Posts Tagged ‘Philippine political comedy’


The farce continues.

Senator Francis Escudero

Senator Francis Escudero

After junking its three guest candidates–Senator Francis Escudero, Senator Loren Legarda, and former chief censor Grace Poe–the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) tried to recruit replacements.  

UNA eyed evangelist Eddie Villanueva, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn, and Bayan Muna party list representative Teddy Casino as replacements–but failed to get them.

Edward Hagedorn

Edward Hagedorn

Eddie Villanueva

Eddie Villanueva

Senator Loren Legarda

Senator Loren Legarda

To counter perceptions that UNA was not attractive enough to entice even struggling independent candidates, it is now peddling a new line.

I caught Nancy Binay, a daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay and also an UNA senatorial candidate, mouthing this line (or words to that effect) on TV: We already junked three so why should we replace them with another three?

Teddy Casino

Teddy Casino

Hello, Ms. Binay!  You want a full slate because it indicates political strength.

Nancy Binay

Nancy Binay

Grace Poe

Grace Poe

Don’t blame me but I was waiting for her to lapse into numerology.  Nine is lucky and 12 is a curse!

In the same news program, UNA candidate Tingting Cojuangco (aunt of President Noynoy Aquino) intoned: nine is lighter than 12.  We can do more when we are less and less if we are more. (Go figure!)

Tingting Cojuangco

Tingting Cojuangco

Here’s another gem from UNA senatorial candidate JV Ejercito (son of former President Joseph Estrada): it is better to have nine united candidates rather than 12 who will betray each other.

Mr. Ejercito, I guess it is time for some education.  Every senatorial candidate is loyal only to himself.  Why?  Every other candidate is a rival; this is true even if the other candidate is part of your slate.  At the end of the day, only 12 of the candidates who received the highest number of votes will be proclaimed as senators.  How would you feel if you ranked 13th and a member of your slate was 12th and declared a senator?  Supposed the difference in your votes is only 200,000?   Will you not file a petition for a recount even if the person concerned is a member of your slate?

JV Ejercito

JV Ejercito

Elsewhere in this magical realist country and while a Team Pnoy rally was going on, local (Catholic) Church authorities in Bacolod City usurped the functions of the the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and ‘approved’ the electoral bids of senatorial candidates belonging to Team Buhay (Team Life) and Team Patay (Team Death).  Through signage on the Bacolod City cathedral, however, the preference for Team Buhay was apparent.  Both (Church) teams are bipartisan and were delineated by the candidates’ stance on the reproductive health bill.  For the Church, a vote for the bill means that you are in favor of death (i.e. abortion).

Tarps on the Bacolod cathedral

Tarps on the Bacolod cathedral

On TV, I heard the Bacolod bishop claiming they were not commanding voters to vote in a certain way.  The tarps were for the guidance of voters in the city.

Team Patay

Team Patay

Immediately afterwards, as if on cue, the COMELEC told the Bacolod diocese to remove the tarps.  Not for ‘usurpation of COMELEC’s authority” but because they exceeded the size of tarps allowed by the COMELEC! And the bishop said the Church will comply.

Elsewhere, some Filipinos (my kind of Pinoys) responded wisely and wittily.  They came up with their own team: Team Patay Malisya.  In local parlance, it may mean absence of malice, disguised malice, tongue-in-cheek malice, and so forth.  Translated literally into English, it is Team Death Malice.  Or Team Malicious Death? LMAO!

Team patay malisya

With guys like this, I think there’s hope for our country.

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I will be 59 years old this coming April and  if I had a few doubts before, now I am fully convinced that being ludicrous, ridiculous, and absurd is endemic and natural in Philippine politics.

Ludicrous politicians are aplenty during elections.  When it was announced last year, I am sure the sharing of three ‘guest’ senatorial candidates by both the administration and the opposition slates was insane.  First question: as guest candidates of competing slates, will they campaign with both?   Any campaign planner will immediately tell you that the idea will lead to administrative nightmares.  Campaigning with friendlies is already a problem.  How much more with canoeing in two rivers?

The 'guest' candidates

The ‘guest’ candidates

As it turned out, the ‘guests’ stuck with the pro-administration Team Pnoy in campaign sorties ‘forcing’ the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to kick said guests out of their house.  

