Archive for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Philippine News:Gilbert Teodoro Picks Edu Manzano As VP Running Mate

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine News, Philippine Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2009 by JJ Duque

I haven’t blogged as much in the past few weeks. Not that there hasn’t been much happening, but actually the fact that there hasn’t been much posting here means that I’ve been quite busy lately. Mostly, I’ve been busy with organizing the co-founding of Green Agenda Philippines, which is an advocacy program part of the non-government organization called Earth Tribe Council. Loads of development there, which I hope to share here in the Philippines Funwall once things get a bit more concrete.

Also, with all the things going on in the country, I’ve just had to shrug my shoulders and kinda sigh. It’s not that I’m hopeless, but it’s just that I’d rather follow the wise words of Thumper who said, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all.”

In keeping with that wise saying, I’d like to share my thoughts on the decision of defense secretary and presidential aspirant Gilbert Teodoro to pick showbiz personality Edu Manzano as his running mate for vice president.

In a previous post in the Philippines Funwall, I had some unkind words to say about Gilbert Teodoro and the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) earlier in October at the height of the disasters brought by the storms that ravaged the Philippines. (You can read about what I had to say earlier by clicking here.)

Anyway, I did announce back then that Glbert Teodoro lost my vote. Well, he still hasn’t earned it, especially with his decision to take Edu Manzano as a running mate for vice president.

I admire Gilbert Teodoro to an extent, and I really am thankful that he was very dedicated during the relief and rescue operations despite the NDCC’s failure to a quick response. I’m certain it wasn’t his fault that the NDCC wasn’t equipped to deal with the disaster when Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) first struck, but Gilbert Teodoro has done well in being more prepared for the other storms to follow. And that I will give him credit for.

I guess Giblert Teodoro felt that he could run for President, given that he had done well to gain public recognition during his efforts at handling the disasters and storms. The next thing he needed to do was to find a running mate, and he shopped around some of the glitziest names of showbiz-politics, including Loren Legarda (former Senator and news anchor), Bong Revilla (Senator and action star), Tito Sotto (Senator and Eat Bulaga  host) and Vilma Santos (Batangas governor and hall-of-fame actress).

Eventually, Gilbert Teodoro settled for Edu Manzano – the fomer Optical Media Board chairperson and also an actor. Gilbert Teodoro‘s move to shop for a showbiz-political partner is similar to what Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did when she picked out running mate Noli De Castro for Vice President.

Gilbert Teodoro‘s decision to opt (and shop around) for a showbiz-political partner makes me rethink how smart and “for the future” he really is. I mean – the mere fact – that he thinks showbiz personalities will bring him more votes just goes to show that he still is a traditional politician, who still believes in the popularity contest of the upcoming 2010 Philippine National Elections.

Well, certainly it is a popularity contest with all sorts of names to remember come election day. A voter’s list would have to include names of  barangay captains, mayors, vice-mayors, city councilors, a congressman, 12 senators, a vice president and a president. And just imagine the list of names a voter has to weed out just to come up with that list.

Anyway, Gilbert Teodoro is the cousin of senator Noynoy Aquino, who is also gunning for the Presidential seat. They’re both nephews of Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., the president of San Miguel Corporation. Now – what does that say to us about family and politics? The obvious presumption is that the family doesn’t get well enough to support the decision of another family member to run for a position, and then goes against that family member anyway. Certainly, such a situation would divide the family. And what is family if not the backbone of our society? With that argument in mind, I could presume that Gilbert Teodoro (and Noynoy Aquino for that matter) are not such dedicated members of their family, causing a great divide with their decision to run against each other for the Philppine Presidency.

Well – that’s just one issue. The news that Gilbert Teodoro was frantically shopping around for a vice president just goes to show his unpreparedness for the Presidential campaign. It seems like his decision to run for President is on a whim, probably fueled by his recent rise to political stardom over his overwhelming national publicity upon coordinating relief and rescue operations during Ondoy and Pepeng and other storms to follow.

Seriously, you’d think that someone who was prepared to run for President should’ve had a running mate to begin with. Now that just makes me rethink if Gilbert Teodoro is prepared at all for the task of Philippine President if he can’t even be prepared for a campaign for that position. With the elections nearing, Gilbert Teodoro hasn’t even yet established a political platform if he were to become President, and I think a true public servant for the people would’ve already thought of an agenda in helping restore the country prior to even running for any position.

All that Gilbert Teodoro has done is made himself more popular. He has yet to address the country’s needs and provide solutions for its problems. Or provide concrete steps in assuring that the solutions that are currently being worked on are kept in place.

Edu Manzano For Vice President of the Philippines

Edu Manzano For Vice President of the Philippines

And then – he has Edu Manzano for a running mate. Well, I won’t comment much on Edu Manzano. I leave it up to the universe to expose him for what he truly is – an actor who knows how to play the part. Maybe the decision of Edu Manzano to run for vice president will be a wake-up call for him. Edu Manzano does have the heart to serve the public, and even ripped up his American passport when he ran for Makati City vice mayor to show his true patriotism. He won that election to become the vice mayor, but lost at the next election when he ran for Makati City Mayor.

Since then, he has been sidelined in the political scene, and his small stint as a law enforcer for pirated CDs and DVDs  (chairman of the OMB) doesn’t really say much for his capabilities to execute the law. Personally, I’ve heard more stories of other controversies about Edu Manzano, although I haven’t confirmed that myself. I guess it’s but natural for a popular figure to be surrounded by controversy, but I just hope that the notoriety will not do damage to the well-meaning Presidential campaign of Gilbert Teodoro and Edu Manzano.

