May 2010

With Due Respect
by Artemio V. Panganiban
from Philippine Daily Inquirer

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20100529-272813/Destiny-and-legacy-not-dynasty 

MANILA, Philippines—Our people handed Noynoy Aquino the most overwhelming mandate since our present Constitution took effect in 1987. They opted for a peaceful transition of power, no longer by staging mammoth street rallies, but by rolling a tsunami of votes that could not be stopped by cheating, computer glitches, human errors, carelessness and logistical lapses. They invented a new form of People Power to reshape the Philippine landscape.

Moratorium on amortizations. This thunderous triumph of People Power so impressed the international community that many ambassadors, led by those of the United States (Harry K. Thomas Jr.), China (Liu Jianchao), Japan (Makoto Katsura) and the European Union (Alistair MacDonald), laid aside legalities and diplomatese to congratulate our new leader even before the formal process of ballot canvassing had begun.

Time Magazine has been sufficiently swayed as to feature Noynoy twice in the span of less than a month, first on its cover on April 26 and second in its May 24 issue. Time led the world’s media (from Thailand to Britain to Chile) in focusing on the Philippines, not as much as it did in 1986 celebrating the first miracle of People Power but enough to make our country become the darling of the world again.

This is a shining moment we cannot let pass. Let us strategically use it in the war against corruption and poverty. This burst of international goodwill can generate new investments, funding grants (like from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation) and favorable trade agreements.

With innovation and imagination, our new president can negotiate for sovereign debt waivers, whether of the principal or interest or both. At the very least, a moratorium of say three years in the amortizations of our international debt should not be too difficult to obtain. This will give Noynoy the capacity to meet immediate, impatient expectations and the gestation time for his longer-term solutions. Instead of amortizing debt, our meager funds could be diverted to pump-priming and job creation.

Passion to liberate. As I wrote last Sunday, it takes courage, innovation and passion to satisfy the people’s hunger for justice and for food. And now, it may be asked: What propelled Noynoy’s cry of “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”? What gave our new leader the passion to liberate his people from corruption and poverty? The answer may be found in a letter sent to him by his father, Ninoy, a copy of which was given me by retired Justice Flerida Ruth P. Romero.

Dated Aug. 25, 1973, the letter was written while Ninoy was still in prison during the martial law regime. It advised the young Noynoy about his decision, “after lengthy conference with my lawyers, Senators Jovito R. Salonga and Lorenzo M. Tañada … not to participate in the proceedings of the Military Commission assigned to try the charges filed against me … Inasmuch as [the trial] will be a completely one-sided affair … I expect to be sentenced to imprisonment the rest of my natural life, or possibly be sent to stand before a firing squad. By adopting the course of action I decided upon this afternoon, I have literally decided to walk into the very jaws of death.”

Continuing, Ninoy told his teen-aged heir the reason for his sacrifice, “You may ask: why did you do it? Son, my decision is an act of conscience. It is an act of protest against the structures of injustice that have been imposed upon our hapless countrymen. Futile and puny, as it will surely appear to many, it is my last act of defiance against tyranny and dictatorship.”

Regretting his inability to secure his son’s and four daughters’ financial future, Ninoy wrote, “The only valuable asset I can bequeath to you now is the name I carry. I have tried my best during my years of public service to keep that name untarnished and respected, unmarked by sorry compromises for expediency. I now pass it on to you, as good, I pray, as when my father, your grandfather, passed it on to me.”

Then, Ninoy apologized for “passing unto your young shoulders the great responsibility for our family. I trust you will love your mother and your sisters and lavish them with the care and protection I would have given them. I was barely fifteen years old when my father died. His death was my most traumatic experience. I loved and hero-worshipped him so much; I wanted to join him in his grave when he passed away…

“Finally, stand by your mother as she stood beside me through the buffeting winds of crisis and uncertainties, firm and resolute and uncowed. I pray to God, you inherit her indomitable spirit and her rare brand of silent courage.”

The legacy lives on. Then came Ninoy’s parting words asking Noynoy to bear his legacy of heroic service, “The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience. There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength. Son, the ball is now in your hands.”

Like his mother, Noynoy had no plans of seeking the presidency. Not at this time, anyway. He was content to support the ambition of his friend, Mar Roxas. But destiny beckoned. The death of his mother on Aug. 1, 2009 altered history and catapulted him.

Time Magazine ascribed his ascension to “dynasty.” With due respect, I think it was destiny and legacy, not dynasty, that propelled Noynoy to the top and kindled his passion to liberate his people from corruption and poverty.

* * *

Comments are welcome at chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com

Empowering the Filipino People
by Former president FIDEL V. RAMOS
from Manila Bulletin

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/259682/comments-our-kababayans-us-may-elections

Both chambers of Congress, acting as the National Board of Canvassers, continue to wrestle with the authenticity of the 278 certificates of canvass (CoC) from our provinces and chartered cities. In their joint session started last May 25, the Senate under its President, Juan Ponce Enrile, and the House of Representatives under Speaker Prospero Nograles approved the rules for the official canvassing of votes as a prelude to the final proclamation of the country’s next President and Vice President, presumably not later than June 15.

That first joint session, however, was punctuated by a multitude of questions on “authenticity” which called for the comparison of printed CoCs and electronically transmitted CoCs. The final ruling thereon would be determined by the joint Congressional Committee organized for that purpose. This, as the public is now witnessing on live TV, in addition to various complaints re alleged manual and/or electronic rigging, could lead to prolonged delays, particularly on the CoCs for Vice President, which position is being closely contested by Sen. Mar Roxas and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.

At this juncture, with public and media attentionfocused on Congress while it proceeds with the much-debated national canvass, it is useful to report on the feelings of our Kababayans in the US – both Filipino voters living there and Filipino–Americans who are equally interested in the outcome of our new automated election system (AES) because they still consider the Philippines as their “Motherland.”

Cause for optimism

While on a 10-day trip to New York–New Jersey, Atlanta, and San Francisco last May 16-25 to attend the 60th Anniversary of my graduation from the US Military Academy (West Point Class of 1950), I had the opportunity to feel the pulse of US-based compatriots about our recently-concluded elections.

In media interviews and dialogues with Fil-Am groups, I expressed high hopes for RP’s future, citing two reasons: “First, we had a generally peaceful and credible elections; and second, the Philippines being at a very low level in terms of national performance – 105th out of 185 countries in the 2009 UN Human Development Index – the change in government leadership, under incoming President-elect Benigno Aquino III, is cause for optimism.”

