Saturday, September 21, 2013


Early this month, I asked my fourth year students to create artistic posters of post-war/contemporary Filipinos who they consider as their heroes. This is part of our observance of National History Month last August. Initially, I am pleased with their outputs because most of it are well made and depicts popular personalities today like CNN Hero Efren Penaflorida, former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino. Some even fielded lesser known names in the field of social change like Gawad Kalinga’s Tony Meloto, child wonder Kesz Valdez, RockEd founder Gang Badoy, and even rapper Francis Magalona.

However, I was struck speechless by what one student chose as his hero: former President and Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.

This incident is but a mere testament to the gravity of unawareness prevailing in today’s generation regarding the horrors of Martial Law and the abuses of the Marcoses and their cronies. In social media, you can observe how appalling this gravity is; it has washed clean the consciousness of every post-People Power Revolution generation beginning from those born in the 80s up to the millenials.

I am a 90s kid, but growing up watching news on TV and reading tons of newspapers and history books has made me fully aware of transgressions committed by the Marcos regime. But for people unlike me, I have a chilling fear that my generation (and generations to come) might not know what these transgressions are and that they might even revive the personality cult of this evil strongman. What could be influencing them even as we celebrated People Power annually for the past 27 years through street demonstrations and countless TV specials and granite memorials?

I’d like to believe there is an ongoing pro-Marcos lobby going on since 2010. While it cannot be directly tied with evidence, it is worth noticing that pro-Marcos videos, blog posts, and other social media have surged dramatically in the run up to the 2010 Presidential Elections where the strongman’s son and heir-apparent Bongbong Marcos first ran as senator and won. Of course, it is common knowledge where Bongbong is setting his sights on after securing his Senate seat.

Facebook and Youtube are all afire with conversations about FM being “the best president of the Philippines”, “that FM and Ninoy weren’t enemies but best friends”, and that “Cory Aquino handed Ninoy divorce papers” prior to his assassination. Marcos loyalists dominate and control the discussion in these sites using various statements to laud Marcos’ achievements and dismiss credible primary sources about his corruption and human rights record as mere manipulation by the media.

Let’s explore some of their arguments and counter them with common sense and (of course) with primary historical sources:

1. “Marcos is the best president! He built a lot of infrastructure projects that still exist today such as the San Juanico Bridge, the Patapat Viaduct, and the Candaba Viaduct. During his term, the PNR (Philippine National Railways) extends up to Bicol and Pangasinan!"

Three of Manila’s bridges—the Quezon, Jones, and MacArthur Bridges—were all built during President Manuel L. Quezon’s term. Also, the Manila City Hall, the PhilPost Building, and the National Museum, which were built during Quezon’s term and destroyed or damaged in World War II, were rebuilt during the time of President Manuel Roxas. It was also during Roxas’ term that the Manila International Airport (NAIA Terminal 1 today) was built from its original location in Nielsen Field (now Ayala Avenue, Makati). The Manila Railway Company (now the PNR), whose railway lines were also damaged during the war began its rehabilitation during the Roxas’ term and continued in succeeding administrations.

It is also worth noting that most of FM’s infrastructure projects were funded by loans from foreign creditors such as the IMF and the World Bank. Hence, Philippine foreign debt surged from $360 million in 1962 to $28.3 billion in 1986. Morever, Marcos and his allies are known to overprice these infrastructure projects in order to siphon kickbacks amounting to billions of dollars for their own personal whims.

It stumps me how the loyalists could laud Marcos’ infrastructure projects when other presidents before and after him have also fielded great engineering feats. All these infrastructure projects still exist and are being used; yet, very few have lauded the Presidents who envisioned them. So why single out FM as if he is the progenitor of all infrastructure projects in the Philippines?

2. “The Philippines’ had the best performing economy during Marcos’ time. The prices of commodities were cheaper compared today and the peso-dollar exchange was at a dollar per peso!”

Most people associated with this comment were born between 1940 and 1960. Give them a light tap in the shoulder and remind them that prices today are indeed higher today compared to the 70s because of changing inflation rates. Remind them too that back in their days, their grandparents used to say too that commodities were cheaper during the Commonwealth period.

Source: BSP
As for the economy being the best during Marcos’ term, no statistical record can substantiate this. Numbers don’t lie and even the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has released records of the peso-dollar exchange being at P3.50 to a dollar in 1966 after Marcos came to power. When he left in 1986, it was at P20.53 to a dollar!

Moreover, our gross domestic product (the total amount of products and services produced in the country) dropped from 3.4% in 1966 to 1.4% in 1986. We fared poorly compared to our Southeast Asian neighbors who fielded better GDPs such as Thailand (5.3%), Singapore (7.7%), Indonesia (5.7%), and Malaysia (5.1%). Thus, despite “revolutionary” programs such as the “Green Revolution” (which were funded by loans), many Filipinos (especially in the countryside) suffered great poverty because of their inability to adopt and adjust to new farming techniques introduced by the regime which were beneficial only to the landed elite. Between 1972 and 1980, agricultural output went down by 30%, unemployment exploded from 6.8% in 1972 to 27.65% in 1985, thus leading to a 40% hunger and malnutrition rate among the general population in 1978 (when Martial Law was at its peak).

3. “Society was better during Marcos’ time; people are disciplined and were afraid to break the law.”

If this was the case, then the succeeding generations of those who were “disciplined” during Martial Law should be well behaved and even more disciplined by now since their parents (and grandparents) had a much “disciplined” upbringing! But this isn’t the case, since we have more shameless lawbreakers today in every fabric of our society, from the grassroots up to the elite. Why is this so?

Marcos conditioned society to fear laws instead of respecting them. If people followed laws in their own accord, they would be following it even without the fear of death or any other penalty. But during Martial Law, our constitution—the 1973 Constitution—was almost penned by Marcos’ hand because the Interim Batasang Pambansa was but a mere rubber stamp of his punitive policies.

