Sunday, August 30, 2015

More Grade School Memories

As soon as I posted my grade school memories, a few more memories peeped out, as if to say, "Hey, what about us?" So here we go again:

  • Back when I was in grade school, Shakey's was the only big restaurant on Katipunan. Where McDonald's is now was once a Petron gas station, if I remember right.
  • My ballpen of choice back then was Papermate's Kilometrico. Scribbler came in second.
  • I was one of those who used an attache case (plastic) as a schoolbag when I was in grade 7.
  • There were no left-handed chairs during my time (I think), which resulted in me having poor handwriting.
  • Mr. Tamidles was the author of our penmanship book in grade 7, and I'm pretty sure that the "F" in my signature is a result of that book.
  • Aside from the eyebrow incident in grade 5, I also needed a stitch to close a cut in the corner of my mouth which happened when I passed in between Mr. Valencia and a classmate. Mr. Valencia was handing my classmate a pair of bongos, and I got hit in the mouth as I passed in between.
  • I think Dell was our cafeteria concessionaire during my time, and I ate quite a number of Dell burgers in grade school.
  • In grade 3, I was top 3 in my class for the 1st, 2nd, and 4th quarters. In the 3rd quarter, the top 1 for the other three quarters and I switched. I don't think he's ever forgiven me for that. :)
  • Two of my classmates left after grade 6: one went to Philippine Science, and the other I lost track of, until last week, when I attended a wake of my classmate's mother. There, one of my classmate's friends said that the other one who left now lives in the U.S. (I think)
  • I was an avid reader starting in grade school, and some of my classmates and I tried to see how many library cards we could go through in a year.
  • Ninoy Aquino was assassinated in my graduating school year (83-84), which, I think, is why we didn't have an ACT presentation during that year.
  • ACT plays I remember: "Karwaheng Ginto/Goodnight, Blackeye (?)," "Bata," "Anino ni Abe," "Lord of the Rings (didn't watch, but I remember the ACT presented this)," "Peter Pan," and "Luwalhati."

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ateneo Grade School Memories

Off the top of my head, here are some of my own memories from grade school:
  • My sections, and my respective advisers, in grade school were: 1-Mulawin (Mrs. Quiazon); 2-Makiling (Mrs. Duenas); 3-Humabon (Mrs. Baterna); 4-T'boli (Mrs. Gentolia); 5-Pugad Lawin (Mrs. Rilloraza); 6-Malvar (Mr. Navarro); and 7-Xavier (Mr. Santos)
  • The headmaster I remember was Fr. Katigbak, S.J., and the chaplain was Fr. Cuerquis, S.J.
  • I remember the red and yellow plastic discs that were called chits, and were issued by the cafeteria as change. 
  • During intrams in grade school, I was always a member of Team A, the least athletic team in the section. Worse, I was almost always a substitute player. The few times I got to play were adventures. 
  • I remember the big slides beside the rubber tree and the library. These were huge metal monsters, with a bump halfway down, from which students would launch themselves as they slid down the slides.
  • My batch missed out on using the EMC, since we graduated the year before it opened. 
  • I was a member of the Grade School Rondalla for four years, moving from the banduria to the bells after grade 4. From grades 4-6, I was exempted from work ed and music classes to be able to practice in the rondalla room with Mr. Valencia. In grade 7, the school removed the exemption from work ed, and I discovered how un-crafty I was.
  • In grades 4 and 5, I was small enough to slip through the window bars to get into the classroom. My classmates often used me as the door opener during this time.
  • I think it was in grade 4 when the late Mr. Selorio taught us the "Everybody sing in the Big Apple, in the Big Apple" song, as well as the "ya, ya, ya, yeki, ya, ya, ye, nis" Indian chant (or so he claimed).
  • In grade 5, I remember slamming headfirst into one of the metal window panes while I was running. I needed three stitches to close the wound on my eyebrow. 
  • I remember chipping a bone in my ankle in grade 6 as a result of slipping in the rock garden. I was playing agawan base, and was trying to circle around to attempt a save of my teammates. I wound up wearing a cast for six weeks.
  • In grade 7, I remember racing up the stairs as soon as lunch was over to try to be the first to get to the classroom.
  • Having missed the ACT's presentation "Lord of the Rings," I asked my aunt to get me the trilogy, and wound up reading it over the summer between grades 5 and 6. 
  • I learned the ins and outs of Dungeons and Dragons in grade 6.
  • In grades 6 and 7, my class went up to Baguio for R and R. In grade 7, we stayed in the girl scouts' camp just across the Hyatt Terraces, which collapsed in the 1990 earthquake. Mr. Tamidles joined us in grade 7, and scared the heck out of us with his ghost stories involving the camp.
  • AGS teachers I remember, aside from my adviser: Mr. Miraflores (English), Mr. Tamidles (AP), Mr. Laureles (Work Ed), Mr. Selorio (Math), Mr. Valencia (Music), Mrs. Palma, and Mr. Sta. Maria (AP). To my other teachers, my most humble apologies. I'll go over the Chronicles again, and try to put my memory back in order.

Being an Atenista

It's amazing how much nostalgia has been generated over the past few days.

My social media feed has been mostly filled by posts from the recently formed Atenista Facebook group, as Ateneans from various batches post their memories of their grade school, high school, and college days. For the most part, though, many of the memories focus on the times in grade school and high school. This is probably because these were the formative years, the ones which helped shape who we were.

Some of the posts which have generated a lot of attention are:

  • What batch of "Days with the Lord" are you?
  • Batchmates who have passed away
  • Which teacher you had a crush on
  • The High School Dance (which pretty much showed how old you were)
  • Pictures of the Grade School, particularly the rock garden and the open basketball courts
  • Pictures of former teachers, such as Mr. Onofre Pagsanghan (picture from 1955) and the late Mr. Charlie Valencia, the founder of the grade school Rondalla
One can almost imagine a great gathering of Ateneans, sitting round a table, reminiscing about what were glorious times. I can imagine it's probably the same for alumni and alumnae of other schools, since they probably had their own colorful memories of their school days.

As for me, since I went back to the Ateneo High School to teach straight after college, my own memories are a mix of my days as a student, and as a teacher, from being formed to being one of the formators. Even as a teacher, I continue to be formed by the ideals and values of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits. As I continue to be formed, I try to pass on what I learn to my own students, and hope that they, too, will be shaped by this great school.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Musings on the UAAP Decision on Hubert Cani

As my friend, Enzo Flojo (also known as the Hoop Nut), wrote in his article, "When the impending passing of the Student-Athletes Protection Bill (SAPB), which was authored by Sen. Pia Cayetano, was reported earlier this year, it seemed like all the drama and hullabaloo revolving around the ridiculous high-school-to-college residency period in the UAAP was finally coming to an end."

Unfortunately, it didn't.

