And the countdown begins- less than a month remains before we see a new pool (or the same pool) of senators take their seat of power. We see the mudslinging increase as well as skeletons in the closet being dug up deeper as the finish line looms closer. All the excitement is abuzz, and it ought to be true that the Philippines probably has the most interesting line of senatoriables every time, whether they are new or old timers.
Exercise Your Right
Yes, we can’t help but cringe or criticize, or poke fun at our politicians, but as cliché as it sounds, every vote counts. For the more intelligent and privileged voters out there, it is not an excuse not to know about the candidates. We live in an era where information is readily available at the click of a button, and there are all kinds of tools to educate ourselves. There is already that economic advantage to aid in our discernment, so why not use it? Then there are also eligible voters who choose to completely abstain, either because they have given up on Philippine politics, or simply do not bother to care. Nobody can force anyone to vote, but keep in mind that one can’t complain should they dislike the outcome of the elections. Total abstinence equates to zero action or any stand at all.
Process of Elimination
If only voting were as easy as simply listening to a candidate’s platform, looking into their credentials, and accomplishments to come up with a magic list of 12. But reality is, as we have limited options, we thus have to vote wisely, and when I mean wisely, I also mean strategically. If the Philippines can’t produce the “best” candidates per se, then it is still our moral obligation to weigh the odds and choose the “least worse” among the “worst” – to give your vote to the lesser evil.
We can at least begin by NOT voting for certain NON-NEGOTIABLES. Be it our Catholic or Christian values, but we Filipinos are too quick to forgive and forget past faults, or we are highly gullible or shallow when the one at fault is able to somehow compensate through other means. Indeed people deserve second chances on certain occasions, but for those who have committed tremendous crimes, or have consistently shown themselves to be of wicked character, it is a huge gamble to simply turn the other cheek and allow them another chance.
NON-NEGOTIABLES - Who NOT to vote for
Lest we not forget, Honason is responsible for several coup attempts during the Aquino administration in 1986-1992. For Harry Potter fans, If we were to characterize Honasan, he can be compared to Peter Pettigrew “Wormtail”, a treacherous man with little or no real power of his own, but piggybacks on the big boys only when the tide favors them, in order to achieve anything.
Prior to his involvement in the Cory coup attempts, then a disgruntled DND Chief of Security during the Marcos regime, teamed up with Defense Secretary JPE to overthrow Marcos. Of course their plan was discovered and foiled, but to their luck, Marcos power was already waning and the people sought to protect these men who had abandoned ship. Together with FVR, they were foreseen as the catalysts to the 1986 People Power Revolution and went down in history as heroes. Cory had even awarded Honasan the Distinguished Conduct Star and the Presidential Government Medal. However, Honasan tainted his short-lived heroism. Little did Cory know that the same man she awarded, who attempted to overthrow her dictator predecessor, also plotted to overthrow herself as well. Fortunately, he was captured and imprisoned for some time. He is the typical balimbing, opportunist politician.
Years later, we see Honason still a survivor in the political scene committing the same questionable actions, to name a few: 1) During the 2001 Impeachment Trial of former President Erap Estrada, Honasan was 1 out of 11 senators who voted against opening the 2nd envelope which contained damaging evidence against Estrada; 2) This year 2013, Honasan again was among the senators who voted against ratifying the sin-tax bill.
What do we know most about Cynthia Villar aside from she being the wife of Manny Villar? Electing Mrs. Villar is tantamount to electing her better half, and the same reason for which Manny lost the 2010 Presidential elections are the same reasons we do not want his Missus in power. To rehash events of the 2010 Presidential elections, we thought it was to be a neck-and-neck presidential race between Aquino and Villar. It came as quite a surprise when Erap suddenly came from out of nowhere as the apparent 1st runner-up to Aquino. He trailed so closely behind throughout the whole ballot-counting that people thought he’d actually succeed winning his 2nd presidency.
Initially Manny Villar seemed the most formidable nemesis to Aquino, and his campaign seemed indestructible, but as fate would have it, his credibility was shot down only months before election day. Before he and his team could control the fast spreading wild fire of allegations, the damage had already been done. One after the other, allegations surfaced regarding real estate fraud, close ties and illegal deals with then President GMA, but what probably hammered the last nail down on his campaign coffin were accusations on the authenticity of his TV commercial. The unforgettable, catchy jingle: “Nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng basura..” was sung by children from slum areas where the lyrics depicted a once poor Villar who could relate to these singing children, and could alleviate them from poverty as he had done through hard work supposedly. The facts unravelled quickly that he did not come from such poor conditions, and even the masa caught on.
Manny Villar got what was coming to him, and with regards to Cynthia, we know she is just her husband’s puppet. Her winning the elections will resurrect Manny’s close-to-defunct political career, and will again give him access to continue his past “projects.”
Another example of a Buy One-Take One (or Take Three) candidate is of course Nancy Binay. It is a well-known fact that Nancy does not have much government experience of her own, but mostly experience adjacent to her father’s, the infamous current Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Jojo Binay is not discreet in his plans to run for President in 2016. Including Nancy’s brother, current Makati mayor Jun-Jun Binay and younger sister Abigail Binay, a current Makati representative- putting another Binay in office, especially in the Senate is adding the cherry on top of a web of precursors to their father’s possible presidency. Another Binay win will indeed set the stage for the Binays to get a tighter grip on the country. If that should happen, we can kiss our hard-earned reputation of clean and honest governance goodbye, and everything else that goes with it.
Joseph Victor, better known as JV, carries the first name of our disgraced and convicted plunderer, former President Joseph Estrada, and certainly proves himself to be a chip of the old block. Like his namesake, JV has nothing substantial to actually contribute to the Senate, or to the country in general, except to be a nuisance and a joke. Again, we have enough Estrada hoodlums lurking around our political circus ring, including his mother, and one of Erap’s many mistresses, current San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez, half-brother Senator Jinggoy Estrada, son to Erap’s Presidential first lady, also in politics, former Senator Loi Ejercito.
It is very disappointing to note though that the Catholic Church has chosen to endorse JV because he denounces the RH Bill, and instead has turned a blind eye to all his alleged corrupt ways.
In short, the best description for Chiz is a man of many inner demons. These days, talking about Chiz without mentioning the spat between him and his girlfriend’s parents, actress Heart Evangelista is unlikely. Though we’d like to make a distinct separation between showbiz and politics, reality is that these two industries always intertwine heavily in the Philippines. To not base all logic on the much-publicized feud, there seems to be at least some gnawing truth in their deep dislike of him. To say whether he is using Heart financially or to further his career, is another question and open to many opinions. However what we can pick out from their sea of anecdotes of Chiz as an arrogant drunkard, paints us a picture of a carefully disguised deceitful personality.
