PHNO EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE PAST WEEK
FROM PHILSTAR

EDITORIAL: PREVENTING DEADLY WEAPONRY 

Guns are fired to celebrate the New Year. And every year, bullets fired into the air during the New Year revelry fall back to Earth, hitting anything and anyone. Every year there is at least one fatality in this country from celebratory gunfire. In the last New Year celebration it was seven-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella, who was watching the fireworks outside her home in Caloocan City when a bullet struck her. Doctors struggled to save her life for two days, but her family decided to let go after she suffered eight cardiac arrests. No one has been pinned down for firing the fatal shot. The same is true for other cases in previous New Year’s Eve revelries. Several of the fatalities were children, with some of them asleep in their homes when the bullet pierced their roof. READ FULL EDITORIAL...

ALSO: Phl among Top 10 worsened states
2014 saw the breakdown of the nation.  

By Jarius Bondoc ---Criminality reigned. Street murders and holdups rose, as cops only watched. Motorcycle gunmen assassinated even minor targets for a liter of liquor. Cabbies leveled up from shortchanging to robbing passengers at gunpoint. Bizarre new rules discouraged gun licensees from renewing, swelling the volume of loose firearms. Witnesses against the Ampatuan massacrers were liquidated. A peace pact with a Moro separatist faction ignited an old settled and a new fiercer one. Islamist terrorists competed with plain bandits in bombing buses and kidnapping tourists in Mindanao. Even cops engaged in ransom abductions in Luzon. The National Police chief was kept in office despite his televised admission of multimillion-peso wrongs, proving that friendship with one on high does wonders. Bared was how convicts at Muntinlupa City’s national prison live like they’re in nearby posh Ayala Alabang Village — in gated, high-fenced, air-conditioned villas with wide-screen TVs, sauna, jacuzzi, music rooms, generators, private guards and security cameras. Wardens claimed with a straight face that such luxuries, on top of an illegal drug lab and assault rifles, are necessary to reform the life-termers from heinous criminality. CONTINUE READING ...

ALSO OPINION: The ‘shining’ star  

By Sara Soliven De Guzman  --It is always a welcome treat to encounter Filipinos in different parts of the world. As my family and I spend the holidays in America to reunite with our loved ones, we have been able to meet new friends and see more Pinoys. During our Christmas Eve mass in a local church at Whittier, California, I saw a woman who was elegantly dressed. She had long wavey black hair, simple make-up and a red dress with a white cardigan sweater. I was trying to assess if she was Filipina because she could have been a Vietnamese or a Korean. But as I observed her more and listened to her accent I right away knew she was from the Philippines. I was looking at her all the time because she was the only one assisting the priest, the acolytes and the church servers. She seemed to know everything even guidng the priest in his every move. I felt so proud of being her kababayan because the thought I had once dismissed came back – indeed, many Filipinos abroad are our shining stars. In the darkness of our times, our Filipino brothers and sisters abroad shine like stars in the heavens, as they glitter in every corner of the world. This gives me hope that one day they can bring back their God-given talents to cleanse the spirit of our nation. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO OPINION: What was it like to be Jesus’ parents?

By Francis D. Alvarez, S.J --Was it easy for Joseph and Mary to raise Jesus? Surely, Jesus must have been a model son. In our Gospel today, Simeon, upon seeing the child Jesus said, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2: 30-32). This amazed Joseph and Mary, and they must have been proud of their son. What parents would not be if this was said about their child? But then Simeon continued, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” What parents would not be worried if they heard about the opposition their child was going to face? Many would rise and fall because of Joseph and Mary’s son, but what would Jesus’ own fate be? Would he be counted with the fallen or with those destined to rise? And if Joseph and Mary were not scared enough, Simeon must have scared them even more as he looked at them and said, “And you yourself a sword will pierce.”  READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO OPINION: Not a sign of hope, but a cry for change

By Federico D. Pascual Jr --FALSE FAÇADE: Could a poor housewife take to the sari-sari store the SWS survey claiming 93 percent of Filipinos face the coming new year with “hope rather than fear” and exchange that poll score for a bag of food for her children? If Yes, then let us have more of these feel-good surveys attempting to create a façade of confidence that the administration will finally improve the quality of life of the “bosses” of President Noynoy Aquino huddled in their hovels. If No, then let us put a stop to these surveys that paint a false picture of the state of mind of Filipinos who have been reduced to eternally hoping for the elusive better life. The 93-percent “hopeful” result is not a vote of confidence or a sign that the masses are happy. It is a clamor for the Aquino administration to do something naman for the poor, instead of making it more lucrative for politicians and the seven percent who have cornered the nation’s wealth. * * *  DASAL AT SUGAL: With the odds against them, the only cheap and ready recourse open to most Filipinos is to hope. Bahala na, may awa ang Dios. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: Still on the increase in the MRT/LRT fares 