You think the absurdity ends there?  Absolutely not!

Re-electionist Senator Francis Escudero and newbie Grace Poe reportedly heaved a sigh of relief after getting booted out from UNA.  

Norman Bordadora of the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported today on Poe’s reaction:

“Parang nabunutan ako ng tinik [It’s like a thorn has been pulled from my side],” Poe told reporters who sought her comment on UNA’s move.

“When I learned that there were conditions [for being adopted by UNA], of course, I found myself in a difficult situation,” she added.

Poe indicated that she couldn’t go against President Aquino’s wishes when he says candidates have to be in certain rallies and campaign sorties—presidential preferences that could have meant Poe shunning UNA rallies during the campaign period” (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/362655/escurdero-poe-heave-sigh-of-relief-after-una-junking).

Grace Poe

Grace Poe

I would like presume that Ms. Poe has a modicum of intelligence and should have realized that guesting in both slates will not do.  Why, even celebrities know that.  An ABS-CBN talent cannot just work with the rival GMA-7 network or even with ABC-5.

Escudero tries to but fails (miserably) to take the high ground.  Bordadora continues his report: 

“Asked if it was a relief that the issue of common candidates has been put to rest, Escudero said, “Yes, because this election has never been about petty issues of which rally you attend.”

“It was and has always been about platform, issues, principles and one’s genuine desire to serve the people faithfully and with integrity,” Escudero told the Inquirer”.

Mr. Escudero, the issue at hand is not petty. Let me explain in terms you can possibly understand.  You agreed to have two girlfriends; thus you have to take both, instead of just one, on a Valentine’s Day date.  If you have principles, you shouldn’t have two girlfriends in the first place.  Perhaps, expecting a politician to have principles is a tad too much.

Senator Francis Escudero

Senator Francis Escudero

What about the third ‘guest’  candidate,  re-electionist Senator Loren Legarda?  

Bordadora continues:  

“Legarda said she has yet to be officially informed by UNA of its decision.

“But whatever happens my respect, regard and love for President Estrada, Vice President Binay who’s really dedicated and Senate President Enrile, to whom I am really close will never change,” Legarda said.

“So the friendship should not be affected,” she added”.

Senator Loren Legarda

Senator Loren Legarda

Former President Joseph Estrada, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile are the acknowledged “Three Kings” of UNA while President Noynoy Aquino is the principal campaigner for his team.

This issue shows the mix of personalism (e.g. Poe was invited by her ninong Erap, to be guest candidate and she’s is sad about the junking because Erap promised full support), sophomoric hypocrisy,  feigned naivete, and naked opportunism.  

Were we entertained by this theater of the absurd?


Senator Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III

When Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente ‘Tito’  Sotto III (fondly called Tito Sen) cried during his first privilege speech opposing the Reproductive Health bill about two weeks ago, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile commiserated with him.

I guess you all now know how Sotto was criticized and pilloried from all over–first for plagiarizing parts of his speech; second, for insulting bloggers (why will I quote a blogger; she’s just a blogger); and third, for insisting that he did not do anything wrong.

In a second privilege speech yesterday, he courted further criticism.  He moved that the plagiarized parts of his speech be   stricken off the Senate official records.  He asserted that plagiarism is not a crime.

The icing on top of the cake is a complaint.  The Inquirer quotes him: “Perhaps I’ve been the first senator in the Philippines to fall victim to cyber-bullying.”

My answer to the honorable senator: Perhaps, the Filipinos are the first people to fall victim to plagiarism by an officer of the Senate and a Supreme Court associate justice.

Sotto also got back at his critics who mostly used social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and the response platforms of news outlets like ABS-CBN News, GMA TV News, ABC 5, Rappler, PCIJ and the like.   He recognized that most of these critics may be more educated than he is.  However, he asked rhetorically if they helped anyone at all.  Furthermore, he claimed that the plagiarizing charges were a demolition job against him for opposing the RH bill.

It could be at this point that the idea of regulating blogs came up.  In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is now requiring bloggers and online writers to disclose any payments or gifts for promoting products or services.  So if a blogger reviews and promotes mobile phones and receives free phones, he will be fined if he does not make a disclosure.

