Category Archives: politics

Korina Sanchez vs Anderson Cooper and journalism ethics

In tonight’s edition of TV Patrol, ABS-CBN anchor and chief correspondent Korina Sanchez delivered a report about the situation in Ormoc City, Leyte.

Curiously, Sanchez’ assignment in the said city came a day after she earned flak from netizens who lambasted her following her negative comments directed to Anderson Cooper of CNN International. The American journalist highlighted the slow government relief efforts for super typhoon Yolanda survivors.

Hindi yata niya alam ang sinasabi niya (He’s not really aware of what’s happening on the ground),” Sanchez said of Cooper through her commentary program in DZMM Wednesday morning. A deluge of criticism against Sanchez, mostly shared online, followed shortly after. As noted by Rappler.com, Sanchez was hit on two fronts.

First, it is Cooper, not her, who’s actually reporting live on location. Second, Sanchez is married to the man who’s the de facto point man of the government’s disaster relief efforts – Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. And since Roxas is widely expected to run for president in 2016, any criticism about the government’s response to Yolanda’s aftermath will not serve his political ambitions well.

I first noted the possibility of Sanchez being put in an awkward situation last Sunday. During a live broadcast of her Sunday magazine show Rated K, Sanchez interviewed Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras. Political junkies should note that Almendras is allied with the Balay faction of President Benigno Aquino III’s cabinet, which is identified with Roxas and the ruling Liberal Party.

“Korina Sanchez reporting about the government relief efforts in Leyte led by her husband DILG Sec. Mar Roxas presents a clear conflict of interest,” I wrote on Facebook, while adding that this journalistic transgression may be set aside for a while because “these are extraordinary circumstances.” Nevertheless, it seems that the problematic situation really has a way of rearing its ugly head.

korina sanchez anderson cooper

ABS-CBN news anchor Korina Sanchez slammed CNN’s Anderson Cooper in her radio program Wednesday morning (Credits: Inquirer.net)

It’s not the first time that Sanchez lashed out at individuals she perceives as slighting Roxas. There’s ABS-CBN reporter RG Cruz (refresh your memories by reading this blog post) and Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros. Both instances happened in 2009, shortly after Roxas gave up his presidential ambitions to be Aquino’s running mate.

More recently, Sanchez has earned the ire of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s camp. Binay is of course the man who defeated her husband three years ago. In 2011, Binay complained that Sanchez seems to be refraining from mentioning his name during broadcasts. Last year, Binay’s camp took offense when Sanchez allegedly described his as a “dark little evil spirit.”

This episode brings back to mind the controversy last year created by President Aquino’s decision to take a swing at news anchor and former Vice President Noli de Castro during the 25th anniversary celebration of TV Patrol.

As media ethicist Chay Hofilena pointed out, this was a situation “waiting to happen,” arguing that networks seem to be facilitating a revolving door for journalists who venture into politics. Like De Castro, Sanchez resumed her news reading duties much sooner than expected.

If Roxas indeed seeks the presidency by 2016, Sanchez is expected to step down from her journalistic activities within the next 18 months. Until then, there’s no reason to believe she won’t be involved in another conflict-of-interest situation.

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October 28 2013 Philippine holiday – Barangay Elections

President Benigno Aquino III has declared October 28, the last Monday of the month, as a special non-working holiday. The triennial barangay elections is scheduled to be held on the said day. The president made the announcement through Presidential Proclamation 656, which he signed last September 25. Access the full text of proclamation 656 here.

Aquino made a similar declaration (Proclamation 571) in connection with the midterm polls held last May. Designating October 28 as a holiday is meant to give Filipinos “the fullest opportunity to participate in the elections and (to) exercise their right to vote.”

Aside from the barangay elections, the Sangguniang Kabataan polls is also scheduled to be held on that day though a bill that seeks to defer it to February 2015 has already been passed in Congress.

