Saturday, August 31, 2019

'Massacro'

“A basketball team is like the five fingers on your hand. If you can get them all together, you have a fist. That's how I want you to play.”
--Mike Krzyzewski

By Alex P. Vidal


IT is not news if we lose a game in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
It is always expected since the tournament romped off in 1950.
Fans should refrain from bellyaching and finger-pointing.
We are not hypocrites to convince ourselves we can beat the logistically superior Goliaths of basketball from other continents.
What’s news is if we upset any team from Europe and America.
Another news--embarrassing it may seem--is if we lose by a mile or what the Italian pundits call as “massacro” or massacre like when Italy shamed the Philippines on Saturday, 108-62, in China.
It’s okay to lose, but, please, go down or get drowned with dignity by bringing their slippers to the deepest sea.
As they say in Italy, “Ridiamo per non piangere” or we laugh in order not to cry.
In the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain, Gilas Pilipinas did better despite suffering only hair-line defeats to Argentina, Croatia and Puerto Rico
And, hurray, we beat Senegal.

-o0o-

Sports supremacy is always measured by the country’s economic standing.
If you’re an economically struggling country from the Third World but happens to qualify in the World Cup or the Olympic Games like the Philippines, chances are you will be blown away by countries considered as economic super powers like Italy, Spain, USA, Russia, China, Serbia.
While poor countries have limited financial support for their athletes’ training, rich countries pamper their athletes and shower them with enormous financial and material assistance.
Even in the Olympic Games, the dominant countries are always those that dominate the world economy: USA, Russia, China, Japan, Germany, Korea, Great Britain, Canada.

-o0o-

Can we ever see again a Philippine basketball team in the World Cup where all cagers are pure Filipinos?
While we are happy for team Gilas Pilipinas, we really didn’t expect the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup third placer, the stage was different when the all-Filipino RP basketball team competed in the 1954 FIBA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and won the bronze medal.
In the 1954 FIBA World Cup (known at that time as the 2nd World Basketball Championship), the RP team did not have an Andray Blatche, center-forward of the Brooklyn Nets, recruited abroad to reinforce the Gilas Pilipinas.
We sent to Rio our best home-grown basketball players and we did not have to scout for naturalized reinforcements from the United States and Europe.

-o0o-

And we were so proud to see the brown cagers demolish Formosa (48-38), Israel (90-56), Canada (83-76), and Uruguay (67-63) through the heroics of Carlos “The Big Difference” M. Loyzaga.
We lost only to the eventual champion United States (43-56) and second placer Brazil (41-57) but it was our greatest moment in world basketball championship.
Loyzaga, who turned 84 last August 29, is widely regarded as the greatest Pinoy cager of his era, being the most dominant basketball star from the 1950s to the early 1960s.
A two-time Olympian (1952, 1956), Loyzaga helped the country become one of the best in the world at the time, winning four consecutive Asian Games gold medals (1951, 1954, 1958, 1962) and two consecutive FIBA Asia Championships (1960, 1963).
The country’s third place was the best finish by an Asian country and the Philippines have remained the only Asian medalist in the tournament until today.
To add prestige to our 1954 FIBA World Cup campaign, Loyzaga wound up as one of the tournament’s leading scorers with average of 16.4 points-per-game.
The Filipino player was named in the tournament's All-Star selection.
Nowadays it’s hard to duplicate Loyzaga’s achievements. We can produce a lot of promising cage stars from colleges and universities all over the country inspired by the performance of Gilas Pilipinas. But we can’t probably produce another Loyzaga in the next 50 years.
Truly, what happened in Rio did not happen in Seville and won’t happen in China. With basketball in other European, North and Central America improving by leaps and bounds, it will probably never happen again.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

After 3 years Dragon's killers still unknown

"I have always been against the gangster as hero."
--Ruby Dee

By Alex P. Vidal


IT seems nobody is interested anymore to identify the real killers of Western Visayas' alleged drug lord Melvin "Boyet" Odicta Sr. alyas "Dragon" and his wife, Merriam.
No one from among his living lawyers (some of them have "disappeared" while another one had been murdered) and family is demanding for the reopening of the case or for further investigation.
Not a single relative or associate has come forward to demand "justice" for the double murders that, for a while, sent shock waves to major drug dealers and their minions in Panay Island and the entire Western Visayas for that matter.
Have they grudgingly accepted the couple's bizarre fate in silence without throwing a single punch in the arena of the justice system?
If they believed the couple was innocent and among the most prominent personalities victimized by extra-judicial killing (EJK) or summary execution in the infant stage of the Duterte administration, they should be making a noise and demanding for justice.

-o0o-

A lone gunman shot the Odicta couple as they alighted from a roll-on roll-off vessel at around 1:30 a.m. in Caticlan, Aklan on August 28, 2016.
Aside from the unidentified triggerman, several "back up" gunmen were believed to be on bard the vessel following the couple since the vessel left the Batangas port.
It was Merriam who was first fatally hit in the back and believed to have died before being rushed to the hospital.
Dragon, wounded on the leg, managed to call his lawyer Gualberto Cataluna over mobile phone.
Before being escorted to the hospital, policemen who arrived reportedly handcuffed Dragon.
Dragon was supposed to be brought to a Malay hospital but witnesses, including Cataluna, claimed policemen handcuffed him.
Minutes later, the man considered as "the most powerful and well-connected drug lord" in Western Visayas, was dead.
He had bullet wounds in the body and head, it was reported.
Before he died, Dragon witnessed how Merriam was peppered with bullets in the back.
The Odictas were officially declared dead on arrival in a Malay town hospital.

