Thursday, July 31, 2014

God bless the Philippines! No to coup d'etat

“The ship of democracy, which has weathered all storms, may sink through the mutiny of those on board.”  Grover Cleveland

By Alex P. Vidal

We oppose any attempt to destabilize the government through a coup d’etat or military takeover.
According to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, some retired police generals are plotting to topple the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III. Any attempt to oust a civilian government is called a military mutiny or act of rebellion.
Coming from a senator and a former military officer to boot, the warning shouldn’t be taken lightly.
When there is smoke, there is fire, so to speak.
We can’t afford to put to waste all the sacrifices and gains made by our government officials these past years to bring back to economic life our country only because of military adventurism.
President Aquino has just delivered his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) and was optimistic that the country can rebound from economic doldrums and improve the life of the 100 million Filipino people.
Together we must remain vigilant and strongly oppose any attempt to change the system of our government through violence. God bless the Philippines.

Let There Be No Hiding Place for Rapists in War

Sexual violence plagues every country. It is not just a domestic criminal justice issue. Acts of sexual violence demean our collective humanity. 
They perpetuate conflict and instability for generations. They make us all less secure, less prosperous and less free. 
So there are few causes worthier of international co-operation.
In February, I was proud to announce to the world that the United States had adopted detailed guidance to make crystal clear that those who commit sexual violence in armed conflict, or as a crime against humanity, are unwelcome. 
This week, I will urge my colleagues from around the world to do the same.
This week, I will join U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague and ministers and advocates from around the world in London at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. 
We will pool our expertise, diplomatic skills and resources toward the common goal of relegating sexual violence to the annals of history where it belongs.
Drastic change can come quickly when we commit ourselves. It wasn’t so long ago that many people in the United States did not recognize violence against women as a crime. 
One of my proudest accomplishments as a young Massachusetts prosecutor was launching the state’s first program for counseling rape victims and putting these cases on a fast-track for trial.
In the U.S. Senate, I fought alongside then-Senator Joe Biden to support the Violence Against Women Act. And I was proud to introduce and help move through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a key piece of legislation, the International Violence Against Women Act.
This issue remains deeply personal for me. Too many of the places I have visited as Secretary of State bear the scars of a time when rape was used as a tactic of oppression and intimidation. 
Indeed, sexual violence in conflict is one of the most persistent and most neglected injustices today.
As my country’s top diplomat, ending this cycle of violence is a critical mission. The first step is to begin treating sexual violence in armed conflict as a major international crime. 
It is not and cannot be seen as an inevitable consequence of conflict. Nor is it a simple infraction of a country’s penal code.
The next step in this overdue process will be persuading every government to deny safe haven to those who commit these vile acts. That should be a key legacy of the London conference.
The February change in U.S. visa policy affirmed that sexual violence can be a war crime: it is often organized and systematic, not an unavoidable by-product of war. 
According to our updated guidance, even those occupying the highest echelons of military or government who ordered, engaged in, or looked the other way when their subordinates committed acts of sexual violence will not be welcome in the United States.
I challenge other countries to do the same. Pass legislation that excludes these perpetrators from entering your countries. 
Participate in this global campaign of accountability and containment. Protect your citizens and send a strong message to offenders that they are unwelcome and that impunity ends at your borders. 
We must communicate a unified stance with a single, loud voice: there is no place in the civilized world for those who commit acts of sexual violence. 
We must declare in unison: “They can’t run, and they won’t hide here.”

(This entry originally appeared in the Evening Standard.)

Go to and follow @JohnKerry on Twitter for more from the Secretary of State. About the Author: John Kerry serves as the 68th Secretary of State.

Syjuco gaining national prominence vs P-Noy

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Nelson Mandela

By Alex P. Vidal

Was it a mistake to pick on Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco for a foe in politics?
Or is Syjuco the easiest whipping boy among all the minions identified with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?
Ever since President Benigno Aquino III singled out former TESDA chief Augusto Syjuco, Jr. for overpriced procurement in his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 22, 2013, the former congressman from the second district of Iloilo has become one of his fiercest critics.
And Syjuco, who lost to Senate President Franklin Drilon’s best friend, Arcadio H. Gorriceta, in the 2013 Iloilo congressional elections, bites.
Like a wounded tiger, Syjuco is always ready to engage the President in a no-holds-barred tussle especially on the pork barrel issue.
With nothing to lose now that his reputation has been besmirched in the SONA, Syjuco is like Dick Tiger willing to fight in any arena as long as he is paired against President Aquino.
Each time he fires a volley against the president, vengeance is written all over his face.  