In an amazingly bullheaded move, the UAAP board decided that Ateneo player Hubert Cani, a transfer player from National University (NU), remained ineligible for this coming season. UAAP officials asserted that, since the SAPB had not yet been passed, Cani was still subject to the 2-year residency rule for high school transfer players.

The UAAP decision continues to enforce the perception that student-athletes are commodities, which is reprehensible given the young age of the players involved (see my previous posts on the issue here and here.). The UAAP decision basically says that the school that trained the player owns the rights to that player, which restricts the player's right to be able to choose his or her own school. It's a subtle form of slavery.

Senator Pia Cayetano, the author of the SAPB, was understandably upset over the decision, and called the league officials "immature" and "arrogant." In addition, Senator Cayetano said in her statement over the issue:
"This is the very same UAAP rule that an RTC court struck down two years ago in favor of (UP) swimmer Mikee Bartolome," she said. "In the case of basketball player Hubert Cani, he has even served one-year residence already and was hoping to play this season.

"It is irrelevant that the Student-Athletes Protection Bill has not been signed by the President yet. The UAAP must respect a student-athlete's right to study and play for the school of his choice. The UAAP is not a commercial but an amateur league.
"The UAAP board should stop treating student-athletes like commodities."
Well said, Senator, well said.

At this point, though, the outpouring of emotion and outrage will not help Hubert Cani, as well as any other athlete who remains affected by the UAAP rule. While the Ateneo will prepare to appeal the UAAP decision, blogger Rick Olivares of bleachers brew says that student-athletes should stand up for their rights and look into legal actions against the league over the unjust rule. It worked for swimmer Mikee Bartolome two years ago.

Another option is for the Ateneo to request NU to issue a release order for Cani, although, given the small-mindedness of UAAP officials, that's unlikely.

Of course, the UAAP could always recognize that it's heading for an inevitable crash, and allow Cani to play this season.

Of course, as Mike Myers' Wayne of "Wayne's World" used to say, "And monkeys might fly out of my butt."

Update on the Balikbayan Box Issue

Finally responding to the clamor over the Bureau of Customs (BOC) move to randomly inspect balikbayan boxes, President Noynoy Aquino has called on BOC officials not to physically open the boxes, unless X-ray and K-9 inspections of the boxes indicate the presence of prohibited items.

BOC Commissioner Bert Lina set off a firestorm of protest on social media networks when he announced a few weeks ago that balikbayan boxes would be randomly opened to determine if there were any smuggled items inside.

Initially, the President defended the BOC move, because he was given the impression that the random inspections would be in aid of combating smuggling. However, it was apparent that the ensuing cry of protest was just too loud for the President to ignore, hence, the order to stop opening the boxes.

One can only wonder if there would have been a protest if the BOC had a reputation for integrity. Sadly, such is not the case, since the BOC has long had a reputation for being corrupt; a 2014 survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS) had the BOC at the top of the rankings of corrupt government agencies. A 2013 Rappler article reported about the difficulties previous commissioners such as Angelito Alvarez and Rufino Biazon have had in attempting to deal with the corruption in the BOC.

Perhaps, the solution, as former Commissioner Biazon suggested, is to abolish the agency and build it up from scratch. That way, the corruption that has been hounding the BOC for the longest time might be eradicated.

In the meantime, OFWs and their families can be assured that their pasalubongs will be relatively safe from the clutches of the BOC.
unless X-ray and K-9 examinations give rise to suspicions that they contain prohibited items. - See more at:
unless X-ray and K-9 examinations give rise to suspicions that they contain prohibited items. - See more at:
unless X-ray and K-9 examinations give rise to suspicions that they contain prohibited items. - See more at:
unless X-ray and K-9 examinations give rise to suspicions that they contain prohibited items. - See more at:
unless X-ray and K-9 examinations give rise to suspicions that they contain prohibited items. - See more at:

Not A Good Week

It hasn't been a stellar week for members of the Aquino administration.

First, Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya took major flak for saying last Monday that traffic in Metro Manila was not "fatal." He would quickly clarify that he meant that traffic was “not burdensome to the daily lives of the people,” which didn't improve matters, when one considers that many residents of the metropolis lose hours in traffic.

Sec. Abaya would later apologize for his insensitive remarks, but the damage had been done. Given the fact that the Aquino administration is notorious for insensitivity, the remarks only served to pour gasoline over what is already a blazing fire.

Also happening last week, Bureau of Customs (BOC) head Bert Lina reaped the whirlwind when he declared that balikbayan boxes, which are sent home by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) would be subject to random checks; Commissioner Lina cited the possibility of smugglers taking advantage of the tax-free nature (up to $500 value) of the boxes as the reason behind the move.

While Commissioner Lina defended the move by saying that he was simply implementing the law, this did not sit well with OFWs and netizens, who quickly posted their anger over social media networks. One meme pointed out the fact that other items, such as trash from Canada and fake rice from China, manage to sneak into the country, while another illustrated the widening gap between the rich and powerful, and the poor, by citing how some are able to bring in luxury cars without paying the necessary fees.

Of course, politicians with a moist eye for next year's elections have declared to subject the BOC officials to a probe, although Sen. Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV made a concrete gesture by filing Senate Bill No. 2373, which aims "to update the current de minimis threshold, or the minimal volume of declaration of goods in the customs for consignments, balikbakan boxes and other low-value and low-risk packages."

Get Real Philippines contributor Vincent posts a sane (surprisingly, for the website) discussion about the issue, and he also makes some concrete proposals as to how the issue can be resolved.

While Commissioner Lina is right in saying that he is just enforcing the law, it does not bode well that the BOC is considered to be one of the most corrupt government agencies; it is a reputation the agency has had even before the Aquino administration. There is no guarantee that, should the balikbayan box be opened, losses can be prevented, and, worse, there is even less guarantee that complaints, as well as charges, will be entertained. 

Both of these issues are black marks on the Aquino administration, and, unless the President and his Cabinet are able to address them satisfactorily, they will be raised to bedevil the administration candidates in next year's election.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Ninoy's Death and the Culture of Impunity

It has been 32 years since Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. was assassinated on the tarmac of the then-Manila International Airport.

I was going back on my previous musings on Ninoy's death anniversary (the most recent being 2011, 2013, and 2014), and, having read them, I can't think of anything new to say about Ninoy, except to reiterate that we should continue to commemorate his death, and emulate his bravery in continuing to fight for his country, even if it would mean his death. Instead, I'll reflect on the current state of affairs, on how Filipinos are actually commemorating Ninoy's sacrifice. Of course, that means that the current state of affairs reflects the Filipino's horribly short historical memory.
To those of us who grew up in the Marcos era, it is galling that the family of the former dictator continues to enjoy the trappings of power, even as they continue to deny their collective guilt for what their family did to the country. To those of us who were aware of the crimes of the Marcos family, it's frustrating to see the current generation demonstrate an appalling ignorance of the past, so much so that the dictator's son is mulling running for President or Vice-President next year.

