Wise Guys Vs. Wise Men

  By Oliver Geronilla


Times have indeed changed! Gone were the days when rumor-mongering, yellow journalism, and character assassination were confined to the walls of beauty salons, roadside eateries, and other similar places where rancor and candor filled the bucolic air of yore. Now you can see people from different walks of life—fishwives, henpecked husbands, bums, government and non-government workers–doing it anytime, anywhere.

Welcome to the world of the The Chatterbox!

Expect this so-called national “pastime” to go several notches higher as more and more issues–both real and concocted– surface out in time for the local and national elections. Certainly, we’ll all be tickled pink with how political parties try to outsmart each other. This is the perfect time to spot the differences between wise guys and wise men as they engage themselves in this seasonal battle of wits and dough.

And so, this early, we find people in Bulan talking about “culture” in juxtaposition with “corruption” to peddle things and ideas with all the feigned glitter and pomp of the cognoscenti. Not surprisingly, many people are tempted to buy their “merchandise” either attractively wrapped in legalese or painstakingly presented in pathos-laden dialectics. The result: mushrooming of ideas that are meant to condition the mind which of course can eventually lead to a warped weltanschauung.

Bulaneno, who remains incognito– at least to me and to other Bulan netizens– sparked my interest to examine his shrewd ways of achieving three things: getting “feedback” from the local chief executive, winning the people’s heart and sympathy, and of course creating ripples.

Making and maintaining a blog solely for the purpose of showing those purported hard facts did not– in any manner– explicitly malign anyone nor did it put things in proper perspective. In fact, Bulaneno has left things hanging and open creating reactions that are poles apart: suspicion from the sitting chief executive including his phalanx of supporters and perhaps adulation from the other side of the fence.

It would have been better if he presented what he believed to be the crux of the matter as an integral part of his blog, not as a separate opinion piece written as a rejoinder to the Municipal PIO’s commentary. But if his only purpose was just to inform the people of Bulan about these alleged shenanigans, then he failed quite miserably. All he got was a “commentary” from the Municipal PIO and some comments from a very small group of Bulan netizens- a number too minuscule to warrant change. After all, how many households in Bulan are wired?

It’s impossible for Bulaneno not to know that only a few could read his blog; and mostly, these people already have their own beliefs and principles that are hard to change.

With that in mind, I also wonder what prompted Mr. Gilana to waste his time reacting to a mere compendium of data. Things should have been taken at face value. But perhaps the urge to protect the image of the administration from being tarnished made him write a commentary followed by a riposte.

The Municipal PIO’s decision to respond to that blog–through a commentary– was quite understandable, but the ensuing write-ups from both sides turned things askew.

So came the awful use of terms and the scathing retorts made somewhat comical by the insertion of irrelevant facts and/or red herring which did not escape the eyes of Ms. Mila Asuncion and other Bulan Observers.

Libelous  remarks were obviously sugarcoated so as to avoid legal sanctions, but the allusions were crystal clear. Had it not been for the skillful use of language, how do you think would Mr. Gilana refer to that person who “pocketed a measly amount of P2, 000?” And how would Bulaneno rephrase the title of his article and perhaps rehash his concluding sentences?

These, to me, are what the culture vultures call the edification of what’s obviously not edifying.

Well, to say that “corruption exists in Bulan” is not downright wrong. We’re not born yesterday to believe that no one is corrupt in our hometown. In fact, it’s easier to understand and believe that “there is some sort of corruption in Bulan” than to totally deny it.

Perhaps, the problem, which is further compounded by our myopic views, rests on how we define corruption vis-a-vis culture. Jun Asuncion hit the right note when he dropped the word “culture” to refer to the problem of corruption that allegedly haunts the local government of Bulan. Yes, Jun, you’re right…. that’s “The Issue of Corruption, and not The Culture of Corruption.” And most, if not all, issues can be addressed given the right frame of mind and the drive to do it.

Let’s all be reminded that when engaging in a public discourse, there’s a need to be politically correct. This should be coupled with a holistic understanding of the issue at hand, pragmatic competence, and an honest and relevant presentation of facts so as not to mislead people from the real nub of the issue.

