CONGRESSMAN MANNY MISSING IN ACTION

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CONGRESSMAN MANNY MISSING IN ACTION

No Comments 13 February 2015

BY LEANDRO MILAN – Manny Pacquiao, full-time professional boxer and part-time everything else (entertainer, Bible preacher, politician and basketball coach) has a number of rivals – among them Floyd Mayweather Jr. – for the distinct title “Best Pound-for-Pound Boxer.” Until the proposed mega fight with the unbeaten American boxer materializes, the Filipino boxing idol will have to settle for just being one of the best inside the ring.

But Manny doesn’t have to fret for he has just been bestowed a new title all his own, albeit it’s for something he did – or more accurately, he did not do – outside the ring. Our sporting hero, who goes by the official government designation of Honorable Emmanuel Pacquiao, Congressman of Sarangani Province, has just been crowned “Top Absentee Member of the House of Representatives in 2014.”

According to House records, the Gentleman from Sarangani showed up for work at the Lower House only four days last year. Coming in poor second is Negros Occidental Congressman Jules Ledesma (better known as the husband of actress Assunta de Rossi) who was marked “present” seven times in 2014. Unlike in regular work or school, the absentee solons did not get any pay cut or even a reprimand. There is no law or House rule that compels members to attend sessions and committee hearings, so Congress leadership is helpless in enforcing attendance.

A boring day in Congress

A boring day in Congress

Last December former Senator Rene Saguisag, scandalized by the congressman’s wanton disregard for House rules and proper conduct, suggested that the chamber “should consider suspending Pacquiao up to the end of his term as he treats House work as a hobby or sideline.” Saguisag, who has a reputation for being a stickler for ethical conduct, said being a congressman or senator means serious work and should not be taken lightly. He added that if Pacquiao is serious about running for the Senate in 2016 and even the presidency, then he should retire immediately and do his homework.

Tell that to the Marines, scoffs my neighborhood barber. Our politicians, he says, do not take kindly to the counsel of ordinary mortals. He cites the arrogant retort of Senator Gregorio Honasan to singer Jim Paredes, who was critical of the ex-soldier: “Mag senador ka muna!”

Congressman Manny downplays his habitual absenteeism from the House. He maintains that members of Congress do not have to attend sessions and committee hearings on a regular basis in order to discharge their duties as lawmakers. To critics and doubters, Congressman Manny presents himself as Exhibit A.

“I don’t want to boast what I have done in my district, pero kung pakitaan ng accomplishment by the term sa distrito . . . Importante kasi ‘yung tao matulungan mo, at hindi ‘yung lagi kang naka-upo doon sa Kongreso,” he told reporters last Jan. 19, the day Congress resumed session after the Christmas break, an opportune to bring up the issue of his poor attendance in the House.

He went on to share some nuggets of wisdom on good governance: “Puro batas ‘yung pina-file mo, wala namang pinakinabangan ang batas. Pero kailangan, you file the bill, ‘yung trabaho kailangan tulungan mo ang mga tao. Tapos ang term mo, tapos wala kang ginagawa sa mga tao.”

The starstruck reporters were either too timid or too courteous to remind their boxing idol that membership in Congress requires attendance in sessions and committee hearings because it is a deliberative body where national issues are discussed and policies formulated. Or maybe the reporters thought it was not the right venue to grill the congressman about lawmaking and ethics in public service. At that time they were in New York City where the congressman was promoting Manny, a documentary about him by Fil-American filmmaker Ryan Moore.

Manny and wife Jinky with Prince Harry in London

Manny and wife Jinky with Prince Harry in London

Given Congressman Manny’s education and the company he keeps, one should be more understanding of his distorted notion of our government structure and the functions and duties of officials in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. His advisers and handlers cannot be expected to instantly mold him from showman to statesman; it’s like teaching old dogs new tricks.

And lest we forget, Congressman Manny remains, first and foremost, a prizefighter. It was his brawn, not his brains, that rewarded him fame and fortune. His other preoccupation – including being congressman – is just icing on the cake. He does not need the position or title, thank you; it’s even a financial burden if you ask him.

That explains why he is unperturbed and unrepentant about his poor attendance in Congress.

Hindi naman ako mahihiya diyan. Yes, marami akong absent because marami akong commitments at sa fights. Two fights a year, at sa training pa lang.”