By Bobit S. Avila  --We’re back from our Christmas break and let me start with an emailed letter in response to our article last Dec. 23 about the wrongly timed increase in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) fares by the Department of Transportation & Communications (DOTC). I questioned the timing of this fare increase during the Christmas season and most important of all, when the world price of oil has dropped to record lows, which means transportation fares ought to go down!  Worse, this fare increase comes at a time when the service especially at the MRT3 has deteriorated so badly, logic tells you that increasing their fares at this time is totally wrong. Who can forget that MRT train that crashed at the corner of EDSA and Taft Avenue? So here’s what my good friend (whose name I will withhold) has to say about those increases. “Bobit, Three years ago, I supported the upward adjustment in the fares for LRT/MRT/PNR - for many reasons. One of them: it was the right time. However, P-Noy refused to budge. This time around, I fully agree with you. Not only a case of wrong timing, it is very stupid. The service levels have gone down. MRT 3 used to field 72 railcars; now it could only muster 49 railcars. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO OPINION: No holiday in Metro Manila traffic 

By Marichu A. Villanueva  ---It’s a day after Christmas and most people are enjoying the longest holiday weekend, except us in media and others who remain at work 24-7. However, the Christmas holiday traffic gridlock remains horrendous – if not hellish – especially in areas going to malls and other family entertainment establishments. On the road going to work on Christmas day, we got stuck for almost an hour negotiating through traffic snarls starting from the intersection of Coastal Road and Roxas Boulevard. Northbound vehicles were bumper-to-bumper, with those on motorcycles weaving in and out between spaces – no matter how small. When we finally got through the traffic jam, it turned out the gridlock was limited to Baclaran area because of the Christmas mass. The entire road in front of Redemptorist Church was taken over by vendors since the Christmas season began. So pedestrians – and hawkers as well – spill over the outer lanes which are for vehicles only. It seemed all hell broke loose with the lifting of the number-coding of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) from Dec. 23 to Jan. 4. READ FULL COLUMN...


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EDITORIAL: Preventing deadly revelry

MANILA, DECEMBER 29, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  Guns are fired to celebrate the New Year. And every year, bullets fired into the air during the New Year revelry fall back to Earth, hitting anything and anyone.

Every year there is at least one fatality in this country from celebratory gunfire. In the last New Year celebration it was seven-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella, who was watching the fireworks outside her home in Caloocan City when a bullet struck her. Doctors struggled to save her life for two days, but her family decided to let go after she suffered eight cardiac arrests.

No one has been pinned down for firing the fatal shot. The same is true for other cases in previous New Year’s Eve revelries. Several of the fatalities were children, with some of them asleep in their homes when the bullet pierced their roof.

Between Dec. 21, 2012 and Jan. 2, 2013, police recorded 40 victims of stray bullets nationwide. The deadly revelry has prompted an annual ritual of taping the muzzles of police service firearms. The seals can be broken only for law enforcement causes.

But cops and soldiers, like many civilians in this country, own more than one firearm. Apart from those authorized to carry guns, there are thousands of armed outlaws who can greet the New Year with celebratory gunfire. Tracing the source of a stray bullet is made difficult by the proliferation of loose firearms nationwide.

Military officials said they would not seal their gun muzzles, but warned that soldiers caught firing their weapons indiscriminately to greet the New Year would face heavy penalties.

Those who fire their guns indiscriminately can be caught, but it will require citizen vigilance. This is no longer an impossible task, with the wide availability of cell phones and other recording devices. Only the arrest and punishment of perpetrators will put a stop to this deadly celebration.


Phl among Top 10 worsened states GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 24, 2014 - 12:00am 3 119 googleplus0 5


Jarius Bondoc

2014 saw the breakdown of the nation.

Criminality reigned. Street murders and holdups rose, as cops only watched. Motorcycle gunmen assassinated even minor targets for a liter of liquor. Cabbies leveled up from shortchanging to robbing passengers at gunpoint. Bizarre new rules discouraged gun licensees from renewing, swelling the volume of loose firearms. Witnesses against the Ampatuan massacrers were liquidated.

A peace pact with a Moro separatist faction ignited an old settled and a new fiercer one. Islamist terrorists competed with plain bandits in bombing buses and kidnapping tourists in Mindanao. Even cops engaged in ransom abductions in Luzon. The National Police chief was kept in office despite his televised admission of multimillion-peso wrongs, proving that friendship with one on high does wonders.

Bared was how convicts at Muntinlupa City’s national prison live like they’re in nearby posh Ayala Alabang Village — in gated, high-fenced, air-conditioned villas with wide-screen TVs, sauna, jacuzzi, music rooms, generators, private guards and security cameras. Wardens claimed with a straight face that such luxuries, on top of an illegal drug lab and assault rifles, are necessary to reform the life-termers from heinous criminality.

