PHNO EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE PAST WEEK
INQUIRER

OPINION:   COMPARING TYPHOONS 'YOLANDA' AND 'RUBY'

By Neal Cruz ---On Dec. 8, 1941. Japanese warplanes bombed Manila, Clark Air Base and Baguio, a day after bombing Pearl Harbor. Exactly on the bombing’s anniversary last Monday, Manila and southern Philippines was again raided, this time by a typhoon named “Ruby.” By the time you read this, Ruby would have already left and a little sense of normalcy would have returned to many areas not heavily devastated by it. The death toll at this writing ranges from the official government figure of only two (a baby and an old man, both of whom were reported to have died of hypothermia) to the Red Cross tally of 21. (The official death toll is now 11, and the Red Cross tally has risen to 27.—Ed.) Either way, this is a far cry from the more than 6,000 dead left by Typhoon “Yolanda,” with thousands more still missing. Also, thousands of Yolanda survivors are still living in tents and bunkhouses—which were damaged by Ruby—whereas many evacuees of Ruby have returned to their homes by Monday. Some store owners opened for business as soon as Ruby passed over their communities. What was the difference between Yolanda and Ruby?  READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO Editorial: Economic stuttering 

CARTOON: : I'LL START MOVING WHEN IT'S ELECTION TIME ---Government and private economists did not expect the Philippine economy to post its slowest pace of growth since 2011 in the third quarter of this year. Many had forecast an expansion of 6 to 6.5 percent. So when the official number came in at 5.3 percent, focus shifted on where the blame should fall. The Philippine Statistics Authority was quick to say that the services sector continued its downward trend that began in the first quarter while the industry sector’s growth slowed to 7.6 percent. Agriculture likewise suffered a 2.7-percent contraction in the third quarter,

ALSO Editorial: ‘Impurisima’  

DEC 15 ---It perhaps should not have come as a surprise that the instinctive reaction of Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to the preventive suspension order issued by the Ombudsman was to try to avoid heeding it. The country’s top policeman has built a reputation for seeing nothing wrong with questionable transactions that prove advantageous to him, but questioning the propriety of or ignoring government actions meant to call him to account. On Dec. 4, the Ombudsman ordered that Purisima and other police officials be placed under preventive suspension, as it investigates a possibly anomalous P100-million contract the PNP entered into with a courier service company. Purisima’s immediate response was to file a petition with the Court of Appeals for a temporary restraining order, and then a few days later to question the authority of his immediate superior, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, to serve the suspension order. His petition alleged that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales committed grave abuse of discretion because her order was “not supported by substantial evidence and is in violation of law and/or jurisprudence since there is no evidence of guilt whatsoever against petitioner.” A statement was also issued in his name calling Roxas’ serving of the suspension order “patently illegal.” Purisima enjoys the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, like any other citizen, but these initial attempts to avoid accountability are ridiculous. When understood in the context of his earlier effort to justify controversial transactions that ended up benefiting him, they are nothing less than hypocritical. READ FULL EDITORIAL...

ALSO by Juan L. Mercado : Ghosts from Christmases past

The grime-streaked beggar standing at the church exit refused to budge. The first of the traditional nine Misa de Gallo Masses before Christmas had just ended. A delay would mean I’d miss that overbooked flight to Bangkok. I was a “martial law refugee” and Thailand was our United Nations station for 17 years. Four of five kids were flying in, from US schools, for Christmas. Irritated, we tried to shove past the man. He didn’t budge. Shifting his battered tin cup, the beggar persisted: “Don’t you remember me?”  Seeing the blank look in my eyes, he murmured: “We were classmates in Cebu Normal elementary school. I’m Candido.”  Memory scraped away the wrinkles, the dirt, and the in-between years. Indeed, we had played the games of childhood. Together, we built model airplanes and sailed toy boats. Vacations, we’d swim in nearby town swimming pools. And today? Tiene cara de hambre. “You have the face of hunger,” the orphan boy tells the Man nailed to a cross in the monastery basement in the film classic “Marcelino, Pan y Vino.” The boy offers Him bread and wine scrounged from the monastery’s kitchen. Candido and I managed snatches of conversation, but airline schedules are unyielding. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO by Solita Monsod: Congratulations are in order