-o0o-


The couple was on the way to Iloilo from Manila where they were reported earlier to have "surrendered" to then Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael Sueno.
Some Ilonggos "credited" President Duterte and his then PNP chief and now Senator Ronald "Bato" De la Rosa for "putting away" a "big fish."
However, there were those who believed the Odictas were "silenced" by powerful people who have been protecting them and who reportedly "panicked" when they learned the Odictas had submitted a "list" to Sueno.
It was not known if Sueno, who resigned in 2017, gave the list to President Duterte.
Some of those who protected Dragon were allegedly politicians and police officials.
They haven't been named until today.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Paalam, Menchie

"Saying goodbye doesn't mean anything. It's the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it."
--Trey Parker

By Alex P. Vidal


I DEVELOPED a friendship with Dr. Carmencita "Menchie" Robles, 61, when I was writing for the News Express from 1988 until 1992.
Aside from being one of the original sentinels of the famed Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) TV-12 based in Iloilo City, Ms Menchie also taught in the West Visayas State University (WVSU) College of Mass Communications.
In the 1991 Palarong Pambansa hosted by the Iloilo Province, we worked together and shared data in the media center of the Iloilo Sports Complex.
There, we ensconced ourselves discussing about controversial 15-year-old La Union transgender athlete Nancy Navalta (who finally made headlines in 1993 Palarong Pambansa in Isabela).
Before Navalta rose to fame several years later, Ms Menchie and I were already talking about her and her potential as a world class runner.

-o0o-

In the finish line of the newly refurbished synthetic track oval where we waited for the sprinters, we noticed that Navalta was flat-chested and she had a mustache.
Ms. Menchie was enamored with Navalta, who routed her rivals in the women's 100-meter and 200-meter dashes.
"She could be the next Lydia de Vega," she mused.
It was finally in the 1994 Palarong Pambansa when people started calling Navalta the "next Lydia de Vega" referring to the talented female sprinter who won gold in the 1982 and 1986 Asian Games.
Ms. Menchie monitored Navalta's athletic career thereafter and we would exchange information about the controversial athlete's dramatic rise to stardom.
Navalta's 11.42 seconds in the 100-meter print in the next Palaro that earned her a spot in the Philippine delegation to the Atlanta Olympics was never given justice as she was denied her Olympic dream following the revelation of her test results by the Philippine Center for Sports Medicine that she had a condition called hermaphrodism.

-o0o-

Whenever there was a chance to meet and talk, we discussed only topics about sports and Nancy Navalta, about life in Iloilo media, among other interesting topics.
Ms. Robles would sometimes invite me as a resource speaker in her class.
We didn't communicate for a long time until we met again in New York City on June 4, 2018.
She was an official member of the delegation of the Iloilo City trade mission and investment forum.
"Is that Alex Vidal?" she asked the staff of Mrs. Gina Sarabia Espinosa, wife of then mayor Jose "Joe III" Espinosa III, who was with Ms. Menchie in a midtown Manhattan flat.
Somebody responded "yes."
I heard her voice; I was surprised to see her as I didn't have any idea she was there. I kissed her and we hugged each other as friends.

-o0o-


During the Philippine Independence Day parade June 2, we were together again along with Panay News' Herbert Vego and her former student, Regine Algecera, among other Ilonggos in the delegation.
That was our last meeting.
I learned yesterday from the Facebook post of Nereo Lujan, Ms. Menchie's former student, that she has passed away after a long bout with a lingering illness at the Metro Iloilo Hospital.
Even though we are intellectually aware that we and our friends are not invincible, it doesn’t make it any easier when someone we like dies.
We will be forever changed by our friend’s presence in our life and that is not a bad thing. Anytime that we suffer a loss, we are changed forever. Though it may not seem like it now, there will come a time that we will be grateful to have had this person in our life.
Rest in peace, Ms. Menchie. Jusqu'a ce que nous nous revoyions or 'till we meet again. 

You're a brave and worthy human being.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Monday, August 26, 2019

City hall's political vendetta

"In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia."
--George Orwell

By Alex P. Vidal


NO matter how the Iloilo City Legal Office package, justify, and camouflage the "electioneering" case recently filed against three City Hall officials Danny Tan, Vincent de la Cruz, and Eireen Manikan, Ilonggos will still sneer at it as nothing but a political vendetta.
Ilonggos weren't born yesterday to believe hook, line, and sinker that casual employees Dennis Biñas, Julia Bitonga, Jena Jose, and Donephine Domingo weren't coaxed, coached, and guided by some powerful subalterns of Mayor Geronimo "Jerry" Treñas to sue the three officials suspected of siding with former mayor Jose "Joe III" Espinosa III in the May elections.
Only fools will agree that the casual workers filed the case on their own volition and resources, and without any help or influence from the big bosses in the mayor's office.

-o0o-
Ilonggos will, of course, suspect that the four casual workers may have been dispatched by City Administrator Melchor Tan and briefed by City Legal Officer Edgardo Gil to formalize the cases for violation of the Election Code/Fair Election Act, Civil Service Law, and Republic Act No. 6713 (Code of Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Employees) against Tan, de la Cruz, and Manikan.
Administrator Tan is in charge of the hiring and appointment of casual employees, while Gil has been very vocal and sharply familiar with the case as if the four complainants are under his direct supervision.
The casual workers have singled out the three officials to be the ones who called them for a meeting at City Hall sometime in February, or three months before the elections, allegedly to compel them to support Espinosa III.
They considered the statement as a threat “since our employment is at the stake if we will not follow his instruction.”
They added in a statement: "We were likewise directed to recruit at least 10 persons to attend ‘Pag-ulikid’."
Many believed that Espinosa anchored his bid to keep his office through “Pag-ulikid sang Syudad”, a community outreach program that brought city government frontline services to the barangays.

