DBM SCRAPPED BUDGETS PROPOSED BY COMELEC: NO MORE  BANGSAMORO ENTITY AND PROPOSED CHA CHA?   

SEPT 5 --Has the government scrapped the Bangsamoro entity and the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha)? This cropped up yesterday after Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. revealed that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) junked the budgets proposed by the poll body for the conduct of Cha-cha and plebiscite for the Bangsamoro.

Likewise removed from the proposed Comelec budget was the P89.6-million outlay for overseas absentee voting. “When we submitted the P36-billion (Comelec) budget, there were several special projects that we supposed to undertake. We are giving a budget for the possible amendment of the Constitution, a plebiscite, we put there about P7 billion and we also put certain amount for the preparation of the Bangsamoro plebiscite as we anticipate that something will happen in 2015. All of these were slashed and taken out,” Brillantes told the House Committee on Appropriations.

Brillantes said the P7 billion will be used for the execution of the Charter change through Constitutional Convention (Con-Con), which would no longer be feasible since it “needs more time” compared to Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) as a mode of amending the Constitution. Under Con-Con, delegates will be elected to study and amend the Constitution. A plebiscite shall also be conducted wherein people would decide on the fate of the amendments approved by the Con-Con delegates. “It is not too late for the Cha-cha, depending on how to amend it. Basta may budget din it can be done,” Brillantes said. “Kaya nga nag-propose kami ng P7 -billion budget pero tinanggal ng DBM. Ibig sabihin hindi rin sila interested sa Cha-cha (That’s why we proposed a P7-billion budget but DBM scrapped it. This means they are not interested with Cha-cha),” he added. BUDGET FOR BANGSAMORO IMPLEMENTATION ALLOTTED * READ MORE...

(ALSO) Miriam to Abad: Explain P6.5-B DAP given to solons at the height of Corona impeachment  

SEPT 6 --Budget Secretary Florencio Abad must explain to the Senate in its “Question Hour” how the P6.5-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) given to lawmakers before, during, and after the Senate impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona was spent. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said she would file Monday a resolution requesting the Senate leadership to conduct the ‘Question Hour’ which is part of Congress’ oversight function. Santiago, a noted constitutionalist, said the “question hour” is provided for by Article VI, Section 22 of the Constitution where the head of a department may be requested by the Senate or the House of Representatives to appear and answer questions pertaining to their department. In the “Question Hour,” Santiago said Abad will be asked to bring with him a list of the total DAP amounts distributed to every senator and representative.

Santiago also wants Abad to specify the projects for which each disbursement from lawmakers’ DAP was released and answer questions from the senators. The senators and representatives who received DAP funds must account for these public funds, especially amid allegations that DAP funds were diverted to the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) of (alleged pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim) Napoles and fake or grossly overpriced projects, she said. NOT COVERED BY EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE Santiago said she sees no reason for President Aquino to forbid Abad from appearing before the Senate and being subjected to the question hour, since the information that the Senate seeks is not covered by the doctrine of executive privilege. “Secretary Abad has no reason to shy away from the Senate question hour because the doctrine of executive privilege is recognized only in relation to certain types of information of a sensitive character,” she said. &READ MORE...

(ALSO) PIDS: P660 million from DAP not dormant  

SEPT 5 --The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) clarified on Friday that it can account for the P660 million fund allocated to the agency through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). This, after Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed a resolution calling for an investigation on DAP money that remains unspent and unaccounted for, according to the 2013 Annual Audit Report of the Commission on Audit (COA). In a press statement, PIDS president Gilbert Llanto explained that the amount did not go entirely to the agency. He said there were two fund releases for the P660 million. The first release was P560 million on June 20, 2012. P504 million of the amount went to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for projects of the state universities and colleges (SUCs) while P56 million went to PIDS for policy research. He also said that 29, not 25, SUCs have benefited from those funds. The second release of P100 million was on August 1, 2013 for the purchase of property to house PIDS offices. No 'dormant' funds *READ MORE...

