Monthly Archives: November 2008

“Hello Obama!”

Or, Arroyo’s Frustration  (reaction to J.A. Carizo’s and Atty. Benji’s comments)

   I expected somehow that Arroyo would not support Obama but rather McCain for Arroyo knows exactly that she cannot hide behind Obama should he become president; Obama is just too transparent, hence  not a good hiding place for Arroyo. For Obama, it was and is just fitting for him to avoid Arroyo for he knows right from the start how corrupt her administration is. This would only tarnish his image. The pro-active Obama doesn’t want to remove but rather avoid from the beginning a rotten apple to land in his basket. And so right on day one he did not want to hear sweet-talking and lies from Arroyo, perhaps that’s the reason why he did not pick up her “Hello Obama!” call  to congratulate him. It fits his profile and I think he did it wisely. For after all he is not a small fish like Garci. So it’s right that he should send a signal right from the start that he doesn’t endorse corruption nor personally appreciate corrupt leaders. He will have to continue the foreign relations with the Philippines and it’s wise for Obama to avoid his foreign policy to be based on personal relationship and sweet-talking to avoid falling into deadly trap of Utang Na Loob (debt of gratitude), a mistake done by Bush by being too close with other presidents. Bush was too pliant with Blair and even with Arroyo and at the same time too harsh with his adversaries resulting inadvertently to black and white or good and evil political perception. This is also a two-edged political sword for in the end Bush destroyed both his allies and foes; it led to Blair’s resignation and Arroyo’s regression. Most of all, it has led to senseless wars and injustice. But European leaders were quick to recognize the danger and so distanced themselves from Bush. A victim of his harsh attitude was Saddam Hussein. Saddam was surely not an angel for he let killed a lot of Kurds. But he never threatened the USA directly. Hence, to attack the whole nation of Iraq and to hang Saddam for ungrounded reasons was  pure injustice. No wonder why Arroyo favored McCain for McCain was a kind of Bush in many ways,- aristocratic, a warrior and an old father figure; Obama young and lacking in experience, a social worker – and black.

But we all had the chance to observe the two candidates Obama and McCain in depth for quite a long time during the election campaign: The social worker Obama was always dignified and well-defined in his ways (gestures) and speech (thinking) whereas the aristocratic McCain was very erratic in both. Obama defeated both Clinton and McCain just using his concept of Change all through the campaign, whereas McCain was always changing his concept in an effort to keep up and damage Obama but it did not work for McCain’s base was not strong and less-defined from the very beginning. We don’t need to elaborate on Palin for she was a bad accident in that election. I have observed though that when one is losing sound arguments, one resolves consciously or unconsciously  to the primitive weapon of racial supremacy- in gestures and insinuations- in trying to shake the firm Obama’s tower. All these three white candidates resolved to this weapon in their helpless attempt to reactivate among white Americans the fear of the dark skinned and their (the white Americans) historical supremacy over them. I was considering the idea that if Bush administration were popular, and if McCain were not too Bushy, Obama wouldn’t have won this election. So that’s the biggest credit that history would give to Bush- for preparing Federal America ripe for an Obama. Bush the sacrificial lamb.

There is a kernel of truth to say that the Filipinos still prefer “tisay” or “kana” (white-skinned people). That’s the result of being nurtured by the whites for a long time. Filipinos are discriminating to their own fellow-Filipinos, be it in the Philippines or abroad. It is known that they would serve first the white than the brown-skinned in cafes, restaurants, shopping stores, etc. This is sad to observe. But I do think this is more of a conditioned reflex brought about by colonialism: The white, my protector and provider, the brown my rival. Its well-known by-product is our crab mentality which is continuously reinforced by the extended lack of unifying figure in our political leadership and the ensuing moral decline in social behavior. The irrationality and dogmatic stance of the catholic church has also led to its failure in accomplishing anything of genuine moral base for the multi-cultured Filipinos. Going to church is therefore more of a conditioned behavior (habit) among us than deep religiosity and moral reflection for the problems that beset us then and now continue to be a moral one in character. Self-respect and sincerity are values that we urgently need  to develop for us to grow as one nation.

That Obama seems to abandon the Philippines is something that we must perceive as part of our growing-up process. We cannot lean on  forever to our dear Uncle Sam and forever assume this beggarly attitude. At one point we must leave our adolescence and enter adulthood, must learn to be independent  and self-reliant. This is perhaps that needed push we need- to be snobbed, be ship-wrecked and abandoned, alone between China Sea and the Pacific Ocean so we learn to depend on ourselves, get united and swimm together in order to survive and be proud of  our own accomplishments. Perhaps only then will the world community start to take us seriously. Alas, the original Filipino Identity!

