March 2016

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte

Not only can a presidential candidate with a shoestring budget win but when he also promises to stamp out corruption, he would be the butt of jokes. He’d be called a nuisance candidate or a quixotic wannabe, someone who dreams big and accomplishes nothing. And in today’s big-bucks presidential campaigns, it’s like racing the “Indianapolis 500” with a go-kart against the fastest cars ever made. Yes, you can laugh off anyone who’d try to do that. But there’s one candidate who’s doing just that. He goes by the moniker “Digong.” Okay, laugh if you may, but this guy might just pull off the biggest upset in Philippine elections.

Digong, as most voters probably know by now, is Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. He was famous for cleaning his city of crime and drugs. Once the country’s – or Asia’s — murder capital, Davao City is now one of the safest – if not the safest – and cleanest cities in the country. How can anyone do that? Yes, nobody can do that unless you are Digong, feared by criminals and loved by his constituents.

And now Digong Duterte wants to be president of the Philippines? “Hahaha…” That was the reaction of some of the country’s big-time politicos. But that was last October when Digong decided to run for president. Today, these same politicians — some of whom are the most corrupt elected officials — cringe in fear at the thought of what Digong is going to do to them if he wins the presidency. Unthinkable… but the increasing probability of it happening is causing his opponents to worry. And this brings to mind the question: What makes Digong tick?

Gangster or gang-buster

Duterte: Gangster or gang-buster?

Duterte: Gangster or gang-buster?

Digong earned his reputation during the two decades that he was Davao City undisputed political leader. Some people call him a “gangster” for his gangster-style method of fighting the gangsters. But to others, he’s a “gang-buster,” a testament to his “don’t mess with me” way of dealing with criminals.

An urban legend that has been going around the city – and beyond – is the purported existence of a group of vigilantes called the “Davao Death Squad” or “DDS” for short. And this led some people, particularly those who hate and fear him, to claim that DDS stands for “Duterte Death Squad.” He didn’t deny the existence of the DDS; however, he didn’t say it existed either. But one thing for sure, nobody has questioned him about it… ever.

Big spenders

Vice President Jejomar Binay

Vice President Jejomar Binay

But what is apparent is what differs Digong from the rest of the pack. While one can say that several presidential candidates belong to groups controlled by “traditional politicians” – known pejoratively as “trapos” – and their rich patrons, Duterte has so far shunned any association with rich political donors who presumably expect a return of their “investments” in political campaigns. There are quite a few of them who’d give campaign donations to several – if not all – of the candidates as an insurance against a “loss.” In other words, whoever wins, they too win. Yes, they can’t lose unless Digong wins.

Recently, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported that the Roxas-Robredo, Binay-Honasan, Llamanzares-Escudero campaigns have already spent more than P1 billion in TV, radio, and print ads from March 2015 to January 2016.

The data on “pre-campaign ads” were compiled by Nielsen Philippines, an independent research firm. It showed Binay as the biggest spender with P1.05 billion followed closely by Llamanzares with P1.02 billion. Roxas spent P969.2 million while Duterte only spent P146.4 million.

Cojuangco connection

Danding Cojuangco and Grace Poe-Llamanzares

Danding Cojuangco and Grace Poe-Llamanzares

The question is: Where did these tons of money come from? Reaction to Binay is typical: “Well, he’s corrupt so he has all the money to spend.” In the case of Roxas, the Liberal Party raises his campaign funds, and also he comes from a rich family. But Llamanzares — who is running as an independent with no party affiliation, and isn’t in the same league with Binay or Roxas when it comes to finances – seems to have a bottomless well overflowing with money going into her campaign war chest.

Who are her financiers? Speculation ran rife that she’s getting donations from billionaire Danding Cojuangco. It was fueled further when Cojuangco’s Nationalist People’s Coalition endorsed the Llamanzares-Escudero tandem for the upcoming elections. But the rumor ignited a firestorm when Llamanzares took the cudgels for Danding — who was known as the “King of Cronies” during the Marcos regime – when she said that settling the coco levy fund issue is no longer the responsibility of Danding. “The money is now with the government,” she pointed out. Wrong!

It’s interesting to note that Llamanzares recently revealed that her campaign is being lent private aircraft from San Miguel Corporation of which Cojuangco is the chairman.

