INQUIRER OPINION

EDITORIAL: GIFT OF FAITH 

The announcement by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle that Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the Philippines in January has thrilled countless Filipinos. With a papal visit deemed a special blessing, it is expected that survivors of “Yolanda,” who are still reeling from the loss not only of their loved ones but also of their homes and livelihood more than eight months after the supertyphoon rearranged the Visayan landscape, would find great comfort in Francis’ presence.
Manila holds a record in the number of people that thronged the Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II at Rizal Park in January 1995, his second visit to the Philippines (the first was in February 1981). “The Filipino people are never far from my mind and heart,” the Pope momentously said upon his arrival in the country to celebrate World Youth Day.

Some four million people attended the Mass that served as the event’s closing ceremony—estimated then to be the biggest crowd so far in the papacy of now St. John Paul. It was as if the Filipinos were truly a “papal people.”
If the popes are the royalty of the Catholic Church, Francis is a veritable rock star in robes, his image appearing on the cover of magazines like Time and Rolling Stone—as well as, the epitome of cool, on young people’s T-shirts. Breaking with some strong and long traditions, Francis has eschewed much of the pomp and pageantry attached to his exalted position starting from Day One, when he chose simple vestments to wear and spartan quarters to live in instead of the lavish papal apartments. When he named 19 new cardinals (including Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato) last January, Francis counseled them to remember the dignity of simplicity and selflessness in their new posts: “While you must do so with pleasure and joy, ensure that this sentiment is far from any expression of worldliness or from any form of celebration contrary to the evangelical spirit of austerity, sobriety and poverty.” * READ MORE...

ALSO: How long? 

Technically, it is of course hearsay. Benhur Luy did not personally witness Bong Revilla, or his bagman, Richard Cambe, receive his “rebates”—what a gloriously shady euphemism—from Janet Napoles. He only had Napoles’ word for it. But quite apart from why Napoles would lie about it—she was free as a bird then and Luy was her bookkeeper—there were other pieces of evidence. Among them the hard drive he submitted to the Sandiganbayan the other day to block Revilla’s bid for bail. On the whole, Revilla’s case is a leaking roof which he would be hard put to, well, panday. I leave the case to the lawyers and the Sandiganbayan. I mention it only to highlight what’s happened after the State of the Nation Address. Which is that after P-Noy’s judicious avoidance of a confrontation on the Disbursement Acceleration Program, indeed his virtual nonmention of it at all, and insistence instead on going back to basics, he has swung things around to what they were before he got waylaid by the distraction. Chief of them is bringing back public attention, or discourse, on the senators who have been jailed for their part in Napoles’ racket. That was where we left off early last month.

I don’t know how well or deeply we’ve really appreciated the impact of that event. The criticisms that have been hurled against the P-Noy administration notwithstanding, principally that it practices selective justice or double standards, the indictment and jailing of the three senators are near-universally held by the public to be just and welcome. In any case, the criticisms against the administration have to do only with legal infractions, real or imagined, not with corruption. The beef against the three has to do with corruption, and most Filipinos at least do not doubt its reality. Its impact has already been felt in terms of public officials, notably members of Congress, taking care to clean up their act, or clean up their past, whichever is the more urgent, particularly in light of the list of potential “prosecutables” growing longer.

Lito Lapid is but the latest casualty of the Commission on Audit’s dogged effort to ferret out the sins of the past, having been charged by the Ombudsman with diverting P5 million of his “fertilizer fund” in 2004 to the presidential campaign of his kababayan, Gloria Arroyo. The picture of him that appeared in our pages along with his protestations of innocence says it all. That is the face of worry. That is the face of fear. That is the face of the damned. The jailing of the three senators has given impetus to government’s anticorruption drive and has produced a chilling effect on public officials, notably the lawmakers who had until late last year flown under the radar with their then perfectly legal pork barrel in the form of Priority Development Assistance Fund, making them a little more scrupulous about their use of taxpayer money. It hasn’t removed the corruption, Customs remains hugely prone to it, the sums involved being huge, but it has made them hugely careful. Being hugely careful does tend to reduce corruption. At least it tends to discourage a regard for taxpayer money as fair game, or as the people’s tribute or balato to government officials they can do with it as they pretty much please. Which was the case before the three senators were dragged before the Ombudsman. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Coup d’etat 

The phrase “coup d’etat” is of French origin and means “a blow against the State.” It consists of sudden and decisive strokes, usually unconstitutional, and at times accompanied by violence by which the existing structure of government is drastically altered. The Swiss-German word “putsch” denotes the same politico-military actions. In Spain and a number of Latin American countries, one comes across the term “golpe de estado.” The term also basically describes similar activities. Here in the Philippines, depending on the circumstances that surround significant issues of the day, we tend to attach sinister motives to otherwise simple developments taking place within the military establishment. And because of prior experiences, we think along lines that indicate trouble. Last week, news reports on supposed troop movements within the city fueled rumors of possible destabilization moves by certain elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Retired generals belonging to the previous administration allegedly were taking the lead in recruitment efforts among active service personnel presumably to institute action against the government.