Pacquiao had two fights in 2014 – against Timothy Bradley on April 12 and Chris Algieri on Nov. 22. Each of those fights required at least three months of training here and abroad.

As for his other commitments outside boxing, there’s enough distraction in his calendar to keep him away from Congress the whole year. Consider his itinerary last January: From New York, he flew to Hollywood on Jan. 22 to attend the premiere of Manny. On Jan. 22 he and wife Jinkee had dinner with Prince Harry in London. On Jan. 25 he sat as one of the five judges in the Miss Universe pageant in Florida. In between sips of champagne and poses for the paparazzi, he had numerous meetings with boxing promoter Bob Arum for updates on the proposed mega fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

He is a much-sought-after celebrity and endorser at home and abroad, enabling him to boost his image and pocketbook. The world is his stage. He did not seek the congressional post in some tiny backward province in Mindanao; it was the position that sought him. Besides, he says, he has been spending his own money to help his constituents.

Sa akin, sa distrito ko, ‘pag election, ‘pag may kalaban ako, huwag niyo na akong iboto para hindi sumakit ang ulo ko . . . ‘Yun, mas happy ako kung hindi nila ako iboboto, ‘yung para hindi ako gagastos. Wala naman akong hinahangad na magnakaw. Hindi ako katulad na magnanakaw. May takot ako sa Panginoon.”

If Congressman Manny sounded proud and confident about his record and accomplishment in the House despite being present only four days the whole of last year, is it because he knows fully well the workings in the chamber and how his colleagues are misbehaving badly in and out of the session hall?

To his critics, he has this to say: Better absent than corrupt!

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KRIS’ SEX, SUCCESS AND SOB STORIES

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KRIS’ SEX, SUCCESS AND SOB STORIES

No Comments 01 June 2014

By Ana Villanueva Lykes

WHILE we love to hate Kris Aquino for constantly crying on TV, she is laughing her way to the bank. Although we find her pathetic, she is one of highest-paid celebrities in the country, earning about 150 million pesos in 2011 alone. And there is nothing pathetic about that.

This drama queen can teach us a lot about money, relationships, journalism, politics, good citizenship, and the art of Taglish. She is a role model on what to do and what not to do to achieve success in life.

Sobbing to success

We all know Krissy too well, not only because we’ve watched her grow up from a quiet girl to one of the most powerful celebrities, but also because we had mourned for her while she stood by her hero father’s final resting place. That was the first time we saw her tears. We cried with her too when she laid her beloved mother to rest.

But the tears never stopped as we followed her on her trail of failed relationships. And before long, our tears dried up and sympathy turned to irritation. We cradled her like a daughter when she was orphaned, but she has turned into a whiny little brat who cries at the mere poke of a playmate. The problem is that she tends to choose mates that don’t play nice. There’s the bad boy of Philippine movies, then her live-in married partner with whom she bore a love child, and the gun-toting comedian who supposedly gave her STD.

Kris attends a state dinner in Malacañang for the visiting Sultan of Brunei, meriting a front-page photo in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Kris attends a state dinner in Malacañang for the visiting Sultan of Brunei, meriting a front-page photo in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Desperately seeking love, she turned to a basketball player, 11 years her junior, and entered a whole new ballgame called marriage which crumbled over time. There were other affairs in between, the most recent one was with the child actor-turned-mayor, an affair which ended quickly with Kris chopping her hair off. Through all these, the sniffing under the spotlight never stopped.

In spite of the shameful tears, she upholds shining qualities that many of us can only try to emulate – honesty, humility, and courage. While many of us hide our failures in shame, she bravely admits defeat –in public. Perhaps this is part of the reason why we dislike her. We see ourselves in her, our stupidity – yes she has gone as far as claim that she has been “stupid” in matters of the heart.

Even the women’s group Gabriela applauds her for her candor. “Kris has broken the Filipino women’s culture of silence on domestic violence,” announced a Gabriela representative. “We admire her courage and we hope more women will learn to fight back.”

Kris everywhere

As we make fun of her, unknowingly, we are contributing to her continuously fattening bank account. After all, we are her audience. She won’t talk without us listening. And while she’s lamenting under the limelight, she also swears by Pantene and claims that she may be unlucky in love so far, but she is fortunate with Lucky Me. And we’re buying it.