As The Filipino Scribe noted before, not declaring October 28 a holiday may seriously affect voters’ turnout since the Philippines currently does not allow early voting unlike in the United States.

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Aquino admin used pork barrel vs Renato Corona – Jinggoy

Senator Jinggoy Estrada revealed during his privilege speech Wednesday afternoon that senators who voted last year to impeach then-Chief Justice Renato Corona received an additional of P50 million to their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation.

Estrada said this was announced through “a private and confidential letter” from now Senate President Franklin Drilon, who chaired the Senate finance committee at that time. Drilon swiftly denied Estrada’s claim, saying that no such letter exists. “I maintain that the senators voted according to their conscience and their impartial evaluation of the evidence presented during the Coronal trial,” he said.

The problem is, one of his former colleagues directly belied Drilon’s denials. Speaking to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, former Senator Panfilo Lacson confirmed that those who voted to convict Corona indeed received a P50 million incentive from the administration. He however clarified that he’s not among the recipients of this since he had “no regular PDAF.”

Panfilo Lacson

Panfilo Lacson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Corona was understandably elated by Estrada’s bombshell, describing it as a vindication for him. In a brief statement, the ousted chief justice claimed Estrada’s speech proved that his removal from office is unconstitutional and that all charges against him are baseless. He also faulted Malacanang for launching a “massive demolition campaign” directed to him.

The revelation that President Benigno Aquino III co-opted lawmakers into voting against Corona by using the pork barrel fund as a bargaining chip is nothing new.

In his testimony for the defense panel during the Corona trial, Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco said that leaders of the House of Representatives repeatedly stressed to them that those who will not endorse the impeachment complaint against will get “zero PDAF.”

Tiangco added: “Ayaw kong mapag-initan. I do not want to catch the ire of the most powerful man in the country, the President of the Philippines.”

However, as reported by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, then-Senate President and impeachment court presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile regarded Tiangco’s testimony as irrelevant to the trial.

 

Clearly, the Aquino administration used the power of the purse to make lawmakers on both Houses of Congress submit to its will. Isn’t this a blatant form of corruption? Whatever happened to tuwid na daan?

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COMELEC disqualifies Laguna’s ER Ejercito for campaign overspending

In a rare move, the Commission on Election announced Thursday afternoon the disqualification of Emilio Ramon (ER) Ejercito from being the governor of Laguna for campaign overspending. The poll body’s first division decided on the matter, according to COMELEC Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr.

In a statement posted on the poll body’s website, Brillantes noted that by spending P6 million on television ads alone for his 2013 re-election bid, Ejercito violated existing campaign finance regulations.

According to Republic Act 906 or the Fair Elections Act, local bets are only allowed to spend three pesos “for every voter currently registered in the constituency where he or she filed his or her certificate of candidacy.” Hence, since Laguna has 1,525,522 registered voters for the May midterm elections, Ejercito’s spending limit is P4.6 million. Ejercito has five days to file a motion for reconsideration before the COMELEC en banc.

In disqualifying Ejercito, Brillantes said the poll body hopes to show Filipinos that they are in fact determined to level the playing field in the electoral process. “Hindi po kami nagbibiro,” he reiterated, adding that COMELEC is poised to file more election-related charges against other erring candidates soon.

Emilio Ramon Ejercito

Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito (CREDITS: SCENEMA CONCEPT INTERNATIONAL INC.)

The recent gubernatorial race in Laguna was one of the most-watched in the country. Ejercito ran under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). His uncle, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, is one for the leaders of UNA.

The ruling Liberal Party fielded Rep. Edgar San Luis to challenge Ejercito. Despite President Benigno Aquino III’s endorsement, San Luis lost his bid to undeat Ejercito.

The implication of this move by COMELEC is not hard to see. For the longest time, people have argued that the poll body is spineless in dealing with campaign overspending. That may be changing now. Please read excerpts from our 2009 interview with Ferdinand Rafanan, who was the head of COMELEC’s Legal Department at that time, to know more about it.

