December 2014

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Andres Bonifacio

Andres Bonifacio

Recently, there has been a great deal of interest on one of our heroes and founder of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio. Indeed, many are now of the belief that he had been denied the recognition he deserved.

A decade ago, I wrote a column, “Was Bonifacio the First President?” that revisited the turbulent times when the revolutionary movement was in disarray; divided into two factions, one led by Andres Bonifacio, the Supremo of the Katipunan, and the other, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the Magdalo faction.

Although Aguinaldo succeeded in wresting control of the Katipunan from Bonifacio in a power struggle that cost Bonifacio his life, Aguinaldo never had a chance to establish his rule over the archipelago. The coming of the Americans weakened his fledgling government. He fled to Palanan, Isabela in Northern Luzon where he made his last stand.

On March 23, 1901 – exactly four years after Aguinaldo took his oath of office as president at the Tejeros convention — the Americans, led by Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston, captured Aguinaldo in his camp in the mountains of Palanan. Caught by surprise, Aguinaldo was subdued without a shot fired.

Thus ended the aspirations of the Filipino people to establish their own nation, sovereign and independent from foreign powers, which makes one wonder: If Bonifacio wasn’t murdered and Aguinaldo had joined his government, would the revolution have succeeded under the leadership of Bonifacio? And this begs the question:

Was Bonifacio the First President?

By Perry Diaz
January 21, 2005

The original Katipunan flag

The original Katipunan flag

On July 7, 1892, Andres Bonifacio — upon hearing the news that Dr. Jose Rizal was arrested and deported to Dapitan the day before — called for a meeting with five of his friends, to wit: Jose Dizon, Valentin Diaz, Deodato Arellano, Ladislao Diwa, and Teodoro Plata. That night, they organized a secret society called Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangan na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Respected Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Nation) — in short, Katipunan. Bonifacio was named their Supremo.

They recruited people to join and by 1896, on the eve of the revolution, the Katipunan had more than 400,000 members. During the revolution, two dominant leaders emerged — Bonifacio and Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. By 1897, to the detriment of the revolution, their rivalry had divided the revolutionary forces into Bonifacio’s Magdiwang faction and Aguinaldo’s Magdalo faction.

Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo

Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo

Attempts were made to reconcile the two leaders. On March 22, 1897, the two factions held a convention in Tejeros, a barrio of San Francisco de Malabon in Cavite, Aguinaldo’s bailiwick. Aguinaldo did not attend the gathering. Jacinto Lumbreras, a Magdiwang, presided over the assembly. The agenda of the convention was to adopt a plan for the defense of Cavite. However, the subject was not even discussed as the meeting became tumultuous. Instead, those in attendance decided to elect the officers of the revolutionary government. In essence, the participants threw out the Supreme Council of the Katipunan under which all the revolutionary forces had been fighting for. Bonifacio reluctantly agreed to preside over the election. Aguinaldo was elected President; Mariano Trias as Vice President; Artemio Ricarte as Captain-General; Emiliano Riego de Dios as Director of War; and Bonifacio as Director of the Interior. The following day, March 23, Aguinaldo and the other elected officials, with the exception of Bonifacio, took their oath of office in the new revolutionary government.

Meanwhile, on the same day the Aguinaldo took his oath of office, Bonifacio and his followers — numbering forty-five — met again at the same venue of the convention held the day before. They were furious. They felt bad about the results of the election. They believed that the Magdalo faction committed anomalies during the balloting. Consequently, they decided to invalidate the election. They drew up a document — Acta de Tejeros — giving their reasons for nullifying the results of the convention.

Bonifacio and his supporters believed that Aguinaldo’s men were responsible for the chaos at the Tejeros convention. He believed that Aguinaldo’s men had maneuvered him out of power. Indeed, it was a rude awakening for him because even the Magdiwangs, his followers, did not vote for him either for President or Vice-President.

Tejeros Convention

Tejeros Convention

Adding insult to an injury, Daniel Tirona, a Magdalo, protested Bonifacio’s election as Director of the Interior saying that a person with a lawyer’s diploma should hold the post. Bonifacio, outraged by Tirona’s insult, angrily declared: “I, as chairman of this assembly and as President of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan, as all of you do not deny, declare this assembly dissolved, and I annul all that has been approved and resolved.”

At Naik, where Bonifacio subsequently moved his Magdiwang forces after the failed Tejeros convention, Bonifacio and his supporters drew up another document — known as the Naik Military Agreement — in which they resolved to establish a government independent and separate from the one established at Tejeros.

President Andres Bonifacio's signature and seal.

President Andres Bonifacio’s signature and seal.

