January 2009

 

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

By Perry Diaz

 
Wow! I can’t believe it when I was invited to attend Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao’s meeting with Sylvester “Rocky” Stallone at the latter’s office in Los Angeles. Pacman greeted me, “Kumusta bro, I’m glad to see you again,” and he gave me a high-five which almost knocked me down. “Okey lang, Manny,” I replied. I was impressed by Pacman’s expensive-looking pin-striped suit. He looked like a big-time Pinoy politician.

The amenities between Pacman and Rocky went well except for a few funny moments when Pacman greeted his host, “Hello, Rocky, you look shorter than what people were saying about you — a movie giant.” Rocky laughed and said, “Well, Manny, you seem bigger than what I thought. You’re in the flyweight division, is that correct?” Pacman was taken aback. He regained his composure, shrugged his shoulders, and said. “I may be small but I can knock out a heavyweight with my bolo punch. You want me to try that on you?” “Ha ha ha… Manny, relax,” Rocky laughed and said, “Just kidding, ok? Care for a drink? How about a Johnny Walker Blue?” Pacman replied, “Do you have Chavez?” Rocky said, “Chavez? Or do you mean Chivas Regal?” “Same thing, make it double and no rocks, please,” Pacman asked. Rocky said, “No rocks? You mean ‘no ice,’ right?” “Same thing,” Pacman said.

After a few sips, Rocky asked, “Okay, now, to what do I owe your visit, Manny?” Pacman quickly responded, “Excuse me but I didn’t come here to collect a debt. You owe me nothing, Rocky. This is just a curiosity call.” Rocky looked confused and looked at me with raised brows. I explained, “He meant ‘courtesy call,’ Mr. Stallone.” Pacman gave me a dirty look. Whew! I told myself, “I’m not going to open my mouth again and let these two bozos handle their own communication problems.”

“Well, let’s get down to business then. I just had an idea, Manny,” Rocky said, “Why don’t we do a movie together? We’ll call it ‘Rocky Thrills Manila.’ You’ll be my trainer, okay?”

Pacman turned red and started sweating, his eyes squinting. “No way, man! You’re too old to fight. Besides, you’re not a real boxer. I am a real boxer so I can be a better actor than you! I bet you can’t even throw a punch in real life.” Rocky was flabbergasted but kept his cool and said, “Okay, okay, let’s not do a boxing movie then. How about a ‘Rambo’ movie. Say, you’re the President of the Philippines and you want to wipe out that terrorist group…” “Abu Sayyaf!” Pacman blurted out. “Yeah, yeah, that’s it,” Rocky said, “Let’s say that you are President Pacquio and you hired me to go after these terrorists…” “Hold it!” Pacman interrupted him and said, “My name is Pacquiao. It’s pronounced PAKYAW, not PAKYU. Get that straight!” Rocky was apologetic and said, “I’m so sorry. You know I have a little bit of a speech problem since I was a kid. I have a hard time pronouncing your name. Can I just call you Manny like in Money?” “I like that. I got plenty of that too, he he he…” Pacman replied with a wide grin, “Can I just call you Baloney, Mr. Stalloney? Just kidding. He he he…” Rocky was not amused and replied, “That’s not funny, Mr. Pac… Forget it. Let’s move on, okay?”

“Let’s be serious here,” Rocky said, “Now, back to our movie. How about calling it ‘Rambo Rumbles in Mindanao.’ Do you like that?” Pacman thought for a while and then said, “It should be ‘Pacman and Rambo’ since I will be the President and you’ll just be my sidekick.” Rocky was irked and said, “Me? Your sidekick? No way, pal! Either I get top billing or no movie.”

“Well, Rocky… or Rambo, I wanna tell you something nobody knows about yet,” said Pacman with his trademark grin. “Oh? Let’s hear it,” Rocky said, seemingly amused. “I’m going to run for President of the Philippines,” Pacman deadpanned. Rocky asked, “For real or just in the movie?” “Of course it’s for real,” Pacman answered, “I already talked to Ate Glo — you know, President Gloria Arroyo — and she thought I’ll win with no hands.” Rocky was confused again and looked at me. I explained, “Manny meant ‘with hands down,’ Mr. Stallone.” This time Pacman pointed his finger at me and warned me, “One more time and I’ll knock you out!” I quickly said, “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again… never again.” Whew!