Of course, who would follow a rule that was not agreed upon by everyone? No one. Thus, Marcos had to use fear to enforce his laws, even to the point of committing grave human rights violations. He conditioned society that he was doing all these to correct a “corrupt and undisciplined society”, but all of it is a pretext to what he planned as a silent doing away of all groups and figures who were opposed to his political and economic schemes which served himself, his friends, and his foreign political handlers.

4. “Marcos is not as corrupt as politicians today!”

Actually, he’s just as worse as them. Maybe even worse.

Given that his administrations’ economic “growth” was funded by international loans, he and his cronies had a huge cash cow in their tow. All in all, he accumulated $30 billion from foreign loans, government funds, and private businesses seized during Martial Law. From this amount, $450 million would go to various escrow accounts in Switzerland, lavish real estate properties in the United States (under the name William Saunders, an alias he used in World War II), as well as a collection of shoes and jewelry to please his wife Imelda who was pining over his unfaithfulness by having a sexual affair with actress Dovie Beams. This is aside from the fact that he used bribery and coercion to buy votes and rig the results of the 1969, 1981, and 1986 elections.

It can be said that the crooks and thieves of today’s society like former President Joseph Estrada, former President Gloria Arroyo, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Bongbong Marcos, as well as Janet Lim-Napoles, Gen. Carlos Garcia, Jocjoc Bolante, the Euro-Generals, to name a few, all took a page from Marcos’ book.

So why are many Filipinos still idolizing him now more than ever?

With every fabric of our society soaked in the bathwater of corruption, majority of Filipinos are left with very little choice. We have a president, whose agenda is to fight corruption, but can't fully get his hands on dismantling its gears and cables completely because he is afraid of losing popular support for his polices and his party in 2016. On the other side, we have extremist politicians who want to dismantle the very democratic foundations of this society and replace it with an undemocratic one. We already know what happened to these societies, right?

Hence, out of the need for order, continuity, and survival, some Filipinos would chose to look up to Marcos and his offspring. He was a strongman after all—a strongman who stole, lied, and cheated—but still a strongman compared to weaklings, cheats, and crooks of today. These Filipinos chose to forget their principles and deny the very truth in our history books because the post-EDSA breed of leaders and politicians have left them with very little to look up to.

If only they realize that they shouldn’t be looking up at anyone.

When it comes to our country’s good, we don’t owe anyone a favor, whether it’s Marcos, Estrada, or Aquino. We are a nation who implored the aid of God to set up a government that reflects our ideals and aspirations—ideals that are pure and chaste. But with our little education and feeble minds we were deceived by these people to trust them with our hands, minds, and pockets. Now that we know better, are we still going to trust our country’s good to these kinds of people and their offspring?

We owe it to ourselves to setup a good government and bring about a better nation. Hence, we shouldn’t elect strongmen (or women) to save us from ourselves and each other. We MUST save ourselves by being respectful of the covenants we made with ourselves and others: by respecting our laws against cheating, lying, stepping on each other’s rights (among others) and by upholding our laws that promote peace, community, cooperation, wealth-sharing, and mutual growth.

More than ever, we are the heroes who can save this nation. If only we remember and never forget. TSS


Photo credits: GMA News Online and Ferdinand Marcos for President 2016 Facebook Page

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


It feels surreal to be one of thousands of Filipinos who attended the Million People March at the Luneta Park last August 26. Except for a small overnight picket against the irregularities in the election of our university president back in 2007, I have never been to a mass protest as historic as this. I’ve never witnessed EDSA I, II, or III, and have always distanced myself from militant rallies during annual SONA or Labor Day. To be with like-minded people who are fed up with government corruption, graft, and malversation of public funds invigorates my citizenship. For years, I yearned to be part of something substantial to nation-building apart from my daily mission inside the halls of learning.

I really thought that everyone’s participation would create the change we were all expecting.

Now, a few days after, I am irate over the effect of this pork barrel mess and this Million People March had in Filipinos. I thought these events would be a catalyst that would make the general public more aware and informed, and thereby putting them in a better position to express their disgust against government irregularities and suggest better means of governance and national management.

It all began when some fool who attended the Million People March took a photo of the billboard showing the cost of the Luneta Flagpole renovation, which was priced at P7.8 million. Once the photo made it online, it was only a matter of time before more fools quickly pounced on this scoop like rabid dogs, accussing the government of overpricing a mere flagpole project and being insensitive to the plight and suffering of poor Filipinos by coming up with this “lavish” project.

In no time, the netizens flocked to these peddlers of misinformation and speculation, voicing out their opinion against “alleged” malversation of public funds without as much as cross referencing and doing background check on the information presented in social media. By night fall, this issue was making the rounds in prime time national news programs and news websites, each peddling their own resource person citing why the project is allegedly “overpriced”.

In the Manila Bulletin, they called on a structural engineer from multinational firm Arup to comment on the issue. According Engineer Rudolfo Mendoza Jr., the project is “grossly overpriced”. Quoting from
“He cited a similar project that required more rigorous specifications for the foundations. He said the cost for the foundation, labor and transport for a two-meter thick, 20- meter high unipole for a billboard only cost P2 million back in 2000.
In the same Manila Bulletin article, Archbishop Broderick Pabillo was quick to declare the project as “overpriced”. Archbishop Angel Lagdameo was also quick to dip his fingers on the issue, saying that “the funds that will be spent in the flagpole is an abuse of money.”

Some netizens called the flag pole project “a false sense of pride”, emphasizing that while the new flag pole will restore the original Independence Flag Pole built in 1946, it is undeniable that the pole itself was manufactured in China which currently is at odds with the Philippines due to the Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys Islands dispute. But there is an even bolder attack from a blog which got sophisticated by employing knowledge of the flag pole industry (obviously ripped from websites of American flag pole manufacturers) through some half-baked research. While it didn't describe the project as “overpriced”, its so-called “evidence” left plenty to the reader’s imagination that it was indeed.

