Tag archive for "May 2010 elections"

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Politics

WINNERS AND LOSERS

No Comments 18 May 2010

Culled from election results from all over the country, we have listed here some of the more prominent winners and losers in the just-concluded May 10 elections. Many are familiar and renowned names, others are controversial and infamous.

Winners

– Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made history by being the country’s first president to seek a lower position. She won by a landslide over two unknown rivals in the congressional race in the second district of Pampanga. She replaces her son Mikey, who returns to the House of Representatives as nominee of the party-list group Ang Galing Pinoy, which purports to represent tricycle drivers and security guards. Mrs. Arroyo’s youngest son, Diosdao “Dato” Jr., won a second term as congressman in Camarines Sur. The President’s brother-in-law, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo Jr. (brother of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo) was reelected in the fifth district of the province.

– The Marcoses scored a triple victory, one in the senatorial race and two in their home turf in Ilocos Norte. The late strongman’s only son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. won a Senate seat, landing a strong 7th in the 12-man race. Former First Lady Imelda Marcos made a comeback as congresswoman (she was previously Leyte congresswoman), this time representing the second district of Ilocos Norte, succeeding her son Bongbong. Eldest daughter Imee beat incumbent Governor Michael Keon, a first cousin, in the gubernatorial contest.

– Manny Pacquiao finally won a congressional seat after two tries. This time, he beat Roy Chiongbian, a scion of a wealthy clan, for the lone congressional seat of Sarangani province.

– Reelectionist Batangas Governor Vilma Santos easily sailed to a second term, trashing the widow of former governor Arman Sanchez, who replaced her husband after his sudden death a few weeks before the election.

– Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, husband of one of the 57 people massacred in Maguindanao last November scored a big win in the province’s gubernatorial race trashing Datu Umbra Sinsuat, an ally of the Ampatuan clan, who allegedly perpetrated the massacre. Andal Ampatuan Sr., who is in jail for his alleged involvement in the incident, lost to Mangudadatu’s runningmate, Ismael Mastura.

– Three kin of deposed President Joseph Estrada won in separate races: his son, reelectionist senator Jinggoy Estrada, came in second to bosom friend and showbiz colleague, Bong Revilla, in the senatorial race; his mistress Guia Gomez was elected mayor of San Juan mayor, replacing her son by Estrada, JV Ejercito, who easily won as San Juan congressman.

– The Binays’ 24-year reign in Makati continues as Councilor Junjun Binay succeeds his father, vice presidential frontrunner Jejomar Binay, as city mayor, beating former Binay ally and long-time vice mayor Ernesto Mercado. Junjun’s elder sister, Abigail, retained her congressional seat in the second district.

– Luis “Chavit” Singson, who has lorded Ilocos Sur as governor for 26 years, is back at the helm of the province. His son Ronald was reelected congressman of the first district of the province. Eleven other members of the Singson clan won in various local races

– The father-and-daughter team of Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte and vice mayor Sara Duterte traded places and trounced their respective rivals. The young Duterte beat former Speaker Prospero Nograles no less, while the father trounced former mayor Benjamin de Guzman.

– Shalani Soledad, girlfriend of prospective President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino Jr., topped for the second time the race for councilor in Valenzuela City.

– Gina de Venecia succeeds her husband, former Speaker Jose de Venecia, as representative of the first district of Pangasinan.

– Alfredo Lim won a second term as mayor of Manila, beating former mayor Lito Atienza and ex-PNP officer Avelino Razon.

– Three-term vice mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista takes the helm of Quezon City hall, edging ex-congressman and DENR secretary Michael Defensor and former QC mayor Mel Mathay.

– Outgoing Quezon City Mayor Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte regained his old House seat in the fourth district. He is tipped as the incoming administration’s bet for House Speaker in a possible face-off with incoming Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Belmonte’s daughter won as QC vice mayor.

– Commercial model-TV host Lucy Torres became an instant, albeit reluctant, congresswoman, representing the fourth district of Leyte. She was a last-minute replacement for her husband, actor Richard Gomez, who was disqualified from the race for lack of residency.

– Dramatic actor Christopher de Leon was elected provincial board member of Batangas. In 2007 he lost in the province’s vice gubernatorial race.

– Actress Lani Mercado, wife of Sen. Bong Revilla, is the incoming congresswoman of Bacoor, Cavtie.

Losers

– Multi-awarded actor Cesar Montano failed in his gubernatorial try in Bohol. In 2007 he lost in the senatorial race.

– Priest-turned-governor Eduardo Panlilio lost in his reelection bid as Pampanga governor to Lubao town mayor Lilia Pineda, an ally of President Arroyo and wife of alleged “jueteng” lord Bong Pineda.

– After two terms as Isabela governor, Grace Padaca was finally vanquished by Rep. Faustino Dy III, a member of the Dy political dynasty that ruled the province for 30 years.

– Former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita lost in the race for congressional seat of the first district of Batangas. His son Edwin was likewise trounced in the race for vice governor of Batangas.

– Former justice secretary and presidential legal counsel Raul Gonzalez failed in his candidacy for mayor of Iloilo City. His son, Raul Jr., also lost in his reelection bid for congressman of Iloilo.

– Agnes Devanadera, Gonzalez’s successor at the Department of Justice, also lost in the congressional race in the first district of Quezon.

– Disgraced ex-agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, alleged mastermind of the P728-million fertilizer scam, was defeated in his quest for the gubernatorial post of Capiz.