Even the former close ally of the Aquinos, Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who has lusted for the Presidency, is thinking of asking the younger Marcos, currently a Senator, to run as Vice-President under Binay. Note that the Marcoses have never apologized or admitted their excesses during their patriarch's time as leader, so to have a former Aquino ally brazenly say that the younger Marcos was never implicit in his father's crimes is just unbelievable.

To this day, it has not been established who the mastermind was in Ninoy's assassination. The soldiers who were jailed and then released in 2009 are not talking, and, if they are, they continue to point to Rolando Galman, the lone gunman who was killed alongside Ninoy. The Marcoses, on whom suspicion for the order to assassinate Ninoy has long been placed, continue to plead innocent.  While one of the soldiers pointed to businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco as one of those who planned the assassination, the Aquino family has rejected this accusation. Thus, the answer to the question, "Who gave the order to kill Ninoy?" will sadly be one of those unsolved mysteries.

It is this inability to close with finality the Aquino assassination case that, as Philippine Star editor Anna Marie Pamintuan noted in her column today,  that "contributed to the prevailing impunity in political violence." This impunity, Pamintuan continues, also extends to corruption, as "our government has confiscated billions in ill-gotten wealth but has failed to punish anyone who might have done the stealing."

It is this impunity that probably helped cause the infamous Maguindanao Massacre, as well as other numerous political killings throughout the country. There is no fear of accountability, so our political warlords continue to resort to murder as a tool to maintain power.

One can only wonder what the late Senator would have had to say about the current state of affairs. It is possible that he will condemn the senseless spate of killings, and work hard in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. It is also possible that he will be powerless to do anything about it.

Sadly, despite the restoration of democracy and (relative) freedom to our country after the Marcoses were deposed, it's a fact that we, as a country, still have a long way to go before we can consider ourselves to be politically mature. It's something that Ninoy could have helped in developing. In his absence, it is up to those of us who truly love our country to take up the banner and continue the fight for which Ninoy was killed. In the end, it is not just one man's work and sacrifice that will bring our country to greatness. In the end, we, as a united people, will determine our country's greatness.

image from Recursive Existence

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Requiem, Baltimore Batman

It's saddening how accidents happen and take away someone special.

Robinson, as Batman, cheering up a child. Image from Wow Amazing

Last Sunday, Lenny Robinson, also known as the "Route 29 Batman" or the "Baltimore Batman," was killed in a car accident along Interstate 70 near Hagerstown, MD. According to the news report, Robinson encountered car trouble with his Batmobile, and stopped to check his engine. Minutes later, a Toyota Camry crashed into the Batmobile, which slammed into Robinson, who died at the scene. He was 51.

Robinson first made headlines in 2012, when he was pulled over by police while he was wearing the Batman costume. Video of his being pulled over went viral, and, after the Washington Post revealed his identity, Robinson became a celebrity.

Robinson, as Batman, vising a patient. Image from Wow Amazing
However, it was what Robinson did with his Batman persona that makes him truly great. He would visit sick children in the hospital, and help them feel better despite their illnesses by cheering them up and by giving them gifts. He would also make appearances at superhero parties, and light up the children's day. (See "Batman" Lenny Robinson Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.)

Being Batman was Robinson's way of giving back to the community. He had made his money in the cleaning business, which he later sold, apparently to devote full-time to his giving back; he later became president of Superheroes for Kids, Inc.  
Robinson will be sorely missed, but not forgotten by the hundreds of kids that he had helped.

Robinson is a testament to servant-leadership, like Jesse Robredo, in that he did not think of himself, but rather, devoted his life to helping others.

Requiescat in pace, Lenny Robinson.

Who is the Route 29 Batman? This guy.
Robinson as Batman from the Superheroes for Kids, Inc. website

Requiem, Pamana

The news was heartbreaking.

Pamana, a 3-year old Philippine eagle, was found dead of a gunshot last Sunday, only two months after being released into the wild.

Philippine eagles are considered to be critically endangered, due to various factors, primarily hunting and loss of habitat. The number of Philippine eagles remaining, either in captivity or in the wild, is estimated from 180 to 500, which makes Pamana's loss all the more tragic.

image of Pamana courtesy of the Philippine Eagle Foundation

Pamana was released into the wild on June 12, 2015, after being rescued in 2012 by Iligan City locals, who found her injured with two gunshot wounds. 

Up to now, Pamana's killer has not been identified or found. Here's hoping that he will, and that justice be rendered unto him for killing this magnificent bird.

Pamana's death reminds us that we should be more vigilant in preserving our wildlife, one of our precious natural resources. There aren't many Philippine eagles left, so we should aid in their survival.

Remembering Jesse Robredo

He went around his city in slippers, sans bodyguards. Instead of exploiting the poor of his city, he saw them as "partners and assets," as noted in his posthumous citation for the Government Service Award given to him by the Ateneo de Manila University. Call him the anti-Binay, since he did more to help the people of his city.

Yesterday, we commemorated the 3rd death anniversary of the late Interior Secretary and former Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, who died in a plane crash in 2012

Sec. Robredo was one who lived the life of a true servant-leader. From his election as Naga City mayor at the young age of 29 in 1989 to his appointment as Interior Secretary in 2010, Robredo always looked for ways and means to empower the people under his leadership.

As his citation states,

"Jesse Robredo was a true servant-leader, always putting the people's interest first. He was an advocate of people empowerment because he believed in the ability of ordinary people to make a difference. His administration enacted the Empowerment Ordinance of Naga City. A first in the country, the ordinance "widened the areas for people participation and bestowed powers upon the people's council to send representatives to all government committees, councils, boards and task forces, and there participate in the deliberation, conceptualizations, and implementation and evaluation of government projects and activities. The people's council may also propose legislation and participate and vote at the committee level of the local legislative council." This ordinance is strictly implemented through the Naga City People's Council which represents over a hundred nongovernment and people's organizations.

(As Interior Secretary) "Robredo also established vital programs that promoted and brought about good governance in the local governments across the nation. Among these were 1) the Full Disclosure Policy, which required LGUs to disclose documents in public places showing how their funds were spend; 2) the Seal of Good Housekeeping, which gave monetary rewards to LGUs for honesty and competence; 3) the Seal of Disaster Preparedness, which gave incentives to LGUs so that they could better prepare for and manage the effects of disasters and calamities; and 4) the streamlining of LGUs' business process licensing systems."
Throughout his life, Robredo put the people first, and himself, second. It is tragic that his life was cut short so suddenly, as it was obvious that he still had much to do and much to give of himself.

