Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Spate of Terrorist Attacks

There appears to be an outbreak of terror attacks around the world. From Beirut to Paris to Yola (Nigeria) and Bamako (Mali), gunmen and suicide bombers have orchestrated attacks that have left dozens dead, and hundreds wounded. One can only speculate as to what the purpose of such a succession of attacks could mean.

Aside from those killed or injured in the heinous attacks, the main victim of the terrorist attacks are the refugees fleeing mainly from the conflict in Syria. Some of those involved in the Paris attacks were identified as possible Syrian refugees. Because of this, countries have begun closing their borders to the Syrian refugees. In particular, the U.S. House of Representatives have voted to put a stop to accepting Syrian refugees into the country. Hungary, the main entry point of refugees into Europe, has erected a fence around its borders.

The United Nations (UN) has called for a ceasefire in Syria in order to put an end to the conflict that has torn the nation apart and has caused the massive flood of refugees. The UN has also drafted a resolution calling for the defeat of Daesh (Islamic State; read this for clarification.), which has either claimed responsibility or has been linked to the various attacks. Here's hoping that this is not just mere words coming from the UN, and that the world body will now take definite action against this terror group.

Not that I want to downplay the horrors that have been visited upon other parts of the world, I'm glad that nothing untoward happened while our country was hosting the Asia-Economic Pacific Cooperation (APEC) forum. The security measures that were considered "overkill" by critics probably helped deter any possible terrorist plan that could have disrupted the APEC gathering, and, worse, burden us with a black mark that would eradicate any gains our country has made.

Terror groups, such as Daesh, are a scourge in our modern times. The sooner they are defeated, and the causes behind their rise are addressed,  the safer the world will be.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Back to Judo

When I was sent to teach in the Ateneo Grade School for a year, I had to let go of the High School Judo Club, which I had started when I began teaching. At the time, it was a bit of relief, since, by then, I was not in the right frame of mind to continue teaching judo; I had lost that spark of motivation that drove me to teach students about this martial art, translated in English as "The Gentle Way."

After coming back to the High School after the exchange, I didn't take back moderating the Judo Club; in fact, I didn't moderate any club at all upon my return. Back then, I don't think I was ready to go back into the regular routine of setting up the practice area in the covered courts, opening each session with a meditation and a bow, and then diving into the training session. So, I wound up just doing shadow uchikomi (form practice) and practicing the nage-no-kata (prearranged forms of throwing techniques) on my own.

Time was another factor which kept me from the dojo. Work, family, and household concerns piled up, making even a visit to the dojo impossible. So, my hiatus from judo was prolonged.

Late last year, I found time to visit the UP Judo Club dojo, where I began my training, and practice with the current batch of members. I remember realizing that I had missed practicing judo, and resolved to get back into training.

That resolve lasted until January this year, and then, life and its many concerns kicked in, keeping me from practicing.

It seems that judo has a way of reeling me back in late in the year, since I managed to attend the UAAP Judo Tournament at the St. Benilde Gym in La Salle Greenhills yesterday.

There were a number of changes from when I was practicing and refereeing matches. For one, only the referee was on the mat, whereas, in the past, there would be two corner judges overseeing the matches. Now, the judges were on the side, with a radio to advise the referee if there were any problems in the match.

Technology also played a larger part in the running of the tournament. While electronic scoreboards were already being used when I was refereeing, the displays yesterday were more refined and detailed. There were also cameras recording each match, to be used when a controversial situation occurred during the match, and a replay would be needed.

There were some modifications to the rules, and, if I recall correctly, they were a result of the International Judo Federation's (IJF) efforts to "purify" the martial art of non-judo elements, particularly those of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. So, moves that would have been allowed in the past were now penalized, either with penalties or even disqualification.

Still, the matches themselves were what I remember when I left. Players still fought for grips, and used judo techniques such as uchi-mata (Inner thigh reaping throw) and kneeling seoi-nage (shoulder throw) to bring their opponents down to the ground, where they would attempt to pin down their opponents for 20 seconds (it was 30 when I was competing, and 25 when I was refereeing) or force a submission via strangling or armlock in order to win.

What was nice was that I was able to touch base with some old friends I hadn't seen for years. They, of course, exhorted me to come back, and I found myself being persuaded. I missed the atmosphere, I missed the people, and, most of all, I missed judo.

