February 2016

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Bongbong Marcos and Chiz Escudero

Bongbong Marcos and Chiz Escudero

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Francis “Chiz” Escudero are not related by blood or political affiliation, but their provenance – Bongbong’s biological roots and Chiz’s political roots — comes from the same person: Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. Bongbong is the biological son of the late dictator and the Escudero political clan was deeply associated with the Marcoses during the martial law years. Chiz’s father, the late Sorsogon Representative Salvador “Sonny” Escudero III was the last agriculture minister of the Marcos regime.

But while Bongbong and Chiz belong to opposing political parties, their personal relationship seems to be more professional if not impersonal. Indeed, there is no reason why the two political “gladiators” would end up fighting each other to death… that is, politically speaking.

However, the intensity of their rivalry, which is now warming up, would increase in crescendo over the next few weeks, as the May 9th election gets nearer. The question is: Who will fire the first salvo? Heck, who cares? But once the shooting starts, all hell is going to break loose!

Right now, Chiz and Bongbong are probably sizing each other up, probing the other’s weaknesses, particularly their Achilles’ heels. And both of them know that their current popularity ratings are at a statistical dead heat, in which case they have to go negative and pierce the other’s armor to gain advantage. It wouldn’t be surprising if, at this very moment, their “black op” squads were busy digging up dirt in the other’s backyard hoping to uncover some skeletons.

Ghost of Machiavelli

Machiavelli-quote-love-fearAm I beginning to sound like it’s war out there? Hell, yes! And it’s a war where not only the strong survives, it’s also survival of the cheatest! As someone once said, “In Philippine elections, there are no losers, only the winners and those who were cheated.” Can we then say that for a candidate to win he has to resort to cheating? Clearly, it all comes down to using the Machiavellian mantra “The end justifies the means.”

Indeed, the ghost of Machiavelli seems to play a role in every ambitious politician’s game plan these days. In the case of Bongbong and Chiz, one wonders that while they’re both considered formidable presidential timbers with strong political pedigrees, why didn’t they run for president instead of playing second fiddle to two presidential candidates who may not even be around or disqualified to run for president?

Bongbong vs. Chiz

Bongbong, Miriam, and Imelda (behind).

Bongbong, Miriam, and Imelda (behind).

In the case of Bongbong, his presidential running mate is Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, one of the fightingest politicians who came close to winning the presidential election in 1992. Yes, Miriam is a good – nay, fantastic! – choice to run under as her vice presidential running mate. However, she is fighting the greatest battle of her life – stage 4 lung cancer, which she claims is now controlled. However, at their kickoff campaign last February 9 in Batac, Ilocos Norte, Miriam told the crowd that Bongbong is the “best person” to succeed her potential position as president “if something happens to her.” Indeed, the odds are great that Bongbong would ascend to the presidency byway of presidential succession.

Grace and Chiz.

Grace and Chiz.

In the case of Chiz, his presidential running mate, Sen. Grace Poe, is facing disqualification charges against her before the Supreme Court in regard to her citizenship status and residency. If Grace were disqualified from running, then Chiz would end up without a standard bearer. He would be like the Japanese “ronin” of old, a samurai whose master had died. And he’d be campaigning solo for the rest of the campaign season. Is it good or bad? I’d say neither. Actually, Chiz could turn the situation around into a winning strategy. Being a “ronin,” he can find a “master” in any of the top three presidential candidates: Jejomar Binay, Mar Roxas or Rodrigo Duterte. They all have the potential of winning but their respective vice presidential running mates – Gregorio Honasan, Leni Robredo, and Alan Peter Cayetano – are no match against Chiz… or Bongbong, who, like Chiz, could also end up a masterless “ronin.”

But regardless of whether Chiz and Bongbong become a “ronin,” it shouldn’t make a lot of difference; that is, either one could win the vice presidency on their own strengths and resources. And whoever wins would become a strong candidate for president in 2022.

Taste for power

Vice-presidentiables: Escudero, Robredo, Marcos, Honasan, and Cayetano.

Vice-presidentiables: Escudero, Robredo, Marcos, Honasan, and Cayetano.

