October 2009

Photo/Keith Bacongco

Loren Legarda (Photo/Keith Bacongco)

With the presidential candidates for the 2010 election pretty much set to go, the next game is the selection of their vice presidential running mates. Of the five serious presidential candidates — Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Sen. Manny Villar, Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada, and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero — only Noynoy and Erap have selected their vice presidential running mates. Manny, Gibo, and Chiz are still searching.

Meanwhile, several people have been mentioned as potential vice presidential running mates of Manny and Gibo. It’s like a carousel with all the VP wannabes, maybes, and nobodies riding stationary plastic horses going up and down in a merry-go-round ride.

The most visible of the VP wannabes is Sen. Loren Legarda who recently declared her vice presidential bid without a presidential running mate. Why didn’t she wait for Chiz, the presumptive presidential candidate of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), to declare his candidacy? Evidently, she wants it known that she’s available, uncommitted, and ready to play with whoever could raise the ante to the limit. Why not? As she boastfully disclosed, there were more than five presidential wannabes who were courting her to be their VP running mate. Last week, that pack of “suitors” pared down to three — Manny, Gibo and Chiz.

However, Loren made it clear that she was staying with the “opposition” which means that Gibo is out of contention. But Gibo — like a jilted suitor — started courting Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto and Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia. The question is: would Vilma and Gwen settle for “second choice”? Jilted once is okay. But jilted three times would be a disastrous to Gibo’s ego. If Vilma or Gwen shies away from Gibo, there is a possibility that Gibo would try to get Tourism Secretary Ace Durano. Gwen or Ace — both Cebuanos –would be an ideal VP running mate of Gibo because it would provide a “geographical balance” for Gibo who is from Tarlac. Is there a significance on why the Lakas-Kampi-CMD would hold their national convention in Cebu on November 12? You bet.

If Gibo couldn’t get Loren, Vilma, Gwen or Ace, who would he settle for? Heck, Fernando Bayani, Gen. Hermogenes Ebdane, and Sen. Dick Gordon are waiting in the wings ready to step in. They wouldn’t mind being Gibo’s “umpteenth choice.” Boys are boys. They would swallow their pride with a shot of XO cognac.

Manny is having the same problem — nobody would step forward to be his VP running mate. First, it was speculated that Vice President Noli De Castro withdrew from the presidential derby to run as Manny’s VP running mate. But Noli is non-committal. Rumor has it that he’s been offered a hefty retirement package by one of the presidential wannabes to stay out of the presidential race. Had he stayed in the race, it could have hurt Manny more than the others.

Then Manny started hanging out with Wowowee host Willie Revillame, appearing several times with Willie in pre-Christmas programs with “political” overtone. It didn’t take long for the scoop-starved media people to speculate that it would be a Manny-Willie tandem. But Willie is smarter than his clownish demeanor. As someone commented, “Willie is scared to run because he might win. Then what?” Indeed.

Meanwhile, Manny was rumored to have offered Loren a “king’s ransom” to be his VP running mate. With Chiz dilly-dallying about his presidential candidacy, that makes Manny the only man standing holding a bag full of gold and ready to play. That makes him more attractive than a young man wearing a musk cologne.

And what is going on with Chiz? When he turned 40 last October 10 — which qualified him to run for president — he shocked his party mates and supporters when he told them that he was postponing his announcement because he wanted his party to focus in helping the victims of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

Many people believe, however, that Chiz postponed his announcement because Danding wasn’t ready to commit to bankroll his campaign. If Danding — founder and power behind NPC — decided not bankroll Chiz’s campaign, then Chiz would be hard-pressed for campaign money. He needs a huge amount trailing with nine zeroes to be able to compete with Manny and Noynoy. However, Chiz claims that another tycoon, Lucio Tan, would be willing to bankroll his campaign. But Tan would most likely donate to all of the presidential and vice presidential candidates which would insure that he will have access to Malacanang, whoever wins. That’s what most of the Filipino taipans do to protect their businesses.

It is interesting to note that Rep. Jack Duavit, NPC secretary general, disputed rumors that Chiz and Loren did not have the “financial muscle” to go to battle next year. “We have more than enough funds for nationwide campaign political ads,” he said, “but what we do not have are funds to buy votes.” Whoa! Somebody finally admitted that “vote buying” is necessary to win elections. Well, Chiz better convince Danding to cough up a few billion pesos to buy votes for him and Loren. Otherwise, NPC might just as well kiss Chiz and Loren goodbye.

There has been talk that Danding would eventually support his nephew Noynoy against Gibo, his other nephew and erstwhile “political heir.” Why not? That would be like investing in blue chips. However, is Noynoy ready to embrace Danding without the risk of disappointing the admirers and supporters of his late parents, Ninoy and Cory?

On the other hand, Gibo is considered risky investment. In the latest SWS survey, his rating was 4%. But in the latest IBON survey released yesterday, Gibo’s name didn’t show up. Noynoy topped both surveys.