Bonifacio and his supporters proceeded in forming a government. The government was called Haring Bayang Katagalugan (Sovereign Country of the Tagalog Nation). They printed its Cartilla, a small handbook containing the rules, the 14-point code of ethics, and the recruitment process. In it, the Katipunan declared that the word “Tagalog” stood for “all who were born in this archipelago… hence Visayans, Ilocanos and Pampangos were all Tagalogs” (“Filipino” during the Spanish regime was a Spaniard born in the Philippines and the natives were called “indios”). The following were elected as officers of the de facto government of Haring Bayang Katagalugan: Andres Bonifacio – President; Emilio Jacinto – Minister of State; Teodoro Plata – Minister of War; Aguedo del Rosario – Minister of the Interior; Briccio Pantas – Minister of Justice; Enrique Pacheco – Minister Finance; Silvestre Baltazar – Treasurer General; Daniel Tirona – Secretary General. Unfortunately, the Bonifacio government was never recognized because they were all busy fighting the Spanish colonial forces.

Execution of Andres Bonifacio

Execution of Andres Bonifacio

Upon learning of the Naik Military Agreement, Aguinaldo sent a contingent of soldiers to arrest Bonifacio and his brothers Procopio and Ciriaco. The confrontation became deadly. Ciriaco was killed and Bonifacio and Procopio were wounded. They were brought to Naik to face a military tribunal. Albeit the absence of evidence, the Bonifacio brothers were found guilty of treason and sedition. They were recommended for execution. Aguinaldo commuted the sentence to deportation. However, Generals Mariano Noriel and Pio del Pilar, both former allies of Bonifacio, convinced Aguinaldo to withdraw his order and proceed with the execution. They believed that as long as Bonifacio were alive, there would be no unity. On May 10, 1897, Aguinaldo’s soldiers executed the Bonifacio brothers at the foot of Mt. Tala. They were buried in shallow graves without markers.

On June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippines and installed a “Dictatorial Government” that would be temporary in nature until peace is achieved at which time it may be “modified by the nation, in which rests the principle of authority.”

General Emilio Aguinaldo boarding the USS Vicksburg as a Prisoner of War (Photo credit: Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 by Arnaldo Dumindin).

General Emilio Aguinaldo boarding the USS Vicksburg as a Prisoner of War (Photo credit: Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 by Arnaldo Dumindin).

On March 23, 1901, exactly fours years after he took his first oath of office, American forces captured Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela. Thus ended the Philippine revolution started by Bonifacio.

Today, Andres Bonifacio’s admirers believe that he was the first president of the Philippines. He organized the Katipunan and led the revolution against Spain. They believed that not only was he the first president of the country, he should be accorded the title of “National Hero” of the Philippines.

Had the historians robbed Andres Bonifacio of his rightful place in Philippine history? Shouldn’t Bonifacio precede Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo as the acknowledged Father of the Philippines?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Ceasefire in Ukraine

Ceasefire in Ukraine

(I wrote this article on December 23, 2005 to commemorate the 91st  anniversary of the “Christmas Truce” during World War I in 1914.  One hundred years later after the celebrated “Christmas Truce,” another truce — or ceasefire — took effect in East Ukraine where Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists were fighting for dominance of a huge chunk of Ukrainian territory that borders Russia.  Although the ceasefire is holding there are intermittent violations that could break the ceasefire and shooting starts again.  But this time, the specter of a nuclear war is real.  It could really be the war to end all wars… including ending life on Earth.)

Give Truce a Chance

By Perry Diaz
December 23, 2005

Christmas Truce 1914, as seen by the Illustrated London News.In 1914, ninety-one years ago, during the Great War — or World War I as we call it today — the British and French armies were manning the 27-mile Western Front fiercely defending French territory from the advancing German Army. Across the British and French trenches, as near as 200 feet away, the Germans were dug in. What separated the opposing armies was a place called “No Man’s Land.”

On Christmas Eve, one of the most incredible — and unusual — events in human history took place: the Germans started placing candles on trees on “No Man’s Land.” Lit with candles, the “Christmas” trees looked awesome. The Germans began singing Christmas songs and the British and French troops responded by singing too. Soon the entire “No Man’s Land” turned into a symphonic Christmas celebration. The Germans proposed a “Christmas Truce” and the French and British troops accepted.

The memorable event was detailed in a book, titled “Silent Night,” written by Stanley Weintraub. “Signboards arose up and down the trenches in a variety of shapes. They were usually in English, or — from the Germans — in fractured English. ‘YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT’ was the most frequently employed German message. Some British units impoverished ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ banners and waited for a response. More placards on both sides popped up.”

Christmas-Truce-1914.3“By Christmas morning, ‘No Man’s Land’ was filled with fraternizing soldiers, sharing rations and gifts, singing and more solemnly burying their dead. Soon they were even playing soccer, mostly with impoverished balls.” According to one account, “proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned together and paid their respect.”