Government services failed. Local units couldn’t rescue or relieve constituents from disaster, while national authorities couldn’t rehabilitate razed communities. Four months after Super Typhoon Yolanda leveled a million homes, government was able to erect an astounding 1,000.

 Had not NGOs built emergency and permanent shelters and schoolhouses, 175 municipalities still would be helpless. Between disasters 27 million of 100 million Filipinos remained poor, 18 million of them hungry and sick. The Manila port clogged up not with increased trade but administrative ineptness. So-called economic managers deluded themselves in credit rating upgrades-for-sale.

 Politicos attempted term extensions, instead of preparing the people for ASEAN integration. Net result: more suffering. Corruption’s effect was palpable. National and local officials preoccupy themselves with all sorts of pork barrels and perks, leaving no money for social services. The Supreme Court’s illegalizing of the pork has not deterred them from devising new ones.

Speaking of which, corruption reigned too. At the agriculture department the boss and his National Food Authority henchmen again rigged the bidding for imported rice and overpriced the cargo handling. As in 2013 rice retail prices rose last June ironically right after the dry-season harvest, along with vegetables and pork.

The sacking of the NFA gofer begot no relief, as the upright substitute was framed with extortion. Dirty nickel and black sand mines of tax-evading Chinese aliens thrived under the protection of bribed environment officers. Even at the health bureau, doctors procured costly but inefficacious medicines. Indictments for pork barrel plunder halted with only three opposition senators. To this day the probers are mum about the administration counterparts whom the pork fixer exposed.

Even the probe of the Vice President’s “hidden wealth” stopped abruptly when his favorite contractor was linked to an “overpriced” administration project. Not to be left out of the kickback frenzy, Comelec crooks are again rigging the bidding for new election machines from Venezuelan Smartmatic.

The worst sleaze was in Metro Manila’s railways. Officers of the ruling Liberal Party were given a P685-million maintenance contract to do no service at all. When exposed, the crooks sued the investigative journalists. Breakdowns and accidents halted rail operations almost daily. When the riding public howled, the press secretary told them to go ride the bus. The transport chief could hardly say sorry to train passengers who broke limbs and cut faces from sudden brakes. Rubbing salt to injury, he also announced a fare increase starting New Year’s.

Space is not enough to list down all of 2014’s official misdeeds. Readers underwent worse. Makes us wonder if there’s still government at all, or if we’re already a failed state.

In fact, the 2014 Fragile (formerly Failed) States Index ranks the Philippines fifth among ten whose situations alarmingly worsened from 2013. Rated by Fund for Peace, the country slipped to 52nd, from 59th last year, among countries susceptible to disintegration (see http://library.fundforpeace.org/fsi14-overview).

Social indicators of fragile statehood are:

• Demographic pressures: large-scale suffering from natural disasters, disease, pollution, food scarcity;

• Refugees: communities displaced for long periods by natural disasters and violence, like the Zamboanga City siege;

• Group grievances due to discrimination, powerlessness, ethnic violence;

• Human flight and brain drain, as in the 11 million overseas Filipino workers and seven million emigrants.

Economic indicators:

• Uneven development, as seen in wide income gaps and exclusivist growth;

• Poverty and economic decline, due to government debt, unemployment, low purchasing power, inflation.

Political-military indicators:

• State legitimacy under question due to corruption, ineptitude, political dynasties, rigged elections;

• Declining services, especially of police as shown by criminality, education as shown in illiteracy, water and sanitation, unreliability of roads, infrastructures, and energy, poor health care, telecommunications;

• Human rights and rule of law: Human trafficking, curtailed civil liberties and press freedom, remnant political prisons, torture, summary executions;

• Security apparatus: Internal conflicts, small arms proliferation, riots and protests, fatalities from conflicts, military coups, rebel activities, militancy, bombings;

• Factionalized elites: Power struggles and flawed elections;

• External threats: Foreign military intervention, threat of invasion, international sanctions, and credit downgrades. (See http://ffp.statesindex.org/indicators)

* * *

The only thing holding the country together is the Filipino’s deep wellspring of hope. He pins hope on everything: televised investigations, elections, Christmas, New Year, Papal visit, and self-improvement like the newly launched Huwag Ka Magnakaw (Do Not Steal) Movement.

The last is particularly uniting: the seventh of Ten Commandments is common to Christians, Muslims, Judaists, Buddhists. “Huwag Ka Magnakaw” aims to regain the Filipino’s lost dignity, from false leaders who have universalized, institutionalized, constitutionalized corruption. The call applies to all, from tots who filch loose change from parents, students who cheat in exams, and traders who profiteer, to contractors who bribe officials and politicos who plunder.