– Former APF chief Hermogenes Esperon lost his bid for a House seat in Pangasinan. He was linked to the “Hello Garci” election scandal in 2004.

– Losing VP candidate Bayani Fernando and his wife, outgoing Marikina City mayor Marides Fernando, lost their almost 20-year control over Marikina City after their political allies were trounced in the local races for mayor and congressman.

– Vivian Tan, daughter of billionaire Lucio Tan, lost to Rep. Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo in the congressional race for Quezon City’s first district.

– Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and Col. Ariel Querubin, who are detained for involvement in a coup plot against President Arroyo, failed in their attempt to replicate Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes’ successful senatorial bid in 2007.

– Comebacking Joey Marquez was unsuccessful in his bid to reclaim the mayoralty of Paranaque City. His ex-wife Alma Moreno won another term as councilor of the city.

– Former Environment Secretary Michael Defensor and his father, QC Rep. Mat Defensor, were clobbered in the contests for mayor and congressman in Quezon City. Both were former LP members who chose to side with the Arroyo administration.

– Actress Aiko Melendez’s bid to jump from Quezon City councilor to vice mayor was foiled by Joy Belmonte, daughter of QC Mayor Sonny Belmonte.

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JOKE THE VOTE, PUN THE BETS

Current Affairs

JOKE THE VOTE, PUN THE BETS

No Comments 17 May 2010

By Camille de Asis, Ivan Lim, Mark Tare and Angela Poe

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

Barring last-minute surprises in the election count, the Noynoy-Nognog tandem will lead the next casting at Malacañang Palace in the next six years, according to funny-boned Filipinos.

Nognog, dark-skinned Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay in real life, will also be installed as the country’s “first black vice president,” they say.

But before he could become president, Noynoy, who goes by the full name Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, may need to convince closest rival Joseph Estrada to concede.

Estrada can’t and won’t, supposedly because when he voted, his victory had been guaranteed. Proof of this, and so the tale is told, was that after Estrada fed his ballot into a PCOS machine, it popped this message: “Congratulations!”

In the most serious moments, trust Filipinos, acclaimed to be among the world’s happiest peoples, to joke and pun and laugh at themselves.

The last elections, a historical moment for being the country’s first national automated balloting, sparked a bumper harvest of humorous tricks and treats across media old and new. The jokes have been played most often on the candidates for national office by jokesters of all political persuasions.

It is not that poverty and politics are a laughing matter. On the contrary, these are matters so serious with implications so grave hence the resort to humor by some Filipinos.

For one, through jokes anyone could fire off sharp commentary without inflicting real or serious injury.  For another, because jokes are made to provoke laughter, the jokester is allowed to submit the most acerbic opinions with minimal accountability, or even complete anonymity.

Painless, faultless

Criticizing in a painless, faultless manner – that could well be the reason why Filipinos resort to jokes in the era of elections or other acute political debates, according to anthropologist Dr. Clemente Camposano, director of the Institute of Political Economy in the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P).

Jokes, he says, allow people to talk about real problems “in a manner that does not create tension.” In a sense, the lightness of jokes allows Filipinos, deemed to be generally non-confrontational, to engage in political debate with minimal complications.

And because hard political talk is the acclaimed domain of the intellectual, the affluent, and the elderly jokes have turned into an accessible platform for political discourse for those much younger and with less money and education. The problem emerges, however, when to the average Juan and Juana, the joke remains just a joke, a laughing matter.

Dr. Maria Rhodora Ancheta, who has studied patterns and images of humor, says, “the comic’s object… as people will remember it is really just (to elicit) laughter. Parang as soon as I laugh, okey na ’yung joke na ’yan.”

Public conversation

But political jokes in particular are an important public conversation, except that its content values are too often eclipsed by facetious form, she says.

For instance, she says comedians tend to always play on the periphery to mask the seriousness of politics, leaving to their audience a big burden: how to sift the serious messages from a comic rendering of the big issues.

Ancheta, a professor at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, also studies the cultural context of images in literature. Sometimes, she says, political jokes veer away from folk precepts well established in literature.

She says: “Sabi nila, ’pag may dwende sa bahay, swerte raw at masagana ang buhay. Eh bakit may dwende sa Malacanang pero mahirap pa rin ang ’Pinas?” [They say that a house where a gnome dwells is a lucky and blessed house. But there is a gnome at Malacañang, so why is the Philippines still so poor?]

Dwende sa Malacañang is a moniker that some Filipino comics have bestowed on outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in reference to her Lilliputian frame.

In this instance, Ancheta notes that the joke suggests that Malacanang Palace and the home are parallel concepts, poverty is the problem, and that Arroyo is to blame for the people’s destitute state.

Yet aside from Arroyo, those who seek to succeed her have found themselves too often at the receiving end of jokes.

Bigo, C-5 at Tiyaga

Online, jokesters have christened administration candidate Gilberto ”Gibo” Teodoro Jr., who championed the campaign ”Galing at Talino,” as ”Bigo” Teodoro.

Nacionalista Party candidate Manuel B. Villar Jr. had proclaimed himself as the aspirant with ”Sipag at Tiyaga.” In the jokesters’ book, that reads as ”C-5 at Taga,”  in reference to a controversial road project that supposedly benefited Villar’s real estate project and earned a huge right-of-way payment for his family-owned company.