When 2016 rolls in, I'm hoping that it will also herald my return to this martial art that has taught me so much. With effort, and a little luck, I'd like to rekindle that spark of motivation which started me on this path.

I guess the old adage about one never truly leaving is true. Judo is, and probably always will be, in my blood.

Here's hoping for the best.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The SET's Poe Vote: A Political Decision

This week, the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) released its decision regarding the disqualification of Senator Grace Poe as a senator, on the grounds that, as a foundling, it is possible that she is not a natural-born Filipino. According to the 1987 Constitution, only natural-born Filipinos can run for higher office, from Senator all the way up to President.

The SET voted, 5-4, to throw out the disqualification case, which basically establishes Sen. Poe as a natural-born Filipino, and helps clear the way for Poe's presidential bid. However, petitioner Rizalito David is likely to file a motion for reconsideration, first with the SET, and then with the Supreme Court, so there are still some hurdles for Poe to tackle.

The voting went as follows:

Against disqualification:
  • Pia Cayetano
  • Loren Legarda
  • Cynthia Villar
  • Paolo Benigno Aquino IV
  • Vicente Sotto III

For Disqualification: 
  • Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, chairman
  • Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro
  • Associate Justice Arturo Brion
  • Senator Nancy Binay
The way the SET members voted is interesting for a number of reasons:

First, all of the Supreme Court Justices (Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, and Arturo Brion) all voted in favor of disqualification. It is possible that the Justices are basing their decision on Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states, thus,
Section 2. Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship. Those who elect Philippine citizenship in accordance with paragraph (3), Section 1 hereof shall be deemed natural-born citizens.
Poe, being a foundling, has no way of proving that her parents were Filipinos; so far, DNA tests have not proven conclusively that Poe is of Filipino blood. Since the Philippines follows the rule of jus sanguinis (right of blood) and not jus soli (right of the soil), her being born in the Philippines does not automatically confer Philippine citizenship upon her. Since her real parents remain unknown, the Justices probably based their decision on that point.

Second, it's clear that politics is in the mix in this SET decision. For one, Sen. Nancy Binay voted to disqualify Poe, who is a rival of Nancy's father for next year's presidential elections. Sen. Binay should have inhibited herself from the vote, because of the obvious conflict of interest. Binay's statements that she based her decision on the Constitution, and not because of her father, are safe because of the Justices' vote, but, since her main competency for being a Senator at all is because she's the Vice-President's daughter (the VP said it so himself.), she will have to excuse those of us who find her statements lacking a ring of truth.

Similarly, Senator Sotto should have likewise inhibited himself, since he is part of Sen. Poe's senatorial line-up for next year. Then again, delicadeza and honor have never been integral parts of Sotto, anyway. His track record as a politician has clearly and firmly established what sort of politician he is.

Third and last, it appears that the vote of the other Senators who voted against disqualification was based more on compassion rather than law. As it is, foundlings and orphans have a strike against them in life, growing up without their real parents, or without parents, at all. Perhaps the Senators thought that they could balance the scales, by allowing a foundling such as Poe to gain natural-born status via her adoptive parents.

However, this mechanism does not exist, not in the Constitution, and not in our laws. While there is an United Nations Convention on the Reduction of the Stateless, which requires nations to confer nationality on those who would otherwise be stateless, as in the case of foundlings, the Philippines is not a Contracting Party to this Convention. Hence, it will be the Constitution which will determine the nationality of a citizen, whether one shall be considered natural-born or naturalized.

Unfortunately for Poe, it is likely that the political nature of the SET decision will not put to rest questions as to her qualifications for the Presidency. At the same time, the SET decision did not tackle her possible lack of required residency, or even her switching of citizenship. As we approach next year's elections, expect that these issues will continue to hound Poe's campaign for the highest office in the country.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why Not Beirut?

In the aftermath of the heinous and horrific attacks on Paris last Friday, social media has been abuzz with the burning issue of "Why Paris, and not Beirut?" This is taking note that Beirut was also hit by suicide bombers a day before the Paris attacks, resulting in 43 deaths and around 239 wounded. However, while netizens draped their profile Facebook pictures in the tricolor of France, as a show of mourning and solidarity with the victims of the attacks, there are no such shows for the victims who died in Beirut last week. This prompted some netizens to question the imbalance of attention, and, thus, belatedly, what happened in Beirut was finally given notice. Still, the apparent lack of attention has raised the question as to why such a lack of attention was present.

