Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Court, The Spokesman, and The Queen of Pulp Fiction

"The Supreme Court is always right even when it is wrong." - Rep. Rodolfo "Rodito" Albano III

I was depressed by the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Gloria Arroyo’s power to appoint the next chief justice. No, not because they did what everyone expected they would but because it’s sad when nine associate justices of the highest court in the land cannot even comprehend a simple sentence. But I’m glad I’m not a lawyer because if I were and I had a case to file before the Court my first thought would be how to dumb down my sentences. I would also have to consider very seriously how much I will spend on paper because I will have to use the very large fonts used in children’s books so as not to make those nine idiots uncomfortable.

As if a comprehension-challenged Court were not enough to spoil one’s entire week, newly appointed deputy spokesman Charito Planas had to go on air to speculate about a military junta taking over in case of a failure of elections. Now one can rail at Planas but that would be falling for the Palace’s squid tactic: her statement was timed to distract the public from focusing solely on the Court’s decision. Besides, how can anyone take seriously someone whose saliva bubbles at the corners of her mouth when she speaks?

Anyway, Carmen Pedrosa, newspaper columnist and Cha-cha advocate, saved my week with a fantastic story premised on the evil designs of a “former colonial power.” Her new thriller, “Dangerous Games”, is almost as good as her earlier work, “People’s Initiative: A grand deception and a gigantic fraud on the people.”

“The main objective of this intervention,” she wrote, “was to frustrate constitutional reform and to make sure that a candidate of their choosing should be elected. That candidate was Noynoy. Originally, it was Mar Roxas but he was not getting anywhere in the polls even with the fairy tale story of his romance with broadcaster Korina, redolent of Imelda and Jacqueline syndromes.”

Hmmm. A former colonial power wants to frustrate constitutional reform that could conceivably allow the return of permanent foreign military bases in the country and the lifting of all restrictions on land ownership and exploitation of natural resources by foreign investors?

She continued, “The operatives had to think fast on how to get out of the dilemma. The answer came with the death of Cory Aquino. A scenario not very different from Ninoy’s funeral would be the catalyst to propel a new strategy — cultivate the myth of Noynoy and get out of the earlier commitment to Roxas.”

“The strategy was of a similar mold that propelled Cory Aquino to become President of the Philippines regardless that she was a mere housewife. Granted that there was an outpouring of sympathy on her death. But I did hear people saying they went because they were curious. Others noticed that the yellow umbrellas that suddenly popped out to shelter spectators from rain were of a sturdy kind and could not have been made so quickly. Yellow umbrellas, yellow ribbons, yellow confetti had an almost fiesta like atmosphere inappropriate to mourning for death, but you don’t have to be an expert to see the political intent. It was serious. Where were the same crowds when Cory attempted year after year to lead protests to oust the Arroyo government? Well, they materialized suddenly on her death and should a case not be made that if they did so, there would be enough sympathy to catapult the son to the presidential candidate of the hour? And so it did.”

So Mrs. Pedrosa, were agents of the former colonial power behind Ninoy’s assassination? What about Cory’s death, were they responsible for that one too? Otherwise why set the stage by for an assassination plot line mentioning strategy and ascribing “political intent” to the spontaneous outpouring of sympathy on her death?

Sayang, you could have had a best seller if you pursued the Cory assassination angle instead of shifting your storyline to Iran, Mosaddegh, and the CIA. You could have had a thriller involving an assassin disguised as a nurse, secret factories producing yellow umbrellas, yellow ribbons, and yellow confetti, a shadowy network of drug dealers serving as distribution agents for those “props”, and a short dusky woman with a lisp fighting the big bad former colonial power. Well, maybe in your next work of pulp fiction na lang.

Source: Life in Gloria's Enchanted Kingdom

Monday, March 22, 2010

The unprincipled gall of Noynoy Aquino

On Aquino's position re the pardon of Erap 

WITH all due respect to the parents, late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and former President Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino, I cannot help but lash out at the immoral gall of their son Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino, III who attacked the pardon of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada without seemingly reviewing his family’s history first.

Noynoy stated his position by saying that: “….on the pardon aspect, it is my fundamental principle that if anybody committed a crime, time should be served and if punishment is not meted out, what will happen to us?”

For cosmic justice’s sake, what “principle” of his is Sen. Aquino talking about?

Is the yellow presidentiable forgetting that his very own father, Ninoy, was convicted of murder, illegal possession of firearms, subversion and sentenced to die? While Ninoy’s conviction during Martial Law was viewed as the kangaroo court type, so was Erap’s life conviction, which was made under the administration of the power grabber Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and by special Sandiganbayan court justices who were soon promoted to the Supreme Court.

Estrada was indeed convicted of “plunder,” but it was made by a special court created by the administration of Arroyo who seized power from the democratically elected leader in 2001. The conviction of Noynoy’s dad was also made by a special court–a military tribunal formed during the Martial Law period that began September 1972 and virtually lasted until the fall of President Ferdinand Marcos.

The late Sen. Ninoy was imprisoned for seven years and seven months but was allowed to seek treatment and live in the US–a virtual pardon for what should have been a life (or death) sentence. The man whose pardon Sen. Noynoy criticizes, Estrada, was imprisoned for six years and six months. Both did not serve the rest of their sentences. So why is Noynoy putting the heat on Estrada’s case?

Conviction by itself means nothing if the political environment is unfair. Gloria Arroyo is perceived as the “Most Corrupt President in Philippine History” but even rules the land and has not been impeached all through nine years of illegitimate power.

If there’s anybody who’s actually more “criminal” between these two presidentiables, it might as well be Noynoy Aquino and not Erap Estrada. Why? Three good reasons.