That’s just about everything that makes me irate about this pole of contention. I am irate because this pork barrel mess has instilled mass hysteria among Filipinos. That even a necessary and transparent public works project such as replacing the Luneta Park flagpole is being viewed with doubt without so much as looking for factual information on the issue.

How can a structural engineer (an even an archbishop for that matter) declare a project as overpriced without possessing as much as blueprints and project specifications from the project engineer or the contractor, without so much as complete bidding documents from the Bids and Awards Committee, or even a copy of the audit report from the Commission on Audit. Isn’t it that if this project is indeed overpriced the Commission would have been quick to make a report about it to the president? What the DPWH and the DOT should’ve done is to at least include in the billboard the breakdown of the expenses which could’ve avoided the brouhaha in the first place.

How can netizens attack the manufacturing of the pole in China when the Rizal Monument itself was made in Switzerland? Will a Chinese-made flag pole diminish our nationalism even if a Swiss-made monument hasn't? We are merely being hypocritical and xenophobic here, inflamed by tensions in the West Philippine Sea. There is no reason to argue about the flagpole’s source since most goods today come from multinational sources.

Now, on the argument that the project is very untimely considering the recent onset of Typhoon Maring and the floods it brought or the argument that the project is “lavish” and insensitive to the plight of poor Filipinos who could have benefited from the P7.8 million cost of the project, I have this to say: We have other agencies for that. It is the very reason why we have Department of Social Welfare and Development, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, and other related agencies who budget is for poverty alleviation and disaster response. The budget of the Department of Tourism and the National Parks Development Committee is solely for tourism infrastructure and endeavors that promote tourism in the Philippines.

Now, just because we have around 2.5 million Filipinos below the poverty line, does this mean were gonna stop funding projects that restore the beauty of our national parks and promote our culture and history? If you’re saying yes right now, then we should immediately recommend the closing of the Luneta Park and all other recreational spaces operated by the NPDC simply because their budget would've been better spent on the poor. Moreover, the government should just close the National Museum and all other depositories of our national identity and culture simply because their budget would've been better spent on the poor!

Come to think of it, comparing the 2.5 million Filipinos below the poverty line with the rest of 92 million Filipinos above it, were not that poor after all. Were not like Somalia or any other third world country which has a huge majority of their population below the poverty line! The Philippines is already one of the Next 11 countries for Christ’s sake! These 2.5 million dependents should be helping themselves cross that line instead of relying on dole outs from the taxpayers’ money.

For me, it’s worth spending P7.8 million for the National Flag Pole of the Philippines as part of the overall overhaul of the Luneta Park in time for the death anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal. The general public are, in fact, reaping the benefits now of a better Luneta Park with all its new lights, fountains, and sounds. Imagine the other benefits Luneta Park will reek from this flag pole once it is erected.

Yes, some blogger could argue that people might forget about this flag pole and its significance a few years after it is erected, or that the entire park will be just another recreational area after its renovation is complete. But, just take the example of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. When it was erected during the Marcos regime, people of that time were quick to label it as “pomp” and “extravagance”. Now, look at the contributions of that complex to the promotion of our culture and history!

Spending P7.8 million for a flagpole that might be forgotten sooner or later is not an error in the judgment of the government or the people behind this project. It is an error in the judgment of ordinary people who failed to see the significance of these pantheons and edifices as symbols of our country’s colorful past and culture. We need these pantheons and edifices because of the very fact that our people easily forget their past and because we need something to look up to and believe about our nation despite all the falsehood and treachery going around today. TSS

Further Reading:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Back to the Book Fair with The Social Scientist

The natural magnetism of printed books still captures the imagination of most Filipino bibliophiles. This is what the 34th Manila International Book Fair proved, which I’ve attended this Saturday at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

The colors and the ambiance of the place do not immediately give away the drastic changes to this event. Since I first attended in 2009, the red and yellow tarpaulins marking the aisles, the smell of unsold stocks of books, the hard-to-maneuver alleys between exhibitors remain unchanged.

There are new folks here though, like the larger areas allotted for big name bookstores like National Bookstore, Fully Booked, and Goodwill. Big publishing houses are also kings this year, with Anvil, Rex, Diwa, Vibal, CentralBooks and Phoenix attracting clients to their Print-on-Demand, Publish-on-Demand, and e-book services. The increased number of foreign exhibitors gave the event a truly international vibe.

But there are old folks missing from this year’s fair too, like Scholastic Philippines (to my relief), who opted to exhibit only their Grolier encyclopedia division; also missing is an ex-girlfriend who introduced me to this fair five years ago, and a fellow blogger who I introduced to the fair last year. Going to the fair alone for the first time was truly surreal because I didn’t have anyone to discuss my book choices with or to chuckle with about interesting book finds.

I traversed every alley with one eye always looking at my shoulder for fear of who I might bump into. That was into the first twenty minutes inside the fair. Soon enough, I realized I won’t bump into any of my expectations with all the people moving their way like ants inside. Besides, if I did bump into them, why bother? I came for the book fair, not for the ex-girlfriend.


The author together with Mr. Isagani Cruz and
friend Mr. Bob de Castro
By saying “I came for the book fair”, I wasn’t being exact. I actually came for the “How to Write a Book” seminar by Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Isagani Cruz—an event which I waited too long to happen in a book fair like this. With me was my boss and fellow writer, Mr. Abraham de Castro, who happens to be the writing a book on Cory Aquino.

In a span of three hours, I found out that it wasn’t my consciousness of the critics, or the unavailability of time, or my novice book writing skills that’s preventing me from realizing my greatest dream—its myself. “To write, you have to write, whether its garbage or mediocre”, said Mr. Cruz. He added that “Writing begets writing, but it doesn’t start until you do something.”