A number of articles have come out, analyzing the disparity of attention given to both tragic incidents. One article, by David Graham in Atlantic's web magazine, writes about an empathy gap between Paris and Beirut, and cites familiarity with the area and the shock value of the Paris attacks as possible reasons for the disparity. Graham also cites economic factors, especially as to possibly why Facebook opened a safety check for Paris and not for Beirut.

Graham also notes, that, whatever the reasons for the gap, it has "real consequences," namely, "If no one points out that suicide bombings in Beirut are no less an attack on human decency than those in Paris, it is much easier to sort the world into a clash of civilizations—where innocent deaths on one side are more deserving of mourning than innocent deaths on the other."

Another article, by Brian Philips in The Washington Post, enumerates various reasons as to why Paris was given more attention. Philips cites the following reasons: "the country receives visitors from around the globe, the shocking nature of the attack, and the potential implications for the Islamic State’s future plans." While this is the case, Philips also notes that "terrorism in less-developed countries is worth our attention as well," which reminds us that events around the world are still equally as important as to what happened in Paris last Friday.

A third article, by Max Fisher for Vox, argues that, while netizens blame media for not covering Beirut enough, media has reported fairly extensively on what happened in Beirut. According to Fisher, it is the readers who have ignored the events in Beirut, and were more affected by what happened in Paris. Fisher then notes that news media outlets have been reporting on events in Lebanon for years, and it is the readers and viewers who have not shown enough care to express concern and outrage. Fisher notes:
"That's an uncomfortable truth, because rather than giving us an easy villain, it forces us to ask what our own role might be in the world's disproportionate care and concern for one country over another.
"But if that reflection leads people to express greater interest in what happens in Beirut or Abuja or Baghdad, then few will be happier than those of us in the media. We've been trying for years to break through reader apathy and disinterest. If we take some unfair criticisms but it gets people to finally pay attention, I think that is a trade-off every reporter on Earth would accept."
Whether it is the shock value of the tragedy, or reader/viewer apathy that is the cause of a lack of attention and concern for what happened in Beirut, what is important is what we take away from this. The events in Paris and Beirut, as well as other events around the world, should force us to reflect on the manner by which we react to these events. As Fisher said in his article, hopefully, such will get us to pay more attention to other events around the world, aside from those with which we are familiar.

Change of Pace

It's hard to imagine that I've managed to continue maintaining this blog for the past 11 years. At the same time, given the current context of the times, it's time to make a change. It's time for a long-overdue makeover to the blog, from the inappropriate title, to the layout and format.

When I first started the blog, I chose the title "Daily Musings" as more of a challenge to myself, to be able to post something worthwhile on a daily basis. Sadly, those of you who have been following my blog know that I've only managed that goal once. The rest of the time, I've had to give way to life such that a daily post was impossible.

Therefore, I'd like to make a change to the title. While I have some ideas in mind, I welcome any and all suggestions as what the title of the blog is to be. Of course, the title should reflect what I normally write about.

I'll also be taking a hard look at the layout of the blog, so that it will be easier to follow, and so that the posts will be more readable and, hopefully, entertaining. Like the change of title, I'm open to any and all suggestions.

I tried to do this before, without success. This time, I'm determined to make some hard changes to the blog, in order that it will be more in synch with the times. It'll take some planning and some time, though, so please be patient.

In the meantime, I'll continue to write and post as I would normally do, meaning that posts will be intermittent as I try to stay ahead of things. With any luck, I'll be able to make the changes to the blog in time for the new year.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Requiem, Jim Ayson

What I knew of the late Jim Ayson, who passed away from a heart attack last week, was that he was a staunch anti-Marcos advocate, posting regularly on the NeverAgain forum in Facebook. I also knew that he was the brother of former Ateneo teacher Jojo Ayson.

What I didn't know was that, aside from his advocacy against the Marcoses, Jim was also a staunch Internet advocate, being one of the first to write about the Internet. As the Newsbytes Philippines article on his passing notes,
"He was one of the first tech writers in the Philippines, writing columns for some the country’s earliest IT publications. His first gig was with Metropolitan Computer Times, the county’s pioneering tech magazine, where he wrote a column titled “Over A Stack of Diskettes.”
 "His simple but uncompromising style of writing allowed his tech journalism career to flourish with subsequent stints in PC Digest, Computerworld Philippines, Business Day Magazine, Enterprise, Entrepreneur Magazine, Mobile Philippines, and The Reviewer.
"He later on wrote the most authoritative account on the history of the Internet in the country. Seeing the profound impact of the Internet in the local economy and everyday life of Filipinos, he pushed for the 20th commemoration of the Internet in the country in 2014.

