Monday, November 27, 2006

Finally, an Ilonggo Golfer Qualifies for the PGA Tour

Coming off the heels of Pacquiao's convincing win in Las Vegas, another Pinoy athlete is set to make a name for himself in the international stage. Ilonggo golfer Juvic Pagunsan is all set to play in a PGA Tour event, the Sony Open in Hawaii January next year. Pagunsan, a former caddy from Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, came out of nowhere to bag the Asian Tour’s "Rookie of the Year" award after finishing second in the UBS Hong Kong Open last week. His runner-up prize lifted him to seventh in the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit with earnings of $288,794, aside from giving him an automatic slot at the Sony Open. Only 28 years old, Juvic has a long, promising golfing career ahead of him. (read more here)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

And The Hits Just Keep on Coming... for Petron

SunStar, a newspaper based in Southern Philippines, reports that the barge contracted by Petron to transport the oil sludge from Guimaras to the Holcim Plant in Lugait, Misamis Oriental SANK last Monday somewhere off the coast of neighboring Misamis Occidental province (read more here). After Guimaras Governor Rahman Nava, it is now Misamis Occidental Governor Loreto "Leo" Ocampos' s turn to agonize over a "mini-oil spill" in his province.

Incidentally, Leo Ocampos is an old friend. I first met him when he was just a faculty (and later Dean) of the College of Engineering at Misamis University, Ozamis City and we became fast friends. He is a jolly and very funny fellow and his laugh is infectious. And since he is quite tall, I used to kid him and called him "The Richard Gomez of Ozamis." He was very popular with his students. When he first ran for Board Member, he instantly became a hit (especially with the youth) and garnered the highest number of votes among the Board Members. When you are the Number 1 Bokal, people egg you to run for Vice Governor and that's what exactly Leo did, again winning handily against his opponent. Hardly had he warmed his seat as Vice Governor when his Governor suddenly died of illness, thereby making him the Main Man of Misamis. His reelection was a cinch and I think he is already on his third and last term as Governor of Misamis Occidental right now. I consider Leo a model local-level politician - someone who has both brains and charisma, dynamism and drive, and the most important, a sense of humor. You have to have a sense of humor in order to last in politics and you must not take yourself too seriously (masyado pa-importante) in order not to lose your old friends.

Anyway, back to the sinking. The incident occured last Monday and it is now Wednesday but our National Disaster officials have yet to issue a report on what oil spill mitigation measures they are doing or are planning to do in Misamis Occidental. Although Petron was quick to downplay the incident claiming that the environmental effects would not be as calamitious as the oil spill in Guimaras, the fact is that that damned Petron Oil Sludge is like a roving Black Plague spreading and contaminating different areas in the country. I myself have no rage left; when I read about the incident all I can do is sigh in exasperation. I don't know whether the Petron people (who chose and contracted the barge) are idiots or just plain malas. They should probably have their offices feng shui-ed or something to ward off the "evil spirits" because "PR calamities" like this just keep on hitting Petron.

Monday, November 20, 2006

He Who Is More Committed Wins

I watched the delayed telecast of the Pacquiao-Morales fight over at ABS-CBN yesterday and I was completely impressed by Manny's performance. There is no other way of describing the fight: he totally out-classed and demolished Morales. (It's good Pacquiao ended the fight in the 4th Round though because if it lasted 12 Rounds I think the people's patience would have been really tested because of all those commercials).

You have to hand it to Pacquiao: he is not only a talented but more importantly, a disciplined fighter. During the pre-fight broadcasts, Manny's rippling muscles and lean physique was a clear indication that he really trained hard and sacrificed a lot to attain top form. In contrast, Morales looked weaker and not as "well-chiseled" as during their second match in Las Vegas. A news photo I saw also showed that Morales gained a lot of weight after their 2nd fight, which may expain partly why it was harder for him to regain his old form. Without a doubt, si Pacquiao "ang mas ara sa condisyon" between the two.

Both fighters are naturally-gifted boxers and are about evenly-matched in terms of skills and ring experience: Pacquiao is a powerful, knock-out puncher while Morales is a wily fighter and an excellent counter-puncher. And in a game where both are evenly matched, it is training and preparation, committment and perseverance that will ultimately make a difference. The Pacquiao-Morales Fight Part III to me proved that "He Who Is More Committed Wins."