At the very least, the Gilbert Teodoro and Edu Manzano campaign will surely be entertaining. Certainly, the political soirees of the Gibo-Edu pair will bring the likes of Luis Manzano (Edu’s son), maybe Angel Locsin (if Luis can keep her long enough), and Pinky Webb, whom Edu Manzano is currently dating. Maybe, his campaigns will even bring around his former wives like Vilma Santos and Maricel Soriano.

Hmm. Edu Manzano and his many wives. Now – that also says something about your vice presidential candidate. I wonder if Edu Manzano would be pro-divorce? If he is, then maybe he might win my vote after all.

For the sake of Edu Manzano – I just hope the snow doesn’t blow out in these tropics – which is my version of I just hope the shit doesn’t hit the fan.

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Show Me The Money – Where Will The Money For Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) and Parma (Pepeng) Victims Go?

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2009 by JJ Duque

Typhoons Ketsana (Ondoy here in the Philippines) and Parma (Pepeng here in the Philippines) have caused so much devastation through so much flooding that hundreds of lives were lost, half a million people were rendered homeless, and all sorts of homes, property, agricultural lands and infrastructure were damaged.

There is no doubt that a whole lot of money will be spent on providing rescue and relief for the typhoon victims, and also for the rebuilding and reconstruction following the damage caused by the floods brought by Ketsana (Ondoy) and the other damage brought by Parma (Pepeng). The disaster has certainly brought about much concern from all over the world, which resulted in an outpouring of assistance in order to provide aid to these typhoon victims.

In the Philippines alone, there was a multitude of support to get the wheels of assistance turning. Several foundations, non-government organizations (NGOs) and those in the private sector gathered donations in cash and in kind to provide aid for those who were victimized by the floods and were forced to be displaced from their homes.

Medicines and basic necessities, such as food, water, clothing and toiletries were gathered and distributed at evacuation centers. Of course, a lot of money was also raised through donations both from the Philippines and from the international community.

Now I don’t know what the exact figures are, and I don’t really know who’s diligently keeping a tab on it, but there was definitely a lot of money raised. The combined effort of  television networks in the Philippines  raised approximately some  Php200 million so far. The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) has also collected donations via text and also through Paypal apart from direct cash donations.

The international relief effort has also raised a lot of funds through the likes of Australia, Japan, Germany, European Union, Spain, Great Britain, the United States, Canada and still others. With an average of $1 million being given by each country, the total funds raised could easily reach $10 million.

International organizations have also raised funds for the Ketsana typhoon victims, with the likes of UNICEF, AmeriCares, the Asian Development Bank and more contributing  a combined effort of a few million dollars.

The United Nations has also made an appeal to raise $74 million, and has already allocated $7 million from the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund due to the devastation caused by Typhoon Ketsana and Super Typhoon Parma.

Lots of Funds Raised To Help The Victims, But Where Will It Really Go?

Lots of Funds Raised To Help The Victims, But Where Will It Really Go?

Now – I don’t know the exact sum of how much money was raised to directly help in the relief and rebuilding efforts caused by Ketsana and Parma, but that is definitely a lot of money, and to where does it exactly go?

When funds are donated from the local and international community,to whom is the check addressed to? Where are these funds kept and who is in charge of the disbursement of these funds? Of course, NGOs like the PNRC appropriate their funds for rescue and relief operations, which include the distribution of basic necessities and medical supplies, but then what about the other funds that are outside the reach of the PNRC?

Apparently, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) through DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. (Jun Ebdane) has  claimed that their agency lacked funds in construction projects that could’ve helped flood prevention.

“Our system of mega-dikes, dams and other flood mitigation projects in Metro Manila just couldn’t hold the high volume of water that Ondoy (Ketsana) brought to us. Although we have made plans for more flood mitigation projects ahead of time, funding problems have stalled their immediate implementaton,” explained Ebdane.

Jun Ebdane also suggested that squatters, or informal dwellers, who put up their shanty homes along riverbanks was one of the major causes to blame for the flooding. He cited a recent study conducted by Japan International Cooperation Agency, which said:

“Flooding is becoming a more serious problem in Metro Manila and other flood-prone areas because of the rapid urban expansion, inadequate river channel capacities, and insufficient equipment for maintenance for existing drainage facilities, which have been continiously clogged by squatting and garbage dumping.”

In line with this, the DPWH is now asking for a bigger budget from the international financial aid in order for them to carry out their task in cleaning the drainage systems and the garbage left by Ketsan and Parma.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is also going to need funds for their projects in asissting the half a million (or more) that were made homeless by the storm. DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral said that the DSWD continues to provide assistance to the more than 122,00 families affected by typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy). The DSWD has released P22 million from its calamity fund for the purchase of relief goods, composed mostly of food, according to DSWD Public Affairs and Advocacy Division chief Precy Villa.

I’m not very good at math, but P22 million pesos is not even half a million US dollars (at an exchange rate of P48 to $1), and certainly there is supposedly a couple million dollars of funds that can be used to provide more goods, or even better facilities for evacuation centers.

Now – I don’t know where the money is going or how it will be spent, but someone better be a diligent accountant and take note of what is coming in and where it is going out.

The Philippine Senate has already expressed a strong opposition for President Gloria Macapgal-Arroyo‘s decision to declare the entire Philippines under a state of calamity and even extending it to a year. Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and Senators Noynoy Aquino III, Manny Villar Jr., Mar Roxas II, Chiz Escudero,  Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Alan Peter Cayetano warned against the relaxed rules in the disbursement of funds during a state of calamity, which might lead to abuses on the part of the executive branch, specifically with Malacañang, the various government departments, and the local government units.

According to the Senators the entire nation need not be placed under a state of calamity since not all areas were affected by Ketsana (Ondoy) and Parma (Pepeng), such as Mindanao.