"His passion for music also drove him to create the seminal music website in 1997. This led him to write music pieces for the Philippine Star, Mabuhay Magazine, Business Day, and Fudge Magazine."
 As such, Jim also maintained a blog, The Ayson Chronicles, wherein he would write about what he was passionate. His last post was an extensive look at netizens' reactions to the "Laglag Bala" controversy hounding the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

I regret that I wasn't able to meet Jim. I'm sure he and I would have had a lot to talk about.

Requiescat in pace, Jim Ayson. You will be missed.

Ayson with daughter Gabby. Credit: Facebook page of Jim Ayson
Jim Ayson and daughter Gabby. Image from Jim Ayson's Facebook page.

Attacks on Paris: A Chilling Friday the 13th

It's another busy period as the grading period winds down, and I'm deluged with papers to check, and cases to deal with. In the world outside the school, events have been happening one after the other, and it's all one can do to keep up with the news.

The most recent, and the most horrific, are the multiple attacks on Paris, which have resulted in more than 150 deaths, and scores injured. The jihadist group, the Islamic State (IS), has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which the group claimed, were in retaliation for France's role in air attacks against the IS in Syria and Iraq.

The IS attackers chose their targets well, as they sprayed bullets and detonated their bombs in
various sites around Paris, including a stadium where French President Francois Hollande was watching a exhibition football game between France and Germany, a rock concert hall, where most of the casualties were, as well as popular restaurants and bars.

This is the second time Paris has suffered a terrorist attack this year. Early this year, gunmen stormed the offices of the controversial magazine Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the deaths of the magazine editors and staff.

 In the aftermath of the terrible attacks, it is easy for some to paint the entire Muslim community as being responsible for the hideous attacks in Paris, but that is a bigoted and small-minded way to go. As it is, Muslims themselves are up in arms over the attacks, and have unequivocally condemned them. It should be stressed that the, while the IS profess Islam as their religion, it is a faith that has been twisted beyond the beliefs of majority of Muslims. As such, it is wrong to assign blame to the Muslim community for the atrocity that has been visited on Paris.

At the same time, it should also be remembered that, while the Paris attacks themselves are horrific, they are not isolated to the Western world. A Facebook post by some of my friends reminds us that what happened in Paris is more commonplace, and happens with terrifying regularity, in places such as Beirut and Baghdad. The post reminds us that, while we should pray for those who died in Paris last Friday, we should also pray for the world because of the state it is currently in.

The Paris attacks are a chilling reminder to Philippine officials to remain steadfastly vigilant, since, this week, our country is playing host to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. World leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping will be arriving to discuss matters crucial to the region. It will not do to allow something like what happened in Paris happen while the APEC leaders are here in the country. If such were to happen, it would be a political catastrophe from which the country might not be able to recover.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Requiem, Fred Thompson

Fred Dalton Thompson Picture
Fred Thompson, the actor. Image from IMDB

The Philippine Senate isn't the only legislative body which is saying good-bye to its former members. Yesterday, U.S. Senator and actor Fred D. Thompson passed away, due to a recurrence of lymphoma. He was 73.

While moviegoers and TV viewers will best remember Thompson for his acting chops, he actually first came to prominence during the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, wherein, as a 30-year old lawyer, he was the chief counsel of Senator Howard Baker (Tenn.) during the investigation into the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, and the Nixon administration's attempts to cover it up.

According to the Washington Post article reporting about Thompson's death, it was Thompson who helped uncover that then-President Richard Nixon had been surreptitiously recording conversations held in the Oval Office. This discovery eventually led to Nixon's resignation as President, and helped establish Thompson as a rising star.

Thompson started his acting career in 1985, when he played himself in "Marie," a bio-movie about a whistleblower whom Thompson represented in 1977, and managed to get reinstated in her state job. "Marie" set Thompson on the path to his acting career.

I particularly remember him in "Die Hard 2," where he played the tough airport chief, if I'm not mistaken.  Other movies I remember seeing Thompson in were "The Hunt for Red October," "Cape Fear," and "Necessary Roughness."

I didn't watch "Law & Order," although I'm aware of the key role he played in the various series as District Attorney Arthur Branch.

