August 2014

Ukraine’s Orange Blues
Alexander J. Motyl
World Affairs

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Will Russia’s unconstitutionally elected president, Vladimir Putin, unleash a full-scale land war against Ukraine?

I can give you ten reasons for every possible answer to this question. Which is to say that, like everyone else trying to divine Putin’s “mind,” I don’t know.

But there is one thing that I definitely do know. Suddenly, we are all talking about war in Europe. The one thing that was supposed to have become “unthinkable” and “unimaginable” after the end of the Cold War and the rise of the European Union has become perfectly thinkable and quite imaginable.

And all thanks to Putin. If tomorrow’s headlines scream “RUSSIA INVADES ESTONIA,” we’d be shocked, but would we be surprised?

Don’t blame the thinkability and imaginability of war on the Ukrainians. All they did was remove a corrupt dictator and embark on building a democracy. The Ukrainians didn’t invade Crimea. Nor did they arm separatist republics with Russian soldiers and weapons. That was Putin’s doing and only Putin’s doing.

There’s a lesson here, and it’s not either of the ones that are usually drawn: that Putin is a power-hungry madman, if you’re his critic, or that Putin is a shrewd statesman motivated by raison d’état and Realpolitik, if you’re his backer. The real lesson is that dictatorships, especially fascist dictatorships built on the ruins of collapsed empires, are prone to do bad things, such as engage in imperialist wars.

I’ve made the comparison many times before (starting in the late 1990s, by the way), but it’s worth reminding ourselves just how similar Russia’s and Putin’s trajectories are to those of post–World War I Germany and Adolf Hitler. The point is not to score easy debating points or to shake Germans’ assumptions about the uniqueness of Nazi evil, but to demonstrate that there are deeper structural reasons for Putin’s aggressiveness and indifference to international norms.

Both Germany and Russia lost empires and desired to rebuild them. Both Germany and Russia suffered economic collapse. Both Germany and Russia experienced national humiliation and retained imperial political cultures. Both Germany and Russia blamed their ills on the democrats. Both Germany and Russia elected strong men who promised to make them grand and glorious again. Both strong men employed imperialist arguments about “abandoned brethren” in neighboring states, remilitarized their countries, developed cults of the personality, centralized power, gave pride of place in the power structure to the forces of coercion, constructed regimes that may justifiably be called fascist, and proceeded to engage in re-annexing bits and pieces of lost territory before embarking on major landgrabs. Both strong men demonized friendly nations. Germany’s strongman ended up starting a world war. Russia’s strongman—well, we don’t know what he’ll do, but please do notice that a rigorous pursuit of the comparison does not bode well for peace in Europe or the world.

Democracy matters. Dictators are more prone to war precisely because they can manipulate public opinion and ruthlessly pursue whatever warped visions they have without much resistance from institutions and elites. Democratic presidents don’t have that luxury—as a rule of course. That’s why democracies plod along. That’s why they muddle through. That’s why they’re the worst form of government, as Winston Churchill observed, except for all the others.

Ukraine’s democracy has at best been crummy and creaky for the last two and a half decades. It’s done far too little about reform and it’s been much too enamored of corruption. As a result, Ukraine has muddled along, sometimes muddling up, sometimes muddling down. Change is imperative, and, thanks to the Maidan Revolution, everyone in Ukraine finally knows it. Stasis is bad, possibly unsustainable, probably destructive. And yet, and yet: Ukraine remains a democracy, far more so now than just a few months ago. It’s searching for answers to complex questions, balancing far too many interests and sensitivities, moving much too slowly to satisfy proponents of breakthroughs (and that includes me).

But do take note of one very important fact. Amid all this democratic sludge, independent Ukraine has been pacific for the entire time of its existence. At the same time, when provoked, as in the past few months, democratic Ukraine has also demonstrated that it can fight to defend itself and its values.

Which goes to show two things: that, except for the likes of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Stephen F. Cohen, Marine Le Pen, and Aleksandr Dugin, even a crummy Ukrainian democracy is preferable to an efficient Russian dictatorship and that a war initiated by democratic Ukraine really is unthinkable and unimaginable.

By Perry Diaz

Will there be another one in 2016?

Will there be another one in 2016?

In his attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to eradicate corruption and poverty, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III may have violated the Constitution. In his zeal to continue his “reforms” beyond the six-year term he was elected, he wants to amend the Constitution to allow the president to run for re-election. In his desire to leave a lasting legacy, he may have overstepped his presidential authority.

And with two years left in his presidency, P-Noy is running out of time. Poverty is still rising, reforms are going around in circles, and the legacy he wanted to be remembered by is turning out to be a mirage — an illusion of a corruption-free and economically progressive society where everybody would have a roof over their heads and food on the table. Yet, the economy is sizzling or at least that’s what the economic “experts” were saying. Oh where, oh where then did P-Noy go wrong? Suddenly, P-Noy’s “matuwid na daan” (straight path) had detoured to nowhere.

One may say that P-Noy is just human who is prone to make mistakes just like everybody. But he is not just like everybody; he is the leader of 100 million Filipinos. The Filipino people – whom he calls “boss” — do not expect him to be perfect; but they expected him to rectify his mistakes and solve their problems. But instead of correcting his mistakes, he denies making them. And instead of fixing the problems, he digs in.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court

When he was asked why he’d like to stay longer in his job, his response was surreal. He said that he was now amenable to amend the Constitution to allow him to run for a second term to ensure that the “era of reform” he began would continue beyond his six-year term. He said that he remembers that he’s only good for one fixed term of six years – that’s what his mom Cory’s 1987 Constitution says – but he felt the need to listen to his “bosses,” the people. Makes one wonder if he’s hearing voices.

Many believe that the real reason for his attempt to overstay in his job was his running battle with the Supreme Court. He needs to exact vengeance upon them for all the “defeats” he suffered from the Supreme Court’s high-handed exercise of what P-Noy perceives as “limitless power.” He believes that the justices had used it to push back his “reforms.” But what reforms was he talking about?