Reason 1. Guilt of Sedition

Sedition is a big crime against the state and everyone knows that Noynoy and his mother actively took part in the unconstitutional ouster of then-incumbent Estrada during the so-called EDSA 2 in 2001.The fact that the Davide Supreme Court soon declared with hilarious novelty that Joseph Ejercito Estrada was no longer President of the Philippines does not in any way clear the EDSA 2 conspirators of their crime of sedition. Those who took part in ousting Estrada may or may not be actually prosecuted in the post-Arroyo future, but what is certain is that history will judge the never-previously-heard “constructive resignation” ruling as nothing but a conspiratorial lame legal ploy to legitimize the power grab against a man popular with the masses.

Cory Aquino, after having been diagnosed with fatal cancer, already apologized to Erap but Noynoy sure has not. In fact, Noynoy the son tried to belittle the mother’s apology as a “joke,” to which the late President apparently compromised by issuing a statement to the effect that it is, indeed, “a jest but she’s not taking it back.“

Reason 2. Tolerance of, if not complicity in covering up, the 2004 electoral fraud

Noynoy’s little-spoken but nonetheless criminal deeds against the people did not end with the 2001 EDSA coup. During the 2004 elections, Noynoy allowed, or perhaps helped facilitate the electoral cheating committed against Fernando Poe Jr. in the conspiracy to fraudulently declare Arroyo as the winner of the presidential race. Noynoy as Tarlac congressman did nothing as stalwarts of his Liberal Party and others railroaded the congressional canvassing by refusing to open the contested COCs (certificates of canvass). As Daily Tribune’s Ninez Cacho-Olivares notes, Noynoy Aquino “kept his mouth shut even in the face of massive electoral cheating,”  thus effectively preventing the Filipino public from knowing the real 2004 President-elect.

The only time Filipinos got to know that Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) really won in the 2004 polls was when the Hello Garci wiretapped tapes came out, which primarily showed that Arroyo engaged in conversations with elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano in connection with operations surrounding the May 11, 2004 polls. However, even when the Aquinos already learned about the tapes, Noynoy did not immediately withdraw support from the Illegitimate “President.” In fact, he even voted AGAINST the airing of the tapes during the fifth Congressional hearing on the “Hello Garci” issue on June 30, 2005, the first anniversary of the surreptitious wee-hour-of-the-morning congressional proclamation of Arroyo as “President-elect.”

In reaction to election-related criticisms of his 2005 Hello Garci vote, Noynoy’s camp has resorted to virtual lying to counter the issue. Noynoy’s website claims:

 When the “Hello, Garci” tapes were exposed in 2005, Aquino withdrew his support for the president, but voted against the use of the tapes in impeachment cases. Why? As damning as they may be for PGMA, Aquino argued against the use of the tapes as evidence because the law forbids it: Republic Act. 4200, or the “anti-wiretapping law,” prohibits and penalizes wire tapping and other violations of the privacy of communication. Simply said:  you may not use as evidence in a court of law any and all material that has been unlawfully obtained, such as the Hello Garci tapes.

Herein, what Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s camp foxily omits is that for over a month after the scandalous tapes surfaced, his family firmly stood by Arroyo. Noynoy even praised Arroyo’s televised July 2, 2005 I am sorry” speech, claiming it’s a “good start” for the controversial administration. Cory, for her part, even warned against resorting to extra-constitutional means to remove Arroyo, even as they themselves had four years earlier ousted Estrada and installed the Illegitimate in her place.

The sequence of events that his defense implies also constitutes falsehood: Noynoy Aquino actually withdrew support for Gloria only in July 8, 2005–six days AFTER he voted against the airing of the Hello Garci tapes. (As to why the Aquinos ultimately dropped Arroyo, GMA-7’s Stephanie Dychiu seems to point to the not-exactly favorable report of Task Force Luisita that came out that same month).

Moreover, Ninoy’s use of the illegality of using wiretapped evidence in defense of his Hello Garci vote sounds extremely lame in the face of his support for Estrada’s unconstitutional ouster in 2001. HIs claim that his Hello Garci vote is proof that he “abides by the law” either means Noynoy is inconsistent in the application of his beliefs, or that he neither understands nor genuinely respects the very Constitution his mother ratified in 1987, at least with regards presidential vacancy/succession. Then again, it could mean that Noynoy is nothing but a closet political opportunist masquerading as “holier than thou.”

Articles VII and XI of the 1987 Charter clearly stipulate that only four conditions warrant the succession of a new President: (1) death; (2) permanent disability; (3) resignation of the incumbent President; and (4) removal from office on impeachment. Truth is, Noynoy Aquino showed nary a sign of being legally bothered when he and his own mother joined and led the Anti-Erap Movement  and seditiously helped swore in Arroyo in the mob-filled streets of EDSA in January 2001, even as the President sitting in Malacanang adamantly refused to resign.

Reason 3. Hacienda Luisita: Land Theft, Killings and SCTEx Overprice?

Hacienda Luisita well symbolizes the oppression of the Filipino masses both from white-skinned colonizers and local elites. The sprawling Hacienda belonged to the Spanish firm, Compaña General de Tabacos de Filipinas, or Tabacalera, which acquired it in 1882 from the Spanish colonial crown. While the Philippine Revolution against Spain virtually succeeded, United States imperialist conquest of the islands ensured not only American exploitation of the islands but, as well, that remnants of Spanish colonization remain. Tabacalera’s ownership of Hacienda Luisita was one of those remnants.

In the 1920s, the Spanish company shifted from tobacco to sugar plantation and built a sugar mill as the US sugar quota guaranteed a profitable market. Persisting labor problems and threats from the Hukbalahab rebellion later forced Tabacalera to sell Hacienda Luisita, along with the Central Azucarera de Tarlac sugar mill, in the 1950s. President Ramon Magsaysay is said to have offered the land to Don Jose “Pepe” Cojuangco, Sr., Cory’s father, in the bid to prevent the then-already very wealthy and powerful Lopezes from acquiring it. The deal was brokered by Don Pepe’s son-in-law, Ninoy Aquino who was then a rising politician.