“Ruby” has come and gone, and in her wake she has left a country and its government in receipt of congratulations from the international community—or rather the international community that counts: the United Nations, its Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the UN Development Program. Helen Clark, head of the UNDP, commended the national government and subnational governments (local government units) on the “highly effective precautionary measures put in place to prepare for a typhoon of this magnitude,” adding that the “Government’s approach to preparing and responding to this disaster presents an important model of building resilience for the many other countries which are exposed to similar natural disasters and other calamities.” Margareta Wahlstrom, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s special representative on disaster risk reduction, had similar comments, talking about the “excellent job” done. On the domestic front, however, the praise seems very faint. The silence, in fact, is deafening. The critics, especially the members of the political opposition, certainly did not waste any time last year condemning the government for what they described as mismanagement and lack of preparation for “Yolanda.” Why can’t they be as fast to congratulate the country for a job well done? Is it that they cannot stand success? Or can’t recognize when a job is well done? Or maybe they just lack the grace to concede that the government can do a good job?  READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO by Remmon Barbaza: Christmas and the gift of solitude

DEC 15 ---Christmas can be a rather tricky thing. It can be the most exhausting and stressful time of the year, or it can be a moment of profoundest joy and deepest peace. While we hear songs that invite us to enter into that silent night, we also get easily harassed by all sorts of noises within and without. Marcel Pagnol was supposed to have said once: “In life, humans first learn how to walk and to talk. Later they learn how to sit still and shut their mouth.” But in a world characterized by a sea of electronic gadgets, social media, and an infinite array of Web content constantly streaming into our minds and consciousness, sitting still and shutting one’s mouth has become precisely one of the hardest things to do. But to lose this capacity for stillness is to lose our humanity. How might we be able to gain it back? We might be able to gain our bearings and protect our inner peace if we consider a unique gift of Christmas that is not often thought of, let alone experienced. It is the gift of solitude. For many of us, solitude is the last thing we associate with Christmas, what with all the parties, gatherings, and reunions that quickly fill our calendars. But if we pause for a moment and look at the story of Him whose birth we celebrate, and follow His story till His death on the Cross, we might be able to see that one of the most precious gifts He gave us is solitude. Although solitude is commonly understood as the state of being alone, and indeed presupposes being alone, it is not the same as simply being alone. The absence of company is not a guarantee of solitude, even as solitude necessitates being alone. Not only that, one somehow preserves this solitude even in the company of others. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO by  Neal H. Cruz: Erap to support Poe against Binay

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada was at the Tap Room of the Manila Hotel last Dec. 11 to listen to Margaux Salcedo sing. I was seated beside him and we talked politics. I said the survey ratings of his friend Vice President Jojo Binay are plunging while those of Sen. Grace Poe, another friend, are shooting up. If the trend continues, the presidential race in 2016 may be a tossup between Binay and Poe, both of whom are his friends. “When that happens, whom will Erap and his Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino support?” I asked Erap pointblank. Without hesitation, he answered: “I will have a difficult time, but I will choose Grace.”  “Why?” I asked. “Grace is the daughter of my best friend FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.) who is more than a brother to me,” Erap answered. “We have gone through a lot together. Together, we fought the Big Four criminal syndicate that was victimizing movie actors and actresses. When I ran for president, he helped me. He stopped making movies so he would have time to campaign for me. “When it was his turn to run for president, I was not able to campaign for him because I was already imprisoned, although it was I who convinced him to run. Now that his daughter Grace may run for president, I have to help her. It’s the only way I can repay FPJ. My conscience will bother me if I don’t support her. Baka pag multuhan nya pa ako (He may even haunt me).”  “What about Binay?”  “Eh, bahala na siya.” It was Erap who helped Binay win as vice president in the 2010 elections. Binay was his running mate in the PMP ticket. Erap finished second to P-Noy but Binay beat Mar Roxas. Without Erap’s support, Binay could not have won. READ ENTIRE COLUMN...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

Comparing Typhoons ‘Yolanda’ and ‘Ruby’  Neal H. Cruz @inquirerdotnet -


Neal H. Cruz

MANILA, DECEMBER 15, 2014 INQUIRER) On Dec. 8, 1941. Japanese warplanes bombed Manila, Clark Air Base and Baguio, a day after bombing Pearl Harbor.

Exactly on the bombing’s anniversary last Monday, Manila and southern Philippines was again raided, this time by a typhoon named “Ruby.”

By the time you read this, Ruby would have already left and a little sense of normalcy would have returned to many areas not heavily devastated by it. The death toll at this writing ranges from the official government figure of only two (a baby and an old man, both of whom were reported to have died of hypothermia) to the Red Cross tally of 21. (The official death toll is now 11, and the Red Cross tally has risen to 27.—Ed.) Either way, this is a far cry from the more than 6,000 dead left by Typhoon “Yolanda,” with thousands more still missing.

Also, thousands of Yolanda survivors are still living in tents and bunkhouses—which were damaged by Ruby—whereas many evacuees of Ruby have returned to their homes by Monday. Some store owners opened for business as soon as Ruby passed over their communities.

