Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Malabor Snubs Gonzalez

News reports say that former mayor Mansueto "Mansing" Malabor snubbed Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez during a chance encounter in a coffeeshop in Iloilo City. The two accidentally met at the De Leonian, a coffeeshop located inside the Iloilo Central Market.

Long before Starbucks, Figaro or Seattle's Best, Iloilo City already had The De Leonian. The De Leonian coffeeshop has been standing for as long as I can remember and has been a favorite hangout of local politicians and mediamen for years. If you want to hear the juiciest gossip and the latest politicial developments in Iloilo, go to the De Leonian. The ambiance is not quite like Starbucks to say the least (it's inside a wet market!) but people don't go there for the gastronomic experience but mainly for gossip. At least after finishing your coffee and ensaymada, you have the option to buy a pound of pork or a kilo of chicken at the Central Market if you want.


Seven months after the tragedy, Petron announced that it has hired the Singapore-based firm Sonsub to extract the remaining oil inside the ill-fated tanker M/V Solar I . The date of the extraction was set on March 14. But Guimaras Governor Rahman Nava is still waiting for the release of the P800 million relief fund that was promised to rehabilitate his province.


It seems that Congressman Allan Peter Cayetano is not the only candidate having problems with another senatorial candidate having a similar-sounding name as him. I received this text message today: Question for COMELEC: If you write SONIA on the ballot, will your vote be credited to ROCO? ..... or to OSMEÑA?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Boom Tarat Tarat Mania

Campaign jingles can make or break a candidate, most especially in the Philippine senatorial race where name recall is the name of the game. A catchy campaign jingle can attract peoples' attention and help them remember your name come election day. Also, lively jingles can help boost the morale of your campaign troops and bring about a "fiesta" atmosphere during political rallies and out-of-town sorties.

During the last 2004 elections, Mar Roxas' Mr. Suave jingle no doubt contributed to making him no. 1. And he was not alone in capitalizing on that blockbuster novelty song at that time - countless other politicians running for local positions used Mr. Suave as their campaign jingle.

Now, candidates are falling over themselves to buy the rights to "Boom Tarat Tarat," the novelty song composed by Lito Camo and popularized by the noontime show "Wowowee" (of the ULTRA Stampede fame). It has been reported that senatorial candidate Miguel Zubiri acquired the rights to "Boom Tarat Tarat" to use as his campaign jingle. No less than the President, during one of her sorties, endorsed Zubiri by singing his campaign jingle which goes something like this: "Boom Tarat Tarat, Boom Tarat Tarat .... Zubiri, Zubiri .... Boom Boom Boom!" Aside from Zubiri, I am sure that a big number of congressmen, governors, mayors, etc. will be using the song as their campaign jingle, although I seriously doubt if they will be paying Lito Camo (or even pay him the courtesy of asking his permission) for using his composition.

I heard the song "Boom Tarat Tarat" for the very first time December of last year from my 3-year old son (of all people!). I was puzzled to hear him sing the bizarre, unfamiliar tune and I largely ignored him at first. But when I finally asked his yaya what song my son was singing, she told me it was "Boom Tarat Tarat" from Wowowee. I knew right there and then that "Boom Tarat Tarat" would be a hit - if my 3-year old (who still can barely speak) can catch the lyrics and sing to its tune, then "Boom Tarat Tarat" will surely appeal to most other children. And I was correct - during our office Christmas-cum-Children's Party, most of the kids knew the song and "Boom Tarat Tarat" was their favorite dancing music (apparently, the song has an accompanying dance move).

So brace yourselves for "Boom Tarat Tarat" mania this coming elections. But just a word of caution though for candidates who are thinking of using "Boom Tarat Tarat" as their campaign jingle. Just today, I heard someone sing the song with a new lyrical twist (and it really put a smile on my face). It went something like this: "Boom Tarat Tarat, Boom Tarat Tarat.... KURAKOT, KURAKOT.... Boom Boom Boom!"

Friday, February 16, 2007


Dagdag-Bawas. I first heard the term "dagdag-bawas" from Senator Nene Pimentel back in 1995 when, having lost in that year's senatorial race, he complained of having been cheated of victory by certain "operators" in Comelec. Senator Biazon, who also failed to get reelected in 1995, likewise claimed to have been a victim of dagdag-bawas. I am not sure who between the two originally coined the term, but the word dagdag-bawas has been incorporated into our colorful and uniquely-Filipino lexicon.