Stephanie Dychiu of GMA News.TV writes that Don Pepe “received significant preferential treatment and assistance from the government to facilitate his takeover of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac in 1957.” While the Cojuangcos also had their small sugar plantation and had plenty of lands, bank holdings and Philippine pesos, they did not have enough dollars, which was then tightly regulated–to make the purchase. The Central Bank was the first government entity to help Cojuangco. So as to facilitate the foreign exchange flow needed to ensure acquisition of controlling interest in Tabacalera, the CB deposited a portion of the Philippines’ international reserves from a New York bank where Cojuangco took a 10-year loan of $2.1 million. The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) stepped in next, providing a 5.9 million loan to finance the purchase of Hacienda Luisita.

Assistance was extended by the Central Bank with the view that the Cojuangco acquisition would further the government’s land reform program. The 1957 Monetary Board Resolution No. 1240 stipulated that simultaneous with the accommodation for his foreign exchange needs, Cojuangco should purchase Hacienda Luisita but distribute it within ten years “to small farmers in line with the Administration’s social justice program.” That same year, GSIS Resolutions Nos. 1085 & 3202 essentially backed up the Central Bank ruling with different wordings by requiring the subdivision of the hacienda among the tenants who will shoulder the cost at terms and conditions that are reasonable. However, within only a little over two months, Cojuangco had a new GSIS resolution (No. 356) amended to limit it to “….shall be sold at cost to tenants, should there be any.”

Theft of Agrarian Land?

Beginning April 1958, Hacienda Luisita and the Tabacalera sugar mill became properties of Jose Cojuangco and his TADECO (Tarlac Development Corporation) company. Instead of Pedro or “Pete” Cojuangco who was Cory’s eldest brother, Ninoy Aquino was chosen as its administrator. Ten years passed but the Cojuangco-Aquino families did not keep their end of the contract. In reply to Land Authority Governor Conrado Estrella’s letter inquiring about the implementation of the loan condition, Cojuangco rather smugly wrote back that “it is doubtful whether the Central Bank had the power to impose that condition which was so alien to its function of stabilizing the country’s monetary system”. Don Pepe died in 1976 without fulfilling his promise to distribute land.

In 1972 when Martial Law was declared, President Marcos imprisoned his political nemesis and presidential material Ninoy Aquino but did not forcibly compel his family and Cojuangco kin to abide by the land distributorship terms of the 1957-1958 loan and foreign exchange assistance agreements. The TADECO owners did continue to receive written communications seeking to follow up on the 1967 notice(s) but which they always dismissed by claiming that there were no “tenants” and, thus, Hacienda Luisita couldn’t possibly be distributed. Herein, Cory’s family has largely banked their claim to the hacienda on what could be a technicality–the different wordings of the Central Bank and GSIS resolutions–”small farmers” and “tenants,” respectively.

Just before Ninoy and his family were allowed to leave for the United States for medical treatment, the Marcos government pursued the issue in court of the hacienda’s distributorship in court. Civil Case No. 131654 prospered and in December 1985, some two months before the 1986 snap presidential polls contended by the now-widowed Cory Cojuangco Aquino and strongman Marcos, Branch XLIII of the Manila Regional Trial Court handed its decision for TADECO to yield Hacienda Luisita to the Agrarian Reform ministry. In response, the Cojuangco-Aquinos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals.

Following the ouster of Marcos via the 1986 EDSA “People Power,” Cory Aquino was installed as President. The 1987 Mendiola Massacre involving the death of farmers pressing for genuine agrarian reform seemed to have made Cory speed up the implementation of land reform but not without first inserting a novel Stock Distribution Option (SDO) into her Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). The SDO gives farmer tenants shares in a plantation corporation without actually transferring land. SDO had been criticized not only as possibly unconstitutional but more so, as a way for landowners to keep control of the land and farmers–and for the Cojuangco-Aquinos to avoid distributing Hacienda Luisita. As well, the Cory administration had the Court of Appeals dismiss the government case filed against the TADECO owners, who were no less than the President’s own family and kin (she is said to have divested herself of personal shares in the company).

When CARP took effect in 1989, the family adopted the SDO option despite many criticisms that the option disadvantaged the farmers. Only less than 5,000 out of the nearly 6,500 hectares of the original Hacienda Luisita land were submitted to the Agrarian Reform department. The exclusion of the combined 386.6 hectares of residential, commercial, road and other land improvement portions of the hacienda markedly lowered the value of land earmarked for land reform to only P40,000 per hectare. The valuation process was also seen as irregular if not appropriate, with the standing crop not only being included but also being categorized as non-land asset. The result is that when the land was incorporated into what is now Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) as spin-off of TADECO, the farmers became nominal shareholders, getting only 33.296% versus the 66.704 percent shares of the Cojuangco-Aquinos.

What is more, the SDO scheme was spread over 30 years, which meant that when a worker was fired, quit, or failed to complete require work hours, s/he was no longer eligible to receive the unreleased portion of his or her share, mandays or work hours being the basis of SDO distribution. It also meant that farmers’ entitlements were bound to shrink because new workers could be hired–which is what happened when the original 6,296 farm workers ballooned to almost double by 2005.

In June 2005, Noynoy Aquino’s family eventually distributed all the stock shares to the farmers in one fell swoop and ahead of the controversial 30th year schedule. However, this happened only following the November 16, 2004 Luisita massacre when some seven or so farmers were killed during a protest. The farmers decided to hold a strike amidst fears for their job security and dwindling wages following claims by management that the land was losing money. The  Cojuangcos’ long-term land use plan for the HLI–which included NO agricultural area and which already included the controversial Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway or (SCTEx)–had been uncovered.*  The farmers realized that the SDO had to go, subsequently petitioning for its revocation in 2003. Their frustration over always being outvoted 4-7 in the HLI board and the mass retrenchment of over 300 farmers in late 2004 also figured in.

