January 2008

PerryScope

by Perry Diaz

The Art of Crying

After her loss to Barack Obama in Iowa, Hillary Clinton, who was stumping in New Hampshire for the first-in-the nation primary, was in a coffee shop taking questions from a group of women when someone asked her, “My question is very personal, how do you do it? How do you keep upbeat and so wonderful?”

Surprised at the nature of the question, Clinton was taken aback but she regained her poise and responded, jokingly, “You know, I think, well luckily, on special days I do have help. If you see me every day and if you look on some of the Web sites and listen to some of the commentators they always find me on the day I didn’t have help. It’s not easy.” Then she got emotional and said, “It’s not easy, and I couldn’t do it if I didn’t passionately believe it was the right thing to do. You know, I have so many opportunities from this country, just don’t want to see us fall backwards.” And with quivering voice and tears in her eyes, she said, “You know, this is very personal for me. It’s not just political. It’s not just public. I see what’s happening, and we have to reverse it.” Whoa! Suddenly, Hillary unmasked herself and for about 10 seconds she demonstrated that she’s just like any other human being — she has emotion.

It is interesting to note that the woman who made Clinton cry — apparently unimpressed by Clinton’s display of emotion — admitted to the press that she voted for Barack Obama. However, political pundits believed that a lot of women voters were touched and may have caused the surge of votes for Clinton in the New Hampshire primary. Prior to the “crying” episode, polls showed that Obama had a 10-percent lead over Clinton. But on election day, Clinton snatched victory from defeat and beat Obama by two percent. Did the crying episode do the trick in swaying Obama supporters, particularly the women, to switch to Clinton?

As we all know, “crying” has always been used effectively, either “straight from the heart” or by design. Either way, children are good at it. With grown-ups, it’s a different story. Generally, crying among women is acceptable. In some eastern cultures, crying by men is acceptable. But in western cultures, crying among men is generally perceived as a sign of weakness. However, there were great men who have cried in public. The last four U.S. presidents have done that.

On January 11, 2007, at a White House ceremony, a tear rolled down President George W. Bush’s cheek as he posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Corporal Jason Dunham, a 22-year-old marine hero in Iraq.

On December 4, 2006, the president’s father, former President George H.W. Bush broke down in tears when he addressed lawmakers, top administrators, and state workers in Tallahassee, Florida. Bush was talking about leadership and broke down when he mentioned his son Governor Jeb Bush as an example of leadership on the way he handled his loss in the gubernatorial election in 1994.

Time Magazine’s controversial March 26, 2007, cover showed a photo of the late President Ronald Reagan with a tear running down his cheek from his right eye. The cover line was “How the Right Went Wrong.” The tear looked real. However, there were two credits for the photo: David Hume Kennerly for the photo and Tim O’Brien for the “tear.” Evidently, the photo was electronically altered to show a tear rolling down Reagan’s cheek. But on numerous occasions during his presidency, Reagan had been photographed with tears in his eyes. And the American people loved it.

What do Americans think of their presidents crying? Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush have received positive reactions when they cried. But it hurt Sen. Edmund Muskie when he ran for President in 1972. It was reported by the media that he cried defending his wife from criticism during a press conference in Manchester, New Hampshire. Although it was not clear if he actually cried, he lost the presidential race.

But the most dramatic “crying” event was in 1952 when Richard Nixon ran for Vice President. In his celebrated “Checkers” speech, which was televised nationwide, Nixon said: “One other thing I probably should tell you because if we don’t they’ll probably be saying this about me too, we did get something – a gift – after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he’d sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it Checkers.”

And then, with quivering mouth and wet eyes, he said, “And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.” After his speech, he sobbed.

The issue which prompted his “Checkers” speech was that he was caught taking money from a slush fund created by his supporters to pay for expenses not covered by his senatorial allowance. However, in spite of the “slush fund” scandal, Nixon won the election! Did Checkers get him elected or was it because he was the running mate of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the popular World War II hero?

While crying men are sometimes perceived as strong in character, crying women are perceived differently. In the case of Hillary Clinton, her crying in New Hampshire got the sympathy of women voters; however, she was roundly criticized by the media as “too emotional” for the job of President of the United States. Is there a double standard here? Or did Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush practiced the art of crying?

Next time Hillary would feel like crying in front of television, she should tell a story of how she felt when her two dogs, Zeke and Buddy, died in two separate car accidents. It would certainly be a good match for Nixon’s “Checkers” speech.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Dear Folks,

I wrote the following article, “Brouhaha Over Basura,” more than a year ago after President Arroyo and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizmi signed the controvesial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). Last week, President Arroyo called on the senators to ratify JPEPA. The senators are divided on whether JPEPA is beneficial to the country or not.

JPEPA should not be ratified because one of its key provisions is to allow Japan to dump its toxic and hazardous waste on Philippine soil. JPEPA is not beneficial to the Philippines and should not be ratified by the Philippine Senate without the removal of the controversial importation of toxic and hazardous waste.

I urge you to write the senators and demand that they reject JPEPA.

Best,
Perry

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November 10, 2006
PerryScope

Perry Diaz

Brouhaha Over Basura

On September 9, 2006, at the Asia-Europe People’s Forum in Helsinki, Finland, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). The comprehensive free trade agreement — the first bilateral trade treaty since the parity agreement with the U.S. in 1946 — would be a big boost to the Philippines’ economy. Among the items agreed upon is the employment of nurses and caregivers in Japan. In return, however, the Philippines would allow the entry of toxic and hazardous waste to be dumped on Philippine soil.

Philippine environmentalists pointed out that one of the hazardous waste materials allowed is the highly toxic incinerator ash which is banned by the Basel Convention of which the Philippines and Japan are signatories. The Basel Convention does not allow the exportation of toxic materials to another country unless the government of that country approves it. However, both the Philippines and Japan have not ratified the more stringent Basel Ban amendment which banned trading of all hazardous waste including those that are labeled — or mislabeled — for “recycling.”

Why the Philippine negotiators at the Helsinki confab allowed this to happen is beyond reason. It’s either they’re stupid or ignorant of Philippine law. Republic Act 6969, known as Toxic Substances, Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act, which was enacted in 1990, declares: “It is the policy of the State to regulate, restrict or prohibit the importation, manufacture, processing, sale, distribution, use and disposal of chemical substances and mixtures that present unreasonable risk and/or injury to health or the environment, to prohibit the entry, even in transit, of hazardous and nuclear wastes and their disposal into Philippine territorial limits for whatever purpose.” Clearly, the yet-to-be-ratified JPEPA is a violation of Philippine law.

