Thursday, July 22, 2010
Remember that classic moment when then-Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo stumbled over trying to explain the discrepancies in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth(SALN) on national television? It appears that Arroyo hasn’t learned anything from that experience, as he continues to attract negative publicity for himself as he arrogantly branded critics being “hypocrites”, after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) allowed Arroyo to represent the security guards and tricycle drivers of the Ang Galing Pinoy party-list group in Congress.
One could see the arrogance oozing from every pore of his body as he swaggered around after the Comelec delivered its dubious decision. Never mind the fact that Arroyo has no business representing a party-list group, being the son of a former President and a veteran politician to boot. Never mind the fact that, in his years in Congress, Arroyo has never filed a bill that would benefit security guards or tricycle drivers. What remains is that the Comelec, under its head Commissioner Jose Melo has made a mockery of the party-list system by allowing a veteran politician such as Arroyo to represent a marginalized sector.
While it is true when Arroyo rants that a number of the leftist party-list representatives also do not really come from the sector which they claim to represent, and that a number of them can boast of at least a million pesos in assets, such factors should be used to disqualify the leftist party-list groups, and not be used to allow a rich man such as Arroyo to represent the poor.
What makes the situation worse is that the Comelec itself doesn’t seem to follow rhyme or reason in its allowing or disqualifying party-list nominees from sitting in Congress. It disqualified the nominees of Ang Kasangga on the grounds that big businessmen have no business in representing small entrepreneurs, but it allowed Arroyo, a scion of a political dynasty, to represent security guards and tricycle drivers. What gives?
Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, the same official who used the Bible, the Koran, and a conservative American in disqualifying Ang Ladlad, further inflamed the issue by stating that tricycle drivers, the sector which Arroyo purports to represent, do not have the capacity to craft laws. This shows Ferrer’s bias against the poor, and is unbecoming considering that he is supposedly a former judge.
The younger Arroyo should take the cue from his mother, the former President, who has, so far, kept a low profile and shied away from the media (not a good thing, either, though, considering the many controversies she spawned as President). By being an arrogant loudmouth, the younger Arroyo has made sure that he will continue to be held under a negative spotlight, which, as a result, may then continue to draw attention to his mother’s shortcomings, which may be a fringe benefit from the younger Arroyo's antics.
Related post: Columnist Randy David of the Philippine Daily Inquirer also takes note of the inappropriateness of Arroyo's representation.
Monday, July 12, 2010
It’s been a tumultuous weekend in sports, both here and across the globe. From the stunning announcement of (now former) Cleveland star LeBron James, to the opening of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP)’s men’s basketball season, to Nonito Donaire’s title defense, to the thrilling victory of Spain in the World Cup, there has been something for any sport fan to appreciate.
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The announcement of James to join fellow Beijing Olympians Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in Miami sent shockwaves rippling through the National Basketball Association (NBA). It’s likely that never before has such an assembly of superstars been gathered in one team, nor has such an announcement been so overhyped. James kept everyone, including his adoring fans in Cleveland, in the dark about his free agency plans, preferring to reveal everything in a nationwide announcement.
The backlash on James in Cleveland was predictable. Once adoring fans burned James’ jersey. The Cavaliers’ majority owner ripped James in an open letter to the fans, and vowed (rashly, I think) that the Cavs would win a championship before James would. Pundits were split on the matter, with a number ripping James for his selfishness and apparent lack of strength to will a team to win, in the manner some of the great NBA players have done, while others, such as CNN’s Roland Martin and the Rev. Jesse Jackson played the race card, arguing that James is not a slave, and should be allowed to choose whatever team suits him.
For me, after all’s been said and done, it doesn’t really matter where James wound up. Even with Bosh, James and Wade in the fold, the Miami Heat will be hard-pressed to build a decent supporting team around the three stars, as the three’s signing has probably taken up much of the Heat’s salary cap. Still, what tarnishes LeBron James’ image is the tastelessness by which he made his decision. He could’ve thanked Cleveland, been upfront with his fans, and let them know ahead of time; instead, he practically dumped them on nationwide television.
As for the Heat, the pressure is on. With three superstars playing in Miami, they had better deliver a championship and fast, or they’ll be laughingstocks at season’s end.
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The UAAP men’s basketball tournament has been eagerly awaited by its fans. With a number of veteran stars having graduated, it seems like it’ll be open season for all Final Four slots. My friend Enzo has a more detailed analysis here, as well as a great preview, but, for me, my main concern would be how Ateneo would be able to get over losing three key members of its championship squad. With Rabeh al-Hussaini, Nonoy Baclao and Jai Reyes all gone, would the rest of the members be able to pick up the slack, and make a historical run at a three-peat?
