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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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.

Desperate hope

Editorial
Philippine Daily Inquirer
january 13, 2009
http://www.inq7.net

1984 is once again upon us. We refer to the novel by that title by George Orwell, a prophetic, nightmarish vision of a “negative utopia.” In Orwell’s generation, and even up to now, no other novel has stimulated so much loathing for tyranny and so much desire for freedom.

In “1984” the slogans of the Party are the following:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, the following might be the slogans of the times:

FALSEHOOD IS TRUTH

CORRUPTION IS SAINTLINESS

BLACK IS WHITE, AND EVIL IS GOOD

At no time in the history of the current administration has the truth of these supposed “slogans” been more strongly demonstrated than the present. Consider the following:

An upright, incorruptible, right-thinking Chief Justice is proposed to be impeached, whereas a President who has been charged with corruption, violation of many provisions of the Constitution, and other serious crimes, has always gotten away scot-free every time articles of impeachment are filed against her.

Whistleblowers like Acsa Ramirez, Rodolfo Lozada and Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino are either wrongfully prosecuted, kidnapped and muzzled, or criticized, while Benjamin Abalos and Virgilio Garcillano are allowed to resign without first being made to answer the charges against them.

A reformist provincial governor like Ed Panlilio is constantly being subjected to all forms of political harassment, while congressmen and local government officials who have been wasting the people’s money are given even more money in brown paper bags to support a president whose legitimacy is constantly being questioned.

Generals who are accused of killing unarmed militants are praised in a joint session of Congress while other generals and officers who dare to criticize high officials for their questionable acts are arrested and detained.

The people are fed half-truths by government spokespersons. The President will not answer “political questions” from reporters, for fear, possibly, of giving away her real plans for 2010. The truth, which is the oxygen of democracy, is kept hidden from the people. Sometimes it is exposed only at a critical time, as what happened when the treasonous Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain became known only on the eve of its signing.

We could go on and on, but the idea is this: In this administration,

FALSEHOOD IS TRUTH

CORRUPTION IS SAINTLINESS

BLACK IS WHITE, AND EVIL IS GOOD.

Social critic Erich Fromm, commenting on “1984,” said: “Orwell, like the authors of the other negative utopias [Yevgeni Zamyatin, ‘We,’ Aldous Huxley, ‘Brave New World’] is not a prophet of disaster. He wants to warn and to awaken us. He still hopes—but in contrast to the other writers of the utopias in the earlier phases of Western society, his hope is a desperate one. The hope can be realized only by recognizing, so ‘1984’ teaches us, the danger with which all men are confronted today, the danger of a society of automatons who will have lost every trace of individuality, of love, of critical thought, and yet who will not be aware of it because of ‘doublethink.’”

We hope we Filipinos have not been reduced to automatons who have lost their individuality and their critical thought, and who have lost the capacity to rage against falsehood, dishonesty and corruption. Perhaps they are not protesting too much because the great majority of them are more immediately concerned with earning a living, putting food on the table and providing for the other basic needs of their families. Perhaps it is because they are so caught up in the daily rat race that they do not have time to engage in political action. Perhaps they are just waiting for the tipping point.

Many commentators have said that Filipinos seem to have lost their capacity to express their moral outrage at what is happening around them. Let us hope that this is not true, and that in time they will become engaged citizens of their country who value truth, integrity, honesty and freedom.

Arroyo’s peace adviser watches son’s mauling spree

BY Ellen Tordesillas
http://www.malaya.com.ph
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

TWO days after Gloria Arroyo announced the appointment of Nasser Pangandaman as member of the reconstituted government peace panel to negotiate with Muslim rebels, the agrarian reform secretary watched as his mayor-son mauled a 56-year-old golfer and his 14-year-old son at the Valley Country Golf and Country Club in Antipolo City.

While mainstream media was taking a holiday break, the blogging community was in a furious state over the brutality of Arroyo’s adviser as recounted by Bambee de la Paz in her blog (http://vicissitude-decidido.blogspot.com/2008/12/world-is-fucked-up.html) last Dec. 26.

Here are excerpts from De la Paz’s blog entry on Dec. 26, 2008:

“At around 1:30 PM today, at Valley Golf and Country Club, Antipolo City, Mayor Nasser Pangandaman, Jr., Mayor of Masiu City, Lanao del Sur, his father, Secretary Nasser Pangandaman of the Department of Agrarian Reform, and company, beat my defenseless 56-year-old dad and my 14-year-old brother to a pulp because of some stupid misunderstanding on the golf course.