Despite COMELEC’s noble intentions, the move to disqualify Ejercito is bound to be tainted by politics. As an opposition stalwart, Ejercito is expected to fight out his disqualification. Late last year, two UNA-aligned governors, Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu and Amado Espino of Pangasinan, was suspended due to administrative charges. Understandably, both claimed being subjected to persecution.

Ejercito’s disqualification comes shortly after his cousin, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, was implicated in the still-unresolved pork barrel fund scam. Interestingly, in a privilege speech yesterday, Estrada denounced what he described as the Commission on Audit’s ‘selective’ targeting of opposition figures linked to the scandal (more about this on a future post).

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Obama to visit Philippines on October

United States (US) President Barack Obama will visit the Philippines next month, the White House said in a statement released early Saturday morning (Manila time). The administration of President Benigno Aquino III, through spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, confirmed Obama’s visit from October 11 to 12.

Before heading to the Philippines, Obama will visit three other Southeast Asian countries – Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia. Indonesia is hosting this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. The White House said Obama and Aquino’s meeting will focus on “reaffirming the strong economic, people-to-people, and security links between the two countries.”

The discussion about security issues is unsurprising given that it is US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who first hinted during a visit last month that Obama will come to the Philippines before attending the APEC event. The Obama administration noted that the Philippines is already the fifth Asian treaty ally that he has visited during his term.

George W Bush - Gloria Arroyo

Prior to Obama’s visit this October, George W. Bush is the last sitting American president to set foot in the Philippines (Credits: Wally Santana/AP)

The announcement of the visit was hailed by Philippine Ambassador to US Jose Cuisia. “The visit underscores the importance President Obama places on the enduring alliance between the United States and the Philippines as well as his regard for President Aquino’s leadership,” he said in a press release.

“We are optimistic that in their discussions, President Aquino and President Obama will identify new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation in the areas of defense and security, trade and investment and broader people to people ties,” the ambassador further noted.

This is Obama’s first visit to the Philippines. The last United States president to set foot in the Philippines is George W. Bush. He came to the country in October 2003, during the time of then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

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Open letter by Zambo med student to Noynoy Aquino goes viral

An open letter addressed to President Benigno Aquino III urging him to do more in light of the attack by elements of the Moro National Liberation Front on Zamboanga City has gone viral in the social media. It was published under the name of ABS-CBN actress Jodi Sta. Maria  The letter appeared in an apparently fan-made Facebook account of the Be Careful with My Heart lead star. The account currently has 8,000 followers while the said letter has been shared 5,000 times in the ten hours since it was first posted.

(UPDATE: The real author of this post has been identified as Facebook user ‘El Apolinario.’ See the original post in this link.)

Dear President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy),

I understand you are a very busy government official. And I understand there are other pressing concerns in the nation. But I would just like to ask, why would you not consider the crisis in Zamboanga as a state of emergency? When a calamity strikes in Luzon, it’s a national crisis. When a national official dies, it’s a national tragedy. I am not belittling those events that occurred before because they are all disasters for the country and people were affected.

However, it must be noted that when armed men orchestrate violence, destroy private property, displace people and instigate armed conflict that should constitute an emergency. In my humble opinion, it’s not business as usual here in Zamboanga City, contrary to what Sec. Roxas states. People are sleeping on cement floors in the Grandstand or on the grass in the soccer field. Two nights ago they were sleeping in their homes. People are complaining that there’s not enough food in the evacuation centers.

Jodi-Sta-Maria Noynoy Aquino

Jodi Sta. Maria’s ‘letter’ to President Aquino has gone viral (Credits: Inquirer.net)

Although there is constant flow of food from generous Zamboangueños, it is still a daunting task to feed so many. Yes, people may exaggerate. But these are people who left their homes out of fear for their lives and no one asked them to be there. They simply had no where else to go. And yes, some individuals may abuse the free food being offered to them but I think this reflects a more pernicious problem – poverty.