When the generals heard about the “Christmas Truce,” they were aghast and ordered their soldiers to start shooting at each other. The soldiers resumed shooting but most of them — for several days — aimed their rifles at the sky and the stars. In some sectors, the truce continued until New Year’s Day. After all, how can “friends” shoot at each other?

What was ironic was that earlier in the autumn of 1914, Pope Benedict XV called for an official truce between the warring governments. The Papal plea was ignored. After the “Christmas Truce,” the embarrassed British commanders vowed that a truce should not happen again. However, in 1916, an “Easter Truce” happened on the Eastern Front.

On November 21, 2005, Alfred Anderson, aged 109, the last veteran of that “Christmas Truce,” died at his home in Angus, Scotland. Anderson was 18 years old on December 25, 1914, when British, French, and German troops climbed out of their trenches along the dreaded Western Front and walked across the blood-soaked “No Man’s Land” to shake hands. Anderson decorated with France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur, never forgot that moment in his life when he celebrated Christmas with his enemies on “No Man’s Land.” Indeed, it was a singular moment in history that has yet to be repeated.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, we reflect on conflicting situations around the world where “truce” — or peace — is needed. But most importantly, we need a truce in the Philippine war fronts with the communist insurgents, Muslim separatists, and even with the political oppositionists.

The communist New People’s Army (NPA) has had a “traditional Christmas truce” with the government since the insurgency began 36 years ago. This year, the military leaders are against a truce with the NPA. However, it should not preclude the NPA from declaring a unilateral truce, to which, I am sure, the military would respect.

Since July 2003, a bilateral truce between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), brokered by Malaysia, took effect when they started their peace talks. Meanwhile, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), headed by Nur Misuari, who is currently in jail charged with rebellion, is again on the warpath after a truce with the government broke down. The military accused the MNLF of aiding the Abu Sayyaf terrorists. Recently, fierce fighting erupted between government forces and the MNLF guerillas. A couple of weeks ago, the MILF through its spokesman, Eid Kabalu, offered to broker a truce between the government and the MNLF.

On the political front, things are getting worse with persistent rumors of coup plots against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Recently, 80-year old retired general Fortunato Abat proclaimed himself “president” of a “revolutionary transition government” and demanded that President Arroyo step down. He claimed that he has the support of an organization with 10,000 members. Last December 16, 2005, Gen. Abat, two of his “Cabinet” members, and a lawyer were arrested and charged with inciting to sedition for establishing their own “government.”

Although “peace” may be improbable, if not impossible, to achieve in the near future, Christmas is a day in our lives — Christians and non-Christians, theists and atheists alike — where we can have “peace” in our hearts. It is a day of serenity, harmony, and respite from the constant turmoil that surrounds us. But most importantly, it is a day where we are more forgiving, more tolerant, and more understanding of others.

The “Christmas Truce” of 1914 proved that people could set aside their differences even for day. But a truce could also be lasting. The Koreans are living in a state of perpetual truce since July 1953 when the China and North Korea signed the Korean War Truce with the United Nations and South Korea. Today, a permanent peace agreement has yet to be reached. However, the truce remains in force.

If truce could bring a lasting peace in the Korean peninsula, truce could also work wonders in the Philippines. Filipinos have suffered too long. Let’s give truce a chance.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

The graduates, Class of 2014.

The graduates, Class of 2014.

Founded in May 2013, Eskwela Natin, in the short period it’s been in existence, is making a great impact in the Filipino-American community, particularly among the youth. It has been the dream of Dolores and Perry Diaz ever since their first grandchild was born nine years ago. Since then, four more grandchildren were added to their family. That’s when they thought that it might be a good idea to teach their grandchildren and other Filipino-American children about the rich and diverse culture of the Filipino people. They formed a core group of like-minded people including several Filipino-American teachers who volunteered their time to teach the youth. They named the project Eskwela Natin.

Grand-OpeningThe grand opening was held on May 19, 2013 with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting by then Consul General Marciano A. Paynor Jr. assisted by Ambassador George Aducayen Jr., former Mayor Ruth Asmundson of the City of Davis, and Governor Jerry Brown’s Appointments Secretary Mona Pasquil.

On August 8, 2013, Eskwela Natin was incorporated with the State of California as a non-profit 501 (c)(3) entity.

On September 22, 2013, the first graduates of Eskwela Natin, 36 in all, received their certificates of achievement. Robert Abelon of Assemblyman Richard Pan’s office gave special certificates of achievement to the graduates as well.

First day of class.

First day of class.

