Monthly Archives: August 2011

Is COMELEC lawyer Ferdinand Rafanan being sidelined for speaking his mind?

Recently, there seems to be a concerted effort to sideline Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan within the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). He is the erstwhile head of the poll body’s legal department, which made him a favorite resource person for reporters during last year’s elections. He was also originally designated by COMELEC Chair Sixto Brillantes to be part of the COMELEC-DOJ joint body investigating the alleged massive cheatings during the 2004 and 2007 elections.

COMELEC Chair Sixto Brillantes: Rafanan has "a world of his own” and “has no friends in the commission.”

ABS-CBN’s Anthony Taberna reported yesterday () that the COMELEC en banc (meaning all its commissioners) “unanimously decided to fire Ferdinand Rafanan as law department head and as member of the COMELEC-DOJ panel. Rafanan will instead be transferred to the planning department. Brillantes was quoted as describing Rafanan as someone who “has a world of his own” and “has no friends in the commission.” Brillantes went as far as claiming that Rafanan was only bitter because he wasn’t appointed as a COMELEC commissioner. In retaliation, Rafanan said that “COMELEC insiders want him out of the commission after he implemented reforms and helped expose wrongdoing inside the poll body.”

Brillantes complained that Rafanan talks too much and that he is attacking the COMELEC as an institution. I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Rafanan two years ago for a news article about campaign finance. I found to be brutally honest especially on a sensitive topic like that. He described campaign overspending (said to be the root cause of corruption in our country) by Philippine candidates as a “reality.” Asked if the COMELEC double-checks the campaign receipts filed by the bets, he conceded that it is one function that the commission hasn’t really accomplished. During the interview, I can’t help but admire his honesty – something that is sorely lacking in our government right now. Here are excepts from my 2009 interview;

Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan: COMELEC officials "should not cater to the needs of those who placed them in their posts."

Campaign overspending in RP elections a “reality”, says Comelec official

by Mark Pere Madrona

With just seven months to go before the 2010 national and local polls a high-ranking Commission on Election (COMELEC) official said that campaign overspending among the candidates really happens.

“(Overspending) is not only a possibility. It is the reality,” COMELEC Legal Department head Ferdinand Rafanan said. And though all candidates are required to submit a statement of Expenditures and contributions to the poll body a month after the elections, “willful omissions of certain donations occur,” he said.

“Why will they (the candidates) submit something that will be incriminating?” Rafanan said. Asked if the COMELEC double-checks the campaign receipts filed by the bets, he conceded that it is one function that the commission hasn’t really accomplished.

“It hasn’t been performed because no one is interested in doing it. Our department is only taking orders from the higher-ups,” Rafanan said. “We don’t have the means and we are also lacking in manpower.”

The COMELEC’s hands are also tied as regards to the politicians’ infomercials. “They (the infomercials) are obviously intended to advance the aspirants’ acceptability to the public. This is not yet an election offense since no one has filed a certificate of candidacy (COC),” Rafanan said. The filing of COCs would be from November 20-30, 2009.

Premature campaigning can be committed by someone who has already filed his/her COC and has campaigned before the official campaign period, which begins on February 9, 2010 for national candidates. Parenthetically, the COMELEC is also powerless in monitoring how much has been spent by likely aspirants in their infomercials.


Even if campaign overspending and its links to corruption appears to be an overwhelming problem, Rafanan still thinks the COMELEC can address it. “Simply implement the law. The COMELEC should work hard to do it. They (COMELEC officials) should not cater to the needs of those who placed them in their posts,” Rafanan said, noting that in his 11 years at the poll body, he cannot recall anyone who has been penalized for violating the country’s campaign finance laws.

Guia stressed the importance of updating the country’s campaign finance laws “to make them more relevant in the present context.” “One important aspect of campaign finance law that needs to be looked at is putting a cap on donations. Our laws fixes spending limits but do not provide for a campaign contribution limits. Moreover, compliance and disclosure requirements should be strengthened to force candidates to comply with the laws,” he said.

PS: That kind of honesty may be too hot to handle for some of his colleagues within the COMELEC.


News links:

Comelec en banc decided to transfer Rafanan – Brillantes

By Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News

Comelec ‘mafia’ behind law dep’t chief’s dismissal?

By David Dizon,


Thanks to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, I am now a published writer!

My first ever published story appeared in yesterday’s issue of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine. They retitled it to “Scout’s Honor.” I submitted it to the Philippine Daily Inquirer last July 27, or a day before our nation marked the Scout Memorial Day. This tradition was started 23 years ago by President Corazon Aquino as a tribute for the ill-fated 24-man Philippine delegation that was supposed to take part in the 11th World Scout Jamboree (1963).  The entire team, together with 28 other passengers and eight crew members of the United Arab Airlines Flight 869, died when the plane crashed into the Arabian Sea near Santa Cruz, India in the early morning of July 28, 1963.


