Obama’s message to GMA

Obama’s message to GMA
http://www.newsbreak.com.ph
Monday, 27 July 2009

If President Arroyo has read Barack Obama’s books and if she has been following his speeches, she’ll know what to expect during their meeting in Washington D.C. this week. And she may find discomfort in Obama’s rhetoric and ideas.

It’s because GMA’s visit to the US comes at a time of public doubt about her true plans past her term in 2010. Dangling in the air are two options, both aimed at extending her stay in office: amending the Constitution through a constituent assembly, and setting up a “transition council” which she will lead and which will preside over the changing of the Constitution.

Clearly, in these two scenarios being peddled by her allies, she’s bypassing institutions and violating the Constitution.

Obama, who taught Constitutional law for 10 years, is a believer in institutions. He sees the building of institutions as the key to success of any country.

What Obama told Africa, in his speech in Ghana early July, may as well be his message for the rest of the developing world. Democracy, he said, is “more than just about holding elections. It’s also about what happens between elections.”

Listen to this: “No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves or if police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims off 20 percent off the top or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of…bribery.”

Obamas focus is on four critical areas: support for strong and sustainable democratic governments; support for development that provides opportunities for more people; strengthening of public health; and peaceful resolution of conflict.

Obama said that the US government will increase assistance to responsible institutions that promote good governance (parliaments that check abuse of power); rule of law (equal administration of justice); civic participation; and concrete solutions to corruption (automating services, protecting whistleblowers to advance transparency and accountability).

Thus, the issues of rebellion and terrorism in Mindanao, US aid to reform the military and strengthen anti-corruption programs, US investments in the Philippines are specifics that are best addressed, in Obama’s view, by democracies with “capable, reliable, and transparent institutions: strong parliaments, honest police forces, independent judges, an independent press, a vibrant private sector, a civil society.”

Can GMA make the case for strong institutions in the Philippines? That will be tough.

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3 Pinoys getting HIV every day — UNDP

3 Pinoys getting HIV every day – UNDP
Written by Kristine Servando
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com
http://www.newsbreak.com.ph
Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Philippines has seen an “alarming” increase in HIV cases in the past year, especially among overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and men who have sex with men (MSM), according to data by the Dept. of Health, as cited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“Last May, the country had 85 reported cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the highest ever in the country. That’s like 3 people a day, more cases than the A (H1N1) virus,” said Danton Remoto, UNDP Communications officer, at the country’s 1st National Conference on MSM, transgender, and HIV last July 22.

There have been 3,911 HIV cases since 1984, according to Department of Health (DOH) data as of May 2009.

All HIV cases were transmitted through sexual contact, with 36% of cases transmitted through homosexual contact and 89% of cases caused by unprotected sex.

Other “vulnerable groups” are OFWs (making up 22% of total cases last May), out-of-school youth, street children who are sometimes forced into prostitution, and MSM communities (which cross-cultural studies said comprise 10% of the Philippine population).

Although the total HIV cases only consist of less than 1% of the Philippine population – making it a low-prevalence country – Dr. Jessie Fanton of the Philippine National AIDS Council said the numbers are still alarming.

“We will always be low-prevalence because of the high population growth. But if you count warm bodies, it really shows an increase in HIV and AIDS cases,” he said.

Lifestyle causes
HIV patients are also getting younger and younger, with more HIV cases coming from the 20 to 24 age group (29% of total cases this year).

“We have patients as young as 15 to 17. They cannot be said to be uneducated too. So this is alarming,” said Dudz Razon (not his real name), an official from Pinoy Plus Association, a community of persons living with HIV or AIDS (PLWHA).

Fanton, citing a 2007 Integrated HIV Psychological study, said there have been several risk factors that contributed to the rapid spread of HIV in the country.

These include the rise in Internet-usage, which makes it easier to find sexual partners online; the prevalence of drugs and alcohol among MSMs in the past 3 years; and the popularity of anal sex without condoms.

“This is why this is an individual and behavioral issue that needs to be tracked and addressed,” Fanton said.

The 3-day National Conference on MSM, Transgender, and HIV is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, and aims to combat the rise in HIV cases by linking and training leaders from the MSM and transgender communities, as well as non-government organizations.

More than 50 representatives from gay and rights groups nationwide attended the conference. The project is part of the UNDP’s 3-year HIV Programme, in cooperation with TLF Share and the Health Action and Information Network (HAIN).

‘Double whammy’
Razon, a 40-year-old gay man who has been battling HIV since 1999, said that people like him have to contend with two problems – discrimination for being gay, and discrimination for being a PLWHA.

“We call it a double whammy. Kung baga, MSM ka na, positibo ka pa. Sometimes it’s easier to disclose that you’re HIV positive than to disclose that you are gay,” he said.

“Because on our part, hindi madaling aminin na bading ka at nakuha mo ang HIV through same-sex [intercourse]. Because hindi masyadong pinag-uusapan ang homosexuality sa Philippine culture. There’s a stigma,” he explained.

Razon, who engaged in gay sex only once in his life, said he has been open to his family about his sickness, but is reluctant to open up about his being gay for fear that it would ruin his “good boy” image or that he would face prejudice or violence.