ALSO: DA Chief Alcala clueless on skyrocketing garlic prices 

SEPT 5 --Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is still clueless why the price of garlic went up to as much as P300 a kilo recently. Alcala faced the House of Representatives appropriations committee on Friday to defend his agency's proposed budget for 2015 as well as explain the recent spike in garlic prices. Alcala conceded that the market price of garlic is unreasonable. He also clarified that local garlic actually costs just 40 pesos per kilo. The agriculture chief explained that the price of garlic shot up after the harvest season in the first quarter of the year. "Nung tumaas presyo napakalapit sa pagkaka-harvest we have enough supply ng local garlic. Nagkaroon ng tightness ng supply kaya patuloy na nag-aaral paano isasaayos. Kung mapansin ng mga mambabatas, totoong nagtaas pero may supply. Ako po kasama sa paniniwala na may nagsamantala," he said. ACT Teachers' party list Rep. Antonio Tinio said a congressional inquiry established that the landing price of imported garlic was merely 30 pesos per kilo while the price of locally grown garlic was 70 pesos per kilo. The price of garlic in the market was 300-400 pesos a kilo in June.
*READ MORE...

ALSO: Palace stands by PH peacekeepers' decision  

SEPT 5 --DFA taking steps to address peacekeepers' concerns --Malacañang assured that the government will stand by the decision of Filipino soldiers stationed in Golan Heights to leave their post and not surrender to Syrian rebels. The statement was issued by Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in response to United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) Commander Iqbal Singh Singha's statement that the Filipinos committed an act of cowardice in the Golan Heights. "We stand by our Filipino peacekeepers, they did the right decision. As to the statement of General Singha, we would rather let the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) issue a statement to that effect," said Lacierda. He said it was hard for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Filipino peacekeepers to imagine surrendering to the rebels. At that time, the Syrian rebels were closing in on the Filipino soldiers in position 68. The soldiers were also running low on ammunition. *READ MORE...

ALSO GMAnews Opinion: Mae Paner, PNoy and the politics of performance

SEPT 1 --I have news for PNoy. Of all the personalities whom he has declared as enemies,
from Gloria to Renato Corona to the triumvirate Enrile, Jinggoy and Bong, to the Supreme Court justices and the many others that earned his ire, he has found his match in Juana Change.  And we thought Daang Matuwid is an objective reality, a non-negotiable standard, an impersonal rubric that has to be pursued regardless of who may be its friends and its enemies.

And yet, when Mae Paner, a.k.a. Juana Change, took it to heart and began criticizing a government that has gone astray from what she thought was Daang Matuwid, the President declared her as just one of his irrational critics out to diminish his noble mission of bringing all of us to the Promised Land. She became an enemy. Clad in a ballet tutu, social activist Juana Change (Mae Paner) poses beside a cutout poster of President Benigno Aquino III during the "Stand Up, Sign Up Against All Pork" rally in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Manila on Monday, August 25, 2014. photo by Danny Pata.

Thus, it became crystal clear that for Benigno Simeon Aquino III, a.k.a. PNoy, Daang Matuwid is only for friends. And Juana Change, just like the rest of us his critics, would never be a part of it. In his perspective, PNoy has condemned all of those who do not agree with him to the dustbins of his own version of history. PNoy is not really serious, or is he? Well, I have news for PNoy. Of all the personalities whom he has declared as enemies, from Gloria to Renato Corona to the triumvirate Enrile, Jinggoy and Bong, to the Supreme Court justices and the many others that earned his ire, he has found his match in Juana Change. The reason I say so is because politics in this country has become a performance, and PNoy may be a political performer himself, but he is no match to a dedicated performance activist that is Mae Paner a.k.a. Juana Change.

PNoy rose to power, from being a non-performing asset of the legislature to become President on account of politics that has become a political theater. The script of his political career is simply based on luck and fortune, and not on talent and virtue. Historical conjunctures have made him an accidental President. What could be more accidental than having a political pedigree that rests on the magic of a surname that rescued him from the ignominy of a lackluster performance in public service?

He has not authored a single major bill that became a law, something which Senator Lito Lapid, a much-derided and belittled actor-turned-senator, has at least one. He is such a lucky man to have a father who was persecuted by a dictator, died and was buried, and whose political capital was resurrected through the election of his mother as President. Such luck had a second coming, when his mother, a much revered democracy icon, died at a time that the country was suffering from the tantrums of Gloria, and was buried just in time when the political landscape was searching for another hero. The political theater that became the stage for a resurrection of a second Aquino to become President is not unlike the first one.