In 2000, four Filipinos representing a firm that imported tons of toxic waste from Japan were sued by the Philippine government. Sinsei Enterprises Inc., the Manila-based partner of a Japanese firm, Nisso Ltd., was suspected of shipping hazardous waste to the Philippines. According to the lawsuit, 122 containers arrived in Manila on July 22, 1999, and were declared to contain 80% “recyclable waste paper” and 20% plastic. The illegal shipment was cleared when it left Japan. However, an inspection of the cargo upon its arrival in Manila revealed hospital waste materials piled under adult diapers, candy wrappers, used sanitary napkins, aluminum foil and noodle cups. Customs inspectors and reporters present during the inspection said that the “smell was so bad that those present threw up and moved away from the containers.” The containers were shipped back to Japan and the Japanese government paid for the expenses. The four accused Filipinos mysteriously disappeared and are still at large today.

Are we looking at the tip of a “stinking” iceberg here? How rampant is the smuggling of hazardous waste in the Philippines? Recently, an investigation by Greenpeace International revealed a massive flow of automobile lead-acid batteries from industrialized countries to Third World countries including the Philippines. Greenpeace reported that the end result of this free trade in toxic waste is the suffering of thousands of workers and children from lead blood poisoning, rivers and air loaded with lead emissions, and big profits for the lead battery brokers and manufacturers. Other toxic waste being dumped in the Philippines are waste oil from South Korea and electronic waste from various countries.

Compounding the illegal importation of toxic waste is the Philippines’ inability — the Philippines has no recycling industry — to dispose or treat its own hazardous waste which is estimated at more than 2.5 million tons a year. Garbage dumps like Payatas in Quezon City are the repository of all kinds of waste including hazardous material. With the anticipated importation of toxic waste from Japan, the health of future generations of Filipinos would be compromised.

Under JPEPA, the Philippines is allowed to export its toxic waste to Japan. But who in Japan would buy them? Japanese society has for centuries branded and isolated waste-handlers, butchers, tanners, and executioners. They are called Burakumin — the “untouchables.” They lived in isolated villages called Buraku — there are 4,000 such villages today. They are placed at the lowest social rank — “Eta” (extreme filth) or “Hinin” (non-human). They are considered polluted and are not allowed to move out of their Buraku. Today, there are 1.17 million Burakumin. It is no wonder that Japan is eager to export its toxic waste — handling waste is taboo in their society.

India’s caste system has similarity to Japan. They, too, have “untouchables” — the Harijan. People who work in unclean occupations — similar to the Burakumin — are looked upon as polluting people. In some regions, even a contact with their shadow was considered as polluting. If someone comes in contact with an “untouchable,” that person is defiled and has to immerse or wash himself or herself with water to be purified. In 1949, the use of the term “untouchable” became illegal and discrimination against them became illegal as well. However, the social stigma against the more than 60 million “untouchables” remains. One “untouchable” — K.R. Narayanan — broke this social barrier and became the President of India in 1997.

With the brouhaha over toxic waste — basura — the Philippine Senate indicated that it would scrutinize the trade agreement with Japan. In reaction to the furor, the Japanese embassy in Manila reassured the Philippine government that they would export toxic waste only if the Philippine government approves it.

What was once a Paradise called the “Pearl of the Orient Seas,” the Philippines is becoming to be the garbage dump of the world — a Payatas on a global scale. Are we going to be the new “untouchables” of the world? There is still time to reverse this massive destruction of our environment. The government has to renegotiate the trade treaty with Japan and remove toxic and hazardous waste as exportable items. And it must also ratify the Basel Ban amendment. It’s time that the government cleans up its act and enforce the Toxic Substances, Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act. As the saying goes, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

The Politics of Change

The 2008 presidential election could turn out to be the most interesting election since Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860. Lincoln’s famous quote on “change” was: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” Isn’t there a distinct similarity to what some of today’s presidential candidates are saying? Today, “change” has become the buzzword in the presidential election. But “change” in itself is meaningless without knowing what the candidates would do to effect change. One of the issues that is now at the forefront of debate is change in the immigration law. Attempts have been made by Congress in the past three years to change — or reform — the immigration law but failed due to the issue of illegal immigration which is expected to become the hot-button issue in the election.

When the 2008 primary season was kicked off in the Iowa caucuses last January 3rd, two candidates who successfully projected themselves as the “candidate of change” won in their respective party caucuses. Coming from behind, Democrat Barack Obama beat John Edwards and Hillary Clinton by a wide margin. And Republican Mike Huckabee — a new face in national politics — proved to be a viable candidate by beating veterans Mitt Romney and John McCain. However, in the New Hampshire primary last January 8, Clinton and McCain won in their respective Democratic and Republican primaries. They, too, projected themselves as the “candidate of change.”

With Clinton, “change” means the first woman president n the history of the United States. But other than that, she is perceived by many as the establishment candidate who would preserve the status quo. People are saying that if Clinton would become president, it would be “business as usual” in Washington, DC. Old hands in the Bill Clinton administration would reappear. Actually they already have reappeared in Iowa and New Hampshire and helped in Hillary’s campaign. And with hubby Bill as her First Gentleman and closest adviser, her administration would be a repeat — or extension — of the Bill Clinton presidency.

Clinton’s stand on immigration can be summed up as follows: She voted ‘yes’for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006; opposed granting driver’s license to illegal immigrants; voted ‘yes’ on building a fence along the Mexican border; voted ‘yes’ on establishing a guest worker program; voted ‘yes’ on allowing illegal immigrants to participate in Social Security; and voted ‘yes’ on giving guest workers a path to citizenship.

With Obama, “change” means — among other things — the first African-American president. It seems, however, that even the African-American community would not get behind his candidacy because they think that he wouldn’t have a chance of getting elected president. The conventional thinking of some African-Americans was: Go with the winner, go with Hillary. Well, that was before the Iowa caucuses. Obama did not only beat the odds against him in Iowa — one of the whitest states in the Union — he also proved that he could win. Sounding like Martin Luther King, Jr., Obama’s message — “Our time for change has come” — reverberated across the plains of Iowa. He brought Iowans in record number to the caucuses and dealt Hillary a stunning defeat. Suddenly, Obama became the front-runner.

Obama articulated his stand on immigration during the Democratic debate in Las Vegas on November 15, 2007. He said, “What we have to do is create a comprehensive solution to the problem. As president I will make sure that we finally have the kind of border security that we need. Employers have to be held accountable. When we do those things, we can take the illegal aliens who are here, get them out of the shadows, make sure that they are subject to a stiff penalty, make sure that they’re learning English and go to the back of the line so they’re not getting an advantage over people who came here legally.” Obama supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act which was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate in 2006 but died when the Lower House rejected it.