The ‘shining’ star AS A MATTER OF FACT By Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 29, 2014 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


By Sara Soliven De Guzman

It is always a welcome treat to encounter Filipinos in different parts of the world. As my family and I spend the holidays in America to reunite with our loved ones, we have been able to meet new friends and see more Pinoys.

During our Christmas Eve mass in a local church at Whittier, California, I saw a woman who was elegantly dressed. She had long wavey black hair, simple make-up and a red dress with a white cardigan sweater.

I was trying to assess if she was Filipina because she could have been a Vietnamese or a Korean. But as I observed her more and listened to her accent I right away knew she was from the Philippines. I was looking at her all the time because she was the only one assisting the priest, the acolytes and the church servers. She seemed to know everything even guidng the priest in his every move. I felt so proud of being her kababayan because the thought I had once dismissed came back – indeed, many Filipinos abroad are our shining stars.

In the darkness of our times, our Filipino brothers and sisters abroad shine like stars in the heavens, as they glitter in every corner of the world. This gives me hope that one day they can bring back their God-given talents to cleanse the spirit of our nation.

In different countries, cities, towns and communities across the globe, Filipinos are leaders in their own right. In offices, hospitals, neighborhoods, churches, schools, etc., they become the center of attraction as everyone tends to gravitate toward them. Why? They have a big heart, they carry a smile, they have time to listen and work hard. The plus factor is that they don’t just ‘talk’, they also walk the talk. In other words, they get things done thoroughly and efficiently. Their co-workers especially their bosses can always rely on them.

Why do you think Filipino nurses or caregivers are very much in demand? It’s because they are efficient and are worth every penny on the job. A Filipino engineer, mechanic or skilled maintenance personnel is not only competent but is also innovative. A Filipino teacher is not only dynamic but also patient and kind.

A Filipino accountant, bookkeeper or bank clerk is not only qualified but is also precise and careful. The energy, productivity, character is what makes every Filipino valuable in his or her community abroad. And when it comes to celebrations, aside from the tons of food and drinks on the table, you have a performer, an entertainer whether it’s dancing or singing. But more than that is the heart that makes each Pinoy extra special.

I am so proud of our countrymen because leaving in a foreign land far away from home clearly has its ups and downs, its advantages and disadvantages but in the end of the day, they all come out as winners. And now that our country is falling apart, they find themselves in a safer place abroad. Hopefully, as they trickle in as they retire (maybe as planned) they can share their skills and talents to re-build our nation into a better, safer and happier place.

* * *

As we look forward to the coming of the New Year, let us try to resolve to get things right this time around. The Pope is coming. His visit will give us a ‘jumpstart’ to cleanse our spirit. He will bless this nation and inspire us to live as Christians in the true sense. He will show us the way, to be compassionate – not to think of self but of others.

The events in 2014 have come to past. They are signs that have tested the character of every Filipino in times of despair; have brought families closer; and have proven our faith to the hilt.

In January, Agaton, the first storm caused floodings, 68 deaths, displaced 160,000 people and damaged P313.78 million worth of infrastructure and agriculture in Mindanao. In February, members of Confederation of Truckers Association and Integrated North Harbor Truckers Association staged a mass protest against the implementation of the Truck Ban in the City of Manila. In March, P-Noy abolished six government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC) as part of the crackdown of dissolving non-performing, and unnecessary firms in the government.

In April, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, chaired by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, announced and recommended the filing of plunder and graft charges to Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla together with Janet Lim-Napoles over their involvement in the PDAF scam.

In May, former Senator Francis Pangilinan became the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization to oversee the operations of the Department of Agriculture: the National Food Authority, the National Irrigation Administration, the Philippine Coconut Authority, and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority; and the Ombudsman cleared former president and current Pampanga congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on her involvement on the P728 million fertilizer fund scam. In June, P-Noy signed Republic Act No. 10638, the 50-year expansion of the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways (PNR).

In July, the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared unconstitutional the “acts and practices” under the Aquino administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program. In August, a defective MRT train was out-of-control and crashed into a station’s steel fence at the MRT-Taft Station in Pasay City where more than 50 passengers and pedestrians were injured; Makati Mayor Junjun Binay faced plunder charges in the alleged overprice of a carpark building. In September, the handover of the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to the Senate and House leaders took place at Malacañang Palace; PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima faced graft and plunder over an allegedly undervalued property and renovation of a multi-million residence at the general police headquarters in Camp Crame.

In October, former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado accused the Binay family over the alleged 35-hectare estate “Hacienda” in Rosario, Batangas; US Marine Private First Class (PFC) Joseph Scott Pemberton was accused for killing 26-year-old Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude in Olongapo City. In November, Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona and Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag were investigated by National Bureau of Investigation for the alleged purchase of expensive vaccines in 2012; the Supreme Court of the Philippines ordered the relocation of the Pandacan oil depot.