Razon said he has also experienced insensitivity from health practitioners themselves, who “react differently when they know a person has HIV.” “Suddenly they wear masks around you and practice universal hygienic measures. So nakakahiya mag-open up sa kanila,” he said.

The Pinoy Plus Association’s peer-to-peer counseling has helped newly diagnosed HIV patients open up about their sickness. The Association, based in Manila, has over 100 active members.

HIV myths
UNDP Country Director Renaud Meyer said there have been cases of violence against gays, lesbians, or transgenders all over Southeast Asia. There are many countries that criminalize homosexuality.

Remoto said discrimination partly allows the sickness to continue, and promotes low self-esteem among persons living with HIV or AIDS.

“There are wrong notions about HIV. People think that if you’re infected it’s because you’re a sex worker, or mahilig ka kasi sa sex, so kasalanan mo iyan. We’re trying to erase that notion,” he said.

Razon shared that many gay PLWHAs are afraid to have sex lest they infect their partner. He said they opt for “careful sexual encounters” like mutual masturbation, watching erotic movies together, or wearing condoms.

“However, this is not purely a gay issue. It is an issue affecting everyone – women, children, and men. It’s more of a question of how the public in general lack access to information and education on HIV and AIDS prevention,” Remoto said.

Poverty also worsens the problem since poor people do not have access to education or healthcare. “If a poor person would choose between a P15 can of sardines or a P15 pack of condoms, which would he or she choose?” he said.

State should invest in AIDS/HIV treatment
Razon said the government should set up clear mechanisms on how to sustain access to HIV treatment without depending heavily on international funding like the Global Fund Project.

He added that the government had supposedly added an “AIDS benefit package” to its health insurance program, but Razon said PLWHAs have yet to feel the benefits.

Global Fund, a private organization, currently provides HIV/ AIDS treatment to select patients through the help of the DOH and Pinoy Plus Association.

“We feel like the government does not feel the magnitude of the HIV problem. It’s time for the government to invest in AIDS [treatment] because trends are changing from low and slow to hidden and growing,” Razon said.

Fanton said the government has been assured of international funding for HIV treatment until 2010.

Antiretroviral drugs keep HIV at bay and stops the weakening of the immune system. Once a person takes HIV or AIDS treatment, he or she must do so every day for the rest of his or her life. Otherwise, they could develop resistance to the drug, allowing opportunistic infections to attack their immune systems, that could be fatal.

DOH National Epidemiology Center statistics reveal that from 1984 to 2009, there have been 318 reported deaths due to AIDS.

No follow-through on laws
The present administration failed to address the HIV problem head-on Remoto said, because it was heavily influenced by the Church’s stand against contraception and family planning.

“In the 1990s, we had a strong HIV/AIDS program under [former Health secretary] Dr. [Juan] Flavier. But it was discontinued. Health centers no longer give out free condoms, and they no longer give out information about HIV or AIDS. So there are no programs, no plans to give information and education,” Remoto said.

Though the Philippines was ahead of its Southeast Asian neighbors when introducing laws like the AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 (Republic Act 8504) or the Reproductive Health Bill, it lagged in terms of passing or implementing these laws.

Anakbayan Rep. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros-Baraquel, meanwhile, believes the Anti-Discrimination Bill pending in Congress can help curb the spread of HIV.

“[This can help] in terms of accessing the public healthcare system, the bill penalizes any discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders,” she said.

Hontiveros-Baraquel also said there should be government reforms on reproductive health policies, especially in terms of promoting condom use as a socially acceptable practice.

“We think if the government becomes pro-condom, pro-life na iyon dahil makaliligtas sa buhay at kalusugan. Sana maglaan din ng resources din domestically at hindi pagkakaitan ng sapat funds ang local government units para sa HIV or AIDS prevention. They can also change their worldview on sex at hindi na masyado mag-ascribe sa views ng Church,” she said.

Further, many NGO leaders and MSMs who attended the HIV Conference said they did not see any strong presidential candidate for the 2010 polls who had a clear platform on health and addressing the HIV/ AIDS problem. (abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak)

photos by Kristine Servando

‘Obama’s new media tack can work in RP’

by Maria Althea Teves, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak | 07/25/2009 3:46 AM

MANILA – It is no secret that US President Barack Obama won partly for using new media in his 2008 campaign.

New media is defined by Obama New Media Operations Manager Mary Joyce as a media message created, produced and read by the people. This means media found on the internet, and text messages via mobile phones.

Social networking sites have linked internet users to Obama’s webpage in order to know his policies and actively participate in discussions. But there is one key aspect the Obama campaign team is most proud of: getting online donations for the campaign that amounted to $500 million.

So what if they paid a dollar to the Obama campaign?

Joyce told abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak that the psyche behind donating money is that they feel they belong to the campaign. Joyce is also co-founder of digiactive.org, a volunteer organization helping activists around the world to use Internet and mobile phones to increase the impact of their message.
“Our marketing mantra was ‘own a piece of this campaign,’” she said. In turn, Obama supporters felt they had a say and the power to promote their candidate, and they felt more entitled to voice out what they feel and need.