With Huckabee, “change” means a lot of things. He claimed that he is the true “candidate of change.” However, some of his Republican party mates say that he had a change of heart on many issues. They weren’t happy with his record on illegal immigration when he was governor of Arkansas. According to news reports, “he supported higher education benefits for children of illegal immigrants, opposed a federal roundup of illegals from his state in 2005, opposed a 2001 bill requiring proof of citizenship to vote in the state, and in 2001, a member of his administration pushed for legislation to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.” During the Republican debate last November 28, 2007, he steadfastly defended his immigration record by saying, “We’re a better country than to punish children for what their parents did.”

But after winning in the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee flipped flopped and changed his stand on illegal immigration. He said that he would build a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border by July 2010. He also said that he would oppose giving a “pathway” to citizenship for illegal immigrants unless they return to their country of origin where they would apply for immigration legally. And he wanted to amend the constitution to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born in the U.S., a notion no other Republican candidate have thought about or would even do. He promised that he would force a test case to the Supreme Court to challenge “birthright citizenship.”

With McCain, “change” means changing a lot of things. He calls himself the “agent for change.” He pushed for a change in the Iraq strategy including sending more troops which his opponents called the “McCain Surge.” McCain is also a proponent of “climate change” which is akin to Al Gore’s “Stop Global Warming” crusade.

McCain’s stand on immigration reform has been consistent. In 2005, McCain and Sen. Edward Kennedy co-sponsored the failed Secure America and Orderly Act. He voted ‘yes’ on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 which passed the Senate but was rejected by the Lower House. He also supported and helped in crafting the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. However, the bill is considered dead.

With Obama and Huckabee — dubbed “Barackabee” — winning in Iowa; and McCain and Clinton — “McClint” — winning in New Hampshire, we have four front-runners, all claiming to be the “candidate of change.” Would they survive the Super Tuesday primaries in 22 states on February 5? Or would Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat John Edwards come back from behind and become their respective party’s nominee?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

by Perry Diaz

Amidst the gloom and doom in Pampanga, two heroes have emerged to fight the forces of evil. One was Governor “Among Ed” Panlilio who had beaten two political giants in one of the biggest — if not the biggest — upsets in the 2007 elections. During the campaign, he pledged to stop corruption and crush jueteng. Within five months, “Among Ed” stopped corruption in the quarry industry. Jueteng, however, was a different story. The forces behind jueteng are politically entrenched and it would be a monumental undertaking to stop them. However, it can be done.

Last September 2007, the Pampanga Mayors League filed a measure with the provincial board that would transfer the authority to monitor the extraction and payment of quarry fees from the provincial government to the mayors of the seven “lahar” quarry towns. Over the protest of Among Ed, the provincial board unanimously approved the measure which Among Ed claimed was unconstitutional and illegal.

Recently, Among Ed indicated that he received reliable information that his enemies were cooking up a recall move against him for “incompetence.” The basis for the allegation of “incompetence” was their claim that Among Ed did not enjoy the support of the other elected officials in the province. On the contrary, it’s the other elected officials who could not — or would not — get along with Among Ed. And the reason is because of Among Ed’s resolve to eradicate corruption and jueteng. The bottom line is: Among Ed’s crusade is hurting their “business” interests. For four years prior to Among Ed’s election, more than one billion pesos in quarry fees had been pocketed by corrupt officials.

The only official who is openly supporting Among Ed is the popular mayor of San Fernando City, Oscar Samson Rodriguez. Mayor Rodriguez’s bold step to break ranks with the powers-that-be in his province has instantly attracted public attention and scrutiny. Who is this man who crossed the line and threw his lot with Among Ed?

Mayor Oca, as Rodriguez is affectionately called by his constituents, is a lawyer by profession. He earned his Bachelor of Law degree in 1973 and was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1974. It’s interesting to note that Rodriguez reviewed for his bar exams while he was detained in prison during the Martial Law. When Marcos was deposed in 1986, he was appointed by then President Cory Aquino as Provincial Administrator of Pampanga. The following year, he ran and won a seat in Congress under the new 1987 constitution. He lost his seat in 1992 and returned to law practice. He ran again in 1995 for Congress and was elected. He was reelected in 1998 and again in 2001. One of his achievements in Congress was the transformation of San Fernando into a city. In 2001, after several years of hard work, San Fernando became a city.

After he was termed out in Congress in 2004, Rodriguez ran for Mayor of San Fernando City and won. In 2005, he ranked fourth — out of 65 finalists from around the world — in “World Mayor 2005,” a feat no other Philippine mayor has achieved. In 2007, he was reelected to a second term as mayor of San Fernando.

What made Mayor Rodriguez tick? In one of his public statements, he said that he wanted to be remembered as a public servant who served his constituents with “absolute commitment, honesty, and integrity.” In his first year as mayor, he put together an ambitious eight-point agenda on education, health, transportation and communication, trade and industry, environmental management, public safety and order, culture preservation and good governance. All his programs are now in full swing.

His grand vision of making San Fernando City the “Gateway to the North” has all the hallmark of success. The city’s geographical location makes it the crossroad of Central Luzon. With the proximity of Clark Airport and the Subic Seaport, the greater San Fernando area has the potential for drawing thousands of investors; thus, creating jobs and other opportunities for the people of Pampanga, particularly his San Fernando constituents.

Eliminating corruption in his city is probably his biggest challenge. However, his most effective weapon in fighting corruption is his own 20-plus years of unblemished public service. He is one of the few incorruptible politicians around. He said that he has no “political debts” to pay because he always started his campaign from a “zero budget.” He said that his “record, commitment, and desire to serve” were the key to his victory. He made it clear to his City Council that there is no substitute for good governance. To make sure that his anti-corruption policies were going to work, he instituted “timely flow of documents, internal monitoring, computerization, daily remittance of collections, disciplining and removing those found wanting and committing indiscretions… and living by example.” In April 2005, Mayor Rodriguez suspended the City Assessor for “alleged involvement in the ‘anomalous’ assessments of real estate properties.” Yes, Mayor Rodriguez meant what he said and did what he said he would do to punish malfeasants.

Known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines,” San Fernando City’s annual Christmas Lantern Festival has created a booming tourism industry. The colorful star-shaped Christmas lantern — “parol” — has become the city’s major cottage industry. The “parol” symbolizes the biblical “Star of Bethlehem” which revealed to the Three Wise Men the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. During the Christmas season, most Filipinos would display a “parol” in their homes.