Overall, there was general acclamation for the newly-introduced automated system. The New Jersey-based Filipino Times and Asian Review headed by Jack Senay, Managing Editor, headlined the 10 May elections as the “Dawn of a New Era” (May 15-22). Perry Diaz, star journalist of the Fil-Am community, was quoted in the same FTAR issue:

“Amidst all the black propaganda thrown at Noynoy Aquino, the specter of a failure of elections, and the rumored plan to cheat him and deny him the presidency, people were expecting the worst to happen. But that didn’t hinder their resolve to do their part. Instead, the looming chaos brought out the best in the Filipino people. It didn’t stop them from patiently waiting for hours at the precincts to cast their vote. And it didn’t dampen their spirits to overcome all imaginable obstacles to prevent them from exercising their constitutional right. Long lines, broken precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, brownouts, boiling summer heat, violence, vote-buying, harassment, you name it – they faced them all, unwilling to give up their sovereign right. . . In the end, the people prevailed. Their collective voice was heard loud and clear, and their steel-willed determination was felt: they want CHANGE. And CHANGE they will get. ”

Still manualized: Overseas absenteeAsian Journal, based in Los Angeles and headed by Roger Oriel as Publisher/Board chairman, editorialized: “Unlike the swift counting of votes in the first automated elections in the Philippines, tallying of Overseas Absentee Voter (OAV) ballots in the US lagged far behind… At the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles, tallying of OAV votes in its jurisdiction was not completed until three days after the elections,” (May 14-20). Another article from the same publication reported: “The grueling marathon count of OAV ballots lasted for 15 hours at the Philippine Consulate General in New York City.” In the same issue, LA Vice Consul John Reyes, supervisor of OAV balloting in Southwest US, was quoted:

“We had the best of both worlds but, we were like in the twilight zone. Here was the new design and we were stuck doing the old design.”

Our voters, DFA personnel/election inspectors, and journalists based in America were hopeful that the manual system of counting votes to which our overseas electorate was subjected will be replaced by the more modern “touch-screen” system next time around.

Except for some nearby DFA offices like our Singapore Embassy and Consulate General in Hongkong, which are within small, compact and well-connected territories, our embassy and consular missions still had to perform their election functions for OFWs and Filipino expatriates on the basis of the laborious manualized system. In the US, as in most voting cluster where our OFWs are presently deployed in some 160 countries, Comelec had decided not to use automated machines due to the lack of time to install the PCOS units and train their operators.

New Beginnings (Panibagong Simula)Last May21, in Atlanta at a post-election reunion of the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, the same spirit of new optimism and upbeat hope pervaded. Present were some 120 community leaders under the leadership of our Philippine Honorary Consul Raoul “Ray” Donato who covers the Southeast US. The theme in Atlanta was: “Panibagong Simula (New Beginnings): The Philippines After the 2010 Elections.”

Indeed, the speeches, dialogues and interactions that took place manifested rising expectations. These came from a significant slice of our OFW and Fil-Am constituency in the US that had long been pummeled by lost jobs, foreclosed homes, immigration hardships, veterans’ woes, dollar depreciation, and lowered morale due to happenings at home under the PGMA Administration, and the global recession. Officers of the Atlanta Bar Association (which was the main sponsor of the PACCGA event) hailed, thru Atty. Bryan Ramos, “the impact that incoming President Benigno Aquino III will have on the Philippines, on Asia, and on RP-US bilateral relations.”

As the main speaker, I emphasized: “We have to reform many structures in the Philippine system, education for instance. There should be new jobs for workers to reduce the number of OFWs and thereby lessen the unhappiness in many Filipino families. We must look forward to seeing the Philippines in a place of respect and dignity in the community of nations.”

Philippines-US rapport

The certainty of improved Philippines-US rapport was signalled last week by US Ambassador Harry Thomas who paid a courtesy call on President-elect Benigno Aquino III at his residence on Times Street, Quezon City. Commenting on that personal visit, Director Walter Lohman of Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center said: “Incoming Philippine President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III and US President Barack Obama will have a chance to move bilateral relations a ‘notch higher. ’ The meeting was organized by Nick Zahn, director of the Washington Roundtable for the Asia-Pacific Press, the largest organization of the Asian media in the US… Lohman told Filipino journalists that Aquino and Obama have at least two important things in common: First, Aquino and Obama won clear mandates on the promise of change which sparked tremendous popular support, particularly among young voters; and second, both are 50 years-old and belong to the same new breed of leaders, which would make it easy for them to connect and foster the long-standing special relations between their two countries. ” (FilAm Star, San Francisco, May 21-27).

The assignment of US Ambassador Harry Thomas to the Philippines is, in itself, a clear indication of forthcoming warmer bilateral ties. Thomas is a savvy and senior career diplomat who has the ear of both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He was quick and smart to visit President-elect Aquino III soon after the COMELEC’s declaration of Aquino’s having been elected with a margin of about five million votes over his nearest opponent.

Wanted: A healing President

Even as Aquino III is being congratulated, many are calling on him to become a “healing President” who will unite the Filipinos so that we can expect faster growth for our country.

Said the Philippines Today, Northern California in its recent editorial (May 19-25): “We take it as a good sign for the sake of the nation. We will take it as a good gesture that the next President would be a healing and uniting President, and we pray that he be a listening President. ”

Please send any comments to fvr@rpdev.org. Copies of articles are available at www.rpdev.org.

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
by William M. Esposo
from The Philippine Star

It was Otto von Bismarck of 19th century Germany who said that: “The statesman can do nothing. He can only lie in wait and listen until amid the march of events he can hear the footsteps of God. Then he leaps forward and grasps the hem of His garment.”

This Bismarck remark crossed your Chair Wrecker’s mind when we read the contribution of STAR reader Tony Gomez of Paranaque City in the May 27 hard copy of STAR Inbox World. Tony Gomez said: “I can’t help noting that Mr. Esposo was able to accurately predict the turn of events from the time he proposed Noynoy as a candidate for president.”

Of course, I do not pretend to be some sort of a 21st century Nostradamus. Frankly, your Chair Wrecker cannot even predict what health issue will affect me on the day after tomorrow or when I will have to be confined again at the Makati Medical Center for this, that or the next thing. However, modesty aside, we did predict quite a number of major developments these past ten months – ever since we initiated the idea of a Noynoy Aquino presidency in our August 9, 2009 column (After Cory, why not Noynoy?).