Recognizing the importance of people’s donations, Obama even mentioned in his November 7, 2008 speech that his victory was built by working men and women who donated small amounts–from $5-$20–to the cause.

Joyce said that Obama did not have access to funds from the traditional elite of America so, “we had no choice but to campaign online, asking for donations from Middle America.”

Obama supporters, Joyce said, felt that Obama was accountable for what he promised because their money was used for their campaign. This way, they felt empowered and wanted him to win.

Donating Online to Organizing Offline

Obama’s campaign also encouraged his supporters to put up their own events at home, or wherever convenient, and invite their friends or family, whatever their political background.

Supporters could ask help from the Obama team in organizing their political-awareness event by filling up a form in their website, and the team would announce the event through the website.

“The objective of this was to get more Obama supporters,” Joyce said.

Organizing online with supporters to create their own event was a cost-efficient way of getting new supporters.

New Media and Old Media

Because of the innovations done to the Obama campaign, they were constantly being followed by the press, said Joyce.

She added that whatever achievement or new idea they introduced, they would send it to publications and make news out of their innovation.

“Without intending to, the Obama campaign was in tune with the concept of hope for change. We gave something new,” she said.

Since not everyone is familiar with online, it is also good to publicize these in newspapers, broadcast centers and radios.

Possible in the Philippines?

“Yes! It can happen,” Joyce said, imitating Obama’s tone when he says his popular ‘yes, we can’ slogan.

Contrary to popular belief that internet penetration is very low in the country, Internet World Stats, as of March 31, 2009 there were 20.65 million internet users in the country. This was 21.5% of the Philippines’ population. The country was 7th in top internet user countries in Asia. China was the highest.

Promoting causes

Promoting causes and actively campaigning for elections through new media can now be an influential tool, said blogger, journalist and activist Tonyo Cruz. Cruz spoke at the “New Media: A Powerful Tool for the 2010 Elections” forum organized by Computer Professionals’ Union (CP-union) at the Sofitel Hotel Friday.

Citing Nielsen and Yahoo’s internet penetration survey done in 2008, Cruz said that even those in social class C2 (63%) and DE (21%) have internet access.

“Most of them are 15-19 years old, they are first time voters, as well as housewives and the employed,” Cruz said.

In the same survey, it said that internet content has more influence in terms of inculcating values than television, print and radio. It also showed that internet penetration is highest in urban areas, and in vote-rich areas like Pangasinan.

New Media Challenge in RP

But unlike Obama’s campaign, Rick Bahague of CP-union said that it might be hard to ask for donations in the Philippines from the middle class and lower class.

“Large political parties are dependent on the Philippines’ traditional rich donors,” Bahague said.

On top of this, Cruz said political parties don’t need the people’s money because they think they’re not accountable to them. And with their resources, they could already manufacture votes that they need to win.

Party-list groups to benefit from new media

Since party-list groups cater to a specific, marginalized target group, new media is a good avenue to promote their cause and make people feel like a part of their team, said Joyce.

Because they are accountable to the groups who support them, party-list groups, especially those which do not have machinery for campaigns, ask for donations, just like what Obama did.

Filipinos have a hard time trusting monetary transfers via internet. Thus, Bahague suggested that mobile companies could monetize small-value prepaid cards for subscribers to donate, which party-list groups can then monetize.

In the US, Joyce said that company Act Blue was responsible for monetizing political donations of Obama, as well as other democratic candidates.

“Donating could be a symbol of commitment (from the supporters and the accountability of the party-list group),” said Bahague.

It is possible, he said, for the marginalized to feel as empowered as Obama’s supporters in the 2008 US presidential elections.

as of 07/26/2009 11:44 AM

How to do well in school?

REMOTE CONTROL | DANTON REMOTO | 07/21/2009 3:20 AM
Views and analysis
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com

1. Listen to the teacher. When the teacher repeats a point two times, red flag it and take notes. That means what she is saying is super important, that is why it is repeated twice, not that she already has Alzheimer’s (she will, 20 years down the road, after teaching young people like you).

2. Read everything thrice. The first is to scan the text, like an eagle surveying the field, before it swoops down for the kill. The second is to read slowly, marking important points on the margins, or underlining key words in the text. The third is to summarize the points in your head, in your notebook, or on the last page of the text. I tell my students: unless you have summarized the text in three sentences, in your own words, then you haven’t gotten it right.

3. Master the four skills. Being a teacher of the old school, I tell my students the four skills of language learning are still important. The four skills are not surfing the net, texting, watching MTV or reading classsics.com. The four skills are still reading, writing, listening and speaking. But because of the four so-called skills I enumerated earlier, some students no longer want to read. “Eh why pa did you go to school if you don’t want to read?” I ask my students in mock horror. Writing well, of course, means reading and rereading The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White. Listening, with the headphones of your iPod off, works best. And speaking, of course. When one day, I asked a student for his insights into Guy de Maupassant’s The Jewels, he answered, “Wala lang!” I said, “That is good. Therefore, your oral recitation grade is also wala lang!” Then he immediately cobbled together an answer that somewhat mollified his English teacher.

