November 2010

Theres The Rub
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer

FOR THE more traditional Catholics, it’s as though the Rock turned on its pivot. If I recall right, Peter, the first Pope, was originally named Simon but was renamed by Jesus Christ to mean Rock or Stone. Which is what the Church has become, a veritable rock not just by its constancy but by its imperviousness to change.

So when Pope Benedict announced that he was revising his opinion about condoms, finding them allowable in “extreme cases,” such as to prevent the spread of disease and save lives, his announcement sent ripples of protest among the fundamentalists. They felt not a little betrayed, finding the rug pulled from under them. Especially in this country where they have been stridently opposing the reproductive health (RH) bill, even planning all sorts of rallies to urge onward Christian soldiers. How to do that in light of the Pope himself casting a less-than-Old-Testament eye on contraceptives?

For the fundamentalists, it’s as though the Rock has turned on its pivot. But for everybody else, including most Catholics in this country, it’s just as if a small pebble slipped from under it. I doubt most Catholics in this country, let alone the world, hang on for dear life, temporal or eternal, on the Pope’s views on family planning.

Though while at this, there’s no small amount of irony in the Pope’s justification for allowing condoms in extreme cases. That’s what the family planning people have been saying all this time. We need contraceptives to save lives, not kill them. We need contraceptives not just to prevent the spread of AIDS but the disease of ignorance, which happens with runaway population. We need contraceptives to save the lives of those who are born, who would otherwise be denied the basic needs of human life. Ordinary life in countries like the Philippines is the extreme case for which the Pope allows the use of condoms.

The people who are pushing for the RH bill are naturally elated. The Pope’s caveat is the leak that breaks the dike and sends the floodwaters tumbling down. Will the fundamentalists’ dampened enthusiasms now lead to an open road for family planning?

Not quite.

I do think that the RH bill is a huge initiative, and deserves the support of every intelligent Filipino. And I do think that the Catholic Church’s views on contraceptives and sex in general are a huge obstacle to it and deserve the support only of the variety of Catholics who look at life as Good Friday, a thing to endure before they get on with their real—sexless—lives in heaven. And so I do think that the recent development is a huge thing that gives the RH bill easier sailing.

It gives the RH bill easier sailing, but not so family planning. I say this because while I think the Catholic Church is a formidable obstacle to family planning, I do not think it is the biggest obstacle to it. The biggest obstacle to family planning is culture. The reason we have runaway population is not that most Filipinos do not have the means to prevent pregnancies. It is that most Filipinos do not want to prevent pregnancies. That does not naturally owe to Church teachings. That owes to a culture of machismo.

The debate on whether the faithful should use natural or artificial methods of birth control
misses the biggest element in the equation: Why Filipinos would want to use either one at all. That is the most glaring thing of all.

You see that problem in cops and congressmen wanting even their mistresses to raise a brood for them. Indeed you see it in priests having families with their lovers, which is not always the product of accident or ignorance: Once is an accident, twice is a desire. You would imagine that such liaisons are entered into for largely pleasurable intentions, with neither party wanting any permanent entanglements. But, no, in this country they involve the compulsion to have children.

Who knows? Maybe we buy the Chinese saying that there are only three ways we assure ourselves of immortality—writing a book, planting a tree and having children. Since we do not particularly like writing books and planting trees—hell, we loathe books and raze trees—we settle for making babies.

The biggest insult a man gets in this country is that he has a busted pipe— “butas ang tambutso.” That’s thrown at someone who has no children in or out of wedlock. Which the man often counters by saying it’s not him, it’s his wife or mistress or lover, his tribe is not barren, as proven by the fact that he has a tribe. Women who have grand physical attributes are referred to as “palahian,” a breeder of children, or as its more modern equivalent goes, a baby factory. The compulsion to make babies is there and it is ferocious. I do not know that we have a comparable insult for someone who does nothing but make babies. People who do that do not become ashamed, they become proud. Sometimes they become presidents.

There’s yet another aspect of culture here, a far deeper one, and it’s not machismo. It’s gambling. That applies in particular to the poor who are the biggest contributors to this country’s runaway population. It’s not unusual for the urban poor to have a dozen children, the parents quite literally betting that one of them will get through school, another will become a cop, another a gang leader, another a beauty contestant and movie star or at worst a GRO in Malate and so on. Of course they bet wrong. Having that brood stacks the odds against them even more, dooming them to a life of brutishness and hopelessness, if not of crime.

Whether one or the other, whether machismo or gambling, these are powerful forces at work, which really ought to be at the forefront of the debate on the RH bill. The Pope has done the RH bill advocates a huge favor. But will it be enough? Not quite.

Not by a long shot.

SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH
By Ernesto M. Maceda
The Philippine Star

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda has come out with this Malacañang advise:

“It behooves any Cabinet official and any government official to see that if he has become a liability then he should do the honorable thing (resign) as what Undersecretary Romano did.”

Considering the perks and privileges of a high government official, I doubt if anybody will listen to Sec. Lacierda’s advice. Most officials drunk with power believe they are assets, not a liability to the Administration. Start with the Office of the President, Mr. Secretary. Let the Communications Group set the example first.

Meanwhile, Sen. Vicente Sotto III, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, Congressmen Winnie Castelo (Quezon City) and Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar) lauded Usec Romano for his act of delicadeza.

At a TV 5 interview Thursday morning, Usec Romano confirmed that President Aquino approved the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” brand. He also confirmed that his daughter directed the show that launched the new brand at the Mall of Asia.

If P-Noy wants to be a President of all Filipinos, he can prove that by reappointing Ace Durano as Toursim Secretary and Richard Gordon as Presidential Adviser on Tourism. They are proven Tourism experts. He retained DFA Sec. Bert Romulo, didn’t he?