Inspired by the overwhelming interest of Filipino American high school students, Eskwela Natin held a seminar catered to this age group. It included a panel discussion on community service, politics and Filipino culture. Speakers were Mayor Ruth Asmundson, Lions Council Chairman Derek Ledda and Sinagtala Artistic Director Sonny Alforque with community leader Josie Patria moderating. The day’s busy schedule also included a jeopardy game on knowledge of the Filipino traditions and current events, cooking demonstration and tasting of chicken adobo for lunch and a parol (Christmas lantern) making and contest.

Eskwela Natin also launched the scholarship program for deserving Filipino American high school graduates. This would become an annual program reaching out to local high schools in Sacramento. The scholars were presented at the opening of the summer program.

On December 29, 2013, Eskwela Natin and the Friends of Korus Foundation Inc. presented the University of the Philippines Concert Chorus (UPCC) in Sacramento. Several other organizations in Sacramento co-sponsored the event.

Although the UPCC event was started as a major fund-raiser for Eskwela Natin, Dolores suggested to the Board of Directors to donate the net proceeds of the event for the benefit of the victims of typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Philippines. The net proceeds of more than $10,000 were sent to typhoon relief efforts through the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation.

Second Year

Graduates marching to the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance."

Graduates marching to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Consul General Henry S. Bensurto Jr. gives diplomas to the graduates.

Consul General Henry S. Bensurto Jr. gives diplomas to the graduates.

Eskwela Natin’s second year was busier than the first year. Year 2014 began with 10 Sunday classes from May to September. More than 40 young Filipino-Americans graduated. The new Consul General Henry S. Bensurto Jr. gave the diplomas to the graduates during a ceremony, complete with the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” graduation marching song. The students – with their graduation caps with tassels — really enjoyed the graduation ceremony.

Eskwela Natin held several events to raise funds for the 2015 school year. The first was a dinner dance in August at the Asian Pearl Restaurant. In September, Eskwela Natin was the beneficiary of the Interclub Golf Tournament in Vallejo, California. About 120 golfers participated in the tournament. Through the efforts of Board Members Mark and Maryann Bamba more than $5,000 was raised for the benefit of Eskwela Natin.

Ambassador George G. Aducayen Jr. cuts ceremonial ribbon at the grand opening of the Filipino-American Collection at the Southgate Library.

Ambassador George G. Aducayen Jr. cuts ceremonial ribbon at the grand opening of the Filipino-American Collection at the Southgate Library.

The display window in the lobby of the library was decorated to showcase the Philippines.

The display window in the lobby of the library was decorated to showcase the Philippines.

In October, which was Filipino-American Heritage Month, Eskwela Natin worked with the Southgate Public Library to open a section for Filipino-American books. The grand opening of the Filipino-American Collection was held on October 3, which also kicked off the month-long community-wide celebration. Ambassador George G. Aducayen Jr. gave an inspirational speech during the reception held at the library’s multi-purpose room.  Eskwela Natin Vice President Joe Carrasco coordinated this project.

The display window in the lobby of the library was decorated to showcase the Philippines. Miniaturized landmarks such as Intramurous, Malacanang Palace, Quaipo Church, Rizal Monument and Manila Hotel were part of the exhibit courtesy of the Sacramento Manila and Pasay City Sister Cities Association. Various Filipino Fiestas and celebrations depicted were Santacruzan, Christmas with colorful parols, Ati-Atihan and a chandelier of kiping of the Pahiyas/rice festival. A rare basket collection complimented the display.

Eskwela Natin sponsors golf tournament at the Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course.

Eskwela Natin sponsors golf tournament at the Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course.

On October 18, Eskwela Natin held a golf tournament at the Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course in Sacramento.  Board Member Ernie Santos organized the successful tournament.  More than 100 golfers participated and more than $4,000 was raised for Eskwela Natin.

TOYFA 2014  Awardees

TOYFA 2014 Awardees

Eskwela Natin’s last project of the year 2014 was the Ten Outstanding Young Filipino-Americans (TOYFA). It was the first annual event that recognizes outstanding young Filipino-Americans in various fields. The awards were presented last October 26 in Sacramento. The recipients were the following: Chenelle Castellano Aquino (Sports), Gamila Saleh Abad Assad (Community Service), Haley Marie Bambula (Arts), Jeremiah Calagui (Leadership), Matthew Molina de Guzman (Sports), Avina B. Kliatchko (Essay Writing), Alfonso Benjamin Reyes (NJROTC), Chase Santos Mitchell (Sports), Tyler Santos Mitchell (Performing Arts), Jestoni Opinaldo (Sports), and Sarah Joy Polante Sy (Music). A special award – the Ester Carrasco Community Service Award — was also given to Gervilyn Mae Tormis Cadimas. Ambassador George G. Aducayen Jr. was the keynote speaker and Bert Melliza, Lions International MD-4 Past District Governor, was the guest speaker.