As thousands of giant lanterns illuminate San Fernando City during the Christmas season, Mayor Rodriguez’s “star” has illuminated the conscience of his people and brought wisdom to a government plagued by corruption. He and Governor Panlilio are the province’s shining stars. Together, they can effectively restore good governance — and morality — in Pampanga. However, it is not going to be easy. “Jueteng power” controls the body politic of Pampanga and, to a large degree, the country. But Governor Panlilio and Mayor Rodriguez can beat the odds against them. They could turn the recall move against Governor Panlilio to their advantage by using it as their own vehicle to rally and unite the people of Pampanga against corruption and “jueteng power.” At the end of the day, “people power” would prevail over “jueteng power.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Dear Folks,

                 The following are readers’ comments on “Quo Vadis, Filipino Veterans?”  Feel free to send your comments or articles to share with the readers.  The original article is reprinted at the end for your reference.

Best,

Perry

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 Yes, yes , very reasonable compromise., coming from Gen. Taguba. That’s what many of the veterans in the Philippines are saying. Any amount will help to survive  than no amount at all., As many had said (first hand infor ) while I was there among these veterans.

The worst part of it was that many so called advocates in  the US, beginning advocates especially ,are all for all benefits or nothing. There is so much endless talk..Ask the veterans themselves and to many of them any amount is reasonable as long as they could receive something before their death.. No one can be sure of the passage of the law anyway. It has been too long a struggle. I would rather see a US being honest and frank that  this veterans issue has come to an end.

Than k you.

gloria ysmael adams

(Gloria, with the iraq War taking all the military budget, they should settle for less and move on. If we don’t get the Equity Bill passed by 2008, it’s finished. — Perry)

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Perry:

In my humble opinion, Gen. Taguba is certainly very reasonable.

I certainly feel what was then in the heart of the late Honorable Cabili when he said that… they (Americans) robbed us of our finest hour!

Frank Rodino

Please continue reading…

‘They robbed us of our finest hour’ (Excerpt)

BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven  The Philippine Star 03/09/2004

That was a graceful article written by our former STAR editor-in-chief, Ramon J. Farolan, in the Inquirer the other day. My cousin Ramon had published a wonderful letter written by the late Senator Tomas L. Cabili, a Christian leader who had represented a mixed Christian-Muslim population constituency, in the province of Lanao.

Cabili had died in that terrible plane crash with Ramon Magsaysay.

Nowadays almost everyone remembers the name Cabili owing to the fact that his son Camilo was mayor of his hometown of Iligan City for almost 30 years. As for the letter, advising his daughter on how to make the most of her studies in America in 1956, it has been addressed to Maymuna, now Mrs. Apolonio Bautista.

We knew Tomas Cabili in our family only because he had been a friend of my late father. Both had served together in the pre-war National Assembly (the equivalent of Senator in the unicameral legislature). Cabili had been Lanao’s lone delegate to the 1936 Constitutional Convention.

Both were patriotic men who volunteered to fight when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, then invaded us. My father went to Bataan as a major, endured the Death March, spent five months in Camp O’Donnell prisoner-of-war camp – then died of malaria. Cabili valiantly fought in his native Mindanao as a guerrilla officer, along with the Wendell Fertig command, I think. After Liberation, he was elected to the Senate where his obsession was, along with his friend, President Magsaysay, rural development. (Magsaysay, too, had been a guerrillero in Zambales).

Mon Farolan’s publication of Tom Cabili’s wise letter to his daughter, so full of love and brimming with tips on how to get what was best out of an American education, is so demonstrative of the kind of Filipino leaders we had at that time. They loved our country and our people, but were not averse to learning, too, how things were done abroad.

What the fine column of Mon’s left out, probably no one had told him, was how the gallant Tomas Cabili, home from years of guerrilla combat, angrily reacted when he learned that the American government had decided to give the men and women who fought the Japanese in the guerrilla movement “military back pay”.

Cabili was disappointed. He had felt that every guerrilla and resistance fighter had volunteered to fight, and undergo privation and suffering, because of love of country and a sense of patriotic duty – not for pay. “When the Americans began giving backpay to our guerrillas,” Cabili groaned later, “they robbed us of our finest hour.”

Indubitably, the Americans had good intentions. Doubtless, with one million dead, Manila 80 percent destroyed, the country ravaged, Filipinos desperately needed financial help. But what Cabili mourned, I submit, was the loss of the purity of purpose which had motivated Filipinos to resist the invader, the enemy occupation, and face death and torture, in pursuit of the regaining of our freedom and the upholding of our national ideals. Cabili, perhaps, was too idealistic. But it brings a tear to the eye to remember that there was once a generation of Filipinos who were ready to give everything of themselves, without counting the cost.

US “backpay”, of course, spawned legions of “fake” guerrillas. Thousands who had never fought, or had even been collaborators with the Japanese, rushed to be “enrolled” in fake guerrilla battalions, and went about town strutting around in undeserved uniforms. They gleefully took the money. The Americans, realizing what was going on, sneered at us as a money-grabbing nation of fakers and counterfeit “heroes”.

Yet, millions of Filipinos had been like Tomas Cabili. When the bugle sounded, thousands of teenage ROTC cadets from many schools, such as the Ateneo cadet corps (almost all of whom volunteered to rush to Bataan), presented themselves – leaving behind weeping families – to be counted. Many of these kids perished in the fight. We will forever be grateful for, and salute their bravery.

Is the Filipino selfish and materialistic? War brings out the best and the worst. The Pacific War brought out the best of many of Cabili’s generation. When will we have such a generation again?

My late mother, Pelagia Villaflor-Soliven, widow of a Bataaner, had also been engaged in the underground movement in Ilocos Sur. After “Liberation” she had been awarded military “back pay” from the American government. She found that somebody else had faked her signature and collected the money – the money a war-widow so badly needed for her nine orphaned children.

As her eldest son, I had accompanied Mama to the paymaster’s office and was very angry and indignant about Mama having been “robbed”.

She, on the other hand, took it very calmly. She said: “Don’t let it get you down, Son. Perhaps that person needed the money more. And besides – never forget – you don’t put a price tag on what you do for your country.”

Never forget. That’s what Mama said.

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Hi Perry,

The major obstacle  in passing the Equity Bill right now is that the budget rules

under which our legislators operate demand that the money must be taken away

from an existing veteran’s program to fund  a new program. Pelosi is powerless

unless an offset that is acceptable to the 25 million US veterans could be found.

Regards,

Rudy Asercion

Veterans War Memorial Commission

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Perry,
   Is this the reason why there is a need for $50 M for lobbying as asked by GMA?

