November 2009

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

The gruesome and barbaric massacre of at least 57 unarmed civilians, including 27 journalists, shocked the world and left people wondering if what happened was an ominous sign of things to come. The bloody carnage in Maguindanao could spark violence that could engulf the entire island of Mindanao into the bloodiest political and clan warfare never before seen in the history of the country. The whole situation could only be described as “extremely volatile” which could cause a total breakdown of law and order and throw the region into chaos and anarchy. Indeed, November 23, 2009, will long remain as a day of ignominy in the annals of Philippine politics.

The following day, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat. Arroyo’s presidential assistant for Mindanao Jesus Dureza told the media that the scope of the state of emergency “will allow the government and military the authority to prevent lawlessness and further political violence.” However, he said that it did not include suspension of the “bill of rights” or writ of habeas corpus.

A few hours after the imposition of a state of emergency, Dureza went to the Ampatuan residence in Shariff Aguak to meet and confer with the Ampatuans. It was attended by the clan’s patriarch, Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., and his two sons, ARRM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. who was accused of leading the 100 armed men who slaughtered the 57 victims.

Criticized for his unusual visit with the Ampatuans, Dureza defensively said that he merely told the Ampatuans about the creation of the Crisis Management Committee and about the investigation. He also said that there was no discussion about the accusation against Andal Jr. But shouldn’t he instead have invited them to meet with him at the police station as normally would have been the case?

What Dureza did was akin to US President Obama sending his assistant to meet and confer with Mafia dons, after they have slaughtered their enemies, to inform them that the government was investigating them for their involvement in the massacre. Why the unusual “special treatment” accorded the Ampatuans?

Two days later, Andal Jr. surrendered to Dureza. He was flown to General Santos City where he was met by no less than Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera. The meeting had the aura of a visiting dignitary with Devanadera shaking Andal Jr’s hand. He was then escorted by Dureza’s men without handcuffs. Criticized for not doing a “standard operating procedure” in handcuffing an arrested suspect of a crime, Dureza explained that the keys of the two handcuffs his men had were lost. If he thinks that anybody would believe that, he’s wrong. But that just shows that “lying” seems to be the government’s “standard operating procedure.”

The following day, two disturbing news articles were reported. The first article, “Palace says Arroyo won’t cut ties with Ampatuans,” was reported by Christian V. Esguerra and TJ Burgonia from the Philippine Daily. The report says: “President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is maintaining her ties with the powerful Ampatuans despite their expulsion from the ruling party and the filing of multiple murder charges against one of them in connection with the Nov. 23 massacre of at least 57 people in Maguindanao province.”

Arroyo’s spokesperson, Lorelei Fajardo, further said, “I don’t think the President’s friendship with the Ampatuans will be severed. Just because they’re in this situation doesn’t mean we will turn our backs on them.” Fajardo went as far to cast doubts that the Ampatuans were involved in the massacre when she told the media that “it doesn’t mean that they are no longer our friends, if ever they indeed committed the crime.”

When reminded by reporters of “how the Ampatuans helped ensure Ms Arroyo’s disputed victory over opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004, and how they delivered an astonishing 12-0 sweep in Maguindanao for the administration’s senatorial ticket in 2007,” Fajardo said that Arroyo’s role as President should be viewed as “separate” from her function as a political ally of the clan. In my opinion, the presidency is a political job and the president’s actions are always influenced by political considerations. They are intertwined like a Gordian Knot.

The second article, “Ampatuans won’t cut ties with Arroyo,” was reported by ABS-CBN. The report says: “In an interview with ABS-CBN, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan said he was very hurt by the arrest of his brother, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., for allegedly masterminding the massacre last Monday.”

Ampatuan said that he also was offended by the statements of Lakas-Kampi CMD standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro and the decision of the Lakas-Kampi leadership to expel the Ampatuans from the party. “They didn’t even consult us. They just expelled us from the party without asking any questions,” he said.

And in a naked display of power — and arrogance — he said that “despite the expulsion, his family remains a staunch supporter of the Arroyo administration” and that he is set to “meet with President Arroyo to discuss problems faced by several Lakas-Kampi candidates in Sulu.”

Evidently, notwithstanding the magnitude of the horrendous massacre of which members of the Ampatuan clan were suspected of having perpetrated, President Arroyo didn’t distance herself from the Ampatuans. Instead, she further reinforced their strong friendship and alliance. The gory spectacle of 57 brutally slaughtered civilians — many of whom were raped, beheaded, and mutilated — would have caused Arroyo to flinch and immediately sever her personal and political relationships with the Ampatuans. That would have been the right thing to do for a president of a country. Instead, she sent a subtle but clear signal that her alliance with the Ampatuans remains strong… and perhaps, stronger.

But why didn’t she divorce herself from her alliance — or is it “unholy alliance”? — from the powerful Ampatuan clan? Is she scared that if she abandoned them, they would retaliate by unraveling the “secrets” of how they helped her win in Maguindanao in 2004 and deliver a 12-0 sweep of her senatorial candidates in 2007? That would certainly open a can of worms and could cause a political storm that would destroy her politically and further tarnish her checkered image beyond redemption.

And since she is running for a congressional seat — unopposed — representing Pampanga’s second district, Arroyo needs the Ampatuans when she vies for the Speakership of the House of Representatives next year. And if she succeeded in changing the form of government to a parliamentary system, she would be in a position to become the Prime Minister. That would truly be a Machiavellian feat.

At the end of the day, for as long as Arroyo continues to pursue her dream of reigning for years to come, she would not let her political allies down, come hell or high water.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Balitang Kutsero
by Perry Diaz

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Folks, it’s election time and it’s time again to dream the “impossible dream.” Why not? To dream the “impossible dream” is better than not to dream at all. But there are also those who made their “impossible dream” come true. Diosdado Macapagal, the poor boy from Lubao, made it… and then screwed it up! Erap Estrada made it… and then blew it! Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made it… and then messed up everything! And there are still some people who wanna be president? They must be gluttons for punishment!

According to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), there are 21 presidential candidates so far. Among the wannabes, maybes, and nobodies, the first to file his certificate of candidacy for president was 39 years old (he’ll turn 40 on Feb. 14) John Carlos de los Reyes who goes by the moniker of “JC.” He is currently serving as an Olongapo City councilman. I’m not sure if his moniker has something to do with it, but JC has the blessings of a Catholic bishop to run for prez. For his campaign slogan, JC should borrow from the song, “Impossible Dream,” this line: “To fight the unbeatable foe.” Who can beat Noynoy?