This month (December), the Sandiganbayan First Division junked the bids of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr.; Typhoon Ruby hit the Philippines and left massive damaged across Eastern Visayas and Western Visayas and near-by provinces in Luzon; malpractice found at the national penitentiary’s maximum security compound inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City; Enrique Ona formally filed his resignation as the Secretary of the Department of Health due to the P833-million Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine 10 issue; and President Benigno S. Aquino III signed the P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015.

As the Year 2015 kicks in, we are once again given an opportunity to resolve all our issues of the past by bringing in a new spirit. We learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow. It is a hopeful season for humanity. Make that star shine in you!

Happy New Year to all!


What was it like to be Jesus’ parents? GOD’S WORD TODAY By Francis D. Alvarez, S.J. (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 28, 2014 - 12:00am 0 14 googleplus0 0

Was it easy for Joseph and Mary to raise Jesus? Surely, Jesus must have been a model son. In our Gospel today, Simeon, upon seeing the child Jesus said, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2: 30-32). This amazed Joseph and Mary, and they must have been proud of their son. What parents would not be if this was said about their child?

But then Simeon continued, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” What parents would not be worried if they heard about the opposition their child was going to face? Many would rise and fall because of Joseph and Mary’s son, but what would Jesus’ own fate be? Would he be counted with the fallen or with those destined to rise? And if Joseph and Mary were not scared enough, Simeon must have scared them even more as he looked at them and said, “And you yourself a sword will pierce.”

While Simeon couched his words in the future tense, Joseph and Mary must have already felt the sword piercing their hearts. Certainly, Joseph must have been burdened by the irregular — even scandalous — circumstances of Jesus’ birth. At least in the beginning, he must have felt betrayed by Mary. The angel who spoke to him in a dream might have cleared Mary of any wrongdoing, but I wonder if the angel’s words were at all comforting: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 2:20). Yes, his wife had not been unfaithful, but now he was to stand as the father of God’s Son. How does one raise the Messiah? The feeling of being betrayed must have been swallowed up by debilitating insecurity. I am not sure which was worse.

What must have been running in Joseph’s mind the first time he held the baby Jesus? A little-known Christmas song imagines Joseph asking, “Are you a prophet, are you a king? / Or just a small baby who makes angels sing? / I’m not a wise man; I need a light / To shine on my questions tonight… What will I teach you – a carpenter’s trade? / The tools and the wood and the way things are made? / What will you teach me? Will I understand / The mysteries you hold in your hand?”

Another Christmas carol turns to Mary and asks, “Mary, did you know that your little boy will someday walk on water? / Mary, did you know that your little boy will save our sons and daughters? / Did you know that your little boy has come to make you new / This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you? / Mary, did you know?” And of course, Mary did not know. She knew that her son was special, but how could she have ever guessed how special he was?

No, it was not easy to be Joseph or Mary. Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. I think this family was holy not only because it was made up of kind and giving individuals. I think the holiness of this family also comes from the hardship and difficulties they faced and the fact that they faced them together and with love for each other. If we accept this as true, then we also have to say the Feast of the Holy Family celebrates many other families in our world today. To be part of a “holy family” does not mean that your family has to be perfect. No family is. It does not mean that you have not had or that you will never face problems. In fact, it is in facing problems that the holiness of a family is proven and increased. The “holy family” also does not have to be physically together, but its members must try to be present to each other despite being far away from each other.

It was not easy to be Joseph or Mary. But then, it is never easy to be a father or a mother trying to raise a family. Even if parents have model children — and very few of us are model sons and daughters — it is still not easy.

I hope no one thinks that I am implying that I am a model son when I share this story: On the day of my ordination, I remember one of my titas telling my mother, “Hay, ‘naku! Ang swerte mo naman at nagpari ang anak mo! (You are so lucky! Your son is a priest!)” My mother only smiled. She did not say anything, but I knew what was going on in her head: “‘Naku! ‘Naku talaga! Kung alam mo lang! (If you only knew!)” I may not have given my mother a lot of reasons to worry when I was still a student, but once I entered the Jesuit novitiate, I actually gave her more worries. She was afraid when I was sent to live in the mountains of Bukidnon with the lumads. She was scared when I worked in a factory undercover, with no one there knowing I was a seminarian. She was anxious every day I served as a hospital chaplain and worried that I might get sick.

My tita told my mother, “Mothers of priests go straight to heaven.” When my mother does go to heaven, I do not think it will be because of anything I ever did. She told me once, “I have never prayed more in my life since you entered the Society of Jesus.” When my mother does go to heaven, it will be because of all the praying she has been doing. And it is prayer not for herself, but for me and for my sisters as well.