“My brother and I were playing golf at the South Course of Valley. We were on the 3rd hole, and we see two golf carts going past us, overtaking our flight, and setting up to tee off on the next hole. My dad goes up to them and asks them why they would do that, why they would overtake us without even asking for our permission. Golf etiquette 101.

“The mayor of Masiu City, Lanao del Sur talks with my dad. Things get heated up. Voices were raised. But never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever imagine that someone would pull out a punch. Apparently not. He attacks my father. His flight mates, maybe 2 or 3 of them, rush to his aid and beat up my father. My 56-year-old father. My younger brother and I could not just watch. We rushed to break the fight. My younger brother pleads to the mayor to please stop it. To not hurt my dad. To just stop. His words still ring through my head…”Sorry na po, sorry na po…tama na…tama na po…” With his hands in front of his chest in a praying position. PLEADING. The mayor socks him in the face. My brother defended himself. My dad is still on the ground getting clobbered. My brother is the same way. I try to stop the fight, but all I can do is stop one person. There were 4 or 5 of them attacking now.

“Someone breaks up the fight. I thought it was all over. The mayor shouts to his caddy: “Hindi nila kami kilala! Sabihin mo nga sa kanila kung sino ako!”

“I lash out, but my dad held me back. I was screaming my lungs out, shouting to this mayor, telling him about what he had done. I said: “Nakakahiya kayo. Singkwenta’y sais anyos ang tatay ko. And kapatid ko kakatorse anyos. Anong ilalaban nila sayo?”

“The mayor looks at my brother, point to his face, and says, “Tatandaan kita!” And he tells me that my brother has a bad attitude and that I need to watch him.

“We leave. We walk to the clubhouse to file a complaint. My brother asks for a doctor. My dad could barely walk. Their group comes to the clubhouse, sees my brother. Once again my brother pleads, says sorry, and is crying. The relentless mayor still punches him in the face, and then sees my dad and goes after my dad again. Him and his friend pull my dad to the ground, pulls at his feet, and steps on him like he’s dirt. I run to him and try to hold him back, holding him back by his shirt, while this other guy and this girl tries to stop me. She tells me to just stop it. I scream in her face “they’re beating my father up and you want me to stop?!” I pull at his shirt–I don’t let go. All I can see was my dad being trampled on. I didn’t even see my brother getting beat up.

“People pull them away. I get my dad, and I saw my brother. His right ear was bleeding. I freaked out. I told the receptionists to bring my brother to the clinic. I pull my Dad away. People were separating us.

“My Mom and my older brother come. I tell her Bino’s right ear is bleeding. They both look like they could kill. My Dad holds my brother off, I hold off my Mom. When I finally got my Mom under control, my older brother gets away and I hold him off. Two of the mayor’s bodyguards pull out guns. I embraced my brother from the back, just holding him back, crying. The receptionists came to us, crying, hugging me, my Dad, and my Mom, whispering to us to just leave. “Maam, umalis na po kayo, may mga baril sila…Maam…umalis na po kayo please…”

“I am pretty sure the Secretary of DAR did not take part in the fight, but he just watched all this happen. He watched two of his sons, as we figured out, the other guy was his son, too, beat up my father and my 14-year-old brother. He didn’t do anything to stop it. And this person is what now? A cabinet member. A politician.

“The people at Valley Golf did not seem to want to help us. None of the security guards even tried to stop the fight. Right in the clubhouse. I came back after the fight was over and talked to the receptionists. They say they did not see anything. The general manager of Valley Golf would not give us the names of the men who made my brother’s ear bleed. It took him an hour. Maybe even more than that. He seemed to not want to help us.

“Please pray for my Dad, my brother and for my whole family. Please pray that we get justice. Oh God, please, give these people what they deserve.”

Since I don’t have the contact number of Pangandaman, I have been calling Press Secretary Jesus Dureza to get Malacañang’s comment on the issue. No reply to my messages.

Editorial of Malaya

Ang Pahayagang Malaya
http://www.malaya.com.ph

It’s about time the fight against the plot of Gloria Arroyo and her allies in the House to amend the 1987 Constitution be brought to the streets. The people are overwhelmingly against tampering with the Charter at this time. The efforts to railroad changes by the House, specifically via constituent assembly sans the participation of the Senate, are patently unconstitutional.