Hopefully, this latest victory will silence his detractors who have been claiming that success had gone to Manny's head. I, for one, initially thought that financial success will make Pacquiao "soft." On the contrary, Pacquiao remains committed to his craft and (as his latest fight bore out) even improved as a boxer. We should therefore not begrudge him for savoring the fruits of his labor (such as when he bought a Porsche and built a mansion) because he works hard for it. And far from making him "mellow down," success has in fact made Pacquiao more committed as ever to improving his skills in boxing.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Si Lolo Eddie Pa Golf-Golf Na Lang

After (seemingly) giving up on Charter Change, Former President Fidel Ramos is seen taking it easy and "pa-golf golf" lang sa Iloilo. Ramos was here last Thursday (November 16) to do the ceremonial tee-off at the 9th Bamboo Tee Ceremonial Tournament of the Iloilo Golf and Country Club. As an aside, legend has it that golfers in IGCC used to use tees made of bamboo - I don't know if they still do today - hence the tournament name. (I really think we should promote the use of bamboo instead of plastic tees because it is more environment-friendly). The News Today has this photo of the signature Ramos swing complete with jubilant, jumping golf buddies in the background. One look at the photo and I know it was "staged" - I don't think Mr. Ramos typically grins when hitting his drive. Irregardless, it makes for a good photo op and I would like to thank FVR for generating publicity for IGCC.

More commonly known as Sta. Barbara to locals, the Iloilo Golf and Country Club will be celebrating its 100th anniversary next year, which makes it the oldest existing golf course in the Philippines and one of the oldest in Asia. The Club is now a certified member of the prestigious Society of 1907, which is comprised of golf courses established in 1907. This means that IGCC members can now play golf at all Society of 1907 member-clubs in the UK for free (I don't think even tony clubs like Manila Golf and Wack Wack can boast of reciprocal playing rights like this). To celebrate its centenary, the Club has lined up a series of activities (see its website for more details).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Nadakpan na si Gringo!"

Gringo Honasan is once again in the news. "Nadakpan na si Gringo" (Nahuli na si Gringo) was the typical conversation starter yesterday. Scanning today's reportage on the incident, I think Manila Standard TODAY has the best photo which they aptly captioned "End of the Line." The photo of a gray-haired Honasan being wheeled away on a wheelchair seems to say it all: Gringo is now a tired, old, "broken" man. His former Senate colleague Tito Sotto is at his side, looking on with grave concern. Inquirer reports that Honasan fractured his left foot jumping from the roof of the Greenmeadows townhouse where he was located by authorities. During his heydey as a dashing Special Forces colonel), Gringo could probably jump from a two-storey building without breaking his leg. But the fact is, he is no longer in his prime. Honasan is now but a shadow of his former self.

Another conversation topic yesterday closer to home was the shooting incident inside the Iloilo Provincial Capitol involving members of the politically prominent Nava clan of Guimaras province (JC Rahman Nava is currently the Governor). The Nava vs. Nava confrontation involved Sumakwel Nava (father of Plaridel Nava who is currently the Provincial Legal Officer of Guimaras) and Napoleon Nava, his nephew, a local "media practitioner" - meaning he is a blocktimer for Aksyon Radio. According to reports, Sumakwel Nava (the Uncle) got pissed with his nephew (Nap Nava) because the latter was using his name when asking for money from politicians. Uncle berated Nephew for tarnishing the family name with his illicit "fund-raising activities." And when Nephew answered back, Uncle shot him in the leg with his .45 caliber pistol. At present, Nephew is in the hospital and Uncle is nowhere to be found.

Now, people are asking how Sumakwel was able to bring a gun inside the Governor's Office. Board Members Niel Tupas, Jr. and Domingo Oso are now blaming the security guards for the "lax security" at the Capitol and are planning to conduct an inquiry into the matter. Are you kidding me? If they body searched all the mayors (who were conducting a meeting at an adjoining room when the shooting incident occured), I'll bet most of them were carrying firearms. It is no secret that almost every politician in Iloilo packs a gun for his/her protection. The same is true with most local journalists. If you are an ordinary security guard, would you have the audacity to frisk a mayor or a reporter and ask him to relinquish his gun to you? Remember that these people are in constant fear for their lives. Asking them to surrender their guns would be tantamount (at least from their point of view) to asking them to entrust their lives to you. I honestly doubt if these people would entrust their lives to some security guard they do not know. The only time politicians and local journalists agree not to carry their pistols is everytime President Arroyo visits Iloilo because the PSG absolutely prohibits guns (not their own) near the President.