What was the difference between Yolanda and Ruby? Aside from the fact that Ruby weakened considerably after it made its first landfall in Samar and blew through other islands in the Visayas, it was the people’s preparedness. After learning a lesson from Yolanda, the people fled to evacuation centers as Ruby approached with winds first reported to be stronger than those of Yolanda. National and local government officials forcibly evacuated those who did not want to leave their homes and prepared everything from rescue boats to food packs to medicines and doctors to evacuation centers. Classes in all levels were suspended and government and private offices were closed.

With Yolanda, the people who had experienced many other storms before were not worried, even lackadaisical. They had withstood many other past storms, they would withstand this one, too. Many of them didn’t.

But after Yolanda killed thousands of people and devastated homes and infrastructure, the people learned their lesson: Don’t underestimate the fury of nature. They hunkered down early, long before Ruby struck, expecting the worst. In fact, it was an anticlimax when Ruby weakened considerably.

Another difference is that as soon as Ruby passed, the people roused themselves and went back to the business of living. One year after Yolanda, however, many of its survivors are still living in tents and bunkhouses and receiving food packs from relief agencies.

In Metro Manila, which was supposed to be hit by Ruby, people began asking in the late evening of Monday when it was supposed to strike: Where is the storm?

There were no strong winds, and the rains were very light. The storm was right there but it skirted the metropolis.

Paradoxically, the threat of Ruby brought a modicum of comfort to Mega Manila. Traffic was very light as motorists stayed home, fearing the floods that usually inundate the cities during heavy rains. It was a joy to drive through the streets of the cities. The huge billboards that pollute the skyline have been taken down; only the bare steel frames were left standing like skeletons.

On the negative side, the government-operated elevated rail lines stopped operations very early, just when people needed transportation to get home. The government’s Philippine National Railways also stopped operations to Laguna. They were all afraid of Ruby. But in times of emergency, it is supposed to be the government that provides services to the people, come hell or high water.

At this writing there are still no reports on the damage to homes, infrastructure and agriculture, but it’s expected to be lighter than that wrought by Yolanda. That is good and bad news. When the next typhoon arrives, the people may be overconfident again, thinking that it may be another Ruby, so that when another Yolanda strikes, the death toll and the damage to property would again be as devastating.

In the wake of the typhoon, some people were asking: Where was Vice President Jojo Binay? Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was seen everywhere directing preparations and aid before and after the storm, even falling off a motorcycle. But VP Binay was nowhere in sight. Was he afraid of Ruby? Why not? If he is afraid of Sen. Antonio Trlllanes, ex-Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, and the Senate blue ribbon committee, why not Typhoon Ruby, too?

* * *

Mothers usually sing to their babies to comfort them and lull them to sleep. Tomorrow evening, however, it will be the daughter who will sing songs for her mother.

Singer Margaux Salcedo will sing for her mother, Carmelita, and her fans at the Tap Room of the Manila Hotel starting at 9 p.m. The mother marks her birth anniversary on Dec. 12, six days after Margaux’s own on Dec. 6.

Margaux will be accompanied by a four-man combo including Romy Posadas at the piano, Colby dela Calsada on bass, and Jun Viray on drums.


Editorial: Economic stuttering Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:49 AM | Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Government and private economists did not expect the Philippine economy to post its slowest pace of growth since 2011 in the third quarter of this year. Many had forecast an expansion of 6 to 6.5 percent. So when the official number came in at 5.3 percent, focus shifted on where the blame should fall.

The Philippine Statistics Authority was quick to say that the services sector continued its downward trend that began in the first quarter while the industry sector’s growth slowed to 7.6 percent. Agriculture likewise suffered a 2.7-percent contraction in the third quarter,

Reversing the gains of the previous quarters.

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the congestion at the ports until September affected the growth of exports and imports. He said there was sufficient evidence for this: Exports growth slowed to 9.8 percent in the third quarter from double-digit increases in the previous quarter and in the same period last year. Imports grew 5.8 percent during the June-to-September period, better than the 3.1 percent in the second quarter but way below the 17.3 percent posted a year ago. But while port congestion may have affected the flow of goods, isn’t external trade determined in large part by demand from overseas? Economic conditions in our major trading partners have remained uncertain; thus, imports from the Philippines and other countries have remained weak.

There were other “reasons” cited by economic officials for the growth slowdown. Balisacan pointed out that many agencies had been more careful in their disbursements under the more watchful eye of the Commission on Audit. Also, he said, the Supreme Court decision on the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program had “chilling effects” on how government agencies spent their funds. The DAP, a stimulus program launched in 2011 to pump-prime the slowing economy, was declared unconstitutional by the high court. But this seemed an unlikely reason for the growth slowdown because the DAP involved only savings of government agencies.