In my article, “The 2022 presidential derby is on” (October 16, 2015), I wrote: “As I have postulated earlier, whoever wins the vice presidency in 2016 would be the next president in 2022, which begs the question: Of the six [only five left now] vice presidential candidates in 2016 – Robredo, Escudero, Trillanes [he’s out], Cayetano, Marcos, and Honasan — who wouldn’t want to run for president in 2022 if he or she were elected vice president in 2016? What I am seeing in my crystal ball is that all of them, with the exception of Honasan, will run for president in 2022. But Honasan, who might not have any inclination to seek the presidency at this time, might have a change of heart midway through his term in 2019 and decide to run for president in 2022. Once he tastes power, he can get used to it. Indeed, power is aphrodisiac: you taste it once; you’d want more… and more.

“With all six [only five left] vice presidential candidates who harbor a desire to seek the presidency in 2022, you’d expect each and every one of them to use all resources they have at their disposal to win – by all means — the vice presidency in 2016. It would be shooting two birds with one stone; whoever we elect vice president in 2016, we’re also electing president in 2022.”

Three-way battle royale

The latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted last February 5-7 showed Chiz and Bongbong tied in first place with 26% ratings. What is interesting is that Bongbong overcame Chiz’s three-point lead in the SWS survey conducted on January 8-10, 2016. But this is a small gap compared to the SWS survey on December 12-14, 2015 that showed Chiz at 30% and Bongbong at 19%, a whopping 11-point difference. That was the biggest gap between Chiz and Bongbong since March 20-23, 2015 when Chiz’s popularity rating was at 6% and Bongbong at 3%.

Leni and her late husband Jesse Robredo.

Leni and her late husband Jesse Robredo.

Interestingly, Leni Robredo at 19% is not too far behind Bongbong in the latest SWS survey. Can Leni catch up with either Chiz or Bongbong? With President Aquino’s support and the Liberal Party’s huge war chest, she can prevail over Chiz and Bongbong. What’s going for her is she’s untainted and the wife of the popular late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo. Indeed, what we’re seeing here is a three-way battle royale.

But barring a bloody and dirty battle between the two ronin – Chiz and Bongbong – that could end up with both of them losing out to Leni, these two heirs to two powerful dynasties – the Marcoses of Ilocandia and the Escuderos of Bicolandia – would put all their resources to use to win – by all means – the vice presidency. And this is where Bongbong might have an edge because of the Marcoses’ reputedly amassed wealth, which, if true, could make a lot of difference.

Both Chiz and Bongbong have one shot at the vice presidency. And as I said before, it would be like shooting two birds with one stone; whoever is elected vice president in 2016, would be elected president in 2022.

Yes, the battle for the 2022 presidency has begun!

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Binay, Duterte, Poe, Roxas, and Santiago

Binay, Duterte, Poe, Roxas, and Santiago

By the looks of it, the May 9, 2016 presidential election could turn out to be a hellishly contentious battle royale. With five major presidential candidates, the outcome of the elections is predictably unpredictable. Indeed, recent presidential preference surveys showed see-sawing and criss-crossing ratings among four of the five major candidates, to wit: Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sen. Grace Poe, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas.

Trailing far behind them is Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, whose anemic – if not pathetic – ratings, would, under normal circumstances, classify her as a “spoiler.” But the forthcoming presidential election would by no means be under normal circumstances. There are just too many variables. Some are known variables, some are unknown, and a few are unknown “unknown,” foremost of which is how the Supreme Court is going to treat Poe’s status as a “foundling” – that is, a person whose parents were unknown.

Judicial voodooism

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

There is nothing wrong with being a foundling except when you want to be president of the Philippines. However, a foundling under normal circumstances could do anything a natural-born Filipino could do. But under the Philippine Constitution, a person who is not a natural-born Filipino citizen is not qualified to run for the office of president, vice president, senator or representative. Is that discriminatory? Some people – including a few Supreme Court (SC) justices – say it is so. And that is why the high court is hearing oral arguments to no end, which makes one wonder: Why can’t these supposedly defenders of the Constitution interpret such simple provisions of the law. Instead, some of them seem to be threading into the realm of “judicial voodooism.” And after four oral arguments, their number has increased to five justices – known as the Sereno bloc, most of whom are appointees of President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III — who are now reportedly inclined to cut Poe some slack on her status as a “foundling.” All they need now is to convince three more justices into agreeing to their “voodoo” interpretation of the Constitution.