In his earlier years as senator, Chiz gained popularity among the younger voters. He was eloquent and intelligent, and able to answer any question thrown at him whether in English or Tagalog. He was seen as an idealistic leader and rising star who could possibly champion honesty and competence for a change.Years later however, nothing can be highlighted in his quite lackluster stint in the Senate, and for a while, Chiz faded away from the public’s radar. Perhaps Chiz too felt his career become dismal, and eventually transformed into a more calculating politician.
Today Chiz finds himself in the spotlight again, as though it seemed to have dawned on him that naive idealism has no place in Philippine politics. For me personally, he strikes me as an all-talk two-faced politician and can be likened to Marcos in the sense that he is charismatic, shrewd and overly ambitious- a deadly combination, and a tougher corrupt fish to fry.
To put emphasis on political-related issues, Chiz’s actions in the following arouses suspicion on his true character and agenda, among the most recent: 1) He voted against ratifying the sin-tax bill together with more questionable figures: Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Bong-Bong Marcos, Ralph Recto, Jinggoy Estrada, Gringo Honasan, Joker Arroyo, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Tito Sotto, and 2) Most importantly, his alleged political backer is said to be businessman and former Marcos Trade secretary Bobby Ongpin, who was recently involved in the shady DBP loans deal. The Office of the Ombudsman, AMLC and BSP have been investigating, and Ongpin, and certain responsible DBP officials have been in deep water.
As stated earlier, the next process would then be to choose the top choices among the weeded out selection. There may not be very many outstanding things to highlight, or we may have to overlook some lesser shortcomings, but we can only hope for the best that we’ve chosen the “best” out of what is there.
Makamasa – Forever the theme
Elections are just around the corner, and we see the same campaign style done repeatedly. There are commercials with catchy tunes with candidates dancing and performing whatever shenanigans, or candidates shown to be toiling to help out our less fortunate Filipino brothers and sisters. Slogans are slapped across every sticker and poster promoting the candidate’s pro-poor platform. Yet, there is no real or concrete platform, but only insincere and outlandish motherhood promises of a better future. It’s a circus show, and the same story, and the same theme all over again. Sadly, it is the tried and tested formula for success. You win the hearts if the masa – and you win the Philippine elections.
Of course there too exist honest and competent leaders out there, but that’s exactly why they do not win. Their high moral integrity hinders them from making shameless campaigns, and thus leaving no lasting impact onto the masa. They have good ideas and plans for the country, but the masa are not able to understand. As I’ve stated in an earlier post- appeals to emotion, rather than appeals to logic do the trick in accumulating votes. It’s a difficult trade-off. Is there actually a way to marry competency and mass appeal? We always talk about educating our voters, but maybe at this point, it is a lost cause to weed out our unintelligent voters. Perhaps we can turn the other direction instead and make amendments to at least filter the kind of candidates that are allowed to run for office.
Our Candidates, Our Voters
In our Philippine Constitution, to be considered a Senatorial candidate, only the very bare minimum qualifications are needed: 1) A natural born citizen of the Philippines 2) At least 35 years of age on the day of the election 3) Able to read and write, 4) A registered voter and 5) A resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.
Definitely most will agree that the bar must be raised a little, with emphasis on the Able to read and write criteria. I would most certainly support that clause to be amended to having a college degree as their lowest educational attainment, or a high school degree, at the very, very least. While we clamor for bigger changes in our country’s systems, we most certainly need leaders who have the knowledge and aptitude to be able to actually carry out these tasks at hand. Contrary to some beliefs that having just a simple and honest man with no educational background would be suffice to hold office, let me tell you this: He will either not understand the ins and outs of our country’s complicated systems, laws and policies, or he will be taken advantage of and eaten up alive by his own advisors or political foes. Running for senator is not to be taken lightly.
If we want better quality candidates, then we must set higher standards in choosing them. We must keep reminding ourselves that senators, our legislators, create our laws- laws that affect the quality of our lives.
The Great Divide
As said earlier, we do have very competent and qualified leaders out there, but why must they be forced to downplay their credentials? And why do politicians with no credentials surface as the better choice?
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, crab mentality pervades throughout our Philippine society, despite our strong Catholic or Christian values and supposedly supportive and hospitable culture. It seems like Filipinos find satisfaction over the defeats of another, or ready to dub or belittle another’s success as chamba, or churn out some logical excuse other than one’s competence to explain his achievement. The root of this mentality probably originates from the enormous and continuously growing economic divide between the privileged and underprivileged, where majority belong to the underprivileged, or masa. As a result, many Filipinos root for the underdog to trump the rich and powerful. They are tired of seeing the wealthy grow wealthier, while their own conditions don’t improve, and in fact worsen.
It is a popular theme in our telenovelas for example, wherein the hero or heroine is one who comes from downtrodden circumstances, but is able to somehow conquer the odds and level themselves against the rich and cruel kontrabida. This kind of mindset may affect the way in which our voters choose their candidates. They want relatable people such as themselves to win, and mistrust the wealthy and educated.
A recent and concrete example of our society’s crab mentality is the incident of Robert Blair Carabuena slapping MMDA official Saturnino Fabros. The act was caught on video and went viral instantly, with majority of our netizens quick to condemn Carabuena. This is not to say that his actions were unacceptable. No matter what, plain and simple, it is downright wrong to assault anyone, and in most countries, hitting an officer is indeed punishable by law. However, to also give justice where it is due, important parts of what occurred prior to the slapping of MMDA Fabros, were not included in the video to give viewers a thorough understanding of Carabuena’s violent reaction. Furthermore, as more information about him was gathered up, like he coming from a well-off family, being an Ateneo graduate and a Philip Morris executive, it became a witch hunt of overwhelming proportions. Carabuena’s actions were extremely magnified, and he was portrayed as an evil punk bully who acted entitled to do what he pleased. What most netizens didn’t fathom was that they too themselves became bullies, hiding behind the protective walls of cyberspace.
A stark comparison between Carabuena and Fabros in every aspect, the incident suddenly transpired into a story of Rich versus Poor, overlooking the fact that Carabuena is actually a good person and law-abiding citizen. Of course, politicians were quick to take advantage of the condemnation against Carabuena, and took immediate action to reward Fabros very publicly, with their names clearly stamped on it.
This is not to say Fabros did not deserve such praise, for truth is, it was admirable too that he did not retaliate physically against Carabuena. This is also not to trivialize the feelings of the underprivileged as baseless. Of course they have their share of anger and bitterness. Our country’s systems don’t do much for people with no access to power. On the other hand, having some sort of wealth and influence in the Philippines is also a doubled-edged sword. We have seen throughout history how privileged persons are actually given worse treatment sometimes because government officials want to appease the masa by showing that justice is blind to economic status.