Both were conjunctures brought about by televised funeral marches, of deaths of icons seen as heroes celebrated in the face of despotic images of the incumbent Presidents at each time—Marcos for the first Aquino the mother, and Gloria for the second Aquino the son. Both were products of scripts that only fate could have perfected, worthy of a political accident where the requirement of experience in politics yielded first to the image of a grieving widow, and where a compelling record as a prerequisite to be in public service bowed later to a grieving son. *CONTINUE READING...


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

No more Bangsamoro, Cha-cha? DBM scraps Comelec’s proposed budgets for two measures, overseas voting

Has the government scrapped the Bangsamoro entity and the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha)?


(Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr.PHOTO COURTESY OF PHILSTAR
 

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) POSTED SEPT 5  by Charissa Luci - This cropped up yesterday after Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. revealed that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) junked the budgets proposed by the poll body for the conduct of Cha-cha and plebiscite for the Bangsamoro.

Likewise removed from the proposed Comelec budget was the P89.6-million outlay for overseas absentee voting.

“When we submitted the P36-billion (Comelec) budget, there were several special projects that we supposed to undertake. We are giving a budget for the possible amendment of the Constitution, a plebiscite, we put there about P7 billion and we also put certain amount for the preparation of the Bangsamoro plebiscite as we anticipate that something will happen in 2015. All of these were slashed and taken out,” Brillantes told the House Committee on Appropriations.

Brillantes said the P7 billion will be used for the execution of the Charter change through Constitutional Convention (Con-Con), which would no longer be feasible since it “needs more time” compared to Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) as a mode of amending the Constitution.

Under Con-Con, delegates will be elected to study and amend the Constitution. A plebiscite shall also be conducted wherein people would decide on the fate of the amendments approved by the Con-Con delegates.

“It is not too late for the Cha-cha, depending on how to amend it. Basta may budget din it can be done,” Brillantes said.

“Kaya nga nag-propose kami ng P7 -billion budget pero tinanggal ng DBM. Ibig sabihin hindi rin sila interested sa Cha-cha (That’s why we proposed a P7-billion budget but DBM scrapped it. This means they are not interested with Cha-cha),” he added.

BUDGET FOR BANGSAMORO IMPLEMENTATION ALLOTTED

* While the budget for the Bangsamoro plebiscite was scrapped, the DBM allocated P2.7 billion for the implementation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad explained they earmarked an allocation since they anticipate the enactment of the BBL, which calls for the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

He said they don’t want to “scramble” to meet the appropriation requirements of the law.

Brillantes told lawmakers that Congress has to approve a joint resolution to call for a plebiscite for Cha-cha.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who filed the economic Cha-cha resolution, said he will file a resolution to ensure that the plebiscite would be conducted, alongside with the 2016 national and local elections.

“If that’s the only way, then we will do it [filing the resolution],” he said. “But no immediate need to do it,” Belmonte added.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares proposed that the P7 billion should be restored for people’s initiative referendum to totally scrap all forms of pork barrel system.

The progressive solon finds as suspicious the Executive’s scrapping of the Cha-cha budget, explaining that if it really wants to push for constitutional amendments, Congress can approve a supplemental budget for the Cha-cha.

“May I propose that the P7-billion fund be restored for people initiatives’ referendum to totally scrap the pork barrel system,” Colmenares said.

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said the panel cannot adopt Colmenares’ proposal, which was supported by Brillantes, explaining that they are “still at the budget briefing stage.”

“The GAB (General Appropriations Bill) is not yet passed on first reading. We will take note of your suggestion,” he said.

He said Colmenares could introduce his amendments when the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget reaches the plenary.

OVERSEAS VOTING BUDGET ALSO SCRAPPED

The scrapping of the overseas absentee voting budget prompted Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello to ask Davao Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the panel, to ensure the retention of the absentee voting budget.

“I cannot see any reasonable excuse for this deletion from the 2015 budget. There is an existing law for overseas absentee voting and it needs funds to be implemented. Furthermore, the 2016 elections are less than two years away,” he said.

“If the DBM insists on this cut, it will have to answer to our OFWs,” Bello added.

During the budget hearing, Brillantes also clarified that Malacañang “has nothing to do” with the Comelec’s decision to use mix of old and new machines for the 2016 polls.

He said the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC), mostly composed of private companies and information technology experts, recommended that that multiple or mixed technologies be used for the 2016 elections.