How about political blogs?  How do you regulate them?  Should they be regulated in the first place?  Blogs are covered by the constitutional provision on free speech.  Aren’t there enough laws that can regulate blogs like libel?  If a blogger advocates the overthrow of government, he could be charged with sedition or rebellion?  Of course, the blogger enjoys the anonymity of cyberspace.  Investigators, however, can trace his IP address(es).

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile

Do you think the supply of horror stories got exhausted at this point?  How wrong can you be!

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile wades in and confesses he is Internet-illiterate.  He does not know what blogs are.  He thought they were slogans.  He does not have a blog of his own.  Yet he readily sees the need to pass a law that will regulate blogs.

Mr. Senate President, Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III was not only criticized through blogs.  He was also criticized through all other online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Will you also propose to regulate the use of these platforms?

If such a law will be passed, we will be victimized anew.  We will probably be the first country that will have a blog regulation law initiated by senatorial pique (sa ating wika, pikon)!


That was the query propounded by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago yesterday while she was asking questions of Rep. Tobias “Toby” Tiangco (Navotas).

Rep. Tobias Tiangco

 Continuing his testimony that begun last Monday, Tiangco said the majority in the House of Representatives was called to a caucus in January 2012 by House speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte with an unclear agenda–though rumors were swirling in the winds that the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona was the caucus’ main item.

Tiangco testified Belmonte opened the meeting with a declaration that Corona is major obstacle to President Noynoy’s anti-corruption program.  Ergo, he must be impeached.  

And then the game changer followed as far as Tiangco was concerned.  Belmonte reportedly told the assembly that no questions on the matter will be entertained.   And at this point, things became trickier.  Asked about physical copies of the Articles of Impeachment, Belmonte reportedly told the assembly that each can pick up their copies (after the caucus?) since they are still being reproduced.  It is also unclear if Tiangco testified that Belmonte directly threatened the majority to sign the complaint or suffer dire consequences.

What followed according to Tiangco, was a Powerpoint presentation by Rep. Niel Tupas Jr.–apparently a summary of the impeachment complaint.

Tiangco also did not make it clear if he read the impeachment complaint.  As far as he was concerned, Tupas’ presentation and Belmonte’s unwelcoming stance regarding questions were enough to convince him there was no probable cause against Corona.

Tiangco also revealed last Monday that he experienced delays in the release of his pork barrel funds when he refused to sign the impeachment complaint against former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.  

Heel?

If you were a member of the majority, you are expected to vote according to the preferences of the leaders of the majority.  In the Philippines, the leader of the majority is the President of the Philippines and among his chief lieutenants is the Speaker of the House of Representatives.   It will never happen that the majority in the House will be ranged against the President.  After all, the President is the chief dispenser of public largesse (through his alter ego) notwithstanding the constitutional provision that Congress has the power of the purse.

President Noynoy Aquino (r) and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte (l)

If one belongs to the majority and defies the wishes of the President and the House Speaker, what does he expect?  

To be handed the keys to a 7-star hotel penthouse suite?

Or to be sent post-haste to the dog house?

As his testimony progressed, Tiangco admitted that he eventually received all of his pork barrel allocation for 2011.

Hero?

Tiangco may not have informed us about anything we do not generally know regarding Palace-Congress relations specially on how Malakanyang can persuade congressmen to accede to the former’s preferences through a carrot-and-stick approach.  However, a direct testimony on the matter is still useful and refreshing.

Tiangco also got himself in a collision course against 188 colleagues (already organized as Movement of 188) who signed the impeachment complaint.  That takes guts since Tiangco will be dealing with these same members of the House until the end of their terms in 2013.  Crossing one’s legislator-colleagues can affect legislative proposals and funding requests.  Tiangco also suffers the risk of alienation and being snubbed by fellow legislators.

In short, testifying at the Senate entailed great risks and costs.

And yet Tiangco testified.

And his testimony came to naught.  

The Senate impeachment court ruled his account was immaterial since it pertained to the preparation of the impeachment complaint.  Senators believed their job was to try the impeached official.  They thought they had no business in the sovereign business of a co-equal legislative chamber.  They will hear the impeachment complaint–warts and all.

Hero or heel?

The categories may not be mutually exclusive.