By the way, JC is a nephew of Sen. Richard Gordon who launched his presidential bid under the “Bagumbayan Movement” and composed his “Bagumbayan Manifesto” in blood. Well, it seems like he may have abandoned his presidential ambitions and might just campaign for his nephew. However, should he decide to run, his campaign slogan should be: “To try when your arms are too weary.” Getting old and nowhere to go.

Another presidential wannabe is Metro Manila head honcho Bayani Fernando. He truly believes that he will win notwithstanding his 1% approval rating. For his campaign slogan, Bayani (means “hero” in English) should borrow another line from the same song: “To run where the brave dare not go.” Indeed, Bayani is trying hard to live up to his name.

And there’s retired four-star general Hermogenes Ebdane who thinks that he had what it takes to win the presidential race. His campaign slogan should have been: “To reach the unreachable star.” A few days ago, Ebdane abandoned his presidential bid. He must have found out that the stars are much farther than the moon. Nice try.

And there’s Nicanor Jesus III Pineda Perlas. His nickname is “Nick.” But the “III” after his middle name “Jesus” bothers me. I’ve never seen it used that way. Well, he woke up one day with a dream of becoming the president. He then created a website and spelled it all out, that is, his program of government. Very impressive. But his approval rating is a virtual zero. Well, people probably don’t have time to visit his website… or most probably, didn’t have a computer at home. His campaign slogan should be: “To follow that star no matter how hopeless.” Hopeless, indeed.

And there’s evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva who is confident that he will become the next president. In a recent press conference, he said: “Tuloy ang laban, wala nang atrasan” (The fight goes on, no retreating). He said it’s about time for the country to have a righteous and genuine leader. Hmm… I think his slogan should be: “To right the unrightable wrong.”

And last but not the least is Ernesto Ramos. Ernie is a Fil-Am dual citizen who resides in Florida (USA, not Pampanga). He organized the Democratic Party of the Philippines (DPP) and had it certified by Comelec which means the party can field candidates in all levels.

A few days ago, I received an email from Ernie which says, “Greetings! Just to keep you updated. I’ll be leaving for Manila Friday (Nov. 27) and we should be ready to file our COC before the Comelec on Monday, Nov. 30 — at high noon.”

Ernie said that he’s running for president of the Philippines! Not only that, he said that “DPP will have a slate of national candidates from the president/VP to our 12 Senators, to the Congressmen, Governors and Mayors.” Holy goat! Not even Gibo Teodoro, Noynoy Aquino, Manny Villar or Erap Estrada could put together a slate of 12 senators without sharing or borrowing “guest” candidates from other parties. I can tell Ernie is not dreaming. This guy is really serious. His campaign slogan should be: “NO GUTS, NO GLORY!” Attaboy, Ernie! Go get ‘em!

A presidential candidate that truly earned my respect is Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero. Chiz bolted from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) because he didn’t want to be “owned” by any groups or individuals. A few days ago, Chiz announced that he has abandoned his presidential bid. Had he decided to run, his campaign slogan would have been: “To fight for the right without question or pause.” Your time will come, kiddo.

Meanwhile, the Aquino-Roxas, Villar-Legarda, Estrada-Binay, and Teodoro-Manzano tandems are ready to roll. Well, I’m not sure about Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro with his 2% approval rating. He’s stuck at the bottom of the pit. And some of his party mates are abandoning him for Aquino or Villar. “Mga balimbing!” (Turncoats!) His campaign slogan should be: “To be willing to march into Hell for a heavenly cause.” I’m not sure though if Gibo’s cause is “heavenly” — it looks more like it’s for “Gloria in excelsis Arroyo.”

Indeed, many believe that Gibo’s anemic approval rating is caused by Gloria’s “kiss of death.” He’s been warned but instead he let Gloria kiss him… on both cheeks. That’s what I call, “double whammy.”

A few days ago, at the national convention of Lakas-Kampi-CMD (LKC) Gloria stepped down as the party chairman and handed the job to Gibo who didn’t have a choice cuz nobody else would take the job! Now, I call him, “Tonto.” And as Tonto would tell the Lone Ranger, “That right, Kemo Sabe.”

But it was Gloria’s speech that says it all. She said that LKC is the party of the “future.” Yep, for once Gloria was right cuz she knew that LKC is not the party of the “present” and come June 2010, it will be the party of the “past.”

Hey, it looks like its’ going to be a colorful campaign season. Noynoy selected his mom’s color — yellow — as his campaign color. With the alliance of Manny Villar and Bongbong Marcos, they’d be using a combination of Manny’s orange and Bongbong’s red. Erap Estrada would use all the colors of the rainbow because his senatorial slate consists of politicians that changed colors all the time. If Gibo doesn’t have a color yet, I suggest that he use white so that he doesn’t have to change his color when he surrenders.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

A certain political game has become fashionable among candidates in the Philippines. It’s called “paro-paro politics” where a candidate for political office fly — like a “paro-paro” (butterfly) — from one party to another looking for the one that is attractive to the candidate. That candidate is known as a “political butterfly.”

“Paro-paro” is popularized by the Tagalog folk song, “Paro-parong Bukid” (butterfly in the field). The song is about a young woman glamorously-dressed walking down the street with her hips swaying flirtatiously.

Several weeks ago, Sen. Loren Legarda launched her vice presidential bid with all the fanfare of a political campaign. But what was strange is that she didn’t name her party mate, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, as her presidential running mate. Since both Loren and Chiz — who had indicated that he would run for president — were members of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), it would be presumed that the two would form a tandem under NPC. Wrong!

Instead, Loren disclosed that there were five presidential aspirants who wanted her to be their vice presidential running mate. Amongst them were Manny Villar and Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro of the Nacionalista Party and Lakas-Kampi-CMD (LKC), respectively.

Then, in an unexpected turn of events, Chiz bolted from NPC. With Chiz seemingly out of the presidential derby, Loren focused on pairing with either Teodoro or Villar.

Meanwhile, NPC was trying to forge an alliance with LKC. It would have been an ideal “marriage” if Gibo and Loren had teamed up. But Gibo picked showbiz celebrity Edu Manzano for his vice presidential running mate, leaving Loren and NPC out in the cold.

Last November 17, Loren’s “butterflying” finally paid off — Villar picked her as his vice presidential running mate. However, Loren insisted that she remains affiliated with NPC; thus, making her only as a “guest” candidate of Villar’s Nacionalista Party. Does that mean that NPC would eventually coalesce with the Nacionalista Party? If not, who else would NPC support?

Three days later, on November 20, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) forged an alliance with the Nacionalista Party. KBL’s leader Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said that the alliance was like a “wedding” and said that it’s a “marriage” he’ll never forget. As a result of that “marriage,” Villar decided to include Bongbong in his party’s senatorial slate.