In retrospect, I’ve written three unfinished novels since college, one of which was lost when I changed computers while the other two being works in progress. I also have an unfinished movie script with indie film director Eseng Cruz which we worked on this summer. I haven’t added new content to these works of art after the school year started because of work demands, laziness, or procrastination. I can’t seem to find the time or energy to continue writing them. But Mr. Cruz says, “What is the best time to write? Anytime, as long as it’s always the same time everyday.” He gave himself as an example, describing how he writes at 3 AM in the morning when there is less likelihood of disturbance and when his mind has fully rested and fresh with ideas.

Well, he must have been working in a really cozy room with a nice desk and comfy chair. Mine is a front row seat to a concrete wall thanks to the commercial building adjacent my window. However, when it comes to the best place to write, Mr. Cruz suggests, “Anywhere, as long it is always the same place.” He uses Filipino author Samantha Sotto as an example. She wrote her internationa best-selling novel “Before Ever After” in a Starbucks in front of the Ateneo de Manila University everyday while waiting to pick up her child who was studying in the aforementioned school. Of course, I won’t be chugging down on Starbucks coffee anytime soon considering my pay rate, but Sotto’s story gives my meager desk from SM Hypermarket a confidence boost. In fact, on Sunday, I gave it a good cleaning and decluttering. The rest of my room benefited from the process.

Mr. Cruz also made me realize that I was following the basic process of book writing all along—or a least most of it. In my two unfinished novels, I decided to do a deductive approach by 1) writing a synopsis of what the entire novel is all about before, 2) breaking down the synopsis into chapters and writing a synopsis for each, and finally, 3) writing the content for the chapters. I never got beyond chapters 3 and 7 for both novels respectively and so I never had the chance to take Mr. Cruz’s other steps which include:
  1. Idea – Brainstorming the main idea of the novel and its specific details
  2. Research – Conducting research about the fact to be contained in the novel
  3. First Draft – To be written without regard for chronological sequence of events, grammar, and facts and with different possible endings
  4. Fact Checking – To avoid any errors that might cause the author to lose face and credibility
  5. Second Draft – To be written this time with regard to chronological sequence, grammar, and facts
  6. Language Check – You don’t want to do a Venus Raj here that’s why
  7. Copy Editing – Writers don’t do this, according to Mr. Cruz. That’s why God created editors.
  8. Final Draft – To be saved as an e-file multiple times in different storage devices aside from printed in clean sheets of paper.
Mr. Cruz also advises not to rewrite your first draft and to save edits in a different filename each time so you can see how your novel evolved throughout its writing. He cites Ernest Hemingway as an example, who wrote 28 different endings for “A Farewell to Arms”. He emphasized the need for friends to look at your manuscript before publication, particular three kinds of friends: 1) The friend who reads and listens without commenting or judging, 2) The friend who reads, listens, and critiques, and 3) The copy-editor friend.

With the recent advent of Print-on-Demand and Publish-on-Demand services from various local publishing houses, its only a matter of time before I can finish my novel and have it printed. Most celebrated works these past few years like Ramon Bautista’s “Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo” and CarlJoe Javier’s “And the Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth” were all independently published using such methods. In the case of Samantha Sotto, she had to sell her manuscript to literary agents first before it was picked up by Random House, which, for me, is a 50/50 gamble considering that your work may or may not be enticing and thus not reach the US market. It’s one gamble I am willing to bet on considering my connections and resources.

Writing begets writing. And so I’ll finish this article in the hopes of beginning where I left off in my novels and movie script. No matter how long Mr. Isagani Cruz and I got to know each other, it felt as if he’s been my mentor for a long time now. I would have wanted to say that he gave new inspiration to my writing but he did say that “There’s no such thing as writing because of inspiration”. Hence, I'd say has injected new energy into my writing with his insights. Because of him, who knows, (and this was suggested by Mr. Cruz himself) I might get this blog published in book form sometime soon.

Mr. Cruz, mag-dilang anghel ka sana! TSS

Friday, August 23, 2013


Let me begin this post with an apology to my readers.

I’m sorry I haven’t updated this blog. I’ve been in a two and a half month hiatus due to the start of the school year and a chronic case of writer’s block. Despite the many events in our country worthy of social commentary (such as the Gilas Pilipinas qualification in the FIBA World Cup, the suggestion to replace our country’s name to Filipinas, or the falling out between the Philippines and Taiwan over the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman) and forcibly squeezing my brain for any ounce of creative expression, I wasn’t able to produce anything substantial.

Until now.

I don’t know; but I guess the combined force of Typhoon Maring and Habagat was enough to wash away this writer’s block. After days of subsequent class suspensions and getting bored checking Economics examinations at home, I finally had the energy and inkling to write—an inkling brought about by my lingering irritation to Janet Lim-Napoles, the brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scandal which involves several of our legislators in both houses of Congress as well as some executive officials in the Aquino Administration.

The scandal exposes the snarly roots of the corrupt system of providing legislators with government money to “help” their so-called “constituents”. While it is worth noting that not all legislators misused their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), it is also worth noting that some legislators have proven that they can serve without it. Hence, the very nature and purpose of the fund is now in question and the public is so enraged that is it willing to go to great lengths to question it. On Monday, August 26, 2013, a nationwide rally calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system is about to boil.

Soon, word-of-mouth of this event came to me via Facebook and twice I’ve been asked by college friends if I am going or not. I initially declined, dubious of what the event would achieve with a mere picnic wherein people will wear white and post passive aggressive tweets/memes/status updates about their rage against pork barrel system and corruption in this country. If we are trying to abolish a corrupt system which started out as a constitutional provision, then we should call for a legislative action to remove it once and for all. Hence, what I wanted initially instead was for the concerned public to amass around both Houses of Congress to call for the passage of a law abolishing the PDAF and pressure our solons into passing them with lightning speed.