Shortly after delivering his 5th SONA last July 28, President Aquino immediately received a bombastic reply from Syjuco, who can easily attract attention from reporters every time he fired a sally against the President.
Syjuco fired: "You seemed to fall into the right track when you said ‘in spite of this, my resolve is firm because my primary goal is clear: to return government to its original mandate-to serve the Filipino always."
He added: "Here, you unequivocally admitted that you had wrongly strayed the course of your last four years and that you would ‘return the government to its rightful mandate."
Syjuco, also former head of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, scored Mr. Aquino for exaggerating his accomplishment.
In his 5th SONA, Mr. Aquino cited the Training for Work Scholarship Program, which managed to produce 146,731 graduates while the rest of the 223,615 still undergoing training. The program got P1.6 billion share from the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).


Syjuco claimed he founded the Training for Work Scholarship Program and in 2009 they have produced over 1.6 million graduates.
"Your graduates that you brag about now are only less than 13 percent of our graduates on the last year of your previous administration," Syjuco further fired at the President.
The P7,155 that the President boasted to have spent for every Tesda beneficiary is high considering that in Syjuco’s time, they only spent P5,000, insisted Syjuco, who lost twice for mayor of Makati to Vice President Jejomar Binay, before becoming  a congressman in the second district of Iloilo in 1998.
Syjuco stressed that they only paid the schools and training centers when the scholar trainee successfully passes the Tesda Certification Exam.
"And for this, Mang Noy (President Aquino) blamed me for overspending," boomed Syjuco, the first to file a petition with the high court against DAP.
The problem is nobody in Malacanang is taking Syjuco seriously. The Palace did not even reply to Syjuco’s media tirades as it did against the tirades of the opposition.
Whether he will succeed in trying to reverse public opinion to tilt on his favor, Syjuco is now fast gaining a national fame.
He can be a tough opposition firebrand once he is elected as senator in 2016 or tapped as spokesperson of the opposition now headed by his former foe and future presidential timber, Jojo Binay.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Let’s forgive this priest – even if he knew what he was doing

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.”
Marianne Williamson

By Alex P. Vidal

Even if Rev. Msgr. Juanito Ma. Tuvilla, the parish priest of Santa Barbara, Iloilo, knew what he was doing and talking, we must still forgive him.
Some of us—especially those scandalized by his alleged “unchristian” acts—might not yet ready to smoke the proverbial peace pipe with him, but we must always be ready to open our hearts, bury the hatchet and let bygones be bygones.
In the new International Version of the Holy Bible, Luke 23:34 quoted Jesus as saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The only difference is Jesus was the one persecuted in the biblical story that happened more than two thousand years ago.
In Santa Barbara town, Tuvilla was the one accused of persecution by residents of Brgy. Dalid. 
Tuvilla’s alleged uncouth behavior started after the burial mass for a dead member of the Susvilla family of Barangay Dalid on July 19.
Ricky Dioso, a family member, was thanking those who attended the mass for the dead Susvilla family member inside the Santa Barbara Church when Tuvilla suddenly grabbed the microphone and chided the grieving family.


Tuvilla threatened to switch off the church’s power supply when he sensed the family still refused to leave after the mass and was taking it long for them to use the premises.
“Ano gusto niyo patyan ta kamu kuryente (Do you want me to switch off the power?),” Barangay Dalid chief Rolly Sorongon quoted the priest as saying.
Embarrassed and shocked, Dioso retorted angrily
Paano ka nag pari? Bastos ka man (How did you become a priest? You are ill-mannered),” Sorongon quoted Dioso as saying.
The village chief, who reported the incident to media, claimed the incident shocked the people inside the church.
Rev. Fr. Alfone Marie Berbegal, who celebrated the requiem mass for the dead Susvilla family member, never questioned why it took the family too long to use the church to thank mourners.
To compound the matter, Sorongon reported further that Tuvilla called the residents of Barangay Dalid as thieves of carabaos and that the Susvillas were ill-mannered during his homily the following Sunday.


The priest’s diatribes in the pulpit reportedly further enraged the family and residents of Sorongon’s barangay.
Sorongon’s fellow village chiefs Jeffrey Suarnava (Barangay Sangcate), Noel Suezo (Barangay Daga) and Tim Padilla (Barangay Zone 5 Poblacion) also reportedly confirmed Tuvilla’s alleged misbehavior toward some residents.
The scandal has erupted into scandalous proportions as it came in the heels of an incident in Cebu where 59-year-old Fr. Romeo Obach humiliated an unwed teenage mother during the baptismal of her child inside the Sacred Heart chapel in Mandaue City last July 6.
When the video of the incident recorded by the girl’s 12-year-old sister went viral, Fr. Obach panicked and realized his mistake.
The girl has forgiven Fr. Obach after he wrote her a letter of apology and visited her to personally say sorry for his “cruel” words.
Forgiveness means the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) of Santa Barbara should withdraw the petition asking for Msgr. Tuvilla’s ouster.