* * *

LITTLE PRESIDENT . . . The post of Executive Secretary is the most powerful in the government. He decides 90 percent of the cases. Only 10 percent goes up to the President for decision. Note that all decisions of the Cabinet and other executive officials are appealable to and can be reversed by the Executive Secretary. He is the Department Head of all agencies under the Office of the President including Pagcor and PCSO. He is also the President’s chief adviser and has complete access to him. That’s why he’s called the Little President.

Under President Aquino, the Executive Secretary is even more powerful because he has delegated more matters to him for decision.

The success or failure of any administration depends greatly on the efficiency and competence of the Executive Secretary.

Outstanding Executive Secretaries have been Teodoro Evangelista under Pres. Quirino, Justice Fred Ruiz Castro under Pres. Magsaysay,

Juan Pajo under Pres. Garcia, Professor Amelito Mutuc and Feny Hechanova under Pres. Diosdado Macapagal, Rafael Salas and Alejandro Melchor under Pres. Marcos, Sen. Joker Arroyo and Sen. Frank Drilon under President Cory, VP Tito Guingona and Ruben Torres under President Ramos. No. 1 bar topnotcher Ronaldo Zamora and Sen. Ed Angara under President Estrada. Alberto Romulo and Renato de Villa and Eduardo Ermita under Pres. Gloria Arroyo.

None of them were called lightweights.

* * *

GHOST PATIENTS AND PLACEMENTS. . . President Aquino cannot understand how with its tremendous income, the GMA administration left the PCSO P1.8 billion in debt and payables.

PCSO funds were bled to death by way of bloated payments to media personalities, TV and radio stations plus PR expenses. A syndicate also raided the PCSO treasury by falsified and inflated hospital bills for alleged indigent patients. The COA is partly to blame. They turned a blind eye to the anomalies. For hospital payables alone there is still P500 million outstanding.

PCSO purchases of security paper and sweepstakes and lotto tickets also overpriced.

But the PCSO robbery is peanuts compared to the Pagcor plunder.

* * *

MOST DANGEROUS . . . A UN expert has reiterated the opinion that the Philippines is the most dangerous place for journalists. It is also the most dangerous place for local government officials.

Last week 6 barangay officials were gunned down in Abra and Isabela. Last Wednesday, 2 term City Councilor Rodrigo Casas was shot dead in busy barangay Zapote, Biñan City.

It has become a dangerous place for teachers. Many of whom had been kidnapped in Basilan, Zamboanga City and Zamboanga Sibugay.

Kidnapped Principal Cecilia Sosas of Lamitan, Basilan is still unreleased.

Dr. Nestor Yamsuan, a principal of Bagong Silang High School in Kalookan City was shot dead. Previously, a high school teacher in Kalookan was stabbed to death by a student.

Local police appear helpless to protect their officials and teachers.

* * *

SEARCH FOR COMELEC CHAIR . . . Malacañang has announced the start of a search for a Comelec Chairman and 2 Commissioners, after Chairman Jose V. Melo formally announced his resignation effective January 31, 2011.

The following names maybe considered: Chief Justice Reynato Puno, PPCRV Chairperson Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, PPCRV Legal Counsel Professor Howard Calleja, Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Congressman Rodolfo “Pong” Biazon, DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo, Rep. Victor Ortega and Supreme Court Justice Antonio Nachura due to retire next year.

The principal standard should be independence of mind and integrity, not personal friendship and being a classmate.

* * *

IMPORTED BOTCHA . . . Our report on imported botcha from China has been validated by the confiscation of 60,000 kilos of imported frozen pork in boxes at the Balintawak Market in Quezon City. Containers of cheap pork are also flooding the Cebu markets with local hog producers complaining that slaughtering of local pigs has been greatly reduced. Imported meat has been seized at Tuguegarao, Cagayan which our sources say come in thru the CEZA at Sta. Ana.

This is a big health problem. It shows that Customs personnel will for the price allow any prohibited item to be smuggled in without regard to the health and safety of Filipinos.

Mayors should now actively inspect all the meat products being sold at their wet markets. The Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) should now test the sausages and longganisa being sold to the public.

The Secretaries of Health, DILG, Agriculture, Justice and Finance must meet to discuss the botcha problem. It must be stopped, the sooner the better.

* * *

SAY IT’S NOT TRUE . . . A government corporation CEO’s attention has been told to limit his tongpats to 20 percent. That’s still corrupt.

That’s not a straight path. There are persistent reports of overpriced contracts at Tesda. Containers slip thru Customs under the usual arrangements. The number of resin shipments have dropped to almost zero. Carnapped and smuggled vehicles are still being registered at LTO.

* * *

QUOTATION OF THE DAY . . . “I want to see people arrested. I want to see firearms confiscated. I want to see people brought to jail,” President Aquino.

As Sen. Johnny Flavier said “Just DOH it.”

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=634747&publicationSubCategoryId=64

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
By William M. Esposo

The Philippine Star

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” was how William Shakespeare described it and that applies to the recent ranting about the so-called budget cuts in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

Last Friday, ANC Dateline News anchors Tony Velasquez and Twink Macaraig had a discussion with LFS (League of Filipino Students) National Chairman Terry Ridon over the protest actions against the claimed education budget cuts, as these affect SUCs. Budget Secretary Butch Abad later joined the discussion via phone patch.

Listening to Ridon and all those other protesters whom you see on television you’ll get the impression that President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) had reneged on his campaign promise to prioritize education. “P-Noy betrayed his campaign promise to prioritize education” was what the protesters and demonstrators were hysterically screaming on the television newscasts.

However, the facts show that in the proposed 2011 budget of the P-Noy administration, the education budget actually increased. Not only that – the percentage share of education in the 2011 national budget is the highest in years. The following comparative chart illustrates that:

Basic Education Budget vis-à-vis the National Budget

(Source: BESF 2010, tables B7 and B7a)

2009 2010 2011

(as proposed)

Total National

Budget

1.434 trillion 1.541 trillion 1.645 trillion
Education,

Culture and

Manpower Devt.

