VIEW  FROM  THE  PALACE:  WEEK  ENDING  APRIL  30,  2006

MANILA,
May 1, 2006 (STAR) This year’s Labor Day theme, "Ang Galing Mo, Manggagawang Pilipino!", underscores national pride in the Filipino worker as a paragon of excellence and patriotism. Let this day be an occasion to promote workers’ rights, which include the right to decent jobs and conducive work places following international conventions as set forth by ILO. . Let us give this day the dignity and solemnity that it deserves and not make it an occasion for confrontation.

This is the day for workers all over the world, which marks the great strides that Filipino workers have taken to rise to the apex of competence and competitiveness. President Arroyo has paid keen attention to the welfare of labor since day one, and she is expected to unveil a strong package of amelioration measures that will not only affirm the paramount interest of our workers, but also ease the plight of the average Filipino in the face of current pressures and difficulties. Because we have made significant gains in the economy, we can now pay back the people, especially the working class.

Unfortunately, there are groups which continue to plot mayhem and destabilization. These misguided elements of our society have mistaken the recent Supreme Court ruling as a license to promote anarchy in our streets. They are doing the true workers a disservice.

The law authorities will be out in the streets to enforce the rule of law, but we are not gearing for any test of wills or confrontation with any militant groups. While the authorities respect the right to peaceful assembly, they are also equally prepared to enforce law and order all within the framework of existing laws. To this end, our law enforcers are prepared to work with the organizers of all mass actions to keep the streets safe and prevent unwarranted provocations. We ask all marchers, rallyists and demonstrators to police their ranks as responsible and law-abiding citizens.

Healthy dissent is part of our democratic system, but unruly mass actions are prohibited by the law. The recent ruling of the Supreme Court, far from tolerating mobs, actually recognized and ruled as constitutional BP 880, the Public Assembly Act. The High Court recognized the authority to regulate the time, place and manner of public assemblies. Permits to rally are still required except in designated freedom parks. Once granted a permit for a designated place, rallyists cannot march to another place.

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We are glad that more than fifty percent of respondents to the recent SWS survey feel that it is time to set aside political bickering in favor of moving on.

President Arroyo has not wavered in her commitment to alleviate poverty through her ten-point legacy agenda known by its acronym, BEAT THE ODDs, and by improving the investment climate.

We believe that there is always room for constructive partnerships between the administration and a responsible opposition within the framework of nonpartisan efforts to help the poor and build a strong economy.

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President Arroyo recently viewed at Villamor airbase a C-130 aircraft that was repaired in the Philippines and by Filipinos. Asian Aerospace Corporation transformed part of the former Clark Air Base into a huge repair center and gathered together the most experienced and skilled among Filipino former workers of Lockheed Martin. She lauded the refurbishing as representing Filipino innovation and technological expertise, and expressed optimism that the Philippines is ready to take off as the aircraft maintenance hub of the Asia Pacific Region.

In a related event, the President inaugurated the Philippine Air Force Airmen’s Dormitory, which is expected to provide our airmen comfortable transient accommodations as they shift assignments.

The morale and welfare of our men and women in uniform continue to be among President Gloria’s top priorities for defense reform. P1.3 billion of our P 35 billion AFP budget has been earmarked exclusively for AFP housing. Housing projects for soldiers are in the works in several camps and off-camp sites throughout the country.

Note: You may email us at totingbunye2000@yahoo.com

On behalf of the President By Sharon Flores People Asia Magazine (11/09/2004, from the Office of the Press Secretary, Malacañang Palaca)

Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio `Toting' Bunye has a great office. The expansive space is adorned with rich wooden panels, lending an old-world caramel glow to the surrounding area. Overhead is a choir of cherubs in a perpetual state of frolic. Every day, they smile down on Bunye and his staff while nestling beside incandescent bulbs on a massive ornate wooden chandelier.

The angels may come in handy on those days when the presidential spokesperson receives nothing but bad news down here on earth. Decor aside, the room's official purpose is underscored by its computers, printers, phones and whirring fax machines, and its bustling staff: this is a war room, after all.

"I like the ceiling," Bunye confesses with a generous grin. Looking dapper in his cream-colored suit and maroon tie, he points out that the room and its adjacent quarters used to house Mrs. Marcos' legendary wardrobe, everything from her decadent designer duds to her infamous shoe collection. Behind his desk, he notes, is a bookcase replete with travel books owned by deposed President Ferdinand Marcos.

Maybe it's just incidental that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's best-dressed Cabinet member works out of Former First Lady Imelda Marcos' bedroom at Malacañang Palace. But whatever the reason, Bunye feels good coming to work here every day. The Secretary's cool digs at Malacañang are certainly a far cry from the tumbleweeds and looming barbed gates of the Muntinlupa penitentiary, where he spent most of his young life. When he was only two months old, his family moved from his birthplace in Quiapo to the fringes of Muntinlupa after his father, Alfredo, was appointed director of prisons. There the Bunye family lived at the prison reservation; his younger brothers and sisters were born in the prison hospital. It was within the secured perimeters of the prison grounds that he grew up and learned about punishment... and a little arithmetic besides.

"Actually, I was tutored by a convict," he volunteers. "He was a professor in math. He was in for physical injuries or something. And I got to know some of the prisoners who were also nice."