As can be seen in our website (www.chairwrecker.com), the following political developments were among the accurate predictions of your Chair Wrecker:

1. Noynoy Aquino is the dominant brand in the 2010 presidential elections. He had led all the way. The closest it ever got was when his then nearest rival, Senator Manny Villar, came to within 2% of Aquino in February 2010.

2. Noynoy Aquino will exceed 40% in the final total vote which is what is now being shown in the Comelec (Commission on Elections) and the PPCRV-KBP (Philippine Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting-Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters ng Pilipinas) last tallies. Then third placer Joseph “Erap” Estrada will overtake Manny Villar for the 2nd spot and end up with a vote tally of around 22 to 24%. Villar will slide down to number 3 with around 18% of the votes or even less. These were predicted when Villar was still number 2 and when Noynoy Aquino could not rise again above 38%.

 3. Jojo Binay will win the vice presidential race and that like Villar, Loren Legarda, Villar’s running mate for vice president, will sink to being a poor 3rd. Legarda’s slide to number 3 was predicted after the ABS-CBN televised Harapan (Face Off). Binay’s winning the vice presidency was predicted one week before the elections.

4. At a time when Villar was just 2% behind Noynoy Aquino in February and seemed headed on the road to victory, it was predicted that Villar ratings will collapse after he is systematically attacked with the right issues and on the right media. Villar had previously displayed signs of being a “weak brand” as shown by his up and down ratings before Aquino entered the presidential race.

5. Mar Roxas is a “weak brand” and this was shown by his being 4th or 5th in the presidential race, before he eventually gave way to Noynoy Aquino, and when he was eventually overtaken by Jojo Binay in the vice presidential race where he was the perceived winner up to early March 2010.

6. Estrada is also a “weak brand” in the 2010 presidential election and can not seriously threaten Noynoy Aquino. He could take votes from Villar but will never be a serious threat to Aquino. Unlike Villar, who went as high as 34%, Estrada never rated higher than 25% in the pre-election surveys.

When your Chair Wrecker was the guest of honor and speaker of the May 20 weekly meeting of the prestigious Manila Rotary Club – Asia’s first ever Rotary Club – which was held at the Manila Polo Club, we shared with the Rotarians our insights to the making of the 2010 Philippine president. We shared with them how we almost came to hearing the footsteps of God in the 1986 presidency and now in the 2010 presidency.

After Ninoy Aquino was assassinated on August 13, 1983, Napoleon Rama, a good friend and former cellmate of Ninoy when martial law was proclaimed, visited your Chair Wrecker to discuss the political fortunes of the then political opposition. Having lost their best leader, Nap was worried that nobody could pick the mantel of leadership from Ninoy.

I then told Nap: “Every crisis produces its hero. Wait for this crisis of leadership to produce a hero.” When Cory Aquino spoke at Santo Domingo Church before the historic funeral of Ninoy, I sensed that the Philippine crisis had produced its hero.

Of course, I was almost laughed off the stage every time I mentioned this. The conventional wisdom of our politicians then was to consider it a pipe dream for a woman without any previous experience in public office, in a country which had not yet elected a woman president — to aspire for the presidency. As was eventually proved, your Chair Wrecker had indeed heard the footsteps of God.

I then told the Rotarians that the 2010 political terrain was very similar to the 1983 political conditions. Our country was in a great crisis. A deep cynicism had enveloped the land. A social explosion or a civil war was very possible if the socio-economic conditions did not improve and if people continued to mistrust their leaders.

The death of Cory Aquino on August 1, 2009 ­ ­­­— in a month when major historical events tend to happen ­­­ — opened the way for the emergence of another hero which a great crisis presented. The events following Cory Aquino’s passing focused public attention on Noynoy Aquino just as the death of Ninoy in 1983 focused public attention on Cory.

Noynoy became the proverbial powerful idea whose time had come. And the rest is history.

Now, if you want to develop your capability to hear the footsteps of God – then I would suggest that you focus less on trying to second guess the future. The secret really is in the past, in history.

* * *

Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com.

by Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS

            The technical ignorance of practically all members of the joint session of Philippine Congress was glaringly obvious during the initial two days of the canvassing of the votes from the May 10, 2010 national elections.

            For those who are familiar with computers, it is lucidly clear that these computer-illiterate legislators were the major cause of the confusion, suspicion, delays, and grave misinformation and injustice about automated elections. Instead of inspiring faith among our people by providing them security thru intelligent guidance, they were so ill-prepared and ignorant, causing chaos rather than order.

            The Senate President and the Speaker of the House, who were presiding over the session and should have done their homework, were as uninformed and confused, if not worse than the other senators and congressmen present.

            The legislator-canvassers are now asking for demonstration on how the PCOS machine, Compact Flash Cards, and Server work. This should have been done days, if not weeks, before the May 10th elections. The senators and congressmen should have done their homework before facing the television, shamelessly displaying to the world their utter ignorance (and some with arrogance to boot). They should have also allowed expert computer technicians from the major opposing political parties to try to tamper the system in front of the television for all to see. This would have shown beforehand that this automated system was tamper-proof as Smartmatic tried many times to explain in vain. Of course, this experiment could still be done today, if only to prove once and for all that automated election is indeed secure, Koala Boy-and-cheater proof.

            How can presiding officers effectively and efficiently conduct the session if they do not even know the definition of terms, like digital signature, CF cards, server, etc., and the salient points about the PCOS machine, and how the entire automation works? And how can the other legislators ask intelligent and pertinent questions if they did not know the basic facts about the system?

            This is actually the blind leading the blind. And all this could have been prevented, and the nation spared from the ridiculous carnival of clowns, had these legislators been educated beforehand. Do we send our soldiers to the battlefield before teaching them the various technical terms in warfare, about security, and how weapons work?

            Because of their unpreparedness, the legislators participating only added to the confusion and created more doubts on the public’s mind about the security and accuracy of the PCOs machine, the CF cards, and the servers. This was most unfair to a good system and to Smartmatic, especially the way many of our legislators treated its president and his technical team, who, in spite of the uncalled for finger-pointing and harsh words, remained calm, courteous, cordial, and decently informative.