Upon the CAC recommendation, the Comelec en banc decided that the PCOS machines and a second voting technology – the Optical Mark Reader (OMR) system and the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) – will be used in 2016.

Colmenares protested the use of mixed automated election system (AES), saying it “would only complicate” the conduct of the 2016 pills.

“The moment na ang PCOS machines ay mag-breakdown parang MRT lang, the whole election loses credibility. Mabuti kung hindi ito presidential elections,” he said.

Brillantes defended the Comelec en banc’s decision, saying that the existing 80,000 PCOS machines they used during 2010 and 2013 elections are still in good condition, reliable and can be used for the 2016 polls.

He noted that the cost of the new machines will be P3.7 billion.

He said they will use the old PCOS and will seek additional 41,800 new machines for the 2016 presidential elections.

Comelec proposed P11 billion for the the 2016 elections preparation, including the procurement new PCOS machines.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Miriam to Abad: Explain P6.5-B DAP given to solons at the height of Corona impeachment by Mario Casayuran September 6, 2014 Share this:

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad must explain to the Senate in its “Question Hour” how the P6.5-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) given to lawmakers before, during, and after the Senate impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona was spent.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said she would file Monday a resolution requesting the Senate leadership to conduct the ‘Question Hour’ which is part of Congress’ oversight function.

Santiago, a noted constitutionalist, said the “question hour” is provided for by Article VI, Section 22 of the Constitution where the head of a department may be requested by the Senate or the House of Representatives to appear and answer questions pertaining to their department.

In the “Question Hour,” Santiago said Abad will be asked to bring with him a list of the total DAP amounts distributed to every senator and representative.

Santiago also wants Abad to specify the projects for which each disbursement from lawmakers’ DAP was released and answer questions from the senators.

The senators and representatives who received DAP funds must account for these public funds, especially amid allegations that DAP funds were diverted to the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) of (alleged pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim) Napoles and fake or grossly overpriced projects, she said.

NOT COVERED BY EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE

Santiago said she sees no reason for President Aquino to forbid Abad from appearing before the Senate and being subjected to the question hour, since the information that the Senate seeks is not covered by the doctrine of executive privilege.

“Secretary Abad has no reason to shy away from the Senate question hour because the doctrine of executive privilege is recognized only in relation to certain types of information of a sensitive character,” she said.

* Santiago said these types of information include military, diplomatic, and other national security matters; presidential conversations, correspondences, and discussions in closed-door Cabinet meetings; and information on investigations of crimes by law enforcement agencies before the prosecution of the accused.

“The extraordinary character of the exemptions indicate that the presumption inclines heavily against executive secrecy and in favor of disclosure,” the senator explained.

INCENTIVE

The DAP was discovered during a privilege speech of detained Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Ejercito Estrada in September 2013 where he revealed that certain senators – himself included, received an additional P50 million each as “incentive” for voting to impeach Corona.

The additional P50 million was on top of their regular Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” allocations.

Responding to Estrada’s revelation, Abad issued a public statement where he admitted that the funds released to the senators is part of DAP, a program designed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to ramp up spending to accelerate economic expansion.

Reports show that the Aquino administration used some P6.5-billion DAP funds before, during, and after the Corona impeachment trial reportedly to bribe senators and members of the House of Representatives. Members of the Lower House allegedly received some P5 billion in DAP funds, while senators received P1.5 billion.

Senators Santiago along with Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., and former Sen. Joker Arroyo voted against the Corona’s impeachment. They denied receiving DAP-related funds.

“I did not receive any DAP fund. And if it was indeed a bribe to secure the conviction of Corona, it was illogical for me to be rewarded with the DAP funds because I voted to acquit him,’’ Marcos explained.

There are also media reports showing that one senator received P1 billion in DAP allocations.

On July 1, 2014, the Supreme Court declared several acts and practices under the DAP unconstitutional, including the “cross-border transfers” of the savings of the Executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the Executive.

In effect, the practice of the Aquino administration of transferring savings from the Executive to Congress, in the form of DAP funds allocated to favored senators and representatives, was declared unconstitutional.

The funding scheme is on appeal before the Supreme Court.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

PIDS: P660 million from DAP not dormant September 5, 2014 4:41pm


LOGO OF PIDS WEBSITE

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) clarified on Friday that it can account for the P660 million fund allocated to the agency through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

This, after Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed a resolution calling for an investigation on DAP money that remains unspent and unaccounted for, according to the 2013 Annual Audit Report of the Commission on Audit (COA).