One of the hardest things for a parent must be when you know you have to let go and allow your child to risk getting hurt. When he or she does get hurt, you want to take on the pain and absorb the suffering yourself. But you know you cannot. And that makes it hurt more.

I read what I have written so far and I ask myself, “So what earth-shaking and life-changing lesson have you learned from all of this?” The lesson is nothing complicated, but it is still a mystery. It is something simple, but it is actually a challenging truth to live out. What is this? To be a parent is difficult.

One definition of a saint is someone who strives for the hardest and the best. Any parent trying to raise a family the best way he or she can is already a saint in my book. And if there is anything that I wish you will have as a take-away from the Feast of the Holy Family, it is this: If you are a parent, take a few moments to congratulate yourself and congratulate the God who has been helping you try to be holy. If your parents are still alive, contact them today and thank them for being holy. Trust me, it will be earth-shaking and life-changing — for them, for you, and for your family.


Not a sign of hope, but a cry for change POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr. (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 28, 2014 - 12:00am 1 26 googleplus0 0


By Federico D. Pascual Jr

FALSE FAÇADE: Could a poor housewife take to the sari-sari store the SWS survey claiming 93 percent of Filipinos face the coming new year with “hope rather than fear” and exchange that poll score for a bag of food for her children?

If Yes, then let us have more of these feel-good surveys attempting to create a façade of confidence that the administration will finally improve the quality of life of the “bosses” of President Noynoy Aquino huddled in their hovels.

If No, then let us put a stop to these surveys that paint a false picture of the state of mind of Filipinos who have been reduced to eternally hoping for the elusive better life.

The 93-percent “hopeful” result is not a vote of confidence or a sign that the masses are happy. It is a clamor for the Aquino administration to do something naman for the poor, instead of making it more lucrative for politicians and the seven percent who have cornered the nation’s wealth.

* * *

DASAL AT SUGAL: With the odds against them, the only cheap and ready recourse open to most Filipinos is to hope. Bahala na, may awa ang Dios.

With no salvavida being tossed to him by the government, the ever hopeful Filipino sinks deeper into dasal at sugal (praying and gambling). Plain folk flock to churches, lottery stations and jueteng bet collectors hoping to find relief from earthly worries.

But the cards are stacked up against the masses since politicians holding the reins of government and the capitalists funding them would rather keep the people poor and ignorant so they will be easier to manipulate.

When 93 percent of Filipinos tell pollsters they hope for a better new year, they are not really hopeful in the sense of exuding confidence that their prayers will be answered in 2015, but that they are clamoring for, they are demanding, a change for the better.

* * *

ETERNALLY HOPEFUL: The Social Weather Stations said the 93 percent score was slightly lower than the 94 percent of respondents who had faced 2014 with hope. The supposed hope is widespread – 91 percent in Metro Manila, the Visayas and Mindanao, and 96 percent in balance Luzon.

Assuming the SWS surveys are reliable, the New Year “hope” hardly changed from 2012 to 2014: 92 percent in 2012, 94 percent in 2013 and 93 percent in 2014.

New Year hope has remained unchanged for three years in Metro Manila – 91 percent in both 2013 and 2014, and 93 percent in 2012 – after two consecutive record-high 96 percent in 2011 and 2010.

People keep hoping despite the reality that the politicians consistently fail to deliver and that the rosy statistics are hard to digest on an empty stomach.

Next year the hope level is likely to go up again – because of the 2016 elections. Every time national elections come around, the people go through the same cycle of heightened hoping for the better.

* * *

FALSE PROSPERITY: There is basis for hoping for some kind of prosperity next year. With the campaign season in the offing, millions will start flowing out of the war chest of politicians. A slew of candidates will be spending with the help of their parties and capitalist bettors.

Without necessarily improving the economy in the macro-sense, millions will flow into the money stream, boosting the purchasing power of a great number of people who are adept at it or properly positioned to catch the windfall.

The increased spending will stimulate activity in various sectors in the economy. But if economic managers are not up to it – and they are likely to just sit idly by waiting for the turnover of regimes – that false prosperity will have no lasting effect on the economic well-being of the people.

* * *

IMMUNITY OUT: With his reelection having been ruled out and, we presume, feeling the ground shaking under his feet, there are indications that the President wants to make peace with selected political moguls.

Making one step backwards is tactically sound since the President will lose his immunity from suit when he steps down on June 30, 2016, with the takeover of a newly elected Chief Executive who may not be as friendly as desired.

The President has to contend with the many prominent victims of his anti-corruption campaign likely to bounce back to power, some no-nonsense anti-crime advocates, and those who cannot take sitting down the President’s alleged violations of the Constitution.

* * *

ARROYO FURLOUGH: That was a welcome administration gesture of allowing the Christmas furlough of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now a Pampanga congresswoman.