Rocky then asked, “I didn’t know you’re a politician, Manny?” “As I said before…” Pacman answered, “I’m not really a politician but my people love me. Actually, I ran for Congress two years ago.” “Did you win?” Rocky asked. “Well, I lost,” Pacman replied, “But you see, that was just a sample balloon.” Rocky corrected him, “You mean ‘trial balloon,’ right?” “No, it was not a trial. I never committed a crime in my life. I’m a very religious person, see…” and he lifted his 4-inch wide tie to reveal a large diamond-studded gold crucifix dangling from his neck. “This is a St. Benedict medallion crucifix,” he said, “It protects me from Satan and evil spirits.”

“Well, do you think that you’re going to win this time with the help of St. Benedict?” Rocky asked. Pacman was getting agitated. “As I said before…” Pacman said, “Ate Glo told me that I will win…” “Hands down,” Rocky said. “No!” Pacman blurted, “It’s ‘hands up’ like what I do every time I beat my opponent in the ring,” raising both arms with clenched fists in a victory sign.

Rocky started laughing and then asked, “Well, tell me then — what’s kind of a platform would you sell to the people?” “Platform, huh? Ahhh…” Pacman pondered the question for a moment and then said, “As I said before… I’m not a salesman and I don’t sell platforms. Actually, I’m a buyer… I buy the people’s votes. He he he…” “What?” Rocky said shouting at the top of his voice, “You’re going to buy votes? Look pal, that’s cheating! You should be ashamed of yourself.” “Hey, hey, hey!” Pacman shouted back, “Let me tell you this, Mr. Baloney: if I don’t buy votes, my opponent will buy them. Politics is like boxing, if I don’t punch, my opponent will punch me. I’ll be the number one pound-for-pound politician in the Philippines. Get that?”

Rocky was fuming mad. He stood up and told me, “You’d better get this shorty out of my office right now or I’ll throw both of you out!” Pacman stood up and said, “You want me to show you what a shorty can do to an overweight old man like you, Mr. Baloney?”

Suddenly, I realized that I was standing between Pacman and Rocky. I told myself, “Oh, no! I’d better get out of here.” I was just about to run when I heard my jawbone crack. I was falling and suddenly the room was dark. I saw thousands of twinkling little stars. And before I hit the floor, the bell rang. I was saved by the bell. I sat up on the floor. Pacman and Rocky were gone. And my alarm clock was still ringing. I must have had another Pacman nightmare.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

Taking over the reign of power of the greatest country on Earth at a time of economic implosion and seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could be too much to bear for any man in this day and age. But that’s what Barack Obama did at noon on January 20, 2009, when he took his oath as the 44th President — and the first President of African descent — of the United Sates of America. And to signify the symbolic meaning of his meteoric rise to lead the nation, he took the oath of office using the same Bible used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. And with confidence and self-assurance, President Obama declared during his inaugural address: “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin the work of remaking America.”

While Lincoln would have presided over the reconstruction of a reunited country devastated by a bloody civil war, President Obama is going to preside over a disunited people shattered by an economic crisis of catastrophic proportion.

While Lincoln issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” during the Civil War to free the African slaves from human bondage, President Obama wants to emancipate America’s middle class besieged from financial bondage.

Although the Civil War ended in 1865 ending slavery in the nation, it took another 100 years before the African-Americans gained political empowerment with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And it took another 44 years before an African-American ascended to the pinnacle of power of the most powerful nation on Earth.

The historic — and spectacular — election of President Obama last November 4, 2008, has the widest margin for a non-incumbent presidential candidate, more than 9 million votes over John McCain. It was the desire for change that eventually convinced the American voters to elect President Obama who’s message, “Change we can believe in,” resonated with the people.

And “change” did President Obama start to make. By the time he named the members of Team Obama, 80% of Americans approved of what he was doing. Clearly, President Obama — the son of a Kenyan father and a Caucasian American mother — was on the right track. And if he stays on course, the American people will stay with him all the way. But it’s not going to be a piece of cake. The road to recovery is going to be difficult to travel.