But Bongbong is also included as a “guest” candidate in the senatorial slate of Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s Puwersang Masang Pilipino. In addition, Bongbong is also a “guest” candidate in NPC’s senatorial line-up.

It is interesting to note that prior to Bongbong’s alliance with the Nacionalista Party, he tried to coalesce with the Liberal Party. In a press conference, Bongbong announced then that he’d be willing to run for senator under the Liberal Party if Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III — the party’s standard bearer — invited him to join. Sounding sure of himself, Bongbong said that he was just waiting for Noynoy’s phone call. Apparently, that phone call never came; thus, forcing him to hurriedly go to the Nacionalista Party.

With Loren teaming up with Villar, and KBL coalescing with the Nacionalista Party, Villar has fashioned a political machine that would equal or surpass LKC.

But LKC is showing signs of structural distress. According to a party leader, 30-40 percent of the members have jumped ship and more are prepared to leave the party. Needless to say, the beneficiaries of the massive desertions are the Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party.

Speculation is rife that Gibo Teodoro — whose 2% rating in the latest survey could doom his presidential bid — might abandon his candidacy and throw his support behind his cousin Noynoy Aquino. If that happened, would LKC put up another candidate? But who? Or would Gloria cut her losses and forge a tactical alliance between LKC and the Nacionalista Party; thus, creating a formidable political machine capable of thrashing all the other parties in the 2010 elections… including the Liberal Party?

Some political insiders are also saying that Erap might abandon his quest for a second presidential term. If he did, he would most likely endorse Noynoy and the Liberal Party.

And how about Chiz? He said that he’s going to announce his plans — again — soon. The word is that Chiz was able to get the financial support of several Filipino “taipans,” who unquestionably are some of the richest people in the country. But his problem is that he doesn’t have a political party and campaign machine to run an effective campaign. Would Chiz eventually decide to forego his presidential bid? If so, whom would he support — Villar or Noynoy?

All things considered, it is beginning to dawn upon us that the 2010 presidential election will be a battle between the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party, the two parties that dominated the political scene from the days of the two-party system more 60 years ago until the late president Ferdinand Marcos imposed his authoritarian rule and created a political party — KBL — that held absolute power until the day he was deposed in the People Power revolution of 1986.

Today, the Nacionalista-Liberal rivalry has come to a full circle. However, the ideological divide that distinguished the two parties from each other is gone. The electoral process today is no longer about ideology; it is all about personal glory — or gain — and political power which tends to protect their economic interests and perpetuate their grip on power.

At the end of the day, the 2010 elections will, once again, be influenced by a combination of party machinery, command votes, campaign finances, and… election cheating. With the implementation of the new automated election system for the first time in 2010, there are grave concerns that the system might fail and throw the entire electoral process into chaos. Then what?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Balitang Kutsero
By Perry Diaz

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao’s victory over Miguel Cotto for the world welterweight title made him a national hero and an international sensation. And “Pacman Mania” struck Pinoys worldwide. Pacman! Pacman! Pacman!

During an interview with Pacman, American actor and TV talk show host Mario Lopez told him that he is the greatest Asian to invade the west since Genghis Khan. Pacman grinned.

Lopez then asked Pacman whom would he like to play Pacman in a movie. “Filipino or American?” asked Pacman. Lopez replied, “Either one.” Pacman paused and then said, “I’ll play me,” and then laughed. Hey, Pacman is smarter than what most people think. He’s multi-talented. He’s a boxer, singer, actor, basketball player, and politician. And he’s multi-lingual too. He can speak Visayan, Tagalog and English… all in one sentence! It’s called “Vistaglish.”

Unknown to many, Manny has acted in 10 movies already, not to mention his television comedy show, “Where is Da Manny.” His latest movie, “Wapakman,” will be released in December. Sounds like “Wah Pacman,” huh? The producers are promoting the film as “Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, Desperado, Superman, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Cider House Rules, every Jackie Chan movie ever, Rocky III and V (but not IV), Clash of the Titans, Gladiator, and Leonard, Part 6 all rolled into one.” Wow! They should have called it, “Wow Pacman.”

But government censors might ban the film from being shown in the Metro Manila Film Festival because Manny is planning to run for political office. The law forbids candidates from appearing in movies. Now, that’s a stupid law. There are clowns and actors on television who are running for office and their shows are still being shown on television.

Presidential wannabe Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro picked showbiz celebrity Edu Manzano for his vice presidential running mate. With Gibo’s 2% rating in the polls, he needs Edu to boost his ratings. Well, it doesn’t work that way all time. Sometimes the presidential candidate loses and his running mate wins. Perhaps, they should switch places, Edu for prez and Gibo for veep. That might work better.

Prez Gloria Arroyo seems like she’s beginning to see the handwriting on the wall — Lakas-Kampi-CMD (LKC) is sinking… fast. Not wanting to go down with the ship, she stepped down as party chairman and turned the job over to Gibo. Poor Gibo, he might not just lose the presidential election, he might sink with the ship too.

Gloria’s resignation as LKC chairman activated the “panic button” causing members to jump ship. An LKC party leader said that 30-40 percent of the members have become “balimbings” (turncoats) and joined either the Liberal Party (LP) or Nacionalista Party (NP). However, my investigative reporter James Macaquecquec heard from a reliable source that many of those who are still with LKC have made secret pacts with either LP or NP. These are the dangerous kind of “balimbing.” But the most dangerous are those who made secret pacts with both LP and NP. They’re called “double balimbing.”

Some of the high-profile “balimbings” are Ralph Recto and his wife Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto who left LKC to join LP. Vilma said, “It’s no bandwagon move.” Yep, it’s not. It’s called “tailgating.”

But there are some LP members who didn’t like the Rectos, so they left LP and are now “butterflying,” that is, flying from one party to another looking for the one to join. I call them “paro-paro” (butterfly). Yep, this is “paro-paro politics,” the game that traditional politicians (trapos) play.

A few days ago, presidential wannabe Manny Villar selected Loren Legarda to be his vice presidential running mate. Finally, after “butterflying” around with five presidential wannabes, Loren finally settled for Villar, the richest of the presidential candidates. Maybe she should change her campaign song from “Loren Loren sinta” (Loren Loren my love) to “Paro-parong bukid” (Butterfly in the field).

Now that Loren has teamed up with Villar after Chiz Escudero bolted the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), NPC found itself with no candidates for prez and veep. What’s Danding Cojuangco going to do now?

