EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full Commentary below)

FROM MANILA STANDARD:

MR. AQUINO'S LAWYER
(FVR CONFUSED: Perhaps it is Secretary De Lima who is confused. As one lawyer observed in this publication, as attorney general of the Republic of the Philippines by virtue of her position as secretary of Justice, De Lima is the legal counsel of the government, not of Mr. Aquino.)


De Lima is publicly ambivalent about the idea, but she wears her ambition as obviously as the scarves she favors.
After all, how else can we explain her constant and spirited defense of President Benigno Aquino III, even on his most legally indefensible actions? When the police board of inquiry found that the President was responsible for violating the chain of command in the covert Mamasapano operation in which 44 police commandos were killed, De Lima immediately sprang to his defense, saying he could not be held liable for this because the chain of command applied only to military organizations, not to civilian agencies such as the Philippine National Police. In so doing, she brushed aside Executive Order No. 226 on the rule of command responsibility particularly in law enforcement agencies, issued by then President Fidel Ramos in 1995, which has never been amended or repealed. “There is a chain of command in the Philippine National Police and it also applies to other agencies... Even in the corporate world, there is a chain of command. A commander is responsible for what his subordinate does or fails to do,” Ramos said.  But Secretary De Lima insisted that Ramos was “confused” and offered only what amounted to her opinion as a rejoinder.  “Can you imagine now the entire civilian bureaucracy adopting this chain of command concept? That would make us here in the executive branch just like the military. I don’t agree with that,” she said. She also insisted that the President violated no law when he involved his close friend, suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, in the covert police operation, even though he was suspended at the time on allegations of corruption.  CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: De Lima says FVR ‘confused’ about order


DE LIMA: When asked to react on Ramos’ call for Aquino to issue an apology over the Mamasapano encounter, De Lima said it is up to the President to do so. “Only the President would know what he did and what he did not do. Only he would know if he was liable,” she retorted.  De Lima said the President himself said that the plan presented to him by sacked PNP-SAF Director Getulio Napenas to get wanted Malaysian bomb maker and Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bir Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino cohort, Basit Usman, was in order. Nonetheless, the Justice Secretary reiterated her call for the public not to judge President Aquino following the BOI and Senate reports that pointed to him as “ultimately responsible” for the encounter.  “The President should not be judged that easily because this President is a very responsible person and he has the interest of our country at heart,” she appealed, calling the supposed prejudgment on the President based on the BOI and Senate reports as “unfair.” READ EDITORIAL FROM THE BEGINNING...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Leaders in contrast


Singapore’s founder Lee Kuan Yew died Monday at the age of 91. Many disagree on Lee’s manner of leadership. The island state’s leader, says a report, was “renowned for his sharp tongue, quick wit and controversial remarks.”  More than that, his governing style was far from the democratic ideal that most prosperous Western nations hold ideal. He emphasized respect for elders and the law, hard work, and the recognition that the needs of society must transcend the individual’s. The lines between ruler and subject were clear. In short, Lee ruled Singapore with a firm – albeit purposeful -- hand. He was often accused of curtailing citizen’s rights and interfering in their private lives. He had always been without remorse for this leadership style. “If I had not done that, we would not be here today,” the late leader once famously said. Where there is consensus is on the fact that Lee did his country a lot of good, and that this week, the world lost one of its greatest leaders. The results would best speak for themselves. High stability, high savings, low corruption, low crime rate, virtually no homelessness. Indeed, from being a “fairly dilapidated town” in the 1960s, Singapore is what it is today because of Lee. More than the success story of the nation, remarkable was Lee’s ability to step back extricate his person from his handiwork. He never presented himself as the savior of his country. He never had the illusion that nobody else could continue the work when his time was up. He most certainly never complained about how difficult his job was. In contrast, we here in the Philippines suffer our chief executive’s whining every blessed day. This time he says that his critics are stepping up the tirades so they can dismiss his accomplishments and diminish his endorsement power for the 2016 elections. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO by Jojo Robles: Extortionist ally