Real reforms

FOI-Rally.2The three reforms that I believe are the most important are: 1) Freedom of Information (FOI) that is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution; (2) Anti-dynasty, which, too, is enshrined in the Constitution; and (3) Repeal of the bank secrecy law and the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (FCDA) that have provided “safe haven” for corrupt officials to hide their ill-gotten wealth. These are the reforms that must be instituted.

But after four years of chest-thumping bravura and declaring that corrupt officials’ days are numbered and that “heads will roll,” P-Noy has yet to convict a high-level government official for corruption. Nada… Zilch… Zero.

But he was able to impeach and convict former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, not for corruption but for omitting required financial information from his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), which every high public official has to file every year. For that omission, the Senate, acting as an impeachment court, found him guilty of betrayal of public trust.

Hacienda Luisita

Jinggoy drops a bombshell

Jinggoy drops a bombshell

Then, on September 25, 2013, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada dropped a bombshell on the Senate floor when he delivered a privilege speech claiming that the 20 senators who voted to convict Corona were each given an additional P50 million in discretionary funds from Malacanang. It became seemingly apparent then that P-Noy had used every trick to remove Corona. Why? Well, the hottest topic that many people had been talking about vis-à-vis the Corona impeachment was “Hacienda Luisita.” Indeed, many are of the opinion that Corona was instrumental in influencing the Supreme Court justices to vote for the dismemberment of Hacienda Luisita.

It was a big blow to the Cojuangcos (P-Noy’s maternal side) who had been doing everything they could to keep the property intact. It did not come then as a surprise when then-President Cory Cojuangco Aquino, P-Noy’s mother, issued an executive order that modified the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to include a provision for Stock Distribution Option (SDO), a clause that allows landowners to give farmers shares of stock in a corporation in lieu of giving them land. Consequently, Hacienda Luisita was incorporated to avail of SDO; thus, avoiding distributing land to the farmers.

On November 22, 2011, the Supreme Court ordered the total distribution of Hacienda Luisita Inc (HLI) land to more than 6,000 farmer-beneficiaries. On April 24, 2012, the Supreme Court, voting 14-0, reiterated that ruling.

The bizarre way in which Corona was impeached and convicted and the anomalous disbursement of discretionary funds to the 20 senators who voted to convict Corona lend credence to talks about P-Noy’s undeclared war against the Supreme Court, whose recent unanimous rulings that declared PDAF and DAP unconstitutional were just too much for P-Noy to bear.

Aquino Court

P-Noy and Sereno

P-Noy and Sereno

P-Noy and Leonen

P-Noy and Leonen

So now, P-Noy wants to stay another six years, which would ensure that every Supreme Court justice he appoints shall be loyal to him. A case in point was his appointment of Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, which P-Noy exerted extraordinary pressure upon the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to make sure that Jardeleza was on the short list.

If P-Noy were to run and win a second term, he wouldn’t leave the presidency until June 30, 2022. Thirteen of the 14 associate justices would have retired by then. The only two who’d still be around are Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who will retire in 2030 and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in 2032. By the time P-Noy finishes his second term, all 15 Supreme Court justices would have been appointed by him, which brings up the question: Would an “Aquino Court” protect P-Noy from criminal charges once he sheds his presidential immunity?

Is that why P-Noy wants a second term?


By Lance
Crossover Media Group

Jojo-Binay.11Ok. So the Vice President of the Philippines (like most of the other Political goofs) got caught with his hand in the cookie-jar. Big fuckin’ deal! You Filipino “goofs” ARE the ones responsible for putting him (and those other goofs) in office. As far as I am concerned, all of this is just a bunch of entertainment to you idiots. You whine and cry about all the corruption that is going on in your country. How much everyone from the President, all the way down to your local Barangay official is taking your money and getting fat, while you get thinner. It’s no-ones fault but your own.

So here is that list you call “Scandalous” folks. But for me, if I was in his shoes, and surrounded by a nation of people stupid enough to let me rob them blind, purely for entertainment purposes. You bet I would “get rich quick” any way possible.

Jojo Binay also receives a P200 million pork yearly at his request and which has been approved by Pnoy and is being tagged under the General Appropriations Act!..

1. Unexplained wealth 400 hectares Binay FARM-Rosario Batangas
2. Unexplained wealth 40 hectares Binay FARM-Bauan Batangas
3. Unexplained wealth 10 hectares Mango Orchard
4. Two condominium units Rockwell worth 30 million not on his SALN
5. Three story Mansion with an Elevator in Banuyo Street,San Antonio Village and not on his SALN
6. House and lot Orbit st.Bel -Air Village and not on his SALN
7. House and Lot in Palm Village,Guadalope Viejo and not on his SALN
8. Rest House in Tali Beach,Batangas
9. Rest House in Puerto Azul,Cavite
10. Rest House in Tagaytay,Highlands
11. Rest House in Alfonso Cavite
12. Rest House in Zambales
13. Rest House in Pangasinan
14. More houses in Paranaque, Pasig, Mandaluyong and Muntinglupa
15. 600 “Ghost” Employees authorized by corrupt wife, Dra Elenita Binay and Amigas worth 3 million a month.

16. Binay’s wife has been linked to Php72.06-M in graft.

A FORMER whistle-blower in a high-profile graft corruption controversies turned-head of government’s financial watchdog, has linked the wife of Vice President Jejomar Binay, an incumbent, and several former Makati City officials to alleged deception in the public bidding for a Php72.06 million supply contract awarded by the city government in 2001.

17. Sandiganbayan graft case

Elenita Binay’s (and private businessmen Li Yee Shing, Jason Li and Vivian M. Edurise, and Ernesto Aspillaga’s) arraignment for graft charges was set by the Sandiganbayan’s 4th Division on January 18, 2008. Binay was charged with alleged anomalous purchase of office fixtures and furniture for the new Makati City Hall from private contractor Office Gallery International from December 1999 to February 2000, regarding the acquisitions worth P13.25 million overpriced by P3.6 million.