Hopefully, there will be others who will take up the torch of his brand of leadership, and continue the good work he started. As it is, his wife, Leni, as Camarines Sur Representative, carries out the work that Robredo left behind, and, on his 3rd death anniversary, she stated two lessons that one can learn from her late husband:
"Yung siguro, ma-eencapsulate lang sa dalawang bagay. Yung isa, yung anong klase yung pagbuhay. Yung asawa ko kasi, he really made an effort to stay grounded, to be the same person that he was when he first entered the service. Palagay ko mahalaga iyon eh. Mahalaga iyon kasi parang nadisiplina yung sarili. Yung wants na control… kaya yung temptation to corruption hindi naging mataas.

(I guess it can be encapsulated using two things. First, the kind of life you live. My husband made an effort to stay grounded, to be the same person that he was when he first entered the service. I think that’s important because it helps you discipline yourself. Your [desires] are in control, so the temptation to be corrupt isn’t strong.)
"Yung pangalawa yung pinaka-effective na leadership ang service yung ibababa ang sarili sa ground. Para naiintindihan kung ano yung tunay na hirap na pinagdadaanan ng mga tao. Kaya palagay ko yun yung sercret niya dito sa Naga. Yung kanyang mga programa naging effective kasi sumasagot ito sa mga tunay na pangangailangan ng mga tao kasi naiintidihan niya eh, yung sensitivities niya andoon. Kasi sinubukan niyang pagdaanan yung paghihirap na dinaanan ng lahat."
(Second, leadership and service is most effective when you keep yourself grounded. That way, you understand the hardships that people go through. I think that’s the secret to Naga. The programs were effective because it answered the real needs of the people here because Jesse understood it, the sensitivities were there because he tried to experience the hardships they experienced as well.)
 Well said, Rep. Robredo.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Requiem, Kapatid ni Ninoy

I can still remember the tune of his campaign jingle in 1987.

"Kapatid ni Ninoy, kapatid ng bawat Pilipino! Butz, Butz, Butz, Butz Aquino!"

Even though I could not vote in 1987, that election was one I followed closely, since it was the first free elections in the post-dictatorship era. This is probably why campaign ditties such as that of Aquino's have stuck in my mind up to now.

Agapito "Butz" Aquino rose to prominence in the aftermath of his brother Ninoy's assassination in 1983. It was Butz Aquino who formed the August Twenty One Movement (ATOM), which led the charge in protesting against the Marcos dictatorship. It was Butz Aquino who, when Marcos forces were converging on Camps Aguinaldo and Crame in 1986, helped exhort people to go to those places to defend the rebel forces within; this, as we know, led to the EDSA People Power Revolution.

In the post-Marcos era, Aquino became immersed in politics, starting out as a Senator from 1987-1995, and then as Makati 2nd District Representative from 1998-2008. After a failed run for Makati City mayor, he retired quietly from Philippine politics

As Senator, Aquino was instrumental in authoring a number of key laws, such as the Magna Carta for Small Farmers and the Cooperative Code of the Philippines.

Sadly, Senator Butz Aquino died yesterday afternoon of multiple organ failure, his long journey at an end.

While Aquino appeared to be involved in the chaos that was EDSA 3, and was a supporter of former President, convicted plunderer, and Manila City mayor Joseph Estrada, I would rather remember Aquino as the EDSA hero, as the organizer of the protests against the dictator, and as one who helped the Filipino people realize that, united, they could stand up and fight for what is right.

Requiescat in pace, Senator Butz Aquino. Be reunited with your brother and be at peace.

Butz Aquino at an anti-Marcos protest. Image from NZ Foreign Affairs.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Unwritten, Until Now

One of the aspects I like about writing and commenting on current events is the richness of the source material for writing. Whether it's the continued reports of the corruption of Vice-President and presidential candidate Jejomar Binay, or the outrageous rants of U.S. Republican Party presidential possible Donald Trump, or the day-to-day tragedies such as the Valisno bus crash or the Tianjin chemical explosion, there is always something to write about.

Of course, the continuing challenge for those of us who make a go at writing about current events is to be able to write about a news item before it gets stale. As it stands, when I was forced to go on hiatus a few weeks back, there were a number of interesting news stories about which I probably would have written posts, but was unable to do so. Here are two of the stories that might have merited my attention, if I had had the time to write about them.

Cecil the Lion

Last month, netizens were up in arms over the killing of Cecil, a supposedly beloved 13-year old lion, in Zimbabwe. Based on the news reports, Walter Palmer, an American dentist, traveled to Zimbabwe in order to hunt a lion. His guides apparently lured Cecil out of his reserve, where they shot and killed him. Afterwards, Cecil was beheaded and skinned, although the Zimbabwean government was able to stop its shipping abroad.

In the aftermath of the killing, Palmer, who claimed he did not know that it was Cecil he was hunting, went into hiding as a result of the death threats hurled against him; reports of his being involved in illegal hunting incidents surfaced, which appeared to belie his claims that he thought the hunt was arranged legally.

While there was an outpouring of grief over the death of Cecil, there were splashes of cold water as well in the form of posts by Fr. James Martin, S.J., and Goodwell Nzou. While Fr. Martin grieves for the death of Cecil, he wonders whether people would feel the same way about what has been happening in South Sudan, where around half of the population is starving. Nzou spoke from the perspective of one who has dealt with lions at a much closer range than most of us, and questioned the behavior demonstrated by those who might not even know where Zimbabwe actually was.

To tell the truth, I didn't know about Cecil until after his death, so I'm not sure what news reports meant by well-beloved.

In a way, I am glad I didn't write about this story, since the hiatus gave me the time to assess both sides, and, hopefully, write from a more objective viewpoint.

Family Squabble in the Iglesia ni Kristo

Last month, as the sect approached its 101st anniversary on July 27, the Iglesia ni Kristo (INK) was rocked when the executive head, Eduardo Manalo, the grandson of founder Felix Manalo, expelled his mother and his siblings from the sect, after reports of corruption in the sect came out. Tenny Manalo and her son Angel, as well as his other siblings, remain secured in the Iglesia compound in Barangay New Era.

The expulsion apparently opened a can of worms, as ministers who have been expelled from the sect came out with their own accusations of corruption against high-ranking officials in the INK, accusations the INK leadership has denied.

The INK  has gained prominence in the Philippines because of its ability to compel its members to vote whomever the INK leadership orders them. During each anniversary, Commonwealth Ave. is festooned with banners and tarpaulins of politicians wishing to curry favor with the INK. 

What I found curious is that, on the day of the anniversary, INK temples displayed tarpaulins with the inscription, "One with EVM." I'm assuming that EVM means Eduardo Manalo. If the sect's leaders wanted to display unity, and play down the sect's image of being a personality cult, shouldn't the tarpaulins read "One with INK?" Just thinking aloud.