208.72 billion 240.59 billion 271.670 billion
share to Total 14.6% 15.6% 16.5%
growth rate 11.8% 15.3% 12.9%
Of total education:
Department of

Education

(including

School Building

Fund)

171.068

billion

174.966

billion

207.271 billion
share to Total 11.9% 11.4% 12.6%
growth rate 10.3% 2.3% 18.5%

Compared to the 2010 SUCs budget, the proposed 2011 SUCs budget had also increased. Per Sec. Abad, the proposed SUCs budget for 2011 is P23.4 billion, which is P2.4 billion higher than the P21.0 billion National Expenditure Program (NEP) in 2010; but lower by P438 million than the allocation of P23.85 billion under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2010.

Sec. Abad clarified that the P2.8 billion of the GAA allocation for SUCs are considered Congressional Initiatives (CIs) which are subjected to a conditional veto in the 2010 GAA by the previous President. The conditional veto says that CIs can only be released subject to new revenue measures passed by Congress.

So, the question screams at you – what education budget cuts are they ranting about? Still, another question screams at you – what SUCs budget cuts are they ranting about? Clearly, the P-Noy administration is true to its campaign pledge that it will prioritize education but you must wonder if all those who have been ranting about education budget cuts learned arithmetic at all.

In a memorandum to P-Noy, Sec. Abad rationalized the 2011 P23.4 billion for SUCs, as follows:

1. SUCs have a total of P19.1 billion in cash advances as of end of 2009 that the SUCs could and should use. The average SUC had P65.8 billion in cash advances, equal to 41.3 percent of their expenditures. The largest, P11.9 billion, belonged to the University of the Philippines (oddly one of the noisiest in ranting against the budget cuts).

2. On a more fundamental level, the utilization of public funds for tertiary education is highly regressive, and with the scarcity of funds, other more pressing needs that will benefit such as basic education which benefits more poor students had to be prioritized.

According to the latest Philippine Public Expenditure Review (PER) by the World Bank (WB), the distribution of public school enrollment becomes increasingly skewed in favor of richer households as the level of education rises.

Unlike the students in the SUCs, the pupils in the primary education level do not have the capability to organize rallies and demonstrations, stage media events and employ methods of agitprop as mastered by the Leftist militants who are playing a visible role in these campus agitations. Unlike the students in the SUCs who have undergone primary and secondary schooling, the pupils in the primary education level have very few options to augment their means. College students have the option to be part-time workers.

The students today have not experienced the student activism of the 1970s and may not be aware of Leftist manipulations through their front organizations. There has been a marked increase in Leftist agitprop in the new administration assured perhaps that P-Noy will not resort to killing suspected Leftist elements.

A top intelligence official of the P-Noy administration had revealed to your Chair Wrecker recently that the agenda of the Left is to demonize the President and erode his public support. At a certain point the Left is hoping that the Opposition will be encouraged to join their destabilization activities.

There will always be reasons to complain about things in our country. There will be justifications to bring our complaints or clamor for reform to the media or to the streets. We must make sure that what we are doing will serve our real personal objective and not the sinister agenda of groups that are out to subvert and destroy our democracy.

*      *      *

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

PEOPLE
By Joanne Rae M. Ramirez
The Philippine Star

This Little President is actually 5 ft. 10 inches tall, and therefore cannot help but stand out in a crowd, or in a Cabinet meeting. Aside from his height, Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa Jr. gets your attention because he breaks the mold of past Executive Secretaries.

For one, unlike most of his predecessors, Ochoa hasn’t held a Cabinet post before his current appointment, hasn’t been senator or congressman.

Neither is he an elderly statesman. At 50 (he turned Golden Boy last Nov. 11), he is perhaps the youngest post-EDSA Executive Secretary. The bespectacled Ochoa is a very casual guy — he likes to crack jokes and share a laugh, even at himself. I wouldn’t describe him as the type you would see behind a heavy and dark mahogany desk, sitting on an ornate velvet swivel chair. He’s more the IKEA type.

Ochoa wasn’t also allied with powerful groups identified with President Noynoy Aquino. Not Sen. Mar Roxas’ Liberal Party (though Gerry Roxas, Ninoy Aquino and former Pulilan, Bulacan Mayor Paquito Ochoa Sr. were with the Liberal Party), the Hyatt 10, the Black and White Movement, the Makati Business Club, the Ateneo Classmates “Mafia” (Ochoa went to UST for college). Later, he became allied with the so-called “Samar” group of the campaign — but that is a different story altogether.

But before the Aquino presidential campaign, which he took charge of in early 2010, he wasn’t close to anyone within Noynoy Aquino’s inner circle. “Wala naman akong kilala,” he admitted candidly during a dinner with some women columnists and editors. But Ochoa knew and had — still has — the confidence of the one person who truly matters in the totempole. Noynoy Aquino.

Two days before the elections, when it was already evident in the surveys that he was going to be the country’s 15th president, I asked Noynoy Aquino which Cabinet appointment was already clear in his mind.

“Off the record?” he asked me, not wanting to sound overconfident of victory. When I gave him my word, he immediately said, “Jojo Ochoa.”

Ochoa has been Aquino’s legal counsel since the latter ran for congressman in 1998. By the time Ochoa joined Aquino’s camp, he was already an established lawyer, having served as vice president of the Bulacan Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and partner of the De Mesa and Ochoa Law Offices. He is currently partner on leave in the Marcos Ochoa Serapio Tan (MOST) Law firm.

Ochoa’s law partners in MOST include Ed Serapio (an adviser of then President Joseph Estrada) and Liza Marcos, wife of Sen. Bongbong Marcos. This shows that Noynoy Aquino, even then, did not believe the sins of the father were transferable to his children, for he trusted Ochoa despite his professional ties to the late dictator’s daughter-in-law.

