November 2014

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Binay and Trillanes

Binay and Trillanes

Little did Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay realize that Sen. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV would accept his challenge to debate. And when Trillanes accepted it, Binay must have panicked and backed out of the debate.

It’s important to note that Binay challenged Trillanes to a debate to bring his case to the people and answer questions about his alleged corruption activities and ill-gotten wealth when he was mayor of Makati City. Obviously, it was a bluff. Binay, a lawyer, was probably thinking that Trillanes, a former naval officer, didn’t stand a ghost of a chance of defeating him in a debate, which is a lawyer’s forte. But Trillanes had one weapon – truth — that he could use to force Binay to a corner and beat him to a pulp.

When Binay backed out of the debate, Trillanes found an opening for an attack. A few days later, Trillanes went on the offensive hitting Binay where it hurts most – his character. He dropped a bombshell by saying that Binay was part of the 2007 conspiracy to oust then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Trillanes was referring to the time when his rebel group, Magdalo, occupied the Peninsula Manila Hotel in Makati City and demanded Gloria to step down.

Oakwood mutiny

Oakwood mutiny

Trillanes claimed that Binay – who was then mayor of Makati City — reneged on his promise to mobilize his employees, the city’s urban poor, and other supporters to join Trillanes when he walks out of a court hearing that was trying him for the 2003 Oakwood mutiny. But to Trillanes’ surprise, Binay’s supporters did not show up and Binay was nowhere to be found. The rebels then barricaded themselves in the hotel but surrendered when the military was called in.

Peninsula Manila Hotel siege (left - Trillanes; middle - Gen. Danilo Lim; right - Former Sen. Teofisto Guingona)

Peninsula Manila Hotel siege (left – Trillanes; middle – Gen. Danilo Lim; right – Former Sen. Teofisto Guingona)

Later on when Trillanes was detained at Camp Crame, Binay showed up and apologized. Well, apology or no apology, the harm was done. But what was instilled in Trillanes’ mind was that Binay’s decision to back out of the debate says a lot about his character. “In a way, we were expecting this to happen because on those instances, we say that Vice President Binay had no word of honor and that he cannot be trusted. I hope that our people could see his true character” (translated from Tagalog), Trillanes said.

A question of character

Having refused to appear before the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee hearings — which he described as a “kangaroo court” — and backed out of the debate, Binay is going around the country, at taxpayers’ expense, telling the people that all these accusations against him were nothing more than “demolition jobs.” But as Abraham Lincoln once said: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” Binay is desperately trying — by any means — to shore up his sagging ratings, which had dipped 10% in the last few months.

Indeed, Trillanes hit the nail right on the head when he questioned Binay’s character and trustworthiness. However, I’m sure he’s aware that it’s a dangerous road to take in political campaigns because the outcome could go either way – help or destroy the candidate. But Binay knows it, too, and that’s why he’s trying very hard to gain the people’s sympathy.

Stop Nognog in 2016?

Stop Nognog in 2016?

A Philippine Inquirer reader, Mario “Yao” Boco from Salcedo, Eastern Samar, wrote a commentary titled “Binay’s only saving grace,” which said: “Ramon Tulfo’s column titled ‘Oplan Nognog just an invention’ (Metro, 10/23/14) confirmed my suspicion that ‘Oplan stop Nognog 2016’ was an idea hatched by Vice President Jejomar Binay’s PR men and was intended to elicit for Binay sympathy or compassion from the “politically vacuous masses,” and consequently gain votes for him as a candidate in the 2016 presidential election.

“When I first read and heard of ‘Oplan stop Nognog 2016,’ I immediately sensed that the word ‘Nognog,’ a funny, charcoal-black comics character that stirs up mixed feelings of ridicule and pity, could be a mere ‘gimmick’ to generate sympathy for Binay, he being dark-skinned. In fact, one of the factors that made the ‘Binays ruled Makati one after the other is because they go to great lengths to emphasize their looks.’

“Little did Binay’s PR men know that by using the same kind of gimmick, they revealed themselves to have run out of ideas to defend and save the Vice President from the avalanche of corruption charges now swamping him. No amount of denials, allusions to political persecution, demolition job, or whatever, will extricate him from the political maelstrom he is in now. Only his presence in the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee hearing, to answer point by point the corruption charges hurled against him, will be his ‘saving grace.’ ”

Serendipity or conspiracy

Beso-beso

Beso-beso

Binay might have thought what his “saving grace” is going to be? And guess whom did he run into? Grace Poe!