A good number of his acting involved him as a figure of authority. At  6-foot 5-inches, he certainly was an imposing character.

Apparently, despite his acting success, politics was in his blood, and he ran for the Senate in 1994 to complete the term of Vice-President Al Gore. In 1996, he was reelected, but decided not to run again in 2002.

In 2008, he tried to go for the Republican presidential nomination, but dropped out of the campaign after a few months.

In the Senate, he was conservative in his stands, but he also sometimes went in his own direction. As a New York Times article on him during the 2008 presidential campaign noted,
Records show that Mr. Thompson delved into the areas that mattered most to him, regularly writing his own speeches and demanding detailed memorandums that often ran well past the one-page limit favored by some senators. He focused on green-eyeshade issues like budget and regulatory reform that, while not exactly the stuff of headlines, have far-reaching impact. Believing that many matters are best left to the states, he voted against popular measures to create federal crimes.
The same article also made an observation of his attitude towards being in the Senate:
But few of his legislative initiatives became law, and even admirers acknowledge that he had little patience for the endless debates over minutiae that consume much of the Senate’s time. Nor, say aides, did he relish the schmoozing and deal making necessary to become a heavy-hitter on Capitol Hill.
The Washington Post, in its obituary on Thompson, had this to say about him:
More than many of his contemporaries, Mr. Thompson, a product of a small-town upbringing, demonstrated the extent to which American life was open to possibility, in the courtroom and the hearing room, in the halls of Congress and on the sound stages of the entertainment world.
All in all, Fred Thompson was a good man, who tried to do what was right. He will be missed by his family, and those who knew him in politics and in Hollywood.

Requiescat in pace, U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson.

Fred Thompson
Senator Fred Thompson. Image from The Wrap.

World Series 2015: Royals Win!

The last time the Kansas City Royals won the World Series, it was in 1985, when such greats as George Brett, Bret Saberhagen, and Frank White were still playing. This year, 30 years later, the Royals manage to win the Series once more, and impressive fashion, going 7-2 in 12 innings against the New York Mets in order to clinch the Series.

What made it more impressive is that the Royals had to come from behind in games 4 and 5, the last two of eight impressive Kansas City comebacks this playoff season. Trailing 2-0, and facing a loss in the top of the ninth in game 5, the Royals manage to score 2 runs to tie the game, and send it into extra innings, wherein, in the top of the 12th inning, the Royals pounded the Mets to the tune of 5 runs, and Wade Davis, the Royals' top reliever, closed out the side to seal the victory and the Series win.

Workhorse Royals catcher Salvador Perez was named the Most Valuable Player of the Series, as he hit .364 (8-22), and drove in the tying run that sent game 5 into extra innings. Then, he led off the 12th with a single, setting in motion the pounding the Royals would deliver to the Mets.

It was such a big difference from last year, when the Royals yielded to the San Francisco Giants in seven games. In game 7, Perez popped out for the final out of the Series, with the tying run on third base. This time, fate smiled on him.

What I like about the Royals' win is that it demonstrates the parity that exists in baseball. Despite the presence of moneyed teams that attract the best talent, such as the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, it is the relatively small market Royals that made it to the World Series and won.

Kansas City's victory brings to a close to the 2015 season, and expect teams to start making moves in order to re-stock and reload so that they will be in a better position next year.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

"Laglag Bala" and the Government's PR Screw-ups

Rather than make information management easier, having more than one spokesperson has not been beneficial for the Aquino administration, since there are times when the multiple spokespersons apparently don't coordinate with one another.

Case in point is the current controversy hounding the government, namely, the "laglag bala" scam being perpetrated in Philippine airports. According to whistle-blowers, unscrupulous airport personnel plant live ammunition in passengers' bags, and then, when the apparent possession of live ammunition, illegal in the Philippines, is discovered, the personnel, with the collusion of corrupt police officials extort money from the hapless passengers, who, more often than not, are forced to pay in order to avoid missing their flights. Those who don't pay up are harassed so that they do miss their flight, causing them undue stress and problems.

A few days ago, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma downplayed the scam, saying that only a few have been victimized by the "laglag bala" scam, and that more visitors, whether foreign or Filipino, have not experienced anything of the sort. While Coloma also noted that the government was looking into the issue, what resonated in social media was the insensitivity of Coloma's remarks about there being only a few who were affected by the scam.