In a press statement, PIDS president Gilbert Llanto explained that the amount did not go entirely to the agency. He said there were two fund releases for the P660 million.

The first release was P560 million on June 20, 2012. P504 million of the amount went to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for projects of the state universities and colleges (SUCs) while P56 million went to PIDS for policy research.

He also said that 29, not 25, SUCs have benefited from those funds.

The second release of P100 million was on August 1, 2013 for the purchase of property to house PIDS offices.

No 'dormant' funds

* Llanto has also stressed that the P213 million that has allegedly lain dormant in Landbank accounts has already been earmarked for specific projects.

He said that P194.2 million was with CHED, while P19.2 million was with PIDS.

He also said that the COA report did not label these funds as dormant.

COA did not ask PIDS to return interest earnings on these "dormant" funds either, he said.

The think tank did not claim that it deposits in non-interest bearing accounts, Llanto said. COA also knows that the accrued interest of the remaining balance in PIDS custody is P1,147,798.90 as of June 30, 2014.

Llanto also said that it is CHED that has a non-interest bearing account with Landbank.

The total of P297 million in unliquidated funds has also been released by CHED to various SUCs and can been accounted for, he said.

The PSID president said that a total of P82.1 million has been liquidated by the SUCs as of June 30, 2014.

'Bad land investment' tag unwarranted

The PIDS president also commented on the alleged P100 million "bad land investment" on a lot owned by the National Housing Agency, saying the transaction was "clean, legal, and transparent."

He said that PSID undertook the necessary due diligence before purchasing a tiny portion of the 3.7 hectares occupied by the Philippine Children's Medical Center (PCMC) in good faith.

Currently, PSID is in the process of getting the land title and registering with the Register of Deeds in Quezon City.

He also clarified that PCMC signed a conforme to NHA's letter dated July 15, 2013 informing the medical center that the lot was awarded to PIDS. — Trisha Macas/JDS, GMA News


CLICK IMAGE OR LINK:
http://www.pids.gov.ph/files/StatementofPIDSPresident.pdf

FROM ABS-CBN

DA Chief Alcala clueless on skyrocketing garlic prices By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News Posted at 09/05/2014 6:40 PM | Updated as of 09/05/2014 6:40 PM


ALCALA

MANILA - Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is still clueless why the price of garlic went up to as much as P300 a kilo recently.

Alcala faced the House of Representatives appropriations committee on Friday to defend his agency's proposed budget for 2015 as well as explain the recent spike in garlic prices.

Alcala conceded that the market price of garlic is unreasonable.

He also clarified that local garlic actually costs just 40 pesos per kilo.

The agriculture chief explained that the price of garlic shot up after the harvest season in the first quarter of the year.

"Nung tumaas presyo napakalapit sa pagkaka-harvest we have enough supply ng local garlic. Nagkaroon ng tightness ng supply kaya patuloy na nag-aaral paano isasaayos. Kung mapansin ng mga mambabatas, totoong nagtaas pero may supply. Ako po kasama sa paniniwala na may nagsamantala," he said.

ACT Teachers' party list Rep. Antonio Tinio said a congressional inquiry established that the landing price of imported garlic was merely 30 pesos per kilo while the price of locally grown garlic was 70 pesos per kilo. The price of garlic in the market was 300-400 pesos a kilo in June.

* Government investigators earlier said high garlic prices are caused by collusion and a cartel. The National Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe to build cases against involved officials and traders.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima bared that a majority of import permits were granted to only one group of garlic traders. Media reports said garlic imports are controlled by 4 individuals through a web of dummy interests accredited by the Bureau of Plant Industry.

Tinio said the Department of Justice named one Leah Cruz as among those responsible for the increase in garlic prices. Leah Cruz is part of the the National Garlic Action Team formed by the Bureau of Plant Industry.

Alcala confirmed that Cruz is part of the team but said he has no copy of the DOJ investigation report.

He also does not know the other 3 players, aside from Leah Cruz, being blamed for the high cost of garlic.

Tinio noted that as a prime commodity, garlic should be subject to price controls. He noted no price controls were recommended as government opted to instead saturate the market with lower priced garlic.

