A vote for our future

The sins of corruption of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte:

By Maria Luarca-Reyes

Aquino made right call in West Philippine Sea dispute

By Hermenegildo C. Cruz

12:14 am | Friday, June 14th, 2013 3 212 1

Three things happened recently in connection with the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea. Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing expressed her “concern” that the Philippines may be putting up new structures on Ayungin Shoal (Inquirer, 5/30/13). That is equivalent to the schoolyard bully telling you he is afraid you may beat him up. Earlier, President Aquino announced that we would “resist bullies entering our backyard” (Inquirer, 5/22/13). This statement by the President was followed a few days later by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s own, that “…we will fight for what is ours up to the last soldier standing” (Inquirer, 5/24/13).

The statements of the President and the defense secretary called a spade a spade. There is a possibility that we may have to shed blood to defend our territory. China has a record of using force in settling border disputes with its neighbors, to wit: Korea versus the forces of the United Nations in 1950; India over the Ladakh area in 1950; the USSR at the Ussuri River in 1969; Vietnam in the Paracels Islands in 1974, the “Punishment Border War in 1979,” and Johnson Reef in 1988; and Tibet in 1950.

The key features of these border intrusions by China are the following:

• The communist ideology does not count in China’s conduct of its foreign relations. In Marxist ideology, the state is supposed to wither away. However, the Beijing apparatchiks cannot wait for the Marxist utopia when national boundaries will become meaningless, to be replaced by a world proletarian brotherhood. Thus, two “fraternal socialist countries,” the USSR and Vietnam, had been victims of Chinese border incursions.

• All the border conflicts are limited wars except in the case of Tibet. The Chinese stopped their intrusions upon meeting resistance that could result in unacceptable losses. In the Ladakh area of India, the Chinese seized disputed territory and then stopped their incursions when they reached areas where there are fixed Indian defenses. In the Korean War, the Chinese stopped their offensive across the 38th Parallel in the face of the overwhelming firepower of the UN forces.

• In the dispute with the USSR, the Chinese stopped their foray when the Soviet Union threatened to use nuclear weapons.

• In the case of Tibet, it became a total war of annihilation. The Tibetans did not have a credible military capability, so the Chinese took over the entire country.

• The border disputes are in the continental land mass of Eurasia. The Chinese incursion into the West Philippine Sea is the first time it has tried to project its power overseas. The Paracels are an offshore territory.

From the foregoing examples, the lesson is clear: We must have a credible armed deterrent. Otherwise, any Chinese incursion into our territory can spread beyond the West Philippine Sea and, like the Tibetans, we may face unacceptable losses to our nation.

The initiative of our Department of Foreign Affairs to bring the dispute to the United Nations is a diversion.

A UN resolution awarding us the disputed islands will not settle the issue. China will simply ignore it. The UN does not have the means to enforce its decisions. Our hope that if we get such a decision, we will gain the support of the international community, is also wishful thinking. There is no such thing as world public opinion.

China is a big power with friends everywhere. A UN resolution in our favor will simply divide the world: Some countries will support us, some will support China, and most of the world will not care. Even within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, we failed to gain unanimous support for our initiatives on the dispute in the West Philippine Sea. Cambodia and Burma (Myanmar) did not align with us. So the bottom line is: We should strengthen our armed forces to resist aggression, and forget the UN.

In conducting foreign relations, a country should always prepare for the worst-case scenario. The worst thing we can do is to hope that China will make an exception in its dispute with us and use an approach different from what it has employed vis-à-vis its continental neighbors.

* Hermenegildo C. Cruz, a retired ambassador, has written other commentaries on the dispute in the West Philippine Sea. He holds a master of arts degree in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy.

Why soldiers don’t retaliate vs enemies


11:22 pm | Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

“You hit one of us, you hit all of us. We will come after you.”

Those brave, fighting words came from Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, addressing the gunmen who killed eight civilians and a policeman and wounded 12 other civilians in an ambush at Las Castellana town, Negros Occidental province.

If that stern warning was addressed to the New People’s Army (NPA), it sounded hollow and full of hot air.

In the past, NPA guerrillas had ambushed and killed many soldiers and cops, but government troops hardly retaliated.

Of course, press statements were made by the government after numerous soldiers or policemen were killed that troops were in hot pursuit of the NPA or Moro rebels who staged the ambush.

But those press statements were not followed up with news that government troops had avenged the deaths of their comrades.

* * *

Retaliation by government troops for the deaths of their comrades never happened because soldiers or policemen are confined to their barracks or police stations because of the peace talks with the rebels.

Besides—and this is more significant—the morale of soldiers in the field is very low.

Why? Because their personal welfare, as well as those of their families, is not attended to by the government.

For example, when a soldier is seriously wounded in battle and is treated at the Armed Forces or V. Luna Medical Center, he or his family is asked to buy his own medicines that are not available in the hospital’s pharmacy.

The soldier and his family are told the government will reimburse them for the medicines they buy outside the V. Luna Hospital pharmacy.

To an underpaid soldier, who has a family to feed and children to send to school, buying medicines is a big drain on his pocket.

And, by the way, the reimbursement for his medicines comes many months after he leaves the hospital.

And if the soldier is killed, his family has a hard time getting his pension.

Worse, a gigolo at the AFP Finance Center in Camp Aguinaldo seduces the dead soldier’s widow and runs away with the pension.

Now, if you were a soldier who is ordered to go after the rebels who killed your comrades-in-arms in an ambush, would you go after their killers hammer and tongs, given the situations I just mentioned?

* * *

During my father’s time, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) took care of the medical needs of soldiers and their dependents.

My father was with the defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC), one of the AFP’s major services, and he and his dependents—my mom and us, his children—enjoyed complete medical coverage.

When one of the children was sick—which was often since there were 10 of us—we were sent to the military doctor who was assigned in every PC camp.

Soldiers who were severely wounded in combat were flown to Manila to be treated at the Camp Crame General Hospital or the V. Luna Medical Center.

It was unthinkable then for a soldier wounded in combat to complain that his needs were not met.

* * *

If those gunmen who ambushed and killed or wounded innocent civilians were members of the New People Army (NPA), they have lost whatever moral ascendancy they claim they have over the civilian populace.

How can the NPAs now claim they protect the poor and the oppressed when they slaughter them?

Most of the sympathizers and supporters of the NPA come from the ranks of citizens disgruntled over the uneven justice system and the apathy of government towards their plight.

If indeed the gunmen who murdered innocent civilians in La Castellana are members of the NPA, they can no longer hide from the authorities.

The civilians who harbor them will tell on them. It will be the beginning of the end of the NPA.





(© 2013 Fil Am Extra Exchange)

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – When I advised then San Juan, Metro Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to ignore the order of Revolutionary President Cory Aquino in 1986 to vacate the San Juan municipal hall, I questioned the validity of the order because it was not addressed to anybody. I told Mayor Estrada the anonymous order was an insult to his person and his office.

If he really wanted to make a point, Mayor Estrada should call a television cameraman and tear the order to pieces, which he did. Estrada would leave the mayor’s office after a violent take-over by the Aquino forces. And only after presenting a detailed financial report – a surplus – which was unheard of at the time to the Aquino government officials so Estrada would not be accused of running away with the taxpayers’ money.

I was already in Chicago, Illinois, when the iconic defiance of Estrada of tearing the order that conjured an image of a Bonifacio tearing up the cedula (residence certificate) and would launch Estrada’s political fortune to the stratosphere.

Of course, I don’t want this to happen in Cebu. And I appeal to former President Estrada and his allies, including Vice President Binay and Senate President Enrile, to tell Cebu Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia to vacate the capitol while she appeals her case. What she needs are lawyers, not her grandstanding supporters, to win her case.

The case of Gov. Garcia, whose six months suspension by the late Sec. Jesse Robredo of the Interior and Local Government was sustained by President Noynoy Aquino’s Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., was a far cry from Estrada’s case.

In Estrada’s case, the order came out of the blue. But in Garcia’s case, there was a full-blown administrative hearing, where she was given a day in court. She knew a decision was forthcoming.


Robredo found Garcia guilty of grave abuse of authority among others for usurping the appointing power of the Vice Governor, for hiring 19 consultants without prior authorization from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), and “slashing the budget, while not illegal, is suggestive of harassment, oppression, and vindictiveness with respondent utilizing the powers of her office and affinity to the SP.”

A copy of the decision on Garcia’s case was emailed to me by Provincial Board Member Vladi Frivaldo of Sorsogon, whose Governor, Raul R. Lee, was denounced by Frivaldo in a privilege speech earlier before the SP for “usurping legislative authority of the Vice Governor by transferring the funds from SP to the Office of the Governor and reducing the budget of Vice Governor from PHP23.2-M in 2009 to PHP2.5-M in 2011 or 76% and the SP budget by 30%.”

Garcia’s trouble started when the late Vice Gov. Gregorio G. Sanchez, Jr. filed complaint against her before the office of Secretary Robredo on Nov. 8, 2010 for encroaching upon Sanchez’ legislative powers, grave misconduct and abuse of authority.

On July 26, 2012, a few months before his death, Secretary Robredo came up with a ruling and elevated the case to the Office of the President “for appropriate action.”

According to the decision of the Office of the President, Gov. Garcia gravely abused her authority by: (1) encroaching on the appointing authority of the complainant over employees of the Office of the Vice-Governor (Sanchez); (2) slashing the budget of the Office of the Vice Governor by 61%; (3) stopping the publication of the Legislative Gavel and non-payment of honoraria of the publication staff; (4) transferring the funding of the Legislative Research and Codification Project from the Office of the Vice-Governor to the Office of the Governor; (5) hiring consultants without prior authority from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) or Provincial Board; (6) withholding the overtime pay of the personnel of the Office of the Vice Governor; and (7) issuing a check worth PHP10-M without prior authority from the SP.


Gov. Garcia denied all the allegations in the complaint with respect to acts that occurred before June 30, 2010, (when she was re-elected for the third time as governor), invoking the case of Aguinaldo v. Santos. The case held that a public official’s re-election to office operates as a condonation of the official’s misconduct committed during a prior term. I agree with this ruling only if the misconduct was made known to the voters on or before the election.

Garcia was later accused of charges she committed after June 30, 2010.

The ruling did not give credence to her claim that all acts complained of are within a governor’s powers of supervision and control over all programs, projects, services, and activities of the provincial government.

Prior to the investigation of the complaint, Sanchez died. But DILG moved forward with the formal investigation, requiring parties to submit their respective memoranda.

In her memorandum, Gov. Garcia moved for the dismissal of the case due to the death of the complainant, “absence of a valid substitution of complainant” and lack of interest to proceed on the part of the complainant’s successor in office.

In his ruling, Robredo said “administrative case survives the death of the complainant and is not rendered moot by the dismissal of related civil cases,” adding, “unilateral acts of a private complainant will not bind the disciplining authority in its exercise of disciplinary power over erring public officials” and “complainant is only treated as witness.”

The ruling also found Garcia to have usurped the appointing power of the Vice Governor, who has a power to appoint “employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, as well as those of the Office of the Vice Governor, whose salaries, are paid out of the funds appropriated for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.”

After the complainant Sanchez died, Garcia restored the salaries and wages of contractual employees of the Vice Governor, which evoked “malice and bad faith,” “suggestive of an arbitrary exercise of authority,” according to the ruling.

But when Sanchez’s successor, Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, “transferred to another political party,” Garcia suddenly reduced “the budget of the Vice Governor and the SP for 2011,” which indicated “malice and bad faith,” the ruling added.

Garcia also gravely abused her authority when she hired 19 consultants without “prior, express and separate authorization from the SP.” The ruling said, “continued practice does not justify an illegal act and no vested right can be acquired by an administrative official from an erroneous construction of the law.”

I just hope when a similar complaint is filed against Gov. Raul Lee and other governors, the Office of the President would swiftly investigate and carry out its suspension order as it did against Governor Garcia. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)



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CHICAGO (jGLi) – Published reports that install Justice Secretary Leila de Lima as the front-runner in the search for the replacement of convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona are not only overhype but also myopic choice.

Even if the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) would include Secretary De Lima, my kababayan (region mate) from Bicol (she was born in Iriga City), in the short list, my bet is President Noynoy Aquino should not pick her as the first woman Chief Justice of the Philippines. That is, if he wants to continue with his Daang Matuwid (straight path) reform program.

Not because the Integrated Bar of the Philippines is having issues with her for defying the Supreme Court’s TRO (temporary restraining order), allowing former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) to leave the country. The TRO was, in effect, subsequently affirmed by Pasay City Judge Jesus Mupas, who allowed GMA to post a one-million-peso bail. Secretary De Lima should really apologize to the Supreme Court for defying its order.

Mr. Aquino still needs Secretary De Lima as his chief graft buster. Her non-selection, though, as Chief Justice is not really a rebuke to her but will not be in the best interest to Mr. Aquino’s overall scheme of his administration.

If Mr. Aquino will be selecting a woman to replace Mr. Corona to help women break the glass ceiling in the judiciary, as did his mother in the executive branch, I feel, it should be Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, 52, and not Associate Justice Teresita de Castro, 63.

Between the two, GMA-appointee Justice De Castro, who convicted my friend and former President Joseph Estrada for plunder, and Justice Sereno, who was the first appointee of Mr. Aquino to the High Court, the latter has an edge even if Ms. De Castro is more senior than Ms. Sereno.

Why? Not only Justice Sereno is forward-looking and has an independence streak but she also has concrete plans to unclog the court by installing a monitor or a computerization or “software” that will lump some cases into one, say covered by “stare decisis” cases. Justice Sereno is the only one of the three and the most senior appointees so far of Mr. Aquino out of the 14 sitting associate justices. And Justice Sereno is the only one of the three Aquino appointees to apply for the vacant Chief Justice position. The rest are Arroyo appointees.


From now until the May 2016 presidential elections, from among the majority Arroyo court, only one can be replaced by Mr. Aquino – Associate Justice Roberto Abad – who is retiring on May 22, 2014. The other associate justice, Martin Villarama, who will be retiring on April 14, 2016, may not be replaced by Mr. Aquino as his retirement period falls within the ban on appointment during presidential elections.

So, if nobody is impeached or retires like Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano, who retired at the age of 67 to accept appointment to the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization, or Associate Justice Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, who retired at 68, due to health reasons, or dies, from now until May 2016 from among the sitting associate justices, the most that Mr. Aquino can appoint before his term ends is one and that of the replacement of Justice Abad. This would run the total to four appointees before Aquino leaves office.

But if President Aquino “elevates” Associate Justice Sereno as Chief Justice, he will have another chance to appoint another Associate Justice for the post that will be vacated by new Chief Justice Sereno.

So, if Mr. Aquino commissions Justice Sereno as Chief Justice, he will be shooting two birds with one stone! This will give Mr. Aquino a high five.

That is why as soon as the Supreme Court resolves the pending motion for reconsideration filed by Sen. Francis Escudero and Rep. Neil Tupas, the JBC will be recovening again if Justice Sereno makes it to the short list and is eventually selected by Mr. Aquino.