Binay met Grace at a meeting of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) in Tagaytay City last November 13. Grace was a guest of KBP; Binay was an uninvited guest, a “gatecrasher.” Binay claimed that he dropped by the KBP event to formally apologize for backing out of the debate with Trillanes, which the KBP was supposed to organize. However, it’s debatable whether the Binay-Poe meeting was serendipity or a well-orchestrated “chance” encounter – or conspiracy — between Binay and an unsuspecting Grace. As it turned out it was anything but coincidence. Binay later told the media that it was an “impromptu visit.”

Binay-Poe tandem in 2016?

Binay-Poe tandem in 2016?

And from that “impromptu visit,” a rare photo worth a thousand words was taken of Grace giving Binay a priceless beso-beso. And no sooner had the KBP event ended than rumors started to swirl around of a potential Binay-Poe tandem in 2016. When asked about the “coincidence,” Binay tried to downplay it; however, he admitted that he was open to teaming up with Grace in 2016. Indeed, if Grace agreed to join Binay, it would be a powerful team. Recent surveys show that Binay and Poe are the top picks for president and vice president, respectively.

Although Grace had made it clear that she was not running for president in 2016, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and the Liberal Party are wooing her to be the running mate of their respective standard bearers.

Grace Poe and Trillanes (right)

Grace Poe and Trillanes (right)

But many believe that if there was one person who could beat Binay, it’s Grace. And who would be a better running mate of Grace Poe than Sonny Trillanes? Working in tandem, they could give Jojo Binay a run for his money… or should I say, “the people’s money?”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

By Javier Zarracina
Los Angeles Times

Nuclear-arsenals-map

Nuclear weapons

 

North America’s nuclear weapons are delivered via a “triad” of land, sea and air systems.

Nuclear-arsenals-land-sea-air

 http://www.latimes.com/la-na-g-nuclear-arsenals-20141110-htmlstory.html

 

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Boehner and McConnell

Boehner and McConnell

On the surface, many would say the Republicans won the mid-term elections. But did they, really? It might sound loco – or crazy – to question who won the elections last November 4, 2014. Of course, the Republicans did, one might say. Didn’t the GOP wrest control of the Senate from the Democrats? Yes. Didn’t the GOP win the biggest majority of the House of Representatives in the last 100 years? Yes. Yet, when I asked a Republican friend who won in the mid-term elections, his reply was: “The GOP didn’t lose, but it didn’t win either.” Hmm…

Okay, I concede that “the GOP didn’t lose” because it actually captured six seats it needed to take control of the Senate. It now has 52 seats. With the runoff in Louisiana in December expected to go Republican, it would give the GOP 53 seats in the upcoming 114th Congress in January 2015. But that’s not enough.

The way the Senate works, a simple majority of 51 votes is not enough for a legislative bill to muster passage.  However, if the minority party mounted a filibuster, 60 votes are required to end the filibuster, a tactic that the Republicans used to thwart Obama’s legislative agenda in the past four years.

Gridlock

Filibuster by Senate Session - The Republicans take the filibuster to new heights. Blue = Democrats in minority; Red = Republicans in minority. (Credit: Todd Lindeman)

Filibuster by Senate Session – The Republicans take the filibuster to new heights. Blue = Democrats in minority; Red = Republicans in minority. (Credit: Todd Lindeman)

Now, it’s payback time for the Democrats in the Senate who would give the Republicans a dose of their own medicine. And with the power of filibuster, the Republicans would be at the mercy of the Democrats just like it was when the Democrats were in the majority with the Republicans filibustering every chance they had.

Yes, it would be gridlock all over again… until either party captures 60 Senate seats just like when the Democrats did in the 2008 when Obama rode to victory in the aftermath of the financial meltdown during George W. Bush’s presidency. But the Democrats’ supermajority lasted for only two years when the Tea Party revolt took control of the Republican Party in 2010, capturing the House and winning enough seats in the Senate that allowed them to mount a filibuster on any bill they chose to block.

Barack-Obama-lame-duckWith the anticipated legislative gridlock come January, the Republicans know that their agenda for the remaining “lame duck” years of the Obama presidency is not going anywhere. They’d try to wheel and deal with the conservative “blue dog” Democrats and get their bills passed in both chambers and send them to Obama for his signature. But Obama’s veto power could derail the Republicans, which begs the question: Could the Republicans muster the votes needed to override a presidential veto? With a two-thirds vote needed in both the House and the Senate to override a presidential veto, the Republicans won’t make it to first base… unless they could attract enough Democrats to go along in overriding Obama’s veto.

But for the sake of argument, let’s take a look at what’s on top of the Republicans’ agenda, which are: (1) Repeal ObamaCare, (2) Lower taxes, and (3) Deregulation.

Man hides from rain under his sign at Tea Party Patriots rally calling for repeal of the 2010 healthcare law on Capitol Hill in WashingtonObamacare-proOne needs to remember that if ObamaCare were repealed, close to 40 million Americans would lose the health insurance that ObamaCare had provided them. This is a huge constituency that the Democrats would not abandon, particularly in presidential elections.