The Magna Carta for the Poor
However, although being makamasa is repeatedly the underlying theme of every politician’s campaign, there are slight divergences slowly cropping up. I must say that I applaud our President Aquino for vetoing the Magna Carta for the Poor bill last March 25, 2013, legislated by our seemingly concerned senators and congressmen, despite the unpopular wave he may create by doing so. If you look closely into the provisions of the bill, it speaks about giving all kinds of government services to the poor, but there is no concrete proposal on where funds are to be taken from. The bill contains merely vague and self-righteous ideas. Of course we all want every hardworking Filipino citizen to have access to basic human rights, but furthermore realistically, how about budget and implementation? I also stress the word hard-working because the bill makes sweeping statements to target the poor in a general sense. Who exactly among “the poor” is it referring to? We would want such a bill to support those citizens who are not well-off but are working to get themselves and their family by. Its aim should not be to give everyone a free ride, but rather, to help those who also help themselves. We want our laws to uplift lives, but our countrymen must also do their part. The bill even goes as far as to include suing the National Housing Authority (NHA) if the government is not able to provide housing units.
This bill is incredibly ridiculous, and obviously and timingly put out there for the sole pupose of garnering votes. It’s title alone “Magna Carta for the Poor” makes this bill even more disgusting because it was created in the guise of helping the less fortunate, and those who do not support it are branded as elitist and heartless.
There is nothing wrong about being makamasa. In fact it is truly admirable if one has that genuine concern for the poor and actually does pro-active solutions to help out. It is just horrible to watch bunch of wicked politicians feigning all this concern and wasting money away, when the actual victims are forgotten.
Don’t just vote, but vote WISELY this May 2013.
A short editorial this Holy Week
There are different attributes we admire in the people we look up to or aspire to be, depending on our background, set of values, or what we personally hold of high importance. To some, their idea of a role model or great leader is one with an iron fist, able to achieve goals quickly and competently in a no-nonsensical manner. People around him, even his colleagues fear him in some way. Conversely, others look up to someone who has a kind and selfless heart; one who is able to garner followers and loyal supporters through his passion and genuine strive to achieve set goals. Then, there are leaders who possess just this raw talent and are highly intelligent. There are also leaders who overflow with charisma, that their exuberance and enthusiasm is naturally infectious and motivating.
There are different kinds of inspiring people out there, and of course, there is no one correct archetype, or someone who possesses a perfect combination of all the effective qualities. However, I strongly believe that a common factor across all inspiring figures is that they have overcome extreme adversities to arrive at where they are today. We love to hear about rags-to-riches stories. There are those who have come from a poor economic stature, and even terribly painful circumstances, but were able to become financially adequate through hard work and resourcefulness, and eventually make a good name for themselves. There are others more fortunate enough to have already been born into a good name and have access to great privileges. However, they too face tremendous difficulties, though just not as apparent to an outside-eye if compared to one from humble beginnings. Yet those obstacles exist, and come in the shape of a more disguised form.
It is cliché to say, but everyone really does experience failure, and it truly is the test of a person’s character to be able to acknowledge mistakes, and learn from it. It is about attitude. It is about courage and perseverance. Although it is painful and disheartening when such mistakes born are not results of purely human error, but due to cracks in our socio-political systems. These are barriers sometimes flippantly dismissed as trivial, but are actually very challenging to overcome. Nevertheless, the greatest people today have gone through the ugly, but keep fighting the good fight. They have a story, a journey full of wisdom to speak about, and it has made all the difference.
Our perception of the world boils down to our personal definition of success and priorities in life. In the concrete jungle of the corporate world, performance is measured by the person’s budget numbers. A country’s fundamentals are based on GDP, inflation and price stability. We have standardized test in every industry, when it is actually an inaccurate measure of one’s competence, but simply an entrance rite. Luckily in reality, the world isn’t painted black and white, and meaningful experiences color our lives. Life isn’t actually as plain systematic as we’ve thought. If the end all, be all of someone’s value was simply derived quantitatively, then we’d all be miserable.
We can’t grasp why, but there are people who strike us profoundly for reasons we can’t explain rationally. Somehow, they emanate confidence despite shortcomings. They exude love, spirituality and brotherhood despite a crab-mentality society. They command leadership with their presence alone. They are silently intelligent and talented without being forceful. We just know somehow that they are destined for greatness.
Never stop believing in them.
It was to my great privilege that I was able to visit the National Art Gallery of the Philippines, as a good friend, VV brought a number of us there for her birthday. The breath-taking, yet eerily haunting Spoliarium greets visitors at the entrance. The gallery also contains a vast number of other artworks which includes paintings by Fernando Amorsolo, Juan Luna, Joya, and pieces, sculptures dated as early as the 1800s, as well as during the American and Japanese occupation.
The largest painting in the Philppines (4.22 meter x 7.675 meters). Juan Luna won the First Golden Medal for the Spoliarium in the Exposicion de Bellas Artes (Madrid Art Exposition, May 1884).
The Genius that was Juan Luna
When we imagine gladiators during the time of the Great Roman Empire, we envision them to be strong and powerful warriors in the Colliseum, providing wild entertainment to the emperor, his court, politicians and commoners alike. Gladiators are able to take down their foes with a cunning and skillful ability that seems almost superhuman. However, Juan Luna, artist and political activist, portrayed these gladiators in a different light in his internationally acclaimed painting, the magnificent Spoliarium (1884), which means “the hall in which defeated gladiators were stripped of their armour.”
Juan Luna instead depicted the doomed plight of slain gladiators who were left to the hands of slaves. After being publicly mutilated into shreds, gladiators were not even given a dignified burial. The slaves simply threw their badly battered corpses into the furnace to burn and kept any piece jewelry or gold left hanging from their armors. Wealthy politicians only cared about winning their bets, and could not care less about the fate of these gladiators.
Juan Luna likened the horrendous ordeal of these gladiators to that of the Filipino natives under the 300-years of Spanish rule. Though heroic and strong, the Filipinos of that era faced an overwhelming magnitude of abuse and were merely used for whatever purpose of their conquerors. Many Filipinos died in vain; their deaths and efforts never vindicated. Nevertheless, Juan Luna also wished to embody a double message. As the slaves, in the end had power over the fallen gladiators, Juan Luna, in reverse, also compared the downfall of these mighty gladiators to Spanish colonizers, and alternately, the slaves to that of the Filipinos. He sent out the message that slaves could also indeed triumph over their captors.
The Spoliarium in Popular Culture: A Mere Urban Legend?
The Spoliarium has inspired further works amongst Filipino artists, such as Ryan Cayabyab’s opera called the Spoliarium which tells the story of its creation.
However the most controversial work has come from the early 1990’s popular song by the Eraserheads, also entitled Spoliarium. The crypted message of the song is said to be about the 1980’s underage bold star, Delia Smith, better known as her stage name, Pepsi Paloma allegedly raped by big showbiz personalities to this day: Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon and Richie Reyes.