The AFP Public Affairs chief, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, was quick to clarify that while there were indeed troop movements, these were “a logistics run” consisting of military supplies being transferred from the Port of Manila to Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. This did not stop the rumor mill from spouting various stories to catch the attention of the citizenry.
There are a few contributory factors that may have given rise to what some sources describe as “destabilization moves” against the administration. First and foremost is the current debate between the executive and judicial branches of government on the constitutionality of certain actions and practices under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). This has given rise to three impeachment complaints against the chief executive. On a number of occasions, he has apparently stood firm on his position in the face of a unanimous interpretation to the contrary by the Supreme Court.

It is noteworthy to add that in his recent State of the Nation Address, the President avoided any mention of his differences with the high court. His lower ratings in survey reports on performance and trust levels, while still on the high side, indicate that perhaps our people would prefer to see less confrontation and more cooperation between branches of government if we are to make economic growth more inclusive for the greater number of our people.
Second, it is true that from time to time retired officers gather for any number of reasons to discuss the problems facing the nation and, in particular, the Armed Forces. There are quite a number of organizations or groups of these officers who have little in common except a desire to introduce measures that would result in greater strength and professionalism in the Armed Forces. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Binay gains from Aquino’s SC attack 

The latest public opinion surveys on performance and trust ratings of top Philippine officials reveal that more Filipinos approved of the performance of Vice President Jejomar Binay over President Aquino, although both their ratings tumbled. Most galling to the President was the finding that respondents of Pulse Asia’s June 24-July 2 survey gave Binay an 81-percent approval rating while Mr. Aquino trailed a distant second with 56 percent. However, both leaders posted a decrease in their approval ratings, with Mr. Aquino’s dropping to 56 percent from 70 percent in March and Binay’s to 81 percent from 87 percent. The tail end of the conduct of the survey covered July 1 when the Supreme Court issued a ruling that the Disbursement Acceleration Program—which came under severe criticism as the President’s “pork barrel”—was unconstitutional. The survey came in the midst of the filing of plunder and graft charges by the Office of the Ombudsman against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, and alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and several other government officials in the Sandiganbayan in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

While the cases were filed as part of the President’s anticorruption campaign, he did not escape the public opinion backlash unleashed by the Supreme Court ruling, against which he railed in a heated public attack on the high tribunal.
Backlash --The controversy raised by Mr. Aquino’s assault proved to be his undoing in terms of his approval and trust ratings, which plunged as a result of his intemperance. On the other hand, Binay benefited from the windfall. It is ironical that he became a beneficiary. He kept a low profile in performing his duties. He was not a passionate disciple of Mr. Aquino’s “daang matuwid” (straight path) crusade and one gets a sneaky feeling that Binay may have been embarrassed to identify himself with the President’s “yellow army” and reformist standard-bearers. Indeed, the President himself apparently did not consider Binay one of his knights in shining armor charging to slay the monsters of corruption embedded in past administrations. Top aspirant --* READ MORE...

ALSO: Judging PNoy, judging ourselves 

The President has given his State of the Nation Address (Sona). Most Filipinos listened and tried to absorb his message as best they could. To the extent of their own understanding, influenced by their own needs and aspirations, they will make their own conclusions about their President, whether he remains trustworthy, whether he serves effectively or not in the pursuit of the common good. Unfortunately, the Constitution had never been that understood by the average or the poor Filipino who comprise the vast majority of our fledgling nation. It will be the personification of the Presidency, the personification of Government that they will relate to. Some listened to look for only what they could criticize, or to check what he did not say, again, so they could criticize. That was the value of the Sona to them, an event and a report that they could put down as part of either a bigger and hidden agenda, or as an expression of the hate they have developed for PNoy.

Unfortunately, again, it is not the Constitution that is their basis for liking or disliking a President, or other political personalities. It is the prejudice that colors their views, emotions and actions, or agenda that cannot be admitted in public because it is either embarrassingly ugly, has its own utter disregard for the Constitution or the laws of the land that they claim to be their reason to protest. Others listened to get affirmation of their trust and support for him, and they did, in ways very personal and powerful. That is the way of greatly destined personalities, and history gives us one example after another. In Pnoy’s case, the examples are very close to home, his own parents, Ninoy and Cory. For a few chosen people of history, the Constitution is not their North Star; rather, it is their destiny – IF they accept and live up to it. Presidents of any country, of any people, are personalities of great destiny. Some become great beacons of light and raise societal morals and ethics. Others fail miserably and become dark examples of greed and abuse of power. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Requiem for the symbol  

Five years ago, there was an impassioned outburst of national emotions. Cory Aquino had just died on Aug. 1. Requiem Masses were held throughout the country. Flags were flown at half-staff. Erstwhile foes praised her as the “mother of the nation,” a “national treasure.” Leaders abroad paid tribute to her. Then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev extolled her as the name “associated with the democratic transformation of Filipino society.” Then Timor Leste President Jose Ramos Horta saluted as her coffin was placed in her tomb. From Buckingham Palace came the message of “sincere condolences to the people of the Philippines,” signed Elizabeth R. But it was the voice of the ordinary people that resonated the most. A million Filipinos brought her to her grave. The imagery of tribute played on the emotions more so at the sight of the honor guards, one each from the four branches of the armed services, surrounding her bier on that now-familiar flatbed truck, standing at attention.