            Had our legislators mandated that they themselves, all the candidates, and the entire nation be in-serviced and educated weeks before the elections about the technical details of automated election, using lectures and demonstration on television for public information and education, everyone would have known THAT:

  1. The only singular opportunity to cheat in automated elections was during the programming of the entire system, but apparently the Comelec, Smartmatic, and the various political parties had their respective technical experts present to assure the programming was properly done,  fraud-free, and tamper-proof.
     
  2. After Smartmatic had turned over to Comelec the programmed PCOS machine, CF cards, and servers, the source code, the keys, the entire system is more than doubly secure with encrypted codes and keys, which at this stage, makes manipulation (cheating) impossible. Like any gadget, glitches were possible, but within industry standard threshold, and not material to the ultimate count.
     
  3. It would have been wonderful if the date and time stamps were reset properly for the Philippine time zone, but even that error did not materially affect the security and accuracy of the voting, counting, and canvassing. The servers would only accept transmissions from authorized and specific precincts and flashcards, and only when they are turned on (on May 10, 2010) and ONLY during the legally prescribed polling time, not before, not after closing.
     
  4. The servers were programmed to recognize and accept transmissions ONLY from the specific precincts assigned to them. Transmission from other PCOs machines from other precincts, or other generic counting optical scans, or unofficial ballots, or duplicate ballots, would be rejected. So, using back-up PCOS machines/flash cards from the warehouse or from other precincts, or from the garbage, will not be recognized by the assigned server, which will reject the transmission from these unassigned, unauthorized unit. All the alleged claims about this issue were manufactured and false.
     
  5. The servers were programmed to know and expect the specific bar codes (and the total registered voters from a particular precinct). Anything outside of this, or any attempt at inserting a duplicate ballot from the same person (double voting) or from another, with a ballot whose bar code the server does not recognize, will be rejected. So, you cannot cheat by feeding as many fraudulent ballots as you wish. And “dagdag-bawas” is even less possible, unless you grab the ballot from someone and fill it up yourself, or physically prevent someone from inserting his ballot into the PCOS machine.
     
  6. The Koala Boy allegation of an offer to rig the votes to assure a candidate’s victory, or protect his votes, all for a fee of a billion pesos or so, was clearly a scam, if not a contrived plan by a losing candidate or political party. Watching our legislators and the witnesses in action during the televised canvassing makes one understand why our beloved country is in such a mess.
     
  7. The whining losers, blaming the automated system for their loss, are not only ignorant of the technical aspect of the automated system, but losers groping for an excuse. Majority of those who lost have started to lick their wounds in silence, analyzing and learning from their defeat, which they have graciously accepted. That’s magnanimity. Great leaders don’t whine.
     
  8. The arrogant congresswoman who came forth with compact flashcards should have known that possession of illegal items is a crime, just like possession of stolen property or illegal drugs. Unless she identifies the source of those cards (who should face the legal consequences), she should be held legally liable for the crime. Bearing false witness is also illegal. Again, programmed CF cards could only be used ONCE, and must be used in a specific precinct and PCOS machine where it was supposed to be used at, and nowhere else. Those cards, which were found after the elections, were really useless.
     
  9. The PCS Chair and others who claimed to have been approached, akin to the Koala Boy allegation, should have been legally liable for NOT calling the Police and allowing scammers and criminals to go free. After all, they were sworn in “to tell the truth and nothing but the truth,” before they were allowed to tell their fairy tales. The novelas from the losers and others, who could not provide proof to substantiate their claims, are evidently fabricated and self-serving lies. They are an insult to the intelligence of the Filipino people. 

Now, massive vote-buying, as a form of cheating and injustice against the good candidates who are too honest or too poor to buy votes, is another story. This is where all the legislators should have focused their attention and time to, instead of exposing their ineptness about automated elections and allowing criminal politicians who bought votes to go unpunished. Legislators who close their eyes to this crime deserve to be in jail themselves.

The automated election has vindicated itself and has even separated mice and boys from men. The automation portion of the May 2010 national elections is the cleanest ever, no matter what the administration “no-proc” advocates and misinformed detractors claim.  Its time to fumigate all the branches of government and for the old system of manual vote counting to go. And so with the rats and plunderers in our government. #

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, is Chairman of the Filipino United Network (USA) and an advocate of  Pinoys for Good Governance.. His email address is: scalpelpen@gmail.com

Analysis
by Amando Doronila
from Philippine Daily Inquirer

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20100528-272491/Two-foul-blows

Two key Philippine institutions took a beating in the aftermath of the May election count that produced a clear winner in the presidential race within hours of the close of the polling stations.

The first blow came from the complaints of alleged election cheating that swamped the Commission on Elections, and now the National Board of Canvassers (Congress), which is starting the canvassing to proclaim the next president and vice president.

The second development that marred the widely acclaimed and speedy tabulation of the poll results under the automated voting system was the imbroglio between the apparent president-elect, Sen. Benigno Aquino III, and Chief Justice Renato Corona following his appointment by exiting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on May 17, in the run-up to the proclamation of the next president.

Never before has it happened that an incoming president faced an antagonistic Court and its chief justice as he awaited the confirmation of his election by Congress. This highly charged confrontational atmosphere was provoked by the appointment of Corona as chief justice in breach of a Supreme Court decision in 1962 that upheld the revocation by new President Diosdado Macapagal of appointments made by outgoing President Carlos Garcia of a number of officials on the eve of the official induction into office of Macapagal. The appointment of Corona heralds a turbulent transition to a new administration that, on the basis of unofficial results, has won a massive electoral mandate.

The affronted Aquino at first announced that he would not take his oath before the Arroyo midnight appointee, in disregard of tradition in which most presidents took their oath before the chief justice. In response to the belligerence of Aquino, Corona also breached judicial tradition by going on a three-day media offensive asserting the “independence of the Court” from the executive or the legislative departments. No other chief justice has ever done this before—that is, taking his dispute with officials of other departments to the media and playing to the gallery for support and applause. Corona, in one stroke, became a politician.

Somehow a head-on collision ahead of the inauguration of the next president was averted after Aquino climbed down, and decided to take his oath before an associate justice, instead of before a barangay captain (as he had earlier planned).