18. Bogus charity Project-40 Million (sister cityhood )
19. Bogus charity Project-27 Million calamity fund to other Provinces
20. Bogus charity Project-22 Million Lakbay Aral Package
21. Bogus charity Project-20 Million Ambulance to other Cities
22. 230 Million Info-mercial in TV 2009-Present. He used the Makati Foundation Day Funds
23. 15 Million – Komiks for Vice President Campaign
24. More illegal canteen Businesses in Makati(UM,CITY HALL)
25. Security Services Company contract to the city Hall owned by the Son in Law (Tri-Force Security Agency)
26. Maintenance Services awarded another son in Law (Red Hammer Construction and Services)

27. Binay mistress’ photos surface the internet. Irrelevant, but a fun addition to the stupidity.

By Perry Diaz

Noynoy-Wang-WangAfter repeatedly denying it in the past, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino had let the cat out of the bag: He wants a second term! And he wants it for a strange reason: To curtail the power of the Supreme Court. Whoa! What happened?

Going back to Day One of the Aquino presidency, it reminds us of the promise of hope and pagbabago (change) that P-Noy made to the people whom he called “boss.” He promised in his inaugural speech that there would be no more “wang-wang” and the bosses roared in approval.

Noynoy.6But what was really the centerpiece of the mandate his bosses gave him on Election Day was predicated on his campaign promise of “Walang korap, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty). Yes, there will be no more corruption, no more poverty! That pumped the people up. Finally, here is a man who would deliver the poor from their hellish lives. Hope… Pagbabago… No more pagpag for food. How sweet.

For the next four years, the poor experienced the taste of sweetness. But it was not the sweetness of progress. It was artificial sweetener to keep them contented from day to day. And for as long as they get a taste of “sweetness” they’d be out of harm’s way. Indeed, feeding the poor has always been the ultimate act to pacify the malcontents. Feed them and everything would just be sweet and sassy.

The “sweetener” that P-Noy gives to the poor is called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, a form of conditional cash transfer (CCT). Its goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by implementing health and education programs for households that have children ages 0-14. It operates in 79 provinces covering 1,484 municipalities and 143 cities. Currently, the program has more than four million registered households.


Janet Lim Napoles in police custody

Janet Lim Napoles in police custody

But no sooner had the program been implemented than allegations of “ghost” beneficiaries were made triggering demands for investigation. However, the Aquino administration had repeatedly denied the requests.

But nothing is more serious than the plunder of pork barrel funds, which were intended for projects that would have benefitted the people – particularly the poorest of the poor and the hungry or “food-poor.” Instead they were diverted to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) controlled by Janet Lim Napoles – the “Pork Barrel Queen” – who, with the connivance of elected officials, had siphoned off at least P10 billion from Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations to lawmakers. In exchange for the lawmakers’ “cooperation,” Napoles gave them kickbacks anywhere between 40% and 70% of the scammed funds. Napoles pocketed the rest.

Butch Abad confers with P-Noy

Butch Abad confers with P-Noy

Prominently involved in the pork barrel scam was Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad who issued the Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) approved and signed by the President authorizing the National Treasury to release the funds from PDAF.

In 2011, P-Noy set up the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) – a brainchild of Abad — drawing funds from purported “savings” in budget items and funneling them into a huge “piggy bank.” Since its inception, more than P150 billion were transferred to DAP. But what was anomalous was that DAP funds were spent without congressional authorization.

Double whammy

Supreme Court

Supreme Court

Then the unthinkable happened! On November 19, 2013, the Supreme Court by a unanimous vote of 14-0, declared the PDAF unconstitutional. Seven months later, on July 1, 2014, it ruled that three parts of DAP are unconstitutional.

It was a stunning setback for P-Noy. He accepted the ruling on PDAF but he stood his ground on DAP insisting that it was legal. This set the tone for his “war” against the Supreme Court, which he treated with contempt. He swiped at the Judiciary for “meddling” too much into the affairs of the other two co-equals, the Executive and the Legislative branches.

In my article, Is DAP worth fighting for? I wrote: “P-Noy’s tirade against the Supreme Court is like a little boy throwing a tantrum, making unreasonable and foolish demands. He knows better that the Supreme Court’s ruling, once it became executory, is final and there is no appeal. Perhaps his legal staff should give him advice on the legality – and futility – of what he’s doing.

“What he should have done was do a mea culpa routine just like when then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appeared on TV and said she was sorry for the ‘Hello Garci’ scandal. She did it without admitting guilt. It was brilliant! Indeed, there is nothing more profound than admitting a mistake. It’s the best defense.”

Charter change

Cha-cha-no.2Then the unexpected happened! Last August 14, a Manila newspaper reported: “President Aquino is now amenable to amending the Constitution and extending his term apparently to check the power of the Supreme Court, a coequal of the executive branch. The President said the judiciary appeared to be using its power to check the executive and legislative branches without restraint. ‘When I took this office, I recall that it was only for one term of six years,’ he said. ‘Now, after having said that, of course, I have to listen to my bosses [the people].’ ”

But the following day, P-Noy backed off after a tsunami of opposition flooded the airwaves, the broadsheets, and the social media. Ninety percent of those who commented in the social media were against a second term for P-Noy. Many commented that his mother, the late President Cory Aquino, had opposed former presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s attempts to amend the Constitution allowing them to run for a second term, which begs the question: Would Cory have opposed her son’s attempt to stay in power longer than what the 1987 Constitution allows him?

Judicial independence

Judicial-independenceBut regardless of whether P-Noy would extend his term or not, it has become apparent that his hubris was born out of the power that he amassed during the four years of his presidency. Now that he has full control of both houses of Congress and had placed generals loyal to him in key positions in the military, only the Judiciary remains independent, which had demonstrated in the PDAF and DAP unanimous rulings that “judicial independence” still reigns supreme.