If I were my kababayan from Sorsogon, Senator Escudero, I will not feel very bad if the Supreme Court denies their MR (motion for reconsideration). I believe the ruling of the Supreme Court should stand because the Constitution is very clear and unmistakable – Congress should only be represented by one person, not two, to the JBC. There is no more room for interpretation.

If the Supreme Court will allow him and Mr. Tupas to be members of JBC, the Court will be accused of amending the Constitution, a power the Court does not have.

But if they really insist on their MR, and since they have this power, Messrs. Escudero and Tupas can propose that the House of Representatives and the Senate convene as a Constituent assembly or “Con-Ass” and propose that “JBC has one representative each from both the House of Representatives and the Senate” and pass it with three-fourth votes from all their members based on Art. XVII of the Constitution and presto, they can both attend the JBC deliberation.


If they do not call a Con-Ass, Messrs. Escudero and Tupas can alternate in attending the JBC deliberation by either a coin toss, as to who attends first, which is done to decide who receives first the ball in football or by raffle, which is done by raffling cases in court, or pompyang (rock-paper-scissors) game we used to play as kids in Sorsogon to find out who the winner is.

When asked if she won’t feel handicapped to get along with other more senior justices if appointed Chief Justice, Justice Sereno said she thinks she can handle the situation. She cited her passion for constitutional rule when, at age 39, she was appointed as the lone female member of the 25-member Presidential Commission on Constitutional Reform headed by Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, together with leaders such as former Justice and Ombudsman Conrado M. Vasquez and former Prime Minister Cesar Virata. She was appointed chair of the Steering Committee and nobody hesitated to appoint her in a leadership position. They even entrusted her to write the executive summary of the Constitutional Amendment of the economic provisions of the Philippine Constitution.

Looking herself in the mold of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee as dissenter during martial law, Justice Sereno earned herself a reputation as a dissenter, among other cases, when she questioned Chief Justice Corona for raising two important policy questions on the Hacienda Luisita before the Court: Can a case that is already with the Supreme Court and that has already been heard in oral argument be subjected to mediation as ordered by the Chief Justice? And Can the Chief Justice individually give such an order that constitute a major policy decision?

Justice Sereno also objected to the issuance of a temporary restraining order for a petition and she and other justices had not even seen – in the case involving the impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

As to criticism that at 52, Justice Sereno could succumb to the Peter Principle of burnout and boredom, I believe, her “Seven Principles” that would guide her Court for the next 18 years should serve her well as these principles will make her life exciting. In the United States, only three Chief Justices were 50 years or younger, with John Jay, the youngest at 44.

In the US, the Judiciary is the only branch of government that comes closest to a royalty – Supreme Court Justices and some federal judges are appointed during “good behavior” or for life. If she is appointed Chief Justice, Sereno can find herself in the shoes of U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall, who for 35 years presided over a Court largely populated by Justices of an opposing political party. According to John P. Mark in Marble Palace, The Supreme Court in American Life, because of the “newness of the Constitution, it was expounding, (it) dealth with some of the greatest questions of history.” (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)


Obstruction Of Justice – In Good Times And Bad Times

by jun asuncion

It was like a chess championship match with the brave sacrificing act of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima leading to the checkmate of GMA. The thrill reached its peak as GMA attempted to flee from her impending checkmate – using  her ailment as cover up and with her team of lawyers exhausting her cornucopia of legal means so she could  escape prosecution – these in dizzying alacrity. Not to be dismissed as boring were the acrimony between the lawyers of each camp, political observers and netizens and  the diverging  opinions of the senators and constitutional experts on the legal imbroglio and pandemonium that transpired the last days.

Beside offering a cerebral entertainment, this match was a crossing of the Rubicon for Aquino’s administration with its determined fight against the culture of impunity – the catalyst and stabilizer of corruption engines – and its entrance into a culture of accountability with the arrest of GMA last Friday.

Big change shakes the foundations, brings with it conflicting situations and demands sacrifices and strong will. Though it was GMA’s histrionics that dictated the tempo of events, it was the seemingly collision of  the fundamental right to travel and the right of the state to prosecute high crimes and the contumacious actions of  Justice Secretary De Lima vis-à-vis  the Supreme court that interested keen observers the most. On top of that one questions: How absolute are human rights, the Constitution and the orders of the Supreme court? And how powerful is the judiciary against the executive? Was there a constitutional crisis? Opinions differed on these questions among lawyers and constitutionalists.

Everything appeared paradoxical and dramatic. Secretary De Lima was unfazed, controlled,  tough and very quick on the trigger. She had her angle  all the time and she’s proven her worth as Justice Secretary. For her justice must be served by all means – even to the point of disobeying a Supreme Court order- this Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).  Senator Escudero was among the antagonists who espoused blind obedience to the law and was quick to praise the Court’s decision.  Were he in command, GMA would have escaped prosecution.

Justice vs. the right to travel?  It was another instance of two good things colliding at a given space and time. Had Senator Escudero viewed the whole situation not as a lawyer but as visionary politician, he would have been part of the entourage that crossed the Rubicon. Hence, he was left behind with his myopic, legalistic view of the world. He cut a pathetic figure last week. The constitutional right to travel should not be used to obstruct justice and crimes committed should not be blinded out or relegated to the background as lawyers engage themselves in textbook debates on law. Accused persons must be tried by all means.

Crossing the Rubicon is disobedience yet groundbreaking. President Noy Aquino and his team have crossed the Rubicon in order that justice be served in the Philippines. This is reflective equilibrium, visionary politics, epoch-making leadership.

Democracy is not only about rights and individualism but also about duties and collectivism. GMA’s insistence on her human and constitutional right to travel (since when did she insist on human and constitutional rights?) must be viewed not in isolation or purely as an article in the 1987 Constitution but within the context of the crimes imputed to her. That’s why it was a piece of impudence and out of context  for her legal advisers to equate GMA’s deprivation of her right to travel as endangering all Filipinos’ right to travel. Not all Filipinos are Gloria Arroyo.

If Democracy is a balance of rights, duties, individualism (personal welfare) and collectivism (common good), then decisions involving conflicting rights or principles must also be balanced. Secretary De Lima was right when she mentioned the balancing of the situation before arriving at a decision. Some members of the Supreme Court seemed to have problem with balancing last week, hence, this TRO was far from being democratic because it was decided without this greater sense for justice, sense of social responsibility and in sheer disregard for the accountability of public officials and suspected criminals.  The  state’s decision for justice, accountability and to end impunity outweighs GMA’s personal right to travel. Naturally, GMA was in a hurry to leave for she knew that without the case being formally filed before a court-and with her one -way TRO ticket in her suitcase – she could still defy the Watchlist Order of the Justice Department. A fleeing suspect in prestissimo has no right to blame Judge Mupas and the Southern Police District  if they’re catching up with her tempo. Railroading a woman suspect on wheelchair? Had she not displayed the intention to follow the example of Ramona Bautista, everything would have been settled in adagio manner. So GMA was in command of the metronome last week – but to her disadvantage.

If the government represents democracy and if sovereignty emanates from the people, then the people who voted for Pres. Aquino and his promise to fight corruption surely supported all actions taken by Pres. Aquino’s team in preventing Arroyo from leaving the country until her arrest last Friday. That TRO could hardly be taken as representing the interest of the sovereignty. An ordinary Filipino doesn’t need the service of a  lawyer to decide not to entrust his child to somebody with records of stealing, violence and pedophiliac activities or send his housemaid he  highly suspects of stealing his  money for a vacation in her province before he has confronted her about the situation. Using the same common sense he would likewise not allow GMA to leave and escape prosecution.

GMA is famous for her inconsistencies, very poor credibility rating,  betraying Public Trust and for being accused of committing a dozen of crimes, among these being electoral sabotage and plunder. So why let her go before her cases are cleared? The Supreme Court’s voting for TRO was  legally right but did it respect or consider the people’s covenant with the President? The Supreme Court justices – including the Chief Justice – who voted for TRO, all being appointees of GMA when she was still president, decided in favor of their ex-boss, a situation we could easily link with Utang Na Loob. Lawyers interpret a legal situation differently. The fact that the Supreme Court justices  were divided in their judgement on TRO issuance, supports this argument. Hence, the TRO was a personal gift for Arroyo, a one way ticket for  a world tour.

Gloria Arroyo’s theatrical performance at the airport was aimed to tickle that Filipino traits of Awa and Utang na Loob. But  she has been unmasked by the people and so it was a flop for no Awa came to her rescue. “Persecution, cruelty”, according to her husband. It’s amazing how justice can change someone’s vocabularies. This much heard promise of returning home may have been true but has anybody thought of asking them (Arroyos) when? Two weeks could also be stretched to twenty years. Or maybe forever – like their promise when they were wedded, to be together in good times and bad  times.


The Devil is in the Details

by jun asuncion

The MILF’s walloping of the AFP last October that killed 19 marines and wounded many  has sent a shockwave to global Filipinos. It was such a lamentable loss should not really  happen in modern warfare. This carnage showed us again the loopholes in our armed forces and government and that modernization is badly needed in the whole country – not only in the armed forces.

Peace talks and law enforcement? That’s music to our ears.  But if two notes collide at a given space and time in this music, for which note would you decide? I would opt for  law enforcement. Peace talks can be very broken-sounding.

This dilemma has exposed a certain weakness  in President Aquino and his political, security and communication advisers. No doubt, P-Noy is performing well in his anti- corruption campaign but he appears to be sailing on stormy waters when it comes to armed conflicts. The Luneta hostage crisis has already given us an inkling in this direction.

Appearing before the media after the Al-Barka massacre, he stressed  that he would continue with the peace talk and that he was against the idea  of an all- out war  against the MILF. He sounded broken and ill-advised and so was his adviser Mr. Leonen who described the massacre as “isolated” case, hence, negligible. It seems that too much diplomacy has robbed these two men of their manhood.

This all-out justice method should have been Pres, Aquino’s very first word.

Thus, his reputation suffered a blow, for he projected weakness and  more of saving his political face and of siding with the MILF than with his fallen soldiers and their aggrieved  families. He appeared in the first place as to be more concerned about  defending his politics and of begging the MILF peace panel not to walk out and start attacking villages again.

In times of crisis and real pains, the people need to feel the sympathy of the leader –  and real action. It was such a great loss and a heavy insult to the AFP, hence the people  and the military expected some hardness to come out from his mouth. But P- Noy missed that moment.

But a day or two after came out his concept of all-out justice and  the government forces started with counter attacks against the devious MILF.

This  all-out justice was a compromise with a face-saving value for P-Noy. He then learned that the people wanted vengeance. Employing the strength and touch of strong retaliation contained in the phrase “all- out” and replacing  the word “war” with the more civilized word “justice”,  this seems to have  appeased the people and the MILF peace panel. But this is in theory, in practice, it’s the same more or less- that of pounding the  MILF’s position with minimal civilian damage and of capturing or killing their leaders.

But the Aquino administration was wounded already.  The rumor of destabilization – true or just a product of fertile minds – was  born out of Aquino and Co.’s “amateurish” and “bookish” – according to Escudero-  handling of this entire peace negotiation and business with the MILF.  As if it were not enough, the public has learned  that Aquino had authorized the giving of PH 5- Million aid to the MILF and about Ph30-M  to another break away leftist group. This added more fuel to public dissatisfaction and demoralization… And what about the MILF’s  ATS? (Area of Temporary Stay)? This is a big disappointment for  Filipinos who recognize the territorial and political integrity and sovereignty of the Philippine nation as defined in its constitution, that there is only one Philippine government, one constitution, one territory,  one armed forces and one commander-in-chief. Those militant subgroups (such as the MILF, Abu Sayyaf  and even the NPA) who don’t call themselves Filipinos and don’t obey the laws of the land and use violence against the state and its  citizens are simply criminals and enemies of the state, their acts of violence be suppressed and their secessionist political agenda be given no support whatsoever.

But listening to the ongoing discussions one gets the impression that some Malacañang officials seem to be treating the MILF as a separate and recognized government already, nurturing it and even giving it a cash advance of PH5 million for the education of its future leaders. By definition, the MILF is a militant group, a “Liberation Front”, hence, leadership training is  understood in the first place as  military training, of training their fighters to fight in front to liberate themselves and parts of the southern Philippine territory. Government aid of any kind should take place only when the MILF (or any terrorist group) has surrendered its arms and has vowed to cooperate. Used or not used for ammunitions that killed our marines in Al-Barka, the truth is that the government will never get this money back, and if the MILF doesn’t get what it wants from these peace talks and leaves the table disgruntled, then you know already what it will do with this money and with our soldiers in Mindanao.

Giving money to a rebel group before or during the peace talks is a sign of weakness and political incorrectness. I’ve heard of critics accusing P-Noy of buying peace- or of bribing the MILF-  with that money. But how can you buy something from MILF which it doesn’t sell or is not in its assortment, namely PEACE?  The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was the first to separate from the MNLF and for reasons other than peace:   “(1) Bangsamoro Land should be an Independent Islamic State, and (2) the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters should not negotiate with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines”.

With this in mind, one wonders about the outcome of these peace talks. Peace negotiation is genuine only when the rebel group of any type would surrender its arms to the government and renounces war and all forms of violence  as means to its ends. Without this being done, any peace talk is a calculated talk and  a cover only to build up their fire power and resume violence. In the case of the MILF, its leaders should realize the impossibility of attaining their goal of separating Mindanao or regions of it from the rest of the Philippines and the futility of war for these only  subject their “own” people to indefinite period of  poverty and isolation. Impossible because this is not supported by the majority of the Filipinos who are Christians (80 percent being Catholics). It is true that in a multi-ethnic, multicultural nation like the Philippines, the government must always negotiate in a position of integrity and of strength to prevent the total disintegration of the nation when each minority group would start building  its own armed forces and demanding autonomy or separation.

There are  legitimate grievances and  justifiable historical grounds to demand for autonomy but these should be within the right framework. A unitary form of government like the Philippines is not the right framework for the MILF’s demand for autonomy or independent sub-state. Several sound compromises could be supported in a Federal form of government but even then this demand for an independent Islamic State for the Bangsamoro could not be accommodated in a Federation. And at present, I think the Philippines is ready for everything except for Federalism.

How can a government give such a  dole out using the tax payers’ money to these state enemies who not only terrorize the people but don’t even pay their taxes to the government? President Aquino must be experimenting here with something new  but I doubt if he’s on the right direction. Peace talks and ceasefire with active militant groups have never culminated in a harmonious way as examples in other countries show us- the IRA in Ireland, ETA in Spain, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, etc.,  as long as they continue to hang on to their secessionist plan and choose to load and sharpen their arms in the midst of peace talks.

The Philippines need peace but peace must be won sometimes and be enforced all the time. Peace, not war, is won in battlefields. It’s not a sign of peace when marines were and are being beheaded inside their own country. It’s not a sign of one country when the armed forces of the Philippines are not allowed to move in some regions to  fight for peace and order. I read PNP chief  Director General Nicanor Bartolome saying  “I think the best way to win a war is through peace,” ….  Well, it’s a wise sounding statement but it needs relativization. Active armed confrontation can indeed be prevented through peaceful means but it depends on the enemies and what’s at stake. The MILF would readily shake hands with us and kiss our cheeks if we  would just acquiese in their demands, if we would just give them the whole Mindanao and wash our hands of it. Giving is holier but one cannot give everything away. From the past till today, peace has been and is being won through wars. It was  only when Japan surrendered and Hitler defeated that peace came to Asia and Europe. A revolution ended recently Gadhafi’s reign of terror in Libya. Government should not trust armed rebel groups for they are devious and treacherous –  and it’s a natural strategy because they are weaker and in the minority, hence, their series of ambuscade, dry-gulching, bombings, kidnappings and other tricks such as peace talks and ceasefire.