However, upon doing additional research on the issue, I realized that there is no need to pass a law that would get rid of the pork barrel system for good.

In a letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer six months before the PDAF mess exploded, estemmed lawyer and former COA commissioner Bartolome Fernandez Jr. lamented that to end the pork barrel system, the President could simply stop including it in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“The GAA is prepared by Malacañang every year. This is clear from Section 22, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution: “The President shall submit to the Congress within thirty days from the opening of every regular session, as the basis of the general appropriations bill, a budget of expenditures and sources of financing, including receipts from existing and proposed revenue measures.” As thus constitutionally mandated, the budget to be submitted by the President to Congress becomes the basis for the preparation by Congress of the annual GAA. From the constitutional standpoint, the preparation of the budget is a presidential duty and responsibility.

Clearly, the PDAF emanates from the President himself. In a real sense, the President, not Congress, is the initiator and creator of the fund. Now, if he is minded to do away altogether with this fund, the President can always desist from including it in his proposed GAA. By the simple expedient of deleting, omitting or leaving out any such outlay from the proposed GAA, the President can “abolish” the pork barrel system. As simple as that.”
Upon reading this letter, it became clear to me what the Million People March symbolizes: it calls upon the only person who can decide on this issue—the President—to exercise the necessary political will to stop the allocation of taxpayers’ money into a fund which these solons can only manipulate and reek profit from. Indeed, President Aquino’s election promises are being put to the test. He will have to bet against his party’s future in 2016 if he is to heed the people’s call to action.

But as I told a college friend a day ago, this rally is just a start. In fact, we Filipinos have this penchant for starting something and yet failing to create a satisfactory conclusion. The people of 1986 once said that it was the start of something new and yet it failed to bring about a massive change in the system of partisan politics in this country. It even solidified and institutionalized it because of the very flaws in the Constitution and the faltered political will of our leaders.

Thus, closing the valve on corruption will not end with the abolition of the pork barrel scheme. The snarly roots of corruption involve not only legislators but also every fabric of our executive and judicial system. There should be a means of ensuring accountability of public officials, not just in the national level, but down to smallest unit of local governance.

If we are only going to rely on Congress, the Ombudman, and the Sandiganbayan to prosecute government officials involved in such wrongdoing, justice will always be delayed and thus denied to its victims. If the power to impeach is given not just to Congress but also to provincial, municipal, and even barangay legislative councils, then graft and corruption cases need not pile up in the file cabinets of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan. For the first time, we could see a governor, mayor, or barangay captain impeached by members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Bayan, and Barangay. By empowering the localities, we make them responsible for the local taxes they are paying and we’re making their local executives even more accountable in using these taxes wisely.

So yes, I am going to the Million People March on Monday. I'd like to discuss and polish these ideas with you once we meet. I am joining this mass action even though I am fearful that it might suffer the same fate as other mass actions before. I am joining it because it is a chance for every Juan (including me) to put their two cents about this issue on the table. If every Juan’s two cents stacked on top of each other, it would create a tower powerful enough collapse on this vicious web of corruption, eradicating it for all time. 

I am hoping to see and be with you all there. TSS

Further Reading:

PNoy can abolish the pork barrel all by himself

Joker still Scrooge of Congress

Joker Arroyo: Congress Scrooge for 20 Years

All images created by the author.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


"L" stands for loser?
We cheered for her when she stood her ground for the RH Bill. We gave our loudest hurrahs during her appearances and statements in various debates. We flooded Twitter and Facebook with status updates, memes, infographics, posters, and tweets, all with the same battle cry: “Risa Hontiveros for Senator!”

Now, the same crying mouths are left gaping, with hands above heads scratching. In Filipino, “nganga!”

Soon, our denial turned in anger, with many posting rants in social media, lamenting the irony of “stupid” candidates winning and “intelligent, upright” candidates losing. Did the electorate do something wrong or is it a lapse in judgment on the part of the candidate and her handlers? If you’re the type of person who is quick to judge a candidate and his/her voters as “stupid”, clearly there is something wrong in your judgment.

If Risa Hontiveros haven’t learned from the past, that lesson is “repeating the same mistake.” From the beginning of the campaign, she got a lot of factors wrong. Her entire packaging—from the fashion sense down to the image she portrayed—it’s all reflective of 2010.


From that year when she first lost, nothing has changed in her attire. She still wears that classy, yellow blouse reminiscent of the traditional attire balintawak. Add to that the signature purple shawl or alampay which baffled most of us until they found somewhat of a use for it—as a sling-like contraption to “take out” corruption and poverty.

93% of our electorate comes from poor, usually less educated masses, and obviously, it’s very rare for them to wear a garment reminiscent of the balintawak or even an alampay. These masses, dubbed as class D and E by survey firms, can relate more to candidates who dress like them either in plain t-shirts or polo shirts, and jeans. If you can even wear slippers or sandals during your campaign, much better.

Hontiveros' fashion sense did not change since 2010.
If Hontiveros could have taken a page from a team mate’s book, it should’ve been Sonny Angara. Just look at him during the last leg of Team PNoy’s nationwide campaign. He wore a yellow camisa chino or loose shirt commonly worn by farmers. That shirt sent the message that this guy is pro-farmer and pro-masses. Look at him now; he’s trailblazing at 6th place!

And to strike closer to home, just look at Nancy Binay—the bullied candidate which most of her supporters pitted against her. In all her sorties, Binay usually wore a plain t-shirt or polo shirt with UNA’s signature color orange. You now know how her attire made a difference in the election.


Never mind the attire and focus on the message: Yes, her handlers and supporters portrayed her as a tough, determined, no holds barred activist ready to take on issues such as corruption, poverty, discrimination, and women’s rights. The message is good, clear, and even concise but this has always been her message even in 2010. The masses have heard this before. What they need to know is what else can she do for us? What else can she transform into?