***

For the 2010 presidential campaign, Ochoa started as legal counsel to Aquino, a role that was nothing new to both of them. But that role deepened as the campaign progressed and was cemented in a house on Samar street, Quezon City. That nine-bedroom house was owned by Ochoa’s brother-in-law, who lent it to the Aquino campaign. Later on, it would also be the command post of Maria Montelibano, who was in charge of Aquino’s media campaign. Ochoa and Montelibano were not old friends but they had a common denominator — Noynoy Aquino’s full trust.

In January 2010, Ochoa and Sen. Chiz Escudero, with funding from some Aquino supporters, commissioned a survey on Noynoy’s numbers.

The private survey showed Aquino ahead of Sen. Manny Villar by a slim four points. Ochoa claims that when they showed the survey results to the head honchos of the Aquino-Roxas campaign, “Pinagtawanan kami.”

He recalls that he and his Samar “housemates” were considered the “bad boys” of the campaign.

“Magulo ang campaign noon and hindi sila naniniwala sa surveys.” “Sila” referred to the Balay (“house” in Ilonggo) group, the other factions supporting the Aquino-Roxas tandem.

Until the bombshell from SWS, which soon after came out with its own survey: Aquino was leading Villar only by a heart-stopping two points.

That was the wake-up call that jolted many in the campaign out of the slumber of complacency. “That was panic time,” Ochoa remembers.

“Nasaan ang survey ninyo?” he quotes the erstwhile Doubting Thomases of the Balay group as asking him. His own trust rating had increased overnight among the stalwarts of the campaign.

He admits now, over Diet Coke and Chinese food, that his alliance with Escudero complicated things, as Escudero was openly for Roxas’ rival, Jojo Binay (Binay and Ochoa share not only a nickname, but also a birthday — Nov. 11).

Escudero put out his own ads, one endorsing Aquino, and another endorsing Binay. Ochoa says that after the Aquino ad was aired, he tried to make Escudero delay the airing of the Binay ad to keep the peace. But Escudero was firm in his support for both candidates, not just one. Ochoa believes this led to the Samar-Balay rift, which reportedly still persists. Why it does, when the campaign is already over and Aquino is already President, “Aba, ewan ko sa kanila!” is Ochoa’s only reply.

Back to the campaign. Ochoa was put in charge of candidate Aquino’s schedule, which he worked on with Sen. Serge Osmeña. He admits he had differences then with the person in charge of the provincial sorties, Jessie Robredo (now DILG Secretary) over strategy. Ochoa said he relied on surveys as a guide to Aquino’s itinerary. Robredo, on the other hand, reportedly believed that the more hands Aquino shook, the more votes he had in the bag.

Aside from being the campaign “scheduler,” Ochoa also organized some 300 lawyers to safeguard Aquino’s votes. When Aquino became President, he didn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. He made his long-time counsel, his consigliere, his Executive Secretary.

***

Ochoa says that power isn’t a stranger to him, and he is confident he can tame it when its temptations stare at him like a raging bull.

“I have known power since I was Quezon City administrator under Mayor (now Speaker) Sonny Belmonte. But nobody knew I was there. Nobody knew of my existence.” According to published sources, Ochoa, under Belmonte’s direction, helped successfully balance the city’s budget and pay all the obligations of past administrations, including the P33 million in arrears in premium payments to the GSIS dating back to 1997.

Ochoa tries to remain in the sidelines even now. Neither does he flaunt his closeness to the President and tells us he doesn’t even get to see the President every day. It is his job to dish out advice on practically anything under the sun — but he shies away from giving his old friend advice on affairs of the heart.

“Kasi malaki na siya!” Ochoa laughs. Seriously, he admits there has been a lot of learning on his part in the esteemed and controversial post he now holds, but says the first 100 days is too short a time to judge him or his team.

Though he downplays the enviability of his job, he concedes that his nominees to crucial (and juicy) posts in government are taken seriously by the President. In the same manner, he also lets the President know when certain officials have to go, and he says the President listens. “I tell him, ‘It’s not about friendship anymore. It’s already about your Presidency’.” He hints of at least two high-profile officials who are on their way out.

The best and worst part of his job?

“The worst is media,” he answers immediately, “because it takes a while to get used to the loss of privacy.”

He confides he is still trying to soothe the hurt feelings of his young wife Pinky, who was affected by rumors linking him to actresses Vina Morales and Pops Fernandez. He admits having met the two ladies, but denies going out with them or getting drunk in parties or hotel lobbies.

“I get drunk, but not in public,” he jokes.

Ochoa, like his wife and two children, is a certified diver and a photography enthusiast.

Having singled out the worst part of being Executive Secretary, what is the best part?

“The best part is knowing that I can be a part of what can be the biggest opportunity this country can ever have to go back on its feet and move forward towards real change.”

As Little President, Ochoa has a big stab at this.

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com)

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=634704&publicationSubCategoryId=88

On Target
By Ramon Tulfo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

GERARDO BIONG, former Parañaque police investigator who was sentenced to 15 years in prison and is about to be released, deserved his fate.

Not for being an accomplice of those convicted of the Vizconde massacre but for robbing the dead.

Biong, who was assigned to investigate the crime scene, looted the Vizconde household.

He didn’t know any of the young men convicted for the massacre and rape, much less principal accused Hubert Webb.

Biong burned the bloodied bed sheets and other things because he was a simpleton.

The cop from Samar thought that he could cover his crime of looting the dead by burning the evidence.

Biong was found guilty of the wrong crime.

* * *

President Noy stopped the grant of franchises to operate gambling casinos since Day 1.

But a franchise was given to a Korean company, Parana, by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) recently.

Early this month, three Pagcor officials went to South Korea upon the invitation of Choi Teon Sil, Parana president.

Two weeks after their return, Parana was allegedly given a franchise to operate casinos anywhere in the country.

What took place in South Korea?