Power-corruptsIndeed, the Supreme Court’s judicial oversight and review – which P-Noy objects to — and the checks and balances inherent in our trilateral form of government, guarantees that our country shall be governed by the rule of law and not by the rule of man. I must also add that for as long as we have an independent Judiciary, nobody – not one man or group — should ever have absolute power. And as Lord Acton had once said: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is a mantra that should always remind our leaders that corruption thrives on power.

Has power corrupted P-Noy?


By Perry Diaz



A couple of weeks before the May 10, 2010 presidential elections, a hitherto unknown group popped out of nowhere. It gained a personality when it became apparent that it was campaigning for Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, for president and vice-president, respectively.

Nothing was wrong with that. But what is strange was Aquino and Binay, who belong to opposing parties, were supported by this nameless group, which later in the campaign came be known as “NoyBi,” short for Noynoy-Binay. And what is really strange was that Noynoy’s siblings, relatives, and friends ran NoyBi, while Noynoy’s Liberal Party ran “NoyMar,” the official group for the Aquino-Roxas campaign.

Evidently, the Aquino-Cojuangco clan had ditched Roxas, who had to abandon his presidential ambitions to make way for Noynoy who was then considering a run for president upon the death of his mother, former president Cory Aquino. For Mar’s noble gesture, Noynoy offered him to be his running mate, which Mar accepted.

Samar vs. Balay



The NoyMar campaign took off to a good start but as the race drew closer to Election Day, polls started to show Mar’s survey ratings going down while Noynoy’s improved a little. Meanwhile, Binay’s ratings had gone up. That’s when the NoyBi campaign came out in the open. Headed by now-Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa, the NoyBi group had been meeting in a mansion on Samar Street owned by Jojo’s brother-in-law, Jose “Jerry” Acuzar; hence, the NoyBi campaign was oftentimes referred to as the Samar group. Across town, the NoyMar group met in the “White House” or “Balay na Puti” in Cubao, Quezon City, which was owned by the Roxas family. Thus, the NoyMar group had come to be known as the Balay group.

As for Vice President Binay, P-Noy (short for President Noynoy), as he wanted to be called since his election, appointed Binay as the “Housing Czar” and gave him the huge Coconut Palace by the Manila Bay for his office. With a high profile “can’t-do-wrong” job and an office that was once a showcase of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, Binay got himself a vehicle he can use for a presidential run in 2016.

Meanwhile, P-Noy appointed Mar as Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), a job that is a lightning rod for controversy and scandal. And with all the criticism thrown at Mar, his chance of winning the 2016 presidential contest is becoming more remote as each day passes.

But Mar had consistently disavowed any interest or ambition in seeking the presidency. He continues to deny it every time he’s asked. Perhaps he suspected NoyBi was not about a Noynoy-Binay victory in 2010 but “Noynoy in 2010 and Binay in 2016.”

Enter Binay

Binay and Aquino sisters (Photo credit: PDI)

Binay and Aquino sisters (Photo credit: PDI)

There are loose talks that the Liberal Party (LP) was planning to “adopt” an outsider for the 2016 race due to Mar’s low survey ratings. Binay confirmed that he’s been approached about it but claimed that there was no formal discussion yet on the matter. However, he said he is open to the idea of being the LP’s guest presidential candidate in 2016 since it would allow the country’s two biggest political parties to join forces. The following day, Binay issued a statement saying that he was open to the idea of having Mar as his running mate. Mar immediately rejected his suggestion.

But notwithstanding all these loose talks, Binay has the support of P-Noy’s four sisters – Kris Aquino, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Viel Aquino-Dee, and Pinky Aquino Abellada. Last August 5, Kris declared in her TV program the Aquino sisters’ support for Binay, which makes one wonder: If Binay became the LP’s standard-bearer, what would become of Mar? Rumor has it that some LP stalwarts have given him until the end of the month to improve his survey ratings or the party would consider other candidates.

Exit Mar

Quo vadis, Mar?

Quo vadis, Mar?

The four Aquino sisters’ endorsement came at a time when the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) is badly bruised with the arrest and detention of two of the UNA’s notable leaders, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, for plunder charges. With no other potential presidential candidate with the caliber of Binay, UNA would be rendered impotent.

In reaction to Binay joining forces with the LP, former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada said that the UNA would get its own candidate should Binay join the LP. However, he said that if UNA couldn’t get a candidate, then that would be the only time he would consider running.

Battle between two kings

Happier days: The Three Kings -- Juan Ponce Enrile, Jojo Binay, and Erap Estrada.

Happier days: The Three Kings — Juan Ponce Enrile, Jojo Binay, and Erap Estrada.

A contest between two of the UNA’s vaunted “Three Kings” – Binay vs. Erap — would energize their respective followers. Binay who commands a large following on his own, and with the help of P-Noy’s “Yellowers,” would certainly be a force to reckon with. But so do Erap’s die-hard followers who have loyally supported him even when he was incarcerated for almost seven years after then-Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ousted him in 2001. Indeed, his second-place position in the 2010 presidential elections was a testament to his ability to arouse his supporters, which begs the question: Can Erap beat Binay? Yes, he can.

But can Binay beat Erap? Maybe. And this is where the NoyBi group could help Binay win. However, there is doubt that it can repeat the stealthy blitzkrieg campaign in 2010 that brought Noynoy and Binay over the top. But the difference is that Noynoy rode the crest of Cory’s popularity while Binay had yet to explain corruption allegations in the “Lord of Makati” exposé in 2001, which many people find disturbing.

Recently, a P1.56 billion plunder complaint was filed against Binay and his son, Makati Mayor Jun-jun Binay. They’re accused of overpricing a parking building contract by more than a billion pesos.

But regardless of whether Binay can weather the corruption storm, one thing is certain: NoyBi is still alive and kicking. But can it rescue Binay from the quagmire he’s in?