Ben Oteyza

(The Covington “sweerheart deal” didn’t include the Equity Bill.  That’s too to much work for $50 M.  Actually, when the Philippine Embassy asked for $10,000 from Arroyo to lobby for the Equity Bill, she turned down the request. – – Perry)
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THAT IS THE REALITY OF AMERICAN POLITICS.  NOT ANY DIFFERENT FROM PHIL. POLITICS.  TO HELL!!!

Dr. Rolando B. Veneracion
Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija
Philippines
 

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 Perry,

This is “ONE ISSUE” I cannot, for all goodsake, cannot understand American sense of charity. When my father was still alive (He holds 2 purple hearts)

I honestly told him…”your skin is like my skin, you will never be treated fairly!” and if he ever lived until today, perhaps he’ll realize what I told him way back in  that time that he said ” the Americans know what is best for all of us!”. But anyway he loved the Americans with all of his heart! This is for him and the other living veterans!

I love the US, too!.

Rudy Rimando, Ft. Washington, MD

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Retired U.S. Major General Antonio Taguba had advised the Filipino World War II veterans to take “whatever comes our way for now and just work for an additional amount later.” It’s time for the Filipino veterans to bite the bullet and settle for a lesser amount.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Couldn’t agree more. In this day and age, compromise is the only surviving dignity left to these aging vets. In the next 5-10 years,these manongs will perish without the taste of freedom in the form of a green buck.Bite the bullet or never.Time flies and FilAms will get tired fighting for them no more unless, of course they have longivity factors like the conservatives. A little of everything will do.  

  

Thanks Perry,

Marilyn Doromal

Georgia, US

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— In cebucitytoday@yahoogroups.com, Timothy Singleton wrote:

As much crap as this country spends on bullcrap benefits for those who are not entitled to them we can certainly take as good care of the Filipino Veterans who fought with us against the Japanese as we do our own Vets in my opinion.

At least they earned them.

Timothy Singleton
 

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 PerryScope

Perry Diaz

Quo Vadis, Filipino Veterans ?

 

A year ago, at a summit held at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC, representatives of various groups of Filipino Veterans of World War II and their advocates met. The participants unanimously approved the formation of a coalition that would lobby for the passage of a full equity bill. More than 20 Filipino veteran groups and community advocates were unified under the banner of the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE). In February 2007, they formed a steering committee and hired a staff of three legislative consultants — Filipino-Americans with strong ties to the Democratic Party — to lobby for the Equity Bill.

By the summer of 2007, the 60-year legislative impasse was finally broken… or so it seemed. In my article, “Hope Brightens Up for Filipino Veterans( July 6, 2007), I said: “The U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee marked up — or approved — S.1315 which contains a modified version of the Filipino Veterans of World War II Equity Act of 2007. For the first time in 14 years since the Equity Bill has been repeatedly introduced in the U.S. Congress, the bill was voted out of committee and will move to the Senate floor. This is a significant — and unprecedented — first step towards the enactment of the bill.”

At about the same time, Congressman Bob Filner, author of the House version of the Equity Bill and the new Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, was able to get the bill voted out of committee and sent to the House for floor vote. Finally, victory was within sight. One of the Fil-Am leaders said, “I can smell victory in the air.” Indeed, there was every reason to be optimistic. “The Democrats will pass the Equity Bill. They promised us that,” Filipino-American Democrats said. With both chambers of Congress controlled by the Democrats and the newly elected Speaker of the House, San Francisco Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, solidly — and squarely — behind the Equity Bill, how could they go wrong?

Then subtle things began to happen. In my article, Filipino Veterans‘ Final Battle” (July 27, 2007), I said: “I just received a disturbing report that American veterans have been pressuring Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to pass the Equity Bill. Although Pelosi came out solidly behind the Equity Bill when she was elected Speaker of the House, the report I got was that her office is being bombarded with calls from American veterans who are concerned that the money that would be earmarked for the Filipino veterans would be taken away from the US veterans ‘ budget.” I brought this issue to the attention of NAFVE’s Steering Committee but they shrugged it off.

In September, Congressman Filner told key Fil-Am leaders that there were not enough Democrats to pass the Equity Bill in the House. He said that 20 Republicans were needed to pass it and suggested hiring a Republican lobbyist. The Philippine Embassy contacted former Congressman Benjamin Gilman — a Republican from New York who authored Equity Bills in the past — for help. Gilman was willing to give his free time except for the incidental expenses associated with the lobbying which was estimated at $10,000.

The Philippine Embassy conveyed Gilman’s proposal to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for approval. Arroyo approved the proposal but would not provide the $10,000 for incidental expenses. The Philippine Embassy then asked NAFVE for help in raising $10,000 but the NAFVE consultants rejected the request saying that any money raised should go to NAFVE’s account for its own lobbying efforts. They also said that they did not need Gilman to get Republican votes. They were pretty sure that the Democrats would deliver the votes needed to pass the bill. To date, no progress has been reported on the Gilman deal and Filner still does not have enough votes to pass the Equity Bill. Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi has clammed up. I wonder what would she tell her loyal Filipino-American constituents when she runs for reelection next year?

In the Senate, Republican Senator Larry Craig — a ranking minority member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee — created a furor when he threw a monkey wrench into the Equity Bill by putting a “hold” on the bill because “a provision was added after it cleared the committee to reopen VA health care to new Priority 8 enrollees.” Priority 8 enrollees are veterans who have no service-connected disabilities and no adequate income by government standards. Craig also made it known that he is opposed to giving Philippine-based veterans the same amount of pension given to US-based American veterans. He believed that $300 for Philippine-based veterans was too much but would support a lower amount of $100. He did not, however, object to US-based Filipino veterans receiving $911 a month which would be same as what American veterans are receiving today. The good news is: Craig indicated that he was willing to compromise.

In politics, “compromise” is the name of the game. It produces a win-win solution that would make all parties happy. What we’re talking about here is a $200 difference for Philippine-based veterans. An easy way to a compromise would be to split the difference. That would give the Philippine-based veterans $200 a month, which was what has been floating around in the Filipino veterans community since the “demise” of HR 677 during the 108th Congress in 2004.

In my opinion, the major obstacle is not in the Senate but in the House of Representatives. If Speaker Pelosi would only use the power of the Speakership, the bill could pass. However, there is a small but powerful clique known as “Blue Dog Democrats” who have not indicated their support for the Equity Bill. Without their support, Filner would have difficulty in mustering the 219 votes necessary to pass the bill.

It’s different in the Senate because of a blocking procedure known as “filibuster” which could only be ended by at least 60 votes. The Senate Democrats have a razor-thin majority of only one vote and it is very unlikely that they could get nine Republicans to join them in ending a filibuster. The only known obstacle at this time is a potential filibuster by Craig. But he’s willing to compromise. If the Filipino veterans fail to compromise, they might as well kiss the Equity Bill goodbye.