When the merry-go-round ride stops, these are the possible team-ups: Manny-Loren, Gibo-Gwen, and Chiz with no VP running mate. However, if Loren is convinced by Danding to team up with Chiz, then I can see Manny twisting the arm of his long-time buddy, Noli De Castro, to be his running mate. Noli would probably go along. Why not? It would just be another free ride for him. He might as well enjoy it.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Balitang Kutsero
by Perry Diaz

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Finally, Sen. Loren Legarda officially declared her candidacy for vice president at a rally in Luneta. But she didn’t say who would be her presidential running mate. According to her, she was courted by five presidential wannabes to be their vice presidential running mate. Yeah, the boys were all singing, “Loren, Loren sinta, sa akin ka pumunta.” (Loren, Loren my love, come to me.) But it’s now down to three: Gibo Teodoro, Manny Villar, and Chiz Escudero.

Rumor has it that Loren has been offered a “king’s ransom” to “ditch” Chiz and be the vice presidential running mate of another candidate. That could only be somebody who has lots of money. Hint… hint… “money” rhymes with…?

During Loren’s Luneta rally, my investigative reporter James Macaquecquec reported that he overheard Loren asked someone, “Where’s the money?” But James wasn’t sure if Loren meant to say, “Where’s Manny?”

Well, Manny has been singing, “Loren, Loren sinta, madami akong pera kaya sa akin ka na lang pumunta.” (Loren, Loren my love, I got lots of money so come to me.) Like they say, “Follow the scent of money.”

A Malacañang official said recently that some governors were pushing an administration tandem of Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro and Loren. It will be “exciting,” the official said. Well, with only 4% rating in the last SWS poll, Gibo is singing, “Loren, Loren sinta, talagang kailangan kita kaya sa akin ka na lang pumunta.” (Loren, Loren my love, I really need you so please come to me.)

However, Loren said she’s staying with the “opposition” and that could be either be Chiz or Manny. But Chiz has been dilly-dallying in announcing his presidential bid. What if he decided not to run? “Loren, Loren sinta, saan ka pupunta?” (Loren, Loren my love, where will you go?)

Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, a retired general, resigned from his job to run for president. In his resignation letter to Gloria, Ebdane said that his years of service with Ms. Arroyo led to his decision “to offer myself to our countrymen.” Naks, napaka corny naman. Why didn’t he just say, “I wanna be president.” But he probably didn’t like the sound of “wannabe.” Well, wannabe is a wannabe. Anyway, he can start wooing Loren to be his VP running mate, “Loren, Loren sinta, kung ayaw ka ni Chiz, ako ay sa iyo.” (Loren, Loren my love, if Chiz doesn’t like you, I’m all yours.) Now, that’s really corny.

But nothing is cornier that when Erap Estrada declared that he’s running again for president and told his 9,000 supporters, “This is the last performance of my life and I will not fail you.” Hmmm… I thought he had his “last performance” in 1998 when he was elected president… and he blew it! And he wants a second chance? No way, pal!

However, Erap’s rivals shouldn’t underestimate him. His “Erap magic” swayed 11 million Pinoys to vote for him in 1998. Well, did he hear about “Noynoy magic”? With one flick of his magic wand, Noynoy convinced 60% of Pinoys that he’s the best person to be their president next year.

The 2010 presidential election might become the “Battle of Magicians.” However, Noynoy and Erap should be careful not to promise the people an “enchanted kingdom.” Gloria tried that and look where she’s heading now — oblivion.

Recently, five presidential wannabes, who are on the Who’s Who Register, participated in a candidates’ forum. They were: Erap Estrada, who was the president ousted in 2001; Sen. Dick Gordon, who is the president the Philippines will never have; Sen. Chiz Escudero, who is the kid who wants to be president; Nick Perlas… Nick who? and John Carlo “JC” delos Reyes… ho ho ho!

The vice presidential musical chairs game is on! Three presidential wannabes are still looking for a VP running mate. Ronnie Puno wants to be Gibo’s VP but Gibo seems to be fixated on a woman for his running mate. Ronnie got the message and quit his bid for VP. Like they say, “Quit while you’re a head.”

Chiz appears to want Loren to be his VP but Loren seems to be “flirting” with Gibo and Manny. If Loren goes with Gibo, Chiz can then get Ronnie. But that would be like trading a Coca Cola bottle with a San Miguel beer bottle — Manny gets all the curves and Chiz gets all the fizz.

Poor Manny, he’s is still looking for a VP. Even Noli De Castro is staying away from him. And Willie Revillame would rather run for mayor of Quezon City than become Manny’s wow wow boy. I wonder if Manny has a BO that’s keeping people away from him? Hmmm….

All’s not well in the Nationalist People’s Coalition. Rep. Jack Duavit, NPC secretary general, disputed rumors that Chiz and Loren did not have the “financial muscle” to go to battle next year. “We have more than enough funds for nationwide campaign political ads,” he said, “but what we do not have are funds to buy votes.” Whoa! Somebody finally admitted that “vote buying” is necessary to win elections. Well, Chiz and Loren better convince NPC founder and multi-billionaire Danding Cojuangco to cough up a few billion pesos to buy votes for them. Otherwise, NPC might just as well kiss Chiz and Loren goodbye. But Gibo and Manny would welcome Loren with open arms and open pockets. Poor Chiz. He should have known that it takes a lot of moolah to run for president.