* * *

A Pagcor official has reportedly bought a house at a ritzy subdivision in Quezon City worth P40 million.

Where did he get the money to buy such an expensive house?

* * *

Rampant smuggling is taking place at the ports of Cebu, Davao, General Santos and Cagayan de Oro.

A high official is allegedly in cahoots with the smugglers, with Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez out of the loop, my sources say.

The goods being smuggled in are rice, sugar, Japanese and Korean cars, general merchandise and used clothes (known locally as ukay-ukay).

* * *

For every 20-foot container of sugar or rice, P15,000 goes to the high official, my sources say.

A 40-foot container full of electronic items earns for the official P25,000.

Assorted general merchandise in a 20-foot container pays P5,000, say the sources.

Here’s part of the breakdown:

In November alone, 180 20-foot containers filled with rice were smuggled into Cebu port.

At the Davao port, 260 20-foot containers of rice, 31 40-foot containers of ukay-ukay, and new cars in 20 40-footers have been smuggled in since October.

From September to November, 163 shipments of rice in 20-footers and factory-fresh Korean and Japanese cars in 12 40-footers were smuggled into General Santos port.

* * *

And how is Customs Commissioner Alvarez taking all this?

One of my sources says Alvarez doesn’t have power over his subordinates since he can’t reshuffle them.

The infighting within the Aquino administration has rendered Alvarez useless at the customs bureau.

Alvarez was appointed based on the recommendation of the “Balay Group” identified with defeated vice presidential candidate Mar Roxas.

But the Balay Group is slowly being eased out by a rival faction, the “Samar Group,” identified with Vice President Jojo Binay, and the independents identified with Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa, a close friend of the President’s.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/metro/view/20101129-306061/Jailed-for-the-wrong-crime

By Ellen Tordesillas
Malaya

East Asian leaders meeting in Hanoi. China’s Wen Jiabao was there but
no one-on-one meeting with Aquino

Malacañang last Friday said the planned high-level Philippine delegation to Hongkong and Beijing to present and discuss the Aug 23 tragedy will no longer push through.

The announcement, made by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda confirmed what had been talked about in the diplomatic circle : the Philippines had been told by China unofficially that they would not welcome the delegation as long as they don’t see anybody being made accountable for the tragedy that killed eight of their people.

Lacierda, who was supposed to be part of the delegation together with Vice President Jejomar Binay and Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, said, “The Chinese foreign ministry could not schedule us.”

This comes after the Chinese government also declined three requests by the Philippines for a meeting between Aquino and the Chinese leader in the three international events that the former attended.

Last September in his first foreign trip to the United States to attend the opening of the 65th United Nations General Assembly, the Department of Foreign Affairs requested for a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. The Chinese foreign ministry told the DFA, Wen’s schedule could not accommodate Aquino.

At this time, the report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had been submitted to Malacañang and the Chinese Embassy in Manila but Aquino said it would be subjected for review by his legal advisers lead by Executive Secretary Paquito”Jojo” Ochoa.

When Aquino came back from the U.S., he upheld the recommendations of his legal team which watered down the IIRC recommendation. Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno and former chief of the Philippine National Police Jesus Versoza were cleared of any accountability for the tragedy. Manila Mayor Lim’s accountability was also reduced to administrative which up to now has not been implemented.

Another request for a meeting with Wen in Hanoi last October was made where the two leaders would be going for the ASEAN plus three summit would take place. Still, the Chinese government declined.

Early this month, the DFA requested for a meeting of Aquino with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the 18th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders meeting in Yokohama, Japan. No meeting took place.

Aquino, however, was able to meet with Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang. Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang told members of media that it was a “productive” meeting and they discussed August 23 hostage taking incident.

Carandang did not elaborate what was “productive” about the meeting but added, “”We believe that this (Aug 23 incident) will be a closed chapter soon.”

Carandang did not say that Tsang told Aquino that they wanted to see “accountability” in the tragic incident.
The Chinese have demonstrated in all their dealings they do not forget easily. Unlike Filipinos, they have a long memory.

Why would the Philippines care about China’s displeasure ?

Whenever Aquino is asked about his foreign policy, he would talk about the overseas Filipino workers and the need to strengthen the economy. It could only mean that his main priority in relations with foreign countries is to protect the OFWs whose $18 billion remittances have become the pillar that holds the country’s economy.

Aquino should be made to understand that international relations is a complex web of inter-related interests. He cannot bungle in one issue involving a foreign country, gloss over it, and expect it to fade away.

In the same way economic relations cannot be be pursued vigorously without consideration of lingering political issues and sensitivity to cultural values.

China is now an economic superpower. The Chinese are masters in the art of being inscrutable. It would be wise for the Philippines, for its own interest, not to take the Chinese snub lightly.

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
By William M. Esposo

The Philippine Star

The recent exchange of artillery fire in the Yellow Sea between the armed forces of North Korea and South Korea caused Asian stocks to tumble and heightened fears that North Korea might recklessly instigate another US-China war, similar to what happened during the 1950s Korean War.

By now, many Chair Wrecker readers have realized why we have been raising the alarm for over three years now for Filipinos to watch intently the moves that the US has been making in Mindanao and against China. Three years ago, your Chair Wrecker felt like a Biblical Prophet, alone and unheeded, crying out in the wilderness.

Very few appreciated then the link that we established between the looming US-China conflict and that aborted MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement-Ancestral Domain) with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). Fewer still appreciated our expose of the sinister US agenda in promoting a virtual Muslim State in Mindanao.

It’s hard not to appreciate at this point the reality of a US-China conflict. Many aspects of it are now being openly discussed in international media. The consistent demonizing of China by the US is a giveaway of their preparations for a conflict.

The question many folks ask your Chair Wrecker now is this  what are the chances of a 21st century US-China War ever happening? Indeed, will these two nations really want to extend their present conflict which is basically economic, trade and geopolitical in nature  to a theatre of war?