I was always confused by the meaning of the term dagdag-bawas. As an Ilonggo, I've always thought that dagdag-bawas meant "to junk the candidate & to shave his votes." You see,"dagdag" in Ilonggo means "to fall" or "to drop" or "to junk" as in "nadagdag ako sa katre" ("I fell off my bed") whereas in Tagalog, dagdag means "to add." Thus, candidates should be afraid (be very afraid) of the Ilonggo politician who threatens to "dagdag-bawas" them for he might be planning to both junk and "decrease" their votes! When Pimentel and Biazon claimed that they were victims of dagdag-bawas during the 1995 elections, I honestly thought that they were complaining about their own partymates junking them and some unscrupulous Comelec employees cheating them of their votes (Pimentel at that time was especially unpopular among LGU officials because, as Cory's DILG Secretary, he spearheaded the unseating of Marcos-era mayors and the appointment of OICs. Biazon for his part, was said to be disfavored by FVR's trusted man, Joe Almonte -- so the prospect of them of being junked was quite real).

Now I understand that "dagdag-bawas" actually means shaving the votes of one candidate and counting it in favor of another. This method of "wholesale" cheating, I am told, is much harder to detect and more cost-effective than say, paying countless flying voters to cheat for you. For example, during the last 2004 elections, GMA campaign operatives supposedly developed an ingenious "algorithm" wherein they made GMA win overwhelmingly in provinces where she is popular and lose only slightly in the provinces considered to be her opponents' bailiwicks. For example in the Bicol Region, which has long been a Roco bailiwick, GMA lost by a very slim margin to Roco. Likewise in Mindanao, where the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr. was said to be immensely popular, election results showed that GMA lost by a slim margin and in fact even won over FPJ in some provinces there. But in the areas where she was perceived to be popular, GMA won by a wide margin. In vote-rich Cebu province alone, GMA supposedly won by more than a million votes over FPJ. Likewise in Iloilo.

The Garcillano Tapes have given the public an insightful glimpse of how candidates and shadowy election officers operate and cheat in elections. The Garci scandal almost toppled GMA, but the fractured opposition failed to rally public opinion to their side mainly because the people perceived them to be no better than the person they were trying to oust. Every Filipino knows that almost every politician in this country cheats and those few that do not, have to spend hundreds of thousands of pesos just to "protect" their votes from dagdag-bawas operators.

Sadly, not one among those mentioned in the Garci Tapes has been punished, with some of the personalities mentioned in the tape even flourishing under this administration. Ironically, the principal figure in the scandal Virgilio Garcillano is contemplating to run for Congress in Bukidnon and the "Garci generals" are all occupying high military posts.

As long as the "mechanics" in Comelec ply their dastardly trade with impunity and so long as politicians who benefit from it are not punished, I foresee that dagdag-bawas will continue to be a bane in Philippine electoral politics for many years to come.


Migs & 'Tol. Administration senatorial candidate Miguel Zubiri may have scored brownie points with Ilonggo voters for adopting the campaign nickname "Migs." Migs is an abbreviation of the Ilonggo word "migo" (from the Spanish word "amigo") which means "friend" or "pal." The word "migs" is commonly used by young Ilonggos to connote friendship and/or familiarity with another person. Zubiri has been consciously courting the Ilonggo vote; he recently visited Iloilo City to join in the Dinagyang Festival merry-making and many were surprised that he can speak Ilonggo fluently. His advocacy for the Biofuels Act, which he claims will uplift the sugar industry out of its moribund state, will likewise add to his pogi points in Western Visayas especially in the vote-rich, monocrop-economy province of Negros Occidental.

As regards Mike Defensor, whose campaign monicker is 'Tol, I would caution him against using it in Western Visayas. 'Tol is an abbreviation of the street slang "utol" which means "brother" in English and is usually used by Tagalogs much in the same way Ilonggos use "migs" to connote friendship, familiarity or camaraderie. But "utol" in Ilonggo is a kind of dog flea - the big, round, grayish kind that loves to suck the blood of dogs. The "utol" is usually easy to spot because it "stands out" while another species of dog flea, the "bitik," is much harder to squash because it is smaller and harder to spot its dark, reddish color makes it blend well with the dog's fur (as a dog- lover who is a proud owner of four dachshunds, I have become an expert dog-groomer and flea-killer). If he likes to win in Western Visayas, Mike should utilize his surname Defensor and capitalize more on his kinship with Ilongga Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Iloilo Congressman Art Defensor.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Run Manny Run!

One news item that caught my eye today (aside from senatorial candidates trying to beat the Comelec deadline which is so old news) was Manny Pacquiao’s supposed candidacy for congressman of General Santos City and South Cotabato. GenSan, as it is commonly called by locals, is known as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.” I visited Gen San and the outlying towns of South Cotabato a couple of times in the past and was pleasantly surprised to find many Ilonggos not only in Gen San but even in Muslim-sounding towns like Surallah and Nurallah in the province. I surmise that long ago the province must have been dominated by Muslims until Ilonggo settlers from Panay, encouraged by President Quezon’s land resettlement policies, started arriving en masse in the 1920s up to the 1930s. Several years back, I visited a college buddy who used to live in DOLE (the pineapple company) located in Polomolok, South Cotabato which is about 30 minutes ride from Gen San. The DOLE compound, situated at the foot of Mt. Kalsangi, is an enclave complete with American-style houses (similar to the ones in Subic and Baguio), an international school for the children of DOLE expats, etc. And best of all, they have a wonderful golf course there.