Corona has also toned down his earlier confrontational rhetoric and has become conciliatory, presumably after having been brought down to earth by the reality that Aquino has won an overwhelming electoral mandate, unlike Corona’s patron (President Arroyo), who won the 2004 election under a heavy cloud of allegations that she was elected by rigging the poll results with the assistance of Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

It would have been odd for Corona to insist and to posture that it is his duty to defend the independence of the Court. His assertions have raised questions, such as, did the Court over which he now presides, show great independence from the outgoing president who packed the Court totally with her appointees, climaxed by the appointment of Corona? The temper or the bias of his Court is likely to be tested soon, when Aquino starts cracking down on corruption cases stemming from transactions of the Arroyo administration and suits against Ms Arroyo reach the Court. It is to be hoped that Corona would not repeat his public relations blitz when his Court hands down controversial rulings arising from such cases. He would appear ham-fisted in this PR exercise.
The other tradition breached by the cascade of complaints of fraud and cheating in the election is the travesty of the process of legislative investigations into cheating allegations. In legislative investigations or in judicial proceeding, witnesses are required to show their faces and to identify themselves, when taking their oath to tell “the truth and nothing but the truth.” Witnesses can be held responsible and liable for perjury for making false statements.

In the testimony of the masked “conscience-stricken” whistle blower, delivered through audio-visual gadget, at the House committee on suffrage, allegations of mass cheating were unleashed without the benefit of identifying the witness and oath taking. Thus, Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr., committee chair, was talking in practical terms when he said that the witness, now called “Koala Bear,” cannot be taken seriously and his testimony ought to be dismissed out of hand because there was no way to verify it since it was based on a flotsam of hearsay. How can you serve a subpoena on a masked creature with no known address? Locsin asked. Consequently, there was absolutely no reason to allow the videotape to be played at the committee hearing. That video should have been summarily thrown in the face of the person who received it from a source that has not been identified and who dumped it at a media forum sponsored by a religious group in a restaurant in Intramuros.

The testimony opened the floodgates to an avalanche of allegations and complaints of election cheating from disgruntled and defeated candidates who now seek to impugn the entire election results and to discredit the new computerized poll count method.

When institutional procedures and traditions that underpin the democratic system are disregarded, such breaches lead to distortions that undermine the legitimacy and integrity of elections.

by Michael Punongbayan
from The Philippine Star

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=578802&publicationSubCategoryId=63

MANILA, Philippines – Former elections chairman Benjamin Abalos and Social Security System president Romulo Neri will be charged with graft before the Sandiganbayan for their alleged part in the controversy-ridden contract between the government and Chinese firm ZTE Corp. for the national broadband network (NBN) project.

However, the Office of the Ombudsman absolved First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo of the same charges.

“Quite interestingly, the only memory that stands out during this meeting (at Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong) was (Mr.) Arroyo’s statement that (Jose) de Venecia (III) was told to back off from the project,” read the resolution.

“There is no other independent statement or source of evidence that the meeting was purposely availed of to allow (Mr.) Arroyo to influence the project.

“Thus, the panel continues to maintain the position that only surmises and conjectures have been presented to this panel for assessment. To be certain, this presumption cannot be given any weight.”

The Ombudsman stood firm on Neri’s six-month suspension.

At Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said proceedings in a court of law will be of a higher standard of due process than an inquiry in the Senate.

“We hope that everyone involved will remember to conduct themselves according to the rules,” he said.

Ruy Rondain, Mr. Arroyo’s lawyer, said several months ago Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez issued a resolution clearing his client of any culpability.

Lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr., one of the complainants in the case, said the anti-graft agency’s action was designed to ensure that Mr. Arroyo and several others charged would be absolved while President Arroyo is in office.

“This also proves that we cannot trust the present Ombudsman to really go after those charged with corruption,” Francisco said.

He will study the possibility of having the investigation reopened in the next administration to include Mrs. Arroyo among those to be investigated, Francisco said.

In a telephone interview, Abalos said the graft charges against him would not stand in court.

“It is really the court that is the final arbiter,” he said. 

“I think it is better this way, so that we can put an end to all of this.  Ultimately, I know I will be cleared.”

On the other hand, Neri said he has not yet received a copy of the Ombudsman’s resolution.

“I’m asking my lawyers to read it first before I comment on it,” he said.

Whistle-blower Joey de Venecia III said Neri’s suspension is “better late than never.”

“I hope also that the prosecutors would be active prosecutors to prove the truth,” he said.

“I hope the senators would be able to craft legislation to prevent the ZTE-NBN anomalous transactions from happening again.”

In finding probable cause to charge Abalos and Neri, prosecutors based their decision on the Senate hearings on the NBN-ZTE controversy, De Venecia said.

In denying their motions for reconsideration, the Office of the Ombudsman said Abalos and Neri should be charged with violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Abalos will also be charged with corruption of a public official before the Mandaluyong Metropolitan Trial Court.

Abalos is accused of offering a P200-million bribe to Neri, who was then National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director-general, to approve the NBN-ZTE contract.

In his motion for reconsideration, Abalos said he is being indicted based on incredible, uncorroborated and baseless testimonies of a witness who presented false statements before the Senate.

“Surely, there is nothing unlawful, much less condemnable, in herein respondent assisting in the realization of a potential investment which would not only spur the economy but will also create jobs for his countrymen,” he said.

“Thereafter, it was a matter of maintaining a friendship borne by a common love for golf that kept herein respondent in touch with ZTE and its officials.”

However, the anti-graft agency said that Abalos’s and Neri’s motions for reconsideration failed to adduce sufficient evidence to warrant the reversal of the August 2009 Joint Resolution.

“All factors and arguments considered, respondents Abalos and Neri have failed to convince the undersigned panel that its findings should be reversed,” read the decision.

As to the administrative case against Neri who was suspended for six months as he is still in government as SSS president, the Office of the Ombudsman denied his motion for the decision to be reversed for lack of merit.

In a separate order, the panel said he “miserably failed to present new evidence or argument to support his claim” of innocence as the director general of NEDA at the time the NBN-ZTE deal was approved.

The investigating panel was comprised of Mindanao-based Assistant Ombudsman Rodolfo Elman, Director Cesar Asuncion, and Deputy Special Prosecutors Jesus Micael and Robert Kallos. —With Rainier Allan Ronda, Jose Rodel Clapano, Paolo Romero, Sheila Crisostomo               

by Dr. Ofelia Samar-Sy
from Philippine Daily Inquirer

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/talkofthetown/view/20100529-272807/Stories-from-yellow-volunteers 

Giving birth to Bicol people power

SEN. BENIGNO “Noynoy” Aquino III is surrounded by supporters at the St. Agnes Academy on his October visit to Legazpi City for consulations after he decided to run for president. Contributed photo

THIS IS AN inside story of the recent people power in Albay province which gave Noynoy Aquino the second highest percentage of votes in the country after Tarlac, his home province.