My piece focuses on First Class Scout Roberto Corpus Castor, a member of that contingent. He was only 14 years old when the crash happened in 1963. I was able to interview his parents, already in their 90s, for this article. In my submission to PDI, I also included pictures I personally took. Although most of the public are aware about the said plane crash (I hope), the individual lives of the scouts who perished in the tragedy has not been written about at length in recent years. Given their age, it is important that we hear and write about their story now – before it is too late.


As they say, history is news if no one has written about it. It is no conincidence that my first published journalistic work is about an almost-forgotten historical event.


Here are the links;

Philippine Daily Inquirer:

Screenshot from the Philippine Daily Inquirer's website - notice my name there! 🙂

Yahoo! Philippines:

Screenshot from Yahoo! Philippines - notice my name there! 🙂

Yahoo! Singapore:

Face to face with Ms Maria Ressa and the Professional Heckler at the 1st Globe Tatt Awards!

Last Friday night can be easily be considered one of the most memorable in my life. I mentioned in my previous post that I won an invite to the 1st ever Globe Tatt Awards for bloggers (held in Manila Peninsula’s Rigodon Ballroom). I also wrote there how I was selected. Since it was originally announced that the program would start by 6PM, I decided to leave work shortly before 5PM. So what if I’ll be slapped with a miniscule salary deduction for the under time?  The event is a rare opportunity for me to meet the country’s top social media personalities, and I will never forgive myself if I miss it.

Event attendees were allowed to get inside the venue at around 6:30 PM. There’s a red carpet entrance, with photographers taking pictures of everyone who enters the function hall (and this reminds me of the Oscars!). Afterwards, we were asked to post our pictures (and our respective shoutouts) on a makeshift freedom wall. As expected, I promoted this blog again. Ha-ha. We enjoyed the free-flowing drinks (take your pick: wine or tea?), the siomai (fried and steamed), and other small meals.  My goal is to have a picture with multi-awarded international broadcast journalist Maria Ressa (who served as one of the judges for the competition) and the King of Philippine humor blogging, the Professional Heckler.

Mark Madrona with Ms Maria Ressa!

Ms Ressa arrived at around 7PM, and photographers immediately mobbed her. I approached her to ask if we can have a picture together, and she obliged. After that, I told her that we had a Twitter conversation about her previous book Seeds of Terror two weeks ago. I think we exchanged about five tweets about MILF’s links to Al Qaeda. You can easily see in her face how elated she was to know that I read her book.

I borrowed it from the UP College of Mass Communication library. I asked her to write a dedicatory note in the book for the college, and she did! Ever the Maria Ressa fan, I asked her to write a separate note for me. I also reminded her about our first encounter four years ago during the Gawad Plaridel when I literally ran after her to ask for an autograph (she was with Ms Charie Villa then). She said: “Ikaw pala yun!” She even gave me a hug and a beso after! How nice of her! How surreal can things get?

Mark Madrona with the Professional Heckler aka Mr. Loi Reyes Landicho!

The Professional Heckler with his “Wordslayer” award. (Notice his Kobe Bryant shirt!)

The winner in the Wordslayer category was the first one to be announced. As expected, the Professional Heckler won. To my surprise, the Heckler (Loi Reyes Landicho in “real life”) did not give an acceptance speech after getting his award from event host Tim Yap and award presenter Gang Badoy. I went to the place where Mr. Landicho was seated to have a picture with him. He said yes but he requested that we have the picture taken outside the function room. I also took a picture of him with his trophy. Wearing his favorite Kobe Bryant shirt and a black jacket, Mr. Landicho stands out for his simplicity and approachability. Last Thursday (my birthday), he replied to my piece about him.

Me and Youtube star Arjohn Gilbert! (check his videos and see for yourself!)

I also talked to young Youtube sensation Arjohn Gilbert (search for his video titled “Kid Singing in Pure Gold,” in case you haven’t yet). The program started with him singing Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” The kid showed entertaining dance moves, too! I’m looking forward to interviewing him soon. After being able to do all of those, I decided to go home already. For one, it’s almost 9PM already. I may have not finished the entire awards event, but it was a night I will never forget.

*The Professional Heckler has mentioned me in his “Thank You” blog. Wow!:

I won two passes for the 1st ever Globe Tatt Awards in the Manila Pen tonight!

The blogosphere, Twitter-verse, and many netizens have been abuzz the past few weeks about the coming Globe Tatt Awards for outstanding Filipino bloggers in different categories. Three days ago, I read in the Writer’s Block website that Globe is giving away free passes for the awarding ceremonies to be held this evening in Manila Pen’s Rigodon Ballroom. There’s no thinking twice on my part! First, it is easy to join. You only have to blog about your favorite finalists and “why he/she deserves to win in the category where they are nominated.”


Once you’re done, tweet the title and URL of the blog entry with the #TattAwards hashtag before 12 noon of August 25 (which coincidentally is my birthday). Second, the event is an excellent time for me to meet popular bloggers and even media personalities (read: photo opportunities with The Heckler and Ms Maria Ressa!). I wrote about The Professional Heckler, and much to my surprise, he read and replied to it (see this blog: )! So last night, I was notified via Twitter (@marksphere) that I have won two passes. I am already so excited for the event! This promises to be a very memorable time for me.