To begin with, President Obama’s number one priority is to jump-start the moribund economy. He and his economic team are putting together the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan” — estimated at $800 billion — which will put millions of Americans to work. “We need an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that not only creates jobs in the short-term but spurs economic growth and competitiveness in the long-term,” he said.

Then he has to grapple with the political realities of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which is draining the U.S. treasury $10 billion a month. He is aware that these wars cannot be won militarily. He knows the lessons America learned from the Vietnam War and the lessons Russia learned from its invasion of Afghanistan.

Then he has to deal with the age-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Can peace be achieved during his presidency? The crux of the matter is: Can there be peace without a resolution to the question of the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return,” who were driven out by the Israelis in 1948 and are now living in squalid camps in Lebanon? The issue is complicated when Israel said it will never allow the Palestinian refugees to return to Israel and Hamas said that there will be no peace unless all of Israel is returned to the Palestinians.

In addition, how is President Obama going to deal with Iran who is hell-bent in developing its nuclear weapons which she will used against Israel in the event that its puppets — Hamas and Hezbollah — are unable to annihilate Israel by conventional means.

How is he going to deal with a re-emerging superpower Russia who wants to regain its economic hegemony over the former republics of the defunct Soviet Union? Can he trust Vladimir Putin?

How about the soon-to-be superpower China, the most populous country on Earth that is hungry for oil and other natural resources she doesn’t not have. Are we seeing the revival of the concept of “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” which would be led by China this time around? The oil and natural gas-rich Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea is claimed by China as part of its continental shelf. What would prevent her from claiming the entire South China Sea? With dwindling supply of crude oil, it is anticipated that this could be the next major trouble spot which would pit China against the United States.

Indeed, President Obama is faced with gargantuan problems. However, they’re not insurmountable. It would take a great leader with a grand vision and diplomatic skills to solve these problems. But like Emperor Septimius Severus of Rome 1,900 years ago, President Obama could bring stability to America and peace in the Middle East during his presidency.

Septimius Severus was born in Leptis Magna in what is now Libya in 145 AD. Like President Obama, he was of mixed raced — Libyan father and mother of Italian descent. In 193 AD, when Emperor Commodus’ assassination was followed by the murder of his successor, Pertinax, who only reigned for three months, a civil war erupted between Generals Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger when both of them were declared emperor by their legions. Septimius Severus won and he became the first African Roman emperor.

He was credited for restoring stability in the empire. Rome was then at war with Parthia, which included Mesopotamia (Iraq). In 197 AD, he won and annexed the conquered lands — including Mesopotamia — to the Roman empire; thus, increasing Rome’s military and financial burdens. But he was able to meet these responsibilities and Rome prospered. He died peacefully in Britain in 211 AD.

Indeed, President Obama could learn from the reign of Septimius Severus and restore stability in the U.S. and turn its economy around. If President Obama succeeds, he could become the modern-day American Caesar. Hail Caesar!

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz
 

 

It takes a great deal of courage and integrity for a soldier to resist a P20-million bribe. But that’s what Marine Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino did. First, he was offered a P3-million bribe to release the “Alabang Boys” from detention. He rejected it. Then the offer was increased to P20 million. He turned it down again. When he heard that a state prosecutor was offered a P50-million bribe to drop the case against the “Alabang Boys,” Marcelino decided to expose the bribery attempts.

 

Little did Marcelino realize that what he did would catapult him to fame. He won the admiration of the Filipino people for his honesty, integrity and incorruptibility.

His honesty was tested last May 2008 when his older brother Eddie was hospitalized for a life-threatening ailment. His family needed P80,000 to pay for the operation to save his brother’s life. They asked Ferdinand for help but he didn’t have the money. He could easily have gotten some “dirty money” from people who would willingly give him more than he needed in exchange for “favors.” But he didn’t do it. He told his family that he couldn’t produce the money needed to save his brother’s life.

The eleventh of 13 children of a modest family from Hagonoy, Bulacan, Ferdinand graduated valedictorian in elementary school and completed high school through a scholarship. He couldn’t afford to go to college so he took various odd jobs to support himself.