I'm not sure how this controversy will play out, but it will probably have an effect on the INK's ability to compel its followers to vote as it commands in next year's national elections.

More Tragedy on the Road: The Valisno Bus Crash

Despite the fact that, four days ago, at least four people were killed and eighteen were injured when a Valisno bus crashed into a concrete barrier, other buses continue to careen down highways without regard for road rules. It makes one wonder whether the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the bus company owners takes any concrete steps in warning bus drivers to comply with traffic rules.

Looking at the image posted by Lem Castro on his Twitter feed, I find it hard to imagine just how fast the bus was traveling in order to be as damaged as it was. The front and right side of the bus is almost totally shredded.

Even more disturbing is the report that the driver, George Pacis, tested positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride, also known as shabu. Pacis, who fled after the accident, eventually surrendered to police, apparently at the urging of his relatives.

As as result of the Pacis' reckless driving, aside from the casualties caused by the accident, the LTFRB imposed a 30-day suspension on the entire bus company.

The problem with the bus companies is that they don't seem overly concerned about these accidents, since, even after such news has been circulated, other buses continue to ply their routes with the same wanton abandon and disregard for safety or rules. 

While the 30-day suspension, with all the attending requirements, such as testing the buses for roadworthiness and requiring bus drivers to undergo safety seminars and drug-testing, is welcome, stronger measures, such as cancellation of the bus franchises, should be imposed in order to remind bus companies of the responsibility they have as a public service. (See Philippine Star editorial about the tragedy.)

Sadly, this is not the first tragic accident involving buses or public transportation, and, even more sadly, it will not be the last. Unless our public transportation officials take stronger measures so that order will be imposed on erring public transportation companies, there will be more injuries and deaths because of this neglect.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

It's hard to believe that seventy years ago, a pair of atomic weapons devastated two Japanese cities.

Four days ago, the city of Hiroshima, which was the first city to be bombed with an atomic bomb, commemorated its 70th anniversary of the horrific event, which instantly killed around 80,000 people, and subjected thousands more to the effects of radiation poisoning.

Yesterday, the city of Nagasaki, which suffered around 40,000 deaths, does the same, with a plea from the survivors to countries that possess atomic weapons to destroy such weapons.

There were a number of survivors from Hiroshima who actually made their way to Nagasaki, where they became double victims of the atomic bombs. So far, though, only one survivor, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who died in 2010, has been recognized as such, and, as it is, Yamaguchi was only confirmed to be a double survivor in 2009.

To this day, the survivors of the bombing continue to suffer the effects of the radioactive bombs, with ailments such as debilitating physical scars and internal injuries; a number of survivors succumbed to cancer and leukemia. The images and stories of the survivors paint a picture of horror and revulsion for atomic weapons.

There is a story that the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki hinged on the call by the Allied forces for the Japanese government to surrender. Japanese Premier Kantaro Suzuki, in his response, used the word, mokusatsu, which could be translated to either mean "silence" or "treat with silent contempt." The allied press picked up on the second translation, and interpreted the Premier's statement as one of rejection, which then sealed Japan's fate. The horrible misunderstanding has since been used as a cautionary tale in the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) of how one should be careful of interpreting or translating words, as the misinterpretation of one word can cause such tragedy. 

Since then, nuclear weapons have never been used on a human population, and, instead, have been tested in deserts and island atolls. A number of countries, notably the U.S., Russia, Britain, and France, have stockpiled nuclear weapons as a deterrence, although the actual use of such weapons can only described in the apt acronym MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).

While the world's nuclear stockpiles are much smaller than they were during the Cold War era, there are still enough to assure a MAD situation. In remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki, let us continue to work for the removal of these weapons, as we remember the terrible and horrific effects if such weapons are used.

In a CNN op-ed, Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida writes as to why we should never forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and remember the legacy of these twin tragedies: "that Japan remains the first and the last place on Earth that has experienced the ravages of an atomic bomb."

Hiroshima Nagasaki
Images of the blasts at Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right). Image taken from Kickass Facts

Saturday, August 08, 2015

We Have Binay; The U.S. Has Trump

In the U.S., the Democratic and Republican Parties are gearing up for 2016, for, like the Philippines, the U.S. will be holding its presidential elections next year. Like the Philippines, the Americans have their own controversial candidates. While we have people like Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who continues to ignore charges of corruption and continues to act arrogantly despite this, the Americans have to deal with would-be Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump.

Trump has been nothing but incendiary, as he offends Latinos with his remarks about Mexicans being drug dealers and rapists. Last June, as he announced his bid for the Republican Party candidacy, Trump told his audience,
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
He assumes that some Mexicans are good people, but he appears definite about the bad Mexicans. One can imagine how Mexicans must have reacted to Trump's remarks.

Trump was unapologetic about his remarks, and defended what he had said, saying
"If you look at the statistics of people coming, you look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything coming in illegally into this country it’s mind-boggling!"
His remarks on Mexico and illegal immigration cost Trump a number of business connections, including NBC Universal and the Miss Universe pageant. As a result of his racist remarks, Mexico will apparently not send a contestant to the pageant this year, and it is possible that other countries may follow suit. 

Trump once again fired up the social media networks after last Thursday's first presidential debate, wherein he bragged about buying politicians from both sides of the U.S. politics, and demonstrated his misogynistic tendencies as he disparaged Rosie O'Donnell and described his insulting online remarks about women as having "fun."

As  for Trump's remarks about buying politicians, Vox's Andrew Prokop makes the observation that, by doing so, Trump exposes "the deep corruption in American politics." Prokop goes on to infer that this may be one of the reasons why people are attracted to Trump: he has "so mastered the corruption of American politics that he can be trusted to resist it."

It's strange that someone so corrupt is the leading candidate in the polls. What will be telling will be if Trump manages to keep his amazing run going until next year, when the primaries begin. 

While Trump's remarks apparently resonate with the conservative wing of the Republican Party, given the fact that he continues to lead all Republican candidates in the polls, Republican strategists must be horrified at the thought of having to campaign for him should he win the primaries next year. It's practically certain that, should Trump somehow win the Republican Party candidacy, the Republicans are heading for defeat next year, for, while a person such as Donald Trump may be popular with the Republican faithful, the Republican faithful don't comprise a majority of the American people. It is likely that sanity will prevail, and Trump's brand of incendiary politics will fall flat on its face.

TSONA Musings

In the aftermath of Vice-President Jejomar Binay's so-called "True State of the Nation Address" (TSONA) came a wave of derision from netizens, as well as some of those who were referred to in his speech.