Pepsi had tried to file rape charges against them then, even hiring Senator Cayetano to represent her. Unfortunately the charges were mysteriously dropped, as Tito Sotto supposedly coerced her to sign some sort of settlement. After her accusations, Pepsi could not get projects anymore, as people in the industry feared hiring her due to the political clout of the accused. Tragically, a few years after, Pepsi hanged herself in her room in1985, at the age of 17, never receiving justice.
Should this song have truly been intended to shed light on Pepsi, its message could not have been any more apt. Just as Juan Luna aimed to depict the mistreatment and exploitation of the gladiators, or rather, the Filipinos during the Spanish rule with his painting, the Eraserheads portrayed the same oppression of Pepsi at the hands of powerful people. At only the age of 14 years old, Pepsi bared it all for the silverscreen, and starred in many hardcore porn movies. Daughter to a Filipina mom and American dad, Pepsi was plucked out of her poor economic conditions and exploited to take on such roles, not knowing any better. Even in death was there no redemption.
Its Message Lives on
It was never proven in court that Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon and Richie Reyes raped Pepsi, but one can conclude that Pepsi would never have come forward and risk it all, which she inevitably did, if it was not the truth.
Years later, we still see great injustices and brazen abuses of power continually pervading our nation. We see innocent lives lost and good reputations destroyed because those with access to power wish to conceal their dishonesty. We see our country’s top leaders spearheading useless laws that will only benefit them, and then further justifying their decisions illegally. The list can go on and on, and it is natural for one to simply throw their hands up in defeat and choose to be indifferent instead. Yet that is the last thing we must do.
The majestic Spoliairum stands in the National Art Gallery of the Philippines not simply to be gawked at by curious Manila-dwellers or visiting tourists. It stands as a staunch reminder of the hardships that our ancestors faced in their fights for freedom and justice a century ago. It is a beacon of eternal hope to keep fighting the good fight, not just for ourselves, but for those who do not have a voice and have suffered and fallen into the cracks of our system.
Spoliarium by Eraserheads
Dumidilim ang paligid
May tumawag sa pangalan ko
Labing isang palapag
Tinanong kung okey lang ako
Sabay abot ng baso
At bakit ba’pag nagsawa na ako
Bigla na lang ayoko na
At ngayon Di pa rin alam
Kung bat’ tayo nandito
Puwede bang itigil muna
Ang pag-ikot ng mundo
Lumiwanag ang buwan
San Juan Di ko na nasasakyan
Ang lahat ng bagay ay
Gumuguhit na lang Sa ‘king lalamunan
Ewan mo at ewan natin
Sinong may pakana?
At bakit ba Tumilapon ang
Gintong alak diyan sa paligid mo?
At ngayon Di pa rin alam
Kung ba’t tayo nandito
Puwede bang itigil muna
Ang pag-ikot ng mundo
Umiyak ang umaga
Anong sinulat ni Enteng at Joey diyan
Sa gintong salamin Di ko na mabasa
Pagkat merong nagbura
Ewan mo at ewan natin
At bakit ba tumilapon ang spolarium
Diyan sa paligid mo?
At ngayon Di pa rin alam
Kung ba’t tayo nandito
Puwede bang itigil muna
Ang pag-ikot ng mundo
It is said that the ultimate mark of a true hero or leader lies in the impact of the legacy left behind, and truly this has been what the late DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo has shown – a sterling lifetime example of competent and honest governance. In our country where decent government officials are scarce in a sea of corruption, it is a sad to see his passing, much more so in the tragic manner in which his life was taken away so suddenly.
From the moment Sec. Robredo assumed office in the government at only 29 years old, beginning as mayor of Naga City, he portrayed the dedication and sincerity which stemmed from his desire to really uplift the deteriorating living standards in Naga City. It was not about receiving privileges from his position, or feeling the power and prestige at his every move. It was about Service. It was about responsibility and accountability for those being governed. After six terms as Naga City Mayor, he proved himself as one of the Philippines finest – equipped with brains, practical skills and of course, hard work, humility and honesty. He turned Naga City around into the bustling and progressive city it is today.
Later on, he showed the same dedication as the current DILG Secretary, even amidst tougher trials, and now on a national scale. It is rather unfortunate that he never got the confirmation from the Commission of Appointments, and it makes one wonder why a person of high valor would be refused such. It only emphasizes further the internal ploys working about in the government, and the people and their own hidden agendas behind these ploys.
Nevetheless, a CA confirmation did not stop Sec. Robredo from doing his job, and it is good to see that his actions and achievements have not been overlooked and will not be forgotten.
It also seems markedly coincidental that the discovery of his body amidst the plane wreckage in Masbate fell on August 21 as well, the death anniversary of another great leader, Sen. Ninoy Aquino. It’s almost as if history is wishing to reiterate a lesson of great importance to the Filipino people. History is telling us that Ninoy’s message decades ago, still stands today, but now with even greater emphasis and urgency – to fight dishonesty and abuse of power. Like Ninoy, perhaps Sec. Robredo’s untimely death is yet another wake-up call for us Filipino citizens to rise from our indifference and take courage to emulate his example, even in our own ways.
Let their tragic deaths not be in vain – we must commemorate in sadness of two good leaders lost, but at the same time , commemorate the exemplary lives they have led, and the reforms they set out to make.
The end to the “Coronavela”
It seemed as though the whole country was tuned in on the final hearing of the Corona trial last Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Beyond just politics, the Impeachment Trial contained elements of a telenovela: the high and mighty chief justice’s fall from grace and his desperate tactics, the emotional family feud between Cristina Corona and the Basas, the sensationalizing of the media, the at-par match-up between the prosecution and the defense team, the explosive evidence on the bank accounts exposed by the tough female Ombudsman, the movie-like speeches of both sides, and of course, the highly colorful characters among the 23 senator judges. Truly, it was a spectacle to behold, and many viewers became engrossed with the political drama that was unfolding with the progression of the trial.
The trial boiled down to Tuesday’s finale where all 23 senator-judges had to one-by one give their verdict and explain why they decided so. Judgment was finally handed down with the victorious pounding of JPE’s gavel, and it was a landslide decision to convict the Chief Justice, 20 to 3. The rallying point of the 20 senators was that they all were convinced by the overwhelming evidence which clearly pointed out Corona’s failure to include millions worth in deposits and properties in his SALN. His intentional disclosure of such was due to the fact he had amassed such wealth through illegal dealings.
It was quite a triumphant moment in Philippine history that at last, our nation’s elected leaders were doing what was right and just. It gave a glimmer of hope that crime does not always pay.