Palace stands by PH peacekeepers' decision By Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News Posted at 09/05/2014 6:58 PM | Updated as of 09/05/2014 6:58 PM

DFA taking steps to address peacekeepers' concerns


LACIERDA

MANILA - Malacañang assured that the government will stand by the decision of Filipino soldiers stationed in Golan Heights to leave their post and not surrender to Syrian rebels.

The statement was issued by Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in response to United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) Commander Iqbal Singh Singha's statement that the Filipinos committed an act of cowardice in the Golan Heights.

"We stand by our Filipino peacekeepers, they did the right decision. As to the statement of General Singha, we would rather let the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) issue a statement to that effect," said Lacierda.

He said it was hard for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Filipino peacekeepers to imagine surrendering to the rebels.

At that time, the Syrian rebels were closing in on the Filipino soldiers in position 68. The soldiers were also running low on ammunition.

* Lacierda explained that the Filipino peacekeepers were deployed to Golan Heights to keep the peace between Israel and Syria. But when the Syrian rebels intervened, the rules of engagement changed, he said.

"While the peacekeepers are not supposed to take any offensive operation; however, they were attacked and so they would have to defend themselves. This is a situation that was apparent and was obvious in the situation between the Syrian rebels and Philippine troops. And we believe that -- and we are very certain -- that our Philippine troops, our Filipino peacekeepers, made the right decision," said Lacierda.

But he clarified that they do not want to exacerbate the situation and will leave it to the DFA to address the issue raised by Singha.

Diplomatic channels

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, meanwhile, through DFA spokesman Charles Jose, said the Philippines is taking steps to address the peacekeepers' concerns.

Jose refused to elaborate on what steps they are taking to resolve the issue, but said that the Philippines' UN mission is handling it through diplomatic channels.

A source in the DFA said one of their options is to write a letter to the UN and hold a dialogue with them to express the complaints and grievances of the leadership of the AFP.

In an interview with a Noida-based newspaper, Singha criticized the alleged defiance of the 40 trapped Filipino peacekeepers as non-professional. He said their actions endangered the lives of the abducted Fijian soldiers.

Singha also insisted that the Filipino troops broke the chain of command. He called the escape of the 40 troops from position 68 as an act of cowardice.

Earlier, the leadership of the AFP called for an investigation of Singha's order for Philippine troops to surrender their arms to the Syrian rebels. -- With a report by Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News

GMA NEWS NETWORK OPINION

Mae Paner, PNoy and the politics of performance By ANTONIO P. CONTRERASSeptember 1, 2014 1:40pm 1745 83 5 1882 Tags: Benigno Aquino III


ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

I have news for PNoy. Of all the personalities whom he has declared as enemies, from Gloria to Renato Corona to the triumvirate Enrile, Jinggoy and Bong, to the Supreme Court justices and the many others that earned his ire, he has found his match in Juana Change.

 And we thought Daang Matuwid is an objective reality, a non-negotiable standard, an impersonal rubric that has to be pursued regardless of who may be its friends and its enemies.

And yet, when Mae Paner, a.k.a. Juana Change, took it to heart and began criticizing a government that has gone astray from what she thought was Daang Matuwid, the President declared her as just one of his irrational critics out to diminish his noble mission of bringing all of us to the Promised Land. She became an enemy.

Thus, it became crystal clear that for Benigno Simeon Aquino III, a.k.a. PNoy, Daang Matuwid is only for friends. And Juana Change, just like the rest of us his critics, would never be a part of it.

In his perspective, PNoy has condemned all of those who do not agree with him to the dustbins of his own version of history.


Clad in a ballet tutu, social activist Juana Change (Mae Paner) poses beside a cutout poster of President Benigno Aquino III during the "Stand Up, Sign Up Against All Pork" rally in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Manila on Monday, August 25, 2014. Danny Pata

PNoy is not really serious, or is he?

Well, I have news for PNoy. Of all the personalities whom he has declared as enemies, from Gloria to Renato Corona to the triumvirate Enrile, Jinggoy and Bong, to the Supreme Court justices and the many others that earned his ire, he has found his match in Juana Change.

The reason I say so is because politics in this country has become a performance, and PNoy may be a political performer himself, but he is no match to a dedicated performance activist that is Mae Paner a.k.a. Juana Change.