Mr. President, you too must have felt that fear for sure, when your family was attacked by “political enemies” in the Palace. Patients in Zamboanga City Medical Center were forced to evacuate or placed on emergency discharge. That is not business as usual sir.

Mr. President, people need your help. Don’t declare the state of emergency, just send us food and water for the displaced, medicines for patients and maybe some more ammunition and possibly armor for our soldiers who are fighting with their very lives.

I don’t know if this reaches you or that this even matters to you. The point is, some of your “bosses” are being displaced and needs your urgent attention and action.”

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Did Napoles contribute to Aquino’s 2010 campaign?

I can’t help but chuckle at this ABS-CBN News report which notes that intelligence officials within the administration of President Benigno Aquino III are looking at the possibility that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo might be involved in a destabilization plot against the present government, using the pork barrel fund scam as their main cause célèbre.

Arroyo is currently detained in the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, where I visited her last May. She can’t even get out of the country to seek medical treatment, and yet she’s being maligned again with this? Only stupid people will buy this piece of bull. As I see it, this pronouncement is nothing but a diversionary tactic from Aquino’s minions.

First, the circumstances behind the supposed surrender of Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of this P10 billion scam, last Wednesday night is highly suspicious. Upon listening to Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda’s version of the story, I posted this via Facebook:

Wait a minute, Mr. Edwin Lacierda. Sa tanang buhay ko, ngayon lang yata ako nakakita ng kriminal na sinundo sa sementeryo (alinsunod sa hiling nya) at inihatid pa sa Malacanang para sumuko. Tapos, pumunta pa mismo si Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) sa Camp Crame to check on her detention suite.

Obviously, there’s nothing spontaneous about Ms Janet Napoles’ surrender last night. It seems to me that everything was well planned. Sabi ni Mar Roxas, wala daw na binibgay na special treatment para kay Napoles. E anong tawag sa nangyari kagabi?”

I guess it pays well to have a lawyer (Lorna Kapunan) who was once the boss of the president’s spokesperson. It’s not everyday that someone accused of committing a heinous crime can request to surrender to the country’s most powerful man since he’s the only one she trusts, not police officials. In fact, Napoles was given a decent welcome at the palace. She even shook Aquino’s hand!

And as if that’s not enough, Aquino and his interior secretary Mar Roxas went out of their way to personally inspect the detention facilities where Napoles will likely stay. What message is this administration sending to Filipino taxpayers like me who are right now feeling robbed? Maybe we can extrapolate on some revelations that appeared recently.

There’s no doubt that some parties would want to see Napoles eliminated. Common sense tells us that this woman could not have maintained such an intricate web of corruption on her own. In other words, instead of being seen as a mastermind, Napoles might just be an enabler used by corrupt politicians as a means to siphon government money. Though the spotlight now is focused solely on Napoles, her ties to politicians must also be strictly scrutinized. In that sense, Kapunan is right.

Entertainment writer Lolit Solis, who apparently has ties with Napoles, recently declared that she once heard her friend taking a call from now Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa asking for campaign contributions for Aquino’s 2010 presidential bid. An aide to Ochoa swiftly denied the accusation, and the Commission on Elections eventually issued a statement saying that Napoles is not listed among Aquino’s contributors.

A high ranking COMELEC official once admitted to me that the poll body has very limited capability to verify the financial reports submitted by the candidates. Ask yourself this – what if Napoles did not want to disclose her identity? Solis may not be a paragon of virtue, but her statement must not be dismissed outright.

Corruption scandals are nothing new to the Philippine political scene. Big names had been dragged to such controversies over the years. So, what makes the latest scandal centring on business proprietor Janet Lim-Napoles so scandalous that made people literally get out of the streets?