-o0o-

Since it appears to be crystal clear that City Hall may be behind the legal juggernaut against the three suspected Espinosa III backers now bearing the brunt of an apparent "witch hunt" under the Treñas administration, some Ilonggos may view this internal pandemonium to be an "obvious political persecution."
Granting that Tan, de la Cruz, and Manikan really rooted for Espinosa III in the recent polls, their "offense" should be understandable and even pardonable since, they too, were part of a system that demands adherence to the status quo.
It's not about personality, but more as jurisdiction and stability.
The reality is because most department heads or officials holding permanent positions in any government office normally develop a "good working relationship" (euphemism for affection or feeling of endearment) with whoever is the incumbent (appointed or elected) mayor, governor, director, secretary, or general manager, partisanship in incoming competition or election is hard to reject and avoid.
The relationship should be mutual and necessary; they, as top officials and administrators tasked with major obligations and responsibilities, must and need to treat each other as members of one family.
The relationship they develop shouldn't be considered as a political crime because it metamorphosed in the name public service, not because they hate someone who has just taken over the helm.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Kasadyahan’s emancipation

“Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience.”
--Hyman Rickover

By Alex P. Vidal


THE good news is the Kasadyahan Festival will no longer be a second class citizen.
If plans do not miscarry, it will have its own identity and territorial waters, no longer as a curtain-raiser for the well-fed Ati Festival.
Dinagyang Festival’s spoiled brat, Ati dance contest will always be the main attraction of Iloilo City’s biggest festival held every fourth weekend of January to honor the Christianization of the natives and to respect the Holy Child Jesus.
Kasadyahan will remain a second fiddle forever.
It’s time to cut and cut clean.
Both events have been jointly held as the week-long Dinagyang Festival’s highlights (Kasadyahan on Saturday and Ati on Sunday) for several years now and buttressed by the Department of Tourism, the private sector, and primarily by the Iloilo City Government.

-o0o-

Kasadyahan’s emancipation from the Dinagyang Festival is, to quote Victor Hugo, “(nothing more powerful than) an idea whose time has come.”
Despite living separate lives starting next year, both festivals will be the winners in many aspects: it will be easier to manage and promote each of them as they won’t compete in the allocations of budget for corporate and government sponsorship; and they will add color to the annual calendar of events of both the DOT and the City Government.
Although Kasadyahan has its own unique presentation and aesthetic featuring Panay’s culture and history, it has been thriving behind the shadow of the more prominent and remunerative Ati dance contest, which actually carries the Dinagyang Festival’s household name.
It has been observed that Kasadyahan also paled in comparison to Ati dance contest when it comes to cornering of juicy sponsors and endorsers.

-o0o-

By reinvigorating and packaging Kasadyahan in another stripe and dimension, it will stimulate awareness among the tourists and investors and produce dramatic effects in the local economy.
The decision to split the two gigantic cultural and religious festivals was hammered out during the Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting of the Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI) in July 2019, as reported recently by the Daily Guardian’s Emme Rose Santiagudo, who interviewed former Department of Tourism Undersecretary Salvador “Dong” Sarabia Jr. regarding the split.
Now the executive director of Iloilo City’s Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions (MICE) Center, Sarabia Jr. confirmed that Kasadyahan may be held separately in a lean moth “because it’s more cultural.”

-o0o-

Even the kidnappers and killers of prominent Ilongga businesswoman Roberta Cokin would have “benefited” if the government had insisted in pushing through with the reported plan to release rapist and killer Antonio Sanchez based on recent ruling issued by the Supreme Court (SC) that orders the retroactive application of the number of days credited to prisoners for their good-conduct time allowance (GCTA).
The ruling was based on the Republic Act (RA) 10592 amended provisions of the Revised Penal Code and allowed the credit of preventive imprisonment and revision of GCTA of persons deprived of liberty.
We are glad the government has abandoned the absurd move.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A real embarrassment

“An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.” 
--Mahatma Gandhi

By Alex P. Vidal


NOT all those arrested by the police and paraded for a mug shot should be ashamed for the rest of their life.
A person can be arrested for murder he committed by protecting his family or for self defense. 

He may be worried for his safety, but may not feel any shame for what he did.
A newsman can be arrested for libel after exposing the truth about graft and corruption and abused of authority and power committed by government, police, and military officials.
He may feel inconvenience, but he may not be ashamed even if manacled and locked behind bars.
A person can be arrested for sedition or rebellion because of his political views; and he may be tormented by the thought of having to spend a long jail term, but, history shows none of those accused of such offense ever showed signs of shame when presented in public.
But if a person is arrested for estafa or any wrongdoing related to financial matters and dishonesty, he will always feel an iota of shame in one way or the other.
Being arrested, however, does not necessarily mean a person is guilty of committing a crime.
The arrest is only a procedure in a criminal case where the accused is presented in court for proper disposition of his case; and the judge will determine whether he can post a bail.

-o0o-

Which brought us to the case of former foreign affairs secretary Perfecto “Jun” Yasay Jr., who was arrested by the Manila Police District (MPD) cops on Thursday afternoon, August 22.
The former chairman of the Central Philippine University (CPU) in Jaro, Iloilo City was ordered arrested on March 8 by Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 8 for "several violations" of the New Central Bank Act in relation to a case filed against him by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
The Ilonggo former candidate for senator and vice president immediately questioned “this abuse of process and travesty of justice" in a Facebook post.
The arrest shocked those who knew Yasay as a public servant and former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); he had a sterling record in public service and almost immaculate prior to the report of his arrest.
He is, of course, presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Many of his admirers, especially his fellow Ilonggos, believe he can wiggle out from this trouble. They believe in his innocence.
But the arrest definitely was a real embarrassment for Yasay, his family and supporters since he, along with 5 "associates," police said, were accused of "conspiring and aiding each other" in securing a P350-million loan from the shuttered Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank while they were officers from 2001 to 2009.