President Gloria Arroyo recently formed a body called “Climate Change Commission.” Gloria said that “climate change” is the cause of all the problems relating to typhoons. Gloria appointed three commissioners who will serve for six years. And she appointed herself as its chairman!

But here’s the stinger: P50 million from the president’s contingent fund will be appropriated as initial operating fund of the commission. And the commission would also be allowed to accept foreign grants to finance its programs. Whoa! That means that Gloria would still be around for five years and five months after she steps down from the presidency, with millions of pesos at her disposal.

With only seven months left in her presidency, Gloria should start thinking about a title for her memoirs. How about “Enchanted Kingdom Lost” or “What Did Catherine the Great Do That I Didn’t Do?”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

Last October 17, 2009, a Manila source sent me a copy of the hitherto unpublished House Resolution 1465 which was filed in the House of Representatives on October 14, 2009. H.R. 1465 urges the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to seriously consider the use of partially automated election system in the 2010 national and local elections. The resolution was introduced by Representatives Pablo P. Garcia, Carlos M. Padilla, Rodolfo G. Plaza, Jonathan A. Dela Cruz, Eduardo Nonato N. Joson, Eric D. Singson, Arnulfo P. Fuentebella, Mark Llandro L. Mendoza, Benhur L. Salimbangon, and Jeci A. Lapus.

The lawmakers filed H.R. 1465 because of potentially fatal problems in implementing the new automated election system (SMARTMATIC-TIM). The lawmakers say that technology experts have identified 14 “risks, vulnerabilities, threats, and other logistical nightmares that will seriously cause failures of elections,” to wit:

1. Sensitivity of the machines – when you place epoxy/glue in the ballot immediately before placing it into the machine, the machine will break down.

2. Erroneous printing of the ballots – There will be 1,631 versions of the ballot and there will be some 35,000 names to be distributed among 1,631 versions of the ballot, for printing. The probability of making mistakes is very high and the consequences of such mistakes could be fatal.

3. Erroneous delivery of the ballots – After printing, the right set of ballots will have to be delivered to the 1,631 cities, districts and municipalities, which errors could also be fatal.

4. The numerous names of candidates numbering around 250-300 that would have to be pre-printed in the ballot will require long and large ballots. This will make it difficult for the voter to keep his voting secret.

5. The need to train some 500,000 teachers to assist the voters.

6. The need to train 45-50 million voters.

7. The need to hire and train 40,000 technicians, one for each precinct.

8. The clustering of 300,000 precincts, down to 80,000, could cause confusion.

9. Due to COMELEC’s decision to let the voter himself feed his ballot into the machine, any breakdown could cause delays.

10. Voters could intentionally introduce substances into the PCOS that would result in its malfunction.

11. Erroneous markings, smudges, poor calibration/alignment could cause rejection of the ballot.

12. Nobody would see the counting at the precincts.

13. Given that nobody would see the counting, the voting public would likely not trust the results. Losing candidates therefore, especially in hotly-contested areas, might create trouble that could cause a failure of elections in their localities. If this occurs in many areas, it could mean a total failure of elections nationwide.

14. The reliability of the machines come election day is also suspect. It took the Department of Science and Technology fours months in 1991 to test the failed Mega Pacific Election Automation System to certify the reliability and accuracy of the counting machines. This time around, COMELEC is only giving one month to test the 80,000 SMARTMATIC-TIM machines.

The lawmakers are also concerned about the delays in implementing the automated system. Production of the election machines was held up for four months due to the government’s delay in releasing the mobilization fund. In addition, implementation has been delayed by 60 to 120 days due to unrealistically tight schedule, which was later aggravated by the petition filed by the Concerned Citizens Movement wit the Supreme Court for alleged violations of Republic Act 9369.

R.A .9369 mandated, among other things, to “use a direct recording electronic system (DRE) for the process of voting, counting of votes an canvassing/consolidation and transmittal of results of electoral exercises.” However, the lawmakers claim that the “legal mandate to use the DRE will not be implemented due mainly to the fact that the COMELEC acquired only counting machines with limited functions and capabilities.”

The lawmakers are also concerned about COMLELEC Chairman Jose A. Melo’s recent statement declaring that 30 to 50 percent of the precincts “may have to use the manual election system in the 2010 National and Local Elections due to the absence of power and communications facilities in some areas.”

The lawmakers also claim that the use of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) is “not compliant with the provision of R.A. 9369 and other laws incorporated in said Act.” Evidently, this was known to COMELEC; however, it was ignored.

And, lastly, the lawmakers are concerned that since the “risks and vulnerabilities of the automated election system have not yet been properly addressed, particularly the adoption of the potentially dangerous open balloting and secret canvassing, which is the complete opposite of the secret voting and open canvassing under the manual system, there is great possibility of failure of elections that will eventually cause chaos in the streets.”

But while H.R. 1465 urges COMELEC to revert to manual voting and precinct counting, it recommends the automation of the canvassing of the votes and requiring a “simultaneous electronic transmission system from the precinct level to the municipal, provincial, National Board of Canvassers and to Congress in the 2010 National and Local Elections.”