He found an opportunity to enter college for free by applying for a job with the college publication at the University of the East. He was hired as a reporter. He also got a second job as a police beat reporter for Headline Manila. It was at that job that a rare opportunity presented itself. When he went to interview the Commandant of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) who will be featured in the newspaper, somebody handed him an application form for entrance to PMA as a cadet. He applied and was accepted.

He graduated in the PMA Class of 1994 and was commissioned as a Marine officer. He was immediately sent to war in the jungles of Basilan to fight the Abu Sayyaf terrorists as an intelligence officer. He excelled in gathering intelligence and was credited for the capture of Commander Abu Sabaya who masterminded the celebrated kidnapping of 20 tourists at the Dos Palmas resort in 2001.

Interestingly, the PMA Class of 1994 produced rebellious — but idealistic — officers, some of whom have banded together under the name of Magdalo. It is no wonder then that his former classmates tried to recruit him into joining Magdalo. He resisted and said, “No.” In July 2003, the Magdalo mutinied against the Arroyo government. They failed and were captured and detained.

When retired Gen. Dionisio Santiago, former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, took over as Director General of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in 2006, he convinced Marcelino to transfer to PDEA. When asked why he recruited Marcelino, he said that Marcelino is incorruptible and can be trusted. He predicted that he’ll do good at the agency.

One of Marcelino’s first assignments at PDEA was to investigate the case of the missing seven kilos of “shabu” which were kept as evidence in the PDEA storage area. Marcelino teamed up with another agent, Maj. Valentino Lopez, and together they solved the case. They identified the masterminds: two police colonels and a police major!

The duo’s next investigation resulted in the discovery of a clandestine “shabu” laboratory in Calumpit, Bulacan operated by Chinese drug lords. Consequently, Marcelino was appointed to head PDEA’s Special Enforcement Service (SES). As Santiago had predicted before, Marcelino was really doing good at the agency.

On September 20, 2008, Marcelino and his SES team arrested Richard Brodett, Jorge Joseph, and Joseph Tecson in a buy-bust sting operation in Quezon City and Ayala Alabang. It turned out that the suspects were scions of rich and well-connected families, one of which was believed to be related to a powerful official in Malacanang. Hence, the suspects were called the “Alabang Boys.”

The case turned into big scandal that threatened the integrity of the Department of Justice (DOJ). During a congressional hearing, it was revealed that on December 23, 2008, Felisberto Verano Jr., lawyer of one of the “Alabang Boys” drafted a release order for the “Alabang Boys” using official DOJ stationery and, surprisingly, it easily got through to Secretary Raul Gonzalez for his signature. Although Gonzalez balked at signing the release order, questions were raised as to what made it possible for Verano to get the release order to Gonzalez without being scrutinized and authenticated by his underlings.

In an act of damage control, President Arroyo ordered the indefinite leave of absence of Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, and State Prosecutors Philip Kimpo, Misael Ladaga, and John Resado. It was Resado who dismissed the case and whom PDEA has alleged to have received the P50-million bribe. According to Santiago, PDEA had a “strong, tight case” against the “Alabang Boys” yet the case was junked for “lack of probable cause.” Huh! The “Alabang Boys” were caught in a buy-bust operation! Isn’t that enough to establish probable cause?

It is interesting to note that in May 2008, President Arroyo pardoned 18 Magdalo rebels and were subsequently appointed PDEA agents. Santiago assigned the pardoned rebels to Marcelino’s SES.

It must have been fate that brought Marcelino and the Magdalo rebels together at PDEA. Indeed, out of a staff of 900 at PDEA, these few good men could turn the agency around and make it a strong force in the war on drug trafficking.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, a retired general, said that he would recommend Marcelino for the Distinguished Service Star, the highest non-combat award to a soldier. However, Marcelino’s bright and shining star has already earned its place in the sky. He is a living hero.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

 

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

 

A defenseless 56-year old man and his 14-year old son were mauled by a town mayor and his brother as their father — a cabinet member and “peace negotiator” — and several armed bodyguards watched. This incident is a sign that the country has gone to the dogs. Indeed, what happened at the golf course is a microcosm of what is happening all over the country today: the arrogance of those in power.