The Sandiganbayan that sent GMA home for the holidays is with the judiciary, a separate branch, but something as tectonic as issuing a pass to the high-profile detainee would not happen in this small village without the say-so of the President.

It was reasonable to allow GMA home for three days because she was still presumed innocent and the evidence against her in that Sweepstakes plunder case is weak anyway. But since the Sandiganbayan could not say that, it reached for the silly excuse that Pope Francis was coming for a visit in January.

Plunder is a conspiracy where all the accused are judged together and equally. They are all either guilty or innocent. How come GMA’s co-accused have been allowed bail and she was not?


Still on the increase in the MRT/LRT fares SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2014 - 12:00am 1 32 googleplus0 0


By Bobit S. Avila

We’re back from our Christmas break and let me start with an emailed letter in response to our article last Dec. 23 about the wrongly timed increase in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) fares by the Department of Transportation & Communications (DOTC). I questioned the timing of this fare increase during the Christmas season and most important of all, when the world price of oil has dropped to record lows, which means transportation fares ought to go down!

Worse, this fare increase comes at a time when the service especially at the MRT3 has deteriorated so badly, logic tells you that increasing their fares at this time is totally wrong. Who can forget that MRT train that crashed at the corner of EDSA and Taft Avenue? So here’s what my good friend (whose name I will withhold) has to say about those increases.

“Bobit, Three years ago, I supported the upward adjustment in the fares for LRT/MRT/PNR - for many reasons. One of them: it was the right time. However, P-Noy refused to budge. This time around, I fully agree with you. Not only a case of wrong timing, it is very stupid. The service levels have gone down. MRT 3 used to field 72 railcars; now it could only muster 49 railcars.

Train availability for LRT 1 and 2 have also gone down. Result: overcrowding on trains. Increase the fares only after the service has improved – not before. We did this – sometime in 1991, when I sat as a member of the LRTA Board. But you see, this wrong decision is par for the course: terminal fee on MCIAA is also being increased even before the GMR Consortium could invest on its improvements. Expect the same feature – if Mar Roxas becomes president in 2016. The government will be run like MRT-3.

If a bakeshop has spoiled or expired goods, the proprietor does not sell them at a premium but a discount. French Baker sell their unsold breads at night at huge discount, so the next day items will all be fresh. DOTC (following Mar Roxas policy) adopts the reverse – raise prices for deteriorated service.”

This letter may sound simplistic especially that my good friend uses a bakeshop as his example. But he gives us the best reason why this fare increase shouldn’t be allowed at this time… due to the very bad service at the MRT 3… when during its heyday it could field 72 rail passenger cars. But today, the MRT3 can only muster 49 rail passenger cars. No wonder the queues of commuters lining up for the rush hour ride is more than a kilometer long. Lining up this on a daily basis is taxing to a person’s patience.

In my book, it would be foolhardy for the DOTC to increase their fares at this time, and if they have already done so, God help these bureaucrats who have totally forgotten that their salaries are paid by the taxes drawn from the blood, sweat and tears of Filipino taxpayers. Now even politicians like Sen. Grace Poe is trying to gain the people’s sympathy by asking the DOTC not to increase those fares for their political advantage.

All I can say at this time is the DOTC should increase those fares if and when they can bring back into service all the 72 rail passenger cars. In the meantime, the folks at the DOTC ought to learn to bite the proverbial bullet and accept the facts that the MRT3 was badly mismanage when the DOTC operated it again. Now if they don’t listen to our pleas then we ought to see the resignation of DOTC officials.

* * *

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) just celebrated its 46th anniversary in a decades long struggle to establish a communist form of government to replace our dilapidated one. I submit that the CPP is the only group selling this kind of ideology to transform the established democratic government of the Philippines into something like what they have in the People’s Republic of China or God forbid… the government of North Korea.

Of course, as we expected, on the eve of the 46th anniversary of the CPP, the military reiterated its call for rebels to abandon the armed struggle and to live peaceful lives with their families. This statement came from Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc who stressed that violence would not put an end to the country’s problems. He clearly pointed out, “It has been proven that nobody is a real winner in bloody armed conflicts. We are witnesses to the endless misery experienced by our own people who were caught in the crossfire. We can have the choice between a better life for ourselves and our children by embracing peace or continued violence and poverty through bloody armed conflict.”

I fully concur with Lt. Col. Cabunoc. Communism has become passé and worse, they still have the same “Dear Leader” in the person of Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, which is proof that Communism is deep into personality politics or worse a cult just like what they have in North Korea. But we do have a better alternative to Communism… it is the National Transformation Council (NTC) that aims to reform our nation through a responsive government.


No holiday in Metro Manila traffic COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 26, 2014 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0


By Marichu A. Villanueva

It’s a day after Christmas and most people are enjoying the longest holiday weekend, except us in media and others who remain at work 24-7. However, the Christmas holiday traffic gridlock remains horrendous – if not hellish – especially in areas going to malls and other family entertainment establishments.