Pres. Aquino’s desire to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao is good but it’s an illusion for the devil is in the details. There is a family background to Pres. Aquino’s ardent zeal of taming the MILF when we will recall that her mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, also tamed Nur Misuari- the MNLF commander who caused too much headaches to Marcos- when she talked peace with  him in Sulu which resulted in the passing of the  Republic Act No. 6734 known as the ARMM (Autonomous Region Of Muslim Mindanao) Organic Act  in 1989 as mandated in the 1987 Constitution. But even this, as we can see, did not bring lasting peace in Mindanao. So, President Noy Aquino should rather focus on law enforcement, education and economic programs to end extreme poverty in our nation. Extreme poverty and perceived social injustice are among the major details that make up the devil.





(© Journal Group Link International)

Joseph Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – Two weeks ago, 12 Philippine senators, including my friend former President Joseph Estrada, got together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 12-11 vote, rejecting the U.S. Military Bases in the Philippines.

While I applaud them for their nationalism, I feel that they were like the Monkey in the fable Jose Rizal wrote about the Monkey and the Turtle.

As you know, in the fable, the Monkey gave the Turtle the choice of the manner of death he would deal on the Turtle — the Turtle would either be pounded into pieces in a mortar (lusong) or he would be tossed to the river. Of course, the Turtle tricked the stupid Monkey by choosing the mortar because the Turtle did not want to drown in the river.

When the 12 senators padlocked the U.S. bases, they did not tack a rider on the rejection – the termination of the agreement would be contingent on the U.S. clean-up of the bases of their toxic wastes.

It was like telling the renter of your apartment to take with him all the unsightly furniture before the renter turns in the key to the apartment owner.
Because our jolly senators forgot or overlooked this expensive environmental hazardous clean-up, it will now be the responsibility of the present Philippine Congress to appropriate $102-Billion to survivors of deceased victims of toxic contamination caused by hazardous substances stored and used in Clark and Subic military bases.
A similar demand was also served on the Philippine government in the amount of 52-billion pesos (US$1.2-billion) for neglect and refusal to deal with incidents of deaths and illness of the victims, who worked and lived in the two U.S. military bases in a class suit pending before the Regional Trial Court in Pampanga.


There have been reports of leukemia and cancer being caused by toxic contamination of drinking water. At least 80 deaths were reported, resulting from drinking contaminated water at the Clark “motorpool.”

The United States cannot be compelled to pay up because it is not a signatory to the 1989 Basel Convention that penalizes countries that are responsible for risk of damage to human health and environment caused by hazardous wastes while the Philippines is a signatory.

So, the “Magnificent 12” actually let the U.S. go like the Monkey did to the wily Turtle.

If the Philippine Congress wants to go on a damage control mode, it better adopt a U.S. law called Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), requiring companies to provide information about their potentially toxic chemicals, if it has not yet done so.

EPCRA was the result of the U.S. Congressional hearings triggered by the leak of a cloud of lethal methyl isocyanate in a 1984 Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India that caused the death of 2,000 people while they were sleeping and another 8,000, who died later. The Union Carbide paid $470-M in damages.

Among the features of EPCRA is a requirement for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish hazardous materials placard system to help emergency responders to know what they are dealing with.

Rail cars and trucks carrying toxic or dangerous materials must display a diamond-shaped sign having on it a material identification number, which can be looked up to determine what hazardous materials are on board, and a hazardous class number and symbol that tells whether the contents are flammable, explosive, corrosive, etc. Color codes also convey instant information: blue (health), red (flammability), yellow (reactivity) and white (special notice).

The placard system is as follows: Hazard class 1, explosives; Hazard class 2, gases (nonflammable, flammable, toxic gas, oxygen, inhalation hazard); Hazard class 3, Flammable liquids; Hazard class 4, Flammable solids (spontaneous combustible, dangerous when wet); Hazard class 5, oxidizer and organic peroxide; Hazard class 6, toxic/poisonous and infectious substances; Hazard class 7, radioactive; Hazard 8, corrosive; and Hazard class 9, miscellaneous dangerous goods.


 The absence of these placards from a chemical tanker that split into three in Barangay Pange, Matnog, Sorsogon in the Philippines at about 2 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2011 is giving authorities a hard time on how to deal with the accident.

It took Pange Barangay Chairman Fernando Genavia and Barangay Kagawad Ruel Genavia two weeks on Oct. 6 to report to Dr. Rossana Galeria, municipal health officer of Matnog and Matnog Mayor Emilio G. Ubaldo after telling the Matnog Sanitary Inspector that many cases of diarrhea and epigastric pain had occurred following the tanker explosion.

According to accounts, the tanker broke down along the highway of Barangay Pange and split three ways and its unknown liquid contents spilling into nearby trees and ground. Without knowing what the content was, the residents collected the liquid as fuel for cooking and lamps.

Typhoon “Pedring” washed the chemicals on Sept. 25 and 26 to the inner part of the forest and into the river. The trees and grass on the path of the liquid had died and turned brown, including the algae in the riverbed. Fishes died.

Residents had complained of caustic smell from the river and some had diarrhea. Although decontamination is being conducted among residents, the residents do not want to cooperate.

With a population of 520, the barangay residents are mostly indigents, depending on farming for their livelihood. 
Because hundreds of vehicles, including chemical tankers, are passing by the barangay everyday on the way to and from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, more hazardous materials are likely to be spilled in the area.

If the Philippines has EPCRA in place and there is hazardous materials placard system, a rapid response team in the municipality created by the law would have been notified by the residents to report the accident, mentioning the number of the placard and extent of the spill as there is threshold of spills to report (say 1,000 pounds of Sulfuric Acid are spilled) as test results of the contents would be taking weeks to find out.

It is just like calling police during emergency.






(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

Joseph Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – I applaud the residents of Agusan del Sur in the Philippines for snaring and trapping alive last week a huge prehistoric crocodile touted as the longest and heaviest of its kind in captivity. While the reptile might have consumed humans, who might have crossed his path, this crocodile should not be faulted for attacking humans because he was doing it only for survival. Now that the reptile which took its nickname “Lolong” after one of its ill-fated hunters, we should now turn on capturing the two-legged crocodiles that roam the Philippine Congress and the government, who never tire on stealing the pork barrels.

Many politicians have been raiding the national treasury for nearly a decade and stashed those ill-gotten wealth secretly in big investment houses. But still, they would insist on holding onto some elective positions, pretending to be serving the people. But what these very few rich people want to accomplish is to preserve their wealth so that more people will seek their help and be indebted to them. This insatiable desire to amass more wealth is a throwback to the feudal times when nobility would thrive by exploiting illiterates and turning them into beasts of burden. So they would be untouchable like drug lords, these rich people would have to put up private security agencies or private armies.They don’t realize it that the more they linger in government service, the more they are liable to committing more mistakes.
 But like the black hole in the outer space, where nothing escapes, these crocodiles in the government will be ceding a great part of their wealth to the lawyers, who will be representing them in various courts of law. If they are unlucky with their choice, these lawyers will prolong the litigation of the case so they earn more attorneys’ fees.
 In the case of my native Sorsogon province, it is pity that my province mates have been governed alternately by husband-and-wife tandems, who are not even natives of Sorsogon. Incumbent Gov. Raul R. Lee is said to be originally surnamed “Rodrigueza” from Albay while his wife, former Gov. Sally Lee, is from Vigan, Ilocus Sur, who does not even speak Sorsogon Bikol. Since both of them are carpetbaggers, how sincere are they really in helping Sorsoguenos?

When she was governor of the southern most province of Luzon, Governor Sally Lee obtained a 260-million pesos (U$6-M) loan for the province. When Sorsogon’s provincial board member Vladimir Frivaldo sought for an accounting of the loan, Frivaldo did not get any response. I told Vladi to direct his inquiry to the Commission on Audit so it can conduct an accounting of the loan money. Despite the refusal of Governor Sally Lee to explain the whereabouts of the 260-million pesos, her successor and husband, Gov. Raul R. Lee, had the gall to secure another loan, this time, a bigger 350-M peso (US$8.3-M) loan.

 Vladi Frivaldo opposed the P350-M loan but the rest of the members of the Sorsogon provincial board approved the loan request. Vladi wrote a letter to the two banks – Philippine National Bank and Land Bank of the Philippines – to reject the Governor Raul Lee’s loan application by virtue of two criminal graft information filed against Lee by the Ombudsman. Vladi also wrote Congress to investigate the loan request. Vladi is still waiting for the response of his letters.


If COA finds out that Gov. Sally Lee cannot liquidate the P260-M, Sally Lee should be charged with malversation of public funds before the Ombudsman. If Sally Lee could not even account for the P260-M loan, why would PNB or the LBP even entertain granting the P350-M loan to her husband?

Court Information furnished to me by Mr. Fulton Baylon, an anti-graft fighter in Sorsogon, shows that Gov. Raul R. Lee, Raul G. Hernandez, Sorsogon Provincial Chief Accountant, and Ofelia D. Velasco, Sorsogon Provincial Treasurer, have been charged with violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (R.A. 3019) by Ombudsman Orlando C. Casimiro after a preliminary investigation for buying P2,640,000.00 (US$62,857.00) Bio Nature Liquid Fertilizer from Feshan Phil. Inc. without public bidding.

The overpriced liquid fertilizer, according to former DA (Dept. of Agriculture) Regional Executive Director Fe Laysa, is “not appropriate for rice and corn, the principal crops in the region” but it is good for “hanging plants like orchids and other ornamental plants, which however, are not among the priority commodities for development and support.”

In another case supplied to me by Mr. Baylon, the Ombudsman also charged Gov. Raul R. Lee, Atty. Cesar J. Balmaceda, Provincial Legal Officer Atty. Antonio R. Huab, Provincial Engineer’s Office Engr. Arnie de Vera, Assistant Provincial Budget Officer Rosie D. Agnis, Provincial Assessor Florenco C. Dino II, Provincial General Services Officer Teresita D. Paladin, Accounting Clerk III Felicisimo D. Brondial, Inspection Officer Manuel S. Laurora and Enrico T. Velasco, Presidential and CEO of First Education & Training Ventures, Inc. of San Juan City, Metro Manila with accepting P12, 000,000.00 (US$285,714.00) satellite and office equipments and a recurrent fee of US$24,000 on March 29, 2004 from FETVI before FETVI was awarded the contract on March 30, 2004 without public bidding.

The same respondents are also accused of obtaining 300 sets of computer hardware and software in the amount P10,000,000.00 (US$238,095) from a loan with the Philippine National Bank. The only problem with these computers is that they are all “reconditioned/slightly used” instead of the “brand new fresh commercial stock supplies or property” required by the COA Circular.

Oh, well the accused in Sorsogon are not as large as the crocodiles in the Philippine Congress and Malacanang but they can grow as big if they will be left in the wild (or go unpunished).With these charging information, Secretary Jesse Robredo has now every reason to ask Governor Lee to cede his office to the Vice Governor, unless Mr. Lee can quash the information.



Playing With Our Values : On Zubiri’s Resignation

by jun asuncion


On its face value, the resignation is a  good example for others to follow who have served the Arroyo machinery of deceit for the last nine years. As there are still many of them in the government, those who know that they won the 2007 elections ( the winning of which also helped them won the 2010 elections in one form or another) through fraud should voluntarily leave their posts now for the sake of the nation. As Zubiri himself opined,

“No amount of power, position or wealth is worth sacrificing one’s honor and integrity.”

Honor and integrity weigh more in the end when the truth comes out, the issue becoming more intense and starts hurting the whole family and the whole clan.

Zubiri himself denies vehemently his winning through electoral fraud in 2007. He could be telling the truth but he could also be unmindful or unaware of the truth. But the 2007 political circumstances were definitely against him. We know that it will not smell rotten if there is nothing rotten somewhere.  And the political circumstances during Arroyo’s time were rotten that this rotten smell went even beyond the Philippine territories. The whole world still remembers how the Philippine politics smelt so bad at that time. And Zubiri should consider that a rotten fruit in a basket ruins the rest. Coming himself from this basket, he should not wonder why he carries that rotten smell on his shirt.

The 2007 election was grounded itself on the rotten 2004 election which still smells pungent today, providing a lot of air purifying work for the Aquino administration. And then again, the 2004 election was itself grounded on an unconstitutional coming to power  by the then Vice-President Gloria Arroyo (Edsa II) in 2001 when Erap was ejected from his office without due process of law. The Philippine political scene on those days was marked by political conspiracies. Looking back, I think  Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo has done nothing in her political life but to ruin  and dishonor her father’s name.

Back to Zubiri. Philstar reports: “The SET is deliberating on an electoral protest filed by Pimentel. It was alleged in his election protest that votes in Maguindanao in the 2007 midterm elections had been manipulated to favor Zubiri and other candidates of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Zubiri won the 12th Senate slot, based on election results. Zubiri, who comes from a powerful political clan in Bukidnon, denied he had cheated.”

Zubiri denied he had cheated. If  Arroyo cheated for him, then he was telling the truth.

But the case of  the detained Lintal Bedol and Zaldy Ampatuan seems to shed a bit more light to Zubiri’s situation.

While the detained Zaldy Ampatuan claims massive cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections, Zubiri seems to discount its possibility with his statements that:

– it’s ““highly suspect” that witnesses recently surfaced to claim there was massive fraud in the 2007 elections.”

– “Armed merely with their vocal chords and without any supporting documents to prove their allegations, these alleged witnesses are now shouting out loud and, as if with full orchestration, that my election was marred with irregularities,”

– “While my counter-protest is still pending before the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the revision and recounting of the ballots are going on smoothly to find out the truth on the parties’ allegations, a number of highly suspect ‘personalities’ suddenly cropped up recently, claiming that they were allegedly ‘witnesses’ to the alleged frauds and irregularities during the 2007 elections…  ”

Now, if not in captivity and not threatened with perhaps life imprisonment (in China and Japan, death penalty), do you think Zaldy Ampatuan would claim  those massive election cheating? And, trading places with Ampatuan, do you think Zubiri would deny this said election cheating?

We should remember that the patronage politics of Arroyo was in need of strong political allies in the south and that the Zubiri and Ampatuan political clans were in the same Arroyo basket.

But it seems that two different situations produce two different arguments even among basket members. Who is lying now, Zaldy Ampatuan  or Juan Miguel Zubiri?

As I have noted, Zubiri could be innocent and could be telling the truth and he has the right to defend his truth. My problem lies in his utter denial of the 2004 and 2007 poll irregularities. Why deny the obvious and argue as baseless and groundless the joint target of the DOJ and Comelec investigations? Here he becomes – to use  his own words –  “highly suspect” for me.