She is one of the top endorsers in the country – if not the top. You will see her everywhere: TV, billboards, magazines, and your cupboard. Even the OFWs are wanting to wear what she’s wearing during one of her TFC shows.

Her manager, Deo Endrinal, explained to Yes Magazine that “Kris… has always been transparent… [and] there is always an attempt at authenticity.”
She also chooses her products wisely. “My mom taught me to place importance on something that the masses can identify with… something of quality as well and is consumer-friendly,” she said in one interview.

The Kris Aquino brand extends beyond commercials. Not only is she a drama queen but she is also the Queen of All Media, dabbling into different avenues of entertainment from talk shows to game shows, TV dramas, and movies. She also has her own magazine called K and a home collection called K Everyday aside from several business ventures and movies she co-produced.

Kris campaigning for her brother Noynoy in the 2010 presidential election.

Kris campaigning for her brother Noynoy in the 2010 presidential election.

Criticize her all you want, but she is several millions ahead of you. She is also being lauded by the BIR for being a model citizen, beating Filipino US dollar-billionaires on the Forbes list as one of the leading taxpayers in 2011.

The Kris brand

Surely, there is more to her success than just tears and celibacy (she recently admitted she hasn’t had sex in a while). She claims her name is her asset, and she’s not talking about the Aquino name, her title as the daughter of two of the country’s beloved icons of democracy and as the sister of the current president.

She is talking about herself as a woman who bares all. She is also talking about herself as a professional who shows up to work no matter how tired she is – even when her heart is breaking. In fact, she revealed during her presentation for the 6th Go Negosyo Filipina Entrepreneurship Summit, that “this is my 22nd straight day of work na walang day off.”

What is her motivation? “I learned to have a purpose,” she replied in Tagalog. “I’m lucky because I go home to two people every day who give me strength no matter how tired I am.”
And while she gives advice on what to do, we can also learn from her on what not to do, because even when her transparency has catapulted her popularity, using our personal life to further our career may not be the best advice.

She is one of the top endorsers in the country – if not the top. You will see her everywhere: TV, billboards, magazines, and your cupboard.

She is one of the top endorsers in the country – if not the top. You will see her everywhere: TV, billboards, magazines, and your cupboard.

While many work hard to leave work in the workplace when they go home, she takes home to work, including her sons. Bimby, her youngest, is already reaping millions at a young age in his first movie, My Little Bossings, a movie she co-produced.

She also brings her brood to her interviews, making seemingly innocent remarks in the background. In an interview with Andrew Garfield for the Spiderman movie, Bimby reportedly piped out that her mother fell asleep while watching the film. Maybe to cover up for her embarrassment, she goes ahead and boasts how Bimby’s movie beat Spiderman in the box office.

Apparently success can really get in one’s head as she tells Jamie Foxx that she is the Oprah of the Philippines. As Queen of Talk like her idol, she talks for sure, whether she’s the interviewee or the interviewer. She said so herself in an interview with Inday Badiday.

“Masyado akong vocal about things so sana I’ll learn to control myself. As my mom says na sana mag-tone down ako…”

Whether she tones down or not, we need to listen, because we have a lot to learn. And if we can’t stand her, we need to learn to tolerate her. After all, she may be the next president of the Philippines. (May 31, 2014)

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PNOY’S ANGELS

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PNOY’S ANGELS

No Comments 19 October 2013

By Niki Yarte –

President Benigno Aquino III certainly has an eye for the ladies. And it has nothing to do with being the country’s most eligible bachelor. In 2012 he named Maria Lourdes Sereno, 52, as the first female and youngest chief justice. In October this year he appointed Amparo Cabotaje-Tang presiding justice of Sandiganbayan, the anti-graft court. Earlier the President had tasked four women in four key agencies to enforce the administration’s daang matuwid initiative (a straight path to governance). Except for the Bureau of Internal Revenue, these agencies form part of the Interagency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council, the special body created to look into the misuse of the pork barrel funds of lawmakers.

Defiant

Conchita Carpio-MoralesAs associate justice, Conchita Carpio-Morales was handpicked by Mr. Aquino to administer his oath of office as president on June 30, 2010 – a function normally performed by the chief justice. The incoming president’s move was a testament to Morales’s courage, integrity and sterling record in the Supreme Court where she and Associate Justice Antonio Carpio were often the lone dissenting voices in highly controversial cases, as when the high court upheld then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s appointment of Renato Corona as chief justice two days after the May 10, 2010 presidential elections.