A Metro Manila congressman with excellent links to the Aquino administration who holds a top position in the House of Representatives typifies the “last two minutes” mentality of a government that is on an inexorable decline. Yes, I’m talking about extortion— big-time extortion. A prominent businessman who is the target of this extorting administration ally has complained that the congressman has demanded P30 million from him up front, in order to facilitate the release of a government franchise that the trader is renewing. Understand, what the businessman wants is a renewal of his franchise to operate his business in a highly regulated industry, not a new franchise. The businessman, who is not unused to the many ways of dealing with government, made a counter-offer to the congressman: P15 million up front and P15 million upon the approval by the House of the franchise. FINISH READING IN FULL TO THE  AQUINO'S 'NEW PR STRATEGY'......

ALSO: Fall guy for Fallen 44


Relieved PNP-SAF General Getulio Napenas won’t be a fall guy for the Fallen 44 commandos. In a recent TV interview, Napenas said the secret police operation was executed through suspended PNP DG Alan Purisima which, from all indications, clearly came from the top.  By that, he meant Purisima’s role had the green light from President Aquino who’s known to protect friends loyal to him. Napenas is no longer as hesitant to point to the President as ultimately responsible for the bungled Mamasapano mission. In a voice quivering with emotion, Napenas recalled to ANC’s Karen Davila how his men after taking down terrorist Marwan were left defenseless while withdrawing from the scene.said no reinforcement or artillery support came for his beleaguered police commandos. The police official’s statement tended to support both the Senate and police Board of Inquiry findings on the Mamasapano incident that preserving the ceasefire agreement with the MILF was more paramount for the President than providing extra firepower to save the besieged PNP-SAF commandos. Earlier in his testimony before the Senate committee on public order, Napenas was careful not to implicate the President.  But he seemed to change his mind because he was being made the fall guy who allegedly gave the President wrong information about the situation on the ground. READ MORE...

ALSO: Noynoy’s insurance


I guess we should be glad that President Noynoy Aquino is finally looking beyond the end of his non-extendable term of office. On the other hand, it’s certainly disappointing that the President is only looking into the future in so far as he has to prevent his landing in jail.  Aquino gave what he promised was his final speech on the matter of the Jan. 25 Mamasapano massacre yesterday. And no, he’s still not asking for forgiveness or apologizing for anything.  Apparently, Aquino has taken to heart the advice of people like Senators Antonio Trillanes and Bam Aquino, who warned that if the President said he was sorry, he would fall into a trap. As yet another senator, Miriam Defensor Santiago, explained it, Aquino doesn’t want any admission of error or apology to be used as evidence against him later on, when he is haled to court after his term expires for his involvement in the killing of 44 members of the elite Special Action Force in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

At the very least, we now know that Aquino is no John F. Kennedy or even a Jimmy Carter, who both immediately admitted errors they committed in the Bay of Pigs assault and in the Iran hostage rescue, respectively, which both US Presidents spectacularly botched. Both Kennedy and Carter were never haled to court for their errors and were later forgiven and even applauded by the public for being honest and for accepting responsibility.  But, of course, this is the Philippines, where the last two Presidents both ended up in jail after they stepped down. Naturally, Aquino will do everything he can to avoid the same fate; and if that means that he will continue pretending that he had been deceived or that he cannot be held responsible because he is not on top of the chain of command, then, by all means, he can be expected to cover his behind with these legal strategies. It is already, after all, the season for Aquino to prepare his legal defenses. His appointment of Michael Aguinaldo, formerly of the Office of the Executive Secretary, as chairman of the Commission on Audit, should also be seen in this light. READ MORE...