Please, Board Member Oso, Board Member Tupas, spare the guards. They are just doing their jobs... No, they just like to keep their jobs. If you really like to solve the problem, you must lend your name and political will into the "No-Guns in the Capitol" campaign. You must be prepared to lose much political capital and kiss a promising career in politics goodbye. For most mayors/reporters consider their guns as their security blanket and stripping them of it would really piss them off. The Capitol guards must be able to say with conviction to a complaining mayor or gun-toting journalist: "kay Board Member Oso, or kay Board Member Tupas na lang kamo magreklamo ser. Gina-sunod lang namon order nila." But if you are unwilling to lose political capital over this issue, it is best to just let the issue die a natural death.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My 2007 Senate Wish List

Still sore from their People's Initiative defeat, the leadership of ULAP (Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines) is said to be mulling over the idea of "boycotting" the senatorial race - meaning they will ask their local leaders and constituents not to vote for any of the senatorial candidates. Apparently, ULAP is not only mad at the Supreme Court for junking the PI but is also sore at the Senate (particularly Senator Joker Arroyo who argued on behalf of the Senate in the Supreme Court) for opposing their plans. ULAP was instrumental in the gathering of millions of signatures for the Sigaw ng Bayan-led PI petition.

ULAP boycott notwithstanding, I have drawn up my own wish list of outstanding Filipinos I would like to see in the Senate. So without further ado, here is my 2007 Senate dream team:

1. Washington Sycip (business)
2. Winnie Monsod (economics)
3. Jesse Robredo (local governance)
4. Lea Salonga (performing arts)
5. Conrado de Quiros (media)
6. Randy David (academe)
7. Miss Joji Bian (Mindanao/business)
8. Jesus Tambunting (SME banking)
9. Jaime Galvez-Tan (health/alternative medicine).
10. Mrs. Sonia Roco (women's rights)
11. Congressman Herminio "Miniong" Teves (economics)
12. Tony Meloto (Gawad Kalinga/community service)

I decided to come up with my own Senate list after seeing the "uninspiring" list of senatoriables that Erap announced to the media. And if the opposition slate is uninspiring, I do not have high hopes that the administration slate (which has not revealed its list to date) will be any different. In fact, I suspect the administration Senate slate may be downright depressing.

The fact that none of my senatoriables figure in the surveys (read: "unwinnable") speak volumes about the state of politics in this country. It is easy to dismiss the problem and say that it is because the voters have gotten dumber. But I think the problem is not that our voters have gotten dumber but rather that our politicians have gotten more obsessed with winning. I have no doubt that in the 1950s/1960s, the moviestars of Sampaguita Pictures would have been swept into office if they ran for the Senate. But moviestars then never misconstrued the people's adulation as a mandate to govern. They knew their place and their limitations and the political powerbrokers then put more weight on one's credentials rather than winnability (because back then it is party resources and backing which determines electoral victory). I surmise that some of the Sampaguita stars were egged on by sycophants to use their celebrity to launch careers in politics (Rogelio dela Rosa, a movie idol, indeed was convinced to run and even won a Senate seat). But in general, most simply did not have the "gall" to run for the Senate. Today, those who obviously have "walang K" think nothing of running if surveys show that they will win.

Ultimately, the solution I think lies not with the voters but with the party elders. The political parties should sit down and discuss ways how to tone down the prevailing "politics of celebrity" and how to "level the playing field" so to speak for better qualified but virtually unknown aspirants. If the parties all agree to field highly-qualified but virtually-unknown candidates, Filipino voters will now be forced to really find out and study the life stories, qualifications, achievements and policy advocacies of the individual candidates. During campaign stops, voters will now be forced to really listen to the speeches to understand what issues these "unfamiliar" faces stand for. As a campaign veteran, I know it is hard enough for a candidate to get his/her message across what with the heat, the noise and the crowds let alone sharing the stage with Pepeng Agimat, Panday or Leon Guerrero. If you are a candidate, how do you compete with that? How can you capture your audience's minds when you cannot even attract their attention? Even in progressive, "sophisticated" countries like the US for example, celebrities enjoy a built-in edge over their non-celebrity opponents (i.e. how do you distract attention away from Arnold "The Terminator" Schwarzenegger aber?) .