The main problem is that the government was too slow in spending what has already been budgeted for this year. Spending by government agencies dropped by 2.6 percent year-on-year during the third quarter from a flat growth in the second quarter. In the nine months to September, the Aquino administration’s budget stood at a deficit of just P31.1 billion, or way below the ceiling of P266.25 billion for the entire year—indicating a very sharp slowdown in spending. And this continued at the start of the fourth quarter when growth in revenue collection in October again outpaced government spending, narrowing the deficit for the month to just P2.5 billion, or 71.4 percent below the program for the month. Total government spending during the January-to-October period was lower by P303 billion than the P1.9 trillion programmed for the 10-month period. The lower deficit at the beginning of the fourth quarter brought the 10-month shortfall to P33.6 billion, way below the P244 billion programmed from January to October.

Many expected the reconstruction of the Visayas areas devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in November 2013 to help lift economic growth this year. But not much was done on this front as well. Economists and analysts also expected the public-private partnership (PPP), the flagship infrastructure program of the Aquino administration, to also help lift economic growth. Again, not much was accomplished in that area.

We hope the delays in the PPP projects are not intentional. Pushing many of the infrastructure projects to 2015 may trigger the suspicion that those projects will be awarded in time for the campaign period for the 2016 presidential election, to in effect show that the Aquino administration is undertaking the much-needed airports, roads and other infrastructure projects to boost the economy—and the chances of its anointed candidate.

Government economists and officials can make all the excuses they want, but the fact remains that the administration is not spending as much as it should. With the slower-than-expected economic growth this year, we can only hope that the administration will seriously consider fast-tracking programs and projects that will truly boost development—the kind of development that will allow not only the rich but also the middle class and the poor to enjoy the fruits of economic growth.


Editorial:  ‘Impurisima’ Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:23 AM | Monday, December 15th, 2014

It perhaps should not have come as a surprise that the instinctive reaction of Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to the preventive suspension order issued by the Ombudsman was to try to avoid heeding it. The country’s top policeman has built a reputation for seeing nothing wrong with questionable transactions that prove advantageous to him, but questioning the propriety of or ignoring government actions meant to call him to account.

On Dec. 4, the Ombudsman ordered that Purisima and other police officials be placed under preventive suspension, as it investigates a possibly anomalous P100-million contract the PNP entered into with a courier service company. Purisima’s immediate response was to file a petition with the Court of Appeals for a temporary restraining order, and then a few days later to question the authority of his immediate superior, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, to serve the suspension order.

His petition alleged that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales committed grave abuse of discretion because her order was “not supported by substantial evidence and is in violation of law and/or jurisprudence since there is no evidence of guilt whatsoever against petitioner.” A statement was also issued in his name calling Roxas’ serving of the suspension order “patently illegal.”

Purisima enjoys the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, like any other citizen, but these initial attempts to avoid accountability are ridiculous. When understood in the context of his earlier effort to justify controversial transactions that ended up benefiting him, they are nothing less than hypocritical.

When he finally showed up before the Senate public order committee last September after failing to honor at least two previous invitations, he strained reason and the senators’ patience with his show of belabored innocence. About his controversial purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser worth P4.5 million from a San Fernando, Pampanga car dealer for only P1.5 million, he told the committee that he got the discount because the dealer gave it to him. An exasperated committee chair, Sen. Grace Poe, asked the question many viewers and listeners were asking: “I’m not saying it’s your fault that you were able to get it at a discounted price. But you should have taken a second look at that big a discount…. Ask yourself, why is this being given to me at a cheaper price?”

A P3-million discount would be seen by any police investigator as a potential bribery or at least a conflict of interest, but when it comes to enjoying personal advantage Purisima’s police instincts seem to be on mute.

At the same committee hearing, Purisima also defended the donation of a total of P11 million from some of his friends to help in the construction of the so-called White House, the PNP chief’s official residence. Sen. Sergio Osmeña III questioned Purisima’s apparent gullibility for accepting the donation as if there were no strings attached. “They’re not doing that out of the goodness of their hearts. As long as you’re in office, they know they can get something. Human nature being what it is and debt of gratitude being a strong cultural trait in our society, in our country, that’s what will happen.”

Again, any police investigator would have seen that donation as potentially problematic, but because it is Purisima enjoying the benefits, his own instincts have gone silent.

On the other hand, when Roxas implemented the preventive suspension order against him, Purisima had the temerity to quibble over legal language. His lawyer argued at a news conference that it should be the National Police Commission that should carry out the order, rather than the Department of Interior and Local Government. “We don’t recognize what the DILG served because legally speaking, it should be the Napolcom… Perhaps there was just a confusion because the DILG secretary is also the ex-officio chair of the Napolcom.”

