Archive for the Philippines and the Filipinos Category

It’s Everybody’s Concern

Posted in Governance, Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

It’s turning out to be one of the most awaited events of the year. Media networks are all geared up for their coverage, the internet is buzzing with chatter about what might and might not happen, and people are eagerly anticipating what’s in store for them in the coming years.

Some attendees probably prepared their wardrobe weeks in advance, more concerned with what they will wear to the occasion rather than the substance of the proceedings. Indeed, the event has been likened to a movie industry awards night, with reporters and photographers waiting along the sidelines of the red carpet jostling to throw the question “Who are you wearing?” (a question about who designed the outfit) and capture a photo worthy of a spread in the papers.

Even the ordinary Filipino seems to be more interested, compared to years past. I was surprised to read some Twitter messages from students and working people alike expressing their disappointment that a holiday was not declared making it impossible for them to watch the event. Quite unlike previously when either the people were indifferent or even questioned why a holiday had to be declared.

I remember a story told to me years back by one of my dad’s staff. She was rushing to work when a friend asked her why she had to go to the office even if a holiday was declared. My dad’s staff said, “I’m going to the SONA”. The friend said, “Ok, I’ll go with you”. She said, “I’m sorry you can’t. It’s by invitation only.” The friend, flabbergasted, said, “By invitation only? What kind of sauna is that?”

There was a time when people could care little what the SONA was all about, content with only reading about it in the papers the following day. Not only when reports began to give extra focus on who wore what made by whom did the masa take enough interest in news about the SONA, perhaps due to the Filipinos’ fondness of celebrities.

But now, with the overwhelming confidence in President Aquino’s leadership, it seems that the people’s interest in what he has to say about the country’s state and what he intends to do about stems from genuine concern.

Technology has also made it easier to monitor the SONA, with social networks in the internet serving as public information tools. Increased accessibility through wireless broadband and live streaming has given those with access to those facilities the ability to view the proceedings live over the internet. Of course, those who are still dreaming of such connectivity have the old reliable transistor radio to rely on.

The SONAs of the past president has always been a show and tell spectacle, not unlike those presented by celebrity storytellers to kindergarten students. Whether they just wanted to show their powerpoint skills or they thought that the people could be mesmerized by the show, it basically led people to take the SONA as just an entertaining event rather than a government’s presentation of what is in store for them.

But it seems with the new President’s first SONA, the people genuinely want to hear what he plans to do for the country. With the overwhelming and unquestionable mandate that he has, much is now demanded from him.

After listening to the SONA, the people should not be left with a feeling of having just been treated to an interesting report from the President. More than just having their eyes opened to anomalies of the previous administration and presented with a smart program of government, the SONA should give the people a feeling of ownership of the challenges faced by President Aquino. The fight for the country’s future is not the President’s alone. It is a shared responsibility between all who would like to see this country move forward.

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Secretary of Defense Undermining the 2010 Elections and the Looming Victory of Certain Candidates

Posted in Governance, Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , , on April 30, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

The statement of DND Secretary Norberto Gonzales that cheating in the 2010 elections has already begun seems to have no other objective but to undermine the elections and the looming victory of certain candidates

Without naming names, Secretary Gonzales makes it appear that he has reliable information about alleged bribery and pay-offs between political parties and Comelec officials. His public disclosure during the Bishops-Ulama Conference is bereft of any credible reference, but is only backed up by his claim that his information came from Comelec officials themselves.

If his story is true, it is the height of irresponsibility to make such a casual statement with about 10 days left before the elections. He should have mobilized the intelligence resources at his disposal and gathered concrete evidence to support the statement and even publicly reveal the identities of those involved. If he is sincere in stopping election cheating, he should have made steps to bring the culprits out in the open and prosecution.

Instead, Sec. Gonzales is playing a guessing game, teasing the public with a controversy but withholding vital information that only tends to tarnish the credibility of the elections and the expected outcome. Coming from someone who proposed months ago a revolutionary government with President Arroyo at the helm instead of conducting the 2010 elections, it is consistent with his attempts to prevent a transition in the government.

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.

A Lesson in Conversation

Posted in Inner Thoughts, Philippines and the Filipinos with tags on December 4, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

This really happened..

I was invited as Guest of Honor and speaker during the anniversary of an academic institution not too long ago. After the ceremonies and the photo opportunities that usually follow such engagements, I was invited to join the college’s officials and faculty for lunch.

It was a good opportunity to get to know the people better and establish linkages. Over lunch, I chatted with several of them who were seated near me. It was a bit difficult, owing to the level of noise in the room, what with everyone talking all at the same time. I had to strain a little to understand the person I was talking to.

One of those I was chatting with was a dean of one of the colleges, who was once connected with a well known NGO doing work around the world. She told me prior to settling down in the college, her work with the NGO brought her to countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, East Timor and other places experiencing extreme poverty and conflict.

I was impressed with her experience. A distinguished looking lady who did serious work not just for the Philippines but the world! And now a dean of a college!

To continue the chat, I told her that my father recently visited Ethiopia and he gave descriptions on how terrible poverty is in that country. He said that going out of the hotel which was supposed to be located in the business district of that country’s capital, beggars lined the sidewalks shoulder to shoulder. So many people mired in poverty and hunger.

Of course she had experienced it first hand and knew exactly Ethiopia’s situation. She concurred with the story and she said, “The biggest problem of Ethiopia is Mass Starvation.”

Maybe it was the way she said it or the noise in the room. Or maybe it was me. But for a moment, I had to pause for what seemed to be an eternity of awkwardness as I processed what I think I heard.

Did she say what i think she said was the problem of Ethiopia? I was trying to keep a poker face as my mind raced in the speed of light, thinking of an appropriate response. Should I ask if people are now going blind or growing hair on their palms? Is it the result of a weakening belief in Church teachings? Moral decay?

The suddenly, I realized…oh, MASS STARVATION! Whew!

The lessons of the story is….1) listen carefully to the one you are conversing with and 2) think before you talk.

A Few Good Men

Posted in Governance, Inner Thoughts, Philippines and the Filipinos with tags , , on August 6, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

IMG_0379_bThey literally stood up to the essence of being soldiers..disciplined, dedicated to duty and loyal to the Republic.

I salute these men for the honor they gave Pres. Cory.

Airman 2nd Class Gener Laguindam, Pfc. Antonio Cadiente, Police Officer 1 Danilo Maala and Petty Officer 3 Edgardo Rodriguez.

Although there was no Marine among them, I borrowed the well known slogan of the Marines as the title of this photo.

Carry on, men!

Inquirer Article

Cory Aquino–A Great Filipino

Posted in Inner Thoughts, Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , on August 1, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

The passing of former President Cory Aquino is a national loss. But her life was a national gift. Her physical life has ended but it will continue to inspire us that there is still hope that goodness will prevail in the Philippines.

I considerate a great privilege to have had the chance to know her personally from the time that I was a teenager when my father served in her administration against the coup attempts to the recent years when I serve the country as a member of Congress.

She is, was and will always be a great and noble Filipino.