4. Budget your time. You are a student, right? Therefore, your job is to study. When I was taking graduate school in the US and we were reading 600 pages of text every week, I asked my classmates, “How do we survive this?” “Read the darned pages,” Boho from Harlem said, “then go to the gym three times a week — and dance in the clubs on Saturday nights!” And so we did. We read tomes on Islamic Mystical Literature, the Nineteenth-Century Novel, and Literary Criticism, then did the treadmill and danced at Splash in New York every Saturday night. In short, you study hard — and then you play just as hard.

5. Consult with the teacher. Your teacher has placed her e-mail address and consultation hours in the syllabus. Go and make use of these. If you get low marks in Composition class, or just cannot get why the old man Iona Potapov, who has just lost his son, begins talking to his horse at the end of Chekhov’s story, then talk to the teacher. With the patience of Job, I am sure he or she will explain why that sentence is a fragment, and you do not mix your tenses, and “occasion” is not spelled with two c’s, two s’s, and two n’s, that is why you got an F. And I am quite sure that your teacher will also enlighten you on the way Chekhov writes fiction as revelation, where the unsaid words and the absent gestures are as important — if not more important — than what is said and shown.

6. Use the library. I taught for 22 years at the Ateneo, which happens to have an excellent multimedia library. During the first weeks of class, I require my students to attend library orientation, so they will know how to dig in that fabulous archive of knowledge. I also tell them that the library subscribes to Time, Newsweek, The Economist, The Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune — the last two papers because I badgered the library to do so, 20 years ago. In short, the most incisive analysis and the crispest writing in accessible formats can be had, right there at their fingertips, via hard copies of the world’s finest periodicals.

7. Use your imagination. When studying literature, let your minds fly! Ravyi Sunico, my teacher in Philosophy, once said in class that the imagination has no boundaries. Therefore, let the wings of your mind and heart touch the sky when you read. When the French master wrote, “Monsieur Lantin was caught in the web of love,” do not tell the teacher that this means life is complicated. Hell-er! First, you answer that “web of love” is a metaphor that means falling in love is like being caught in a spider web. It reminds you of that time when that “fat dimpled spider” (in Walt Whitman’s wicked poem) comes charging along to eat the unwitting fly. In short, I add, my lips curving in a wicked smile, it is called falling in love because “at first, you are in love, and then you fall.”

8. Open your minds. You go to school to obtain a liberal education, especially in the Humanities. In the Jesuit Fr. Roque Ferriol’s book, that means “magpakatao” — being taught to be fully human. That means never being afraid of ideas. Freshmen jump out of their skin when they hear the word “communism” or the name “Sigmund Freud” discussed in their Literature classes. Eh kumusta naman? You tell me we will discuss Ninotchka Rosca’s novel, State of War, without talking about the class contradictions in society? Or talk about Little Red Riding Hood seducing the Big Bad Wolf in Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves,” without discussing that dear, dirty old man Sigmund Freud? Time now to forget your high-school class in Literature, where Sister Marionnete always pinned a moral lesson to every poem, play, story and essays taught in class, reducing the beauty of words to the silence of the lambs.

In short, enjoy your English classes. Have fun in the world of words. Read everything as if it is a love letter, which means reading between the lines. Or better yet, as my unforgettable teacher of the Modern Novel, Dr. Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, put it, read not only with your eyes and with your heart, but best of all, read with your genitals!

Which means reading everything at the gut level, at the level of the groin, where the vital seeds of life begin.

Ramos takes swipe at Arroyo

Ex-president: ‘You can’t stay at the top forever’

By Fe Zamora, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:01:00 07/17/2009

Former president Fidel V. Ramos Thursday told six aspirants to the presidency that being in power was not a permanent state.

“Going up to the summit is optional, but coming down is mandatory,” Ramos said, quoting the first Filipino mountain climbers to scale Mount Everest. “You cannot stay at the top forever.”

Ramos’ remarks were applauded by the six aspirants and their audience, to whom they presented their planned six-year socioeconomic programs. The venue was the 10th Ramos Peace and Development Foundation public lecture series held at RCBC Plaza’s Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in Makati City.

“Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan huwag magalit,” a laughing Ramos also said, mouthing the old Filipino adage about being a sport in the face of criticism.

It was an apparent swipe at President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose term ends in 2010 and, according to persistent reports, is preparing to seek a congressional seat representing a district in her native Pampanga province.

The six aspirants present were Senators Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon, Loren Legarda and Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Bayani Fernando.

Why Erap wasn’t there

Ramos said Vice President Noli de Castro, and Senators Manny Villar and Panfilo Lacson had also been invited. De Castro and Villar declined; Lacson has announced that he would not be in the running in 2010.

Ousted President Joseph Estrada was not invited because he was not yet considered a contender when the invitations were sent out in March, Ramos also said.

The forum was attended by businessmen and executives of multinational companies and international organizations.

Among the government officials in attendance were Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Ms Arroyo’s adviser on political affairs Gabriel Claudio, who were once “Ramos boys.”