If her handlers packaged her as a multi-faceted candidate such as a mother (like Nancy Binay), a good daughter (like Grace Poe), or an entrepreneur (like Cynthia Villar), she would have appealed to the masses even more. And instead on focusing her platforms on issues closer to her heart such as women’s rights and RH Bill, she should have shown the electorate her plans of tackling issues closer to the masses’ heart like food, poverty alleviation, jobs, housing, health, and the likes. [1]


Another important factor Hontiveros and her campaign managers got wrong is the image. To tickle the electorate, one must present the image that you are “for the masses and with the masses”. But didn’t she do just that when she came out with President Aquino last year during the aftermath of Typhoon Gener, giving out relief goods to flooded residents around the Metro Manila? Yes. But it wasn’t election season yet and it was misconstrued by the masses as electioneering or as they would have it in Filipino, “umeepal”. [2] What could have been an alternative is for President Aquino to appoint her as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or even the Commission on Human Rights so she can have a legitimate reason to be with the masses and in a national scale.

Unfortunately, instead of compensating for her somewhat absence in masa events such as provincial sorties, Hontiveros focused on reinforcing her strong-willed and intellectual image by attending more debates—10 in all, the highest attendance among Team PNoy candidates. This is not bad if you’re attracting the intellectual and educated classes A, B, and C or a miniscule 7% of the electorate. Even if this percentage all troop to Facebook and Twitter proclaiming how eloquent she is in her command of English while elaborately answering all debate questions, this wouldn’t matter to a whopping 93% masses who have no access to the Internet and have little penchant for televised debates.[3] She would’ve fared better too if she didn’t join the bandwagon of Nancy Binay bullies. [4][5]

At the end of the day, your intellect and stand in various issues is not as important as what you can do for a hungry and deprived electorate. Unless, of course, if you are Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who won in 2010 for her command of the vernacular.


But what destroyed Hontiveros’ campaign this year is what killed it in 2010: the rift between two sides of the Left movement, Social Democrats (SocDems) and National Democrats (NatDems). In layman’s terms—Akbayan and Makabayan coalitions. Their rivalry, rooted in their ideological differences during the post-Martial Law era, became hot in the House of Representatives in 1998 and came to a boiling point last year when Akbayan allied itself with President Aquino.

Makabayan’s questioning of Akbayan’s party list status and the subsequent brawl of its representatives at a restaurant in Malate proved disastrous for both the Hontiveros and Teddy Casiño campaign. [6] Not only did it widen the gap between two sides of the Left Movement, it also publicized both party’s ugly tendencies and (by impulse) reminded the masses of their earlier connections with the New People’s Army.

If only Akbayan and Makabayan temporarily placed their ideological differences in the backburner and work together towards a common end, we would have more socialists in the Senate by now.


There are other factors I have failed to elaborate such as Hontiveros’ stand on RH Bill and her failure to get Iglesia ni Cristo’s endorsement. [7] But I think the factors I mentioned are enough to convince you why she lost.

Nevertheless, Hontiveros is not a lost cause. I’m sure PNoy could find some good use for her in time for 2016 if ever she still wants to run for Senate. And given that she learns all her election campaign lessons and change her strategy by then, maybe—just maybe—she could finally clinch that elusive seat. But the House of Representatives, where she first shined and made a name for herself, is also not a bad place to come home to. If ever she decides to run again, she won’t be without convinced voters. TSS

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Monday, May 13, 2013


She’s the one who took a ride on her father’s popularity during campaign season. With her unfit educational background and bare political experience, we were quick to draw conclusions on how out of shape she is to become a senator of the republic. We lambasted her for her total absence in senatorial debates, questioned the cliches in her platform, ridiculed her intelligence and experience by pitting her against Risa Hontiveros, and teased her dark brown complexion.

As of writing, in 5th place: Nancy Binay: 5,436,011 votes! (8:53 PM)

Early on in this race, it looks as if the woman we all hated will win a Senate seat much to our dismay. Soon, we will be scratching our heads and crying “Anyare?” (“What happened?”) How is it possible that the very person we all hated could likely win in this election?

As film director Maryo J. De Los Reyes said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s “Ang Tipo Kong Kandidato”, Filipinos have a penchant for drama. As in the soap operas we are hooked into every afternoon and on prime time, we tend to sympathize with the underdog—the oppressed and maligned character, usually from poor background and physical attributes.  Over the years, election candidates and their managers have learned to utilize this flaw in the Filipino psyche resulting in a type of social engineering we see every election season.

Turn a candidate into an underdog and s/he will have the sympathy vote s/he needs.

This is one trap most of us fell into early on in this election season. After all, there is another flaw in the Filipino psyche utilized by these candidates and their handlers—our penchant for criticism or (in Filipino) “pamumuna, pamumulà”. And the demographic most guilty of this crime against Nancy Binay during this election season are those belonging in classes A, B, and C or those from the educated, tech-savvy upper and middle classes that make up 7% of our society. From the day Binay announced her candidacy and campaign, this demographic was on the attack both in mainstream broadcast media and in emerging yet powerful social media.

Facebook and Twitter were the main platforms of cyber bullies against her, most notably through the use of parody accounts @IamNancyBinay and @DonyaAngelica (based on Angelica Santibañez, the famed and hated antagonist from the soap opera “Marimar” in the 90s). These two parody accounts were basically hook and sinker which baited us into the type of drama Binay’s handlers were expecting—to draw and encourage a large, educated demographic to push Binay to the ground. Some well known figures, such as comedian Vice Ganda, and even Liberal Party senatorial candidate and former Akbayan partylist representative Risa Hontiveros, joined the bandwagon—a step, I bet, she’d later regret.