The point is that people were affected by the scam, which meant that corrupt airport personnel were stealing money and time from these people. One whistle-blower noted that the scam had been practiced for around 20 years. How many people have been affected, and how much money had already been stolen? It's very possible that we will never know the true extent of the crime being committed, since not all will be willing to come out and admit that they, too, were victimized.

If Sec. Coloma really had the "Daang Matuwid" (straight path) mentality that the government supposedly espouses, he should not have been so cavalier about downplaying the crime. It's still a crime; therefore, it must be dealt with.

Belatedly, the government must have realized its public relations blunder, since presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda claimed last Saturday on the radio that it was saddening that such crimes were happening, and that Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya would be looking into stronger measures in order to deal with the scam.

Unfortunately, since what came out first was Coloma's insensitive remarks, Lacierda's claims will only be seen as damage control, rather than a sincere gesture by the Aquino administration.

Sadly, this has been the norm for the Aquino administration, wherein insensitive and often stupid statements by the President and his officials  derail whatever successes they have accomplished over the past five years. It has provided fodder for the administration's enemies, such as Vice-President Jejomar Binay and Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. It is probably too much to hope that the communications fiascoes will end, and the public relations system of the Aquino administration will improve, before President Aquino's term ends. It's a pity, though, that these insensitive and stupid statements are the ones people will probably remember about the Aquino administration. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Otazas' Murder and the Legal Left's Silence

The brutal murder last week of a mayor and his son last week highlighted the continued depredations of the New People's Army (NPA), as well as the continued silence of the political Left over such killings.

Loreto Mayor Dario Otaza and his son Daryl, of Agusan del Sur, were abducted from their home in Butuan City in the evening of August 19 by armed men suspected to be NPA rebels. Mayor Otaza was a former NPA rebel who had left the communist movement, and was instrumental in persuading a number of NPA rebels to leave the movement as well.

The mayor and his son's hog-tied and bullet-riddled bodies were found the next morning. Their murders were strongly condemned by government and police officials.

On October 25, 2015, the National Democratic Front released a statement, claiming responsibility for the murders. The opening paragraph of the statement read
"Revolutionary justice prevailed when the Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command of the New People’s Army, acting on the decision of the people’s court, authorized the imposition of standing order and punished warlords GPH mayor Dario Otaza and Daryl Otaza to give justice to the thousands of indigenous peoples and peasants terrorized by their despotic tyranny in Loreto and surrounding municipalities of Agusan del Sur."
The statement went on to enumerate the Otaza's alleged crimes.

It's not the first time the NPA has murdered former members; one will recall that Filemon "Popoy" Lagman, a former leading member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was assassinated by suspected communist rebels on the steps of the Bahay ng Alumni of the University of the Philippines in February 2001.

The Philippine Star's October 21 editorial condemned the killings, and linked them to the criminal activities the NPA engages in as the 2016 election approaches. As the Star editorial notes,
"With the approach of the 2016 elections, the NPA is intensifying its extortion activities, demanding protection money from candidates as 'permit to campaign fees.' The NPA and its political arm also support certain candidates and raise campaign funds by shaking down businessmen, torching the buses and installations of those who refuse to give in to the extortion."
What's sadly not surprising is the silence of the legal Left, as represented by the Makabayan bloc in Congress, over the brutal murders. Makabayan members such as Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon and Bayan Muna's Neri Colmenares are quick to take the government to task over issues, but remain largely silent when the crimes of the CPP-NPA are made public. It is this silence which leaves the Makabayan bloc bereft of credibility, which is food for thought as the elections approach; Makabayan is fielding Colmenares in the senatorial race, under the tandem of Senators Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero.

One also has to wonder what Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has to say over the killings, since he has professed himself to be a leftist, and has shown sympathy towards the NPA. As it is, the NPA has apparently contacted Mayor Duterte in order to return P25,000, which the NPA took when they abducted the Otazas. Since Mayor Duterte has already confirmed that he will facilitate the returning of the money, perhaps he can apply his tough guy tactics in bringing the murderers to justice.

Police and government officials should waste no time in bringing the murderers of the Otazas to justice. Perhaps Makabayan and Mayor Duterte can help facilitate the surrender of the criminals, in order to demonstrate their adherence to the rule of law. Otherwise, their silence and lack of effort to help will speak volumes about where their true loyalties lie.