However, these senators-judges are still politicians in their own right; their intentions to convict should still be scrutinized, and the wordings of their speeches carefully reviewed. We must ask ourselves, did these senators pronounce Corona guilty because they seek justice, or is it solely because they realized it was the popular vote, and casting that crucial vote will in turn get them re-elected in the upcoming elections? Media had also played a very central role in swaying public opinion against Corona, and for greatly influencing the behavior and mindsets of those involved in the trial. Had the trial not been televised, would the senators proclaim such heroic statements? It was also in the final hearings, firstly, when Corona had taken the stand, walked out, and secondly, followed by a very convincing testimony by Congressman Rudy Farinas that showed that the Defense was losing their case. Everywhere Filipinos began to believe in Corona’s guilt. It would be considered almost political suicide to vote against the tide, and the senators of course took this into consideration. However, with this in mind, why did there remain still 3 senators who voted to acquit?
And then there were Three
Only senators: Joker Arroyo, Miriam Santiago and Bongbong Marcos voted to acquit the former chief justice. It may seem incredulous, and almost foolish, that given all factors, they still stood by their ground to acquit. Nevertheless, their decision should not be downplayed as reckless, but perhaps, maybe even more well-calculated than the other 20. No politician will stick out their neck like that unless they know there is something in it for them. Let us not forget that the INC has been rooting for Corona, and as they vote as a block, it may well be presumed that these 3 senators will get their multitudes of votes. For now however, only time will tell if indeed, theirs had been the better choice.
Sen. Miriam Santiago blowing off some steam. She stated that she asked “God to strike her dead”
Immediately after Sen Lito Lapid delivered his no-frills of a speech, his name and “picha pie” became the top trending topics in the Philippines. Filipinos commented that they appreciated his candidness and honesty, as he spoke of himself being only a highschool graduate and not knowing anything about the law or law jargon. Instead he relied on his conscience to convict Corona.
Many applauded his speech and remarked that they would much rather have a leader who was uneducated but honest, than someone possessing vice-versa qualities. Again, this is a reflection of the mindset of majority of voters in the Philippines. There are those who’ve witnessed the atrocities committed by intelligent leaders, and instead desire simply, honesty, and then there are those who are not able to grasp the kind of the tasks and responsibilities expected of a leader which does require a level of educational attainment and experience. His speech was a breath of fresh air, but at the same time, we must remember that he is a senator, the highest ranking official in our legislative unit. You actually must know the law in order to make laws. Sen. Lapid’s effect has shown that regardless of status in society, many citizens are happy to settle with only the bare minimum criteria in choosing a leader.
Sen. Lapid however showed us one very significant matter when deciding on crucial issues- decisions should not be made based on knowledge of the law alone, but it must be accompanied by the abiding principles of morality. He agreed with Farinas’s main point that Corona and his defense team produced testimonies that relied on very technical aspects and explanations of the law. They cited articles and cases here and there, but when looked at an overview, one could clearly see that it was all well, palusot.
Sen. Lito Lapid on picha pie - referring to the presentation (pie-chart) given by Ombudsman Conchita Morales
In contrast to Sen. Lapid, Sen. Frank Drilon displayed his in-depth knowledge of the law throughout the impeachment proceedings with his piercing questions and fiery deliveries.
The Aftermath: What happens next?
To many, Corona’s conviction was a telling sign that justice is not dead in the Philippines, and that it is still possible to mitigate corruption. Many are enthusiastic that President Noynoy’s anti-corruption campaign may be achievable after all. However, there are also still those who are skeptical that the result of the trial will not create any great reformations in the government. To them, Corona may have been ousted, but that still does not account for many other corrupt officials lurking in office and wasting away taxpayers’ money. More than just the elimination such government officials, there is a call for the government to reassess and fix their institutions and practices.
Of course, nothing can be done overnight, and there are still many unresolved issues circling about. In the recent aftermath of the trial, there are many discussions on who will be the next Chief Justice to replace Corona. The question still also remains if criminal charges will still be filed against him to put him behind bars. Also, many of the senator judges who pronounced him guilty are requesting to leave him be, as he already suffered at the hands of the impeachment trial. There is also talk that Corona plans on taking a teaching post at a law school, as though all his faults have been absolved instantly.
Well, what can be said is that at least the first step has been taken, but we will still need many more steps to accomplish something bigger and with lasting effects.
A WITNESS, A JUDGE
Not only was Corona’s infamous cowardly walkout, a desperate attempt to delay impeachment proceedings, but it was a horrible display of his arrogance. He showed that he thought himself above the law. He assumed he could easily come and leave the premise as he pleased, without any official permission, as though he was the presiding judge and not the one taking the stand. Moreover, what was supposed to be simply his opening remarks turned out to be a 3-hour long soliloquy filled with contradictions, lies, crocodile tears and baseless accusations that only deepened his guilt to the public. Senate presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile had already politely remarked many times if he could cut to the chase. Corona finally ended his speech by saying matter-of-factly, “The Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines is to be excused.” And with that, he simply got up and walked towards the exit doors. He delivered those finals words so flippantly, as though he believed he was entitled to have the choice to leave. He seemed convinced that his convoluting introduction was suffice to prove his innocence, and that the Filipino people should simply take in what he had to say.
Speech Filled with Loopholes
Furthermore, Corona also knew that should he wait until the cross-examination, he would not be able to adequately answer questions regarding why several properties and US dollar deposits were not declared in his SALN, nor his 82 bank accounts which Ombudsman Conchita Morales exposed from official AMLC records. Let us not also forget that most importantly, it was the Defense who subpoenaed Ombudsman Morales to testify as their witness, thinking her testimonies would strengthen their case.
During his speech, he used the same powerpoint with a pie-chart of his accounts which Morales used to explain his undisclosed amassed wealth. Corona attempted to prove Morales a liar by identifying several bank accounts and gave details of the branch name and account number, professing that these accounts have already been closed since December 31, 2011. However, Corona only strengthened Morales’s testimony, as he indeed acknowledged the existence of these bank accounts. Morales did not say that they remain open to this day, but that there were deposits of millions of pesos and dollars to these different accounts, and major withdrawals on significant dates, then systematically closed during the years of 2002-2011. Clearly, Corona has been using his authority as the Chief Justice for heinously dishonest dealings.
Never did Corona mention the rapid influx and exit of cash, nor did he explain the origin of these funds. Rather, in this portion of his speech, did he decide to focus instead on challenging Morales’s credibility in many menacing statements. He also explained that the reason why he did not include his US dollar deposits in his SALN was due to a confidentiality in the law which allows non-disclosure of such, which again is another lie, or rather his customized interpretation of the law.
The Defense Team: Interestingly Jimeno was one of the lawyers who signed the petition against Corona for being a midnight appointee.
AN APPEAL TO EMOTION
Corona jumped from one topic onto the next, not shedding any light to his primary allegations. His “defense” strategy was to appeal to emotion, and to convince the Filipino people that he and his family lived simple lives and earned their fortune though honest hard work, and it was they who have been wrongly accused and unfairly judged.