The senators also argued that rules during a state of calamity has regarding the disbursement and utilization of funds become more relaxed because of the urgency for their use.

“When you declare that is going to be for a year, there might be calls for augmentation as far as those funds depleted are concerned. (The question is) will all the funds really address the calamity or will be used for something else because the rules have been relaxed?” Senator Noynoy Aquino said.

“I do not want a prolonged state of calamity, because in the same way that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, calamity tends to corrupt.  The longer the declaration of a state of calamity, the longer the corruption,” Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said.

Apart from the corruption, Senators also warned that a year-long state of calamity throughout the entire nation could drive out potential foreign investors, and could create more problems for the country such as job losses and supply shortage.

The Makati Business Club, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines and the Federation of Philippine Industries among other business groups were also keen to express that eventually Malacañang might eventually declare a state of emergency and the exercise of police powers.  Yes, something like Martial Law.

Maybe the Makati Business Club et al are getting ahead of themselves with conspiracy theories, but the bottom line is that 122,000 families and over half a million people will need financial aid to help them survive and remain healthy enough for them to get back on their feet again. Definitely, critical operations must be done to also curb the problem of garbage that clogs the drainage systems of major cities in our country, especially in the very congested areas of  the National Capital Region.  Funds must also be appropriated to the restoration of farm lands. Somewhere along the way – I just sincerely hope that the funds (that will amount to millions of dollars) will not be lost in the selfish pockets of those who will be responsible for them.

Philippine News: Is The Philippines Better Prepared For Super Typhoon Parma?

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2009 by JJ Duque

Are You Ready For A Super Typhoon?

Are You Ready For A Super Typhoon?

As I write this, news of super typhoon Parma (Pepeng to the Philippines) is on its way bringing a devastating 200+ km/h winds. Weather reports have said that this super typhoon could become even more devastating than tropical storm Ketsana (Ondoy to the Philippines), and we’ve already witnessed the destruction left behind by Ketsana.

The Philippines was shocked by Ketsana, and no one was ever prepared for what was to happen with the massive flooding throughout various parts of Metro Manila and other areas that killed nearly 300 people, left half a million people homeless, and destroyed so much property.

When the Ketsana floods struck, rescue operations were at a snail’s pace, and the Philippine government was indeed ill-equipped to deal with such a disaster. Even now, nearly a week after Ketsana struck – the process of rescue and relief is difficult.

However, when super typhoon Parma hits the Philippines, I believe that the Philippines will be prepared. In fact, the Philippine government and its leaders have already taken the necessary precautions to assure the safety of the Philippines:

1.  PAGASA is ready. PAGASA has already recognized the arrival of Super Typhoon Parma, and has Filipinized it as Super Typhoon Pepeng. This is important to protect our own cultural identity lest we give in again to any kind of colonialism. This strategy to rename the Super Typhoon Parma to Pepeng is also essential in confusing the foreigners abroad when we seek for calamity aid. This is done so that the Philippine Government can seek international financial aid for Super Typhoon Parma, but to show the Philippines that there is no support for Super Typhoon Pepeng in the accounting books. It also works vice-versa – that when they account for the relief for Pepeng, that aid can be easily misplaced to the Parma fund. As an example, a $100 donation to the International Parma Relief Fund will show up as a $5 donation to the Oplan Pepeng Relief Fund, because in essence those are two different funds bearing two different names. So yes, PAGASA is ready.

2. The Philippine National Red Cross is ready. In fact, PNRC Chairman Senator Dick Gordon is already on stand-by in one of 22 rubber boats complete with a team of videographers and photographers to document his selfless action of rescuing the helpless victims of super typhoon Parma. In fact, even before the storm hits, PNRC Chairman Dick Gordon already has his victims rescued, and the two disabled elderly women bearing twin babies is on standby with him on the rubber boat as well.

3. The MMDA is ready. MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando has already admitted that the insufficient drainage and irrigation due to the garbage from recent typhoon Ketsana/Ondoy was his fault. That way when super typhoon Parma/Pepeng hits, then he will no longer be held liable since he already admitted to his blunder.

4. Philippine Congress is ready. Philippine Congress is already on standby to make speedy enactment on laws while everybody else is busy doing relief operations. During typhoon Ketsana/Ondoy, pro-administration Representatives were able to railroad the impeachment complaint due to the absence of opposition Representatives. This time, the pro-administration will be ready to railroad the Reproductive Health Bill among other things.

5. The Local Water Utilities Administration is ready. The LWUA Chairman Prospero Pichay is making sure that all the water utilities will be working to provide uncontaminated water for the victims of Super Typhoon Parma. In fact, LWUA Chairman Prospero Pichay had also prepared a lavish seven-course feast, consisting of baked musselss, lechon, kare-kare, chicken barbecue and salpicado in commemoration of the LWUA’s 36th anniversary during the height of Typhoon Ketsana/Ondoy, but was only able to feed a handful of victims that included President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and political adviser Gabriel Claudio among others.

6. Henry’s Catering Service is ready. Many Filipino citizens around Metro Manila have been doing their part in preparing meals and packing relief goods to help out the half a million homeless Filipinos, who weren’t able to eat for several days since they were waiting to be rescued. However, Henry’s Catering Service has been prepared to cater to the meetings of the National Disaster Coordinating Council connected with relief operations for typhoon Ondoy. Henry’s Catering Service is also responsible for the quick response in putting together the lavish feast for the 36th anniversary celebration of the LWUA among other feats.

7. The National Disaster Coordinating Council is ready. They improved their rubber boat count from 22 to 30, and have increased the number of lifevests for their office by 10.