Liberal Party candidate Benigno C. Aquino III, thrust to national prominence by his pedigree as son of democracy icons Cory and Ninoy Aquino, did not have a personal pitch. He got this from the comics: “Mama at Papa.”

Impersonator and satirist Willie Nepomuceno likens jokes amid a heady political exercise to popping candies because “it perks you up a little, pass it on and delete and it’s just a thought.”

Nepomuceno has parodied nearly all male Philippine presidents from strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos to Fidel V. Ramos to Joseph Estrada. These days, Nepomuceno parades on television as “Noynoy Palaboy,” his comic styling of winning presidential candidate Aquino.

While candies offer a sugar fix or a virtual adrenaline shot, Nepomuceno says jokes amid the confusion and noise that mark elections are also “a way of letting off steam… of (making) you think.” This seems especially true, he notes, for two groups of citizens – the most politically aware and the most unhappy about the country’s state of affairs.

Decade of jokes

The past two decades may well be considered the halcyon years of political jokes in the Philippines, judging by the volume and speed of spread of jokes, across old and new media platforms, vented at political personalities.

And it is probably not only because Filipinos have gotten funnier. Greater assertion of freedom of speech, text messaging, as well as blogging, social networking, and a slew of freeware applications on the Internet have all allowed a downpour of comic content online.

What used to be the domain of trained professionals, online publication has become accessible to anyone with message or content to push in a jiffy, thanks to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and blogs.

Without any firm standards of quality, the Web has allowed everyone to post or upload funny or serious commentary, and instantly, it spreads virally — exponentially, unpredictably — through networks of readers across the globe. This is also the route that has been charted by the untraceable, if virtually unstoppable, group text.

The May 2010 elections yielded jokes of varying shades of green, black, brown and dark. During the campaign period, social networking sites and popular blogs meshed caustic commentary with piping pranks.

On Facebook, fan pages poked fun at the presidential candidates. One of the most popular was the anti-Villar fan page called “Sige MANNY VILLAR ikaw na ang MAHIRAP.” It has enrolled 126,082 members.

Other popular pages include the “Sige Noynoy, Hindi ka na Magnanakaw at Anak ka na ni Ninoy at Cory,” and the “If Erap Estrada is elected president again, I’M LEAVING THE COUNTRY!”

On these fan pages, the edited images of the candidates have been uploaded beside which fans could post their own quips and status messages.

‘PCOS’ tweets

Twitter has also become a playground for political satire.

On Election Day, tweets by an anonymous twitter account named “PCOS machine” started to draw traffic. It posted tweets on the glitches and mishaps in the automation process such as, “Please don’t blame us PCOS machines. We’re doing our best. Just shade the bilog na hugis itlog and I’ll do the rest for you.” Another read: “@CF card – I’m not talking to you. You almost ruined my career.”

Three days after the vote, the authorities found 60 PCOS machines at the house of a technician in Antipolo City. The incident sparked this tweet from the “PCOS Machine”: “f I find out that they’re actually having an outing in Antipolo and I wasn’t invited, somebody gonna get a hurt real bad.”

Political humor has become a staple fare of bloggers. “The Professional Heckler,” a popular blogger, has become an even bigger name on the web for his relentless bashing of politicians. YouTube has hosted a smorgasbord of funny video clips, including spoofs of the candidates’ political advertisements. Villar’s “Dagat ng Basura” ad has morphed into various jocular versions.

But it is not only the candidates who have commanded top billing on the humor mill.

Toward the end of the campaign period, Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra grabbed the punters’ attention after he issued a resolution absolving two members of the Ampatuan clan from the Maguindanao Massacre. For his action, he became the “Agra-vating” or “Agra-byado” weekly special on the web.

Aquino’s youngest sister, television star Kristina Bernadette Aquino, earned her fair share of jokes as well. This happened after Kris’s younger son Baby James Yap blurted out the name of “Villar” when asked at a campaign rally about his choice of presidential bet. An abundance of online jokes has also focused on a supposed plan by Aquino to hire Kris and showbiz buddy Boy Abunda as Cabinet members.

The top TV networks that are incessantly locked in a ratings war were not spared, too. The so-called hologram technology that ABS-CBN Channel 2 and GMA7 separately claimed to be their cutting edge in the coverage of the elections triggered this comment from “Professional Heckler”:  “GMA News and Public Affairs ushered in a first on Philippine television. Howie Severino became the first Filipino to be beamed in ‘a hologram’ on live TV. But rumors say it wasn’t really Howie but his boss, Jessica Soho, who was supposed to be beamed first during the coverage. There wasn’t just enough ‘beam’ to make it possible.”

Always with zing

Truth is, according to impersonator Nepomuceno, political jokes, while meant to entertain, “always offer purposeful commentary, message or comic object.”

As a matter of course, he says he puts a light touch to important news so he could help raise awareness without alienating people.  “I’m just a facilitator… More or less okey na sa akin basta may naiwan na akong seed of thought.”

While all media platforms have been invaded by jokes during the elections just concluded, Nepomuceno says text jokes are his favorite because these are “simpler and raw, easily digestible, nothing fancy.”

“I’m not a techie, and (gets) easily bored with too much text copy. They’re too fancy for me,” he says, adding that “too much jokes in one serving gives you an overdose and makes the whole thing bland.”

They are fun and light but there is a downside to jokes, according to UP’s Ancheta. Sometimes, after a good laugh, she rues that ”nobody thinks about thinking.”