PNoy rose to power, from being a non-performing asset of the legislature to become President on account of politics that has become a political theater.

The script of his political career is simply based on luck and fortune, and not on talent and virtue. Historical conjunctures have made him an accidental President. What could be more accidental than having a political pedigree that rests on the magic of a surname that rescued him from the ignominy of a lackluster performance in public service? He has not authored a single major bill that became a law, something which Senator Lito Lapid, a much-derided and belittled actor-turned-senator, has at least one.

He is such a lucky man to have a father who was persecuted by a dictator, died and was buried, and whose political capital was resurrected through the election of his mother as President. Such luck had a second coming, when his mother, a much revered democracy icon, died at a time that the country was suffering from the tantrums of Gloria, and was buried just in time when the political landscape was searching for another hero.

The political theater that became the stage for a resurrection of a second Aquino to become President is not unlike the first one. Both were conjunctures brought about by televised funeral marches, of deaths of icons seen as heroes celebrated in the face of despotic images of the incumbent Presidents at each time—Marcos for the first Aquino the mother, and Gloria for the second Aquino the son. Both were products of scripts that only fate could have perfected, worthy of a political accident where the requirement of experience in politics yielded first to the image of a grieving widow, and where a compelling record as a prerequisite to be in public service bowed later to a grieving son.

* And in both instances, politics became a stage where symbols collided with, and then absorbed, reality. They happened in moments when images and representations became the lynchpins that directed political narratives. EDSA became a stage for the coming together of these symbolisms for the first Aquino presidency. It was kin to the parting of the Red Sea in a Cecille B. De Mille production—awe-inspiring, compelling. It swamped any resistance to the imaging of Cory as a saint, to a point that it became the dominant narrative, effectively relegating the once powerful and mighty Marcos mythology to become a minority discourse.

After EDSA, politics has never been the same again.

Celebrities came to populate politics, even as politics ended up being celebrated as a performance, not of the “performance of duty” kind, but of the showbiz kind.

This is the kind of politics that propelled PNoy to power. A politics that is not based on the reality of excellence, but on the representation of goodness, something that is not even warranted by what is objectively established, but simply on the narrative of what is being purveyed by the popular media. It is the era where scripted politics rule supreme, where the fiction of virtue is taken as biblical truth by those who are hoping for redemption from misery caused by poverty and corruption. To a viewing public whose significant part of their ordinary lives is spent mostly watching soap operas and game shows on TV, it was easy to believe a mythology, and to perceive illusion as reality.

PNoy is a good man, so they say, not because of anything else, but simply because of his parents. He is a principled man, not because of any actual manifestation of such, but simply because he is the son of Ninoy and Cory. He is perceived, not experienced. He is believed and trusted not because of anything else but because of faith on a representation, and not on a reality.

He has become an idol in the same way that people idolized Fernando Poe Jr. People idolized the FPJ they saw in movies, even if they did not have any idea of who the real FPJ was. Likewise, people idolized the PNoy they saw painted by his PR handlers and apologists. This image of PNoy is totally different from what we have as evidence, a career in politics not worthy of any reelection if one has to base judgment objectively on his performance of his duty as an elected legislator.

PNoy became a star idolized by citizens who have become his supporters and fans in a post-modern world where politics has become a simulation of the real. It is a world where politicians perform no longer in the sphere of legislation and public service alone, but in the theater of public imagination. This is precisely why there are just too many actors and celebrities who find a natural home in politics. It is also because of this that traditional politicians have to now become performers and entertainers too.

Thus, you see Senator Miriam Santiago dramatically announcing her illness, and then at the right moment declaring that she is cured, and is now entertaining the thought of running for President. Earlier, we saw the trying hard Mar Roxas taking on a variety of roles, from a pier kargador, to a carpenter, to a traffic enforcer. While Chiz Escudero is busy romancing Heart Evangelista, we have Jun Abaya, fully protected from the harmful rays of the sun by an umbrella-carrying aide one can mistake for a production assistant, riding the MRT. Days after, Senator Grace Poe took the MRT challenge herself, this time trying to be more authentic than Jun Abaya.

This is now the world of performance politics.

And it is a world that is the natural home of Mae Paner, the performance activist.

Her Juana Change took on corruption not in the seriousness of an ideological speech but on the simplicity of a parody and satire. She elicited laughter, even as she drove home the powerful message that other street activists take a lot of effort to put in banners, placards and effigies but only those who are their comrades in ideology would appreciate.