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes also dropped in.

Young but mature

Ramos praised the six aspirants for the “clarity, intellect and substance of their presentation.”

He said that compared to himself when he ran in 1992, “they are still very young [but] mature enough to assume the office of the presidency.”

The six aspirants presented their platforms of government in response to two questions:

How do you plan to maintain economic stability and stimulate economic growth in the Philippines?

How do you plan to deal with the peace and order situation in Mindanao?

Each was allowed 15 minutes to make a presentation. They later fielded questions in an open forum.

Platform of government

All agreed that focusing government resources on modernizing agriculture and improving productivity was key to sustainable growth, with Legarda championing the protection of the environment and rural folk as part of long-term solutions.

Fernando proposed a stronger state through the faithful implementation of laws. Gordon urged the nation to revisit its history, learn from the past and start “caring” for the people.

Escudero laid down a six-point priority program to address poverty.

Roxas talked about an “activist government.” Teodoro suggested that the government’s economic infrastructure, health and education programs, as well as public investment in peace and security, be continued.

All six aspirants said they believed that “good governance” was at the center of economic and peace efforts.

President as juggler

Roxas treated the forum as a “job interview.”

“To whom will I entrust the country?” he said, and used the global economic recession and domestic problems to paint the current picture of the economy.

He said serving as president was like “keeping the big picture in sight, juggling so many different things atop a high wire, while keeping [one’s] bearings, principles and vision intact.”

Roxas said “the binding constraint to our development path as a nation … has been poor institutions, the weakest institutions that stop our development.”

He called for an “activist government” that would be “nimble, quick to respond and professional,” and “built on the foundation of accountability, transparency, independence of enforcement agencies, meritocracy and professionalism.

Legarda pushed her proposed agenda on “rethinking development.”

“For far too long, our policies and strategies have only marginally altered the socioeconomic status of our people. The absence of an integrated, unified, and coherent road map is the culprit for the snail-paced Philippine economic and security development,” she said.

She called for a coordinated and integrated plan that would spur efforts toward a developed Philippine state.

“We need to fuse national economic growth with national security in the development of an integrated plan,” Legarda said.

Workplace economics

Fernando, a professional mechanical engineer, proposed his “workplace economics” as the Philippine socioeconomic development framework.

He said he would implement this “if I am elected president, which I am sure will happen,” eliciting chuckles from the audience.

Fernando said the challenges were low respect for labor, unemployment and failure to enforce laws.

“It is inherent upon all of us to implement and obey the laws of the land,” he said.

He also said peace was a prerequisite of development, and that political will was essential to solving the ills of society.

Formula for peace and order

Teodoro said the country suffered from a “structurally flawed political system.”

He ticked off his policy agenda for economic stability and growth: good government, continuation of economic infrastructure programs, better education, health and overall quality of life, and order in civil society through public investment in peace and security.

Teodoro said the three “current threats” in Mindanao were lawless Moro groups, the Abu Sayyaf, and the communist insurgents.

He said the formula for peace and order in Mindanao was development, capacity building and DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration).

“Peace is contextual and must have an enforcement mechanism,” Teodoro said.

Unbroken country

Gordon delivered an extemporaneous speech that was the most applauded.

“I don’t believe we are broken. We may have lost our confidence, but we are not a broken country,” he said, saying the country’s leaders should uplift the dignity of Filipinos.

Gordon said his vision for a new Philippines was an “enabled, ennobled and free” nation through stability, unity and transformation.

“I’d like you to believe that we can effect change in our country” through “transformational leadership,” and not “transactional leadership,” he said.

Gordon cited instances why many Filipinos were poor, uneducated and had violent tendencies.

“We don’t care enough,” he said, adding that Moro separatists and Abu Sayyaf bandits “came out because they are in pain.”

6-point policy

Escudero said good governance, strengthened finances, investment in youth and the country’s future, environmental stewardship, infrastructure development, and making local products globally competitive were the key elements of his six-point policy to address “decades of missed opportunities.”

“Primarily, we seek to eliminate poverty and improve the quality of life of every Filipino. This means striving for higher family income, a highly educated and trainable workforce, better health care, affordable food and housing and peaceful communities,” Escudero said.

Two women: Gloria

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
By Antonio C. Abaya
Manila Standard Today

It was only last July 3 that US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as assuring President Arroyo that her much sought-after meeting with US President Barack Obama will happen “before the end of the year” on the grounds that a new US President always meets with the Philippine President during the US President’s first year in office. (See my article of July 6 titled Puno’s “Devious Plan?”)

Now all of a sudden, barely 10 days after Ambassador Kenney’s lollipop, Malacañang announces that this epochal meeting will take place, not before the end of the year, but on July 30, right after President Arroyo’s “last” State-of-the-Nation Address before a joint session of Congress on July 28.

And to add mystery to the puzzlement, the newly appointed head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, drops by for a 12-hour visit in Manila to meet with President Arroyo and other top Philippine officials.

What in the world is going on?