His resignation is not just a pure gesture of delicadeza for there is something more to it. His whole behavior is funny in a way. If duly elected as senator – as he claims – why resign and not fight for it? In this way, he would be giving honor to the people (including his own clan) who voted for him. The family is important, and not to hurt his own family is much more important. But it should not be used as an alibi for everything.

If I try to zoom in to Zubiri’s picture, I can see somebody who wants to save his own skin by appealing to the psychology (pag-hanga and awa) of the Filipino people and he shows a great deal of ambivalence in his actions. His last minute sweet talking and gesturing all point to his angst and appeal for help and awa. I can see someone who smells but deny the Arroyo smell on his shirt and now hurries home to change it with a fresh one in the hope of a fresh and successful political return. This man is playing with our values.

We will see as we wait for the DOJ and Comelec final findings.




To Correct History?

by jun asuncion

Brain drain is a fact.  That we still have brilliant brains  in the Philippines is also a fact.  Among such brains I have considered are Senator Escudero and Senator Legarda. But it seems that intelligence is something and motivation is another thing. That a personal motive – especially a political one – sometimes could override intelligence which results to a nearly stupid kind of logic coming out from such brilliant brains.

A case in point is Escuderos statement today in Philstar’s headlines  “DOJ ready to probe 2004, 2007 poll fraud ”
where he talked of correcting history:

“To correct history”

Escudero said he would file a joint resolution for the purpose of gathering representatives of the DOJ and the Comelec once the second regular session of the 15th Congress starts next week.

Escudero recommended a retired justice to head the fact-finding committee.

“The objective is not to establish that ex-President Arroyo indeed cheated in the past elections and not to jail her. The objective here is to establish who really won in the 2004 elections and give the person proper place in history,” Escudero said.

Escudero said the purpose of the committee is not to render void Arroyo’s term.

“This (proposed committee) is not to invalidate President Arroyo’s term. This is a rare opportunity for our country to correct history,” he said.

 So far, so good. But if you would look at it closer, something is wrong with his thinking. Hence, so near, so bad. And this prompted me to ask to myself this morning as I read these lines, for heaven’s sake, “what happened to this mind?”, “What is his motive that twisted his logic?” And where is his legislative and/or judicial  impartiality?

First, look at the term Fact-finding. To find a fact is to find all facts related to the case in point. The real case in point is the electoral fraud of 2004 and 2007 which involved Arroyo.

Therefore, what’s the use of creating  a fact-finding committee when at the onset you already exclude possible facts that might point to Arroyo having cheated in the past elections? You don’t need to read between the lines when he says that “The objective is not to establish that ex- President Arroyo indeed cheated in the past elections and not to jail her…” And how can a lawyer-senator utter such comforting words to a suspect before the trial and weighing of factual evidences before a legal court? Where is impartiality and professionalism here? What does he want to achieve by sweet-talking Arroyo?

Sweet talking continues: ” The objective here is to establish who really won in the 2004 elections and give the person proper place in history,” Escudero said.

Well, it’s proper to give credit to whom it is due – in this case either to Arroyo or Poe. But supposing Poe really won the election by votes, wouldn’t this fact automatically establish Arroyo as the cheater? The simple Bulaneño logic would say  “yes, it would”.

Correcting history or giving a person proper place in history includes both sides of the coin, the victim and the crime perpetrator. When we think for instance of the holocaust, we give honor to the victimized Jews and dishonor to Hitler. In our case, why emphasize Poe, the victim and let go the cheater Arroyo? Would this serve as a good example of criminal jurisprudence? Is election cheating on the presidential level  not covered by law?

Before the court has spoken its verdict, Arroy0  naturally still enjoy  her legal  right to presumption of innocence though the public knowledge speaks of Arroyo as the cheater. For Senator Legarda, it’s already clear that Arroyo was the cheater and Poe the cheated when, “reacting to Escudero’s proposal, Legarda suggested placing Poe’s photograph in Malacañang, which she said, would be an “unprecedented way of correcting history.” 

Is electoral fraud not a crime in the Philippines but just a matter of media entertainment and gossips? In the US it is a crime. Remember Watergate?

For us, It seems that it is not when we listen to Senator Legarda: ” There is the need to go after the people involved in the electoral fraud. It is also important to know what happened… but there is no longer a legal way to address the entire process. Will you invalidate the services of GMA (Arroyo) and (former Vice President) Noli (de Castro)? Can you declare FPJ (Poe), who died because of ill-feelings on this?” she asked.

This is another example of derailed logic. What happened to our brilliant brains in the Philippines? Why sound suddenly so forgiving and idiotic at the same time? Yes, no one can invalidate Arroyo’s services in the past but a crime done in the past (and even when proven of planning to do it sometime  in the future) is  punishable by law. A crime such as electoral fraud is not a public service but an insult to the public. It  is a crime against the people, the electorate and against the rules of the Comelec.

Correcting history is a  blurred concept. Correcting the criminals with appropriate punishment is much clearer. Today’s government officials like Escudero and Legarda should rather face their responsiblities.


Brain drain And Minority Leader Danilo Suarez

by jun asuncion


House Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said in Philstar today :

– Aquino has turned the entire government machinery into “one wrecking crew” just to get back at leaders of the previous administration.

My comment: Who will do that otherwise? The Philippines of today is the result of corrupt leadership of the past administrations. Now they have to pay for it.

– “If your marching order is to dig up dirt to use against your enemies, instead of finding ways to improve the lives of Filipinos, you will self-destruct,” …

My comment: Finding ways to improve the lives of Filipinos? The lives of the Filipinos have never been improved because of corrupt and plundering leaders in all levels, from president of the past administrations to the governors and mayors even of today. They destroyed not only the Philippine economy but her people and all of  her institutions, – and ultimately also destroyed themselves now that they have to face the charges for the crimes they have perpetuated when they were up there in their respected offices freely serving their selfish interests. The fight against corruption and plunder is the best way to improve the Philippines. For then the flow of government resources will finally reach its designated targets. No economy and institutions will function properly with corrupt employees and when the flow of government resources ends up in their own pockets.

So President Aquino is doing the right thing because corruption is the root of our poverty. He started this corruption-free political culture in the Philippines, a courageous undertaking which deserves national and international recognition. I think a corruption-free culture is the key to a better Philippines. At the moment that’s really the only way to start improving the lives of Filipinos. This is a big social change happening  in the Philippines.

– “Imagine all the time and public resources to be spent on that one objective alone. And the people’s attention is turned to these issues, so the national attention is on these issues, not the real urgent problems that we must address collectively,” …

My comment: Danilo Suarez has forgotten how much time, opportunities and public resources have been lost during the time of Macapagal-Arroyo, Estrada and Marcos- and how much more we will be losing today and in the future if we don’t end this corruption culture in the Philippines. Alone the loss of good brains due to emigration of intellectuals, imprisonment, extra – judicial killings of thinking Filipino leaders of different sectors is irreplaceable. The loss of  money, of  tax money that should have gone to education, research, health programs, etc., is unaccountable. How about the loss of image? If you live abroad, you will know how the rest look down on us. We have suffered collectively because of these things caused by these people. Hence, we must address this urgent problem of corruption and social injustice collectively and help bring these people to justice.

– “They know that if you hit GMA you will be on the headlines,”…

My comment: When GMA was still president, she was always on the headlines for hitting the country hard and placing it as the most corrupt and plundered nation in Asia and of using the OFWs to her political advantage.  Now the world knows that GMA will soon be facing these criminal charges against her and her old machineries of corruption. Her Ombudsman Gutierrez – a woman who was supposed to fight corruption –  had to go because of  favoring corruption. Already a win for Philippine  justice. “Talk to my lawyers”, was GMA’s response to the inquiring journalists at the airport. Lawyers are professionals and are paid to create good defense argumentation out of  GMA’s miserable situation. But justice doesn’t end there.

To sum up, I think Minority leader Danilo Suarez is a living proof of brain drain in the Philippines.






CHICAGO (jGLi) – In his diary, Philippine national hero Jose Rizal described Missouri River as twice the size of Pasig River in its widest part. Missouri is just the second largest tributary of the Mississippi, the largest river system in North America.

In my youth, I considered Kawayan (spelled with a “k” since there is no “c” in Tagalog nor Bikol alphabets) River in Basud, Sorsogon in the Philippines just as big as the Pasig River if not half as big in its narrowest part.

When I was in grade school, I always cherished the days when we visited our relatives living near Kawayan River so we could swim in the white water the whole day.

If we could leave early in the day, we would even walk upstream of Kawayan River called “Rangas” for a picnic to visit one of my uncles, Felipe Lariosa, who would guide us to a pool of water which was so clean it was safe to drink. We did not care if we took on water while we bathed.

Today, Kawayan River is like a swamp that may soon become a dry and barren land.

Thanks to what Los Angeles, California activist and former Sorsogon resident Bobby Reyes describes as an “ecological rape” of Kawayan River perpetrated formerly by the Philippine government when it was operating the Philippine National Oil Company, which later became National Power Corporation. The NPC ceded its interest to Energy Development Corporation after submitting the complying bid for the 150-MW Bacman (Bacon-Manito) geothermal plants last year for 1.2-billion pesos (US$26-million) during an auction hosted by PSALM (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp).

While geothermal is considered “cleaner energy” than coal- or oil-fired power plant because each kilowatt-hour of electricity it generates only emits about 5 percent of carbon dioxide, along with the area’s “rotten-egg” smell as well as ammonia and methane that it emits, geothermal still raises environmental issues such as air and water pollutions along with safe disposal of hazardous waste, silting, and land subsidence.


One of the residents near Kawayan River, Sonia Lariosa, a cousin of mine, informed Mr. Reyes that in her Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150294889948968.379581.720778967, everyone can see the effects of how huge power companies bring ecological nightmare to the rivers like Kawayan and nearby farm lands when these powerful companies disregard environmental safeguards as they go about with their business.

Sonia complains that Kawayan River is now a very small tributary and from the photos, it seems it is no longer empties into the Sorsogon Bay.

She said her small rice fields are no longer irrigated with water from up streams but with muds “with cement” that can only come from nearby “Bacman II, a geothermal facility that operates two 20-Megawatt-unit turbines “commissioned in 1994.”

The word “Bacman” was taken from the towns of Bacon, Sorsogon and Manito Albay in the Bikol region. It has a steam plant (BacMan I) located in the boundary of Bacon and Manito.

“When my father was alive (Cerelo Lariosa, a World War II veteran), these PNOC people had been bulldozing our small patch of land. My father protested but because nobody can sue the government without its consent, my father gave up and let them do what they wanted,” Sonia recalls.

While the PNOC was building their facility, quarrying of the river went into high gear. Today, when there is rain, there are no more stones to hold the soil and there are mudslides all over the place.

Sonia is not the only one affected. Her neighbors about 200 of them have signed up a petition to put into stop to the unmitigated exploitation of their natural resources that used to irrigate their rice fields, which are the main sources of their livelihood. “We can no longer grow palay in our rice fields,” she wailed.


She said she could not get the cooperation of her Barangay Captain so their complaints will reach the higher government authorities (the local “representathieves” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources), who are conniving with the Energy Development Company people.

They are now enlisting the help of senior law students from Aquinas University in Legazpi City so they can file complaints.

They have formed a group called “Bacman Geothermal Multi Monitoring Task Force,” which will file a complaint against EDC before the United Nations for violating the KYOTO PROTOCOL, an environmental treaty, of which the Philippines is a signatory.

The Task Force realizes that they are up against a behemoth in the industry in EDC, a geothermal leader whose Chair Emeritus is Oscar Lopez of the powerful ABS-CBN international conglomerate. Last May 15, EDC reported a net income of 1.45 billion pesos (US$31-Million) for the first quarter of the year alone. Thru its subsidiaries Green Core Geothermal, Inc. (GCGI) and Bacman Geothermal, Inc. (BGI), EDC acquired the geothermal power plants owned by National Power Corporation, which sources steam from Company’s steam field assets.

Oscar Lopez is a sister of Gina Paz L. Lopez, the managing director of ABS- CBN’s Foundation, Inc.’s Bantay Kalikasan (nature protector) that “envisions a responsibly protected and preserved Philippine environment where children can live safer, healthier and more bountiful lives.”
Sonia said she wrote Gina about her complaints against EDC. But Sonia is afraid Gina is going to be placed in a “conflicting role.”

EDC remains the largest producer of geothermal energy in the Philippines, accounting for 62 percent of the total country, the largest integrated geothermal power company in the world.

Last year, Bacman plants generated 1,199 MW. To appreciate better the power of an MW, a 3-MW plant can supply electricity to Ormoc City, which has a population of 177,524 people and Ormoc’s nearby towns. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)







CHICAGO (jGLi) – When I was covering the mayor’s offices of Rizal province in the Philippines in the seventies, I was pleasantly surprised to see a mayor of Antipolo in near tears when I told him politicians should pave the way for other aspirants when they had grown tired of their jobs or had run out of ideas to improve other peoples’ lives.

“Joseph,” the mayor told me, “what will happen to me when I leave the town hall? Running for mayor and winning the job is the be-all and end-all for me. I don’t have any other marketable skills to boot.”

If you get a similar response from politicians in your neighborhood, you should be ready to stick by him for a long haul.

These kinds of politicians might not have heard of the Peter Principle propounded in 1968 by educator Dr. Laurence J. Peter, who said that: “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence … in time every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties … Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”

This theory met its match when the United States Military has required that certain ranks should be held for no longer than a set amount of time, a lack of compliance of which could render grounds for dismissal.

We can just imagine if the Philippine military will ignore the Peter Principle. What would have happened to the Philippines if thefts of comptrollers of the Philippine Armed Forces like Generals Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot or AFP Chiefs of Staff like the suicide-driven Angelo Reyes, Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu were not exposed? Don’t you think they would ever leave their posts if they were not detected?

And if these kinds of generals were given the option to retire from office like a United States Supreme Court justice who has lifetime tenure, where will the Philippine government get its depleted funds?


Look at what happened to other generals abroad, whose rise to power had remained unchecked. There were Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Augusto Pinochet or Col. Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi to name few, who are shoo-in for entries into the Hall of Shame.

And this takes us back to our local politicians, like my favorite provincial governor in Sorsogon, Atty. Raul Lee.

Governor Lee is your typical Filipino politician, who believes that, like the mayor of Antipolo, Rizal, or the Hall-of-Shame generals that they are the only competent people who can improve other peoples’ lives.

If Governor Lee will be voted off, he can no longer game the system. His position will be a fare game to all comers, who believe that he no longer have an iota of competence.

Ever since his political rival in Governor Juan Frivaldo died after becoming the longest-serving Sorsogon provincial governor, Governor Lee seemed to have carried a chip on his shoulder because he could no longer break Mr. Frivaldo’s winning streak.

With term limits now in place, like any other politician protecting his turf, when Gov. Lee will just about to be termed out, he will let his wife, Sally, run for his position so he will not lose his touch of power. And he can run again for the same position in case his wife is also about to be termed out.

But if they have outlived their competence, as they never age like wine, I believe, Governor Lee should just cede his position to his vice governor and “cut his losses.”