In my opinion, the automation of the canvassing of the votes would be vulnerable to massive “dagdag-bawas” (add-subtract) cheating. As in past elections, “dagdag-bawas” cheating was done during the canvassing of votes where it was easy to cheat — with the connivance of COMELEC officials — by subtracting votes from a certain candidate and adding them to another candidate’s tally. If canvassing of votes were done electronically, it would be easier to perform “dagdag-bawas” manipulations. During the 2004 presidential elections, “dagdag-bawas” cheating was allegedly perpetrated by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which was exposed in the celebrated “Hello Garci” election cheating scandal.

To pursue total or partial implementation of the SMARTMATIC-TIM automated election system could lead to wholesale confusion and total breakdown of the 2010 elections. The prudent thing to do is to totally revert to the old manual system.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Balitang Kutsero
by Perry Diaz

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

My investigative reporter James Macaquecquec told me of a story he heard. The story goes: Gloria Arroyo was applying for a permit to build her own ark. “You need to put two of each kind in it,” said Noah, “so they can breed while afloat.” “Oh,” Gloria shot back with as much sweetness she could muster. “But I only need one each of my Cabinet, one each of my congressmen, one each of my presidential staff, and one each of the church men on my side to breed.” “Breed what?” asked Noah. Gloria hesitated… then said, “Corruption.” That’s Gloria’s Ark.

My other investigative reporter from Northern California sent me this report: According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo’s report to President Arroyo, donations from various governments for Typhoon Ondoy victims have reached P4.41 billion. And more are coming in. Hmmm… that’s a lot of money to build Gloria’s Ark. I wonder if the Philippine government has established an accounting system to show how much money is coming in from donors and how much is going out to the typhoon victims. We just want to make sure that the kleptocrats don’t get near that money!

And the last thing we want to see happen is Gloria junketing again and dining in expensive restaurants abroad. The past year that she had been junketing, she used her P800 million contingency fund in addition to the P1 billion already budgeted for her travels. Gloria probably thought that the contingency fund is to be used when she’s short on shopping money.

Rey Arcilla of Malaya reported in his column that Gloria has authorized Romulo to host on Dec. 1-3 the Special Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on the Interfaith Dialogue. The amount allotted for that event is more than P400 million!!! Holy goat! Where is Gloria going to get that money for this extravagant meeting! Madame President, the typhoon victims need the money more than the junketing foreign government officials!!!

And guess where Romulo was recently? He was in Paris attending the UNESCO General Conference. And guess where Romulo and Gloria will be going next? To Thailand to attend the annual Asean Summit Meeting. Reminds me of Nero who fiddled while Rome was burning. This time, Gloria is junketing while Filipinos are drowning.

Meanwhile, Rep. Satur Ocampo is renewing calls “to suspend interest and principal payments on the country’s foreign debt and instead use the funds for disaster response measures.” Of the proposed P1.541 trillion 2010 budget, P340.8 billion — or 22.1% — is allocated for interest payments! That doesn’t include principal payments. Wah wah wee! Kawawa naman kami!

Presidential wannabe Sen. Manny Villar is having fun with Wowowee host Willie Revillame in three early Christmas concerts in Cavite. Wow! These two happy-go-lucky guys are having a good time while Pinoys are suffering from the ravages of typhoons. Wah wah wee! Kawawa naman ang mga Pinoy!

It was reported in the news that Willie Revillame is “Manny’s ace.” Reminds me of a poker game called “ace in the hole.” Willie might just be Manny’s “ace in the hole.” But Manny should be careful not to mispronounce “ace” as “ass.” That could be very embarrassing. Imagine, “ass…”?

Rumor has it that Willie is eyeing the vice presidency or mayorship of Quezon City. Well, if I were Willie, I’d rather run for vice president. What does he know about running a city government? Look at Vice President Noli De Castro, all he does is cut ribbons and attend funerals. Pa bandying bandying lang siya! I’m pretty sure Willie would love to do that.

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero turned 40 last October 10 but he decided to postpone his announcement of his political plans in 2010. The reason, he said, was so his party can focus its efforts on helping the typhoon victims. Well, at the rate typhoons are coming to the Philippines, Chiz might consider postponing his political plans indefinitely cuz he’s going to be really busy helping typhoon victims for the rest of his adult life.

Meanwhile, Chiz said that he favors abolishing the pork barrel system saying, “The current system poses a problem since we do not know where it came from or where it goes. I am in favor of abolishing the pork barrel system and institutionalizing line-item budgeting.” Wrong! We know it came from the taxpayers and we suspect it’s going into some politicians’ pockets. If Chiz wants the support of those who are running for Congress, he’d better not talk about abolishing pork barrel. They’d kick him in the ass for proposing that.

Did you know that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo’s look-alike pal, Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante, is running for governor of Capiz? Well, Sen. Mar Roxas, Noynoy’s running mate, is pissed off cuz Joc-joc has been pirating members of the local chapter of the Liberal Party. Mar should have known long time ago that Joc-joc is a real “ace in the hole.” And I’m pretty sure Mar wouldn’t mind people mispronouncing “ace.”