Eight hours later, they were still ramrod straight when the procession finally reached Manila Memorial Park. It was a moment of pomp the people desired for their national icon on that day of mourning. Facebook and Twitter accounts posted yellow ribbons in tribute. Some quarters in the Philippine Catholic world started calls to have her declared a saint. The momentum did not stop when days after her funeral, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas announced it will put Cory Aquino’s image on the new 500-peso banknotes. It was a tremendous font of national symbolism. Cory, in death, became a rallying point not just for reform but also for unity. Even Bongbong and Imee Marcos condoled. Nene Pimentel described the nation as “forever indebted to Cory for rallying the nation in restoring democracy.” The discourses were rife with rich symbolisms.

In 2009, her son Noynoy Aquino did not have any eye for the presidency. He was not even near anyone’s radar as a possible candidate. But by September, when the filing of candidacies drew near, the Cory symbol had not declined. And the popular imagination was pushing in intensity toward the 2010 presidential election. Noynoy read the people correctly. On Sept. 9, he announced his candidacy. It was unprecedented. The son had no outstanding track record to show as congressman or senator. But in moments of intense national emotions, the power of a symbol to construct public meanings cannot be underestimated. When the son was inaugurated as president at the Luneta, two catch phrases reverberated across the nation. “Kayo ang boss ko” and “Daang matuwid.” More than transference, the Cory symbol was being enfleshed. Not a few believed Noynoy would be a sincerely honest president. The popularity ratings were a continuum of the symbol Cory was. Here at last was an honest president giving hope that the unhappy environment the people had become accustomed to with his two immediate predecessors had finally reached a happy closure. And then came the Disbursement Acceleration Program. * CONTINUE READING...


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Editorial: Gift of faith

MANILA, AUGUST 4, 2014 (IQUIRER) The announcement by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle that Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the Philippines in January has thrilled countless Filipinos. With a papal visit deemed a special blessing, it is expected that survivors of “Yolanda,” who are still reeling from the loss not only of their loved ones but also of their homes and livelihood more than eight months after the supertyphoon rearranged the Visayan landscape, would find great comfort in Francis’ presence.

Manila holds a record in the number of people that thronged the Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II at Rizal Park in January 1995, his second visit to the Philippines (the first was in February 1981). “The Filipino people are never far from my mind and heart,” the Pope momentously said upon his arrival in the country to celebrate World Youth Day. Some four million people attended the Mass that served as the event’s closing ceremony—estimated then to be the biggest crowd so far in the papacy of now St. John Paul. It was as if the Filipinos were truly a “papal people.”

If the popes are the royalty of the Catholic Church, Francis is a veritable rock star in robes, his image appearing on the cover of magazines like Time and Rolling Stone—as well as, the epitome of cool, on young people’s T-shirts. Breaking with some strong and long traditions, Francis has eschewed much of the pomp and pageantry attached to his exalted position starting from Day One, when he chose simple vestments to wear and spartan quarters to live in instead of the lavish papal apartments.

When he named 19 new cardinals (including Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato) last January, Francis counseled them to remember the dignity of simplicity and selflessness in their new posts: “While you must do so with pleasure and joy, ensure that this sentiment is far from any expression of worldliness or from any form of celebration contrary to the evangelical spirit of austerity, sobriety and poverty.”

* At every opportunity, Francis has spread his message through words and actions; just the other week, he popped up at the cafeteria that services Vatican workers, queued and paid for his food, and sat down to eat with them.

The staunchly Catholic Philippines warmly welcomed the election as pope of the Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina in March 2013. But like some pockets of the Catholic world, the Philippine Catholic Church and laity are slow to accept the changes that the Pope has brought.

Only recently in Mandaue City, Cebu, a priest publicly shamed an unwed mother who had brought her child to be baptized. And yet Francis himself would baptize the seven-month-old child of unmarried parents in the Sistine Chapel. He would later tell an Italian newspaper: “Last year in Argentina I condemned the attitude of some priests who did not baptize the children of unmarried mothers. This is a sick mentality.”

And this Pope is special, one who seeks to include, not exclude; who preaches hope; who reaches out to those long relegated to the corners of society—women, homosexuals, lapsed Catholics, the impoverished, those imprisoned by sordid addictions… Even those of other religions.