Now that his alleged misdemeanor and arrogance has been reported to the Archdiocese of Jaro which has the direct supervision over erring priests, let’s allow the chips to fall where they may and wait for the proper sanction, just in case there is one.
But hatred must be removed from our hearts.
The enmity happened with no bloodshed. Everything was a product of emotional outburst. No property was lost. No life was wasted. No one was harmed physically. If Jesus can forgive, why can’t we ordinary mortals?
Like Fr. Obach, we are confident that Msgr. Tuvilla must have realized his mistakes—human as he is.
After all, to err is human; it is a divine to forgive, as Alexander Pope had said.
If Msgr. Tuvilla is willing to face his enemies and bury their hatchets, reconciliation isn’t far-fetched.
Community leaders, municipal and provincial officials should mediate a reconciliation move between the two parties.
Let’s listen to Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”


P-Noy recognizes Mabilog in SONA

“The superior man is distressed by the limitations of his ability; he is not distressed by the fact that men do not recognize the ability that he has.” Confucius

By Alex P. Vidal

Let us give credit where credit is due.
This time, we credit Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog for standing ten feet total during the President's State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives in the Batasang Pambansa, Quezon City last July 28.
Not all past and incumbent mayors in the country have the privilege to be recognized by a President in a SONA.
Thus when President Benigno S. Aquino III mentioned Mabilog and Binan City, Laguna Mayor Len Alonte in his SONA last July 28, Ilonggos had all the reason to be proud and honored.
“Mayroon tayong mga umaangat na bagong o mas bata sa akin pulitiko. Ayoko naman ho sabihin na napakaluma ko nang pulitiko sa pagtukoy sa mga mas bata. Mga taong tulad ni Mayor Jed Mabilog at ni Mayor Len Alonte (palakpakan),” announced President Aquino.
Mabilog, a Liberal Party (LP) die-hard and five years younger than the President, immediately posted this message in his Facebook account: “Thank You very much President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) for the gesture and kind recognition! I am very humbled. I am Iloilo. PROUD TO BE FILIPINO.”


Overjoyed by what she heard, Marivic G. Mabilog, the mayor’s wife, who monitored the SONA in Calgary, Canada where she is based, immediately posted this message in her Facebook account: “Like Pnoy, I'm just as proud of Jed. To be specially mentioned and recognized by the president himself in his most emotional SONA as one those political leaders who can continue his legacy for his 'matuwid na daan' is testament to Jed's brand of leadership: transparency, honesty and hardwork.”
We don’t wish to pit Mabilog and Iloilo City Rep. Jerry P. Trenas here, but during the incumbency of then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, she never accorded the same prominence to Trenas, then the president of the League of Cities, who was her former college student.
To be mentioned in a SONA should be a big boost not only to the leadership and credibility of a local chief executive, but also to the city, municipality or province.
The SONA was delivered almost a month since President Aquino visited Iloilo City last June 27 to inaugurate some multi-million pesos worth of projects that included the widened Diversion Road or formally known as Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue and Iloilo River Esplanade, both in Mandurriao district here and the 14-kilometer Iloilo Circumferential Road.


Another reason why Iloilo became closer to the heart of President Aquino these past years is probably because of the influence of Senate President Frank Drilon, a close relative of Mabilog from Molo district.
Drilon almost got the biggest slice of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to fund flagship projects in Iloilo worth  P720 million.
Even if the Supreme Court has ruled that the DAP is unconstitutional, some of these Iloilo projects would still push through since initial funds were already appropriated and released, the Palace had declared earlier.
President Aquino also reportedly supports Mabilog in his quest as a finalist in the World Mayor 2014. Among the criteria for the contest are: leadership and vision, management abilities and integrity, social and economic awareness, ability to provide security and protect the environment, and the will and ability to foster relations between communities from different cultural, racial and social backgrounds.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Iloilo pedestrian overpass ‘not friendly’ to elderly, PWDs