I did not comment on the on-going impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona except for the blog-entry on the G-word [see <https://bongmendoza.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/four-letter-words/>].

My reasons: I did not have anything new to say or a novel spin on the developments even if the impeachment was the news of the day for three months running.  At many instances, I got bored with the proceedings when most of the business of the day was marking of exhibits and as the defense resorted to technicalities that a non-lawyer like me cannot follow.  Of course, I also had work to do.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago

This reminds me of the Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s admonitions against non-lawyers making commentaries on the impeachment proceedings.  At one point, she argued that the law is a body of technicalities.  For these reasons, it requires one to go through four years of law school and a year to prepare for and pass the bar examinations.  So there!

However, to our amusement and consternation, both the prosecution and defense panels resorted to several schemes which could be best considered as fool-hardy.

We Filipinos have a sensible warning: Do not pick up a huge stone only to fumble and the stone drops on your foot.

Gambits are risky and can go both ways. They could pay off big time or could land people hard on their back-sides.

Let’s consider the prosecution.  At the heart of its Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment is the charge that Chief Justice Corona under-declared his assets (particularly peso bank deposits) in his sworn statements of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALNs).  If the prosecutors alleged this misdeclaration, it meant that they had prior access to Corona’s bank records even before they were able to prepare the Articles of Impeachment.  During the impeachment of then President Joseph Estrada, the House prosecution was allowed by the Senate to issue universal subpoenas for banks to submit bank records of Estrada and his alias–Jose Velarde.

Lead prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas Jr.

 This time, the Senate allowed the issuance of subpoenas only pertaining to specific peso bank deposits of Corona.  The prosecutors complied by specifying the account numbers.  However, they found they needed to explain how they were able to obtain such information.  They needed some defense against the ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ doctrine; that if the evidence was obtained illegally, then it would be inadmissible in court.

Rep. Rey Umali

Rep. Rey Umali (Oriental Mindoro) tried to convince the senators he got an envelop containing the bank documents from a “small lady” within the premises of the Senate.  However, footage from the building’s CCTV cameras did not support Umali’s story.  So it was Rep. Bolet Banal’s turn to make his best shot.  Banal claimed he found the documents left at his house’s gate.  One senator (I cannot remember who) asked him if there were CCTV cameras outside his house.  I could claim he sorrowfully said there were none.

Rep. Bolet Banal

As things stand,  the prosecution’s gambits paid off.  The Senate ruled (with three not voting) to accept the evidence submitted regarding Corona’s peso deposits.  

Serafin Cuevas

 The defense panel, headed by former Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, had their share of gambles.  The first was relatively minor: a charge that lead prosecutor Tupas was himself building a P50 million mansion in Quezon City.  It did not gain traction since it was Corona who was on trial.  Representatives are not impeached; they must win elections otherwise they cease to be representatives.

Then, in the middle of February, the defense panel clad in red shirts (but with Cuevas absent) gave a week-end press 

conference and accused Malakanyang of offering P100 million for each senator to defy the Supreme Court’s order to keep Corona’s dollar deposits secret.

The defense took a calculated risk.  The senators were predictably incensed and several took the defense to task for making the accusation and was asked to name names–a usual demand in Philippine politics.  Atty. Roy of the defense apologized profusely and explained that it was not their intention to tarnish the reputation of the honorable senators but only to warn of the Palace’s intentions.

It also appears that the defense’s gambit paid off.  During that same Monday, the Senate voted to uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling on Corona’s dollar deposits.  The apparent subtext is: if you voted against the Supreme Court, then you were reached by the Palace!

Other ploys of the defense did not meet as much success.  It wanted anti-Corona senators such as Senators Franklin Drilon and Kiko Pangilinan to inhibit themselves from the impeachment proceedings.  Suntok sa buwan ito!  It is clear that President Noynoy Aquino wants Corona impeached and as loyal members of the ruling Liberal Party, Drilon and Pangilinan are expected to support the President.  Even if that involves assisting a clearly-ill prepared prosecution panel.  

Senator Franklin Drilon

The defense could have gained greater credibility if they also asked for the inhibition of clearly pro-Corona Senators such as Defensor-Santiago.  That is, they want an impartial court.  In contrast, the prosecution panel (save for the Vitaliano Aguirre incident) takes Santiago’s tongue-lashing and tirades in stride.