-o0o-

The loan was allegedly accommodated for a certain company called Tierrasud Incorporated, which is owned by Tropical Land Corporation.
The report said: "When the loan was granted, all accused failed to report such loan accommodation to the supervision of BSP, and despite of report of examination addressed to all accused instructing them to rectify such violation, failed to do the same.”
The BSP filed the charges against Yasay and 9 other Banco Filipino officials on April 4, 2011. Yasay was then director of Banco Filipino.
The BSP said Yasay and the other Banco Filipino officials "repeatedly violated several laws" for the following: Willful refusal to stop the conduct of unsafe, hazardous, and unsound banking practices; Falsification and issuance of false statements to hide the true financial condition of the bank; Willful refusal to file audited financial statements; Willful refusal to report DOSRI (directors, officers, stockholders, and other related interest) loans; Twenty-six counts of willful refusal to comply with numerous banking laws and BSP directives
The BSP pointed out that Banco Filipino "engaged in hazardous lending and lax collection policies and practices."
Let’s hope Chairman Yasay can emerge from this scandal ten feet tall. He is one of the only few remaining outstanding Ilonggo icons in national politics.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Shooting Judge Artuz from the hip

“If you can't see past my name, you can't see me.”
― DaShanne Stokes

By Alex P. Vidal


IF you aren't authorized, you can't solemnize.
Iloilo City Legal Officer Edgardo Gil's basis for calling as "fake" the marriages solemnized by "ex" Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 5 Judge Ofelia M.D. Artuz was the Supreme Court's purported order in 2017 that dismissed Artuz as a judge; thus "she wasn't authorized."
Gil, according to report, has named Artuz to be possibly behind the alleged fake weddings uncovered at the Iloilo City Local Civil Registrar’s Office (LCRO) that supposedly victimized more than a hundred couples since 2017 until 2018.
The city legal officer was so cocksure about Artuz's role that he made a categorical declaration about what had transpired when the alleged malfeasance was executed.
Kun kaisa sa sagwa ginasolemnize, si Judge Artuz, gin-terminate na siya sa service as a judge sang August 29, 2017. Even if she is not authorized, sige pa siya gihapon solemnize sang marriage,” Gil was quoted in a report by Emme Rose Santiagudo in the Daily Guardian dated August 22, 2019.

-o0o-


Because Gil already went ballistic against Artuz, we assume that the city legal office had already conducted a motu proprio investigation prior to its decision to endorse the issue for further probe to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Otherwise, Gil would be accused of pushing the cart ahead of the horse in as far as investigation of the issue is concerned.
Now that Gil has jumped the gun on Artuz, isn't it incumbent upon him to start filing the appropriate cases against the lady judge if he had enough evidence, instead of running for succor to the NBI?
By telling all and sundry they had already endorsed the matter to the NBI (Mayor Geronimo "Jerry" Treñas had earlier confirmed they were seeking the NBI's help), Gil innocuously was sending a message they have a weak case against Artuz; so that they needed the NBI to do the yeoman's job.

-o0o-

Gil may have violated their profession's code of ethics by prejudging Artuz and by making a presumption that all the weddings she had solemnized, because she was "unauthorized", were fake and, thus, null and void.
According to LCRO Officer Romeon Juncae Manikan Jr., a law graduate, only the Supreme Court can declare whether a marriage is fake.
Assuming that Artuz could not anymore solemnize marriages immediately after her purported dismissal from the Supreme Court took effect, were the weddings she had solemnized before the Supreme Court ruling on her termination authorized and legal?
Better still, did she really continue to solemnize weddings even after her dismissal? If she appealed the dismissal, were all the weddings she had supposedly solemnized while her dismissal was under appeal, authorized and legal?
There are two schools of thought in this imbroglio, thus we want the truth to come out; we want wrongdoings to stop, but we must be objective and fair to all concerned.
Without any impartial investigation or without inviting Artuz to air her side first before going tongs and hammer against her in the media, they have already shot her from the hip and injured so many bystanders.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Can Iloilo mayors stop incest rapes?

"I think that the enormous emphasis on violence and sex, and in particular violent sex, may not make rapists of us all, but it predisposes us to accept a kind of world in which these things happen."
--Alexander Walker

By Alex P. Vidal


I KNOW of at least four Iloilo mayors accused of committing a rape when I was covering the Iloilo Capitol beat in the early 90's.
One of them, an ex-convict from the fifth district, even ran and lost for governor. 

His victim, a minor, became a lawyer.
Another one, a gambling lord in the second district and cockfighting aficionado, was abandoned by his wife not for being a gambler, but for allegedly "molesting" his own niece.
The third one was from a coastal town famous for a certain seafood in the fourth district. Of the four, this third "rapist" from the coastal town, who finished only in the elementary level and was always carrying a gun, was the worst: he allegedly raped his wife's sister, who eventually "consented" to become his lover.
To minimize the scandal, they (the mayor, his wife, and the wife's sister) lived in the same compound like a normal family. 

Other members of the household pretended they knew nothing about the quirky situation.

-o0o-

The fourth was also from the second district.
His case was not a secret because the alleged rape happened prior to his reelection bid.
The victim, a minor and the mayor's own niece, was briefly interviewed by reporters before being intercepted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) personnel.
Interestingly, two weeks before the rape case exploded in the media, I visited this mayor in his house together with former Senator John Osmeña.
We monitored two other rape cases involving prominent political figures (a defeated congressional aspirant from the first district and another municipal mayor in a far-flung municipality in the fifth district).
Except for the ex-convict who spent several years in jail, the others were never prosecuted. Because of their influence and power, their cases were either "kept under wraps," or "settled" (meaning the "victims" decided not to lodge a formal complaint).
I recalled these cases when I learned that the Iloilo Provincial Board recently passed a resolution penned by Board Member June Mondejar urging Iloilo mayors to take action to curb the "alarming" number of rape cases in the province.

