Monday, April 30, 2018

Crystal clear political development

“Vote for the man who promises least; he'll be the least disappointing.”
--Bernard Baruch

By Alex P. Vidal

-- In politics, strange alliances are always inevitable; everything can be possible.
The disclosure of Iloilo City Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon that he would run for vice mayor under 2019 mayoral aspirant, Rep. Jerry Treñas, caught some of their respective supporters by surprise.
Most of those astonished and stunned were critics of both Treñas and Ganzon who probably forgot the most fundamental age-old political adage that politics is a strange bedfellows.
Many of those who could not accept Treñas as a combacking kid but were so enamored with Ganzon since last year as a possible mayoral bet to be handpicked by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, suddenly find themselves in awkward position.
Many of those who loathed Ganzon but continued to fantasize Treñas as a local folk hero suddenly turned tight-lipped and were unable to come to terms especially when they were openly rooting for someone else as Treñas’ vice mayoral candidate.


With the recent development, the suspicions of many Ilonggos that Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III will actually swap position with his brother-in-law Treñas, has been bolstered.
They are now inclined to believe that Espinosa III will no longer run for city mayor and will instead train his guns in the congressional contest.
If Joe III is still interested to run for city mayor, they believe the best person who should reveal his runningmate should be Joe III, not Treñas.
Both Treñas and Joe III are carefully playing their political cards with aplomb.
They are aware that if they continue to befuddle their rivals, a doubly whammy victory in the 2019 elections wouldn’t be far-fetched.
If they don’t pretend that they are at loggerheads, their rivals can still do something earthshaking in the next few months to stymie their candidacies and prevent them from scoring another gut-wrenching political shutout.
It’s been a long time since the opposition in Iloilo City has tasted a sweet victory over political demigods in the categories of Treñas and Joe III.


Now it can be told.
Iloilo City could not be the “most shabulized” in the Philippines.
Of the 207 barangay officials nationwide tagged by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to be involved in illegal drugs, only one punong barangay (village chief) from Iloilo City was included on the scandalous list.
And even if the name of Gemma Caldazo, outgoing chief of Brgy. Kasing-Kasing, Molo, Iloilo City was mentioned, her alleged involvement in illegal drugs wasn’t yet proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Since the PDEA list was disclosed two weeks before the May 14 barangay elections, it’s possible that some of them were only victims of political black propaganda.
In other words, not all of the 207 officials could be guilty.
As somebody who grew up in Iloilo City, I don’t buy it hook, line, and sinker that some officials in Barangay Kasing-Kasing, Molo, where former Vice Mayor Guillermo dela Llana lives, are the most notorious in terms of involvement in illegal drugs.
The PDEA list would have been more credible if it was released not during the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan election season.
The timing was suspect.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

No graft case vs Iloilo’s ‘Roderick Paulate’

“Anyone in a position of power is either corrupt or assumed to be corrupt, and the assumption of corruption is as bad as the reality of it.”
--Stanley A. McChrystal

By Alex P. Vidal

-- All over the Philippines, it’s not only Quezon City Councilor Roderick Paulate who is allegedly guilty of hiring “ghost employees” and pocketing their salaries.
Paulate and his driver and liaison officer Vicente Bajamunde, accused of pocketing salaries of “ghost employees” amounting to P1.109 million, have been formally charged by the Office of the Ombudsman.
They have posted a bail for their temporary liberty.
But there were “Roderick Paulates” in other cities and provinces in the Philippines who have not been indicted in court.
Either the cases against them were weak or their accusers have failed to produce substantial pieces of evidence to pin them down.
Or they decided to chicken out for fear of reprisal or lack of will and determination to pursue the truth and seek justice.
Some of them, after realizing they have no chance to wiggle out from the mess, decided not to run for reelection or opted to fly the coop.


There was a sensational case in 2006 involving an Iloilo city councilor caught unprepared during a radio interview and admitted hiring a certain couple as “laborers.”
Unknown to the city councilor, reporters had already checked with the Sangguniang Panlungsod and discovered the couple she mentioned didn’t have the job orders.
To compound the matter, the couple personally complained to media their names were included in city councilor’s legislative payroll for October 1-15 indicating they each received P2,200.
They never received a single centavo, the couple protested.
They also denied they were the city councilor’s employees.
No case has been filed against the city councilor but the city councilor decided not to seek for reelection in the following year's local elections.
The city councilor, highly respected in the community and with excellent track record in the business sector, cried political harassment.
Since the accusers failed to file a formal case against the city councilor other than “besmirching” the city councilor’s reputation, most of the city councilor’s supporters believed the issue leveled against the city councilor was indeed politically motivated.
The city councilor’s detractors, however, believed otherwise.


Also, nobody has been indicted in the alleged discovery of several “ghost employees” in the Iloilo City task force against illegal parking created in 2014.
It may be recalled that Councilor Plaridel Nava of the city's transportation committee disclosed that under the supplemental budget, P212,000 had been allocated for the creation of a task force against illegal parking.
The councilor estimated at least 100 city employees were probably fictitious.
In this controversy, nobody was named as culprit and charged in the Office of the Ombudsman like Paulate.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Alan loses credibility

“A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn't mean relinquishing one's rights. It means engaging with one's counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives.” 
--Hassan Rouhani

By Alex P. Vidal

-- If he still has a delicadeza left in him, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano should have resigned immediately when news broke out that the Kuwaiti Government has expelled Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa.
Villa has been declared as persona non grata after Kuwait learned that several distressed Filipino OFWs were rescued from their employers with the help of the Philippine Embassy.
Kuwait’s harsh decision against Villa came after Cayetano, a politician before becoming a diplomat, apologized to Kuwaiti Ambassador Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh that the Philippine government had to take action upon receiving requests for help from distressed Filipino workers.
Villa was ordered kicked out after the Kuwaiti ambassador had a meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte in Davao City on April 22.