His lengthy speech can be described as a hodgepodge of sorts: accusations hurled at different entities (President Aquino, Presidential Adviser Ronaldo Llamas, Ombudsman Morales, the Basa family, specifically the late Jose Basa III), threats guised in form of heroic righteousness, emotional upheavals as he would recall the turmoils in his life to gain sympathy from the public, and mainly, continuous vehement denials of his guilt. He also provided general statements about his bank accounts and investments that did not explain, nor debunk the fact that he had ridiculous amounts entering and leaving his many accounts. Perhaps Corona had indeed become fed-up with the many negative things thrown at him and simply wanted to explain his side; but he did not do a good job in swaying favor to himself. Rather, he looked like a rookie witness throwing a tantrum on the stand.
Talking about his terminally ill-mother, from whom he claims he inherited a good amount
The Basa family who flew all the way from the US to watch the trial. Corona did not spare the late Jose Basa III from any insults, and attempted to describe the Basa family as the actual oppressors relating to BGEI.
The Waiver: TO BAIT FISH WITHAL, if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge
With what finally seemed like the turning point in his round-about speech, Corona then presented a waiver he agreed to sign which would allow all information of his, as well as his wife’s bank accounts of both peso and foreign currency deposits to be disclosed for public scrutiny. Suddenly, Corona prompted a sliver of a chance that he may be innocent after all, that he was bold enough to show everyone he was not hiding anything,
However, the waiver held that finite condition that all senator judges would have to sign it along with him. He challenged the lawmakers to join him in this act of transparency, to show the Filipino people that they are “deserving of our trust.” , As if he had not already made a mockery of himself, Corona had sunk even lower as he clearly confirmed that he had no intention of disclosing any information on his accounts. This is not to say that everyone among the senator judges have spotless accounts, but the fact of the matter is, Corona is the one on trial, not they. He gave another indication of his guilt, and his crab mentality character— that he knew he may not survive the trial, and so he might as well tarnish the reputations of as many as he can on the way down. In his accusations to Pres. Aquino, Corona personified his own statements, ” a vengeful person is unfit to be a leader.”
TO SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FOOT, AND THEN THE HEART
As Corona’s speech lengthened, so did he further incriminate himself. It did not stop there when he had the genius idea to immediately leave the Senate hall, leaving his Defense team looking genuinely startled amidst Enrile’s angry barks to shut all exits. Soon after the chaos, Corona, in all his humiliation, emerged in a wheelchair, and soon enough lie after lie was told regarding his medical condition. As all else failed, Corona let himself play the role of the sick person, the same pathetic card GMA had pulled out before.
Strapped on a wheelchair due to hypoglycemia - not the kind of “wheels of justice” we want
At this point, Corona’s guilt has become even more apparent but the question still remains if this will be enough to impeach the dishonorable chief justice. We still don’t know how things will turn out, we can say at least that honesty, prudence and good governance is not a lost cause yet in the Philippines. Beneath the ocean of graft and corruption found in the government, and in almost every nook and cranny in our nation – there is still that strong will for morality to reign, and justice to be served. Yes, the wheels of justice are still slowly turning, but definitely they are turning.
Internationally known as the Scarborough shoal, “named after a tea-trade ship Scarborough which was wrecked on the rock with everyone perishing on board in the late 18th century”
It is not a question of sovereignty alone, but a question of abiding by the most basic of international laws which clearly China has violated time and time again. They have shown us that they have no respect for the privacy or territory of other nations. Diplomacy as well does not seem to exist in their vocabulary.
Back in the years of 1998-2002, many Chinese fishermen were already arrested for entering Philippine waters and using illegal methods of fishing and catching endangered species around Scarborough Shoal. Now in the recent weeks, China is going as far as to claim it as their own. They profess that the Scarborough Shoal, or Huangyan Island, as they call it, was first discovered it in 1270, and drawn in a map during the Yuan Dynasty. Such claims stand no ground against the tantamount historical data and legal evidence, explicitly indicating the Scarborough shoal as a territory of the Philippines.
China’s claims are downright ridiculous. Even in the manner in which they defend their claims is through a show of brute force by continuously sending vessels to the Scarborough Shoal, rather than by providing any kind of legitimate basis of ownership. They have also refused to settle the dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), as proposed by the Department of Foreigh Affairs. The DFA has however resolved to continue with raising the dispute internationally whether China is on board or not.
Of course, when it comes down to brawn, or military capacity, the Philippines is on the losing end compared to the giant China. It is without question, that we will need foreign assistance, specifically from our long-time allies, the United States. Not only as the acting heroes of the world, particularly the vindicators of smaller nations, the United States will also have an agenda on the Shoal as it provides an advantageous leverage in their silent geopolitical battle with China
“Wan’t to be a world power? First be a citizen of the world and follow the rule of law, “says Loida Lewis, who has arranged demonstrations around the world.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSLEF
If history has taught us anything, it is that many past events do not remain in history. Ironically in fact, it repeats itself, and sometimes the victors and the victims change roles. On a magnified scale, we saw in World War II, the horrendous atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Japan. These aggressors, through perceived beliefs of superiority over other races, saw it justifiable to massacre multitudes and subjugate weaker nations.
Once tortured by Japan, decades later, the tides have turned, and today we see China emerging as a world power, treading along those very same fundamentals they abhorred. The stand-off at Scarborough Shoal has become more than an issue of trespassing international soil, but it has become a foreshadowing of China’s plan to exert itself as the dominant power at any cost, even if it means usurping international regulation.
China need not spell out the words to us, but this is a threat. Together, the Philippines as a nation should stand their ground on Scarborough shoal. To put it simply, we should not allow our nation to be oppressed by China. This marks only the beginning. If we back down, it may open the door to a series of more detrimental domino effects, not just for the Philippines, but for the rest of Asia, and the world.
Celebrate and Berate
In light of International Women’s day, it is unavoidable to not celebrate the remarkable women of this modern day and age who have contributed to the betterment of society. As there are many different facets to a woman - we each have our own idea of women role models, those whose actions we perceive to be aligned with our visions of transformation through concrete action. On the other end of the spectrum, there are also women who do not personify such values to be emulated. Nevertheless we see in the Philippines today all sorts of female characters who continue to play a hand in shaping the Filipino mindset although some more positively, or negatively. You be the judge.