October Requiems - Flip Saunders and Dean Chance

This month, the sports world lost a number of memorable people. For me, the ones I remember the most are the passing of basketball coach Flip Saunders and baseball pitcher Dean Chance.

While he was coach for three teams (Minnesota, Detroit, and Washington), Flip Saunders will probably be remembered most for his coaching of the Minnesota Timberwolves, since he managed to lead them to winning seasons over the course of 11 seasons of coaching; as his Wikipedia entry notes, he is "by far and away the winningest coach in franchise history." He also remains the only coach in T-Wolves' history who has managed to steer Minnesota to either a winning record or a playoff berth.

After his time with Minnesota, Saunders coached the Detroit Pistons for three years, and led the team to the Conference Finals for those three years, although he wasn't able to steer them into the Finals.

Saunders then moved on to three fruitless years with the Washington Wizards, and came back to Minnesota last season.

He was supposed to coach Minnesota this season, but, unfortunately, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer, in August 2015. Saunders passed away on October 25, 2015, just before the season started. He was 60 years old.

Flip Saunders
Minnesota Coach Flip Saunders. Image from Baller Status

*   *   *

At the start of his career, pitcher Dean Chance looked like he had a successful career ahead of him, as he won 14 games while playing for the Los Angeles Angels, with an earned-run average (ERA) of 2.96 in 1962, his rookie year. Unfortunately, he fell in with Bo Belinsky, whose easy-going ways and late-night carousing probably made an impact on the young Chance. Still, in 1964, his third year as a pitcher, Chance won the Cy Young Award when he went 20-9, with a 1.65 ERA; this was still the time when the Cy Young was given to just one pitcher, and not divided into two awards. 

He was traded to Minnesota in 1967, where he promptly won 20 games, with a 2.73 ERA. That would be his last great season, after which he moved through three teams (Cleveland, the New York Mets, and Detroit)  before retiring in 1971. 

After working as a barker and a games operator in carnivals during the 70s and 80s, Chance founded the International Boxing Association in the 1990s, and served as its president until his death on October 11, 2015. Chance was 74 years old. 

Requiescat in pace, Flip Saunders and Dean Chance.

Dean Chance. Image from Dazzy Vance Chronicles     

Thursday, October 29, 2015

2016 Elections: The Major Players' Senatorial Slates

Earlier this October, the candidates for the Senate filed their certificates of candidacy (CoCs). By the deadline, 172 persons had asserted their desire to vie for the 12 seats of the Senate.

It's very likely, though, that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will pare down the list to a more manageable level for the voters.

The major players in next year's presidential elections have already announced their respective senatorial slates, namely Sen. Grace Poe's "Team Galing at Puso" (TGP; notice how politicians tend to use their initials in defining their platforms?), former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas III's Liberal Party (LP) coalition, and Vice-President Jejomar Binay's United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has yet to announce whom she will endorse for the Senate, but her chosen running mate, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., has apparently endorsed Manila Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno.

While I will probably try to come up with more detailed profiles of each senatorial candidate, below are the stated slates for each of the above-mentioned teams.

It will be noted that none of the slates feature complete line-ups; a number of candidates are shared by more than one coalition. It appears to be a strategy designed to maximize campaign resources, since, admittedly, no complete slate has ever been elected to the Senate, owing, perhaps, to Filipino voters' tendency to hedge, and provide what they believe is a more balanced group for the Senate.

Those who are endorsed by multiple coalitions are:
1. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto (TGP/LP)
2. Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III (TGP/UNA)
3. Former senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson (LP/UNA)
4. Former senator Richard "Dick" Gordon (TGP/UNA)
5. Former senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri (TGP/UNA)
6. OFW advocate Susan "Toots" Ople (TGP/UNA)

Note that the sharing still leaves the LP with the most complete line-up, with 10 distinct candidates, while TGP and UNA each have 7 distinct candidates.

It's almost certain that these candidates will be certified by the Comelec to run, and I'll probably wait for the Comelec to finish certifying the other independent candidates before I run my profiles. That will probably be in December.

