if he does a commendable job in this election, there really wouldn’t be any need for him to serve under another president. By such an accomplishment, he would give his person, his position and the AFP as an institution a reason to receive the appreciation of a grateful nation.