Monday, April 26, 2010

Gonzalez Sr. May Be Weak But His “Dungan” Is Still Very Strong

In her pioneering study on the Ilonggo concept of the “dungan” and the “dunganon nga tawo,” UP-Visayas anthropologist Alicia Magos defined dungan as "a life force, an energy, as well as an ethereal entity, a spirit with a will of its own that resides in the human body and provides the essence of life. Apart from denoting an alter ego and soul stuff, the dungan as presently understood refers to such personal attributes as willpower, knowledge and intelligence, and even the ability to dominate and persuade others. (Magos 1992, 47-50)." According to Professor Magos, everyone is born with a dungan albeit of varying strengths or "force levels" and only a lucky few are blessed with a very strong “dungan.” If this sounds vaguely familiar to you, it is because the Ilonggo concept of the “dungan” finds many parallels in other cultures. The Chinese call it the chí, Christian doctrine calls it the soul (or spirit if you will) and even Hollywood, in the blockbuster sci fi movie Star Wars, dub it simply as "The Force."

Under the primordial Ilonggo concept of the “dungan,” life is seen as a constant battle for ascendancy between and among people of varying levels of “dungan.” This is why we Ilonggos have a term – “naunahan dungan” – to describe this constant, everyday clash between embodied spirits. This belief in the “dungan” is further illustrated in our belief in “usog” wherein an adult causes a newly-born infant to get sick because an adult’s fully-developed “dungan” supposedly overwhelms a baby’s still weak “dungan.” Thus, to prevent “usog,” old folks believe that parents should apply a dab of their saliva on the forehead of their baby.

While the concept of the “dungan” is easily defined, the concept of the “dunganon nga tawo” escapes simple characterization because it changes thru time and place. In the pre-Spanish days for example, the datu and the babaylan were the epitomes of the “dunganon nga tawo.” The tribal chieftain, with his wisdom, courage and luck in battle, symbolized mastery of the temporal world while the babaylan was worshiped for his/her mastery over the unseen, spiritual world. During the Spanish period, the friar replaced the datu and the babaylan as the “dunganon nga tawo” in Philippine society. But while the Spanish friar dominated and influenced both the temporal and spiritual affairs of their Philippine colony, a few Indios of indomitable spirit and of very strong “dungan” dared challenge Spanish hegemony over our islands. Thus, common bandits and millenarian cultists (like Papa Isio of Mt. Kanlaon for instance) were regarded, in the eyes of the common tao at that time, also as “mga dunganon nga tawo.” In present-day Philippine society, the concept of the “dunganon nga tawo” has morphed into something less visceral. For example, people today admire “moral” courage more than “physical” courage, luck in business and success in one’s chosen profession more than independent-mindedness or rebelliousness against established authority. While our present-day concept of the “dunganon nga tawo” may change thru time, suffice it to say that the typical Ilonggo instinctively knows a “dunganon nga tawo” when he sees one.

Understanding the twin concepts of “dungan” and the “dunganon nga tawo” is very important if we want to understand why Filipinos vote the way they do. During the previous 2007 elections for example, many were surprised when Magdalo rebel Antonio Trillanes IV won as senator despite the fact the he was in jail and had limited campaign funds. But if viewed from this perspective, Trillanes fits the traditional mold of the “dunganon nga tawo” – a fearless and heroic young man who dared to challenge a corrupt government – and this I believe is the primary reason why Filipinos voted for him in the last elections.

This is why I believe Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. will win as mayor in the coming elections because, notwithstanding his advanced age, everyone in Iloilo City can see that his “dungan” is still very strong. Epitomizing the classic “dunganon nga tawo” of the datu mold, the old man still inspires respect, fear and admiration both from his opponents and supporters alike. His closest opponent Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who in turn enjoys a “babaylan-like” popularity, has miserably failed to prove that his “dungan” is stronger than Gonzalez. In fact, the current joke going around is that, after being pelted with stones during one of his barangay “pulong-pulongs,” Mabilog is now going around campaigning wearing a helmet.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jed Mabilog’s “Dungan” is Weak

Last Sunday I was listening to the radio blocktime program of Panay News publisher Danny Fajardo over Aksyon Radyo. His guests were, as usual, Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and Councilor Julienne “Jam Jam” Baronda who are running for mayor and vice mayor respectively under Team Palangga ticket. Although they are running-mates, Mabilog is running under the Noynoy-Mar banner of the Liberal Party while Jam Jam is supporting Joseph Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). In the middle of the program, Mr. Fajardo interrupted their on-air chat to interview a former housemaid of Korina Sanchez. Upon the able prodding of Mr. Fajardo, the maid (who is obviously a disgruntled former employee) proceeded to say a lot of awful things about Korina which I will no longer amplify in this column. Suffice it to say that listening to the maid’s “testimony” was enough to make Mr. Fajardo exclaim “manyak gali na si Korina!” (Korina is such a sex maniac!)