If we keep sending unqualified individuals to the Senate, I am afraid that the institution will continue to lose its luster and eventually its reason for being. Baka ang Senado maging Iskul Bukol na lang. Our people will ask: why maintain a Lower and Upper House when there are no difference in the quality of discussion and debate between the two? I also suspect that our people are tired of seeing the same old faces dominating politics and are pining for fresh faces. As they say in the political PR business: "Pag bagong mukha, madaling pagandahin at make-upan. Pero pag ubod na ng kapal at sapin-sapin na ang make-up, mahirap na iretoke yan!"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

STL No Go in Capiz

A warrant of arrest has been issued against Mia Gonzalez, a journalist who writes for Newsbreak Magazine and Business Mirror, by virtue of a libel case that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo filed against her two years ago for her story entitled "Will She Now Change?." Newsbreak Magazine has issued a statement deploring the "surprise" arrest warrant and those interested can read Gonzalez's alleged libelous article here which was published on June 7, 2004 (under her nom de plume Concepcion Paez) .


As I have said, the coming elections in Iloilo City will have national repercussions and there are already reports that Malacañang is "very interested" in the outcome of our polls here. Citing anonymous sources in the Palace, THE GUARDIAN Newspaper reports that no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called up Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. when she heard about Drilon's impending candidacy in Iloilo City (read more here). The same anonymous source claimed that “the President vowed to spend money against Drilon’s candidacy in Iloilo.”

Most media practitioners in Iloilo are also sore at Drilon basically because hindi marunong "maglambing," such as this local columnist who wrote:

"On another occasion, three Ilonggo mediamen waited for more than one hour to see him in his Senate office. He never let them in. When finally he went out to go to the session hall, he told the visitors, “Just proceed to the session hall and listen to me there.”

While campaigning for reelection in 2001, he called for a press conference at the airport. He ordered batchoy—for himself. The invited mediamen just “ate” his words."


Senator Mar Roxas reportedly is angry after finding out that his political lieutenants are planning to approve the entry of STL (Small Town Lottery) in Capiz without his prior clearance. The young senator is not called the "Political Kingpin of Capiz" for nothing: upon learning about Mar's stance, Governor Bermejo called up all his mayors and ordered them to desist from campaigning for STL. Earlier, 12 out of the province's 16 mayors issued a joint statement "interposing no objection" to the operation of STL in Capiz. But now, with just one signal from Senator Roxas, every LGU leader suddenly is mum on STL. And quite right too - while I am not against gambling per se, I do not believe in STL because it takes money away from the poor. I would rather want to see a casino set up in Panay because it takes only (well, mainly) the money of the rich and the foreign tourists.


Now, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago is saying that she is "too young to be Chief Justice. Earlier she said she is willing to pose naked for the SC post. Ano guid bala gusto mo Inday Miriam? Daw ma-buang na kami sa imo!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Witchcraft Paraphernalia Discovered in loilo City

The Guardian, a local newspaper in Iloilo, has this intriguing news item today:


Skull and bones, tools of witchcraft recovered in Mandurriao house
By Francis Allan L. Angelo

HALLOWEEN is long over but chilly tales of a suspected witch is gripping the residents of a village in Mandurriao, Iloilo City. The tale began after Edison Paredes, 37, of Brgy. Hibao-an Norte, Mandurriao found Thursday afternoon a strange-looking bag in the house of his brother Marcelito.

Edison said he was horrified by the contents of the bag—a human skull, two pieces of bones, four pieces of black candles, five photographs with burnt marks and two T-shirts.

A strip of red cloth was tied around the skull’s forehead.

Even more chilling was Edison’s discovery of a piece of paper tucked in the remaining teeth of the skull—his name was written on the paper.

Edison suspected that he is a victim of hiwit or witchcraft perpetrated by a certain Luz Elbanbuena, the live-in partner of his brother Eduard. The couple stayed in Marcelito’s house until they left for Maasin several days ago.

Edison claimed that Elbanbuena, a native of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, threatened to harm him using her knowledge of black magic.

“We had a fight in August and she threatened to kill me in two days. My hunch was confirmed when I found these items,” Edison said.