So, I ask: What’s the real score? Is it really about those whom we accuse of committing graft and corruption? Or is it about “the subculture” that nurtures and allows it to prosper?

Makes me wonder.     //



(The November 2009 episode)

By: Tonyboy G. Gilana


One of the most beautiful, most educational, most meaningful, most poignant, most timely and most relevant shows in Philippine television today is the award-winning ABS-CBN teleserye “Santino”, a story of a young boy, known in his town of Bagong Pag-asa as an orphan, and was adopted by a wonderful group of monks led by their wise leader Father Anthony. Unbeknownst to many he was actually sired by the Mayor of the town (which at present is still unfolding in the story’s plot, and people are holding their breaths). The most important asset of the boy Santino is that he is favored by God, who appears and comes to him in the form of Jesus Christ and whom Santino fondly and lovingly calls “BRO” (short for Brother, or in a respectful address, Kuya). BRO gifted him with the power of physical and spiritual healing. Mayor Enrique, on the other hand, grew up out of sad, tragic and unfortunate circumstances until he became a town executive.

And people in Bulan, just like many others, perhaps all over the country, always look forward to the time slot after the evening news. Sometimes, during office breaks, the employees talk about the previous night’s segment. A few days ago, during a seminar-workshop on local government best practices, former Irosin Mayor Eddie Dorotan, now Executive Director of Gawad Galing Pook, took some important points from the show and made it a part of his discussion. Oh, so, he is watching Santino also. Our Municipal Administrator makes it a point to daily watch the show, whenever he is free, with his son. And, if I have time, I watch it together with my wife and my two young daughters, Theresa, 5, and Bernadette, 2.

I also watched other teleseryes before, some good, some violent, some too long-winding, many are too eccentric or too self-centered and many, forgettable. To me, none comes close to the show’s striking and wonderful balance of portraying the conflict between good and evil, and how ( in the many secondary and supporting episodes), despite the so many trials, pains, sacrifices and sufferings gone through by Santino and the monks, good prevails and overcomes evil. Santino was able to convert so many people to turn back to good and to God. Out of his mouth, which actually is an inspiration from his conversations with BRO, and by his humility, purity, innocence, constancy, faith, love, truthfulness and by his example, those whom he met turned away from faithlessness, hopelessness, despair, hatred, fear, apathy, indifference, jealousy, and other vices.

And the good thing is that, the main plot remains cohesive: of Santino’s search for his roots, even as he is being ably guided by his foster parent, Father Jose, and the monks, and being watched over by BRO. There is the continuous conflict and tug-of-war between good and evil, even as Mayor Enrique, whom Santino has momentarily influenced to change, has now relapsed into his former evil self and schemes due to circumstances that dragged the latter to some desperate situations.

In this month’s episode, the story revolves around how Mayor Enrique, desperate for money to pay off debts, was caught red-handed by Santino (who was brought by his foster father Jose to his kitchen-workplace which, unknown to the latter actually caters to a gambling den operated by the Mayor’s brother, Robert), when the boy accidentally bumped the former, and down came the attaché case revealing bundles of gambling money or payola.

The incident came to the knowledge of the Bagong Pag-asa constituents, and this caused a very big uproar, controversy and a public clamor for the mayor to resign. The mayor became the target of angry mobs, almost daily.

One Councilor Arnaiz, an arch enemy of the mayor, who on earlier times was grievously aggrieved by Mayor Enrique and was seeking revenge for his misfortunes and the death of his family ,and who at the same time is politically ambitious, seized upon this chance and opportunity to inflict his vengeance on the latter. He stood ready to file a corruption case against Mayor Enrique, and sought the permission of the monks to use Santino as the star witness. But the monks would not allow Arnaiz to use the child for his revenge and for his political ambitions.