The segment was obviously a demolition job paid for by political operators of Loren Legarda not really to destroy Korina Sanchez (who was her former colleague at ABS CBN) but more to convince voters not to vote for Mar Roxas. As of now, all surveys state that Roxas leads Legarda by a wide margin and the conventional wisdom is that the election for the Vice Presidency is but a mere formality. So I am not really surprised that the Legarda camp is coming out with a last-ditch effort to erode Mar’s ratings by attacking his new bride Korina Sanchez. That is par for the course in politics. What I actually found more surprising is Jed Mabilog’s reaction (or more appropriately, “non-reaction”) to the black propaganda against Korina Sanchez.

Jed Mabilog is the standard bearer of the Liberal Party in Iloilo City and Korina Sanchez is the wife of his vice president, Mar Roxas. The least he could have done was to say something in defense of Korina (i.e. “that’s all in the past, Danny”) or if he was unable to find the words ("naunahan dungan niya") he could have chosen to walk out of the interview to register his disgust. But while Korina’s reputation was being ravaged by Danny Fajardo, Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog just stood by and watched. He just sat there and listened while the wife of his vice president was being bludgeoned on air. And after the 30-minute or so anti-Korina propaganda, Danny and Jed carried on with their on-air interview like nothing happened. All I can say to Mar Roxas is: with allies like Jed, you do not need enemies. Instances like this and countless other occasions have led me to the conclusion that Jed Mabilog lacks the “spine” to become a good mayor. Not only does he lack the brains but more importantly he lacks the guts to become a truly exceptional mayor. Just imagine if say Secretary Raul Gonzalez or USec. Larry Jamora was Mr. Fajardo’s guest and it was Nikki Teodoro who was being subjected to black propaganda. I am quite sure that Secretary Gonzalez would let his objections be heard (to put it mildly) and even reprimand Danny Fajardo on-air for his un-gentlemanlike behaviour.

Another example that could give us an insight into the character of Mabilog is the recent incident in Barangay Kasing-Kasing wherein the barangay chairwoman (who was pro-Gonzalez) tried to stop the caucus of Team Palangga because they did not ask for prior permission. Harsh words, verbal threats were exchanged and when someone threw a big rock at the contending camps, the meeting was halted. I was told that Mabilog that night was already on his way to Barangay Kasing-Kasing to join his Palangga team-mates but, upon being told that there was trouble brewing there by his advance staff, decided not go there anymore. Again, naunahan na naman dungan niya. Now imagine again if it was Secretary Gonzalez who found himself in that exact same situation. Knowing the old man’s character, I am quite sure that he would have proceeded to Kasing-Kasing knowing that his mere presence would have calmed the hotheads and restore order.

In other words, Secretary Gonzalez may be old and weak but everyone can see that his spirit, his “dungan,” is still very strong. You can see and feel it when the old man enters the room - everyone instinctively stops talking and automatically stand up in deference to him. Despite his advanced age, Gonzalez still inspires respect and commands fear both from opponents and supporters alike. He intellectually dominates any discussion and can convince people to do what he wants. Jed Mabilog on the other hand may be younger and more energetic than Gonzalez, but everyone can see that his “dungan” is weak. Pirmi lang siya kakaunahan dungan. Unlike Gonzalez, Mabilog could not intellectually dominate a debate or even just a small tableside discussion. He also does not inspire fear and command respect from the people. Far from it, people often ridicule him as “agi” (gay) not really because he likes to have sex with men but more because of his “wishy-washy, showbiz-style” and “so eager to please the public” type of politics.

If you look at Arsenio Lacson and Alfredo Lim of Manila, Rudy Duterte of Davao City, Jesse Robredo of Naga City, Bayani Fernando of Marikina City, Tommy Osmena of Cebu City, Roding Ganzon of Iloilo City and all the other great mayors past and present, they all have one thing in common: a very strong “dungan.” They were men of strong will and indomitable spirit – mga “dunganon nga tawo.” A mayor’s job often involves making people to do something they don’t want to do and a good mayor is one who is never afraid to make unpopular decisions if it would eventually result in the greater good of his city. Ermita would have still been a red light district, Marikina would still have been a squatter’s haven , Naga and Cebu City would still have been a sleepy provincial city if Mayors Lim, Fernando, Robredo and Osmena listened to detractors and other “bleeding-heart” groups. And Jed Patrick Mabilog, I am sorry to say this, doesn’t fit the mold of the “dunganon nga tawo” and he just doesn’t have the right stuff to become a good mayor of our city.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Emily Lopez is Now Villar Point Person in Iloilo City