Going back to Pacquiao’s impending entry into politics, it seems that not many Filipinos welcome the idea. Well-meaning fans fear that his boxing career will suffer if he becomes congressman and that he will be “eaten by the system” (lalamunin ng sistema) and eventually become a trapo (traditional politician) himself while detractors say that Manny lacks the education, intelligence and experience to serve in Congress.

On the contrary, I believe that Manny Pacquiao is the perfect person to lead his area.

At the height of their power, Britain was ruled by men who distinguished themselves overseas, whether it be thru war or commercial conquest. England’s greatest prime minister for example, Winston Churchill, started his career as a second lieutenant in the Fourth Hussars which saw action in Sudan and Egypt. He first gained national fame when during the 1899 Boer War in South Africa, his unit’s armored train was ambushed and Churchill was captured by the enemy. He managed escaped a few weeks later. He even left a note under his bunk for the Boer undersecretary of war saying “I do not concede that your Government was justified in holding me and I have consequently resolved to escape…Regretting the circumstances have not permitted me to bid you a personal farewell, believe me, yours very sincerely, Winston S. Churchill” (a word has been invented to described this impudent confidence - "Churchillian"). Another great leader, John F. Kennedy, distinguished himself during the Second World War as a US Navy officer and his war exploits was adapted into the big screen via the movie "PT 109. " Military service seems to be a big issue in American politics, and former President Clinton was perpetually hounded by his refusal to serve in the military at the height of the Vietnam War. Even incumbent U.S. President George W. Bush is being ridiculed for having served only in the National Guard as a fighter pilot. In most countries, international achievement is usually a sure ticket for a successful career in politics.

Since the Philippines do not engage in "foreign wars of conquest," the only way really for a Filipino to distinguish himself/herself internationally is thru sports and the performing arts. And Manny Pacquiao single-handedly made the Philippines a "boxing-superpower" and his victories brought tremendous honor and prestige for our country. How many of our politicians, even the intelligent ones, can claim to have achieved that for the country?

Just because Pacquiao looks like a houseboy and speaks Tagalog with an Ilonggo accent, it doesn't mean that he is "simple." Far from it, I believe Manny is a very intelligent and astute man; you have to be to become a good boxer. Judging your opponent, predicting his moves, parrying his thrusts and studying beforehand how to defeat him requires both mental agility and extreme physical conditioning. These are also the skills politicians use (or aspire to) to get ahead in the game. And more importantly, Manny has the self-discipline and willpower to achieve what he wants to achieve. If he applies that same singlemindness to his public career, I believe he can do wonderful things for his province. But most of all, he has the capacity to inspire our people, and that to me, is enough to qualify him to run for public office.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mar's "The Way Forward" Speech

I would like to share with my readers the keynote speech delivered by Senator Mar Roxas during the 61st Anniversary of the Liberal Party, Club Filipino last January 29 which I just read yesterday. Entitled "The Way Forward," it offers many interesting ideas on how we can get out of the "broken politics," of the rut which our nation currently finds itself in.

Friends, fellow Liberals, Mga kababayan:

Then and Now
Sixty-one years ago today, the Liberal Party was founded as an instrument for renewal, leadership, and hope. Back then, as the Second World War ended,our people rolled up their sleeves for the hard work of establishing our freedom and rebuilding our nation.

Today, so much has changed in the world. We define peace in terms of rogress, war in terms of terror, and wealth in terms of knowledge. Thankfully, some things remain the same: Ka Jovy’s moral courage, memory and witty ripostes, Bobby Tanada’s nationalist fervor, Raul Daza’s attention to detail in both governance and sartorial matters; Frank Drilon’s strong sense of righteousness and justice and Butch Abad’s principles and his putting himself on the line for them .

Sixty-one years ago, the country emerged from the horrors of a second world war, physically broken – broken roads, railroads, and ports; buildings and cities little more than rubble; Filipinos malnourished, infirm, beaten, and tortured. Yet although physically broken, our countrymen were strong in spirit, owerful in terms of dedication, brave in the face of adversity. They believed they could make a difference and they did. The way forward for them was to conquer their fear, grit their teeth, put shoulder to the grindstone and do the necessary hard work of rebuilding our nation. Together, they went on to build our country to become the strongest. That was then.

Today our country is broken; our people feel helpless and are in despair. Two months ago, the SWS reported a new record high of 19% or an estimated 3.3 million households experiencing involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months; while more than half (52%) of the Filipino families rated themselves as poor in general, and another 2 out of every 5 40%) rated themselves as poor in terms of food.

Today, the Philippines is divided into the haves, the have-nots, and the will-never-haves: a nation in conflict politically, but also gutted from within – literally, as our kababayans, by the thousands, everyday, pick another country in which to work and live and earn.