Beyond the buzz and the excitement that come with the papal visit, Filipinos can seize the opportunity to heed Francis’ message of charity, tolerance and forgiveness. More than being merely pietistic, Filipinos can prepare for the Pope’s visit through acts that hew to his spirit of openness, that shun ostentation, that seek social justice.

Cardinal Tagle has issued a reminder: “We can prepare best for the coming of the Pope by having our own spiritual renewal. Through spiritual renewal, returning to the word of God, frequenting the Eucharist, returning to God through the sacrament of reconciliation and confession… These are some of the ways we can prepare spiritually for the papal visit.
“We must prepare the nation to receive the Holy Father by setting our minds and hearts in communion with our dear Pope Francis, the messenger of peace and love and the apostle of the poor.”

Indeed, we will be deserving of this papal visit, of this gift of faith, if we will be as Francis is: merciful, compassionate, tolerant, ever mindful of the rights of others, and insistent that “money must serve, not rule.”


How long? By Conrado de Quiros |Philippine Daily Inquirer12:10 am | Monday, August 4th, 2014


By Conrado de Quiros

Technically, it is of course hearsay. Benhur Luy did not personally witness Bong Revilla, or his bagman, Richard Cambe, receive his “rebates”—what a gloriously shady euphemism—from Janet Napoles. He only had Napoles’ word for it. But quite apart from why Napoles would lie about it—she was free as a bird then and Luy was her bookkeeper—there were other pieces of evidence. Among them the hard drive he submitted to the Sandiganbayan the other day to block Revilla’s bid for bail. On the whole, Revilla’s case is a leaking roof which he would be hard put to, well, panday.

I leave the case to the lawyers and the Sandiganbayan. I mention it only to highlight what’s happened after the State of the Nation Address. Which is that after P-Noy’s judicious avoidance of a confrontation on the Disbursement Acceleration Program, indeed his virtual nonmention of it at all, and insistence instead on going back to basics, he has swung things around to what they were before he got waylaid by the distraction. Chief of them is bringing back public attention, or discourse, on the senators who have been jailed for their part in Napoles’ racket. That was where we left off early last month.

I don’t know how well or deeply we’ve really appreciated the impact of that event. The criticisms that have been hurled against the P-Noy administration notwithstanding, principally that it practices selective justice or double standards, the indictment and jailing of the three senators are near-universally held by the public to be just and welcome. In any case, the criticisms against the administration have to do only with legal infractions, real or imagined, not with corruption. The beef against the three has to do with corruption, and most Filipinos at least do not doubt its reality.

Its impact has already been felt in terms of public officials, notably members of Congress, taking care to clean up their act, or clean up their past, whichever is the more urgent, particularly in light of the list of potential “prosecutables” growing longer. Lito Lapid is but the latest casualty of the Commission on Audit’s dogged effort to ferret out the sins of the past, having been charged by the Ombudsman with diverting P5 million of his “fertilizer fund” in 2004 to the presidential campaign of his kababayan, Gloria Arroyo.

The picture of him that appeared in our pages along with his protestations of innocence says it all. That is the face of worry. That is the face of fear. That is the face of the damned.

The jailing of the three senators has given impetus to government’s anticorruption drive and has produced a chilling effect on public officials, notably the lawmakers who had until late last year flown under the radar with their then perfectly legal pork barrel in the form of Priority Development Assistance Fund, making them a little more scrupulous about their use of taxpayer money. It hasn’t removed the corruption, Customs remains hugely prone to it, the sums involved being huge, but it has made them hugely careful. Being hugely careful does tend to reduce corruption.

At least it tends to discourage a regard for taxpayer money as fair game, or as the people’s tribute or balato to government officials they can do with it as they pretty much please. Which was the case before the three senators were dragged before the Ombudsman.

* Some chilling effects are better than others. Certainly this is one chilling effect this country would not want to thaw.
The question however is how deeply this change has taken root. Or more to the point, the question is how long this change will last. Some questions are more chilling than others.

Last week’s Sona drove home that question forcefully. Specifically in the form of what happens after P-Noy’s term ends. That is just two years away.

That is just two years away, and we’re still looking pretty much at a vacuum. P-Noy himself drew attention to it when he spoke of the need for the country to put in place someone who can pursue a commitment to tapat na panunungkulan, to dedicated public service, without naming who that someone is.

It couldn’t have helped that while omitting to mention Mar Roxas, he remembered to mention in his extemporaneous remarks at the end Jojo Binay in a rather flattering light, a comrade-in-arms from way back when he got a second lease on life. Thankfully—for Roxas—the cameras did not pan on to him to get a reaction shot when P-Noy said that.