ALSO: Meaningful Holy Week


Today is Palm Sunday, which announces the start of Holy Week, supposedly the most solemn week in the Catholic calendar. When I was a child, this time of the year meant total deprivation from most of my favorite things and activities as a form of sacrifice. I still like to think that most Filipinos do try to still find deeper meaning in the observance of the Semana Santa even if most of us, particularly the younger set, do see it as opportune time to hie off to some vacation place, and to party like there’s no tomorrow. It is a matter of public record that the Holy Week is the top peak season for vacation spots such such as Baguio, Puerta Galera and Boracay. I’ve always made it a point to spend the week in the national capital after experiencing in the early nineties what I thought were the most excruciating 16 hours of my life crammed into a highway along with 20 million others all trying to get to some destination up north. The whole ordeal reminded me of what salmon fishes have to go through during their migration from the ocean towards upper reaches of rivers in order to spawn on gravel beds. I understand the situation has only worsened since then as more and more people join the annual exodus out of the Metro at this time. But then again, it is the Holy Week and some kind of sacrifice is required so many must think of the whole experience as part of their penitence. I say this with all sincerity and earnestness: Metro Manila is the best place to be during the Holy Week. It is the only time when the metro is less congested - there is less traffic, pollution, noise, and yes, less temptation as most bars and malls are closed. In addition, the variety of choices available for those who wish to attend religious activities is also quite rich since Metro Manila has the highest density of churches in this country. For instance, one can do as many rounds of the Visita Iglesia as one wished. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

Mr. Aquino’s lawyer

MANILA, MARCH 30, 2015 (MANILA STANDARD)  By Manila Standard Today | Mar. 23, 2015 at 12:01am - PERHAPS on the strength of name recognition, the ruling Liberal Party has included Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in its list of possible senatorial candidates for 2016.

De Lima is publicly ambivalent about the idea, but she wears her ambition as obviously as the scarves she favors.

After all, how else can we explain her constant and spirited defense of President Benigno Aquino III, even on his most legally indefensible actions?

When the police board of inquiry found that the President was responsible for violating the chain of command in the covert Mamasapano operation in which 44 police commandos were killed, De Lima immediately sprang to his defense, saying he could not be held liable for this because the chain of command applied only to military organizations, not to civilian agencies such as the Philippine National Police.

In so doing, she brushed aside Executive Order No. 226 on the rule of command responsibility particularly in law enforcement agencies, issued by then President Fidel Ramos in 1995, which has never been amended or repealed.

“There is a chain of command in the Philippine National Police and it also applies to other agencies... Even in the corporate world, there is a chain of command. A commander is responsible for what his subordinate does or fails to do,” Ramos said.

But Secretary De Lima insisted that Ramos was “confused” and offered only what amounted to her opinion as a rejoinder.

“Can you imagine now the entire civilian bureaucracy adopting this chain of command concept?
 That would make us here in the executive branch just like the military. I don’t agree with that,” she said.

She also insisted that the President violated no law when he involved his close friend, suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, in the covert police operation, even though he was suspended at the time on allegations of corruption.

CONTINUE READING...
De Lima then appealed to the public not to be too hasty in judging the President despite the damaging findings of the police board of inquiry and the Senate panel that also found Mr. Aquino ultimately responsible for the debacle.

“This President is a very responsible person and he has the interest of our country at heart,” she said, adding that it would be “unfair” to prejudge the President on the basis of the findings of the two investigating bodies.

This appeal for fairness is rich with irony, given De Lima’s penchant for throwing away all such notions when going after the President’s political enemies with hammer and tongs. She even defied a direct order from the Supreme Court on Mr. Aquino’s behalf when he wanted his predecessor arrested in 2011.

Nor did fairness come into play in her first major act as Justice secretary, when she meekly stood by as the President threw out her recommendations on the Luneta hostage crisis to protect his friends and political allies who were responsible for the mess.

Perhaps it is Secretary De Lima who is confused. As one lawyer observed in this publication, as attorney general of the Republic of the Philippines by virtue of her position as secretary of Justice, De Lima is the legal counsel of the government, not of Mr. Aquino.

Now more than ever, when the Senate has been debased by sycophants and the unqualified, we need men and women of independent thought who are unafraid to do what is right. We don’t need another presidential lapdog in the Senate. We already have Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. Surely we can do better.


De Lima says FVR ‘confused’ about order By Rey E. Requejo | Mar. 20, 2015 at 12:01am

JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima insisted that President Benigno Aquino III cannot be held liable for violating the chain of command over the botched Mamasapano massacre, saying it does not apply in the Philippine National Police as a civilian agency.