I won passes for the 1st ever Globe Tatt Awards in the Manila Pen tonight. 🙂

The awards cereminy will be held in this function room:

Why The Professional Heckler rocks for me

Who among certified Filipino netizens and those active in the blogosphere has not visited (or have at least heard about) The Professional Heckler? I referred to him as the King of Philippine humor blogging in a post about two weeks ago. In my seven years of being active online, I’m yet to come across a humor blogger as successful as him. For sure, others have tried online humor writing before, but probably not as consistent (and not as popular) as Mr. Loi Reyes Landicho.

For sure, others have tried online humor writing before, but probably not as consistent (and not as popular) as Mr. Loi Reyes Landicho (The Professional Heckler).

When I learned that his blog was nominated in the “Wordslayer” category of Globe Telecom’s 1st ever Tatt Awards (, I was not surprised at all. He is a multi-awarded blogger – having been recognized by the Philippine Blog Awards for three straight years already. The Professional Heckler has been included in the recommended sites list of a number of publications like the Sunday Inquirer Magazine and FHM. Political columnists such as Ellen Tordesillas (Malaya), Boo Chanco (Philippine Star), and John Nery (Philippine Daily Inquirer) have mentioned his blog in their articles. In fact, I’ve learned about his blog through the column of Star’s William Esposo.

I remember Mr. Esposo writing about his desire to meet Mr. Landicho one day (I don’t know though if that has happened already, though). I almost forgot to add: a number of his political jokes was included in a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) book. My journalism thesis adviser, Prof. Yvonne Chua, was PCIJ’s training director when the book came out. Idol PH (as I address him whenever I comment to his blogs) has been at it for four years now, and there’s no sign of slowing down. So, why am I a fan of his?

He has written about essentially everything. From the Malawi legislator who drafted an anti-farting bill, to President Aquino’s (lack of) love life, to President Arroyo’s pinch nerve, and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi – you name it, he has written about it. I am also amazed at how he finds a funny angle to just about anything. To do that, you have to be well-read. You also have to be intelligent in playing with words for it to be witty. His blog is very informative, too. Just by visiting his regularly-updated page, you already know the hottest stories for the day. He also posts links to other interesting write-ups in other sites on his blog.

We are both Los Angeles Lakers fan! (click the image and be amused)

We are also both loyal fans of the Los Angeles Lakers (“through good times and bad times,” as he declared it when the Mavs eliminated Kobe & Co.) and the UP Fighting Maroons! He also allows his readers to promote their respective blogs on his page (yeah, I’m guilty of that). I promoted my post about the P100 peso bills with the UP Law logo on it on his page, and he replied! That’s the first time I reached 100 views on a single day. I will never forget that blogging milestone.

PS: Here’s his latest post:

Pay rules for the August 29 and 30, 2011 regular holidays

August 29 is National Heroes’ Day this year, while Eid al-Fitr falls on August 30. These are not fixed annual dates. National Heroes’ Day is observed every last Monday of August while the date for the Eid al-Fitr depends on the Islamic calendar. We all know that National Heroes’ Day is a legal national holiday. One only has to refer to a Philippine calendar to see that. But did you know that Eid al Fitr is a national holiday, too?

The Philippine Department of Labor has to be strict about the implementation of the holiday pay

That is mandated by Republic Act 9177, a law signed during the time of President Gloria Mcapagal-Arroyo. The entire text of RA 9177 can be accessed at . August 30 this year has been declared a regular holiday by virtue of Proclamation No. 234 signed by President Benigno Aquino III. You can read the proclamation at

Since Eid al-Fitr is now included in the list of regular holidays ( ) just like National Heroes’ Day, employees who report for work on August 29 and 30, 2011 will be getting double of their regular pay REGARDLESS of his/her employment status. Meanwhile, those who opt to take advantage of the holiday will still be able to get their regular salary for those dates whether they are a permanent or a casual employee. We can only hope that employers choose the tuwid na daan by paying their employees what’s due for them.

CONFIRMED: Britney Spears is NOT coming to Manila this November 2011.

A few months back, a female DJ from a high-end FM station in Manila announced via Twitter that pop princess Britney Spears will be coming to Manila for a concert this November 2011 as part of her Femme Fatale Tour.  This sent Britney’s legions of fans in the country into a frenzy, since the false news (or as journalists say, kuryenteng balita) being disseminated online at a lighting speed.


The 30-year-old singer hasn’t ever been to the Philippines. But, sorry to disappoint Britney fans out there: she’s not coming to Manila this November or on any date this 2011. I got the information from her website ( Only dates for her North America, South America, and Europe tours have been confirmed. Who knows, Britney’s handlers may be preparing for an Asian tour early next year. I hope so.

Here are the concert dates (click image to enlarge):

Britney Spears' Femme Fatale concert dates in North and South America


Britney Spears' Femme Fatale tour dates in Europe (November 2011)

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