The change that has taken place since P-Noy undertook his anticorruption drive, and especially since he showed his resolve in jailing the three senators—that bears the mark of the executive as much as the Ombudsman and the justice department—is real and palpable. But so is the possibility of it being reversed a couple of years from now. Even now, you hear talk of the indicted and soon-to-be indicted not having to worry too greatly about their fate they have only two years to wait and they can always have the charges against them dropped, or have themselves acquitted, by friendlier courts.
All this makes you wonder if the strength—and weakness—of the P-Noy administration doesn’t lie with P-Noy himself.

It is his personality, or reputation, or legacy that limns his administration in light, that allows his administration to pursue its anticorruption drive to these lengths. When he speaks of wanting to work a transformation of the country because he owes it to his parents, you can believe him. Unfortunately, you cannot say that same thing of the people around him.

The aura does not extend to them, it dims them by contrast. The stature does not raise them to great heights, it dwarfs them by contrast. Who will continue his work? Who will continue to prosecute the prosecutable? Who will continue to jail the jailable? The change is real, but for how long?

Coup d’etat By Ramon J. Farolan |Philippine Daily Inquirer12:11 am | Monday, August 4th, 2014


By Ramon J. Farolan

The phrase “coup d’etat” is of French origin and means “a blow against the State.” It consists of sudden and decisive strokes, usually unconstitutional, and at times accompanied by violence by which the existing structure of government is drastically altered.

The Swiss-German word “putsch” denotes the same politico-military actions. In Spain and a number of Latin American countries, one comes across the term “golpe de estado.” The term also basically describes similar activities.

Here in the Philippines, depending on the circumstances that surround significant issues of the day, we tend to attach sinister motives to otherwise simple developments taking place within the military establishment. And because of prior experiences, we think along lines that indicate trouble.

Last week, news reports on supposed troop movements within the city fueled rumors of possible destabilization moves by certain elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Retired generals belonging to the previous administration allegedly were taking the lead in recruitment efforts among active service personnel presumably to institute action against the government.

The AFP Public Affairs chief, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, was quick to clarify that while there were indeed troop movements, these were “a logistics run” consisting of military supplies being transferred from the Port of Manila to Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

This did not stop the rumor mill from spouting various stories to catch the attention of the citizenry.

There are a few contributory factors that may have given rise to what some sources describe as “destabilization moves” against the administration.

First and foremost is the current debate between the executive and judicial branches of government on the constitutionality of certain actions and practices under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). This has given rise to three impeachment complaints against the chief executive. On a number of occasions, he has apparently stood firm on his position in the face of a unanimous interpretation to the contrary by the Supreme Court.

It is noteworthy to add that in his recent State of the Nation Address, the President avoided any mention of his differences with the high court. His lower ratings in survey reports on performance and trust levels, while still on the high side, indicate that perhaps our people would prefer to see less confrontation and more cooperation between branches of government if we are to make economic growth more inclusive for the greater number of our people.

Second, it is true that from time to time retired officers gather for any number of reasons to discuss the problems facing the nation and, in particular, the Armed Forces. There are quite a number of organizations or groups of these officers who have little in common except a desire to introduce measures that would result in greater strength and professionalism in the Armed Forces.

* One such group is a board of retired senior officers of the Philippine Military Academy. This group has been active in proposing and recommending to higher authorities changes in the tour of duty of certain ranking officers. The proposed changes are meant to maximize their potential as well as their experiences instead of merely making key position movements as mere stepping stones to promotion prior to retirement.

As things now stand, we have basically two types of movement in the Armed Forces: one is the “revolving door” concept of leadership where the AFP chief of staff is replaced every year with increasing regularity; the other, the “escalator” policy of advancement with seniority as the general and dominant rule.

In addressing this concern, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin proposed that “we join together in asking our legislators for the possible re-enactment of a law to address the lingering problem of the ‘revolving door’ policy in the appointment of officers to key positions in the AFP.”

Perhaps, it is not too late to revive legislation that would provide fixed tours of duty for the AFP chief of staff as well as for the major service commanders. While the present practice certainly benefits more individuals who can be moved up the chain of command, it does not provide sufficient continuity for the implementation of organizational programs.

There is another group, an advocacy body that meets from time to time to discuss specific issues that concern the Armed Forces. And of course, PMA classes also get together and the issues of the day are usually the general subjects of conversation. But the farthest thing from the minds of these individuals is to go back to the past in trying to solve or to understand the problems of today.

A third and possibly more sensitive issue that confronts many retired officers is the backlog in the nonpayment of pension benefits that have not been attended to for a number of years. This in the light of so much government savings that, according to recent discussions on the DAP, were realigned to pay for other requirements such as the capitalization of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and other government obligations. Instances such as these tend to spotlight the low priority given military personnel when it comes to the use of government resources. The Department of Budget and Management should take this matter into account as it can become a serious source of discontent.

Generally, however, since President Aquino assumed office in 2010, there have been no serious reports of discontent, dissatisfaction or restlessness in the rank of the military organization. To a large extent he has carried out what his predecessors had failed to do in upgrading the capability of our Armed Forces, particularly in terms of military equipment and hardware.