By Perry Diaz

Butch Abad confers with P-Noy

Butch Abad confers with P-Noy

In an attempt to do a great service to the people – or his “boss” as he calls them — President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III used an ingenious system of funneling “savings” generated by underspent government programs to a huge piggy bank. He can then take money from it to spend on projects that he believes would benefit his “boss” or for any other endeavor he wishes to pursue.

And that’s exactly what P-Noy must have had in mind when he commissioned his friend and political ally Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to design and devise a system that would accelerate the disbursement of the money taken from these “savings.”

Simple as it may seem, the “system” we’re talking about here is conveniently called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). But to circumvent the Legislature’s “power of the purse” constitutional mandate, it requires the expertise of a person who works “outside the box” and who would do whatever it takes to achieve that goal, including unconventional – and unconstitutional — means to make it happen. Sounds Machiavellian?

Implemented in 2011 into P-Noy’s second year in office, DAP churned these “savings” into funds that he can use without congressional authorization. These funds are then earmarked for whatever projects P-Noy had selected. Needless to say, the beneficiaries couldn’t care less where the funds originated. Indeed, there is a built-in “omerta” mechanism that guarantees the silence of the beneficiaries. After all, who would dare question the provenance of these funds?

P-Noy must have been enjoying his “lucky streak.” But like the 14th century poet Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous line says, “All good things must come to and end,” P-Noy’s three-year run with DAP came to an end amidst the biggest corruption scandal the country ever had – the P10-billion “pork barrel scam.”


Jinggoy drops a bombshell

Jinggoy drops a bombshell

On September 25, 2013, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada broke his “omerta.” He delivered a privilege speech on the Senate floor exposing a series of “payoffs” to senators to influence how they voted on bills or issues pending before the Senate.

He dropped a bombshell saying that P50 million in discretionary funds was given to each of the 20 senators who voted to convict former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Although Jinggoy made it crystal clear that the money was not a bribe — which made sense because the money was given after the vote was taken — who is there to say that it was not a reward for their vote? Or could it be that it may have been a pre-arranged amount to be released only if they voted to convict Corona? If that was the case, then it was a bribe in every meaning of the word.

The day following Jinggoy’s exposé, Secretary Abad admitted that the funds came from the hitherto unknown Disbursement Acceleration Program, which was later revealed to be his brainchild. That’s when all hell broke loose!


Supreme Court

Supreme Court

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled – by 13-0 vote — that three key parts of DAP were unconstitutional. It was a major setback for P-Noy, who depended on the DAP to sustain his programs and projects without congressional interference.

He must have felt like a junkie whose source of dope had been cut off. Immediately, he went on the offensive. In a press conference following the Supreme Court ruling, P-Noy attacked the high court and its adverse ruling.

During his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA), P-Noy stubbornly defended his DAP. He went as far as to call on Congress to pass a “Joint Resolution” that would define government “spending terms” and to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling.

And in a display of emotion, P-Noy invoked the name of his father, Ninoy Aquino, and quoted his famous line: “The Filipino is worth dying for.” Then he added, “The Filipino is worth living for” and “The Filipino is worth fighting for.” But this cliché of dying, living or fighting for the Filipino is overused. It’s now passé.


SONA 2014

SONA 2014

P-Noy’s tirade against the Supreme Court is like a little boy throwing a tantrum, making unreasonable and foolish demands. He knows better that the Supreme Court’s ruling, once it became executory, is final and there is no appeal. Perhaps his legal staff should give him advice on the legality – and futility – of what he’s doing.

What he should have done was do a mea culpa routine just like when then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appeared on TV and said she was sorry for the “Hello Garci” scandal. She did it without admitting guilt. It was brilliant! Indeed, there is nothing more profound than admitting a mistake. It’s the best defense.

But that is not P-Noy’s character. He is the kind of person who would stubbornly stick to what he has in mind. And it is a major weakness, a quality that is absent in great leaders of our times.

Time and again, P-Noy has manifested his bull-headedness in many incidents during his presidency, including his refusal to apologize for the killing of eight tourists from Hong Kong when the tourist bus was hijacked at the Rizal Park in Manila in 2010, just seven weeks after he was sworn in as the country’s president.

Plummeting satisfaction ratings

Plummeting satisfaction ratings

But his stubbornness in rejecting the Supreme Court decision and his continued defense of DAP could be the turning point in his presidency. Does he think that he would prevail in a constitutional showdown against the Supreme Court?

Our government was designed with three independent co-equals – Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary – that have distinct functions. To date, these co-equals have worked harmoniously together with each other. With P-Noy challenging the Judiciary, he is putting the Executive in a tenuous position. Indeed, he is in a no-win situation, which begs the question: Is DAP worth fighting for?


By Jose Ma. Montelibano

SONA-2014.1The President has given his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Most Filipinos listened and tried to absorb his message as best they could. To the extent of their own understanding, influenced by their own needs and aspirations, they will make their own conclusions about their President, whether he remains trustworthy, whether he serves effectively or not in the pursuit of the common good. Unfortunately, the Constitution had never been that understood by the average or the poor Filipino who comprise the vast majority of our fledgling nation. It will be the personification of the Presidency, the personification of Government that they will relate to.

Some listened to look for only what they could criticize, or to check what he did not say, again, so they could critcize. That was the value of the SONA to them, an event and a report that they could put down as part of either a bigger and hidden agenda, or as an expression of the hate they have developed for PNoy. Unfortunately, again, it is not the Constitution that is their basis for liking or disliking a President, or other political personalities. It is the prejudice that colors their views, emotions and actions, or agenda that cannot be admitted in public because it is either embarrassingly ugly, has its own utter disregard for the Constitution or the laws of the land that they claim to be their reason to protest.