A recent news report from The Daily Tribune said that Llamanzares’ camp has accepted a total of P150 million in “political donations” from Sun City Holiday Resort owned by gambling mogul Alvin Chau. These donations were reportedly recorded with three cash vouchers issued last year. The Sun City Holiday Resort has been trying to establish a strong foothold in the local gaming industry. The company said it plans to expand its VIP room presence in Solaire and City of Dreams. If the report is true, then Llamanzares might have violated the law.

Social media

Duterte amd Social Media

Duterte amd Social Media

Duterte is up against two powerful and moneyed campaigns – Binay and Llamanzares. But he has taken two relatively inexpensive routes to the presidency. First is his grassroots campaign. Not having enough moolah to pay for expensive TV ads, Digong is taking his campaign to the provinces where TV ads don’t count much. Secondly, he is using social media to reach out to the tens of millions of Filipinos who are connected through the Internet. This “fever” that is rapidly spreading in the social media is unstoppable. And people love to “like” or “share “ it with their friends. It has gone viral and there is no antidote… and it’s free!

Digong is also doing Filipino-style “crowd sourcing.” He’d go alone on stage and attract the people to join him. And the crowds love it. It did not then come as a surprise when a recent Pulse Asia survey commissioned by ABS-CBN showed that Duterte and Llamanzares are at a statistical dead heat for first place! And Binay who had been the top choice for a long time is now down to third place.

With six weeks left in the campaign period, the next three weeks would be critical because after that the leading candidate’s bandwagon will swell as voters around the country jump in. And this begs the question: Can Digong pull off an upset?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Grace-Poe-Supreme-Court-bldg.3Just when the issue of Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares’ “qualifications” to run for president had been put to rest and allowing her to run for president, the dissenting opinion of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio revealed that Llamanzares did not get a majority vote because the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on her citizenship was 7-5-3. Yes, seven is not a majority; it is a minority.

In his 55-page dissenting opinion, Carpio said that there was no majority ruling on Llamanzares’ qualification to run for president. “What is clear and undeniable is that there is no majority of this Court that holds that petitioner Mary Grace Natividad Poe Llamanzares is a natural-born Filipino citizen,” he declared.

Carpio cited Rule 12, Section 1 of the SC Internal Rules, which requires that all decisions and actions in court cases “shall be made up upon the concurrence of the majority of the Members of the Court who actually took part in the deliberation on the issues involved and voted on them.” Since all 15 justices had voted, at least eight votes are needed to achieve a majority ruling.

Yet they decided that a minority of seven justices constituted the majority in the 15-member Supreme Court, which reminds me of voodoo ritual where the quack doctor pricks needles on a doll and chant, wriggle, juggle, and jiggle until the “desired” outcome is achieved. If that sounds ridiculous to you, so be it. But this crazy interpretation – or manipulation – of the Constitution is going to hurt the judicial system for a long time to come until something is done to remove these inflicted warts. One of the petitioners, former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad, said that the SC ruling had “bastardized” the Constitution.

Judicial voodooism

Supreme-Court-disqualification-CNNEvidently, the “desired” outcome was to qualify Llamanzares to run for president notwithstanding the obvious facts that she was a foundling with unknown parentage (which she admits) and lacked the 10-year residency constitutional requirements (which she denies). But any way you calculate it using simple arithmetic, it’s less than 10 years! And there are no ifs and buts about it. So, how – or should I say, why – did the seven justices insist that Llamanzares had satisfied the residency requirements?

But what happened was the Supreme Court – on a 9-6 vote – decided to allow Llamanzares to run regardless of the 7-5-3 votes on the citizenship issue. But the way the nine justices decided to proclaim Llamanzares natural-born Filipino citizen smacks of judicial voodooism because there simply is no way that a foundling can be deemed natural-born citizen. It was a decision that was not predicated on what the Constitution clearly requires. Yet, nine justices blatantly – and shamelessly — ignored the Constitution.

“Lagay is my guy”

Corruption.6There must be something that made them do it. Could their votes been bought as one insider in the Supreme Court had reportedly inferred, saying that these justices were bribed P50 million each to vote in favor of Llamanzares?

That’s a pretty serious allegation but at the same time, considering that bribery, or “lagay” as it’s known in the local jargon, is one of the most – if not the most – common way of influencing the government. Indeed, the “lagay” system is what greases the wheels of the Philippine government to move.  As they say back home, “Lagay is my guy.”  Stop the “lagay” system and the wheel stops.