The fact is the USA cannot totally do away without the Philippines if it wants to maintain its influence and improve its popularity  in the East and Southeast Asian region. American popularity has declined worldwide during the entire Bush Administration. Now Obama is set to repair it and for that he cannot ignore the former allies in Asia. Arroyo did not see in Obama the needed support only because she was snobbed during her last trip (June) to the USA; she saw it in McCain. But here she was again mistaken. Obama actually wrote Arroyo-as recently announced by her  executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita- and talked about common  interests such as “climate change, food security, poverty reduction, the future of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, human rights in Burma and defense reform.” Obama’s foreign and strategic policies as a candidate is summed up in the so called Phoenix Initiative report and this includes 1. counter-terrorism, 2. nuclear proliferation, 3. climate change and oil dependence, 4. the Middle East, and 5. East Asia. So the Philippines still has the prospect of doing business with the USA.

Obama’s presence will still continue to be felt in our region and knowing that he had once attended a multi-cultural and multi-religious primary school in Indonesia and with childhood classmates still residing in Asia, Obama has surely a fair share of good memories from there and with this Asian experience he could also be a unifying figure in our region and add to that that he stands for dialogue diplomacy- a stance heavily criticized by Bush, McCain and Palin which escalated during the campaign, becoming louder and louder, echoed softly back and silenced these three loud ones in the end. This is elegance à la Obama.

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

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The Bulan-te Connection

Or, The Missing P3million

When Bolante told the House agriculture Committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Mitra that of the 181 recipients (or “farmers”) he listed, only 22 did not avail themselves of  the P3-million to P5-million allocations he gave them, I was delighted to know that there are still 22 “farmers” in our country who are rich and honest and don’t need fluid fertilizers. I was hoping however that this time one of these 22 honest farmers comes from Bulan or Bicol region. But again this turned quite fast into frustration when I read the report of local newspaperman Roy Gersalia in his site Off The Beaten Path that ” Congressman Jose G. Solis said in a press con held Saturday that the P3 million he received were given by him to Bulan town mayor Helen de Castro. But the mayor, however, denied it and said that if such allegations were really true, she would be very happy if indeed the congressman gave her the P3 million intended for the farmers so that she can really help her constituents particularly those engaged in farming” (source : Roy Gersalia’s Off The Beaten Path under news)

A lie is the omission of truth and with such a national government that is founded upon lie, it is no wonder that there will be no shortage of it . A lie begets lie and so even Bolante’s lie has infected Bulan or the Bicol region as a whole. The fact is Congressman Solis accepted the P3 million- to my dismay. He is not one of those 22 who refused. Though I still do not buy Bolante’s revelation about these 22 who refused (a liar is still hard to believe even when he is probably telling the truth -Aesop-) Congressman Jose G. Solis’ case is clear. However, his assertion that he gave the P3million to the mayor of Bulan Helen De Castro could be another lie or maybe a truth. This time the burden of proof rests on Congressman Jose G. Solis. This would have been easy if Mayor Helen De Castro affirmed it right from the start- or if  he had a solid proof to prove his case. But as we know, solid proof attesting to the Truth is not an SOP in Arroyo’s administration. However, now that the mayor “denied” it, it still doesn’t make her a liar. To deny is a normal reaction of somebody accused of something she thinks she did not commit. The mayor could also be omitting the truth, but in this situation, it is a very weak argument.Therefore, granting our mayor her right to presumption of innocence (and the law does not require her to prove her innocence or produce any evidence at all), we should rather focus on Congressman Solis’ corruptible character (for he accepted the P3 million) and pressure him to prove in one way or another his allegation to the public. And though we have never seen yet Bolante’s complete list, with Congressman’s Solis affirmation that he received the P3 million, he already proved to us that he is on the list.

The public has the right to speculate when their public servants are again involved in such a mess. Let’s forget the real poor farmers, but why for example give the whole of this P3 million to Mayor Helen De Castro and not equally divide it to the other Sorsogon mayors? This act alone is already unfair (poor other mayors!). Is Mayor De Castro his padaba (favorite) or he is just using her as a scapegoat? Is this a politically- motivated scenario? …

To assert something without a proof is something that is unethical, or even if you know that there is no such thing anymore as ethics in our political system, you should still avoid giving out such an allegation in a press conference. Congressman  Jose G. Solis should put things in their proper places. We demand that he explains his case to the people of Bulan! But one thing is already clear to the public: If he couldn’t provide solid evidence to his allegation then his argument is not valid and that he is solely responsible for the missing P3million.