In other words, Kuwait did not accept Cayetano’s lullaby.
The tiny but oil-rich Middle East country didn’t take the Philippines’ foreign affairs boss seriously.
If a sincere apology from a foreign affairs chief of one nation over a sensitive matter has been ignored and bypassed, either that foreign affairs chief has no credibility or he is a lousy chief diplomat.
Since the issue was widely reported all over the world, it gave Cayetano a king-sized embarrassment in the diplomatic community which is a big blow to his credibility.


As expected, no serious troublemaker made a scene when Boracay was shut down on April 26.
There was no untoward incident related to the closure order.
Which made the presence of combat-ready members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) unnecessary as we wrote earlier.
Until the 11th hour, PNP and AFP bigwigs continued to downplay criticism that the presence of soldiers and cops was tantamount to a case of “overkill.”
Since the purpose of Boracay’s temporary closure for six months was “rehabilitation” or “cleaning up operation”, there was no need to militarize the hitherto most preferred tourist destination in the Philippines.


When time beckoned for Boracay’s sunset, there was no sighting of NPA or Muslim rebels or members of cause-oriented groups sympathetic to establishment owners and local folks using ferry or speed boats from Caticlan wharf to the main island to instigate insurrection or create mayhem.
There were no armed goons hired by disgruntled resort owners and irate residents to block government representatives from implementing the presidential closure fiat.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Life)

You are free to give life meaning, whatever meaning you want to give it.

LIFE means, 1. To exist and co-exist harmoniously; 2. To love one another; 3. To take care of our environment; 4. To be productive; 5. To serve God and obey our parents; 6. To advocate love, peace and harmony; 7. To be decent and law-abiding; 8. To respect the universal laws on human, alien and animal rights.


Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Listener)

It takes a great man to be a good listener.

Ordinary people aren't exempted from becoming great if they practice the art of listening and incorporate it with the art of learning. Listening will open the doors of knowledge; learning will open the gates of wisdom.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Character)

Nothing shows a man's character more than what he laughs at.

Laughing at a circus joker who tumbles upside down while performing acrobatics is no big deal; that’s a normal reaction. Laughing at a fat lady who rolled seven times after accidentally slipping on a banana peel means there is a need to check our GMRC.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Are you mentally OK, kapitan?

“Do you know the difference between neurotics and psychotics? Neurotics build castles in the sky; psychotics move into them.”
― Tanya Thompson

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- Even before the start of the campaign period for the 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in the Philippines, some candidates were already showing signs of mental disorder or psychopathy.
In the previous elections neuro test wasn’t required when candidates filed their certificates of candidacy (COC), so we can't expect that all winners in the May 14, 2018 elections will be sane and mentally fit.
A legislation must be pushed to empower the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to cancel or declare as null and void the victory of any barangay official--chairman, councilman or SK official--found to be unfit mentally or with serious case of neurosis.
So many cases of insanity or weird behaviors displayed by elected barangay officials have been recorded in the past.
Instead of being an asset to the smallest political unit in the country, barangay aldermen with brain damage have become thorns and liabilities.
In the early 90’s, for instance, a forlorn punong barangay or village chief in Iloilo City missed golden opportunities to serve his constituents and shine as a promising leader because he had to spend much of his time in the psychiatric ward of the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC).


In one media gathering held at the RPTA Hall of the old Iloilo provincial capitol sometime in December 1992, a “deranged” village chief suddenly barged inside and threatened to throw a grenade into the crowd.
The late DYRP broadcaster Sol Genson pacified the “lunatic” and convinced him to leave the premises when everyone was adamant to talk to him.
He was boisterous and uncontrollable but eventually listened to Sol, his drinking buddy at Virgo night club.
When the late Pres. Cory Aquino appointed Rosa "Tita" Caram as OIC city mayor in April 1986, another “lunatic” village chief asked Iloilo City’s first woman local chief executive to extend the route of Dinagyang tribes to Port San Pedro "so that people of Guimaras and Negros can watch the event."
Mayor Caram, wife of former Iloilo Assemblyman Fermin “Nene” Caram, dismissed his "crazy" idea right away.
A village chief in Jaro district always brought with him a monkey in the barangay hall because the monkey had supposedly helped “inspire” him when he won in the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” show in Manila.
He accused a barangay councilman of poisoning the monkey, who died under a mysterious circumstance.
The “lunatic” village chief reportedly wanted to bury the animal in Christ The King Cemetery in Ungka, Jaro district and wanted to use the barangay funds.
"I opposed this crazy idea of our kapitan!" shouted the suspect in the monkey's death, who came to our office at Sun Star Iloilo to report the "abuse of authority."


Former Iloilo Gov. Simplicio “Sim” Grino had to ask help from provincial tourism officer Manny Benedicto to escort a disoriented village chief back from capitol to the lunatic's municipality in Dumangas because he kept on addressing Gov. Grino as "Congressman Monfort" and for loitering inside the governor's office.
"Indi ako si Narsing (the late Iloilo 4th district Rep. Narciso Monfort). Si Sim ako. Gob Sim Grino kapila ka na gid hambalan (I am Gov. Sim Grino and I have already corrected you several times)," an impatient Grino ribbed the village chief.
"Lakat ta kap makadto ta kay Narsing (Come kapitan, we will go to Narsing)," Benedicto convinced the village chief.
It’s the most common dilemma. Because vote-buying has been rampant even in the barangay level, hoodlums and mentally deranged can be elected into office.
If a punong barangay is not a drug addict, he is a drug pusher.
If he is not engaged in selling of illegal drugs, he is engaged in illegal gambling and maintenance of prostitution dens--or in cahoots with operators of these illegal activities.
Or he is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Let’s scrutinize our candidates carefully and vote wisely.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