There is no confusion, unless it is to Purisima’s advantage to claim it exists.

His initial attempts to avoid accountability prove Poe’s simple point yet again: Purisima has lost the moral authority to run the PNP.


Ghosts from Christmases past Juan L. Mercado @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:12 AM | Saturday, December 13th, 2014


Juan L. Mercado

The grime-streaked beggar standing at the church exit refused to budge. The first of the traditional nine Misa de Gallo Masses before Christmas had just ended.

A delay would mean I’d miss that overbooked flight to Bangkok. I was a “martial law refugee” and Thailand was our United Nations station for 17 years. Four of five kids were flying in, from US schools, for Christmas.

Irritated, we tried to shove past the man. He didn’t budge. Shifting his battered tin cup, the beggar persisted: “Don’t you remember me?”

Seeing the blank look in my eyes, he murmured: “We were classmates in Cebu Normal elementary school. I’m Candido.”

Memory scraped away the wrinkles, the dirt, and the in-between years. Indeed, we had played the games of childhood. Together, we built model airplanes and sailed toy boats.

Vacations, we’d swim in nearby town swimming pools.

And today?

Tiene cara de hambre. “You have the face of hunger,” the orphan boy tells the Man nailed to a cross in the monastery basement in the film classic “Marcelino, Pan y Vino.” The boy offers Him bread and wine scrounged from the monastery’s kitchen.

Candido and I managed snatches of conversation, but airline schedules are unyielding.

Later, as the immigration officer waved us on, we fretted: Couldn’t we have dropped into his tin cup more than what was hurriedly fished out of a shirt pocket?

We’re all invited to journey to Bethlehem. No one is excluded, not even those Ampatuan massacre murderers or vice presidents who dodge Senate investigations without blushing. That boggles the mind. But Christmas has always shattered the limits we clamp on it.

For some, like Imelda Marcos, the invitation comes, as the newspaper Guardian notes, while she “clicks a button for servants, in a Manila penthouse, with masterpieces by Picasso, priceless Buddha statues and gold, gold, gold.”

Others, like my classmate Candido, wearily limp to the “City of David” with empty tin cups. Billionaires here dine in “gated enclaves” while many skip meals in the next slum. “There was no room in the inn.”

Yet, “Christmas is the only time I know of when men and women seem, by one consent, to open their shut-up hearts freely,” Charles Dickens wrote in 1843. Like the recycled Ebenezer Scrooge, they see “people below them, not as another race of creatures bound on other journeys, but as fellow passengers to the grave.”

I’ve never seen my beggar-friend since. But he is part of Christmases past. As the years slip by, their wraith-faces reappear. A bittersweet chiaroscuro tone overlays the montage.

ROME: “That season comes wherein our Savior’s birth is celebrated/ The bird of dawning singeth all night long.” At the Divine Word fathers’ Verbiti headquarters, overseas Filipino workers sang carols. (These included, of course, “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit,” the Tagalog adaptation of the 1933 Visayan daygon, “Kasadya Ning Takna-a”). English carols have blotted out Spanish carols like “Nacio, Nacio Pastores.”

Star lanterns and a Nativity scene festooned the hall. But corrosive loneliness contorted the faces of OFWs separated from kith and kin, in this “hallowed and gracious time.”

Their tears underscored the diaspora’s (IDIASPORA ARE OFWs OR SCATTERED POPULATION) untabulated costs. Hidden behind those dollar padala are: pain, separation, alienation, trauma even. Tiene cara de hambre.

Christmas, Filipino SVD fathers told their expat flock, is Emmanuel—”God with us”—in the dark, loneliness and pain.

JAKARTA: Illness in the family is shattering, especially so for expatriates. We trudged to the Crib in Gereja Theresia (St. Therese’s Church), behind the giant mall Sarina. Half a world away, alone in a Los Angeles hospital, my younger brother—a diaspora statistic—lay dying.

Jesse called in January. “Life is fragile,” he mused. “We don’t know when we’ll see each other again. Let’s meet in Cebu.” So he flew in from LA, our sister came from Toronto, the wife and I arrived from Bangkok. We had a laughter-filled week with our then 86-year-old mother.

Our mother went in July. “Please. No heroic measures,” our sister-in-law told the cardiac team that rushed in. And by Christmas, Jesse was gone, too.

The Child of Bethlehem enables us to glimpse beyond the grave. “Death is not the extinguishing of life,” the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote. “It is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.”

BANGKOK: From our third-floor flat, we’d watch this Thai lady slip into the deserted courtyard of Holy Redeemer Church. Draped in the Advent dawn’s darkness, she’d pray before the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help until the Misa de Gallo, introduced by Filipino workers, started.