Others listened to get affirmation of their trust and support for him, and they did, in ways very personal and powerful. That is the way of greatly destined personalities, and history gives us one example after another. In Pnoy’s case, the examples are very close to home, his own parents, Ninoy and Cory. For a few chosen people of history, the Constitution is not their North Star; rather, it is their destiny – IF they accept and live up to it. Presidents of any country, of any people, are personalities of great destiny. Some become great beacons of light and raise societal morals and ethics. Others fail miserably and become dark examples of greed and abuse of power.

Beyond the President and his SONA, however, beyond his public accountability and the accountability of all other public officials in all Branches of government, is the accountability of the Filipino citizen, all citizens who are required to love their country and contribute what they can to the strengthening of nation, to the building of the collective dream for the generations to come. Nation-building is a very personal obligation, and a collective one as well. The recognition, acceptance and pursuit of the common good is founded on the grand dream of building a nation befitting a proud, God-fearing, and talented people. What makes a nation strong, self-reliant, morally upright, culturally rich, abundant in its care and provision of opportunities for its nation is what defines the common good.

In that pursuit of the common good, then, where are we, where is each one of us? Each Filipino, each Filipino family, must prosper within the progress of a citizenry and a nation, the common good rather than at its expense. The common good is what a Constitution defends, not the other way around. And any Constitution that has become the central object of its own adulation is a Constitution worth throwing into the waste basket of false ideals.

The greater one’s resources, the greater one’s talents, the greater one’s influence, the greater one’s position in society or government, the greater the responsibility and accountability to the common good. This is not an intellectual obligation, this is not a moral obligation, this is a functional obligation – an obligation that may begin with love of country and fellow Filipino, an obligation that should be understood by the mind, embraced by our priority values, and an obligation that must live itself out and measured by its contribution to the common good.

Who, then, wields that greater responsibility and accountability to the common? Of course, Pnoy leads the pack. He accounts for what destiny has invited him for, and he accounts for the power and authority that the Filipino people have entrusted in him. If we listened to him well, he takes his accounting of the legacy his parents bequeath him with quite seriously as well. From that pedestal of hope that we, the citizenry through a democratic process, placed him on, we judge him. How we regard him, good, bad or otherwise, from our honest evaluation is what he cannot avoid or resent. It is part of his destiny, it is part of his responsibility.

But judging rightly is our responsibility. Judging wrongly is not only a legal wrong, it is a moral evil. The whole justice system of man and of the greatest faiths is dependent on right judgment, of correct discernment of right and wrong, of a sensitive conscience. Religions openly warn us against judging others, as if the wisest among humanity have seen how much more easily it is to misjudge than to judge rightly. Divine laws begin with a condemnation of bearing false witness against one’s neighbor, which begins with judging wrongly and giving expression to wrong judgment. Human laws point to slander and libel, among others.

Judging responsibly puts the whole process in the greater ambit of the common good, meaning we judge others in society in the context of what they do for, or against, the common good. Judging, then, is double-edged. It is not only what others do for or against the common good, it begins with what we are doing for or against that same common good. While our responsibility, within our own capability or influence, may be less than a President of a Republic, it remains firmly a responsibility to which we have a primal accountability.

At its core, this is what nation-building and the common good boil down to – not, his, not their, but our personal contribution to it.


By Fr. Shay Cullen

GazaThe death toll is at least 1,360 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, women and children, and hundreds more have been injured. 58 Israelis killed, 56 soldiers, 2 of them civilians. 16 Palestinians were killed when an Israeli shell hit a UN school where 3000 refugees were sheltering. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said “all available evidence say that it was an Israeli strike.”

A day of shame for Israel, said a UN spokesperson. Another 100 Palestinians were killed last Wednesday, 30 July, mostly children in a playground, others killed as they slept. The Israeli air strikes continue and 86,000 troops will be deployed against the Hamas militants in the Gaza strip who are firing hundreds of homemade rockets into Israeli territory without causing any significant damage, most are shot down.

Far be it from me to try analyze the complexities of the conflict in Gaza. Excuse an oversimplification and a very brief glimpse of the history. It’s a fight that has its roots in the shiploads of Jewish immigrants and refugees arriving in Palestine fleeing the aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust. They fought the occupying British colonial power in a guerrilla war and they used acts of terror bombing the David hotel. Eventually, the British withdrew and the Israelis took-over Palestine driving out many thousands of the original Palestinians whose land it rightfully was. This is an injustice, say the Palestinians and demand they get back their land. The Israelis founded the State of Israel claiming they had a Biblical right to all of Palestine.

The original Palestinian inhabitants became refugees in Lebanon and Gaza and were driven onto the West Bank of the Jordan where today, the Palestinian authority rules. A land of exile they say but under the control of Israel. The rest of the people are contained in the Gaza strip and isolated which was occupied by the Israelis until 2005.They still block all borders. Egypt controls the southern border. The Palestinians are demanding an independent state, side by side with Israel, but a peace agreement cannot be reached.

In the Gaza strip, a militant group of Sunni Islamic resistance fighters named Hamas violently opposed Israel and has been in violent conflict with them since the 1990’s. They are marked as a terrorist group and took over the Gaza strip but recently made a political pact with the Palestine West bank government. After the recent abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers this year and the torture and burning alive of a Palestine boy, as apparent revenge by some Israelis, the latest conflict broke out when Hamas began firing rockets into Israel yet again.

The one thing that Israel has in abundance is fire power, deadly, mostly accurate, powerfully devastating, murderous and most of the 1,360 Palestinians have been killed by bombs, shells and crushed and buried alive under the collapse of homes and public building. The alleged deliberate shelling and bombing of homes and houses, schools, hospitals and shelters in a massive bombardment is a possible war crime according to a UN body. Israel denies targeting civilians.

Can the invasion of Gaza and massive killing of so many Palestinians by Israel be justified? It’s an exercise in self-defense, the Israelis say, and they must eliminate the enemy who is firing rockets into Israel. The Hamas organization says they have a right to self-defense too against the invading force. That’s the weakness of the Israeli position, they are invaders as they were in 2009 when a similar invasion was launched.