Carpio Doctrine

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

But several justices led by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio are of the opinion that because Poe is a foundling, she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen but may be considered naturalized Filipino citizen. He said that the Constitution only allows natural-born Filipino citizens to run for president. And this is the gist of Poe’s disqualification case.

Lots of questions, no answers

Supreme-Court-7With the ballots – with Poe included as a presidential candidate – ready to be printed, what do you think would happen if the SC disqualified her after the ballots were already printed? This would give the voters enough reasons to demand reprinting the ballot without her name on it. But what if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) rejected their demands and proceeded with the election? With Poe leading the pack with the highest approval rating, do you think the four other candidates would take it sitting down? And what do you think would their supporters do? Indeed, there are lots of questions but no answers, which makes one wonder: Is this the perfect recipe for another EDSA uprising?

It’s for this very reason that Chief Justice Sereno should – nay, must! – expedite the disqualification case against Poe. Failure to do so would be tantamount to grave abuse of power. And to think that she’ll be the country’s top magistrate until 2030 makes one wonder where is the country heading?

Now, here is the stinger. Ready? Eleven of the Supreme Court justices will be retiring during the term of the next president, possible Poe. That would give her or whoever is elected the power to appoint their replacements. That would give the next president virtual control over the three branches of government. But one can argue that regardless of who is elected president, he or she would appoint 11 Supreme Court justices. And this is where character, integrity, honesty, and competence are what voters should be basing their choice for president on May 9.

Least evil

Duterte: Gangster or Gang-buster?

Duterte: Gangster or Gang-buster?

Given all the issues raised against the five major candidates, it is going to be hard deciding who among them is the best man – or woman – for the job? But here is the problem with this question: The candidates are hard to qualify as to who is the “best” because none of them had been a president before. However, their character, integrity, honesty, and competence can be weighed by quantifying their “excess baggage.” In other words, it is presumed that they all have excess baggage. Is it then fair to presume that they are “evil” in varying degrees? If so, then let me reframe my original question: Who among the candidates is the least evil?

So, who do you think is the least evil? I’ll leave it to my readers to decide that. But to highlight some of the excess baggage that the candidates carry, here are some for your discrimination: Jejomar Binay is corrupt to the core (kurakot kuno). Grace Poe lacks the experience (and therefore “incompetent”), and she is not natural-born Filipino (kano kuno) and she lied about her citizenship and residency. In regard to Duterte, the people are divided between those who call him a gangster and those who revere him as a gang-buster or “The Punisher,” and some liken him to the late disciplinarian Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. Roxas is honest but some people think he is incompetent (walang alam kuno) and some call him “Mr. Palenke,” a derogatory moniker. And while Miriam Defensor Santiago is reputedly incorruptible, her detractors called her “Brenda” (“brain damage” kuno) when she ran for president in 1992.

So there you go. You can now select who you believe is the “least evil” among the five candidates. Do you prefer an allegedly corrupt politician to someone who allegedly lied about her citizenship and residency? How about between an allegedly incompetent person and one who is allegedly mentally unstable? And how about between an allegedly corrupt politician and an honest but allegedly incompetent politician? And so on.

Birds of a feather

Then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administers the oath of office to Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

Then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administers the oath of office to Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

Now if you take a look at a different perspective, the danger of electing the most evil of the candidates takes a quantum leap. Take for instance if the one elected is corrupt to the core: Do you think that he or she would have the character to appoint honest and incorruptible jurists to the Supreme Court? Could it be that the character of the president would somehow be reflected in the character of the person he or she appoints to the high court? Does the mantra “Birds of a feather…” apply – perhaps subconsciously — in the selection process? Look at former prez Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is now detained pending plunder charges against her. Her appointee as Ombudsman resigned to avoid impeachment. Her appointee as Chief Justice was impeached and removed from office. Her appointee as Secretary of National Defense and subsequently Secretary of Energy – a retired four-star general – committed suicide after being accused of corruption while he was the AFP of Staff.

In regard to Arroyo’s 16 appointees during her two presidential terms, there were at one time 14 of them serving during Aquino’s early years in office, of which – not surprisingly — about 10 of them voted as a bloc in ruling against most of Aquino’s executive orders.