Kudos goes to the Board of Directors for its leadership in fulfilling Eskwela Natin’s mission, which is: “Eskwela Natin exists to educate Filipino-American children about the rich and diverse Filipino culture, ensuring the unique traditions of the Philippines are passed on to the next generation, in a safe and fun environment.”

Congratulations to the members of the Board of Directors and volunteer teachers for their untiring and selfless efforts to promote the ideals of Eskwela Natin. The Board of Directors consists of the following: President Dolores V. Diaz; Vice President Joe Carrasco; Secretary Gladys Carrasco; Treasurer Josie Canlas; Community Liaison Officer Celsa Taraya; Public Relations Officer Andrea Diaz-Vaughn; and Board Members Myrna Agbunag, Sonny Alforque, Mark Bamba, Maryann Bamba, Perry Diaz, Didi Loteyro, Josie Patria, Ernie Santos, and Ramon Taraya. The Volunteer teachers are: Vangie Hinnencamp, Anna Mestidio, and Lilibeth Brewer.

To expand Eskwela Natin’s community outreach, it invited several outstanding community leaders to join the Board. They are Pete and Vicky Lumbang, Sarah Enloe (President of the Maharlika Lions Club), Raul Bernaldez, and Raeselle Lao.

The coming year 2015 should be another exciting year for Eskwela Natin, especially with the repeat performance of the University of the Philippines Concert Chorus, which will begin its 2015 world tour in May.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Political-polls-and-surveysIn today’s age of information, news travels fast in various forms of media. From the traditional newspapers and TV news channels to the phenomenal social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others. Social media has taken command of the Internet-based information-sharing industry. It allows “netizens” to practice their independent brand of journalism.

Indeed, social media has revolutionized societal and cultural norms. It also brought politics to a new playing field; particularly the way people elect their leaders. With a more “informed electorate” today, better leaders are voted into office, which begs the question: How do you inform the electorate? And what kind of information do you share with them?

For politicians, this is where public relations or “PR” comes into play. The objective of PR is to influence public opinion to make it favorable to a politician. Good PR produces positive results and bad PR produces negative results. It’s no surprise then that politicians hire PR professionals, political consultants, and image-builders to make them look good in the eyes – and minds – of the people.

If there was one politician who had good and effective PR in the past five years, it was Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay. As a result, he had maintained very high marks – highest among the national elected officials including President Aquino – in approval, voting preference, and trust ratings.

Debunking a myth

Myth-vs-truthHis PR strategy projected him as a good mayor who built Makati City to what it is today. Indeed, Makati City had become a model metropolis where financial institutions, major corporations, and high-rise condominiums are located and Binay claimed credit for its success.

But Vicky Garchitorena, who served as a senior government official and a former executive of the Ayala Corporation, debunked it. In reaction to my column, “Binay’s Achilles’ heel” (December 8, 2014), she said: “It is also not true at all that Binay made Makati what it is. As everyone knows, Makati was already the premium city before Binay even became Mayor in 1986. Makati was the vision of Col. Joseph McMicking, which the Zobels continued, built on, and modernized from generation to generation. In fact, a very large part of what Makati is known for is within the Central Business District (CBD), which has been constantly refreshed and redeveloped by Ayala Corporation and Ayala Land in coordination with MACEA [Makati Commercial Estate Association], an association of all the companies and businesses in the CBD. For example, the underpasses and pedestrian overpasses were primarily funded by MACEA. So Binay cannot say that what he has done in Makati he will do for the country.”

Indeed, Makati City was already a vibrant and burgeoning commercial center back in the early 1960s when the Zobels developed a huge tract of land into a planned community. By 1986, when then president Cory Aquino appointed Binay as mayor of Makati City, “Ayala,” as the CBD was commonly known, was already a fully developed commercial center and a magnet for new businesses.

Image-building

Campaigning or working?

Campaigning or working?

When Binay assumed the Vice Presidency, President Benigno Aquino III offered him a position in his administration. Binay asked for the huge Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). But knowing that Binay had presidential ambitions, Aquino might have had some mixed feelings about giving his friend the powerful position of DILG Secretary. It would have been the perfect platform for Binay to launch a presidential run for 2016.

Instead, Aquino named him Chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) — or “Housing Czar” – and gave him the Coconut Palace, a once-opulent relic of the Marcos era, as his office. It may not be as powerful as the DILG post but Binay used it to reach out to the poor, which is a large voting bloc. He traveled a lot to meet his “constituency.” He even became an advocate for the release of Filipino “drug mules” imprisoned and sentenced to death in China. In a big PR job, Binay went to China twice to plead for the release of the Filipinos facing execution. He probably knew that he’d fail to free them but that in itself was a PR victory for him. The “masa” loved him for that.