One year later, after Morales retired from the Supreme Court, President Aquino named her Ombudsman, replacing Mrs. Arroyo’s appointee, Merceditas Gutierrez who was forced to resigned amid threat of an impeachment. While some considered this a demotion from her previous office, she saw it the other way: “I’m not a title-conscious person. Going to the Ombudsman would not diminish my self-respect”. As Ombudsman, Morales heads the agency that investigates anomalies and inefficiency in government, and prosecutes graft and corruption cases.

She figured prominently during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Corona, when she testified about his dollar accounts, the most damning evidence that that eventually led to Corona’s impeachment. In jest, the 72-year-old former magistrate once observed that people would usually say, “So young yet so corrupt”, to describe dishonest government officials, adding that she felt insulted that no would say, “So old yet so upright”, to describe her.

Morales is confident that based on evidence presented by the Department of Justice, her office can resolve the plunder charges against 38 lawmakers and other respondents involved in the pork barrel scam in less than a year.

Feisty

De LimaAppointed as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in 2008, Leila de Lima has been a steadfast and vocal defender of human rights in the country, launching investigations into numerous human rights violations, including the so-called ‘death squads’ in Davao City. Human rights lawyer Theodore Te described De Lima as “a revelation in the sense that she was known simply as an election lawyer for the opposition and was not known as a human rights person. Yet, from her appointment she has managed to transform the CHR into a high-profile watchdog.”

It was her impressive stint at CHR that moved President Aquino to appoint her secretary of justice in 2010. In 2011, she made headlines when she prevented then ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from leaving the country despite the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order against a hold-departure order on Mrs. Arroyo.

As justice secretary she is at the forefront of the prosecution of members of the Ampatuan clan for the heinous Maguindanao massacre, a task she began as CHR chair when the incident happened in 2009. She considers herself a failure if not a single conviction would be made before her term expires in 2016.

De Lima caused the filing of numerous graft cases against top police officials for various anomalous transactions at the National Police. She is also cleaning up her own stable at the National Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Immigration, replacing top officials involved in nefarious activities. She is in the news lately spearheading the prosecution of erring lawmakers and their cohorts in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Unforgiving

Grace Pulido-TanMataray ako,” admits Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Grace Pulido Tan. “I’m very unforgiving sa mga pasaway, especially the corrupt, doble-kara, hindi marunong lumugar at iyong sipsip. They don’t appeal to me.” A lawyer, certified public accountant and tax expert, Tan’s impressive credentials already speak for themselves but she said that it was her fiery disposition — mataray and nang-aaway, as she puts it — that convinced Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima she was the right person for the COA post.

Tan and her staff were nearly finished with the special audit of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), commonly known as pork barrel, covering the years 2007 to 2009 when the so-called P10-billion pork barrel scam exploded. Not surprisingly, COA’s findings dovetail with the revelations of the whistle-blowers. She promises that their nearly finished audit of the Malampaya funds is “explosive” and the amount involved is much bigger than the pork barrel scam.

Suddenly, Tan, who abhors media attention, and her little known agency were thrust into the spotlight and became the target of people determined to derail the investigation into the anomalies, including some lawmakers hurt by COA’s findings. A few bullets found their way into the COA offices during the height of the Senate hearing on the pork barrel scam.

But Tan is undeterred. “I will not allow the incident to cow us into silence nor deter us from faithfully discharging our constitutional duty,” she declared.

She has received death threats as well as threats of an impeachment complaint but she considers them part of the territory. “I live by the day. Hey, I’m still alive! Okay, next!”

Straight Shooter

Kim HenaresAs the country’s top tax collector, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares thinks by the numbers. “I don’t understand why 97 million Filipinos cannot control 1.3 million public and civil officers,” she wondered aloud when asked about corruption in government. Turning to tax evaders, she declared, “Out of the estimated 1.7 million professionals registered with the Professional Regulation Commission, only about 400,000 have registered as taxpayers.” She cites a BIR report that says self-employed professionals pay an average annual income of less than P6,000 when they should be paying at least P100,000.