Today, we hear hosannas to improvements in the financial markets but these remain only in the financial sector and are still awaited by the poor. Though the peso continues to strengthen, income levels have not gone up and cost of iving has not come down.

Sixty-one years ago, hope resided in the people and within our borders. Today, hope lies in making their way across the seas, beyond our borders, including a few destinations more risky and chaotic than ours.

Broken Politics
Sadly, the expected source of redemption for all democracies, the political system, our governance, is also broken. According to the most recent surveys, 3 out 5 of our people believe their political leaders to be “dishonest”. The same survey says that they give their trust most to a boxer, Manny Pacquiao, to a billiard player, Efren “Bata” Reyes, and to someone who spends his time looking out after the palengke. At no time in our recent history has the Supreme Court been asked not once, but several times to intervene and protect the people from their government. The method by which every liberal democracy renews itself is likewise broken.

Increasingly, the people no longer see elections as their instrument, their tool for reform, renewal, and deliverance. For so many it has become a cynical exercise, an instrument to protect the status quo and further entrench it. In contrast, sixty years ago, even the poorest of the poor saw elections and political and civic participation as part of the solution to the practical problems of daily life.

Today, most people see elections and political participation as a way of perpetuating instead of solving their problems.

Our countrymen stopped seeing politics and politicians in a flattering light some time ago; they believe that whoever wins, they, the people, still end up losing. Increasingly, Filipinos see politicians as:

Unreliable, Unrepentant, Irresponsible, Expensive, Irrelevant, and thus – Unnecessary, for them to attain their goals in life.

At bakit naman hindi sasama ang loob ng ating mga kababayan sa mga
politico? Noong nakaraang mga buwan ay mariing tinulak ng administrasyon at ang mga kaalyado nito ang isang panukala na nagsasabi ng: Masama ang lagay ng buhay, nais naming kayong tulungan (mukhang ok naman ito).

Heto ang mga pagbabago na sa palagay namin ay magdudulot ng mas magandang buhay para sa lahat: pagpaliban na ang halalan sa Mayo, tanggalin na ang term limits namin, alisin ang kapangyarihan ng Korte Suprema sa pagreview ng pagdeklara ng Martial Law at sa paglalabis ng pamahalaan, at hindi na kayo ang pipili ng lider ng bansa dahil kami na lang ang mamimili mula sa aming mga kasama. Pag pumayag kayo, tiyak na gaganda ang buhay at kinabukasan ninyo.

[Indeed, how can we expect our people to feel differently about politicians when just a few months ago, the government and its political allies put the following proposition before the people: hey said, your life is lousy, we want to help you. Let’s make some changes to improve your life (so far so good).

Until we hear the changes they had in mind: won’t have to run for office as scheduled this May; I won’t have limits as to how long I can stay in my job; The Supreme Court will no longer get to review actions on declaring martial law and abuse of executive authority, and; You no longer get to choose the leader of the country because we will pick the leader from among ourselves.

If you approve these changes, your life and future will be better.]

It is too sad to cry over, too bizarre to laugh over and too pathetic to take seriously. But, that’s the way it was and, as they recently declared, they will try again.

Our Party Unspared
Unfortunately, even our party has not escaped the collateral effects of this brokenness. Today, our party is distracted and divided. Such distractions and divisions are a product of outside interference. They say join us or we’ll break you. Our members had to choose between supporting the president, right or wrong, or our freedom to decide based on the issues at hand.

This cannot be. Ours is a proud tradition and a deep belief that we are a party answerable to our collective conscience. That we make decisions based on values and vision, not on personalities and power plays. The LP has always supported that which is right and opposed that which is wrong. Ninoy Aquino, Evelio Javier, Gerry Roxas and so many others did not meekly say, “Yes, Mr. President”, during the dark days of martial law. Jovy Salonga, Bobby Tanada, Vic Ziga did not meekly say, “Yes, Madame President”, when they voted against the bases treaty. Frank Drilon, Kiko Pangilinan, Pong Biazon, Noynoy Aquino, Butch and Dina Abad, Erin Tanada, Neric Acosta and so many of our congressional party mates did not simply say, “Yes, Ma’am”, when policies such as Calibrated Pre-emptive Response, EO 464, Proclamation 1017, and a self serving Cha-cha were foisted upon us.

But, we are not a party that simply says NO, that opposes for the sake of opposing, that questions simply to obstruct. In the same manner, when the program or initiative, regardless of the source, favors the people’s interests then the Liberal Party is there to champion it. It was the LP congressmen that led the way to restoring fiscal strength with their advocacy for changes in the vat law, for reform in the customs and revenue agencies thru attrition and for improvement in the sin taxes. We contributed to the debates on the budget bill, the bio-fuels law, the juvenile justice law, and other important measures that have benefited our people.

LP local officials like Magsaysay Awardee Mayors Jesse Robredo and Tony del Rosario as well as Governors Niel Tupas, Raul Daza and Vic Bermejo continue to give the country best practices in local governance. Our party has always been issue-based and proud of it. It is what differentiates us from those who believe that only might is right, or that only he who has the gold rules. It is our badge of honor to be independent and responsible. It is what makes us proud to be Liberals.