Councilor Arnaiz insisted on the mayor’s corruption, that the mayor is guilty, and that, he said, there is a public clamor for justice. He said that he represents the sentiments of the masses of Bagong Pag-asa. But the monks’ leader Father Anthony, protective of Santino and sensing the Councilor’s motives of vengeance and political ambition, incisively asked him,“ Sigurado ka bang hindi mo ito ginagawa para lang makaganti? Sigurado ka bang hindi mo ito ginagawa dahilan sa ambisyun mong palitan si Mayor? At pag natapos na ang lahat, pag natapos na ang kaso, pag nahalal ka na, pag Mayor ka na, ano na an mangyayari kay Santino? Paano na ang trauma na dadaanan niya?”

Councilor Arnaiz, ignoring the supplication of the priest, consumed by personal motives, simply answered, “ Ah basta, bahala na magsubpoena kay Santino ang Korte!” And left.

Oh yes, how easy it is to accuse and point fingers at people. And of course, how difficult it is to account responsibility for our own actions of wrong-doing!

I will not dwell in deeper philosophical reflections on this matter of Councilor Arnaiz and Father Anthony and Santino. But it can well apply to our own personal and political situation, not only in Bulan, but in the whole country. With election time coming, our people must indeed be wary and cautious and be wise enough to check on the motives of those seeking office, especially if they attempt to portray and profess themselves as immaculate, perfect or clean, or that they represent the sentiment of the people. Funny, but there is one political group in Bulan whose perennial election slogan haughtily shouts something like, “Wara kami digta! Wara kami bisyo! Mga listo nan may halangkaw kami na inadalan, mga propesyunal kami! (Kaya kami an botohan niyo)”— and yet, many elections over, the electorate repudiated and frustrated them. On the other hand, the candidates who were humble enough to admit of their shortcomings, about their colored past, of their humble education, came out triumphant. This is Bulan’s true experience in the last six or so elections!

We must realize, therefore, that nobody is perfect. Even Santino had some lapses in the virtue of obedience.

BUT. With a deep faith and by prayer, I believe God, or BRO, will help and inspire us to choose wisely, and guide us. Of course, we also have to put in our efforts that shall be complemented by God’s light.

Anyway, we are learning a lot of lessons from Santino. The teleserye is still unfolding and may be a long way from ending, I hope. Eventually, I think, maybe, (unahan na natin ang directors) Mayor Enrique and Santino, the main protagonists in the story, will come to finally discover that they are father and child. Mayor Enrique will eventually turn to goodness and to God. Foster father Jose will gladly give up Santino despite his great love for the boy. Mathilde, will deliver her child by Mayor Enrique, and give herself up to the police for the accidental death of Malena, Enrique’s real wife. Robert, Mayor Enrique’s brother will finally be exposed and caught by the police for all his evil schemes. And the three Tsismosas, Kimberly, Rosaly and Jennifer, comic characters, but notorious rumor-mongering hags who have the habit of spreading news and gossip like wildfire that often harmed and injured people’s dignity and reputation shall change for the better. And BRO will say Thank You!

To all, a happy, meaningful and introspective viewing of Santino!

                                                                                                        – The End –

The Culture of Honesty in Bulan

By: Tonyboy G. Gilana

This is in response to the thesis put forward by Bulaneno in his article, “The Culture of Corruption in Bulan”

In 2005, the Local Government Unit of Bulan called forward for all our people to see, and emulate, several ordinary Bulanenos, who displayed that wonderful virtue of honesty and fineness of heart.

Mr. Alex Francisco, a young man, a lowly padyak driver who earns barely a hundred pesos daily found a package containing 600,000 pesos which was left in his vehicle. He returned it to the owner.

Another padyak driver, a young family man with four malnourished kids, also returned 75,000 pesos to the owner-teacher who left her wallet in the pedicab. The money was intended for medicines.

Mr. Andres Gojar, of Barangay Palale, who was a former barangay kagawad, and later, one of our employees at Sabang Community Park, found a service pistol and wallet containing cash, left by a policeman while in Sabang. It was returned to the owner.

Mrs. Elsa Besmonte, a BHW of Aquino found cash amounting to 5,000 pesos. She returned it to the rightful owners.