LP’s standard bearer Noynoy Aquino and LKC’s standard bearer Gibo Teodoro are Danding’s nephews. Recent polls were favorable to Noynoy who has 44% rating to Gibo’s 2%. If Danding would support Gibo, I would be very suspicious. And if Danding would support Noynoy… I wonder if that would help Noynoy in the election. A lot of Noynoy’s supporters were veterans of the People Power revolution in 1986 that toppled Ferdinand Marcos. They will not forget that Danding was Marcos’ closest crony.

A news report says that Gibo said that he has two options after the 2010 elections: the presidency or retirement from politics. Well, I think his two options are: retire BEFORE or AFTER the 2010 elections. Since he has only a 2% rating in the polls, BEFORE is better than AFTER. That would save him at least P3 billion and that’s a lot of moolah!

Incidentally, Marcos’ son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. announced that he accepted the offer of former president and presidential wannabe Joseph “Erap” Estrada to be a “guest candidate” in the senatorial slate of Erap’s Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). He is also a “guest candidate” in the senatorial slate of Danding’s NPC. Then Bongbong insinuated that he may also run as “official candidate” of Manny Villar’s NP.

But recently, in a press conference, Bongbong announced that he’d be willing to run under LP if Noynoy invited him to join. He said that he’s just waiting for Noynoy’s phone call. That’s “double double butterflying.”

Meanwhile, cousins Noynoy and Gibo signed a pact for an orderly, honest, and clean elections. Last August the other presidential and vice presidential wannabes signed a similar agreement. Now, let me guess… whoever breaks the pact would win. Gloria won in 2004, didn’t she? Remember the “Hello Garci” election cheating scandal during the 2004 presidential elections? As someone once said, “In Philippine elections there are no losers, only the winners and those who were cheated.”

“Lakas-Kampi opens door for Pacquiao,” says news report. It looks like “Pacman Mania” is going to catapult Pacquiao into the world of “politicomedy” where anything goes and anybody can run for office. If Erap Estrada and Edu Manzano can run, why can’t Manny Pacquiao run? They all have the same size of brain, right? However, the difference is that Pacquiao can think faster than punch while Erap and Edu can talk faster than think.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

Manny-Cotto.1On November 14, 2009, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao made history with his victory over Miguel Cotto Jr. in their world welterweight championship fight. It was his seventh world title in his seventh weight class. He broke the record of Oscar De La Hoya who had won world titles in six different weight classes. In addition, Pacquiao is currently recognized by The Ring magazine as the world’s number-one pound-for-pound boxer.

Pacquiao’s victory over Cotto, Puerto Rico’s best boxer, proved that he is — undoubtedly — the greatest Filipino boxer of all time. In my opinion, Pacquiao is the best boxer in the world today. It did come as a surprise then when his own promoter, Bob Arum, said after defeating Cotto that “Pacquiao is the best fighter he ever saw.” And the best testimonial came from Cotto himself who said after the fight, “He is the best boxer I ever fought.” Indeed, Pacquiao was only the second boxer who defeated him in the ring. Cotto admitted that he never saw Pacquiao’s punches coming. But it was Freddie Roach — Pacquiao’s trainer since 2001 — who said it all: “He’s the greatest fighter of his generation.”

In his moment of glory, Pacquiao could have done what Muhammad Ali used to say all the time, “I’m the greatest.” But Pacquiao, humble as ever, said, “I just think I’m an ordinary fighter. When I fight a good fighter, sometimes I can beat him.” And that’s what makes Pacquiao greater than Ali — humility.

Humility is what endears Pacquiao to his fans. And his greatest strength is his magnanimity to those whom he had brought down in ignominious defeat. But the image of a hero towering over a fallen adversary instills admiration in the minds of the millions around the world who watched him on television. Indeed, he is a superstar.

Pacquiao’s rise to superstardom started six years ago, on November 15, 2003, when he faced Marco Antonio Barrera — one of the best boxers in the world at that time — in San Antonio, Texas. Pacquiao, known to his Filipino fans as “Pacman,” was unknown to the rest of the world. American announcers and sports commentators couldn’t even pronounce his name correctly. Oftentimes they’d pronounce it as “Pack you,” which would elicit laughter from Filipino viewers.

When Barrera felled Pacquiao with a right cross early in their bout, everybody thought that it was over for him. But Pacquiao got up and charged Barrera. In the third round, Pacquiao knocked Barrera down with a power punch. Barrera was stunned. He got up and continued fighting but Pacquiao relentlessly barraged him with power punches. The referee stopped the fight after the 11th round. Pacquiao raised his arms, smiled, and cried while his corner men draped the Philippine flag around him. It was Pacquiao’s first world title — World Featherweight Champion. The “zero-to-hero” legend of Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao was born.

Pacquiao became a living “national hero” to the 92 million Filipinos. Born dirt poor, his father abandoned his family when he was young. His mother, Dionisia, raised her six children doing odd jobs. Pacquiao dropped out of school to eke out a living selling doughnuts. On his free time, he would go to the local gym and work menial jobs. And this was where Pacquiao saw an opportunity to make a better living. Little did he realize that he would some day become one the world’s best boxers and one of his country’s richest people.

After the Cotto fight, sports commentator Larry Merchant said, “Pacquiao came from zero to hero and hero to Nero!” Merchant may have picked “Nero” because it rhymes with “hero” but I think he meant it as the highest compliment he could give to Pacquiao — an “emperor” among modern-day gladiators.

Indeed, it could also be prophetic. Pacquiao has shown interest in politics. As a matter of fact, he ran in 2007 for a congressional seat representing his district around General Santos City. Unfortunately, he lost to the incumbent who belongs to an entrenched family dynasty in his province. But that didn’t discourage him.

Right after his stunning second-round knockout of Ricky “Hitman” Hatton last May 2009, Pacquiao formed the “People’s Champ Movement” (PCM) and registered it as a “local political party” with the Commission on Elections; thus, allowing PCM to field candidates in local positions in General Santos City and Sarangani province. Speculation is rife that Pacquiao might either run for a congressional seat or as mayor of General Santos City next year. However, with his record-setting victory over Cotto last night, I would not be surprised if Pacquiao would run for a higher office.

It is interesting to note that before Pacquiao left his training camp in Baguio City for Los Angeles, California, prior to the Pacquiao-Cotto fight, he was visited by Sen. Manny Villar, a presidential candidate in the 2010 elections. Was it just a social call or did the two discuss politics? I wouldn’t be surprised if Pacquiao is also being courted by other presidential candidates to be on their senatorial slates. His chances of winning a senatorial seat out of 12 slots are far better than running for a congressional seat in his province. The only difference is that it would take a lot more money to run for the Senate. But money shouldn’t be a problem with Pacquiao — he’s got tons of it.