“Philanthropy comes with a beautiful face”
A woman who has progressively splashed our headlines for the past decades with her dedicated service is environmentalist and child-welfare advocate, Gina Lopez, Managing Director of ABS-CBN Foundation. In her younger years, she has experienced and been exposed firsthand to what it was like to live in poverty when she voluntarily joined a religious organization in Africa for 20 years. There, living away from her accustomed privileged life in the Philippines, her innate compassion deepened into that of a real social consciousness and moral awakening. Not only has she brought honor to her prominent Lopez name, but has built the family name by utilizing her credentials, connections and experiences for the better common good. She has spearheaded numerous successful educational television programs and social campaigns (Sineskwela, Bantay Bata 163, Bantay Kalikasan, Bayan Foundation, Kapit-Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig) to name a few.
GL vs. MVP - Is there such a thing as responsible mining in the Philippines?
Mining in the Philippines continues to pose as a controversy, as there exists thousands of illegal “large-scale” small miners, backed up and funded by local government officials, gone unnoticed by the DENR. Many of these illegal miners participate because of poverty, and have even moved their families to inhabit the mining sites. The mined areas are left barren, and are not rejuvenated which propagates imbalance in the ecosystem, decreases sustainability, increases susceptibility to natural calamities, and also displaces indigenous people. To date, there are only around 28 licensed large scale mining corporations. Though it is a known fact that the Philippines is rich in minerals ( gold, copper iron, nickel, chromite), anti-mining citizens fear that strict monitoring and implementation of mining guidelines is not carried out, and perhaps, mining, all together should be banned.
Recently, Gina Lopez has been put into the spotlight once again and proved herself a fierce opponent due to a heated exchange with Mr. Manny Pangilinan during a conference on Mining’s Impact on the Philippine Economy and Ecology last March 02, 2012. Representing conflicting stands, Gina advised MVP that it should not be generalized that all mining areas are ugly anyway or cannot generate eco-tourism, and thus, be all right to mine on. Although not well-versed in mining jargon, Gina Lopez’s fiery persistence cornered MVP to retort the infamous line: “Now you’re lying!”
As the Chairman of Philex Mining Corporation, MVP is well in the know, perhaps a better source than Gina Lopez when it comes to the mining industry in the Philippines. However there is one shining advantage that Gina has over him—and that is her credibility. Gina Lopez speaks her piece from a sincerity that stems from her desire to choose the nobler cause, the cause in which majority will benefit. MVP on the other hand, positions himself on a business and profit-making perspective. He is definitely knowledgable on mining, but this does not necessarily equate to reliability. The two however, presented key presentations with notable points to be considered.
WHAT THESE WOMEN HAVE IN COMMON
Now of course, it is realistic to say that while we have such women to look up to, we have women in the public eye that do not exemplify humility, service and justice. These women have easily plagued the country’s headlines for the past months for different current issues, but not for admirable purposes. The umbrella common denominator among all four is that they are women that the youth should not aspire to be.
Father Catalino Arevalo, spiritual adviser of the late President Corazon Aquino, said it right when he wrote that Sen. Miriam Santiago is “worthy of the fires of hell.”
Sen. Miriam Santiago has caused enough drama and delays in the Corona Impeachment trial with her psychotic antics unbecoming of a senator, a UP Law graduate, and even as a woman. Her behavior, tone and use of language in the courtroom are inexcusable and only magnifies her false sense of entitlement that she has the right to act that way. It does, in no sense, add comic relief, but instead downplays the seriousness and gravity of the trial – which is the impeachment of the highest judicial entity in the country, lest we not forget.
Moreover, as the trial is broadcasted all over the nation, it projects and even applauds unprofessionalism to viewers everywhere. As a political leader, she must not only possess the minimum moral values expected of a Filipino citizen, but must uphold high moral fiber.
The Case of Basa-Guidote Enterprise Inc (BGEI)
In another allusion to “hell”, my sister commented that if Mrs. Cristina Corona was a character in Dante’s Inferno, she had probably sunk to the lower levels of hell for swindling two elderly nuns. These 2 nuns also happen to be two of her aunts, one who has already passed away, and the other, Sister Flory Basa, now 90 years old who has been serving at a convent in Cavite.
With the mention of Basa-Guidote Enterprise Inc (BGEI) in Mr. Corona’s SALN, an internal family feud has surfaced as well. Recently, both Sister Flory Basa and Ana Basa, Mrs. Corona’s aunt and cousin respectively, have come forth and revealed that together with their other relatives, they filed for estafa against Mrs. Corona for “misappropriating rentals,” as she was in charge of collecting rent from BGEI tenants. In retaliation to their estafa charges, Mrs. Corona filed for libel against them all, and not surprisingly, Mrs. Corona won the case. The Basas recalled that many lawyers were afraid to take on the case because at that time, Mr. Corona was already in Malacanang, as a legal adviser to President Fidel Ramos. They remember attending hearings, and patiently waited while Mr. Corona, gloating, would speak to the judge right in front of them. To this day, there is still a warrant for their arrest.
Ana Basa also recalls various events wherein Corona was unafraid to make a show his power – there were armed men sent to harass her father, Jose Maria Basa III at their home. Mr. Corona himself had also allegedly put a gun on one of their long-time caretakers, Mang Indo and threatened to shoot him because he allowed the Basas onto BGEI property. Mang Indo has long passed away but left an affidavit of the incident which corroborates the claims of Ana Basa and her family.
It was also to their shock when they discovered that Mrs. Corona eventually claimed their once family-owned corporation. The original stockholders of BGEI included the mother and brother of Mrs. Corona, Sister Flory Basa and her four siblings (one of which was also a nun, who passed away), and the father of Ana Basa, Jose Maria Basa III. What was supposed to be equally divided among them was solely put under Mrs. Corona’s name.
Perhaps their testimonies will not hold substantial bearing in the trial, but it can be seen that there exists no vested interest in their speaking out, other than the desire for truth and justice to be served, More than just a family squabble, the case of BGEI further characterizes Mrs. Corona as a heartless villain who will go as low as to fraud her own blood relatives, and furthermore use her power to justify her actions.
A central theme of International Women’s Day is the value of independence, the value of strong women who are able to thrive on their own. This is not as bold as to say that women should be without men, but it is to point out that women need not to resort to objectifying themselves to help themselves get along. Indeed, it is femininity which separates women and men, but it is also the ability to use our developed minds which separates human kind from animals.
Grace Lee epitomizes the kind of woman who clings on powerful men for typical superficial reasons. Before her stint with President Noynoy Aquino, all Lee’s past partners were wealthy and much older men. To some, there is nothing really wrong with this, as most women want security, but there is no point in trying to camouflage one’s true intentions. The public are not fools, and she might as well admit that she would never have given our President the time of day if well, he did hold that title.
Behind her attempts to project herself as intelligent, sincere and demure on media, her actions speak otherwise. First of all, she contributes nothing of substance on the Morning Show on Magic 89.9, as this was confirmed by numerous callers when Mo Twister allowed for callers to insult each of them for 20 seconds. Last month as well, Lee also attacked long-time journalist Ellen Tordesillas for publishing Lee’s musings on her feeling about marrying President Noynoy. Lee pointed out that the article was slanderous; however whether on air, or in interviews, she mindlessly feeds the public unsolicited stories and speaks openly about her relationship with the President. Obviously, Lee craves the much-needed attention, but instead pretends to run away from it.