First trimester
(August-October 2009)

Before August last year, I was a very busy cardiologist, who had never been involved in any polical activity.

When former President Cory Aquino died that month, I became afflicted with the yellow fever sweeping the country. My husband agreed that we had to get involved. I registered in all online petitions for Noynoy Aquino to run for president. I volunteered on every Internet site and offered help and a space in our building in Legazpi City as headquarters for volunteers.

I asked my patients to support Noynoy. A patient of mine, Jun de la Torre, referred me to the one he knew was leading the Liberal Party in the Bicol region, Naga Mayor Jess Robredo, who extended instant and constant support.

With the help of my medical staff and family, I started to go out of my clinic and campaigned. I distributed the “Letter of Ninoy to Noynoy” to as many people as possible and held sessions with my friends explaining not just how Ninoy was a good writer but also a visionary. He was a visionary because he confidently predicted that his then 12-year-old son would be his successor, saying “Son, the ball is now in your hands.”

As I went around promoting Noynoy, I found that many individuals and groups were yellow fanatics, who had been part of the Edsa people power. Faced with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s impunity and disregard for what is right, ethical and respectable, they were also looking for companions to strengthen their support for Noynoy.

On Oct. 25, 2009, Noynoy’s first visit to Albay was met by a rare show of volunteers’ people power. Yellow ribbons were tied along highways and streets.

Exequiel Longares introduced us to missionary priest, Arnold Abelardo, who adopted our volunteer-group to be part of Pinoy Power, a Manila-based organization of nationalist professionals and artists headed by Jim Paredes, JJ Soriano, Paco and Mano Alcuaz, Marian Roces, Esther Pacheco, Ruby Alcantara, Mae Paner and Ruben Tobias.

Father Arnold patiently showed and explained to us the film “Last Journey of Ninoy,” which made us cry, and the Juana Change video series which made us laugh. We burned the CDs of the films and distributed them.

All volunteers started to duplicate what Father Arnold had done at our homes and in public places like schools and transportation terminals.

The people power became more meaningful, educated and nationalistic.

Second trimester
(November-January)

As the volunteers became more yellow, we grew in number. Pinoy Power Bicol was joined by Noypi Ako (an kabataang oragon), Albay Medical Society, Samahan ng Kababaihan sa Daraga, Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahang Magsasaka sa Albay, Legazpi City Slum Dwellers Federation Inc., Sulong Maralitang Pinoy and Philippine Science High School GPTA.

Bicol University Elementary Laboratory School GPTA, Federated GPTA of Legazpi City, Piston, Filcab Federation of Bicol, Samahan sa Ikauunlad ng may Kapansanang Anakpawis and many other informal groups of Bicolanos.

Pinoy Power, as the lead organization, focused on promoting reforms to combat corruption and trapo politics through education of the grassroots. Without funding, this seemed to be a very difficult task. I was easily joined by generous key leaders in sharing finances.

It was a blessing in disguise that Mayon Volcano erupted in December 2009, causing mass evacuation of Albayanos. Noynoy and Mar Roxas kicked off the distribution of relief goods to evacuees. Mayor Robredo asked the volunteers to give relief items to more than 40,000 evacuees from 3 cities and 6 towns of Albay.

To introduce the Noy-Mar team, we promoted good governance and anticorruption, showing films of the political satire Juana Change series and exposing the ills and corruption of the Arroyo administration. It worked because from the mouths of farmers, we heard them saying, “Dapat na talagang magbago. Iboto si Noynoy at Mar!”

When the evacuees returned to their homes, we followed them to their respective barangays. We also reached out to other Bicol provinces.

The Aquino sisters gave us special inspiration. Pinky Abellada showered us with sincere messages of thanks, gifts which we shall forever treasure and campaign materials. Viel Dee patiently sent volunteer leaders, beautiful Christmas cards and our donors, cards of thanks.

Kris Aquino gave us extraordinary thrills and happiness with her televised birthday and thank you greetings.

Fully inspired, the volunteers sponsored Cory’s birthday celebration and 38 Masses, and invited thousands of students and more volunteers to the Bicol College auditorium and Bicol University amphitheater.

Third trimester
(February-April 2010)

At this time, the Liberal Party did not have funds yet for campaign materials so each volunteer leader agreed to contribute money for printing of Noy-Mar tarpaulins and posters in the whole of Albay. At the start of the national campaign on Feb. 9, we held a 12-hour province-wide motorcade with more than a hundred vehicles.

Putting up posters was admirable. Carpentry and the dangerous task of climbing posts and trees in the city, highways and remote areas were done by volunteers themselves. They were led by retired military men and officers, and professionals like retired teachers, doctors and government employees.

Surveys

As Manny Villar was catching up with Noynoy in the surveys, we campaigned even harder. As a result, we got more support from the Chinese community, employees of the provincial capitol and other government agencies, banks and other professional groups. We joined two national organizations: Pinoy MDs for Noynoy which sent us campaign materials and Pinoy Lawyers which gave us a vote-protection seminar.

As the campaign heated up and people feared a Villar, Gibo or Estrada presidency, more volunteers and candidates were dropping by my clinic asking for posters to place at their homes and in their barangays. Having used up most of the volunteers’ personal money, we requested the Liberal Party, the Nonconventional Coalition and the Aquino sisters for additional campaign materials.

To help in the war of the airwaves, the volunteers joined radio-hopping activities. They were angered by the media’s series of anti-Noynoy tirades. At one time, they threatened to stage a rally in front of a radio station if not allowed to refute anti-Noynoy issues. They got a better deal because the announcer agreed not to make anti-Noynoy comments anymore.

To form a more formidable force, the volunteers, who were not formally introduced to local candidates, tried to reach out to them. As a result, the people power celebration on Feb. 25 in Legazpi City was well-attended by both the Liberal Party’s nonconventional volunteers and political group.

Donations

Representing Pinoy Power, I was asked to give a testimonial during the 24th people power celebration. Upon hearing the sacrifices made by the volunteers, more Bicolanos from all over the world who watched the live ANC coverage joined our yellow forces. Some overseas Filipino workers donated funds.