When it comes to lowering taxes, the Democrats believe that just like the Bush tax cuts in 2003, which benefitted the wealthy Americans, any attempt to lower taxes in 2015 is perceived as favoring the rich.

Regulation vs. Deregulation

Financial-meltdown-2008And last, but arguably the most important, is deregulation. “Deregulation” is the process of removing or reducing federal or state regulations in private industries. It is the opposite of regulation, which is the process of regulating certain activities to conform or comply with government policies, such as banking regulations. It would give banks the authority to establish their own guidelines – without government interference – in their lending practices. One doesn’t need to go very far back in time to see the pitfalls of deregulation. If there was one culprit that caused the financial meltdown of 2008, it was deregulation.

As a result of the Bush deregulation of the financial industry, housing mortgage guidelines were liberalized to a point where virtually all mortgage loan applications were approved without regard to credit worthiness or income qualification of the borrowers. In 2003, exotic loan programs such as zero down, interest only, negative amortization, stated income, and “no docs” sprouted profusely. Even jobless borrowers could get a loan. On top of that, some borrowers got “cash back” from inflated loans they arranged with home sellers with the connivance of mortgage brokers. In effect, deregulation became a corporate scam that involved many of the giants in the financial industry.

When Republican Sen. John McCain ran for president against Obama in 2008, his platform included deregulation, which he hammered during the campaign. And by associating himself with unpopular – and controversial – Bush policies, McCain lost the election.

Populism vs. demagoguery

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

The question is: Would the Republicans use in 2016 the two issues – lowering taxes that would benefit the rich and deregulation that would benefit big business – that contributed to their loss in 2008? If so, then they’re setting their presidential nominee for a tough fight in 2016. And who would that be? Right now, no Republican could match up to the Democrats’ favored candidate, Hillary Clinton, whose populist appeal would blunt the Republicans’ demagogic assault.

But things could change if the Republicans use their numerical advantage in Congress to project an inclusive GOP as the party of Lincoln and not as an uncompromising take-no-prisoner rightwing party.

And looking at the current crop of Republican presidential wannabes, there are two of them who could pursue a moderate course. But the problem is that a “moderate” Republican candidate would have difficulty winning in the Republican primaries. Not since the Barry Goldwater debacle of 1964 – who said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” — had another ultra-conservative won the party’s nomination.

Moderate Republicans

Jeb Bush and wife Columba (File copy)

Jeb Bush and wife Columba (File copy)

Which makes one wonder: Are there any Republicans with presidential ambitions who are capable of taking a moderate path in 2016? Two nationally known Republicans come to mind – New Jersey governor Chris Christy and former Florida governor Jeb Bush. But the problem is: they both have excess baggage to carry around. Christy is beset by scandals in his state while George Bush’s failed leadership has stigmatized his brother Jeb Bush. If Jeb could clear that stigma while pursuing an immigration reform that’s attractive to Latinos – Jeb is married to a Latina — and palatable to conservatives, he just might make it. But a third Bush presidency in quarter of century would be perceived as dynastic that wouldn’t bode too well with Americans.

With all things considered, the mid-term elections could be a harbinger of a Republican victory in 2016. However, it could also be their Waterloo if they waste their numerical superiority in the next two years. One can then say that the party who wins the presidency in 2016 had won the midterm elections in 2014. My Republican friend was then right when he said: “The GOP didn’t lose, but it didn’t win either.” Yes, indeed.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Sen. Grace Poe delivers privilege speech

Sen. Grace Poe delivers privilege speech

It is customary for a lot of people to say grace, a short prayer before eating a meal. The most common grace among Catholics is: “Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.” But to a lot of people in the Philippines, which is predominantly Catholic, saying grace is meaningless because they don’t have food or not enough food on the table. That’s the kind of existence that 43% — 9.3 million families – consider themselves “food-poor” from a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

The SWS survey was what Sen. Grace Poe referenced when she delivered a privilege speech on the Senate floor last October 27, 2014. She said that out of the 43 million “food-poor” individuals, three million battled severe hunger, a condition she said of being “always” or “often” hungry.

"Food-poor" family.

“Food-poor” family.

She prefaced her speech: “October 16 was World Food Day. But for many Filipinos it was ‘no food day’ as usual. That would be hard to believe in a country getting glowing economic report cards and whose capital is brightened by blinding billboards advertising all kinds of food. But the fact is millions of Filipinos go to bed, go to work, or go to school hungry.”

Sen. Poe also referenced the 8th National Nutrition Survey, which found that 7.36 million children below the age of five are malnourished. However, she said, “The Food and Agriculture Organization or FAO gives a higher estimate — 15 million or bigger than the population of Metro Manila. UNICEF says globally, we rank 9th in the most number of stunted kids.”