Camposano of the University of Asia and the Pacific says that as much as Filipinos love to laugh about politics, they also take politics seriously. “People die for their candidates. People kill for their candidates. People spend billions [on] their campaigns…. Why would you invest 220,000 pesos for a 50-second spot on TV?  It’s serious.”

Still and all, he sees a need to distinguish between a serious discussion of politics and the way Filipinos take politics seriously. “Elections are very much a personal enterprise,” he says. Whether it is some kind of reward, relationship, or opportunity, elections affect the future interests of individuals, she notes.

In her published studies of the hugely popular comic strip Pugad Baboy (Swines’ Nest) of cartoonist Apolonio “Pol” Medina Jr., Ancheta illustrates why the fictional Pugad Baboy community appeals to Filipinos. In the comic strip, “distant things are internalized, we share our personal struggles with the community, the micro and the macro are deeply intertwined,” she says.

Politics matters

Adds Ancheta: “Remember the parallelism within the Gloria-dwende joke?  Apparently, in the Filipino mindset, we liken any space we occupy or value to our concept of home.  Thus, politics matters to us.”

Camposano laments, however, what he calls the lack of a civic culture, hence the lack of “inclusive and serious political discourse,” in the Philippines. To candidates and voters, politics seems to be built largely on selfish interests,” and this, he says, may explain why many Filipinos end up trivializing politics rather than becoming involved.

In Ancheta’s view, it’s a chicken-and-egg situation. It is said that Filipinos should consider themselves “lucky” if they could get honest public officials elected. If luck remains the arbiter of elections, how is anyone supposed to trust the public sphere enough to do more than laugh, and finally work for change? “We have yet to see a reward for good citizenship,” she says.

“Much of the laughter that we have is really a lack of space. We laugh a great deal because we need to survive… to cope with pressure,” adds Ancheta.

“[And because] we’re not a talk-about-it people… we’re the culture that says, ‘Sorry, yeah, hayaan mo na lang, bahala na, bahala na s’ya’… given the misery of our situation, joking becomes our outlet.” (The authors are interns at PCIJ.)

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PHILIPPINE POLITICS JOLTED INTO DIGITAL AGE

Current Affairs

PHILIPPINE POLITICS JOLTED INTO DIGITAL AGE

No Comments 14 May 2010

Philippine politics will never be the same after the country’s first automated ballot electrified voters long used to cheating, violence and disputes over delayed results.

Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, whose parents led the struggle to restore Philippine democracy, may soon become the country’s first digitally elected president after a rapid vote count showed him winning by a landslide.

Despite daunting logistic challenges in a sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago with 50 million voters, ballot-counting machines were activated just in time for the May 10 elections for 17,000 positions.

The saying that “guns, goons and gold” lord it over Philippine elections may no longer be totally true after a new weapon, the microchip, entered the scene.

In the past, paid thugs as well as rouge soldiers and policemen working for politicians snatched ballot boxes, intimidated voters and doctored tallies. This time, Filipinos were thrilled by the chance to slip their own ballots into digital scanners and know the results were being stored electronically for delivery to a central computer server in Manila, safe from theft and tampering.

“It was really an overwhelming experience for me because I knew that at that moment, I was making history for the country,” said Franz Jonathan de la Fuente, 19, a first-time voter studying journalism at the University of the Philippines.

“I understand that other kids my age during past elections voted manually. Somehow I felt assured that through automation, there was a better chance of my vote being counted,” he told Agence France-Presse.

The United States and other countries welcomed the overhaul of the flawed election system in one of the world’s most boisterous democracies.

European Union Ambassador to Manila Alistair MacDonald said after observing the elections that “voters seemed generally comfortable with this new system” and the process seemed to work well.

But not everybody was happy— former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, trailing Aquino by five million votes, has indicated that he will raise technical questions when Congress certifies the electronic results in a few weeks.

Violence remained a problem, highlighted by last November’s massacre of 57 civilians by gunmen loyal to a powerful Muslim politician in the southern island of Mindanao. The clan’s leaders are now in detention.

Dozens of other people were killed in election-related violence, including 10 on polling day, mostly in restive southern Mindanao where Muslim militants and communist guerrillas are a perennial threat.

Legacy problems such as inaccurate voter lists also cropped up during the vote and Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials admit further improvements are needed.

But the country appears to have bought the idea that computers can safeguard democracy.

In the old system, ballots were dropped by hand into locked metal boxes and counted by hand after sundown, when mischief was easier to commit in outlying provinces under cover of darkness.

Small disputes and transport delays in thousands of polling centers could prolong the process all the way down to the national tally.

Modern-day Philippine democracy can be said to owe its existence to dirty elections.

In 1986, then President Ferdinand Marcos was challenged in snap elections by Corazon “Cory” Aquino. She was the widow of Marcos’s bitter foe, Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., who had been assassinated three years earlier allegedly by government troops.

Amid massive cheating and protests, Marcos was proclaimed the winner of the 1986 elections but Aquino led a “people power” revolt that sent Marcos into US exile and the widow into the presidency.

Twenty four years later, her son, Noynoy, is awaiting proclamation as president on the heels of the most dramatic reform of the Philippine election system. (Agence France Presse)

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AQUINO READY TO TAKE ON FAMILY’S BURDEN

Politics

AQUINO READY TO TAKE ON FAMILY’S BURDEN

No Comments 12 May 2010

By Karl Malakunas

Agence France-Presse

Tarlac, Philippines – Sitting inside a museum displaying the bloodied clothes his democracy hero father was wearing when assassinated, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III admits that for a long time he did not want to be president.