Five Bulan Integrated Terminal porters and service boys were likewise honored in 2008 for returning CPs, cash and many other items lost by passengers in the facility. And at the Terminal itself, we have several unclaimed items either lost or left by our passengers.

A few days ago, Mr. and Mrs. Reynoel and Arlene Guan of Zone 3, returned to some RGCC students CPs or cash left in their small eatery. And the students were all overwhelmed at such display of honesty.

For me, honesty is already a theological virtue. It stems from the person’s decision or choice to return to the rightful owner what is due to that person. In a way, it is his sense of justice, and ultimately, his virtue of love that compels him to do so.

And we have thousands upon thousands of Bulanenos who practice it. It comes rooted from our own culture which we inherited from our forefathers, and most especially from our deep religious faith. Of course not all these acts of people are publicized daily. It is not a rarety, to say the least.

Even in the local government unit, in the academe, in the various professions, among our students, among the poorest of the poor, we always find that precious bond with conscience, which is practiced outwardly , and is called honesty. In our local dialect, they express it something like, ” Dire bali magdila o magsuda sin asin, dire lang mangloko sin kapuwa.” or, ” Mao yuon an tukdo sa ako san ako pamilya, ni mamay, ni papay…”

Of course, what is often heard or read today are dishonesty and corruption. They make the news– which gives us the impression that people, especially government leaders, or politicians, are evil. We know that this is a fact, a reality of life, and dishonesty permeates every level of society, the government, the private sector, the church, the media… since time immemorial. And there is reason to giving more emphasis to condemning wrongdoing of people in government, especially our leaders, since they can make or unmake the destinies of our communities.

The irony of it all, however, is that there are people who condemn dishonesty or wrongdoing but excuse themselves from it even if, by their own introspection, they themselves cannot be excused. This is hypocrisy.

I cannot but smile at one political opposition leader, who was elected in 1995 here in Bulan, who was consistently decrying and shouting corruption and dishonesty by the incumbent administration. But he was never looking at himself at how he was accused of allegedly encashing and pocketing a measly P2,000 intended for the riprapping project in one barangay. If he cannot then be trusted with a small amount how can he now be trusted with the whole local government funds? And yet, that same person is now very active again in telling Bulan people that this administration is corrupt because of the Bulan Terminal. I think Bulaneno knows who that politician is.

In a smaller perspective, it happens daily to family members or neighbors.

Honesty is a moral choice. It is also a gift. But all human beings are endowed with that freedom to accept that gift or not, but once we do accept we make a confirmation on the inherent goodness that is in every man.

That is why, when Bulaneno decided to publish his article on the “Culture of Corruption in Bulan”, assuming that he was only singling out the De Castro Administration on the Bulan Terminal Case, it was as if he was condemning everybody else in Bulan.

When you refer to culture, it is a way of life. It refers to communities, to that collective psyche present in every generation. Culture refers to that character of a people. Nobody can therefore prevent me from also telling everybody on the culture of honesty inherent in us as a Bulaneno community.

Reading between the lines of the Bulaneno article, one can already see the partisanship in him. He was simply propagandizing an issue that, again, falls within the ambit of our courts — be it a question of facts or a question of law. He was right in many of his quotations of many laws and their provisions, but ultimately, all these have to be proven in fact and in law. (I think, Bulaneno knows these, because by the way he writes he either must be a lawyer or a student of law).

So there is really no use of continually imputing guilt of graft and corruption against anybody, more so against Mayor De Castro, unless her innocence is proven otherwise. Although in the bar of public opinion, nobody can prevent Bulaneno or company from continually bombarding media or the internet with their partisan propaganda. But let our courts decide, even if it may take long. Let civility and decency in our communities and in our institutions take its proper course.

And going back to the issue of honesty. Let it be said that we have an honest people, a community that treasures the golden values and virtues of our religion and of our forefathers. Let us insulate our community folks from such sweeping generalizations, because they don’t deserve it. Let us refrain from using our people, or its culture, to further our own personal interests and goals.

We are a good, decent, civil, honest community, and we have always proven it. /


Slings and Arrows (random thoughts)


by Oliver Geronilla


I don’t live in cloud-cuckoo land; so, I won’t pretend that black is white. For the nonce, let me do a double take at the scintillating points raised in some of the articles here.