On Noynoy and Mar’s visit in March, tens of thousands of Albayanos came. They could not be accommodated in the huge Albay Astrodome. Noynoy and Mar had to inch their way to the stage.

Formal and informal surveys done in several places and institutions in Albay showed Noynoy garnering 54 to 80 percent of the votes.

Joy

Volunteers placed as many posters, replacing them each time the Commission on Elections would remove them. The yellow-ribbon stickers we distributed all over to padyak, tricycles, buses, jeepneys and private vehicles were received with joy and pride. Suddenly, the party with no funds has become most visible.

People power was indeed getting more palpable. The yellow fever was on fire. People power became more evident when Gov. Joey Salceda announced he was supporting Noynoy. It was followed by a visit by Kris. Since then the bandwagon effect was unstoppable. We ran out of posters, baller IDs and yellow stickers because almost everybody wanted to have one.

Caught flat-footed

But it was not the same for Mar. We were caught flat-footed by his sudden decline in surveys and Jejomar Binay’s unexpected surge in the vice presidential race. We decided to go blue and helped Mar. We held a blue caravan, put up posters and distributed campaign materials. It was late for us to realize that some volunteer groups felt left out and antagonized by some Mar supporters. They decided to stop supporting him.

The nine-month people power was not a bed of roses at all. It was not unusual to be harassed by Lakas-Kampi-CMD incumbent officials. There were times when we were not permitted to use private and government facilities and resources. Most painful of all was when some Liberal Party personalities leading the Nonconventional Coalition became authoritarian and undemocratic.

These challenges stimulated high epinephrine levels which gave us extraordinary strength and energy. Despite not being recognized and afforded vote-protection funds, the volunteers spent for their own food and conducted mobilization, monitoring and parallel support work on Election Day.

Still-born blue baby

So, on the historic May 10 elections, the nine-month people power pregnancy gave birth to a strong live healthy yellow baby and an almost still-born blue baby.

We earnestly hope and pray that the blue baby recovers soon so that with the yellow baby they can live up to the expectations of the recent people power for reforms, progress and change for our children’s future.

(Dr. Ofelia Samar-Sy is the president of the Pinoy Power Bicol Coalition of Volunteers.)

by Philip Camara
from Philippine Daily Inquirer

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/talkofthetown/view/20100529-272808/How-the-Zambales-volunteers-did-it

THE SUPPORT for Noynoy Aquino in Zambales was palpable from the time he announced his candidacy on the 40th day of former President Cory Aquino’s death. However, it remained unexpressed and unorganized.

Different nonpolitical groups were organizing on their own in the province. There was the youth group Tinig ng Zambales headed by Norma Amata from San Felipe town, Teng Reyes from Botolan mobilizing the fisherfolk and small farmer people’s organizations and Ranie Bocar mobilizing the professional and political class of Zambales.

Ching Camara and I lent our office in Iba, Zambales, as the headquarters and provided the link to various Manila-based groups for support such as the People Power Volunteer Center (PPVC), the Pinoy Power Volunteers Group, Pinoy Pinay Group and others like the Mabuting Pilipino organization.

The PPVC sent organizers like Dong Cusio in February to give orientations at the Zambales volunteers headquarters.

The organization strategy of the Zambales Pinoy People Power was to identify one municipal coordinator from among their ranks, whose mandate would be to recruit barangay coordinators, who in turn would recruit precinct volunteers.

Thereafter, the barangay and precinct volunteers would act as campaign organizers by conducting house-to-house distribution of leaflets, explaining Noynoy’s slogan of “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” and shedding light on his personal character that distinguishes him from other presidential candidates.

At least 9 of the 13 towns had this kind of organized campaign activities from late March up to the end of the campaign period.

To keep track of volunteers and to establish a communication network, a cell-phone-registration drive was established. Also, a small donor system of P50 per donor was initiated to fund the campaign logistics in Zambales.

The biggest constraint was the lack of campaign funds for materials and logistics. Ching Camara and I donated funds for all the campaign materials that had to be purchased, hosted headquarter meetings and installed the SMS communication and microfundraising systems.

PPVC in turn donated campaign materials. The campaign, however, was characterized as being severely challenged in terms of public campaign materials as the focus of the group was on items that could be distributed house to house by volunteers.

Of course, if the volunteers’ time had to be compensated the campaign cost would have run in the tens of millions of pesos. Other candidates for president definitely had to shell out this kind of money.

Essentially, the volunteers conducted the following activities: putting up posters, tying yellow ribbons, distributing campaign materials in public places like markets and just talking about the Noy-Mar tandem and their platform for clean government in small groups, in gatherings and at any opportunity that presented itself.

There was some coordination with the governor’s point man for the campaign as he was a reelectionist running under the Liberal Party. However, the volunteer organization was always separate and distinct. This was particularly true with the visit of Viel Aquino-Dee wherein the volunteers organized a Subic consultation with NGOs and people’s organizations and where the governor’s office took care of a big lunch to introduce all of the Liberal Party candidates. It was followed by an Iba public open forum attended by thousands of people eager to listen to an Aquino family member.

The following organizations were part of the Zambales Pinoy People Power Volunteer group (list is not complete): Kilusang Pinatubo, Zambales Youth Group, Tinig ng Kabataan, Zambales chapter of Masikap, FARMC Subic, Small Fisherfolk Association, Community Forestry Multi-Purpose Cooperatives, Zambales Association of Rural Bankers, Zambales Market Vendors and Couples for Christ.

The Calapandayan Fisherfolk Multi-Purpose Coop, Samahan ng Kababaihan ng Lipay, Malayang Samahan ng Mangingisda ng Luan, Sinabacan Fisherfolk Association, Lucapon North Fisherfolk Association, and Parel Union for Water Resources and Social Action.

The Zambales Pinoy People Power Volunteer Group had the support and cooperation of the Liberal Party’s Nonconventional Campaign national arm, particularly the offices of Karina David, Dinky Soliman and Rapa Lopa through it’s lead provincial coordinator.

(Philip Camara is the provincial convenor of the Nonconventional Campaign.)

by Apples Jalandoni
from ABS-CBN News

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/05/28/10/arroyo-reappoints-genuino-4-others-pagcor

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Gloria Macapagal has re-appointed her close ally Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairman Efraim Genuino as well as 4 members of its board of directors.