Even after winning elections in the Philippines by a landslide as Filipinos put their faith again in his family’s revered name, the 50-year-old bachelor appears not to be entirely comfortable that the nation’s burdens rest with him.

“I look at it as an obligation and as a job,” Aquino told Agence France-Presse in an exclusive interview at the Aquino family museum in their hometown of Tarlac on May 11, a day after the elections. “I cannot look at it as a situation where I can promote myself or put myself on a pedestal.”

Aquino is still to be officially declared the winner of the elections, with the tally not 100 percent completed, but he has an unassailable lead and his team is preparing to take the country’s reins on July 1.

When asked about his emotions the moment he realized he would become president, Aquino spoke not of excitement but personal sacrifice.

“I am still trying to adjust to the fact that there will be a drastic change in lifestyle,” he said, elaborating on the inevitable end to dinners in restaurants and anonymous strolls in shopping malls.

“Now I realize what my mum was saying when she wanted to try and go to a grocery store.”

Aquino often echoes his mother, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, and sees their destinies as the same.

In the deeply Catholic Philippines, Cory Aquino is regarded with near saint-like status for leading the “People Power” revolution that ended Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship in 1986.

But she was thrust into the role of revolutionary only after her husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, was shot dead at Manila airport in 1983 when he returned from US exile to lead the democracy movement against Marcos.

Cory Aquino was famously reluctant to lead the Philippines because it would mean having to take chief responsibility in healing a nation afflicted with so many dictatorship-borne social and economic woes.

But she became increasingly comfortable with her fate, and her six-year term is now looked back upon fondly by many Filipinos weary of corruption and poverty as a time when they had an incorruptible leader.

Her son said that, even though he had been congressman and senator for more than a decade, he had little desire to become president until last year when his mother died.

“I would be inheriting the problems of an administration that for nine and a half years has really wreaked havoc on our country,” Aquino said, explaining his reluctance.

He compared Arroyo’s corruption-tainted reign with Marcos’s dictatorship, saying they both wrecked fundamental democratic institutions and badly damaged the economy.

But Aquino said that, like his mother, he felt obliged to assume the burden after listening to the clamor of millions of Filipinos.

“At the end of the day (I thought) I would not be able to live with myself… if, knowing that I could have done something, I chose not to and the situation became worse,” he said.

In a similar fashion to his mother, Aquino intends to try and lead the country back from corruption-laden despair by example.

“I did make a public vow, I will never steal,” Aquino said, adding he intended to follow in his mother’s footsteps and not live in the Malacanang presidential palace.

“I want to reside if possible in my family’s residence,” he said. “I want to be able to end the day having as much a normal life as possible, to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.”

Aquino wants to emulate another of his mother’s symbolic acts and not use the powers of office to beat Manila’s notorious traffic congestion.

“If there is traffic, we are part and parcel of it because at the end of the day the buck has to stop with me,” he said.

Ultimately though, Aquino’s mother moved into a house close to the presidential palace and her security personnel forced her to travel quickly through the traffic.

And while she is much-loved for being a role model, she was not a panacea for the Philippines’ entrenched economic and political problems.

Aquino similarly acknowledged he would not be able to fix the country during his six years in power, which cannot be any longer due to constitutional time limits introduced by his mother to prevent another Marcos-style dictatorship.

“We cannot transform our society in six years. But we are hoping to be able to provide that impetus and momentum to carry over into the next administration,” he said.

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IN PHILIPPINES, CLANS AND GUNS STILL RULE

Politics

IN PHILIPPINES, CLANS AND GUNS STILL RULE

No Comments 09 May 2010

By Sheila Coronel, for CNN

(CNN) — The irony is often lost on Filipinos. How can the country that gave the world not one, but two, peaceful “people power” uprisings that ousted corrupt regimes have such violent elections?

On Monday, May 11, more than 50 million Filipinos will have the chance to elect a new president, a new Congress and a roster of local officials. So far the campaign has exacted a deadly toll: Including the Maguindanao massacre that killed 57 people in November, some 100 people have been reported killed in election-related violence, according to news and police reports.

This past week has been especially bloody. Last Monday, armed men fired at two trucks carrying 200 campaigners of a mayoral candidate in Zamboanga del Sur in the southern part of the country. One man was killed, and 32 others injured. On Tuesday, a lone gunman approached a candidate for councilor and shot him several times at close range, as the candidate was shaking hands with voters in a gymnasium in the central Philippine city of Cebu. He died a few hours later.

These incidents merited only a few paragraphs in Manila’s free-wheeling newspapers. Violence is part of the fabric of Philippine elections, and a murder or two seldom gets headline treatment.

Most of the violence is rooted in local political rivalries. Contests for public office at the town and provincial levels are fought so fiercely because the spoils of public office are so rich. Those seeking national office can bank on popularity, celebrity and media exposure in order to win. At the local levels, the calculus is far cruder.

Last November, the private army of a powerful local clan in Maguindanao province attacked a convoy of vehicles on a provincial highway, killing 57 people, 30 of them journalists. The massacre was intended to prevent the clan’s rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, from filing his candidacy. It was so cold-blooded and so gruesome that it shocked even those who had become inured to the violence of politics and daily life in the Philippines.