For the full text of VP Binay's TSONA, check this link

At the top of this list are two widows of the famed SAF 44, who decried Binay's politicization of their late husbands' deaths. VP Binay delivered his TSONA with a mural of the 44 SAF troopers who died earlier this year in a disastrous encounter in Mamasapano. At the end of his speech, Binay then mentioned each trooper's name and saluted the mural. It was an obvious attempt to exploit the troopers' deaths, one that the widows of PO3 John Lloyd Sumbilla and PO2 Noble Kiangan did not appreciate.

It will be recalled that President Aquino was lambasted for not having even mentioned the SAF troopers . Perhaps this is why the President didn't include them in his SONA; it was a catch-22 for him, as he would have been lambasted for having mentioned the SAF anyway.

Aside from exploiting the SAF troopers, VP Binay then proceeded to bash the Aquino administration, using the various failure-points of the administration: the Hong Kong hostage tragedy, the Zamboanga siege, the mismanagement of caring for the Yolanda victims, and the Mamasapano tragedy. He then wove the four events together to paint a picture of neglect from a "palpak" (failed) and "manhid" (insensitive) government.

He also assailed the "Daang Matuwid" slogan of the government, saying that this has failed, and that the government still remained corrupt.

Never mind the fact that, for all four events, he was there, and he himself did nothing. Never mind the fact that, for the past five years, he was a part of this "palpak" and "manhid" government, and yet he said nothing. If there was such corruption in the government, Binay has remained silent, in the same manner that he did not address his own corruption in his TSONA.

For someone who decried the Aquino administration's notorious habit of blaming someone else, VP Binay pretty much did the same thing in his TSONA, something one should note.

The Vice-President then promised that to present programs and policies that, he said, would uplift the Filipino people. Of course, it was a veiled campaign speech; should he be elected, things will get better, much like the fantasy Makati City that he keeps on spinning.

It's clear that the VP will use populist methods in order to get himself elected, but should the Filipino people fall for that, it is clear that these will be empty promises, as the main reason why Binay wishes to be President is to continue to enrich himself. The fact that he's mulling a tandem with the son of the late dictator, Sen. Bongbong Marcos, is proof enough that the Vice-President is corrupt to the core.

Davao City Mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, himself a potential candidate, summed it up best when he said at the end of a speech commemorating the 64th foundation anniversary of Mlang, North Cotabato, "In Marcos’ time, it was only conjugal. Marcos and Imelda. If he [Binay] wins, it will be a basketball team."

As it is, the Binays have surpassed the Marcoses in arrogance. Their patriarch has not yet been elected as President, and, already, Binay's children have been acting as if they have already won. It is imperative then, that Binay must be defeated next year.

Already, social media is rife with factoids and articles detailing the Vice-President's corruption and arrogance. It's clear that, to netizens, Binay is going to be a very bad President.

Unfortunately, not all Filipinos are able to access the Internet, and are thus unable to see the facts for themselves. As a result, they will simply rely on what the Vice-President and his merry men will tell them. This is why it's important for those of us who are gravely concerned at the prospect of a Binay presidency to go out and campaign vigorously against this possibility. Otherwise, we will only have ourselves to blame should Binay win next year.

Friday, August 07, 2015


As I have noted, posting has been sporadic these past weeks, due to a busy schedule, as well as a struggle with ennui.

Still, I would be remiss if I didn't write about some of the notable deaths that have occurred during my hiatus, as well as the more recent ones.

Omar Sharif

I first came across Omar Sharif in the third "Pink Panther" movie, "The Pink Panther Strikes Back," wherein he played an assassin who was after the main character, Inspector Clouseau, played by the late Peter Sellers. I also remember his role as Agent Cedric in the comedy "Top Secret!"

Unfortunately, I've not watched much else starring Sharif, even in his iconic role as the lead character in "Doctor Zhivago." Still, Sharif had such distinctive looks that it was difficult to miss his presence in a movie, which is probably why I remember him from the movies I watched.

In his later years, Sharif would move away from film, and devote himself to contract bridge, in which he was considered to be one of the top players.

Sharif passed away last July 10 at the age of 83.

Neal H. Cruz

I probably should have written about the passing of Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Neal Cruz last July 28, but I was conflicted about what to say. While I liked his columns about Commonwealth Avenue traffic and the issues regarding the removal of the Manila Seedling Bank from its location along Agham Road, I often disagreed with him when it came to political issues, such as when he praised the young lawmakers who tried to impeach then-Chief Justice Hilario Davide.

Still, his columns was one of the ones I would read regularly, so, deep inside, I must have been drawn to his thoughts on Philippine life and politics, so there's that.

Cruz was 85 at the time of his death.

Amado Pineda

For those of us who had our school years during the 70s and the 80s, it was weatherman Amado Pineda whom we would listen to for any news of school cancellations. He was so popular that he would wind up parodying himself in movies. The great comedienne Tessie Tomas regularly spoofed him as Amada Pineda, a wacky forecaster on the comedy show, "Champoy."

I'm not sure when Pineda retired, but it must've been some time ago. 

Pineda passed away yesterday at the age of 77.

On a personal note, I'd also like to request for prayers for the repose of the soul of my co-teacher's eldest sister, who passed away last Monday.

Requiescat in pace to all who have passed away recently. May the Lord take them to live with him forever.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Sharing a Post by Nathaniel von Einsiedel

I'll give some space for the blog post of one Nathaniel von Einsiedel, an urban management specialist, who claims to have worked with Vice-President Jejomar Binay. I'm hoping this is authentic, although the man seems to have the credentials he claims, at least based on a quick Google search. In the post, he shares some disturbing details about the Vice-President, and why Binay is unfit to be elected as President.

By Nathaniel von Einsiedel

The recent columns of Randy David and Sara Soliven de Guzman in the major dailies give us a pretty good picture of what a Binay presidency would be like -- it will be a disaster. The problem, however, is that the average Filipino does not read or understand their analytical writings. Anyway, I agree with them a hundred percent, not just because I believe in their analysis, but because I had worked directly with Binay in the past and, therefore, have personal knowledge of how he thinks and does things. And it is based on this that I will not vote for him come 2016
I have known Jojo Binay personally since we were in college at UP Diliman. He was a fraternity brother of one of our neighbors in Area 1 where I grew up. He frequented our neighbor's house and that's how we got to know each other. After college, it was already in 1986 when I saw Binay again, when he was appointed by then President Cory Aquino as acting mayor of Makati and later on as Governor of Metro Manila in a concurrent capacity. Because of my job at the Metro Manila Commission, I got to meet with Binay on a regular basis, often assisting him in his meetings with the Metro Manila mayors and senior officials of national agencies. On many occasions, I had to join him on early morning site inspections and even late evening meetings.