* * *

Going back to the issue of coups, I am reminded of an article in an old issue of Asiaweek, a regional publication that once was widely circulated in the country. The issue had a specially commissioned essay by former President Fidel V. Ramos.

The essay starts with a question and an answer. “Why does the military ever intervene in politics? The Harvard scholar Samuel Huntington provides the classic reply: ‘What draws the soldier into the political arena is not their own strength but rather the weakness of the political system.’”

Ramos goes on to say that “the corruption, elitism and incompetence of the (previous) regime had so weakened the Philippine state that it became vulnerable to a Communist insurgency and Muslim secessionist movement.”

The threat of a communist takeover coupled with the assassination of a number of senior officers of the Indonesian army brought a relatively unknown General Suharto to the presidency of his nation. It was widespread corruption and incompetence of civil officials which led to a military coup by Gen. Park Chung Hee in South Korea.

Only recently, the Royal Thai armed forces intervened in government because the existing system could not deliver in terms of the basic needs and aspirations of the people.

Considering our historical background of military subordination to civilian rule, the ongoing peace initiatives of the government, as well as the perception of growing progress and political stability, the danger of military intervention will continue to recede as civil institutions are developed and further strengthened.

Binay gains from Aquino’s SC attack By Amando Doronila |Philippine Daily Inquirer3:50 am | Monday, August 4th, 2014


By Amando Doronila

The latest public opinion surveys on performance and trust ratings of top Philippine officials reveal that more Filipinos approved of the performance of Vice President Jejomar Binay over President Aquino, although both their ratings tumbled.
Most galling to the President was the finding that respondents of Pulse Asia’s June 24-July 2 survey gave Binay an 81-percent approval rating while Mr. Aquino trailed a distant second with 56 percent.

However, both leaders posted a decrease in their approval ratings, with Mr. Aquino’s dropping to 56 percent from 70 percent in March and Binay’s to 81 percent from 87 percent.

The tail end of the conduct of the survey covered July 1 when the Supreme Court issued a ruling that the Disbursement Acceleration Program—which came under severe criticism as the President’s “pork barrel”—was unconstitutional.

The survey came in the midst of the filing of plunder and graft charges by the Office of the Ombudsman against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, and alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and several other government officials in the Sandiganbayan in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

While the cases were filed as part of the President’s anticorruption campaign, he did not escape the public opinion backlash unleashed by the Supreme Court ruling, against which he railed in a heated public attack on the high tribunal.

Backlash

The controversy raised by Mr. Aquino’s assault proved to be his undoing in terms of his approval and trust ratings, which plunged as a result of his intemperance.

On the other hand, Binay benefited from the windfall. It is ironical that he became a beneficiary. He kept a low profile in performing his duties.

He was not a passionate disciple of Mr. Aquino’s “daang matuwid” (straight path) crusade and one gets a sneaky feeling that Binay may have been embarrassed to identify himself with the President’s “yellow army” and reformist standard-bearers.

Indeed, the President himself apparently did not consider Binay one of his knights in shining armor charging to slay the monsters of corruption embedded in past administrations.

Top aspirant

* The Pulse Asia survey also produced a result that might be offensive to the self-righteous Mr. Aquino. Binay emerged as the top choice among the possible presidential contenders in the 2016 national elections.

Binay got 41 percent of the votes among 1,200 respondents nationwide—an increase from 40 percent in March. He was followed by Sen. Grace Poe, with 12 percent and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, 9 percent.

Sen. Francis Escudero, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago were at 4th to 6th places, getting 7 percent.

Binay does not have a ghost of a chance to be endorsed by Mr. Aquino as his successor in 2016. For one thing, he does not need that endorsement. For another, there can’t be a more politically incompatible lineup in outlook than Mr. Aquino and Binay in terms of good governance.

Steepest drop

In the Pulse Asia survey, it was the President among the top five leaders who suffered the steepest drop in public approval and trust ratings since he took office in 2010.

While Binay obtained slightly lower approval ratings, he remained the most appreciated and trusted national leader in the country. He obtained an approval rating of 81 percent in June, down from 87 percent in March, and a trust rating of 79 percent, a decline from 86 percent.

Mr. Aquino is a distant second, with an approval rating of 56 percent (from 70 percent), and a trust rating of 53 percent (from 69 percent).

3 other leaders

Three other leaders suffered declines in their ratings, dragged down by their close association with the President. They were Senate President Franklin Drilon, who came in third with an approval rating of 52 percent—just 4 percentage points away from the President—followed by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno with 35 percent and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. with 33 percent.

Drilon’s 52-percent approval rating in June was 6 percentage points less than that in March, while his trust ratings fell by 9 percentage points, or to 46 percent from 55 percent.