Henares had been assigned four bodyguards but learned to shoot a gun nonetheless to prepare herself for the worst possible scenario. She carries a semi-automatic pistol but the rest of her arsenal is locked away in a cabinet. Henares also knows how to fire the shots at her job. She claims not to have received nor been offered any bribe so far, or any security threat despite going after big game like Mikey Arroyo and Manny Pacquiao, as well as celebrities such as Judy Ann Santos, Regine Velasquez, and Richard Gomez. She has filed close to 200 tax-evasion complaints and boosted collection by 14.5% in 2012 – more than double that year’s economic growth rate.

Recently Henares was pilloried by professional groups for suggesting that lawyers and doctors should display their fees in their offices so clients – and the BIR – can be guided properly.  “I didn’t take this job to become popular,” she said in an interview. “My job is to implement the tax code and collect revenue that must be collected. If people don’t like me, that’s fine.”

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‘THE BOSS’ AND GIGI REYES

People

‘THE BOSS’ AND GIGI REYES

No Comments 02 October 2013

It’s perhaps the unlikeliest of relationships. She was a student activist in her college days at the University of the Philippines (UP), while he was the defense minister who implemented Martial Law under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos. READ FULL STORY

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‘MADAME JENNY’ NAPOLES: WOMAN IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

People

‘MADAME JENNY’ NAPOLES: WOMAN IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

No Comments 05 September 2013

Janet “Jenny” Luy Lim had always dreamed of being rich. The only daughter in a brood of 5, she grew up in Metro Manila until her father Johnny Lim, a Chinese Filipino, died in 1970. READ FULL STORY (See related story)

PHOTO – Janet Lim-Napoles turns herself in. (PNP photo)

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THE MUSEUM OF ME

People

THE MUSEUM OF ME

No Comments 26 June 2013

Robbie Antonio’s new house in Manila, designed by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas, will be filled with portraits of himself, by world-class artists such as Julian Schnabel, Marilyn Minter, and David Salle. Is the 36-year-old real-estate developer a patron, an egomaniac, or both? READ FULL STORY

PHOTO: Robbie Antonio next to a Kenny Scharf painting, one of the many portraits he has commissioned of himself.

 

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NANCY BINAY: CLEAN SLATE, DIRTY POLITICS

People

NANCY BINAY: CLEAN SLATE, DIRTY POLITICS

1 Comment 15 June 2013

Nancy Binay is the product of a political system in which “Anak ni…” is a prevalent and effective campaign slogan. She joined the senatorial race without a day of experience in elected office, and she survived the campaign without engaging her opponents in televised debates. READ FULL STORY

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MAYOR GOMA AND CONGRESSMAN AGA

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MAYOR GOMA AND CONGRESSMAN AGA

No Comments 11 September 2012

By Cherie del Rio

They were the most popular matinee idols of their time. Richard Gomez was the ultimate depiction of the much-desired breed of the “tall, dark, and handsome”. Aga Muhlach was the mestizo actor known for being extremely good-looking whichever way you look at him—thus earning the title of “Ang lalaking walang anggulo.”

Richard Gomez, or Goma to friends and colleagues in the business, has made a name for himself as an actor, athlete, TV show host, model, and director. He had chart-topping movies and TV shows. Goma has also won Best Actor merits from prestigious award-giving bodies such as Gawad Urian, FAMAS, Metro Manila Film Festival, and Star Awards. Goma has also been branded as a ladies’ man, having had romantic relationships with equally popular showbiz stars like Sharon Cuneta and Dawn Zulueta. The Dawn and Richard tandem is perhaps one of the most iconic love teams in Philippine cinema, with their critically acclaimed movie, Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit, as one of the most memorable romantic dramas in Pinoy movie history. But Dawn and Richard’s off-screen love affair was not meant for eternity. The couple eventually split up and Goma later married Lucy Torres, his leading lady in one of their more popular TV commercials.

Goma has had his share of downtime in showbiz, having transferred from one network to another and ultimately coming back to ABS-CBN where he landed the lead role in the remake of Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit — the primetime hit teleserye Walang Hanggan (where he rekindles onscreen romance with Dawn). This new soap could well be Goma’s biggest break after a period of drought in his career. And it seems that the veteran actor subscribes to the saying that one must strike while the iron is hot. He now has plans to run for Mayor of Ormoc City in Leyte in the 2013 elections.