My working relations with Binay took a break when I resigned from government accepted the invitation of the United Nations and worked abroad from 1990 to 2004. When I returned home, we revived our relationship. From 2004 up to a few years ago, my consulting firm, CONCEP, was engaged by Makati City for a number of projects, such as the Makati Pabahay Project, Makati Development Agenda for the 21st Century, the Jupiter Street Urban Renewal Plan, the MACDA Housing Project, the Barangay Rizal Disaster Oriented Urban Redevelopment, and the Makati Poblacion Heritage Conservation Program. In the course of working on these projects, I had to confer with Binay frequently and thus developed a deeper insight on how he thinks and operates as a public official.

It is based on this that I've become convinced that Binay is not the kind of president I would vote for president in 2016. My reasons are as follows:

1. He will befriend you if you can help him achieve his personal objectives, and will not hesitate to dump you when you're no longer useful to him. He is a master of charming people whom he can use to further his personal ambitions. But once they're of no use to him, or don't like to work with him anymore, he will readily get rid of them and fabricate a story on the reasons why.

2. He is a congenital liar. He has perfected the practice of looking you straight in the eye and lie without blinking an eyelash. His political ads project a lie. By claiming that he will do to the country what he did in Makati, he creates an expectation that is intended to mislead people. Common public perception of Makati is that of a first world city -- high rise offices and condos, glitzy malls, beautiful parks and myriad jobs. But that is Ayala's Makati, covering only 6 of the city's total of 33 barangays. He makes people believe that he can transform the whole country into Ayala Makati's likeness. He knows that is not true. He had no hand in Ayala Makati's development, and he knows he cannot replicate this anywhere.

3. He wants to perpetuate people's dependency on him, especially the poor. He doesn't believe in genuine development that uplifts the living and working conditions of the poor. This is reflected in Makati's dole-out approach to urban management, for example, its education and health programs. His political ads project the message that this dole-out system can be replicated throughout the country. He knows that the only reason he can do that in Makati is because the city has the biggest revenue among LGUs, all due to the thousands of the biggest firms located in the Ayala part of the city.

4. He wants complete control over all programs and projects. The programs and projects of Makati city's departments have to be approved by him directly. Thus, in Makati's annual budget, most if not all programs and projects are listed under the Office of the Mayor, and only he can authorize budget releases. Binay also established a system that consolidates the incomes of all of Makati's barangays and directly controls the approval of and budget releases for all barangay projects. But look at the majority of the barangays -- from Kasilawan, Tejeros, Sta. Cruz, Singkamas, Bangkal, Guadalupe Viejo, Pitogo, Pinagkaisahan, Guadalupe Nuevo, all the EMBO barangays, and even his own San Antonio. There is so much poverty in these areas that no amount of dole outs throughout his as well as his wife and son's terms of office have been able to diminish much less eradicate poverty. The incidence of poverty in the premier and richest city in the country is appalling.

5. His pro-poor actions are all for show. He actually loathes the poor. On a number of occasions when we were discussing in private the housing projects for the poor, he used the term "salaula" (Tagalog for "uncouth" or "uncivilized") to describe them. He has perfected the act of conveying his "concern" for the poor by, for example, setting aside time and a percentage of the city's budget for the poor's "KBL" -- kasal (weddings), burol (wakes), and libing (burial). When we were planning the MACDA housing project, he's approach to the issue of relocating the informal settlers was to pay them off without caring where they were to be resettled as long as they vacated the site.

6. When we proposed a massive workforce development program to include the poor in the productive milieu and benefit from the jobs available in the city, Binay turned it down, criticising it as "small-time." But he did not offer any alternative. It was obvious that he did not want the poor to improve their economic well-being and status. He wants them to be perpetually beholden to and dependent on him, and therefore, under his complete control.

7. His management style is 101% patronage politics. There is absolutely nothing developmental in his system of management. He may have introduced some innovations, but these have been mainly for his and his family's benefit rather than for the good of the people. He criticizes the Aquino administration as being inept, lazy, and slow. But what has he done, as Chairman of the Housing & Urban Development Coordinating Council for the past 5 years, to reduce the housing backlog? What has he done in the barangays of Makati to address poverty? Are the living and working conditions in the poorer barangays any better than before he first became mayor?

When my team and I started consultancy projects in Makati in 2004, its incidence of poverty was higher than the national average. Binay was not alarmed by this and, in fact, seemed to be pleased with it. Perhaps because it meant he could easily manipulate the poor. Today, after almost three decades under the Binays, Makati's overall quality of life, especially in the 27 poorer barangays, isn't much better.

Is this the kind of person who will be our next president? I certainly don't think so.

Requiem for the Rowdy One

He fought with Hulk Hogan in the very first Wrestlemania.

He once smashed a coconut on the head of Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka.

While he started out as a heel, he soon became beloved because of the antics that originally made him a heel. 

He was outspoken and feisty, and wasn't afraid to mix it up when he had to. That was the character of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in the then-World Wrestling Federation, now Entertainment (WWE). Piper, whose real name was Roderick Toombs, played up his Scottish heritage by wearing a kilt while entering the stadium to the music of bagpipes.

His Piper's Pit interview section was often the highlight of the WWE shows, as he would either help push up and coming wrestlers, or, more often, put villains in their place.

Later on, he would take time out from wrestling to try out acting on film, and debuted in the low-budget horror movie "They Live." While he would make other B-level movies, they never were at the level of the first, which is probably why he returned to wrestling after a short while.

His last public appearance was an interview he gave in defense of Hogan, who was fired from WWE after a racial slur-ridden rant became public. Still unspoken, and defiant, Piper claimed that Hogan was going through a "rough patch" during the time of the rant.

He was found dead in his bed yesterday, apparently due to a heart attack; for someone who lived a bombastic life, he left the world quietly. He was 61.

Luke Thompson of Topless Robot gives a more comprehensive send-off of the Rowdy One. 

Requiescat in pace, Roddy Piper. Keep the bagpipes playing up there.

Embedded image permalink
The Rowdy One in the ring. Picture from the Twitter feed of Dana White.

Off and Running: Roxas is Endorsed

After President Aquino's endorsement of his Interior Secretary Mar Roxas as his "preferred successor" for the 2016 presidential elections, all eyes are now on what Senator Grace Poe's next move will be. It will be recalled that, before deciding to endorse Sec. Roxas for next year's elections, the President also talked with Senators Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero as possible candidates. As of the last presidential surveys, Sen. Poe dislodged Vice-President Jejomar Binay as the top choice for the presidency, while Sec. Roxas lags far behind.

Officially, the President's endorsement of Sec. Roxas lay mainly in the President's confidence that Roxas will be able to sustain the Aquino administration's key programs and initiatives. It's also likely that the fact that Roxas is a member of the Liberal Party (LP) and Poe is not, weighed heavily on the President's decision.

It's also possible that the perception that Sen. Poe relies on Sen. Escudero for political mentoring was a factor. It should be recalled that Sen. Escudero supported VP Binay over Roxas in the 2010 elections; the so-called "NoyBi" monicker was credited to Sen. Escudero. For LP stalwarts, Sen. Escudero is clearly too much of a wild-card to be relied upon.