Mo Twister argued that the root of many Filipino’s dislike over Lee was because of her being ethnically Korean, but that is not the case, and in fact a scapegoat excuse. No matter what race or creed, the last thing we need is a deceptive first lady who is in it for the wealth and fame. We already have enough politicians that fit that criteria. As Grace Lee is very accessible to younger girls, I want to close with this thought: should young girls grow up believing that they can get by simply banking on their outward appearance or sexuality alone, or should they strive to empower themselves, to equip themselves with the skills, knowledge, strength and values to face the world?
A Toast to Women Role Models
As media consumers, we are exposed to all kinds of headline-making characters, but we must take it upon ourselves to be well-informed and vigilant, to not take everything in, but to weed out useless and corrupting information.
Once again, as a tribute to all the true role-model women in the Philippines, and in the world, may their fire continue to invigorate many, and burn amidst challenging times. These are the kind of women who deserve our utmost attention, respect and support.
Of course I believe that everyone deserves a second chance, but at the same time, those who have committed great atrocities must still face the consequences of their actions. We must not let our Christian values of forgiveness get in the way of letting justice take its course. Putting aside corruption in the government as a reason why criminals are pardoned despite extreme circumstances, it is also the nature of our culture. We Filipinos are quick to forget or move on from past tragedies or remain complacent about current issues. By feeling sorry for criminals, we are not helping anyone, but rather, sacrificing the common good and jeopardizing our right to public peace. If every criminal was simply pardoned or released immediately, it will not only not give them a chance to truly repent, but it will also encourage others to commit crimes because they believe they can easily get away with it.
It makes one wonder if there is or what kind of impact will the acquittal of Webb create? Will it subconsciously implant ideas in the minds of other convicts or accused criminals, especially those in powerful positions, that they can maneuvre their way around our justice system? By giving one leeway, are we little by little blazing a trail down a frightful path?
Convicted Rapist-Murderer Former Mayor of Laguna Antonio Sanchez
Since the acquittal of Webb, some analysts say that it has given hopes to other presently imprisoned convicts that they too may have a shot at freedom. Take former mayor of Calauan, Laguna for instance, the infamous Antonio Sanchez which prior to his conviction, was reputed to be a kind-hearted, Marian Devotee. However, in 1995, 2 years after the crime was committed, Sanchez was convicted of murdering college sweethearts Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. His henchman allegedly brought Sarmenta to him as a “gift,” and after he raped her, Sarmenta was then gang-raped by his henchmen, then killed together with Gomez in an isolated location. His henchman steered the investigation to pinpoint a jealous former lover of Sarmenta as the culprit, but it was these 2 other security details of Sanchez that came forward and turned state witness. Sanchez and his henchmen were sentenced to life imprisonment, and later on while in prison, he was also caught in possession of illegal drugs. In a recent interview, Sanchez was without remorse and even confident that he would not be spending the rest of his life behind bars as he talked about his plans of running for office again boasting that he is sure that no opponent can match up to him. He claims that he has served enough time already and is up for pardon or parole. He showed reporters his blackened and bruised knees because of his sheer devotion and kneeling in prayer to Mary. Sanchez vehemently believes he is innocent and backs up his innocence by saying that his wife and children have still gotten elected into office despite he being in jail. He believes he is still supported by his constituents in Laguna. Yes, perhaps his wife and children did not commit his crime, but we all know that in politics, an elected position doesn’t necessarily mean a clean name. It is obvious that it is the Sanchez clan that has a stakeout in Laguna; it is they who have the money and the connections to successfully uphold a political dynasty.
Fallen from grace: convicted rapist Antonio Sanchez
The Murder of Roland Chapman and Maureen Hultman
Sadly, Sanchez hoping on a pardon, despite being convicted of such an heinous crime, is definitely not by far, a long shot. There have been many other criminals in the past pardoned despite strong opposition. A testament to this, is the tragic story of the sudden shootings of International School teenagers Roland Chapman, Maureen Hultman and Jussi Leino by high-profile figure Claudio Teehankee Jr. In 1991, in the supposed safe confines of Dasmarinas Village Makati, Teehankee shot these 3 teenagers in cold blood as they were walking on the street simply because well, he felt like it. Leino survived the gunshot wound, but Chapman and Hultman did not. Up against the influential Teehankee family, luckily all 3 families as well were wealthy and possessed some clout and were able to file cases against him and see it through. Finally in 1995, Teehankee was found guilty of murder, homicide and attempted murder and sentenced to 30+ years in prison plus monetary settlements with the families concerned. All seemed well, as he had been already serving 13 years, when suddenly in 2008, he was pardoned by then President Macapagal-Arroyo and released in stealth in the dead of the night. The President and her administration can cite all the constitutional jargon and invent all the excuses to justify their decision, but everyone knows it was downright disgraceful. All we can conclude is that there must’ve been a gigantic sum of money and other glamorous deals exchanged for Teehankee’s release.
The beautiful Maureen Hultman
The People Vs. The Ampatuans: The Maguindanao Massacre
May the Vizconde Massacre, the rape-slay of Sarmenta-Gomez and the murder of Chapman-Hultman be important lessons to us all. We should not let such evil succeed again. Today, with the Maguindanao Massacre still largely at bay, we have the chance to make things right. Way before the massacre occurred, it has been known that these kind of brutal killings have been going on already. It has become the norm especially between warring political parties, but this particular massacre had only been brought to public light because this time, journalist were involved and were able to splash it all over the news right away. It gives one hope that perhaps justice may prevail for the victims of the massacre since it is finally out in the open, but then again, looking at the highly publicized Teehankee case for example, things may not always end fairly. The accused Ampatuan clan has 1) a brigade of shrewd attorneys on their side, prepared to pull out all the stops to defend their clients, and 2) Former President GMA has long been covering up for them since they have been providing their personal arms and militia against the MILF, as it is cheaper than to utilize than the country’s own military. We are not sure that even the power of today’s modern media can put up a fighting chance against Philippine corruption at its finest. Nevertheless, it will be difficult, but we just cannot let the Ampatuan clan walk.
Andal Ampatuan Sr.
There are many problems with our social systems, government, worsened and further propagated by our deep seated beliefs and culture, but those are not reasons enough to give up. If we value life; if we value humanity, and if we value the future of the next generation, we just can’t continue to let the helpless and innocent be victimized under the hands of monstrous, powerful people. Vigilance is key, and there are many concrete things we can do in our own way. We must constantly be aware of our surroundings, and hopefully when the times, we will also have the integrity to make a stand and fight.