Retired U.S. Major General Antonio Taguba had advised the Filipino World War II veterans to take “whatever comes our way for now and just work for an additional amount later.” It’s time for the Filipino veterans to bite the bullet and settle for a lesser amount.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

“Jueteng Power” in Pampanga

The victory of Fr. Eduardo “Among Ed” Tongol Panlilio over two powerful political Goliaths in Pampanga last year demonstrated once again that “people power” would prevail when all other means would fail. But unlike the “people power” that toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 and deposed Joseph Estrada in 2001, the “people power” in Pampanga was different — it was done through the ballot.

“Among Ed,” as he was affectionately called by his followers, brought down his two rivals who have close ties to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. One was 29-year-old Mark Lapid — the incumbent governor at that time and son of former governor and now Sen. Lito Lapid — who was referred to in some quarters as the “quarry-tax-theft king” for alleged corruption in the “lahar” quarry operations. The other was provincial board member and former Lubao Mayor Lilia Pineda — Arroyo’s town mate and “kumadre.” Pineda was referred to as the “Jueteng Queen” because of her marriage to Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda, the alleged king of “jueteng” — an illegal numbers game — in at least nine provinces in Central Luzon. With formidable foes like Lapid and Pineda, Among Ed was never given a chance to beat Lapid and Pineda, both of whom were backed by well-oiled political machines and huge campaign war chests. But Among Ed did the impossible. Some people believed that his victory was a miracle.

Soon after he was sworn in as governor, Among Ed faced an uphill battle. Vice Governor Joseller Guiao — as de facto head of the 10-member provincial board — has taken an adversarial role against Among Ed. On September 21, 2007, the provincial board unanimously approved Ordinance 176 — a measure filed by the Pampanga Mayors’ League — which would transfer the authority to monitor the extraction and payment of quarry fees from the provincial government to the mayors of the seven “lahar” quarry towns in Pampanga. When the ordinance reached Among Ed’s desk on October 9, he vetoed it claiming that it violated the 1991 Local Government Code which clearly assigns management of the quarry operations to the provincial government. However, on October 15, the provincial board, by unanimous vote, passed a resolution overriding Among Ed’s veto. Last November 22, Among Ed asked the Department of Justice to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Ordinance 176 claiming that it was “unconstitutional and illegal.” Meanwhile, to avoid being accused of dereliction of duty and be subjected to administrative proceedings — and possibly removal from office — Among Ed issued an executive order to implement Ordinance 176.

It is interesting to note that in less than five months, from June 29 to November 21, 2007, Among Ed collected P97.41 million which was more than the P78.15 million collected from 2004 through 2006 by his predecessors. Assuming that the quarry production remained the same since 2004, where did P623.20 million go, or, to be more precise, whose pockets did it go to?

While Among Ed is faced with mounting opposition in his attempt to stop corruption in the quarry industry, his crusade against jueteng is turning out to be a “mission impossible.” With the alleged “jueteng king” — reputed to be the biggest and richest of the country’s 16 known jueteng lords — running his jueteng empire right in President Arroyo’s “backyard” in Lubao, Pampanga, Among Ed cannot stop jueteng all by himself. He made a campaign promise to stop jueteng in six months. Five months have already passed. Unless a miracle happens again, jueteng would continue to thrive in Pampanga.

Clearly, Arroyo has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to what has been happening in her home province. In less than seven years that she has been President, Pampanga has become one of the most — if not the most — corrupt provinces in the country. Indeed, Pampanga is now the country’s jueteng capital where “jueteng power” controls the body politic of the province and, to a large degree, the country.

It is estimated that the jueteng industry is raking in at least P40 billion a year in collections. A third of the collections would go to politicians, government officials, and the police; thus, ensuring the “protection” needed to keep the jueteng operations insulated and uninterrupted.

Now, let’s play a different kind of numbers game. The Bible says that 777 symbolizes Yahweh (God) and 666 is the mark of the Beast (Antichrist). “Eduardo” consists of seven letters and his middle name “Tongol” and surname “Panlilio” together have 14 letters which would give two 7’s. Thus, “Eduardo Tongol Panlilio” would be 777. And who is 666? The conjugal dictators Ferdie and Imelda Marcos would be the first 666 and Gloria and Miguel Arroyo would be the second 666. Intriguing, isn’t it?

Last October 11, 2007, at a meeting in Malacanang hosted by Arroyo, Among Ed received a brown bag containing P500,000 from another governor without any note or explanation. Allegedly, it came from an Arroyo aide. At another meeting attended by 190 congressmen on the same day in Malacanang, several congressmen said that they also received brown bags containing money. Two days later, Among Ed exposed the alleged “bribery” in a press conference. It was revealed later that seven other governors received similar brown bags from Malacanang aides.

A month later, all 21 members of the Pampanga Mayors League did not show up at a meeting of the Provincial Development Council convened by Among Ed. Was it a coincidence? Or was it a part of a concerted effort to neutralize Among Ed and strip him of his authority?

With the Vice Governor, the entire provincial board, all the mayors, the jueteng king and queen massed against him, Among Ed has his back to a precipice. Is he going to fight back and try to regain control of the province that he was elected to govern? Other than capitulation, that may be his only option. Should he do so, he should once again seek divine guidance to bring about another “people power” to combat the formidable forces of “jueteng power.” Yes, it’s going to be “people power” versus “jueteng power,” good against evil, and 777 against 666. Indeed, a titanic battle is about to loom in the horizon.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Dear Folks,

               The following are readers’ comments on “It’s time for a change.”  Feel free to send your comments or articles to share with the readers.  The original article is reprinted at the end for your reference.

Best,

Perry

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— In Phuketmo@yahoogroups.com, “Satur Z Respicio” wrote:

 Perry:

Changes have been always been called for by many of our fellow Citizens, whether at home or in diaspora, by media, by thinkers, by those who achieve power by lawful means, by those who deeply yearn for a totally and truly Free Homeland.

But while nowadays many of us would gladly flee our Homeland for a better economic life, for themselves, for their immediate families, and for their extended family left behind to keep the home hearth glowing, there are those from the outside who would gladly enter our homeland, legally as well as unlawfully, so that they can improve their own stations in life, as well as those they left behind in their very own homelands.

Why, then, must we leave our Homeland?

If, for example, we in Diaspora, then the Hope of our Motherland, search for the answers to “Why?”, we do have the answers, but we are just being treated as outsiders, freaks, and non-comformists to the reality of our Homeland, as we know, and as we are made to know by the still free press thereat.