My reading is that the Americans smell a dead rat, in all likelihood planted by Ronaldo Puno, who, while attending his daughter’s wedding in San Francisco on July 4, is being eased out of the Cabinet (Interior and Local Government). Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita called Puno’s leave “open-ended”… ‘‘for weeks” …. and appointed an officer-in-charge in Puno’s place. The parting seems to be bitter and final.

Puno’s offense? He has a “devious plan” for becoming president, as one reader e-mailed to me on June 18 after talking to some of Puno’s relatives, which I published as a reaction letter to this column.

A second reader e-mailed me after the May 27 announcement of Puno’s seeking the vice-presidency, that he would not be surprised if Puno, whom he has known personally for years—who helped make Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo president in 1992, 1998 and 2004 respectively—will now concentrate on making himself, Ronaldo Puno, president.

Even, wrote this second reader, if it means betraying Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Puno intends to become the “best president the Philippines has ever had or will ever have,” he wrote.

A third reader has now e-mailed me the anecdotal tidbit that when Puno, then 19, married his 18-year-old Maryknoller bride, he promised to make her First Lady one day. Has that day finally arrived?

What this anecdotal tidbit tells us is that Puno has had an overarching ambition to become president since he was in his late teens. Nothing wrong with that. I would not be surprised if other ambitious presidential wannabes made similar promises to their brides; Ninoy Aquino, Jose de Venecia, Manuel Quezon, Manuel Roxas, etc.

But what happens when this teenager reaches presidential age and finds that his ambition is blocked by his own boss who is scheming to stay in power beyond the limits of her non-extendable presidential term? Gunfight at the OK Corral, or its political equivalent in the Philippines?

At this the September of her years, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should concentrate on leaving as benign a legacy as is possible, under the circumstances that she and her husband have created for themselves, of their own free will.

Forget about running for congresswoman for her electoral district in Pampanga, which she has visited 16 times, and counting, since last February.

Forget about amending the Constitution to shift to parliamentary, now or in June 2010, by the dubious method of a constituent assembly, so that she can remain in power as Prime Minster for Life.

Forget about turning the Philippines into a First World country by the year 2020, under her tutelage, of course. It is physically impossible, even if her alma mater, the Balic Balic School of Economics, assures her in her fantasies that it is possible.

Forget about declaring emergency rule or martial law, now or in 2010, so that she can cancel or postpone the May 2010 elections, and thereby remain in power as a ”transition president.”.

A declaration of emergency rule or martial law will be counter-productive. It will make this country a pariah state. Whatever meager foreign direct investments are still trickling in will dry up completely. So will most or all of official development aid. Many countries will withdraw their ambassadors. The exodus of this country’s best and brightest people will accelerate. No one will be left here except the crooks, the cheats and the criminals, and those who do not have the means to get out.

My family and I supported Gloria Arroyo in what we have since realized was the stage-managed People Power agitation against Joseph Estrada in January 2001. In the 2004 elections, I was one of the few columnists who wrote that she was the actual winner over the deaf-mute FPJ, though by a thin majority, based on pre-election surveys, exit polls on election day itself, and an analysis of the data from the independent Namfrel. (GMA by a Hair, May 13, 2004; Who Won? May 19, 2004)

I supported Ms. Arroyo when in January 2003 she called for “a revolution in the way we think and the way we do politics and economics.” But there was no revolution in anything except in the way she blabbered words without meaning them. (GMA Revolution Stalling, Feb. 9, 2003).

As a former supporter, I suggest that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her family magically vanish from the country hours or days before her term ends on June 30, 2010. Move to Portugal or Dubai, and count your “blessings” there. Forget the rumored losses in Lehman Brothers or AIG or the Dubai property market. Do not try to recoup those losses by staying here one minute longer beyond June 30, 2010. Do not force us to make public what we know about you and your husband..

I hope this will be what President Obama will tell President Arroyo on July 30. Anything less than that would be an unforgivable diminution of the Obama Magic.

Noli’s Pag-IBIG ads cost taxpayers P500-M

Noli’s Pag-IBIG ads cost taxpayers P500-M
Written by Carmela Fonbuena
Newsbreak Magazine
Monday, 13 July 2009

Who is benefiting from the advertisements of Vice-President Noli De Castro promoting the government’s Home Development Mutual Fund, also known as Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industria at Gobyerno (Pag-IBIG) Fund?

To lawyer Ernesto Francisco, it’s the vice-president. He noted that the the ads use De Castro’s moniker, Kabayan, a name de Castro registered with the Commission on Elections when he ran for senator in 2001.

“This is despicable practice, which is obviously designed to promote the candidacy of Vice-President Noli De Castro. It should be stopped. Vice-President De Castro should have had the delicadeza and sense of decency to refrain from using Pag-IBIG funds to promote his candidacy,” said Francisco.

For 2009, a total of P208.5 million has been allotted for the Pag-IBIG advertisements. A big chunk of the budget (P109 million) goes to TV placements. The rest goes to radio placements (P54 million), print media (P16 million), cinema placements (P9 million), and sponsorships (P11.7 million).

Francisco estimated that around P500 million have been spent for De Castro’s Pag-IBIG ads since its airing in 2007.