At the end day, regardless of whether he’s going to run for office or not, Pacquiao is within reach of the pinnacle of his boxing career — a victory over Floyd “Pretty Boy” Mayweather Jr. Rated by the Ring magazine as the world’s number one pound-for-pound boxer from 2005 to 2008, Mayweather has won six world titles in five different weight classes. He was named by The Ring magazine as “Fighter of the Year” in 1998 and 2007. He vacated his WBC welterweight title undefeated when he retired in 2007. His current record is 40 wins including 25 knockouts.

If Pacquiao were to defeat Mayweather, he would attain absolute “greatness” in boxing history and it would dispel any iota of doubt that he may have been just lucky in beating his opponents. But like someone once said, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” Pacquiao knows the value of hard work and that’s his secret for being “lucky” most of time. His current record — 50 wins including 38 knockouts, three losses, and two draws — attests to that.

If Pacquiao and Mayweather agreed to a match, it would be a fight of epic proportion never seen before in a quarter century. Indeed, it can be billed as the “Battle of the Titans.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Balitang Kutsero
by Perry Diaz

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

When Chiz Escudero bolted the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) two weeks ago, I called that “bolt, shake, and roll.” That’s right, after bolting NPC, he’s been shaking and rolling, not knowing what to do next.

After Chiz bolted, Loren Legarda said that she might be the vice presidential running mate of Manny Villar or Gibo Teodoro. She said, she’ll soon announce her presidential running mate. “Shake, baby, shake.”

Last week, it was reported that Lakas-Kampi-CMD had given up on Loren. Poor Gibo, he’s like a suitor jilted by the women he’s courting. Maybe he should try courting men. So he tried Sen. Bong Revilla, Sen. Migz Zubiri, and Ace Durano. They rejected him. Then he turned to his “last choice,” actor Edu Manzano and Edu said, “Yes! Anytime, man.” He’d be good “acting” like a vice president. “Wah wah we!”

A few days ago, a Manila columnist revealed the “inside story” why Chiz bolted the NPC: “Sen. Legarda was initially demanding P500 million pesos, plus four cabinet members of her choice from leaders of the party to agree to become the vice presidential candidate of Senator Escudero.” “Shake them down, baby!”

But the NPC leaders said it was too high. Loren lowered it down to P300 million and the leaders agreed. But Chiz didn’t like it so he bolted NPC. “Shoot them down, kiddo!”

Does that mean that Loren has no other choice but to go with Manny? The problem is that Manny may have already picked someone to be his vice presidential running mate. If so, what’s Loren going to do? “Cry, baby, cry.”

However, some people close to Manny said that Loren is his VP pick. Does that mean that Manny has agreed to pay Loren P500 million? Actually that’s cheap compared to the P1 billion that vice president Noli De Castro allegedly received from a presidential candidate for him to drop out of the presidential derby. I call that “FOR SALE.”

Former president Erap Estrada made a big hoopla when he announced his presidential bid in front of 9,000 cheering fans. Now, it seems like he’s having second thoughts. “Shock them, awe them, and fade away.”

Hermogenes Ebdane — Hermo who? — declared his presidential bid a day after the Senate said they’ll file charges of plunder and graft against him. A retired general and former member of Gloria’s cabinet, Hermo defiantly declared: “I fight to win so there’s no turning back. I have crossed the bridge.” I call that “No guts, no glory.” Since the senators have already burned all his bridges, it’s going to be “sink or swim” for Hermo.

Meanwhile, Noynoy Aquino and his vice presidential running mate are just having a good time watching their opponents roll like roly-poly bugs — harmless but fun to watch. I call that “rock and roll.”

Recently, Noynoy bragged that he has 36,000 Facebook friends, more than Chiz and Manny. My investigative reporter James Macaquecquec heard from the grapevine that Manny bragged that he has enough money to buy all of Noynoy’s Facebook friends. I call that “BS talks, money walks.”

“Noynoy does an ‘Obama’, taps new media,” says a news report. Noynoy said in front of a computer web camera, “This is my first chat. It’s my first time to interact through the Net. My generation is not that computer literate.” Huh? He should be careful with his choice of words cuz Chiz can say that his generation is computer literate. But Manny can say that his generation may not be computer literate but they sure can follow the scent of money… his money. I call that “vote buying.”

“Noynoy wants out of Hacienda Luisita,” says another news report, “but only after finding a solution to the farmers’ dispute and securing jobs for them.” That’s really nice of Noynoy to be concerned about the poor farmers’ plight. But that could take another generation to accomplish… if ever. I call that the “impossible dream.”

“Dionisia Pacquiao emerges as fan favorite at Ang Tanging Pamilya’s premiere,” says a news report. Mama Dionisia (formerly Aling Dionisia) — mother of Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao — awed the audience with her “comic firepower” and became an instant favorite. James Macaquecquec reported that he heard that Manny Villar is very interested and wants Mama Dionisia to be his vice presidential running mate. “Shock them, rock them, and sock it to them, mama!”

News Item: “Chiz, Noynoy, touch base.” The report says that Chiz and Noynoy met at Chiz’s residence to discuss the 2010 scenario. But Chiz said that they did not talk about politics. Yeah, I believe that. I think what they talked about was what they’re going to do after Noynoy wins the election. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chiz would be the next Senate President. I call that “horse trading.”

Hey, the hottest buzz in Pampanga is that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is going to run against her half-sister Cielo Macapagal-Salgado for the congressional seat currently held by Gloria’s son, Mikey. I call that “all in the family.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

A series of unexpected events in the past several years have caused disruptions in the way President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wanted things to happen. And now Gloria is faced with a dilemma. What’s her game plan?

In my article, Judicial Independence (November 2006), I wrote: “The recent decision of the Philippine Supreme Court to dismiss the petition for a people’s initiative to amend the constitution to replace the presidential system with a parliamentary form of government has created a political storm. With a bare 8-7 majority, the decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio caught a lot of people by surprise. People close to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo were expecting the Supreme Court to vote in favor of the petition by at least a 9-6 majority.” It was a devastating setback for Gloria.

Had the Supreme Court voted in favor of the “people’s initiative,” Gloria would have been the country’s Prime Minister by now with an open-ended term of office. That is, as long as her political allies in Parliament would support her, she’d remain in power… indefinitely.