We were never included in the drafting of the Marcos and the Aquino Constitutions. But at these tumultous times, if there is another move to revise the Constitution of our Repblican Homeland, I believe we should have our say in it.  We have experienced and have seen great justice and fair governance, something 90 % of our peoples have never done themselves. We should, therefore, take the lead !

My proposal is for a Diasporan Study Group, to review the 1935 Consititution of the Philippines as has been amended, reword and revise what is not now applicable, and be ready to thrust the Amended ’35 Constitution to the various peoples, tribes, clans, and regions that comprise our beloved country, for them to understand, and comprehend fully, the meaning to themselves, to their peoples, to us all.

Dr. Jose V. Abueva, who has been with the drafting and adoption of the Marcos and Aquino constitutions, himself now has seen the decided advantage of having the Presidential Form of Government, the Bi-cameral System of Legislature, and an Independent Judiciary System, appears to begin to realize that at the Upper Chamber of the Legislature, the Senators who will seat at that body should be representative of the 18 Regions of our Homeland, plus, that each Region must have an autonomous form of governance.

I am of the strong belief that should something of the sort really be drawn, with the next year or two, then
by 2010, our Homeland shall be on the road of a democracy with justice, progress, and well-being for all, regardless of race, color, native ethnicity, creed, or cultural origin we have originated from, during the last millinium. 

We are the people of the Beautiful Nation, east of Mainland Asia:  Bansang Magayon.

Apo Satur
Hercules
 

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— In Fil-Soldier@yahoogroups.com, Eterio Herrera wrote:

Perry Diaz,
This survey of President GMA/s legacy is the representation of what
we called now Jueteng Power that catapuled her to what the real
philiipines is all about. The Edsa revolution is the real peoples
power but the Edsa2 revoluion is the jueteng power that was started
by the hidden Hero Governor Chavit Singson, the real hero of edsa2
and that is the real part of philippine history. The bottom line is
that Jueteng anak ng pating is part of history and it will be called
the philippine president Joseph Ejercito Estradas downfall ng Dahil
sa pagmamahal ng Jueteng. it can never be erase in the minds of all
politicians. Mabuhay ang jueteng lives forever.

Eterio Herrera
 

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Perry:

Archived “It’s time for a change” and tell your grandson to revisit it in the year 2050.

JR Lira

(Ha ha ha….You’re very optimistic my friend.  Some people think that Pinas will only change when Hell freezes over.  There is a story about Gloria going to Heaven when she passed away. When she entered the gates of Heaven, she was expecting an upbeat place but it was very quiet and gloomy.  Then, to her surprise, she saw Marcos and his cronies.  They all looked very sad.  She asked St. Peter how come they’re sad.  St. Peter told Gloria that they were shocked to see her in Heaven. — Perry).

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Dear Perry,

I couldn’t agree more with your theory that the government is only as good as the people who run it. Bad leaders create bad government.

All the talkings and meetings of all sorts of political parties back home will only result to grandstanding and political maneuvering designed to protect each faction’s turf and will leave the masses holding out the can forever. As an IBM TV commercial says: stop talking; start doing. The saddest part of it all, is that, in my observation, corruption and enriching one’s self in public office is now accepted as a way of life- of a rich Filipino life. The thinking goes- ‘get elected in public office and get rich’. Sikat ka pa pag na-elect. (You got famous when elected)

If we have to eradicate corruption, we have to start looking at the real root of the problem. And I think that it is our way of looking at what is good governance and stand up for what we think is right. In a recent movie, Lions for the Lambs, Robert Redford delivered a line that essentially goes:  “Rome is burning, son. And the real problem is not with the people who started it. The real problem is with us, all of us, who do nothing.”

So how and where do we start? Start with the people. Good thinking people who will design an effective and efficient system or form of government (any form) that will work. Unless we first fix our  thinking, any system will fail from abuse and sabotage. How do we do it? Bizarrely speaking, and heeding your Time to Change call, it may be a good start to adopt it as a battle cry. Atime to change” mantra that we will eat, drink, sleep with, wear and recite in our homes, schools, churches, workplaces, and communities. A cry that will engulf the entire country craving for change. A change in our paradigm of a good life- a healthy, prosperous and peaceful life for all. We first have to engage ourselves in a crucial task of “rewiring” our brains.

Many suggest that we should start with our children, the young ones. Teaching them the correct principles, values, self discipline, and self esteem in the  very stage of their formative years will more than likely mold them into good citizens with accepted morals. This theory have been proven by many social researchers. And chances are it will benefit our society. Developing social and educational programs to institute something like that will naturally require funding. But in my view, the benefit will outweight the cost in the long run.

But who will do the teaching? The adults of course. So the adults will have to do some learning also. The change process is one that must start from inside out. After committing ourselves to change, we can proceed with changing ourselves and start connecting the dots figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Unless and until we start solving our significant problems at a different level of thinking, and as long as we try to solve them using the same medicine and procedure, we will never get rid of our social cancer.

Question is: who will lead us right now that we need the leader who can show us all the doings? We need him/her right now before the boat sinks. A writer, Michael Korda once wrote and I quote: ” Our leader won’t come until we’re ready for him. And people can only be led where they want to go. The leader is like a mirror, reflecting back to us our own sense of purpose, putting into words our own dreams and hopes, transforming our needs and fears into coherent policies and programs. Our strenght makes him strong, our determination makes him determined; our courage makes him a hero; he is, in the final analysis, the symbol in the BEST of us, shaped by our spirit and will. And when these qualities are lacking in us, we can’t produce him; and even with all our skill at image-building, we can’t fake him. He is after all, merely the SUM OF US.”

I guess what the  author is saying is: Let’s change and fix ourselves first, then we will find our leader.

MALIGAYANG PASKO.  MASAGANANG BAGONG TAON.

Rico C. Cadayona

PS: By the way, for my part, I am doing my own “doings” and learnings and am always excited to meet people who share my own dream and hope for our homeland.