We’ll wake you up in October

“The thing about tourism is that the reality of a place is quite different from the mythology of it.”
-- Martin Parr

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Good night, Boracay.
Sleep well starting April 26, 2018 and allow efforts by the national government to deodorize, purify, and clean you up.
You will undergo a massive rehabilitation and a little face-lifting for six months, as promised by the Duterte administration.
You will take a unique forced “vacation leave” and will temporarily be dislodged from the radar of the world’s most preferred tourist destinations this summer.
Since business will come to a screeching halt albeit temporarily, the island’s economy will go slow, too, and is expected to have a domino effects in the Local Government Unit of Malay, Aklan and its environs.

Activities and work forces in resorts, hotels, and restaurants will have to be dispersed for a brief moment, and the idyllic beach will be free from contamination of human wastes and sewage from commercial establishments for the time being.
Filipinos will be waiting with bated breath as the combined forces of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Tourism (DoT), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), provincial government of Aklan, municipal government of Malay, the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) do their Herculean tasks.
Boracay, we promise to wake you up in October.


Robert Bly’s “Waking from Sleep” can be best dedicated to Boracay’s temporary slumber:

Inside the veins there are navies setting forth,
Tiny explosions at the waterlines,
And seagulls weaving in the wind of the salty blood.
It is the morning. The country has slept the whole winter.
Window seats were covered with fur skins, the yard was full of stiff dogs, and hands that clumsily held heavy books.
Now we wake, and rise from bed, and eat breakfast!
Shouts rise from the harbor of the blood,
Mist, and masts rising, the knock of wooden tackle in the sunlight.
Now we sing, and do tiny dances on the kitchen floor.
Our whole body is like a harbor at dawn;
We know that our master has left us for the day.

Monday, April 23, 2018

‘AIDS of environment’ worse than ‘cesspool’

“We don't have to sacrifice a strong economy for a healthy environment.”
-- Dennis Weaver

By Alex P. Vidal

-- When tourists fled from Guimaras’ popular beach resorts as a result of the worst oil spill in the Philippines when the oil tanker Solar I went down off Guimaras Island in August 2006, Nagarao Beach, among other resorts within the coastal area, suffered worse than what is about to happen to Boracay in Malay, Aklan which closes down for six months starting April 26, 2018.
While President Rodrigo R. Duterte tagged Boracay as “cesspool”, the tragedy that hit Guimaras resorts was called as the “AIDS of environment.”
A “cesspool” beach can be rehabilitated with total support from government, while a famous tourist destination with location in the vicinity of an “AIDS environment” might not be able to spring back to life.
Even if those affected by the oil spill sued the oil refiner Petron Corporation for millions of damages, resort owners failed to attract back tourists who used to flock the island’s beautiful resorts and beaches even after the rehabilitation.


Martin Stummer, owner of Nagarao Beach, had warned: "The ill effects on the health of the residents will be felt until ten years and even beyond."
Although still popular among the tourists who used to visit the island for snorkeling and diving--especially those with links to Stummer’s European networks--the 10-hectare Nagarao Beach, located off the coast of Sibunag town, was never the same again.
The coastal areas of Nueva Valencia, Sibunag and San Lorenzo towns were among the areas worst hit by the oil spill from the 998-ton tanker MT Solar 1 that sunk on Aug. 11, 2006 while transporting about two million liters of bunker fuel oil from Limay, Bataan.
The oil slick had reached Concepcion and Ajuy towns in Iloilo province.


If the dumped sewage will be rehabilitated, Boracay can be back to business in October or even earlier, according to government officials.
In 2017, Boracay had 500 tourism-related businesses, which had a combined revenue of P56 billion.
The president lashed at the island’s hotels, restaurants and other businesses, accusing them of dumping sewage directly into the sea and turning it into a “cesspool” in February this year.
Boracay’s drainage system was being used to send the untreated sewage into its surrounding turquoise waters, reported the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Some 195 businesses, along with more than 4,000 residential customers, were not connected to sewer lines, the DENR further discovered.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Journalist Herbert Vego and the New York Parade

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.”
-- Gilbert K. Chesterton

By Alex P. Vidal

-- I’m glad to know that a legitimate and truly respected veteran journalist from Iloilo City, Philippines will be coming to New York City to chronicle the 120th Philippine Independence Day Parade on June 3, 2018.
Herbert Vego, 68, a columnist and editor since obtaining an AB-Journalism course at the Manuel L. Quezon University in 1971, will also actually join the Philippines’ official representative, 2018 Dinagang Festival grand winner Tribu Panayanon of Iloilo City National High School, in the celebration for the Filipino American community held every year at Madison Avenue.
In New York, Mr. Vego is expected to meet and interview philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis, the Parade’s chief supporter and the most influential leader, among other celebrities, in the Filipino American community.
Mr. Vego, who hails from San Pedro, Antique, is one of the only few living, most active and highly respected Ilonggo journalists today who emerged unscathed from the dark years of Martial Law in the 70s.


He is also expected to reunite and interview New York-based Filipino president of the World Youth Alliance (WYA), Lord Leomer Pomperada, 26, son of Vego’s friend, Merlyn Bayombong, of San Jose, Antique.
More importantly, Mr. Vego will finally have a chance to embrace his only son, Norberto, a nurse, who has been based in upstate New York, after a long time.
Tribu Panayanon has received invitations to join the parade from the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) through past president Joji Jalandoni, who graced the 2018 Dinagyang Festival together with liaison officer Jay Balnig in January.
Iloilo City Mayor Jose Espinosa III, Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc. (IDFI) chairperson Ramon Cua Locsin and City Tourism Office chief Junel Ann Divinagracia are expected to spearhead the Dinagyang entourage.
The tribe was expected to hurdle financial difficulties that nearly stymied its participation in the 2018 Aliwan Fiesta in Manila, an annual competition of the country’s best festivals, from April 26 until 28.