Massacre and Assassinations

On November 6, farm workers and Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union workers had launched a prolonged picket of the Gate 1 of the hacienda’s sugar mill. When Arroyo’s government declared an Assumption of Jurisdiction, the Philippine National Police (PNP) forces were called in. Even with the police operation on November 15, they still but failed to disperse the strikers with the usual tear gas, water cannons, and truncheons.

The following day, the union officers were told to proceed to Noynoy’s uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr. in Makati for negotiations: they did but nothing happened. While the union leaders returned, however, 2 tanks, 17 trucks of soldiers, 700 police, a payloader, 4 water cannon fire trucks, and snipers were already in position. Initially, the dispersal of protesters was attempted with the use of the usual stuff but they fought back by slingshooting with rocks and burying tear gas canisters. When the police and military forces ran out of tear gas and water from the fire trucks, they started firing. Based on the Senate investigation on the incident, no less than 1000 rounds of ammunitions were used to disperse the Hacienda Luisita strikers. Those who were caught were beaten, arrested, and dragged into the military trucks.

Seven people died while 121 were injured, including 32 who sustained gunshot wounds, during what is now commonly referred to as the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. The unfortunate victims who died directly from the protest actions were: Jhayvie Basilio, 20; Juancho Sanchez, 20; Jhune David, 27; Jesus Laza, 34; Jaime Fastidio, 46 Adriano Caballero, 23    Jesse Valdez, 30. Up to the present, no one has been caught or charged for the carnage.

Then Congressman Noynoy Aquino decried the violence but claimed that the police and military merely acted in self-defense. The investigation by doctors led by Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo of the Health Alliance for Democracy would reveal details showing Noynoy was either lying or did not know what he was talking about.  Autopsies of the dead and medical examination of the wounded revealed that they were in running, lying, crouching positions when shot. Three bodies supposedly tested positive for gunpowder; however, the doctors, staff, and nurses of the Cojuangco-owned St. Martin de Porres Hospital where the bodies were brought had earlier been told to leave as the military and police took over.

The Hacienda Luisita-related killings did not stop on November 16, 2004, though. Aglipayan priest William Tadena was shot dead while traversing the La Paz, Tarlac provincial highway on the way to say his next mass; Fr. Tadena had mobilized his parishioners in support of the hacienda picket workers. Then there’s sexagenarian peasant leader Ben “Tatang” Conception who was shot dead inside the house of his daughter in Angeles City; he also supported the Luisita strikers.

Perhaps the most obvious kill in terms of association with the fateful picket strike is that of sugar mill union president Ricardo Ramos who was killed by a sniper bullet on the head on October 25, 2005, hours after he distributed what served as wage compensation to the sugar mill workers. He had earlier sought the help of the sheriff to inspect the Cojuangco warehouse when management claimed they had no money to pay wages. When the warehouse was found to be full of sugar, an agreement was made for the sale of the sugar by the Department of Labor and Employment, with the proceeds going to the workers. Management then tried to take charge of the money so they could make payroll deductions for the loans but Ramos refused and demanded the payroll list instead.

It should be noted that Noynoy Aquino did express shock at the murder, saying that Ramos had been always fair to him. The PNP claimed that the communists probably executed the killing because he had been on cooperative terms with management. Given the fact, however, that no police nor military personnel involved in the violent Hacienda Luisita dispersal has ever been charged, the PNP statement does not seem reliable.

There will be more murders of individuals connected with protest actions revolving around Hacienda Luisita. Tirso Cruz, a director of the United Luisita Workers’ Union, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding men on March 18, 2006; Cruz, a member of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, had led actions demanding the withdrawal of the military in ten barangays of the hacienda and protesting against the constructions of the Hacienda Luisita portion of the SCTEx toll way. Another Aglipayan priest connected to the hacienda strikers would bite the dust. Fr. Alberto Ramento, no less than the Supreme Bishop of the church, was stabbed to death on October 3, 2006 while sleeping inside the church rectory: while it appeared to be a robbery, persons close to him strongly suspect his killing was related to the hacienda because he had taken the cause of Fr. Tadena by tending to the farm workers.

Current Status

In what could possibly be a politically motivated but not exactly unfair move, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) placed the Hacienda Luisita under forcible acquisition following its revocation of the SDO on December 23, 2005. The Cojuangco-Aquinos dubbed the development as Arroyo’s vendetta for the Aquino family’s call for her resignation. They appealed and obtained a TRO (temporary restraining order) from the Supreme Court. The case is pending while the TRO has been in effect for over three years now.

Further complicating any future distribution of the hacienda are the loans incurred by the Cojuangco-Aquino family using some portions of the land as mortgage with banks. Noynoy Aquino had changed his statements as to the position of his family with regards Hacienda Luisita and its distribution multiple times over time. In one of them, he defended the SDO option by saying that his family wanted to first make sure that the land that would eventually be distributed to the farmer-beneficiaries are cleared of debt. This one was made quite last February 9, 2010. That same day, he is reported to have stated that he has already talked with his family and relatives from his maternal side to find ways to implement the distribution of land to the approximately 10,000 farmer workers before the expiration of the agrarian reform law ends in 2014.

However, four days earlier while campaigning in Davao City, he is reported to have said that the question of Hacienda Luisita will be a difficult issue to resolve even if he wins as president because it is supposed to be a private corporation. Perhaps, Noynoy’s changing statements are not at all unexpected, given that he is in the midst of his presidential campaign and election periods are always the time for making promises.

What is troubling is the report of the New York Times that counters Sen. Aquino’s claim that his family has been cooperative with regards the issue of distributing Hacienda Luisita.  In its March 16, 2010 issue, the American publication quotes Fernando Cojuangco, the chief operating officer of HLI and the sugar mill as having denied there would be land distribution. Responding to Times reporter Norimitsu Onishi’s query, Noynoy’s cousin reportedly said:  “No, we’re not going to. I think it would be irresponsible because I feel that continuing what we have here is the way to go.”