Quite interestingly, many of those who make no bones about the way things are being done in Bulan are armchair observers; and I am not an exception. The comments that I put forward in here are based on secondhand information, not based on what I’ve actually seen, heard, or experienced.

Well, that’s the very essence of writing columns or commentaries. We read and gather as much information as we can; then we make our own slant—not just to float an idea, but to make positions clear.

Being away from Bulan for almost a decade and a half makes me feel hesitant to write about local issues, especially local politics. But the irresistible pull to be a “neighbor” of level-headed Bulan Observer netizens and to contribute articles on a local platform is so strong that I I’ve decided to shelve my ifs and buts. Thus, I started submitting articles (that dealt with national issues) which I co-authored with Dr. W. Scott Thompson who is the official biographer of FVR. Now that the official website of Bulan is fully functional, I believe that it’s easier for me to access pieces of information that I need in order to stay abreast of the latest developments in my hometown. This will also give me the chance to widen my palette in writing columns that focus on what’s within the readers’ grasp—something that you and I know like the back of our hands.

On language…

I might have started off on the wrong foot by anchoring my comments on language use and usage and the highly cerebral discipline of weaving thoughts in the Queen’s English. But this is the language that I know well and the language that has molded my perception and appreciation of the world. More importantly, this is the language that enables me to express my thoughts and ideas with that yokel twist of a being a Bulaneno.

Truth be told, I am fascinated with the distinctive writing styles of most of the authors or contributors of Bulan Observer (BO). Except for the minor lapses in grammar, I feel that the articles here are treasure-troves of ideas waiting to be put together for a future publication—a compendium of the works of Bulan’s contemporary think-tank. (Shall we look for sponsors then?)

Not to put too fine a point on it, I sometimes recoil at the sight of code-mixing and code switching being liberally used by many BO writers. Of course, in some cases it’s inevitable because we know for a fact that there are certain concepts or words that do not have equivalent English translations. On that note, I have nothing to complain about. I only take issue with such a proclivity when it’s done despite the availability of exact lexical and semantic translations.

BO’s major strength is publishing articles unedited. This encourages “personal journalism” to flourish. But this strength is also its major weakness. Every now and then, you’d be jolted when you come across with mistakes in Subject-Verb-Agreement (S-V-A), tense and aspect. Copy-editing, I believe, is needed for every article published here so as not to give a false impression to the young minds that such errors are permissible.

On being away from home….

In societies where education is the only hope to stay afloat, it’s not surprising to see family members pooling their resources just to send their children to good schools. The logic is quite simple: good school means having a good chance of getting a good job; having a good job means having a better life.

Unfortunately, I think Bulan is far from being the place where our dreams can actually come true. It was pointed out by one of the authors here that there are certain professions that have no room to be practiced in our hometown. I couldn’t agree more. Most , if not all, of those who earned academic degrees (other than education, and business management) from the top universities are employed in cities where there is career growth, and where their needs can be addressed. Seldom can you see Bulanenos who earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees from reputable universities working in Bulan.

By and large, most yuppies yearn to live and work in highly urbanized areas where opportunities abound, and everything seems to be perfect. They receive handsome paychecks, enjoy life in the fast lane, and breathe the sweet smell of success. But are they happy? Beats me.

Sadly, I also belong to that crop, and it pains me to admit that despite being on the crest of a wave , I feel that I am still in search of the will o’ the wisp.

For sure, there’s not just a handful of professional Bulanenos–young or not–who think the way I do. I personally know a lot of them; and we all have one thing in common: we work hard to have a better life.

Hence, after receiving our respective passports to success –our diplomas of course–, we begin joining the bandwagon: the burgeoning groups of people who have given diaspora a new face.

Those who aren’t contented with their jobs in cities like Manila usually look for greener pastures abroad. They’re called OFWs, hailed as living heroes and the lifeline of the Philippine economy. Never mind the hardships, the loneliness and homesickness that they have to endure; forget about the weakening family relations. Focus on the remittances that make life here more bearable. That’s something that we usually hear. Hence, it’s nothing new.