Suffice it to say, the next president will be in a position to exercise such immense power that would transform the Supreme Court into a body that would reflect the philosophy – and character – of the appointing president. Given the chance of choosing among Binay, Poe, Duterte, Roxas, and Santiago, the Philippine electorate has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to chart the direction of the Supreme Court by electing the least evil of the presidential candidates.

While some say that corruption is the number one issue against presidential candidates, it hasn’t really stopped a corrupt politician from getting elected. Take for instance Binay who has several plunder charges filed against him. Yet his approval ratings have remained high. However, one can argue that they’re all corrupt!

In the case of Poe, she is accused of misrepresenting – some call it lying – her citizenship status and meeting the 10-year residency. And that smacks right into the issue of character, which begs the question: Does she deserve to be the leader of more than 100 million Filipino citizens when her own citizenship is mired in controversy?

At the end of the day, it comes down to the question: Should the people vote for Grace or anybody but Grace (ABG)?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Is Grace Poe P-Noy's "secret candidate"?

Is Grace Poe P-Noy’s “secret candidate”?

With the 2016 campaign season officially starting on February 9, the “rumble” among the five major presidential candidates and their VP sidekicks has begun. And for the next 90 days of intense campaigning – and plotting – the race is pretty tight particularly among the top three contenders: Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sen. Grace Poe, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. The other two, former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago don’t appear to have an iota of a chance – short of a miracle – of winning.

Binay vs. Poe

Binay vs. Poe

Meanwhile, Grace Poe who is at a statistical dead heat with Binay — the top contender — is fighting for her political life trying to convince the Supreme Court (SC) that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen, which is a key criterion for anyone who is running for president of the Philippines. In addition, she’s also trying to prove that she meets the 10-year residency in the Philippines, which she has a hard time coming up with the right calculus to prove it.

Duterte: Gangster or Gang-buster?

Duterte: Gangster or Gang-buster?

The third contender, Rodrigo Duterte, who is just a tad below Poe in the polls is dividing the people into two groups: (1) Those who passionately love him, and (2) Those who hate him with a passion. And so far, the Duterte-lovers are just a few steps ahead of the Duterte-haters, who are trying to paint him as a gangster and not a gang-buster.

On the other hand, Mar Roxas must already know by now that “nice guys finish last.” Instead of doing something spectacularly impressive to voters, Roxas earned the moniker “Mr. Palenke” (Mr. Marketplace) for his penchant for visiting public markets. He said that he spends a lot of time in public markets because they are the “centers of commerce” in a community. But shouldn’t he be telling the voters how he would lead the country and leave the “palenke” business to others?

As for Santiago, whose poll numbers hover around the 5% mark, having ran for president more than two decades ago and lost by a small margin to former prez Fidel V. Ramos, her attempt for a comeback is not only wishful thinking but ridiculously quixotic. And to pick Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as her running mate makes the late dictator’s son and namesake look like Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s sidekick.

Secret alliances

Noy-Bi: "secret alliance"?

Noy-Bi: “secret alliance”?

Recently, there were talks of “secret alliances,” not among the presidential candidates but between them and the vice presidential running mates of other presidential candidates. Sounds confusing? Let me explain. First of all, unlike the U.S. where straight-ticket voting is required for the presidential candidate and his running mate, in the Philippines split-ticket voting is allowed, which could end up with the election of president and vice president from opposing political parties. This happened in 2010 when Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino Jr. and Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, who belong to opposing parties, won in the presidency and vice presidency, respectively. Aquino’s vice presidential running mate, Mar Roxas, lost to Binay while Binay’s presidential running mate, Joseph Estrada, lost to Aquino.

Chiz Escudero and Jojo Binay

Chiz Escudero and Jojo Binay

But what is really strange was that the split-ticket election victory of Aquino and Binay was the result of a “secret alliance” between Aquino and Binay – it became to be known as Noy-Bi – that was engineered by then frustrated presidential wannabe Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero. However, Aquino never admitted that he was privy to the Noy-Bi clandestine pact. Aquino insisted that he only worked for the victory of the Noy-Mar (Aquino-Roxas) tandem and disclaimed any knowledge of the Noy-Bi “underground” campaign. Roxas grudgingly accepted Aquino’s word. But what else could he have done?