De Lima disputed the findings of the PNP Board of Inquiry and the Senate which both found that Aquino violated the chain of command that ultimately caused the death of 67 people, including 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 27.

She reiterated her opinion after former President Fidel Ramos said that he issued Executive Order No. 226 in 1995 institutionalizing the principle of chain of command in the PNP.

De Lima

“If you read that EO, it purports to apply (chain of command) not only to the PNP but to all offices of the executive branch of government. If that is correct, does it mean there is already chain of command in our executive departments? They seem to be confused,” De Lima said, in an interview.

“If you apply that EO of FVR on the basis of the PNP, then it also applied to the entire executive branch. Can you imagine now the entire civilian bureaucracy adopting this chain of command concept? That would make us here in the executive branch just like the military. I don’t agree with that,” she said.

According to her, the EO only provided for application of “command of superior responsibility” in cases of accountability of officials on the basis of certain standards like knowledge and negligence.

“Did the higher official tolerate the commission on an illegal or irregular act on the part of his subordinates? That’s the only point of the EO. It does not mean that if the doctrine of command of superior responsibility is applied, automatically there is already chain of command,” she said.

De Lima reiterated her position on this issue in response to that statements made by Ramos, who said the EO he signed in 1995 was meant to clarify gray areas in the doctrine of chain of command pertaining to the police.

“The operative principle in governance, whether in a civil or informal government, the military, police and also the uniformed forces, the coast guard, militia and even members of private security agencies, there is a chain of command that operates under the principle of command responsibility,” Ramos said.

When asked to react on Ramos’ call for Aquino to issue an apology over the Mamasapano encounter, De Lima said it is up to the President to do so.

“Only the President would know what he did and what he did not do. Only he would know if he was liable,” she retorted.

De Lima said the President himself said that the plan presented to him by sacked PNP-SAF Director Getulio Napenas to get wanted Malaysian bomb maker and Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bir Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino cohort, Basit Usman, was in order.

Nonetheless, the Justice Secretary reiterated her call for the public not to judge President Aquino following the BOI and Senate reports that pointed to him as “ultimately responsible” for the encounter.

“The President should not be judged that easily because this President is a very responsible person and he has the interest of our country at heart,” she appealed, calling the supposed prejudgment on the President based on the BOI and Senate reports as “unfair.”


Leaders in contrast By Manila Standard Today | Mar. 24, 2015 at 12:01am

Singapore’s founder Lee Kuan Yew died Monday at the age of 91.

Many disagree on Lee’s manner of leadership. The island state’s leader, says a report, was “renowned for his sharp tongue, quick wit and controversial remarks.”

More than that, his governing style was far from the democratic ideal that most prosperous Western nations hold ideal. He emphasized respect for elders and the law, hard work, and the recognition that the needs of society must transcend the individual’s.

The lines between ruler and subject were clear. In short, Lee ruled Singapore with a firm – albeit purposeful -- hand. He was often accused of curtailing citizen’s rights and interfering in their private lives.

He had always been without remorse for this leadership style. “If I had not done that, we would not be here today,” the late leader once famously said.

Where there is consensus is on the fact that Lee did his country a lot of good, and that this week, the world lost one of its greatest leaders.

The results would best speak for themselves. High stability, high savings, low corruption, low crime rate, virtually no homelessness. Indeed, from being a “fairly dilapidated town” in the 1960s, Singapore is what it is today because of Lee.

More than the success story of the nation, remarkable was Lee’s ability to step back extricate his person from his handiwork. He never presented himself as the savior of his country. He never had the illusion that nobody else could continue the work when his time was up.

He most certainly never complained about how difficult his job was.

In contrast, we here in the Philippines suffer our chief executive’s whining every blessed day. This time he says that his critics are stepping up the tirades so they can dismiss his accomplishments and diminish his endorsement power for the 2016 elections.

CONTINUE READING...
This President is ignorant of the fact that nobody else needs to diminish his endorsement power; he is doing an excellent job of it by himself.