8. Congressman Mikey Arroyo is ready. His stockpile of tequila is unmatched.

9. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is ready. In fact, she’s been the most prepared of everyone. Even before typhoon Ketsana/Ondoy hit, she had already put aside some cash for emergency situations. Considering her very diligent experience in putting aside funds for a rainy day, you know for sure that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is well prepared. Certainly, should Super Typhoon Parma/Pepeng cause an unparalleled disaster to the Philippines, she has prepared her emergency kit, made sure her valuables and loved ones (not necessarily in that order) are taken care of,  and that she is ready to evacuate if need be. In fact, we should all emulate her example and also be prepared.

How about you? Are you prepared?

“Danghang Salamat, Ondoy” by Ramil Digal Gulle

Posted in All About The Philippines, Philippine Current Events, Philippine Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2009 by JJ Duque

[The Following Excerpt Was Written by Ramil Digal Gulle, And I Am Just Re-posting His Inspiring Message Here]

All I wanted to do on Saturday morning was to go to my doctor. After getting off the MRT station in Kamuning (about 10 am) I waded through ankle-deep floodwaters to accompany my wife to the TV station where she works. The rest of the day was already clear in my head: Go to the doctor, finish my business there by around lunchtime (there are usually quite a number of patients, and I wasn’t expecting to finish earlier than that), pick up my wife and we go home for some needed time with the kids.

I thought nothing of it when the doctor’s nurse texted me to say that the doctor’s clinic was already flooded. The clinic is in the low-lying Kamias area. Fine, I told myself, I’ll just go to Hi-Top and buy a bottle of wine and ingredients for dinner. My daughter had requested that I cook for dinner.

After Hi-Top, I proceeded to the TV station where my wife works. I was walking the whole time because of the rain. I felt no danger despite the rain. The rain wasn’t that strong by the time I left Hi-Top. Then I reached the corner of Panay Avenue and Sergeant Esguerra. Holy shit. The floodwaters were neck-deep in Esguerra!

I turned left on Panay, planning to take the train at the Quezon Avenue MRT then disembark at Kamuning station, so I could just walk towards the TV station. I reached Hen Lin (a Chinese fastfood) which is right under the MRT station. I was surprised to see that Edsa was flooded. The area in front of the McDonald’s outlet was waist-deep in flood.

There was a guy—he was soaked from head-to-foot—who was warning people getting off the Quezon Avenue MRT station. He was telling everyone who could hear him: “O, wag na kayo dyan sa Esguerra. Hanggang leeg doon. Dito sa may Edsa hanggang baywang. Mamili na lang kayo kung saan niyo gustong magpakamatay.”

[Don’t go to Esguerra. The water there is neck-deep. Over there at Edsa it’s waist-deep. You guys choose which side you prefer. You choose where you want to kill yourself.]

The guy was trying to be funny. I went up the MRT station, boarded the train and got off at Kamuning. When I reached the TV station, my wife texted me that she won’t be going home. All TV news staff were required to stay because of widespread flooding.

I called the kids at home. Thank God there wasn’t too much rain in Cavite. Finally, I saw what was happening in Marikina and Rizal on the TV set at the visitor’s area. Shit. I won’t be able to go home. Then I also learned that the way to Cavite was impassable.

After talking to my 9-year-old daughter some more and assessing that Cavite would likely not be affected by the typhoon, I made up my mind to wait for my wife. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to let her go home alone, with floodwaters rising in Quezon City.

People were coming to the TV station. Every single one was asking for help. They had loved ones trapped inside their house by floodwaters. There were loved ones already on rooftops. The floods were rising too fast in some areas. And so began my long day: filled with the weeping of women, worries about friends trapped in rooftops, worries about my kids (what if the typhoon turns and hits Cavite?), and a feeling of utter helplessness.

My wife worked till about midnight. We tried to get to Cavite but even before we reached the tollgate of the expressway leading to Bacoor, huge trucks were already turning back. We were in a cab. I decided not to risk whatever was ahead. There could have been floods, an accident, etc.

My daughter kept calling my mobile phone. She was crying. When were we going to get home? After getting assured that there was no flooding in Cavite, that our kids were not in danger of any flood, I told my wife we should just wait for morning. We turned back and stayed in a hotel—the hotel lobby to be exact. All the rooms were booked. It was already 2am. We couldn’t sleep. We simply waited till the sun was up.

When I finally got home today, the first thing I did was gather wife and kids for prayers. We prayed out of gratitude. We were all safe. Then we prayed for all those who were still trapped, who were still struggling to stay alive amid floodwaters. I was crying.

I find myself unable to sleep after being awake since 6 am yesterday morning. I’m still keyed up. My wife’s asleep, finally, after getting a massage. I want to sleep but each time I manage to doze off, I jerk awake at the slightest noise. So I’ll just write.

I can’t get the sound of weeping mothers out of my head. That’s how I spent the night while stranded in Quezon City. All these mothers kept talking about their kids. One mother, Lina, could not help but cry for her kids, who were trapped in the third storey of a neighbor’s house for out eight hours already by the time she spoke to me. Her husband was also trapped by floodwaters—he could not leave his office in Quezon City.

Here are some things I learned from the experience. I can write them down in the comfort of home with my wife and kids safely with me. I actually feel guilty that I’m in this situation. I feel guilty that I’m not out there on a rubber boat saving people. So I’ll write some more and go to bed. After I get some sleep, I might have a saner perspective.

Our families are not prepared for climate change. Typhoon Ondoy was true to its name, which means “little boy”—it wasn’t a supertyphoon. And yet, we all failed in so many fronts.

In our own home, we don’t have an emergency kit. The flashlight is no longer where I always put it. Furthermore, I’m not aware of any evacuation plan in our community. Who do we call? Where do we evacuate when waters start rising? I have no idea. It’s the sort of ignorance that kills.