Surmise it to say, it was because of Aquino’s “utang na loob” (debt of honor) to Roxas that compelled him to “anoint” Roxas to be the Liberal Party’s presidential standard-bearer for the 2016 elections. It’s a payback for Roxas’ withdrawal from seeking the LP’s nomination in favor of Aquino who suddenly became a “presidentiable” when his mother, the late President Cory Aquino, passed away in August 2009.

But Roxas’ anemic poll numbers make Aquino wary of Roxas losing the presidential election, not out of loyalty to Roxas — although he professed so – but because of what fate awaits him when he steps down from the presidency.

Nightmares

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in detention.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in detention.

Aquino is probably having nightmares about what the future bodes for him. Indeed, he has every reason to be scared because of what happened to former presidents Joseph “Erap” Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who were both detained on charges of crimes – including non-bailable plunder – that they allegedly committed while in office.

It’s interesting to note that it was Arroyo who pursued the plunder charges against Estrada that landed him in jail and it was Aquino who put Arroyo in detention awaiting trial for a series of plunder cases. Could Aquino’s successor pursue plunder charges and other crimes against him after he leaves office? With the pattern that Arroyo started, Aquino’s successor might send him to jail, too. And there is every reason to do so unless his successor is someone who wouldn’t do it to him… like his pal Roxas. But with Roxas seemingly unelectable, who among the top three contenders would spare him from prosecution? Or is it persecution?

By process of elimination, Binay would most likely go after Aquino because he might – and it’s very likely – be of the belief that Aquino had so much to do about what he claimed was a series of “demolition jobs” against him, including the Senate Blue Ribbon Subcommittee investigation that resulted in its recommendation that criminal charges be filed against Binay and his son, dismissed Makati Mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr. The conventional wisdom is that if Binay won the presidency, he would pursue criminal charges against Aquino including the non-bailable offense of plunder for his involvement in the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which the SC had ruled unconstitutional and illegal. Aquino is also accused of being responsible for the massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.

“Survival of the cheatest”

President Aquino and his appointee Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

President Aquino and his appointee Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Grace Poe, who is Binay’s closest rival, could be kind to Aquino if she were elected president. She could be Aquino’s “insurance” against incarceration. Indeed, many suspect that Poe is Aquino’s “secret candidate.” However, with the disqualification case against her pending before the SC, Aquino couldn’t rely on Poe beating the disqualification case and then beating Binay in the election.

But lately, there is some turnaround of opinions among the SC justices. For one, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno made some remarks that seem to signal her willingness to cut Poe some slack on her status as a “foundling.” She said that the SC had previously ruled that foundlings are presumed to be natural-born Filipinos. She cited two cases where the SC had ruled that the respondents were “presumed to be Filipino citizens even in the absence of evidence that their parents were Filipino citizens.” But here is a crack in Sereno’s argument: The SC ruling merely “presumed” the respondents to be “Filipino citizen,” not “natural-born Filipino citizen” as the Constitution requires of persons running for president of the Philippines. But if a majority of the justices agrees with her, then Poe would be delivered from limbo and allowed to run for president.

The only issue that remains to be dealt with is the 10-year residency requirement. But if the SC could rule that a foundling can be “presumed” a natural-born Filipino, then it would surprise no one that it can also come up with some mumbo-jumbo mathematical equation that would add up to 10 years of residency.

Should Poe get the nod of the SC, all she has to do is beat Binay in the May 9 elections. Indeed, Aquino is hedging his future on Poe winning the presidential election. But there is no certainty that Poe could beat Binay… except for one thing: There are no losers in Philippine elections, only the winner and those who were cheated. It’s survival of the cheatest indeed.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Balut-eater.2“Balut” is a popular delicacy in many Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines. In particular, the Philippines is arguably one country where her people not only love balut, they live it! Call it balut mentality or balut syndrome, eating balut is healthy for the body and mind… and, as many Filipino men would attest, it’s aphrodisiac! The male balut lovers call them “macho food” because they’re believed to boost virility and libido. Yes, balut are indeed the Philippines’ “much loved delicacy.”

With all the good things that balut lovers get from eating those fertilized duck eggs – thank God, they’re cooked! — it is no wonder that many Pinoys would eat balut every night. And for those who have extra money to spend, eating half a dozen balut — or more – would make them stronger and ready for action! Indeed, many believe that balut is radioactive, which may be the source of the eater’s strength and stamina.