Aga Muhlach shares the same circumstance. He has expressed his intent to run for congressman of Camarines Sur. Last August 3 Aga was sworn in by Mar Roxas as a new member of the Liberal Party. Incidentally, Goma and Lucy, who is an incumbent congresswoman of Leyte, are also LP members.

A couple of years ago, in the height of the fame of shows like Oki Doki Doc and movies like Kailangan Kita, one could not have foreseen the decline in Aga’s career — considering that the actor was able to maintain his baby face good looks and impeccable acting skills. But perhaps with factors such as age, marriage, and the tough competition with and among newer and younger actors, even the biggest names in Philippine cinema are susceptible to having their once stellar careers morph into lackluster visibility in showbiz.

Compared to Goma, Aga’s career has taken a steady spiral down to unpopularity. He has no new projects or upcoming movies. He left his home network ABS-CBN and transferred to TV 5 in 2011. The multi-awarded actor now hosts a TV 5 show called Pinoy Explorer. He is married to former beauty queen Charlene Gonzalez.

Both Goma and Aga are seeking a new career in politics — a considerably seamless transition since the realms of politics and show business are so closely intertwined in the Philippines. Showbiz celebrities, whether they are seasoned actors or starlets, have gone in and out of politics. And even politicians themselves sometimes cross over to the world of movies and TV.

Aga is up against formidable odds in his first try in politics. He will be facing the candidate of the Fuentebella dynasty of Camarines Sur. Aga does not consider this an obstacle, confidently offering his services to the people of Camarines Sur, believing that the “people will decide.”

Goma, on the other hand, has his eyes on the mayoral seat in his wife’s hometown of Ormoc. Wife Lucy meanwhile is seeking reelection as Ormoc City’s representative. It was actually Goma who sought the congressional seat in 2010 but he was disqualified for lack of residency, forcing Lucy to take his place at the last minute.

The actor is confident of winning the mayoral seat, pointing to his wife’s performance in Congress. “Sabi ko sa kanila, huwag na silang manggulo kasi ang ganda ng ginagawang trabaho ni Lucy,” Goma said. “There’s so much improvement, there’s so much progress sa Ormoc… Continuously, nanggugulo sila. I’ll be forced to run head to head against them. Ayaw nilang tumigil so maglaban tayo head to head. Lalabanan ko sila,” referring to his political foes.

Intrigues will continue to besiege the political path that Goma and Aga have chosen to traverse. Their political opponents will undoubtedly find one controversy after another to hurl against the former matinee idols. Their motive for running will always be questioned. And they will, as previous actors who have shifted their careers to politics have been grilled, be accused of using their showbiz fame and popularity to garner votes and will therefore win not based on actual political merit or skill but on face value and artista factors.

The trend of showbiz personalities shifting to politics is not new in the country. Countless actors have tried their hand in public service and governance. Vilma Santos is currently the governor of Batangas, Tito Sotto has been a senator for several terms, and Joseph Estrada was once the president of the country. It seems that there is a certain age in showbiz, a period close to retirement, when actors deem it most practical to dabble into politics, to present themselves to their fans and ask for their support as they run for public office. This recurrence is widely accepted in the industry that older actors gradually put a foot out of the silver screen and into government office.

The question now is, will Goma and Aga’s once-sparkling careers be bright enough to snag them the electoral win they’re vying for? Winning Best Actor trophies seemed an easy enough feat for these talented actors. Will a mayoral and congressional seat for Goma and Aga, respectively, be just as easy to achieve?

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LOVE HER, HATE HER

People

LOVE HER, HATE HER

No Comments 23 June 2012

By Cherie M. del Rio

“I am insulted by the way your minds run.”

Addressed to her colleagues, this statement was one of the most memorable quotes Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago delivered during the highly publicized impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Her speech immediately became a cause for controversy, with her powerful lines eliciting both praise and scorn. Santiago has been known to bring to public attention issues that most politicians deliberately conceal or are afraid to acknowledge. But while the substance of her speech and the wisdom of her statements are often admirable, many people find her antics and method of delivery – in her trademark Ilonggo-accented shrieking voice — discourteous, insulting and arrogant. In the halls of Congress, her actuation is referred to as “unparliamentary.”