If I were Sen. Poe, if the President should ask her to be the Vice-Presidential candidate, I should accept the invitation. At this point, Sen. Poe could stand a few more years of political seasoning, given her relatively short time in Philippine politics.

Moreover, if she runs for President next year, she will wind up splitting the vote between her and Sec. Roxas, since they will probably both draw from the anti-Binay crowd. It is likely that, should she run alongside Roxas and Binay, it will ensure a Binay victory. This may expose Sen. Escudero as a Binay plant; since he is perceived to be Sen. Poe's mentor, Sen. Poe's decision to run for president could only come with his advice. It wouldn't be the first time Sen. Escudero would be working behind the scenes for the Vice-President.

As for Sec. Roxas, the fact that he has not been connected to any corruption in government on his part is a fact that should be played up to the voting public. Sadly, Roxas is more known for his disastrous meeting with Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez in the aftermath of typhoon "Yolanda," as well as his alleged complicity in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) controversy, since he was the Transportation and Communication Secretary during the time that the anomalous maintenance contract was negotiated.

I agree with Teodoro Locsin Jr., who, in his commentary on "The World Tonight" tonight, commented on Roxas endorsement. Locsin lauded Roxas's not being connected to corruption after having served three presidents, although he conceded that Roxas would have to answer for Yolanda and the MRT.

Roxas also has the formidable LP political machinery behind him, and it is hoped that he has learned his lessons from 2010, wherein it was believed that he coasted as elections neared, which opened the door for Binay's victory.

Unless we make a sudden shift in our form of government, Roxas will be facing Binay, and maybe Poe, next year for the Presidency. For better or for worse, the Interior Secretary will be the best foil to a possible Binay presidency.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Travails of the Philippine Political Left

Leftists outside the Batasan Pambansa burned effigies of President Aquino, and clashed with policemen. Leftists inside the Batasan Pambansa, represented by the so-called Makabayan bloc of party-list representatives, stood up near the end of President Aquino's State of the Nation Address (SONA) and unfurled signs condemning some of the issues they felt the Aquino administration has not addressed.

It's rather funny that the leftist side of the Philippine political spectrum like to label themselves as progressives, as they have not shown that they have evolved, or progressed politically, and are content to continue engaging in actions, such as rallies and vulgar protests, in order to push their agenda. As a result, the so-called progressive side of Philippine politics continues to be more and more marginalized, with little gain or result to show from their actions.

I remember, back in 1987, during the senatorial elections, the political Left fielded a senatorial slate under the Partido ng Bayan name. It took a while for me to find the names of the slate, since they were not included in the Wikipedia entry of the 1987 senatorial elections, nor did they easily come up in Google search. Two articles (a eulogy written by TJ Burgonio for the late labor leader Crispin Beltran by the Philippine Daily Inquirer and an article about the 2010 elections by Edwin Espejo) finally gave me the complete list of seven candidates: the late human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong, former New People’s Army chief Bernabe Buscayno, the late former National Democratic Front chief Horacio Morales, the late newsman and publisher Jose Burgos, peasant leader Jaime Tadeo, and beauty queen turned activist Nelia Sancho.

Predictably, the senatorial slate crashed and burned, as it lacked the necessary machinery in order to compete with the big coalitions. Despite this, I remember being impressed by the slate, since, to me, they appeared to be the underdogs, and, back then, I tended to root for the underdogs, which explains my liking for the Los Angeles Clippers, but that's another story. Of course, I was not fully aware of the political beliefs of the Left, and, if I had known about them better, I probably would have not cheered them on the way I did back then.

It wasn't until the party-list elections at the turn of the 21st century that the political Left managed to build a powerbase in the House of Representatives. This was composed of the various leftist groups that managed to snag seats in the party-list elections; the so-called Makabayan bloc currently numbers seven representatives.

The leftists made a grave strategic error in 2010 when they decided to field Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza as senatorial candidates under the Nationalista Party coalition. This meant that they would be running alongside the son of the late dictator, Bongbong Marcos. The inconsistency of their stand further marginalized the Left, which continued with the failure of Teddy Casino's senatorial candidacy in 2013, as he finished 22nd in a field of 35 candidates.

It does not help that the leftists' political ideology, that of socialism or even communism, has been discredited outside of the Philippines; even China has demonstrated a more capitalist bent of late. As a result, the political Left, while a loud and boisterous part of Philippine politics, remains at the fringes, allowed to participate, but unlikely to ever gain control.

Musings on the 2015 SONA

So, President Aquino's last State of the Nation Address (SONA) has come and gone.

I was able to listen to most of it (full text here), and it's impressive as to what has been achieved by this administration, the naysayers notwithstanding.

Admittedly, this administration has had a number of missteps, such as the tragic Mamasapano incident, as well as the current woes of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), but it has made strides in ensuring that the processes by which our government operates are less corrupt than before. It is impossible to expect that the President will be able to solve all of the country's problems; he is only human, after all, not a genie who can grant wishes. As the Philippine Daily Inquirer's business columnist Peter Wallace observed,
"He has done well. The thing that surprises me though is he has done well by doing nothing. I am exaggerating a bit there but he has not taken a leadership role in a visionary way that I would have liked. Nonetheless he has appealed. He's got the economy moving. He has business confidence." 
Wallace also noted that President Aquino may have benefited from following the corrupt regime of former President Gloria Arroyo. Wallace notes,
"So he came out and he came out as a decent person, as a good man and we wanted to help him because he was a good man. It was not so much that he came in with a drive, with the things that had to be done and doing them but that we have a new environment today in which we can do business."
However, there are a number of concerns that the President can address before he steps down next year. While it is admirable that he stressed the importance of the Anti-Dynasty Law, the President was silent about pressing for the Freedom of Information (FOI) law, a law that has been touted as necessary for transparency in government. While it is admirable that, during Aquino's leadership, the country's economy and investment ratings have grown, the sad fact is that this bounty has yet to trickle down to the common Filipino. This will be an issue that the opposition will exploit in next year's elections, and the President can still do something to counter that. 

Issues such as corruption and poverty are never going to be solved within the duration of a president's six-year term, since these are long-term problems that need constant and consistent attention. It is important that we should elect someone who truly believes in the need to weed out corruption and fight poverty, as this is what will be needed to build on the gains of this administration. If Vice-President Binay wins, it's likely that we will move backward as a nation, since he appears to be more interested in perpetuating hollow, populist solutions, as well as remaining in power.

It's clear that, while the Aquino administration has made giant steps in improving the country, there is still a lot of work to be done. However, the solution does not lie merely with the President; it never has. If we want our country to continue improving and moving upwards, it is up to us, the Filipino people, to put our backs into it, and help in the continued growth of our nation.