Gloria and her allies, however, are no longer open to honest dialogue and reasoned arguments. They have a demonstrated history of disrespecting the Constitution, violating the laws and transgressing moral norms. It is wishful thinking to expect them to start playing the game by the rules in the twilight of their reign.

The organizers of today’s anti-Charter change rally in Makati are correct. The people must send Gloria and her allies a message via the only language they know. She was carried into Malacañang on the shoulders of the people who had had enough of the abuses of Joseph Estrada. She should be reminded that the people could bodily carry her out of Malacañang just as well.

We understand that some sections of the broad anti-Arroyo alliance are worried that carrying the fight to the streets might be premature. The rally might not attract enough warm bodies. Such a “failure,” it is feared, might only further embolden Gloria and her confederates.

Such attitude is self-defeating. Today’s rally might not be attended by the people in the hundreds of thousands. But such a “failure” should be viewed as just a dress rehearsal for more actions to come. At the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal, the mass actions calling for Gloria’s resignation were as widely attended as those mounted against Estrada in the months immediately preceding his ouster. The difference was that Gloria had no compunction in unleashing the full might of the police and the military against protesters.

She followed this up with additional measures – the preempted calibrated response and the declaration of a state of emergency, among them – aimed at sustaining her crackdown against dissenters.

No doubt Gloria would do the same if and when street protests reach a critical mass that would threaten her rule. But if there is any lesson to be learned from history, it is that repression should be met with heightened defiance. The alternative – to keep silent – is to be complicit to the very crimes committed against us.

Only 12 more votes for Cha-Cha

BY Ellen Tordesillas
Ang Pahayagang Malaya
http://www.malaya.com.ph

THIS is what the five bish-ops warned about just three weeks ago: Gloria Arroyo will ram Charter Change down the people’s throats.

A report from the House of Representatives yesterday said House Resolution 737 amending the economic provision of the Constitution has been signed by 163 congressmen. House Speaker Prospero Nograles, who authored the resolution, needs only 15 more signatures to meet the required 175 signatures, representing three-fourths of the House of Representatives membership to bring the resolution to the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, then to the plenary.

The Cha-Cha train is cranking up. Destination: Beyond 2010.

This is what Press Secretary Jesus Dureza prayed for last Tuesday at the start of the Cabinet meeting: That Gloria Arroyo “have forbearance, good health, and tolerance to lead this nation until 2010, and who knows, perhaps even beyond.”

It was not a slip of the tongue. It was an announcement.

It’ was not a surprise. In fact, it’s a confirmation of what Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz said last Oct. 29 in a press conference.

Cruz said, “When congress opens in Nov. 10, charter change will be an open, public and well funded move in the lower house. Whether it will triumph in the Senate is still debatable. But then I repeat, no more camouflage, no more double-talk, no more indirect insinuations, but Charter Change will be an honest-to-goodness agenda for Congress.”

Cruz further said “that elections in 2010 is a big dream, in short elections in 2010 is a moral impossibility.”

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, president of the United Opposition, said time is running out for Arroyo and her allies. “By middle of 2009, people will be talking about the 2010 elections. If they (majority congressmen) are going to embark on a last-ditch effort for Charter change for Mrs. Arroyo’s benefit, they have to do it now.”

Binay said pro-Arroyo local executives and her House allies conducted public consultations on the issue of amending the Constitution while Congress was on a month-long recess. He said more than 100 pro-Arroyo congressmen are expected to report an “overwhelming consensus” in favor of Charter change.

“The Cha-Cha express is all set. And we should brace ourselves in the next few weeks for a final attempt to extend Mrs. Arroyo’s stay in Malacañang,” Binay warned.

Arroyo and her allies had attempted several times to amend the Constitution to shift from presidential to parliamentary system so Arroyo could remain in power beyond 2010. In December 2006, the House of Representatives led by then House Speaker Jose de Venecia railroaded a resolution calling for a Senate-less Constitutional Assembly. They had to back off after a few days when the Catholic Church and the Iglesia ni Cristo warned of massive protests.

Just two months ago, Arroyo tried to smuggle charter change in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The Supreme Court declared the MOA unconstitutional.