Instead of enjoying his retirement, the 69-year-old Mr. Lee is now re-enforcing his mini-dynasty that he would only be dreaming if the aging “Tata Juan” were still alive. He is now grooming his son, the incumbent Sorsogon City Vice Mayor, and his grandson, the incumbent SK Federation President, for his position.

I don’t mind if his dynasty takes root for as long as can improve the peoples’ lives till Kingdom Come.

But why is he now so insecure like Marcos? Governor Lee has also now usurped the power of the provincial legislature called Sangguniang Panlalawigan by reducing its budget?

The last I heard, in order to silence his critics, Governor Lee has also taken over the appointing power of his vice governor (Antonio H. Escudero) and suddenly became a micro-manager.

After being named to answer for the fertilizer scam, Mr. Lee turned the table on his opponents in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan by hitting them where it hurts most: deprive the SP the ability to hire and keep their own staff.

All appointments by the SP will now have to go thru the eye of his needle so he can buy their loyalties.

His vocal critique, SP member Vladimir Frivaldo, the grandson of “Tata Juan,” was deprived of his “proposed staff complement” after Governor Lee learned that the grandson of his former foe was opposing Lee’s support for STL (small town lottery) operation, the controversial operation of mining in Barangays Balocaue and Cabagahan both in Matnog, Sorsogon and demand for liquidation of the loan obtained by his wife, Sally Lee, in the amount of 260-M pesos (U.S.$ 5.7-Millions) before Lee can obtain a new 350-million pesos (U.S $8.75-M), the biggest loan in the history of the province.

Mr. Vladimir Frivaldo reminded Gov Lee that it is the duty of the SP to approve the annual budgets, the request by the office of the Governor to obtain loan, to oversee that programs and projects are implemented properly within existing laws, guidelines and procedures and make implementors accountable, and not the governor’s.

I don’t know how Gov. Lee can circumvent the fertilizer scam filed against him before the Office of the Ombudsman. If he can steer clear of the charges, the people of Sorsogon can always gather enough signatures to start the ball rolling for his unprecedented recall. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)




Whistling in the Dark


By Oliver Geronilla


From where I am, I can sense that Bulan politics is so still you could hear a pin drop. The pledge to be transparent, the enthusiasm to inform and be informed have all vanished into thin air–perhaps corked in the trapos’ bottles of potions only to be reopened when it’s time to bewitch the electorate again.

Something’s wrong. This silence needs to be broken lest we be accused of being privy to whatever plot is being brewed by these political wizards and witches. This is the point when silence is no longer golden. It reeks of many things that you and I are both wary of—secrecy, muted whimpers, and God forbid… a whole new world of shenanigans!

Just a few more weeks, the year will be over. And yet, nothing significant has transpired in the way hits and misses in local governance are regularly reported to the people of Bulan. Well, fair do’s, at least its official website has been recently tweaked making it technically no longer dormant. Thanks to Tinker Bell! But, by golly, it still bears the same news items that netizens have probably read and reread to their boredom. To make things worse, count how many times the mayor’s picture “graced” the welcome page. Has the moon’s gravity paralyzed the mighty brains and hands of our local heralds? Or have they been gagged by the powers that be?

Whatever the case may be, it still puzzles me why this is happening when I suppose there’s enough manpower to do this job. It doesn’t take a genius to write what we see, hear, and feel. We’re not asking for brilliantly written pieces; we’re asking for reports, for observations, for stories decently written that can fill the vacuum of emptiness that make one stop thinking the world has come to a halt—in Bulan.

Personally, I want to go home, go around the town, and gather some news just for me to have a springboard. But do I really have to do them? For sure, columnists don’t go to Iraq or to North Korea just to get some juicy pieces of information for their articles. For sure, they can have the needed information to put substance into what they write without hopping from one place to another.

Hence, it bothers me that I can write commentaries about Southeast Asian affairs at a drop of a hat, but I can never write a piece about my own hometown. I can’t … because I rely mostly on cyber news. And there’s nothing much and there’s nothing new that we can read about our town through the world wide web. That’s for sure.

So, let me propose one thing: let’s all write. It might be daunting at first, but when we get the hang of it—perhaps through trial and error or dedicated mentoring—everything will just go smoothly.

By writing down our “observations,” we can subtly change the course of events in our town. It’s not tilting at windmills. In fact, it’s doing our share.

Silence is not what we need now. Make noise. Let’s write.


Turning Weaknesses into Strengths


By W. Scott Thompson and Oliver Geronilla


 We have always hated people giving advice.  It usually stems from their own insecurities or their desire to look stronger and wiser than we are.  But what if you ask for it? Sartre, on one occasion, said: “Once you choose your adviser, you’ve chosen your advice.”  So much for the impartiality of advice.

Now when a bright new president comes on the scene, Dutch Uncles are just full of advice especially if that “advice” might give them an entrée to Malacanang. There are also the doubting Thomases-cum-analysts who sometimes play politics. The question is:  Is it wrong for analysts or the general public to think about all the qualifications—and disqualifications—of a new leader—and how to play to these?  We don’t think so. After all, no one is perfect. 

There are five things that people say about the new president that might be negative but can be positive.

First, he isn’t an economist—though he, in fact, studied economics at Ateneo.  Well, Barack Obama isn’t an economist either. Nor Winston Churchill. Nor Franklin Roosevelt. Nor is any major leader in the world to our knowledge.  Oh,  there was GMA—an economist.  What a marvelous reason to be grateful that P-Noy isn’t an economist.

Second, P-Noy isn’t peripatetic,  isn’t instant-energetic, likes to sleep late, and doesn’t get excited.  That’s a disadvantage?  Well, there are lots of things to be done when you are president, and we assume that P-Noy isn’t like Erap, sleeping late because he’s hung over and wants to start the new day (as we once saw him) with brandy and roast beef. All hail to saying ‘Chill’ when everyone else is running around.  Remember Kipling’s poem ‘If’?  ‘

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

  …you’ll be a Man, my son!

 Third, he is sometimes faulted for not having a wife.  But he was overwhelmingly elected with that in full view.  In these days, is this anybody’s business?  Maybe it’s strength.  Every eligible woman in the country will hope to become first lady.  The position is not foreclosed though we presume that the new president is comfortable with his life as it is, and we shouldn’t expect any changes.

There is only one ‘weakness’ that might be scary—the fourth. P-Noy hasn’t been to Europe.  In this he echoes ‘W’ Bush, who through his father’s headship of the CIA, ambassadorship to China, etc., never traveled beyond the Rio Grande. P-Noy could have accompanied his mother on her trips as head of state—and chose not to.  We don’t however think his reasons are the bad ones that ‘W’ had (‘W’ was drugging and drinking in those years).  And we recall our own shock that Ronald Reagan went to Venice for a G-8 summit, revealed he’d never been there, and even then avoided St. Marks Cathedral and the great plaza.  But Reagan was a great president. In fact P-Noy’s tendency to stay at home might mean a lack of braggadocio, a contentedness with his huge responsibilities here in the archipelago.  Let’s hope so.

Now the last weakness: P-Noy smokes.  Maybe that’s his biggest strength, but it makes him an instant friend of Barack Obama. At the dreamy level of heads of state, the highest club of any, all you need is a connection to the king-of-kings.  They have it; they’ve already had a long chat about it.  Obama we think a bit hypocritically is reported as saying that he’s quit, but his annual physical contradicts that. So they’ve got plenty to joke about.  And no doubt on his state visit, President Noy and Barack will find a room deep down in the nuclear-secure area of the White House to have some smoke and jokes.

A leader usually emerges because he ‘fits’ the needs of his electorate.  In this case, President Noy fits the desperate need of the Filipino electorate for someone whom they can trust after nine years of scalawags; Benigno Aquino III was elected because he fits a huge requirement for the job—the nation’s desire for someone in the mold of his mother, more a saint than a devil.

Don’t worry about critics, and don’t worry about all the advice, P-Noy. Remember what Franklin Roosevelt said, when the carping got intense? “I welcome their hatred,” sublimely—and with his cigarette flashing from its iconic holder. //


Oliver Geronilla is a language instructor based in Dasmariñas City. W. Scott Thompson, Dr. Phil. served four presidents in the United States and is professor emeritus of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston.





On Looking Back


by jun asuncion


I guess many of you have already noticed that over the last few weeks, comments that came in were mostly on my posts about the Asuncion History thus giving us the impression that we’re drifting away from our aim of keeping an eye on Bulan politics.

This maybe true but only if seen over a short-term. But talking about the families of Bulan is also part of our initial definitions for it is about local history.  I started with the history of the Asuncions of Bulan not because I’m an Asuncion but because the Asuncions are also part of our municipal history. I have always stressed in my past writings that local history is a subject of great importance. For how does it help our young Bulaneños’ identity if they only learn about Napoleon or Alexander the Great? Bulaneños should know first of all who died for them in the soils of Bulan fighting for their freedom. In this way, I welcome Mayor Helen  De Castro’s plan of starting a local museum of Bulan for then we can start paying our tribute to our past heroes and people from all walks of life who made a little difference in our town.

Looking back is advisable only if we have the intention of coming back to improve our present situation. This is also what I expect from our politics in Bulan. It should look back with the purpose of improving Bulan and of uniting its people. It should neither look back with the intention of revenge or destruction nor build a local heritage museum only to glorify one family or an exclusive group of Bulan citizens. A local heritage museum should glorify the whole town of Bulan by bridging it to its past and to its desired future and by giving its local identity a solid historical ground.

But above all these, it’s all about the attitude of thankfulness when we begin to treasure the past. Carried over to the present politics, we can only harvest good things from it. For a mayor and other elected municipal officials of Bulan to be sincerely thankful to the people who placed them to their positions is a good sign of cultivating that public trust.

Now, over the  long-range, my search for the Asuncion’s history is also one of the many ways I have in mind of connecting Bulan with other places in the Philippines and even abroad. This is my way of putting Bulan in the global map. With more and more Asuncions coming from different places- and so as Yatcos, Alzonas, Rayos, Paternos, etc.,- reading Bulan Observer we also increase indirectly observers of Bulan. In this way, we are actually fulfilling that definition of letting the whole world know about what’s happening in our town not ony politically but also culturally. Political vigilance should be spread out for it to be effective.

The other method of increasing our observers is that of inviting writers to publish some of their works here. We have  been graced lately by a Philstar columnist Michelle Dayrit-Soliven when she posted her articles here in Bulan Observer. We are humbled and honored by her gesture of recognition for the culture that we represent. Until now we have been successful with this method but it is clear to all contributors  that everything is on voluntary basis. So writers come and go and that’s good like that for we are all free to move around as we treat each other as good neighbors.

But lately this did not work with one contributor from Gubat for he had other expectations and couldn’t deal with criticism to the point that he literally ran amok and ordered me to go away and look for another master.  I’ve looked around for level-headed writers, not ego-inflated colonial masters.  And go away from what, from Bulan or Bulan Observer? Since I  don’t want that the youth should learn from such primitive language and arrogant attitude, I decided to exclude him from our round table where we treat one another as free beings, not as masters or slaves. In this way we remain true to our committment of preventing BO from becoming a hate site. Yes, we aim for a culture of freedom and  reason, not for a culture of slavery and hate.

Now, let it be made clear to our local officials that we have a broader and healthier concept of political vigilance. It is not about mistrust or paranoia but of appreciation of good things they do for Bulan. Though we still encourage every one not to hesitate to report observed unpleasant events  in Bulan that concern us all. It’s not personalities but  principles that interest us most of all. Indeed, nothing personal in the truest sense of the word, a motto which has cost me personally some good old friends but also left me with a few real good ones.

Back to writing about  family heritage, may this serve as motivation for others in n Bulan to do the same for it’s not only interesting but also full of surprises. It could for instance suddenly turn out that a neighbor you cannot stand is actually your relative. So writing about one’s family brings people closer together. This is one thing good about looking back.


Sports and Politics

 By Oliver Geronilla

I join BO in congratulating Mayor Helen De Castro for winning another term as Bulan’s chief executive. This “resounding mandate,” as Mr. Gilana astutely phrased it, will give her ample time to collaborate with Bulan’s crème de la crème in close consultation with her “mga padaba na kabungto” in bringing about meaningful change in our town, to continue all the laudable projects she has spearheaded, and of course, to address the issues that have been left unsolved if not overlooked.

The election fever is over. Yet, some are still “feverish.” I hope both losers and winners can go through this “stage” without angst or grudge for it’s time to buckle down to work. There will be election protests, doubts, accusations, etc, but I wish these won’t spoil the true essence of election as a democratic process.

In sports, there’s a great tradition where athletes play fair and square and handle both victory and defeat with grace, style, and dignity. That’s what we call sportsmanship. Ideally, it should be a code of behavior that should be followed not only by athletes but also by politicians and their supporters. As they say, “sportsmanship is a distinctive trait that defines one’s character and mettle.”

How about in politics?

Well, Jun Asuncion gallantly set the tone by positively responding to the post made by the PIO. That’s what we call local diplomacy at its finest. A few expressed the same view; and as expected, others dissented. It’s no surprise that a nebulously phrased comment from who-is-it of Timbuktu created a stir because of his bitter and unfounded disparagement. Boy, that’s what we call dirty politics.

Winners should always bear in mind to be cordial and munificent. Victories should be acknowledged without mortifying opponents; being quietly proud of success and letting victories speak for themselves are virtues worth keeping and observing. Good sportsmanship, when practiced in politics, dictates finding ways to compliment our “opponents”—even if we win by landslide.

Losing, of course, is difficult to come to terms with. It takes time. So, it doesn’t help when people incessantly “jeer” at the losers or their team after the “game” is over.

When we lose, we sometimes take it out on our opponents, blame election officials, or even our own party mates. The best thing to do is to take it in stride. When we lose, we ought to lose with class. So, here’s my unsolicited advice for the losers and their supporters: Thank those who supported you, congratulate the winners promptly and willingly. That shows maturity and courage. And for the winners and their supporters? Be true to your words through and through.



On Accusation And Conviction


by jun asuncion


Since quite a few of  the observers had indirectly suggested in their comments that the decisions made by the Sandiganbayan do not possess finality in their character, I reproduced herewith-  for clarification purposes and with due acknowledgement to the authors- entries from the Wikipedia about the Sandiganbayan Court, The Court Of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

First, it had astonished me to know that some of our Bulan Observers and writers do not classify the Sandiganbayan as an independent court by itself, that many of us do not know that verdict or convictions  made and promulgated  by its jurors are in themselves final, which means that if the convicted would not appeal his case to the Supreme Court for review, then  he or she must serve the sentence given by the Sandiganbayan.

Second, there seems to be a confusion among us about the meaning of accusation and conviction and quite a few suggest in their comments that conviction is the same as accusation.


most dictionaries define accuse (transitive verb) as follows:

1 : to charge with a fault or offense : blame

2 : to charge with an offense judicially or by a public process

 and con·vict is defined as follows:

1. Law : To find or prove (someone) guilty of an offense or crime, especially by the verdict of a court.

2. To show or declare to be blameworthy; condemn

3. To make aware of one’s sinfulness or guilt.

And in common parlance, we call a person who is released from prison after serving his sentence as ex-convict, not ex-accused.