-o0o-

Mondejar said most of the rape cases logged by the Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) last year and this year were incestuous or sexual assaults committed by somebody with close relationship to the victims such as a father, a stepfather, an uncle, or a cousin.
Mondejar wanted the mayors to initiate programs and measures to prevent all forms of sexual abuse in their respective municipalities.
Good move, but most rapists have serious psychological or mental issues that no amount of programs can scare or stop them from doing the crime. In fact, it has been proven that even the death penalty was not a deterrent to the commission of rape.
We doubt also if the mayors or their law enforcers can personally stop the rapes, which mostly happen in the darkness or night time and in secluded places.
Although this additional task will not really overburden the mayors, let's hope that no perpetrator will come from their own ranks like in the cases I just mentioned.
Latin poet Juvenal once posed this question: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" or "Who will guard the guards?"
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Vexation for Iloilo RTC judge applicants

“Anybody can become angry--that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way--that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
--ARISTOTLE

By Alex P. Vidal


ANY lawyer from Iloilo aspiring to become a regional trial court (RTC) judge today must have felt alluded to when disqualified Duterte Youth party-list nominee Ronaldo Cardema recently accused Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon of extortion and of demanding the appointment of a lawyer as RTC judge in Iloilo.
We know that desperate Cardema’s wild charges are nothing but a hogwash, but his allegations are unfair to all lawyers who happen to have pending applications for RTC judge in Iloilo.
Guanzon, 61, a former Cadiz City mayor, is from Negros Occidental, not Iloilo.
And granting, for the sake of argument, that Guanzon is really pushing for a certain lawyer to become RTC judge in Iloilo, why would she genuflect with a former National Youth Commission (NYC) chairman, who is only a Duterte fanatic and not even a lawyer or someone with connections with the Department of Justice or with the President?
Where is the common sense?
Guanzon might as well go directly to President Duterte.

-o0o-

If a lawyer is appointed as RTC judge in Iloilo tomorrow or any day, which only coincides with Cardema’s ongoing revulsion toward Guanzon, some people will suspect that the new judge must have connections with the brave lady poll commissioner.
Even if Guanzon doesn’t know the newly appointed judge from Adam, for instance, she will still nevertheless get a credit for the appointment, in one way or the other.
Even if the appointment as RTC judge is valid and had undergone the normal process and has nothing to do whatsoever with the Cardema-Guanzon skirmish, some people will start to speculate maliciously once they remember Cardema’s allegations against Guanzon.
People, of course, aren’t stupid to believe that Cardema is responsible for the appointment since, in the first place, he has no power to facilitate or even recommend for higher positions in the judiciary unless he is the President.

-o0o-

AS the legal battle between Panay Electric Company (PECO) and MORE Electric and Power Corp. prolongs, many Iloilo City consumers have become skeptical as to which firm will eventually remain and which will fold up.
The consumers don’t have the patience to follow the high-strung telenovela, much less take sides.
They listen to the news, but aren’t interested in the nitty-gritty of the legal dispute.
They are aware that what’s going on is a game of the generals and whoever will capitulate and victorious, is none of their business as tiny grasses.
As long as they are assured of a steady and sufficient power supply, the monthly bills aren’t astronomical, the services aren’t lousy, and they have the money to pay for the monthly bills, the consumers won’t give a hoot if the litigation between the two elephants will extend beyond the Age of Aquarius.

-o0o-

THE Spaniards have colonized us and taught us how to become religious and hypocrites.
The Americans have colonized us, gave us education, and taught us to patronize Hollywood movies.
Will the Chinese colonize us next and teach us how to get rich through business and how to build more infrastructure and bridges from one island to another for future global trade route?
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

When the pie isn't properly sliced

"Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else."
--David Foster Wallace

By Alex P. Vidal

IN other mega corporate ventures in the country managed by one clan that involves a public interest, we seldom heard--or none, at all--of an intra-family feud that threatens to paralyze the company's operations like what is happening in the Vallacar Transit, Inc. in the transportation sector.
Several years back, Iloilo City's Florete brothers also went tongs and hammer in their legal squabble over some issues in their properties, which also nearly threatened to break-up the family.
Like in the case of the Yansons, the public was startled that members of a prominent business clan that owns one of the biggest radio networks in the country, were at loggerheads and in the newspaper headlines for several months.
If the Yansons have Roy and Leo Rey, the Floretes had Marcelino and Rogelio.
The feud between the Florete siblings, however, was not as tension-filled as compared to the tumult that erupted in the Yanson family, where several employees and security personnel in the Ceres terminals had been disarmed and frightened during the territorial tug-of-war.

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When serious internal insurrections explode within the family-run corporation, it means only one thing: everybody isn't happy, or the pie wasn't properly sliced.
In all these wranglings and hullabaloos, however, it's always the court that has the final say, no matter how one party will attempt to resort to any extra-judicial alternative, or show of force and intimidation.
Meanwhile, despite managing the Panay Electric Company (PECO) in Iloilo City for nearly a century, the Cacho family never quarreled in public; all their corporate issues are tackled privately and peacefully.
Unlike the Yansons in the Vallacar Transit, Inc., the Cachos never washed PECO's dirty linens in public.
If the Cashos were in the news, it's because they worked side-by-side against the rantings and agitations of the consumers who went ballistic against the "astronomical" charges in their monthly bills.