Cha-cha advocates are trying another tack with HR 737. Nograles is of the view that Congress can actually amend specific provisions of the Constitution.

HR 737 calls for the amendment of Sections 2 and 3 of Article 12 of the Constitution “to allow the acquisition by foreign corporations and associations and the transfer or conveyance thereto, of alienable public and private lands.”

Nograles said that while a mere resolution, even if approved by the majority members of the House of Representatives, does not have the effect of law, it can still serve as the basis of raising a point of constitutional inquiry before the Supreme Court.

“If the Supreme Court says that Congress can enact laws that in effect will repeal specific provisions of the Constitution, then we might be able to avoid this protracted legal and constitutional wrangling on how we can attune the Constitution to the new challenges confronting our country,” he said.

It is feared that with several Supreme Court justices up for retirement next year, Arroyo would be able to pack the high court with justices who would declare as legal a resolution to amend the Constitution without participation of the Senate.

Binay said survey after survey has shown that the people are overwhelmingly against charter change that will allow Arroyo to stay in power beyond 2010.

“If Malacañang pushes through with Cha-Cha despite public opinion, this could well be the tipping point for the movement to remove an unpopular pretender to the presidency,” he warned.

It could be just what the country needs.

Bishops call for GMA ouster

BY Ellen Tordesillas
http://www.malaya.com.ph

That was one great statement that the Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, released yesterday. He practically called for the ouster of Gloria Arroyo.

Not in 2010 but now.

In a statement he read flanked by four other progressive-thinking bishops namely, Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Bataan Bishop Socrates Villegas, Masbate Bishop Joel Baylon, and Legazpi Bishop Emeritus Jose Sorra, Lagdameo said: “The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy and to prove that we matured from our political disappointments is now. The time to prepare a new government is now. ”

In the open forum, Lagdameo said Gloria Arroyo is not capable of instituting reforms because he said, “I believe that the President is corrupt.”

The question and answer portion with Bishop Cruz was fascinating. Asked if Arroyo can lead the radical reforms, he replied, “Siempre hindi.”

Q: How about Vice President Noli de Castro?

Cruz: Walang ganyanan.

Q: How about Senate President Manny Villar?

Cruz: Walang ganyanan.

Q: How about House Speaker Prospero Nograles?

Cruz: Walang ganyanan.

Q: How about Chief Justice Reynato Puno?

Cruz: Pwede.

Q: How about AFP Chief Alexander Yano?

Cruz: Okay yun.

Q: Have you met with General Yano?

Cruz: Tama na. tama na.

It is about time that leaders of the Catholic Church whose consciences haves not been numbed by Malacañang’s cash donations, do what they preach. They cannot be preaching “Thou shalt not steal” while closing their eyes on the thievery of Arroyo and her cohorts. Worse, accepting the fruits of Arroyo’s crimes.

Many Catholics have already given up on the CBCP when it comes to giving them guidance at this time when democratic institutions are degraded to protect Arroyo’s hold on power.

Lagdameo and the four bishops seriously doubt there will be an election in 2010 despite Arroyo’s pledge there would be one.

Cruz said their sources say “Elections in 2010 is a big dream. In short, elections in 2010 up to this time that I’m talking, is a moral impossibility.”

He asked the media to be on the alert when Congress opens on Nov. 10. “Charter change will be an open, public and well funded move in the Lower House. Whether it will triumph in the Senate is still debatable. But then I repeat, no more camouflage, no more double-talk, no more indirect insinuations. Charter change will be an honest-to-goodness agenda for Congress,” he said.

Arroyo’s Cha-cha, Cruz said, will be through a constitutional assembly. “The moment it passes the Lower House, and the moment it passes Senate and there is a plebiscite, then it is done, because the local governments are all at the command of Malacañang.”

Cruz said the charter change that Arroyo is crusading “is not for patriotic reasons.”

“It is intended principally, basically and fundamentally to extend the term of office of the incumbent. I hope to God and I pray very dearly that I am wrong but that is what I know,” he said.

5 Catholic leaders say ‘time to prepare for new gov’t is now’

by ARIES RUFO, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak | 10/28/2008 3:16 PM

Are Church leaders now ready to back attempts to oust the Arroyo government?

In its strongest position yet indicating that they are ready to give their blessings for what may be a drastic change in government, five bishops, led by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Angel Lagdameo, condemned the unabated “top to bottom” corruption in government and asked the public to shake the status quo.