The Ampatuan family, which has been accused of masterminding the massacre, has dominated local elective positions in Maguindanao for years and become rich in the process. In recent months, investigative journalists have had a field day documenting the family’s 28 mansions, their fleet of luxury vehicles and private arsenal of high-powered firearms.

“The Ampatuans do not have plantations. They do not own factories,” said Albert Alejo, a Jesuit anthropologist, at a forum of religious leaders in Mindanao. “Bullets are not harvested from crops. Where did they get these from?”

Over the years, the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has showered billions of pesos to fund development in Maguindanao, one of the country’s poorest provinces. In exchange, the Ampatuans have delivered votes for the president and her party. But the province has little to show for that money: It has only 18 government doctors for over a million people and one of the lowest literacy rates in the country.

Like many political families elsewhere in the Philippines, the clan has preserved its dominance through a combination of patronage, intimidation and links to the presidential palace. Officials say that the Ampatuans kept a 2,000-strong private army, which included the over 100 men who are now facing murder charges for last year’s massacre.

Six Ampatuans are in prison for their alleged complicity in that massacre. Despite this, at least 23 family members are reported to be running for local office in Monday’s elections. The family patriarch Andal Sr., currently jailed for multiple murder, is seeking the vice-governorship of the province, running against his own daughter.

The Ampatuans are an extreme example – most political families in the country do not wield such hegemonic or terrifying power. But they do show how the dynastic nature of Philippine politics has reached such absurd heights – or depths. The leading presidential candidate, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, belongs to a family that has held public office for four generations. His mother, the late Corazon Aquino, was the country’s first female president. And those leading in the senatorial races — including Ferdinand Marcos. Jr., son of the former Philippine dictator — are part of the country’s entrenched political clans.

The dominance of families demonstrates the dysfunctions of Philippine democracy. Yet, lively debate on democracy and a high level of engagement in electoral politics exist in many places, especially the big cities and mass media. Voter turnout has traditionally been at 80 to 85 percent, higher than in more mature democracies.

Still, guns rule in places like the far-flung villages of Maguindanao. That sad reality will continue as long as families like the Ampatuans are not held to account. With the public outrage at the massacre still fresh, this election is a good time to start.

Editor’s note: Sheila Coronel is the director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University. She is a co-founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Committee to Protect Journalists board member and author and editor of more than a dozen books. She is a 2003 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

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NP VS LP: THEN AND NOW

Politics

NP VS LP: THEN AND NOW

No Comments 27 April 2010

By Leandro Milan

Before the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law in September 1972, there were only two dominant political parties that took turns at the helm of the state from the time the country gained independence, namely, the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party. Occasionally, a third force or independent candidate would challenge the stranglehold of the two giants but not one had succeeded in disturbing the two-party system in place.

Founded in 1907, Partido Nacionalista or Nacionalista Party (NP) is the oldest political party in the country. The Partido Liberal or Liberal Party (LP) was formed in 1946 by a breakaway group from the NP led by then Senate President Manuel Roxas. Nacionalista stalwarts who became presidents of the country were Manuel Quezon, Jose Laurel, Sergio Osmeña, Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos Garcia and Ferdinand Marcos. Philippine presidents from the LP camp included Roxas, Elpidio Quirino and Diosdado Macapagal. Marcos was LP president from 1961 to 1964; he joined NP and became its standard bearer in the 1965 presidential election when then President Macapagal, father of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, decided to run for a second term. Other notable LP leaders were former senators Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and Gerardo Roxas, whose respective sons – incumbent senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Manuel “Mar” Araneta II – are now the party’s top bets in the May 10 election.

In the post-Marcos era, the multi-party system was introduced ostensibly to open up the electoral process to more groups and give the electorate a wider menu of choices. New political parties sprouted, and the LP and NP became inconsequential. In 1992, Fidel Ramos of the then newly-formed Lakas-NUCD party won over Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who ran under the fledgling People’s Reform Party. Another newcomer, Nationalist People’s Coalition, fielded businessman Eduardo Cojuangco, who came in third. In 1998, Joseph Estrada was swept into power through the combined effort of two small parties — his own Partido ng Masang Pilipino and his running mate Edgardo Angara’s Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP). In 2004, President Arroyo ran under the Lakas-NUCD banner, defeating Fernando Poe Jr., the standard bearer of the umbrella group Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino.

The comeback kids

During the past few years, however, there has been a gradual tectonic shift in the political landscape. Through the rebuilding efforts of a new generation of leaders, the dominant parties of pre-martial law era have posted significant strides in regaining their old glory. Senator Mar Roxas has taken over from the party’s sole remaining Old Guard, the venerable Jovito Salonga. On the Nacionalista side, former Vice President Salvador Laurel passed the baton to Senator Manuel Villar, who used his vast personal wealth and political savvy to turn the NP into what is now acknowledged as the most organized political machinery in the country. The LP and NP are back in their old form and if the results of the most recent nationwide surveys of the country’s leading pollsters (Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia) are an indication, the 2010 presidential race has become a three-man race among Aquino, Villar and Estrada.

True, the political landscape is still littered with post-Marcos parties and alliances – Lakas-Kampi, NPC, PMP, LDP, PDP-Laban, KBL, Aksyon Demokratiko, Ang Kapatiran, PRP, UNO. The two pro-administration parties – Lakas and Kampi – got even bigger and stronger (at least on paper) when they coalesced a few months ago. But the impending end of President Arroyo’s term and her negative popularity ratings have struck fear and anxiety among party members. The ruling party is fast disintegrating and could fill up only five slots for the 12-man senatorial slate.