SERENO AND THE ILONGGO LAWYERS. On-leave Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who has been busy attending graduation ceremonies all over the country, was recently seen in several photo-ops with prominent personalities in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Iloilo Chapter.
She seemed to be “at home” with her companeros and companeras in that part of the country.
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) national president Abdiel Dan Fajardo, incidentally, is an Ilonggo who has been consistently calling for independence among government branches and the respect for law in the country.
Fajardo urged President Rodrigo Duterte and other public officials in September last year to not be “onion-skinned” as “a government official holds his life open to public scrutiny.”
Fajardo has been standing firm that the Supreme Court en banc has no jurisdiction over the integrity issue of a chief justice even as he echoed the assertion of Sereno's camp that the correct way to remove a sitting chief justice is through the process of impeachment.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fil-Am customer: Don’t boycott Starbucks

“I noticed that I got a better space in the line in Starbucks when I had my tattoo. People associate tattoos with a certain edge. Then I open my mouth, and something completely different comes out.”
--Wentworth Miller

By Alex P. Vidal

-- A Filipino-American “regular” customer of Starbucks has urged his fellow Fil-Ams “not to be carried away by their emotions” and to reject a call to boycott the behemoth American coffeehouse chain over an incident in Philadelphia on April 12 where two black customers were arrested by cops after the manager called 911.

ROMMEL LEAL (left) and the Author inside Starbucks New York
“No need to boycott Starbucks,” enthused Rommel Leal, 47, of Jamaica, Queens. “The actuation (of the manager) to call the police was wrong, yes, but the customers, I mean all customers, should at least order something like a cup of coffee or a cake while waiting for someone.”
Leal, who regularly orders freshly brewed coffee from the popular coffeehouse, considered as third largest fast food restaurant chain by number of locations in the world, said, “the customers must also understand that any establishment is into business.”


“The management has the right to ask the customers to order something once they are inside the establishment, but they must do it in a nice manner,” stressed Leal, who hails from Lambunao, Iloilo in the Philippines.
He admitted that “there are still some racist characters in the labor industry in America in this generation” but “the incident in Starbucks Philadelphia does not usually occur regularly.”
He emphasized that the manager erred when she called the police since the two customers were not making any trouble and did not even panic when the cops handcuffed them.
Leal said if not for the recorded video of the arrest, which became viral and was viewed 11 million times on Twitter, the incident wouldn’t have attracted a tidal wave of protests and #BoycottStarbucks campaign at the store, in Philadelphia’s Center City.
In order to avoid the predicament of the two black customers identified as Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, both 23, Leal exhorted customers “in any store” to place an order “even if it is the cheapest coffee or cake.”


“I regularly patronize the Starbucks anywhere in New York and in New Jersey because of the nature of my job, but once I enter the store’s premises, I immediately order a cup of coffee. It’s not in my nature to stay there doing nothing,” Leal said. “I know I am in a premises that is engaged in a legitimate business.”
Nelson and Robinson claimed they entered the Philadelphia Starbucks for a business meeting involving real estate that they had been working on for months.
Nelson asked to use the restroom and was told by the manager that they were only for paying customers. He then joined Robinson at a table to wait for the person they planned to meet. The manager approached, asked them if they wanted to order drinks. They declined.
The police were called approximately two minutes after the men entered the store, it was reported.
Nelson said: “Initially, as soon as they approached us, they just said we have to leave. There was no question of, you know, was there a problem here between you guys and the manager?”
As a result of the furor, the Starbucks management will close all his 8,000 stores in the United States on May 29 to provide anti-bias training to 175,000 employees.
Leal said he hoped the incident in Philadelphia will not happen to other customers who are not white like him.
“I know my rights. It can’t happen to me as long as I order and pay my coffee,” he concluded.

Richard goes to social media for Janette

“A real man loves his wife, and places his family as the most important thing in life. Nothing has brought me more peace and content in life than simply being a good husband and father.”
--Frank Abagnale

By Alex P. Vidal

-- No one can now accuse him of just watching and doing nothing while his wife is being saddled by a heavy storm.
Because he can’t openly lash at the critics of his beleaguered wife, Dr. Janette Loreto-Garin, 
for delicadeza, Iloilo 1st district Rep. Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr. has opted to utilize his Facebook accounts to “share” some news from several media websites that somehow tended to “cushion the impact” of Sen. Richard Gordon’s draft report of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on the P3.5 billion dengue vaccination program.
The news Rep. Garin shared in his two Facebook accounts these past days appeared to be balanced, objective, and weren’t tainted with any bias in favor of Gordon’s committee draft that recently recommended charges against Loreto-Garin, former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, and former Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad in relation to the botched deal.


Rep. Garin must have felt there was a need for him to urgently disseminate those articles not only to his social media friends but also to the public in general, in order to help disabuse the minds of those who think that his wife, Mr. Aquino and Abad are guilty beyond reasonable doubt and, thus, deserve the guillotine.
He probably wanted those who have not yet seen or read the draft committee to take a second look at the stormy issue and scrutinize further the evidence presented, as well as the sides of the accused and their accusers.
If Rep. Garin did nothing and acted only like a deaf and mute kibitzer while Gordon’s committee draft was ripping apart the three like ribbons, his family, friends and constituents will think he is an irresponsible, insensitive and a coward husband who has no love and concern for an embattled wife.