Mr. Aquino’s trust and popularity ratings suffered a steep drop this month after the public became familiar with what happened in Mamasapano, Maguindanao and witnessed his bungled response to demands for an explanation.

He also assails those who are spreading rumors about his poor health; he called his critics enemies of the straight path.

We can only shake our heads at how this brand of leadership has brought the country no closer to its dream of inclusive growth. While officials crow about credit rating upgrades and nominal GDP growth, more Filipinos consider themselves poorer.

The lack of visible results may have been more acceptable if there were a character to galvanize the people and inspire us to overcome difficulties.

But no. We have, instead, a scion of a political family who thinks he can never do wrong and who believes everybody who does not agree with him is out to bring him down.


Extortionist ally  By Jojo Robles | Mar. 20, 2015 at 12:01am

A Metro Manila congressman with excellent links to the Aquino administration who holds a top position in the House of Representatives typifies the “last two minutes” mentality of a government that is on an inexorable decline. Yes, I’m talking about extortion— big-time extortion.

A prominent businessman who is the target of this extorting administration ally has complained that the congressman has demanded P30 million from him up front, in order to facilitate the release of a government franchise that the trader is renewing. Understand, what the businessman wants is a renewal of his franchise to operate his business in a highly regulated industry, not a new franchise.

The businessman, who is not unused to the many ways of dealing with government, made a counter-offer to the congressman: P15 million up front and P15 million upon the approval by the House of the franchise.

READ MORE...
The congressman would not budge. It’s P30 million up front, the lawmaker said, with no assurance of success in renewing the franchise on the House level.

Normally, the businessman would have just walked away and looked for a friendlier congressman with a lower price. But he can’t do that because the congressman had already sponsored his franchise renewal bid and caused the “calendaring” of the measure in the House committee that will grant the congressional approval.

According to the House’s rules, a calendared and sponsored franchise renewal can no longer be withdrawn. And because the powerful congressman has refused to even attend hearings on the franchise, the committee that is hearing the proposal can’t take up the matter.

In other words, the businessman is being held hostage by the congressman, who has apparently decided to skip the hearings on his own sponsored renewal proposal until the businessman coughs up the cash. And the businessman still can’t believe that such a blatant extortion attempt is happening—and is being allowed to happen by other congressmen who know about it—under the regime of the daang matuwid.

And yes, it was the congressman who had offered to sponsor the franchise renewal, apparently because he was already planning to hold the businessman hostage from the get-go; the businessman, after all, has many friends in the House who could have sponsored his franchise renewal, something he wished he had done. It looked like a premeditated scam to me, and I told the businessman so.

After the businessman told me about his dilemma, I advised him to abandon his bid to have his franchise renewed by the current House, which I think doesn’t even have time anymore to take up the proposal, seeing as how close we already are to the 2016 election campaign and the closing of Congress. I told him that the congressman wants to take his money without even guaranteeing to deliver on the promise to renew the franchise, which is why he wants all of it now and in full.

The congressman is known for his voracious appetite for money even during the previous administration. His desire for billions in pork is matched, people in his suburban locality say, only by his apparent love for hamburgers.

I expect more such scams to surface as the Aquino administration limps to its conclusion. So much for the straight path, something no President in his right mind will ever promise to lead this country on ever again.

* * *

NEW PR STRATEGY:

President Noynoy Aquino has started visiting wounded soldiers in military hospitals, something that he really shouldn’t be doing, given his self-proclaimed aversion to meeting people he doesn’t really know.

But I think he’s now implementing a new public relations strategy that he believes will get the men in uniform to, if not love him, at least lessen their anger towards the man who refuses to be called their Commander-in-Chief.

It all sounds so showbiz to me. Just like the usual effort from the President’s sister to create a buzz about Aquino’s love life by linking him to Pia Wurtzbach, the newly-crowned Binibining Pilipinas-Universe.

Perhaps, as another columnist in another paper has written, Malacanang has really pressed the panic button and has enlisted the services of the presidential sister to divert our attention from Mamasapano and the Bangsamoro Basic Law. But I doubt very much that this last-ditch effort to delude the people will succeed like it did in the past.