Again, this is the result of the logic of greed  among our public servants. Very unpleasant and primitive, indeed. Remember our poor and honest boy Gangga who taught us “Never To Own Anything That’s Not Ours”? Our poor farmers are proud that they did not receive such rotten fertilizers! Mabuhay ang ating mga mag-sasaka sa Bulan! (More power to the real farmers of Bulan!)

 

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

 

Related News article::

 

MANILA, NOVEMBER 19, 2008 (STAR) By Jess Diaz –

Department of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Undersecretary Bernie Fondevilla and former undersecretary Jocelyn ‘Jocjoc’ Bolante take their oath during yesterday’s House hearing on the fertilizer fund scam. BOY SANTOS Former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante said a total of 159 members of the House of Representatives and local officials received their share of the P728-million fertilizer fund.
Bolante told the House agriculture committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Abraham Mitra that of the 181 fertilizer fund “proponents” he listed, only 22 did not avail themselves of the P3-million to P5-million allocations he gave them.
Bolante said he could not identify the 22 who did not get their allocations and the 159 who received funds or fertilizer.
He said the Commission on Audit (COA) should be able to identify the supposed recipients.
Bolante listed 105 congressmen, 52 governors, one vice governor and 23 town mayors as fertilizer fund proponents.
The list was part of his request for the release of P728 million in fertilizer funds. He sent the request to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Feb. 2, 2004, three months before the May presidential election.
The following day, Feb. 3, with uncharacteristic speed, the DBM released the funds Bolante requested. Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos signed the document releasing the money.
Several House members admitted receiving fertilizer and not cash from either the DA or Bolante. Others denied getting money or fertilizer.
In yesterday’s hearing, Majority Leader Arthur Defensor, who represents the third district of Iloilo, said he rejected the P5 million offered to him by a certain “Aytona.”
“I told her I was not interested and that she could talk to my mayors and see if they were interested in liquid fertilizer,” he said.
Defensor said he learned later that some of his mayors received liquid fertilizer.
Camarines Sur Rep. Felix Alfelor had the same story.
Alfelor said he told Bolante’s alleged agents to approach his mayors.
Parañaque Rep. Eduardo Zialcita, for his part, admitted receiving a fertilizer fund allocation, which he claimed was used to buy garbage shredders.
La Union Rep. Victor Ortega said he and his brother, Gov. Manuel Ortega, did not receive cash or fertilizer despite the fact that they were included in Bolante’s list of proponents.
For her part, Rep. Mitos Magsaysay of Zambales told the hearing that her father-in-law, former governor Vicente Magsaysay, was not able to get his supposed P5-million allocation.
However, House members who denied receiving cash or fertilizer in yesterday’s hearing did not ask Bolante why their names were in his list in the first place.
Former Lanao del Norte Rep. Alipio Badelles wrote the committee that he was in Bolante’s list but did not get his allotment.
Others who have denied receiving cash or fertilizer include Representatives Cynthia Villar of Las Piñas and Teodoro Locsin Jr. of Makati City, and former Quezon City representative Maite Defensor.
Quezon City Rep. Nanette Daza admitted availing herself of her P3-million allocation, which she said was used to buy garbage shredders for the Payatas dumpsite.
Speaker Prospero Nograles has admitted receiving fertilizer and not cash, and from the DA regional office in Davao, not from Bolante.
Bolante reiterated his testimony in the Senate that President Arroyo had no knowledge of the release and use of the P728 million.
He repeated his assertion that “there was no fertilizer scam” despite COA findings that there was “excessive overpricing” of the liquid fertilizer purchased by Bolante’s proponents.
In some areas, the overprice exceeded 1,200 percent, according to the COA report.
Auditors discovered that many of the lawmaker-proponents were involved in the use of their funds as evidenced by the memorandums of agreement between them and foundations they tasked to purchase liquid fertilizer.
They said House members in Bolante’s list received a total of P404 million.
In his testimony, Bolante also cleared Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap of involvement in the scam. Yap was undersecretary for operations in 2004.
Bolante said he never mentioned Yap’s name in the course of last Thursday’s Senate hearing on the fertilizer scam.
He said it was then Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano who identified Yap as DA undersecretary for operations for Luzon in 2004.
Bolante had told senators that he could not have known the anomalies in the use of fertilizer funds since he had resigned shortly after distributing the money.
He said the undersecretary for operations was the DA official who should have monitored the use of the funds.
Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel told Bolante that he is insulting Filipinos by insisting that the President was not aware of the release of hundreds of millions in fertilizer funds and in asserting that there was no scam.
“You are insulting the public with your ridiculous assertions,” she said.
Bolante replied by saying that he respects Hontiveros’ opinion.
“I will appreciate it if you can prove that what I’m saying is not true,” he said.
For his part, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla said his province received its share of P5 million in fertilizer money in 2004.
But what is mysterious is that no Nueva Vizcaya official is listed as a proponent in Bolante’s list, he said.
Padilla said it is possible that the amount his province received “came from sources other than the P728 million.”
Padilla reiterated his proposal for the Mitra committee to inquire into the total 2004 releases amounting to nearly P3 billion.
Meanwhile, Owen Bolante urged the Court of Appeals (CA) to allow his father to be placed under house arrest instead of the Senate’s custody pending decision on the habeas corpus petition before the appellate court.
AccordingtoNoel Malaya, Owen had also submitted a compliance certificate to the CA from his father’s doctor indicating his father was indeed confined at St. Luke’s Medical Center from Oct. 28 to Nov. 8.
The certificate also stated that the elder Bolante underwent medical examinations. The results were also submitted to the CA, Malaya said.
The younger Bolante filed a petition for habeas corpus on Nov. 5 questioning the custody of the Senate of his father.
Two days later, the CA ordered Senate sergeant-at-arms Jose Balajadia to reply to Bolante’s petition.
The CA also ordered Owen to secure a medical certificate from St. Luke’s to support allegations of ill health.
Bolante’s lawyer Dennis Añover explained the writ of habeas corpus is a legal remedy questioning the legal basis of Bolante’s detention by the Senate. -With Mike Frialde