Kiss of death

Sereno’s approval rating was 5 percentage points less than that in March, or 35 percent from 40 percent, while her trust rating was 32 percent, or 4 percentage points less than her score in March.

Not one went unscathed from the kiss of death from a declining and unraveling regime, which is struggling to make up in its last 700 days for its lost years so it could leave a legacy of economic accomplishments—enabling the poor to share the benefits of growth spurred by the government’s inclusive growth targets.

Kris’ emotional appeal

The tumbling popularity ratings of the administration have driven it to deploy members of the Aquino family to intervene to help prop up its crumbling popularity.

On the fifth death anniversary of former President Cory Aquino on Friday, Kris made an emotional appeal on TV, asking the public to support her beleaguered brother who, she said, was “doing a good job.”

She said: “All of us who love and support Noy (the President) should be there with him in moments [when] he is being criticized, but more importantly, in the moments [when] he is doing good. I tell Noy now that the great majority of people still believe; they know what a good job he is doing. But the problem is that his supporters and believers choose to remain silent.”

This is a cheap shot, from the Aquino dynasty. What is this—a call for another people power?


Judging PNoy, judging ourselves  By Jose Ma. Montelibano |1:23 am | Friday, August 1st, 2014


By Jose Ma. Montelibano

The President has given his State of the Nation Address (Sona).

Most Filipinos listened and tried to absorb his message as best they could. To the extent of their own understanding, influenced by their own needs and aspirations, they will make their own conclusions about their President, whether he remains trustworthy, whether he serves effectively or not in the pursuit of the common good. Unfortunately, the Constitution had never been that understood by the average or the poor Filipino who comprise the vast majority of our fledgling nation. It will be the personification of the Presidency, the personification of Government that they will relate to.

Some listened to look for only what they could criticize, or to check what he did not say, again, so they could criticize.

That was the value of the Sona to them, an event and a report that they could put down as part of either a bigger and hidden agenda, or as an expression of the hate they have developed for PNoy. Unfortunately, again, it is not the Constitution that is their basis for liking or disliking a President, or other political personalities.

It is the prejudice that colors their views, emotions and actions, or agenda that cannot be admitted in public because it is either embarrassingly ugly, has its own utter disregard for the Constitution or the laws of the land that they claim to be their reason to protest.

Others listened to get affirmation of their trust and support for him, and they did, in ways very personal and powerful. That is the way of greatly destined personalities, and history gives us one example after another.

In Pnoy’s case, the examples are very close to home, his own parents, Ninoy and Cory. For a few chosen people of history, the Constitution is not their North Star; rather, it is their destiny – IF they accept and live up to it. Presidents of any country, of any people, are personalities of great destiny. Some become great beacons of light and raise societal morals and ethics. Others fail miserably and become dark examples of greed and abuse of power.

* Beyond the President and his Sona, however, beyond his public accountability and the accountability of all other public officials in all Branches of government, is the accountability of the Filipino citizen, all citizens who are required to love their country and contribute what they can to the strengthening of nation, to the building of the collective dream for the generations to come.

Nation-building is a very personal obligation, and a collective one as well. The recognition, acceptance and pursuit of the common good are founded on the grand dream of building a nation befitting a proud, God-fearing, and talented people. What makes a nation strong, self-reliant, morally upright, culturally rich, abundant in its care and provision of opportunities for its nation is what defines the common good.

In that pursuit of the common good, then, where are we, where is each one of us? Each Filipino, each Filipino family, must prosper within the progress of a citizenry and a nation, the common good rather than at its expense. The common good is what a Constitution defends, not the other way around. And any Constitution that has become the central object of its own adulation is a Constitution worth throwing into the waste basket of false ideals.

The greater one’s resources, the greater one’s talents, the greater one’s influence, the greater one’s position in society or government, the greater the responsibility and accountability to the common good. This is not an intellectual obligation, this is not a moral obligation, this is a functional obligation – an obligation that may begin with love of country and fellow Filipino, an obligation that should be understood by the mind, embraced by our priority values, and an obligation that must live itself out and measured by its contribution to the common good.

Who, then, wields that greater responsibility and accountability to the common? Of course, Pnoy leads the pack. He accounts for what destiny has invited him for, and he accounts for the power and authority that the Filipino people have entrusted in him. If we listened to him well, he takes his accounting of the legacy his parents bequeath him with quite seriously as well. From that pedestal of hope that we, the citizenry through a democratic process, placed him on, we judge him. How we regard him, good, bad or otherwise, from our honest evaluation is what he cannot avoid or resent. It is part of his destiny, it is part of his responsibility.

But judging rightly is our responsibility. Judging wrongly is not only a legal wrong, it is a moral evil. The whole justice system of man and of the greatest faiths is dependent on right judgment, of correct discernment of right and wrong, of a sensitive conscience. Religions openly warn us against judging others, as if the wisest among humanity have seen how much more easily it is to misjudge than to judge rightly. Divine laws begin with a condemnation of bearing false witness against one’s neighbor, which begins with judging wrongly and giving expression to wrong judgment. Human laws point to slander and libel, among others.