Genuino said he accepted his re-appointment, confirming a document obtained by ABS-CBN News that he had been re-appointed for another 1-year term.

Others who were re-appointed, based on the document from the Office of the Executive Secretary dated March 9, were Rafael Francisco, Philip Lo, Manuel C. Roxas and Ester Alano Laconico-Feria.

Genuino said the reappointment only proves PAGCOR is doing well under his leadership.

“Alam mo naman na naging napakaganda ang performance namin, halos more than double ang kita namin at wala kaming iskandalo,” said Genuino in a phone interview.

But for Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Rep. Joel Villanueva, the re-appointment made by President Arroyo is illegal.

Villanueva cited the constitutional provision banning midnight appointments by a sitting president 2 months before the presidential elections.

Section 15 of Article VII of the Constitution states: “Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.”

A bill in Congress filed in 2007 proposing to extend the term of the PAGCOR chairman to 3 or more years was also not passed.

“Nakakalungkot na parang ang Pangulo natin ay parang balewala na sa kanya ang mag-appoint ng midnight appointments, parang ginawa niyang ordinary act of the president na kung sino ang ia-appoint sa iba’t ibang posisyon like PCSCO at PAGCOR na alam natin na juicy positions iyan,” said Villanueva.

Senator Francis Escudero also slammed President Arroyo’s re-appointment of Genuino.

“Intensyon ng Konstitusyon dapat merong malayang kamay ang sinumang magiging Pangulo kaugnay sa ilang sensitibong puwesto sa pamahalaan at GOCCs [government-owned and controlled corporations],” said Escudero,

Genuino, however, explained that President Arroyo merely complied with the law.

He cited Section 6 of the PAGCOR Charter which states that a director “shall serve for a term of one (1) year and until his successor shall have been duly appointed and qualified.”

He said the chairman and members of the PAGCOR Board of Directors have to be appointed every year so that the programs of the agency, which are 100% government-owned, can continue.

“Iyong ginawa ng Malacañang is part lamang ng compliance doon sa batas,” said Genuino.

Villanueva and Escudero said that the recent case of midnight appointments is frightening if it will be implemented.

They said that this is another way for President Arroyo, who won as representative of a Pampanga congressional district in the May 10 elections, to maintain power even after her presidential term by controlling important agencies such as PAGCOR.

Early this year, former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, had warned that the next president may not be able to take advantage of PAGCOR as much as President Arroyo has.

PAGCOR is the government’s 3rd highest revenue generating unit.

“Traditionally, PAGCOR is the milking cow of all presidents. I would imagine if she (Arroyo) is not president anymore, her ally in PAGCOR will not agree to give the next president as much as she got. She will be in Congress. She can still assert her influence,” Briones said.

PAGCOR is a big source of discretionary funds for the Office of the President. A big chunk of its revenues is directly remitted to the President’s Social Fund.

Briones said previous presidents have used PAGCOR for good and bad projects.

PAGCOR also makes substantial contributions to the Catholic church in the Philippines, which is against gambling. — Report from Apples Jalandoni , ABS-CBN News

by Apples Jalandoni
from ABS-CBN News

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/05/28/10/arroyo-reappoints-genuino-4-others-pagcor

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Gloria Macapagal has re-appointed her close ally Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairman Efraim Genuino as well as 4 members of its board of directors.

Genuino said he accepted his re-appointment, confirming a document obtained by ABS-CBN News that he had been re-appointed for another 1-year term.

Others who were re-appointed, based on the document from the Office of the Executive Secretary dated March 9, were Rafael Francisco, Philip Lo, Manuel C. Roxas and Ester Alano Laconico-Feria.

Genuino said the reappointment only proves PAGCOR is doing well under his leadership.

“Alam mo naman na naging napakaganda ang performance namin, halos more than double ang kita namin at wala kaming iskandalo,” said Genuino in a phone interview.

But for Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Rep. Joel Villanueva, the re-appointment made by President Arroyo is illegal.

Villanueva cited the constitutional provision banning midnight appointments by a sitting president 2 months before the presidential elections.

Section 15 of Article VII of the Constitution states: “Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.”

A bill in Congress filed in 2007 proposing to extend the term of the PAGCOR chairman to 3 or more years was also not passed.

“Nakakalungkot na parang ang Pangulo natin ay parang balewala na sa kanya ang mag-appoint ng midnight appointments, parang ginawa niyang ordinary act of the president na kung sino ang ia-appoint sa iba’t ibang posisyon like PCSCO at PAGCOR na alam natin na juicy positions iyan,” said Villanueva.

Senator Francis Escudero also slammed President Arroyo’s re-appointment of Genuino.

“Intensyon ng Konstitusyon dapat merong malayang kamay ang sinumang magiging Pangulo kaugnay sa ilang sensitibong puwesto sa pamahalaan at GOCCs [government-owned and controlled corporations],” said Escudero,

Genuino, however, explained that President Arroyo merely complied with the law.

He cited Section 6 of the PAGCOR Charter which states that a director “shall serve for a term of one (1) year and until his successor shall have been duly appointed and qualified.”

He said the chairman and members of the PAGCOR Board of Directors have to be appointed every year so that the programs of the agency, which are 100% government-owned, can continue.

“Iyong ginawa ng Malacañang is part lamang ng compliance doon sa batas,” said Genuino.

Villanueva and Escudero said that the recent case of midnight appointments is frightening if it will be implemented.

They said that this is another way for President Arroyo, who won as representative of a Pampanga congressional district in the May 10 elections, to maintain power even after her presidential term by controlling important agencies such as PAGCOR.

Early this year, former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, had warned that the next president may not be able to take advantage of PAGCOR as much as President Arroyo has.

PAGCOR is the government’s 3rd highest revenue generating unit.

“Traditionally, PAGCOR is the milking cow of all presidents. I would imagine if she (Arroyo) is not president anymore, her ally in PAGCOR will not agree to give the next president as much as she got. She will be in Congress. She can still assert her influence,” Briones said.

PAGCOR is a big source of discretionary funds for the Office of the President. A big chunk of its revenues is directly remitted to the President’s Social Fund.

Briones said previous presidents have used PAGCOR for good and bad projects.

PAGCOR also makes substantial contributions to the Catholic church in the Philippines, which is against gambling. — Report from Apples Jalandoni , ABS-CBN News