But having failed in her first attempt to stay in power beyond her presidential term, Gloria pursued other avenues to perpetuate herself in power. On February 24, 2006, on the eve of the anniversary of the “People Power” revolution of 1986, Gloria declared a “state of national emergency.” She banned all rallies and public gatherings. Her government seized TV networks, radio stations, and news media. All electronic mail and Internet communications were “frozen.” And she rounded up the “usual suspects” including leaders of left-wing and communist organizations. It was a anti-communist witch-hunt similar to the events preceding the declaration of martial law by Marcos in 1972. However, many people believed that her real reason was to prevent a massive demonstration the following day which could trigger another “People Power” revolution… and topple her. A week later, on March 3, Gloria lifted the “state of emergency,” but only after instituting repressive measures.

On August 13, 2009, a Philippine Daily Inquirer article said: “On July 9, Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia told the Rotary Club of Manila that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could declare martial law should the campaign for Charter change fail.” De Venecia was quoted as saying, “If they are unable to get the three-fourths vote necessary to amend the Constitution, their … fallback position is to declare martial law.” He also said that the plan to declare martial law was “was broached in 2005 at the height of the national crisis triggered by the ‘Hello Garci’ election fraud scandal.” De Venecia at that time was Gloria’s most trusted ally in Congress. They did a lot of things together.

The same article also mentioned that on July 22, former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, speaking before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, said that De Venecia indeed has “intimate knowledge of these events.” He was Gloria’s Secretary of Defense from 2004 to 2006 so he would have been privy to it.

On the same day, August 13, 2009, former Ambassador to the U.S. Albert Del Rosario (2001-2006) wrote an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, to wit: “It was in 2005 during the ‘Hello Garci’ controversy that the then Speaker of the House, Jose de Venecia Jr., came to Washington. He indicated that the Palace had empowered him to ask if we could defend for them the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.”

Del Rosario said that he was taken aback and asked why. De Venecia responded that “it was to be used against certain members of the political opposition.” Del Rosario told De Venecia that “the plan was not defensible… and that we could not defend it.” In June 2006, Del Rosario was recalled from his post in Washington, DC. Evidently, Gloria had lost her confidence in Del Rosario as a “team player”; thus, the “recall” or “firing” as a lot of people believed.

After being rebuffed by her own ambassador to the U.S., Gloria tried another attempt to revive Charter change (Cha-cha). This time, her allies in the House of Representatives filed several House resolutions to either convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) or Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) to amend the constitution.

 

But first, Gloria had to consolidate her power in the House of Representatives with the merger of Lakas-CMD and Kampi into a “powerhouse” party. On May 28, 2009, the merger was achieved with Gloria as its Chairman. Gloria was ready to roll.

A few days later, in the late hours of June 2, 2009, the House of Representatives — by voice vote — railroaded the controversial House Resolution 1109 which calls on the House of Representatives to convene into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) to amend the 1987 constitution without Senate participation. This time, Gloria couldn’t go wrong with her virtual absolute control of the House of Representatives. Finally, her ultimate goal was within reach.

But once again, Gloria’s attempt to change the constitution was thwarted when former President Cory Aquino passed away on August 1, 2009. In 1987, Cory changed the constitution to make sure that martial law will not happen again. The 1987 constitution is sometimes referred to as “Cory constitution.” It did not come as surprise then that Cory made a wish prior to he death not to change the 1987 constitution. With her passing, the move by Gloria’s allies in House of Representatives to pursue Cha-cha disintegrated.

With Cha-cha derailed, Gloria’s allies pursued another avenue — they’re pushing her to run for Congress. However, some people believe that Gloria’s plan to run for Congress had been in the works for sometime as a contingency plan in the event that all of her options — except martial law — were no longer doable. As an indication that Gloria was preparing to run for a congressional seat, Gloria has visited her district — doling out “goodies” — at least 47 times this year.

In my article, Gloria’s Gambit (May 2009), I wrote: “As a congresswoman, Gloria could easily muster enough support to become the Speaker of the House. She could then maneuver to pass a resolution to convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-ass) or Constitutional Convention (Con-con) to amend the constitution to adopt a parliamentary form of government.” Now, it seems like that’s her only viable option to regain power after her presidency ends in June 2010.

Lately, rumors started circulating that Gloria is going to run for vice president. But what would she gain by becoming vice president? I doubt if she would even win. As each day passes, Gloria’s game plan becomes clearer.

The deadline for filing her certificate of candidacy is December 1, 2009. If, for any reason, Gloria will not run for Congress or vice president, she will have two options left — retire from politics or stay in power by all means. Which one will it be?

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

A series of unexpected events in the past several years have caused disruptions in the way President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wanted things to happen. And now Gloria is faced with a dilemma. What’s her game plan?

In my article, Judicial Independence (November 2006), I wrote: “The recent decision of the Philippine Supreme Court to dismiss the petition for a people’s initiative to amend the constitution to replace the presidential system with a parliamentary form of government has created a political storm. With a bare 8-7 majority, the decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio caught a lot of people by surprise. People close to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo were expecting the Supreme Court to vote in favor of the petition by at least a 9-6 majority.” It was a devastating setback for Gloria.

Had the Supreme Court voted in favor of the “people’s initiative,” Gloria would have been the country’s Prime Minister by now with an open-ended term of office. That is, as long as her political allies in Parliament would support her, she’d remain in power… indefinitely.

But having failed in her first attempt to stay in power beyond her presidential term, Gloria pursued other avenues to perpetuate herself in power. On February 24, 2006, on the eve of the anniversary of the “People Power” revolution of 1986, Gloria declared a “state of national emergency.” She banned all rallies and public gatherings. Her government seized TV networks, radio stations, and news media. All electronic mail and Internet communications were “frozen.” And she rounded up the “usual suspects” including leaders of left-wing and communist organizations. It was a anti-communist witch-hunt similar to the events preceding the declaration of martial law by Marcos in 1972. However, many people believed that her real reason was to prevent a massive demonstration the following day which could trigger another “People Power” revolution… and topple her. A week later, on March 3, Gloria lifted the “state of emergency,” but only after instituting repressive measures.

On August 13, 2009, a Philippine Daily Inquirer article said: “On July 9, Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia told the Rotary Club of Manila that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could declare martial law should the campaign for Charter change fail.” De Venecia was quoted as saying, “If they are unable to get the three-fourths vote necessary to amend the Constitution, their … fallback position is to declare martial law.” He also said that the plan to declare martial law was “was broached in 2005 at the height of the national crisis triggered by the ‘Hello Garci’ election fraud scandal.” De Venecia at that time was Gloria’s most trusted ally in Congress. They did a lot of things together.

The same article also mentioned that on July 22, former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, speaking before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, said that De Venecia indeed has “intimate knowledge of these events.” He was Gloria’s Secretary of Defense from 2004 to 2006 so he would have been privy to it.