These two legal terms are two different things, the usage of which clearly suggests the momentary stage of the court trial. Accusation is used before and during the court hearing and conviction is used to denote the end of the court hearing when the final verdict has been made.

Hence, during the court hearing, the accused or defendant can either be convicted or even vindicated.

(Perhaps the term vindication may help us also clarify the confusion. Vindication  is defined as “to clear of accusation, blame, suspicion, or doubt with supporting arguments or proof.” Notice, it is to clear of accusation, not to clear of conviction!  Synonymous with it is the verb to acquit someone of something which means “to establish someone’s innocence of a criminal charge or the blame for some wrongdoing”)

It is clear then, that an accused cannot be declared a convict unless a court of law hands in a verdict to this effect.

And Sandiganbayan is a court of law.

Now, back to Jose Solis’ case,- and just talking about facts and things as they are known : Mr. Jose Solis (who is probably on temporary liberty) was convicted last March 3-  after he was accused by the Ombudsman and tried at the Sandiganbayan of violating anti-graft laws and of falsifying documents.

Part of the confusion about the terms accusation and conviction may be traced to how the reporters in some of the newspapers of national – and internet – circulation have interchangeably used the two terms as in the Manila Bulletin report reproduced hereunder. Note that in the first paragraph, the reporter used “convicted” only to use the term accused” again in 8th paragraph.

Now, when the Solis’ Case is elevated to the Supreme Court, decisions made by the Sandiganbayan and Solis’ renewed defense will be reviewed. In my understanding (and I stand to be corrected), alone this act of appealing  to the Supreme Court does not make yet the prior conviction made by the Sandiganbayan null and void. This phase of the case is actually the main cause of confusing conviction with accusation since the public now expects from the Supreme Court  either conviction (or confirmation of Sandiganbayan’s findings and sentence) or acquittal ( or non-confirmation or reversal), hence, putting Solis’ status by this sole expectation (at this stage of event) back to that of an accused!

But actually, “review on appeal is not as a matter of right, but “of sound judicial discretion and will be granted only when there are special and important reasons therefor”.[13] In the exercise of appellate review, the Supreme Court may reverse the decision of lower courts upon a finding of an “error of law”. The Court generally declines to engage in review the findings of fact made by the lower courts, although there are notable exceptions to this rule. The Court also refuses to entertain cases originally filed before it that should have been filed first with the trial courts.” (Wikipedia)

Now, what these “sound judicial discretion”, “error of laws” and “notable exceptions” mean, are things that define Philippine judicial system within the given political landscape that we all know.

jun asuncion


Manila Bulletin

Sandiganbayan convicts Sorsogon representative

By GABRIEL S. MABUTAS March 4, 2010, 10:16am

The Sandiganbayan convicted on Wednesday Sorsogon Rep. Jose G. Solis for charges of graft and falsification of public documents allegedly for allowing the transfer of an inalienable land in favor of a private individual when he was still the Administrator of National Mapping and Resource Information Administration.

In a 67-page decision written by Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz, the Sandiganbayan’s 3rd Division rendered the decision after finding the lawmaker guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3-G of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The ruling was concurred in by Associate Justices Francisco Villaruz and Alex Quiroz.

Solis, along with private individual Florencia Garcia-Diaz, was slapped a jail term of six years and one month to 10 years.

The lawmaker was also meted out an accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

In the falsification case, Solis alone was sentenced to suffer an imprisonment of two years and four months and one day to six years and one day.

Solis personally appeared before the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division to hear the verdict.

“In every prosecution, the guilt of the accused has to be established invariably by proof beyond reasonable doubt. The elements of the crime must be shown to exist and be adequately proven. In this case, we are convinced that the prosecution has ably discharged this quantum of proof to sustain the conviction of accused Solis and Garcia-Diaz for violation of Section 3G of RA 3019,” the Sandiganbayan said.

It has given the accused five days to double their bail bond which shall be used for their temporary liberty. This, after the accused manifested that they are filing their motion for reconsideration.

The Sandiganbayan, however, acquitted other accused in the case namely Salvador Bonnevie, Virgilio Fabian Jr., Ireneo Valencia and Arthur Viernes, being the officials of NAMRIA who entered into the contract with Diaz, due to the failure of the prosecution to establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The case against former Solicitor General Ricardo Galvez was dismissed since he passed away before the case was promulgated.

Court records show that on May 18, 1999, Solis, then official of NAMRIA, conspired with Diaz to enter into a compromise agreement for the registration of a real property, with a land area of 4,689 hectares, in favor of the latter and in gross disadvantage to the government.

It was alleged that the said parcel of land is not alienable or registerable as the same falls within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

The title of the land was issued in the name of Melecio Padilla, from whom the title applicant Flora Garcia and now her heiress claimant Garcia-Diaz, derived her claim. But the Supreme Court later ruled that it is seriously flawed. On February 26, 1992, the Court of Appeals denied, in a ruling, the application of Garcia to have the lands registered in accordance with the agreement



MANILA, Philippines–The antigraft court Sandiganbayan on Wednesday sentenced to up to 10 years in jail an incumbent Sorsogon congressman after finding him guilty of graft and falsification for wrongly classifying a government lot to favor a private claimant more than 10 years ago.

The court’s third Division also disqualified from holding any public office Sorsogon second District Rep. Jose Solis, who is running for governor.

The court also found guilty of graft his co-accused, Florencia Garcia-Diaz, the private claimant who stood to benefit from the wrong classification of almost 5,000 hectares of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija.

Solis, who was present when the decision was promulgated, is planning to appeal his conviction. His lawyers, however, refused to give any statement when approached by the Inquirer.

Congressman gets 6 years for fake land sale

THE anti-graft court on Wednesday sentenced Sorsogon Rep. Jose Solis to six to 10 years in jail for illegally awarding the title of a piece of land in Laur, Nueva Ecija, to a private person in 1999, when he was head of the National Mapping and Resource Information Administration.

The Sandiganbayan’s Third Division found Solis and his co-defendant, Florencia Garcia-Diaz, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating anti-graft laws.

“We are convinced that the prosecution has ably discharged [its duty] to sustain the conviction of [the accused],” the court said.

Solis, 70, a civil engineer and on his third term as congressman, was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

The court gave him and Diaz five days to post bail for their temporary liberty.

Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz cleared three other defendants after prosecutors failed to establish their guilt. Another accused was not arraigned because he was at large.

The court said that on May 18, 1999, Solis conspired with Diaz to register in her name 4,689 hectares of land in Laur, Nueva Ecija, that was part of Fort Magsaysay, a military reservation.

It dismissed Solis’ defense that he was no longer connected with the Mapping Administration when the case happened, and that he had merely recommended the transfer of the piece of property on his subordinates’ recommendations.

“Accused Solis could not extricate himself from liability … [because] he was no longer connected with [the agency] at the time the compromise agreement was executed,” the court said. Macon Ramos Araneta



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Sandiganbayan is a special court in the Philippines which was established under Presidential Decree No. 1606. Its rank is equivalent to the Court of Appeals. The court consists of 14 Associate Justices and 1 Presiding Justice. The Sandiganbayan building is located at Centennial Building, Commonwealth Ave., Batasan Road, Quezon City in Metro Manila.

The creation of the Sandiganbayan was originally provided for by Article XIII of the 1973 Constitution of the Philippines:

“SEC. 5. The National Assembly shall create a special court, to be known as Sandiganbayan, which shall have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving graft and corrupt practices and such other offenses committed by public officers and employees, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations, in relation to their office as may be determined by law.”

In obedience to this mandate, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, exercising the emergency legislative power granted him under Amendment No. 6 of the 1976 Amendments to the 1973 Constitution, issued on June 11, 1978, Presidential Decree No. 1486 creating the Sandiganbayan and putting it on the same level as what were then known as the Courts of First Instance, now the Regional Trial Courts. Shortly thereafter, however, the Sandiganbayan was elevated to the level of the Court of Appeals by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1606 issued on December 10, 1978.

At the start of its operation on February 12, 1979, the Sandiganbayan had only one Division, composed of the Presiding Justice, Hon. Manuel R. Pamaran, and two Associate Justices, Hon. Bernardo P. Fernandez and Hon. Romeo M. Escareal, and a skeleton force of fifteen (15). The start of the third year of the Court’s operation in 1981 was marked by the activation of the Second Division. The appointment of three more Justices of the Third Division in August 4, 1982 completed the full membership of the Court.

The People Power Revolution of February 1986 signaled the beginning of a new dispensation, caused substantial changes in the entire government machinery, including the judiciary. However, both the “Freedom Constitution” and the new Constitution have seen fit to maintain the Sandiganbayan as one of the principal instruments of public accountability. In furtherance of this, its jurisdiction has been broadened to include the so-called “ill-gotten wealth” cases investigated by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) through Executive Orders No. 14 and No. 14-A. In the reorganization program of the new government, the resignation of some of the members of the Court was accepted leading to the appointment of a new Presiding Justice in the person of Hon. Francis E. Garchitorena.

To further strengthen the functional and structural organization of the Sandiganbayan, several amendments have been introduced to the original law creating it, the latest of which are Republic Acts No. 7975 and No. 8249. Under these new laws, the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan is now confined to cases involving public officials occupying positions classified as salary grade “27” and higher. As restructured, the Sandiganbayan is presently composed of a Presiding Justice and fourteen (14) Associate Justices who sit in five (5) Divisions of three Justices each in the trial and determination of cases.


Philippine Court of Appeals

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Philippine Court of Appeals (Filipino: Hukumang Paghahabol ng Pilipinas) is the Philippines’ second highest judicial court, just after the Supreme Court. The court consists of 68 Associate Justices and 1 Presiding Justice. Pursuant to the Constitution, the Court of Appeals “reviews not only the decisions and orders of the Regional Trial Courts nationwide but also those of the Court of Tax Appeals, as well as the awards, judgments, final orders or resolutions of, or authorized by 21 Quasi-Judicial Agencies exercising quasi-judicial functions mentioned in Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, plus the National Amnesty Commission (Pres. Proclamation No. 347 of 1994) and Office of the Ombudsman (Fabian v. Desierto, 295 SCRA 470). Added to the formidable list are the decisions and resolutions of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) which are now initially reviewable by this court, instead of a direct recourse to the Supreme Court, via petition for certiorari under Rule 65 (St. Martin Funeral Homes v. NLRC, 295 SCRA 414)”. 

 On July 28, 1986, President Aquino issued Executive Order No.33 restoring the original name of the Court of Appeals with a Presiding Justice and fifty (50) Associate Justices.

On February 23, 1995, R.A. No. 7902 was passed expanding the jurisdiction of the Court effective March 18, 1995. On December 30, 1996, R.A. No. 8246 created six (6) more divisions in the Court, thereby increasing its membership from 51 to 69 Justices. These additional divisions – 3 for Visayas and 3 for Mindanao paved the way for the appellate court’s regionalization. The CA in the Visayas sits in Cebu City while Cagayan de Oro City is home to the CA for Mindanao.

On February 1, 2010, the Court celebrated its 74th Anniversary.[2]


Supreme Court of the Philippines

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 The Supreme Court of the Philippines (Filipino: Kataas-taasang Hukuman ng Pilipinas or Korte Suprema) is the Philippines’ highest judicial court, as well as the court of last resort. The court consists of 14 Associate Justices and 1 Chief Justice. Pursuant to the Constitution, the Supreme Court has “administrative supervision over all courts and the personnel thereof”.


The powers of the Supreme Court are defined in Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution. These functions may be generally divided into two – judicial functions and administrative functions. The administrative functions of the Court pertain to the supervision and control over the Philippine judiciary and its employees, as well as over members of the Philippine bar. Pursuant to these functions, the Court is empowered to order a change of venue of trial in order to avoid a miscarriage of justice and to appoint all officials and employees of the judiciary.[10] The Court is further authorized to promulgate the rules for admission to the practice of law, for legal assistance to the underprivileged, and the procedural rules to be observed in all courts.[11]

The more prominent role of the Court is located in the exercise of its judicial functions. Section 1 of Article VIII contains definition of judicial power that had not been found in previous constitutions. The provision states in part that:

Judicial power includes the duty of courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.

The definition reaffirms the power of the Supreme Court to engage in judicial review, a power that had traditionally belonged to the Court even before this provision was enacted. Still, this new provision effectively dissuades from the easy resort to the political question doctrine as a means of declining to review a law or state action, as was often done by the Court during the rule of President Ferdinand Marcos.[12] As a result, the existence of “grave abuse of discretion” on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government is sufficient basis to nullify state action.


The Court is authorized to sit either en banc or in divisions of 3, 5 or 7 members. Since the 1970s, the Court has constituted itself in 3 divisions with 5 members each. Majority of the cases are heard and decided by the divisions, rather than the court en banc. However, the Constitution requires that the Court hear en banc “[a]ll cases involving the constitutionality of a treaty, international or executive agreement, as well as “those involving the constitutionality, application, or operation of presidential decrees, proclamations, orders, instructions, ordinances, and other regulations”.[4] The Court en banc also decides cases originally heard by a division when a majority vote cannot be reached within the division. The Court also has the discretion to hear a case en banc even if no constitutional issue is involved, as it typically does if the decision would reverse precedent or presents novel or important questions.

Appellate review

Far and away the most common mode by which a case reaches the Supreme Court is through an appeal from a decision rendered by a lower court. Appealed cases generally originate from lawsuits or criminal indictments filed and tried before the trial courts. These decisions of the trial courts may then be elevated on appeal to the Court of Appeals, or more rarely, directly to the Supreme Court if only “questions of law” are involved. Apart from decisions of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court may also directly review on appeal decisions rendered by the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals. Decisions rendered by administrative agencies are not directly appealable to the Supreme Court, they must be first challenged before the Court of Appeals. However, decisions of the Commission on Elections may be elevated directly for review to the Supreme Court, although the procedure is not, strictly speaking, in the nature of an appeal.

Review on appeal is not as a matter of right, but “of sound judicial discretion and will be granted only when there are special and important reasons therefor”.[13] In the exercise of appellate review, the Supreme Court may reverse the decision of lower courts upon a finding of an “error of law”. The Court generally declines to engage in review the findings of fact made by the lower courts, although there are notable exceptions to this rule. The Court also refuses to entertain cases originally filed before it that should have been filed first with the trial courts.