SCTEx Luisita Insertion &Overprice?

Beyond the non-distribution of Hacienda Luisita, the reclassification of much of the lands, and the actual conversion of 500 hectares into the Hacienda Luisita park 2 sans consultation with their “co-owners,’ the farmer workers, is the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) Luisita interchange diversion and overprice issue.

The SCTEx is P32 billion-worth 94-kilometer four-lane expressway north of Manila, Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Zambales as its southern terminus and the Central Techno Park in Tarlac City, Tarlac as its northern terminus.  It is aimed at boosting efforts to promote the former Subic and Clark military bases as freeport zones. A SCTEx interchange passing through the middle of Hacienda Luisita and leading directly to the  private road in the hacienda’s Central Techno Park was constructed by the government at the cost of P170 million.

The House Congressional oversight committee is looking into allegations that the San Miguel/Luisita interchange portion of the SCTEx is an expensive political accommodation for the Cojuangco-Aquino family. The said interchange is said to have been that benefitted Noynoy’s kin not only in terms of the link to the free zones but also in questionable direct monetary compensation of P83 million for the right of way (RoW).

Questions have been raised as to whether the controversial interchange was part of the original plan for the expressway. The Daily Tribune reports that project documents shown the newspaper clearly show:

...that the costly interchange to nowhereland was inserted into the projected sometime before it went through a bidding in 2004, at a time when Gloria was preparing for reelection and was trying to woo the late Cory Aquino for active support against then strong opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr.

The irregularity and inappropriateness of paying the Cojuangco-Aquinos for the right of the way for the interchange have also raised eyebrows. Cavite representative Crispin Remulla cites that the Luisita interchange RoW is the opposite of the usual practice: Asia Brewery, Greenfield Corp, Mamplasan, and Southwoods all donated eight hectares each and paid P241 million even for the construction of their interchanges that exit on the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).

Even worse, payment for the RoW seems to have been grossly overpriced. During a congressional hearing, a Department of Agrarian Reform official confirmed that the RoW paid by the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) for the HCI was overpriced. By how much? By around P70 million, because sugar lands are valued only at about P150,000 to P170,000 per hectare, instead of the P1,000,000 per hectare that was actually paid.

When the issue first came to light, Noynoy’s camp tried to make it appear that the SCTEx was forged during President Joseph Estrada’s time, seemingly suggesting that the anomaly found today was of the making of the deposed president. The truth is while Estrada initiated the SCTEx, the whole contract back then was only worth P15.73 billion–and didn’t include the San Miguel/Luisita interchange. Under the administration of Arroyo, the “President” installed by Noynoy, Cory, the Liberal Party and the rest of the seditious mob of EDSA 2, the SCTEx ballooned to more than double its original project price.

While Noynoy claims, through his spokesman, that he “did not participate in any meeting relating to the [SCTEx] project; neither did he lobby for it in any forum,” other accounts tell that he actually did much lobbying. What is undeniable is that he was Deputy House Speaker at the time and he had the means to influence a needlessly expensive irregular project that benefitted them. The presidentiable’s possible role is, of course, on top of Cory’s pre-July 2005 influence on the administration of Arroyo.

Questions. Questions.

With regards Hacienda Luisita, Noynoy seems to be condoning the actions of his family–what others could describe as theft of a land that the government has earmarked for agrarian reform. Possibly to confound the public as to the Cojuangco-Aquino family’s real plan for the hacienda and the land distribution issue, Noynoy keeps changing his tune, apparently in the bid to win votes for his presidential ambitions. What should then be taken instead as a more reliable gauge of whether he’s not ‘criminal’ are his actual actions in the past.

Cory’s son may only control around 1/32 of the HCI shares but that should not have prevented him from castigating the November 16, 2004 massacre and subsequent assassinations of individuals connected to the strike or the strikers.  Has he taken any step towards finding justice to the seven victims of the violent dispersal of the 2004 Hacienda Luisita strike? Perhaps, one can ask: did he help mastermind the carnage? As it is, the wheel of justice doesn’t seem to move towards the victims of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre and Noynoy has been of no help.

Doesn’t Noynoy smell the crime of corruption in his family’s Hacienda Luisita deals?

When management offered the option of SDO to the farmer workers, did he speak out against it as essentially being non-distributive and, thus, in violation of the spirit of social justice? When a SCTEx interchange exit was constructed to lead to Hacienda Luisita, when all 10 others lead to public roads/complexes, did he lift a finger to oppose preferential treatment, or didn’t he actually lobby for it?

Did he find it irregular that his family had to be paid a whooping P83 million by the government for Hacienda Luisita’s right of way (RoW) for the interchange, when the normal course is for the government to charge private entities for connecting their industrial complexes or properties to major public roads? Isn’t he aware that it is virtual standard operating procedure for any private land owner to donate a portion of their lands just to have a highway interchange lead to their properties?

Makes one wonder if Noynoy got surprised at all that the government had to assume construction of the interchange connecting their estate to SCTEx because every educated big-time landowner such as him knows that along with the right of way donation, it is the private estate owner that foots construction of such interchange?

In the first place, should not the entire Hacienda Luisita, except perhaps for their residential area, have been distributed to the farmers as actual land in keeping with the true spirit of agrarian reform and with the principle of its 1957-1958 acquisition? long ago? Doesn’t Noynoy find it criminal to sell what is morally not theirs?

Perhaps, the ultimate question is: doesn’t he find it plunderous that he and his family have held on to Hacienda Luisita when they should have long divested themselves of the property and distributed it “at cost” to farmers as was the condition set by government half a century back?

Averse to Criminals?