Lagdameo went as far as assuring the public that “liberators” may be just around the corner.

“In response to the global economic crisis and the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically, is now. The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy to prove that we have matured from our political statements is now. The time to prepare a new government is now,” Lagdameo said in a forum organized by the CBCP.

Lagdameo added the public should not lose hope that changing the present system is futile. “In spite of the seemingly hopeless and negative prognosis, our liberation may yet serendipitously happen. We are dreaming, praying and hoping that our county may yet have the needed liberators.”

It is hoped that these “liberators,” Lagdameo said, “will in a courageous peaceful way effectively and uncompromisingly reform our country.”

Also present in the forum were Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Bataan Bishop Socrates Villegas, Masbate Bishop Joel Baylon and Bishop Emeritus Jose Sorra. We learned that seven more bishops would have attended the forum but cancelled for some reasons.

Active involvement

Villegas urged the public “not to be passive” but engage “in active involvement” in effecting a change in governance. He noted that curbing corruption by only half of its present level would immensely benefit the country. “The problem is not population, the problem is rampant corruption,” Villegas said.

He said that the country would have been better prepared to deal with the ongoing global financial crisis if not for corruption.

Cruz said the country is now in a “precarious, dangerous and critical situation” because of massive corruption and directly blamed the “incumbent occupant” in Malacanang as the culprit.

In his statement, Lagdameo took to task the government’s claim that prosperity is now being felt by the masses pointing out that 20 million people will surely disagree with this, as shown by surveys. He said rampant poverty and hunger are directly related with rampant graft and corruption “which has invaded all public and private institutions.”

Endemic corruption

Lagdameo noted that corruption under the past few years of the Arroyo government up to present has become “endemic and systemic.”

He pointed to “overprized projects, multi-billion scams of various kinds, election manipulations, anomalous transactions, bribery of both high and low, unsolved murders of media practitioners” as the “faces and symptoms of corruption.”

He lamented that the country is now tagged as one of the most corrupt country in Asia, based on a survey conducted by Transparency International. “If we are not horrified, disgusted, exasperated and enraged by these realities, can we still we love our country?” Lagdameo said.

The bishops’ statements came on the heels of the arrival of former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante from the US following futile efforts of seeking asylum there. Bolante, tagged as the main architect of the P728-million fertilizer scam, had claimed political persecution but US immigration junked his alibi.

Also providing backdrop was the current “euro” scandal in the Philippine National Police where four police officers, including one retired, are set to be charged with unauthorized release of intelligence funds, and the fresh impeachment initiatives against the President.

Church leaders have been criticized for just waiting in the sidelines and giving mixed signals on its verdict on the Arroyo administration. At the height of the wiretap scandal, where the President was caught on tape giving orders to disgraced poll commissioner Virgilio Garcillano during the canvassing of the results in the presidential elections, the CBCP sought for truth but withheld passing a guilty verdict. Lack of active Church support has been cited as one of the major dampeners on attempts to oust Arroyo.

The handwriting on the wall

‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN’ (‘TINIMBANG KA NGUNIT KULANG’)
The handwriting on the wall

by Liling Magtolis Briones
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph

And so it came to pass that King Belshazzar of Babylon gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles. In the midst of Belshazzar’s revelry with his nobles, wives and concubines, the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the wall: mene, mene, tekel, parsin. Terror filled the heart of the king and all those in the palace.

All the king’s wise men could not read the handwriting on the wall. Finally, the prophet Daniel was summoned. He told the king the meaning of the words. Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Parsin (or Peres): Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

Today, July 28, the President will address a gathering of her nobles and satraps. She will deliver the annual Sona or State of the Nation Address. Whatever she says, however she says it, cannot erase the handwriting on the wall which is there for all to see.

There is more than one Daniel denouncing and exposing the perfidy of the present administration. As early as July 18, Social Watch Philippines started its series of statements and briefings on the national budget, the state of the economy and its impact on the social sectors.

This week, more Daniels spoke out—academics, think tanks and progressive organizations, particularly the youth. On Friday, former Cabinet members from four administrations (FSGO) issued a powerful statement, which was prophetic as well as poetic. It highlighted the seven curses which the present administration had inflicted on our hapless country: the food crisis, worsening poverty, deteriorating basic social services, corruption, wanton abuse of presidential power and illegitimacy.