It is doubted if both the US and China will want a 21st century war. They know that war is costly, devastating as well as unpredictable. The Russian Tsar did not imagine that Japan could beat them in the Russo-Japanese War of the early 20th century. That Russian defeat created the first big crack and set the stage for the fall of the Romanov dynasty following Russian involvement in World War I.

In the 1960s and the 1970s, Vietnam was nothing militarily compared to China today but they defeated the US. The British, Russian and American empires all failed to win their wars in Afghanistan.

If you were the US, you would think twice before engaging China in a war. If the US could not beat China in the 1950s, during the Korean War, what makes them think that they can now defeat a more powerful China in the 21st century? Former National Security Adviser Victor Corpus wrote an excellent book  America’s Dim Mak Points on how China will fight and win that war with the US.

It is doubted if China would want to engage the US in a war unless the armed conflict is really unavoidable. China is dominating the US in their present theatre of conflict which is trade, manufacturing and so forth. They would not want to deviate from where they are succeeding and enter a stage of conflict where the outcome is uncertain.

The West has a long tradition of using the hard brass knuckles to get what they want and deeply etched in Chinese memory are the experiences of the Opium War and the Boxer Rebellion. The Chinese philosophy centers on the SOFT APPROACH. A Chinese teacher will teach his pupil: “A rock is hard. Water is soft. But if water, which is soft, falls in droplets and consistently over the hard rock, the rock will eventually break.” Thus, we see the US and its allies invading Iraq which owns the third biggest oil reserve in the world while China prefers to use its economic muscle to try and corner African oil.

However, despite the lack of intention of two competing nations to go to war, history teaches us that war still manages to erupt. In 1940, neither the US nor the Japanese wanted to fight each other but it happened. In fact, many people here were so oblivious of the war clouds forming over the Pacific even during late 1941. Filipinos only woke up to the realization of a US-Japan War after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Unforeseen developments, such as the June 28, 1914 assassination of Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered World War I, can cause unwanted wars. Economic depression, such as the global economic condition during the 1930s which preceded World War II, can lead nations to war. Escalation, such as what the US is doing now in Mindanao, can force China to go to war.

Several years ago, your Chair Wrecker took the late Press Secretary Serge Remonde to task for dismissing a near confrontation off the coast of Zambales between a Chinese submarine and a US cruiser  as something that will not affect us because it happened in international waters. If that confrontation went ugly and the two nations went to war  how could that incident not affect us?

If a US naval presence in our international waters can prod the Chinese to send their submarine here, make their presence felt in order to send a counter signal, imagine how China will react to the establishment of a US military offensive capability in Mindanao which China knows is going to be directed against them.

Shortly before he was assigned to a post in Washington, Victor Corpus and your Chair Wrecker were discussing the looming US-China conflict vis-à-vis the US Mindanao agenda. Vic warned that if the US military offensive capability is established in Mindanao, China may be forced to undertake a preemptive military strike similar to Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. Victor Corpus has done extensive research on this subject matter. His assessment is not to be taken lightly.

A preemptive military strike by China will make the US react and how the US reacts will determine if all-out war, which will affect us Filipinos, will follow. If the preemptive strike is successful  the US loses its military offensive capability in Mindanao  the US could decide that they cannot engage China in war. Sans an offensive capability, the US could resort to other means of reprisal like a trade embargo, condemnation in the UN and so forth. All-out war could thus be averted.

However, if the US reacts to a China military preemptive strike the way that they had reacted when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, then Filipinos should start praying that the war will not involve the rest of our country where a US military capability has not been established. We should also start praying that the combatants will resist using nuclear weapons.

How can we prevent our involvement in this looming 21st century US-China War? The answer is simple. Do not allow the US to establish a military capability in our country.

*      *      *

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

By Erick San Juan

Can we defend our nation against aggression from other countries? Can we do it alone in this chaotic world if we are going to cut off relationship with the U.S.?  Some nagging questions that hovers above the archipelago for quite some time now amidst the growing tensions in the region coupled with the tensions for the review and abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

VFA is simply an implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty (signed in August 30, 1951). If we didn’t ratify this treaty, we don’t have the VFA today and might not have any visible opponents around us.

Actually the Mutual Defense Treaty was as hot as the VFA when it was ratified back then and one of the opponents was Senator Claro M. Recto (but he signed the treaty anyway together with the other senators). Here is the explanation of Sen. Claro Recto :

“I shall vote for its ratification, and I trust that the number of senators required by our Constitution shall vote likewise, but let us vote with our eyes open to what our votes shall mean to our people and this republic. We were outmaneuvered, outsmarted, and outreached in the negotiation of this treaty. But at least, in ratifying it for lack of something better, let us not believe we are getting a good bargain. It is hard enough to be outwitted. Let us not fool ourselves, and let us not build a fool’s paradise for our trusting people.”

Let these words by Recto be a reminder to our current leaders in “fixing” the VFA. But like Sen. Recto, when he was careful during that time as not to antagonize the US too much, we always say that US is not our enemy though we must be given what’s due us and not be shortchanged in the process.

Here is another direct remark from Sen. Recto when he stressed the lack of mutuality in the MDT :

“… it is not true either that America is giving us almost everything for nothing; on the contrary it is we who have given, and are giving, and will continue to give America almost everything for nothing…”

With this in mind, let me sight a news article that came out last November 23 that -Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) received $100.8 M worth of goods and services under a deal with U.S. last year. But it was charged $109.5 M according to the Commission on Audit. COA said that the AFP still reported a PhP6.2 billion balance in its guaranty deposits despite having wire transferred PhP5.32 billion to the US Treasury under foreign military sales required in the letters of offer and acceptance between US and RP. (Source: Manila Standard Today)

What Sen. Recto said 58 years ago is very much true today. Trust begets trust. We were shortchanged and outwitted again into believing that everything given by Uncle Sam is free. . .