“The world worries about disability more than disabled people do.” Warwick Davis

By Alex P. Vidal

If we follow the law, contractors of the old pedestrian overpass in front of a giant mall at the Iloilo City Diversion Road in Mandurriao district should have been charged in court for violation of Republic Act 7277 or “An act providing for the rehabilitation, self-development and self-reliance of disabled persons and their integration into the mainstream of society and for other purposes.”
For several years since it was built, the old pedestrian overpass, which has been replaced by a new one that will be operational this year, did not have elevators.
It’s mind-boggling how engineers managed to pursue the project without anticipating some loopholes that would give them legal headache.
The structure was not friendly to elderly and persons with disabilities (PWD). And nobody cared; not until a new and better-equipped pedestrian overpass was built early this year to replace it.
The late House sectoral Rep. Art Borjal, a many-time Iloilo and Negros visitor, once told us he would file charges against building owners, public structures and their contractors who did not follow the law on Republic Act 7277.
“Even hotels and malls are mandated by law to build a special area for their customers and clients that are PWDs,” Borjal told us then.
He would have protested the contractors’ negligence in the old Diversion Road pedestrian overpass.


Section 25 on barrier-free environment of Chapter 6 on accessibility, states that “The State shall ensure the attainment of a barrier-free environment that will enable disabled persons to have access in public and private buildings and establishments and such other places mentioned in Batas Pambansa Bilang 344, otherwise known as the  Accessibility Law’. The national and local government shall allocate funds for the provision of architectural or structural features for disabled persons in government buildings and facilities.”
Section 26 on Mobility states further that “The State promotes the mobility of disabled persons. Disabled persons shall be allowed to drive motor vehicles, subject to the rules and regulations issued by the Land Transportation Office pertinent to the nature of their disability and the appropriate adaptations or modifications made on such vehicles; and Section 27 on Access to Public Transport Facilities states that “The Department of Social Welfare and Development shall develop a program to assist marginalized disabled persons gain access in the use of public transport facilities. Such assistance may be in the form of subsidized transportation fare. The said department shall also allocate such funds as may be necessary for the effective implementation of the public transport program for the disabled persons. The Accessibility Law,’ as amended, shall be made supplementary to this Act.”


In a related development, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has decided to put up elevators at the new pedestrian overpass in the same area which would cost some P20 million. 
DPWH Regional Director Edilberto Tayao said
the new pedestrian overpass has its footbridge designed for the ease and convenience of PWDs and senior citizens.
“This is in keeping with the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons and Batas Pambansa 344,” the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Iloilo quoted Tayao as saying over the weekend.
PIA said Batas Pambansa 344 seeks to enhance the mobility of PWDs by requiring buildings, institutions, establishments and public utilities to install facilities and other devices.
Tayao described the new overpass, 50.235 meters long and three meters wide and costing P19,302, 321 as “PWD-friendly and the only biggest project so far that the agency has built for the sector.”


The structure intends to reduce traffic congestion in the area so that mall goers do not have to use the roads in crossing, according to the DPWH.
Tayao further said: “The city government is encouraging the private sector to contribute to the development and maintenance of the project, through public-private partnership.”
We are happy that the DPWH has finally realized the need and importance of building elevators in the new pedestrian overpass.
The new structure connects the giant mall to the other side of the road where the state-of-the-art Injap Tower is located.
It’s not yet too late to correct the past mistake. As the saying goes, “better late than never.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day; LRT dream should live on

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

By Alex P. Vidal

When former Guimaras Governor Emily Relucio- Lopez dreamed of building a bridge between Guimaras and Iloilo in the early 90’s, she was hailed as a “visionary” leader by both the media and fellow leaders in Western Visayas.
Relucio-Lopez toyed with the quixotic idea after President FVR appointed her as OIC governor following Guimaras’ ascension as a full-fledged island province on May 22, 1992, after a plebiscite was conducted to ratify the approval of its conversion pursuant to Section 462 of R.A. 7160.
When then senatorial candidate Miriam Defensor-Santiago thought about the same project, excited fellow Ilonggos absolved her from her “sin” of waltzing with ousted President and now Manila Mayor Erap Estrada.
The list of dreamers for a Guimaras bridge hiked every political season: Nikki Coseteng, Manny Villar, Tito Guingona, and all the gadflies and political adventurists queuing for Ilonggo votes.