Today, Social Watch Philippines, a convener of the Alternative Budget Initiative composed of 48 civil-society organizations, is presenting its position regarding the handwriting on the wall and the state of the nation:

• Mene, Mene: Your days are numbered

The latest that this administration can last is up to 2010. There are speculations about constitutional change, either to extend the term of the President or change to a parliamentary system. The public strongly rejects this move. Efforts to generate support for constitutional change at this time have been roundly rebuffed. The people refuse to give the smallest opportunity for the President or her anointed successors to stay one minute longer.

End of days is coming!

• Tekel: Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang

For seven years Social Watch Philippines has weighed the accomplishments of this administration in social development, particularly the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and found them grossly wanting. Mention has consistently been made of poverty, inequity, increasing hunger, deterioration in education, stubbornly high levels of infant and maternal mortality, low levels of health, environmental degradation and global problems related to trade and debt.

Inadequate financing

Lack of adequate financing partly explains the appalling failure in social development. Dr. Rosario Manasan of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies calculated that for four MDG goals alone, P94.9 billion in additional resources would be needed this year. The actual additions to the 2008 budget are nowhere near this amount.

For 2009, Manasan has calculated that additional resources of P100.4 billion should be added to the national budget for education, health, water and sanitation and poverty reduction. Again, this amount is not likely to be generated, considering escalating deficit levels.

Slowdown in the economy

Most of the counter-Sona assessments focused attention on social-development impacts. Social Watch Philippines has already issued extensive papers on nonattainment of MDGs. This is partly explained by the slowing down of the economy.

Official data on the growth of the economy indicate a clear downward trend in the gross domestic product (GDP). In 2007, the President called for a special conference crowing about a 7- percent GDP growth for the first quarter. During the first quarter of 2008, this has gone down to 5.2 percent.

The growth of agriculture, fishery and forestry has gone down from 4 percent in the first quarter of 2007 to 3 percent, also in the first quarter. Even worse, the industry sector has gone down from a hefty 6.6-percent growth during the first quarter of 2007 to 3.9 percent in 2008.

A breakdown of the industry sector shows numbers which are not for the faint-hearted: Manufacturing went down from 4.1 percent during the first quarter of 2007 to 2.3 percent in 2008. But wait! Construction went down from 21.7 percent to—que horror!—4.5 percent from the first quarters of 2007 to 2008!

Global crisis no excuse

The usual excuse is that the crisis is global. How come Vietnam has 7.4 percent growth rate, Malaysia 7.1 percent, Indonesia 6.3 percent, Thailand 6.0 percent and the Philippines a meek, embarrassing 5.2 percent?

The crucial factor is governance.

What employment?

Last week, the government paid for a full two-page ad and issued a series of press releases on its so-called accomplishments. A claim was made that 9 million jobs were created from 2001 to 2008. These extravagant claims are totally erased by the fact that unemployment now stands at 8 percent and underemployment at double-digit levels.

Even as so-called millions of jobs were created for street cleaners, canal diggers, flower trimmers and the like, millions of jobs were also lost in manufacturing and construction. This resulted in a net loss of 168,000 jobs since April last year.

Governance

The present administration has been measured and found most wanting in the area of governance. No less than the World Bank has pronounced this government as the most corrupt in East Asia.

• Parsin: Reform is blowing in the wind

The people refuse to listen to the Sona and its claims. Change and reform are on the way. They already know the truth, and it will set them free.

POSTSCRIPT

Whatever happened to Belshazzar? He was thrown into the dustbin of history. Darius took over the kingdom of Babylon.

‘They have to shoot me’- Villa-Ignacio on ouster move

Nagkakabukingan na po. Ang baho-baho na talaga ng Office of Ombudsman. That is what Malacanang got for appointing a friend of Mike Arroyo in that sensitive office. Somebody’s house is falling down, falling down, falling down. Buti nga! — Danton

***

By ARIES C. RUFO
abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

The battle lines between Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio have been clearly drawn.

If push comes to shove, Villa-Ignacio said he will go to the Supreme Court and inform the justices of the underhanded tactics aimed at forcing him to resign his post.

In a hastily called press conference shortly after a show of force by subordinates of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, Villa-Ignacio, in a rare show of pique, said “they will have to shoot me” if Gutierrez’s allies would have him removed from the Office of the Special Prosecutor.