As of writing, in 5th place, Nancy Binay: 7,874,404 votes! (10:18 PM)

Just one of the many racial slurs against Nancy Binay.
Back in 2010, Vice President Jejomar Binay got the most votes from that other demographic of our society who can relate the most to soap operas: the uneducated masses from classes D and E or a whopping 93% of our society. They are the ones who have less access to social media or the Internet and rely only on TV, radio, print media, and campaign sorties itself to get to know a candidate. They aren't the ones who frequent Twitter or Facebook and see Nancy Binay being bullied, but they know very well what is happening there from word-of-mouth. Hence, it is no wonder she would get the sympathy vote from this sector just three years since her father won.

The masses related a lot to Nancy’s father: from his complexion, to his platform, down to his bearing and approach during campaign season. Being a vice presidential candidate, the elder Binay did show he was competent enough to do the bigger job by attending debates and granting interviews. After all, he has bullets to spare from his experience as Makati mayor. In the interest of expanding his political clout in preparation for 2016 Presidential Elections, VP Binay gambled that his strategy in 2010 would work for her inexperienced daughter. Before she was picked, we virtually heard nothing of Nancy Binay. If not for her complexion, people wouldn't believe that she’s related to the vice chief executive. This is the only characteristic father and daughter share and in order to win, the former would let the latter ride on his popularity and devise a strategy to win: to turn her daughter into an underdog in order to get the sympathy vote she needs.

Risa and Senyora: Alter-egos?
We never knew (and dared to inquire) who are these people behind the parody accounts against Nancy Binay. It could be her handlers or non-affiliated sympathizers  Or maybe it was indeed created by some savvy tweep disgruntled by Binay’s inclusion in the race. We will never know the truth behind it. Only one truth remains—the more the upper and middle classes bullied Nancy Binay, the more it endeared her to the lower classes. With every slur against her color and inexperience, it was a swipe against the lower classes. By turning Nancy Binay into the enemy, you turned against someone who is with the masses.

As of writing, in 5th place, Nancy Binay: 8,594,831 votes! (11:10 PM)

It was a mistake bullying Nancy Binay no matter how legitimate our issues are against her. Now, with the inevitable about to happen, we just have to accept the fact that our own actions helped put a novice in public service. As of writing, there are sentiments in Twitter and Facebook about continuing the smear campaign against her in Senate. It wouldn't help in anyway as it would only solidify VP Binay and his family’s foothold in the presidency in 2016. What is the least we could do?

There are two things we can do: one, we can hold her accountable for her election promises by closely watching and criticizing her legislative work or we can encourage and help her accomplish the gargantuan task that awaits her novice hands. After all, she is an elected official and part of being in a democracy is accepting the results of democratic exercise. If we turn her into the senator we expect her to be, she could transform into the compelling legislator we don’t expect her to be. TSS

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Photos courtesy of Yahoo! Philippines, Liberal Party website, and Twitter.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Do not tell me you’re not voting tomorrow. Do not tell me you’re not voting because the candidates are of the same corrupt color and that voting won’t make any difference. If you don’t vote, there will just be millions more who will vote for the same dimwits who make the current flawed system. So yes, even if you vote for the right candidates, there will be thousands, millions more who will fall for money and popularity and elect the kind of politicians that make this vicious cycle of politics in our country go round.

You’re vote doesn't make a difference. Who said voting was a one-shot cure for our society’s cancer? Voting was never the end—it is the start. Because after you vote, your responsibility doesn’t end; you know have a greater responsibility of ensuring that the officials who won would make good on their election promises of representing the people’s interests and executing projects for the common good. By voting, you cast in your hands the task of pressuring your public officials to excel in their jobs. If you don’t take on this responsibility, you’re vote is but a worthless piece of paper.

In this last part of ELECTION EXTRAVAGANZA, you’ll learn about the background and legislative platforms of four candidates in my endorsement list. Hopefully, this would be a fitting conclusion to this three-part series I started.


Initially, the ninth person in this list was Marwil Llasos. However, I gave it a thought over night and I realized that if I picked him, there will be two candidates from the religious sector in my list already (the other being Bro. Eddie Villanueva). While Llasos’ educational background and law experience makes him qualified to run for a Senate seat, I believe he needs more legislative experience. If he had served as first as city councilor of Daraga City or as board member of his district in Albay, I might give him more chances.

Anyway, I am putting my money on Jun Magsaysay mainly because of his experience. During his two terms in the Senate, he legislated bills that enable our country to be in keeping with the changing trends in finance and electronic commerce—the E-commerce Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act. Being a former soldier, he also made great strides to improve social service for soldiers and their families through initiation of an off-base housing program for soldiers and passing of the New AFP Base Pay Law. As for agriculture, he passed and amended the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act and encouraged youths to take on jobs in agriculture through the Young Farmers Program he initiated. He also called for a Senate inquiry into the controversial Fertilizer Fund Scam under Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante.

This soldier and public servant hasn't faded yet. He still has a lot of rounds to fire, so let’s give him that last shot by electing him for another term.


Forget the surname or the fact that he’s using his father’s image as a strategy to earn votes. Let’s address her as Mrs. Llamanzares and let’s focus on her credentials rather than her family’s image.

With a degree in Political Science and Development Studies and an impressive record of leading incredible reforms the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), Mrs. Llamanzares has the calibre neither her nor Nancy Binay didn’t have. And with a pro-women, pro-children, and pro-poor platform—a platform she has already proven during her work in the MTRCB, Mrs. Llamanzares could prove to be a excellent addition to the rank and file of women already serving in the Senate. It would be great to see a powerhouse cast composed of Defensor-Santiago, Legarda, Cayetano, Hontiveros, and Poe, if the last two women are both elected. Grace Poe is one woman you shouldn’t underestimate.


This guy has some unfinished business that’s worth giving another look into. If only disgraced former senator Miguel Zubiri didn’t steal his Senate seat from him, he would’ve proved to be an excellent statesman. But somehow, that theft was more of a blessing in disguise for Koko as it gave him a crusade worth fighting both in and out of the Senate and made us look up to him for his stand against cheating.