One friend of mine lost her possessions in the floods. Her husband and kids are safe. She had the quick and sensible thinking to have her family evacuate shortly after the water began seeping into their house and after the power was cut off. They left everything and booked themselves in a hotel. “I lost everything,” she told me over her mobile phone. I told her that the most important things in her life were saved.

Our government—both the national government and the LGUs–is not prepared for climate change. If people are safe now—relatively, for some, because it’s again starting to rain and many are still trapped on rooftops, awaiting rescue—it’s because of prayer. So many people were—are still—praying. It seems the prayers were heard because we all got a respite from the rain.

Filipinos have a saying, “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa” (God dispenses mercy but man has to do the work). God has already dispensed his mercy. Will we do our part?

There’s no excuse for the lack of rubber boats, for example. We have floods every year. But every year, we are unprepared. The two rubber boats that began rescuing people in Marikina were a relief to know about, but why only two?

Philippine National Red Cross Chairman Dick Gordon tried to transport several more rubber boats but these had to come all the way from Olongapo. And with the traffic jams at the expressways, they could not get to Metro Manila in time.

The headquarters of the National Disaster Coordinating Council and the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are both in Quezon City. And yet, for nearly 12 hours, Quezon City residents trapped in floods could not be rescued. The AFP, if I remember correctly, usually has the biggest slice of the national budget every year. But where were the choppers? Where were the rubber boats? Clearly something is very wrong.

Then we recall how General Carlos Garcia, former AFP comptroller, was caught (by US authorities, not by Philippine authorities) trying to bring in millions of pesos in cash to the US. It does not inspire faith in the military leadership.

We also recall a lot of things that are disquieting: government resources being used to secure a questionable telecoms deal with a Chinese firm; millions of pesos spent on Presidential dinners abroad; millions of pesos in campaign contributions unaccounted for; millions of pesos spent on a California mansion; billions of pesos spent on foreign trips; and a cancelled plan to buy a new Presidential jet.

How do you explain all that to kids trapped on their rooftop for nearly 24 hours—soaking wet, hungry, crying for their mothers and going insane with fear?

How do you explain the fact that the government can spend millions upon millions on so many other projects, but could only produce two rubber boats to rescue scores of residents trapped in a flooded Marikina village? How do you explain the President’s lobster and steak dinners to Rizal residents neck-deep in muddy floodwaters?

Every year, we get floods and typhoons. Every year, we give money to the AFP and the NDCC. And all that the Marikina residents get are two rubber boats?

And wasn’t Marikina always being trumpeted as some sort of “First World City in a Third World Country”? Clean and green Marikina. Disciplined Marikina, a jewel of law and order in the chaos of the Mega Manila.

The Marikina River floods every year. Every year. But when it really mattered, the City Government of Marikina did not have enough emergency equipment, did not have enough rubber boats. Or if it did, it did not have the capacity to deploy these resources in time. It seemed to have no plan for the evacuation of residents at Provident Village before floodwaters could reach it.

And former Marikina mayor Bayani Fernando wants to run the rest of the country the way he did Marikina—or at least, that’s the impression we get. We could be wrong.

To be fair, none of us expected something like Typhoon Ondoy. But the lack of rubber boats, the seeming lack of coordinated response, the empty promises made over the media—these are simply not acceptable. These do not inspire our confidence in government once the next super typhoon hits. I mentioned Marikina only as an example.

I’m not blaming Fernando or his wife (the present Marikina mayor). I’m just stating how things appear. The real story about the slow rescue, etc. might unfold in the next few days.

[Kris Aquino was talking on TV about Marikina rescue efforts. She said that according to one Marikina resident, there were rubber boats deployed by the Marikina government–but the river’s currents were so strong that the rubber boats got overturned. It was also pointed out that Marikina Mayor Marides Fernando did everything she could but “nature’s wrath” was just too powerful. In the interest of fairness I should point this out.]

What happened to Marikina can happen anywhere. The local governments of Bulacan, Pasig and Rizal fared no better. Are our local governments prepared for climate change? Are they prepared for typhoons like Ondoy, or much stronger ones? Your guess is as good as mine.

What would have happened if Ondoy didn’t leave the country in the hours following the massive flooding? What if it was a super typhoon that decided to stay for a few days?

The answer is so obvious that we’re scared to state it: Death and Chaos. So many people, so many children will die. Our loved ones will die. We will die.

The next few days, weeks and months will tell us whether the government cares to prevent this, or whether it wants to use climate change as a kind of population control.

The government’s priorities have been clear in the way it spends its money and allocates its resources. For example, the AFP budget keeps growing. But what about the budget for the national weather agency PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration)? There were reports a few years back that the budget was actually slashed.

During a report on GMA-7 news last night, PAGASA OIC Nathaniel Cruz said that there was a piece of equipment that could help the agency estimate a typhoon’s potential amount of rainfall (very useful in the case of Ondoy, which poured a month’s worth of rainfall in about five hours)—a Doppler radar. Does PAGASA have this equipment?

No. The national weather agency, the only one that could warn us if we should evacuate because a typhoon will bring a deluge, does not have a Doppler radar. But it’s on its way, clarifies Cruz.

PAGASA, in Filipino, also means “Hope”. Based on how the government seems to prioritize PAGASA, the weather agency, do we have reason to hope?

It was drummed into my head a long time ago that when we use the term “government” in a democracy, we should really refer to ourselves. After all, in a democracy, governance must be by, of and for the people.

So it’s either we’re not really a democracy (because we always stand back and just let a bunch of evil yoyos run things for us) or we’re all just not getting this governance thing right. We’re not governing things the way we should.