Hey, finally, Mar and Korina Sanchez are set to wed on October 23 at the cavernous Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City. The couple want the big church to accommodate their relatives, friends, and the public as well. A reception was planned to be held at the Araneta Coliseum but the couple canceled the reception and decided to donate P2 million they had set aside for the reception to help the typhoon victims. That’s about $40,000 — twice the amount Gloria spent dining with her friends at Le Cirque in New York! Now, that’s a real wow wow wee! Bless your hearts, Mar and Korina.

By the way, Ombudsman Merceditas “Mercy” Navarro-Gutierrez — Mike Arroyo’s college chum — said that her office is still investigating Gloria’s $20,000 dinner at Le Cirque. She said that “the investigating prosecutor is thoroughly scrutinizing the case.” Well, the last time Mercy scrutinized a case filed against Gloria and Mike, it led to a bridge to nowhere. That’s what friends are for.

After months of dilly-dallying, former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada, who was forced to take a “leave of absence” in 2001, finally picked his vice presidential running mate — Jejomar Binay. Erap said that Binay’s experience as mayor of Makati City made him “his best choice for running mate in next year’s elections.” Indeed, Binay is Erap’s “ace in the hole” who is ready to take over the presidency in case Erap takes another leave of absence.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

In my May 27, 2009 column, “Gloria’s Gambit,” I asked: “Would De Castro kowtow to Gloria? If he does, he will be taking a great risk of losing his base of support because Gloria’s ‘anointment’ might turn out to be a ‘kiss of death’ which could put an end to his political life.” I was right. De Castro turned down Gloria’s “anointment” and his reason was that it would be a “kiss of death.” Bingo!

And then I asked: “And what would happen to Teodoro? I would not be surprised if Gloria would use him as a pawn to sacrifice in her opening gambit… unless he changes his mind and settles as De Castro’s vice presidential running mate.” Well, the question is now academic since it was predicated on De Castro accepting Gloria’s “anointment.” Secretary of Defense Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro is now the choice of the Executive Committee of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, PaLaKa for short, as their standard bearer. They also selected Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government Ronaldo “Ronnie” Puno as his vice presidential running mate.

In a few days, Gibo’s former political party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), will be selecting its presidential and vice presidential candidates. For its standard bearer, the odds-on favorite is Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who just turned 40 years old — the minimum age for presidential candidates — last October 10. Sen. Loren Legarda is believed to be their choice for vice presidential candidate.

Now, the question is: Who are the people who would support Chiz and bankroll his campaign? This brings us squarely on Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, the founder and power behind NPC. Is he going to support Chiz Escudero or his erstwhile “favorite nephew” and former political heir, Secretary of Defense Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro?

A few days ago, Danding broke his silence and said: “I’m the founder of the party (NPC). I think I have to support my own party that I founded, I think it is but normal.” He also said, “One of my nephews left even if we did not ask him to leave. It only means that we are of no consequence to him. So why should that be a bother to me?” He was referring to Gibo who left the NPC to join PaLaKa to pursue his presidential ambitions. Danding unequivocally said that he will not support Noynoy nor Gibo.

Danding’s revelation changes the whole game. The “Cojuangco War” is no longer just between Noynoy and his cousin Gibo. It is now among three members of the Cojuangco clan: Noynoy Aquino, Gibo Teodoro, and their Uncle Danding whose choice is the NPC nominee-to-be, presumably, Chiz Escudero.

It’s interesting to note that it was Danding who prevailed upon Gibo to come back home to run for office in 1998. Gibo was at that time practicing law in New York. He came home, ran for Congress, and won. He became the leader of the large NPC bloc in the House until he was termed out in 2007. He then accepted the post of Secretary of Defense in the Arroyo administration. However, there was no evidence that he resigned his membership from NPC. This led many people to believe that he left the door wide open to go back to NPC and seek the party’s nomination for president.

It was only after he was required to join PaLaKa as a prerequisite to being considered for nomination that he formally affiliated with PaLaKa. On September 15, 2009, he was selected by the party’s Executive Committee as their standard bearer. However, his selection has yet to be ratified by the party’s membership.

But why did Gibo leave NPC? He could have stayed in NPC and still become its presidential bet. Somewhere along the way, a serious fallout might have happened between him and his Uncle Danding.

However, if Gibo had shown high poll ratings, I’m pretty sure that Danding, politically savvy as he is, would not hesitate to throw his support behind Gibo, regardless of party affiliation. Danding is a power by himself and NPC is just a vehicle to achieve political ends. But just like any other “vehicle,” it can easily be replaced. The bottom line is: If the election was held today, Gibo would lose miserably. In my opinion, that’s the primary reason why Danding would not support Gibo. Blood, after all, is not as thick as politics… particularly in the Cojuangco clan (“The Cojuangco Wars,” PerryScope September 22, 2009).

And who would Gloria support? In my August 18, 2009 column, “The Looming Battle Royale,” I said: “So, who do you think Gloria would support knowing that whoever her party’s candidate will be, would lose? There is only one person who would fit the mold of the candidate that Gloria would support… secretly. And that is Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero.” Indeed, his “winnability” is much better than Gibo’s.

Chiz might attempt to assert his independence if he wins but that’s wishful thinking. The Arroyos and the Cojuangcos will own him and nothing will change. It will be “business as usual” with the Arroyo-Cojuangco business interests controlling the government… and, for that matter, the country. In the Philippines, politics is business and business is politics. And as someone once said, “There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent self-interests.” Yes, indeed.