Judging responsibly puts the whole process in the greater ambit of the common good, meaning we judge others in society in the context of what they do for, or against, the common good. Judging, then, is double-edged. It is not only what others do for or against the common good, it begins with what we are doing for or against that same common good. While our responsibility, within our own capability or influence, may be less than a President of a Republic, it remains firmly a responsibility to which we have a primal accountability.

At its core, this is what nation-building and the common good boil down to – not his, not theirs, but our personal contribution to it.

Requiem for the symbol By Antonio Montalvan II |Philippine Daily Inquirer12:06 am | Monday, July 28th, 2014

 
By Antonio Montalvan II

Five years ago, there was an impassioned outburst of national emotions. Cory Aquino had just died on Aug. 1. Requiem Masses were held throughout the country. Flags were flown at half-staff. Erstwhile foes praised her as the “mother of the nation,” a “national treasure.”

Leaders abroad paid tribute to her. Then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev extolled her as the name “associated with the democratic transformation of Filipino society.” Then Timor Leste President Jose Ramos Horta saluted as her coffin was placed in her tomb.

From Buckingham Palace came the message of “sincere condolences to the people of the Philippines,” signed Elizabeth R.

But it was the voice of the ordinary people that resonated the most. A million Filipinos brought her to her grave. The imagery of tribute played on the emotions more so at the sight of the honor guards, one each from the four branches of the armed services, surrounding her bier on that now-familiar flatbed truck, standing at attention. Eight hours later, they were still ramrod straight when the procession finally reached Manila Memorial Park. It was a moment of pomp the people desired for their national icon on that day of mourning.

Facebook and Twitter accounts posted yellow ribbons in tribute. Some quarters in the Philippine Catholic world started calls to have her declared a saint. The momentum did not stop when days after her funeral, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas announced it will put Cory Aquino’s image on the new 500-peso banknotes.

It was a tremendous font of national symbolism. Cory, in death, became a rallying point not just for reform but also for unity. Even Bongbong and Imee Marcos condoled. Nene Pimentel described the nation as “forever indebted to Cory for rallying the nation in restoring democracy.” The discourses were rife with rich symbolisms.

In 2009, her son Noynoy Aquino did not have any eye for the presidency. He was not even near anyone’s radar as a possible candidate. But by September, when the filing of candidacies drew near, the Cory symbol had not declined. And the popular imagination was pushing in intensity toward the 2010 presidential election. Noynoy read the people correctly. On Sept. 9, he announced his candidacy. It was unprecedented. The son had no outstanding track record to show as congressman or senator. But in moments of intense national emotions, the power of a symbol to construct public meanings cannot be underestimated.

When the son was inaugurated as president at the Luneta, two catch phrases reverberated across the nation. “Kayo ang boss ko” and “Daang matuwid.” More than transference, the Cory symbol was being enfleshed. Not a few believed Noynoy would be a sincerely honest president. The popularity ratings were a continuum of the symbol Cory was. Here at last was an honest president giving hope that the unhappy environment the people had become accustomed to with his two immediate predecessors had finally reached a happy closure.

And then came the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

* How in the world can Cory’s son take lightly the Constitution that she herself had instituted in rallying for democratic transformation? The disconnect was too hard to comprehend. And now that the bosses are talking, the servant refuses to hear any from them. To say it is a letdown for the people is an understatement. It is simply incredible, albeit a highly legal issue supposedly too obscure for the ordinary person in the street to comprehend, but comprehend it alright they do. Because it is about their money and it is about the man they installed in Malacañang, who spoke their language of reform.

For it is not difficult to understand that the people want a president who does not lie and does not cause scandals in office.

Symbolism is more than public perception. Symbols rally a people. As P-Noy was right to read the meaning of that symbol when he decided to run for president, he now fails to read its power just two years before he departs from office.

By being disingenuous with the symbolic power his icon mother transferred to him, P-Noy killed what had in fact propelled his presidency. By misreading the meaning of that symbol, he has squandered his place in history.

In the 14th Congress, Sen. Noynoy Aquino was the principal author of Senate Bill No. 3121, “The Budget Impoundment Control Act” which sought to limit the discretionary powers of the president to realign and defer releases of funds.

Borrowing from the words of that bill, it sought to prohibit the president from “usurping Congress’ power of the purse.” P-Noy lies through his teeth when he says he implemented the DAP in good faith.

He would have been the first Philippine president to disavow transactional politics.

He would have been the first Philippine president to punish wrongdoing in his Cabinet. He would have been the first Philippine president to rise from the idiocy of constantly lying to the people.

Instead, he has joined the gang of perceived thieves.

The symbol, a collective property of the Filipino people, is dead.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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