It’s raining again. I hope we get our acts together soon.

Philippines Current Events: Coordinating Disaster Is A Disaster For National Disaster Coordinating Councild

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine Current Events, Philippine News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2009 by JJ Duque

I don’t like the National Disaster Coordinating Council of the Philippines. Simply because they lack COORDINATION! It’s a given that Ondoy has brought so much damage to property, to homes, and not to mention the thousands of people who had to be evacuated.

Coordinating rescue operations is no joke, but it’s rather such a disappointment that they couldn’t get something going quickly enough. After all, it’s a matter of coordination. If the NDCC receives a call for help, then they coordinate the efforts with the nearest rescue operation unit  in that area – whether it be hospital, police or barangay. From there, the local rescue unit will give an assessment of the situation, (i.e. “we cannot get to those victims due to severe floods.”)

From that point the NDCC will coordinate this information to those who can do something about the situation, such as the Philippine Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, or maybe they might have their own special equipment or task force that can respond to the call since the local unit cannot, and then THAT is dispatched with the utmost emergency. And then coordinate a place with which they can use for evacuation. After all, you don’t just rescue the cat from a tree just to leave him in a pit of dogs.

The NDCC Cannot Coordinate This Disaster

The NDCC Cannot Coordinate This Disaster

What happened to yesterday’s disaster because of Ondoy had the phone lines of the NDCC on fire, and yet without anyone to really provide the proper coordination in order to get things done. The slow process of bureaucracy before Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro could mobilize anything is just not acceptable when lives and property are at stake, especially those who stand to lose EVERYTHING.

Sorry – Gilbert Teodoro – but you just lost my vote.

Then, there’s that NDCC Deputy Director Anthony Golez Jr., who I believe may have a good heart, but just looks like a total dweeb. Anthony Golez Jr., in an interview with ABS-CBN, asked for an apology for the delayed effort in the rescue operations, citing that the flood made things difficult. Sorry – Anthony  Golez Jr. – I was taught to produce results and not excuses, and I can’t believe you even had the time to conduct an interview to apologize instead of getting on that damn phone and finding more trucks and more rubber boats and more choppers, or coordinating more evacuation centers.

Then, when he was asked if school and work would be suspended, Anthony Golez Jr. quipped something like it would depend on the bureaucracy. Apparently, there is a criteria that must be followed for the suspension of classes or work, or the declaration of any calamity, and it has such a frigging red-tape process. (you may check it out here). It’s no wonder kids take the dangerous trek to school at 5Am and get to school on time at 7am, only to find out that government will suspend classes at 11am (government work starts at 8am or 9am.) By that time – the situation of the weather is near disastrous, and students are stranded.

So, anyway, Anthony Golez Jr. can’t say if there are no classes or work on Monday because some government offices are closed on Sunday, and no one is around to write the memo. If you look at the red tape process of suspending classes and work by the NDCC, you will understand the importance of the memo.

Apart from the rescue operations, the NDCC should have better coordination in the gathering of information as to those that may need relief. They should also coordinate all the efforts of volunteer groups and point them to designated areas. They should also coordinate the charity and relief assistance from various groups to send out to evacuation centers or disaster areas. COORDINATION – it’s in their job description.

Instead, what’s going on now, is that several groups and foundations have risen up to volunteer their services, and yet they are like headless chickens running around. Sure, ABSCBN is doing a tele-thon and getting donations  with even the supposed head of Coca-Cola – pledging 2 million bottles of Wilkins drinking water. Fine – it sounds good on television, but I want those 2 million bottles now! I want 10,000 of those put on a truck and sent to Marikina. I want 10,000 more sent to Rizal. I want 20,000 more floated down the Pasig river to reach homes that cannot be reached. I want immediate action through coordination. I want to see the pledged 2 million water bottles making its way somewhere it is needed. Instead, it might take 2 weeks for me to ever see those bottles, and some might just find its way to a studio set and not to a relief center.

The Red Cross have their hotlines. ABSCBN Foundation have their own fund-raiser. Politicians and presidential aspirants are setting up their own relief  centers. – those are all good. But then, eventually, there has to be someone at the top of all that to say, “ABSCBN release that 1 million peso donation so we can rent out 5 choppers to do rescue operations. NOW!”

We need someone to say,  “Red Cross! Shell out Php100,000 so we can run gensets at the evacuation centers, and put cots and blankets, and give medication…”

The good will of the people and their good intentions to help their fellow Filipinos is fine, but it’s the coordination of important action that is needed during a state of calamity that is truly lacking. We may have saved a child from drowning in the flood, but if we put that child  in a place that has no food or medicine or warmth from the storm, then we just gave that child a new place to die. We didn’t save that child at all.

If there is no one in charge with that kind of capacity, power or responsibility, to command that kind of action from local government units, NGO’s, or from private groups, then there is no point in putting up a National Disaster Coordinating Council if they cannot coordinate such things at a time of disaster.

In other countries, like the US – when a policeman needs to accost your vehicle to chase a suspect, then he gets it by flashing a badge and without questions asked. And if he wrecks it, then it will be cared for by the government. That kind of authority empowering a simple police officer allows things to get done in terms of results. We have to put that in a bigger scale in order to mobilize things at a time of disaster, at a state of calamity.

Anyway, the National Disaster Coordinating Council can begin the change by upgrading the NDCC website to make it look like a site of action, and not just a mere web-brochure on press releases about agreements made for fudning. I’m beginnning to get the feeling that the NDCC is a lobbyist group in search of relief, instead of an action group. If it were action, then the first page of their site should be a form for an incident report, or a hotline number in big bold letters. And don’t forget to check the NDCC contacts directory (the number of Golez isn’t even there!). If the primary contact number of the NDCC is the “Webnaster”, then we are truly screwed. And if the alignment of the NDCC contacts directory page is anything to consider on how to coordinate things – then God save us all because the NDCC surely doesn’t look capable at all.