‘Money well spent’
De Castro’s lawyer told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak the cost of advertising is money well spent for the benefit of Pag-IBIG members.

“The ads are for the benefit of the members of Pag-IBIG in order to attract them to apply for Pag-IBIG loans,” Armando Marcelo of the Andres Marcelo Padernal Guerrero and Paras law office told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak after a hearing on the case on Monday.

“They are not really meant for pre-campaigning. He (Francisco) is the one saying it. If you look at the ads, they are not really meant for that. It is only in his imagination,” Marcelo added.

Marcelo dismissed Francisco’s complaint as a political move to discredit De Castro, who is among the frontrunners in presidential surveys.

Although he has yet to announce his plans for 2010, De Castro is in the short list of the ruling political party Lakas-Kampi-CMD for the administration’s presidential bet in 2010.

“We don’t see any basis for his filing this suit and why he [Francisco] would spend time and money to file this case,” Marcelo said.

Return the funds
In a taxpayer’s complaint, Francisco is seeking a court injunction against de Castro and seven other high-ranking government officials from using public funds “for their respective political campaigns.”

Francisco said the ads violate Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Francisco also wants the officials to return to the government the funds used to pay for the ads.

The case is pending at the sala of Judge Marino dela Cruz Jr. of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 22.

“These paid advertisements, while purporting to promote the functions and activities of certain government offices or agencies or to espouse certain public interest causes are, on their face and in reality, clear political propaganda designed to promote the personalities and candidacies of the defendants,” according to Francisco’s complaint.

The other defendants include presidential aspirants Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, and rumored senatorial aspirants Health Secretary Francisco Duque Jr., Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) chairman Efraim Genuino.

Francisco also filed a case against Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita for the ads of President Arroyo, who is said to be eyeing a congressional seat in Pampanga in preparation to becoming prime minister under a parliamentary system.

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) chair Augusto Syjuco and Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, who also have government-paid ads, were also included as respondents.

Effective endorser?
But according to an affidavit submitted to the court by Pag-IBIG Vice-President for public relations Marjie Jorillo, stopping de Castro’s Pag-IBIG ads “will cause grave injury and prejudice to its members.”

Jorillo was presented as witness in Tuesday’s hearing on Francisco’s complaint. The other defendants are seeking the immediate dismissal of the lawsuit. They have yet to present a witness who can justify their advertisements.

Jorillo argued that De Castro’s ads have been instrumental in the success of the government’s housing program.

“Advertising and publicity has always been a crucial duty of the public relations and information services to ensure that the programs of the Pag-IBIG Fund will be properly communicated to its members,” Jorillo said in the affidavit.

“The advertisements complained of, far from being vehicles for private gain, ensure that programs of the Pag-IBIG Fund are well communicated to its members, thereby ensuring success and compliance with the institution’s mandate under its charter,” she added.

Jorillo testified that housing loans extended by the Pag-IBIG Fund increased during the period of de Castro’s advertisements.

From 46,041 loans in 2007, equivalent to P22 billion, it increased by 36 percent to 62,507 loans in 2008, equivalent to P34 billion.

Jorillo said it was the management of Pag-IBIG fund who chose De Castro to endorse the government program because he has the “qualities of an ideal program endorser.” (abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak)

Emo culture

By Danton Remoto
Remote control
Views & analysis
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com
Posted July 14, 2009

More than 10 years ago, I had a student who came to class wearing an all-black ensemble. His fingernails were painted black, his shades were darker than night — and he wasn’t even gay, snickered the straight guys in class. I didn’t mind, because he wrote well, asked difficult questions, and made the teacher think.

Later, he became a friend of mine and last I heard, he was making short films that were being screened all around the globe.

He seems to be the precursor of the emo phenomenon that is sweeping some (okay, a small) segment of the studentry. In 2009 Philippines, what does emo mean?

Since I am now between the age of 40 and death, I had to ask the help of my students in figuring out what it is. They tell me it began with an underground music scene. It all loops back to the mid-1980s in Washington, D.C., where the bands played with pitch and passion bordering on emotional overkill. The subject matter of the songs thrummed with images that are dramatic and poetic – all served up in contemporary melodies. Thus was emo born, emo being shorthand for emotive hardcore.

Quoting Frederic Trasher, a student of mine said that young people cluster together because of common likes. “Peer groups function in two ways: they substitute for what society fails to give them, and they provide relief from suppression (of feelings). Thus, peer groups fill a gap and afford teenagers a form of escape.”

And if it happens in the West, can its clone in the Philippines be far behind? The emo movement has also made its mark here. My students cite bands like Chicosci, Typecast, and Urbandub as emo, whether self-proclaimed, or hailed so by their teenage fans. Young people swoon at lyrics like “I’ll bleed for you like a new tattoo. In my heart you’ll stay permanent . . . permanent . . .” Or listen to these lines: “Caught you in the arms of another, and I’ve been dying every day since then.”