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dear perry:

wishing you the most beautiful christmas you have with your family. 

i just read your article and i am so depressed with all these talk of corruption, poverty wanton acts of plunder in the philippines.

as i have told you before i have long given up the thoughts about the philippines because it cannot be cured.  we are like sustaining a terminally ill patient. its time to accept death and we just have to move the patient into a hospice where we can surround that patient with love before the patient passes away.  that is the most we could do.

this is all happening because our religion has told us to live in “guilt”  that is why so any of us here are trying to crack our brains and come up with the solution to “solve” the problems in the philippines.  someone suggested that if we give $100 each we can solve the philippines’ problems.  BUT who will hold the money?

your guess is as good as mine!

there are people who are paid millions to think of that.  they are no gonna listen to us.  they will continue to propagate the terms that will cement them in their high places so they could pas it on to their children.

what about us abroad? we also have a “philippines” that we have to deal with.  the filipinos abroad are also so fragmented.  just like in the philippines.  we are not united as the chinese or the hispanics.

so may i wish you a happy new year anad let us take care of our own “philippines” in areas of the world where we are.  bobby reyes invited me to be part of the “philippine shadow government” which i graciously declined.   as i said we have our wn version of a “philippines” here in philadelphia.

poverty?  we have so much in philly. corruption? we still have to get over it in philly’s city hall. patronage? we have plenty of that in harrisbug and washington.  charity begins at home and “home” for me is philadelphia.

i trust that everything is well with you in california.  peace and tranquility to you my brother.

freddy panes

csp reprographics, inc.

philadelphia

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It’s time for a change!” How many times have we heard that before?
It seems every election time it reverberates throughout the land.
Election results in the Philippines are very predictable – it’s
always “more of the same'” The incompetent, the corrupt and the
criminal always win. The late columnist Teodoro Benigno, whose use of
allegory and syntax could sometimes be comical, if not absurd, once
wrote that the Filipino people should vote only for candidates who
have been “conscientified.” The word does not exist of course. He
just made it up. But what he was trying to say was you vote for
corrupt candidates, you get a corrupt government. And when corruption
rears its ugly head, we blame the system. It’s not the system. It’s
the people.

Noel Verzosa
 

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Perry,

I have a limited knowledge of the law, what I know, religions are exempt from taxations because, the separations of relgions and state: my questions to you , is  this religion group will pay tax?

Ben Pablo

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I don’t really don’t follow political news from the P.I. that much anymore, except from hearsay from friends once in a while. I really do not think she is a good president at all, she is really just an empty skirt. The people are to blame in a way, why did they elected her to start with. I would have never gone that road. Not for a long shot.       

Roger Short      

(Used to live in Malabon)         

                                                             

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PerryScope Perry Diaz

It’s time for a change

As we close the year, we hear a lot of people say, “Thank God this year will soon be over.” Indeed, 2007 is a year that most people would like to forget and just move on. A lot of events in the Philippines have made us to wonder: “Where are we heading as a people and as a nation?”

Many Filipinos have given up hope that our country will ever get out of the abyss of corruption and poverty. The recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia showed President Arroyo as the “Most Corrupt President in History.” Arroyo was named as “Most Corrupt” by 42% of the respondents followed by Ferdinand Marcos at 35%, Joseph Estrada at 16%, Fidel Ramos at 5%, and Corazon Aquino at 1%. Arroyo’s rah rah boys were quick to dispute the poll blaming the media for her poor rating. She needs to understand that she made the news and the media merely reported it.

While it can be argued that Marcos was more corrupt than Arroyo, the real significance of the survey is that almost one out of two Filipinos perceived Arroyo as unsuitable for the job of President. It was a vote of “No Confidence” on her performance notwithstanding all her pronouncements that the country’s economic engine was revving at full speed.

There has been a call for “moral revolution” by several Catholic bishops and Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. A “technical working group” was formed and Fr. Romeo Intengan, a Jesuit academic of Ateneo de Manila, was appointed to head it. Fr. Intengan is the top ideologue of the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (Social Democratic Party of the Philippines).

The group’s initial meeting was attended by leaders of the Nacionalista Party (NP), Liberal Party (LP), Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI), Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP). The NP and LP are identified with the opposition and the rest are identified with the Arroyo administration. It’s interesting to note that one of the representatives of Lakas-CMD was President Arroyo’s brother Diosdado Macapagal, Jr. who, other than Fr. Intengan, was the only non-politician in the group. Did Arroyo send her brother to be her eyes and ears at the meeting and to report to her every word spoken at the meeting? It would seem that way.

One of the Nacionalistas’ representatives, Deputy Majority Leader Crispin Remulla, was quoted as saying that the “NP believed certain things in government and society were needed to address the persistent problem of corruption.” Yes, he hit the nail on the head; however, the question is: Can politicians change the way they govern? Can — or would — they eradicate corruption in government? We need to understand that the government is only as good as the people who run it. Bad leaders create bad government. So where do we start the change?

Recently, the House of Representatives, at the urging of Arroyo, revived the effort to change the constitution. Several resolutions and bills were filed for Charter change or “Cha-cha.” One bill calls for a constitutional convention (Con-con) and another one calls for the adoption of the controversial constitutional amendments that were drafted by the Constitutional Consultative Commission established by Arroyo’s Executive Order 453. A third bill calls for a people’s initiative to amend the Charter.

Two year’s ago, the Philippine Supreme Court dismissed a petition for a people’s initiative to amend the constitution to replace the presidential system with a parliamentary form of government. The Supreme Court’s decision stated that to allow the “constitutionally infirm initiative, propelled by deceptively gathered signatures, to alter basic principles in the Constitution is to allow a desecration of the Constitution.” This was in reference to documented reports that those signing the petition did not know what they were signing. There were reports of signature-buying and coercion by barangay leaders. It further stated that “the great majority of the 6.3 million people who signed the signature sheets did not see the full text of the proposed changes before signing.”

A lot of people are cynical of another attempt to change the constitution. Arroyo’s call for Charter change was perceived by many as another attempt to alter the constitution in a manner that would allow her to stay in power beyond 2010 when her term ends. With her tight grip on the House or Representatives where 80% of the members are allied with her, any of the three Cha-cha proposals could easily pass. However, the opposition-controlled Senate would block any attempt for Charter change. That would leave Arroyo with only one viable option — people’s initiative. She has done it before and she can do it again.

In 2005, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition for a people’s initiative because of flaws in the signature-gathering process; otherwise, the High Court would have approved it. So, all Arroyo had to do was to start another “people’s initiative” that would incorporate a “process” acceptable to the Supreme Court.

If a “moral revolution” is to succeed, we need to have a clean slate in the 2010 elections. Under the present constitution, Arroyo is precluded from running for another term. And the only way that she could continue to rule is to change the Charter.

Indeed, Fr. Intengan’s “technical working group” has a monumental task. The corrupt system is deeply rooted. A “moral revolution” would not succeed without a broad base of support. The “technical working group” should not be limited to political office holders and should include representatives of various sectors. Anything short of that would be perceived as another round of gimmickry by the ruling oligarchy.

The moral decay that has been eroding the nation’s foundation needs to be stopped. It’s time for a change.

(PerryDiaz@Gmail.com)