Assuming that the nine justices were bribed, it begs the question: Who bribed them and why? While we can only speculate the “who” and “why” of the matter, there are strange things that may have happened or could happen in the near future.

P-Noy’s secret candidate

Aquino and Llamanzares

Aquino and Llamanzares

The political circles are rife with speculations that P-Noy is secretly backing Llamanzares. That’s the “who.” The “why” is that Llamanzares is the only presidential candidate who could beat Jejomar Binay and Rodrigo Duterte. The three of them are at a statistical dead heat.

In my article, “Is P-Noy hedging his future on Poe?” (February 12, 2016), I wrote: “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?

“Grace Poe [Llamanzares], 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’.”

Coincidences

Strong family ties: Ballsy Aquino, Cory Aquino, Susan Roces, and Grace Poe.

Strong family ties: Ballsy Aquino, Cory Aquino, Susan Roces, and Grace Poe.

What appears to be happening is that the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Llamanzares to run for president was politically motivated. Interestingly, four (including Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno) of P-Noy’s six appointees to the Supreme Court voted to allow Llamanzares to run. Coincidence? Maybe. But as someone once said, “In politics there are no coincidences.”

It’s interesting to note that the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), which heard the disqualification case filed earlier against Llamanzares by Rizalito David, voted 5-4 to dismiss the case against her. Of the nine SET members, the three SC justices and Sen. Nancy Binay voted against Llamanzares while the five other senators on the tribunal voted in favor of Llamanzares. One of them, Sen. Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, is a first cousin of P-Noy. As soon as the votes were announced, P-Noy’s sister Kris Aquino congratulated Bam for his vote in favor of Llamanzares. Coincidence?

Coincidences or not, two of the most respected SC justices’ words were ominous. Carpio said that the decision to allow Llamanzares to run for president while “the question on her being a natural-born Filipino citizen was hanging over her head was to make a mockery of the elections.” Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro said, “The issue of natural-born citizenship… if not overturned, will wreak havoc on our constitutional system of government.”

A few days ago, the petitioners against Mary Grace Natividad Poe-Llamanzares submitted a motion for reconsideration. The Supreme Court can redeem its honor by taking politics out of the case. At the end of the day, if the justices continue to politicize the Supreme Court, they will destroy the credibility and integrity of the entire Judiciary beyond repair for a long, long time.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Oil-rig-982Long considered a body of water with no strategic or economic value, the South China Sea had been for millennia a “road” that nations used to trade their goods with other nations. Nobody laid claim to owning it. Except for small bands of pirates, no navies threatened the peaceful coexistence among the littoral communities and their giant neighbor, the Middle Kingdom or Zhonggou, as China was known then. Indeed, the South China Sea (SCS) was a perfect ecosystem that had thrived for a long time. Not anymore. What the hell happened?

There are a lot of things and events – including geopolitics – that contributed to the systematic destruction of the South China Sea’s ecosystem. But the most blatant act is China’s raping of the marine environment by changing the natural make-up of the islands, atolls, rocks, shoals, and sandbanks that dotted the SCS, particularly the Spratly archipelago. With China’s building of artificial islands in the Spratlys, the ecological balance in the SCS is altered forever, which begs the question: Why is China destroying this beautiful gift of nature?

Malacca Dilemma

Straits-of-Malacca-Sunda-LombokChina’s limited natural resources is driving her to go beyond her borders in search of the most important element to support her growing economy and population. Simply put, China doesn’t have enough oil and gas to fuel her economic engine and military machinery. According to the Chinese government’s forecast, her reliance on foreign crude oil this year would likely increase to 62%.

In 2015, China’s crude oil imports rose 8.8% from the previous year to 335.5 million tons [Source: China’s General Administration]. But the problem is: About 80% of that came from the Middle East and Africa through the Strait of Malacca. This is China’s Achilles’ heel. Known as the “Malacca Dilemma,” it is believed that China’s economy would implode if the U.S. blocked the choke points at both ends of the Malacca Strait and the Sunda and Lombok Straits in Indonesia.