On December 26, 2008, Delfin de la Paz, his son “Bino” and his 18-year old daughter Bambee were playing golf at the Valley Golf Country Club in Antipolo, Rizal when their lives turned upside down at the hands of Nasser Pangandaman, Jr., Mayor of Masiu, Lanao del Sur, and his brother Hussein, sons of Agrarian Reform Secretary and government peace panel member Nasser Pangandaman, Sr. What is really appalling is that the cause for the brutal attack was an argument over golf etiquette, a misunderstanding that could have been resolved amicably.

When the Pangandaman brothers ganged up on the elder Dela Paz, the young Bino pleaded to the mayor to stop beating his dad, “Sorry na po… sorry na po… tama na… tama na po…” (“Sorry sir… sorry sir… please stop… please stop…”). Instead the mayor punched Bino on the face. Pretty soon the bodyguards joined in mauling the Dela Pazes. Bambee tried to stop the beating of her father and brother but to no avail. When someone finally stopped the brawl, the mayor told his caddy, “Hindi nila kami kilala! Sabihin mo nga sa kanila kung sino ako!” (“They don’t know who we are! Tell them who I am!”).

The following day, Secretary Pangandaman, Sr. drove to Baguio to play golf with President Arroyo’s son, Congressman Mikey Arroyo. Such are the lives of those who are in high positions of authority: one day, they attack the powerless; the next day, they hobnob with the powerful.

Indeed, the Philippines today is in a situation where powerful family dynasties have arrogantly imposed their will on the powerless people. Their grip on power is so tight that it doesn’t matter what the people say, it’s what they want for themselves that matters most.

The “checks and balances” that the constitution has provided to protect the state and the people have been conveniently removed in a series of Machiavellian moves that eventually placed the House of Representatives at the beck and call of the President and transformed the Senate into a chamber of “gladiators” fighting among themselves to the amusement of the ruling elite.

And how about the Supreme Court? Until recently it was the guardian of the constitution and the protector of the rights of the citizens. A razor-thin majority has maintained a high degree of judicial independence as demonstrated when they rejected the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain for Bansangmoro which Malacanang had secretly negotiated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But with seven justices retiring this year, will their replacements be beholden to their sacred oath to safeguard the constitution or will they remain loyal and indebted to the President for appointing them to the High Court?

It is evident that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is hell bent in pursuing Charter change (Cha-cha) to amend the constitution before her term ends in June 2010. She has said so and House Speaker Prospero Nograles has said so too. Word has been going around that Cha-cha’s “navigator” in the House is no less than Gloria’s son, Congressman Mikey Arroyo. However, Mikey has been saying that his only interest in Cha-cha is to allow foreigners to own land and have full control of their businesses in the Philippines. But what would prevent anyone from introducing an amendment that would change the form of government to a parliamentary system?

In the past several months, just about all sectors in Philippine society — including the Catholic Church and other religious groups — have voiced out their objection to holding Cha-cha prior to the 2010 elections. Virtually, everybody is in agreement that to proceed with Cha-cha this year would only play into the hands of Gloria who many believe wants to stay in power beyond 2010.

The arrogance of power displayed by Gloria and her political allies has made a mockery of democracy and the rule of law. The people’s sentiments as indicated in numerous polls were treated as mere nuances, thus, ignored. It would seem that they’re saying: “To hell with public opinion!”

But the people are now getting back at them: they use the power of the Internet to fight the abuses and arrogance of those in power. Little did Bambee realize that when she told the story of the beating of her father and brother on her blog site, bloggers all over the world ferociously attacked the Pangandamans.

A few days later, Secretary Pangandaman pleaded to the bloggers to stop the incessant attacks. He said that his family is hurting from the attacks. He made a public apology; however, the Dela Pazes rejected it. If Pangandaman was really sorry, he should call the Dela Pazes and apologize to them directly.

But an apology is not enough. Secretary Pangandaman violated the public’s trust by just watching his sons beat the Dela Pazes. As a cabinet member and “peace negotiator,” he is expected to act in a manner worthy of his position.

There is only one honorable option for Pangandaman; that is, resign! If he doesn’t resign, then President Arroyo should — nay, must — fire him because, at the end of the day, Pangandaman’s performance is a reflection on the President.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)