My high school classmate, Dr. Ma. Kristina Asuncion, practices dentistry in the Middle East. She’s not from a poor family; in fact, she does not have to go overseas just to earn money. Her sister, who is also a dentist, has a clinic in Bulan. How many dental clinics or dentists do we have in Bulan? Very few. But why is she working abroad? Not enough patients? Perhaps.

My eldest brother, Clint Geronilla, who finished BS Forestry at UP-Los Banos, opted to work in Pampanga while waiting for his working visa. He, too, will be leaving the country pretty soon. His reason? “There can’t be more than three foresters in Bulan!” Well, he might have said it in jest. But somehow, there’s a grain of truth in what he said. I believe Miss Kelly Tan, my former dorm mate at UP and a “sis” in UP Sorsoguenos– a varsitarian organization – is more than capable to set the world on fire.

Miss Tan’s decision to serve the people of Bulan through the local government unit is laudable. How I wish others would do the same – serve the people despite the sacrifices that have to be made.

All these things put me in a pensive mood. How many Kelly Tans do we have in Bulan? Just a handful.

To have better opportunities, we usually go to other places. As such, we find many of our compatriots scattered in many places– working, finding their own niche, pursuing higher education,creating waves. Every now and then, you’d hear progenies of our beloved town who’ve toiled hard to become engineers, educators, medical practitioners, athletes, etc., making it in the headlines for their excellence in their respective fields. These are the very people whom we need to make Bulan BIG.

Can we lure them back to our hometown? That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.

Personally, I find it difficult reintegrating myself in the town where I grew up. I have many reasons, but perhaps the biggest one is all about my profession. As a language teacher, a freelance columnist, and a ghost writer, I see very limited opportunities for me in Bulan.

Or, perhaps I am just too ambitious.

Frankly, I think of Bulan as a haven where I can spend my retirement years. For now, I still want to see how far I can go, experience joie de vivre, and perhaps “make a difference.”

When that time comes, I hope Bulan’s still the Bulan of my youth where trust and respect rule everyone’s heart; where children frolic under the sun; where people commune with nature; where nobody is left behind; where “progress and not corruption” is the buzz word.

Home is where the heart is.


VFA: a Lick and a Promise?


By W. Scott Thompson and Oliver Geronilla*


“Well, because he looked like a wild boar,” the American serviceman explained his shooting of a Pinoy at Subic Bay forty years ago; was there anything more insensitive he might have said? Oh yes there is. When rich Bill Blair arrived with his wife (Deedee of the ten best dressed women of the world), he said Filipinos were “ungrateful” with respect to the bases and all else America had purportedly done for the Philippines—was he referring to the Thomasites or to the development of the Colt 45 so to be able to kill Filipinos more efficiently in the independence war?

This has always been the worst issue between Filipinos and Americans, so it’s no surprise that Senator Santiago has picked it up. She always knows how to inflame issues for her own advantage. Should the government dance foxtrot with Miriam? With her stance in the senate, it seems that she’s now on the fast beat strutting much faster to ask GMA to renegotiate the executive bilateral agreement. And if all fails, “terminate the agreement,” she opines.

Here’s the nub of the issue. At independence, the Philippines was destroyed by war and destitute; the American star was ascending all over the world. America was—since it was little affected by World War II—half the world product, if only briefly. The Philippine bargaining position wasn’t exactly strong. And the governing elite, more or less the same then as the sugar elite, satisfied itself with the famous American sugar quota, whereby the American consumer paid a 400% bounty for sweets from the archipelago, in return for all the concessions on sovereignty. There was also a lot of talk back then about how the American military commitment to the Philippines was a lot less automatic than to NATO partners, which was true, though with time this has become moot.

Principally, here was the question of jurisdiction over crimes committed by Americans on official duty at and around the bases. Status of forces agreements in almost all cases involved the American request for waivers for soldiers charged with a crime to be tried in their own courts. NATO countries granted 94.8% of the waivers requested as of 1970; the Philippines 00.9%. There just wasn’t a lot of trust in this realm.