Gloria’s folly

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo welcomes Chinese President Hu Jintao in the latter's state visit to the Philippines in 2005. Photo courtesy of the Chinese embassy in the Philippines

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo welcomes Chinese President Hu Jintao in the latter’s state visit to the Philippines in 2005. Photo courtesy of the Chinese embassy in the Philippines

In 2005, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo offered China and Vietnam a proposal – the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) – to jointly explore the South China Sea for oil and gas for three years. China grabbed the opportunity and even offered the Philippines low-interest loans for various infrastructure projects. All total, the Arroyo administration signed 65 bilateral agreements with China. But here’s the rub: About 80% of the JMSU site included parts of the Recto (Reed) Bank, which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In 2008, the questionable deal created a firestorm of controversy. Critics of the JMSU called on the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional.

The JMSU was not renewed when it lapsed on June 30, 2008. The Philippines then explored the area around Recto Bank on her own. And for her part, China increased her presence in the Spratly archipelago and began harassing Philippine fishing boats, claiming sovereignty over the region. In 2012, China took de facto possession of the Scarborough Shoal, a territory of the Philippines. The following year, she started building artificial islands in the Spratlys.

Militarization

China deploys HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles.

China deploys HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles.

Recently, China deployed surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets on Woody Island in the Paracels. The Chinese militarization of SCS had begun.

But there is one problem China has to tackle to gain de facto possession of the SCS: The United States wouldn’t allow her to control the SCS, which is one of the busiest — if not the busiest – shipping lanes in the world where US$5 trillion in trade passes through every year. It is not surprising then that China regards the SCS as a “core interest.” And just like her other core interests, Taiwan and Tibet, she considers the SCS as “non-negotiable.” However, the U.S. says that she, too, had a “national interest” in the freedom of navigation (FON) in the SCS.

U.S. President Barack Obama — who had played a pacifist hand in trying to convince China to back off – has turned around to challenge China’s aggressive attempt to convert the SCS into a “Beijing Lake.” Recently, the U.S. Navy conducted two FON operations in which an American guided-missile warship came within 12 miles of two of the reclaimed islands.

On February 25, 2016, the U.S. Navy dispatched a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to the SCS. The CSG included the nuclear carrier USS John C. Stennis, two cruisers, two destroyers, and the 7th Fleet’s command ship, USS Blue Ridge. The deployment of the CSG was intended to show China that the U.S. is steadfast in her position of maintaining freedom of navigation in the SCS.

Strategic alliance

Security Diamond

Security Diamond

But what has become apparent is that the U.S. has started forging a quadrilateral strategic alliance – known as “security diamond” — that would protect the interests of the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had said in 2012, the strategic alliance would “safeguard the maritime commons stretching from the Indian Ocean region to the Western Pacific.”

Andaman-IslandsRecently, the U.S. deployed three B-2 nuclear-capable bombers to her military base in the Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean, which is within reach of India’s offshore territory, the Andaman and Nicobar group of islands, in the Bay of Bengal at the western end of the Strait of Malacca. It’s interesting to note that China had started showing maps that depict claims over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which is reminiscent of the Chinese maps showing the SCS area bounded by the so-called “nine-dash line” as part of Chinese territory.

In the face of China’s attempt to project power in the Indian Ocean, what could be timelier than the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) between the U.S. and India, which they are expected to sign in April? The LSA would allow the two countries’ militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repair and rest.

The U.S. is also negotiating with Australia to rotate B-1 bombers and aerial tankers at air bases in Darwin and Tindal. It is reported in the news that American officials are considering an expansion of B-52 bomber missions and positioning more U.S. military aircraft close to the disputed region. It would be of no surprise if these military assets would be prepositioned in the Philippines, which is now allowed under the new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the U.S. and the Philippines.

And with the anticipated deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea and the recent rapprochement between South Korea and Japan, two of the U.S. major allies in Asia-Pacific, the envisioned “security diamond” is coming to fruition.

At the end of the day, with all of the geopolitical posturing and China’s warmongering, it is evident why China wants the SCS badly: she is in dire need of oil.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Grace-Poe-SC-victoryJust as Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares had secured the Supreme Court’s 9-6 ruling allowing her to run for president of the Philippines, she is facing another obstacle.   This time it has nothing to do with her qualifications to run for president but something more personal: Why does she have two U.S. Social Security numbers, one of which belonged to a long dead person? This was the gist of Ninez Cacho- Olivares’ column in The Daily Tribune on March 2, 2016.  Grace’s new “case” is now before the court of public opinion.