But before you try eating balut, you need to know a little about it. Pronounced bah-loot, it’s produced by fertilizing duck eggs under the sun and then storing in baskets to keep them warm. After nine days, the eggs are held to a light to see the outline of the embryo inside. About eight days later, the fertilized eggs – the balut — are ready to be cooked just like cooking hard-boiled chicken eggs.

The vendors then put the cooked balut in buckets of sand to retain the warmth. They go around neighborhoods at sundown and shout “bah looot… bah looot…” They’re sold with small packets of salt and they’re eaten best while still warm.

Kinds of balut

There are three kinds of balut, two of which are okay — the fertilized balut and the unfertilized penoy. The ideal fertilized balut is 17 days old. It is called “balot sa puti” (“wrapped in white”). After 18 days, it becomes recognizable, complete with a beak, head, claws, body, and bones. However, after a few more days it becomes too old and you’d see feathers on the chick, which many people don’t like eating.

On the other hand, if after nine to 12 days old the chick has remained unfertilized, it is called penoy and it looks, smells, and tastes just like a regular hard-boiled chicken egg, albeit a little more expensive.

But the third kind is very bad. It’s the undeveloped duck egg called “abnoy” or “bugok,” which means, rotten. When you crack a balut and it smells awful, don’t eat it!

Believe it or not

 But in Pateros, Rizal where the production of balut is the town’s main industry, the people have a way of putting an abnoy to good use. Are you ready for this? They use abnoy to make “bibingkang abnoy.” And just like the smelly abnoy where it’s made from, bibingkang abnoy smells and tastes awful. It’s cooked like a fried egg torta and dipped in spicy vinegar. But take it with a grain of salt when you hear abnoy lovers say, “It smells like hell but tastes like heaven!”

However, if you’re adventurous enough (this is a challenge to CNN’s Anthony Bourdain of the “Parts Unknown” series) and wouldn’t want to miss the experience of eating bibingkang abnoy, here’s some suggestions to follow: “Don’t breath, cover your nose, grab a small slice of the bibingka, dip it in vinegar to enhance its taste, bite it, don’t puke, feel the exotic taste.” [Source: ivanlakwatsero.com]

How to eat balut

Balut-how-to-eat.11. Crack a small hole on the rounded part of the shell.

2. Chip away pieces of the shell until the hole is the size of a bottle cap. Pierce the membrane and suck the broth-like liquid (albumen of the duck fetus).

3. Make the opening bigger. Sprinkle the inside with “rough sea salt,” which is provided by the balut vendor.

4. Enlarge the opening so you can bite off the yolk (yellow part).

Balut-and-salt5. Eat the chick. The hardened white lump is edible but most people don’t eat it.

Balut syndrome

Some people are like balut. While they might love balut for any perceived benefits, some people live their lives like balut, especially the politicians. And just like the three kinds of balut (balut, penoy, and abnoy), politicians are categorized in the same manner. The penoy politician is someone who is new in politics: a novice or a rookie. Like a penoy, they’re cooked but unfertilized. They’re new in the political game so they haven’t been exposed to corruption yet. But after being exposed to corruption or “fertilized,” the penoy politician transforms into a balut politician – corrupt and greedy. However, just like a duck egg that didn’t develop properly, that politician might turn out to be an abnoy – rotten to the core!

But regardless of whether these politicians are penoy, balut or abnoy, the people keep on electing them from the president down to the barangay captains. It’s a phenomenon particularly in Philippine politics where people look up to their politicians as their benefactors. A lot of times politicians are asked to be the godfather (ninong) of people getting married or baptized. And when someone dies, the politicians are there to give financial aid to the bereaved. Indeed, it is not uncommon for politicians to dole out or give small amounts of money to their constituents in time of need. And for these acts of charity from their benefactors (padrinos), the constituents would be forever grateful and will vote for them come election time, which begs the question: Where does the politicians’ “charity fund” come from?

The beneficiaries (constituents) know where the “charity fund” originated. They come from the padrinos’ ill-gotten wealth that was generated through corruption. In order to keep the flow of “dirty money” coming in, the politicians use bribes and kickbacks to grease corrupt government officials and functionaries. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps the politicians in power and, sadly, the people in perpetual bondage. Yep, the politicians are just like bibingkang abnoy: Their corrupt practices smell like hell, but their dirty money tastes like heaven. That in essence is the politics of balut.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)