The Way Forward
And so we ask: where do we go from here?

In a little over 3 months we will be facing our people to once again ask them to vote for us, to give us their mandate. So far, and sadly so, the news and commentary on the upcoming elections has been all about politicians joining and/or leaving one camp or another. It’s similar to the reportage found in the entertainment press or in the basketball leagues – reports and speculations about personages leaving kapuso to go to kapamilya or vice versa or of star athletes leaving one ball club to join the other. No one has spoken to the people about their needs. No party has taken the step of presenting their ideas.

Until now.

What do we present to the people as our Program? How do we get our people to set aside their cynicism, re-engage in civic life and come on-board our platform?

I believe our way forward is not to make the political debate be about us, the politicians. The only debate that truly matters is on how to improve the quality of life of our people. I believe our way forward is to make ourselves relevant to our people and show them that we are their instrument for attaining their goals for themselves, their families and our country.

I believe our way forward is to lead this debate, and make this campaign a battle of ideas, and not just personalities. I believe our way forward is to present, run on, and make our mark based on the 2 pillars that prop up our country today: our people themselves and the sacrifice they made on the EVAT.

The first pillar of our program is anchored on the value we hold dearest which is actually as well the reality in our country) that our people are our greatest strength; that our way forward is to enable our people to express their highest and best potentials here in our land; that our economic deliverance rests on our ability to unleash our peoples energies; and so therefore that the most responsible Program of government is the one that nurtures, develops, promotes and protects our people.

The second pillar of our Program is founded on the one government action that has exacted the most sacrifice from our people but whose benefit remains elusive to the very people it has burdened. In 2005, we asked our people to pay more taxes thru the EVAT. By various estimates this amounts to some P80 B pesos annually (the equivalent of some P1000 from every person, man, woman and child here in our country.) This great sacrifice from our people has led to the buoyancy recently seen in the financial markets. The stock market is up, the peso is stronger, and headline interest rates have come down. Those with financial assets certainly have benefited from this strength in the financial markets.

Nevertheless, to date, the benefits for Juan de la Cruz remain vague and hazy. The president says, well it has benefited the people, they just don’t know it yet; her economic managers say, well it will take time, eventually it will get to them, a trickle down; the politicians say, well the people will benefit from increased government spending.

Maybe, maybe not.

I say, this was an extraordinary sacrifice we asked for and so the people who sacrificed deserve to know that these billions in additional revenues taken from their shrinking pockets shall be treated in an extraordinary way; it must not disappear into the black hole that is the General Fund, it must not be part of the usual “a little bit here and a little bit there” apportionment equation. It certainly must not be part of political horse-trading (or pork) and most definitely, it must not be part of the usual consumption type campaign spending for the coming elections.

Contributing EVAT is our people’s version of the Marshall Plan (which was instrumental in rehabilitating Europe at the end of WW2). Similarly, we should view and use the EVAT fund as our people’s own Official Development Assistance to the nation.

Our Plan
Based on these 2 pillars, therefore, I say, let all EVAT revenues be set aside and conferred a status reflecting what it really is – an internal rehabilitation fund, a self generated reconstruction fund from which we build up from where we are today. It should be used for investment type activities and not for consumption type undertakings.

Ordinary course of collections revenues can go to the ordinary course of government expenses. But the monies collected from the expanded VAT must go over and above what would regularly have been spent in priority areas. This is in order to jump start, to pole vault, to electroshock important sectors of our country like education, health and infrastructure towards modernity and world-class standards.

We must bestow upon these monies a special status and separate it from regular sources of government revenues. We can then put forward complete, comprehensive plans to fully solve specific problems that hold our people and our country back. These include:

1. a Competitive Educational System – The way forward is for us to build the classrooms, make the chairs and tables, buy the books, acquire the computers, train the teachers and do all necessary so we can provide the best education that we can. Lets not do this tingi style as in the present. Let’s completely fund and fix all grade one and 1st year HS problems this year and go onto grade 2 and 2nd year HS next year, and thereafter progressively go on until we’ve completely solved our problems in education.

2. a Fast and Fair Judicial System – the way forward is to build and equip the salas and hire the needed number of public attorneys, fiscals and judges to ensure that justice is accessible to all and that poverty will not stand in the way of fair justice.

3. Available and affordable Healthcare – the way forward is to fully finance the restructuring of our health delivery system so that primary health care is readily available for our people. Let us revisit and reinvigorate the Generics and IP laws in order to make medicines affordable. Let us align all government procurement of medicines to the intents of the generics law and the Doha declaration on healthcare so we get more for our money.

The proper and programmed application of funds in these 3 areas alone will consume the money over the next 3 years. The point is that by focusing our energies and resources on these specific areas, we would have actually accomplished something rather than the present incrementalist practice where, after having spent the money on anything and everything, we actually have very little to show for it.