Apropos to my column last week entitled “No More Villar Funds for Team Uswag,” my highly placed source in Manila called me up to issue a clarification that while it is true that Senator Manny Villar will no longer give funds directly to Mayor Jerry Treñas, this does not mean that he is abandoning Iloilo City for Noynoy Aquino or Gibo Teodoro all together. The source explained that the Nacionalista election budget for Iloilo City will now be entrusted to former Guimaras Congresswoman Emily Lopez and that she will be the one to determine the most politically-effective way of distributing the funds. So what I wrote earlier that Team Uswag will not be receiving any funds from Villar is not entirely correct. Strictly speaking, Mayor Treñas’s “Team Uswag” may still be able to receive some campaign funds from the Nacionalista Party provided that they can convince Inday Emily that Villar will be getting “his money’s worth.”

It is said that Congresswoman Cynthia Villar, the wife of the Nacionalista standard bearer Manny Villar, is “more comfortable” with Inday Emily because they are very close friends (which they developed during their stints in Congress). At one time, their children Camille Villar (a Jaro Fiesta queen) and Tito Lopez (her consort) were even romantically linked. Besides, as my source pointed out, the Lopezes are not running for any electoral post. This means that, unlike Mayor Treñas (who is running for congressman), the Villars could trust the Lopezes not to use their money to promote their own personal candidacies at their expense. It is a fact that local politicians tend to put themselves first before the national. That is just the nature of Philippine politics. To better illustrate, I attended a Team Uswag “pulong pulong” in one of the barangays in Arevalo and I noted that the main focus of both the candidates and the audience are local, not national, politics. The name of Senator Villar was hardly ever mentioned by Mayor Treñas. His running-mate Joe III Espinosa and the rest of his slate likewise did not really push for their standard bearer or the senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista Party (and I doubt it very much if they memorize all the senatoriables in their party). Mostly, the Team Uswag candidates talked about themselves. Some took the opportunity to “clarify” issues and answer the various “black propaganda” being hurled against them while others took potshots at the Gonzalezes (i.e calling them “Ampatuans” and calling Dra. Pacita “the white lady”). They call it, in local parlance, "salbaranay lawas" (roughly means; "each man for himself").

If they hope to see the color of Villar’s money, Team Uswag has to reformat its “pulong pulongs” to make it more “Villar-centric.” In other words, each candidate must “push” harder for Villar i.e. mentioning him in all their speeches, distributing his flyers during house-to-house sorties, defend him against all the black propaganda, etc. Team Treñas cannot continue adopting their present “lackadaisical” attitude towards Villar and expect to receive something from him come election day. As they say, “No work, No Pay.” In fact, Inday Emily might just decide to give the money direct to the barangay captains because, since they are not running for office, can be relied upon to really focus on Villar and campaign hard for his victory here in Iloilo City. Moreover, Emily Lopez can probably attract more barangay captains into the Villar fold by adopting a “pang ‘national’ lang ni, wala ni ya labot ang “local”strategy. In truth, Senator Villar could have gotten more political support in Iloilo City if he just remained neutral and did not take sides in the local Treñas versus Gonzalez fight. It is now very apparent that Villar took the “wrong” side, as last Tuesday’s “Mother of All Rallies” at Freedom Grandstand organized by the Gonzalezes for Gibo Teodoro bears out. Local newspapers estimated the crowd to have reached 20,000 at its peak.

Not to be outdone, a day after the mammoth Gibo rally Team Uswag announced that they will also be organizing a “grand rally” for Villar and his senatorial candidates at the Jaro Plaza gym on Friday. Brimming with bravado, they bragged that they will equal or even surpass the 20,000 crowd turn-out at the Gibo rally. But on Thursday news came out that Senator Villar is no longer coming and that his wife Cynthia and his senatorial candidates will be the only ones arriving to grace the rally. When Friday finally came, the purported “grand rally” has been downgraded to only a “leader’s meeting.” Only about 5,000 warmbodies came. None of the Nacionalista Party stalwarts arrived and, aside from Team Uswag candidates, the only other “notable” or “important personality” who graced the affair was Emily Lopez. So in a span of just three days the activity they so grandiosely billed as the “Grand Rally of the Nacionalista Party” was downgraded into a mere “Leaders’ Meeting with Emily Lopez.”