It may seem strange for Bunye and his siblings to be socializing with criminals at such a young and impressionable age. But it was their father who encouraged them to find the humanity within each person, whatever his or her past transgressions.

As prisons director, Alfredo Bunye introduced more progressive and humane working procedures to the local penal system.

"When my father started as a young superintendent, it was the practice then to use leg chains on prisoners," Bunye recalls. "But when he became prison director, he said, `No more leg chains.' He was known at that time as the father of modern penology."

Despite raising them in an environment bound by order and restriction, Toting Bunye's parents hoped their children would enjoy all of life's liberties. They knew that, through good education, their kids would have the freedom to exercise their full potential. So early on, despite the sacrifices, Bunye's parents struggled to give them the best education their resources could provide.

"At that time, I had the impression that we were rich," Toting Bunye now recalls. "It was because they did not turn down anything related to education. They sent us to the best schools despite my father receiving only a bureau director's meager salary."

His parents' hard work paid off as the young Toting Bunye eventually graduated valedictorian both in elementary and high school. To help ease his family's financial burdens, he also became a working student, shuffling between Ateneo de Manila where he finished both his AB in Political Science and Bachelor of Laws, and the Philippine Dai/y STAR where he covered the defense beat.

On two occasions, he was sent to South Vietnam in the middle of the Vietnam War to cover the activities of the Philippine Civic Action Group. The eye opening experience led him to write a four-part series entitled "War Vignettes," a first-person account of events immediately after the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam in 1968. He also produced a one-hour documentary broadcast in 1967 over DZMT called "The Other War."

Soon after passing the bar, Bunye served in various executive positions at the Ayala Group of Companies including assistant vice president of the Ayala Investment and Development Corp., and the Bank of the Philippine Islands. He also earned a Master's Degree in Management at the Asian Institute of Management.

Then something happened that changed not only the country but also the course of his career. "In 1986, we had the EDSA revolution and President Cory Aquino at that time was looking f people she could appoint as officer-in-charge for Muntinlupa. Out of four candidates, I was the reluctant candidate, but eventually I accepted it he says.

Apprehensive about the new job, remembered his father's lessons. "I imbibed from my father the value of service to others. But at that time, I dir want to go into government because I noticed how difficult it was financially, especially for my father. My joining politics was by accident, purely incidental."

Bunye settled into the job as officer-in-charge of Muntinlupa, thinking he would serve only six months. But when his term was extended to two years, he knew he was in for the long haul. Confident of the great promise within sleepy municipality, he ran for mayor 1988.

Ultimately, Bunye's corporate background proved useful, especially when trying to streamline systems a, drastically cut red tape. After careful study of the bureaucracy, Bunye was able to turn the local government’s antiquated system into a well-oiled machine that delivers faster and better results for its constituents. So effective were the changes he instituted that other municipalities went on to copy their ‘one-stop shop’ approach.

Bunye served for 10 years as mayor of Muntinlupa and went on to become its first congressman after it was declared a city. In Congress, he continued to champion the cause of local government, especially in providing them with greater fiscal autonomy. He also served as chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority from 1991 to 1992. Then there was his active promotion of arnis, the Filipino knife sport that has spread throughout the world. He served s the president of the World Eskrima Kali Arnis (WEKAF) from 1992 to 1998, even hosting an invitational tournament for arnis practitioners dubbed the Ignacio "Toting" Bunye Cup.

Perhaps it was fate or just pure coincidence, but in 2002, Bunye was once again invited to serve under a female president’s administration. He accepted President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s call to serve as Press Secretary, this time staying on the job for six months before taking on the sensitive post of Presidential Spokesperson.

"My career came full cirdle," he observes. "I started as a media person and now my work is media related. The only difference is that before I was asking questions. Now I’m answering the questions."

Bunye is the President’s main conduit to the press. On TV, radio and in print, he disseminates the President’s views regarding every issue. It’s not always easy. He is well aware that everything he says will be scrutinized and possibly used as critical ammunition against the President and her administration. That is why he must employ all his resources to help navigate the rough sea of media inquiry and political intrigue.

"As a lawyer, I learned to study all the facts. As a management person, I learned to be disciplined and more systematic in approach. And then my background as a media person taught me how to deal with the press. So all these experiences have given me a broad and deep perspective which enable me to tackle the general requirements of the work."

He constantly reviews the President’s programs, policies and activities – a work in progress, at best. "I read her policy pronouncements. I attend meetings with her. And when in doubt, I ask the President. I say, ‘Ma’am, what is your stand on this?’ But even with the exposure, I would say that about 80 percent (of the time), I deliver an answer that more or less reflects the position of the President on a particular issue.

Bunye explains that simply parroting statements by the President is not what makes a good Presidential Spokesperson. One must be perceptive and attuned to the President’s thoughts, beliefs and opinions on a variety of subjects. And just as with life, it’s about believing in what you say and do.

"I believe that our President is the right President for the right time, at a time when we are experiencing these challenges," he says. "I’m very glad and very honored to be one of the people the President trusts to be on her team."

And a little calculation doesn’t hurt either. "I like the job because I share the vision of the President. It’s like studying math. If you like math, you normally do well," Bunye smiles.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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