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Also, we never heard the Lopezes tearing each other apart over corporate issues while managing the Meralco and ABS-CBN, among other family-owned public utilities.
What we heard and learned in the news was the smooth transition of management of their major prime properties from one family patriarch to another.
Ditto with the Gatchalians of the Cebu Pacific, the Sys of the Prime Holdings (that operates SM City), the Ayalas of the Ayala Center, the Gokongweis of the Robinsons and Universal Robina Corporation, among other big families engaged in mega businesses.
Bad management normally causes most of the organizational problems. Over and over, according to Ligthouse, it's their actions (or inaction) of managers that combine to be the hidden, root cause of these major, valid concerns.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Check the lifestyle

"Money and corruption are ruining the land, crooked politicians betray the working man, pocketing the profits and treating us like sheep, and we're tired of hearing promises that we know they'll never keep."
--Ray Davies

By Alex P. Vidal


A FORMER town and provincial official, a good friend of mine, who was lucky to get a juicy position under the Duterte administration, is now super rich.
I know him even before he entered politics. We had the same passion. And he was not rich.
Now, he is a multi-millionaire. No, he didn't win the lotto.
He was neither engaged in the stock market nor in the real estate.
He was a simple man who had a lucky stint in the public service (where he learned the ropes of "how to earn more than what you get in the payroll" without having to work like a slave).
He was a promising "promdi" (from the province) until swallowed by the prevailing system, a common sickness of those given the opportunity to work in the government only to dip their fingers in the cookie jars.
We won't be surprised if he is one of those being investigated by the Presidential Ant-Corruption Commission (PACC) as reported recently.
I personally won't be surprised if one day he will send me another email "to explain my side and to inform you that I am a victim of intrigues and jealousy; and these critics only want to destroy my reputation."
Like what he did when he ran and lost for vice governor.

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The decision to close a portion of Boracay's shoreline for a 72-hour clean-up August 14 after a female tourist allowed her child to defecate in its water, was over acting.
Also, the decision of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu to instruct Boracay Inter-agency Task Force (BITF) General Manager Natividad Bernardino to isolate the area for the cleanup, was theatrical.
Authorities could have just cleaned up the mess without necessarily announcing it in the whole world through the mass media after the incident was reportedly caught on video and went viral in the social media.
Their wild reactions only exacerbated the incident's negative effects on Boracay's tourism.
It's like washing their dirty linens in public.

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World class beaches are not spared from beachgoers urinating and pooping in their waters especially during the sunset.
This happens every now and then, but authorities tipped off about the incident were careful not to overreact in order not to turn the fire into a conflagration, or not to make a mountain out of a molehill.
There are municipal ordinances that deal with this kind of unsanitary behavior by vacationers. Local authorities can throw the books on violators.
But if they can help minimize the impact of such incident in public which will have negative effects on tourism, it's best if the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the DENR can solve the mess silently and refrain from making a billow out of it in the mass media.
If publicity in the social media is cruel, publicity in the mass media will leave a bad taste in the mouth.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

If there's a bridge

"Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers."
--Nikita Khrushchev

By Alex P. Vidal


ONLY a bridge can solve the problems of those regularly crossing the Iloilo Strait to Guimaras vice versa.
A bridge won't automatically kill the maritime industry in the area, but people will have a better alternative just in case a bad weather would render the transfer from one island to another vice versa via ferries impossible.
A bridge linking Guimaras and Iloilo will eliminate king-sized hassles and inconveniences just in case the government will not allow pumpboats to operate just like what happened days after the sea tragedy that killed nearly 31 pumpboat passengers.
A bridge will fast-track all the transactions and other urgent matters when travel time is reduced and maritime overloading of passengers and goods is nipped in the bud.
A bridge will be beneficial to the prosperity of both the provinces of Guimaras and Iloilo, including Iloilo City and other provinces and cities in Panay Island with economic and agricultural interests in Guimaras.
The government has promised to bridge the gap by building the bridge even before we heard McArthur promising "I shall return."
Let's hope the bridge will finally be erected before human beings can reach the planet Mars.

-o0o-

Just like the priests and the pastors, policemen also every now and then receive gifts--in kind and in cash--from Good Samaritans, businessmen, and, sometimes, from recipients (e.g. victims of crimes that have been solved) of their services mostly as "tokens of appreciation."
Even the heads of state, the highest church leaders and military and police generals accept gifts; but, sometimes, done incognito to dodge those with malicious minds.
Only a hypocrite cop will proclaim that he has not received offers of a gift (although there are really a few who are determined not to accept the gifts regardless who made the offer).
Nobody is actually taking seriously Republic Act 3019 or the anti-graft law, which clearly states that government workers should not accept gifts in exchange for favors. Since presents of small or insignificant value are reportedly exempted, most of those who accept gifts and want to justify it pretend what they got were only "peanuts."
We can put to big test this interesting hypothesis during the Yuletide Season, which is four months away.

-o0o-

If a grown up teenager or a young citizen wants to be a communist, a voodoo practitioner, or an advocate of exorcism, the parents shouldn't be cursed or blamed for it.
If it's the person's choice, it's his destiny and there is nothing the parents can do about it especially if the person is of legal age.
The parents, however, are responsible for their children's education in the early stage, especially the formation of the children's values and character.
It is assumed that when the children reach the legal age, they know what is wrong and what is right; they know what is legal and what is illegal.
Brian May once said, "The biggest emotion in creation is the bridge of optimism."
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Saturday, August 10, 2019

We worry for tourism

“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


WE are worried for tourism in Iloilo and Guimaras in particular, and in Western Visayas in general, following the travel advisory issued by the United Kingdom urging its citizens to avoid travel on ferries and passenger boats in the Philippines following the recent Iloilo-Guimaras Strait maritime mishap that killed nearly 31 boat passengers.
Travel advisories issued by European and American countries always have ripple effects and are monitored and followed by other continents with large business and tourism contingents that regularly circumnavigate the globe.
In the age of internet, the recent UK travel advisory can travel and spread around the universe faster than the tsunami and quicker than the speed of a bullet train.
At this time when our tourism has been reaping inroads and dividends owing to the aggressive and productive campaign instituted by the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional office headed by Director Helen Catalbas, we can’t afford to reap a negative publicity in the global market and altogether slump to square one.
Instead of a leap backward, it must be a long jump forward.