In her column, titled “Poe’s US SSN stolen from dead person,” Cacho-Olivares wrote: “Sen. Grace Poe has been found to have committed a US federal felony as documents show that the lady senator who is running for the presidency in May 2016 has committed identity theft in the United States, which she had obtained and used, evidently illegally, a US Social Security SS number (SSN) from a dead person, but using her name, Grace Poe-Llamanzares.

“In the US, a person can only have one SSN, otherwise having more than one SSN becomes a crime of identity fraud and identity theft. This is a federal crime in the United States and Canada. Grace Poe Llamanzares has been listed as having two SSNs, one in her name, with SSN 005-03-1988, first issued as stated in the document, in 1934-1951 in ME [State of Maine]. This SSN has been recorded as belonging to a deceased person, according to the documents obtained by The Tribune.”

According to Cacho-Olivares, Grace was married in 1991 and shortly thereafter she was issued her second SSN in 1992. Cacho-Olivares surmised that this was probably Grace’s real SSN. So what’s the story about her first SSN, which she allegedly stole from a dead person?

Rebuttal

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchialian (left) campaigning for Grace Poe-Llamanzares.

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchialian (left) campaigning for Grace Poe-Llamanzares.

As soon as the news report came out, Grace Poe’s spokesperson denied Cacho-Olivares’ claim that Grace had obtained two SSNs in the U.S. Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchialian branded the report as “baseless” and “absurd.” He said that it’s “another mutation of the ongoing black propaganda attacks” against Grace. “There is no reason for Sen. Poe to secure a fake social security number because she has always been of legal status when she stayed in the US. Underhanded tactics such as this has no place in our democracy. The people deserve better, our people deserve to hear advocacies rather than barefaced lies,” he stressed.

Poe might not have any reason to secure a fake SSN, but all U.S. citizens and legal residents have every reason to acquire it. The SSN is everything. A person needs it to live a normal life in the U.S. It’s needed to get a driver’s license, apply for a credit card, open a bank account, buy or lease a car, buy or rent a house, borrow money from the bank, get an ID card from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and more. It is therefore in anyone’s best interest to apply for a Social Security number, which is the only U.S. government-issued number that uniquely identifies an American citizen or a permanent resident (green card holder). And without it, a person is presumed to be an undocumented alien unless he or she can provide a valid driver’s license or foreign passport that is stamped with a visa allowing the holder to stay in the U.S. until the visa’s expiration date, at which time the holder has to leave the U.S. But here’s the rub: To get a driver’s license or government-issued ID card, a person needs a Social Security number.

“Tago ng tago”

Grace and husband Teodoro "Neil" Llamanzares.

Grace and husband Teodoro “Neil” Llamanzares.

It is therefore imperative that all foreigners — except tourists – who hold a permanent resident visa, student visa or work visa should apply for an SSN. It makes their lives easier and keeps them out of trouble. And “trouble” is what all undocumented aliens, including overstaying tourists, should worry about. With an estimated 11 million undocumented aliens living in the U.S. today, a large number of them have illegal SSNs, which they need to evade detection by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. With an SSN and a driver’s license or state-issued ID card, an undocumented alien can live a normal life and find employment, which makes one wonder: In the three years that Grace attended Boston College, could she have obtained the illegal SSN from underground peddlers who prey on undocumented aliens? And these include the estimated 500,000 undocumented Filipinos staying in the U.S. who are referred to as TNT or “tago ng tago,” which translates to “hide and hide.” The question is: Was Grace a TNT?

In 1988, Grace moved to the U.S. after two years as a student at the University of the Philippines. She enrolled at the Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts and graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1991. One wonders what visa did she use to enter the U.S.? Since Grace was not a U.S. citizen at that time or had a degree that would have qualified her to apply for a permanent resident visa or work visa, it is very likely that she had entered the U.S. on a student visa… or perhaps, a tourist visa.

Upon her graduation in 1991, Grace’s student visa would expire unless she enrolled to take further graduate studies and thus be granted an extension of her student visa. But then she met Teodoro Misael Daniel Llamanzares, a U.S. citizen. They fell in love and got married that same year. She did not go back to school but by getting a “marriage degree,” entitled her to apply for U.S. citizenship by virtue of her marriage to an American citizen. The following year she got her second SSN… legally.