1.      Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto
2.      Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III
3.      Former Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon
4.      Former Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri
5.      Overseas Filipino workers' OFW rights advocate Susan “Toots” Ople
6.      Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno
7.      Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian
8.      Pasig Representative Roman Romulo
9.      ACT-CIS partylist Representative Samuel Pagdilao
10.  Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares
11.  Lawyer Lorna Kapunan
12.  Actor Edu Manzano

1.       Former senator and former Yolanda rehabilitation chief Panfilo Lacson
2.       Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto
3.       Senate President Franklin Drilon
4.       Senator Teofisto Guingona III
5.       Former senator and former food security czar Francis Pangilinan
6.       Former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima
7.       Former Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla
8.       Outgoing TESDA Director General Secretary Joel Villanueva
9.       TIEZA Chief Operating Officer Mark Lapid
10.    PhilHealth Director and former Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros
11.    COOP NATCCO Party List Representative Cresente Paez
12.    DILG Assistant Secretary for Muslim Affairs and Special Concerns and former Maguindanao officer-in-charge Nariman Ambolodto
1.       Former senator and former Yolanda rehabilitation chief Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson
2.       Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III
3.       Former Sen. Richard "Dick" Gordon,
4.       Former Sen. Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri
5.       Overseas Filipino workers' (OFW) rights advocate Susan "Toots" Ople.
6.       Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao,
7.       Former Special Action Force Director Getulio Napeñas,
8.       Parañaque Councilor Alma Moreno,
9.       Sulu Sultanate Princess Jacel Kiram,
10.    Veteran broadcaster Rey Langit,
11.    Labor lawyer Allan Montaño
12.    Lakas-CMD president and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez

Requiem, Sen. Herrera

It seems we're losing our elder statesmen one after the other.

Earlier this month, former Senator Joker Arroyo passed away. Just this evening, former Senator Ernesto "Boy" Herrera joined him. Sen. Herrera suffered a cardiac arrest while being treated for severe burns at the Intensive Care Unit of the Manila Doctors Hospital. He was 73.

Sen. Herrera first came into prominence as a labor leader and a member of the Agrava Fact-Finding Commission, which was formed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and tasked to investigate the assassination of former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.  Chaired by retired Court of Appeals Justice Corazon Agrava, the commission released its findings in October 1984 that the Aquino assassination was the work of a military conspiracy. However, it stopped short of placing the gruesome crime at the feet of the dictator, or his wife, or businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, all of whom the public believed were responsible for ordering the assassination.

In an interview by ABS-CBN last month, Sen. Herrera, the last surviving member of the commission, stressed that there was no evidence linking the Marcoses or Cojuangco to the assassination.
"'How I wished we had solid evidence against Marcos, but there was none. Not against Imelda, not against Danding. Unless there come new pieces of strong evidence to link or charge either one of them in court, we have to close that chapter in our history,' he (Sen. Herrera) said."
He still stressed, though, the complicity of the military in Aquino's murder.
“There was indeed military conspiracy,” Herrera said, recalling the commission’s investigation that lasted for a year. “The government was involved, for how else could you explain that over 1,000 military personnel were deployed supposedly to secure Senator Aquino-—secure him from whom? It was a well-organized murder plot.”
The commission, in its official report, recommended the filing of charges against 26 military men, including Brig. Gen. Luther Custodio and Marcos' Armed Forces Chief, Gen. Fabian Ver. However, in December 1985, the Sandiganbayan acquitted all 26 men.

After EDSA I was when Ernesto Herrera entered the world of politics, running on President Corazon Aquino's ticket in 1987, and handily winning. He would win again in 1992, and, being in the top 12 vote-getters, served for six years until 1998. In 1998, his two terms as senator done, Sen. Herrera won a seat in Congress, serving as Bohol's representative. He would run for Senator in 2001 and 2004, but lost.

Throughout his adult life, Sen. Herrera championed the cause of the labor union; he was the leader of the moderate Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP). During his time as Senator, Sen. Herrera authored Republic Act 6715, a controversial law, which is said to have helped legalize the immoral business practice of contractualization, although a cursory reading of RA 6715 gives me the impression that such is not the case. Obviously, Sen. Herrera himself denies that his law is responsible for the current state of labor contractual affairs, and stressed that contractualization is illegal.

In sum, Sen. Herrera projects an image of one who has tried to do his best under difficult circumstances. Unlike many of our politicians today, Sen. Herrera does not carry the stigma of corruption, and it is unfortunate that he lost out in the 2001 and 2004 senatorial races, since it probably robbed the Senate of gravitas. Given the current crop of those running for the Senate, we could have used someone such as Senator Ernesto Herrera in their place.

Requiescat in pace, Sen. Boy Herrera. Your long journey is at an end, and may you find the rest you deserve.
Sen. Ernesto Herrera. Image from