The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports that Senator Drilon has transferred his voter registration to Iloilo City yesterday (read here). "I am keeping my options open" was Drilon's reply to persistent questions by local reporters whether he is indeed running for the city's Lone Congressional District post. Although he refuses to make a categorical statement, I think it is good as go that the veteran Ilonggo politician will vie for the said post in the May polls. This is a "make or break" election for Mr. Drilon's political career. What's at stake here is not only who will represent the district of Iloilo City but also the leadership of the Liberal Party since if he loses, Drilon will also lose his preeminence among the "anti-GMA" wing of the Liberal Party. In other words, this local election will have a significant impact on national politics.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

American Defense Secretary Resigns (ala Cruz)

In a move that sent shockwaves throughout the world, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has resigned (read the full news article here). Rumsfeld's suprise move is uncannily reminscent of the sudden resignation from the Cabinet of Avelino "Nonong" Cruz, our own Defense Secretary, only a week ago. While some may say that the reasons and circumstances of Cruz's resignation is totally unrelated to Rumsfeld's, I say that both individuals resigned for largely the same reason: POLITICS. Someone must always absorb the blame for a defeat: Cruz for the PI defeat and Rumsfeld for their mid-term election debacle.

By now, everyone knows that the Democrats have won. For the first time in 12 years, the Democrats will control the House of Representatives and hold 28 out of the 50 State governorships. All eyes are now on two women leaders, both respected stalwarts in the Democratic Party: long-time House Minority Floor Leader Nancy Pelosi (who is favored to become the next Speaker) and New York Senator Hillary Clinton (who is being touted as a strong contender for President in 2008). Pundits predict that President Bush will become a lame duck president (read this October article by the Washington Post "Election may leave Bush an early lame duck").

I suspect that our government officials are now analyzing what the impact of the US elections will be on our relations with the Americans. I predict that Filipino columnists and opinion-makers are now crafting their analysis of the different repercussions of a Democratic Party victory on Filipinos. For my part, I welcome the win of the Democrats because it will hopefully mean that a "softer" US Immigration Reform Actwill be passed in Congress.


The Senator from Iloilo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, has been quoted as saying that she is willing to pose naked for the SC post. Now I think we really do need to impose psychiatric testing as a requirement for our SC nominees!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tony Meloto is an Ilonggo

Antonio "Tony" Meloto, the driving force behind the widely-successful Gawad Kalinga housing project, is an Ilonggo. He is originally from Bacolod City and Barangay Fundidor, Molo, Iloilo City (I read it here). Several months back, Meloto received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership for his work at Gawad Kalinga citing him “for harnessing the faith and generosity of Filipinos the world over to confront poverty in the Philippines and provide every family the dignity of a decent home and neighborhood” (read the full citation here).

Edwin Trompeta, Regional Director of the Department of Tourism-Region 6 announced that they will embark on a short-term rehabilitation and marketing program for Guimaras to reverse the oil spill's negative impact on the island's tourism industry. Starting next month, DOT will organize mountain bike races, kayaking and tours to mango plantations to highlight the fact that "there's more to Guimaras than just beaches." (read more here.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

It's Official: Philippine Election Season Starts

Barely a week has passed since the Supreme Court thumbed down the People's Initiative and the air is now abuzz with rumors of who will run for what office. Hopeful aspirants are now "doing the rounds," checking their bank accounts, assessing their "media contacts/political assets inventory," organizing caucuses, etc. - in local parlance it is called "positioning." It's as if, like in a race, our politicians were just waiting for the Supreme Court to sound the gun. And with the People's Initiative announced dead, the Philippine election season is now truly on.

In Iloilo City the talk of the town right now is the supposed plan of Senator Frank Drilon to vie for the city's Lone Congressional District post, which is currently being occupied by the son and namesake of DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez. But in a media forum in Iloilo, "still-Hyatt 10 member" Rene Villa (the former DAR Secretary and close associate of Drilon) and Senator Kiko Pangilinan (Drilon's Liberal party-mate) denied that Drilon intends to run for the said post. But actions speak louder than words - reports say that Drilon is starting to do the rounds and spending more time in the city and in fact has started his own free medical services program for indigents recently. There are also rumors that the fractured political opposition in Iloilo City will unite for the May 2007 polls under a Drilon (Congressman)-Malabor (Mayor)-Facultad (Vice Mayor) ticket. It is also interesting to note that the son of Governor Niel Tupas, Nielex, is intending to run not in their bailiwick (in the 5th District Iloilo) but as Councilor in Iloilo City together with former No. 1 Councilor Joshua Alim and incumbent Councilor Perla Zulueta.