Relucio-Lopez did not pay a lip service to her grandiose proposal; she brought the matter seriously before the Regional Development Council (RDC) headed then by former Negros Governor Rafael Coscolluela.
Relucio-Lopez was probably imagining an extradosed cable-stayed bridge similar to the four-lane, 1,237- meter (4,058 feet)-long Marcelo Fernan Bridge in Cebu, one of the widest and longest bridge spans in the country today.
Lack of investors and interested parties in the private sector, as well as commitment from foreign-based financial institutions like the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) stalled the proposed project. Not a single serious feasibility study was ever conducted.
Years have passed and FVR, Relucio-Lopez, Coscolluela, among other proponents of the Guimaras bridge, were no longer in power. Politicians come and go. No one was talking about the bridge anymore. It was a dream that turned into a nightmare, so to speak.
Although the construction of the bridge never materialized, nobody faulted Relucio-Lopez, et al. For trying their best, they didn’t suffer the thought of what might have been; the rest was simply beyond their control and capacity.


Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, for his part, has his own big dream: a proposed Light Railways Transport (LRT) in Panay Island “that would boost the local tourism industry.”
Upon advice by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), he has requested for a feasibility study from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and is optimistic to get a positive response.
The city council has backed Mabilog’s proposal for a feasibility study in a resolution. The mayor is eyeing passengers and tourists to have easy access from Iloilo to Boracay, Aklan in particular and shorten their travel time from six to at least two hours.
Among the four governors in Panay Island, only Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. has expressed pessimism saying the proposed project is “too ambitious.”
Let us hope that the proposed LRT project will not end up as another proposed Guimaras bridge project. Like what we said here earlier, politicians just come and go; times change and circumstances change with them. The dream lives on.


Even if, by a stroke of luck, the proposed LRT project, would push through, Mabilog, et al won’t be there anymore at city hall to share the limelight.
But we must credit Mabilog, though, at least for thinking what others haven’t thought. Leaders have the right to dream big and dream higher for their constituents.
Dreaming is good, especially if it redounds to the benefit of the majority. It is in not doing anything when opportunity presents itself that is bad.
After all, it is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.
Constructed by hand, stone by stone, conquest by conquest, Rome, a great empire as well as a great city, wasn’t built in one day. Founded by Romulus, Rome's history spans more than two and a half thousand years, since its legendary founding in 753 BC.
The proposed Guimaras bridge and the LRT projects must live on. There’s no harm in trying—and dreaming!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

No politician will declare war vs sidewalk vendors

“Illegality will never solve the problem of political lawlessness.” Emanuel Celler

By Alex P. Vidal

EFFORTS to clear the sidewalks of Calle Real in downtown, City Proper with vendors almost succeeded in 1989 and in the early 90’s when no less than then Mayor Rodolfo “Roding” Ganzon led the campaign to eradicate the “eye sores” that blocked the way and occupied almost 80 percent of the space intended for shoppers and pedestrians.
Ganzon created a city hall task force to deal with the problem, but when the task force failed to totally drive away the vendors, the mayor personally settled the matters by his own self by literally kicking the fruits and other items displayed in the sidewalks by recalcitrant vendors.
He was like Hercules cleaning the Augean stables. The only difference was the king of Elis did not retaliate against Hercules, while the vendors hauled Ganzon, touted as the “prince of the Timawa”, to court for “harassment and abuse of authority.”
Ganzon was so decisive and ruthless that even in the sidewalks of Iloilo central market and Iloilo terminal market, he kicked the obstacles and fruit stands like a FIFA World Cup ball and toppled the grapes, oranges, apples and mangoes to the ground.


For awhile, defiant vendors, who had earlier tried to resist by firing diatribes against Ganzon in radio interviews, decided to cool down and stayed away from Calle Real sidewalks for fear of another wrath from the city hall soccer player.
“The law must be applied to everyone—rich or poor,” boomed Ganzon, then the No. 1 enemy of the late President Cory Aquino.
Ganzon, whose favorite quote was Abraham Lincoln’s “God must love the poor, He created many of them,” justified his gung-ho approach on the problems with illegal vendors by insisting that they destructed the flow of business in Calle Real because aside from blocking the sidewalks, they also paralyzed businesses in nearby and adjacent shops that paid taxes and operated with valid business permits.
Ganzon had neither fear nor hesitation to deal  with illegal vendors with iron hands because “I wanted to be fair with everyone, including the Filipino-Chinese traders who operated legitimate businesses in Calle Real.”