In the past days, Corona himself went on a media blitz and implicated two senators in a seeming plot to unseat him as Supreme Court Chief Justice.

First, he claimed Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, also of the Liberal Party, asked him to share his term as chief justice with Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the man believed to be acceptable to President Noynoy. Guingona dutifully denied Corona’s story and insisted they only met for dinner with other people.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III

Then Corona said that a male senator approached him and asked him to resign as chief justice.  He declined to name the said senator because supposedly it will make the latter ‘angrier’.  He added that senator knew that Corona was referring to him and that he will name him in due time. Feeling alluded to, Drilon denied Corona’s allegations and challenged the former to name the so-called senator immediately.

What is Corona’s game?  Why is he riling some senators who will judge him?  

I believe he is guided by the number of senators required to convict him.  At present, there are only 23 senators because the vacancy created by the election of Noynoy Aquino as President was not filled.  Be that as it may, 16 senators must vote in favor of his conviction.  If only 15 senators do so, he is acquitted and remains Supreme Court Chief Justice.  Put in another way, if 8 senators vote against his conviction, he is acquitted.

If indeed he (and his defense panel) is riling  Drilon, Pangilinan, and Guingona, he probably believes that the former will vote against him no matter what.  And the purpose of the propaganda offensive is to convince the public that the three will vote against him simply upon the bidding of the Palace.  One must remember that his chief battle cry is to maintain the judiciary’s independence.

The defense will present its case tomorrow.  The arguments of the defense will be the subject of future blog entries.

 

 


There are four-letter words and there are 4-letter words.

You are obviously familiar with the F-word.

Today at the Senate impeachment court hearing the case against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, a new four-letter word was introduced.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona

What was this new word?

Waah!

Who introduced it?

The honorable gentlelady from Iloilo, Senator-Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago. She even insisted that it be put on record.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago

What does it mean?

Waah’s meaning is defined by the proponent–in this case Defensor-Santiago.

She used it to express extreme exasperation and anger over the prosecution’s decision to drop five of the eight articles of impeachment it originally filed against CJ Corona alongside an announcement yesterday that it was resting its case.  The prosecution also announced that it seeks a reservation to present evidence on Corona’s foreign exchange deposits as soon as the legal challenge to the confidentiality of these deposits was resolved.

Defensor-Santiago had an entirely different take on the matter.  She lectured that when the prosecution manifested resting its case, it should rest (in peace?) and cannot introduce new evidence.  In addition, she believed that dropping five of the eight articles of incorporation was unfair to the respondent since so much publicity was already accorded to the impeachment complaint.  She also chided that the move bespoke of a hasty and ill-prepared complaint.

In her anger, Defensor-Santiago used another four-letter word to characterize the House prosecution panel–the G-word.

The G-word is a familiar cuss word to us Filipinos.  It does not have exact equivalents in English; the closest would be idiot, stupid, and fool (another four-letter word).  A stronger version would be the letter A followed by another four-letter word–hole.

The  use of the G-word is uncalled for and unparliamentary.  To call members of another legislative chamber ‘G’ is a violation on intra-parliamentary courtesy.  You cannot call them ‘G’ even if you believe that they are ill-prepared.  Rep. Rodolfo Farinas asked that the G-word be stricken off the records and Defensor-Santiago agreed.  However, she did not apologize for using the G-word.

The day was far from over.  A private prosecutor, Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre, was caught on camera covering both his ears the entire time that Defensor-Santiago was speaking.  A number of senators, led by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, saw Aguirre’s act as a sign of disrespect. The court’s presiding officer, Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile gave Aguirre to explain himself.  Aguirre admitted that he covered his ears as an indication of protest because he was irritated by Santiago’s speech, specially her lecturing and disparaging remarks. He believed that respect was a two-way street.

Private prosecutor Atty. Vitaliano Aguirre

Apparently, Enrile expected Aguirre to apologize to defuse the situation.  However, the private prosecutor did not and the Senate voted unanimously to cite him in contempt and to ban him from the impeachment proceedings.

Because of two four-letter words, today’s impeachment proceedings are notably newsworthy.