In this case, as I always say, history repeating itself or that people keep on repeating history which is clearly not beneficial to us before, and until today.

Lest we forget, from the words of another nationalist – Dr. Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo, “As a general rule, the stronger party in a bilateral negotiation prefers ambiguity because it allows a larger room for maneuver; but the weaker party – if mindful of its national interest – must insist on concrete formulations because it wants to limit the capacity of the stronger party to act unilaterally. In the particular case of the VFA, ambiguity is extremely dangerous for the Philippines. As I just pointed out, it can involve us in unnecessary conflicts with America’s potential enemies in the region. And it runs counter to our avowed foreign policy objective of developing good relations with our neighbors.”

This is the fundamental issue: Are our interests identical with those of America? Are America’s enemies necessarily our own? I believe that our national interests may be different and, at times, contrary to those of the US. Therefore, we must pursue an independent foreign policy.”

We still don’t have the capacity to stand alone (and have an independent foreign policy) – militarily speaking because since the Americans left Subic and Clark, we did not have something to fall back on and had remain dependent on Uncle Sam’s support (which comes in trickles). That is why when China showed interest again in the disputed islands in the South China Sea, VFA was the convenient answer.

Can our leaders fix an agreement that was born out of the crucial need to counter a perceived enemy of Uncle Sam? In the midst of a possible regional conflict, are we going to allow a repeat of going to war not of our own liking just because we have an agreement that says so?

This is a wake up call to our leaders, our sovereignty is at stake here and hopefully, let’s have a much better living legacy for future generations to come.

Balitang Kutsero
By Perry Diaz

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Days after President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino confirmed that he was dating his stylist Liz Uy, sources to P-Noy and Liz told ABS-CBN News that P-Noy “has not been successful in winning the celebrity stylist’s heart – at least, not yet.” Malacañang maintained its stance of “No comment” and even the “King of Talk” Boy Abunda, who is a close family friend of the Aquinos, wouldn’t talk about it. Well, like they say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

When someone texted P-Noy about the breakup, he texted back, “Sorry, we’re not showbiz.” I disagree, if you’re Da Prez, your love life is the number one showbiz entertainment in the country.

However, P-Noy’s eldest sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz said that she is “still hopeful that his brother and celebrity stylist Liz Uy will remain friends even though they have reportedly stopped dating.” Ballsy said that if the report about their breakup was true, she would still expect Liz to continue as P-Noy’s stylist. That’s weird!

If the rumor about the breakup was true, then the question is: Who dumped whom? And why?

This reminds me of Sue Thomson’s song, “Have a good time.” The song goes:

Goodbye, I hate to see you go but have a good time
So long, I’ll miss you, dear, I know but have a good time

Have your fling, be gay with your new love, I’m setting you free
Dance and sing, pretend that it’s true love, don’t worry ‘bout me

I know I know that tears will only drive you farther away
Just go, forget that I’m alive, it’s your holiday
When you’re tired of being reckless and carefree
Remember that I’ll be waiting to welcome you home
So have a good time

Bye, baby. Gee, I hate to see you go but have a good time
So long, you know, I’m really gonna miss you but have a good time

And, honey when you’re tired of being reckless and carefree
Remember that I’ll be waiting to welcome you home, so have a good time

Have a good time, baby.

***

Yup, it’s all about good time, baby. Liz would just be another name added to P-Noy’s long list of former girlfriends — 18 as of last count – which would make Liz 19th. Hey, it seems like P-Noy’s love life is just like playing golf. You play 18 holes to finish a round of golf. Well, I guess he had just started another round of golf beginning with Liz. With 17 more holes to go, by the time he finished the round, he’d be 75 years old.

Among his former girlfriends were celebs Korina Sanchez, Bernadette Sembrano, and Shalani Soledad. P-Noy claimed that he’s been seeing different people since his breakup with Shalani last September. Yup, I remember reading about Trish, Barbie, and lately, Liz.

Indeed, numerous sightings of P-Noy dating other women have been reported in the past few days. My investigative reporter James Macaquecquec texted me the other day: “P-Noy seen holding hands with Ai-Ai de las Alas.” Ay naku! Naloko na!

Maybe P-Noy should reconcile with Shalani. But I’m sure Willie Revillame would object. Willie is rumored to be courting Shalani. As Willie’s co-host in the new game show, “Willing Willie,” I’m not sure if Shalani would willingly take P-Noy back… unless P-Noy would be serious this time and take her as his wife. Hey, it’s about time P-Noy settles down and starts raising a family.

A tale of two plagiarists… Two government officials were caught plagiarizing. The first was Supreme Court Justice Mariano del Castillo who was caught red-handed lifting other people’s literary work without crediting them. But he was able to convince 10 of his cohorts in the Supreme Court that he’s not guilty of plagiary because he didn’t have any “malicious intent.” But I thought lifting – or stealing — other people’s intellectual property is “malicious” by itself, to say the least. I guess one of the perks of being a justice of the Supreme Court is you can get away with just about anything… including thievery.

The other government official was Tourism Undersecretary Vicente “Enteng” Romano III who got himself in hot water when it he allegedly plagiarized Poland’s tourism logo. The new “Pilipinas kay ganda” logo and the “Polska” logo have similarities in style and font. One might even say that the same artist could have designed the two logos. In the world of art, it’s called “inspired” since it’s not really a plagiary. Heck, I’ve seen artworks that were “inspired” by the styles of Picasso, Dali and Miro. But were they plagiarized? Nope. But Enteng took full responsibility for the fiasco and immediately tendered his “irrevocable resignation.” That’s what an honorable gentleman with high self-esteem would do. I hope that Enteng has set a standard for erring officials to follow.

Pacman in Congress

Pacman going for 9/9… There have been some talks that boxing icon Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao would be matched against WBC middleweight champion Argentine Sergio Martinez. If Pacman beats Martinez, that will be his ninth world title in as many weight divisions. Go for it, Pacman! You have nothing to lose but your head!