As we go along, and attain our objectives in each of these areas, monies will be freed up for other equally important areas of infrastructure development, environmental protection, and food security. Jobs, shelter, livelihood, peace and order – the potentials are there to introduce social and economic reforms, meaningful reforms, through these revenues. Unfortunately, the toxic environment of today has made these relief funds subject to partisan politics, thus demeaning further the sacrifices our people have already made and continue to make.

In the process of focusing on these 2 pillars we shall, be providing the third pillar that further fortifies all our efforts – and this is the pillar of Good Governance. Good governance is the principle that enables us to transform this fund into a special people’s relief fund for extraordinary purposes in direct response to our people’s most urgent needs.

Our good governance advocacy ensures that our people’s direct aid to the nation is not wasted on frivolous things, but invested wisely, transparently, and with full accountability for their benefit.

Let this be our advocacy as a party – to recognize that upon our people rests our future, to recognize the sacrifice they made and to apply good governance thereupon, making each peso of sacrifice count by treating it as a special account of the people, for the people, and by the people.

Our Future
Our redemption as a party, as politicians, as leaders lies in regaining the people’s trust. To accomplish this, we must understand and honor the depth of their pain and sacrifice, and the indomitable will that keeps them hoping that the best is yet to come.

Once in a while – not often – a single defining national event provides insight into where we are, who we are, what we believe in, and what we esteem. In this election, our rivals will try to portray us in terms of political fights, power grabs, and personal rivalries. You and I know that our party is much more than that.

We are in the Liberal Party because we believe that our people are our greatest strength. It is our privilege to serve them, and not their privilege to be served by us. We believe that the rights of men and women and children are not to be diminished by those in power, but for those in power to strengthen and defend these rights.

We believe that deep within a Filipino are family values that lead to excellence, that given equity of opportunities, the Filipino will rise to the apex of success as they have in so many other parts of the world and so sadly have not been able to do here in our country.

And we believe that, a political life only has meaning when associated by our people with the ability to deliver selfless and honest service.

These are our fountainheads, our keystones; these values are at the bedrock of our reason for being: To lead the country, the LP way – based on issues, not personalities, inspired by hope, and not greed, committed to serve with humility and compassion, integrity and fairness.

Sixty-one years ago, the LP gave the people something to hope for. Today, it is up to us to show the way forward; to fix what is broken; to be our people’s best hope. Let us welcome this challenge as our defining moment.

Mabuhay ang Partido Liberal! Maraming, maraming salamat po!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Senate Race So Far

The next four days is crucial for both the administration "Unity Ticket" and the "United Opposition" (UNO) as both parties are racing to fill up their respective senatorial slates. Last week, UNO bared its partial list of senatoriables, namely:

1. Koko Pimentel
2. Noynoy Aquino
3. Ping Lacson
4. Chiz Escudero
5. Allan Peter Cayetano
6. Loren Legarda
7. John Osmeña
8. JV Ejercito

I suspect that UNO bared its list this early to prevent their party from being "raided" by the administration. The four remaining slots are supposedly being reserved for the "Wednesday Group," the barkadahan of reelectionist senators composed of Manny Villar, Joker Arroyo, Ralph Recto and Kiko Pangilinan. But according to my former colleagues in the Senate, only Villar is sure of running under UNO. He reportedly had already given his word to the mag-ina in the Senate (Jinggoy-Loi Estrada) that he will run under the UNO ticket. If you will recall, Loi and Jinggoy were instrumental in installing him to the Senate Presidency and Villar is all too aware that he cannot renege on his word if he wants to continue enjoying the support of the pro-Estrada group in the Senate (read more here and here).

The scuttlebutt is that Joker Arroyo and Ralph Recto are going to run under the "Unity Ticket" while Kiko Pangilinan is inclined to run as an independent, probably confident after seeing that his survey ranking is quite high (no. 3 in the last Pulse Asia survey). The other members of the "Wednesday Group" are reportedly miffed at Maceda (the UNO campaign manager) for making too many demands on them (i.e. vote for GMA's impeachment, etc). So it seems that these two are more or less assured of being included in the UNO ticket:

9. Manny Villar
10. Sonia Roco

So far, I honestly have no idea on who will bag the last two slots in the UNO ticket. My guess is that it may be given to the "coup duo" Gringo Honasan (who is ranked no. 10 in the last Pulse Asia survey) and Antonio Trillanes. Since both are currently in jail, UNO can at least save some money on the campaign trail since they don't have to pay for the airfare and hotel accommodations of the two.