As luck would have it, Ateneo’s first assignment would be the favorite to win this year, the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws. The game was hotly contested from the get go, with neither team able to pull away. While the Blue Eagles kept it close, they had no answer to FEU’s sophomore guard RR Garcia, who scored 25 points, and led the Tamaraws to a 72-69 victory, its first over Ateneo in almost two years.
However, it’s clear that Ateneo will be in the thick of the fight, as their rookies, particularly Arthur de la Cruz, showed that they can step up. Hopefully, in the next game, against Adamson on Thursday, the Blue Eagles will be able to get past the initial setback, and display the winning form that led them to victory the past two years.
In other games, the rookie-laden La Salle Green Archers clobbered a veteran-laden University of the Philippines squad, the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Tigers upset the University of the East (UE) Warriors, and Ateneo’s next opponent, fellow raptor school Adamson clawed the National University (NU) Bulldogs. There’s enough unpredictability that it’s clearly anyone’s ball game in the UAAP.
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I only got to know of Donaire’s victory through the news channels, but I do know he defeated his opponent via technical knock out (TKO). With the victory, Donaire continues to show the world that Manny Pacquiao isn’t the only premier Filipino boxer out there.
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On the global stage, the big story is clearly the first time championship win of Spain in the World Cup. Ably predicted by Paul the psychic octopus, the Spanish had to deal with a very physical Netherlands team until Andres Iniesta scored a goal in extra time. My apologies if I'm not too verbose about this, but football, while an internationally acclaimed sport, isn't really my thing. As it was, the only match I got to watch a bit of was Portugal's 7-0 drubbing of North Korea in the eliminations. Still, Spain's win is a fitting cap to what has been a busy weekend in sports.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Last week, Rep. Arroyo reportedly went through a closed lane on the Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX), and didn’t pay the toll, while Vice-President Binay’s convoy ran a red light and ignored a ‘no left turn’ sign. Upon arrival at his destination, Binay cheekily said, in Filipino, “Wala naming wang wang,” referring to President Noynoy Aquino’s ban on the use of sirens and blaring lights. While he later apologized, it’s likely that we will see more incidents involving the Vice-President’s abuses of power.
It’s apparent that even new lawmakers are just too locked into traditional patterns in order to rise above their petty natures.
It was reported in the Inquirer yesterday that the neophyte congressmen resisted the suggestions of Quezon Reps. Lorenzo Tañada and Danilo Suarez to cut the congressmen’s so-called pork barrel funds, officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
One congresswoman, Cebu City Rep. Rachel del Mar even said that she planned to give the barangay captains in her district P1 million each, ostensibly for medical assistance. The big questions here are whether the captains will actually use the money wisely, and whether such an allocation is part of Rep. del Mar’s campaigning for the next elections.
What del Mar and other congressmen, old and new, tend to forget is that their main role in our government is to craft the laws that help govern our nation. The pork barrel funds allow them to usurp executive roles and, worse, continue the corrupt practice of patronage politics. It's disappointing to see that even new lawmakers are too steeped in corruption, considering that they're technically new to the job. I shouldn't be too surprised, since a number of the new lawmakers are relatives of outgoing congressmen, and these newbies may simply be warming their relatives' seat for when the veterans return to power, most likely in 2013.
While he was campaigning, President Aquino’s battle cry was “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” In English, “If there is no corruption, no one would be poor.” This early, however, with the practices of the Vice President, and the congressmen, it’s clear that Aquino will be hard-pressed to make his battle cry a reality.
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
One can only wonder at what Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had in mind when the very first bill she filed was a bill calling for a constitutional convention.
It looks like she is still interested in changing the mode of government from presidential to parliamentary, since that will allow her to vie for the top leadership role, the Prime Minister. Her lust for power is apparently not sated.
It’s obvious, though, that the bill will fail, with the Liberal Party of President Noynoy Aquino in apparent firm control of the House, and Quezon City 4th district Rep. Feliciano Belmonte poised to re-take the Speakership. Rep. Arroyo doesn’t have the votes, so why push for Charter Change?
It’s possible that Arroyo is simply testing the waters, to see whether such a bill could get through. It’s also possible that she’s putting the burden on President Aquino, since a number of Charter Change critics, including myself, have said repeatedly that the best time to enact the revision/amendment of the Constitution would be under a new administration, one that is not poisoned by self-interests. By calling for a constitutional convention, Arroyo stirs the pot, and resumes discussion over a very thorny issue.