Don’t even get me started with the Office of Civil Defense (OCD.)

Anyway, I was just informed that there is an online  Rescue InfoHub Central. I’m just uncertain how this works, or who’s responsible or on top of this, but it’s disconcerting that there are only 200 incident reports with everything that is going on.

I just really wish that the coordination of this disaster be swift. It is frustrating to think that with all the cooks in the kitchen, the efforts for rescue, relief and rehabilitation will be delayed in bureaucracy. Before you know it – the funds raised will be used for an election campaign, or some other misappropriate use.

By the way – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo‘s office has been rather quiet.

Philippine Politics: Call A Spade A Spade, And A Pig A Pig.

Posted in All About The Philippines, Philippine Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2009 by JJ Duque

Calling The Attention of Philippine Daily Inquirer Columnist Conrado de Quiros!

Conrado De Quiros

Conrado De Quiros

(The following excerpt was written by JR De La Cruz, former Most Illustrious Fellow of Upsilon Sigma Phi)

Conrado de Quiros, you are the man. Few opinion writers in the Philippines can lay claim to your impeccable writing style, to your uncanny choice of words, and the thing I love most – your sardonic wit, which not only amuses but also almost always hits the point. After the death of Cory, however, after that moving eulogy you wrote (that eulogy ought to be immortalized, side by side with the apocalyptic ‘May Araw Din Kayo’), you have dropped all pretense of humor and subtlety and have suddenly turned into Noynoy Aquino’s biggest propagandist.

I have great respect for you, Mr. de Quiros, but I just do not, cannot, and will not buy all the “Battle-of-good-vs.-evil, Noynoy-is-our-Messiah-slash-Obama (please lang, sir. Wag naman.)” propaganda. I don’t buy all this contrived madness the Kapamilya network, “civil society” and the grand old Partido Liberal are trying to ram down our throats.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing personal against Noynoy. I’ve met him once, and he is obviously a nice guy. If I was voting for student council president, or maybe even mayor, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to vote for him. By all indications, he is indeed one damn good person, as you, Mr. de Quiros, would put it. But really, is one damn good person what we need right now? Is nice enough to take us out of the mess we are in? Is his amiable personality enough to gloss over the fact that he has spent most of his years in Congress doing, well, not much, and that, just like the lot of them, he is a politician taking advantage of this singular opportunity – of all things, his mother’s death – to be president?

The bigger man, the wiser man, the one damn good person would, after seeing the multitude of mourners outpouring their devotion for his mother, have declined the temptation to be goaded into running; in Tagalog, hindi siya magpapabuyo. Certainly, a good man would have at least waited a little longer and not announced his candidacy right after the ritualistic 40 days after the passing of his mother, making it seem like he was just obliged to comply with Filipino tradition so as not to look insensitive, but at the same time that he couldn’t wait a day more since he’s thrown his hat in the race too late and must thus make up for lost time.

For in his years of public service, in his whole life, really, can Noynoy honestly say he thinks himself competent enough to be president? Or is it more likely that the crowd at his mother’s wake, and his slew of very able advisers – pardon the digression, but Drilon, Abad, which side are you on lately? – emboldened him into that way of thinking? While in his “period of discernment”, I was hoping that for at least once in my life, I would witness a true statesman, selfless, wise, like the previous generation witnessed Ninoy. He would’ve been that statesman had he declined, knowing he knows nothing and being truly wise for it. Alas, the blinding allure of power, the buoying wave of his mother’s (not even his own) supporters, was too strong to resist. If this doesn’t reek of political opportunism, I don’t know what does.

I agree, we shouldn’t vote purely on competence. But that shouldn’t stop experience from reminding us what happens if we vote for an incompetent president. What happens is we vote a hundred thousand advisers with him/her. What happens is after three years in office, we try to take him/her out again, realizing we made a mistake. If we’re unsuccessful, we call it a coup attempt. If we’re successful, we call it Edsa Dos. What happens is we pin our hopes on another popular icon, another shining symbol, without realizing that we’re being f*cked by the same people over and over again.

I agree, Mr. de Quiros, we do need someone we can trust. But I don’t see how that someone is Noynoy at all. On what action, on what defining issue, on what aspect of his life, save for being born into his name or being born in Hacienda Luisita, should we base our trust in him? If the name and the land bear it all, why then don’t we throw all our support behind Kris Aquino, or yes, Gilbert Teodoro? A press briefing right after the announcement of the Noynoy-Mar tandem is very telling.

Asked how different he was from Teodoro, his second cousin, Noynoy, probably caught off-guard, only managed to say that he hoped not to “engage in meaningless arguments but rather on how we intend to push our beliefs in how to govern the country and convince people who has a better plan and platform of government between us”. Yeah, right. Evade the question, give a motherhood statement.

His running mate, correctly realizing that the answer his partner gave was so lame, butted in saying that it was apparent Aquino had difficulty answering the question because after all, he and Teodoro were relatives. Mar then offered his own answer, saying that the difference is “Secretary Gibo said he believed in the programs and policies of GMA and that he would continue them, and Sen. Noynoy does not want the crooked, the wrong. He does not want mulcting and plundering. So, he will do what is straight and true. That’s their difference.”