For her part, Loreto-Garin herself has insisted the program was not rushed as talks about a dengue vaccine started in the time of her predecessor, Dr. Enrique Ona, and ended in the time of her successor, Dr. Paulyn Ubial.
Ubial was among those who pinned down Loreto-Garin. She filed a libel case against Ubial and several others in return.
It was reported that some 830,000 schoolchildren were vaccinated under the program before drug maker Sanofi Pasteur admitted late last year that Dengvaxia may cause severe dengue when administered to patients who have not contracted the mosquito-borne disease before.
The Duterte administration has since suspended its dengue vaccination program, but several parents claimed that their children died due to complications from the vaccine. These claims, however, have yet to be proven, it was reported earlier.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Failure)

No man is a failure who is enjoying life.

Failure is not measured by our incapability to secure a fat bank account, high-paying job, house and lot, car, iPhone, business empire, election win, Marilyn Monroe or Tom Cruise partners, or Olympic gold. Failure is when we stop believing in our capacity to think, our power to create, and refusal to tap the supreme force of our moral courage to hammer out a genuine joy and satisfaction based on simplicity and humility.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Emily Lopez, first victim of gossip, fake news

“There is a fundamental difference between men and women - women need romance, men need intrigue.”
--Sherry Argov

By Alex P. Vidal

-- The decision of former Guimaras Gov. Emily Relucio-Lopez to stay away from the kitchen when the heat became unbearable in 2006 was a brilliant move.
Her “premature” retirement from politics, as well, was mourned by her admirers, including some members of Iloilo media, but was hailed by friends who wanted to shield her from “dirty world of politics.”
Relucio-Lopez was supposed to get an ambassadorial post to Italy under the Arroyo administration, but merchants of intrigues and gossipers made sure she would be sideswiped from selection process.
As soon as her name surfaced as among those being considered by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the post, green-eyed monsters started to circulate ugly stories about her relationship with husband, former Iloilo second district Rep. Albertito Lopez.
Her detractors tried to flood the mass media with fake news (it’s good social media wasn’t so influential at that time) that Chona Mejia, Rep. Lopez’s estranged wife, was sharpening her knife and was poised to appear in the Commission on Appointments (CA) to “spell the beans” and oppose the former governor’s appointment.
It was actually Sen. Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III who was painting the town red portraying Relucio-Lopez to be “unworthy” of the ambassadorial position.


Osmeña had ax to grind against Relucio-Lopez because his wife, Betina, was Chona Mejia’s daughter with Rep. Lopez.
According to Osmeña, the marriage between Chona and Rep. Lopez has never been annulled and there was no divorce in the Philippines.
When reached by reporters for comment, Chona Mejia reportedly denied she was planning a CA ambush against Relucio-Lopez.
She admitted though she tried to campaign against Relucio-Lopez when the latter ran for office in Guimaras in the 90’s.
Chona Mejia, too, appeared to have let bygones be bygones and wasn’t interested anymore to dip her fingers into the murky waters of politics.
True or not, Osmeña’s saber rattling was dismissed by Relucio-Lopez’s sympathizers as an “intriga” (intrigue) and a “tsismis” (gossip).
It was also belittled as an “estoppel” since Relucio-Lopez had also previously served as congresswoman in Guimaras aside from governor in the island province; her relationship with Rep. Lopez was never used with extreme necessity by her political enemies to stymie her stint as public servant.
It was tsismis or gossip that toppled Relucio-Lopez from the ambassadorial post to Italy.


We remember Gov. Relucio-Lopez’s predicament amid the decision of Facebook to lower the boom on fake news websites in the Philippines that contain false information.
The lady governor would have been a victim of cyber or internet bullying if social media was active during her time.
An outstanding public servant, Relucio-Lopez was a big loss in Philippine politics.
The idea of building a bridge between Guimaras and Iloilo had been conceptualized during her term as governor.
She refused to seek reelection for congresswoman at the time when Guimaras was starting to attract foreign investors and when “delicious” Guimaras mango became an international sensation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Iloilo always survives

“We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.”
--Dalai Lama

By Alex P. Vidal

-- In every economic and political upheaval in the Philippines, Ilonggos always survived since time immemorial.
When political situation turns wild and woolly and deteriorates in Metro Manila, the Ilonggos are unfazed; capitol and city hall officials offer their shoulders for one another to lean on.
This has happened during the turbulent moments of administrations before and after the EDSA revolution.
When natural calamity hit the country, Ilonggos are ready lock, stock, and barrel for any emergency assistance in terms of manpower, goods, and food supply.
Ilonggos are deeply religious and they attribute every thing that provides them relief and comfort to the Divine Providence.
Also, unlike other elected officials in the Philippines who justify immorality -- and even paraded their inamoratas in public -- Iloilo city and province have been blessed with mostly “morally upright” leaders.
We remember 18 years ago in a speech during the “Kruzada Kontra Sa Druga” at the Iloilo Amphitheater on September 14, 1999, Gov. Art Defensor warned the Ilonggos that a country, a territory, a city or province, can only deteriorate if it is already in the threshold of moral shambles.
Defensor was talking about the period of the Principate, which was the age of moral decay in the Roman Civilization.


Divorce among upper classes was so common as to be scarcely a matter of remark.
According to the records, there were 32,000 prostitutes in Rome during the reign of Trajan, and, judging from the testimony of some of the most famous writers, homosexuality was exceedingly common and even fashionable.
While political corruption had been subjected to more stringent control, crimes of violence appear to have increased.
This was the period when shabu and other illegal drugs weren’t yet common.
Moral indictment became serious which can be brought against the age.
It was the further growth of the passion for cruelty; the great games and spectacle became bloodier and more disgusting than ever before.