Her silhouette brought Isaiah’s lines to mind: “The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light. Kings shall [stream] to the brightness of thy rising.”

MUNTINLUPA: Clad in stained orange togs, the prisoner wouldn’t budge. A delay would mean I’d miss a dinner appointment. Seeing the blank look in my eyes, he murmured: “Don’t you remember me? We were playmates in Cebu. My name is Policarpio.”

There is, we’re told, a geography of the heart. Like the Magi, we travel its byways, not merely from place to place, but also from grace to grace. It is a search for what endures amid the transient. Without fail, we find it in those with cara de hambre.

“And they found the Child with Mary his mother,” the story goes. Venite adoremus.


Congratulations are in order Solita Collas-Monsod @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:20 AM | Saturday, December 13th, 2014


Solita Collas-Monsod

“Ruby” has come and gone, and in her wake she has left a country and its government in receipt of congratulations from the international community—or rather the international community that counts: the United Nations, its Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the UN Development Program.

Helen Clark, head of the UNDP, commended the national government and subnational governments (local government units) on the “highly effective precautionary measures put in place to prepare for a typhoon of this magnitude,” adding that the “Government’s approach to preparing and responding to this disaster presents an important model of building resilience for the many other countries which are exposed to similar natural disasters and other calamities.” Margareta Wahlstrom, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s special representative on disaster risk reduction, had similar comments, talking about the “excellent job” done.

On the domestic front, however, the praise seems very faint. The silence, in fact, is deafening. The critics, especially the members of the political opposition, certainly did not waste any time last year condemning the government for what they described as mismanagement and lack of preparation for “Yolanda.” Why can’t they be as fast to congratulate the country for a job well done? Is it that they cannot stand success? Or can’t recognize when a job is well done? Or maybe they just lack the grace to concede that the government can do a good job?

Take the relatively low number of deaths. After all, anywhere between 1 million and 2 million people were evacuated to safer quarters before the storm hit. So congratulations should have been in order. But no. Much was made of the difference in estimates of mortality from the Red Cross and the government. The implication was that the government’s estimates of fatalities were too low. Then, the low number of deaths and other damage were dismissed as being attributable to the fact that the storm had weakened considerably. Nothing said about government preemptive, preparatory action.

Take the evacuation centers. Goods (food) were prepositioned, local governments were on the job (some mayors even forced the evacuations, threatening those who were reluctant to comply with arrest), police or the armed forces were deployed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the evacuees. What was reported? That some evacuees were hungry or had not been given food.

Then there’s the Mar Roxas bike crash. I read where some were criticizing him for not wearing a helmet. Heavens. As well criticize some Titanic passengers for not being properly dressed at the time.

He was not planning to ride a motorcycle, for heaven’s sake. From what I read, the road to Borlongan, Samar, was almost impassable for cars, and he saw motorcycles for rent by the roadside, so he asked to rent one. Instead of being commended for his determination to get to Borlongan, or his fast reaction to alternatives (he grabbed the opportunity to ride the motorcycle), or even his disregard for the possible dangers to himself, he got panned.

I understand the photos of the incident went viral. I do not know what proportion of the viewers made nasty comments. But a statement attributed to Teddy Casino was: “Lesson for the day: Huwag mag motor pag may bagyo. At saka magsuot ng helmet.” This, from a former member of the House of Representatives?

Ah, well. If someone like Teddy, whom I respect, can say that, can I expect any more from the others?

Come to think of it, Vice President Jejomar Binay hasn’t said anything about the government’s handling of Ruby. He said he was a team player, didn’t he? That was, at least, his response to the invitation of P-Noy to leave his cabinet if all Binay could do was criticize rather than propose solutions. Shouldn’t the VP be the first to congratulate the administration for a job very well done? Or is he really as petty and small-minded as his critics say he is?

I would like to congratulate P-Noy and his team (the VP, as chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, is in it, but I doubt he is active) on the excellent job on Ruby. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which is composed of practically all Cabinet members, plus members of civil society, government financial corporations, etc., is chaired by the Secretary of National Defense and administered by the Office of Civil Defense (which is under him). It has four vice chairs: for Disaster Preparedness, the Secretary of Interior and Local Governments, Mar Roxas; for Disaster Response, Secretary of Social Welfare and Development, Dinky Soliman; for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, Secretary of Science and Technology, Mario Montejo (Pagasa is under him). And for Disaster Rehabilitation and Recovery, the Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority, Arsy Balisacan.