For a generation, that’s all we heard of. The agreements here were “second class,” America saw the Philippines as “second class.” Well, yes and no. It is true that the NATO provisions were more favorable to the host countries. But in all fairness, the Philippines was just developing its judicial system and we all know some of the weaknesses. The USA used its economic position for concessions, but it was increasingly—and has been ever since—a comparison of apples with oranges.

Come the base lease endings in 1991, new temporary agreements were concluded. They really encapsulated the best of the past, though one of Cory’s chief advisers thought they were less favorable than those previously existing. Not so, said the then SND, Fidel V. Ramos, when he was interviewed at the time.

But now the atmosphere is heating up all over again. Filipinos are discovering that the 500 Americans merely ‘advising’ in Mindanao (and the moon is made of cheese?) are thick in the fight and they are worried that once again the USA can slip one over on the less powerful Philippines, and spirit away offending American troops. Well, at least the 500 got GMA enough of an excuse to extract a meaningless thirty -minute meeting with Barack Obama, right? And the fight in Mindanao, the leading authority on insurgency in Southeast Asia, Zachary Abuza, has said, is the foremost front in the region against terrorism, right?

That puts all and sundry in limbo.

Seeing the people in the government espouse principles that are poles apart is nothing new. Senator Santiago’s “either A or B” approach in making VFA work for the country is laudable, but things are not always what they seem. All these issues have been there for a long time waiting to be examined. But why just now? People might argue that certain loopholes only become apparent when problems surface out. True. But isn’t it a classical case of healing only when and where it hurts?

Secretary Teodoro sings a different tune. Almost a month ago, he warned the nation against abrogating the agreement as it won’t bode well for the country for “it might send a wrong signal to its allies that it cannot keep its commitment.” Just recently, he issued another statement saying that the discussions on the matter must be done after the elections so as  to avoid putting political color into it. That holds water, doesn’t it? Or, is it just a political posturing?

Legal luminaries have of course asked the Supreme court’s help on this issue zooming in on its constitutionality; however, the Supreme Court has articulated its position not only once but twice– It is constitutional! What happened to Art. VII, Sec. 21 of the Philippine Constitution? It says: “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.” It’s perhaps due to this reason that the Former Senate President, Jovito Salonga, together with the other petitioners who questioned its constitutionality does not lose hope. In fact, they’re keeping their fingers crossed that the other justices would join the four who dissented.

Has the Upper House done its job? For the nonce, yes. Senate Resolution No. 1356 serves as its clarion call aimed at GMA to serve notice to the US to terminate or renegotiate the agreement.

And the Lower House? Well, based on their reactions, it seems that they are not singing from the same hymnbook.

Not too long ago, Senator Joker Arroyo succinctly wrapped up the issue by asking both the legislative and the executive branches of the government to iron things out minus the bickering that we have been seeing on national television.

Clearly, they are at loggerheads. Without a unified stand on the issue, we all know too well that everything is bound to come a cropper. We think that Miriam is doing a disservice. This is a very difficult issue, and as a lawyer, she knows better than to present it all in chiliastic terms. Time for her to consult her, shall we say, “advisers”?

And oh… Let’s all wait till the fat lady sings.


* W. Scott Thompson, D.Phil., is professor emeritus of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He wrote this with the assistance of Oliver Geronilla, language instructor at HMA, Dasmariñas, Cavite

                                                                         ……………..  end…………

Madame John Quincy Adams?


By W. Scott Thompson and Oliver Geronilla*


The sixth American president, like GMA, was the child of a previous president: John Quincy Adams was son to second president John Adams. After he lost his bid for reelection in 1828 to the populist Andrew Jackson, he bided his time looking for ways to be useful to the young republic, and stood for election in 1830 to the House of Representatives as a candidate from his home state of Massachusetts.