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A Transcendental White House

Obama, Or the Clash Of Ideas, Not Of Emotions Or Races

The Obama effect on me was that sigh of relief the day he won this historic election. Think about the real significance of this event for the black race as well as for the white and all other colors in between. For the Afro-Americans, a historic triumph with effect comparable only to that of Abrahan Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1863, which is not to be confused with Britain’s The Emancipation Act on August 1, 1834, which did not abolish servitude, but the first significant promise of freedom. 

 But this time with Obama, this is the realization of the great black dream to be set on equal footing with the white-their former master-, a dream expressed by Martin Luther King in his famous speech I HAVE A DREAM delivered on August 28,1963. This dream was more of a vision. For not far away- just two years earlier-on August 4, 1961- Obama was born to give a concrete form to this dream 45 years later which for the blacks almost an elusive dream even a few moments before he was declared the election winner last November 4. Now it’s reality; Obama becomes the first elected black President. Racial barrier to White House has been crossed, broken down. For Obama it was everything but an easy task. It took hard work and fluid intelligence for Obama from the very beginning to this symbolic victory. A graduate from the Harvard Law School, it is his education, not only emotion and passion, that brought that needed Liberation of the black Americans. Education as light of the people- this was probably what Rizal had in mind when he wrote this line, or when he was in America as he described what he saw in this country in his letter to Mariano Ponce on July 27, 1888, (25 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation) :

  “I visited the largest cities of America with their big buildings, electric lights, and magnificent conceptions. Undoubtedly America is a great country, but it still has many defects. There is no real civil liberty. In some states, the Negro cannot marry a white woman, nor a Negress a white man. Because of their hatred for the Chinese, other Asiatics, like the Japanese, being confused with them, are likewise disliked by the ignorant Americans. The Customs are excessively strict. However, as they say rightly, American offers a home too for the poor who like to work. There was, moreover, much arbitrariness. For example, when we were in quarantine.
They placed us under quarantine, in spite of the clearance given by the American Consul, of not having had a single case of illness aboard, and of the telegram of the governor of Hong Kong declaring that port free from epidemic.
We were quarantined because there were on board 800 Chinese and, as elections were being held in San Francisco, the government wanted to boast that it was taking strict measures against the Chinese to win votes and the people’s sympathy. We were informed of the quarantine verbally, without specific duration. However, on the same day of our arrival, they unloaded 700 bales of silk without fumigating them; the ship’s doctor went ashore; many customs employees and an American doctor from the hospital for cholera victims came on board.
Thus we were quarantined for about thirteen days. Afterwards, passengers of the first class were allowed to land; the Japanese and Chinese in the 2nd and 3rd classes remained in quarantine for an indefinite period. It is thus in that way, they got rid of about 200  ( or 643 coolies, according to Zaide ) Chinese, letting them gradually off board.”