His number one radio critic, the late former city councilor Melchor Nava, called him “Iloilo City’s Hitler.”
Ganzon, with all pun intended, replied by ribbing Nava: “Akig lang ining si Melchor Nava sa akon kay pati ang baligya sang kirida ya sa sidewalk gin pakakas ko man (Melchor Nava is just mad at me because I removed from the sidewalks the items sold by his mistress).”
Nava said he had no mistress who was an illegal vendor. Irked, he challenged Ganzon to a fistfight in his blocktime program over the defunct DYRP Radyo Tagring.
When Ganzon and Nava accidentally met in the demolition area of squatters at Brgy. Rizal Estanzuela, City Proper several weeks later, Ganzon, surrounded by bodyguards that included his tough son, Freeman, loudly confronted Nava about his braggadocio: “Oh, ano?” (What now?)
Wala na to meyor ah. Politika lang ni ang aton ya hehe (Forget about it, mayor. This is only politics),” Nava quickly replied smiling.
When Ganzon was suspended from office for 60 days, Vice Mayor Mansueto “Mansing” Malabor, took over the reigns of the city hall and pampered the sidewalk vendors.


Egged by then Cory’s executive secretary and now Senate President Frank Drilon to “stay put” during a tense city hall standoff after Ganzon refused to step down and defied the suspension order meted out by then Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Luis T. Santos, Malabor was supported by vendors with ax to grind against Ganzon, tagged during his heydays as senator as “the stormy petrel of the south.”
In Malabor’s three full terms as city mayor after Ganzon, sidewalk vendors were back with a vengeance! They mushroomed with alacrity in every nook and cranny in downtown, City Proper; many of them built shanties and wooden stalls to store their unsold items. They became unstoppable.
When the Filipino-Chinese community called his attention to the “growing” number of illegal sidewalk vendors in Calle Real, Malabor refused to touch the vendors, a powerhouse sector of voters, with a ten-foot pole.
In others words, he pampered and tolerated them. They were mostly “poor” and they delivered votes that gave him overwhelming mandates in every mayoral contest.
Pro-sidewalk vendor Malabor massacred the “elitists” Nene Consing and Victor Facultad in two successive mayoral jousts. Malabor’s populist stand on the sidewalk vendors issue bore fruits.
The “victorious” sidewalks vendors remain to be the kings and queens of Calle Real until today under Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tell us who are your friends

“Neutral men are the devil's allies.”
Edwin Hubbel Chapin

By Alex P. Vidal

The front pages of all the newspapers, headline news of all TV and radio networks yesterday said it all!
The judiciary is hell-bent not to genuflect before the executive branch, its co-equal in government, as manifested by the gallant stand of the majority of the judges, prosecutors, and other hall of justice employees all over the country who wore black last Monday to assert judicial independence.
The move was precipitated by President Benigno Aquino III’s astonishing brickbats against the Supreme Court, which had torpedoed the Palace’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) or pork barrel.
Mr. Aquino’s unprecedented tirades against the higher court initially failed to catch fire among lawmakers and local government executives.
They, too, were caught by surprise by the President’s boldness and, to some extent, stubbornness. Many mayors and governors were made to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.


But lately, some tong-gressmen, city and municipal mayors and governors started to voice their support for their embattled chief executive in Malacanang.
They were even undaunted and willing to engage in a slugfest the church’s top prelates who denounced the DAP in the pulpits.
These tong-gressmen and some local chief executives must have realized they would be accused by Malacanang as “ingrates” for abandoning the cause that benefited their districts, cities, municipalities and provinces if they did not take a stand and come to the President’s defense at this crucial moment.
A common cause that benefited their favorite contractors and, what else, their own pockets!
DAP funded most local infrastructure and public works projects through the tong-gressmen and sin-nators bribed by Malacanang to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.


In unity there is strength. United we stand, united we fall.
This must be the battlecry of the local chief executives, tong-gressmen and sin-nators who are now singing hallelujah to President Aquino.
In Negros and Iloilo, many mayors and governors have started to show their true colors by joining the Palace in justifying why DAP should not have been shot down by the Supreme Court like the Malaysian Airlines jet.
They knew that if they abandoned the king, they would be isolated politically and made to face the Commission on Audit’s wrath like condemned and captured enemies facing the firing squad.
The Supreme Court has ordered those who had feasted on the P137.3 billion worth of DAP to return the people’s money. Unable to do so would be tantamount to stealing and the act is punishable by law.
Hence, local chief executives, tong-gressmen and sin-nators are frantically moving heaven and earth in the propaganda and publicity department to reverse the storm by coming out in public and risk their reelection to defend the “good side” of DAP.


The court’s black Monday onslaught was a curt message to the executive branch: we are co-equal and, therefore, will not succumb to any dictatorial fulmination and display of absolute power and attempt to force us on our knees.
We will know if President Aquino’s rah-rah boys and girls in the local government units are really determined to swim and sink with their king if the League of Provinces and League of Cities and Municipalities will pass resolutions defending the president and the DAP.