For their part, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and Congressman Jun Gonzalez belittled the rumors, saying that they are quite confident that their LAKAS party will once again sweep the polls whether the local opposition is united or not. Although the two did not say it outright, but everyone in Iloilo City knows that they already "hold" almost all the Barangay Chairmen in the City. In fact, the usual comment of pundits here is: "where will Drilon get his barangay liders when almost all are already in Gonzalez's camp?" So the perception of Ilonggos right now is that Drilon's group is "dehado" and Gonzalez's party is "llamado." This is so because, by possessing the so-called "machinery vote" (which is roughly 15-20% of the total voting population in Iloilo City), the Gonzalez-Treñas group has "partida" or is already ahead of the Drilon group. Therefore, the two groups will campaign for and fight over the remaining 85-80% "market votes." Note that within this "market votes" are retail and wholesale votes (i.e. the "voting blocs" like Iglesia ni Cristo, El Shaddai, Adventists, urban poor groups, etc.). And if look at the track record of these "wholesale" voting blocs, they usually go for the "llamado" candidates or those they perceive are winnable. But all in all, the elections in Iloilo City promises to be very exciting should Drilon decide to vie for the post, especially if he manages to unite the local opposition.

In national news, the Opposition and Administration parties are also positioning their bets and both camps are bragging that they will sweep the polls. This early, ousted President Erap Estrada unveiled a complete, "powerhouse" senatorial line-up (which incidentally included 2 administration senators*), namely:

1. Loren Legarda
2. Manuel Villar*
3. Ralph Recto*
4. Kiko Pangilinan
5. Gregorio Honasan
6. Tessie Aquino Oreta
7. John Osmeña
8. Tito Sotto
9. Chiz Escudero
10. Alan Peter Cayetano
11. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III
12. JV Ejercito

Not to be left out, PGMA's political adviser Gabby Claudio also claimed that they will "cream" the opposition to "avenge" their PI defeat. But when pressed, he did not say who the candidates will be (takot siguro kay Ermita) only disclosing that they are still "screening" possible candidates (which means wala pa talaga sila line-up). But based on an earlier pronouncement by Mike Defensor, the following are most likely to comprise the administration line-up:

1. Mike Defensor
2. Angie Reyes
3. Francisco Duque
4. Prospero Nograles
5. Eduardo Ermita
6. Lito Atienza

I am also curious as to why "Small Mike" did not mention reelectionist Senator Joker Arroyo (who he claims as his mentor) and incumbent administration Senators Ralph Recto and Manuel Villar in his line-up. Probably it was just "spur of the moment" talking on the part of Mike.

Mike Defensor did not mention him but the scuttlebutt in Iloilo is that TESDA Director-General Augusto "Buboy" Syjuco is likewise running for senator and in fact has already thought of a monicker ala Mar Roxas's "Mr. Palengke." Syjuco wants to package himself as "Tito Kalbo" and has in fact a Sunday radio program with the same title.

Speaking of Mar, talk is he will be the campaign manager of the Liberal Party (Drilon Wing) senatorial slate, which tentatively is comprised of:

1. Noynoy Aquino
2. Kiko Pangilinan (it seems he is on everybody's list)
3. Randy David
4. Ruffy Biazon
5. Sonia Roco (as guest candidate)

I know that Mar's first love is behind-the-scenes campaign management. In fact, before he became Congressman he was his late brother Congressman Dinggoy's campaign manager. He is also very up-to-date when it comes to electoral campaign technologies and developments. So I am glad that he will be doing what he loves most this 2007 elections. Mar might even give Gabby Claudio a run for his money!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Pandanggo sa Ilaw Politics

One good thing about this blog is that it forces me to think of interesting topics to write about daily. Ever since I started this blog about six months ago, I found (to my surprise) that I was capable of writing an entry in it almost everyday. I also find blog-writing easier and more convenient than column-writing primarily because one can just post a link to the item you were writing about for your readers to understand what you were talking about.

Aside from honing my writing skills, another good thing about this blog is that it has induced me to revisit my old books in order to look for something to write about. By now I have amassed quite a collection - well, not enough to start a home library but enough to occupy one side of our wall. When I got married 3 years ago, my wife brought in her own pile of books. Since they are just gathering dust and occupying a lot of space, I thought of giving some away (I will only read it once anyway). But the fact that I spent good money and that I may need them for future reference prevented me from doing so. Now, thanks to this blog I have finally found some use for them. If I cannot think of any topic to write about, I usually turn to my books for ideas (I can also lift entire paragraphs to make my entry look "substantial").