First, the P10 billion price tag being bandied is just so staggering. Plus, Napoles’ daughter Jean shamelessly flaunted her opulent lifestyle through her social media accounts. Then, adding insult to injury is the fact that the entire scandal came to light during Aquino’s term, a man who ran on the platform of eliminating corruption.


LTO chief Virginia Torres caught on video gambling?

A purported thirty second clip of Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres playing slot machine inside an unidentified casino has been uploaded on the video sharing site YouTube. The video, apparently recorded secretly, has been uploaded last August 13 by YouTube user “Juan Dela Cruz.” See it below:

Torres, clad in checkered blouse, pink leggings, and rubber shoes, can be seen in the clip resting her legs in the lower part of the machine. The uploader of the video did not provide any details about Torres’ stay in the casino. If the clip was taken during her tenure as LTO chief, Torres may be held liable for violating Memorandum Circular 20, series of 1986.

MC 20 mandates that “government officials connected directly with the operation of the government or any of its agencies” are not allowed to play at the gambling casinos. The memorandum was signed during the term of President Benigno Aquino III’s mother, former President Corazon Aquino.

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Class suspensions in Quezon City – July 22 2013

President Benigno Aquino III is scheduled to give his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) tomorrow, July 22, before the joint session of the 16th Congress. In line with this, the city government of Quezon City, where the House of Representatives is located, has announced that classes in preschool, elementary, and high school will be suspended on Monday.

English: The official seal of Quezon City in t...

English: The official seal of Quezon City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a brief announcement posted on the city government’s website, it was noted that Mayor Herbert Bautista made the decision “for the safety and security of the students and to minimize the congestion of traffic particularly near the SONA venue.” The Division of City Schools, the Department of Public Order and Safety (DPOS), and the Quezon City Police Ditrict (QCPD) endorsed the move to Bautista during the Executive Committee meeting held last July 17.

Classes in schools within the vicinity of Batasang Pambansa are normally suspended during this time of the year. Meanwhile, the city government also said that it is up to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to suspend classes in the tertiary level.

In a related development, Quezon City Polytechnic University (QCPU) Vice President for Administration Melanie Pisig announced that classes in their university’s Batasan Hills campus will be suspended for July 22.

(Note: The Filipino Scribe was given accreditation to cover President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy)‘s State of the Nation this year.)

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Voter registration for 2013 Barangay Elections – July 22 to 31

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) will once again receive applications for new voters’ registration for the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections from July 22 to 31.  The barangay and SK polls are scheduled to be held on October 28 according to COMELEC Resolution 9715.

After it, the poll body has until September 13 to finalize the voters’ list. According to the Voters Registration Act of 1996 or Republic Act (RA) 8189, Filipinos who are at least 18 years of age, and who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year, and in the place wherein they propose to vote, for at least six (6) months immediately preceding the election may register as a voter. For example, if you are planning to register in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, you should have living in that community since April, 2013.

2013 sangguniang kabataan elections

Random manual auditing in Cubao Elementary School (credits: Demetrio Ragua)

 

Prospective new voters can register during the above mentioned days in the nearest local COMELEC office (usually this is in your provincial or municipal hall). The COMELEC usually requires the applicant to show one valid identification card, though it will be more prudent to bring another one plus your birth certificate. Also, don’t forget to photocopy all of those documents in advance so you won’t have to leave the pila.

To know more about voter eligibility rules as well as the requirements for deactivated voters and those who have transferred their place of registration, please visit this link.

The rules for voters in the SK elections are slightly different. According to RA 9164, only those that are 15 years old but are less than 18 years old can participate here. They should also be residing in the barangay where they are seeking to be registered for the past six months. As has been reported, there are persistent efforts in Congress to have the entire SK system abolished.

The Filipino Scribe joins the COMELEC in enjoining all eligible Filipinos to register for  the upcoming barangay and SK polls. Exercise your right to take part in the democracy!

 

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