Judicial corruption

On January 25, 2005, and on December 10, 2006, Philippines Social Weather Stations released the results of its 2 surveys on corruption in the judiciary; it published that: a) like 1995, 1/4 of lawyers said many/very many judges are corrupt. But (49%) stated that a judges received bribes, just 8% of lawyers admitted they reported the bribery, because they could not prove it. [Tables 8-9]; judges, however, said, just 7% call many/very many judges as corrupt[Tables 10-11];b) “Judges see some corruption; proportions who said – many/very many corrupt judges or justices: 17% in reference to RTC judges, 14% to MTC judges, 12% to Court of Appeals justices, 4% i to Shari’a Court judges, 4% to Sandiganbayan justices and 2% in reference to Supreme Court justices [Table 15].[27][28]

The September 14, 2008, Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) survey, ranked the Philippines 6th (6.10) among corrupt Asian judicial systems. PERC stated that “despite India and the Philippines being democracies, expatriates did not look favourably on their judicial systems because of corruption.” PERC reported Hong Kong and Singapore have the best judicial systems in Asia, with Indonesia and Vietnam the worst: Hong Kong’s judicial system scored 1.45 on the scale (zero representing the best performance and 10 the worst); Singapore with a grade of 1.92, followed by Japan (3.50), South Korea (4.62), Taiwan (4.93), the Philippines (6.10), Malaysia (6.47), India (6.50), Thailand (7.00), China (7.25), Vietnam’s (8.10) and Indonesia (8.26).[29][30]

In the September 23, 2008, Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (global survey ranking countries in terms of perceived corruption), the Philippines dropped to 141st, down 10 places from 2007, among 180 countries surveyed. It scored a 2.3 in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), lower than 2007’s 2.5, on a scale where 10 is the highest possible grade.[31][32][33] Vincent Lazatin, TAN executive director, said: “We are compared to our nearest neighbors Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, with Vietnam seen as eventually overtaking us in a few years. The difference is that (in other countries) when business sets aside money to grease the wheels, they know that they will get what they paid for. In the Philippines, there is no certainty.”[34]

“Bantay Korte Suprema”

“Watch the Supreme Court” coalition was launched at the Training Center, Ground Floor, Supreme Court Centennial Bldg on November 17, 2008, “to ensure the fair and honest selection of the 7 Associate Justices of the Supreme Court on 2009.” Members of “Bantay Korte Suprema” include retired Philippine presidents, retired Supreme Court justices, legislators, legal practitioners, the academe, the business community and the media. Senate President Jovito Salonga, UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen, Senate Majority Leader and JBC member Kiko Pangilinan, the Philippine Bar Association, Artemio Panganiban, and Atty. Rodolfo Urbiztondo, of the 48,000-strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and the chambers of commerce, witnessed the landmark event. BKS will neither select nor endorse a candidate, “but if it receive information that makes a candidate incompetent, it will divulge this to the public and inform the JBC.” At the BKS launching, the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the public monitoring of the selection of justices to the SC was signed.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Appointments Watch (SCAW) coalition of law groups and civil society to monitor the appointment of persons to judicial positions was also re-launched. The SCAW consortium, composed of the Alternative Law Groups, Libertas, Philippine Association of law Schools and the Transparency and Accountability Network, together with the online news magazine Newsbreak, reactivated itself for the JBC selection process of candidates.[35][36][37][38]


Still Tongue Makes a Wise Head


By Oliver Geronilla


Politicians and their apologists have never failed to amaze me. From their empty rhetoric to their convoluted orchestration of truth down to their infuriating chutzpah, everything seems to bring me to a fleeting rapture of guffaws every time I see them on national TV unsuspectingly shedding their own skin.

That’s true for national politics where the media seem to follow political demagogues quite naturally for juicy bits of information and commentaries. But does it also hold true for local politics? I’m afraid not. Perhaps it’s too parochial to merit the giant TV networks’ costly airtime and the major broadsheets’ precious op-ed page. Thank God we have Bulan Observer.

A couple of days ago, while dining with Dr. W. Scott Thompson, FVR’s biographer and former US assistant secretary of state, I mentioned how frustrated I was with the LGU’s nonchalance over some pressing matters in our hometown. He laughed and said: “Oh, perhaps they have forgotten what Thomas Tip O’Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, once said.” He paused, banged the table (perhaps for theatrical effects), looked at me, and said: “Remind them that all politics is local.”

I nearly drew a blank. In fact, it took me almost half a minute before I recognized that he was waiting for me to react. When I was about to give my rejoinder, he started speaking again and ended up giving me a “lecture” on the dynamics of Asian politics particularly that of ours. He went on and on only stopping to have a sip of wine. Then, he mentioned “hiya” as one of the culprits of our flawed perception of leading and following—our own rendition of democracy.

According to Dr. Thompson, hiya, loosely translated as shame or sense of propriety, is a Filipino cultural trait that unites and divides us as a people. How? Well, look at those comments generated by the article posted by Mr. Jun Asuncion regarding the “fate” of Congressman Jose Solis. Most of them can be described just by using the word hiya and its cousins: nanghihiya, hiniya, walang hiya, nahiya, kahiyahiya, etc.

All these can either be a coping mechanism or a mere defense mechanism. But I could evidently see the angst, frustration, and resentment in their words. These, I suppose, were bottled up emotions just waiting to be “unleashed.”

In no time, BO became a temporary theater of word war. Yes, explosive bursts of emotions flooded BO’s comment page making it a repository of genuine sentiments and scathing remarks worthy of being “processed” to redefine our atavistic views.

I cringed in utter disbelief when I found out, through this site, how some of us could be vindictive—at least verbally. Still, I think there are many things that we can learn from out of this issue. One of them, and perhaps the most salient, is how we view success, failure, and downfall vis-à-vis “hiya.” We always bask in our victories walking tall thinking that our triumphs would last forever. That, of course, is an example of delusions of grandeur. Even mighty monarchs of great civilizations were dethroned. And in our case, we had the Marcoses who tried to cling to power at all costs disregarding that Filipino virtue of hiya (sense of propriety). In recent history, Erap suffered from more or less the same fate; but as we can see, he’s back in politics trying to have his last shot at the presidency. The Marcoses have long been back and, without a shadow of doubt, have reintegrated themselves to the local and national politics. Where is their sense of propriety?

What about Congressman Solis’ case? Is this the end of his political career? Maybe yes, maybe not. It’s just too bad that the verdict came out very close to the election season. Bad timing for Congressman Solis; good timing for his critics and political opponents. Well, as the cliché goes, “bad publicity or good publicity…it’s still publicity.”

Now, on the issue of hiya, is this something that is kahiyahiya? Perhaps, yes… for it has tarnished his reputation both as a public servant and as a private individual. But this is not the end. Vindication is not included in our lexicon for nothing. As pointed out by some observers, there are ways to prove his innocence. It is, in my own reckoning, clear to everyone how to do that, and where to do that.

BO writers and observers have no business defaming anyone. That’s for certain. Admittedly, some observers might have gone overboard. And their best defense? Of course, a good offense.

As I write this, things aren’t fizzling out yet. In fact, everything seems to be coming to a head. I join Mr. Jun Asuncion in asking everyone to remain level-headed and to avoid mudslinging. Let’s give our readers something worthwhile to read, something that is edifying, something that identifies us as civilized Bulanenos. Remember, what sauce is for the goose is sauce for the gander. That can perhaps change our warped views, and put hiya to proper use.

Generally speaking, we, Filipinos, are magnanimous. That’s something to bank on especially for Congressman Solis and his family members. Criticisms are part and parcel of politics. Noynoy said it well when he reminded Kris “that in any election, we’ll have our share of fervent supporters and harshest critics. And if you can’t take the heat, then politics isn’t for you.”


Playing Politics


By Oliver Geronilla


Ask the children around you what they know about Bulan politics. I’m dead certain that you’d get the same answer that my childhood friends and I used to give: it’s all about the bigwigs plus their phalanx of entertainers and never about the nonentities.

Not a bad answer. At least they, or should I say we, know their names and the good and the bad things associated with them. What worries me is that these innocent children might have the notion that politics is all about these politicians, the external and internal struggles that they face, and how they paint reality according to their own world.

But why be bothered by these kids when they have no direct stake in the upcoming local election?

Well, we were all once like them. And we knew how amusing it was when election seasons kicked in. There were endless sources of entertainment to look forward to. Political junkets made us feel like we’re in a circus where music, dance, and other similar tricks were dime a dozen.

We didn’t care; we just took pleasure in all these jollities which went on and on like eternity. Then without us noticing it, the time came when we could start exercising our right to vote. Sadly, we’re no longer amused with their old tricks. But…oh yes, we still remember the names that entertained us every election season. And lo and behold! They’re still part of the “numbers game.”

Of course, there are some variations. For instance, when I was 16, it was Mr. Guillermo De Castro who was at the helm; and now that I’m 31, it’s his wife who’s there. She’s running for office again, and many say that she will once again win.

I was told about the many fine accomplishments of the De Castros: they’ve done these and those and have made our town more attuned to the times. According to my high school classmates, the signs of progress are everywhere. In fact, they enumerated quite a lot. Good tidings, aren’t they?

Bulanenos won’t forget these things. For sure, such accomplishments can help the incumbent mayor win the race again. That’s a good track record that’s hard to beat and the best launch pad she can ever have.

Are these things due to her efforts and of those manning the LGU? Or is it because of what we call “concurrent development” which might result in progress trap if not properly carried out?

I think it’s mainly due to concurrent development wherein we don’t have much of a choice but to forge ahead; otherwise, we’d be facing problems that are difficult to solve due to lack of resources which can of course halt further progress. It does not really matter who is in control. Progress in our town is inevitable given the kind of people that we have, not because of the kind of politicians that we have.

Remove them from the office, and the whole state of affairs will continue. A new set of  leaders will come to the rescue, and things will get back to normal. No one is so indispensable.

The opposition members will certainly have the “burden of proof” for they have not proven anything substantial yet. They’ll be articulating their promises, their aspirations. And you and I know that these are the main fares of election banquets. Partake but never be fooled for most of them are just empty roughage meant to satiate us temporarily. Forewarned is forearmed.

The official campaign period for local posts next month is nothing more than what we call “cramming.” Political candidates make themselves busy with all kinds of sorties conceivable just to get the figures that they need to win the battle of bailiwicks.

Do Bulanenos still get amused with the candidates’ old tricks? What I know is that nowadays, people cast their votes not based on these last- minute efforts to make the electorate vote for them. They cast their votes based on how these candidates –novice or not–measure up to their expectations from childhood to the present.

That’s their gauge. No more, no less.

My question is: What are these expectations? Well, they come in full spectrum.

I’m no longer a kid, and I know what’s right and what’s wrong; who are sincere, and who are not. And election season is not really about entertainment and the bigwigs. It is about making the right choice.



Doing Things Right and Doing the Right Thing



By Oliver Geronilla


 Most of the columns that I write for dailies and the articles that I turn in here at BO dwell on empirical matters that reflect our current state of affairs including, of course, my take on them.

For the columns that I write or co-write for newspapers, I get paid. For the articles I write for BO, I don’t get paid, but I feel elated. In both cases, I do my best to turn out highly credible and well-written commentaries. That’s my pledge, my commitment to the art of writing. And that, for me, is the right thing to do, isn’t it?

 Here at BO, after reading some pieces or comments, observers can opt to do many things. In fact, they have a wide range of alternatives to choose from in order to express their views on what they read and perceive. They can talk about them with their neighbors, their colleagues, their friends, and their family members; they can also keep a journal; or they can even “harness” BO as a platform to share their thoughts and ideas. After all, it is a “place” where such observations can be expressed and hopefully read and understood by the readers.

 Talking about reading, we all know that there are what we call passive readers and active readers. Both of them are observers, but not both of them are active participant-observers. When participation takes place, that observer joins the discussion by giving comments and suggestions or by writing articles. Mr. Jess Guim is a good example of an active participant-observer. He does not simply pontificate, he practices what he preaches.

 We have more examples of active participant-observers who have graced the electronic pages of BO with their well-thought-out articles. Sometimes, you see them, sometimes you don’t. Just like good neighbors, we refrain from being intrusive, from giving unnecessary provocation, from being snooty. We just give them all the space and time that they need; and in some rare occasions, we coax “observers” to say their piece in a unified prose. Alas, only a few have risen to that challenge. Do I have qualms about that? No, I don’t. Not even an iota.

 That’s doing the right thing.

 Going back to the subject of writing, we know that normally, effective writers are good observers. But are good observers also effective writers? Your guess is as good as mine. Writing style is a matter of taste. Effective writing is a matter of discipline; it reflects erudition; it promotes learning. There’s no single formula towards achieving fluidity in prose. Otherwise, it’d be like math where precision and accuracy reign.

 Writing should not be confused with the rules of grammar or diction. Writing is the end-result of our experiences, both professional and personal.

 So, my question is: why do we give pieces of advice on the ropes of writing when some of us have not even shown a proof of what constitutes “good writing”? Remember, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

 Our discussion on “writing” has drawn many comments from our readers. I just don’t see the need to tell others what to do. Even in writing workshops, we try to do away from giving run-of-the-mill suggestions. What we usually do is to encourage and guide participants to express themselves more succinctly without sacrificing clarity and content. And this entails practice and professional training. That’s doing things right.

 I am a writer, and I know what it takes to be one. For the serious ones, writing is a highly cerebral artistic expression; for the uninitiated, it is nothing but a mere form of human communication.

 Sadly, I can see a correlation between the issues we’ve tackled here about writing and the issues that haunt the kind of politics and politicians that we have in Bulan. They share the same problem.

 We always seem to know what is right. We always tell them what to do. And when we don’t get what we want, we raise a hue and cry about them.

 But can we blame them? Can you blame us? Until now, the LGU appears to have been under a spell of silence. Its PIO has remained mum about my queries. Is this the right thing to do? Is he doing things right? My blind horse neighs. Is it because I am just crying wolf? Beats me.

 Well, Mr. Gilana is an able participant-observer. And he is a good writer too. That is sure as God made little green apples. But what happened? Has he been reduced to silence with my questions?

 I am sometimes tempted to give him unsolicited advice—to do this, to do that. But that is simply not me. And that is not the right thing to do.


This Or These: The Tyranny Of Words And The Agony Of Choice


by  jun asuncion


 To Bulan Observers

We always enjoy constructive discussion or criticism for it  leads us to improvement or stimulate our thinking- as opposed to discussion or criticism that is closed, no substance, undifferentiated, egoistic and even sadistic.

On Perfection and the striving for Excellence

I give credit to the arguments presented both by Mr. Geronilla and Mr. Bulan in conjunction with Mr. Geronilla’s posted article  Have A Way With Words  in as much as we are operating within the context of constructive discussion.

Language is a tool to convey our thoughts and feelings, the very substance of communication. If you can get this substance across with simple English, then why not? This is what Mr. Bulan had in mind, a more practical application of the tool.

But language as a tool becomes an art when one strives to use it to show the beauty of its form; hence, the striving for excellence  according to Mr. Oliver Geronilla. This entails sticking to the formal rules. And so, if you can get your substance across in an artistic way, why not?

The next thing  is that this tool can become not only as an art but a profession. And here is the crux of the matter, of this discussion.

What’s the signficant difference when a pistol is in the hands of a trained law-enforcer- as in the hands of a criminal? The pistol is in the hands of  someone restricted by laws and by profession with respect to his public behaviour and right usage of the pistol (or any other weapon) at any given situation.

This is Oliver’s situation; he carries this responsibility in any given (written) situation  for that is his profession and this explains his being particular in expressing himself in perfect English. Why not express (write) the professional way?

But, if I may add something, it’s not totally fitting when he says that he is not striving for perfection but for excellence, for it is by trying to be excellent that we are actually striving for perfection, and also because these two words are just the two sides of the same coin; perfection is that ideal form (the highest state or goal) and excellence is the striving (action) for this ideal form.