As a political science student, I found that most of the political models we studied in college was incongruent, even irrelevant to the Philippine setting. But the book authored by UP Professor Remegio E. Agpalo sophomorically titled "Adventures in Political Science" has stayed with me through the years. I even had the book authograph by him (I will download photo later).

"Adventures in Political Science" is pretty basic political science stuff but it stands out because of Professor Agpalo's original idea of labelling Philippine politics as "pandanggo sa ilaw" politics. Although the term he coined did not exactly catch on, I thought it was a pretty accurate and colorful description of how politics is practiced in the country then. Excerpts from the book:

"The idea of pandanggo sa ilaw politics is derived from a native folk dance called pandanggo sa ilaw. This folk dance may be described in terms of 1) the participant dancers, 2) the objects the dancers carry or hold, and 3) the way the participants dance. The participants are male or female, two or more of them, who carry lighted glass oil lamps on their heads and the back of their hands. Dancing to the rhythm of lilting music, they sway and balance, go around the stage or dance floor, intermingle, manipulate the glass lamps with amazing and spectacular dexterity, and manuever for dramatic and arresting position on the floor. Agile of hands and nimble of feet, the pandanggo dancers do not trip or drop the glass they carry.

In pandanggo sa ilaw politics, there are elements analogous to those found in the folk dance. Similar to the pandanggo dancers are the political actors --the citizens and government officials; to the glass oil lamps, the power of the political actors. Corresponding to the stage where the pandanggo is danced is the political arena. The movement of the political actors can be compared to those of the pandanggo dancers; these consist in skillful manipulations and manuevering. For this reason, the political actors, like the pandanggo dancers, are fascinating to watch.

Unlike the politics of ideology where the ideological doctrines guide, direct, and dominate the political process, there are no doctrines guiding and directing the political actors in pandanggo sa ilaw politics. Thus, elections, legislations, administration, adjudication, and other processes of the government in this system are not ideology-oriented ... What interests them are personal and practical matters -- what favors can be allocated to supporters and burdens imposed on non-supporters; what personal traits certain public officials or citizens have or do not have; what party can grant favors and what group cannot give patronage; and the like. In other words, pandanggo sa ilaw politics is oriented towards personality, practicality and material goods."

Earlier I said that pandanggo sa ilaw politics is an accurate description of how politics in the Philippines was practiced then. I said "then" because with the way our present crop of politicians fight and slay each other in public, politics today is better termed "Gladiator Politics" rather than pandanggo sa ilaw politics. At least in the olden days, a politician can shine and get noticed by virtue of his intellectual agility and grace of character (just like pandanggo sa ilaw dancers). At kahit mag-kaaway na pulitiko, nag-ngingitian pa noon (well, at least in public) just like pandanggo dancers. Ngayon, nag-ngingitngitan na lang talaga ang mga pulitiko natin (both in private and in public).

Politics has and will always be a spectator sport. But I would much rather watch our leaders do a pandanggo sa ilaw rather that see them slaying each other in public.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Salary Standardization Law Part 3

It is not being reported in the media but the entire civil service bureaucracy is abuzz with talk about an imminent across-the-board wage increase and the total overhauling of the government salary grade system under a new Salary Standardization Law III (SSL 3). In public offices, government corridors and hallways, pantries and cafeterias, ordinary rank-and-file staff are quietly discussing and debating the merits/demerits of the proposed bill in Congress. At first, SSL 3 started as a rumor or as some sort of "urban myth" among civil servants - someone knows someone who has heard about it but no one has actually seen the bill.

But the SSL 3 "myth" is no more: it is actually turning into a reality. There is now a bill pending in the House of Representatives which seeks to amend the old Salary Standardization Law (RA 6758) entitled "Government Classification and Compensation Act." Also, Secretary Andaya of the Department of Budget and Management confirmed recently that they are pushing to increase government salaries starting next year.