So who’s more criminal between Noynoy and Erap? Of course, Sen. Noynoy Aquino has not yet been charged, much less “convicted” for any of the issues/charges I’ve laid herein. The Hacienda Luisita land issue, if ever, will only be a civil case. For all we know, he’ll never be found guilty ever. Or, farfetched as it may seem to the Hacienda Luisita farmers and his detractors, Noynoy and his extended family might not have been guilty at all of anything unholy.

So back to my main point. The late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, the anti-Martial Law hero, was a convicted murderer. The former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, the ‘Father of the Masses,’ is a convicted plunderer. So why has Noynoy’s “principles” not made him decry, even just as a matter of historical note, Marcos’decision to let Ninoy fly to the US?

The yellow presidentiable, along with his family, has attacked Martial Law many times in the past, but he never once castigated Ferdinand Marcos for letting his convicted ‘murderer’-father free and be able to leave for the US. Of course, Marcos was a dictator; but Noynoy’s 2001 bet Gloria Arroyo is Illegitimate. If it can be argued that Ninoy’s conviction was rendered by a kangaroo court, so was Erap’s. It’s not hard to realize that the power grabbing EDSA 2 President arranged to have Estrada convicted of ‘plunder’ so as to make her rule appear legitimate.

It is clear is that Noynoy has no moral right to question Erap’s pardon since he has not done the same to the case of his father, the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino.

Noynoy used the idea of “principle” to argue his belated opposition to Erap’s pardon. He might as well be talking of the unholy principle to depose a democratically elected President at will. Or take part in the cover-up, if not in the actual operations of electoral fraud for the presidency. Plunder government wealth to the tune of over 250 million, perhaps? Or to conspire with family members and corrupt government officials in denying farmers of their agrarian reform rights?

Ultimately, Noynoy’s apparent aversion to ‘criminals’ might as well extend inwards–to aversion to himself and his kin.

By the way, it is on record that Sen. Aquino sought former President Estrada’s blessing when he first ran as senator in 2007 under the Genuine Opposition coalition party. Erap recounts how Cory interceded and asked the favor of dropping her sister-in-law, former Senator Tessie Aquino Oreta, so Noynoy can be accommodated in the party’s senatorial slate. After having used the former President’s help to win a Senate seat,  Noynoy is now attacking the pardon two years after the fact. Doesn’t that reek of political opportunism? Sounds like the Liberal Party standard-bearer has”principles” built on opportunistic clay.


*(Already, 3,290 hectares have been reclassified while 500 hectares have already been converted into the Luisita Industrial Park 2).


by Jesusa Bernardo

References &  Images @SOBRIETY for the PHILIPPINES

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


A reminder to mark your calendars: March 27, 2010, Saturday, 8:30 - 9:30 pm.

Take a stand against human-caused factors influencing Climate Change 

Now in its third year in the country and envisioned as a celebration of climate change solutions, Earth Hour Philippines aims to inspire 15 Million Filipinos in 1000 towns, cities and municipalities to switch off and join in the revelry – in an environmentally-conscious manner, that is. Many of the nation’s most iconic landmarks are expected to dim their lights in the largest call for action on climate change. Cities from around the world, from Europe to Africa, are expected to join in.

Crafted to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off lights for an hour to deliver a powerful message on the need for climate change solutions. This simple act has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world, becoming a worldwide phenomenon in 2008 and 2009 – where the Philippines placed first globally in terms of town and city participation
.... More


by Jesusa Bernardo
@ BLOG by Taga-Ilog News

Wednesday, March 10, 2010



"Never give a sucker an even break"—W.C. Fields

I was telling my wife about a scam where someone hacks into your e-mail account and uses your identity to swindle money from your contacts.

“How?” she asked.

“With a sob story that ends with a request for an emergency loan,” I replied.

“Terrible,” she said.

“I got one recently,” I said. “And it was signed in my name.”

“Duh,” she remarked.

“I know,” I replied. “But I was so moved by the letter I immediately lent money to myself.”

And that’s how I explained where I got the money for Noynoy’s and Mar’s golf fundraiser. Needless to say, I got a black eye for it. But it was worth it. The fundraiser was fun—great company, delicious food, raffle prizes, yellow sports shirt and umbrella for free and, best of all, no long speeches.

The clubhouse has a great second-floor veranda overlooking the 9th and 18th greens. It’s equipped with native recliners that, on a breezy day, will do what a sleeping pill does, without the side effects. Unfortunately, recliners are not easy to carry around, unlike pills.

Anyway, I was shooting the breeze with one of the female organizers. We were both drifting in and out of breeze-induced sleepiness so I’m not sure about what comes next, a dream or nightmare reality?

“Fundraisers are fun,” I said.

“There’s one next weekend but I’m not going because it’s for Gibo,” she said.

“I understand,” I replied. But I felt compelled to explain why I was going, “The Commission on Elections said columnists have to be impartial.”

“I understand. Believe me, I do,” she said. She’s an old friend. She knows I’m a golf whore and that my idea of agrarian reform is to build more golf courses.

“I bought two tickets,” I continued. “I invited a golf buddy after my first choice turned me down but he also declined. He’s for Villar.”

“What was her excuse?” asked my veranda companion.

“She’s for virile young men.”

“Ouch!” she laughed.

A week later I went to Gibo’s fundraiser. The organizers invited a hundred players but only eight showed up, and one of them was for Gordon. So there were nine participants in all, if you include me, the impartial columnist in a yellow sports shirt.

“Same as the surveys, seven Gibo and one Gordon,” I quipped. No one laughed. “At least Gibo gained two since the last survey.” Not even a mercy chuckle. But I persisted, “The good news is Gloria and Mike will award the trophies, although they will be a bit late.” Someone smiled, finally.

We finished golfing, lunching, raffling and awarding, but still no Gloria and Mike. “A bit late” was turning into a long wait so I decided to leave. As I was saying good-bye I heard the familiar sound of ostentation and intimidation: ear-splitting “wangeoww-wangeoww-wangeoww.”