The Romans could no longer obtain a sufficient thrill from mere exhibitions of athletic prowess; even pugilists were required to have their hands wrapped with tongs of leather loaded with iron or lead.
The most popular amusement of all was watching the gladiatorial combats in the Colosseum or in the other amphitheaters capable of accommodating thousands of spectators.
Most of the gladiators were condemned criminals or slaves, but some were volunteers even from the respectable classes.
The Princeps Commondus, the worthless son of Marcus Aurelius, entered the arena several times for the sake of the plaudits of the mob.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Iloilo TV host cancels $2,000 Bitcoin investment

“I get a ton of scam emails. But instead of deleting them, I decided to hit reply.”
-- James Veitch

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Last Monday, April 9, Edeza, a female TV host from Iloilo in the Philippines confirmed to this writer she was “finalizing” the release of her money worth $2,000 (Philippine peso 101,040) for investment in “Bitcoin” run by a New York-based Filipino friend.
“I was told my money will earn $300 (P15,606) every 15 days,” the TV host told this writer. “Amazing and very exciting.”
Edeza claimed several of her Filipino friends in New York and New Jersey have already earned a windfall after investing in Bitcoin.
“They showed to me their evidence in a form of checks that they received,” Edeza disclosed. “More of our friends are planning to put their money in Bitcoin.”
She was about to meet the Bitcoin orchestrator that morning and hand over her $2,000 when she was dissuaded by a female friend who had misgivings about the investment scheme.
Over lunch, the concerned friend was hard-pressed to convince Edeza to abandon the investment in Bitcoin.


A day later on April 10, the Philippine media reported that the couple engaged in a P900-million pyramiding scam it passed off as a Bitcoin investment scheme has been arrested after an entrapment operation in Ilocos Sur recently.
Edeza called me up and reported that after watching the news of the couple’s arrest, she decided to cancel her investment in a New York-based Bitcoin investment scheme.
“Although I had been warned by concerned friends, I didn’t believe them until I saw the news of the couple’s arrest on television,” Edeza confirmed.
Edeza theorized Arnel and Leonady Ordonio, the arrested couple, were connected with the Bitcoin group that earlier managed to convince her in Queens, New York.
There was no immediate evidence that would link the couple to the “Bitcoin” group in New York but Edeza’s friends cautioned other would-be investors to first check the veracity of the orchestrators’ claims that they’re legitimate and are not engaged in monkey business.


The Ordonio couple was charged with estafa/swindling and syndicated estafa in the Department of Justice and remained in the custody of the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
One-time scam victim, PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa, who advised the public not to fall for investment schemes promising huge returns, quipped, ”If you encounter a scheme that is too good to be true--offering a huge interest rate--that’s a scam. Don’t be fooled.”
Edeza, 51, said she would now divert her money to build a four-door apartment worth P3 million in the Philippines.
“My $2,000 may not be too big, but the amount can help defray the initial expenses in the apartment that I plan to build,” Edeza concluded.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Boracay isn’t a Marawi

“I think toilets are more important than temples. No matter how many temples we go to, we are not going to get salvation. We need to give priority to toilets and cleanliness.”
--Jairam Ramesh

By Alex P. Vidal

-- The plan to deploy hundreds of cops and military personnel for the six-month “rehabilitation” of the Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan starting on April 26, 2018, is not only unnecessary but overacting, to say the least.
If the island will be closed down to pave the way for cleanliness and overhaul program, the government should dispatch more civilian workers to rev up the manpower of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Tourism (DoT), and the provincial government of Aklan, not military.
Sending out 610 policemen and a still undetermined number of soldiers to a premier tourist spot “to maintain peace and order in the island” during rehabilitation is like deploying scuba divers to guard the deep water’s abyssal zone while garbage is being removed from the Pasig river.


Boracay is not a Marawi.
No terrorists in their right minds will invade the island and kidnap those busy putting away heaps of trash and demolishing illegal structures.
There are no Plaza Miranda, Mendiola bridge, and Quirino Grandstand in Boracay.
No disgruntled resort owner will hire a private army to harass those who carry brooms and other cleaning tools.
The Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 reportedly fears that some affected agencies and residents might put up a resistance when rehabilitation commences.
The Philippine Army also reportedly finds it necessary to deploy soldiers from the 301st Infantry Brigade to deal with members of cause oriented groups that might join the fray.


If we will use logic and common sense, cause oriented groups can’t occupy speed boats or motor vessels from Caticlan port just to intrude the island and disrupt the cleanliness program.
If security is tight, authorities can deal with them adequately right there in the mainland.
As for would-be recalcitrant residents and business owners, local police can easily nip them in the bud if they misbehave, which is a remote possibility after they have been thoroughly given proper information and orientation on the government’s plan for the island before hand.
If government representatives were able to explain that the rehabilitation will last only for six months, no Boracay resident and businessman with a normal frame of mind will defy lawful orders and risk being kicked out permanently from the island if not land in jail.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Never-ending ‘cleansing’ appeal

“The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder.”
--Richard J. Daley

By Alex P. Vidal

When will the final cleansing in the Philippine National Police (PNP) end?
In the first place, is there an ongoing and protracted cleansing process?
Every time a PNP director general will retire and a new successor will take over, the battle cry of incoming PNP chief has always been, “We will cleanse the PNP with scalawags and bad eggs”; “We will reform the PNP”; “We will dismiss the rotten apples”, etcetera.
Since the PNP was formed on January 29, 1991, Chief Supt. Cesar P. Nazareno, the first PNP big boss since the Integrated National Police and the Philippine Constabulary were merged pursuant to Republic Act 6975 of 1990, was already parroting “reforms” and promising to kick out from service undesirable policemen.