The first three vice chairs are to be congratulated. Mar Roxas and Dinky have been on the frontlines (that’s why Roxas had to go to Borlongan) since before the storm hit, and are still there, or have just come back. The Armed Forces, the PNP, were mobilized and were on the ground. The coordination seemed to be flawless. The fourth—Arsy Balisacan—now has to step up for rehabilitation and recovery.

But the local governments involved also did a great job. Somehow, this time, politics at the local government level was minimized. The local DRRM offices were well prepared.

The two morals of the story: The Filipino Can. And let us give credit where credit is due.


Christmas and the gift of solitude Remmon E. Barbaza @inquirerdotnet 12:07 AM | Monday, December 15th, 2014


 Remmon E. Barbaza

Christmas can be a rather tricky thing. It can be the most exhausting and stressful time of the year, or it can be a moment of profoundest joy and deepest peace. While we hear songs that invite us to enter into that silent night, we also get easily harassed by all sorts of noises within and without.

Marcel Pagnol was supposed to have said once: “In life, humans first learn how to walk and to talk. Later they learn how to sit still and shut their mouth.” But in a world characterized by a sea of electronic gadgets, social media, and an infinite array of Web content constantly streaming into our minds and consciousness, sitting still and shutting one’s mouth has become precisely one of the hardest things to do. But to lose this capacity for stillness is to lose our humanity. How might we be able to gain it back?

We might be able to gain our bearings and protect our inner peace if we consider a unique gift of Christmas that is not often thought of, let alone experienced. It is the gift of solitude.

For many of us, solitude is the last thing we associate with Christmas, what with all the parties, gatherings, and reunions that quickly fill our calendars. But if we pause for a moment and look at the story of Him whose birth we celebrate, and follow His story till His death on the Cross, we might be able to see that one of the most precious gifts He gave us is solitude.

Although solitude is commonly understood as the state of being alone, and indeed presupposes being alone, it is not the same as simply being alone. The absence of company is not a guarantee of solitude, even as solitude necessitates being alone. Not only that, one somehow preserves this solitude even in the company of others.

How then is solitude a gift of Christmas? Didn’t God come down and become like us, so that He could be with us? Doesn’t His name, Emmanuel, mean precisely that God is with us? How can He be with us and gift us with solitude?

If we consider the life of Christ, we will see that it is marked by solitude from beginning till the end. The circumstances of His birth were characterized by rejection and isolation. Initially, no one else was there when He was born in a stable, save for Mary and Joseph, and a few animals. Indeed the nativity was a scene of isolation. Although for sure Mary and Joseph did not wish to be in those circumstances—we know that they tried to look for a room in vain—when they found themselves in that situation they maintained their serenity, which is a mark of solitude. That is why the scene in the stable does not strike us as an abject situation, but rather a most holy, deeply joyous, and profoundly uplifting event.

When Jesus grew up, much of His life was spent in relative obscurity and isolation, and we call it the “hidden life.” Those 30 years must have given Him the opportunity to engage His own self in solitude. He must have relished solitude, which allowed Him to grow in self-awareness and inner strength.

Even in His public life, Jesus maintained His solitude. Every now and then He would find time for Himself. After a long day’s work in ministry, when often huge crowds would press against Him from every side, He would deliberately seek a way out and retreat into a place where He could be alone in prayer. And when He died on the Cross, we all know how isolated He felt, and experienced what was perhaps His greatest test of abandonment. It was terrible enough that most of His friends deserted Him. Worst of all, He felt forsaken by His very own Father.

But because Jesus had for years been trained, as it were, in the school of solitude, and was careful to preserve that state no matter what He did and wherever and with whomever He happened to be, He was able to maintain His inner peace despite the most painful and dreadful experiences of isolation and abandonment.

That same solitude also allowed Him to enjoy the company of friends, reclining with them at table to share bread and wine. This seems to tell us that we enjoy most the company of that person who is at home with himself. We have heard that loving others as we love ourselves means that first we must love ourselves, for we cannot love others unless we do love ourselves. This

also means that we can only be truly with others if we know how to be with ourselves, apart from others. It means that we seek and relish solitude, for in dwelling in solitude we grow in strength, attain inner balance, and gain the proper perspective in life.

The nativity is that wondrous moment of God’s giving of His own Self. From the depths of His solitude He came down to be with us, that each one of us might also receive and embrace the self that has been given to each one of us, the very self within which God Himself will be born.

As Christmas draws near, we are once again invited to enter deeper into the spirit of Advent, and we can only do so in the stillness of our hearts and minds. To be able to enter into that solitude—and dwell in it—is perhaps the single most important grace that we can ask to prepare ourselves for that event of God being born amidst us, and becoming like us.