So was Rizal’s taste of discrimination in the USA, a traumatic one for sure. Luckily Rizal was traveling first class- as implied in this letter- otherwise he would had been quarantined for an indefinite period and this could have changed the course of Philippine History!

Both American and British Emancipation Acts, the latter predating the former for 31 years, did not totally abolish racial discrimination and slavery, The Afro Americans though released from slavery, suffered more than a hundred years after the signing of that Emancipation Proclamation with limited civil liberties (no right of suffrage being black and being a woman, for instance),  while the more than half a million slaves in Britain’s Caribbean colonies had to wait for another four years for the most elementary liberties for the government feared that the situation would be out of control while the plantation owners feared the economy would collapse as forced labor would no longer be available. This is important to know because presently our Philippine government’s labour export policy is not genuinely based on goodwill but of fear that abolishing the OFW would only lead to our economic collapse, a fear secretly shared among our national politicians, revealed in a slip of the tongue that happened to Arroyo last 2001 in Singapore. Slave trading  being conducted in a more modern form, transported in modern vessels, revenues electronically transmitted? This is in no way to insult the OFWs but to view this phenomenon as a living proof of our government’s inefficiency and seemingly callous attitude towards its people. A government with vision works hard to keep its people at home or  to bring home those people away from home- like what South Korea did to its workers abroad. All I know is that Filipino oversea workers are driven home from time to time only because of their families and relatives, not because of their government and public officials. In truth, Filipinos abroad would never go back home because of Arroyo and Co. And even in their own host countries, they’re just ashamed to talk about our politics and political figures.

The election of Obama proved once again that with all its defects, America is still a democratic country whose face is changing with time, adapting to the challenges of all kinds in order to survive. Millions of young white American voters have opened their eyes and seen that it’s no longer sustainable to be just conservative for conservatism’s sake  and be against anyone for reason of skin color. Arguments and solutions count, not  skin color. Obama is the most palpable proof of change in the American perception. And Obama broke all the records and brought a quantum of solace for millions of Americans- and billions of people around the world. After all the paranoia brought about by the traumatic events that happened the world over in the past decades and the over-all negative effects of the unpopular Bush’s administration, it is interesting to observe that humanity did not fall into apathy and total disillusion. The way that the world favored Obama  in all the continents and reacted with euphoria and sense of release is a sign of good mental health for the world population. The archetypal need for a good and unifying leader, in short, for a hero, is still intact. On this historic day, not only the American voters, but the whole world voted for a hero, not only for an ordinary president. This explains the electricity of how the world citizens reacted to Obama’s election. In fact, if the world were allowed to cast  their votes, the results would have been more catastrophic and depressing for McCain! It’s good to know that the majority likes you. And Obama reacted just the way a hero is expected to react: a felt sense of tremendous responsibility as seen in Obama’s face and in his words. He did not dance around nor give any grandiose gesture of winning the battle. He was serious in his looks and speech. For him, the battle has just begun. There is no time to celebrate. The financial crisis, the problems at home and the all that mess that Bush has done, the world community- all these require Obama’s attention.

Most of you who are familiar with my little writings here in Bulan Observer would have already noticed that I am for a noble kind of leadership, for a leader who works hard for his/her people and values the unifying power of his/her position as a mayor or whatever, that I have been talking about redefining Bulan politics, that I am for working together as a team if we want Bulan to move forward and that we should transcend political affiliations and personal emotions when it comes to solving the problems of the town. For this reason I call Obama my Obama even if he doesn’t know me. It’s because of the kinship of our basic political ideas and attitude (don’t get me wrong for I am talking only about kinship not of talents for he has more than enough!). Now that he is building up his team, it awes and amazes  me how he approaches his bitter campaign rivals like McCain and Hillary Clinton, etc., asking them or offering them options to work with him. And that after all the mud hurled at him during those long campaigning periods! Obama is a living testimony of a leader who transcends and unites in order to solve the major problems now facing America and the world- and he is a leader who is very transparent in his ideas. This is why I see the White House more transparent and transcendental than ever with Obama moving in. And with his wise strategy, I think Obama is already ripe for his second term- even before his first term has ever started!

Back to Bulan, I ask you all political leaders and public officials to draw significant lessons from Obama’s political culture and to try to integrate them in your daily political thinking. Remember to put the town first. This is one step to transcendental politics.

For A brighter Bulan!

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

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