Tell us who your friends are and we will tell you who you are!

Tax increase zugzwang

“The people are hungry: It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes.” Lao Tzu

By Alex P. Vidal

When people are hungry and desperate, they steal foods, commit crimes like robbery and holdup, and vandalize government offices.
Poverty breeds lawlessness. A hungry stomach fears no authority.
Survival instinct means food is a hungry man’s only god; which explains why during calamities, victims resort to lawlessness, storm and empty padlocked supermarkets and grocery stores despite the presence of cops.
But why vandalize or destroy government properties? There are two reasons for this: 1.The hungry are outraged and blame the government for their woes; and 2.They think the government is rich and awash with cash, thus they target the treasurer’s offices like what happened recently in Escalante City, Negros Occidental and Concepcion, Iloilo.


Thieves carted away some P2 million cash from the vault of the Escalante city hall last July 11 when the janitor reportedly failed to lock the office, police said.
Police also reported that robbers ransacked the vault of the Concepcion municipal treasurer’s office and ran away with P490,000 cash by forcibly opening the office’s sliding window last July 19.
Probers led by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are eyeing an inside job in both heists, but are not ruling out the involvement of other civilians not connected in the two offices.
Although the two robberies occurred in a span of only one week, police found no reason to connect them as the offices were located miles away separately in two islands.


But the twin robbery incidents could be used as patterns for those intending to rob government offices like the capitol, city hall and municipal hall.
Thieves now have an idea that some treasurer’s offices, just like some of the pawnshops, money lending corporations and money transfer outlets, do not actually deposit all their cash in the bank after office hours.
The burglaries in Escalante and Concepcion should send alarm signals to other treasurer’s offices in Western Visayas.


We expected a zugzwang in the public hearing conducted by the Iloilo city council’s committee on ways and means headed by Councilor Plaridel Nava on the proposed increase in real property taxes (RPT) at the City Hall penthouse area last July 18.
The Iloilo Business Club and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Iloilo opposed the measure put forward by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog who dangled a proposed 50 percent to 100 percent RPT increase.
It’s good that both sides have agreed to confer with City Hall’s local finance committee to address the concerns aired by the private sector groups determined to protect the interests of their members as well as those of the incoming investors.


Any discussion about proposed increases in taxes—real property and otherwise--is always chaotic and bloody, to say the least.
The cons, or those against it, will always outnumber the pros, or those who support it which includes the proponents.
Since the time of the Roman Empire, residents have struggled against all forms of taxation; opposition has been vigorous and passionate.  
"Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's," Jesus was quoted by historians as saying.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

2 Passi men also arrested like Vargas in Texas border

“The word nobody wants to use, but you see if you are here illegally, that's the punishment, deportation.” Tom Tancredo

By Alex P. Vidal

What happened to immigrant activist Jose Antonio Vargas last July 15 (July 16 in Iloilo) also happened to two residents of Passi City, Iloilo, who were deported to the Philippines sometime in 2009.
While trying to board a flight to Los Angeles, California after reporting on the rising numbers of unaccompanied Central American children crossing the US-Mexico border, Vargas, 33, was arrested by Texas Border Patrol and detained at the McAllen-Miller International Airport in southern Texas for being an undocumented alien.
But unlike Vargas, who was released the same day after being processed by Border Patrol agents and provided with a notice to appear in immigration court, the two Passi residents were reportedly deported back to the Philippines as they lacked the proper papers to be in the United States.


The information was relayed to me personally when I went to Dallas in 2011 by some of their companions who remained in Texas until today.
They and several others had been working in the U.S. without legal documents for several years before their arrest in the Texas-Mexico border, it was learned.
The batch of Passi visitors were reportedly recruited by a prominent US-based Passi City politician after the 2004 elections in the Philippines.
“We helped him (the politician) during the elections and, in return, he brought us to the US as he had promised,” said Biboy (not his real name), the deportees’ US companion who refused to be named for security reasons. “It was a mistake (for the two) to try to board an LA-bound flight using their Philippine passports with expired tourist visas. We had warned them (against taking that flight).”
Biboy said when the duration of their tourist visa had expired, they decided not to return to the Philippines and went TNT (Tago Ng Tago), a term for Filipinos in the US without legal papers.