“They’re here,” I said, hurrying back to my seat.

I expected a rousing welcome for Gloria and Mike. Instead, they were met with stunned silence—well, not exactly; a busboy dropped a tray full of dishes; Gloria and Mike were wearing orange sports shirts and waving the thumb and forefinger V-sign.

Gloria was about to say something when I was startled by a loud voice. “Wake up, sir, it’s midnight and you’re the only one left in the club.” It was the manager.

Midnight is way, way, past my curfew. I was in big trouble with my wife. I had to think fast. And then I remembered the e-mail sob-story scam.

“Do you think it will work?” I asked the manager.

“Well, you don’t have too many options left,” he replied.

“You’re right, I’m dead already, anyway,” I said.

“I’ll help you,” he said. Male bonding is strongest in battered-husband-versus-abusive-wife situations.

He started writing. “Is this believable so far?” he asked. It was great fiction.

“I’m home free!” I exclaimed. “But don’t stop now, ask her to send money, too!”

Source:Life in Gloria's Enchanted Kingdom

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A professor’s journey*

(* Delivered at a symposium sponsored by the Third World Studies Center, 4 March 2010)

Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

In a short essay published by Inquirer the other Sunday, Gen. Danilo Lim traced his “journey” from a West Point educated officer to a rebel soldier and a political prisoner. Today I shall match his story with the story of my own journey from rabid anti-militarism to an avid supporter of Gen. Lim.

My narrative starts from the Manila Hotel where, soon after EDSA 1, the Marcos loyalists gathered to clamor for the enthronement of Arturo Tolentino. Having learned from a very reliable source that some of the RAM boys participated in planning that comic affair, I went around frantically warning of an insidious plot from the politicized soldiery or what I termed the “politicians in uniform.”

That paranoid response stemmed from the assumption that by the nature of their profession, soldiers are essentially reactionary and authoritarian; they should therefore be kept on leash, banished from politics and placed under firm civilian control.

I began to change my mind when, in connection with a research project for the UN University on “the politicization of the military and the militarization of politics,” I studied several military coups in other parts of the world. I came across instances when the military played a definitely positive role of overthrowing right-wing dictatorships and setting in motion the process of system change.

To illustrate, let me cite the “carnation revolution” in Portugal. Portuguese fascism was the oldest in Europe, antedating Mussolini, Hitler and Franco. Antonio de Oliviera Salazar founded the first fascist state in 1926. He was ruthless but was more subdued than Hitler and Mussolini. The Salazar regime survived World War II because with the outbreak of the Cold War the United States – the self-appointed champion of the “free world” – coddled it as an ally against communism.

After 42 years in power, the Portuguese tyrant died in 1968; but before going into a coma he was able to arrange a smooth transition to handpicked successors. So well entrenched did the successor regime appear to be that political scientists specializing in the study of Portugal did not expect it to fall any time soon. Yet in April 1974 it collapsed like the proverbial colossus with feet of clay.

This event known as the “carnation revolution” caught the Portugal watchers by surprise because, trapped in the conventional paradigm of political science, they only monitored the puny resistance of the liberal and social democratic parties. They completely overlooked the undercurrents in the armed forces, believing that the military would always be a bastion of fascist rule. As it turned out, it was a military group that crushed the backbone of fascism in Portugal.

The experts were oblivious of the fact that the junior officers, fresh from the African campaigns, had been radicalized by their own experience in the battlefield. They realized that they were duped to fight an unjust war by a government that was also oppressing the Portuguese people themselves. Back in Lisbon, they formed a secret society called Movimento das Forças Armadas (MFA) and in April 1974 they launched a coup against the dictatorship.

The MFA junta (known as the Junta for National Salvation) adopted a socialist program and released from colonial rule not only the Portuguese colonies in Africa, but also East Timor, a somnolent territory where there was no pre-existing independence movement. Unfortunately, the progressive military regime lasted only for two years. Unlike Col. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the MFA did not build a mass base for its radical reforms. Moreover, they didn’t know how to govern: they mismanaged the economy and were clumsy in the conduct of international diplomacy. Their ineptitude created an opening for the deposed elite to instigate a counter-coup in collaboration with the CIA.

With such cases in mind, my monograph on the politics of the military already reflected my growing ambivalence. Coincidentally, I presented the monograph to a UN University seminar in Katmandu on the eve of the 1989 coup in Manila. When this erupted, I could not make up my mind. I had lost enthusiasm for Cory Aquino but neither could I be enthusiastic about the coup. I faulted Cory for restoring the old system of elite rule, an oligarchy masquerading as democratic. But the alternative was not alluring. There was a strong suspicion that the coup aimed to install Ponce Enrile and Salvador Laurel; in other words, another reshuffle of personnel at the top that would leave the system of elite rule intact.

Danny Lim, then a captain of the Scout Rangers, took part in that coup as leader of the Young Officers Union. I did not have the slightest idea of what vision inspired. It was only when he got out of detention that I met him through Haydee Yorac. Our long conversations convinced me that the YOU resembled the MFA of Portugal, that it represented a trend whose political outlook was not too different from mine.

Let me summarize the insights drawn from my studies on the military in the process of social change.

There never was an instance in the history of any country when a repressive regime was brought down through purely civilian action or “people power.” Regime change through extra-constitutional means invariably involves a military component. Three possible scenarios can be considered in the Philippine context: (1) the military as a whole turns against the regime, as happened in EDSA 2; (2) part of the military breaks with the chain of command and joins the insurgent citizenry, as in EDSA 1; and (3) the mass movement builds its own army and, through protracted war, beats the government armed forces, as Joma has been dreaming over the last four decades.