They add it is not unusual to see the teenage fans imitate the way the band members look. Clones of Chicosci’s Miggy Chavez, Typecast’s Arsie Gabriel, and Urbandub’s Gabby Alipe abound. The look is generic: asymmetrical haircut, black nail polish, skinny jeans. The looks telescope the feelings welling up from within. My student, Jamir Tan-Torres, calls these “unstable moods, dark emotions, suppressed feelings. In a way, their personal style is reflective of their current state of mind.”

The young ones also bristle at what they perceive to be emo stereotyping.

Jamir says: “It is a misconception that people who are part of the emo culture cross the boundary of what is normal. It is unfortunate that some people view them as disturbed, self-mutilating and apathetic individuals. Just like the punks and Goths before them, people immediately pinned a label on them. Even media worsened the situation by using the term emo loosely, in several cases portraying the teenagers in a negative light.”

To prove his point, Jamir interviewed a 15-year-old girl who is a self-confessed emo. “Her profile did not fit the description of my notion of the emo look. She was wearing white short shorts and a bright yellow shirt with the figure of a smiling sun. She wore French tips and not black nail polish. Her reply to my comment that she looks so un-emo was a raised middle finger and a laugh. She said she does not like the typical emo look. For her, being an emo is not a matter of physical transformation but a decision to be ‘true to one’s self.’ It is a way of feeling and there is a sense of freedom and acceptance in being an emo.”

However, I have also received some e-mail – mostly from my hyphenated readers (Fil-Am, Fil-Brit) in the West—that emo takes on a much darker hue in the West, with teen suicide as one of its fallout. The location, of course, is the West, where angst, alienation and anomie – and a sense of drift and rootlessness – hounds the young and the restless.

But wherever one is, emo, which used to be a term for a subgenre of punk has, like all its earlier reincarnations, taken on a complex form. Another young Filipino artist I know describes emo in the form of the images that she draws. Her roses have black petals. The tears streaming down the faces are like black knives. Even the blood gushing down a cut wrist is black. And I hope, the way I am sure her mother does hope, that the last image is only alive in the world of her invention and imagination

Panlilio eyes youth vote for reform candidates

By Rommel C. Lontayao, Reporter
Manila Times
July 13, 2009

Gov. Ed Panlilio of Pampanga said “reform” candidates like him are counting on the youth to choose non-traditional politicians when they vote in next year’s elections.

“I hope they will choose someone who can bring good governance, and responsible and ethical leadership in the national government,” Panlilio told a roundtable with editors and reporters of The Manila Times on Saturday.

The priest-turned-provincial-governor had expressed his intention to run for either the presidency or the vice presidency with Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela as his running mate in the 2010 polls.

Panlilio and Padaca are members of social and political reform movements that champion ethical governance.

Fellow “reformist” Gov. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao said that changes in the government could be realized through a new generation of voters.

“The youth sector is a big sector. Their decision on whom to vote for can dictate the results of the elections,” Baguilat added.

“That is why we are calling on these young people to go out, register and vote for people who can effect changes in our government,” he said.

Panlilio said that they are going around schools to speak about ethical governance to the youth.

“We already went to several schools,” he added, mentioning some colleges and universities in Metro Manila. “We realized that the clamor for good governance and ethical leadership is now very strong.”

On July 18, Panlilio and Padaca will launch Kilos Na, a political movement that will support non-traditional politicians.

Panlilio disclosed that they will discuss their political plans this early and will come up with a decision by late August on who will be their candidate for president in the 2010 elections.

“We still have to look at the surveys to see who has a fighting chance to win. We also have to consider the resources, machinery and who has the greater determination to go all the way up to 2010,” Baguilat said.

Gay group Ang Ladlad sees Comelec accreditation

By DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: July 09, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—Ladlad, a party-list organization representing homosexual men and women, expressed optimism Wednesday that it would finally be accredited by the Commission on Elections for the 2010 polls.
Ateneo de Manila University professor and Ladlad leader Danton Remoto said the Comelec had assured the group that it would be accredited as a party-list group provided it could prove a national membership.

Remoto said the group now has 22,000 registered members and 10 regional chapters.

In the 2007 elections, the organization was rejected by the poll body on the ground that it did not represent a “marginalized and underprivileged” sector as required by election laws, Remoto said.

“We were told that the likes of (prominent gay men) Boy Abunda, Ricky Reyes, and myself, a teacher at Ateneo, did not belong to the marginalized sector,” Remoto said at the Fernandina Media Forum at Club Filipino in San Juan City.

But he said the fact that some homosexuals belonged to the upper classes did not mean they were not underrepresented. “Most gay people are poor,” he said.

Remoto said Ladlad would advocate “equal rights and not special rights” in the workplace and in schools to remove discrimination against homosexuals.

He said same-sex marriage was not on their agenda, adding that he did not think it would prosper in the Philippines.

Remoto said the group was in talks with several political parties, including the Liberal Party and the Nationalist People’s Coalition, for possible collaboration in the 2010 polls.

He said major political parties were interested in teaming up with organizations like Ladlad since the presidential election would likely be a “closely fought” contest and could be won with a margin of fewer than a million votes.

Remoto said his organization would make its final decision on who to support for president in the 2010 contest by September or October.

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