On the same day, August 13, 2009, former Ambassador to the U.S. Albert Del Rosario (2001-2006) wrote an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, to wit: “It was in 2005 during the ‘Hello Garci’ controversy that the then Speaker of the House, Jose de Venecia Jr., came to Washington. He indicated that the Palace had empowered him to ask if we could defend for them the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.”

Del Rosario said that he was taken aback and asked why. De Venecia responded that “it was to be used against certain members of the political opposition.” Del Rosario told De Venecia that “the plan was not defensible… and that we could not defend it.” In June 2006, Del Rosario was recalled from his post in Washington, DC. Evidently, Gloria had lost her confidence in Del Rosario as a “team player”; thus, the “recall” or “firing” as a lot of people believed.

After being rebuffed by her own ambassador to the U.S., Gloria tried another attempt to revive Charter change (Cha-cha). This time, her allies in the House of Representatives filed several House resolutions to either convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) or Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) to amend the constitution.

 

But first, Gloria had to consolidate her power in the House of Representatives with the merger of Lakas-CMD and Kampi into a “powerhouse” party. On May 28, 2009, the merger was achieved with Gloria as its Chairman. Gloria was ready to roll.

A few days later, in the late hours of June 2, 2009, the House of Representatives — by voice vote — railroaded the controversial House Resolution 1109 which calls on the House of Representatives to convene into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) to amend the 1987 constitution without Senate participation. This time, Gloria couldn’t go wrong with her virtual absolute control of the House of Representatives. Finally, her ultimate goal was within reach.

But once again, Gloria’s attempt to change the constitution was thwarted when former President Cory Aquino passed away on August 1, 2009. In 1987, Cory changed the constitution to make sure that martial law will not happen again. The 1987 constitution is sometimes referred to as “Cory constitution.” It did not come as surprise then that Cory made a wish prior to he death not to change the 1987 constitution. With her passing, the move by Gloria’s allies in House of Representatives to pursue Cha-cha disintegrated.

With Cha-cha derailed, Gloria’s allies pursued another avenue — they’re pushing her to run for Congress. However, some people believe that Gloria’s plan to run for Congress had been in the works for sometime as a contingency plan in the event that all of her options — except martial law — were no longer doable. As an indication that Gloria was preparing to run for a congressional seat, Gloria has visited her district — doling out “goodies” — at least 47 times this year.

In my article, Gloria’s Gambit (May 2009), I wrote: “As a congresswoman, Gloria could easily muster enough support to become the Speaker of the House. She could then maneuver to pass a resolution to convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-ass) or Constitutional Convention (Con-con) to amend the constitution to adopt a parliamentary form of government.” Now, it seems like that’s her only viable option to regain power after her presidency ends in June 2010.

Lately, rumors started circulating that Gloria is going to run for vice president. But what would she gain by becoming vice president? I doubt if she would even win. As each day passes, Gloria’s game plan becomes clearer.

The deadline for filing her certificate of candidacy is December 1, 2009. If, for any reason, Gloria will not run for Congress or vice president, she will have two options left — retire from politics or stay in power by all means. Which one will it be?

Balitang Kutsero
by Perry Diaz

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — daughter of Diosdado Macapagal, the “poor boy from Lubao,” who became president in 1961 — is rumored to be going back to her roots. She built a 400-square-meter house in Lubao and it looks like she’s going to run for the congressional district seat currently occupied by her son, Mikey. I wonder how Mikey feels being told by his mama to “scoot over”? He should move to California and live in his beach front mansion and hang out in karaoke joints and juice bars. That’s better than living in the “Disenchanted Kingdom” of his mama.

But mama Gloria’s run for Congress is not going to be a piece of cake. Popular professor and columnist Randy David is going to run against her and give her a run for her money. Or is it the people’s money? Well folks, it’s going to be a battle royale between David and Gloriath.

But why would Gloriath want to run for Congress? My investigative reporter James Macaquecquec did some sleuthing in Lubao — the capital of Jueteng Land — and heard an interesting story. The story goes: Gloria and Mike were sleeping in their big house in Lubao when Mike was awakened by a noise. “Wake up, darling,” he whispered to Gloria. “there are thieves in the house.” “Don’t worry about them, go back to sleep,” Gloria told Mike. “But I’m scared, darling,” Mike whispered, “the thieves might hurt us and take all our money.” “Don’t worry, sweetheart, the thieves in the House will not hurt us. They’re all my friends and that’s the reason why I’m running for the House of Thieves next year. They promised that they’ll elect me as their next Speaker of the House.” Hail Gloria! The House of Thieves will never be the same again.

Well, I hope Gloria realizes that she won’t be a shoo-in for Mikey’s congressional seat. My other investigative reporter from Northern California heard another scuttlebutt going around in Gloria’s inner circle. It goes: Gloria’s executive secretary said, “Ma’am, why don’t you run for vice president like what you did in 1998 when Erap Estrada ran for president. He was a sure winner then and this time he has a very good chance of beating all his opponents including your ‘manok,’ Gibo Teodoro.” “Hmmm… if Erap wins and I win too, history might be repeated again,” Gloria said. “Bingo!” her legal secretary shouted. “Honey, that means that you can oust Erap again,” the First Gentleman interjected. “Happy days are here again, gang!” “Quiet!” Gloria told her husband and then turned to her political adviser, “Why don’t you get someone to nominate me for vice president at our party’s national convention. And make sure I get nominated, okay?”

News Item: Gloria’s supporters were saying that Gloria would be an “asset” to anyone who is elected president. Now, don’t tell that to Erap. After Gloria grabbed the presidency from Erap in 2001, Erap sees her as an “ace in the hole,” if you know what I mean.

The question is: Would Gloria take the risk of running and losing in the vice presidential race when her popularity rating has reached rock bottom? Gloria may be dumb but she’s not stupid. Did I say that right? Or should I say, Gloria may be stupid but she’s not dumb.

My take is that Gloria would rather run for Mikey’s congressional seat. She has a better chance of cheating… errr, winning in a district election than in a national election. Besides, Gloria is a hands-on person. Yep, she wants her hands in all the cookie jars she could find. And there’s a lot of cookie jars in Jueteng Land.

The vice presidential merry-go-round is turning out to be a circus. Presidential wannabes Manny Villar and Gibo Teodoro are still without VP running mates, and vice presidential wannabe Loren Legarda is still without a presidential running mate. And after Chiz Escudero bolted Danding’s NPC, Chiz realized that he doesn’t have a campaign machine and, worst, he doesn’t have money to buy votes. Now, that’s not only dumb, that’s stupid.