“My first instruction to incoming PNP chief Oscar Albayalde is to go after PNP personnel who are a disgrace to their uniform, especially those who are AWOL, sleeping, non-performing, and drinking on the job. All of them should be dismissed from the service,” Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año said over the weekend.
After 27 years, the PNP wasn’t yet reformed?
Scoundrels in uniform weren’t yet terminated?
Año added: “I told General Albayalde to cleanse the police ranks of bad eggs in order to make the DILG the best department in government. The PNP leadership should conduct more of the surprise inspections so that we can weed out the non-performing police officer.”
It seems the PNP is the only organization in the world permanently embroiled in a long-lasting appeal for “internal cleansing” and “reforms.”


Tourism officials in nearby provinces should come up with master plans to promote their respective tourist destinations and take advantage of the six-month closure order imposed by President Duterte on Boracay Island in Caticlan, Aklan effective April 26.
Some tourists who have canceled their reservations in Boracay might be interested to explore in neighboring Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros where there are prestine beaches, waterfalls, and world class resorts like Boracay, aside from their magnificent parks and islands, especially this summer.
Now is the right time to mobilize their resources and show to the world that Boracay is not the end-all and be-all of tourism wonders in Panay Island.
They may take a cue from the recent announcement of Iloilo Governor Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr. to establish a Northern Iloilo Tourism Authority (NITA).
Defensor probably intends to attract those who have been tantalized by Boracay’s beauty to take a closer look at Sicogon Island in Carles, among other beaches with potentials in world tourism in the coastal territories of northern Iloilo.


Was President Duterte wrong to fire Undersecretary Maia Chiara Halmen Valdez of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary exactly a year ago?
Valdez was fired because she was supposedly seeking to overturn the denial of rice importation. National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Jason Aquino had been pushing for more rice imports.
The President has ordered Aquino to proceed with rice importation amid the dwindling supply of government-subsidized grain, exactly a year after giving Valdez the boot.

How I pick ‘Dr. Hannibal Lecter’

“You will not persuade me with appeals to my intellectual vanity.”
— Hannibal Lecter

By Alex P. Vidal

–– I must have picked the wrong guy when I pointed to a tattooed middle-aged hustler in Manhattan’s Union Square for my opponent recently in a “bullet chess” or blitz chess match.
The guy was a look-alike of Anthony Hopkins when he played Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a character in a series of suspense novels by Thomas Harris and introduced in a 1981 thriller novel Red Dragon as a forensic psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer.
“Dr. Hannibal Lecter” or DHL was only one of the four Union Square mainstays who challenged me for a chess match “for five bucks.”
I would be a hypocrite to deny I chose DHL over the three others after thinking he was a pushover or easy to beat.


Jiggz, who invited me earlier to invade Union Square with a promise to pay my round-trip ticket in the subway from Queens, made everyone’s head turn when she stoutly dangled a $20 bill and ribbed DHL: “Twinti bakzs!”
Without hesitation, “Dr. Hannibal Lecter” quickly retorted: “olrayt!”
I chided Jiggz reminding her the hustlers were only chanting “fayb bakzs”. She insisted for “twinti bakzs”, her voice was irritating and intimidating.
When DHL and I were about to begin the hypnotic three-minute Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation blitz, the crowd intensified, cajoled by Jiggz’s wager braggadocio.
Handling the white pieces, I marshaled 1. e4; DHL replied with e5; 2. Nf3-Nc6; 3. Bb5 a6; 4. Bxc6 and so on and so forth.
If the match didn’t get as far as the middle game, I wouldn’t notice I was heading for the catastrophe.
DHL, who didn’t nix pieces exchanges before five moves, parried my attacks with a masterful display of grit and proficiency as the partisan crowd egged and cheered him.


Several moves later, DHL’s deadly knight and bishop ripped apart my weakened pawn structure; security in the king side had been badly shattered.
As defeat became imminent, I raised the white flag and shook DHL’s hand.
Instead of planting his teeth hard on my neck as what Anthony Hopkins did to his victims in the “Silence of the Lambs”, Union Square’s DHL gave me a wink and collected Jiggz’s “twinti bakzs”.
DHL and his fellow chess hustlers had moved from the Washington Square Park–Bobby Fischer’s former territory–to the Union Square in 2013.
Jiggz coaxed DHL to play “wan mor game”. DHL said “yes”, I called it a day while the three other hustlers, DHL’s cheering squad, were waving and pleading for me to also play against them “but only for fayb bakzs.”
I said “no mas.”
Twinti bakzs were enough. Twinti fayb bakzs will be too much.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Knowledge)

There is no knowledge that is not power.

If we know nothing, read nothing, write nothing and say nothing, we become nothing. If we have knowledge, we can think and decide logically; we can protect our loved ones; we can recite our bill of rights; we can thwart the mystics and outwit the cynics.

Not easy to ‘phase out’ a sidekick

“You have a lot more freedom when you're the sidekick - you can bring a lot more of your own flavor to the role, and you can get away with a lot more.”
-- Bree Turner

By Alex P. Vidal

-- When critics did not like the way the late Ilonggo former Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez Sr. ran the Department of Justice (DOJ), they demanded his ouster.
They even coaxed then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to fire the controversial cabinet official accusing the former Iloilo City congressman of committing too many “embarrassing” gaffes.
“Sir Raul’s” detractors failed.
Amid the hailstorm of outcry from the opposition for his head, “Ate Glo” refused to be intimidated and stood by her DOJ secretary whom she considered to be “the most loyal cabinet official.”
She did not regret her decision to keep and shield the fire-spewing Gonzalez, famous in Iloilo City for his nerve-tingling “I will make life difficult for you” battlecry, referring to his political enemies who crossed his path when he was a member of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2004.
Gonzalez himself earned Ate Glo’s trust and admiration when he professed “deep” loyalty and devotion to the diminutive President even when Ate Glo was being threatened with violent removal by extremist rebels from the left and right, and by acerbic and aggressive onslaughts from the opposition headed by another Ilonggo Senator Frank Drilon and former President Erap Estrada’s family.