With regards to the "Unity Ticket," Speaker Jose de Venecia has announced that they will reveal their full slate on February 12, the last day of filing for senatorial hopefuls. So far, only two are confirmed to run:

1. Mike Defensor
2. Migs Zubiri

The following are more or less sure to run under the Unity Ticket:

3. Ed Angara
4. Tito Sotto
5. Tessie Aquino-Oreta
6. Joker Arroyo
7. Ralph Recto
8. Richard Gomez
9. Edu Manzano

As regards Gilbert Teodoro, his staff says his boss is definitely not running and that the slot reserved for Danding's NPC will be given to Tito Sotto and Tessie Oreta (they were sworn-in last week after they bolted LDP). It is truly ironic that Sotto and Oreta will most likely find themselves running in the "Unity Ticket" together with Ed Angara, their former boss at the LDP (hurray! ASO - as in Angara, Sotto, Oreta - lives again!). And we may even find Kit Tatad, who had a "much-publicized" tiff with UNO, included in the administration ticket. The other personalities being floated by Malacañang such as Butch Pichay, Lito Atienza, Francisco Duque, Cory Quirino, Vic Agbayani and Vic Magsaysay are adamant to run (despite the much-touted administration political machinery) because they lack nationwide name-recall and mainly because they know they will lose. Actor Cesar Montano, who is also being floated by the Palace, may be winnable (and may I say talented and well-accomplished enough for the Senate) but with Richard Gomez and Edu Manzano already in the slate, may be one actor too many already.

Since no one is talking about it anymore, it seems that the "Third Force" ticket is kaput. My guess is there's simply not enough money to finance a third slate. As it is, the UNO and "Unity Ticket" are already finding it hard to complete their line-ups. There seems to be a shortage of "desirable" individuals wanting to run for the Senate like well-respected academicians Winnie Monsod and Randy David for example. Even "Senate shoo-ins" like Korina Sanchez (she was no. 8 in the last Pulse Asia survey), Ruffy Biazon (no. 16) and Imee Marcos (no. 17) have all decided not to run (read the Pulse Asia survey last July 2006 here).

In the past several days I saw the "infomercials" of Manny Villar, Ed Angara, Mike Defensor and Migs Zubiri on TV (I liked Angara's the most). Much earlier, I watched Senator Ralph Recto's "Christmas" greetings and Kiko Pangilinan's Lucky Me ad. In the following days, I expect more political ads to hit the TV screens. The 2007 senatorial campaign will be fought over the airwaves and the candidate with the deepest pocket, the catchiest jingle and most memorable infomercial will most likely top the elections.

Thus is the senatorial race so far.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hoskyn's: The Country's First Department Store

Here is another interesting article written by Professor Henry Funtecha in The News Today about Hoskyn's Department Store, reputed to be the very first department store in the Philippines. I think present-day mall rats would find it really interesting to learn that Ilonggos have been at it since the 1880s. Read on...

"By the second half of the 19th century, Iloilo became the undisputed leader among the provinces in Western Visayas. Not only was it the biggest in population, it was the largest in agricultural production, the most active in manufacturing, and one of the best instructed among the provinces, according to John Bowring, Governor of Hongkong, who visited Iloilo in 1858 (Bowring, 1963).

Because of the expansion of trade and the rapid growth of business and economic activities in Panay and Negros due primarily to the boom in the sugar industry resulting from the opening of the Iloilo Port to world commerce in 1855, native and foreign firms established themselves in the town of Iloilo. These firms built permanent offices and outlets along the Iloilo wharf and the streets that branched out from the waterfront. Banks, machine shops, printing presses, educational institutions, medical facilities, and social clubs came into being. Residential buildings multiplied and provided the town of Iloilo a highly urbanized character. The town of Iloilo subsequently developed into one of the most important commercial centers in the Philippines outside of Manila. On October 5, 1889, the Queen Regent of Spain raised the town to the status of a city.

The Iloilo waterfront (now Muelle Loney), considered as the hub of Iloilo's trade, was an entrepot of British and Chinese merchants in the 1880s, not to mention American, Basque, Catalan, Danish, Portuguese, Swiss and Filipino entrepreneurs. Calle Real (now J.M. Basa Street), situated in the heart of downtown Iloilo, served as the main shopping center of the town. In the 1880s, even before it was elevated into a city, it was already where most of the town's business establishments and large residential houses were found. Filipino, American, European and Chinese retail stores lined up along its length.

An essential component of the sugar trade at the Port of Iloilo was the availability of bodegas or warehouses to store sugar. At the heart of the waterfront stood a long line of offices and bodegas owned by the leading commercial houses operating in Calle Real and elsewhere in the town. Some of these included those of Miguel Medina, Julian Hernaez, Vicente Gay, the Scot Macleod, Ernest Oppen, Ynchausti y ca., and the Swiss Frederick Luchsinger (Contribuciones industriales, Iloilo).

In 1877, the Englishman Henry Hoskyn, nephew of Nicholas Loney, the first British vice-consul in Iloilo, paid P17,000 for the house and lot at the midpoint of Calle Real which became the site of the town's renowned luxury Hoskyn Department Store, reputed to be the Philippines' first real department store. It was also claimed as the first to introduce the “fixed price” policy in merchandising in the country and was known to be “the store that sold everything from needle to anchor”. It offered groceries, hardware, stationery, toys, watches, jewelry, machinery, buttons, threads, etc. (Articulos que ordinariamente reciben y venden Hoskyn y ca. del comercio de Iloilo, 1895).