Jejomar Binay's name on relief goods.

Jejomar Binay’s name on relief goods.

During the Typhoon Yolanda relief operation, Binay went to Tacloban City to distribute relief goods for the typhoon victims. It was a perfect setting for him to promote himself. He had his name stamped on the relief goods, which made it appear that he donated the relief goods.

Binay’s PR men projected him to be the common man’s benefactor, an attempt to build his support base for the upcoming presidential elections. It’s no wonder then that his numbers in the Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS) polls were in the high 70s to the high 80s. His poll ratings were consistently higher than Aquino’s. Indeed, over a span of five years, Binay built a formidable façade of high poll ratings. Yes, he was on his way to the apex of power, his boyhood dream.

Double whammy

Pulse-Asia-survey-Sept-Nov-2014Not too fast, Jojo. In March 2014, Pulse Asia surveys show voter preference for Binay at 40%, which increased to 41% in July. Then the unthinkable happened. In September, his façade began to crack when his rating dropped to 31%. Last November, it nose-dived to 26%.

Pulse-Asia-survey-March-Sept-Nov-2014The same Pulse Asia polls also showed grim results on Binay’s approval and trust ratings. Last March, his approval rating was 87% and trust rating was 86%. Six months later in September his approval rating dropped to 66% and trust rating down to 64%. The latest polls taken in November show that his approval rating fell to 45% and trust rating to 44%. In a matter of eight months, Binay lost about 50% of his support base. What the heck happened?

Evidently, Binay’s refusal to testify before the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee investigating allegations of corruption against Binay and his family had a lot to do with his poor ratings. An SWS survey showed that 79% of the respondents want him to face the Senate and address the allegations. And to make matters worse, Binay backed out of a scheduled debate with Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV last November. That’s double whammy for Binay.

Quo vadis, Jojo?

Binay-nooseWhat has gone wrong? For five years, Binay’s PR men had adroitly packaged him as an “honest and incorruptible” public servant. He was Teflon-coated, untouchable. He played the politics of political polls like a seasoned chess grandmaster. But the two bad moves he made may have irreversibly damaged his “Mr. Clean” image that he had carefully choreographed over the three decades he was in politics. And like chess, one bad move could cost you the game.

Meanwhile, the social media is abuzz with all kinds of anti-Binay postings. And it’s going to get worse as we get closer to Election Day. And, oh, by the way, watch his poll numbers go into freefall.

At the end of the day, there is no better PR than to be truly honest and incorruptible. That’s the best way to win in the politics of political polls.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Young Jejomar Binay

Young Jejomar Binay

Up until a few months ago, Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Cabauatan Binay Sr. was on top of the world. He was untouchable and invincible. He probably thought that he was second only to the Holy Family. Perhaps he was ordained to holiness – or greatness — at birth when his parents named him “Jejomar,” a contraption of the names Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. Indeed, Jejomar seemed to have possessed an “agimat” – amulet – that gave him mystical powers, and kept him out of harm’s way… until now. Then the whole world turned upside down. He was no longer untouchable or invincible. His agimat must have worn off.

But agimat or no agimat, what happened to Binay was unavoidable. The moment he declared his candidacy for president in 2016, all guns were trained on him. And within two months his popularity ratings plummeted 10% in surveys. Such sudden drop in his popularity ratings indicates that Binay – who had enjoyed “very high” marks in popularity since he was elected vice-president – has one vulnerability; that is, he may not be the “Mr. Clean” that he claims to be.

Binay with Cory Aquino during the EDSA Revolution

Binay with Cory Aquino during the EDSA Revolution

As salvo after salvo from his accusers hit him, he might turn out to be the most corrupt public official since the late dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos. But the difference is that no past president before him had been accused of massive corruption before assuming the presidency.  In the case of Binay, all these allegations of corruption happened within a span of three decades, from the time the late President Cory Aquino appointed him Mayor of Makati City after Mayor Nemesio I. Yabut died while in office during the EDSA “People Power” Revolution. Since then, Binay, his wife Elenita, and son Junjun held power over one of the richest – if not the richest – city governments in the country.

Can of worms

Lord-of-Makati.2In March 2001, the first exposé of corruption against the Binays surfaced. Investigative journalist Miriam Grace A. Go published a detailed account of questionable properties allegedly acquired by the Binays. Titled “Lord of Makati,” it said: “In less than a decade, Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay, former chair of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and former mayor of Makati, accumulated at least P80 million worth of real estate properties in Makati and Batangas, which he kept undeclared, our investigation shows. The amount excludes P12 million in declared investments, as well as other businesses that he and his friends reportedly control through dummy corporations.”