Such is the predicament DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguerre II is in today.
The opposition, led by Senator Pangilinan Francis Pangilinan, has been agitating for his dismissal.
“Matagal na natin hinihingi ang pagsibak kay Aguirre (We have long been asking for Aguirre’s removal). Hindi lang dapat sibakin kundi kasuhan ng plunder at kasong anti-graft sa dami ng kalokohan na kanyang pinaggagawa bilang DOJ secretary (He should not only be just removed from office but charged with plunder and graft for the foolishness he had done as the DOJ secretary),” Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP), has been quoted as saying in the news.
Will the opposition succeed?
Will they rewrite history?
Can they influence President Duterte’s thinking?
Like in the case of Gonzalez, who was DOJ boss in 2004-2009 during President Macapagal-Arroyo’s term, we doubt.
The DOJ secretary has always been one of the most trusted sidekicks of any President.


It is assumed that any DOJ secretary possesses the charisma and influence of Grigori Rasputin, a frustrated monk who played a major role in the court of Czar Nicholas II and was the most favorite of the Czar’s wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, before the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.
He is always considered to possess the brains and abilities of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief.
A DOJ secretary can be used as a major “tool” to run after recalcitrant opposition firebrands.
The DOJ secretary must be the President’s most trusted henchman, especially when the administration utilizes legal machinations to mow down the opposition and other “malcontents.”
Like the late Secretary Gonzalez, Secretary Aguirre is expected to “survive” and will not be “phased out” from the Duterte administration.
At least not yet--as long as he is “effective” and knows how to “make life difficult” for the President’s enemies.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Battle, Happiness)

Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles, but in avoiding them. A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.

A step backward is neither a sign of cowardice nor surrender; it's a preparation to take two to three steps forward. Avoiding conflict is winning half the battle. Choosing our battle is a wisdom for self preservation.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Nature)

One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken.

Our relationship with nature should be non-negotiable. We must obey nature if we wish to live in harmony and tranquility.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Employers of Joana Demafiles sentenced to death

Quick justice.

The Agence France-Presse has reported that a Kuwaiti court on Sunday (April 1) sentenced in absentia a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife to death by hanging over the murder of a Filipina maid, a judicial source said.

The court issued the sentence in the first hearing in the case of Joanna Demafelis, the 29-year-old maid whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait earlier this year.

The sentencing can still be appealed if the couple returns to Kuwait, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The Demafelis murder triggered a diplomatic crisis between Kuwait and the Philippines, prompting Manila to impose a departure ban for its citizens planning to work in the Gulf state.

The Lebanese-Syrian couple was arrested in February in the Syrian capital Damascus following an Interpol manhunt.

Syrian authorities handed the husband, Nader Essam Assaf, over to Lebanese authorities, while his Syrian wife remained in custody in Damascus.

An estimated 252,000 Filipinos and Filipinas work in Kuwait and depend on remittances to help their families back home.

Rights groups have raised alarm around the plight of workers in the Gulf and other Arab countries, where migrant labour is regulated under a system known as “kafala.”

The kafala, or sponsorship, system ties migrant workers’ visas to their employers, prohibiting workers from leaving or changing jobs without prior consent.

Scared of Lincoln Tunnel

“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”
--Corrie Ten Boom

By Alex P. Vidal

-- Of all the tunnels I have crossed, it’s the Lincoln Tunnel that doesn’t only give me cold creeps but also a dyed-in-the-wool goosebumps.
When I first crossed the tunnel three years ago, I had an eerie feeling; it’s like entering a hole with no assurance to see a light at the end.
The phobia was similar when I was “trapped” for about 12 minutes in a stranded 7 train from Queens to Manhattan in fall of 2017.
I felt like being locked inside a calaboose. I could pass out had the train was delayed for another five to 10 minutes.
The feeling revisited me again when the van I was riding before the Holy Week had to spend some 20 minutes doing detours in the dizzying Weehawken roads to avoid traffic before finally reaching the mouth of the tunnel.
It normally takes the rider a good five minutes before emerging from the tunnel.
The 1.5-mile-long (2.4 km) Lincoln Tunnel, opened to traffic for the first time in 1937, connects Weehawken, New Jersey to Midtown Manhattan.
If we don’t take a ferry boat or train, we pass through this tunnel, much heralded as the next great engineering triumph, from New York City to New Jersey City vice versa.


The tunnel is 95 feet underwater at its deepest point, and cost about $1.5 billion to build, reportedly adjusting for inflation.
It reportedly sees upwards of 120,000 cars passing through every day on the average, making it one of the busiest roadways in the United States.
Its separate bus lane sees about 1,700 buses every morning, primarily bringing its 62,000 commuters to the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Manhattan’s 42nd Street.
This was the second tunnel funded by the New Deal’s Public Work’s Administration in 1934, fresh off the success of the northern Holland Tunnel, the first mechanically ventilated underwater automobile tunnel to be built under the Hudson River.
A second tube was built shortly after the Lincoln Tunnel’s first, with a third requested due to increasing traffic built in the late 1950s.
The three tunnels service hundreds of thousands of cars and buses coming in and out of New York City to this day.
I find it more relaxing to take the train or bus when I travel from New York to New Jersey vice versa.