I want to see what more Koko can do aside from being a dashing crusader against electoral fraud. Is he just the statesman bent on putting to justice the person who stole his Senate seat from him or the fair and impartial lawmaker determined to reform society through excellent legislative work? Let’s give him that chance to show the kind of statesman he really is.


I wanted to tip the scales by electing Bro. Eddie Villanueva as senator. We’ve got commies, leftists, right-wingers, members of political dynasties in this list—why not a leader of a religious group? From the many times I’ve watched him in “Diyos at Bayan”, he has proved himself a visionary just like Senator Gordon but with a moral perspective. Villanueva could prove to be the moral compass the Senate of the Philippines needs.

This is list is a cornucopia of personalities, competencies, and platforms. I’m very much satisfied with the way this list is in keeping with the principle of plurality. If only all these candidates could win, we’ll have a colorful Senate open to all the exciting possibilities and results. In the end, this is just an endorsement; don’t let it influence you, but rather encourage you to look into the candidates even closer. It’s your vote, not mine. Take pride in claiming your vote by exerting an effort to prepare for it.

Nevertheless, regardless of who wins, the crusade doesn’t end with casting our votes. The end of election season is just the beginning of our society’s arduous but courageous task.

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“Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” 
― Abraham Lincoln
Photos courtesy of GMA News Online and the Philippine Star

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Exercising your right to vote is more than just an obligation but a privilege. Not all democracies get to vote for national leaders such as in countries with parliamentary form of government where the ruling party or coalition gets to pick the head of state and/or head of government. Others are just failed democracies with various factions fighting a bitter civil war against each other.

We’re just lucky to have this kind of electoral privilege. Hence, we shouldn’t waste it by being too lazy to think about the candidates we’re going to write on our ballots come May 13. Let’s not take it for granted in exchange for a temporary fill in our aching stomachs. Our vote will determine if our aching stomachs will be filled for the next three to six years. Do we want someone elect someone who can only temporarily fill our tummies? Moreover, are these candidates responsible for filling our hungry tummies in the first place? Think about it.

In Part One yesterday, I featured the first four candidates in the list of my senatorial bets, mainly Aquino, Casiño, Cayetano, and Escudero. These are relatively younger candidates. Let’s look into the the much older and more experienced candidates in my list.


Gordon is basically from a political dynasty in Olongapo City. I am surprised that after dissing former president Joseph Estrada over his dismissal as Chairman of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, he’s in good terms with him now—which I don’t appreciate at all (not a fan of the Estradas here). But I am willing to look beyond these things and focus on his legislative accomplishments when he was still senator.

He did a good job (and still doing a good job) lobbying in favor of election automation thru his sponsorship of the Automated Elections Act. He showed his commitment and desire to make tourism an important industry in our economy through his authorship of the National Tourism Policy Act of 2009. And he did a service to World War II veterans for authoring and lobbying the passage of the Veterans Pensions and Benefits Act of 2008.

I’ve listened to his radio program Aksyon Solusyon several times and have grown to admire his vision for the Philippines. I also admire his excellent record of management as current chairman of the Philippine Red Cross. I voted for him as president in 2010 and I have enough reasons to vote for his return to the Senate for another term.


Hagedorn is one of three senators in my wildcard picks, meaning, I wasn’t really keen on voting for them until after much consideration during these past few weeks. The reason for this is because I see Hagedorn more as an executive than a legislative official. He could’ve ran for governor of Palawan and won. Or he could have courted PNoy to appoint him as DILG or DENR secretary, which is a highly unlike thing to do now. We need to put this guy in national government! But how?

Looking at his track record of transforming Puerto Princesa City into one of the cleanest cities and one of the most sought after eco-tourism destinations in the country, I realized that maybe this guy can also translate the same transformation to the entire country if elected senator. He’s an executive official which makes him qualified to do legislative work being part of the Sangguniang Panlungsod and all that. And with a platform of environmental protection and sustainable development, who knows? Maybe we can we have better chances of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 if he’s elected.


Hontiveros should have been in the Senate as early as 2010. But then again, you cannot remove the fact that majority of Filipinos are still conservative Catholics and won’t vote for a character that openly locks horns with the Catholic Church especially on the issue of the Reproductive Health Law.

Hence, I encourage voters (i.e. Catholic voters) to look beyond Hontiveros’ position on the RH Law and focus on her legislative work in the House of Representatives especially on women and workers’ rights. Apart from the RH Law, she is also one of the authors of the Cheaper Medicines Act and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program – Extension with Reforms or CARPER Law. She has authored bills such as the Anti-Prostitution Bill, Gender Balance Bill, and Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill.

Being from the socialist spectrum and with the type of activism and fervor she has, I think she will make things colorful in the Senate. She is the type of legislator the Senate and the country deserves to have rather than fatty, faded action stars and former soldiers-turned-rebels.


As much as she is branded as a political butterfly, Senator Loren Legarda’s legislative work especially on issues of women’s rights, health care, environment, and agriculture. Her portfolio is packed with laws such as the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, Cheaper Medicines Law, Expanded Senior Citizens Act, Climate Change Act, and the Magna Carta for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises.

She has previously passed laws which gained her popularity among women and environmentalists such as the Clean Air Act, Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, Anti-Child Labor Act, and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. Despite her notoriety for being a political butterfly, I only see such acts as strategies so she can continually serve and consistently pursue an agenda which is beneficial to most Filipinos. No wonder, from 1998 up to now, she still tops the surveys and gets the highest number of votes every time she runs. Nobody can beat experience and accomplishment like that of hers.

On Part Three: Llasos, Pimentel, Poe, and Villanueva

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“They say if you don't vote, you get the government you deserve, and if you do, you never get the results you expected.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly
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