I predict that the proposed SSL 3 will be very controversial and will elicit much condemnation especially from employees of GFIs and GOCCs. Just a cursory glance tells me that some of the proposed bill's provisions will be dynamite. For example, Section 35 repeals ALL special salary laws and regulations." This means that employees of GFIs (Government Financial Institutions) and GOCCs (Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations) like GSIS, Bangko Sentral, Land Bank, etc. will no longer enjoy SSL exemption and will receive the same salary levels as the rest in government. The bill also overhauls the entire Salary Grade structure, reducing it from 33 salary grades (with SG 1 as lowest and SG 33 highest) to only 22 job grades. Under the current system, if you are an SG 18 employee and get promoted to SG 19 you only get less than a P1,000 increase. Under SSL 3, pay differentials between ranks are much bigger. A Job Grade 13 holder, for example, receives P46,301 while a Job Grade 14 P52,783 or a difference of around P6,000. Pay differential between ranks becomes bigger as the ranks get higher.

But perhaps the greatest revision is in the "spirit" of the law. The proposed SSL 3 removes the "bias" of old SSL law (click here for a copy) for the low-ranking employee. Section 3 (a) of the present SSL states that: "All government personnel shall be paid just and equitable wages; and while pay distinctions muct necessarily exist in keeping with work distinctions, the ratio of compensation for those occupying higher ranks to those at lower ranks should be maintained at equitable levels, giving due consideration to higher percentage of increases to lower level positions and lower percentage increases to higher level positions (italics mine). This provision is no longer present in the proposed bill. In its place is a sentence which lays down the new Governing Principles to be observed - under Section 3 (c) states "Recognizing the need to attract, retain and motivate such a corps of civil servants, the State shall develop, implement, and maintain a rational compensation and benefits system which shall be internally and externally equitable, performance-based, and easy to administer."

While SSL 3 proposes to increase the salaries of ALL government employees, it reserves the biggest pay raise to higher-ranking officials - the higher the rank, the bigger the salary hike. The President of the Philippines, which under SSL receives an unbelievable P25,000 a month, will now have a base pay of P140,277 a month. An Undersecretary, classified as a Salary Grade 30 position receiving P18,975 a month, will now be classified as a Job Grade 18 and will be receiving a monthly salary of P89,149 at SSL 3's first year of implementation (which will reach up to P115,893 5 years later). Mid-ranking or supervisory-level government officials will also be receiving between P40,000 to P80,000 a month according to the bill's proposed Base Pay Schedule.

SSL 3 seeks to upgrade the salaries of our government employees to bring it up to par with inflation and private sector rates. For my part, I welcome its passage because it has been more than 10 years since our civil servants received an increase. I believe that SSL 3 will not only promote efficiency but also reduce corruption in government. Sometimes, you cannot blame public servants for being corrupt and inefficient because their salaries are so unbelievably low and our civil service system promotes mediocrity and does not reward excellence with appropriate remuneration. We definitely need SSL 3 if we want to keep and attract outstanding Filipinos in government.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Manila Bulletin Scores a Major Scoop (Again!)

Manila Bulletin again has "outscooped" all other national dailies with its banner story today: "Nation Honors Its Departed Loved Ones on All Saints' Day." Read also its editorial titled simply: "All Saints' Day."

Boracay is a major revenue earner in the Philippines, with total BIR collections amounting to P300 million as of September 2006. Now called "The Crown Jewel of the Philippine Tourism Industry," revenue collections in Boracay have been consistently rising in the past five years, indicating a "tourism boom" in that island-resort. But all is not well in paradise. Disgruntled employees of Club Panoly picketed the Caticlan Jetty Port to protest their retrenchment and the said resort's alleged unfair labor practices. Also, government wants to enforce a "one-entry, one-exit" policy to better secure the island from terrorists and criminals. The plan is being opposed by boat operators and residents there. And of course, there is the long-standing controversy regarding the ownership of lots in Boracay. Long-time residents and resort-owners are opposing Proclamation 1064 which seeks to reclassify 628 hectares as forest and agricultural land. The present occupants would rather acquire their lots thru "judicial titling."

Finally, President Arroyo has accepted the resignation of all PRC-BON (Board of Nursing) members. After several false starts, the Court of Appeals okayed the oath-taking of new nurses. NCLEX executives, in their courtesy call in Malacañang recently, also said that they were hopeful that the Philippine government would be able to resolve the nursing leak controversy satisfactorily. The only thing missing now is the punishment of those that caused the leakage. But all in all, I am glad that things are slowly working out for our nursing graduates.