To date, Gloria — who had previously “anointed” Noli De Castro who turned it down — has yet to “anoint” Gibo. She did, however, say that she was “elated” over the endorsement of Gibo by 49 governors. But “elated” does not translate to “anointed” or “endorsed.”

So, what’s Gloria really up to? In my opinion, she’s keeping her options open. She could eventually throw her support behind Chiz or Manny Villar… or even Erap Estrada. She would support anyone of the candidates who would dance to her tune. Remember, she would still be in control of the Commission on Election. She pulled a “win” in 2004 for herself. She can do it again for her “manok” in 2010.

At the end of the day, Gloria’s ultimate goal is to prevent Noynoy Aquino from winning the presidential elections next year. Follow the money and you’ll know on whose shoulders Gloria would be putting her political survival on. I said it before and I’m going to say it again: the battle for the presidency would be between Noynoy Aquino and Danding’s choice — and, possibly, Gloria’s “secret candidate” — Chiz Escudero.

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

In my May 27, 2009 column, “Gloria’s Gambit,” I asked: “Would De Castro kowtow to Gloria? If he does, he will be taking a great risk of losing his base of support because Gloria’s ‘anointment’ might turn out to be a ‘kiss of death’ which could put an end to his political life.” I was right. De Castro turned down Gloria’s “anointment” and his reason was that it would be a “kiss of death.” Bingo!

And then I asked: “And what would happen to Teodoro? I would not be surprised if Gloria would use him as a pawn to sacrifice in her opening gambit… unless he changes his mind and settles as De Castro’s vice presidential running mate.” Well, the question is now academic since it was predicated on De Castro accepting Gloria’s “anointment.” Secretary of Defense Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro is now the choice of the Executive Committee of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, PaLaKa for short, as their standard bearer. They also selected Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government Ronaldo “Ronnie” Puno as his vice presidential running mate.

In a few days, Gibo’s former political party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), will be selecting its presidential and vice presidential candidates. For its standard bearer, the odds-on favorite is Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who just turned 40 years old — the minimum age for presidential candidates — last October 10. Sen. Loren Legarda is believed to be their choice for vice presidential candidate.

Now, the question is: Who are the people who would support Chiz and bankroll his campaign? This brings us squarely on Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, the founder and power behind NPC. Is he going to support Chiz Escudero or his erstwhile “favorite nephew” and former political heir, Secretary of Defense Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro?

A few days ago, Danding broke his silence and said: “I’m the founder of the party (NPC). I think I have to support my own party that I founded, I think it is but normal.” He also said, “One of my nephews left even if we did not ask him to leave. It only means that we are of no consequence to him. So why should that be a bother to me?” He was referring to Gibo who left the NPC to join PaLaKa to pursue his presidential ambitions. Danding unequivocally said that he will not support Noynoy nor Gibo.

Danding’s revelation changes the whole game. The “Cojuangco War” is no longer just between Noynoy and his cousin Gibo. It is now among three members of the Cojuangco clan: Noynoy Aquino, Gibo Teodoro, and their Uncle Danding whose choice is the NPC nominee-to-be, presumably, Chiz Escudero.

It’s interesting to note that it was Danding who prevailed upon Gibo to come back home to run for office in 1998. Gibo was at that time practicing law in New York. He came home, ran for Congress, and won. He became the leader of the large NPC bloc in the House until he was termed out in 2007. He then accepted the post of Secretary of Defense in the Arroyo administration. However, there was no evidence that he resigned his membership from NPC. This led many people to believe that he left the door wide open to go back to NPC and seek the party’s nomination for president.

It was only after he was required to join PaLaKa as a prerequisite to being considered for nomination that he formally affiliated with PaLaKa. On September 15, 2009, he was selected by the party’s Executive Committee as their standard bearer. However, his selection has yet to be ratified by the party’s membership.

But why did Gibo leave NPC? He could have stayed in NPC and still become its presidential bet. Somewhere along the way, a serious fallout might have happened between him and his Uncle Danding.

However, if Gibo had shown high poll ratings, I’m pretty sure that Danding, politically savvy as he is, would not hesitate to throw his support behind Gibo, regardless of party affiliation. Danding is a power by himself and NPC is just a vehicle to achieve political ends. But just like any other “vehicle,” it can easily be replaced. The bottom line is: If the election was held today, Gibo would lose miserably. In my opinion, that’s the primary reason why Danding would not support Gibo. Blood, after all, is not as thick as politics… particularly in the Cojuangco clan (“The Cojuangco Wars,” PerryScope September 22, 2009).

And who would Gloria support? In my August 18, 2009 column, “The Looming Battle Royale,” I said: “So, who do you think Gloria would support knowing that whoever her party’s candidate will be, would lose? There is only one person who would fit the mold of the candidate that Gloria would support… secretly. And that is Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero.” Indeed, his “winnability” is much better than Gibo’s.

Chiz might attempt to assert his independence if he wins but that’s wishful thinking. The Arroyos and the Cojuangcos will own him and nothing will change. It will be “business as usual” with the Arroyo-Cojuangco business interests controlling the government… and, for that matter, the country. In the Philippines, politics is business and business is politics. And as someone once said, “There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent self-interests.” Yes, indeed.