First of all, to dismiss as meaningless argument the most compelling argument he can make – that of differentiating himself from his cousin – tells us that maybe he himself recognizes that there is not much of a difference between them. Second, for Mar to say that Sen. Noynoy does not want the crooked, the wrong, the mulcting and plundering only exposes his and his running mate’s hypocrisy. Didn’t Noynoy sign the impeachment complaint against Pres. Estrada in 2000, become Deputy Speaker of an Arroyo-JDV Congress in 2004, run for Senate under Erap in 2007, and now isn’t he in the middle of talks with Erap again? Now you tell me who’s a better man, one who flip-flops between two crooks or one who remains loyal to a crook despite her dismal popularity? To paraphrase Orwell, it’s like looking from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, only to see that it is impossible to say which is which.

You denounce, Mr. de Quiros, Ronnie Puno for having served three masters who delivered this country to the dogs – Marcos, Erap, Gloria – conveniently leaving Cory and Ramos out of the enumeration, as if 1986-1998 were such glorious years in our nation’s history. But really, how different is Ronnie Puno from the posse who currently surround Noynoy? We want a prime example? Let’s look no further than Drilon, the Chairman of Noynoy’s party and one of his closest supporters. Let’s see. He served as Justice Secretary and Executive Secretary of Cory, Justice Secretary of Ramos, Senate President of Erap, ran under Gloria’s “People Power Coalition” in 2004, before bolting once again and re-emerging now behind Noynoy Aquino. How many masters has he served? What makes him better than Ronnie Puno? Again, between the two of them, it’s impossible to say which is which.

All I am asking, Mr. de Quiros, is that you call a spade a spade, and call a pig a pig. If it is a choice of the lesser evil and not a battle of good versus evil then say it. Expose each and every candidate to the people so that we may make an informed decision. Do not stoke our pent up anger at the present administration and our outpour of emotion for the late president into an emotional vote for Noynoy. Sayang e. Magagamit nanaman yung mga tao. Magagago nanaman. Turn it instead into an indignant demand to our candidates for something new, something real. They have never faced that anger. They have not been made accountable for their past actions. Because what we always try to do is to look for that symbol, that pearl, regardless whether that pearl lies among the swines. You are an opinion writer, yes, and are thus entitled to espouse one candidate over another. You are a friend of the late president and of the Aquinos. But I hope you realize that you also represent for many from our generation someone to look up to, and we do not have much left. Please, for the sake of a truly informed electorate, for the sake of political maturity, stop the propaganda and heed this call.

I still love you, Conrado de Quiros. And I love Ninoy. Cory, I am indifferent to. But we all know what will happen if Noynoy wins in 2010.

Philippine Politics: Manny Pacquiao For Congress – God Save The Philippines

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine News, Philippine Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2009 by JJ Duque

Boxing champ Manny Pacquiao is gunning for a second round attempt for a seat in the Philippine House of Representatives in the upcoming 2010 elections. Manny Pacquiao will be looking to win a congressional seat in his hometown of General Santos City, you know?

Back in 2007, Manny Pacquiao already lost the election, and cited that he wasn’t prepared politically for his campaign due to his busy schedule with boxing fights and training. This coming 2010, Manny Pacquiao still has to train and prepare to fight Miguel Angel Cotto while in the midst of his campaign for congress. Apart from that, he still has a TV show, some movies, maybe another album and whatever. Whatever Manny Pacquiao gets himself into doesn’t surprise me anymore. Yes – even running for congress.

But really now – Do the Filipino people really want Manny Pacquiao in congress? Personally, I would rather he stick to what he does best – which is to fight in the boxing ring and not in the political arena. He may not be the best actor, but let him have his kicks in showbiz, but PLEASE – for the country’s sake – DO NOT RUN FOR CONGRESS, MANNY!

What qualifications do you have to run for politics? ZERO! Manny Pacquiao has spent his entire life as a boxer, and maybe too many left hooks has f***ed up bis brain, which might spur this STUPID decision to run for congress. Manny Pacquiao has no experience in Philippine politics whatsoever, and if he thinks that the politics in boxing is the same as congress, then he must really be out of his mind. I even doubt if Manny Pacquiao will have the time (considering the demands of  his boxing and showbiz career) to read through the many resolutions and legislations that are passed in Congress. Can Manny Pacquiao even effectively deliberate in the halls of congress, or are we just going to hear him say, “You know?” – you know?

If Manny Pacquiao believes he can serve the country because of his deep pockets, then by all means do so. Manny Pacquiao can give to as many charities and come up with as many projects as he wants to help in the development of General Santos City and the Philippines without having to be a congressman.

Manny, Pacman, Champ, Idol – please lang… use your head.

Manny Pacquiao For Congress in 2010 - God Save The Philippines!

Manny Pacquiao For Congress in 2010 - God Save The Philippines!

And to those supposed political  friends and political advisers of Manny Pacquiao – Chavit, Noli Boy, Tolits, Madam GMA – knock some sense into him. He can’t even deliver a proper interview about what he is passionate about (boxing), and you expect him to enter the halls of Philippine congress to enact legislation that will serve our country. It’s not right, you know?

Anyway – I will put my faith on the Filipino people and the intelligent people of General Santos. I’m sure they know better, and it showed in the 2007 elections when Manny Pacquiao lost. And I certainly hope he will lose again, and let the voice of the people be heard that Manny Pacquiao‘s place is not in Philippine congress. You know?

I’m sure everyone has learned their lesson when they put the likes of Ramon Revilla and Robert Jaworski in the Senate, who didn’t even utter a word throughout the entire team that Senate convened. Well, except maybe to raise their hand and ask permission to use the toilet. You know?

The 2010 elections is a critical time for the country, and not only on the Presidential race, but in all levels of government that will be fought for and campaigned for. Please vote wisely. And to the people of General Santos City – I’m sure you have a more qualified candidate for Congress than a popular personality who doesn’t have an ounce of political experience, even if he is world-renowned.

You know better, you know?