Take it from Mary, who humbly treasured everything in the stillness of her heart. Take it from Joseph, who quietly accepted his rather undramatic and anonymous role in the story of our salvation. Take it from the shepherd, whose inner calm and peace allowed him to hear the beating of the heart of the babe born under a solitary star.

From them we learn that there is no path that leads to the manger except the way of solitude. And through them we see no greater gift of self that we can give others than the self that has been shaped by and draws its power from the stillness of solitude.

Remmon E. Barbaza, PhD, is acting dean of the School of Humanities, acting chair of the Department of English, and associate professor of philosophy at Ateneo de Manila University.


Erap to support Poe against Binay  Neal H. Cruz  @inquirerdotnet  Philippine Daily Inquirer  12:15 AM | Monday, December 15th, 2014


Neal H. Cruz

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada was at the Tap Room of the Manila Hotel last Dec. 11 to listen to Margaux Salcedo sing. I was seated beside him and we talked politics.

I said the survey ratings of his friend Vice President Jojo Binay are plunging while those of Sen. Grace Poe, another friend, are shooting up.

If the trend continues, the presidential race in 2016 may be a tossup between Binay and Poe, both of whom are his friends. “When that happens, whom will Erap and his Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino support?” I asked Erap pointblank.

Without hesitation, he answered: “I will have a difficult time, but I will choose Grace.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Grace is the daughter of my best friend FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.) who is more than a brother to me,” Erap answered. “We have gone through a lot together. Together, we fought the Big Four criminal syndicate that was victimizing movie actors and actresses. When I ran for president, he helped me. He stopped making movies so he would have time to campaign for me.

“When it was his turn to run for president, I was not able to campaign for him because I was already imprisoned, although it was I who convinced him to run. Now that his daughter Grace may run for president, I have to help her. It’s the only way I can repay FPJ. My conscience will bother me if I don’t support her. Baka pag multuhan nya pa ako (He may even haunt me).”

“What about Binay?”

“Eh, bahala na siya.” It was Erap who helped Binay win as vice president in the 2010 elections. Binay was his running mate in the PMP ticket. Erap finished second to P-Noy but Binay beat Mar Roxas. Without Erap’s support, Binay could not have won.

After the elections, Binay announced he would go after the presidency (and he has been campaigning since then, in violation of the Commission on Elections rule against premature campaigning). Erap, Binay and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile then formed the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

When Binay had a falling out with his political party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban, a member of the UNA coalition, he left it and said he was going to form another party that would be a member of UNA. Until now, it is not known what that party is or who its members are besides the Binay family.

“What about you?” I asked Erap. “You are right behind the leaders in the rankings. If there is a public clamor for you, will you consider running for president?”

“I am 76 years old. I may be too old,” Erap answered. “My idol is President Ronald Reagan. He was a grade B movie actor but he became president of the United States, the most powerful nation in the world. If a grade B movie actor like him can be president, why not a grade A actor like me, I asked myself. So I ran for president and won.”

Erap continued: “Reagan said, ‘I want to retire while I can still carry my luggage.’ Me, I want to retire while I can still make love.” Erap is known as a ladies’ man and has had several partners with whom he has children.

“Does that mean you are losing your ability to make love?” I joked.

“Hindi naman, but I am getting old.”

After being pardoned by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Erap ran for mayor of Manila and won. The mayor of Manila has always been a contender for the presidency of the Philippines. At present, Erap is facing a disqualification case filed by former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim in the Supreme Court. The issue is whether or not the pardon allowed him to run for political office.

The language of the pardon is confusing, hence the controversy. The “whereas” clause says Erap has said he is withdrawing from all political activities, but the dispositive portion gave back all his civil rights, including the right to vote and be voted upon, which means that he can run for public office. Legal experts say the dispositive portion is superior to all the “whereas” clauses. If correct, then Erap can be a candidate for any public office.

The Supreme Court is reported to be ready to issue its decision.

* * *

Erap can also have a career as a singer. He has the voice for it. He usually sings at the Tap Room gigs of Margaux Salcedo. Last Dec. 11, he sang “It’s Always You” which was repaid with a standing ovation.

Last Thursday, the Tap Room was overflowing, literally. There were so many fans who wanted to listen to Margaux. Extra tables and chairs had to be brought in, but fans still lined the bar and stood at the doorway to listen.

Celebrity singers usually drop in and Margaux invites them to sing. Last Thursday, jazz singer Sandra Lim Viray and Megan

Herrera sang several songs, besides Erap, to the delight of the crowd. Sandra is the wife of drummer Jun Viray (who is celebrating his birthday on Dec. 18). Megan is the widow of bassist Roger Herrera.

With Margaux singing regularly there, the Tap Room is attracting accomplished singers, music lovers and celebrities.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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