Look at Erap, it didn’t take him long to pick Jejomar Binay as his VP running mate. Binay may not be “winnable” but Erap couldn’t care less… as long as he wins the presidency. Erap is neither dumb nor stupid.

Erap’s secret weapon has always been his acting ability. He’s good whether he’s acting on the screen or acting as president. The only problem is that he can’t tell the difference.

When Erap announced his presidential bid, he told his 9,000 cheering fans that it’s going to be his “last performance.” What he didn’t tell them was that he was referring to a movie — a comedy — which will be released in December. It features him, comedienne Ai-Ai de las Alas, and Dionisia — Manny Pacquiao’s mama — in her screen debut. Yep, Erap’s “last performance” would be similar to his “first performance” as president of the country — a comedy.

With Gibo Teodoro’s failure to attract a vice presidential running mate, he’s trying again to get former actor and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. as his running mate. The first time Gibo asked Bong to be his running mate, Bong told him that he had to ask his dad, former Sen. Ramon Revilla Sr., for his blessing. His dad told him not to run. Bong should have asked his more than 80 brothers and sisters — fathered by his dad with different women — for support. I’m pretty sure that they’d be more supportive of Bong. Sometimes being a sibling of a high government official would open windows of opportunity — the higher the position the bigger the opportunity. Ask the Lion King.

Meanwhile, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. confirmed that he’s going to run for senator in Erap’s slate. The other day, Bongbong’s mama, Imelda Marcos, was heard cheering for his son, “Go, Bongbong, go! Be like your dad.” Oops! I don’t think the voters would buy that.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

Chiz.1On October 28, 2009, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero dropped a bombshell when he announced that he was bolting the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). It was stunning and unexpected. He was supposed to make his presidential bid official but instead he said that he is still undecided on what to do next.

However, his campaign manager, Lito Banayo, said: “He was running as himself, not as one bound by the party’s interests. He did not want to be ‘chained’ to party interests, and in an unusually bold statement, virtually made a declaration of independence from party politics, and embraced ‘people politics’. One who desires the presidency, he said, must forswear narrow party interests in favour of the larger interest of people and nation. In Pilipino, he was saying, ‘the people must be one’s party’.”

Banayo further said: “It was a ‘revolt’ against the political system we have become accustomed to, one where the landed elite, the billionaire class, the oligarchy always held sway. It was a polity dominated by economic interests of the few who ‘own’ the wealth of the nation, not always to the long-lasting benefit of the many, the teeming many, who own so little.”

Chiz says it all when he declared: “Hindi ako heredero, hindi ako haciendero, at lalong hindi ako bilyonaryo.” (I am not an heir, I am not a plantation landlord, and most of all I am not a billionaire). It was a defiant declaration of independence from the political warlords, oligarchs, and kingmakers. It was like the “Cry of Balintawak” of 1896 when Andres Bonifacio and his fellow “katipuneros” tore their “cedulas” (residence certificates) in a bold act of rebellion against the corrupt Spanish colonial masters.

The only difference is: Chiz is alone. But for how long? Would he be able to inspire the people who are sick and tired of the corrupt political system controlled by the powerful oligarchs? Or is he just a drift in the air densely polluted with the stench of a decadent socio-political culture?

Are the people content with just being on a “survival mode,” where just being alive is in itself… considered a “success”? Do people see politicians as “birds of the same feather” and corrupt to the bone? It is not uncommon to hear people say, “they’re all corrupt, I might as well get the most of what they would give me.” In other words, they would accept money from politicians who will buy their votes. But worst of all, it’s an acceptance of the notion that the status quo is irreversible… and beyond redemption.

It is interesting to note that Rep. Jack Duavit, NPC secretary general, said prior the Chiz’s resignation, “We have more than enough funds for nationwide campaign political ads,” he said, “but what we do not have are funds to buy votes.” Somebody finally admitted that “vote buying” is necessary to win elections. It came as no surprise then that one of the reasons mentioned about Chiz’s departure from NPC is that Danding Cojuangco — the founder and power behind NPC — was hesitant to fund Chiz’s campaign, which would require at least P2 billion to bankroll. And without a war chest of that size, Chiz wouldn’t be able to compete with billionaire Manny Villar, Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro who is backed by Gloria’s money-loaded administration party, and Noynoy Aquino whose wealthy family wouldn’t have any problem funding his campaign.

The media is abound with rumors that Danding is about to support either one of his two nephews — Gibo and Noynoy. Chiz probably was aware of that and beat Danding to the punch by bolting NPC. Had Danding beat Chiz to the punch first, that would have been a devastating knock-out blow for Chiz. And that would have ended Chiz’s presidential ambitions next year.

Now that Chiz has the upper hand — albeit lacking the financial means to wage an effective presidential campaign — what is he going to do now? Quo vadis, Chiz?

What are his options? If Chiz were going to run for president, he would have to bite the bullet and file his certificate of candidacy as an independent presidential candidate, unless he can muster enough support to form a political party or join an existing party. With barely a month left to file his certificate of candidacy, Chiz is under the gun to make his move. But he needs a campaign machine and a war chest. He doesn’t have both.

His second option is to run for vice president as the running mate of Villar or Teodoro. However, to do so would invite criticisms — and ruin his credibility — because he had made statements not too long ago that he’ll remain in the opposition; thus, eliminating any team up with Gibo. He also said that “there was zero probability of him teaming up with Villar due to the C-5 double funding controversy the former Senate president was embroiled in.” This option is out.

His third option is not to run for higher office and instead serve out his remaining three years in the Senate. This would give him time to build a political party — or a movement — to pursue the reforms he wants. He can then run for re-election as senator in 2013 under his new party, together with a full slate of reform-minded senatorial candidates, congressional candidates, and candidates for local offices. Then he can run for president in 2016 as the “people’s candidate.” But can he wait?

I mentioned “people’s candidate” because there is likelihood that the other presidential candidates, with the exception of Estrada, would be backed by the establishment including the powerful oligarchs who would get behind Manny, Gibo, and Noynoy. I mentioned Noynoy because should his uncle Danding decide to support him instead of his cousin Gibo, then Noynoy’s “reformist” agenda could easily fall to pieces.

It is very likely then that the next administration would be no different — if not worse — from the Arroyo administration. And it could also be that Gloria and virtually all of the country’s wealthy and powerful oligarchs would continue to control the political system. If so, it could set the country back 40 years.

What the country needs today is someone who would step up to the plate, resist pressure from the oligarchs, and institute true reforms in governance. And who would that person be: Chiz or Noynoy… or none?

The next couple of weeks should provide us an insight on where Chiz and Noynoy are going. And it would all depend on who’s going to get behind them.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)