On the road going to work on Christmas day, we got stuck for almost an hour negotiating through traffic snarls starting from the intersection of Coastal Road and Roxas Boulevard. Northbound vehicles were bumper-to-bumper, with those on motorcycles weaving in and out between spaces – no matter how small.

When we finally got through the traffic jam, it turned out the gridlock was limited to Baclaran area because of the Christmas mass. The entire road in front of Redemptorist Church was taken over by vendors since the Christmas season began. So pedestrians – and hawkers as well – spill over the outer lanes which are for vehicles only.

It seemed all hell broke loose with the lifting of the number-coding of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) from Dec. 23 to Jan. 4.

A top car firm executive told me this is the downside of the number-coding which is implemented to reduce the number of motor vehicles on the road. The Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) is lifted across Metro Manila during weekends and public holidays.

Under the UVVRP, vehicles with license plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 are not allowed in EDSA and on major streets of Metro Manila from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and again between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Mondays. Vehicles with license numbers ending in 3 and 4 are covered by the UVVRP on Tuesdays; 5 and 6 (Wednesdays); 7 and 8 (Thursdays) and 9 and 0 (Fridays). Vehicles covered by the UVVRP for that day are however given the “window hours” of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to use EDSA and other major thoroughfares such as C-5 Road, Roxas Boulevard and Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard, regardless of the cities covered.

There are no “window hours” in Makati City and Las Piñas City while the cities of Marikina, Muntinlupa, Taguig and Parañaque do not implement the UVVRP. Pasig City meanwhile implements the window hours between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. In Pasay City, the UVVRP is not implemented along the Ninoy Aquino Avenue, MIA Road, Domestic Road, Sales Road and portions of Buendia Avenue.

I won’t mention the name of this car executive, except describing his company as engaged in selling imported, high-end vehicles in the Philippines. This car executive blamed the number-coding for the rapid increase in vehicles in Metro Manila where this is strictly implemented, especially in the cities of Makati and Las Piñas where there are no window hours.

The car executive matter-of-factly pointed to the number-coding as reason or grounds for the rich and moneyed people to buy additional cars they can use to go around the traffic reduction scheme. And this is no empty boast of the car executive, citing official data and statistics to back up his assessment.

Local distributors reported sales of imported cars in the Philippines went up by 20 percent on year to 3,101 units in October this year. The sales of passenger cars also expanded by 29 percent on year to 1,655 units while light commercial vehicles sold in October rose by 10 percent on year to 1,446 units.

The same car executive noted there is expected increase of imported luxury cars and high-end vehicles next year with the country’s hosting of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ summit. He disclosed the initial batches of imported high-end vehicles came in already and are now on the road.

These were BMW 5 Series and X-5 SUVs (sport utility vehicles) that were used by senior ministers in the first of a series of APEC meetings held here in Manila earlier this month. More are coming in the next months.

In addition, there would be 27 units of bullet-proof and bomb-proof BMW Series 7 models coming before the summit itself for each of the 29 APEC leaders attending, including one for President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III, if I’m not mistaken. US Presidents like Barack Obama and Brunei Darussalam King Bolkiah bring their own security limousines level 9.

At the end of the APEC, these imported high-end vehicles either go back to their supplier or are sold locally. I gathered that some have already been reserved and are considered pre-sold to their new owners.

Traffic would be the least of concerns for the APEC since the Philippine government, as host country, has made provisions for security escorts to clear the way for these dignitaries. But for common folks like us, we have to grin and bear it whenever there would be APEC senior ministers’ meetings held in Metro Manila.

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) reported yesterday they are 70 percent complete in road repairs and crowd control preparations for the visit of Pope Francis on January 15 to 19. Presumably, this included the DPWH repairs and preparations in Luneta. This is because one of the scheduled activities of Pope Francis is a Holy Mass at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park.

But what simply begs explanation is why DPWH had to destroy the plants in front of Rizal Monument by placing concrete barriers on top of them. Taxpayers’ monies were used to beautify this area with plants. DPWH also laid concrete barriers alongside the island dividing Roxas Boulevard.

A very tight security plan has been laid down for the entire visit here of Pope Francis who reportedly frowns upon his being kept away from the people’s touch. Pope Francis does not even want to use closed, bullet-proof Pope Mobile to protect him from any would-be assassin while on the road.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada earlier declared a citywide holiday from Jan. 15 to 19. The Palace matched this with similar holiday declaration in Metro Manila on Jan.15, 16 and 19. With only 20 days to go before Pope Francis’ historic visit, we could only pray for a miracle that there would be no hellish traffic during the holiday period next month. We, ordinary working mortals, will just go about our way and watch the Pope from a distance from television.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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