In the aftermath of the flop, the local coffeeshops are abuzz with questions as to why the Villars snubbed the Team Uswag rally in last Friday. Team Uswag supporters (and opponents alike) are wondering why the Villars are seemingly upset and distrustful of Mayor Treñas that they appointed Emily Lopez as their point person in Iloilo City. Is it because Mayor Treñas reportedly requested one million pesos from the Villar couple to defray the cost of last Friday’s aborted “grand rally?”

Friday, April 16, 2010

“Means, Motive and Opportunity” is Key to Solving Trenas Twin Bombing Case

In Philippine criminal jurisprudence, we have what we call the “three elements of crime” principle. These are, namely: means, motive and opportunity. “Means” means the ability of the perpetrator to commit the crime, “motive” is the underlying reason why the person committed the crime and “opportunity” means that the defendant had the opportunity to commit the crime and took it. Unlike in the movies, establishing that the perpetrator had the “means” (i.e. a handgun, a knife) and the “motive” (i.e. monetary gain, sexual gratification) is usually not enough to convince a judge to issue a guilty verdict. Veteran lawyers will tell you that the presence of one of these three elements is not, in and of itself, sufficient to establish a guilty verdict in any court of law. To guarantee a conviction, a lawyer must not only be able to establish “means” and “motive” but must also provide incontrovertible evidence that the defendant had the opportunity to commit the crime and that he actually acted upon the opportunity that presented itself.

Today every Tom, Dick and Harry in Iloilo City has his own take on the Trenas Twin Bombing Case. Depending on who you talk to, each has his or her own interpretation of the case. Pro-Gonzalez people will tell you that the recent spate of grenade bombings is nothing more than a case of “bomba me” while Trenas partisans are fully convinced that they are being terrorized by goons of the opposing camp. The funny thing is that most of these so-called “legal opinions” are based not really on the hard facts and empirical evidence but more on political convictions and personal allegiances. Thus, these so-called “legal opinions” can be dismissed entirely as mere speculations. To arrive at a better and more intelligent understanding of the Trenas Grenade Case, I would like to analyze it by applying the “three elements of crime” principle.

First, the "means." Everyone in Iloilo City knows that both Gonzalez and Trenas have the means to procure a hand grenade and the financial wherewithal to pay someone to throw it. Both camps have a surfeit of scary-looking men of obviously ex-military background hovering around them every time they make the kapihan rounds and go house-to-house campaigning. In addition to the two policemen assigned as their official security detail, Mayor Trenas has in fact four (4) ex-Marines guarding his person while Secretary Gonzalez also has his own security complement comprised of former military and law enforcement men. And while we’re at it, we can actually point to many other personalities in Iloilo City aside from Trenas, Gonzalez and Jamora that have the means to procure a grenade and the goons to throw it.

Second, the “motive.” Everyone is in agreement that the motive for the grenade attacks is political. According to the Trenas camp, the grenade attacks were perpetrated by the Gonzalezes to sow terror and intimidate their supporters while the Gonzalez camp have been pushing the thesis that the two incidents were nothing more than a case of “bomba me.” When faced with equally convincing claims, police investigators usually look at who so has benefited from the crime to determine motive. And ironic as it sounds, upon deeper analysis, the one who has actually benefited from the grenade attacks is the “victim” himself, Mayor Trenas. From the very start, Trenas wanted Iloilo City to be put under Comelec control and he had been labelling the Gonzalezes as the “Ampatuans of Iloilo City.” In fact, the Trenas property bombings have only served to embolden their supporters and they even gained public sympathy for their plight. It has given them a way to convert their flagging campaign into some sort of moral crusade. Is it just mere coincidence that subsequent events tended to not only to confirm this depiction of Trenas of the Gonzalezes but has made putting under Comelec control feasible? I don’t think so. As such, to solve the case the ICPO must also investigate people in the Trenas camp because they also have a very strong motive for committing the crime and that is nothing less than their political survival in Iloilo City.

So far we have established that both Gonzalez and Trenas have the means and the motive to commit the crime. Now let’s analyze who had the “opportunity” to do it. This is where police forensics and investigative skills come into play to catch the culprit. The initial SOCO investigation stated that the safety lever of the grenade was recovered within the walls of the Trenas ancestral property in Molo. The safety lever found inside the Trenas property is proof positive that the perpetrator did his dastardly deed from within the property walls because, as any ROTC graduate knows, the safety lever usually pops when you pull the pin and it usually falls right were the person throws the grenade from. Right now there are several attempts to muddle this fact in the local media but news accounts of the incident in national media (i.e. ABS CBN and Philippine Daily Inquirer) is quite clear: the safety lever was indeed found inside the Trenas property walls. I am pointing this out because I believe the safety lever is the key to solving the case. It is the “smoking gun” so to speak, the strongest empirical evidence that the grenade attacks were staged.