Big holes

Grace's graduation day at Boston College.

Grace’s graduation day at Boston College.

What happened then to Grace’s first questionable SSN? She insisted that the SSN in question (005-03-1988) was not her SSN but the Student Identification Number (SIN) issued by the Boston College upon her enrollment. She claims that the SIN corresponds to her enrollment date, which would have been May 3, 1988. But here’s the problem with her claim. How many students were enrolled that same month, day and year? If there were more than one, were they all assigned the same SIN? That punches a big hole in Grace’s claim.

With all the other “big holes” on the façade she had built to qualify to run for president, which is now looking more like Swiss cheese, the people are beginning to doubt her honesty and sincerity.

One of my readers, Don Azarias from Chicago, Illinois, sent me his comments, saying: “This lady senator deserves it. I used to hold her in the highest esteem but her ‘greed’ turned me and a lot of people off. Had she only accepted the Aquino administration’s offer to run as Mar Roxas’ VP running mate, I don’t believe her political rivals and the Filipino people will conduct a thorough scrutiny on her true identity and citizenship. She doesn’t have enough experience to be president to begin with. I hope the Philippine government [Supreme Court] disqualifies her as a presidential candidate and the U.S. authorities charges her with a felony.”

With her back against the wall, Grace doesn’t have any defense other than to challenge her critics to produce evidence that would prove that she had committed a felony in the U.S. But shouldn’t she be the one to prove her claim? One of the rules of debate is: “He or she who asserts must prove.”

Don Quixote.

Don Quixote.

In an attempt to clarify her situation, Grace said that she already sent a formal letter to Boston College requesting for a copy of her Student ID Number. But doesn’t she possess any record – anything – of her student days at Boston College that would show her Student ID Number?

With all this brouhaha over Grace’s SSN, all the problems she’s having now wouldn’t have happened had she prepared herself fittingly before she jumped into the political arena hoping to beat all her opponents for the presidency. It took guts for a novice senator to fight seasoned political “gladiators” and slay them all. It’s either she’s a modern-day Joan of Arc or a cheap imitation of Don Quixote. The former might lead her to political martyrdom and the latter could make her the laughing stock in the country’s political circles.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Bongbong, Miriam, and Imelda (behind).

Bongbong, Miriam, and Imelda (behind).

With Election Day just two months away, campaigning is heating up particularly in the vice presidential contest. Indeed, never in the history of Philippine politics had there been more campaign propaganda used and resources spent to elect the vice president of the country, which makes one wonder: why the sudden interest in a job that does nothing but run errands for the president and attend funerals of deceased VIPs, weddings of political allies, christenings of rich dynasts, and the likes. Pretty boring, isn’t it?

But the best part of the job is that it’s only a heartbeat away from the presidency; if something happens to the president – death or incapacitation – the vice president takes over. And this brings to mind Miriam Defensor Santiago and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who are running for president and vice president, respectively, as a team. Nothing is wrong with that, but what is unusual is that Miriam is fighting a stage 4 lung cancer. Although she claims that it is controlled, anything could happen that could aggravate her health or affect her ability to govern. In such an event, her vice president would take over the presidency.

And the specter of Bongbong ascending to the presidency, if he were elected as Miriam’s second-in-command, is causing a lot of displeasure – and anxiety — to a lot of people, particularly those who had suffered during the martial law regime of Bongbong’s father, Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr.

But the young Marcos claimed that his father did a lot of good things for the people and the country and that there was no reason for him to apologize. And by highlighting the positive accomplishments of his father and ignoring the negatives, Bongbong has convinced the young “millennials” – those who weren’t around during the martial law years – to give him their support in his quest to regain the presidency that his father lost during the 1986 people power revolution.

With Bongbong’s popularity now at par with the leading vice presidential candidate Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, the opposition is now in panic mode. The anti-Bongbong attacks have begun!