-o0o-

Guimaras, producer of the best mango in the world, is undoubtedly a tourism wonder and the only viable means to get there vice versa is through a passenger boat.
With UK’s recent travel advisory, tourism and business in Philippine islands that rely heavily on ferries and passenger boats to connect the tourists and their destinations like Guimaras, Boracay, Bohol, Palawan, among other favorite spots in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao will certainly suffer a dent.
The UK travel advisory exhorted its citizens to avoid travel on ferries and passenger, particularly from June to December, the season when the country is frequently hit by tropical cyclones.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “They are often overloaded, may lack necessary lifesaving equipment or be inadequately maintained and have incomplete passenger manifests. Storms can develop quickly and maritime rescue services in the Philippines may be limited.”
Let’s hope a new travel advisory from Europe and America will soon come out; this time to pave the way for a quick Renaissance of tourism industry in Western Visayas and in the entire Philippines.

-o0o-

The “dark past” of Supt. Roland Vilela, penciled in to be the next chief of the Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO), circulated in the media faster than his credentials and accomplishments as police official.
This came after his name was reportedly chosen recently from among the list of police officials by Iloilo Governor Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr.
In the past, police officials who would occupy important positions in the Regional Police Office down to the provincial police offices were hailed for their good record and good behavior in press releases prior to assuming their respective assignments.
In the case of Supt. Vilela, it’s the opposite.
As long as he was not yet convicted of any criminal act, he could still perform his tasks as a PNP official; Ilonggos can still give him the benefit of the doubt.
He wouldn’t be allowed to stay in the PNP if he had been found guilty of hooliganism or any serious moral and criminal misconduct.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Iloilo loses two illustrious fathers in a depressing week

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."
--George S. Patton

By Alex P. Vidal


AS Ilonggos in Western Visayas mourned the deaths of hundreds of children in separate areas from the dengue outbreak in June and July, the first week in the month of August has brought more grief and shock to Iloilo.
Sadness immediately hovered around the populace with the drowning of nearly 31 passengers of two pumpboats in the Guimaras and Iloilo strait on August 3.
As of this writing, the buck-passing and the "what ifs" rant among coast guard and wharf authorities went on as investigations commenced.
Then came the demise of former Iloilo City Mayor Mansueto "Mansing" Malabor on August 4 and former Iloilo Governor Simplicio "Sim" Griño on August 5.
The city and province of Iloilo lost two eminent fathers one day after another in a gloomy week obfuscated by horrors at sea otherwise known as "Black Saturday."

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Both Griño, 85, and Malabor, 88, were among the hitherto unheralded but immaculate local chief executives that emerged in the post-EDA Revolution era.
As a namby-pamby vice mayor in 1988, Malabor didn't achieve a rockstar popularity until he was ordered by then President Tita Cory's Executive Secretary and now Senator Franklin "Frank" Drilon to "stay put" (meaning he shouldn't leave the City Mayor's Office as OIC) in 1990 while Malacanang was finalizing the dotted lines for suspension of Mayor Rodolfo "Roding" Ganzon, who had declared war against the Aquino Government in dispute of the small town lottery (STL), among other local and national political and personal issues.
Malabor was exuberant and brimming with confidence, but refused to let the initial burst of political success go to his head.
He coyly obeyed Drilon's order but, at the same time, was careful not to annoy and antagonize the wounded political behemoth from Molo district, who was a colorful figure in the Senate in the late 60's before he was incarcerated by President Marcos during the Martial Law.

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When he was elected as city mayor in 1992 by trouncing Timoteo "Nene" Consing, Malabor zoomed to heights as a public servant until his last hours in the City Mayor's Office office in 2001 as a "graduating" chief local executive.
It was the year when the charismatic Griño exited from the Iloilo Provincial Governor's Office following a heart-rending defeat to then former Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Arthur Defensor Sr.
It was a gubernatorial contest that altogether wiped out the myth Griño had established when he brought down, in a stunning upset, Olive Lopez-Padilla, in the January 1988 elections.
The tell-tale "sign" (for believers of superstition) that he was going to lose a reelection bid came a week before the 1992 elections when Griño's vehicle, going home from the campaign trail, turned turtle in the highway. He suffered minor scratches and was declared out of danger.

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Back in 1988 when Griño gored the very popular Lopez-Padilla, who was supported by all the province's political giants associated with Tita Cory's political bandwagon led by the late then Rep. Albertito Lopez (2nd District, Iloilo), Griño was endorsed only by the late Rep. Narciso D. Monfort (4th District, Iloilo).
Griño's administration had been constantly rocked by scandals not because he was a crooked, but because many minions he helped employ in the capitol helped themselves in numerous deals tainted with anomaly.
To add misery, his No. 1 critic, then Board Member Perla Zulueta, made sure she had some of those "anomalies" (mostly committed by dishonest subalterns) placed under a microscopic scrutiny, which always landed in the prime time news and the front pages the following morning.
Despite his one-term as governor, Griño undeniably was one of the most honest Iloilo governors; soft-spoken; a family and religious man.
Admired by many national and religious leaders, Griño's integrity was intact when he retired from public service.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Monday, August 5, 2019

Murphy's Law and death at sea

“As per usual, trouble comes in several directions at once.”
--Garth Nix, Lirael

By Alex P. Vidal


SOME of the victims of the "Black Saturday" (August 3) Guimaras and Iloilo strait tragedy that killed 31 passengers from two motorboats, had been reportedly warned by relatives and other "concerned" individuals not to take the boat because of the bad weather.
If the victims didn't listen probably because some of them already had tickets and were already in the pre-departure area, wasn't it the obligation of the Philippine Coast Guard to stop the boat from sailing if the weather was showing signs of mayhem and doom?
The passengers would just obey and trust the motorboat captain and the crew the way airplane passengers obey and trust flight attendants and pilots.
If we have been warned of imminent danger lurking somewhere and we still insisted like Julius Caesar, who ignored the soothsayer who warned him to beware of the Ides of March while on his way into the Colosseum before he was murdered, it's because we allow ourselves (or, in the first place, can we resist it?) to be "governed" by Murphy's Law.
Murphy's Law, an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: "Anything that can be wrong will go wrong."
An addition to this law reads, "and usually at the worst time."