But his agimat must have been working for him then. All he did was deny those allegations, and zingo! his problems went away. Since then, “denial” had become an effective modus operandi to deal with allegations of corruption. In fact, his mastery of the art of denial has become legendary in political circles.

Indeed, it didn’t matter what allegations – ghost employees, overpriced equipment and supplies, kickbacks on projects and purchases, and grease money extorted from businessmen – were hurled at him during elections; all he had to do was deny, deny, and deny. He was so good at it that he could wring himself free from any situation and come out of it fresh and unblemished. That was then.

Don Michael Corleone

Don Michael Corleone

Now, that Binay is running for President, he’s faced with the biggest challenge in his political life. And guess what his first campaign promise was? He vowed to continue President Aquino’s anti-corruption drive. Whoa! That would be like Don Michael Corleone promising the American voters that if they elected him President, he’d stop organized crime in America. Surmise it to say, the difference between organized crime in America and institutionalized corruption in the Philippines is in form only, but the substance is the same — it’s all about money. Yes, dirty money.

He also promised to continue the “daang matuwid” (straight path) that Aquino started. Makes one wonder what “daang matuwid” really means to him. As the recent Pork Barrel scam and questionable Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) turned out to be, “daang matuwid” seemed to project the notion that the shortest distance between a politician’s pockets and his secret bank accounts is a straight path. With the Philippines’ strict secret bank deposit laws, corrupt officials, gambling lords, vice lords, and those involved in illicit trades, hiding their loot in Philippine banks is safer than depositing them in Swiss banks. Indeed, corrupt officials need not leave the country to stash their ill-gotten wealth; they can just go to their local banks and deposit it.

“Invisible exodus”

Binay Dynasty

Binay Dynasty

Many believe that if Binay were elected President, it would be “business as usual” for a lot of politicians. Sensing that Binay appears to be unbeatable, politicians of various stripes began jumping into the Binay bandwagon. A recent news report said: “At least 48 of the 120-member Liberal Party have so far trooped to Vice President Jejomar Binay’s camp to signify their intention to back his presidential bid, in the process defecting and abandoning Interior Secretary Mar Roxas II, the LP’s presumptive standard bearer. The ‘inevitable exodus’ was disclosed during the news conference of the members of the House Independent Minority Bloc.”

In my article, “Balimbing Republic revisited” (December 3, 2014), I wrote: “With the 2016 presidential elections fast approaching, political realignments are beginning to change the political landscape of the country. New faces replace old faces. But don’t take oldies for granted. They have a trove of election tricks.

“The question is: Is Vice President Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay, an ‘oldie’ favorite, going to be the next president, or are the people going to go with a new face in the arena like Sen. Grace Poe?”

The Grace factor

Grace Poe

Grace Poe

Although Poe denied any ambitions to run for higher office in 2016, many believe that her decision is not set in stone. Surveys show that Poe is only 10% behind Binay. With a year and half away from Election Day, Poe’s popularity ratings would rise the moment she enters the presidential derby.

If there was one opponent that Binay is scared to face, it’s Poe. It is no wonder then that Binay’s camp has been trying hard to convince Poe to run as Binay’s vice-presidential running mate. If she accepts the offer, a Binay-Poe tandem would be unbeatable.

But why would Poe team up with someone who is tarnished with corruption charges? However, if Poe runs for President, it would give the voters a choice. And with Binay’s Achilles’ heel exposed in the open, he needs a more powerful agimat and lots of prayer to beat Poe.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Balimbing

Balimbing

In the aftermath of the “People Power” that deposed President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, the word “balimbing” became popular. The “balimbing,” or star fruit, became the mark of a turncoat. The star fruit’s cross-section is shaped like a five-sided star; thus, a person who changes political loyalty is called “balimbing.”

Overnight, after Marcos relinquished the presidency, thousands of his supporters abandoned him and pledged their loyalty to newly proclaimed President Cory Aquino. The turncoats were welcomed to the Aquino camp. After all, the persons responsible for the removal of Marcos — Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos — were former allies of Marcos. Their followers simply followed them to the Aquino camp.

People Power 1986

People Power 1986

The Marcos overthrow was called “People Power” revolution because it drew hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) in Quezon City where the Marcos military loyalists were at a standoff with the anti-Marcos group led by Ramos and Enrile. The end came when Marcos called US Senator Paul Laxalt to seek his advice. Sen. Laxalt told Marcos to “cut and cut cleanly.”

In my opinion, the EDSA I revolution — as it is called today — was not a revolution; it was a coup d’état. Ditto with EDSA II in 2001 which removed President Joseph Estrada from power. As a matter of fact, except for the short-lived 1896 revolution, or “unfinished revolution” as called by the Filipino nationalists, the Philippines never had a true revolution.