There is a story of a little boy. All he had was a head without a body. So his mom put him by window to watch the outside world. The little boy would watch the other kids romp around outside. It made him very sad. So he asked his fairy godmother to give him a body so he can go outside and play with the other kids. The fairy godmother granted the little boy’s wish and – zingo! — he had a body! The little boy got excited and ran out of the house to play with the kids. While the little boy was crossing the street, a speeding car hit him and he died.

Moral of the story: “Quit while you’re ahead.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

By the Inquirer Entertainment Staff
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—At press time Friday we bumped into Excited Mole at the water cooler nook. EM’s rush-hush news: “Basted yata si President.”

Shocking! EM qualified the harsh statement: “They have disengaged. Seems the nonexclusive arrangement doesn’t work at that level.”

So P-Noy is getting another stylist? “Not necessarily,” said EM. Hmm, interesting.

Ended too soon, perhaps, but it was good while it lasted, wasn’t it? we asked. “Well,” EM said, “Liz Uy has at least one endorsement deal coming up.”

That is not an answer, we said, walking away. EM’s parting shot: “She does have Boy Abunda as consultant for endorsements, doesn’t she?”

She wants out

Glamour Girl is reportedly scared out of her wits. GG hooked up with Top Politico in spite of the raised brows in their respective circles.

It was not all that serious for GG, but TP wanted to take the relationship to the next level.

Now GG wants out. Is it too late? More intriguing, a spy wants to know: What happens now to GG’s other regular date, Imported Hunk?

Potty-Mouth Cutie

Looks can be deceiving. At first glance, Cutie Singer seems as saintly as a seminarian. In reality, he has a potty mouth.

According to a stunned witness, CS once bumped into Former Manager by accident. Though they were in a public place, CS showered FM with expletives that could make a fish monger blush.

All FM could do was cry like a baby. The poor gay still carries a torch for CS.

Mommy-approved

She was in denial for the longest time, but Celebrity Mom has finally come to terms with Flamboyant Son’s gender.

Among friends, CM fondly calls FS “my dalaga… the most beautiful among my children.” Of course, FS gets embarrassed whenever CM makes a fuss, but he has always been his mom’s favorite.

No time for love

Handsome Hunk broke up with Stylish Girlfriend for the most mundane of reasons. He confessed to pals that he hardly had time for her.

To think SG was totally supportive not only of HH’s career but also of his myriad nonshow biz projects. SG gladly acted as secretary, e-mailing and faxing letters for HH’s other ventures.

Perhaps HH wasn’t looking for that kind of GF—not a girlfriend, but a girl Friday? Ouch.

Fanny’s view

At the launch of his hair-care line Fanny Serrano Professionals, the celebrity stylist said he was surprised that some people made a big deal of star-client Sharon Cuneta’s spiels about Aga Muhlach in the concert of AiAi de las Alas.

“It was a joke,” Fanny related. “Before the show, Aga and [wife] Charlene Gonzalez dropped by Sharon’s dressing room to greet her. They talked while I was doing Sharon’s makeup.”

After the concert, Aga and Sharon texted each other, Fanny said.

UN enlists Diether

Today, the UN World Food Program will recognize Pizza Hut’s efforts in their programs for the conflict-affected children of Mindanao. The poster boy is Diether Ocampo, who founded and heads Kids Foundation.

UNWFP officials will announce their fundraising targets this year at Pizza Hut Megamall Ground Floor Bldg. B, 11 a.m.

Choirs at Star City

Nyoy Volate, Jovit Baldivino, Glaiza De Castro, Kyla and Luke Mejares are alternately featured as guest performers at the national finals of the MBC (Manila Broadcasting Company) National Choral Competition on Dec. 6-10 at the Star Theater, Star City complex, in Pasay City.

Love Radio’s Nicole Hyala and Chris Tsuper will host the event, which brings together 44 choirs from all over the country. For details, call 832-6125 or visit http://manilabroadcasting.multiply.com.

It’s a boy!

LOS ANGELES—John Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston has given birth to a baby boy, the couple said Wednesday, adding that they were “ecstatic” about the new arrival, Benjamin. The birth on Tuesday comes nearly two years after their eldest child, Jett, died from a seizure. The newborn weighed in at 8 lbs, 3 oz. The couple have a 10-year-old daughter, Ella Bleu. AFP

Top of the tabloids

The top show biz stories in Inquirer tabloid Bandera last week. (And why we are moved, if we are moved.)

• Ruffa Gutierrez hinimatay, 2 anak na-shock. (Si Annabelle kaya?)

• Sitti: Hindi ako tomboy. (Kami rin!)

• Erich Gonzales: Gumaganda dahil sa bandanang itim. (Kami rin kaya?)

• ABS CBN, butata na naman kay Willie Revillame. (Kayo naman. Uh, you think?)

• Gladys Reyes nanganak na, ayaw nang mabuntis. (Unilateral decision ba yan?)

• Regine Velasquez, Lea Salonga, Sharon Cuneta binalahura ni AiAi de las Alas; pati “big bird” ni Ogie Alcasid pinakialaman. (Baka Songbird.)

• Toni Gonzaga, Charlene Gonzales, napaplastikan sa ‘The Buzz’? (Alam ba ni Boy?)

• Dahil sa shopping, Mommy Dionisia Pacquiao, galit na galit kay Jinky. (Galit lang siguro.)

• Kris, nag-iiyak sa Bangkok. (Speechless kami.)

• Mismong producer na ang umamin, concert ni Pokwang, nilangaw. (Daming witness.)

• Ang baho-baho ni Hayden Kho; Sharon laging mainit ang ulo. (Related stories ba ‘to?)

• Katawan ni John Lloyd Cruz chubby pero delicious. (Amen.)