Santiago’s witticism, or antics if you will, never fails to land on primetime television news. She is a favorite of young professionals and college students who abhor the typical long-winded boring and uninspired remarks of politicians. Like a whiff of fresh air, she brings vigor and color – and controversy — to the drab proceedings in the Senate. But there is always the question of whether or not she goes too far and whether her “eccentricity” crosses the lines of “propriety” and “civility”.

In one of the hearings on the Corona case, Santiago vented her ire on the prosecution panel for boasting that it had already won the case. “Kung ano-ano ang pinagsasabi nyo sa media na panalo na kami . . . you are engaging in a public discourse on the merit of the case . . . ang yayabang ng nagsasalita ng ganyan, gago naman . . . Ang kagaguhan is a ground for contempt of court. . . Sasabihin nyo na panalo na kami sa tatlong articles of impeachment. Kami ang nagde-desisyon nyan, hindi kayo. Ang yayabang nyo!”

Reacting to Santiago’s rant, Fr. Catalino Arevalo remarked that Santiago was “worthy of the fires of hell”. The respected Jesuit priest said the senator should issue a public apology for always berating the congressmen-prosecutors during the Corona impeachment trial. “If you call anybody ‘you fool,’ you are worthy of the fires of hell,” he said. “And she called them gago, which is Filipino for fool, before millions of people.” Santiago’s retort: “Under Vatican 2, there is no hell; but even if there is, there is nobody there.”

Others joined in. An editorial chided Santiago: “She is loud, arrogant, and intolerant of anyone but herself.” A lawyer observed, “I was just wondering why the Senate, composed mostly of lawyers, has not admonished or even disciplined Santiago for her uncalled-for behavior of bamboozling key witnesses and other parties during the impeachment trial and even in committee hearings.”

Among the more recent onslaught against Santiago was initiated by the group US Pinoys For Good Governance, which launched an online petition asking the International Criminal Court, where Santiago was elected as one of the judges, to reject the senator.

The petition read in part: “We are bringing this matter to your attention for fear that you may construe her uncivilized behavior and her loose ethics as epitomizing the Filipino people. While, ironically, it should be a source of pride for Filipinos to have one of our own elected to your honorable court, we are embarrassed by the ill-considered nomination of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Far from representing the best of us, she typifies the worst. We fear that her presence in the International Criminal Court will make us the laughing stock of the world.”

In the face of it all, it cannot be denied that while people are both thoroughly amused and incensed by the senator’s theatrics, there are those who have come to admire the honesty and candor of her words. Although her way of conveying her views may appear infuriating to some, Santiago indubitably sheds light on realities in a manner so effective that her detractors probably wish they had the same flair and competence.

Her page in official website of the Senate of the Philippines declares, “No other politician in the country, despite wealth or popularity, has received the universal admiration she evokes as a brilliant, principled politician with a wicked sense of humor. She remains feisty and controversial, as she weaves her unique brand of what media calls ‘Miriam Magic,’ the noble appeal to idealism in the hurly-burly world of politics in a developing country.”

Santiago’s brand of humor was on the news again recently when her “pickup” lines strewn all across the Internet, spreading quickly among social media platforms. Addressing an audience at the University of the Philippines, she dished out her own pickup lines:

Kung magkakaroon ako ng sariling planeta, gusto ko ikaw ang axis nito, para sayo lang iikot ang mundo ko.

Sana naka-off ang ilaw, para tayo na lang mag-on.

Parang see-saw, pag wala ka, down ako.

She followed it up with her taray lines. “So… kailangan minsan sa pulitika, para lang mabuhay sa pulitika, to survive, if not to prevail, kailangan mataray ka. Iba naman klaseng taray ito. Eto nga yun sinasabi ko:

Di ko sinasabing maganda ako. Sinasabi ko lang, pangit ka.

Pag nakikita kita, parang gusto kong magsorry sa mga mata ko.”

Is Miriam a worthy idol or simply an idiot? There are no easy answers and the question will persist even when she vacates her Senate seat soon to assume her post at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The only sure thing is that without Miriam Philippine politics will never be as wacky and entertaining.

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PACQUIAO THE GODFATHER

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PACQUIAO THE GODFATHER

No Comments 01 November 2011

Boxer, Godfather, saint, politician … Is there anything in the world that Manny can’t do? READ FULL STORY in Newsweek magazine’s cover story of November 7, 2011, Philippine and Latin American editions.

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