Indeed, for a country that boasts of a robust economic growth – highest GDP growth forecast among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-6 (ASEAN-6) members for 2014-2015 — during the presidency of President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III, the hunger rate increased in the past two years. The SWS survey for the fourth quarter of 2013 showed hunger at 18.1% of families. For the same period in 2012, hunger was at 16.3% of families. It’s sad to note that at a time of unprecedented economic growth, poverty went up in large numbers. Where did all that money go? Or could it be that there was really no “economic growth” in spite of the country’s impressive Gross Domestic Product (GDP); thus, defying commonly-accepted economic truism?

Corruption vs. poverty

Corruption

Corruption

Poverty

Poverty

This reminds me of P-Noy’s campaign slogan, “Walang korap, walang mahirap,” which translates to “No corruption, no poverty.” If that equation were true, could it also be correct to presume that if corruption increased, then poverty would also increase?

In my article, “Rx for Poverty and Corruption” (December 9, 2005), I wrote: “What is the cause of corruption? Some people say that poverty is to blame for the ‘culture of corruption.’ A veteran Philippine Senator once said, ‘Poverty breeds corruption.’ Does it, really? Or is it the other way around, ‘Corruption causes poverty’?

“A study made by Management Systems International in Washington, DC, in 2003, has concluded: ‘Corruption has direct consequences on economic and government factors, intermediaries that in turn produce poverty.’ The study produced two models. On the one hand, the ‘economic model’ postulates that corruption affects poverty by first impacting economic growth factors, which, in turn, impact poverty levels. In other words, ‘Increased corruption reduces economic growth which would increase poverty.’ On the other hand, the ‘government model’ asserts that corruption affects poverty by first influencing governance factors, which, in turn, impact poverty levels. In other words, ‘Increased corruption reduces governance capacity which would increase poverty.’

“Is it then fair to presume that increasing economic growth and increasing government capacity would decrease poverty? If so, in order to eradicate poverty, corruption should be dealt with in a fashion that would deter people — particularly government officials — from practicing corruption. However, the problem is: The Philippines does not have an effective deterrence to stop corruption.”

Strong leadership

Ramon Magsaysay

Ramon Magsaysay

So, what does it take to have an “effective deterrence” to stop corruption? It sounds like a simple question but that requires a complex answer. Or, could it be that the answer is as simple as the question, which is “strong leadership”?

History tells us that a strong leader who is imbued with a fervent desire to change – nay, revolutionize — the way our government is being run, produces the best results. And when I said “strong leader,” I’m not talking about the likes of Ferdinand Marcos but in the mold of Ramon Magsaysay, Lee Kuan Yew, and Nelson Mandela.

And looking at the current crop of presidential wannabes who call themselves “leaders,” none qualifies for the job. They’ll just be the same as most of those who held – and abused — power before them; that is, corrupt to the core.

What the country needs is a person untainted by corruption and who is committed to eradicating poverty. Does it sound like an impossible dream? Yes, it does. Yet, there is always hope. And sometimes it comes in a strange way… a miracle. But if we lose even a glimmer hope, and stop looking for the right person to lead our nation, then the Philippines would be consigned to perdition.

Amazing Grace

Grace Poe, "Anak ni FPJ"

Grace Poe, “Anak ni FPJ”

What we need is a modern-day Joan of Arc. Who I have in mind is Sen. Grace Poe, who stands out as someone who would galvanize the people waiting for the leader to free them from the clutches of poverty.

Many people believe that Grace’s emergence from relative obscurity and rising to number one position in the 2013 senatorial elections was providentially inspired. Indeed, never in the history of Philippine politics had a neophyte politician — who never held an elected or appointed position in government — attracted the support of 10 million voters, one million votes more than the attractive and experienced politician who placed second.

Grace Poe and image of Fernando Poe Jr.

Grace Poe and image of Fernando Poe Jr.

It is interesting to note that Grace’s father, the late action hero Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ), garnered 11.7 million votes when he ran for president in 2004… and lost. However, many believe that he would have won had his opponent, then incumbent president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, did not cheat. Election experts averred that Arroyo cheated Poe of at least one million votes using dagdag-bawas (vote-padding/vote-shaving system), which would have been enough to offset Arroyo’s lead. It is expected that FPJ’s “command votes” would go to his daughter if she runs.

With the election still a year and half away, Grace is not expected to make known her plans. Not yet. But as the election gets nearer, a groundswell of support is expected to build up, which begs the question: Would there be a movement to draft Grace for President? Personally, I believe that a campaign to draft her would soon materialize and could easily get at least a million signatures. And riding high on the crest of popularity, Grace would be the people’s candidate… the people’s Grace, indeed.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)