Some people called the 1896 revolution a “Tagalog revolt,” which culminated with the declaration of Philippine Independence in 1898. But before the revolutionary government of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo could take roots in the whole archipelago, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for $20 million.

During the 1896 revolution, there were already balimbings in the ranks of the Magdalo faction of Aguinaldo and the Magdiwang faction of Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio. Members of Magdalo would switch to Magdiwang and vice versa. After the execution of Andres Bonifacio by the Aguinaldo forces, most of the leaders of Magdiwang joined the Magdalo, mainly for self-preservation.

During the commonwealth government, there were two political parties, the Federalista Party favoring statehood and the Nacionalista Party favoring independence. After the independence from the United States on July 4, 1946, the Liberal Party was born. The biggest “balimbing” at that time was former Nacionalista stalwart Manuel Roxas who changed his party affiliation to the Liberal Party and was elected President in 1946.

Ramon Magsaysay

Ramon Magsaysay

Roxas died in office in 1948 and was succeeded by Vice President Elpidio Quirino, also a Nacionalista-turned-Liberal. Quirino won a four-year term the following year. He appointed Ramon Magsaysay as Secretary of Defense. Magsaysay was effective and became popular fighting the Hukbalahap (Huk) guerillas. However, he resigned due to a dispute with Quirino. Magsaysay left the Liberty Party in 1953 and became the Nacionalista Party’s presidential candidate. Magsaysay, an Ilocano from Zambales, defeated his former boss, Quirino, another Ilocano, by a landslide and won in all provinces except Ilocos Sur, Quirino’s province, and Ilocos Norte, the bailiwick of Congressman Ferdinand Marcos, a rising star in the Liberal Party at that time.

Magsaysay died in a plane crash in 1957 and Vice President Carlos P. Garcia, a Nacionalista from Bohol (with Ilocano roots), took over the presidency. Garcia won election later that year with Diosdado Macapagal, a Liberal, winning the vice presidency. Macapagal won the presidency in 1961. In 1965, when Macapagal ran for re-election, Ferdinand Marcos, his rival within the Liberal Party, bolted the party and joined the Nacionalista Party. Hundreds of Marcos followers also left the Liberal Party and joined the Nacionalista Party. Marcos captured the nomination and went on to defeat Macapagal in the election. Marcos won reelection over the Liberal Party’s Sergio Osmena, Jr. in 1969.

Cory Aquino

Cory Aquino

When Cory Aquino took over the presidency after EDSA I in 1986, hundreds of former Marcos loyalists crossed over to the Aquino camp. In 1987, the Philippine constitution was changed extending the presidential term to six years with no reelection. Her successor, Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, won a presidential term for himself. Again, hundreds of opposition party leaders switched to Ramos’ party. After Ramos, Joseph Estrada was elected and the same thing happened, balimbings defected to Estrada’s party. When Estrada was deposed in 2001 (EDSA II) due to the jueteng scandals, Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — with the help of Estrada’s Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Angelo Reyes, who switched his loyalty to Arroyo — took over the presidency. Estrada was jailed on charges of plunder. Overnight, loyalties changed.

When Gloria ran for re-election in 2004, Fernando Poe Jr., a movie superstar ran against her. Poe was ahead in the early part of the campaign, which caused a bandwagon effect with the opposition leaders. However, Arroyo came from behind and defeated Poe in the election. Poe immediately filed charges of cheating against Arroyo. Then Poe died of heart attack and Poe’s widow, Susan Roces, withdrew the charges.

Jojo Binay and Erap Estrada

Jojo Binay and Erap Estrada

Election-cheating was common. There was a joke that says: “In the Philippines, there are no losers, only the winner and those who were cheated.” He who cheats better, wins; and party-switching is part of the political process.

With a government full of balimbings, it makes one wonder if the government really changed when a new President was elected. It’s all the same banana, or more aptly, the same “balimbing” running the show regardless of who was elected President.

With political power in the hands of a few, the Philippines is governed by oligarchy. Virtually all of the provinces have political dynasties that control the provincial and local governments. It is expected that during a presidential election, their political allegiance would be driven by their personal agenda. They would switch parties if that were what it would take to get political concessions. As kingmakers, they play a key role in influencing the outcome of the election in their political turfs in favor of the presidential candidate they support. Indeed, a presidential candidate who gets the most balimbings, wins.

Grace Poe

Grace Poe

With the 2016 presidential elections fast approaching, political realignments are beginning to change the political landscape of the country. New faces replace old faces. But don’t take oldies for granted. They have a trove of election tricks.

The question is: Is Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, an “oldie” favorite, going to be the next president, or are the people going to go with a new face in the arena like Sen. Grace Poe?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)