To date, Gloria — who had previously “anointed” Noli De Castro who turned it down — has yet to “anoint” Gibo. She did, however, say that she was “elated” over the endorsement of Gibo by 49 governors. But “elated” does not translate to “anointed” or “endorsed.”

So, what’s Gloria really up to? In my opinion, she’s keeping her options open. She could eventually throw her support behind Chiz or Manny Villar… or even Erap Estrada. She would support anyone of the candidates who would dance to her tune. Remember, she would still be in control of the Commission on Election. She pulled a “win” in 2004 for herself. She can do it again for her “manok” in 2010.

At the end of the day, Gloria’s ultimate goal is to prevent Noynoy Aquino from winning the presidential elections next year. Follow the money and you’ll know on whose shoulders Gloria would be putting her political survival on. I said it before and I’m going to say it again: the battle for the presidency would be between Noynoy Aquino and Danding’s choice — and, possibly, Gloria’s “secret candidate” — Chiz Escudero.

Balitang Kutsero
by Perry Diaz

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

In two days of torrential rain, Typhoon Ondoy transformed the land of Wow Wow Wee to the land of Wah Wah Wee. Ondoy also brought out the best and the worst in Pinoys.

Ron Cantiveros, CEO/publisher of Filipino Journal of Canada, raised more than $12,000 during a 3-hour remote broadcast by HOT 103 FM; another group, Winnipeg FILCAN Disaster Fund Relief headed by Lito Taruc, Fred de Villa, Nap Ebora and Dr. Roland Guzman raised another $55,000.

Rey, a resident of Provident Village in Marikina, got a call from his brother who was already on the roof of his house. Rey went to a store in Makati and bought a motorized boat for more than P100,000. He put the boat on his truck. When he arrived in Provident Village, people were screaming from the rooftops of their homes. Rey started his own rescue operation. Meanwhile, the government was holding a press conference announcing that they couldn’t get into Provident Village because the currents were too strong for them!! Tell that to Rey.

Marikina, known for manufacturing the best “Italian shoes” in the world, almost lost its most treasured collection — Imelda Marcos’ shoes. The Marikina Shoe Museum was flooded and the staff scrambled to save 800 pairs of Imelda’s shoes. All but 100 were saved.

The Catholic bishops said that they’re cautious about receiving donations that might come from the jueteng lords. Well, the bishops should look at it this way: What the jueteng lords giveth, the Lord’s flock taketh.

On September 29, President Arroyo ordered that only foreign donations coursed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will be tax-free. Whoa! Instantly, an entry in a blogsite says that the Customs Bureau is “holding hostage numerous boxes of relief goods from all over the world demanding exorbitant taxes for them. They are saying that unless certain duties are paid they won’t be released. They are only exempting relief goods sent directly to DSWD.” Yeah, what the good donors giveth, the customs agents keepeth.

My friend Sluggo Rigor commented: “nakakawalang gana tumulong kung ang gobiyerno ay indifferent. Taxes for relief goods? No wonder the Philippines is now known as the Land of Wowowee! because wonders never cease!” That was then, Sluggo. Now, it’s called the land of Wah Wah Wee!

During a Wowowee show, host Willie Revillame was challenged by the audience to donate to the typhoon victims. Hesitatingly, he pledged one million pesos. Well, I’ve seen people “pledge” money in front of television before. Let’s see if Willie would write a check for one million pesos in his next show. Like they say, “put your money where your mouth is.”

Good news and bad news… The good news was: The Office of the President has a contingency fund of P800 million. The bad news was: The Commission on Audit reported that President Gloria Arroyo has spent all of it for her foreign junkets. That’s on top of the more than P1 billion budget for her official travels. That makes Gloria the president of the land of “Woe Is Me.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Miriam filed two legislative bills — totaling P10 billion — to “fund relief operations, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of areas devastated by Typhoon Ondoy.” That’s great! But pleeeeze don’t let Gloria dip her hands into the jar again.

And while the torrential rain was pouring, some stupid government officials ordered the release of water from dams near Metro Manila; thus, contributing the massive flooding in the Marikina Valley. These idiots ought to be shot!

And the worst news was: The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) has only six rubber boats for rescue operations. Holy goat! There were four million people on rooftops and clinging on anything above water to stay alive! And NDCC Chairman Gibo Teodoro wants to be the next president? Wah wah!

And in an act of “overreaction,” President Arroyo issued Proclamation 1898 placing the entire country under a “state of calamity” which she might extend to a year. Oh yeah, a nationwide “state of calamity” until the end of her term in June 2010? The monsoon ends in November this year! Smells fishy to me. I wonder what Gloria has been up to again?

But several opposition senators smell a different kind of fish. They questioned why the entire nation was placed under a state of calamity when not all areas were affected by tropical storms. They’re concerned that Gloria and her political allies would use the disaster funds for something else. Can’t blame them. Gloria needs the funds to make her “manok” win the presidential elections next year.