The linking of Aquino to Wurtzbach, in particular, sounds just like the efforts of his campaign manager during the campaign, Florencio Abad, to create an image of his candidate as a ladies’ man who sends flowers to beautiful women, something Aquino himself later admitted was a total fabrication. But Aquino and his handlers must realize, as Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz, that we’re way beyond the innocent Kansas of the 2010 campaign now. Practically no one believes what Aquino says anymore, as the latest Pulse Asia survey shows, and all of the old tricks just won’t get him the once-easy love of the people whom he has since so shamelessly lied to.

Try again, Kris. Or do something really different other than visiting wounded soldiers and fabricating a love life for your beleaguered brother.


Fall guy for Fallen 44 By Alejandro Del Rosario | Mar. 28, 2015 at 12:01am

Relieved PNP-SAF General Getulio Napenas won’t be a fall guy for the Fallen 44 commandos. In a recent TV interview, Napenas said the secret police operation was executed through suspended PNP DG Alan Purisima which, from all indications, clearly came from the top.

By that, he meant Purisima’s role had the green light from President Aquino who’s known to protect friends loyal to him. Napenas is no longer as hesitant to point to the President as ultimately responsible for the bungled Mamasapano mission. In a voice quivering with emotion, Napenas recalled to ANC’s Karen Davila how his men after taking down terrorist Marwan were left defenseless while withdrawing from the scene.said no reinforcement or artillery support came for his beleaguered police commandos. The police official’s statement tended to support both the Senate and police Board of Inquiry findings on the Mamasapano incident that preserving the ceasefire agreement with the MILF was more paramount for the President than providing extra firepower to save the besieged PNP-SAF commandos. Earlier in his testimony before the Senate committee on public order, Napenas was careful not to implicate the President.

But he seemed to change his mind because he was being made the fall guy who allegedly gave the President wrong information about the situation on the ground.

READ MORE...
The Senate and the BOI reports were contradicted by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s separate report submitted to Malaysia, the third-party broker in the peace talks between the MILF and the Philippine government.

The 20 senators who signed the 120-page Senate report are standing by their findings and impugned the MILF report, particularly the portion on as to who fired first while the commandos were retreating. The MILF also claimed they were unaware of the presence of Marwan and homegrown terrorist Basit Usman in their area, adding the encounter happened because the authorities did not coordinate the operation with the MILF. But doing so would have tipped off Marwan and Usman who had informers in all the villagers in the vicinity.

How can they not know that these high-profile fugitives were in their locality?” This was how incredible the senators and the PNP saw the MILF version of the incident.

Senator Grace Poe who chaired the Senate committee inquiry maintains the killing of the police commandos was a massacre. She said that it may have begun as a gun battle but turned into a carnage when MILF and BIFF guerillas finished off the policemen while they were already defenseless. Autopsy performed on the victims showed they were shot in the face at close range; some of them were even mutilated.

The outrage over Mamasapano will continue to simmer even if Congress passes a revised Bangsamoro Basic Law when it resumes session. The MILF has made clear it will not accept anything less than what government peace panelists Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Teresita Deles already gave away in the framework agreement.

Draw your own conclusion what the MILF ‘s next step would be if it doesn’t get what it wants.

Back to manual poll count?

Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez said the 2016 elections might revert to manual counting if the Supreme Court strikes down the controversial deal between Comelec and the Smartmatic supplier of the 82,000 precinct count optical scan machines.

That would pose a problem not for the conduct of elections which used manual counting before but for the brilliant Comelec officials who managed to swing a P268-million last minute deal with the Venezuelan company to extend the contract for the refurbished PCOS machines stored in a warehouse since the 2013 senatorial elections.

Smartmatic might have a problem asking for a refund of the commission paid to certain officials if its equipment is discarded. The supplier, however, cannot claim it paid kickbacks to certain parties without implicating itself. The recipients, of course, will also deny there was such payment. That’s between the two of them. But the supplier of the PCOS machines might not really care if they had already been paid. The only losers are us poor saps--the taxpayers.