Deputies of Ombudsman Gutierrez closed ranks behind her and said the row between their boss and Villa-Ignacio should be resolved internally. (See Other Top Stories, Ombudsman rallies support from staff)

Villa-Ignacio is known to be a quiet person and rarely gives media interviews. But he told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak that he can no longer keep quiet because it is his integrity that is being impugned. “They can fault me for my litigation skills but not my integrity,” the said in an earlier interview.

“I am sure they are going to suspend me,” Villa-Ignacio said during the press conference, referring to the estafa case filed by former prosecutor Elvira Chua against him before the Ombudsman’s Internal Affairs Board. “A foul scheme is being foisted against me.”

GMA wants new SP?
He said he “will go to the SC and explain the unthinkable things happening in the (Office of the) Ombudsman.”

Spilling the beans on the motive for his ouster, Villa-Ignacio said Malacanang wanted him removed to give the President a free hand in appointing a new Special Prosecutor.

He said his term as Special Prosecutor will lapse on Feb. 14, 2010, a period covered by the 90-day ban in the appointment to government positions before the May 2010 presidential race.

“(The President) will not be able to appoint my replacement (if that happens),” Villa-Ignacio said.

He said he is determined to stick it out even as he urged Gutierrez to resign as Ombudsman “if there should be a call.”

Ronaldo Puno’s case
Villa-Ignacio questioned the Ombudsman’s quick move to give due course to the estafa case filed against him when “there are other significant cases rotting in her office.”

He pointed out that the complainant, prosecutor Elvira Chua, had an axe to grind against him after he “disciplined” her, together with another prosecutor, for bungling a huge case.

This case, he said, was the Motorola communications contract involving Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno. He said Chua conveniently failed to attach a requirement in appealing the case to the SC, causing its dismissal by the High Court due to technicality. “They also resorted to the wrong mode in appealing the case.”

As an experienced prosecutor, Villa-Ignacio said it was unlikely that Chua committed an honest mistake, other than to ensure that the case is dismissed. “When Gutierrez found out this incident, she took the two to her office.”

He also pointed out that it was Chua who was behind the defective case filed against Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay which the Court dismissed for lack of probable cause.

The estafa case, Villa-Ignacio said, is part of a series of harassment moves by Gutierrez. These include disapproving the recruitment and employment of new prosecutors, denying a move to transfer the OSP’s office to a bigger space which will only cost government P1 a year, and keeping him out of the decision-making process in the filing of cases.

As to the OSP’s transfer, Villa-Ignacio said the Commission on Audit offered to lease its 3rd and 4th floors for the OSP’s use for P1 a year. But the Ombudsman, for some reason, denied the transfer.

It began with Megapacific
Villa-Ignacio said the tension between him and Gutierrez started when the Ombudsman moved to dismiss the P1.2-billion MegaPacific computerization case against officials of the Commission on Elections.

The panel, which Gutierrez created and was headed by Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, agreed to charge certain officials for the failed project, recommended further investigation as to other officials, and dismiss those with no evidence to indict them for the anomaly, Villa-Ignacio said.

But on orders of Gutierrez, Villa-Ignacio said the panel, of which he was a member, decided to drop the case against all officials. Villa-Ignacio protested and told a colleague that “it would be the last time that I would lend my name and credibility (to an Ombudsman report).”

(It will be recalled that Gutierrez created the Casimiro panel to disabuse allegations that the investigation on the MegaPacific case would be rigged. Gutierrez inhibited herself from the investigation).

‘Insecure’
Villa-Ignacio said the press conference called by Gutierrez’s allies to prove that there is no demoralization creeping into the ranks and the show of force “is a sign of insecurity.”

“Was there ever an instance where (former) Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo called for a show of support? There was none. You need not do that if you feel you have the support of the staff,” Villa-Ignacio said.

Belittling the show of support behind Gutierrez, Villa-Ignacio said there are those who feel otherwise “but they cannot come out in the open.”

We earlier reported that demoralization has crept into the ranks of the Ombudsman as a result of Gutierrez’s centralized management style. The disenchantment is worsened by the Ombudsman’s dismal performance in the Sandiganbayan where the former’s conviction rate has gone down. The dip in the conviction rate is being blamed on Gutierrez’s centralized decision-making process and her clipping the OSP’s role in the evaluation and assessment of cases.

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