Is there another parallel emerging? We hear that the 14th president of this republic plans to stand for election to the Filipino House of Representatives from her home province of Pampanga. Is this a horrific loss of face—to go from palace to mere Batasan? Well, Adams refused to consider it as such, and as Congressman Adams in fact achieved far more than as President Adams. His was the essential and eloquent voice against slavery throughout his 17 years in the House, and he is remembered as one of the preeminent men of principle in the history of American politics. So we guess the parallel has already become dubious.

For we know that Congress is not all that GMA has in mind. Hers has been a relentless search for ways to remain in power, and we haven’t found a single suggestion here in Manila that it is because she so deeply wants to serve her country. Rather, it is usually suggested, she doesn’t wish to serve it in jail. For a single page of paper issued by the department of justice can instigate a search for any properties she or any member of her family may have obtained—even with a smidgen of evidence—of laundered or otherwise unlawfully gained funds.

Here’s what could happen. An unfriendly successor in Malacanang can authorize the DOJ to empower any investigator abroad to go to a court (say, in San Francisco) with the slightest of proof that a building was so obtained, and the court will in all likelihood freeze the ownership of this house or building, preventing its sale. The investigator can then go to that American court and through a complicated but brief process demand under oath an accounting for all funds used to acquire it (it’s called ‘Discovery’ in America). The resulting bank records, of course, can be used to follow the flow of funds all over the world. One can hide one end of a bank record—but not both ends—and the resulting search can take the investigator all over the world to discover all related funds in cut-out companies, holding firms, banks, or any other entity used to acquire properties or equities with illegal monies. The results can be, might well be, devastating.

Globalization has proceeded in international law at a breathtaking pace in recent years. Government ministers can be arrested in any of a number of countries. Israeli ministers do not, for this reason, travel to Belgium, which has ‘friendly’ laws for seizing persona of governments so accused. Small wonder Robert Mugabe doesn’t travel without previous assurances of legal immunity. The United States kidnapped the Panamanian head of state; a San Francisco court convicted the former prime minister of Ukraine on 27 counts of felony connected with his acquisition of about $40m of properties in the Bay Area and he has spent quite a time in jail or otherwise restricted there.

Apparently Mrs. Arroyo knows all this. It’s no wonder she wants the protection of high office. But at what cost to the Republic? Her problem though is a different one. A friendly successor can promise her immunity here in the Philippines, but that’s worth nothing abroad. Any properties she or her family hold abroad can be scrutinized for any illegality.

In this instance of course she can avoid travel to the accusing country, but that might be a bit of a problem if she, say for example as prime minister of a newly-formed parliamentary republic, wishes to address the United Nations (or enjoy the properties members of her family are thought to possess abroad).

Now John Quincy Adams didn’t have any of these problems. Though his family wasn’t poor—they’d been merchants prior to Father’s presidency—he didn’t have properties abroad or much at home. But he had honor, honor to burn. And his descendants—though two of his sons had painful careers trying to carry family honor—included the great Charles Francis Adams, diplomat and writer, whose namesakes continue to brighten the Boston skyline.

There is a parallel with the sixth American president for the fourteenth president to consider. She could run for Congress, and of course win, and then serve with honor in the manner that her ample professional qualifications allow her—the macroeconomic record of her presidency is very impressive. She and her family could continue to serve the Philippines in a way that causes no ugly rumors to emerge. One presumes that her financial problems aren’t great; it’s the legal ones that bother her. But if she began anew, let us say in the style of her incorruptible father, she could burnish the golden side of her record impressively—and our guess is that no one would dare challenge her legally. When you have honor on your side, even if it emerges only latterly, foreign courts just aren’t too interested in incarcerating you. And the American president would surely then welcome such a person—it is all too well known that Barack Obama spurned her initial attempts for a meeting simply because of the tarnish that lingers over her presidency.

Eight years ago, it was written that Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo had an unparalleled opportunity to leave a fantastic legacy, since she almost certainly had most of a decade to do it from Malacanang. It’s never too late to start.


*Oliver Geronilla, a Bulaneño and  co-author of Dr. W. Scott Thompson (a former US Assistant Secretary of State), is a senior language instructor of  Han Maum Academy, Philippines. He has been teaching ESL since 2000.

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