Lakas-Kampi disintegrates

Massive defections have rocked the ruling party in recent weeks and the biggest beneficiaries have been the LP and NP. The most notable Lakas defectors to the Liberal party are Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, who used to senior vice president of Lakas; Misamis Occidental Governor Loreto Ocampos, president of the League of Provinces of the Philippines and a member of the ruling party’s national executive committee; ex-senator Ralph Recto, who only a year ago was in the Arroyo Cabinet; and Akbay Gov. Joey Salceda, an economic adviser of President Arroyo. Recto was joined by his wife, Batangas Governor Vilma Santos, who was heavily wooed by the administration to be the running mate of Teodoro. The more prominent NP recruits from Lakas-NUCD include former Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson, Camarines Gov. L-Ray Villafuerte, Bukidnon Gov. Jose Zubiri, Surigao del Norte Gov. Robert Ace Barbers and Cebu Congressmen Pablo Garcia and Eduardo Gullas. Many more congressmen, governors, mayors and councilors have formed a bee line to the camps of Aquino and Villar, the two leading presidential hopefuls.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition, the vehicle of Danding Cojuangco for his losing presidential bid in 1992, is also showing signs of collapse. Its brightest hope in 2010, Senator Francis Escudero, abruptly quit NPC last October, leaving the party in disarray and without a presidential candidate. Escudero has since abandoned his presidential ambitions in 2010. The presumed NPC bet for vice president, Senator Loren Legarda, was forced to eat her words and swallow her pride and partnered with erstwhile nemesis Villar. Earlier, of course, there was the defection of no less than Danding’s favorite nephew, Gibo Teodoro, to Lakas-Kampi. With Danding’s advancing age and reported failing health, the NPC faces a bleak future.

Estrada’s PMP has never been a strong political party. Even during Estrada’s abbreviated presidency, PMP did not gain a strong nationwide following. The party suffers from lack of credibility, for while it espouses a pro-poor agenda, its leader is living it up in the company of unsavory characters – from drinking buddies and women to gamblers and vested interests.

Personality-oriented

Like NPC and PMP, the other parties are nominal groups whose existence is co-terminus with the political future of their patrons because they are very much identified with personalities rather than an ideology. The names and faces of their patrons are indelibly etched on the parties: Danding on NPC, Estrada on PMP, Angara on LDP, Marcos on KBL, Santiago on PRP, Villanueva on Bangon Pilipinas. Only the Nacionalista and Liberal parties have endured the test of time. But just the same, all the different parties remain mainly personality-oriented; their platforms are all loaded with similar motherhood statements. This explains why party loyalty is a cheap commodity in the country. Politicians seamlessly and shamelessly switch parties largely on the basis of self interest.

In a recent column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, UP Professor Randy David offers an insightful and informed view of our political parties: “As it is, none of the leading presidential candidates can claim to stake their candidacies on the drawing power and record of their respective political parties. Their parties are nothing more than brand names that carry little weight, with no distinct political philosophy or ideology. This accounts for the ease with which politicians of varying, and often conflicting, persuasions and backgrounds are sworn into the same party. Nothing coherent binds them together. In truth, these so-called parties are nothing but coalitions of convenience, provisional alliances forged by practical considerations rather than by enduring principles.”

IN PHOTO: LP standard bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III and running mate Sen. Manuel Roxas II flash the Laban sign after filing their certificates of candidacy.

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SEEKING DIVINE INTERCESSION

Current Affairs

SEEKING DIVINE INTERCESSION

No Comments 27 April 2010

By Perla Aragon-Choudhury

The May 10 elections are crucial for a variety of reasons.

Edna Estifania Co, Ph. D., professor of public administration at the University of the Philippines and lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University, explains why: “After a long time, after more than the usual presidential terms of six years, we will be electing a national leader, a change people have been waiting for.”

Relative to the Asian region, the 2010 polls are also crucial, she adds. “If we don’t change in, say, eight years, we’ll be very much left behind Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia where there is movement and some headway despite problems. We should move. Otherwise super, super mapag-iiwananan tayo.”

Dr. Co heads the Philippine Democracy Audit Team of the International Democratic Assessment (IDEA) which brought together in 2005 scholars to assess democracy indicators in the country.

“It is crucial that leaders change, crucial for poverty and the way we run our institutions,” explains Co, author of the Free and Fair Elections and the Democratic Role of Political Parties, and of the IDEA Managing Corruption.

Choosing the leaders

Just what kind of leaders can, in the words of Co, unleash a new life for the Philippines?

Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz says their attributes depend on the situation in the country.

“The traits I recommend are one, integrity; two, competence and three, character,” says the now retired 75-year-old former bishop of Dagupan-Lingayen.

He elaborates: “Integrity, because there is a culture of graft and corruption from the national to the local level. After integrity, competence, because we vote for one who is an actor and rides a horse all the time but is a senator. We are still star-struck. Actors win because they are popular.

“Character, as shown by political will. I’ve been in the hearings on jueteng and am told by the witnesses that they fear for their safety. I for one would not trust the Witness Protection Program because it is run by those who know where the witnesses are hiding.”

Cruz asks: “And is there anyone who has my vote? Secret!”

Now that he is retired, the outspoken prelate says he is free to engage in socio-political work and to write.

“One tiny voice – and of course, nobody listens,” he chuckles as he chats with Planet Philippines.