At the Katmandu seminar, an Indian scholar reproached me for ignoring the case of India where, he said, national liberation was achieved through non-violence in a purely civilian struggle. In fact, I studied that as well. But my study of the Indian case led me to believe that Gandhi’s satyagraha could not have succeeded were it not for a threat of a violent upheaval. The British conceded to the Mahatma’s demands whenever he went on hunger strike because the alternative to Gandhi was Subhas Chandra Bose, a stern advocate of violent revolution. Were it not for the prospect of Subhas Chandra Bose seizing the leadership of the independence movement, the British might have allowed what Winston Churchill described as a “half-naked fakir” to fast himself to death. Later events confirmed this hypothesis. Once the murder of Gandhi removed his restraining moral authority, the Hindus and Indian Moslems immediately embarked on the worst carnage in history.

It is wrong to view the Philippine military as one solid bloc. All assurances from the office of Col. Brawner that everything is under control cannot conceal the widespread restlessness among the Filipino soldiers today. True, most generals belong to the conventional mold. They peddle the myth of political neutrality. In truth, the Philippine military has always been politically involved . . . on the side of the power elite, against the peasant movements and the militant trade unions. The predecessors of the AFP were the Filipino mercenaries recruited by the Americans to suppress their compatriots.

For circumstances too complex to analyze here, a new trend has emerged in the uniformed services. There is a growing network of thinking soldiers who do not blindly obey orders from above. Unlike Tennyson’s foolish light brigade who meekly marched to the jaws of death, believing that their’s is not to reason why but simply to do or die, the thinking Filipino soldiers ask whether the orders are legitimate and moral, and they always stand for what is true, just and right.**

I will leave it for Gen. Danny Lim to explain how this came about. Just allow me to express a view which he might not like to hear: that his election to the Senate will not in itself make a difference to the future of our country for as long as the system of elite rule prevails. He will be a solitary voice in an elite-dominated and trapo-infested legislature. I have no illusion that he will succeed in passing laws to institutionalize fundamental reforms. But even if such a miracle does happen, the laws he sponsors will be diluted by the President through his/her power to set the implementing rules and his/her control over the release of funds. Ultimately these laws will be perverted by a bureaucracy that is susceptible to elite and American pressures.

Nonetheless, I will vote for Gen. Lim because he represents a force that, in tandem with the militant mass movement, opens up the prospect for a just and progressive society our people deserve. A vote for him is a slap on the faces of the trapos and the crooked generals who keep him in prison. Sa paningin ko, ang kahalagahan ng election ay symbolic lamang at hindi katulad sa sinasabi ng ABS-CBN na ito ang simula ng pagbabago.

** Contrary to the impression of Dr. Clarita Carlos, I am not suggesting that soldiers should debate what to do before going to battle. I know the logic of war well enough to see that in the midst of an operation the soldiers must obey the ground commander. I have in mind orders that involve policy issues. For example, the order for the Marine units in Maguindanao to assist in electoral fraud. As Gen. Gudani and Col. Balutan attested, many of the Marine officers found this objectionable, but they were gagged as Gen. Lim is being prevented from participating in our forum today.

Also available @ BLOG by Taga-Ilog News
Posted by Jesusa Bernardo, email copy forwarded by Mr. Herman Tiu Laurel

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mind your own business


"The ratio of tolerance of our bishops toward the excesses of the Arroyo regime is directly proportional to their intolerance for condoms and contraceptives.” —Philip Gilmore

Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral decided to distribute free condoms “to those who cannot afford it” because HIV/AIDS cases are spreading at an alarming rate. That earned her the ire of the Catholic Church.

One bishop denounced her timely intervention as immoral and warned her that “she already has one foot in hell and many more might suffer the same fate” if she did not stop what she was doing.

“It’s very immoral for someone in a government position to support the distribution of condoms, which we know do not really reduce or stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. It’s scary because it’s the morality of our society, especially of our youth, that is at stake. We only wish that Cabral would change because she already has one foot in hell. People might suffer the same fate,” the bishop said.

Another bishop refused to accept the fact that Cabral’s primary duty as the secretary of health is to safeguard the public’s physical well-being, not their spiritual health and salvation. He wanted her fired for reasons that would make sense only if the Philippines were a theocratic state like Iran or an Afghanistan under the Taliban.

“Secretary Cabral should not continue serving until June because the culture and morality of society will be endangered under her. First, she does not respect the big number of Catholics in the country who oppose the distribution of condoms. Second, is she Catholic? I doubt that she is. Because if you are a Catholic and in the government, you should be living the teachings of the Church. But she is doing the opposite.”

Cabral wants to prevent life from becoming a living hell for a lot of people, and she gets hell for it. So I’m glad someone, Palace Deputy Spokesman Gary Olivar, reminded the bishops of the different standards that apply to the secular and religious worlds.

“We should remember that public officials should be judged by standards of public-policy interest as set forth in our laws and legal precedents, and not the morality of this or that institution,” he said.

Unfortunately, Olivar’s colleague, returning Deputy Spokesman Ricardo Saludo, proved to be a big disappointment. Well, actually he’s not, not to a bishop spinning yarns.

“Long before AIDS spread in the Philippines, it reached alarming levels in countries that strongly promote condoms. Also, condoms may encourage risky sex by making people think that such behavior is made safe by condoms,” Saludo said.

Never mind that the spread of HIV/AIDS is more likely caused by the shortcomings of safe-sex education programs than malfunctioning condoms, and never mind that the teachings of self-appointed guardians of morality went unheeded. Or maybe it’s because feigned ignorance from someone who ought to know better helps promote a lie.

Cabral is doing the right thing. Gloria Arroyo is doing the right thing. The bishops are barking up the wrong tree. If they are really honest about it, they will admit to their fault and not lay the blame on Cabral and, by implication, Arroyo, whom they will never attack frontally. We know why they give her a free pass on corruption and human-rights abuses, but that’s another matter for another day.

For now, let’s just remind the bishops to do a little self-examination, to find out why they can’t get their parishioners to heed their teachings about morality and sex, and to stay the hell out of the way of a public servant who is doing her job.