Mae Paner and other performance activists like her are the secret weapons of the struggle against corruption and towards good governance. The reason I say so is because in the cultural constructs of our people, ideology is no longer seen as something that is grand, but lies in the everyday and the ordinary. And in the everyday and ordinary, parody and laughter find a home and become effective ways by which we strike back at those who dare oppress us.

Mikhail Bakhtin celebrated the discourse of the carnival as a political space for creative resistance, where clowns could make fun of the oppressive king without fear of losing their heads to the guillotine. It is in this space of laughter and parody that we have likewise subjected our corrupt leaders to a dose of our own hilarious revenge. Marcos was reduced to a caricature, even as Gloria became a mere ringtone.

Our culture is particularly adaptive to this kind of political behavior, considering our creative sense of humor, and our ability to convert our tragedies into comedies. We have the wherewithal to celebrate the politics of parody that can effectively neutralize the air of omnipotence of someone who thinks he is the messiah. We can reduce the ambition and expose the deception of a flawed politician not through the power of a coup but through the spiel of a comedian and the raucous laughter elicited by an internet meme, for indeed the best revenge we can exact on someone who desires so much power is to turn him or her into a bad joke.

And this is a discourse to which ordinary people can relate.

This is precisely why performance politics has become an easy and comfortable modality for politicians, since it is something that ordinary people appreciate. Miriam’s pick-up lines were a hit, even as people are entertained when political bombs explode during congressional investigations. We watch all of our political events through the lens of a soap opera, with a healthy dose of political satire. It is even surprising that we have not yet mainstreamed in our local TV programming the genre of talk shows that abound in the US where host celebrity comedians roast public figures, even if in many comedy bars, the spiel of some hosts have now taken on a political meaning when they make fun of political personalities.

This is the world of Juana Change. This is the turf of Mae Paner, the performance activist who created her.

When PNoy declared Mae Paner as an enemy, it was on the basis of her truthful parodies of what he has become. To his mind, it is Mae who abandoned Daang Matuwid. He was hurt by what he perceived as her betrayal of his trust.

But to Mae, and for many others who agree with her, it is the President who has betrayed those who placed so much trust in him.

In this battle, PNoy may have the weapon of authority and the mantle of his Presidential seal. He may still have the support of his loyal fans a.k.a. supporters. But he now performs in the stage of a political theater, lest we forget this. He is a product of a well-orchestrated performance politics, notably visible of which was his campaign MTV with Dingdong and Marian prominently featured. His presidency is the outcome of one of the finest examples of stage-managed representations, things that were necessary to re-cast his two-bit performance as congressman and senator into one that can excite people and make them believe that he is the hero that FPJ failed to become in real life.

He has his own cadre of apologists in showbiz, notably led by his sister Kris, and Boy Abunda. He lives in the same world of Juana Change, but he is not a natural there, for he is simply a creation of a script. And his creators are no match to a Mae Paner whose only goal is to make sure that politics serve its purpose of serving the people.

And there is evidence that the scriptwriters stage-managing his political performance are now running out of ideas. Everytime I see him on TV, I am now convinced that the authentic PNoy has been revealed, and what we see is a rambling, lost man. We are now witnessing the beginning of a season-ender of his presidency that has become a political soap opera. There was a hint from his camp to somewhat extend the political soap, just like what is happening to the seemingly endless “Please Be Careful With my Heart,” but his ratings are so bad that such idea was somewhat dropped as quickly as it was raised.

And he is now in a weakened position. He becomes vulnerable from those who will use the weapon of ordinary laughter and of political parody. He is a natural target.

And this is what would make performance activists like Mae Paner more threatening to PNoy. In fact, performance activists are more dangerous than those activists who burn effigies, or even those retired generals and political has-beens who plot coups. It is because it is easy to dismiss and underestimate the power of laughter, parody and satire, when in fact they can more effectively resonate with a people who are sick and tired of corruption, ineptitude and hubris but have no cultural predisposition for violence.

PNoy versus Mae Paner—it is going to be a fight between a President and a performance activist in a world where politics has become a performance. And in this battle, the one who can elicit the most laughter would win.

The author is a former dean of De La Salle University. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this GMA NEWS website.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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