Meanwhile, First Son Mikey Arroyo is still smarting over a Facebook photo entry which showed him allegedly shopping for liquor at Rustan’s supermarket while Ondoy was flooding Metro Manila. Now, he wanted to regulate Facebook. With 250 million members worldwide, regulating Facebook could be problematic for someone who wants to be president someday. What? President Mikey Arroyo? Wah wah!

Honestly, there is nothing wrong with Mikey buying liquor in the midst of a tropical storm. If Mikey believes that the Pinoy is worth drinking for, so be it. Meanwhile, lots of Pinoys — like Rey — were out there risking their own lives in the floods saving the lives of their kababayans. Yes, the Pinoy is worth drowning for!

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

Last September 26, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy — internationally known as Ketsana — hit Metro Manila. It was the worse typhoon since 1967. After two days of torrential rain and delugial floods, the government reported that Typhoon Ondoy left 288 people dead, five injured and 42 missing. Damage to property was estimated at P8.328 billion, including P2.743 billion in infrastructure and P5.584 billion in agriculture. It also said that “at least 797,404 families or 3,899,307 people in the entire Luzon, Cordillera, Western Visayas, Regions 9 and 12, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Metro Manila were affected.”

Could the massive floodings have been mitigated?

While it is hard to control flooding, it can be argued that it could be mitigated by effective flood control planning and timely emergency response by government agencies. In a recent article, “Not an act of God but a sin…,” written by Alcuin Papa of Philippine Daily Inquirer, urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox was quoted as saying, “The flood disaster that struck Metro Manila over the weekend was not an act of God but a sin of omission by government and private real estate developers.”

Palafox said that “a land use plan that took floods into consideration was drawn up as far back as 1977, titled ‘Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Planning Project,’ sponsored by the World Bank.” He also said, “the study had already noted the possibility of heavy flooding in at least three sites of urban growth in the Philippine capital—the Marikina Valley and its northern and southern parts.” “When I saw the damage caused by the floods recently, I realized that these were the same areas that had already been identified,” Palafox observed.

The question is: “What did the government do to mitigate flooding and other problems identified by the 1977 study?” Palafox said, “Nothing.”

In the aftermath of Ondoy, I received from a friend a forwarded email from an unidentified author — most probably a government engineer who didn’t want to be identified for fear of reprisal — about his analysis of the disastrous flooding. He wrote:

“It’s deemed impossible for the supposedly excessive amount of rainfall, equivalent to a month’s outpour condensed in 6 hours time, to be the main culprit.” His rationale was: (1) The rain was not that strong; (2) We’ve had worst rains before; (3) And why Marikina, Pasig and Cainta became water worlds in just an hour; and (4) Why Moriones, Tondo, just several hundred meters away from Manila Bay was barely affected if nature did cause the rivers to swell, overflow and contribute greatly to the deluge.

He further said, “The Manggahan Floodway was especially built to control flooding mostly in Marikina, Pasig and Cainta areas. Mechanical or systems failure of the water pumping station due to negligence was the more logical reason for the flash flood that swamped even high end villages.”

Recently, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. indicated that he wants to file a class action suit against those responsible for the allegedly “reckless release of water from dams” near Metro Manila. He believes that it contributed to the rapid rise of floodwater during the storm. At the moment, he is studying the facts and collecting evidence to determine who were responsible for allowing the water to flow out of the dams; thus, flooding the Marikina Valley.

By all indications, the massive floodings could have been mitigated, if not controlled. Poor government urban planning contributed to the massive floodings. You add the negligence and ineptitude of government officials and you have a disaster that not even Noah could have handled.

Could lives have been saved?

A lot of people complained that the national government, through its National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), did not respond to the disaster in a timely manner. Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro as NDCC chairman was faulted for the NDCC’s lack of preparedness and failure to save people’s lives.

As the country’s centralized and primary disaster planning center, NDCC lacks the logistics, manpower, and an effective disaster emergency plan to cope with the massive displacement of people, many of whom had to stay on rooftops to stay alive. From what I heard, NDCC had only three rubber boats to use in evacuating the 3.9 million flood victims.

And to make the situation worse, the government didn’t have the funds for disaster assistance. A news account says that a recent Commission on Audit (COA) report said that President Arroyo “has all but spent the P800 million contingency fund allotted to the Office of the President.” Accordingly, the COA said that “nearly every peso of the fund had been used for her foreign junkets, on top of the more than P1 billion budget for her official travels.”

It’s not surprising then that on September 28, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed two legislative bills — totaling P10 billion — to “fund relief operations, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of areas devastated by Typhoon Ondoy.” How about the senators and congressmen’s pork barrel funds? There are more than 100 senators and congressmen representing the 25 provinces in and around Metro Manila. Or did they already spend their pork barrel funds somewhere else?

Sen. Defensor Santiago also said that mayors of areas gravely affected by Typhoon Ondoy — including Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno — should be suspended for negligently performing their duties.

Command responsibility

The Typhoon Ondoy disaster and tragedy once again manifested the government’s inefficiency in dealing with emergency situations. Although Teodoro and Puno are to be held accountable for not doing their jobs, President Arroyo should — nay, must! — accept full command responsibility for the Typhoon Ondoy fiasco, a disaster that could have been mitigated and a human tragedy that could have been avoided.