Other advanced countries, including highly industrialized Japan, have junked electronic voting and reverted to manual count because of questionable results. Cheating can still be done in manual count but it is more difficult than the push-button PCOS that pulled off wide scale cheating in the 2010 presidential and 2013 senatorial elections.


Noynoy’s insurance By Jojo Robles | Mar. 27, 2015 at 12:01am

I guess we should be glad that President Noynoy Aquino is finally looking beyond the end of his non-extendable term of office. On the other hand, it’s certainly disappointing that the President is only looking into the future in so far as he has to prevent his landing in jail.

Aquino gave what he promised was his final speech on the matter of the Jan. 25 Mamasapano massacre yesterday. And no, he’s still not asking for forgiveness or apologizing for anything.

Apparently, Aquino has taken to heart the advice of people like Senators Antonio Trillanes and Bam Aquino, who warned that if the President said he was sorry, he would fall into a trap. As yet another senator, Miriam Defensor Santiago, explained it, Aquino doesn’t want any admission of error or apology to be used as evidence against him later on, when he is haled to court after his term expires for his involvement in the killing of 44 members of the elite Special Action Force in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

At the very least, we now know that Aquino is no John F. Kennedy or even a Jimmy Carter, who both immediately admitted errors they committed in the Bay of Pigs assault and in the Iran hostage rescue, respectively, which both US Presidents spectacularly botched. Both Kennedy and Carter were never haled to court for their errors and were later forgiven and even applauded by the public for being honest and for accepting responsibility.

But, of course, this is the Philippines, where the last two Presidents both ended up in jail after they stepped down. Naturally, Aquino will do everything he can to avoid the same fate; and if that means that he will continue pretending that he had been deceived or that he cannot be held responsible because he is not on top of the chain of command, then, by all means, he can be expected to cover his behind with these legal strategies.

It is already, after all, the season for Aquino to prepare his legal defenses. His appointment of Michael Aguinaldo, formerly of the Office of the Executive Secretary, as chairman of the Commission on Audit, should also be seen in this light.

READ MORE...
Aguinaldo, the top legal eagle of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, was given the chief state auditor’s post in an apparent bid to ensure that any audit of Aquino and his administration will be “friendly.” Because the COA chairman’s position carries with it a fixed term of office, Aguinaldo can be expected to be protect Aquino and his top officials long after they have finally left Malacañang.

In this way, Aquino is turning out to be just like the predecessor whom he professes to hate. Aquino and other members of the opposition before the 2010 elections accused Gloria Arroyo of appointing Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and Chief Justice Renato Corona to their posts as “insurance” against suits that will be filed against her after she steps down; and when Aquino assumed the presidency, he immediately went after these two officials – who also had fixed terms, by the way – because he really wanted Arroyo in jail.

(Speaking of appointing people to offices with fixed terms, it seems that Secretary Herminio Coloma is really headed for the Civil Service Commission. Coloma has been unusually quiet lately, like he’s no longer looking to invite controversy to himself as Aquino’s spokesman in preparation for retiring from his stressful job.)

* * *

Of course, the danger of appointing officials who will outlast you is that, if it is done too early, they might get ideas of independence – something that is bad for the appointing power but ultimately good for the public that they serve. The best example of this, to my mind, is Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who has long proven that she is no mere lackey of the President who appointed her and who has also grown into her job as head of the judiciary in just a couple of years in office.

But I am still waiting for Aquino to appoint a chairman and two commissioners to the Commission on Elections, three people who are certainly being vetted not for their knowledge of the election law but for their ability to help make sure that only those favored by the President win in the 2016 polls. These appointments will bear close watching simply because Aquino needs to make sure that the right people are elected and the wrong ones are not.

Of course, Aquino cannot really predict what will happen to him after he steps down and loses his immunity from suit. But if he doesn’t implement the proper legal strategies and make the right appointments now, he risks placing himself at the mercy of impartial officials who could use his own statements against him and who are not indebted to him for having given them their posts.