In the 1880s, among the business firms that were doing business in Calle Real, aside from Hoskyn's, were Streif & Co. (Swiss), Ynchausti y cia. (Spanish), El Louvre (French), Lizarraga Hermanos (Spanish), and Levy Hermanos & Co. (French). These establishments were noted merchants, capitalists and large commodities brokers. There were also other European and American firms dealing in maritime and fire insurance. Also, a number of European specialty shops and retail stores were on hand selling hats, watches, naval supplies, etc. A piano studio, tailoring and machine shops were, moreover, available. Furthermore, here was located Spanish and native establishments like Bazar Cosmopolitan, Cafe Colon, La Puerta del Sol, La Espega de Oro, La Zaragoza, and Tordecillas y ca. There was also German-owned drugstore called Botica Antigua (Protocols 1601, Yloilo, March 31, 1887; Contribuciones industriales, Iloilo).

Banks promptly opened their branches in Iloilo town in this period and they were placed at Calle Real near Plaza Alfonso XII (now Plaza Libertad). These banks were the Chartered Bank and the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank. Hotels were also found in Calle Real like the Casa de Hespedes and Fonda la Espanola located just off the far-end of the Plaza."

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Rapidly Vanishing Tultul-Making Industry in Guimaras

I came across this very interesting article by Professor Henry Funtecha published in The News Today last year which I would like to share with my readers.

"About a kilometer away from the Jordan wharf in Guimaras is Barangay Hoskyn, home of the popular tultul, a brick-like kind of salt. The name Hoskyn is derived from the Hoskyn brothers -- Herbert Peter, Richard Franklin and Henry -- all nephews of Nicholas Loney, first British vice-consul in Iloilo. They established Hoskyn and Co. in 1877 along Calle Real in Iloilo City, and had, at that time, acquired lands in the place.

Tultul-making has become a rarity nowadays. There are only very few surviving "masters of the trade" in Western Visayas at present. In Guimaras, the traditional craft is kept alive by the husband-and-wife team of Serafin and Emma Ganila, both 55 years of age, whose residence is in Hoskyn. According to the couple, they are the only ones engaged in the manufacture of tultul in Guimaras today. In fact, their expressed main concern is that they are afraid that eventually tultul will disappear because no one from among their children is interested in continuing the tradition. The reason is that the process of making tultul is long and tedious, and requires hard work and discipline. Also, it cannot be done throughout the year because of the low salinity of seawater and lack of raw materials during the rainy season. Thus, it is limited only to the months of December to May, a period of six months.

Tultul-making in Hoskyn is an age-old tradition. According to the Ganila couple, both their families have been engaged in the craft for generations. Their grandparents and parents were known far and wide as "masters" of tultul-making in Guimaras. The market for tultul is not a problem because there is a high demand for it in both Panay and Negros Occidental. In fact, buyers from both islands come to Hoskyn to purchase tultul, except that the Ganila couple cannot sustain the supply. To get a better return, sometimes Emma peddles the tultul in the nearby municipalities of Guimaras and Iloilo during their market days.

The process of making tultul begins with the gathering of sacks full of dagsa, an assortment of reeds, twigs and small pieces of bamboo carried to the shore by the sea tide. These materials have been soaked in seawater for some time already. The gathered dagsa is then burned in large quantities while continually being doused with salt water on a daily basis. This step alone takes five days to accomplish.

As soon as there is enough quantity of ashes, they are collected and put inside two large kaing or bamboo containers put on an elevated platform. Seawater is then poured on the first kaing to wash down the salt from the ashes. The strained water that is caught below by a pail is poured on the second kaing and the process is repeated where the strained water is caught below.

The next step involves a hurnohan or cooking pan made out of large cooking oil tin containers. The hurnohan is composed of five rectangular containers measuring 3"x12"x14". The strained water is poured into the five containers arranged in such a way that there is fire below each of the container. While the cooking goes on small amount of the strained water from the kaing is continuously added to the container. This goes on for five hours until finally moisture from the solidified salt has completely evaporated and the finished product is left on the pan.

The finished tultul is called a bareta that weighs about twelve kilos. Tultul is heavy because it is too compact due to the long hours of cooking. The bareta is then cut sidewise and crosswise into fifty hiwa or cuts. A hiwa, which is about 1/2"x2"x2", is sold at P 10.00. The Ganila couple can only manage to process from fifteen to twenty bareta a month. One bareta costs from P500.00 to P600.00. The Ganilas therefore earn from P7,500.00 to P10,000.00 a month from making tultul, which is not bad considering the economic situation of the country. It is hoped that the tradition of making tultul will go on and that it will be a source of cultural pride for the future generation."