Sin of the father

Marcos-declares-martial-lawLast February 26, it was reported in the news that Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who is running for vice president as presidential candidate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s running mate, had told the media at a rally in Cebu City, “The sin of the father is not the sin of the son. If the father did something wrong, the son should not be blamed for it.” However, he added, “But if the son is involved in spiriting away billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth that the government is trying to recover, that’s another story.” He then demanded that Bongbong should return the wealth that his family had allegedly stolen from the country during the two decades they were in power and that he should apologize for his role in concealing the ill-gotten wealth. He added: “The Marcoses inherited the money so for me what is more important than saying ‘sorry’ is their returning the wealth that they allegedly stole from the nation.”

Marcos loot

Marcos-Loot-by-the-numbersCayetano then made references to “Operation Big Bird,” which was initiated in 1986 by retired Gen. Jose Almonte and banker Michael de Guzman to recover $213 million (others estimated it at $356 million) in ill-gotten wealth that the Marcoses had allegedly stashed in Swiss banks. But “Operation Big Bird” failed because it wasn’t approved by the administration of then President Cory Aquino. Was there a secret deal? Hmm…

It was estimated that the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth was valued at $10 billion. According to the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which was created in 1986 to recover the Marcos loot, only $4 billion was recovered and turned over to the national treasury. Where is the rest of the loot?

But the question remains unanswered today. Instead, what we’re hearing now is a revisionist version of the Marcos years. “What am I to say sorry [for]?’ Bongbong said during a television interview in August 2015. Instead he glowingly boasted about his father’s achievements, to wit: (1) He built thousands of kilometers of road, (2) Literacy is one of the highest in Asia [but this was true since the American colonial era], and (3) The country was an exporter of rice, not an importer as it is now.

Comeback

The Marcoses today: Imee, Bongbong, Imelda, and Irene.

The Marcoses today: Imee, Bongbong, Imelda, and Irene.

In 1991, the Marcoses returned from exile after President Aquino lifted a ban on their return, saying their presence was no longer a threat to national security.

Today, the Marcoses are back in power. Imelda is now a congresswoman representing her husband’s old congressional district in Ilocos Norte. Her eldest daughter, Imee Marcos, is the governor of Ilocos Norte, and Bongbong, who was elected Senator in 2010, is now running for vice president. And if he wins, he’d be in an advantageous position to win the presidency in 2022.

In my article, “Bongbong’s gambit” (October 30, 2015), I wrote: “It is apparent that Bongbong – from a regional/language standpoint – has a built-in advantage over his rivals. And his chances are further enhanced because four of the [vice presidential] candidates – Robredo, Escudero, Honasan, and Trillanes – have roots in the Bicol region, which could divide the Bicolano Vote among them. Cayetano is in a position to capture the Tagalog Vote and the huge Metro Manila Vote; however, Metro Manila is not as clannish as the Ilocano Vote and Bicolano Vote.

“Bongbong enjoys the clannishness of the Ilocanos and by extension the Solid North, which was the bailiwick of his father. The question is: Would Bongbong be able to get the support his father got from Ilocanos? And would Bongbong be able to communicate with Ilocanos in their native language just like how Marcos Sr. did with his mastery and eloquence of the Ilocano language?”

Waiting game

ADDITION Philippines ElectionsSurmise it to say, Bongbong must have decided against running for president because he was not sure if his electoral base was large enough to clinch the presidency.

But at age 58, Bongbong must have thought that waiting for another six years would give him time to solidify a national following. Indeed, the vice presidency would provide him the stepping-stone to reach his ultimate goal. He’d be 64 years old in 2022 and it would have been 36 years after the EDSA People Power Revolution that deposed his father. By that time, the millennials would have grown larger in number while the older generation who lived the “dark” years of martial law would have dwindled in number.

But Bongbong is not the only one waiting. Others – and their number is growing – are also waiting for him: that is, to stop him from achieving his dream of following the footsteps of his father.

Anti-Bongbong Coalition rally in Cebu City.

Anti-Bongbong Coalition rally in Cebu City.

Last February 24, during the 30th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, the Anti-Bongbong Coalition (ABC) was launched in Cebu City. In a press conference, the lead convenor of ABC said, “Bongbong was equally liable since he benefitted from his family’s alleged stolen wealth. He benefitted from the excesses of the dictatorship. The Marcos loot helped him live like a Marcos prince after the EDSA [revolution] and rebuild his political career.”

At this time, with only two months to campaign, the ABC has to go into overdrive to accomplish its mission of stopping Bongbong, which begs the question: How strong is it? And can Bongbong survive the ABC?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)