A cursory look at the sprawling Trenas ancestral house in Molo would show that it is surrounded by a high cement wall (about eight to ten feet in height plus a wired fence on top) with a vacant lot immediately in front of the property. The property is situated near a very busy street (in the vicinity of Hotel del Rio and John B. Lacson Colleges) and there are road construction workers (the drainage system in that area is being repaired) encamped 24/7 at the said vacant lot. Thus, the Gonzalezes had no “opportunity” because it would have been virtually impossible for a Gonzalez henchman to climb the high perimeter fence, throw the grenade, then scale back up the wall fast enough not to be blown by his own grenade, and coolly escape without being seen by anyone in the area. The only person who is capable of doing that is a ninja, and we all know that ninjas are just a figment of movie fantasy.

I would like to offer a more plausible theory to our police investigators. It could be that the simple reason why no one has seen the perpetrator is because the grenade thrower ran inside, not outside, the Trenas ancestral home. And with the recent eyewitness testimony of a taxi driver pointing to the security guard of Carlos Bakeshop as the one who lobbed the grenade, a pattern emerges which points to the Trenas Grenade Case as nothing but a “bomba me” plot designed to win public sympathy and ensure their electoral victory.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No More Villar Funds for Team Uswag

Unbeknownst to many, Nacionalista presidential candidate Manny Villar slipped in and out of Iloilo City last week. The purpose of his visit was not known as there was no big rally or any activity announced to the press. The only information I got was that Senator Villar met with Mayor Jerry Treñas, the Nacionalista candidate for the Lone District of Iloilo City. But what went on during their closed-door, one-on-one meeting was not divulged to the public.

What I do know is this: after his quick visit to Iloilo Senator Villar decided that he will no longer release any campaign funds to Mayor Treñas. This is the information I got from a very good source in Manila. My source said that the primary reason for Senator Villar’s sudden “change of heart” is Mayor Treñas’s continued inability to deliver on his earlier commitments. The source explained that late last year, Mayor Treñas committed to Senator Villar that he can deliver at least ninety (90) of Iloilo City’s one hundred eighty (180) barangay captains to support his presidential candidacy. This was the reason why Villar chose to draft him as the Nacionalista congressional candidate and why he will lend him financial support. But in exchange for the campaign funds, Villar wanted Treñas to demonstrate his political mettle by organizing a meeting with his purported 90 barangay chieftains. The gathering was intended as a “show of force,” an actual demonstration of his political power in Iloilo City. Recall that several weeks ago the Treñas camp did indeed attempt to organize a dinner meeting with Villar but even though they already enlisted the help of Tito Lopez, scion of the Albertito Lopez clan (who are also pro-Villar) and despite the fact that they did all sorts of cajoling just to convince the captains to come (they for example said, pang “national” lang ni, wala ni ya labot ang “local”), still the number of barangay captains who turned up at the said meeting was short of the promised 90.

So with only less than a month to go ‘til elections, the said “meet-and-greet” has yet to happen. My source said that Senator Villar may have finally lost patience in waiting for the promised meeting to happen and may have finally seen the light (“nasanagan” kung sa Ilonggo pa) that his local Nacionalista bet, an incumbent mayor at that, is not powerful enough to gather even just half of the barangay captains in his own city. My source added that Villar is first and foremost a businessman, and that he applies the same business principles to politics. In other words, if you cannot meet the terms of his contract, he will not pay you. It’s that simple.

It is now obvious that Mayor Treñas cannot meet his side of the bargain because Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Sr. has maintained his firm hold on the barangay captains. To date, 135 barangay chieftains are firmly with the Gonzalez camp. Out of the remaining forty five (45) barangay chairmen who are not with Gonzalezes, two (2) joined the camp of USec. Larry Jamora (namely, Gilbert Jamolo of Brgy Tanza, City Proper and Rafael “Chichoy” Palmares of Brgy. Magsaysay Village, Lapaz) while the rest are either with Mayor Treñas or Vice Mayor Mabilog (who are supporting two different presidents).

This latest development will surely have devastating effects on Team Uswag’s already flagging campaign. Without Senator Villar’s financial assistance, Mayor Treñas will have to dig deep into his own pockets to fulfil the logistical requirements of his campaign. Or maybe the local Chinese community, which during his incumbency became a very much favored and very powerful group, will come to his rescue and relieve him of his pecuniary predicament.