The two deportees, both males, wanted to visit relatives at La Mirada and Anaheim, California, Biboy revealed.
Biboy and the remaining Ilonggo TNTs said they transferred from one city to another in Texas and never attempted to travel and cross the state.
They are scattered in San Antonio, Arlington, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, Galveston and Corpus Christi.
“We have plenty of relatives in California, especially in San Diego, but the problem is most of us are afraid to travel there because of what happened to (names of the deportees),” he lamented.
We learned that when they arrived together with other Filipino deportees in a special flight via Clark International Airport in Pampanga, they were handcuffed like criminals, Biboy narrated.
Trained as a journalist and worked for The Washington Post, where he was part of the team that won a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings, Vargas was not deported immediately.
Fellow immigrant activists staged a rally outside the detention facility to demand for his immediate release.


Vargas found himself in the national spotlight in 2011, when he narrated about his undocumented status in the New York Times Magazine which became a hit among all the TNTs including those from Latin countries like Mexico, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.
Vargas was able to Tweet that “the only IDs I have for security: Philippine passport and my pocketbook US Constitution.”
Vargas is a prominent figure in the crusade for comprehensive US immigration reform. They are hoping that the Obama administration will legalize the status of more than 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the US.
White House deputy press secretary, Shawn Turner, said Vargas’ arrest was a “law enforcement issue involving a specific case, so it would not be appropriate for the White House to comment.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mario, Glenda, Benigno

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” John F. Kennedy

By Alex P. Vidal

During moments of euphoria, sadness, tragedy, defeat and victory, we remember not only events but names.
We remember three names that are currently synonymous to heroism, destruction and stubbornness: Mario, Glenda, and Benigno.
Mario is now the toast of the soccer community when he sank that lone goal for Germany’s fourth FIFA World Cup in the recent championship match against Argentina at the Estadio Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last July 14.
Because of that come-from-behind date with fame in Rio, a mere mention of Mario Gotze’s name evokes sweet moments of heroism and victory.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup produced not only a soccer hero, but also a new inspiration for Filipinos pinning their football hopes only on the overfed and over fancied Azkals XI, a team not even rated among the top 100 in the world and can never represent the Philippines in the next FIFA World Cup in 2018.
If he were a Filipino, Mario would be a shoo-in for senator under the pork barrel’s Liberal Party.
Filipinos love sports superstars like they love their childhood super heroes. And they won’t hesitate to elect them into public office like what they did to former senators Ambrosio Padilla, Freddie Webb, and Robert Jaworski. Two years from now, a boxing champion will also be called as “Senator Manny Pacquiao.”
Glenda, the name of a mysterious college student who borrowed from me P3,000 cash and disappeared like a comet several years ago, is now remembered as a storm that terrorized Luzon last July 15 and 16.


Glenda’s murderous rampage left scores of deaths and sent some 200,000 families packing to evacuation centers.
Glenda lashed at Metro Manila and flooded the main highways and avenues. She brought only monsoon rains in Iloilo, but most parts of the region were also affected in one way or the other.
Hell hath no fury like a typhoon named after a woman. Glenda came, saw and conquered.
Like Yolanda, Glenda represented sadness, mayhem and death. Weather forecasters coined the names of incoming typhoons based on alphabetical order, so let’s not feel bad if Glenda happens to be the name of our mother, sister, wife, girlfriend, or debtor. 
Benigno is the leader of the 90 million Filipinos now up in arms against the “pork barrel” fund deodorized as Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
The Supreme Court has declared DAP as unconstitutional and asked Benigno’s lawmaker allies who have availed of the controversial appropriations, to return the taxpayers money worth P137.3 billion to the national treasury.
But the funds are reportedly nowhere to be found now. All of a sudden, no one has come forward to defend Bengino except himself. No one has volunteered to make a gallant sacrifice for the king. When the going gets tough, it’s only Benigno now by his lonesome self defending the port in the attic.
Lawmakers and their local government partners claimed they spent the money “wisely” to finance infrastructure and public works projects in their respective cities and provinces. 


But people were suspicious that a bulk of the funds may have gone to the pockets of corrupt politicians allied with Benigno in the form of kickbacks via fake non-government organizations, the same trick that sent P10-billion pork barrel scam accused Janet Lim-Napoles to the calaboose.
Benigno’s popularity suffered a sharp decline since 2010 according to the recent Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia surveys.
The negative impact on Benigno’s popularity must have something to do with his refusal to let go of Harvard-educated budget secretary Butch Abad, DAP’s chief collaborator, and for defending the DAP and engaging the Supreme Court in a power play that could provoke a constitutional crisis.
Because of this, the once supremely popular president and son of the late former President Cory and the late brave Marcos opposition leader Ninoy, has earned the reputation as a “stubborn” president.