But perfection is not equal to impossibility- at least when talking about the language. If you abide by the agreed or standard rules of  the American English grammar for instance, you can surely construct a perfect sentence and then a perfect paragraph. Isn’t it so?

Hence, to  recognize the error and to correct it is just a proof of our striving for perfection.

Nobody is perfect?

This is a cliche’ and normally by this we mean or understand that  everybody makes mistakes or has some flaws in character, judgement or in appearance.

But who’s definition of Perfection is being used in this statement?

 We will not go deeper into it it but at least let us mention Aristotle’s definition of perfection (In his book of Metaphysics) which is,  that 1. which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts; 2. which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better; 3. which has attained its purpose.

Therefore, if I would look at any normal  human being or an apple tree with Aristotle’s definition of perfection, I would say that human being or apple tree is perfect.

If human being could be perfect, why not a sentence or a paragraph?

But, roughly speaking, if you prefer Mr. Bulan’s view of accepting imperfections as along as the argument has a substance, it is also alright for this view has also its philosophical tradition, namely that of another Greek, Empedocles, who maintained that the world is imperfect and  that imperfection possesses that pull to completeness and ultimately to perfection as it develops with time, a concept adopted by the Italian esthetics in the baroque period by insisting that perfection is completed in the mind and imagination of the one viewing an art work.

Viewing an art work?  How about in reading a comment or article here in BO with such minor lapses in grammar or spelling? Can we really apply here Mr. Empedocles’ view on perfection?

Of Bulan pupils perfecting in their minds the imperfect  grammar or spelling they are noticing here in Bulan Observer?

Well, there is a hope. Because if they “notice” such errors, this means they have learned their lessons well at school.

Hence, it is imperative for the language instructors in our schools in Bulan to master the language they are teaching.

The other side of the coin:

A Necessity

“Necessity is blind until it becomes conscious. Freedom is the consciousness of necessity.” Karl Marx

 Mr. Geronilla is right to say that edition is needed for any printed message. For me alone, an editor would have a very hard job editing “my” English, a language which-before I even  had the chance to master it, has been buried deep in time, eaten up by the worms of oblivion when I went back to it  for a purpose. I wasn’t sure anymore if I could ever use it to even  form some basic phrases. I tried because there was this necessity.

Now, had I let myself be intimidated by English, I wouldn’t have met some good friends from Bulan. Sometimes you just need to do it, don’t wait for perfection for it will never come- at least in my case! That you just go for it. This is the lesson I learned in jazz music. Afraid to play an improvised solo in front of an audience? Forget it, just play! My guitar teacher was right. Perfection is a goal in every artist, even for the ones whom we think are already at the crest of the wave. The way to it is only through practice and deep reflection- this is the only way, again the way to something we cannot after all reach- at least subjectively. For perfection is not only the technical side of the craft, but it involves the question of the longing of our soul for something even better, something new- the will 0′ the wisp.

Afraid to make mistakes? Well, who’s not? Again, it takes courage and the will to overcome that which we set as our own limits. Courage can indeed open up new horizons, new possibilities for positive changes. At least you have tried- even you have failed, but definitely you also have learned something during the entire process.

Kein Master ist vom Himmel gefallen as they used to say it in German- or No one is born a master. No one, yes but it seems that for some it doesn’t take long to be one. No matter in which group you may belong, there is no reason not to try to master any craft available here on earth and to try other crafts as well. In this way you don’t waste your precious time.

My back  up against the wall

I’ve been writing English for two years now and I’m still glued in the most basic level. There were moments though when I was  almost eaten up by my doubts that I almost removed Bulan Observer from the net. But the strong pull to send message to Bulaneños took the upper hand and so BO exists until now.

Now we have grown a little bit, we Bulan netizens. I’m glad about this development.

BO was conceived not as an On-Line Newspaper for flawless plain reporting or write-ups but as a platform where Bulaneños could loosely meet and express their views. That’s the reason why I was not particular about editing comments or contributions. One thing more, it needs a lot of time even- as I’ve mentioned- for my own posted articles alone. It is right that lapses in grammar in written form are not permissible to protect the young mind from being corrupted at least in this subject. I cannot argue against it.

LIFE itself is a flux

But, in essence, all our mistakes here are not intentional, and so,- placed against a greater context,- forgivable. That greater context is LIFE itself. Life allows growth, trials and experimentations; it allows spontaneity of activity, of emotions, fantasy and thinking. In short it is free. And for those who try, they make mistakes. For those who do not try, don’t make a lot of mistakes, just a bigger one.

In BO everybody is welcome to participate in this freedom. We will keep this blog form still for a while since it reflects our philosophy of life as a flux, a continues flowing event. A new message covers the last one; what is gone, is gone; the moment is the most important for here is the chance to be free, to be better than the past.

Like The back Of Our hands

Going back to language, there is no doubt as to the beauty and advantages of having mastered it, so in effect there’s nothing else to write about it. How about just being at the basic level, is there also beauty and advantages left to it?

I think there is: One is forced to be simple and make the most out of one’s limitations. Isn’t it great also? This is very much in line with our goals for our town: To be a different town from the rest aside from its given limitations.

With time, I have observed though that my limitation is becoming my strength for I can – with my simple style- give form to my simple way of thinking. Why make it complicated? My way of thinking has always been between intuitive and analytical, my writing expositional. The focus is primarily on insights and logical argumentation. For this purpose, it suffices an English level for everyone, with the set of vocabulary that we know like the back of our hands. Indeed, I discovered- without suggesting anything in my favor- that many great writers/thinkers whose impact were far-reaching and have changed history (Marx, Einstein…) were so simple in their writing style, without idioms overdrive or distortions, or as we say, without being  flowery. I’ve read their works in German.

Language and Thinking

The survival value or goal of communication through language is for two or more persons to make their personal needs or perception be known to others or for them to have common understanding of whatever issue that concerns them.

Hence, verbal and non-verbal forms of communication are of central importance and are present in all human societies and in lower animal forms as well. Language use is the expression of thoughts in man and in lower animals as well. But since man’s thinking is motivated by variety of needs and largely determined by his particular cultural setting, language has grown to be a very complex and specialized phenomenon.

With the increasing speed and specialization in communication technology, the global proliferation of subcultures on internet platforms, miscommunication seems to be increasing also as new words are coined all the time. How would you explain to your grandfather (or even to your wife!) words like Software Engineering, Blogging, Netizens, Netbook? Or Cloud Computing, Buzz Compliant, Green Washing? Many of us “younger” ones do not even know instantly the meaning of these words.

The tyranny of words

But even before the global invasion of these hi-tech neologisms, we even have to continue wrestling with the many idiomatic expressions that come across our reading or listening dasein. If you have to do with westerners you will notice that they just “open fire ” at you with their mother tongue(s) loaded with never-heard idiomatic expressions, words half-eaten but with the velocity of a bmw sports car- without the slightest respect to your language of origin. This is a sign of their assumed superiority or dominance, the expectation being that you should adjust to him- not he to you- if you want to understand him. Very much the same situation during our colonial times when they came and opened fire at us; thereafter, they decreed that we  learn their languages, on the condition that we keep our mouth shut.

The Agony Of Choice

Whether This or These, our tongue has been a split and twisted since the invasion of the aggressive and dominating Europeans and north Americans, forcing the local inhabitants to adopt their languages and relegate their own behind for they were inferior. The reason why most of us write in English and not in Tagalog for we are “educated,”- educated the western way, not the Filipino way, hence, we are not- as a rule- masters of our own mother languages. For this reason, we suffer this agony of choice, a suffering symptomatic of the lack of cohesive cultural identity.

 Too many choices split not only the tongue but also the mind,  hinder the mastery of anything we can call “perfectly” our own. I have always dreamed of writing in a mother language, of how it would feel to observe foreigners writing in Tagalog, have often envied a good German friend of mine with whom I write some articles in German, his own mother language. Speaking about language,  Germany is a country without too many choices and therefore had produced people like Heine, Goethe, Nietzsche, Kant, Marx, Böll, Grass and all other philosophers and poets that we know. All of them wrote their masterpieces in German, their everyday language!

On Idioms: a cultural invasion

Idioms are great to spice up the language and I wish I possessed this knowledge. Idioms for idiot? Why not. I’ve read that both idiom and idiot came from Greek root “idios” which means “of one’s own” or “private”, that at that time idiot meant someone not interested in public affairs- a key duty in ancient Athens. Huh, If I don’t know these idioms, I should at least be interested in Bulan public affairs!

Roughly speaking, I have a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards idiomatic expressions-  or the overly use of them: On the one side, idioms seem to facilitate communication, on the other, they seem to obscure communication as they inject- mentally or even just visually- unwanted associations. But evidently idioms of a foreign language appear illogical to non-native speakers.

Idioms are “figures of speech” whose meaning is derived not from the meaning of collocated words literally but from a group’s consensus or experience of how a phrase should mean whose meaning naturally evolves with time. But basically, idiom is a colloquial language (partly a slang) , hence, is understood only within a particular cultural context.

 And there are many of these cultural contexts! But what’s the connection, you may ask. It is because we are- as average language users (as opposed to language super-users, like Mr. Geronilla), are frequently encountering idioms in the English language that are in themselves not originating from the English or American cultures but from other non-English speaking cultures as well. These foreign idioms are translated in English naturally. Take for instance this expression Not hanging noodles on your ears. Originally, this is a Russian expression which means in American idiom Not pulling  someone’s leg – or not  kidding  or fooling someone. It appears that to know all these idioms, it is like seizing the moon by the teeth (has nothing to do with capturing Bulan by the teeth), this time a French expression for attempting the impossible. And what has death to do with Kicking the bucket? And how about these:

To reheat cabbage: to rekindle an old flame (Italian).

When the crayfish sings on the mountain: never (Russian).

Cleaner than a frog’s armpit: to be poor, broke (Spanish).

To think one is the last suck of the mango: to be conceited (South American Spanish).

Onions should grow in your navel: a mild insult (Yiddish).

Brew tea from dirt under another’s fingernails: to learn a bitter lesson (Japanese).

Belch smoke from the seven orifices of the head: to be furious (Chinese).

Don’t be intimidated by just these few examples for there are tens of thousands of them.

It is interesting to note that many academic elite, scholars take pride in using idiomatic expressions to delineate their higher status from others, mostly from the less educated social strata or subgroups, when in fact most idiomatic expressions originated from these subgroups, from the street people, from the ghettos, from the urban working-class, rural folks, from the farmers, fishers…

The How’s and Why’s Of Language

Idioms- along with phonetics and phonology (the study of speech sounds), morphology (word structures), syntax (word combinations, sentences), semantics (actual  meaning of words and sentences), pragmatics (role of context)- are subjects of study  belonging  to the science of linguistics, or psycholinguistics. Here, you go deeper than just learning the rules, spellings, idioms, vocabularies and writing style,  a field which is very interesting  for it takes into account the  psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use, comprehend and produce language.

A great authority on this subject is  the psycholiguinguist ( and a politica observer)  Noam Chomsky, whose concept of generative grammar- his term for syntax- is based on the concept of Universal Grammar, an innate apparatus in every human being and is simply evident in the tremendous speeed the children absorb the language(s) around them, able to form complex sentences right after they have learned the most basic features. This connects us to depth psychology, to Carl Gustav Jung’s concept of the archetype (such as the mother, hero, animus, anima, etc.) which is all about the innate psychological dispositions- or prototypes of human experience as contained in the collective unconscious-  in man. But this will bring us too far and too technical so we’d rather stop at this point.

But why do human beings communicate with such distorting and seemingly illogical combination of words as in idiomatic expressions? Indeed, there seems to be a lot of psychology and a lot of Freudian components in each language. Why for instance say Wait till the fat lady sings when one can simply say wait till the final moment? I wouldn’t use it when a lady twice my weight is sitting beside me.

The German language is also overflowing with such expressions and they even take  more grotesque forms in some cases. Expression like In der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen (literally translated, in dire straits the devil eats flies) which is roughly equivalent to Beggars can’t be choosers. But why the words devil (Teufel) and flies (Fliegen)?  In any case, this whole affair with the idioms shows us that language communication does not allow only perfectly constructed sentences but also combination of seemingly unrelated words  or  “imperfect” sentences. And if  you would do a study on the text messages of our young Bulaneños today, then I wish you by now good luck.


Have A Way With Words


by  Oliver Geronilla


The power to communicate effectively and wisely sets us apart from our primitive roots, but it’s the ability to understand and respond pragmatically and strategically that clearly makes us truly civilized.

Last year, BO readers were exposed to all sorts of communicators. Some were glib if not voluble; others were taciturn and even curt. You could easily tell it from the way they communicated their ideas using logos, pathos, and ethos which all got entwined all in the name of being heard and read. This only tells us one thing: there’s a need for us to have a “reliable” platform like BO where people can freely express their innermost thoughts and even simple observations without the fear of being censured.

Ceteris paribus, it’s simply beyond me when I see or read BO contributors turning in articles or comments decrying politicking when in fact they themselves engage in it verbally or otherwise. That’s the pot calling the kettle black!

This is quite contagious; and we can see this form of verbal malady all over the country. Unfortunately, the incumbent Mayor did not spare herself from being a victim of this political disease which GMA was a victim too. In Mayor De Castro’s 2009 Year-End Report to the People of Bulan, she did not mince (her) words in telling her constituents about how she felt being “criticized” by her political rivals.

That should have been stricken off the report as it did not help bolster her sense of leadership; nor did it help her exude her favorite catch-phrase “Ina san bungto.” In fact, it weakened the almost linguistically well-polished speech she (and perhaps her speech writer) prepared. That destroyed the spirit of Christmas which, according to Christopher Dilts, is all about “seeing the goodness in others, recognizing, acknowledging and reflecting this goodness back to them. This can be done with a loving look, a kind gesture, a warm embrace, a few words of encouragement, or an expression that is as rich and elaborate as you wish.”

Well, she somehow saw the goodness in it by saying that “naging danun ini para maging inspirasyon na lalo namo pakay-adon an pag-administrar nan paglingkod sa iyo.” That and only that. The other elements were missing which I believe would have made her a better ‘mother” had she gone further by hinting at the possibility of working together despite the ugly past that has put them at a very awkward position in being role-models of goodwill and statesmanship.

A doting mother, as we all know, welcomes back to her arms all her children, prodigal or not, without conditions. But that’s far from the gist of her accomplishment report which reeked of angst and frustration. As such, the glaring paradox in her annual accomplishment report has made me wonder how she could continue being a good mother of our beloved town when she still harbors ill-feelings towards those “people who might have gone astray.”

Had she not used the word “ina’ in her report only to bash her critics around prosodically, I wouldn’t  have any qualms about her sincerity in leading Bulan towards a united, progressive, and God-fearing community.

Alas, she’s not properly coached to use language more skillfully to unite her constituents.

Still, I tip my hat to the present corps of leaders of Bulan for continually communicating with us (and hopefully continuously next time)–a step more important than the political junkets that most candidates would be busy undertaking these coming local and national elections.

My (desired) present for everyone this year: the gift of the gab minus the roar of the tiger.

Happy New Year!