Hamas is the sworn enemy of Israel and the most pernicious thorn in its foot. It is out gunned, out shot and out bombed. It does not have a good reputation, it is an organization that denies the right of Israel to exist although it says it is open to long terms peace deal. It has been condemned as a terrorist organization and has delivered murder and mayhem on Israelis over the past years. It too may have committed war crimes by concealing its rockets in civilian areas.

It’s unguided and wild firing of rockets into Israel has killed very few Israelites and destroyed hardly any buildings. The Iron Dome anti-rocket protection shield over Israel gives it a high degree of protection. The alleged Israeli retaliation by massive force and indiscriminate violence is disproportionate, many say. Hamas fighters have killed 56 Israeli soldiers and 2 civilians as of this writing.

Hamas fighters and the Palestinians civilians are trapped and blockaded into a narrow strip of land, no way in or out, cornered with their back to the sea from where Israeli war ships are shelling them also. It is far from being a fair fight. They are totally surrounded and being squeezed into a tight circle which now is becoming a killing ground for civilians and all.

The lifting of this blockade is one of the main demands of Hamas and why it will not easily agree to a cease-fire, nor can it ever appear to surrender. Hamas fighters have concealed its rockets in the civilian areas simply because there is nowhere else to hide them. But that cannot be justified either and may be a war crime if they prevented civilians from fleeing the area.

War like this is totally devastating and achieves nothing but greater human suffering and terrible destruction. This is a war of hatred and loathing. Both sides have a irreconcilable hatred against the other and Israel, by far the greater overwhelming power, is determined to destroy Hamas and their rocket firing capability and destroy the underground tunnels which Hamas has built to infiltrate Israel.

Killing thousands of civilians to destroy homemade rockets that have little, effective destructive power is not morally right, the Israelis need a better, intelligent and wiser solution. Violence will not solve this, it only creates more victims and thousands of revenge seeking Palestinians.

The best of all would be to do justice and make a just peace. They must give the Palestinians their historical rights. Just as Israel wants its right to exist and to be recognized, so also the Palestinians want their free state too. It seems an impossible stalemate but we pray and hope that the killing on both sides will stop and a lasting peace will, one day be reached. [ ; ]

Source: The Economist

In carrying out the most significant purge in a generation, Xi Jinping seeks to tighten his grip

Zhou-YongkangSINCE President Xi Jinping launched his anti-corruption campaign at the end of 2012, the question has been how high he would aim. On July 29th an emphatic answer came with the news that Zhou Yongkang was under investigation by the Communist Party for “serious violations of discipline”—for which, read corruption.

Mr Zhou (pictured) was once one of the most powerful men in the land. Until two years ago he was a member of the Politburo’s ruling standing committee: in charge of the state’s vast security apparatus, he controlled a budget bigger than the army’s. It had long been an unwritten rule of China’s power politics that men of Mr Zhou’s stature were untouchable. In flouting the rule, Mr Xi has left no doubt about the authority he believes he now wields. He appears to be the most powerful Chinese leader since the late Deng Xiaoping.

Mr Zhou first appeared to be in trouble in 2012, with the purge of Chongqing’s party secretary, Bo Xilai. It is thought that Mr Bo had been eager to challenge Mr Xi’s ascent to the presidency, and Mr Zhou was a close ally who argued against bringing Mr Bo down. The result was a rare serious split in China’s highest leadership.

Mr Zhou sat atop a network of patronage that ran across the country, in particular through the police state and the oil-and-gas industry (through which he himself had risen). In recent months protégés have been rounded up for graft, including Jiang Jiemin, once head of PetroChina and, last year, of the government body overseeing state-owned assets. And on July 29th reports surfaced of the arrest of Mr Zhou’s businessman son, Zhou Bin, who also has interests in energy. Foreign media have reported that the family’s assets run to hundreds of millions of dollars. But whether Mr Zhou and his clan are much more corrupt than the families of many other senior leaders is moot. His chief sin appears to have been, as with Mr Bo, seeking to amass so much power that he threatened a system of collective leadership that depends on a precarious balance of different factions and interests.

Still, Mr Xi and his able sideman, Wang Qishan, who runs the anti-corruption campaign, appear deadly serious about graft. Since the start of 2013, the party says, over 200,000 officials have been punished. That includes three dozen ministers, provincial leaders or top executives at state-owned companies. Many officials have committed suicide.

Mr Xi and Mr Wang appear to believe that corruption frustrates ambitious economic proposals unveiled late last year, including reforms to make state-owned enterprises—energy companies among them—perform much better. They are out to smash the interests resisting reform.

But the two men also seem to think that graft poses an almost existential threat to the Communist Party’s rule. And they are probably right. Ordinary people are disgusted with party corruption, and going after corrupt “tigers” underpins Mr Xi’s popularity, as far as it can be measured. On July 30th the People’s Daily, the party’s mouthpiece, said that Mr Xi is serious about purifying the ranks, and that no one is safe from scrutiny.

For the moment, the initiative is with Mr Xi and his allies. Mr Zhou’s downfall has elements of a good old-fashioned purge in which rivals are eliminated and power is consolidated. Optimists hope Mr Xi will use his power to push on with economic and social reforms. This week the party also announced that it would convene a big meeting in October to discuss the rule of law, an area that was once Mr Zhou’s to define and control.

Yet Mr Xi’s strategy also raises questions. One is that his anti-corruption drive—more far-reaching and lasting than any other—has sent such a chill through the governing apparatus that demoralised officials are scared to act on any policy or project without clear direction from above. That could hamper the implementation of the very reforms that Mr Xi and Mr Wang are supposed to be working towards.

The second caveat follows from the first: there are presumably risks in taking down too many tigers. Ordinary Chinese may understand better how truly rotten the system is, while other senior leaders will think they are next. Should that happen, then the party’s famed unity could be in trouble as others challenge Mr Xi’s authority—the opposite of what he intends. At some point, then, he and Mr Wang must find a way to bring the anti-corruption juggernaut to a halt. At the moment it is careering along.