Religion and politics

As has been the usual practice of politicians every election time, aspirants for various posts seek the support of every group, bloc or party. Among the most sought-after is the endorsement of religious sects, which are presumed to carry a sizable “command vote.”

History, however, shows that it is only the Iglesia Ni Cristo that is able to muster a solid vote for its preferred candidates. The other religious denominations have not been shown to deliver one single voting bloc in spite of the political posturing of their leaders. Just the same, many politicians continue to seek the blessings of religious leaders who claim they speak in His name, prompting Cruz to say that God must be having fun but is also probably confused.

“I am very happy I’m not God because if I were God, I would not know what to do,” Cruz said in a forum. “Here is the son of God endorsing this, and here is the leader endorsing this. I think God must be having fun.”

Among those being wooed are El Shaddai leader Bro. Mariano “Mike” Velarde; Davao-based Christian sect Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name Pastor Apollo Quiboloy; and the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).

Take two for JIL

For the second straight presidential election, JIL is fielding its head, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, for president in the May 10 polls. As for the other sects, so far it is only Velarde who has insinuated his presidential candidate. Without explicitly naming his choice, Velarde merely points to his favorite color, orange, which is the campaign color of Manny Villar. The INC and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ have yet to announce their endorsements.

Cruz adds: “The head of El Shaddai put up a big church,” he says of the sect’s leader, Mike Velarde. “And the big thing is, he has built an astrodome, an amphitheater, on his land. They hold events there, especially now that it’s rainy season. He has never built a church – a simbahan – and so he can say, `God told me I have served enough’, and he can just leave. Ang galing ng mamang ito – ganyan din ang gagawin ko, I have thought to myself.”

Separation of Church & State

Some sectors do not see the political endorsements of these sects in a favorable light. But Professor Co points out that the 1987 Constitution has no explicit provision on the separation of Church and State.

“But because of the influence of the Catholic Church, its leaders can say something and it can gain importance as when Cardinal Sin called for support for the group who broke away from Marcos. Also, they issue statements when they see something that is not moral and is against Church dogma.”

She believes that in People Power II, the Church did not have a role as big in People Power I.

“But its leaders still spoke out as part of their right to express their opinion, just like any other group in national society. And this is why it is difficult to totally separate the church from the state. The situation is fluid.”

This partly explains why some sects endorse candidates who may adhere to the religious principles of these groups or who may grant these sects political favors in exchange for their endorsement.

Cruz, however, frowns on it. “What is wrong is wrong and what is right is right,” he says. This is not `Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ and this is not transactional politics.”

CBCP position

In an ironic twist, six Catholic bishops have come out in support of presidential hopeful John Carlos de los Reyes of Ang Kapatiran party. The endorsement came as a total surprise in the face of the long-standing position Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) against non-involvement in partisan politics.

Reacting to the bishops’ endorsement, CBCP president, Bishop Nereo Ochdimar, issued a circular to his subordinates in the Diocese of Tandag (Surigao del Sur) to avoid engaging in partisan politics.

“The Church must refrain from partisan politics, avoiding especially the use of the pulpit for particular purposes, to avoid division among the flock they shepherd,” he said. “In case, a member or leader of such association decides otherwise, and be a candidate or openly campaign for a candidate or party, he or she has to resign temporarily.”

The Church has been ambivalent about its position on partisan politics. It will be recalled that the CBCP has threatened to campaign against candidates who endorse any form of family planning, forcing presidential candidates Benigno Aquino III and Gilbert Teodor to backtrack from their support to the Reproductive Health Bill pending in Congress.

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AQUINO OPENS UP 9-POINT LEAD OVER VILLAR

Politics

AQUINO OPENS UP 9-POINT LEAD OVER VILLAR

No Comments 28 March 2010

Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III has opened up a nine-point lead over his nearest rival for the presidency, fellow legislator and Nacionalista Party bet Sen. Manuel “Manny” B. Villar, Jr., based on the results of the latest BusinessWorld-Social Weather Stations Pre-Election Survey.

Aquino picked up a point to score 37% and further benefited from a six-point loss for Villar, now at 28%, in the March 19-22 poll conducted just before campaigning for local posts began last March 26. The gap between the two frontrunners was just two points, within the error margins used, a month earlier.

Former President Joseph M. “Erap” Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, meanwhile, gained four points to 19%, narrowing his gap with Villar to nine points from 19 previously.

Administration candidate Gilberto “Gibo” C. Teodoro, Jr. of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD remained in single digit territory with his score staying at 6%.  FULL STORY

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2010 ELECTION: WHY CHOOSE THE LESSER EVIL?

Politics

2010 ELECTION: WHY CHOOSE THE LESSER EVIL?

2 Comments 24 January 2010

By Joe Rivera

This coming national election in the Philippines will not be an ordinary one. While a successor to incumbent president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be crowned, the election can also be a prelude to a possible shift to a parliamentary system of government if Arroyo wins her congressional seat in Pampanga and becomes the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. READ FULL STORY.

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LEADERSHIP CHANGES AND UNCERTAINTY IN 2010

Politics

LEADERSHIP CHANGES AND UNCERTAINTY IN 2010

No Comments 24 January 2010

By Isagani de Castro Jr.    

The Philippines will see changes in political leadership in 2010, with an opposition president and vice-president likely to take over by noon of June 30, 2010. However, the political transition is paved with a lot of uncertainty brought about by an untested poll automation technology and most voters still unfamiliar with the process. READ FULL STORY.

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