It’s just sad that, to paraphrase the poet, an administration that started out with such a loud bang of reform is ending in a whimper of self-protection. And that a President who promised to eradicate both poverty and corruption is turning out to be no different from the one that went before, as far as seeking only to stay out of jail is concerned.


Meaningful Holy Week By Bong Austero | Mar. 29, 2015 at 12:01am

Today is Palm Sunday, which announces the start of Holy Week, supposedly the most solemn week in the Catholic calendar. When I was a child, this time of the year meant total deprivation from most of my favorite things and activities as a form of sacrifice. I still like to think that most Filipinos do try to still find deeper meaning in the observance of the Semana Santa even if most of us, particularly the younger set, do see it as opportune time to hie off to some vacation place, and to party like there’s no tomorrow. It is a matter of public record that the Holy Week is the top peak season for vacation spots such such as Baguio, Puerta Galera and Boracay.

I’ve always made it a point to spend the week in the national capital after experiencing in the early nineties what I thought were the most excruciating 16 hours of my life crammed into a highway along with 20 million others all trying to get to some destination up north. The whole ordeal reminded me of what salmon fishes have to go through during their migration from the ocean towards upper reaches of rivers in order to spawn on gravel beds. I understand the situation has only worsened since then as more and more people join the annual exodus out of the Metro at this time. But then again, it is the Holy Week and some kind of sacrifice is required so many must think of the whole experience as part of their penitence.

I say this with all sincerity and earnestness: Metro Manila is the best place to be during the Holy Week. It is the only time when the metro is less congested - there is less traffic, pollution, noise, and yes, less temptation as most bars and malls are closed. In addition, the variety of choices available for those who wish to attend religious activities is also quite rich since Metro Manila has the highest density of churches in this country. For instance, one can do as many rounds of the Visita Iglesia as one wished.

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Of course if one truly wants to see elaborate observances of the lenten activities such as spectacular processions and rituals, one will have to go to certain provinces. The good news is that a good number of them are near the Metro and if one plans the trips carefully, traffic and the other aggravations can be avoided. For example, anyone who wants to witness the processions in any of the old towns in Laguna should prepare to set out very early on Good Friday and plan to return back late evening to avoid the traffic rush. The towns of Pakil and Paete and San Pablo City have some of the most breathtaking Good Friday processions that I have witnessed. Religious families in these places are known for pulling all the stops to ensure that the images and statues of the saint that they keep as family benefactor or protector take pride of place during the procession.

For the most colorful and theatrical salubong (meeting of the risen Christ and His grieving mother), one will have to hie off to nearby Angono Rizal east of the metro. Angono is renowned for culture and arts and has produced two national artists—Lucio San Pedro for music and Botong Franciso for visual arts—and a community of other great artists. The salubong in Angono is unique as it involves the whole community in a celebration of replete with pageantry and religious fervor.

From Angono, one can pass by Antipolo, which used to be the top pilgrimage destination before Manaoag in Pangasinan. On Good Friday, hundreds of thousands of young people still converge in the Cathedral of the Nuestra Senora de la Paz y Buen Viaje (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage), trudging on foot from various parts of the city. Unfortunately, the tradition has been getting bad rap lately due to the presence of gangs and unruly groups who see the pilgrimage more as a rite of passage than as a religious activity.

What I like best about doing the Visita Iglesia in Metro Manila on Maundy Thursday is that churches make it a point to come up with unique and creative altars of repose in an effort to heighten spiritual reflection. In some churches, they even move the altar to an open area and create a garden setting to accommodate more people and perhaps to provide variety. It’s a thoughtful gesture, really, because visiting eight to fourteen churches can be quite taxing; a little change in the ambience can do wonders to lift a tired spirit. Unfortunately, the whole experience is often marred by people whose main goal it seems in doing the Visita Iglesia is to take pictures of the various altars, or worse, to take selfies or groufies with the altars as background.

Consumerist touches will continue to alter the way we observe traditions, including those associated with the Holy Week. But I guess what is truly important is what is in people’s hearts; even more important, we can all take comfort in the fact that the traditions continue to be observed even in the midst of rapid changes.


PASSION/PALM SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 2015


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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