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A simple case of Murphy's Law is tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he'll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he'll have to touch it to be sure.
Ninoy Aquino had been warned not to go back in the Philippines because of threats in his life, but he used the name "Marcial Bonifacio" to return and got murdered on the tarmac.
We are all, actually, can be subjected into Murphy's Law in different circumstances and method.
The mathematical statement of Murphy's Law, as used in scientific communities, according to a Physicist, is tremendously complex and the common form, "everything that can go wrong will", is reportedly fairly accurate and more than sufficient for most applications.
The Physicist insists that Murphy's Law is "certainly very real, and can even be measured qualitatively."
"However, it can't be anticipated or taken into account," the Physicist added. "We can only wait for terrible, unfortunate things to happen, and hope that they won't be too bad."

-o0o-

Now that he is gone, many friends and admirers of the late former Iloilo City Mayor Mansueto "Mansing" Malabor are saying his shocking loss to Raul Gonzalez Jr. in the 2004 elections for Iloilo City's lone congressional district could be a "blessing in disguise."
If the Ilonggos succeeded in sending him to congress, some of them believed Malabor would not have the fire in his belly to sustain the hectic congressional activities that included regular sessions, travels abroad, and committee hearings since he was already 73 at that time.
Having served as Iloilo City for three consecutive terms or nine years straight, Malabor's forte was in the local government, where he was very effective as a "homebody" chief executive.
Malabor loved to hobnob with ordinary people in public markets, barangay halls and gymnasiums. He loved to get himself loaded with City Hall works and to stay most of the time in his beloved city.
Even if he was a lawyer, many of Malabor's friends and supporters thought lawmaking or the job of a legislator wasn't his real world, or the kind of work he would love doing with passion like the kind of passion and intensity he showed when he worked in the City Hall.
Gonzalez Jr. himself did not last in his position after he was blasted to bits in a stunning upset by now Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo "Jerry" Treñas in 2010.
Congressmen at that time were being slammed and ridiculed like crocodiles for being enamored to the scandalous "pork barrel" funds.
Malabor, who retired from politics with a solid reputation and clean name in public service, was spared from jeers and humiliation inflicted on the "tongressmen."
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Shocking sea mishap

“In all natural disasters through time, man needs to attach meaning to tragedy, no matter how random and inexplicable the event is.”
--Nathaniel Philbrick

By Alex P. Vidal


IN a tragedy, it is easy to shrug off the pain and melancholy if we lost only the material things such as cash or expensive valuables, which can still be replaced.
But if it involves the death of loved ones, their “untimely” passing in a horrific manner, it’s difficult to come to terms and accept what happened.
It jolts the entire community.
This is what many Ilonggos are going through nowadays following the death of 31 passengers who drowned when their motorboats capsized after being whipped by strong winds and big waves August 3 off Guimaras and Iloilo strait.
The motorboats Chi-Chi and Jenny Vince, carrying a total of 90 passengers, flipped over in sudden gusts of wind and powerful waves, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.
It’s the waste of many promising lives that makes the situation horrendous.
Those dead bodies recovered underneath the motorboats that turned upside down and washed away in Dumangas shore could be our own relatives--or even you and me.

-o0o-

The number of casualties itself is shocking.
Some of the dead were trapped inside the motorboats that even if they were good swimmers, there was no chance they could survive.
We haven’t heard of a sea mishap of such magnitude that occurred anywhere in Western Visayas for a very long time.
The distance between Guimaras and Iloilo is supposed to be the “safest” for sea travelers since it takes them only about 15 to 20 minutes to cross from one island to another vice versa via a pumpboat.
Except if the weather is really bad and the visibility is zero, even an ordinary person can use banca and paddle his way to cross the strait.
Swimmer Martin Soriano of Carles, Iloilo and Rudy Fernandez of Ajuy, Iloilo could even cross Guimaras and Iloilo and back.

-o0o-

We remember the late former Iloilo City Mayor Mansueto “Mansing” Malabor for his simplicity and unparalleled dedication in his job in the three terms that he served the Ilonggos: first term 1992-1995; second term 1995-1998; third and last term 1998-2001.
He was the only Iloilo City mayor who signed important papers handed to him even if he was inside the public market after office hours.
He was the only Iloilo City mayor who sat down with ordinary people and spent time with them in the coffee shops every morning (former Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III is also regularly seen in the Madge coffee shop in La Paz Public Market in the morning but he chooses his crowd).
He was the only Iloilo City mayor who did not have a wanderlust (his predecessor, Mayor Jerry Treñas, traveled a lot as part of his responsibilities and obligations as president of League of Cities of the Philippines during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo).
Mayor Malabor never filed a single libel case against any critical journalist because, according to him, “deretso man nila ina nga mag atake sa akon ang importante wala kita may gina himu nga sala (it’s their right to criticize me; the most important is I am not doing anything wrong).”
He was the only Iloilo City mayor who built mini-gymnasiums in almost all of the 180 barangays.
He was not a perfect city mayor; he had weaknesses like the late Manila City Mayor Arsenio “Arsenic” Lacson, but Mayor Malabor was undeniably one of the best that served Iloilo City.
Even after he has retired from politics, he continued to serve the hoi polloi in whatever means.
Rest in peace, Mayor Mansing Malabor.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)