By Perry Diaz

(This is a repost of the original article that was posted in Global Balita on September 8, 2005)

A throwback to a time when Muslims and Christians in Mindanao worked together to overcome the things that separate them.

From the Ashes of Barira

Government troops attack Camp Abubakar

Government troops attack Camp Abubakar

In ancient Egyptian mythology, Phoenix is a mythical bird that dies in flames and is reborn from the ashes. In the boondocks of Maguindanao, a previously obscure town — Barira — is now in the limelight. Barira awed the world for rising from its ashes to become a vibrant community.

Barira was a land-locked town of approximately 18,000 people living a serene life until the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) selected it for one of its camps. MILF named the camp after Abubakar, the first successor of the Prophet Muhammad.

According to MILF officials, Camp Abubakar was not just a military camp. It was made into a model for the society that MILF wanted to establish for the people. Camp Abubakar occupied an area of 10,000 hectares; however, its control extended to an area of approximately 100 square kilometers.

MILF rebels defending Camp Abubakar

MILF rebels defending Camp Abubakar

In 1987, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government and renounced its goal of independence. The MILF — a splinter organization formed in 1984 — continued the fight for independence. But within a few months it accepted a truce and joined the government in peace talks. However, the truce did not last long. In the early 1990s, the peace talks stalled and the 15,000-strong MILF launched an all-out war against the government. Camp Abubakar became the MILF’s command headquarters and extended its operations into the predominantly Muslim provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and North Catabato. With at least 46 camps spread in the region, MILF was a force to reckon with.

Camp Abubakar under attack

President Joseph "Erap" Estrada inspects government forces at Camp Abubakar

President Joseph “Erap” Estrada inspects government forces at Camp Abubakar

In March 2000, the MILF-government negotiations broke down. Then-President Joseph “Erap” Estrada ordered an all-out attack — aerial and ground — at all the known MILF camps. The heaviest bombardment was directed at the nerve center of MILF — Camp Abubakar. After a few months of warfare, Camp Abubakar fell. However, the leaders evacuated before the fall to fight another day. Most of the other MILF camps were overran as well. But the government offensive did not wipe out MILF. The leadership of MILF was decentralized into six general commands and expanded their base of operation to the provinces of Davao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Maguindanao, Lanao, Zamboanga, and Basilan.

Hardly defeated, MILF continued its campaign against the government but changed its military strategy to guerilla warfare. However, the biggest losers were the civilians. The war displaced more than 800,000 people. Barira took the worst beating due to the intense government attack on Camp Abubakar. When the dust settled, Barira was a virtual ghost town.




On July 2, 2002, two years after Camp Abubakar was captured by government troops, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited the camp and announced that her administration will transform the former MILF main camp into a “civilian-military camp for peace and development.” She said that henceforth Camp Abubakar should be known simply as “Sitio Bumbaran, in Barangay Tugaig, Barira,” and that the area would soon become a “model of a peace and development zone.” She promised that her administration would rehabilitate the 34 barangays of the three towns of Barira, Buldon and Matanog — the severest casualties of the war.

President Arroyo said that the government brought electricity to the towns and built farm-to-market roads. She also launched the Iranum Development Council, which would be responsible for the development of the area under the government’s “Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan” (KALAHI) program. The program was named after the Iranums, the indigenous people who lived in the area but were forced to leave their besieged communities during the military operation against Camp Abubakar. President Arroyo also handed checks from the USAID-funded Government Livelihood Assistance Program totaling P6.7 million to help in the rehabilitation of the former rebels.

A year later, the Department of Agriculture announced that the government earmarked P95 million to the area’s agricultural development projects to convert it into an “integrated sustainable development for agricultural development.” Other projects included the construction of access roads, hanging footbridges, and multi-purpose solar driers; training of farmers in modern cultivation technology; and planting of fruit trees. The government also spent P24.1 million to provide the displaced people with three tractors, six corn huskers and shellers, 312 carabaos, corn seeds, vegetable seeds, and assorted planting materials.

Gawad Kalinga

Gawad Kalinga village in Barira

Gawad Kalinga village in Barira

But the most heart-warming projects were those that involved people helping the displaced people get back on their feet. Starting in 2003, Filipino Christians and Muslims joined hands in building Gawad Kalinga villages in the devastated areas. In the former Camp Abubakar, the bullet-riddled mosque — within walking distance from the ashes of the MILF command headquarters — stood alone, a stark reminder of the conflict that pitted the Muslims against their Christian brothers. Next to the mosque, Gawad Kalinga built a village of colorful houses for the displaced people. Couples for Christ teams from other provinces such as Samar and Leyte came to help build the houses. Over the next two years, Gawad Kalinga built villages in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur and North Cotabato. Indeed, it was “Bayanihan” in action.

In April 2005, approximately 3,000 Gawad Kalinga advocates met in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao, to commemorate and symbolize the harmony between the Muslims and the Christians in Mindanao. Finally, respect for one another’s culture and religion had been restored.

Books for the Barrios

Computer Learning School at Barira Central Elementary School

Computer Learning School at Barira Central Elementary School

Later that year, I received a photo from Nancy Harrington of the US-based Books for the Barrios, showing a young school girl in Barira writing on a piece of paper with an inch-long pencil. The girl could hardly hold the end of the pencil but she had that resolve in her face — she was not giving up. A few months ago, I read in the news that Books for the Barrios, in coordination with the local government agencies of Barira and non-government organizations, inaugurated “Project Tanglaw” — which aims to rehabilitate the facilities of the Barira Elementary School — with the construction of a new classroom and a library.

From the ashes of Barira, a new community is reborn. It is amazing how people can really work together and overcome the things that separate — and hurt — them. It is likewise amazing what the government can do to improve the life of the people.