It’s interesting to note that Arroyo is attempting to enact Charter Change via constitutional convention, the third mode provided by the Constitution, since she has already attempted both the People’s Initiative, which was struck down by the Supreme Court, and the constitutional assembly, which fizzled after a huge outcry rose against it. Maybe she’s thinking third time’s the charm? I doubt if we’ll ever know her motives.
It’s clear, though, that Arroyo is the wrong person to push for Charter Change, since her motives are suspect. If President Aquino would call for it, I think people would be more willing to listen to him because he is more trustworthy, and less likely to move for Charter Change due to selfish reasons.
Aquino’s move to form a committee to study the possibility of Charter Change is a good start, and, hopefully, we will be able to find a mode of change that is acceptable to most. Our Constitution is in need of amendments or revision, but the process has to be done with the right motives in mind. Staying in power beyond what is currently allowed definitely isn’t one of them.
Monday, July 05, 2010
With only a few days in office, Vice-President Jejomar Binay appears to be headed in emulating the ways of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, at least in terms of the controversies she spawned.
So far, the flaps are minor, but, considering Arroyo’s excesses, are troubling enough to be suspicious of the new Vice-President.
First, of course, was the controversy surrounding his choice of Cabinet position. While he has denied that he asked for it, it appears clear that Vice-President Binay was hoping that he would be appointed as Interior and Local Government Secretary, a plum position. However, when it was not given to him, he then refused all other Cabinet positions that President Noynoy Aquino offered him, saying that he would rather just serve the Filipino people sans Cabinet position, which can be, and has been, interpreted as a sign of pique.
Giving Binay the supervision of local government, as well as the police, would have been perfect for building himself a base for the 2016 presidential election, as it would have allowed Binay to enforce loyalties to himself. It would have been dangerous then, to appoint Binay as Interior Secretary, as it would have given him too much power.
The second controversy is Binay’s near-upstaging during the inauguration last week. It appears that he was trying to get to the Quirino grandstand first, with his E-Jeepney. However, that would have been a breach of protocol, since the President should be the first to enter the inauguration site. This, of course, is a minor problem, and one that was easily brushed aside.
The most recent controversy that Binay has been involved in is the “wang wang” ban that President Aquino imposed. Binay stirred a hornet’s nest when he disagreed with the ban, saying that mayors should be allowed to cut through traffic in cases of emergencies. However, he named shootouts and fires as emergencies, which appear to be more for photo ops rather than actual need. Furthermore, it would be difficult to gauge if such officials were heading to an emergency; such exceptions would be open to so much abuse.
He also displayed his ignorance of the law, which is ironic, considering that he is a lawyer. The use of sirens and traffic escorts is allowed only to the highest officials of the land, namely, the President, the Vice-President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, and the Chief Justice (I think). Yet, Binay used the President getting stuck in traffic as an example, which shouldn’t occur since the President is entitled to such a privilege. Ironically, the President did get stuck, and was late for an appointment, but that was because President Aquino opted not to use the privilege.
Vice President Binay should probably be more circumspect in his words and actions. Unlike President Aquino, who won handily over his opponents, Binay squeaked by his rival, Aquino’s running mate, former Senator Mar Roxas. This doesn’t give him much political capital to spend. If Binay continues to stir up trouble, he is likely to invite trouble upon himself.
Friday, July 02, 2010
Based on the reaction of people, the part of President Noynoy Aquino’s inauguration speech that resonated the most with listeners was his assurance that he would not tolerate the use of the “wang wang” or siren, which characterizes the indiscriminate use of police escorts by government officials.
For many urban Filipinos, the most visible symbol of the abuse of power by our officials and politicians is the siren-blaring police escort, which is normally used to cut through traffic. This perk of government service, by law, is only available to the highest officials in the land, namely, the President, the Vice-President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (I think).
However, lower government officials have made use of this, despite numerous observations that they can’t. Traffic enforcers are loathe to flag down these police escorts, because of the possible consequences of getting in the way of those in power.
It is something that many apparently resent, based on the positive reaction to President Aquino’s speech. For certain, many have been the times that the police escort would block motorists to allow their charges to pass through heavy traffic unopposed; in fact, traffic often gets worse because of these escorts. Some private citizens have had sirens installed on their cars, to abuse them the way our government officials do.
What these officials forget is that they are actually public servants; as President Aquino said in his speech, “Kayo ang boss ko,” referring to the Filipino people. It is our taxes that pay for these officials’ salaries and allowances. Why should they set themselves higher than us?
If President Aquino can show that he has the political will to enforce a no “wang wang” policy, he will have won over Filipinos, who may now be willing to believe that he is capable of fulfilling his other promises.